09/21/14

Chokecherry Syrup

Holy moly! The last few weeks have been a preservathon!

I’m starting to run out of jars to put things in! I will admit here that I don’t have  a giant collection of jars to begin with, but I still feel that having things in the majority of them is an accomplishment.  Especially since it is still September and there sill surely be some more things to put into jars.

I got the chance to make some chokecherry syrup, a delicious treat I’ve had the chance to enjoy a number of times, but had yet to make myself.

It’s pretty delicious stuff, so chokecherries grow in the area where you live, I would definitely suggest ear marking this recipe!

Chokecherry Syrup

(A recipe from the Mum-In-Law!)

Chokecherries

Water

Lemon juice

Sugar

Corn Syrup

Pectin

(Yes, I do realize that I haven’t specified amounts yet, but that’s because it really depends on how many chockecherries you can get your hands on. Don’t worry, read through and all will be cleared up!)

Directions

  • Rinse the chokecherries to wash away any dirt or dust.
  • Put the rinsed chokecherries into a large pot, and add water until the berries are not quite covered. When you start to see the water level rising up through the fruit, that is enough water.
  • Bring the mixture to a low boil, and simmer, stirring once in a while, until the chokecherries burst open. Remove from heat and let the mixure cool.

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  • Run the contents of the pot through a chinois or food mill, to separate the juice from the solids. Because this is a syrup and not a jelly, you can be a little more aggressive while pressing out the juice, because a little bit of sediment isn’t amiss here.

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  • Discard the remaining skins and seeds.  As a warning, chokecherries are mostly seed and skin, there will be a lot of leftovers to discard. Then measure the amount of chokecherry juice you have. For every 6 Cups of chokecherry juice use: the juice of 1 lemon (that’s around 2 Tbsp) , 5 Cups sugar, 1 Cup of corn syrup, and 3 1/2 Tbsp pectin (that’s one small packet around these parts). This is the ratio for the recipe, if you end up with more or less chokecherry juice, adjust accordingly.
  • Return the juice to the pot, and stir in the lemon juice, pectin, and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil before adding in the sugar, and then boil for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Pour the syrup into sterile jars and then process.

If you’ve ever eaten a chokecherry off of the bush, you may be feeling a little doubtful of me, because they are so bitter, sour, astringent on their own. But with a little bit of the time, and the help of quite a bit of sweetener you end up with a perfectly puce syrup that still has a little bit of pucker that makes it a treat.

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Most of the times I’ve had chokecherry syrup we have poured it over top of waffles. I’ve been working on my crepe making technique, and discovered that the chokecherry syrup is quite a treat on them as well. I imagine it would be tasty on vanilla ice cream too, but have not tried that quite yet.

Mr’s favourite way to eat chokecherry syrup is with buttered toast, soaking the syrup up with the non-buttered side. Though, he mentioned, if you don’t butter your toast, you can soak up the syrup with both sides of the bread!

This time last year: Merguez Sausage

Two years ago: Tapenade

Three years ago: Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

Four years ago: Kettle Corn

08/25/14

Gravlax

Let’s talk gravlax!

Are you familiar with this lovely stuff?

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Scandinavian by heritage, gravlax is a type of cured salmon.

This delectable treat is not to be confused with smoked salmon, because there is no smoking in the process.

Gravlax isn’t lox either, though I would say that they’re pretty much cousins. Lox, a Jewish staple from what I hear, gets it name from the German word for salmon, lachs. Gravlax gets it’s name from the Danish, Norwegian, Swedish term for salmon, lax. (The gravad prefix means grave, because back in the day part of the making of gravlax involved burying it in the ground! But that’s just a ghoulish side note!)  The difference between the two, though, is in the cure. Lox is salt cured salmon. In my reading, it is somewhat disputed as to whether or not sugar is to be allowed in the cure even. Gravlax on the other hand, is known to include the sugar as well as other seasonings like dill, black pepper, aquavit, caraway, or juniper.

Take notes guys, I can’t be the only geek who wonders about this stuff, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll post a quiz!

How to make it:

Gravlax

(a recipe in ratios!)

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For every 500 grams of salmon, please use:

30 grams kosher salt

25 grams sugar

5 grams cracked black peppercorns

and a big bunch of dill

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Directions

  • Examine your salmon for any remaining pin bones. If they are present, remove with some clean needle nose pliers or tweezers.
  • Combine the salt, sugar and dill.
  • Lay out a fairly large sheet of cling film.
  • Set down a layer of dill fronds about the size of your piece (or pieces) of salmon.
  • Apply the cure to both sides of the salmon, half to each side.

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  • Top the salmon with an additional layer of dill.
  • Seal up the cling film packet. Double wrap if you’re feeling like it isn’t sealed up really well. It is extremely unlikely there that the package won’t leak at least a bit through the curing process, so pop the curing packet into a container.
  • Pop your soon to be gravlax into the fridge, preferably at the bottom of the fridge, where it will stay coolest.
  • Cure for at least two days. Some people will cure for up to a week, or longer, but the longer you cure for the more intensely flavored your gravlax is going to be.
  • Strip off the layers of cling film, peel away the dill and discard it, and rinse your gravlax thoroughly with cold water.
  • Slice thinly on the bias and eat. The gravlax will be much easier to slice if you slice towards what would have been the tail end of the fish.

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On first taste, I found gravlax almost too intense. I packed it back up into the fridge and had to think on how I was going to eat it.

The combination of bagel and lox, emphasis on the cream cheese used on the bagel, was developed because lox is often bracingly salty and the dairy cuts come of the intensity from it. So, I followed the knowledge of the New York deli, toasted up a mini bagel, doctored up my cream cheese schmear with some horseradish and a little bit of leftover dill and sliced up some gravlax. (Bagel and grav-lox mashup anyone?) Boy that was delicious.

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By the time I had come up with that idea, a few days had passed, and the gravlax seemed to have calmed itself in flavor. I cannot really say if this was a change in how I was percieving it, or if it actually mellowed a bit once taken from the cure and rinsed. Either way, I liked it a lot better. So to be honest, a good portion of it has been eaten out of hand, just like this:

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(Or you know, if we’re feeling civilized sliced onto a plate, and then eaten out of hand.)

The next time I get a hankering to make some blini I know what I’m going to be draping over top of them.

A word on the salmon you are using: yes, this fish is cured but never cooked. Fish can sometimes carry parasites that can make people sick. Generally, when a fish is alive, any parasites would be using the fish as a host would be found in it’s digestive tract. Once the fish is, ahem, dispatched the parasites may start to migrate into the meat, the parts of the fish that we would eat. This is why fish are gutted quite quickly once caught. Most parasites that live in fish do not also infect humans, but some do. Almost all of fish sold as fresh in North America (hey, it’s where I live!) has been flash frozen to -35º C to kill any parasites that may have been present. So the fish you buy should be perfectly fine to make into gravlax. If you are still feeling nervous, fellow scaredy cats,  purchase farm raised salmon, studies show that it is much less likely to carry parasites than wild salmon. For your reference!

This time last year: Squash, Sage, and Chili Honey Tart

2 years ago: Drunken Cherries

3 years ago: Plums Under Meringue

4 years ago: Sushi Triangles

08/4/14

Everything is Not Quite What it Seems

I find it amusing when people like Bob Blumer, the Surreal Gourmet, would make a cake that looked like a hamburger, or oppositely, make something that looked like it was a cake, but was really rounds of meatloaf iced with mashed potato.

Historically speaking, it can’t be just me that finds the concept fun: if you’ve watched Heston’s Feasts, with the ever whimsical Heston Blumenthal, making foods that are not quite what they seem has been around since at least the middle ages. He makes a fruit bowl of meat fruit, and also cleverly disguises a dessert course as tableware, and even makes Willy Wonka’s lickable wallpaper!

Now I don’t have Heston’s laboratory kitchen at my fingertips (if only!), but I do have a sneaky little dessert at hand. Peaches and cream are a natural duo, but they are presented as though they were a perfectly pleasant sunny side up egg. Huevos falsos means false eggs, after all.

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Huevos Falsos

(This recipe will make dessert for two people. Magnify upwards accordingly if you have more intended eaters)

1 ripe yellow fleshed peach

2 Tbsp (1 oz) peach vodka

1 Tbsp (1/2 oz) grapefruit white balsamic vinegar (ingredient optional due to it’s oddballness)

2 Tbsp vanilla sugar

1/2 Cup whipping cream

2 Tbsp vanilla sugar

Directions

  • Blanch the peach in order to peel it: cut an ‘x’ in the end of the fruit opposite to the stem, immerse in recently boiled or very hot water for about 30 seconds, and remove, and then immerse in ice water for another 30 seconds. The heat and then cold loosens the skin, so that you can peel the skin off quite easily from the points made from cutting the ‘x’.

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  • Cut the peach in half longitudinally and remove the pit, which will leave you with two lovely, round, yellow hemispheres. Set aside.
  • Stir together the marinade for the peaches; combine the peach vodka, grapefruit vinegar, and vanilla sugar in a bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

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  • Add the peach halves to the bowl, and set aside to marinate for at least half an hour.

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  • In the intervening time, whisk the whipping cream and second measure of vanilla sugar to voluptuous soft peaks.

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  • When it is time to serve, divide the whipped cream between two small plates or shallow bowls, spreading it into a round shape using the back of a spoon.
  • Nestle a peach half, the ‘yolk’, into the middle of each of the ‘whites’, the whipping cream.
  • Set upon with spoons!

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In the summer, I eat a peach almost every day. Those orbs of sunshine are too good not to enjoy in season. I have a bad habit of buying them by the carton, and when they all ripen within a 24 or so hour period, there are a lot of peaches to consume. It’s a task I’m up to, though.

If you aren’t going to eat your peaches straight out of hand, which is what I am most prone to to, huevos falsos is a delightful, simple little dessert. And if it is as hot out for you as it is for us lately, the fact that you don’t need to turn the oven on at all is to be appreciated too! Traditionally, the false eggs are made with poached or even canned peaches, but because I prefer them in a more natural state (and being the cook means that I get to be the boss), I just steeped them in a quick marinade. The sour from the acid and the bit of alcoholic burn play well with the fruit and against the mouth coating creaminess of the whipped cream.

Mr says: A delicious dessert for a summer dinner!

This time last year: Particularly Delicious Chili

Two years ago: Thai Peanut Sauce

Three years ago: Stacked Summery Salad

Four years ago: Pomegranate Lemonade Slush