Along the Grapevine


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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.

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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

Ingredients

pastry for one 9 inch pie

6 medium sized apples, pealed, cored and sliced

2 cups seedless grapes

1 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp cornflour

Method

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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


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Green Tomato Ketchup

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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.

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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

Ingredients

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

Method

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.

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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.

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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


24 Comments

A Forager’s Branston Pickle

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Having acquired a taste for the most British of pickles, and having most of the necessary ingredients in my garden, it seemed only right that I should create my own version of this family favourite. Branston pickle is a relish made with a mixture of fruit and vegetables in a sticky, sweet, spicy, sour sauce. The main ingredients, carrots, apples, turnips and cauliflower are in season right now, so that is what I started with.

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I made a few changes in order to avoid imports by using nannyberries as described here instead of dates as the sticky sweet part, but if you don’t have any of these you can use dates. Simply substitute one cup of chopped dates soaked in hot water for the berry mixture.

A Forager's Branston Pickle

Ingredients

3 cups nannyberries

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 cups cider vinegar

1 lb carrots

1 mediums turnip or swede

1 cup cauliflower florets

1 summer squash or zucchini

3 small onions

3 medium apples

1 pear

1/2 cup pickles

4 cloves minced garlic

1 seeded chili pepper

1 Tbsp dry mustard powder

1 tsp ground allspice

1 cup brown sugar

juice of two lemons

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

Method

Cook the berries, water and sugar until very soft, about ten minutes. Mash and strain. You will have about 1 cup of berry juice.

Clean and chop all the fruits and vegetables into small pieces. Put everything except the cornstarch mixture in a pot and cook on a medium heat until the carrots and turnip are cooked, but still crunchy – about two hours. Add the cornstarch mixture and heat through until the sauce thickens.

Pour into jars and allow to cool.

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Unsure of whether I could safely can this mixture I plan to freeze the extra amounts. Ideally you should wait a couple of weeks before consuming to give it time to mellow, if you can wait. I couldn’t but I have noticed it just keeps improving with time and we are only at day 8.

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If you want a spicier version, use the seeds of the chili pepper. The quantities of spices I used are on the mild side, but the flavour is very close to the ‘real thing’.

A Forager's Branston Pickle on Punk Domestics

Branston pickle is excellent with cheese or and crackers, cold meats and sandwiches.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #89.


16 Comments

Puffball Mushroom Flour

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I considered myself lucky this year when I found a healthy puffball behind my tool shed, and referred to it in a recent post on how to identify and use it in cooking. Now these puffballs are mushrooming all over, and by the number of posts from other blogs on the subject, it’s a good year not just in my garden. I recently found four more good sized balls, one of which I left to help ensure some spores remain for next year.

There is no point finding these gifts if you don’t know what to do with them. Their shelf life when fresh is short. Frying lightly and freezing is one option, and I have dehydrated some as well. But when faced with the quantity I had, I wanted to be able to store them in as efficient way as possible, meaning something that required little work and little space.

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I started to search to see if anyone else had dehydrated them, and if so what they do with them. Forager Chef, one of my favourite foraging blogs gave me the answers I was looking for. He dehydrated them, ground them into a flour, and made a very appetizing looking gravy.

So I set about peeling and slicing my puffballs into thin slices resembling sliced bread. He suggests drying them in an oven with the light on which I tried. I also did some in my dehydrator at a low temperature – about 107 F or 42 C. The dehydrator took only about 12 hours – the oven three times longer. However you do it, the slices should still be white when dry and crisp. If the heat is too high they will brown and will affect the colour of the flour.

A really powerful food processor is all you need to turn them into flour in just a few moments, but lacking that I used a not so powerful processor followed by a few seconds in a coffee grinder for a finer powder. This last step can be done on an as-need basis.

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I can think of several ways this flour can be used but so far have just tried Forager Chef’s mushroom gravy recipe. I adapted it for a small quantity since unlike him I am not cooking for large numbers.

I started by heating 1/2 cup mushroom flour and 1/4 cup of water. You need a good deep pan for this, as initially the flour will puff when stirred. Heat and stir until most of the water is absorbed and it resembles a roux. In another pan, mix 3 Tbsp of fat (i used a mixture of butter and olive oil) with 3 Tbsp of flour. Stir over a low heat, and gradually add 2 cups of stock. I used a vegetable stock which had good colour having prepared it with onion skins among other herbs and vegetables, but any meat, fowl or vegetable stock can be used. When the stock has thickened sufficiently, stir in the mushroom mixture and bring to just below boiling. Season with salt and white pepper.

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This gravy was smooth and flavourful. I served it over some roasted vegetables from the garden.

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Puffball Mushroom Flour on Punk Domestics

Because it is vegetarian, and could easily be vegan by omitting the butter, it is a very useful recipe to have, but good enough that there’s no need to be a vegetarian to enjoy.


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Chimichurri and Goutweed

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I hesitate to put the word ‘goutweed’ in the title of a recipe, but there’s no way around it. That’s what it’s called, and to give it a more appetizing name might just confuse everyone. So here it is, Goutweed chimichurri.

First, I should explain what goutweed (aegopodium podagraria) is, although most gardeners in this area are very familiar with it – even if not by name. Although for most considered an invasive weed, It is a plant still sold at nurseries for landscaping, especially the variegated ones which really are pretty used as a border or ground cover. But be careful because once planted it can NEVER be eradicated, and just keeps spreading and crowding out anything around it.

I happen to have inherited some in my garden, so I make the most of it, and still pull out as much as I can. At this time of year I am busy digging up bushels of weeds, so I was pleased to find that goutweed leaves and stems are edible, especially when young and tender and always before it flowers. Where it has been cut back, I get a steady supply of new growth which can be picked right into the fall. It has many medicinal uses, including traditionally the treatment of gout and arthritis, but has been used in Europe as a salad ingredient and pot herb. It has become naturalised throughout most of North America as well as Japan and New Zealand.

The variegated leafed plants are easiest to identify with their creamy white and pale green patterns. When allowed to spread uncontrollably, they will revert to a solid, darker green. The leaves grow in groups of three, and have pointed, serrated leaves. The veins on the leaves extend right to the end of the leaf, unlike the poison hemlocks of the same family (apeaceae) whose veins end between the teeth of the plant. The flowers which appear in mid-summer are small five-petalled flowers on tall stems. Another characteristic of this plant is that they grow from rhizomes – not edible.

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While the young leaves are good raw, tasting to me something like a cross between parsley and carrot with a hint of celery, the older leaves are good cooked in soups and vegetable mixtures. I decided to use it as a substitute for parsley in a chimichurri which I learned to make years ago when I lived in Argentina. Since that time, this simple condiment has made it around the world and undergone many changes. I wanted to make something as close as possible to what I remember having way back when but without the parsley.

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Goutweed Chimichurri 

1 cup young goutweed leaves and stems

1/2 cup fresh oregano

2 large cloves of garlic

1/4 cup vinegar (cider or white wine)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup olive oil

If using a food processor, simply blend all together. Otherwise, chop the greens and the garlic very fine and stir in the vinegar, salt and oil.

Serve as an accompaniment to grilled meat and/or vegetables, or as a spread on crackers or toast.

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Chimichurri and Goutweed on Punk Domestics

Linked to Fiesta Friday #88.