Along the Grapevine


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Maple Syrup Tarts

This is a great seasonal recipe for maple syrup fans. Not as cloyingly sweet as the ubiquitous butter tart, they are made with pure maple syrup and walnuts, although other nuts, fruit or nothing at all can be added. Less than one cup of syrup makes two dozen small tarts.

Maple syrup season is just winding down now. We got an early start this year, and the quality of the syrup seems better than ever – either that or we are just becoming pros. I still have some to use up from last year so decided it was high time to invent some recipes.

Most recipes for maple tarts use a combination of white and/or brown sugar along with the syrup, but I wanted mine to be pure maple. Even so, I didn’t use that much, a mere 200 ml,  and the flavour of maple is so much better on its own. Some recipes also called for flour or cream, neither of which I wanted. So the recipe I came up with is as simple as it gets – just syrup mixed with eggs, a splash of cider vinegar to cut the sweetness, and walnuts. A really good pastry is a must, but whatever crust pastry you like would work well. I have been following a recipe from Married with Cauldron, much the same as mine but I find it is actually easier and better with the measurements given in weight rather than volume. I also replaced a bit of the water with lemon juice. dsc00438.jpg

Maple Syrup Tarts


For the pastry

175 grams butter or lard

225 grams flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp of lemon combined with enough cold water to make 120 ml.

Cut the shortening in the flour and salt until you have a crumbly mixture. Gradually add the cold liquid, stir and pull together into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds, set them into muffin tins and chill in the refrigerator while you make the maple filling.

For the Filling

200 ml syrup

2 eggs

1 tsp cider vinegar

3/4 cup walnuts

Beat the eggs well. Add the syrup and vinegar and beat again. Place walnuts (chopped or whole) into the chilled tarts, then fill with the syrup mixture. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes.

DSC03350This recipe makes 2 dozen small tarts (2 in.) or 18 medium (3 in.).

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #166


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More about Bitters & a Recipe for Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream

This ice cream and the meringues are both flavoured with rhubarb bitters , the recipe for which I posted a couple of weeks ago. The flavouring is very subtle, not at all bitter, but really does enhance the flavour of the dish. These are just two examples of how a fragrant fruit bitters can be used.DSC02979

Since I made my first batch of bitters, I have been curious as to just how to make use of them. After all a good half litre is a bit much for the odd cocktail. I have used it to make a salad dressing for fruit salad, mixed with fruit juice, zest, ginger and honey;  I used it to glaze sweet buns; best of all I added a teaspoon or two to my coffee. In each of these applications, the bitters enhanced the flavour of whatever it was added to with the most delicious floral notes and aroma.

Ice cream seemed a good place to start, and if you have a favourite recipe of your own, I would recommend adding the bitters to that. Frozen desserts are one of my favourite ways to experiment with flavours, so I decided to stick with the rhubarb theme and mix that and fresh ginger in a sauce which was mixed into a standard ice cream custard mixture. If you are not convinced that it is worth making your own ice cream, just consider the wonderful variations you can create which you would never find even in the best ice cream parlours – much less any supermarket.

Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar or honey

1/2 cup chopped rhubarb

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 cups 10% cream

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

4 Tbsp rhubarb or other fruit bitters

Method

Mix the first three ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and simmer until the rhubarb is soft and the ginger cooked, about three minutes.

In a separate pan heat the milk to just below boiling. Gradually add a small amount (about 1/4) cup to the egg mixture and blend, then add another of the same amount and do the same. Pour the egg mixture into the milk and simmer until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and mix in the rhubarb mixture. When the custard has cooled, add the rhubarb bitters. Chill, process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then freeze. Makes 3/4 litre.

And since I had three egg whites, I whipped them with 3/4 cup sugar, 1/3 tsp cream of tartar and a splash of bitters. Dried in the oven for an hour at 220 degrees F and allowed to cool in the oven once done. I made some ice cream sandwiches with the small ones, and the larger ones I used as a base. Either way they were great.

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Linked to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #113, Sonal at Simply Vegetarian and Laurie at ten.times.tea.

Related posts: Anise hyssop and Peach Ice Cream; Olive Oil Ice Cream with Balsamic Wild Strawberries; Salted Caramel Spruce Ice Cream


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Applejacks

DSC02909I have been wanting to make this recipe for some time now ever since I saw it on one of my favourite cooking shows on PBS, A Chef’s Life with Vivian Howard. Her recipes are very straight forward, and her attention to ingredients, always local and usually inspired by her own regional cuisine of N. Carolina is what draws me to her programme.

You can see her original recipe for applejacks, a sort of fried apple turnover, here. My original intention was to make the same recipe except instead of using dried apples, I planned to use dried crabapples. I never did locate the crabapples I was sure I had, so went for the apples after all. However, instead of using 2 cups of cider, I diluted a bit (about 1/2 cup) of crabapple preserve in the required amount of liquid. I’m sure her recipe is excellent, but I found that the preserve did add a lot of fruit flavour, to say nothing of the deep red colour. If you don’t have crabapple preserve, I feel quite confident in suggesting you just use the 2 cups of cider with 1 cup of water for the liquid as she does even though I haven’t tried that myself.

I fully intended to follow the original recipe by frying the applejacks, but I lost my nerve once I had them all assembled. I really don’t enjoy frying things, so I just brushed them liberally with butter and baked them.  The crust is very easy to make, and because it’s made with hot water it is resilient and very crisp. You can roll these out super thin, making them less rich than a regular pie crust. DSC02904

Applejacks

For the filling:

2 cups dried apple pieces

1/2 cup crabapple preserve diluted in 3 cups of water

OR 2 cups of cider and 1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

zest of 1 organic lemon

juice of 1 lemon

For the pastry:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup lard

2/3 cup hot water

butter for brushing the tops

Combine everything except the lemon juice in a saucepan and simmer until the water is absorbed and the mixture is the texture of a thick applesauce. Remove from the heat and mix in the lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile make a well in the flour and put the lard in the centre. Begin by pouring about half the hot water into the bowl and mix it all together with your hands. Add water as needed until you are able to form a ball with it. Wrap it in a damp towel and set aside for about half an hour.

Roll the pastry very thin on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin as the dough is quite wet. Cut out circles of about 4 inches in diameter. Place about 2 Tbsp of filling just south of the middle, fold over and seal with the tines of a fork. Brush with some melted butter. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes or until the pastry browns.

Makes about 24 applejacks.DSC02923

Linked to our Fiesta Friday host Angie at Fiesta Friday, co-hosts Su at Su’s Healthy Living and Margy at La Petite Casserole.

 


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Orange and Ginger Fig Pudding

DSC02817I made this steamed pudding for Christmas dinner. We always follow the English tradition of ending the meal with the drama of a flaming dish soaked in rum or brandy. There seems to be no question of abandoning this tradition, but truth be told, no one really likes it that much.

So I decided that by making my own version I could not only satisfy the vegetarian without having to make another dish, I could also make something that was lighter and even tastier. And while I was at it, I thought I could improve on the original just by adding some fruit from my garden.

This turned out to be pretty easy, and I have no idea why I didn’t think of this years ago. In fact, it is such a good dessert that there is no need to have it only at Christmas, although I would save the flambeing part and addition of alcohol for that occasion – otherwise it wouldn’t be so special.

Instead of using any sort of candied fruit, I dried the peel of one organic orange and chopped it along with some fresh ginger, thus giving the mass of mixed fruit a distinctively orange and ginger flavour – hence the name.
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Orange and Ginger Fig Pudding

Ingredients

500 g of mixed dried fruit including dates, figs and apricots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cups dried apples, chopped

1/4 cup orange juice, brandy or rum

10 Tbsp all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups bread crumbs

dried zest of 1 orange

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

2 eggs

4 oz butter

Method

Chop the fruit and pour the juice or alcohol over it and let it sit for about an hour. Mix the softened butter with the sugar, and when thoroughly combined beat the eggs into the mixtures. Add the breadcrumbs, ginger and fruit. Measure the flour and add the baking powder, then gradually stir all the dry ingredients into the fruit mixture.

Pack it into a mould or a pudding dish. Cover it with parchment paper, making a fold in the paper to allow for expansion. Steam it for 2 1/2 hours. It will be easy to invert onto a plate just by running a knife around the edge of the bowl to loosen it.

This recipe makes approximately 1 litre of pudding, so you will likely need two pudding bowls.

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Serve with custard or cream. For Christmas I made a simple sauce of butter, maple syrup, rum and cream.

Linked to Fiesta Friday 

 

 

 

 


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Seabuckthorn Gelato

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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.

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

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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.


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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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Nannyberry Cake

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At this very time last year I posted a recipe for a sauce using nannyberries or viburnum lentago. It was my first experience with this berry, and I was surprised at just how easy to use and tasty it was. In that post, I give some description of the plant which I won’t repeat here, but if you think you might have access to this plant, you might find it interesting.

This year the trees are producing even more than last year, and I hope to try a few recipes with them, starting with one for a cake. There are no nannyberry cake recipes I can find, so here is my chance to create a ‘first’.

It is a pretty standard, old-fashioned sort of cake recipe, using butter, eggs and buttermilk, but the subtle fruit flavour of these berries, something like that of plums, mixed with cardamom, makes a super aromatic dessert appropriate for an autumn menu. If you don’t care for or own any cardamom, cinnamon could be substituted.

Nannyberry Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups nannyberries

3/4 cup water

3 egg yolks

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup butter

1 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

2 Tbsp ground flaxseed

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cardamom

3 beaten egg whites

Method

Cook the nannyberries and water in a covered pan until soft, about ten minutes. Strain the berries, pressing out as much pulp as possible. This will make about 1/2 cup of juice. When cool, beat in the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Measure the flour, flaxseed, soda and cardamom and mix well. Blend one third of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture at a time, alternating with half the liquid. When it is all blended, fold in the egg whites.

Pour the batter into a ten inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325 degrees F for fifty minutes. Allow it to sit for ten minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool on a rack.

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This is a cake which can be served just as is, with cream or ice cream, or if you like given a full regalia.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #87.