Along the Grapevine


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Crab Apple, Walnut and Sumac Biscotti

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My Iris Garden

Winter has hit us hard this year in SE Ontario, and I couldn’t be happier. The greatest thing about winter besides the spectacular scenery it affords us is the beautiful contrast to all those other seasons – seasons we appreciate so much more because we know all that colour is not a permanent state. Winter is also a perfect time for the gardener or forager to rest, regroup, and plan for the next season’s labour. I still have a lot of reading to do before spring comes, but I have succeeded in working with some of my preserved harvests, and decided where I should focus my attention once spring arrives. Therefore, I feel this winter has been a fairly productive period.

This recipe is a result of some of my ‘thinking’ time during this snowy and bitterly cold season. I devised a recipe which uses three of my foraged products: crab apples, sumac powder, and my new favourite, black walnuts. I expected not to get it right the first time, but the result is exactly what I was hoping for. Not too sweet, a good balance of fruit and nut flavour, and soft enough I don’t have to worry about cracking a tooth.

I love biscotti, sweet or savoury. They are the true ‘biscuit’  or ‘twice cooked”. The variations are endless, including not only nuts and fruits, but also herbs and seeds. If you don’t have these exact ingredients on hand, just combine what you have with, say, one fruit, one nut and one flavouring (vanilla, lemon zest, almond, chocolate, etc).

Crab Apple, Walnut and Sumac Biscotti

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 heaping Tbsp sumac powder

3/4 cup dried crab apples

1/4 cup black walnuts

1/4 cup olive oil

3 eggs

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Whisk the oil and eggs together, and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly, kneading the dough till it sticks together. Divide the dough in two parts and form into two loaves, 7″x3″. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.

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Biscotti loaves before first baking

Bake in a 300 degree F oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool for about 15 minutes. Slice each loaf into twelve slices. Arrange again on the parchment, and return to the oven, lowered to 275 F, for 12 minutes.

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Crab apple and sweet potato clafoutis

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With Canadian Thanksgiving soon upon us, here is a recipe which is sure to please those who are not so keen on pumpkin pie, or just want a change, or a dairy-free, gluten-free option. A clafoutis is a classic French dessert, something between a custard and a cake, made with fruit, often cherries.

I found this recipe first on a Spanish blog, translated it, and then came across it on another site in English. No idea where it originated, but it is a superb dessert and a great way to show off your perfect little crab apples. I was afraid the apples would not cook well enough, and be hard and bitter, but they were perfect – even better than cherries in my mind.

I prepared it in a large pan to give the apples long enough to cook well, but should have used one smaller in diameter which would have made it deeper. Still, it worked well, and was very easy. The mottled effect on mine was the result of sprinkling a mixture of sugar and almond flour before baking it. Perhaps the recipe meant to have it sprinkled on after baking.

Here is the recipe as I translated it.

Sweet Potato Crab apple Clafoutis

For a nine inch cake pan or several small ones.

1/2 cup sweet potato

1/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup coconut mle or cream

2 Tbsp Calvados (optional)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup brown rice flour

2 Tbsp almond flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ginger

crab apples

Mix the sweet potato, sugar and eggs. Add coconut milk or cream, vanilla, rice flour, almond flour, salt, ginger and cinnamon and beat together. Refigerate mixture for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Place the apples in the baking pan and pour the mixture over. Bake at 350 F for 20-30 mintutes, depending on the size of pans you use. Sprinkle the top with a mixture of almond flour and sugar.100_0595


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Crab apples

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September is a super-busy time for gardeners, in the kitchen and in the fields. Still no frost so there is some hope of salvaging the last of the harvest, collecting seeds, digging up bulbs before they all succumb to the cold weather. And then what to do with the fruits of your labour? I just added another task/load of experiments when I finally pruned our lone crab apple tree. It doesn’t usually produce as much as it did this year, so I felt I could afford to pick some of the fruit, and still leave plenty for the bohemian wax wings who visit the tree most winters.

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Crab apples are not frequently found in farmers’ markets, let alone supermarkets, but nonetheless there are plenty of good recipes on line which are worth making for jellies, chutneys, pickles and baking. I began by working out a couple of recipes that don’t seem to exist yet, and the possibilities with this bright little fruit seem pretty endless. Not wanting to deplete my tree any further, I am offering to prune anyone’s tree in this area and share the produce!

My tree (the same one you see in bloom on the header of this blog) gives those small, bright red, supposedly inedible variety. They look more like cranberries than apples.

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Having snipped all the berries off the pruned branches (that is the hardest part), I chopped them roughly in the food processor. I dried the majority of them to make a salad dressing and muffins, and still plenty to put away for winter. With the rest I prepared, or rather am preparing, a liqueur which will be perfect as a festive drink. No pictures of the finished product yet, but the concoction should be ready to decant in mid-October. I will also think of some way to use the vodka soaked fruit at that time.

Crab apple liqueur

Ingredients

Fresh crab apples

Sugar

Vodka

Method

Weigh the crab apples (I had about 1.25 lbs.) Add the same weight of sugar to the pot, cover the mixture with vodka, and stir. Stir every day for about a month, then strain into a bottle. Keep the container covered so the vodka doesn’t all evaporate or get infested with fruit/alcohol flies. I used a ceramic pot with a tight fitting lid.

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Mine has been going for about a week now. Having sampled the small amount stuck to the spoon after stirring, I can vouch that it is delicious – and we look forward to using it in mixed cocktails and on its own. We shall see! And if you don’t have crab apples, this could be done with many varieties of fruits and berries.

Crab Apple Vinaigrette

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It is difficult to give exact quantities in this, but then salad dressings should be tweaked to suit your own taste. If you usually make your own vinaigrette, you would probably find you need a little more salt and vinegar than usual, presumably because of the tartness of the fruit, but add a little at a time and taste to be sure.

1 large spoon of dried crab apples

Vinegar (cider or red wine) to cover, plus a little extra.

1 Tbsp. liquid honey

6 Tbsp. oil (olive, avocado, grape seed, sunflower)

1 tsp. salt.

Soak the fruit in vinegar for at least an hour. Add the honey and salt and mix well. Add the oil slowly, mixing as you do

This is excellent with any leafy salad.

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Crab Apple Walnut Muffins

I expect most readers already have their own favourite recipes for muffins – in which case I would recommend just adding the dried crab apples in place of or in addition to any fresh or dried fruit. Likewise, the dried crab apple can be used in many other recipes, such as cookies, granola bars, or even savoury rice or stuffing dishes. I added some to porridge, along with a little cinnamon.

If you don’t have a recipe handy, here is the one I used.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp ground flax seed

1/4 cup dried crab apples

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk (or almond milk)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup liquid honey

Method

Combine the dry ingredients. Mix together the rest, and add to the dry ingredients, mixing just to blend.

Pour into muffin tins, and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.

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