Along the Grapevine


8 Comments

Japanese Quince Ketchup

DSC03622

Since I began writing about foraging over five years ago, I have learned that there are more than just wild plants which are usually overlooked for their culinary uses. Sometimes decorative plants which we have deliberately planted solely for their aesthetic appeal can also provide sustenance and flavour, and are as interesting to use as their wild cousins. Lately I have learned to use some of these landscaping plants such as solomon seel, hostas and roses to name just a few.

My Japanese quince bushes (chaenomeles) which I planted from seed a few years ago are just such a plant, and if you happen to have any of these in your garden, there is no need to just let the fruit drop and leave an unsightly mess. And this is the best time of year to harvest them, even after a few light frosts. If you have access to real quinces, (cydonia oblonga), they can be used in this or any of the recipes I have previously written, Japanese quince pastejelly and chutney.

This recipe is for a simple condiment, not so much a recipe as a method. Quantities, spices and sweetness can vary according to your preferences, but I will describe the process and ingredients I used as a start.

I had about two dozen small fruit, most of them still green. I placed the entire fruits in a pot, covered them with water, and cooked them gently until they were completely soft. I also added one red chili pepper to the pot, even though I wasn’t sure at that moment what I was making. Other spices, such as anis, cinnamon or ginger would also be good. Once the fruit was soft, I strained it and returned everything to the pot. At this point, it is very liquid.DSC03623.JPG

Continue to cook until it thickens, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching. When it is almost at the desired thickness, add some sugar, balsamic vinegar, and a little salt. At this point I measured two cups of fruit to which I added 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. It then only needs to be cooked until it reaches the desired consistency. And that’s it!

DSC03624

This makes a fairly tart ketchup, although the level of sweetness is entirely up to you. If using as a glaze, for example, some extra sugar could be added. It can be used anywhere you would the tomato version, and with its intense, exotic flavour, you may find this a preferable alternative.


10 Comments

Homemade Ketchups

DSC00361

Highbush Cranberry Ketchup

If I were permitted only one type of recipe to work on, it would have to be for condiments. Even the simplest dish can be greatly improved with a good quality sauce, chutney, spice mixture or yes, even ketchup. Ketchup has a bad rep among foodies, no doubt as a result of the association with the over-processed, overly sweet products we find in the grocery store. Maybe we should call it ‘sweet and sour sauce’ instead, but the fact remains that a home-made ketchup has so many uses besides tarting up our macaroni and cheese or burgers. It can be used in dressings, marinade, added to sandwiches, soups, stews and vegetables.

I have already given a recipe for wild grape ketchup in a previous post, and I regularly make my own tomato ketchup. Instead of making a big batch of it in tomato season, I just freeze tomato puree, made by heating whole tomatoes, passing them through the food mill and then cooking them down to a thick sauce, to be used throughout the winter as needed. Now I can make tomato ketchup in a few minutes, and change the recipe according to how I plan to use it. Recipes vary according to the spices used: hot and spicy or sweet and tangy. For my recipe here I used sumac powder, but of course you can add any spices or herbs according to what you have around or what kind of flavour you are looking for.

This ketchup is not very red, because I used all varieties of tomatoes, including some yellow ones. If colour matters, then use red tomatoes, or even tinned puree if necessary. I have also made yellow ketchup  with yellow tomatoes, tumeric and mustard.

DSC00285

Tomato Ketchup with Sumac

Tomato Ketchup with Sumac

1 cup tomato puree

2 Tbsp sugar (any kind)

1/4 cup cider vinegar

pinch of salt

1 Tbsp sumac powder

Mix all the ingredients together in a pot, heat and simmer until the right consistency, about 10 minutes.

DSC00355

Frozen Highbush Cranberries

I have still quite a few highbush cranberries in my freezer to use. So far, I have used them to make liqueur, cranberry sauce and candied fruit. The good thing about them is, besides being easy to pick, they freeze well and are even better after being frozen because they become juicier. I was concerned they might be too runny, so decided to add apple sauce, but in fact after I strained them, they were pulpier than expected. I also decided to try a few sweet spices so that I wouldn’t need to sweeten them with too much sugar. Again, other spices can be used, but I was looking for sweet so came up with a mixture of licorice root, cinnamon and fennel seeds. This was made by putting 1 stick of licorice root, 1 stick of cinnamon and 1 Tbsp of fennel seeds in a cup of water, simmering it until there was about 2 Tbsp of dark syrup.

DSC00360

Highbush Cranberry Ketchup

Highbush Cranberry Ketchup

2 cups highbush cranberries

1 cup sugar

2 Tbsp spiced syrup

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

Put the cranberries and sugar in a saucepan with the spiced syrup and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer until the berries are really soft and appear cooked. They will get a little dark. This will take about 15 minutes

Strain this through a food mill or a sieve using the back of a spoon to press it through. Return to the pan, add vinegar and apple sauce. Continue to simmer until the right thickness, another 15 minutes.

DSC00357

Falafel Burger with Pickle and Cranberry Ketchup