Along the Grapevine


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Crabapple Rolls

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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.

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Crabapple Rolls

Ingredients

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

Method

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.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #93


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Honeysuckle Syrup

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I am still learning my way around our property. Last year I discovered for the first time a huge honeysuckle bush, and as I went to visit it recently I discovered four more. I took this as a sign that I should continue to experiment with floral recipes.

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I wasn’t very optimistic, as sweet smelling flowers often have a bitter taste with little of the sweetness associated with the scent. However, I was encouraged by as post by the Green Lizard on making lilac jelly and decided to harvest some of the honeysuckle blossoms. My experiment was not a total success, but I believe I know where I made the mistake. Nonetheless the thin jelly got renamed a syrup, and it is every bit as useful and delicious as a jelly. Sometimes I love my mistakes.

Here’s where I went wrong. I decided to make my own pectin from some dried crabapples. Crabapples are full of pectin and by simply boiling them in water and straining the liquid which can be canned the same as any preserve, you have a perfect ingredient for making jams and jellies all season long. I figured dried crabapples would work just as well. My mistake I believe was not to boil them long enough. When I tested for the pectin content after only a few minutes, I noticed it was a bit weak, but thought it would do. Not quite.

To test if your pectin mixture is ready, just add a spoonful of the liquid into a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Then wait a minute or two, and if you can scoop some of the juice onto a fork and not have it all run off, then it is ready.  I did detect a gelled effect, but only slightly, so there was my mistake.

To make the jelly (or in this case syrup) you will need a lot of petals – not necessarily honeysuckle but any edible flower you want to use – at least two quarts. Pick flowers which are opened but fresh looking, and remove the calyx.

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Cover the petals with water and simmer for about 10 minutes, then cool and refrigerate a few hours or preferably overnight to extract as much of the flavour as possible. Strain and mix 4 parts liquid with five parts sugar, the juice of half a lemon and 1 cup crabapple pectin. Bring it all to a boil and simmer for about five minutes. A small amount of the jelly should set when poured onto a chilled saucer. Skim any foam off and pour into sterilized mason jars. I found the heat of the syrup poured into freshly sterilized jars (by setting them in boiled water for 10 minutes) was sufficient to seal them. I tightened the lids and set them upside down until cool.

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Two things I discovered: the unappealing colour of the cooked blossoms transformed as soon as I added the pectin mixture, and even more so after the addition of sugar;  the flavour was very honey-like, and there was no trace of the bitterness found in the fresh flower. Although it was not as thick as a jelly should be, it was like a good quality liquid honey and can be used in similar ways.

I have already found several uses for this tasty syrup:

Add a spoonful to a cup of your favourite tea. I never take sugar in my tea, but this gives a wonderful floral bouquet without too much sweetness;

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Pour some over a milk dessert, such as rice pudding;

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Serve with waffles or pancakes;

Mix with soda water for a cool drink with ice cubes.

Here’s hoping we have a good crabapple season this year, and that last week’s frost hasn’t nipped them in the bud!


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Sponge Cakes with Crabapple and Sea-buckthorn Jelly

Someone who knew I wouldn’t let them go to waste gave me a few crabapples from her garden – small yellow ones about the size of cherries. There are so many ways I could have used them, but given the rich flavour and high pectin content of these mini fruits, I decided to make another jelly with them. Crabapple jelly is not worth writing about in itself, and it combines so well with other fruits and berries, I knew I could come up with an original recipe. I had been wanting to make sea-buckthorn jam or jelly too, and by using little crabapples I could do this without having to add any commercial pectin – or even make my own. If you are unfamiliar with this particular berry, please refer to this post. I also wanted to make a jelly with honey, since my Japanese quince honey paste was so successful.

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For Angie’s Fiesta Friday #39, I wanted to showcase this gorgeous jelly in a way that would get her guests’ attention, but with a recipe that would fit into our household’s diet. We don’t consume much cake, but if it is something I can put part of in the freezer for an emergency, it takes away the guilt of either over-eating or over-wasting. So I decided to make a very plain Victorian sponge and jazz it up by filling it with my jelly. No rich icing, no butter or oil, just a light fluffy casing for the best jelly ever!

To make the jelly, I used 2 parts by volume of crabapples and 1 part sea-buckthorn. If you are curious as to what sea-buckthorn is, refer to this post.

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No need to peel, core or even remove the stems from the apples. I simmered the apples keeping them well covered with water at all times. Once they were really soft, I added the berries and simmered just a couple of minutes longer. Other berries could be used with this same method.

I strained the mixture through a clean tea towel and let sit overnight. Do not press any of the pulp through. I measured the liquid and added an equal amount of honey. At this point, you should taste it for sweetness, and the amount of honey you need will vary depending on the sweetness of the fruit and berries. Don’t get carried away though, because too much sweetening tends to detract from the taste of the main ingredients.

Allow the mixture to simmer until it is jelled. To check, I put a small amount in a chilled saucer (or in my case egg cup) and let it sit a couple of minutes. When it has reached the right consistency, set to cool.

Instead of a murky orange mixture which I was expecting, it turned out deep red and very clear. You can taste all three ingredients, and they meld very well together. It has a stronger flavour than most fruit jellies I have tried, but no hint of bitterness at all.

You can use any sponge cake recipe, but I used gluten-free cornflour. To make this cake, you will need 3 whole eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 cup of cornflour, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. I also added a couple of cardamom seeds (optional), which I ground with the sugar for a super fine consistency.

Beat the eggs a lot, until they are really fluffy. Add the ground sugar gradually while still beating, making sure the sugar dissolves after each addition. Sift and fold in the dry ingredients. Fill 12  individual cake liners about three quarters full.  Drop a spoonful of jelly on top of each cake. The jelly will sink, so no need to cover them. Bake at 350 F for half an hour until crisp and golden on top.

Dust with a little icing sugar if you like just to make them a little prettier. If you want an entire cake, you could bake it in a cake tin, slice in two when cool and spread the jelly in the middle in a sandwich form. This would be a better way to preserve the integrity of the jelly, which when baked got partially absorbed into the spongy batter.

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Pickled Crabapples

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In my scrounging around for any crabapples I can find this season, I got a few of these very young, green ones. I have recently learned that young fruit has the advantage of having smaller seeds and don’t need much preparation, other than cooking.

Coincidentally, I came across a recipe for pickled young crabapples by the Forager Chef whose recipes are always excellent, so I followed his recipe which you can find here. I made it according to his instructions, except that as I had no orange zest I used sumac water in place of that and the water called for. I also only had enough apples for half the recipe which made two jars. If you read his post, you will see that he serves these crabapples with a very elegant pork dish garnished with purslane. If you don’t eat pork, these little pickled apples are tasty enough to be eaten on their own, and as he points out you can use the stem as a little handle.

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Crabapple, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

At this time last year I was harvesting no end of crabapples and managed to use them preserved in some form or another for the whole year. I discovered several varieties, all of which were a pleasure to cook with. It became my favourite fruit – easy to pick and store, pretty, and useful in so many recipes – from spicy marinades to sweet treats. Some of my favourite recipes were: crabapple cordial; crabapple pastebiscottivinaigrettechips.

I was looking forward to finding more varieties this year, maybe planting a tree or two, and trying some new recipes. However, our one tree has so few fruits on it this year, I figure I will just let the birds have them all. Here is a picture of our tree last year.

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I did manage to collect some from a generous sister on a recent visit, enough to make a couple of new recipes. If you are lucky enough to have a source of crabapples this year, I hope you will find these recipes useful.

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The first I made was a jam mixed with rhubarb, which is still flourishing, and a little fresh ginger. Crabapples are wonderful to mix with other fruit as they have so much pectin you don’t have to add any. I made it rather tart, but if you like a sweet jam, just add another 1/2 cup of sugar. I did not strain the crabapples after cooking, but if I can make this again I would because it would be better without the skins. The fruit is young enough the seeds are not a problem, but later in the season you will want to eliminate all of them too.

Crabapple, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 3/4 lb or 5 cups crabapples

1 lb or 4 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sugar

2 Tsp grated fresh ginger

1 cinnamon stick

Method

Sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb and set aside. Put the apples, ginger and cinnamon in a large pan and barely cover with water. Simmer until they are nice and soft, about half an hour on a low heat. At this point, I recommend cooling it a bit and straining it through a food mill or sieve.

Return the strained juice to the pot and add the rhubarb and sugar. Continue to cook about another 15 minutes until the rhubarb is tender. Pour into 3 medium sized jars.

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No need to limit eating this jam just to toast for breakfast. It is also good with yogourt or with cheese.

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Going wild for the holidays

This is the season for baking, and this year I have decided to go wild, using as many of the foraged fruit preserved during the summer months as I can. Since I do relatively little baking, this is a great excuse to make some of my traditional recipes more interesting with some new and local flavours.

My first recipe is for alfajores. These treats are from Latin America where every country or region has its own version. As the Arabic sound of their name suggests, they were brought by the Spaniards during the conquest, who themsleves acquired some form of the recipe from the Moors . This recipe is gluten-free and uses less butter than the traditional.  The most common filling is dulce de leche, but I have seen different fruit preserves used as well, and much prefer them. So as part of my wild menu for the holidays, I have made them with my own dulce de manzana silvestre, or crabapple preserve, and used only dried coconut to embellish them.100_0856

Recipe for Alfajores

3 egg yolks

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup icing sugar

1 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup rice flour

1 tsp guar gum

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

dried coconut (or chopped nuts of your choice)

Mix together all the ingredients except for the coconut and roll into a ball and knead until it all sticks together. If the mixture is too dry to stay in a ball, add a few drops of water. Set aside to rest for half an hour. Roll out to 1/8 inch think and cut into rounds of about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Bake at 300 degrees F for about 10 min. They should be cooked but not browned.

Once cooled, spread crabapple preserve on the bottom of one, and place another on top to form a sandwich. Roll the edge of the circle in shredded coconut or chopped nuts.

My next recipe is the anglo equivalent of alfajores. Simple and ubiquitous, shortbread too has as many versions, and if you have a favourite recipe, simply add the sumac powder to give it a local, lemony flavour. The recipe I used is a traditional one from Grace Mulligan’s Dundee Kitchen: A Scottish Recipe Cook Book, and is as basic as a shortbread recipe can get, which is the way I like it. I made mine in cookie form, slicing them thin, but you can roll out the dough thicker and make petticoat tails, rectangles or put them in a mould.

If you haven’t prepared your own sumac powder, you can find it in some specialty Middle Eastern or Asian shops.100_0864100_0877

Sumac Shortbread

8 0z butter

12 0z white flour (2 1/3 cup)

4 0z sugar (3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp sumac powder

Cream the butter and add the sugar. Mix the sumac powder into the flour and gradually work into the butter mixture. Knead it until it forms a good ball, or use a food processor. Divide the ball in two. Cover the work surface with a little sugar and roll out each ball into a log shape. Cover and refrigerate for about half an hour. If they get too cold, they will crumble when cut. Cut the rolls into thin slices, place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 F (150 C or Gas Mark 2) for about 15 minutes or until they are lightly browned.

And if you make alfajores according to the recipe above, you will have three egg whites you will want to use. In order to help you decide how to use them, I am recommending this recipe from David Lebovitz to add to your holiday baking.  I followed his recipe to the letter, except did not do as he suggested and coat them in egg white and nuts, because then I would have to do something with the left over yolk. Anyway, they were fine and I saved myself a lot of work.

Amaretti

3 cups blanched almond powder (can be made by processing blanched almonds until a powder is formed)

1 cup sugar

3 large egg whites

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp apricot jam or marmalade

a few drops of almond extract.

1. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks, but are not dry.

2. Mix almond powder and sugar.

3. Fold egg whites into the almond mixture with marmalade or jam and almond extract.

4. Form into balls (about the size of walnuts), place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 325 for 25 or 30 minutes.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Biscuits

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sumac berries

First of all, I made a jelly from sumac and crabapples. This was pretty simple. I used 1 cup of each ingredient: crabapples, sumac berries, sugar and water. I cooked the fruit together in the water, covered, till all were soft. After straining it through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, I added the sugar and cooked until it thickened enough. With all the pectin from the crabapples, this is not a problem. Rather, be careful not to overcook it. I find the best method is to take a small sample, put it in saucer and if it thickens as it cools it is ready.

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crabapple and sumac jelly

Then I needed something to taste this jelly with, so I came up with this tea biscuit recipe as the first in my experiments in baking with jerusalem artichoke flour. The artichoke flour is pretty concentrated, so you don’t need much. I did not add sugar so that I could use these with sweet jams and jellies, and also with savoury. It was equally good with the jelly and with pesto (I used dandelion pesto I made last spring) with some parmesan on top. It is a light biscuit, and not as dry as many of the gluten-free ones I have tried. It was enough of a success that I have made it a few times since.

Jerusalem Artichoke Tea biscuits

2 Tbsp jerusalem artichoke flour

1/3 cup tapioca starch

2/3 cup rice flour

1/2 tsp guar gum

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3 Tbsp oil

2 Tbsp milk (or almond milk)

1 egg

Mix the egg and oil together and add to the dry ingredients. Mix just until blended. Spoon out the batter, flatten slightly, place in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 20 min. This recipe makes 6 biscuits. This recipe can be doubled.

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