Along the Grapevine


46 Comments

Wild Apple and Rose Geranium Jelly

DSC01090

Although our crab apples are not doing well this year, we do have one wild apple tree which is doing fine. You probably know the kind of apple I am talking about, the ones no one wants to pick, much less eat. They are small, irregular in shape and full of spots. On the other hand, they are pesticide and chemical free, and when cooked retain a good flavour and have a lovely colour. They are perfect for making things like jelly, where their appearance as a fruit does not affect the appearance of the final product. And why use perfect looking apples to make something like jelly?

For Angie’s Fiesta Friday #30 I wanted to make a special jelly, so added some flavour with my rose scented geranium. I notice this week there are a few recipes with rose flavouring, so this is turning out to be a bit of a rose fest.

This is the first year I have grown such a plant, but I hope to add other varieties to my collection of one next year. Although they don’t flower profusely like other geraniums, they do provide a delicious home-grown flavouring with their leaves and flowers. Mine is not flowering just now, but it does have some new buds, and the plant itself has grown beautifully since I planted it in the spring. For more information about these plants, read this here. I highly recommend adding one of these to your garden, even if all you have is a balcony or stoop, as they provide a wonderful source of exotic flavour from leaves and flowers.

DSC01087

If you don’t have a scented geranium, there are other things you could add to this jelly, such as a stick of cinnamon, some ginger, sweet herbs, orange blossom or rose water towards the end of cooking, or whatever you think mixes well with apple.

I began my recipe with two pounds of apples, but once I removed the cores, stems and nasty bits there was only one and three quarter pounds. This recipe can be altered to fit the amount you have just by changing the amount of the other ingredients proportionately.

DSC01097

Wild Apple and Rose Geranium Jelly

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

 Ingredients

2 lbs apples

water, to cover

2 1/2 cups sugar

5 scented geranium leaves

Method

Chop and clean the apples without peeling. Place them in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer them until soft, about 1/2 hour. Strain through a jelly bag or cloth lined sieve. Do not press, or the juice will not be clear.

Pour off the juice, which in this recipe measured three cups. Return to the pan and add the sugar and leaves which should be tied up in a spice bag or piece of cheesecloth.

Bring to a boil and keep boiling for about 25 minutes. To test doneness, just drop a bit of liquid on a cool surface and see if it gels.

If you make a large quantity, this can be processed in a 10 minute water bath.

DSC01101

Wild Apple and Rose Geranium Jelly on Punk Domestics

At this time last year I posted a recipe using purslane:https://alongthegrapevine.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/purslane-and-cabbage-salad/


5 Comments

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.

100_0517

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.

DSC01028

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.

DSC01051

 

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

DSC01050

 

 

 

 

 

 


20 Comments

Sumac Churchkhela Pieces

120px-Tschurtschchela

Churchkhela from Wikipedia files

I was thinking of making a sumac leather to use up my last batch of sumac juice. Then I remembered something very similar, something like a fruit leather covering walnuts linked on a string. With no idea what it was called, nor where it originated, I wasn’t sure how to find anything about it. I just knew that it is eaten in places like Greece and Russia. Actually, I needed only describe it and do a google search, and there it is. But I was reading  Anya von Bremzen’s “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking” and she mentioned eating this in the Republic of Georgia, where according to Wikipedia, it originated. It is also made in many other countries in that general region, such as Greece and Turkey. The Georgian and Russian name for it is churchkhela.

120px-Churchxela

Another wikipedia photo

It is not often available commercially. It is made in people’s kitchens, and sometimes sold at farmers markets, hanging in bunches much like hand dipped candles. It can be made with other fruits besides grape, so it seemed reasonable to use sumac, although you could use apple cider, berry juices, quince, and so on. I really like to recreate interesting recipes I have discovered in far-away places, and make any changes necessary to achieve a similar result in this part of the world. And churchkhela, even if I didn’t know the word before, is one of those recipes.

I had to make a few minor changes. Traditionally the nuts are dipped in a thickened juice and then hung to dry in the sun. No chance of that here right now, or maybe ever. So with nowhere to allow the strings to drip and dry, I decided to forego the string and just dip the individual walnuts. Instead of sun, I used a dehydrator, and did some partially in the oven with the electric light on. In either case, it is at a temperature of about 40-50 degrees Celsius.

DSC00375

Walnuts after first dipping in sumac juice

Recipe

1 cup of walnuts

2 cups or sumac juice

4 Tbsp cornstarch (or other starch or flour)

1 cup brown sugar

Cover the walnuts and soak in water for a couple of hours. This step is really to make it easier to string the nuts and prevent them for cracking, but I recommend it even if not using string. It makes for a softer texture which goes with the coating, and I think prevents them from drying out too much during the process.

Mix a little fruit juice with the starch and then add to the rest of the juice in a saucepan. Add the sugar, and heat until it starts to bubble and loses the milky colour. Allow to cool.

Dip the drained walnuts (reserve the water for soup stock) in the syrup and place on the dehydrator tray, or on parchment if you are doing it in the oven. The first layer was dried only a couple of hours at a low temperature (about 40 degrees C). The second coating was left about 4 hours, and after that about 10 hours, until they are not sticky to the touch, similar to licorice. I did some three times, some four times, and had I had more sumac juice, could have kept going for a thicker coating, although that would have taken a lot longer. They are very tasty as they are, and remarkably like the real thing I bought from the experts.

DSC00380

Walnuts dipped three times

I hope, if nothing else, this contribution to The Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday gives you some idea of how this traditional Georgian churchkhela can be adapted and enjoyed without the need to travel half way across the world.

DSC00381

Walnuts after being dipped and dried four times


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


15 Comments

Wild Cocktails

100_0662

Crab apple Cordial

It’s another Fiesta Friday with The Novice Gardener, and although it has been a busy week with so many Olympic events to watch, I have managed to contribute some bar fare. After all, this is one party for which I don’t have to be the designated driver.

These recipes are, as often, not really recipes, but simply ideas of how to use the ingredients I have stored in the pantry/freezer/bar which this blog is all about – wild edibles. It is all very well to know what is edible, how to identify it, and maybe even why it is good for you, but it is just as important to know what can be done with it once you have it.

Anyone who has been reading this blog from last summer might remember that I made fruit cordials, all of them sugar and fruit in a 1:1 ratio, soaked in vodka for a few weeks, then strained and bottled. The fruits I used were grapes, crab apples and high bush cranberries. I also made some spruce infused vodka for which there is already one recipe posted. I have been enjoying all these since December, but luckily have not consumed them all yet.

100_0906

Cranberry and Grape Cordials

I am not usually one for sweet or mixed drinks, but recently have enjoyed the odd cocktail in restaurants which has inspired me to try out some of my own formulas. I have limited myself to what I already have – no special purchases. I think this helps with originality as well as cost. I encourage you to do the same, and let me know what you come up with.

If the amount consumed is any indication, then the grape cordial is my favourite. The amount of sugar is right on – it is dry, but not at all sour. It makes a great little digestif all by itself, so I offer this with no frills – just straight up grape cordial.

DSC00337

The high bush cranberry has a very strong flavour on its own, and even with all that sugar is not sweet. It does benefit from mixing it with something to lighten, but not extinguish the flavour.

DSC00336

Cranberry Cream Cocktail

1 oz high bush cranberry cordial

1 heaping Tbsp coconut milk

1 oz pomegranate juice

5 oz. cold water

ice cubes

a few pomegranate seeds for garnish

Mix everything in a blender and strain into a glass.

The crab apple infused vodka has a wonderful apple flavour, but is a little sweet for my taste. Next time, a little less sugar. The flavour goes a long way, so it is possible to dilute it without losing its flavour. In this one, I just added a small can of ginger ale to 1 ounce of cordial and a splash of lemon juice to help cut the sweetness. I think a little ginger would be good too.

100_0926

The spruce infused vodka has a very strong, dry flavour. Not so pleasant on its own.  I would call it an essence rather than a cordial. So I used very little and mixed it with sweet and cream, and it was perfect. Especially if like me you enjoy herbal drinks, such as Chartreuse or Fernet, this is a good one.

Spruce Cream

DSC00334

1/2 oz spruce infused vodka

1 oz Triple Sec

1 oz full cream (35%)

a pinch of nutmeg

Mix or blend all the ingredients and pour into a glass.

So bottoms up to all the guests this week at The Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday. I hope you are inspired by the idea of making your own wild cocktails – and I would love to hear any suggestions you may have for names for these concoctions.


10 Comments

Japanese Quince Jelly and Chutney

Image

chaenomeles Wikipedia

I am well accustomed to cooking with quinces, but when we moved here it was difficult to find a source. So I decided to try some Japanese quinces (chaenomeles) from those ornamental shrubs which are quite common in local gardens. Although I don’t have any of my own, most people are only too  happy if you volunteer to remove them in October when they start littering the ground around them. So, thanks Connie for my supply this year.

100_0904

They are smaller than the tree variety (true quince or Cydonia oblonga), and have a large centre full of seeds resembling apple seeds. The taste is very lemony – more so than lemons. Wherever you store them will soon become permeated with the most heavenly scent, and they can be stored in a cool place for several weeks. They can be used pretty much in any regular quince recipe. For centuries they have been used in Asia for medicinal purposes, and recent studies confirm this. For more about the nutritional and medicinal value, check out this site.

100_0907

With my small stash I made a jelly and a chutney. There seems to be some doubt as to the value of the fruit as a jelly, but I suspect people who claim that have never actually tried it. I find the flavour delicious on its own, but if you want to experiment, a little orange or chilli or whatever you might add to apple would work well. Also, even though they are rock hard, preparing them was not a big chore.

Japanese Quince Jelly

Japanese quinces, quartered (no need to peel, discard seeds or membrane)

water

sugar

Place the cut quinces in a pan and barely cover with water.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about two hours. Mash lightly with a fork.

Strain the compote through a cheesecloth lined sieve and let sit overnight, or at least a few hours.

Pour the liquid into a pan and add the same volume of sugar.

Cook slowly (about 1 1/2 hours) until it is ready.

Skim off the frothy bits as it heats, and keep a close watch.

I usually overcook jelly, so I tested a small amount of liquid on a plate straight from the freezer. When it stays in one place you know it is ready.

100_0911

I am more a chutney than a jelly fan, so I used the remaining pound of quinces to make some. I never follow recipes for chutney. To me, chutney is a way to use up excess fruit, just mixed with vinegar, sugar and spices. It is pretty hard to go wrong. And you have one of the most useful staples in your fridge to show for it – as a condiment, in a cheese or grilled vegetable sandwich, mixed with yoghurt or mayonnaise for a dip, or just with crackers and cheese.

100_0912

Japanese Quince Chutney

1 lb quince, seeded and chopped.

3/4 lb onions, finely chopped

1/2 lb brown sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

some raisins (optional)

chilli peppers, or chilli flakes to taste.

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until thick (about 2 hours on a low heat).

I used two whole cayenne peppers, with seeds, chopped very finely. But the variety and amount are your call.


5 Comments

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.

100_0858