Month: February 2015

Monthly Planting Guide: March in the Piedmont

March is an exciting time for the garden as we transition from winter into spring!  As our Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity series continues until the first day of spring, see how much you can actually get planted even while it’s still winter!



Did you catch our February Planting Guide?

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Peel, pith, and pips! Piedmont Picnic talks marmalade

The count is neither sad nor sick nor cheerful nor well—

he’s just civil, as Seville as an orange,

with the same jealous-yellow complexion.

-Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing

This week, our citrus peels continue on their wheel of reincarnation, being made into one of the stars of citrus peel confectionery delights:  marmalade.  While reading extensively about marmalade of late, I must say the “jam porn” (as I like to call it) is taken to a whole new level as authors talk about the shining, citrusy, decadent, classic, perfect balance of bitter, sweet, and sour that is marmalade.  It brings out the anglophile in all of us, I think.

Our marmalade can be made with fresh citrus, saved peels (from fruit that has already been juiced or eaten), or from your peels after they’ve been soaked to infuse alcohol, such as in our Tale of Two Vins post.  Marmalade is a great addition to our Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity series, using up every last bit of your citrus.  As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, we are attempting to place ourselves in the mindset of a time when citrus would have been such a special commodity that we would have tried to hold on to every last bit of its flavor for as long as possible, seeing the peel as a valuable resource rather than a waste product.  Marmalade not only makes use of the peel, but showcases it.



Many of us probably associated marmalade with the British – as something you have on your crumpets with your tea.  Enough British stereotypes yet?  Throw in a “Cheerio!” for good measure.

Today we think of marmalade as referring exclusively to citrus jam – a sweet, tart, and slightly bitter combination of jellied citrus juice and tender peel.  The word marmalade comes from the Portuguese word marmelada, for quince jam.  Yet Seville oranges came to be known as the quintessential marmalade fruit.

Advert for 'Nell Gwyn' Marmalade, 1943.

American canning books will often differentiate between “quick” and “traditional” marmalade.  Quick marmalade has added pectin.  However, I prefer the long method, as the citrus peel is chock-full of pectin, making added pectin unnecessary if you are willing to take a little more time.  This utilizes an existing resource while saving you a little money and using fewer processed additives.


The peels.  As mentioned above, you can use fresh citrus, with all of the pulp and juice intact.  However we are using peels from citrus that has already had the flesh eaten or juiced (and then possibly soaked in alcohol).  If using juiced citrus, I leave the remaining pulp attached.  You can make a one-fruit marmalade out of any one citrus peel type, or mix and match.  Note that the classic Seville oranges are higher in pectin than much of the citrus we commonly use, and that freezing the peels can reduce pectin content.  This may mean you’ll need to cook your marmalade down further to get the consistency you are looking for without adding pectin.


The pips.  Many people recommend saving the pips, or seeds, from the fruit to soak or boil in a muslin bag to release further pectin.  However, many sources say that most of the pectin is really in the peels and pith, and the seeds don’t much matter.  I find with our more common citrus fruits, there are too few seeds to bother with, contrary to Seville oranges which are full of seeds.

The liquid.  For the liquid that makes the gelled portion of your marmalade, you can use water or citrus juice.  Alternatively, you can use wine, leftover cocktail or punch (whatever that is), or a combination of these things.  Note the significant color difference in the two jars in the picture at the top – one made with wine and the other with water.

Additional flavors.  Classic marmalade often does not include any added flavors, but rather, lets the taste of the citrus shine.  I am a big fan of the classics, but if you have a lot of peels, some variation is nice too.  Add fall spices to a marmalade of orange and red wine.  Add lots of fresh ginger to a classic orange marmalade to spice it up.  Add rosemary and peppercorns to grapefruit marmalade to mimic the flavors in our Vin d’ Pamplemousse.  Throw in a 1/4 cup of bourbon right before canning.  This is where there is some room for experimentation.


1 1/4 lbs citrus fruit/peels, quartered, seeded, and sliced very thinly

Liquid, enough to cover peels by about 1 inch (water, juice, wine, or a combination)

2 1/2 lbs sugar

2 lemons, juiced

Optional spices

Grease the bottom of a large heavy-bottomed saucepan (large enough that all contents do not come more than halfway up the side) with butter or oil.  This will help prevent scorching later.

Combine citrus fruit/peels and enough liquid to cover them in your large saucepan.  At this point, I like to cook the peels covered until they are soft (as long as 1-2 hours) and then let them sit in the liquid overnight to release more of the pectin.  But you can also just cook them covered until they are your desired softness, and then move on.


Note:  Test a peel’s softness by eating one.  If it is not to the softness you would desire it to be on your morning toast at this point, cook or allow to soak longer until it is.  The peels will NOT continue to soften once the sugar is added.

Optional: At this point, if you want to be extra sure of your ratio, you can strain the peels from the liquid and measure how much liquid you have.  You want to have an equal weight of liquid as you had peels when you started (so 1 1/4 lbs).  If you have less than this, add liquid; if you have more, cook the liquid down further.


Add any spices you wish at this stage.  For whole spices that you want removed before eating, place in a tied-up bag of cheese cloth to be easily removed later.

Warm the mixture over medium-high heat.


Stir in sugar and lemon juice before contents come to a boil.  The sugar will not dissolve as well if you add it to boiling liquid.

Bring mixture to a hard boil.   Sources disagree on whether you should stir or not during this stage, some saying not at all, others saying occasionally, still others saying constantly.  All have risks.  Stirring a pot of boiling marmalade sometimes seems it should require a welding mask due to the risk of popping, splattering hot sugar.  Yet, I have also had to chisel a scorched layer of jam off one too many pots to trust not stirring at all.  I’ll let you decide.

Begin testing the marmalade for thickness once it starts looking shiny and syrupy.  You need to chill a dollop to see what the consistency will look like once the marmalade has cooled.  I prefer to use the cold saucer “gel stage” test rather than looking for a specific temperature.  Furthermore, I like my marmalade to be about the consistency of thick syrup rather than “crinkle” when I do the saucer test.  I find taking the marmalade all the way to the “gel stage” is difficult with lower-pectin peels and puts you at a high risk of scorching.  It seems to still firm up nicely after cooling in the jars.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes once marmalade has reached the gel stage.  This allows it to thicken slightly, which means the peels will stay suspended in the liquid when you stir it, rather than all fall to the bottom.  This give you even peel suspension in your final jarred product.

You may notice foam on top.  You can either scoop any foam that has appeared on top off with a spoon, or simply stir it back in after the cooling period.  It’s just bubbles, so it won’t hurt anything.

Ladle the marmalade into clean jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace at the top of the jar.  If you want to store jars in the refrigerator, you can just put lids on and allow to cool before refrigerating.  If you plan to can the jars for long-term storage, see our instructions on water bath canning, and process at a boil for 10 minutes.


Enjoy your marmalade for months to come on toast (or crumpets)… on or in sponge or pound cake…. added to marinades, barbecue or stir fry sauces…  or smothered over pork or chicken.  If you eat (and drink!) as much citrus as I do all winter, you’ll certainly have the peels to make enough to last till next winter!


Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
The River Cottage Preserves Handbook

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Bring a little spring indoors: Forcing flowering branches

Flowering Branches

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Wild Winter Teas: aka Scurvy Prevention Strategy

I can’t seem to get enough hot liquid during the winter.  Whether it’s coffee, tea, or cider, I seem to have a hot mug of something in my hands at all times.  This may be in part due to our extreme energy-saving heat regimen at my house or maybe just the enjoyment of looking out into the cold day while sipping something warm and feeling it warm you through.

Of course, there are many herbs you can dry during the spring and summer months to be used as tea when winter comes, but there are also still things you could harvest now in the wild to be brewed into tea.  These winter treasures fall neatly into our Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity series.  Many of these wild things are also high in vitamin C, something that can be hard to come by locally in winter months.  The three winter teas below are all excellent sources of vitamin C and can add color to an otherwise dreary cup!  Drink them down to prevent scurvy or just to have a tasty, wintry treat!

Wild Rose Hips

Description and Habitat:  Rose Hips, the fruit of the rose plant, are often still on the plant throughout the winter.  Look for a thorny bramble, with a few leaves still attached holding on to a round, red berry or hip.  The rose hip will have a brown, leaf-like, five-part calyx at the top (see picture below).  The leaves of the plant will much resemble your garden rose variety.  The plants can be found along roadsides, at field or waterway edges, or along greenways (as this one was).  Of course, you can also collect hips from your garden roses if they have them (some hybrid varieties these days do not).

Wild Rose

Harvest:  Rose hips are available from summer through late winter.  Harvest is easy here!  Just pull or cut the hip off the end of the stem.  You can then dry them or use them fresh.

Rose Hip

Flavor and Use:  Rose hips are very tart.  The longer they are on the plant, the softer and less tart they will be.  This tartness is a good indicator of their vitamin C content.  They can be used to make candies, syrups, jellies, or teas.  See below for a full description of making tea from all three of our wild winter edibles.

Pine Needles

Description and Habitat:  Several long-needled pine trees are common to our area, including Loblolly, White, Virginia, and Longleaf.  These are each cone-bearing evergreens very similar in appearance, starting as a small sapling like the one pictured below, growing into huge, towering trees.  Smaller trees are preferable, as they are easier to reach.  😉  Look for clusters of long, green needles and a pine scent.  They grow in forests, along roadsides, and along greenways in our area (as well as in people’s yards).

White Pine Growing

Harvest:   The lighter green needles at the tips that come out in early spring are preferable to the darker ones, but both will work just fine for tea.  Cut or break off the tips.  At this point you can dry them or use fresh.

Flavor and Use:  Pine needles taste much the same way they smell…  that fresh pine scent.  They are also high in vitamins A and C.  There are many uses for various parts of the pine tree, but the primary use for the needles is to infuse their flavor in other things.  Our post today is on making teas (see below), but they could also be infused in spirits or used in beer brewing.  They could be used to smoke fish or meat.  Get creative with them for anything you want that piney flavor!

White Pine Needles

Staghorn Sumac

Description and Habitat:  Staghorn Sumac can often be seen growing along roadsides and is also found at field edges and along greenways.  The silhouette is rather distinctive in the winter, as you can see below, because each of its branches is tipped with a clump of berries.  The berries are reddish in color and furry.  These berry clumps can be found from late summer, through the end of winter.  They will have more flavor earlier in the season before much of it gets washed out by rain, but even now, they will still brew a tasty, yet weaker, tea.  Staghorn Sumac Silhouette

WARNING: You may have heard of Staghorn Sumac’s less-desirable cousin, Poison Sumac.  Poison Sumac will give you an extreme version of what poison ivy can do to you if you come into contact with it.  Luckily, the berries of the two look nothing alike, with poison sumac berries being white and smooth-skinned (very unlike the red, furry ones pictured below).

Harvest:  The entire cluster of berries can be snapped off the end of the branch and either used immediately or dried and stored.  You can see the cluster below has been through a long winter, as much of the red color has already been washed out of it.  Earlier in the season, the entire berry cluster would be red.

Staghorn Sumac

Flavor and Use:  Staghorn Sumac is most often brewed into a tea and drunk hot or cold.  It has a very tart flavor and a red color, so it is often used to make “wild pink lemonade” with no lemons needed.  This tartness is an indicator of its high vitamin C content.  This liquid could also be made into a syrup concentrate or jelly.  Some people also crush the dried berries and use as a seasoning.  See tea brewing instructions below.

Brewing Tea for All Three

We’re using photos of the Staghorn Sumac for this (because, let’s be honest, it looks the coolest), but these instructions apply to any of the three wild edibles above.

Tear apart or crush the plant roughly and place wild herb in a heat-safe jar or mug.

Staghorn Sumac Jar

Bring a kettle of water to the point of steaming, but not boiling.

Pour contents over wild herb.  If you like a stronger-tasting tea, pour less; a weaker tea, pour more.  Cover and allow to steep about 3-5 minutes.  A longer steep may result in a slightly stronger, but also often more bitter flavor.

Staghorn Sumac Steep

Strain the tea through a fine-mesh strainer (a very fine mesh is particularly important with the Staghorn Sumac, to remove its tiny hairs).

Staghorn Sumac Strained

Staghorn Sumac Strainer

Feel free to sweeten to your liking with honey at this point, and enjoy hot this winter, or cold this coming summer!

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: This is a good point to stress that (although this plant is very easy to identify) you should NOT eat any plant before you have positively identified it with a good plant guide (we recommend A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides)).  The first time you eat it, it is best to only have a small amount so that you can be sure you do not have any adverse effects from it (which is probably a good idea with any food you are trying for the first time, even off a grocery store shelf!).

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In Honor of our Founding Fathers: A New Spin on the French 75

Drink this new twist on an old favorite tonight for Presidents’ Day in honor of one of our founding fathers, James Madison, who said of champagne:

“was the most delightful wine when drank in moderation, but more than a few glasses always produced a headache the next day.”


Use a candied citrus peel instead of the classic sugar cube if you were following along with our candied peels recipe post earlier this month.   Some candied ginger would also be delicious in this!

New French 75

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12 Seed-Starting Tips for the New or Experienced Gardener

Tis the season for seed starting!  That’s right, now is the time to get your spring garden transplants started inside.  To do so, we’re going to guide you through everything you need to know to set up your own little seed-starting station at home.  If this looks daunting to you, you can always stick with seeds that get planted straight outside and/or purchase transplants from a garden center.  Growing your own will take time, but save money (which is often the trade-off in gardening).

Ruby Streaks Mustard Sprouts


There are many seeds you can start indoors now to transplant out later and others that you can plant directly into your garden.

TIP 1:  Follow an existing seed calendar.  Check out our Monthly Seed Planting Guides to keep track of what’s what.

TIP 2:   Keep a journal.  We recommend keeping some sort of journal (even if it’s just on the back of a napkin) to keep track of when you planted your seeds and when you should put them out.  You will thank yourself for this when you are wondering when harvest time will be.

Choosing Seeds

Knowing what varieties to plant can be tricky…

TIP 3:  Plant what you’ll eat.  You’ll stay more motivated if you are growing something you really like to eat and use in your favorite recipes.

TIP 4:  Plant what gives you the biggest bang for your buck.  If you like buying organic and heirloom varieties (which we do!), growing them can be a big money-saver.  See our “Resources” at the end of the post for our favorite sources.

Getting Started

TIP 5:  Pre-sprout your seeds.  This is an optional step that I find very helpful.  Because I often use seeds that are several years old or pick up seeds of unknown age at seed swaps or from friends, I like a little insurance that these seeds are actually going to come up before going to the trouble of planting them.  I am also a little impatient, so I like to hurry things along a bit.  To do this, I often pre-sprout my seeds on damp napkins in old plastic containers.  Anytime a restaurant puts a giant wad of extra napkins in our take-out bag, I store them away for seed-starting time.  I also keep a stack of yogurt and cheese containers with lids around just for this purpose.

Seed Sprouting

Just tear out a small square of napkin (or paper towel) and place inside the lid of your container.  Sprinkle it with just a little water – enough to make it the consistency of a damp sponge.  Take your seed of choice and sprinkle however many seeds as you want to have plants, plus about one-quarter more (i.e., if you want 4 plants in the end, start with 5 seeds).  Put the top on the container, place it in a warm spot (light is not really necessary), and wait.  Check it daily, as some seeds will sprout very quickly.  Once you see that little tail poke out from the seed, it’s time to plant it in your soil.  Be very careful, and don’t wait too long, as these newly sprouted seeds are very delicate.

Sprouted Seed


While you are waiting for your seeds to sprout, you can get your soil ready.

TIP 6: Use sterile soil.  For seeds that are just starting out, you want sterile soil that is not too nutrient-dense.  The young seedlings don’t need a lot of soil nutrients when they are just starting out, and too much of certain nutrients can even “burn” the young plants.  Sterile soil is important to avoid any soil-born pathogens.  How does one get sterile soil?

Soil Option 1 (Easier):  Purchase a sterile seed-starting mix from your local garden center.

Soil Option 2 (Cheaper): A good money-saving option is to dig up soil from your yard or garden or even use old potting soil from pots that are no longer being used.  If you use soil that has been hanging out outside, it is a good idea to sterilize it.  Make sure the soil is relatively free of clumps and debris.  Put soil in trays in the oven at 200 degrees until the soil has been fully heated through.  This is a trick I got from my grandma who has been a gardening powerhouse for ohhh about 70 years now, so I think it’s a good one!

Sterile Soil

Once your soil is sterile and sifted, moisten it in a bucket until it is like a damp sponge, and then use it to fill your containers.  What containers are those?  On to the next section!


Just about anything can be a seed-starting container!  I have about 1000 of the little plastic plant cell-packs (pictured throughout), so I generally just use them these days, but if you don’t have them, don’t go out and buy them.

TIP 7:  Use just about any container you have as a seed planter.  You can use yogurt cups, reused paper cups, toilet paper rolls (see demo below!)…  just about anything that can hold dirt!  Just poke some holes in the bottom of whatever it is you are using so that water can drain.  Then be sure to put them in another tray or pan to catch the water that is coming out.

TP Tube Planters

TIP 8:  Don’t forget to label!  If you are like me, you’ll think you’ll remember what you planted, but you won’t.  I like to hold onto those flat, wooden stirrers they often have at coffee shops to use for this purpose.  They are like the adult equivalent of a popsicle stick.

Water (and Air)

TIP 9:  Soil should be like a damp sponge.  As you may have noticed, I am a big fan of the “damp sponge” comparison.  Your soil should generally be moist, but not soaking wet.  Allow it to dry out somewhat between waterings, but not too much, especially when the plants are very young.  The older they get, the more they can handle slightly dryer soil between waterings.  But one major drought for tiny seedlings will be all it takes to inflict permanent damage.

TIP 10:  Make a mini-greenhouse.  If you have a clear plastic dome of any kind (like what lettuce mixes come in or any other plastic clamshell containers), you can use it like a greenhouse.  I find this helpful when plants are just coming up because overhead watering can be tough on young seedlings.

Seed Greenhouse

Once they are up and growing, I prefer to uncover them to allow for more air circulation and prevent mold and disease.  If you are an over-achiever, you can even put a low fan on the young seedlings to promote air circulation and encourage stronger stems.


A very sunny south-facing window can sometimes be enough, but more often than not, it will result in somewhat spindly plants.  Also, spaces next to windows can often be a cold micro-climate in your house; whereas you want to start your seeds in a warm place.

TIP 11:  Thrift your grow lights.  As you may have guessed, I am not the type to run out and buy an elaborate growlight set-up.  My favorite technique is to pick up a couple old desk lamps from the thrift store, preferably the kinds with bendy necks.  Put a CFL bulb in them, and they will function much like the florescent lights in actual grow lights.  If you want to up the amount of light getting to the plants, you can surround the lights and plants with reflective metal or mirrors.  I use old aluminum pie tins or roasting pans, and they work great!

Thrifty Plant Lights

Keep your lights about 2-4 inches above the plants at all times.  Too close, and the plants could burn.  Too far away, and they will get spindly reaching for that light.  You’ll want to keep your lights on them at least 6-8 hours a day, but to be honest, I rarely turn them off because I am too scared I will forget to turn them back on again.  A light timer would be great!  But I haven’t taken that plunge yet.  As far as I can tell, they don’t seem to mind the 24-7 “sun”shine…

If you have them next to a window, it may be best to close the blinds at night, lest your neighbors get ideas about what kind of grow operation you have going on over there.

Wait, Watch, and Enjoy!

Once the seeds are sprouted and hanging out in their soil with regular watering and lots of light, all there is left to do is wait, watch, and enjoy!

TIP 12:  Time your outdoor transition well.  Wait until your leaves have at least 2-3 sets of “true leaves” (this does not include their first leaf-pair which are not really leaves) and until your seed planting calendar says it’s safe to transplant them outside.

Ready to Transplant

Watch to make sure they have enough (but not too much) water and light.  Enjoy how amazing it is that all of this life is coming out of a tiny little seed…  Enjoy nourishing it into a full-grown plant…  Enjoy dreaming about the veggies that it will give you in a couple months!

And along with those dreams, I leave you with these chubby little cuties…

Wong Bok Seedlings

PS Bonus Tip – When it’s time to transplant your precious babies into the great outdoors, don’t just go straight from the warm bosom of the indoors to the great wild with no transition time.  Be sure to “harden off” your seedlings by putting them outside for a few hours at a time in dappled sunlight until they toughen up.  Then plant.  If a late frost is expected, cover them with row cloth or a jar or bottle over night.


As promised, our favorite vendors:

  • SeedSavers – Seed Savers is a non-profit organization whose whole mission is to collect and save seeds from heirloom plant varieties.  They offer organic and non-organic options.  Support their very important work by buying their seeds and find beautiful, unique, new, old varieties!
  • Botanical Interests – We love the varieties available through Botanical Interests.  They have many heirloom and organic varieties, and their seed packets are full of useful information and labeled with beautiful botanical illustrations.
  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange – Particularly if you are growing in the south, this seed company is an amazing resource!  Seeds also include many heirloom varieties.  Their seed catalog has a wealth of information about growing in our region in general as well as for each plant group and each seed variety.  This is where to go if you want to know how well-suited a variety is to our climate.
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Tap That! Piedmont Picnic Taps a Maple Tree

Check out the video below to see Piedmont Picnic Project tap their first maple tree here in Raleigh!  This is another part of our series on Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity, as sap is another food resource that is in-season and abundant in late winter when not much else is growing.

Our co-founder, Amanda, grew up helping her dad make maple syrup, so she is channeling his expertise in the video below.  She remembers emptying buckets of sap before getting on the bus in the mornings and having it slosh all over her.  Needless to say, she was very popular at school.  Their family has been tapping maples and making syrup for almost 40 years.  She remembers following her dad around when he would drill the trees with a manual, non-electric drill.  It was her job to use a small stick to clean out the hole to make sure it was free of wood shavings before the spile was put in (a step she forgets to mention in the video, so take note!).

Adjusting the tapping to southern winters has been a challenge, but the sap seems to be flowing pretty good at this time of year (about a month before the trees would have been tapped in northeast Ohio where she grew up).

Stay tuned for updates on our sap-collecting and syrup-making endeavors!

*style=spile  ; )

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Candied Citrus Peel: Vin Reincarnated

Candied citrus peel is another tasty and relatively easy way to use up a “trash food” that is still full of flavor, and that is why we’re featuring this yummy confection in our Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity series.  Again, if we think back to a time when citrus would have been harder to get your hands on and therefore a very special treat when you had it…  then it makes sense to use every bit!  And the best way to make a special treat even more special is to turn it into the candied jewels below.  Better yet, if you followed along with our Tale of Two Vins post, you can put your peels from that to work, yet again, reincarnating them into their third life!

Candied Peel _ Drying

The recipe below will work for virgin citrus peels, but it is even better with the ones that have been sitting in and absorbing that sweet, boozy slurry for a few weeks.  Much of the bitterness will have already left them, and they’ll have picked up other flavors.  Added Bonus: you don’t have to “waste” the alcohol they absorbed by just tossing them in the compost because it will all be part of the finished product here.

You can do this recipe with peels from any citrus fruit, but it is particularly tasty with the thicker peels of oranges and grapefruit (my personal favorite).

Candied Citrus Peel

citrus peels (soaked or unsoaked previously in booze, with or without pulp attached)



superfine sugar

Slice the peels into thin strips or “smiley faces” roughly 1/4-1/2-inch wide.  If you prefer a thinner or less-bitter peel, you can scrape out some of the white pith at this stage.  I generally like a meatier, slightly bitter candied peel, so I don’t scrape out much of the white pith.  Particularly if you are using peels that have been previously used to  infuse alcohol, much of that bitterness will already be gone anyway.

Place peels in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan.

If you are using virgin peels (not pre-soaked in alcohol), cover peels with water and bring to a low simmer for about 5 minutes.  Dump off water, and repeat until the bitterness is reduced to a palatable level for you when you taste a peel.  Then proceed to the next step.  If you are using peels that have already been soaked in alcohol, you can skip this entire pre-boiling step.

Fill sauce pan with water until peels are covered about one inch, measuring how much water you add.  Then add an equal amount of sugar (i.e., if you needed 4 cups of water to cover the peels, add 4 cups of sugar for a 1:1 ratio).

Bring to a very low simmer, and continue to simmer until peels are translucent.  If at any point the syrup becomes too thick or caramelizes to be darker than the color of straw, add water.  This will take about an hour.  To test if peel is done, remove one, allow it to cool, and see if you can bite through it easily.  You will notice a visible change in the appearance of the peels and liquid when they are ready, with both becoming very glossy.


Remove the peels from the syrup and allow to dry on a wire rack overnight or until no longer sticky.  Look at these fatties below – this is why I leave my pith in for maximum absorption potential.  Be sure to put a pan or wax paper under the rack, or you will have some tough-to-clean counters!


TIP: Reserve the syrup for later use as a citrus-flavored simple syrup.

Citrus Syrup

The next day, toss the peels in superfine sugar until coated.  Some sources recommend to even let the peels sit in the sugar overnight or even indefinitely to dry out further and allow any remaining gooeyness to fully absorb the sugar.  If you plan to store them more long-term, this may be a good idea.  As a bonus, it will give you some citrus-scented sugar to use in the future.  If you plan to store them directly in your belly, this is less necessary.


Store in an air-tight container in the pantry.  Peels will keep indefinitely if allowed to dry properly (but they may mold if not completely dry before storing).  If in doubt, eat within a couple of weeks or store in the refrigerator.


Now that you have them, how can you use them?

  • Dip one end of the peels in chocolate and serve with coffee or dessert.
  • Give a box of them as a gift.
  • Mince peels and add to fruit pies, pound cake, shortbread cookies, or ice cream.
  • Use as a garnish on almost anything, especially citrus cocktails, like the one at the end of this post or the one here Throw in some of that leftover citrus syrup as a bonus!
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Save the Date! TEDxManhattan: Changing the Way We Eat

TEDxManhattan Viewing Party | March 7 | Raleigh, NC

Piedmont Picnic Project is co-hosting a viewing party for TEDxManhattan- Changing the Way We Eat – with partners Activate14 and Community Food Lab.

This event is a one day annual event focused on sustainable food and farming. At our TEDxManhattan event, TEDTalks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.

Join us Saturday, March 7th from 10 AM to 6 PM at the AIANC Center for Architecture and Design (14 E Peace Street, Raleigh, NC 27604). The event is free and open to the public. Food and drink will be available from local organizations.

Tips on how to change the way you eat:


TEDxManhattan 2015 Run of Show (01/25/15)

Talks are 12 minutes unless noted
Session themes still being finalized

Webcast begins promptly at 10:30 (EST)

Session 1 – (10:30 – 12:25)
TED video (1:37)
Viewing Party intro film
Speaker 1 – Nikiko Masumoto (14 minutes)
Speaker 2 – Anim Steel
Speaker 3 – Ali Partovi
Speaker 4 – Stephen Reily (9 minutes)
Speaker 5 – Michele Merkel
Session Wrap Up

LUNCH 12:25 – 1:35 (Webcast Offline)

Session 2 – (1:35 – 3:35)
Speaker 6 – Marcel Van Ooyen
Speaker 7 – Robert Graham
Steve Ritz exercise break (3 MINUTES)
Speaker 8 – Dana Cowin (10 minutes – talk and TEDxM Award winner intro)
Speaker 9 – TEDxManhattan Award Winner
Speaker 10 – Stefanie Sacks
Speaker 11 – Joel Berg
Speaker 12 – DJ Cavem – talk and music (15 minutes)

BREAK 3:35 – 4:15 (Webcast Offline)

Session 3 – (4:15 – 6:00pm)
Viewing Party Check In
Speaker 12 – Henry Hargreaves (10 minutes) Real Food Media Project winner
Speaker 13 – Shen Tong (9 minutes)
Speaker 14 – Kendra Kimbirauskas
Speaker 15 – Danielle Nierenberg
Speaker 16 – Danny Meyer
Closing/Wrap Up


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Monthly Planting Guide: February in the Piedmont

As part of our series on Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity, we thought it would be good to know how much you can actually start planting in the month of February!  Check it out.


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