Along the Grapevine


10 Comments

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.

DSC02642

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.

DSC02634

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.

DSC02653

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.

DSC02636

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

DSC02654

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


10 Comments

A Dessert of Wine and Roses

DSC02233

This is a dessert I have been thinking about for some time, but had to wait for wild strawberries to be in season. It has taken me a couple of weeks to collect the berries, about half a cup which I picked every time I was out weeding, and popped them in the freezer until I had enough.

DSC02226

This is a super light dessert – a perfect finale to a rich dinner. It contains wine, fruit and sugar. All sorts of variations could be tried, and strawberries are not essential – any other fruit would do. It consists of three simple parts: a mixture of unsweetened apple sauce and wine; a jelly made of rose scented geranium syrup with strawberries; some kind of garnish.

For the base I used apple sauce made from last year’s feral apples and a dry red wine. I mixed 1 part of wine with 2 parts apple sauce.

DSC02228

The jelly was made from a simple syrup made from a ratio of 2:1 sugar and water mixture boiled with the addition of the rose geranium. Rosewater to taste is a possible alternative. I added the strawberries to the jelly and when set, cut it in small cubes. This is the sweet part of the dessert. Spoon applesauce/wine mixture into individual bowls alternately with cubes of jelly.

As a garnish, I made a granita from watermelon and more rose syrup. This was done by blending some fresh, ripe watermelon with syrup according to how sweet you want it. I processed it in an ice cream maker, but it can also be done just by scraping with a fork several times during the freezing process.

I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #73, and hope that some of the guests will be inspired by this simple, delicious and romantic dessert.

DSC02237

Related posts:

Olive oil ice cream with balsamic wild strawberries

Wild greens and strawberries with chocolate balsamic dressing

Wild apple and rose geranium jelly


32 Comments

Honeysuckle Syrup

DSC02117

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.

DSC02127

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.

DSC02122

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.

DSC02130

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;

DSC02152

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

DSC02135

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!


17 Comments

Foam-enting Interest in Maple Syrup

DSC01920

Here in Ontario maple syrup season is in full swing, and for the second year we are beginning to boil down the sap from our sugar maples and a few Norway maples too. The latter don’t provide as much sap, and it will not be as sweet, but once we’ve set up the apparatus, may as well make use of what is available to us.

We managed to find some second-hand metal buckets which I like much better than the blue plastic ones we already had from last year.

DSC01936

We also have a new sugar shack, which is actually the now-empty wood shed.DSC01938

We are following the same process as last year which you can read about here.

My blog has been dormant for a while. We were off in Spain for a couple of weeks, and my arm still keeps me from doing much in the kitchen, so as I cautiously resume my adventures in backyard foraging, I wanted to bring something pretty special to Angie’s Fiesta Friday. This recipe is special because it uses the most iconic of all Ontario’s products, but in a way which is thoroughly innovative, fun, and Delicious.

I got the idea from an esteemed fellow blogger, Poppy, at Bunny Kitchen who shared an extraordinary idea for making a fluffy chocolate mousse out of the liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas. It seemed a bit risky to me, but her gorgeous pictures convinced me I should give it a try. Since she’d already proven the technique with her own chocolate version, I had to try it with maple syrup, and lots of it.

I used dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked them in the usual way. Once cooked, I chilled them, then poured off the liquid. From about one and a half cups of peas, I had one cup of liquid which, as it turned out, was plenty.

Using a hand mixer I beat the liquid for about ten minutes. I then added 1/2 tsp guar gum, 100 ml of sugar (I used maple), and gradually added 250 ml maple syrup, beating all the while. This is what it looked like – about two litres in all.

DSC01883

As promised, this made a super light and delectable mousse. With all the maple, no hint of bean flavour came through, and the maple flavour was strong but the sweetness somewhat tempered. Perfect for so many things!

On its own, it was a delicious dessert, but I also wanted to see how else I could use it. Here are 3 ways I served it.

1. As a garnish for a fruit pie.

DSC01893

2. As icing for cupcakes.

DSC01917

3. As a dessert layered with banana walnut cake and topped with some violet syrup I had from last spring.

DSC01926

I also tried freezing it to make ice cream, adding a little more syrup to make a swirl, but it didn’t really freeze – just got colder.

Some tips to consider when making this dessert.

  • A little goes a long way. Try to calculate how much you’ll actually need. The topping on the cakes has kept well beyond a day, but what was left in the bowl began to separate and lost some of its frothiness. Beating it again solves the separation problem, but it is no longer as airy.
  • The mixture is too thin to make a heavy frosting capable of holding its shape, so allow for some runnyness.
  • Any sweetener would work with this. Just add gradually and taste as you do so.

There are plenty more possibilities I can think of for using this technique and I expect to have some fun with it. I hope you do too.


39 Comments

Snow Kachang

We are just now getting our first real blizzard of the season. It has been snowing all day, and tomorrow we may just be snowed in. This is what it looked like yesterday when we went for a walk on the lake.

DSC01706

And this is what it looked like today in the early hours of the blizzard.

DSC01744

So what do we do when we are getting snowed in? We make snow kachangs.

Actually, I’ve never made one before, but decided to give it a try for the second part of Angie’s Fiesta Friday first anniversary celebration where we have been invited to bring a main course or dessert.

first-fiesta-friday-anniversary-invitation (1)

This recipe is based on a favourite sweet dish of mine that I used to enjoy in Singapore called Ice Kachang, usually spelt kacang. It was a while before I had built up enough curiosity to try it, but once I did I thought it the best way to cool down when on the town, and something that I would have to recreate when back home in Canada. It has taken me a long time.

When I first saw it, I was not impressed. All I could see was a tall pyramid of shaved ice, with 3 or 4 garish coloured syrups poured over it. I’m pretty sure the green colour was made from pandan, but have no idea what the others were. When I finally ordered one, I found that this pyramid covered a delicious mixture of adzuki beans, sweet corn, little cubes of agar agar or jelly and a very sweet brown sugar syrup. Sometimes other things like tapioca or coconut milk were added making a kind of sweet pudding salad. Of all the pictures I have found on line, none resembles what I had in Singapore. The original recipe is Malaysian, and seems to have a lot of the pudding on top of the ice shavings. Other pictures show all the ingredients including the ice mixed together. I am sticking with the pyramid shape and only syrup on top.

DSC01736

For my recipe I used snow, of course. It takes quite a bit of the white stuff, and I failed to make a really tall pyramid. But as I assembled it outside to give me time to get pictures, my fingers were becoming numb with the cold and harvesting any more snow was out of the question.

DSC01731

I intended to use adzuki beans, but was unable to find any, so settled for small kidney beans. I figured with the syrup everything would be sweet enough anyway, and I was right. Besides beans I used sweet corn, cubes from the pealed leaves of my aloe vera plant, and our own maple syrup.

DSC01728

Once these ingredients are assembled in any proportion you like, just pile on the snow. The syrup I used to drizzle on top was some wild grape syrup I had lingering in my fridge, but any sweet syrup will do, preferably one made of fruit or berries, or pandan if you are lucky enough to have any.

DSC01733

The result, which we did bring indoors to eat, was every bit as good as the Singaporean version but with a distinctive Canadian touch. This is a recipe you can make your own with whatever local ingredients you have, and ice shavings if you don’t have clean snow available.

DSC01739

Thanks to Angie at The Novice Gardener as well as this week’s co-hosts, Nancy at Feasting with Friends and Selma at Selma’s Table for managing this event, and to everyone else, enjoy the party!


29 Comments

Sumac Meringue Pie

100_1017

Last Sunday it was a balmy -3 C, and for me the first opportunity of the year to get out and do some foraging. It just goes to show that even in this challenging climate, there is always something out there for the foraging enthusiast. Apart from having to negotiate the deep snow banks, I found this to be an ideal time to pick sumac. The flowers just snapped off, and the berries likewise were much easier to remove from the stems than they had been in the summer. In just a few minutes, I had a full bag of flowers, and the bushes still looked untouched.

DSC00339

I started by making a sumac syrup, this time cooking it for longer than in my previous experiments. I  filled a crock pot about 3/4 full, poured water until the mixture reached the brim, and then cooked it on low for 12 hours. Then I strained the deep red juice through a coffee filter to be used in some new recipes. Here it is after 12 hours of stewing.

DSC00340

The first is for a sumac meringue pie, which I present to The Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday for this week. Since my theory that sumac is the new lemon, it can replace the imported fruit just about anywhere, and what better place to begin than with a festive pie.

DSC00363

To make the syrup: Measure off 4 cups of juice, add 1 cup of sugar and simmer until you have about 2 1/2 cups of syrup.

Pastry:  I used a recipe from La Petite Paniere, the one she uses for Tarte Tatin (which by the way I highly recommend) because I did not want a flaky, lard pastry but rather a buttery French style one. Or use your own favourite recipe for a meringue pie.

Filling

2 1/2 cups sumac syrup

1/4 cup tapioca or corn starch

5 egg yolks

Mix the starch together with the syrup until it thickens. Spoon some of the hot liquid into the beaten yolks and then add the egg yolk mixture into the syrup pot. Continue to cook and stir for a couple of minutes.

Meringue

5 egg whites

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Beat the egg whites. When stiff, add the sugar and cream of tartar and continue to beat until peaks form.

The Pie

Pour the custard into a baked pie shell. Top with meringue and bake in a 350 oven until the meringue is golden on top. Allow to cool before cutting.

DSC00365

This pie is not only local and organic, at least the sumac part, but also requires a lot less sugar than a lemon version. I hope this sumac meringue pie will help persuade the skeptics that even invasive weeds are sometimes worth considering as a valuable source of great food.


6 Comments

Candied Squash or Kabak Tatlisi

Image

Kabak Tatlisi with black walnuts

This blog is about wild food, which means I have to use a little imagination to incorporate the wild edibles with recipes I am eager to share. This dessert is a recipe worth sharing, with or without the wild element, but it does highlight the black walnuts in a spectacular way. If that sounds a bit of exaggeration, I can honestly say this is my all time favourite dessert.

I first discovered it in South America where it is called ‘zapillo en almibar’, and consists of cubes of squash in a sweet syrup. The addition of pickling lime, or calcium hydroxide gives it a firm exterior while keeping the interior beautifully soft and smooth.

I later discovered that this sweet originated in Turkey and is called Kabak Tatlisi. I have been making it for years, but just now learned its name. I found many recipes on line for it, a few even in English, but they are a little different from the way my Turkish friends taught me. Most of the recipes I found added some water, and they cooked it in a pot on the stove. I am sticking with my Turkish friends’ recipe, which is simple and fail-proof – no water and poached in the oven. Instead of using cane sugar, I used maple sugar, which should appeal to anyone who likes maple, which is to say Canadians. But any sugar is good. I also used black walnuts, which are a great contrast to the sweet syrup. You can use any walnuts, or other toppings such as sesame seeds, pistachios, filberts. I even saw it with a tahini sauce on top.

Image

Shelled black walnuts

This same method is used for figs, green walnuts, eggplant and tomatoes. I have tried the first three but not the tomatoes. Squash is still my favourite. The traditional squash, I have read, is butternut, but any squash which is firm when cooked works well. I used a hubbard squash.

Image

Hubbard squash

The recipe is simply this:  Chop or slice the squash and cover it in a bowl with sugar. Let it sit until the sugar turns into a syrup, several hours. You can hasten this a bit by stirring it gently, especially if using a coarse grain sugar like maple. Put the whole lot into a baking dish. I baked it for about half an hour at 325 F, until the squash feels soft when poked with a sharp knife. Serve with walnuts sprinkled on top.

Image

Squash after a few hours of soaking in maple sugar

Image

Squash in syrup ready for the oven

My Turkish friends told me equal weight of sugar and squash. So my first recipe, pictured above, I did exactly that. The next time, pictured below, I used only half the sugar and mixed cane and maple. The important thing is to have enough syrup that it doesn’t harden before the squash it cooked. One way to ensure that does not happen is to use a pan which will not spread out the syrup too thinly. I prefer to use more rather than less sugar, since  left over syrup can always be used in baking, on pancakes, ice cream etc.

It occurred to me to serve it with whipped cream, but did not bother. I am now wondering if there might be an ice cream dessert there somewhere.

Note: You can cut it in slices or cubes. Just be sure the pieces are all the same size so that they cook evenly. Also, if in slices, it should not be too thin, no less than half an inch, because the creamy texture of the squash would be partly lost.

DSC00188

Reduced sugar version