In My Kitchen – December 2018

It’s December, oh my! Last year we decided to be grinches and completely ignore the holiday. No tree or ornaments, minimal gifts, no Christmas puddings or special desserts, no turkey (although I did make roast beef), no stuffing (to my families great regret), no decorating at all. We were in the middle of getting the Oakland house ready to sell and downsizing. So, to keep our stress level at a bearable level, we decided to skip Christmas. It was empowering. I recommend an occasional miss to the craziness of the holiday. I give you permission.

This year it feels totally new and fun. After a year’s respite, we are deciding what traditions to keep, what is important to us. We have a tree, although it is somewhat smaller than the ones we used to have at the Oakland house. There is only room for the most beloved of ornaments. And I have decorated the house, but more on a minimal scale.

This year I am busy making gifts in the kitchen to share with friends and family. So, what is new in my kitchen? This post is part of a regular theme, bloggers from around the world share what is new in their kitchens each month. It’s a fascinating glimpse and I am so happy that Sherry has taken on the responsibility of hosting us each month. You can read those other posts by following the links on Sherrys Pickings.

In My Kitchen
Sherry’s Pickings

In my kitchen I have kumquats. I so rarely see them in the market that I had to snatch up a quart of them. My mother use to make wonderful preserved kumquats that she served with smoked chicken or turkey.

Fresh Kumquats

Preserved Kumquats

It’s a four-day process but very easy. I will be posting the recipe.

In my kitchen, I have Meyer lemons. I decided to harvest most of the lemons from the tree in a half wine barrel on the deck. There were dozens of small ones and I hope to encourage larger ones by the selective pruning.


Meyer Lemons

In my kitchen I have Meyer lemon confit (a big hit), sugared Meyer lemon slices, and an Indian Meyer lemon pickle.

Follow the link to see the recipes if you find yourself in a similar position. Of course you could use regular lemons as well. Since you are using the skins, organic is better without that wax coating.

Lemon tree with blossoms and tiny new lemons

The tree already has many blossoms and tiny green lemons.

In my kitchen I have turkey stock, simmering from the turkey carcass that was in the freezer after Thanksgiving. It will be the base for wonderful soups this winter.

Simmering Turkey Stock

In my kitchen I also have turkey confit made from thighs. These I cooked for 24 hours sous vide at 149 degrees F. They come out meltingly tender and delicious. That’s some of the lemon confit and lemon olive oil in the bag flavoring them.

Turkey Thigh Confit

If you are cooking sous vide for many hours, I recommend purchasing a protective sleeve (made from wet suit material) and a cover. It will save electricity and keep condensation away, as well as saving plastic wrap.

Sous vide

You can purchase the hinged covers on Amazon, you will want to find the one that is specific for your sous vide machine.

In my kitchen I have homemade red wine vinegar. This crock has been going for several years now and the vinegar is wonderful. I pour in all the leftover dregs of red wine.

I am using the vinegar to make mustard as gifts. This is one of my mother’s favorite recipes for holiday giving. You need to be partial to the heat, it is hot. Again, another post in the making.

Beginnings of homemade mustard

Lastly in my kitchen is Fennel Spice. This is a recipe from Michael Chiarello. I use it to flavor roast chicken and lentil soups. If you have never had it, I highly recommend his recipe. It is positively addictive and is a favorite of mine for holiday giving.

Toasted Fennel spice before grinding

Lastly in my kitchen I have these wonderful tulips, definitely a splurge but they are so beautiful. I try to avoid purchasing commercial flowers (that industry is not at all environmentally sound) but couldn’t resist.


I can enjoy them just on the other side of my kitchen sink. They are a splash of color on a grey cloudy day.

What are you up to in your kitchen this month?



24 thoughts on “In My Kitchen – December 2018

  1. Last spring I made Kumquat chutney with the fruit of a tree in a garden in Israel where I was visiting. It was really delicious — your kumquats must make a very good preserve too. They rarely appear in markets here in the frozen north! All your cooking looks very tempting.

    best… mae at

    • Kumquat chutney sounds amazing! I rarely see them here as well, jumped at the chance to buy some. Is the chutney recipe on your blog? I would like to keep it in mind if I see some more.

  2. Love the sound of the fennel spice Liz, will def give that a go. Cumquat marmalade is a much loved staple in my pantry. I used to have a tree in a tub that always fruited, sadly I had to leave it down south, but luckily in winter I’m able to buy organic cumquats from a reliable source. Have a happy (revitalised) Christmas

    • Thank you. You are lucky to have a source, this is the first time I’ve seen them up here. Maybe in the farmer’s markets of the bay area they are more frequent. I’ll have to check it out when I am there next time

  3. Beautiful. Why the hell didn’t I freeze the turkey carcass? I guess I was in a hurry to get the meat off and get back with guest that I didn’t even think about it. Thank you for that mention. Hopefully I will remember to do that next year!!!

    • My freezer was pretty stuffed, my husband complained that his ice cream fell out every time he opened the door. Happy Holidays Mimi.

  4. What a great post!! I haven’t seen these in a while, I remember seeing them pretty often when I frequented FF, I think there were some folks there who participated IMK. I fully agree one has to skip Christmas every so often, especially since it comes on the heels of Thanksgiving and I’m not so sure I want to do all that baking and cooking again. I haven’t even decorated the house this year, just a wreath outside. Perhaps our daughter’s wedding and 7 other weddings that we attended this year have left me exhausted! I love the idea of making all your gifts, and wow, those recipients will be so lucky. I used to do that too. All amazing ideas! I’m so jealous that you have lemon and lime trees in your backyard. Happy Holidays!

    • Thank you Loretta. I still participate in FF occasionally, some regular members are among my favorite bloggers and I have gotten to know them over the past few years. But IMK remains my top group. When I first started blogging I tried out several of the blogging parties but didn’t find most of them particularly satisfying. I am not trying to commercialize my blog, simply have a record and build community. It was liberating skipping Christmas last year, we will do it again. I thought it would be sad and difficult but it wasn’t. I’m even open to traveling at that time of year in the future, skipping one year gave me permission.

  5. Your vinegar and mustard are inspiring me – never something I would have thought of making from scratch but can imagine they are so much better than store bought versions. Merry Christmas!

    • The vinegar is much better, less bitter and fuller in flavor. It came about by accident. I won an “instant wine cellar” at a fund raising event. The only problem was that half the red wines were over the hill as they hadn’t been stored properly. Rather than throw them down the drain, I made vinegar. It’s quite easy but you need to be patient.

  6. Lovely, lovely tulips! I am jealous of your lemons as citrus season is of course well and truly done in the southern hemisphere. But how can you have a seafood platter or sour cocktail at Christmas without lemons? I resist and don’t buy the citrus imported from California and use juice I’ve squeezed and frozen and pretend it’s fresh. Close, but not the same. I’ve toyed with the idea of making vinegar but have never been really serious. I have started making my own yoghurt from scratch and also do sauerkraut so I suppose it’s not too much of a push. Happy Christmas to you. xx

    • Happy holidays! I have made my own yogurt but (with the exception of the packaging) the local store bought is better. And sauerkraut, I have toyed with that one but no one in my house would eat it. I did ferment Brussels sprouts one year, they were minimally acceptable to the home team.

  7. Oh Liz- Everything looks amazing! I think the sous vide turkey thighs sound incredible and the preserves look like jewels!

    • I think you have a sous vide maker, sous vide turkey is a completely different bird. Happy holidays Jane, miss you and your family.

  8. hi Liz,
    oh wow i love the idea of having your own home made vinegar available. i have just made a batch of wholegrain mustard for hubby, and a few jars for gifts. i use up all the different vinegars i have about the kitchen to give it flavour. i adore cumquat jam, even tho not normally a jam fan. yes as tiffin fiona says, it is ironic that our citrus season is in winter but we want it for summer drinks and salads etc. have a fab xmas break. thanks for being an IMK joiner this year. and thanks for the mention. cheers sherry xx

    • You are welcome Sherry, IMK is a favorite. I like the idea of the mixed vinegars. They would give it completely different flavors. If I see kumquats again, I will make jam. It sounds intriguing. I am not generally a jam fan either but I like the citrus ones for glazing.

  9. Liz, we did the Christmas downsize a few years back. We have our beloved Christmas decorations out, but we no longer do a tree and all the hoopla. To me, it’s a good thing to lessen the hecticness of the holidays as one grows older. And, in my mind, making the gifts that one gives is fulfilling and also wonderful for those who receive those gifts. Well done.

    • Thanks Ron, we put up a tree this year but not last. I must have downsized several hundred ornaments and only kept the most beautiful or ones with the most sentimental history. It was gratifying to give them to our local charity shop and know others (and there are many others due to the fires these last two years) will be able to enjoy them. They lost everything. Living in the country most of the time now means we are not surrounded by all the crazy hoopla, it’s easy to concentrate on what is important.

  10. I loved reading about your ‘year off Xmas’ Liz – funny we did the same last year as we packed up one unit and moved to our new home just before Christmas – so decorations etc were the last thing on my mind. Back to full steam ahead though this year – like you!

  11. Liz, thanks for your permission to take a break from the holiday hoopla. At times we’re so unconscious by mid-December we do holidays by “rote” rather than really appreciating them. Loved that you’re re-evaluating your traditions, ornaments, and things of most importance. How do you make your homemade red wine vinegar? (Apart from the leftover dregs, ha!) I’ve seen “quick fix” recipes — adding vinegar to red wine — but your steeped version looks much more intriguing and better tasting.

    • You are welcome Kim. Sometimes I think we rush around just because we should, instead of taking a breath and thinking about what is important. The vinegar really is delicious Kim, much smoother than commercial vinegar with a deeper flavor. Maybe I will post it, many folks may have leftover red wine after the holidays. Patience is the most difficult part of it.

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