Along the Grapevine


Sunchoke Lemon Pesto

DSC01298We have had a few light frosts already but the ground is wet and unfrozen. This means it’s the best time to harvest some of my favourites, among them sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes. I have written several posts on these tubers, but if you are not familiar with them, refer to this post.


The wonderful thing about sunchokes is that they taste just like actual artichokes. Also, they grow easily and are available from October till April at any time the ground is not frozen solid. They are inexpensive and if you have your own source, they are free!

On the downside, they do not store well. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but are best very fresh.  Once cooked, they have to be consumed within a day or two, and never try to freeze them. I have found drying and fermenting the best way to preserve them – until I came up with my latest sunchoke recipe, a pesto made with herbs, roasted sunchokes and roasted almonds. This kept well in the fridge for a week, and after that I froze the remainder, and neither the taste nor the texture suffered as a result. The artichoke flavour came through perfectly, and the lemon flavour and herbs were a delicious combination. Pine nuts, walnuts or filberts would work just as well, and as for herbs, use what you like and have on hand.


Sunchoke Lemon Pesto


1/3 cup roasted sunchokes

1 cup lightly packed herbs (I used half and half mint and basil)

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup roasted almonds

juice of 1 lemon

a strip of lemon rind (optional)

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil


Chop the nuts and herbs in a food processor. Blend in  the other ingredients, except the oil. Once everything is combined, add the oil slowly until you have the right consistency.

Like all pestos, this goes well with any kind of pasta. No need for cheese here, unless of course you really want it.


Spread on crackers or bread, it makes a super and easy little snack.


And it stores well!

Linked to Fiesta Friday #95

Related posts: Jerusalem Artichokes

Potato, Leek and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli

Coconut Lime Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom and Black Walnut Soup

Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi

Jerusalem Artichoke Tea Biscuits

Jerusalem Artichoke and Fennel Soup

Sunchoke and Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Sunchoke Dip







Seabuckthorn Gelato


To begin with, I don’t want anyone to think that this plant is in any way related to our local buckthorn. It is an entirely different plant, but the name is fitting because it does have nasty thorns on it. I presume the sea part might have something to do with the appearance of the silvery green leaves which in windy weather make a mass of them look like waves on the sea. I have no idea if that is fact or my own fiction, but it makes sense to me.

Usually found in China, Russia and adjacent countries, this berry is appearing more and more frequently in these parts. I have seen several posts and articles about people cultivating it here in North America. Small wonder considering how hardy it is, how easy it is to grow and how nutritious these little berries are. For more on the benefits of it you might read this. I believed it to be a remarkable source of everything ever since I read somewhere that Ghengis Khan had a constant supply of it for his soldiers so that they could take over the world. How’s that for an endorsement!

Having made some delicious jelly with my first pickings in my last post, I decided to try something new. I had never made gelato before and after reading some articles on making gelato I was intrigued and encouraged by the fact that only milk, starch, sweetener and flavour are required. So sea buckthorn gelato was my choice for this week’s Fiesta Friday.

The recipe requires only three ingredients, one being my recent jelly concoction. Other than that, just milk and some cornstarch. Obviously you could do this with other sweetened preserves too, so even if you haven’t come across these berries yet, you can still use this recipe for a not-too-rich but thoroughly delicious frozen dessert. If you use non-dairy milk, this would be a vegan dessert. Unfortunately I failed to think of that until after I had started – but next time.

I used four cups of milk, 1 cup of jelly and 4 Tbsp cornstarch. I used one cup of milk to dissolve the cornstarch. The remaining three cups were heated with the jelly, and then the cornstarch mixture added. Bring to a boil on medium heat continuing to stir. Once it comes to a boil turn down the heat further and allow to boil while you stir for another two minutes. Cool it, then chill it well and freeze in an ice cream maker. In the absence of one, just stir the mixture around every half hour until three or four times.


Put it in a freezer container and freeze for a few hours more.


Compared to ice cream, this was much easier to make. It is also a lot less rich, and the reduced fat actually lets the taste of fruit come through better. I won’t be giving up my ice-cream endeavours completely, but it will not be the last time I make gelato either.


Sea Buckthorn Jelly


My seabuckthorn plants are flourishing, and the three female plants are producing far more berries than I can pick. They are also reproducing at an almost alarming rate, although the lawn mower has unwittingly taken care of some of the shoots coming from, I believe, the male plant. Their rate of growth is encouraging, and I expect some of the seeds will find their way into neighbouring properties, so foraging sea buckthorn in this area might become a reality before long.


I have written about this remarkable shrub in an earlier post, but since then have learned some practical tips about how to harvest them. They are difficult to pick. They are indeed thorny, and the small berries are soft with a very thin skin, so as soon as you apply a little pressure when picking, they tend to collapse and squirt you with sticky juice. However, if a few branches are snipped off and put in the freezer for a day, they can then be removed from the branches quite easily. As the plants need some good pruning anyway, this is the perfect time to do it.


If you find them in a local market, this is the way they will be displayed – thick clusters still on the branches.

The delicate leaves can also be removed to make a delicious tisane.

Seabuckthorn Jelly on Punk Domestics

As for the berries, I decided to make a jelly which would be an easy way to preserve them, and presumably a useful addition to my pantry. I used only one cup of berries, and did not worry too much if some of the woody bits attached to the base were still attached as it would all be strained after the first cooking.

To make the jelly, I covered the berries with water and cooked them until soft – about ten minutes. I strained them, added a little hot water to the pulp and strained them again.

For two cups of strained juice, I added three cups of organic sugar. This I brought to a boil and then simmered until it reached a temperature of 235 degrees F or 120 C. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you will know it is ready when it reaches the soft ball stage.


Pour into a jar and let cool. The amount of sugar in this means that it will keep for a few weeks, so I didn’t worry about processing it. I didn’t even remove the foam from the top because it too is just as tasty!



The flavour of the sour raw berries is not appreciated by everyone, perhaps because it is so unfamiliar, but once cooked with sugar it has a fruity caramel taste. It makes a wonderful spread, but can also be used in baking, desserts, as a glaze or a sweetener for drinks. In short, anywhere you might use honey.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #94


A Mushroom Dish from Russia


A local forager had collected an impressive amount of maitake mushrooms (grifola frondosa), and I jumped at the chance to take some off her hands. In this part of the world, apart from in Asian supermarkets, they are more commonly known as hen-of-the-woods, probably because of their clusters of spoon shaped caps resembling fluffed-up chicken feathers.

Native to Japan and North America they are found in wooded areas growing at the base of trees, oaks, elms and sometimes maples. They feed off the rotting roots of the trees, and when found are often abundant. They have long been recognized in Asia for their medicinal properties, and here they are increasingly popular as a rich source of minerals, vitamins, fibres and amino acid. I had never cooked with them before, but the wonderful woodsy aroma that filled my car on the way home indicated I was in for a treat.

I cooked a few immediately in a pasta dish just to try them out. Robust in flavour and firm in texture, they were unlike any other mushrooms I knew of.

I decided to dehydrate the bulk of them, as mushrooms always seem to benefit from the drying process in concentrating their flavour. These required about 8 hours, depending on how thick you cut them, at 135 F or until they are brittle.


I set aside a few to make a recipe I have been wanting to make for a long time – a dish I used to have in Russia called julienne. I know that usually refers to a method of cutting vegetables, but the Russians adopted many French terms in the old days, making their own original dishes, and this is one of them. It consists of mushrooms cooked in a rich creamy sauce, and served piping hot in little clay pots or sometimes in a pastry shell.

I have no recipe for this, but worked with my memory of how it tasted. I made it a little less rich by using yogurt instead of sour cream, and to prevent it from being too runny, I first strained the yogurt through a couple of layers of cheesecloth for a couple of hours to remove the excess whey. The result was a little more tart than the julienne I remember in Moscow, and not quite as smooth and creamy, but I actually liked it just as well, especially considering I made more than just a little ‘pot’ of it and didn’t want to over-indulge. The cheddar cheese is also a Canadian touch which, in my opinion, works brilliantly.


Julienne Mushrooms


oil for frying

5 Tbsp finely chopped onion

2 cups julienned mushrooms

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup white wine

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup cream (35% fat)

2 cups yogurt, strained

3 Tbsp finely grated hard cheese, such as cheddar

Fry the onion and mushrooms until the onions are soft and transluscent. Add the seasonings and white wine and heat through to let the alcohol evaporate. Stir in the cornstarch, then the cream and the strained yogurt. Place in oven proof ramekins or a single dish, sprinkle with the grated cheese, and broil until lightly browned and bubbly.



It is delicious served hot as an appetizer or a side dish. I also tried it cold as a spread with cucumbers.

You can use any kind of good quality, fresh mushroom for this dish, but if you come across these meaty maitakes, I hope you’ll give them a try.


Crabapple Rolls


This is a good year for crabapples, unlike last year. This means I am busy preserving these delicious little fruits for use all winter long and perhaps beyond – depending on our luck next year.

As I was experimenting, I ended up unintentionally with some crabapple jam. I was aiming for jellied candies, but in total frustration, just turned it into jam. This is uncannily similar to my crabapple paste – just as easy but less concentrated.

To do this, I used 6 cups of crabapples and covered them with water. After boiling them long until soft, I strained them through a food mill, ending up with 6 cups of juice. To this I added 3 cups of sugar and cooked it until it was the consistency of liquid honey.

Crabapples have so much pectin in them, there is really no need for any other ingredients other than sugar and water. The flavour is much heftier than regular apples, so it is ideal for mixing into marinades, sauces and baking where you want that tart fruitiness to come through.

I decided to use some of the jam I made to make a filled cookie inspired by the ever-popular fig newtons. The apple flavour is strong enough that I did not need to add any other flavourings, keeping pretty much to local ingredients. If you don’t have crabapples, you could substitute any fruit jam or paste. In the case of jam, you will need to thicken it as I have done in this recipe, but a fruit paste probably won’t need any.




Crabapple Rolls


2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp softened butter (or substitute)

2 Tbsp liquid honey (or equivalent)

1 egg

1/2 cup applesauce

2 cups crabapple jam (or other preserves)

cornstarch for thickening


Mix the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Combine the butter, egg and applesauce and add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Combine thoroughly and knead it into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for about one hour.

While the dough is resting, mix the cornstarch with the jam and heat through until thickened. I used about 6 Tbsp of cornstarch, but this will vary according to the consistency of the jam used. It should be thick like peanut butter. Allow to cool.

Divide the dough into four pieces and roll each one on a floured surface into a rectangle about 5 inches wide.  Spread the jam mixture down the middle and fold each side over the middle and seal. Place in a 350 F oven for about 15 minutes or until the dough is cooked.

Remove from the oven. Allow to cool and slice.


Linked to Fiesta Friday #93


Apple and Grape Pie

Version 2

I was invited to pick apples from a neighbour’s tree this year. They were Mcintosh apples, considered one of the best for making pies, and the untreated tree was full of perfectly formed fruit. Were I taller, or able to climb a ladder, I would have had several bushels, but then there just aren’t enough hours in the day to process and consume that many apples. Still, I managed to get a good load from the lower branches, and we have been enjoying these delicious fruits in so many ways. Especially when you can find apples which have not been contaminated with pesticides and such, they are so worth picking. Now that the frost has come, I am sorry at the thought of all the rest going to waste, but I did my best.


One recipe I made I want to share with you because it has all the qualities of a fine apple pie, but mixed with another seasonal fruit which is seldom found in pie recipes. I recently found some seedless purple grapes at one of my favourite markets in Toronto, and I knew these would be perfect with my Mcintoshes. If you have never tried adding seedless grapes to a pie, either red or purple ones preferably, you are in for a surprise. They add a good bit of sweetness, and they keep their form and texture even after baking. You will notice that for 8 cups of fruit, I only used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and the result was every bit as sweet needed without overpowering the flavour of the fruit.

Apple and Grape Pie


pastry for one 9 inch pie

6 medium sized apples, pealed, cored and sliced

2 cups seedless grapes

1 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp cornflour


Line your pie dish with half the pastry. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl and fill the pie dish. Cover with the remaining pastry. Brush the pastry with a little milk, and make a few cuts in the pastry to let the steam out. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for about 1 hour or until the crust is golden brown.


Because these apples were not sprayed, I didn’t want to waste the beautiful skins. As I peeled them, I put the skins and cores in a pot, added a little water, cooked and strained them for the reddest apple sauce ever.


You can also make an excellent scrap vinegar with them following this method I used in a post on pears. Or dehydrate the skins and when completely dry, grind them into a fine powder and use as a sweetener, also as described in the same post.


To store the excess fruit, I have found the best ways to preserve them are dehydrating them and storing them in plastic bags.


To freeze, I slice them as for a pie, dump them in salted water (1 tsp of salt for 6 cups of water) to prevent them from browning, remove them with a slotted spoon and bag them. The same water can be used several times.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #92


Green Tomato Ketchup


I don’t suppose I am the only one who had a lot of unripened tomatoes before the frost hit last week. I picked all I could, and tried to think of the quickest and easiest way of using them, but at the same time making something worth the effort.

Just as I was pondering all this, I came across this recipe by Chef Stef at The Kiwi Fruit for a green tomato drink  which I made one batch of. It was, as she promised, delicious – hot or cold, or even spiked. Something like a salad in a glass.


Wondering what to do with the rest, it occurred to me I had never made ketchup from green tomatoes before, and as ketchup is such a useful staple, it seemed like the best idea for using up the rest of my unripe harvest. In order to make a recipe I could safely can, I looked on line for a tested recipe which you can find here. I made a few changes, adding a bit of ginger, pureeing the mixture and skipping the salting step. I made only half the recipe and ended up with roughly 6 cups.

Green Tomato Ketchup


3 lbs green tomatoes

1 1/2 lbs onion

1 Tbsp salt

1 inch of fresh ginger

1 12 cups cider vinegar

1 3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp pickling spices


Chop the tomatoes, onion and ginger and place in a pot. Add salt and vinegar and cook until softened. Puree them in a blender and return to the pot. Add sugar and the spices tied up in a piece of cheesecloth. Bring to a boil and simmer until the mixture thickens, between 40 minutes and a hour.


If you’ve never made your own ketchup before, you will be surprised at how fresh and flavourful it is compared to the store-bought varieties.


Green Tomato Ketcup on Punk Domestics

Besides, there are so many kinds of fruit and spices you can use. Other ketchup recipes I have made are:

Rhubarb Crabapple Ketchup

Tomato Ketchup with Sumac

Highbush Cranberry Ketchup

Wild Grape Ketchup

Linked to Fiesta Friday #91


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