Along the Grapevine


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Seabuckthorn Gelato

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To begin with, I don’t want anyone to think that this plant is in any way related to our local buckthorn. It is an entirely different plant, but the name is fitting because it does have nasty thorns on it. I presume the sea part might have something to do with the appearance of the silvery green leaves which in windy weather make a mass of them look like waves on the sea. I have no idea if that is fact or my own fiction, but it makes sense to me.

Usually found in China, Russia and adjacent countries, this berry is appearing more and more frequently in these parts. I have seen several posts and articles about people cultivating it here in North America. Small wonder considering how hardy it is, how easy it is to grow and how nutritious these little berries are. For more on the benefits of it you might read¬†this. I believed it to be a remarkable source of everything ever since I read somewhere that Ghengis Khan had a constant supply of it for his soldiers so that they could take over the world. How’s that for an endorsement!

Having made some delicious jelly with my first pickings in my last post, I decided to try something new. I had never made gelato before and after reading some articles on making gelato I was intrigued and encouraged by the fact that only milk, starch, sweetener and flavour are required. So sea buckthorn gelato was my choice for this week’s Fiesta Friday.

The recipe requires only three ingredients, one being my recent jelly concoction. Other than that, just milk and some cornstarch. Obviously you could do this with other sweetened preserves too, so even if you haven’t come across these berries yet, you can still use this recipe for a not-too-rich but thoroughly delicious frozen dessert. If you use non-dairy milk, this would be a vegan dessert. Unfortunately I failed to think of that until after I had started – but next time.

I used four cups of milk, 1 cup of jelly and 4 Tbsp cornstarch. I used one cup of milk to dissolve the cornstarch. The remaining three cups were heated with the jelly, and then the cornstarch mixture added. Bring to a boil on medium heat continuing to stir. Once it comes to a boil turn down the heat further and allow to boil while you stir for another two minutes. Cool it, then chill it well and freeze in an ice cream maker. In the absence of one, just stir the mixture around every half hour until three or four times.

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Put it in a freezer container and freeze for a few hours more.

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Compared to ice cream, this was much easier to make. It is also a lot less rich, and the reduced fat actually lets the taste of fruit come through better. I won’t be giving up my ice-cream endeavours completely, but it will not be the last time I make gelato either.


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Sea Buckthorn Jelly

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My seabuckthorn plants are flourishing, and the three female plants are producing far more berries than I can pick. They are also reproducing at an almost alarming rate, although the lawn mower has unwittingly taken care of some of the shoots coming from, I believe, the male plant. Their rate of growth is encouraging, and I expect some of the seeds will find their way into neighbouring properties, so foraging sea buckthorn in this area might become a reality before long.

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I have written about this remarkable shrub in an earlier post, but since then have learned some practical tips about how to harvest them. They are difficult to pick. They are indeed thorny, and the small berries are soft with a very thin skin, so as soon as you apply a little pressure when picking, they tend to collapse and squirt you with sticky juice. However, if a few branches are snipped off and put in the freezer for a day, they can then be removed from the branches quite easily. As the plants need some good pruning anyway, this is the perfect time to do it.

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If you find them in a local market, this is the way they will be displayed – thick clusters still on the branches.

The delicate leaves can also be removed to make a delicious tisane.

Seabuckthorn Jelly on Punk Domestics

As for the berries, I decided to make a jelly which would be an easy way to preserve them, and presumably a useful addition to my pantry. I used only one cup of berries, and did not worry too much if some of the woody bits attached to the base were still attached as it would all be strained after the first cooking.

To make the jelly, I covered the berries with water and cooked them until soft – about ten minutes. I strained them, added a little hot water to the pulp and strained them again.

For two cups of strained juice, I added three cups of organic sugar. This I brought to a boil and then simmered until it reached a temperature of 235 degrees F or 120 C. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you will know it is ready when it reaches the soft ball stage.

 

Pour into a jar and let cool. The amount of sugar in this means that it will keep for a few weeks, so I didn’t worry about processing it. I didn’t even remove the foam from the top because it too is just as tasty!

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The flavour of the sour raw berries is not appreciated by everyone, perhaps because it is so unfamiliar, but once cooked with sugar it has a fruity caramel taste. It makes a wonderful spread, but can also be used in baking, desserts, as a glaze or a sweetener for drinks. In short, anywhere you might use honey.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #94