Apple Pectin

I mentioned in my last post that I had made pectin to go into a delicious Rhubarb Prosecco Jelly recently. I followed this recipe for apple pectin from the Local Kitchen Blog, that the jelly recipe had referred to.

It would have been interesting to make the Meyer Lemon Pectin that the recipe also had mentioned as an option, but as luck would have it, a few days before my friend and I were going to get together to make the jelly, my husband had brought home a whole bunch of apples that he got for free. (He had been somewhere with a group of people that had all gotten box lunches, and no one had eaten their apples. When he called to ask if I wanted them all I jumped on it!)

The free apples were McIntosh variety and I made applesauce with the good part (which we all ate pretty much right away) and put all the cores and peels into the freezer for a few days until I was ready to make the pectin:

The night I was ready to make the pectin I pulled them all out of the freezer. Following the recipe, I put all the “leavings” in my Dutch oven and boiled them for about two hours that night while I was watching TV and doing other things:

At the end of the boiling I strained the cores and peels using my strainer. I got this strainer at a garage sale years ago and have been using it ever since. You don’t see them sold too much anymore (although I did see a set at Victoria’s Capital Iron the other day – the first time I had seen them for sale in years) and they’re very useful for anything where you want something to sit and drain for hours. In this case, I let the mixture drain overnight into a low dish:

And in the morning, gathered up the pretty liquid and boiled it for another hour or so to reduce it:

And eventually put it into the water bath canner so that I could save it to use during the summer jam season.

The recipe made quite a lot, I had the six cups shown in this photo plus another two cups that I saved for the Rhubarb Prosecco Jelly and another cup that I couldn’t fit in the canner to process it:

Now I’ll be the first to say that this pectin didn’t work out amazingly – or so I think. I didn’t mention in the other post that the jelly turned out a bit rubbery. I’m not an expert on these things but we did have to cook it a long time to get it to a gel point, and I think it was probably the pectin that had something to do with that. Because I made the pectin with McIntosh apples and not green apples or something that is higher in pectin itself, I think that it didn’t do as great of a job setting the jelly as it could have if I had made the pectin with less ripe or green apples. (As a point of comparison, I made the Concord Grape Jelly this past weekend, using a Certo powdered pectin instead of a homemade one, and it set up incredibly fast.) However, even though the rhubarb jelly is a little rubbery, it is still “gelled” and is still incredibly delicious!

I’ll continue to make my own pectin here and there, but this summer I’ll be looking for the vendor at the Shirley market that I met last year, from whom I purchased crab apples and made crab apple pectin. I haven’t Googled it, but something tells me that crab apples are probably higher in pectin than McIntosh’s – because of their tartness – and so I might return to that practice in the future when making liquid pectin. I had made Damson plum jam with that crab apple pectin last summer and it worked well.

So, that’s how you make apple pectin. So easy, and a great way to use up stuff that would otherwise go in the compost. And now I need to find a recipe to use my 1 cup still left in the fridge!

Rhubarb Ginger Shrub

IMG_2054Two months ago I had no idea what a shrub was. I knew what a bush shrub was, but not these things that people are calling drinking vinegars – shrub the drink.

If you haven’t heard of them either, shrubs are vinegar-sugar-fruit concoctions that have been around for eons and eons. While once they were used to help prevent scurvy in sailors, today we drink shrubs because they’re just plain good.

This month the mastery challenge has been all about jellies and shrubs and since we were making Rhubarb Prosecco Jelly the other day, Trish and I, we figured that we might as well make a shrub too. The rhubarb she had pulled out of her freezer just happened to be enough to make both recipes. So,  a shrub we tried. It was pretty easy to whip up after we had worked on the jelly.

We used this recipe from Vegetarian Times; I was captivated by the colour of the liquid and just happened to have some ginger languishing in my freezer. It was dead easy to make and afterwards we tried a few teaspoons of it in glasses of the sparkling wine we had leftover from making the jelly. For something that we both agreed didn’t actually sound that good, it definitely was.

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I’ve had the shrub in white wine several times since and have come to love its vinegar-y flavour. A surprise for the senses! Captivated by the possibilities of these new and natural ways to flavour drinks and cocktails, I ordered Michael Dietsch’s book called Shrubs and am currently going through it to find more ideas.

My fridge is starting to look like a hodge podge of jars, what with all this marmalade and jelly and shrub-making! I’m OK with that.

Rhubarb Prosecco Jelly

This month the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is all about jellies and shrubs and so a friend and I got together last weekend to make one of each. I’ll tell you more about the shrub later (I’d never heard the term before – they’re actually “drinking vinegars”) but this post is about the delicious, delicious jelly that we combined efforts to make.

Via text chat one night in preparation for our time together a few days later, my friend and I determined that she had rhubarb in the freezer and I had a bottle of given-to-us sparkling wine. She suggested the Rhubarb Prosecco Jelly that was featured in Marisa’s post (above) as a jelly recipe option, so that’s what we did. If you read the recipe from the Local Kitchen Blog, you’ll see that it really does take some time to prepare and so we decided that, the night before we got together, my friend would cook the rhubarb (Step 1), while I made the pectin. (I’ll tell you more about that step in the next blog post.) So these two things gave us both jobs to do the night before we got together to save time the next day. (Of course we texted each other pics as we were doing it!)

The next day we met at my house and started at Step 3 of the recipe. We got the broken down rhubarb juice on the stove, combined it with the sparkling wine (it wasn’t “prosecco” but still could be used in this recipe), sugar, lemon juice and salt, and warmed it until the sugar dissolved:

We added the pectin and cooked it:

until the mixture started to boil:

and boiled very high (boy, we should have used my stockpot! I kept having to lift the pot off the stove so it wouldn’t boil over – lesson learned):

and finally reached the gel point. You’ll notice that I have a candy thermometer set in the Dutch oven and we also used the freezer plate test to see if the jelly was going to set. This took a few tries and even when we pulled it off the stove I was only semi-confident that we were doing it at the right time. But it worked!

And look how pretty it turned out! And, more importantly, it tastes delicious. We had it soon after on salt and pepper baked crackers with a little white Balderson sharp cheddar and it was so good. I think we had been skeptical that this recipe would be as tasty as it was! I think this would be pretty to give as gifts for Christmas, if I sometime have the foresight to freeze rhubarb for pulling out later. (Mental note to self – find rhubarb when it comes out starting next month on Vancouver Island for this very purpose!)

Daniela’s Guacamole

I’ve been posting new things I’ve been doing, food-wise, on this blog lately but I thought I’d mix it up and post something that I’ve been making for a while now that is just really, really good. Several years ago I was at my friend Daniela’s place and had the best guacamole ever. I don’t even think I liked guacamole before this and her guac just won me over big time. Of course I got the recipe from her, renamed the recipe after her (she doesn’t even know this!) and we’ve been making it in our family ever since. I mean about a dozen times a year since!

My whole family loves this recipe, even the other two members of it that aren’t super fond of vegetables. My daughter doesn’t eat anything that makes up this guacamole by itself. She hates tomatoes, onions, avocados, green pepper and garlic, but somehow put them all together and she thinks the result is delicious! Because of course, it is. We often have this guacamole paired with tortilla chips and that’s our dinner. It’s a great way to get different vegetables into my kid.

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This time around I was able to get the most perfect avocados ever from the Root Cellar on McKenzie in Victoria. This made me happy because avocados can be such a disappointing purchase sometimes. More times than I can count I’ve bought avocados that I think are ripe and come home to discover they are either full of black spots inside or so under ripe that you can hardly separate the flesh from the rind. Not these! These were absolutely perfect. I couldn’t help but steal a chunk for straight eating as I was chopping them up.

(And hey, don’t waste those spent lime halves! I usually drop mine into water or sparkling water and drink it as I make up the rest of the guacamole. Makes two drinks with one half lime shell in each – one drink for me and one for a helper that may be nearby.)

Here’s what it all looks like, after the avocado is mashed with the lime and before mixing it all up together and diving into it with chips. I usually assign my daughter the mashing and mixing task. She does those as I chop everything up and throw it into the bowl before her.

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Enjoy this recipe at your own meals and thanks again to my friend Daniela who contributed, unknowingly, to this family favourite!

Daniela’s Guacamole

2 avocados, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 small tomato, chopped small
1/2 green pepper, chopped small
1/3 cup chopped red onion, or to taste
1-2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped small
salt and pepper to taste

Mash the avocado and combine well with the juice of the lime. Add everything else in chopped and combine. Serve with tortilla chips.

Salt Cured Eggs

I feel like I’ll be a broken record on my blog this year saying the phrase: “Because of the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge, I decided to make [fill in the blank here]” over and over again, but so be it! I’m so enjoying being part of the FIJ challenge and I’ve already made several food items because of it that I wouldn’t have attempted otherwise. Who would have thought three years ago when I retired this blog that I would revive it again and basically only write about food for a while! But it’s been great.

Back to the catch phrase above…this time around (because of the Challenge) I decided to make salt cured eggs. This is a thing that I didn’t know was a thing until the challenge. But February was salt preserving month and alongside the Salt Preserved Lemons that I jarred, I decided to do some salt cured eggs as well. I don’t know what it was about them that appealed to me, maybe it was their golden colour and the fact that I knew they were going to harden and become grate-able after drying in the fridge. That seemed yum and I decided to take on the challenge.

First things first: I had to get some eggs. But I didn’t want to use just any old eggs from the grocery store. I wanted home grown eggs and the biggest eggs that I could find. Well, scratch that, I could have gone for goose eggs and I didn’t do that. What I did source out were duck eggs, available from my friends at Cast Iron Farm in Sooke. I got six of the beauties and, while not enormous, were big enough to be bigger than large size chicken eggs that I usually buy at the store:

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Cracking into those duck eggs was a challenge, I’ll tell you! The membrane in duck eggs seems to be a lot thicker than chicken eggs and so it was a tricky exercise to get the yolks out of the shells in one piece, gently!

I laid the yolks out on a bed of salt, following the recipe on the hunter-angler-gardener-cook website. (I mean doesn’t the photo of the cured egg at the top of that post make you want to make them? It reminds me of old cheese wheels.)IMG_1861

I covered them with salt and let them rest in the fridge for the required time. When I took them out it was like hunting for small nuggets of gold – and they were easy to find as the salt had hardened around them. I brushed the salt off each one as best I could, considering they were fairly tacky to the touch and quite a bit of salt stuck behind on each one.

The next step involved wrapping them in cheesecloth, trying to get them all individually cosseted in cloth, and hanging them in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

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Now this is where I’d do something differently in the future because not only were they a pain to wrap, I didn’t wrap them well enough (with enough cheesecloth layers in between, or hang them all individually – yeah right) and a few of them stuck to each other during this stage. After two weeks in the fridge like this (note: they weren’t drippy so the bowl turned out to be totally unnecessary) I had to pry some of them apart and some are still tacky to the touch. However…

Some are totally grate-able! I grated part of one over a recipe of sausage, turkey, orzo and rice and it was totally delicious. Salty yes, but it added a zippy flavour, making the dish sing. Here you can see the grated egg on the meal and the eggs themselves in the container behind:IMG_2030

I do have one more thing to do on this little project, due to some of the eggs still being tacky as I mentioned. I read in the FIJ Facebook group that some people didn’t hang their eggs to dry in the fridge, but dried them in the oven (or a dehydrator) instead. Not having a dehydrator I think I might try the oven step to finish off the last tacky eggs that still need to harden up. Then I can return them all to the fridge to store them for (apparently) quite a long time, grating them here and there to add some deliciousness to appropriate meals.

Will I make them again? Probably not. Although apparently delicious, I think they’re just too, too fussy for a regular recurrence on my making schedule. But it was fun to try them this time and do something totally different.

Lemon and Lime Curd Tarts

A few months ago we were preparing to have people over and I was looking for a simple dessert to serve. I stumbled across Jamie Oliver’s Rainbow Jam Tarts and absolutely loved working with the sweet dough of the recipe; it is probably the easiest dough I’ve ever rolled out in my life! I think at the time I offered plum, strawberry and some other jam-type middles – these miniature tarts were all a hit with the visiting friends.

Fast forward to 2017 and all my intersections with various citrus fruits via marmalade-making and otherwise. I had seen the Meyer Lemon Curd recipe in the Food in Jars book and had been mentally comparing it to the lemon curd that I’ve already made for years; Marisa’s version looked a lot creamier and I was intrigued. But rather than making another Lemon Curd (I already had made my “go to” recipe from Cooking Light around this time), I thought I’d try her Zesty Lime Curd recipe (Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round Cookbook, pp. 91-92.)

The lemon curd tarts are the glassier looking ones.

The Zesty Lime Curd turned out great and it is indeed sweeter and creamier. However, it’s also a lot more finicky due to the straining of the zest so I’m not sure how often I’ll rush to make this one. It made three 250-ml jars of lime curd and I popped them in the freezer to wait for my parents to arrive for a visit. I had this idea that I could make the jam tarts base and put lemon or lime curd in them instead of jam, and serve them to my citrus-loving father while he was here.

So that’s what I did. I made the Jamie Oliver tart base and pulled a lime curd jar out of the freezer to plop in lime curd in half the shells. I made another Cooking Light lemon curd recipe and put that in the other half of the shells. I think the favourite of my family was the lemon curd over lime (although I think my dad found its “light” version a little tart; maybe I’ll make Marisa’s Meyer Lemon Curd recipe for him next time). I myself had no trouble eating both indiscriminately!

Back to the tart base recipe, yes it does make about 32-36 of them (the recipe says 30) but I’ve found that baking 24 (because that’s the size tart tin that I have) and freezing the remainder as a ball in the freezer for a couple of weeks before I bake the last dozen of or so works just fine. A tip around rolling them out – don’t be afraid to make them too thick. For ones that I rolled a little thinner, they somewhat broke on the bottom later when I was lifting them out of the tart pan. (It was totally legitimate as the baker to eat those!) The half inch thickness that Jamie Oliver recommends is about right.

The neat thing about these curd tarts is that you really only want just one or two, that’s enough. If you got carried away and ate a few, I think you’d pay for it later in terms of fullness or at the very least would need a ton of water to wash the sweet taste away! An easy and impressive dessert, and one that you could make ahead of time and freeze quite easily and pull out when you need it.

Meyer Lemon Tangelo Grapefruit Marmalade

When Alex wrote about her Meyer Lemon Grapefruit Marmalade on the Food in Jars website in January I feel in serious like with the tangerine colour of the jarred marmalade and knew I had to make that recipe.

I had already made one batch of the Cara Cara Orange and Vanilla Marmalade in January myself but had been reading so much in the Food in Jars Facebook community about every other marmalade under the sun that other people were making (remember, the people in this group come from various parts of the world, places where citrus fruit is growing on their trees right now) that I just wanted to try some other flavours. Enter meyer lemon and grapefruit and then, because I ended up not having enough lemons (one was rotten and I didn’t notice until after I got home from the store), I substituted in a tangelo that I already had in the fridge.

In the end, this recipe was finicky and I’ll say right up front that I probably won’t make it again. It tastes OK but it’s really not absolutely delicious like the Cara Cara Orange and Vanilla Marmalade recipe – which I really love and has probably ruined me for all other marmalades from this point forward. And the prep work on this one was onerous: first I had to take all the rind off all the fruits and cut it into thin strips, then supreme the fruit, then bundle all the membrane and seeds up in a cheesecloth sack and boil them with the marmalade. It just took longer than the other recipe because of all the various steps, whereas the other recipe allowed me to use the entire fruit: rind, pith and all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat my Meyer Lemon Tangelo Grapefruit Marmalade and I’ll enjoy it because I made it with my own two little hands! It will be delicious on a toasted bagel and I’m sure other ways. But my heart has been stolen by the mushy combination of Cara Cara oranges, lemons and real vanilla bean…so much so that I’ve already made another batch of that first recipe to tide me over until next January!