Archive for Fruit recipe

The Other Quince

Japanese quince flowers are truly enchanting in the spring. But the fruit that ripen in mid-fall sure aren’t pretty: hard to the touch and to the teeth, gnarly, pitted, inhabited often. Raw they are so tart that they’ll make your mouth puckers (if you don’t break a tooth first biting into it)  and your stomach  revolts if you manage to swallow. So why do I want anything to do with them?

jap quince 006 comp

Because, when managed correctly, you’ve got some pretty tasty treats. That’s why!

European quince (of which I have written, here, and here) turn into hauntingly floral soft fruit once cooked, making them great as side dish to rich meat, as sauce, in baked desserts, ice-cream, jam, jelly, booze etc.

Japanese quince are viewed almost purely as ornamental in the Western world and their culinary use is much more limited. (If you are interested, do check out this page on the medicinal properties of Japanese quince). Because of their incredible tartness I have only used them with lots of sugar: jam, jelly, syrups & cordials. Or honey – it’s a wonderful combination.  And their aroma? Think sharp lemon jam with floral undertones and none of the bitterness. As they cook with sugar they turn a perfectly beautiful red hue.

Now isn’t that something you could use? Tart, beautiful color, fragrant? I thought so: don’t let your Japanese quince go to waste!

Granted, it’s some work to get it all done – but think about it: how much time did you spend taking care of the shrub? Zilch would be my bet! So get your knives out and get going.

You can turn the fruit into an exquisite jam (recipe for Japanese Quince Jam below). Or you can cook it and strain it: the resulting juice is absolutely wonderful in jelly (Recipe for Japanese Quince Jelly below), and the remaining purée can be used for jam or rustic fruit paste (less nice than if you also use the juice, but still nice). But here is my triumph – and I came to it accidentally. I had been chopping hot peppers – without gloves – while a pot of jelly was simmering. I used my finger to taste the jelly… and I had this most wonderful spicy hot, sweet and tart taste… the best hot pepper jelly.

Now, I like some hot pepper jellies – the one made by my friend Jennifer, as well as the one made by the Turners through their Virginia Chutney Company. But too often the jelly is over-sweet and too rubbery. It’s because one must use lots of pectin since peppers don’t have any to talk of. One must also use vinegar for acidity – and sometimes sub-par vinegar is used. But here I’ve got this incredibly tart juice that naturally so full of pectin that it jells if you look at it wrong. In fact that when I tried to make a syrup, it jelled solid over night.

Anyway… that’s my triumph: Japanese Quince Hot Pepper Jelly. Try it – you won’t regret it.

japanese Quince Jelly Read more

Blackberries, Sweet & Tart

blackberry sherbet 001 comp

Blackberries are producing madly. They have been loving this more temperature summer. Me too! And so they have rewarded us with beaucoup berries since mid-July. For a few weeks in fact they were producing along the Saturn flat peach. ahhh…

flat peach & blackberries Loads just got bagged and tossed in the freezer. Lots got turned into jam, some mixed with blueberries. New to me this year was blackberry gastrique, an awful name if there ever was one: just hearing it makes me want to reach for the bottle of crème de menthe. But it is a homemade competitor to flavored balsamic vinegar — a syrupy blackberry vinegar akin to shrub that I like to drizzle on hard cheese, add to sparkling water, use for vinaigrette, baste ribs or chicken on the grill. I had heard of gastrique before but dismissed it , unjustly based on its name. I came across this video from Sherri Brooks Vinton and realized it was akin to shrub. I made it and I am hooked. I have since made Peach ginger gastrique and there is a tomato one in the works.

And then I have been having fun with sherbet using honey from our hives. This version came by accident: I wanted to make sherbet with buttermilk (something similar to this blueberry sherbet) but there was none in the fridge. There was however sour cream, so that is what I used. Instead of my usual vodka (used to prevent the sherbet from becoming too icy) I splashed in some crème de cassis. Wow! I was really pleased with the depth of flavors and the mouthful – it is, in fact, one of my favorite sherbet. Don’t sweat the proportions too much: let your taste buds guide you. I was reakky measuring when I was making it.

So without more ado, 2 recipes: Blackberry Gastrique and Blackberry Honey Sherbet. Read more

Deviled Eggs

 

Initially published in the Virginia Wine Gazette On-line…. but deviled eggs are always in season.

Bring out a platter of deviled eggs at a party and they disappear. They are the perfect party food: you can make them ahead and in quantity, they are easy and people cannot resist them – especially when made with eggs from pastured hens allowed to forage en plein air, eating grass and bugs: those yolks are bright, nutritious and taste like eggs should. Those shells are firm, making boiling a cinch.

Deviled eggs certainly leave room for plenty of variations:  you can make them as homey or as trendy as you care. In fact, I just heard of some made with curry powder and crushed pineapple. Are you still allowed to call them deviled if they aren’t spicy? I was told recently by a gentleman from Alabama that they simply call “dressed” where he comes from.

A few tricks that I use when making deviled eggs: Read more

Fig Jam with Lemon & Sweet Wine

I have not made as much jam this year as last year – mostly because I still have lots of jam left from last year.

But when an offer to come over and pick ripe Brown Turkey figs came recently, I had no choice but make fig jam. The figs were really ripe and soft and were not going to keep.

Cut up and sugared figs, resting for the night

Figs are naturally very sweet, so I don’t use quite as much sugar as other jams. They are, however, one of the few fruits not acid enough to can using a boiling water-bath method without acidifying first (elderberries are another such). So I always use lots of lemon – and wine also adds some acidity.

So yes, it is sweet, but it still works quite nicely with cheese or cold meat.

But I am going to have to be careful: last year,  I made a lot  of fig jam. Or so I thought … so was handing jars left and right for the holidays… until I realized – way too late in January – that I had given them ALL away! I maybe fig-jam selfish this year!

Canned!

Fig Jam With Lemon & Sweet Wine Read more

The Eighth & Ninth Days of Christmas (Meyer Lemon Marmalade)

Still working through my citrus boxes.

On the Eight Day, the Meyer lemons poached the previous night got squeezed, sliced, briefly simmered with sugar, and rested overnight again. It’s important that the rind softens as much as possible or the marmalade will have an unpleasant texture..

Marmalade before its rest

On the Ninth Day, it get boiled, jarred and processed in a water bath for long-term shelf life. Voila, beautiful marmalade fit to rival traditional Seville orange marmalade (which I could not find.) Particularly good with Butter Cookies from Brittany. You know, if we are going to go sweet, we are going to go sweet! (but a little bit goes a long way – this is a potent marmalade)

Meyer Lemons, Meyer Lemon Marmalade & Brittany Butter Cookies

This recipe illustrates that you may can all year long, and in small quantities too!

Meyer Lemon Marmalade Read more

The Fourth and Fifth Days of Christmas (of Breads and Limes)

The Fourth Day of Christmas was mostly spent cooking dinner for a group of hungry hunters, out for a pheasant shoot. It is the second time I have cooked for that group. It’s always a good thing when a client wants you back!

On the menu:

Alsatian Tarte Flambée and hot gulf shrimps with a spicy sun-dry tomato sauce. I love making that Alsatian Tarte Flambée – it’s easy and it’s always a winner! How can it not be? Slow cooked onions; bacon; crème fraiche. For informal groups like this one, I make a big rectangular tart on a large rimmed cookie sheet or a large free-form pizza. For smaller plated dinner, I make small individual perfectly round tartelettes served with a mache or frisée salad.

Free-Form Alsatian Tarte Flambee

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The Third Day of Christmas

We make Meyer Lemon curd. Lots of it.

It takes less than 30 minutes to make a quart of it, and since it freezes beautifully, you may as well make a few quarts… provided you have eggs and lemons. And we do.

meyer lemon curd

Jars of Meyer lemon curd for the fridge and the freezer

 

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More on Pawpaws

This post first appeared – with minor modifications and without pictures – as an article “In season now: our fascinating native pawpaw” in the September 22, 2011 issue of the Rappahannock News.

Pawpaw puree

My favorite banana custard involves no cooking whatsoever. No, it doesn’t involve opening a package of store-bought “custard” either. In fact, it requires a stroll along the creek with my nose up in late summer: I am looking for native wild pawpaws (Asimina triloba) that are ripening now and in early fall, sometimes as late as October – depending on the tree and its location. They aren’t showy, but they are easy to recognize: small understory trees with large vaguely-tropical-looking drooping leaves that turn a bright pure yellow in mid-fall. They grow mostly along bottomland creeks, forming ever expanding thickets, often at the edge of the woods. Read more

End of Summer Cake

Nectarine & Almond Cake cooling on the window sill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You only need to know a few cake formulas to be able to look smart in the kitchen. Because once you understand the recipe, you can tweak it ad infinitum to vary the result: change the fruit, change the flour, change the flavoring or spice, change the filling, change the icing, change the pan shape… and suddenly the three or four basic cake recipes that you can do (almost) in your sleep become 40 different desserts. That’s why I call them “formulas”.

Witness this recipe for Italian plum cake.

In the spring, use cherries or apricots. In summer, replace the plums with slices of yellow peaches or nectarine. Or slices of sauteed apples or roasted quince or pears in early fall. Or a mixture of fruit. In winter, use rehydrated dry fruit or halved bananas. I more and more use less refined flours like whole wheat or spelt – they accentuate the rustic aspect of the cake. I bet any flour would work! When using stone fruit like peach, I also like to add a little cornmeal (or corn flour) as well as a few nuts. Almonds are great but so are pine nuts if you have them or chopped pecans. Or whatever you’ve got! (or none if you don’t have any).

It’s not a sophisticated looking cake, like, oh say, a Reine de Saba, but is a satisfying not-too-filling dessert, moist, with a little crunch and lots of fruit – great for breakfast too. Best of all,  it’s an easy recipe to memorize, and by playing with it, it will look like you know 10 different recipes!

End of Summer Cake (with nectarine & almonds) Read more

Peach Chutney

If you need one reason to can, peaches is it. Perfectly ripe and luscious peaches are as much a treat now as they are when I open a homemade can of peaches in the dark months (or next spring before the first seasonal fruit, strawberries, ripen in May).

They are not quite as perfect  as a fresh juicy fragrant peach now… but not far. Not far.  They will certainly taste better then almost any fruit you can buy in winter.  Canned peaches are in effect poached peaches and if you can them au naturel like I do, you can use them for all kinds of preparations: naked, with yogurt, in smoothies, tarts, on top of your morning pancakes or waffles, mashed for a quick chunky sauce, mixed with other canned or dry fruit for a winter fruit salad, or puree as a base for ice-cream or sorbet.

Nonetheless, we do have – ahem! – quite a few jars of peaches canned already. And faced with the end of a bushel of ripe peaches I did not really feel like  more “canning”. Call me lazy!  Pickles, jams and chutneys only require 10 minutes in a boiling water-bath, in my smaller canner too since I use 8-oz smaller jars. Why not another condiment? This seems to be the year when I am experimenting with sweet/sour as I have made fennel agrodolce, tomates aigres douces, peach mostarda, peach barbecue sauce, pickled peaches and peach chutney using a recipe from Christine Ferber in Leçons de Confitures. Christine’s Summer Chutney uses peaches, dry apricots and poppy seeds. It was very pleasant and encouraged me to play some more and try my hands at making chutney with what I had available at the moment in the house.

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