Friday, November 15, 2019

Quick Cranberry Syrup

Unlike the cold-extract syrup I make that takes days to yield (a very compelling) juice, this syrup is fast - ready in 30 minutes. All you need to make this versatile mixer is a bag of cranberries, water, and sugar.

12 ounces of cranberries
2 cups of water
2 cups of sugar

Combine the fruit, sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer for 25 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve. When a little cooler, bottle. The cranberry syrup keeps well for a couple of months in the fridge.

(I use the strained, leftover fruit to make a fruit leather, spread out on a silpat mat after cooking it down for another hour on very low heat.)

Cranberry Cocktails - 'Winter Cabin'

Cranberry syrup infuses this vivid drink with color and the sweet earthiness characteristic of this cold-season fruit. It is made for crisp weather. In early winter I use our own aromatic Thai limes, right off our trees, overwintering in the bedroom.

If you are not used to working with fluid ounces, 1 fl oz = 2 tablespoons! But as long as you keep the recipe's ratio's accurate, you can wing it by using 'parts' rather than ounces. This is such a good drink that it is useful for a crowd, in which case go for cups as your base measure and stir well with ice in a tall jug before pouring.

‘Winter Cabin’
Makes 1 drink

For the rim:

1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon lime zest

Place the juice and sugar in two separate saucers. Mix the zest into the sugar. Dip the rim of the cocktail glass into the lime juice and then gently into the zested mixture. Allow to sit for a few minutes before pouring the cocktail.

For the cocktail:

2 1/2  ounces white rum*
1 ounce Cranberry Syrup
1/2 ounce Chartreuse
1 ounce lime juice

Shake all the ingredients with ice. Strain, and pour.

* Or substitute vodka, gin or silver Tequila. Different, but good.

Cranberry Syrup Recipe - Fermented

Cranberry syrup is a beautiful and delicious seasonal addition to hard or soft mixed drinks (as well as salad dressings and pan juices.)

A Japanese friend taught me this simple technique for unripe ume (Prunus mume) - it yields ume juice or syrup, a delicacy in Japan. In my book Forage, Harvest, Feast you will see the method used for serviceberries (Amelanchier species) and black chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa). It takes time, but the flavor is refined and becomes complex with time, as it begins to ferment.

Cranberries ferment more slowly than many fruits as they have antimicrobial properties (and it is microbes that digest sugar and cause fermentation).

You can use any amount of fruit as long as the sugar is the same weight. Increase the quantities for larger festivities! Cranberries are quite dry compared with most fruits, so expect a modest but concentrated yield. After about a week you will have enough for your cocktails, but leave longer for full extraction.

Cold Extraction Cranberry Syrup
Yield: 1/3 cup syrup

Start one week before you need to mix some drinks:

6 ounces cranberries, crushed or chopped
6 ounces sugar

Place the crushed (or chopped) fruit in a clean jar. Add the sugar. Close the jar and shake well. Loosen the jar's lid. Leave at room temperature until the syrup is extracted.* This will begin after a few days.

Strain off the syrup as you need it, leaving the rest with the fruit in the jar. The syrup with fruit remains good for many months.

* Do not seal the jar tightly as some fermentation will create carbon dioxide, which needs to escape.

The leftover, sweet fruit can be your own, homemade craisins. Simply strain them from any remaining syrup, spread them out onto parchment and leave to dry. In low humidity they will dry over 4 - 7 days. You can also use the lowest setting on your oven: keep it on for 30 minutes, turn it off for an hour. On for 30 minutes, off for an hour. Repeat until they are chewy and craisin-ish.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cranberry Cocktails

It is November and cranberries are ubiquitous and cheap. They have so much more potential than dear old cranberry sauce (which I love). The tart and tannic native fruits are also very good for us, high in antioxidants and with antimicrobial properties

Here is the first in a crimson series of cranberry cocktail as well as low ABV (alcohol by volume) recipes I created to fuel the delicious Thanksgiving season. Syrups, pickles and brines are part of the scarlet mix.

Sour Cranberry Syrup (above)

I call it syrup but there is no sugar. Use this brilliantly red mixer in any way you would deploy lemon or lime juice. It keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator. I suspect it lasts longer but have not tried - let me know.

12 ounces of cranberries
2 cups water

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, then double strain and bottle. Keep chilled. You can use the leftover cranberries in sauce or pie filling.

Salt-Pickled Cranberries and Cranberry Brine

Tough skinned cranberries take well to salting after being crushed a little (and I thank Japan for the easy technique of salt pickling). Why salt cranberries? The ruby-hued brine extruded from the fruit makes a beautiful cocktail rim juice, before dipping in salt. In small amounts the brine also adds a sharp zap to mixed drinks, helps quick-pickled vegetables along, cures salmon for gravlax, and is pretty good in salad dressings, too (especially with citrus and mint).

To make the brine, simply place a cupful of lightly crushed cranberries in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and massage it into the fruit. Allow to sit for 24 hours, covered. Voilá: crimson brine. Dip cocktail glass rims into it. The leftover cranberries are good pickle-snacks.

‘Red Rita’
Makes 1 drink

The combination of vivid cranberry syrup and blood orange make a ruby cocktail nipped by a dash of cranberry brine meeting Tequila.

For the rim:

1 tablespoon Cranberry Brine
1 tablespoon salt

Pour the brine into a saucer.  Place the salt in a second saucer. Dip the rim of your cocktail coupe in the brine and then gently into the salt, working it around the edges. Allow to stand for a few minutes before pouring the drink.

For the cocktail:

2 ½ ounces Tequila Reposado
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce blood orange juice
½ ounce Sour Cranberry Syrup (see above)
¼ teaspoon Cranberry Brine

In a cocktail shaker combine all the ingredients with ice. Shake, and pour (stay just shy of the salt rim).

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Persimmon Loaf

This sweet loaf is going to be a feature on my late-season plant walks and picnics.

Any ripe persimmon can be used for this recipe, including the small native fruit (Diospyros virginiana). If you are using those, or the large, pointy Asian Hachiyas, they should be gelatinously ripe; if not super-soft they will taste furry and tannic and ruin the bake. Fat-bottomed Fuyus (shown above) are ripe when firm, but mash up their pulp so that it is smooth. You can do this by kneading the flesh hard through the skin, using your thumbs, then scooping it out, or in a food processor, or through a foodmill (this removes seeds, too, from the native fruit). A few small, remaining chunks are OK.

Like pawpaws (Asimina triloba), persimmon pulp is dense and the baking time is quite long, as a result.

Makes 1 large loaf ( 5 ½" x 10 ½" pan)

1 ½ cups ripe persimmon pulp (about 4 - 5 Fuyus, or 3 - 4 Hachiyas, depending on size)
1 ¼ cups sugar
½  cup melted unsalted butter
3 large eggs
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ¼ teaspoons salt (this is not a typo)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda

Optional topping

1 Tablespoon Fir Sugar* (or mix sugar with ginger, or a pinch of cloves)

* See Forage, Harvest, Feast for Fir Sugar

Preheat the oven to 350'F/180’C.

Butter a loaf pan 5 ½" x 10 ½" pan (or use two small loaf pans, or even muffin trays, but reduce the baking time to about 50 and 25 minutes, respectively).

In a large bowl, combine the persimmon pulp, sugar, melted butter, eggs, yogurt, spices, and salt and beat them together until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and stir these into the wet mixture with a spoon, using as few motions as necessary. Transfer the batter to the buttered pan, sprinkle the sugar topping across the batter (if using), and slide into the oven.

Bake for 70 minutes, or until a skewer or toothpick poked inserted fully into the thickest part come out clean. Gently tip the loaf from the baking pan and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Daylily and zucchini curry

(First published 3 July 2018)

Sometimes the best meals happen thanks to a chance farmers market encounter. When I spotted perfect little courgettes (zucchini) with their flowers still attached at our tiny local Sunday greenmarket in Carroll Gardens, I pounced. And in the garden at home daylilies are prolific, my sweet potatoes are rampant (their tender green leaves and stems are edible), rows of green garlic are ready for pulling, and the Thai limes and basil are flourishing in pots. And so this summer curry happened. It was fantastic.

Day-old, wilted daylilies add a tangle of silky texture to moist dishes, while their firm buds and fresh flowers provide more body and a unique flavor - somewhere between a sweetly cooked leek and...well, a daylily. They have been eaten as a vegetable in China for eons.

This is a Southeast Asian-style curry, with ginger and garlic offering a substantial but bright body of flavor for the other vegetables. We ate it straight up, no rice (since we gave up rice), just spoons for scooping the last drops of delicious sauce.

Substitute regular garlic or scallions if you don't have green (very young) garlic and its leaves, and wing it with dried turmeric if you don't have the fresh rhizomes. No Thai lime leaf? Grate in some lime zest. Sweet potato shoots? Substitute your favorite leafy green. Vegan? - substitute soy for fish sauce.

Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as part of a meal

2 tablespoons oil ( I use avocado)
3 tablespoons microplaned or very finely chopped fresh ginger
2 heads green garlic, cloves separated
3 mature garlic cloves, crushed fine
1 can (398 ml) coconut milk
2 – 3 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy)
1 lime’s juice (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh curcumin (turmeric)
1/2 cup chopped green garlic leaves
2 lbs baby zucchini, whole or cut into large chunks
1 1/2  cups cubed (1/4”) butternut squash
8 dry (wilted) daylily flowers
4 fresh daylily flowers, anthers and pistil removed
8 daylily buds
1 makrut/Thai lime leaf, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon chile flakes or a large fresh chile, chopped
2 cups loosely packed tender sweet potato shoots (or another leafy green)
4 - 6 sprigs Thai basil

In a wide skillet that can accommodate the zucchini in a single layer, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and all the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so it doesn't stick. Add the coconut milk, the fish sauce, lime juice, curcumin, green garlic leaves and wilted daylily flowers. Increase the heat to high. When the liquid boils add the zucchini and enough water to bring the liquid just over the vegetables. Cook covered, at a simmer, for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, and add the butternut, the rest of the daylilies, the lime leaf and the chile. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat and cook at a gentle boil for 10 - 15 more minutes - the sauce will reduce and concentrate in flavor. Taste for seasoning and add a little more fish sauce or lime if necessary. Stir in the Thai basil and the tender sweet potato shoots and cook until they have wilted into the sauce, about 3 minutes.

Serve in shallow bowls.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Pine Cone Jam

May was pine cone jam month, in my kitchen.

Russians like it. Eastern Europeans like it. Turks seem to like it. Pine cone jam (sometimes the resulting syrup is referred to as pine honey) is considered both treat and medicine. Used for coughs. The flavor is tartly sweet and lightly resinous. It's hard to imagine that these hard little cones become soft and chewable after cooking, but they do.

A traditional Caucasian and Russian way to enjoy them is a medicinal spoonful stirred into hot black tea. I like them on crunchy toast, or cooked with pan-seared pork chops, in the pan where a duck breast cooked (deglazed with some bourbon or fruity vinegar), or for dessert, mixed with macerating strawberries. There is always ice cream! To make pine syrup gin or vodka, add a quarter cup of the syrup with cones to 2 cups of the liquor. Leave for a day, shaking now and then, until the syrup has dissolved. Strain and bottle.

The pines I collect from are mostly exotic Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii), popular in  local seashore landscape and park plantings because of their salt-tolerance. Native pitch pine (Pinus rigida) occurs, too, and its little cones are very sharp and rough on the fingers. The black pine cones are much easier to gather.

You want immature, very small cones, green inside; they are already about a year old by the time we harvest them (the current year's cones form on the tips of the growing pine "candles"in late spring and early summer - I find those just disintegrate when cooked).

It helps to have rubbing alcohol handy: Your fingers get very sticky, and the alcohol is very effective in dissolving the resin. For clean up after cooking, use rubbing alcohol, again - to dissolve the very tenacious resin residue on the edges of your pot and any implements you use. Wipe it onto your pot after it has cooled.

In research mode I searched my old Russian cookbooks for recipes, but came up with nothing. Online was one recipe that claimed Georgian heritage. I experimented with five batches. For the first three I boiled the cones in water, then three times in syrup, in the tradition of Russian varenya, where entire fruit (or pine cones) are cooked and cooled - important -  multiple times in syrup. I also boiled four times, and for the last batch made the jam without the water bath, and using honey instead of sugar. That last version was more resinous. But I liked them all.

For three medium jars of pine cone jam you need:

8 oz (about 2.25 cups) finger-nail-sized immature pine cones
2.5 cups sugar
2.5 cups water

Fill a stainless steel pot (easier to clean, later) with water and pine cones and bring to a boil. Cook at a gentle boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off. A layer of resin will collect on the surface like a little oil slick - carefully pour this layer off, tilting the pot gently over the sink. (And do yourself a favor: do not dump it through a sieve - the resin will stick the cones again and when cool will clog the mesh unless you boil the sieve!). Tilt it off.

Once all the water is poured off, add the sugar and water to the pot with the boiled cones. Return to the stove and and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and cool completely. Bring to a boil again. Turn off at once and cool (it it cooks too long you will lose too much moisture). Bring to a boil for a third time, turn off the heat, then cool again. One more time: bring to a boil and allow to cool for a fourth time.*

* When  boiling three times the syrup remains stickily runny.  Four boils (above) results in a taffy-like texture once cooled, but this melts again, in heat. Up to you. Play.

Ladle the cones and their warm syrup into sterilized glass jars. When cool screw on the lids.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Peach soup - cold and spicy

(First posted September 2016)

Refreshing and raw and alive with basil. I created this recipe for a Gardenista story about peaches, but landed up publishing a peach bruschetta recipe, instead. So here it is.

Late summer, and basil and peaches are a surprisingly good combination. And perilla, while a weed in some parts, but also a prime ingredient in Japanese kitchens, adds a rose-petal flavor. If you do not have perilla, use mint (different, but compatible).

Cold Peach Soup - serves four as an appetizer

3 ripe yellow freestone peaches, skinned and pit removed
1 cup cucumber (peeled and seeded if fat, entire if Persian)
1 jalapeno, seeded or not (your call)
2 scallions, roughly chopped
6 perilla leaves
16 basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice

Pack it all into a blender and purée till very smooth. Taste. Add the lime juice in stages until the sweet and sour are in harmony. Pour into a jug or carafe, and chill.

Just before serving, stir the soup, as the solids will have separated a little from the juice.


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