Along the Grapevine


16 Comments

Crabapple Squares

DSC02649I consider myself very fortunate  to have a crabapple tree growing in our front lawn, just steps away from our verandah. In the spring it produces showy pink blossoms, and the tiny red apples that appear in summer last well into the winter, although I only pick them before the first hard frost. The rest are for the birds – literally! The other day the tree was visited by some grey jays (aka whiskey jacks) which may soon be Canada’s new national bird emblem, and some winters bohemian wax wings pay us a visit. If the seedlings I transplanted survive this winter, I hope to have a few more of this magnificent tree in the future.

With the last harvest I picked some to make a jam – something so obvious but have never done before. It is really the same as the preserve I made before, but cooked for less time and, as a result, a little softer. Because crabapples have so much pectin, there is no need to add anything more than sugar and water – the jam kind of makes itself.

The first step is to cook the fruit in enough water to cover them plus an inch. Cover and simmer until the apples are really soft. Strain them through a food mill or press them through a sieve. To this liquid I used an equal volume of sugar, in this case two cups of juice and two cups of organic sugar. I then cooked it until it reached the ‘wrinkle’ stage, which is when a little is poured on a plate and tilted, the jelly wrinkles. Otherwise, 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer.DSC03295.JPGThis jelly is thicker than most, perfect for using as a filling. I also use it to add to dressing, marinades and sauces. This time I chose to make something resembling date squares but substituting them for the more exotic dates. DSC03297.JPG

Instead of using sugar for the oat mixture, I used a small amount of regular apple jelly, but any fruit jelly, honey or maple syrup would also work well.

Crabapple Squares

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter (or lard or coconut oil). I used equal parts of all of them.

1/4 cup fruit jelly or alternative sweetener, such as honey or syrup

1 cup flour

2 cups large flake oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

crabapple jam

Method

Soften the butter and stir in the sweetener. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Put half the mixture into and 8 inch square pan or equivalent. Spread the jam evenly, then cover with the remaining oat mixture and pat lightly to flatten. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is nicely toasted. Allow to cool before cutting.

I invite you to drop in at this week’s  Fiesta Friday which I am co-hosting with one of my favourite food bloggers, Julianna from Foodie on Board. If you would like to share one of your own recipes, just follow these guidelines and join the party!DSC03300.JPG


16 Comments

Wild Grape Curd

DSC03249.JPGA delicious adaptation of lemon curd, this wild grape dessert has just as many uses. By using fresh or frozen wild grape juice, it is ready in a matter of minutes. It can be used as a topping for pound cake, ice cream or baked in tarts or pastry or even just as is – it’s that good. All you will need is a few wild grapes which are available now for the picking!

DSC03255.JPG

This is a rare year in S.E. Ontario. The grapes appeared about 6 weeks ago and are still going strong. It is the first time I have been able to harvest them even after a frost which is when they are at their sweetest. The only drawback is there are few leaves left on the bushes, so they are a little harder to identify. Be sure that they are in fact grapes and not Virginia Creeper. The former grow in a dense, elongated bunch as seen in the photo above, while the Virginia Creeper grows in a widespread bunch, and have redder, fleshier stems as seen below.

20091003153904 Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) vine with blue berries - Oakland Co.JPGIn a past post, I produced the juice by heating the berries until soft, then straining them This time I tried a different method as I wanted some fresh, uncooked juice for making sodas and juice. For 6 cups of fruit, I added two cups of water and then pressed them through the food mill. It was this juice I used for making the wild grape curd.

Wild Grape Curd

Ingredients

1 cup grape juice

4 eggs and 1 egg yolk

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, cut into small pieces of about 1 Tbsp. each

Method

Beat together the first three ingredients in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl (or use a double boiler) over simmering water and stir constantly. Once the mixture coats a metal spoon (about 8-10 minutes) remove it from the heat and gradually add the butter one spoonful at a time and mix until it has all melted and blended in with the curd. Cool and refrigerate. It will keep for five days in the fridge.

I also used this same juice to make a quick and easy jam by mixing together 2 cups of juice, 1 1/2 cups sugar (1/3 cup of which was lavender scented) and 4 Tbsp chia seeds. I cooked all this together on the stove top until sufficiently thickened. I had never heard of making jam this way, but have since learned it’s been done before. No wonder, it so easy, can be made in small amounts and is also great for baking. I used it to make pop tarts.

As for the seeds and skin which get separated for the juice, no need to throw them all out. Fill a jar about 1/4 full with the pulp, then fill with white wine vinegar and allow to sit for at least three weeks before straining, longer if possible, and you will have a fruity vinegar which can be used as is or reduced and thickened with butter to make a gourmet sauce.DSC03268.jpgRelated posts: Wild Grape Ketchup;  Burmese Cake with Wild Grape Glaze.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #143; Cooking with Aunt Juju, Spoon in a Saucepan.


17 Comments

Spicy Buckwheat Apple Cake with Sea Buckthorn Icing

DSC03246.JPGI have made more than a few recipes lately with the applesauce about which I wrote last week. All were good, but this one I particularly wanted to share as I thought it ideal for the fall season. It has the delicious, almost nutty flavour of buckwheat which makes it gluten free and is lightly sweetened and spiced. Once I was satisfied with the texture and flavour of this cake, I ‘tarted’ it up with an icing made from sea buckthorn berries, another ingredient I wrote about recently. Although I have made a few recipes with this superfood, this is the first where it was not necessary to cook the berries at all.

Rather than cooking before straining, I simply pressed them through a garlic press to extract the juice. You only need a small amount, so this is very easy to do. The flavour is perfect in an icing, tasting like a mixture of orange and lemon – but oranges and lemons don’t grow in my backyard so they don’t make it into very many of my recipes.

Spicy Buckwheat Apple Cake with Sea Buckthorn Icing

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Tbsp ginger juice plus 1 tsp dried ginger (or if no fresh ginger is available, 2 tsp dried ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp soda

2 cups buckwheat flour

Cream the oil and add the sugar gradualy. Add the eggs, yogurt, applesauce and ginger juice. To make ginger juice, take about 1 sq. inch of fresh ginger, chop it and press it through a garlic press. Mix the dry spices, soda and flour  and add gradually to the wet mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F in a greased 9 inch square pan for 35 minutes.

Serve as is, or ice it once cool.

For the icing, soften 1/3 cup coconut oil or butter. Gradually add 1 cup icing sugar, and between additions add about 3 Tbsp sea buckthorn juice.

This recipe can be baked in different forms. I did some in small muffin tins, perfect for freezing for when emergency snacks are called for.dsc03223

Linked to Fiesta Friday #142, Foodbod, and O Blog Off


10 Comments

Savoury Apple Juniper Soup

DSC03243.JPGThis has been a great year for apples – so good in fact that I have heard pleas on the radio for people to do the trees a favour and pick the fruit because the branches are breaking from the weight. The fruit may be smaller than usual because of the horrific drought, but they are more numerous and, even better, sweeter than ever.

The problem is what to do with all those apples. Those I can’t use right away I preserve either by making applesauce, and when freezer space runs out I dehydrate the rest. For the applesauce I cut them in half to make sure the insides are not infested or bad, chuck them into a pot of water, seeds, skin, core and all and cook them until soft. Once they are pressed through a food mill they can be frozen. The rest get peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (roughly) and dehydrated, while the cores and peel are used for scrap vinegar.

DSC03214.JPG

For my recipe this week I wanted to make a savoury dish so I did a search for soups. I read several tempting recipes from around the world, especially China and Eastern Europe, but either they called for ingredients I didn’t have or they were too sweet and better suited for a dessert. This one was perfect – a spicy Norwegian soup using juniper berries, a local ingredient I had just been collecting and drying and was keen to find a use for.DSC03219.JPG

If you don’t have any in your area, they can also be purchased at a good spice shop.

I altered the recipe somewhat, including using applesauce instead of chopped apples and then pureeing the whole batch. I liked my method because there is still some texture with the onions which I prefer, it being less like baby food. The combination of spices is not too strong, none overpowers the flavour but adds a subtle taste of exotica to the apples.

DSC03215.JPG

Savoury Apple Juniper Soup

2 Tbsp oil

1 onion, chopped fine

1 inch ginger

1 Tbsp juniper berries

4 cardamoms

3 allspice berries

1 stick cinnamon

a few sage leaves

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup water

4 cups unsweetened applesauce (preferably home-made)

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Fry the onion and ginger in the oil until soft. Add the stock and water. Wrap the other spices and herbs in cheesecloth and place in the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove  the spice bag, stir in the applesauce, salt and pepper and heat through.

dsc03241Serve hot garnished with sour cream or apple slices.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #141, Foodie on Board and Food for the Soul.


12 Comments

Cranberry and Sea Buckthorn Sauce

A delicious variation of the classic cranberry sauce, this recipe combines beautifully the tart fruity flavour of sea buckthorn with cranberries.

This Thanksgiving weekend in Canada I have been hearing lots of discussion on the topic of traditional dishes for this celebration. Among the things I have learned, cranberry sauce is a must, but few people actually like it. I suspect they are talking of the tinned variety, in which case the disdain is well earned, but cranberry sauce is arguably the easiest part of the menu, and making it with fresh berries is about as easy as boiling water. I usually just mix it with a little sugar or honey and water, and if available orange juice instead of water and some orange zest. It goes well not just with the turkey and dressing, but with any vegetarian alternative, with crackers and cheese, and best of all in sandwiches.

This year I decided to add some of my own garden produce – namely sea buckthorn which is now ripe and ready to be picked. If you are not familiar with this berry, please refer to this post. Although this berry is not native to here, it is making its way into markets as its nutritional benefits and sharp flavour are becoming recognized.DSC01282The best way to extract the juice from these berries is to cook them in a pot with a little water for a few minutes, then strain them. The less water you use, the better, but be sure to use enough the pot doesn’t boil dry.

For my cranberry sauce, I used 4 cups of fresh (or frozen) cranberries, 1/2 cup honey (or sugar) and 1 cup of strained sea buckthorn juice. Heat to a gentle boil until the berries start to pop and are all soft. Add more sugar or honey to  taste if you want a sweeter sauce.

DSC03235.JPGDon’t worry if it looks a little runny – it will thicken as it cools. Store any leftovers in a covered jar in the fridge where it will keep for at least 2 weeks. This recipe may even be the biggest hit of your festive dinner this year.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #140, Hostess at Heart and Fabulous Fare Sisters.


11 Comments

Chokecherry Chiffon Pie

100_1819Light and airy, sweet and tart, this dessert is based on a classic I have not made or even seen in a while. For some reason the strong flavour and colour of the now ripe chokecherries is perfect for this otherwise bland pie.

In the world of foraging, it is often either feast or famine. Berries and fruits in particular have a habit of not showing up at all, or appearing in such profusion it can be overwhelming. After all, if you find a fruit which only appears once every few years you want to make as much use of it as you can. In my six years on this property, we have only had one decent harvest of wild grapes, and this year is another bust in that department. However, I have discovered several chokecherry trees I hadn’t even known existed. My jelly I made last year was made from berries foraged on a friend’s property, but this year I have my own!

They are only just barely ripe enough for picking now – very dark red – not at all sweet, but when sweetened and cooked (not to be eaten raw) they have a deliciously tart cherry flavour. If you don’t have chokecherries in your area, you could use another wild fruit or berry with equally delicious results.DSC03177.JPG

This recipe calls for chokecherry juice. To make the 1 cup called for, I placed 4 cups of fruit in a pan with 1 cup of water, covered and simmered it for about 15 minutes until the fruit was very soft. I strained the juice through a sieve, only pressing lightly on the berries to extract the juice but careful not to crush them. I did not want it pulpy.

For this kind of pie, a biscuit type of pastry is often used because it is less likely to get soft from the mixture. I used a gluten free quinoa flour pastry made with coconut oil and a bit of water, so the pie will not keep as well, but then I don’t intend to keep it long.

Chokecherry Chiffon Pie

1 pre-cooked 9 inch pie pastry

Ingredients
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp gelatin
1 cup chokecherry juice
3/4 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream (35%)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
syrup or pieces of fruit to garnish (optional)
Method
Dissolve the gelatin in the water. In a saucepan, combine the juice, sugar and egg yolks. Cook gently over a medium low heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until the mixture coats the back of a spoon which occurs at 140 degrees F if you have a thermometer.
Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin until it has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool in a basin of cold water until it is about room temperature but not set.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until it starts to mound. Add the sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. The mixture should not be too dry. Fold the egg whites carefully into the chokecherry mixture and fill the pastry. Set in the fridge to cool for at least four hours.
Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla and spread on top. Garnish with pieces of fruit or a drizzle of syrup or softened jelly.

DSC03179.JPGLinked to Fiesta Friday #130, cookingwithauntjuju and Food, Eat, Love


21 Comments

Sourdough Soda Crackers

DSC03166.JPG

Sourdough soda crackers, some with za’atar, some just salt 

If you happen to make sourdough bread, you might find yourself in the enviable position of having an excess of starter. Recipes for sourdough always suggest you discard half of it, but that seems an extreme measure. I have managed to add it to all sorts of baking which, while allowing me to use up the excess,  does not make it a real sourdough recipe. So I was very pleased to find a great recipe for banana sourdough pancakes from Justyna at Garlic Matters. These are so simple to make, and the sourdough combined with the baking soda make the lightest and tastiest pancakes I have every had.

Of course, one good recipe often leads to another. As I was thinking of how to use even more of my sourdough, I decided to try this soda trick to make crackers. I have been trying to come up with a fool-proof recipe for a simple cracker, and as luck would have it, I finally succeeded with this one. Light, crispy and good for at least a week in a closed container, they are the perfect snack to have on hand. For my first attempt, I used plain salt on half of them and some za’atar for the other half since I was processing sumac at the time. I expect every time I make these, they will undergo some change of flavour depending on my mood.

Ingredients

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup sourdough starter

enough flour to make a workable dough, about 2 cups

salt, herbs, seeds or other topping (optional)

Method

Dissolve the salt and baking soda in the water. Add to the sourdough and mix thoroughly. Use a large bowl, because the mixture will bubble up and almost double in volume. Gradually mix in enough flour to make a workable dough and knead it until all the flour is incorporated. Divide the dough in half and roll each half to about 1/8th of an inch thickness. I found a pasta maker at the widest setting worked well for this. If using any seasoning or salt, sprinkle it evenly over the surface, then roll it lightly again to keep it from falling off. Puncture the surface with a fork. Cut the crackers in whatever shape and size you want and place on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake at 425 F for 8-10 minutes, or  until the edges turn a golden brown. Makes about 6 dozen 1 inch square crackers.

Needless to say, there is no need to stick to this recipe. I repeated this same process using rye flour instead of wheat, added 1 Tbsp of dark molasses to the water and soda mixture, and sprinkled liberally with caraway seeds before baking. The next one might be cornmeal! So now my problem with excess sourdough starter is solved, and I am now faced with the problem of not having quite enough!

DSC03174

Sourdough soda crackers with rye and caraway seeds