Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December In Florida

A week or so before Thanksgiving I started tasting the leftovers. As it was, there were none. With three invitations for dinner, I didn’t get a bird. There was a can of cranberry sauce in the refrigerator that had to be eaten. It’s finally gone though it took me four days to eat it.

Now I’m tasting Christmas cookies. There is no fear that elves are going to hide all my sheet pans for the next three weeks then return them in time for Christmas heavy with six or seven kinds of cookies, some wrapped as gifts and some left for me to munch on. Holiday baking will be, as always, my very own labor of love. Six-hour cookie-baking marathons are in my future. I know it. And I love it.

Local gift cookies will probably be baked in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning during the week before Christmas. Cookies to be mailed will start earlier. I know my daughter and her family will probably eat them as they sort out the other presents. I sure hope the trip to Long Island doesn’t reduce them to crumbs. Perhaps a short list of uses for cookie crumbs may be in order.

My kitchen won’t spawn only cookies this year. I had planned on making bread for the neighbors. (That might be intimidating since one of my neighbors had a small bread delivery business.) French bread from an authentic French recipe was first on the list. Talk about a labor of love - it takes almost two days to make! When it comes out right, it even tastes like love.

I love to make pumpernickel. It’s one of those recipes that scare first-time cooks. How can all that stuff come out tasting good? Trust me. It does.

Then there’s one of my favorite breads to eat, Swedish Limpa. It’s another recipe that might frighten one who has never tasted it. If you’re ever had it, though, you might be like me and wait in line at 5:30 in the morning at the bakery that (used to) make it only on Thursdays. (It’s a staple now that I’m 1500 miles away. No waiting for the bakery to open on Thursday morning.) Haven’t decided who gets Limpa. I might just eat it all.

After nearly twenty years I discovered there are pink peppercorns growing in my yard. Well, technically, pink peppercorns are from the Peruvian peppertree and mine are from Brazil. I think it’s the difference between $24 per pound and $36. This year it will be an experimental gift is to my daughter. (It’s no gift to people who watch the county try to eradicate the “weed.”) The entire family, including my six-year-old grandson, cooks. When I started cleaning the seeds, there grew a kinship to the girls and women picking stamens from a crocus to harvest saffron. I, of course, will try it before I mail it. As a gift, it should come with a small peppermill. In my kitchen, it will be ground in a mortar and pestle. I hope it tastes good.

Spice mixtures are always in the mix as gifts. They are very personal. Are you a grill master? You need a spice rub. There are Asian spice mixes, Mediteranean, Mexican. As I said, it’s personal. Don’t think I’ll give spice mixes as gifts unless I know they are going to people who really want to try them. Why go to all the trouble of grinding and mixing – and sometimes growing – the ingredients only to see them thrown into the garbage? No landfill in the nation has ever appreciated Herb de Provence.

Everyone loves cookies!