Archive for Snack

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

Homemade Granola

I admit to loving a good granola, generally over plain yogurt. But many I have purchased and tried are simply not to my taste, either too sweet or with too many added overpowering  flavors — sometimes, both! Also they often contain too many dry fruit that are not up to par.

The solution? make your own.

Remarkably simple as it turns out with about 5 minutes of active time, and of course, fresher and exactly as I like it. And – it never hurts – cheaper than store bought. Since I generally have on hand all the ingredient for it, it only takes just a little over an hour to make a batch: 5 minutes to mix, 30 minutes to bake, 30 minute to cool… and it’s the best granola you can ever have. Perfectly crunchy, lightly sweetened with the complex flavor of good honey, and utterly delicious!

Read more

A Different Kind Of Pie

French Réunion Island where I grew up has a multi-ethnic population, hailing from France, the West coast of Africa, the East Coast of India (Malabar coast), Pakistan (people came when Pakistan was part of the British empire), and Indochina. Its cooking reflects the diversity of its population, each group’s culinary traditions enriching the common cooking pot.

An example is Paté Créole, a savory meat pie probably of French and Indian origins served on feast days, particularly at the beginning of the Christmas or New Year’s Eve meal.

So I think it’s an appropriate pie for Thanksgiving. Read more

When You Have Green Tomatoes


Just dug and cleaned baby ginger

When I have green tomatoes and baby ginger, I make Green Tomato Jam With Baby Ginger. Because, I have pickled green tomatoes and made green tomato relish in the past… but we don’t eat that much of it.  So the pickles and the relish languish on the shelves. Jam, we eat. 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

Crepes from the Piedmont


On February 2, in Punxsutawney, PA, Phil the Groundhog is most unwillingly thrust into forecasting the next 6 weeks’ weather (most unwillingly indeed as he is – apparently – wrong 61% of the time). But you know, no matter what poor Phil does or does not do, we are now halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and receiving 10 hours of sunlight a day again! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is cause for celebration, even if only a modest one.

So whether you celebrate Ground Hog Day, Candlemas, St Brigid’s Day, Imbolc, or just want to have a fun family evening, I propose we make crepes. Listen: if you can make pancakes, chances are you can make crepes! The basic ingredients are the same after all (flour, eggs & milk), the proportions different. As when making pancakes, a cast-iron skillet is the most practical choice. There is absolutely no need for a special crepe skillet: I do not have one.  Fun and easy to make, sweet or savory, sophisticated or homey, crepes are our friends – and they are coffee-friendly, hard-cider friendly and, without a doubt, wine friendly!

If you want to read more and get the recipe for Vanilla Crepes stuffed with Almond Creme and served with Maple Caramelized Apples (and suggestion as what to drink with that) please head over to the Virginia Wine Gazette On-Line where editor and wine expert Mary Ann Dancisin asked me to do a “Virginia Edible” blog post. Except for the almonds and vanilla, those crepes can be Virginia grown…

Cornmeal Cookies

Cornmeal is simply not used enough in sweets.

There, I said it: eat more cornmeal.


I like soft polenta (mush) and hard polenta (either – like oatmeal – taste sooo much better when made with milk instead of water). I like cheesy grits and creamy polenta. I like it with bits of smoky bacon and fried fresh sage leaves too. I like upside-down cranberry cornmeal cake and cornmeal cranberry loaf – actually anything with cornmeal & cranberries. As in those cookies. Read more

Making Yogurt

It only took me 15 years.

I used to make yogurt. Really, I did. I had one of those nifty little machine with individual glass containers. You prepared your yogurt mix, pour it into the little glass jars, nested the jars into matching holes in the machine, set the cover, turn it on, went to bed…. and voila yogurt for breakfast.

Then we moved, and somehow the jars and the machines got separated. I could never find the jars again. And as good yogurt started to be available in the better stores, the urgency of making yogurt faded. So a few years ago, before we moved again (to our current place) I got rid of the yogurt machine. Of course, a few months later, I found the jars which had been packed more than 10 years prior with Mason jars – a box which had remained untouched as I did not do that much canning in the city. Unlike now.

Also, although I can find respectable yogurt nowadays, the supply is more limited and I have to drive a bit to get it. So I have been vaguely thinking about a yogurt machine again. Except I did not want yet another one-purpose-only gadget. I have heard also of swaddling your yogurt in blanket to keep it warm. That held no appeal to me.

Fast forward a few days, when I read that post. Duh!!!! a cooler and a jar filled with hot water. Who needs a yogurt machine? blankets? Pfff!

That morning, I made yogurt. I loved the uncomplicated low tech approach. I probably put in 1/2 cup of yogurt instead of the 1/3 that El calls for in her recipe since I preferred to err of the side of firm yogurt (the recipe is in the comment section of the post – be sure to scroll down El’s post). That night, for dessert, we had yogurt with roasted Italian plums (frozen from last summer’s harvest).

All I need from now on is a few tablespoons of my yogurt and some milk. It’s little sourdough bread – just keep it going.

I am sold! I have become a yogurt maker again.

It’s about time.

Thanks, El.