Along the Grapevine


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Cedar Jelly

If you are one who enjoys grilled game, fish or fowl, this aromatic jelly is for you. And if you’re not one to consume any of those, you will still enjoy this with cheese and bagels, or simply on toasted sourdough bread. Either way it is a perfect condiment for any larder. 

Even knowing that cedar is one of the many flavourful and scented evergreens native to this region, I have hesitated to use it up till now. It contains a chemical called thuja which should not be consumed in large quantities, and definitely should be avoided by pregnant and nursing women. Recently I watched a cooking show about pre-colonial recipes, and noticed they used a cedar jelly as an accompaniment to game, so I figured that the quantities of thuja in this had to be tolerable. On further researching, I discovered that there are several greens which contain this chemical, most notably juniper, some mints and sage, all of which are found in most cooks’ pantries.  I also learned that early settlers used the leaves to make tea to prevent scurvy, and many campers continue to use it as an available source for a tasty drink. I therefore concluded that making a cedar jelly recipe to be consumed occasionally in small amounts would be delicious and safe, as long as you are not pregnant or nursing.

The cedar tree I am referring to is one that is commonly found in the north eastern parts of North America – the eastern white cedar. There is a similar western version, but I am only familiar with the one from this zone. It is a fast growing, hardy conifer favoured in landscaping but also easy to find in the wild. Its small scaly leaves cover the fan-shaped twigs and vary from yellowish to deep green. Its small cones grow in clumps of five or six pairs.

DSC03419.JPGThree things to note about cooking with these leaves are:

keep the simmering or steeping mixture covered to prevent the volatile oils from escaping;

use only the lighter green tips growing from sill-green branches;

the longer the cooking process, the more flavour will be lost.

So bearing these  in mind, here is the recipe I came up with.

Cedar Jelly

Ingredients

2 cups cedar leaves

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1 pkg (85 ml) liquid pectin

Method

Place the leaves and water in a jar and press the leaves down to submerge. Cover with a lid and set in the sun for at least four hours. This will extract a good amount of flavour without cooking it.

Strain the liquid, add the sugar, lemon and pectin. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until foam forms on the top. Skim off the foam and bottle.

To date, I have no way of measuring the ph level for purposes of canning, so I am just freezing as my method of storing. This recipe makes three 8 oz jars.

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Linked to: Fiesta Friday #184; Food Eat Love; The Not So Creative Cook.


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Chicken Rillettes

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If you are cooking for more people than usual at this time of year, it is a good idea to have some ready-to-serve dishes stashed away in the freezer to serve when you are too busy to cook or have an impromptu event where something a little out of the ordinary is called for. This rillette recipe fits the bill perfectly, and also allowed me to use a perfectly good, organic, albeit rather dry chicken I had to do something with.

Rillettes are really a French version of the English potted meats. They are made by long slow cooking of the meat in broth and white wine, and then potted with lots of herbs and butter. Served on slices of crusty bread with good quality pickles, they keep for at least five days in the fridge and much longer in the freezer.

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You can adapt this recipe to what you prefer in the way of herbs, but I used my spruce salt, juniper berries and some fermented dandelion buds as garnish giving it a distinctively local flavour.

Chicken Rillettes


Ingredients

1 whole chicken, approximately 4 lbs.

2 Tbsp oil

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups water

2 onions

1 large carrot

3/4 cup of unsalted butter

2 tsp spruce salt

1 dozen juniper berries

a handful of chopped parsley

Method

In a large Dutch oven, brown the chicken on all sides in the oil. Pour the water and wine over it. Add 1 onion and the carrot, both roughly chopped. Cover and put in a 300 degree F. oven for about 2 1/2 hours. The chicken should be well cooked and fall away easily from the bones. Strain the broth into a bowl and discard the vegetables (or better yet use them in something else) cool, and then store the broth and the chicken separately in the fridge. There should be about 2 cups of broth. This can be done a day or two ahead.

To make the rillettes, using a couple of forks, pull away all the meat in small bite-sized strips, discarding the skin and bones. In a saucepan, cook the second onion, finely chopped in 1/4 cup of butter until translucent. Add the chicken, the rest of the butter, juniper berries and salt. Continue to cook on a low heat until most of the liquid, but not all has evaporated. If you pull the meat to one side of the pan, there should still be liquid visible at the bottom, but the whole mixture will not be covered in liquid. Just before it is ready, add the parsley, mix well and check for seasoning.

Transfer it into serving dishes and/or mason jars and cool completely, cover and refrigerate or freeze. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

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I am bringing this dish to Fiesta Friday #47, hosted as always by Angie and co-hosted by Indu at Indu’s International Kitchen  and Jhuls at The Not So Creative Cook. Many thanks to these three for keeping this party going this week. Feel free to drop by and see join in the fun.