Posts Tagged apples

More yellow magic

My thought-provoking tomato jam barely made a dent in the carpet of ripe yellow tomatoes on the table in the sun room, so I moved promptly on to chutney, a yellow tomato-apple option that hit any number of my chutney must-have buttons. In addition to some 4 cups of chopped up tomatoes (and this was half the recipe) it used  apples and onions for flavour, chilli, ginger and mustard for heat, cider vinegar for bite and golden sultanas and white sugar for sweetness. The recipe demanded a single clove of garlic too, which seemed so small as to be totally irrelevant. I left it out. But I did throw in two cups of tomatillos, using up the last of the 2015 harvest. I liked tomatillos last year, when I only had a dozen of them. This year it’s been a struggle to use them up. chutney

And while I know chutneys need to wait a month or so for the flavours to meld together nicely, I couldn’t resist trying one of my eight jars. Two conclusions: it’s quite pleasant, even straight out of the preserving kettle. And it could have used more heat.

Sweet yellow tomato chutney (adapted from the Bernadin book of home preserving)

2 cups cider vinegar
5 cups chopped, peeled apples (I used a mix of Macs and Empire)
4 cups quartered yellow tomatoes (recipe said to peel them. I didn’t)
2 cups quartered tomatillos (or just use more tomatoes)
1-1/2 cups golden raisins (sultanas)
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 small chili peppers, seeded and chopped (use 3 or 4 next time)
2 tbsp mustard seeds, lightly crushed
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1 tsp cinammon
1 tsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a big pan, bring to the boil and then simmer until chutney thick (about 30 minutes). Bottle in sterilized jars. Waterbath 10 minutes.

Chutneys take time to boil down, but you can’t really find a more simple recipe.

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Plenty of plums

I missed a month of canning and jamming on the bike trip of a lifetime last month, so there are some jams that just won’t happen this year. I don’t think it matters — the storage shelves are creaking with jam already — but I do want to step up the pickles, add to the chutney collection and save those wonderful late summer/autumn fruits that are starting to arrive, a couple of weeks later than in a normal year.

Last week we canned peaches in three slightly different ways, but I’m saving the blog-about-it until I get around to opening a jar (why eat canned peaches when there are fresh ones in the market?). This week it was those nice, blue Zwetschken plums. I’ve written before about the mysterious alchemy that turns blue plums into red jam, but today’s batch seemed to produce a jam that’s even redder than usual. We picked a plum preserve recipe from Madelaine Bullwinkel’s Gourmet Preserves but eliminated a few steps, added ginger and cut the already small amount of sugar. It set super fast, and I think it’s going to be very nice, but it made five jars, so no samples now.


Plum ginger jam (adapted from Gourmet Preserves)

3 lbs blue plums, pitted and quartered
1 cup water (maybe use 1-1/2 cups next time)
2 cups sugar
juice of one lemon
1-2 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped

Simmer the chopped plums with the water for 20 minutes, and then drain the liquid from the mushy plums in a colander — let the mush sit around for a good 30 minutes so that it drains well. Add the sugar to the liquid with half the lemon juice and heat, gently until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil until it’s about to set. The recipe says 5-10 minutes for this stage, but ours was well set within 4 minutes. Then, off the heat, add the plum quarters and the ginger and let it sit around for another 15 minutes or so. Bring the mix back to the boil and boil until it’s set. Again, this took minutes.

Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath 10 minutes.


Second venture was a plum apple chutney, from the adventurous Art of Preserving, by the beautifully named Jan Berry. I got this book for $9 in a second hand shop a while back, and I see that Amazon has it on offer at $138. Maybe I should sell.

Plum raisin chutney (mostly from Art of Preserving)

4 lbs blue plums, pitted and chopped
2 lbs apples (we used Macintosh)
1 lb onions
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
2-1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
1-1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tbsp mustard seeds
Black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a big, heavy pan and simmer until it thickens (something over an hour). Bottle in sterilized jars. Waterbath.


Why is everything made from plums quite so beautiful?


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Another perfect pairing (pearing?)

As a kid, I adored what I now recognize as a particularly uninspiring iteration of the classic poire belle Helene, which slurped bought chocolate sauce over anaemic, watery canned pears and bought vanilla ice cream. But while the idea of bought sauce and canned pears now fills me with dread, pears and chocolate are a marriage that works. What about turning them into a jam?

Of course it’s not quite as simple as that, given that pears are pretty low in pectin, which means the jam sets much better if you throw some apples into the mix. The Bosc pears we bought at the weekend were also narrow-necked and a total pain to peel and chop. So after a minor incident involving a canning buddy’s finger and a newly sharpened knife, I turned to the food processor to transform my quartered fruit into jammable mush.

And a recipe? We winged it, based on a preserve we’ve made before, but throwing organic chocolate chips in right at the end. Color is a little meh, it’s a dubious brown with very tiny bits, which leads me to conclude that it actually is better to chop the fruit by hand. (A second pear apple jam, made fivespice this time, looks much more satisfying, with chunks suspended in flavorful syrup.) But the taste? Ooh. Canning buddy licked out the ladle and left me the pan. This is one to do again.

Pear chocolate jam
1 kg ripe pears, peeled and chopped
600 g apples, peeled and chopped
150 g crystallized ginger, chopped finely
550 g sugar
juice of two lemons
almost a cup of good quality chocolate chips (70 percent cocoa)

Heat the fruit with sugar, ginger and lemon juice, slowly at first until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil until the jam it sets.

Take off the heat and wait a few minutes for the jam to stop bubbling. Then stir in the chocolate chips and bottle in sterilized jars.

Store in the fridge. (I suspect the chocolate would go odd if you tried waterbathing this jam, so we didn’t risk that one.)

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Oatmeal with a twist

I like a wholegrain breakfast ahead of the work day, or (even better) as a line-the-stomach venture before a bike ride or a ski trip. I do hot breakfasts in the winter, and cold ones in the summer, when I just throw oats together with buttermilk and fruit and pretend it’s low-cal muesli without the nuts.

For winter warmth, steel cut oats were my big discovery a few years back, especially after I realized that all you need to do is boil them up with water, cover the pan and let the porridge sit overnight to thicken up. The next day you spoon a portion into a bowl and nuke it warm.

Then I flirted with farro, which is higher in protein and more nutritious than oats. I like it a lot, and kept going for a couple of months of breakfasts.  But even after I tried whirring the pre-soaked grain around in the food processor for a few seconds to speed up the cooking time, farro takes forever to cook, and I meandered back to the steel cut oats. Depending on my mood, and on what I have in the house, I add a sliced up banana, a handful of raisins or cranberries, along with a splash of buttermilk, and I’m ready for the day.

But the oatmeal I tried at a Tucson cafe this week might just have transformed my life. Instead of using water or milk to cook their steel cut oats, Liv Cafe at the north of the city, cooks oats in apple cider, for a sweet-but-not-sweet start to the day.

I don’t know what proportions Liv uses for its oatmeal, but here is what I did.

Steel cut oats with apple cider
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
2 cups apple cider (not the alcoholic kind, if there are any Brits reading this)
generous pinch of salt

Bring the oats and liquid to a boil and then switch off the heat, stir the porridge and cover overnight. Store in the fridge, and reheat a portion as you want it.

Serve with fruit, yogurt, milk, cream, nuts, spices. The choice is yours.

Ever so easy, and oh, so good.

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Blue plums = red jam

I have never quite understood how blue skinned plums with green or yellow flesh can boil up into a rich red jam or chutney. But there’s some alchemy there that turns plum preserves into one of the prettiest jams there is, and I have a whole shelf full of the magic to enjoy over the year ahead.

This year’s plum stuff included a couple of attempts to use up the fennel flowers, plus a batch of  the chewy plum-star anise jam from last year, although I used German blue plums instead of the damsons I found last year. It’s based on a recipe from the lovely Food in Jars web site, although I played around with the quantities to match the amount of plums available. I ended up with 5 cups of plums,  3 of sugar and the juice of two lemons, along with a generous spoonful of chopped ginger root and 3 super-fresh star anise stars.

From there it was on to chutney, and I loved the look of this offering from the strangely named Evil Mad Scientist web site. It uses lemons and lemon juice rather than vinegar,  and there seemed to be a nice mix of the sort of spices that I like. I did about 2/3 of the recipe, but kept the spice levels more or less the same, as well as doubling the ginger. It’s nice, with a decent kick, and will (as chutneys do) presumably only get better with time.

But there were still a lot of plums to use, so I hit the internet again for a similar-yet-different plum apple chutney from the BBC’s Good Food web site. It’s heavy on the garlic, and a little sweeter than I would like, probably because Canadian Macintosh apples are sweeter than the Bramley cooking apples I grew up with.

Memo to Canadian growers: why does nobody here (or indeed anywhere in North America) grow a good Bramley apple, which are huge and sour, and which melt away to velvet applesauce in no time at all?

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Pretty as a pickle

Why did noone ever tell me how easy bread-and-butter pickles are?

Inspired by a seriously simple New York Times recipe I put together a sweet sour batch in not much more than the time it took to bring sour cherries up to boil (see below), and we’ve already eaten almost half the jar. This is an eat-now pickle rather than a can-and-keep one, which makes it faster, but I was flabbergasted at how easy it is. Slice cucumbers, salt them, and leave them sitting on the kitchen counter (the recipe said the fridge, but the fridge was full) while you go off to the store. When that’s done, boil up some vinegar, sugar and spices, pour over the (drained) cukes and wait an hour or so before you eat them. My only changes: adding mustard seeds because I wanted more of a kick, and substituting chive blossom vinegar because I made it when the chive blossoms were out and needed something to use it in. I forgot to add the dill.

Very pretty, very tasty. They won’t last long.

Then it was on to sour cherries, which always make incredibly fleeting performances in the farmers’ market at around this time of year. I bought a quart, which came out as a mere 3-1/2 cups of stoned cherries. There wasn’t going to be much jam.

Looking for inspiration, I seized on the recipe book I used for one of the raspberry jams last week because it was the only one I could find that didn’t add bought pectin. It used pectin-filled Granny Smith apples instead, and that added a little bulk as well. I cut the apples, increased the lemon juice, and had a jam about 20 minutes from starting the stove.

Sour cherry vanilla jam (based on Madelaine Bullwinkle’s Gourmet Preserves)
3-1/2 cups pitted sour cherries
2 cups chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Simmer apples and cherries for 15 minutes until they are soft. The recipe said to  chop them in a food processor ahead of time, but I like my jams with chunks, so I just used a potato masher to squish the fruits down a little as they simmered.

Add vanilla, and then the sugar (in 3-4 parts), bringing back to a simmer between each lot of sugar and making sure one batch has dissolved before adding the next one.

Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes until it sets. Again, the recipe said 10 minutes, but that was clearly far too long.

It looks good, it tastes good. Very, very tart. It made three jars.

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It’s starting

Round about this time of year I start fretting that I’m running out of jam. I never have, and I probably never will, but there were only six jars of jam in the cold room at last count, and I was starting to worry whether there would be enough for two people to eat yogurt with jam between now and the summer fruit season.

But then I remembered the rhubarb, which has just hit the market, albeit in a rather pale and skinny way. Last year’s rhubarb ginger jam was a big success, but I couldn’t find the recipe, so I had to start over.

Here is what I did, heavily gingering a recipe from the Jams and Jellies book from Australian Women’s weekly.

Rhubarb apple jam with ginger

4 cups rhubarb, finely chopped
4 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 cup candied ginger, sliced thin
Sugar — about 4 cups

Simmer the rhubarb, apple, water and lemon juice together for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is soft and mushy. Measure how much liquid you have, and add the grated ginger, along with 3/4 of a cup of sugar for every cup of pulp. (I think I might cut the sugar and up the ginger a little next time). Boil for 10 minutes until it sets, throwing the crystallized ginger in just before the end.

Bottle. Water bath for 10 minutes if you feel so inclined.

And it’s a beautiful jam, in a delicate shade of coral pink. A little runny perhaps – it seemed to be setting, so I didn’t even do a set test – with a taste that you can’t quite place.

Definitely worth trying again.

Of course canning buddy, fearing that I might have to buy jam, also handed over a few spare jars, including one from 2010, so I’m laughing. How long before I start fretting about having too many jars again?

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Meyer lemon … marmalade

I don’t get this one at all, but one day after the making, that Meyer lemon syrup had turned to an almost perfect marmalade, with a serious bite and deliciously chewy chunks of peel. Time for a few recent ratings from some of the more recent jars we opened.

Lemon meyer marmalade: 4-1/2 (out of five)
It loses half a point for panicking me for a day of the making-it process

Lime pickle: 4 (out of 5)
Nice bite, lovely taste, if a little spicy for me. But I’m not sure what I’m going to use it for. Mind you, the recipe did say wait at least a week, so maybe I should wait a little longer

Grapefruit marmalade: 3 (out of 5)
Nice, but nothing special. I’m trying it with home made rice pudding today, which might work better than the marmalada peanut butter sandwich I had yesterday. Mind you, this is last year’s grapefruit marmalade. Do these things age? Will the one we made on Saturday taste better once we get around to eating it?

Apple date chutney: 4 (out of 5)
Nice, solid, tasty, spicy chutney. Very smooth, which is a little disconcerting, and I will add a notch more spice next time.

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Chutney with a kick

For three years in a row we’ve made a curried apple date chutney from one of my favorite recipe books and it seems to vary each year depending on the apples, the vinegar and maybe the mood of the chefs. One year we used empire apples, which didn’t break down properly, and one year we used curry powder instead of curry paste and I complained that the finished product was a notch too bland and a notch and a half too sweet.

This year I dared buy the “hot” curry paste from the market, and used a very generous three tablespoons when canning buddy wasn’t looking. We cut the sugar a little, cut the Macintosh apples up nice and small and used a mix of cider vinegar and white vinegar because it’s all I had in the house.

And this is a chutney to die for. The dates and most of the apples melt away into a dark amber paste, with hunks of buttery soft white apple to add to the color and the texture. Even fresh from the pan it was glorious, with a beautiful lingering afterburn. I had the stuff that wouldn’t fit in our 14 jars it in a lunchtime sandwich, with brown rice bread and 7-year old cheddar, and it was so good that I had a second sandwich almost immediately after. And there are seven jars apiece to look forward to.

Serious yummm.

Chutneys always taste better after a while, but the provisional rating has to be high. 4-1/2 (out of 5) perhaps.

Recipe to follow, when I get the recipe book back from canning buddy.

From there we moved on to a pear-apple-ginger preserve from the same book, because it’s the pear-apple season, and it’s never the wrong season for ginger. We upped the ginger (of course) and added a teaspoon of five-spice because that’s my spice of the moment after the stunning successes of a few plum jams.

The results are good, but not as good as the chutney. The pears were not quite ripe, and the apples didn’t melt away to anything particular at all, leaving a well-set jam that’s actually a little lumpier than I would have liked, with a linger of crunch from a fruit that might be either apple or pear. It’s super-sweet as well, but works like a charm on plain, unsweetened yogurt.

Provisional rating. Probably a 3 (out of 5)

But this one has potential. I want to try it again, with a handful of cranberries for a sourish bite.

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The beauty of long weekends

Two days without work is one thing. Three days is something completely different, and 40+ jars of tomatoes and tomato sauce obviously were not going to be enough. It was time to finish up those tomatoes, time to experiment, and time to have a little fun.

First up were the elephant plums I bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday — they look beautiful and they have a wonderful summer-fall taste.  After careful consideration, I decided to pair them with ginger, and I decided to wing it with the recipe because I really have not got a clue what elephant plums really are. (Edit: After a few internet investigations, I think they might actually be pluots, which are a plum apricot cross. If so, may I recommend pluots as a fruit to jam.)

I’ve had success with other fruits with a 4-3-2 mix (4 cups fruit, three cups sugar and juice of two lemons), so that was what I did, chopping the fruit and adding a half cup of chopped up candied ginger for a bit of a kick. I brought the mix up to a boil until it stopped foaming and let it boil for another 3 minutes or so until I thought I had a set. It’s a little runny, if truth be told, but nothing wrong with that.

And I think I consider this to be success — a glorious deep red jam with a little bit of a bite from the chewy ginger chunks. I think I should cut the sugar next time though. The ginger has sugar after all. It would be a little less of a jam.

From there things moved on at lightning pace as we processed the rest of the tomatoes and saving a few for a peach tomato salsa with a slightly-too-gentle kick. It was also a made up recipe of sorts, in that I took my favorite bits of two that I found online and hoped for the best.

Peach tomato salsa (inspired by the blueberry files and long distance table)

5 cups chopped, peeled peaches (half were ripe, half less so)
3 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes
1 chopped, peeled apple
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp sriracha (1-1/2 tsp would have been better)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar (I used a mix of white and brown)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Mix all ingredients except the cilantro and simmer for 15 minutes or so until thick. Add cilantro, and bottle in hot jars. Water bath 15 minutes.

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