Archive for Fruit recipe

On Blackberries (and Creme de Blackberry recipe)

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Before I planted blackberries in the garden, I used to go forage for them. They grow all over the place, tenaciously clinging to their chosen spot and taking over the neighborhood: the clump expands rapidly and any cane that touches the ground roots to produce yet another plant. They are ferocious too with long hard and sharp thorns that will draw blood as you gingerly try to pluck a berry. It takes quite a while to pick a gallon of wild blackberries

But not the plants I have: they are thornless with large and flavorful berries. Labels have –  of course –  been lost, but at least one of them (based on its behavior) is “Triple Crown”, the other might be “Apache” and “Navaho”.  They are beautiful in bloom and mesmerizing in fruit. Last winter, I did not prune them. I mean, I meant to prune them, but it never happened. And that Triple Crown took full advantage of it,  pushing itself over the timid raspberries, flinging its 10-ft long canes in the asparagus bed, and blocking all the paths around it. On the bright side, it’s producing lots of berries. Which for now need to be picked every other days, but soon, it’ll be every day.

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Harvest every other days … and it’s only the beginning of the season.

And so I have to do something with them. Here are some ideas: Read more

Foraging for Wild Summer Berries (and Shrub recipe)

Wineberries and a few wild blackberries

Wineberries – and a few wild blackberries

Who hasn’t plucked and munched on a handful of wild blackberries or huckleberries while hiking? Didn’t it feel like a tiny treasure hunt, the taste of wild berries sharper, more intense than their tamed counterparts?

Sure, foraging for berries takes time, but you didn’t lift a finger, did not drop a single bead of sweat  to propagate, nurture, plant, weed, fertilize nor water the little suckers! You only have to show up and pick.  Even with decent foraging skills,  a couple of hours of picking yields a harvest that may look slim.  After all, I can pick 5 times faster from tidy rows of ‘Apaho’, ‘Triple Crown’ or ‘Navajo’ – three widely planted thornless cultivars – than from a fiercely tangled thorny thicket of wild blackberries. (yes, I have measured!)… but of course the tidy rows have to be maintained, pruned, trellised, weeded, mowed…

Besides, there is nothing like picking wild berries on a warm scented summer morning: the sweetly clean fragrance of pink bouncing-bet, the sharp minty smell of trampled horsemint, the aroma of over ripe berries, the muskiness of rotting vegetation, the heady pervasive scent of flowering basswood humming with bees… it’s… wild! And some berries simply are not cultivated. So if you want them, you get to pick.

Most common berries fruiting in June or July for us include: Read more

A Black Currant Streusel Cake With Black Currant Compote

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So far, it’s been a good year for berries! A cold winter and abundant spring rains have given the plants what they want.  You will not hear me complain about the past winter nor about the rains (yet, at least…)

I am actually harvesting red raspberries… thanks to a bout of happy garden laziness. The raspberry canes that fruited last year should have been cut down at the end of the winter. For a number of reasons – none of them very good – I never cleaned the patch. And what’s the result? Raspberries  in June! Not something to do every year as the patch would rapidly becoming an awful mess, but every  2  years, or every year on half the patch alternating which half is cut in March. Remains to be seen, however, if the fall harvest is as abundant as before. Still raspberries in June is pretty nice.

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I have written before before about my fondness for red currants. I simply adore their brilliant tartness, when mixed with other berries, or by themselves with a light sprinkle of sugar, or in the easiest jelly in the world, one I make every year.

This year, I am also harvesting black currants. When I planted them, I had cassis on my mind, the syrupy dark purple liquor from Burgundy that’s also made in the Ile d’Orlean, in Quebec. I somehow imagines that the berries have the same flavors. Not so. Certainly not raw.

Black currants needs to be cooked for that haunting flavor. Otherwise it’s just another tart berry, and one not particularly remarkable at that. Pleasant but nothing special. Cook it however, and you’ve got something really special. Read more

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?

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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

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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!


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.

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Jars of Meyer lemon curd for the fridge and the freezer


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