It loses a lot in translation but “Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt…” heralds the start of the Advent season here in Germany. A special time of winter cosiness, reflection and family traditions, all of which are built into our Advent candle display, this year like every year:
Four candles celebrating each season of the year gone by, family touches, memories and reflections on life’s constants:
This is my new discovery for this quince season and, to date. my only recipe using raw quinces in the end product!
It comes from my previous life on the southern African continent, more specifically from the four years I spent living and working in Cape Town. There I was fortunate to be able to explore the (extensive) culinary heritage of the Cape as part of my professional life:
Strictly speaking a sambal is a spicy Indonesian sauce or relish, with a strong chilli focus. In the legacy of the Cape Malay tradition, a sambal tends to be more of a marinated salad or relish, also with a strong leaning towards chillies.
This Quince Sambal is ideal for making ahead and/or keeping in the fridge for a good few days, so its worth making a big batch for the week! Traditional recipes call for salting the grated quince and then discarding the resulting liquid. That liquid is wonderful quince juice, however, and so my recipe uses the quince juice as part of the dressing.
Quince Sambal, the recipe
These quantities will make about 250ml of sambal, so multiply the quantities accordingly if you want to make more – which I strongly recommend 🙂
1 small onion, finely chopped
2ml crushed garlic
1 small red or green chilli (or red or green pepper), finely chopped
30 ml sugar
10 ml salt (ideally celery salt)
Peel and core the quince, then grate coarsely.
Place in a bowl and sprinkle with the sugar and the salt. Mix these through thoroughly. Leave to stand overnight so that the salt and sugar are able to draw out plenty of the quince juice.
Retaining the quince juice, now mix in the remaining ingredients, adjusting the proportions to taste. Leaving the sambal to stand now for a few hours – or overnight again – greatly enhances the flavour.
Traditionally served to accompany a curry, quince sambal also goes very well with smoked fish dishes, or as a stand alone salad – drizzled with the salad oil of your choice if you prefer.
It is no luxury eye-level wood-fired oven, the oven we have built in the orchard. It is a repurposed, get down on your knees wood-fired oven. Here’s the story of how we built it, starting in the summer of 2020.
Type that question into your search engine of choice and you will come up with an unappetising mix of results featuring mechanical harvesting, industrial-scale stainless steel processes, enzymes, apple concentrate from China, more enzymes… nanometer-scale filtering…
… and an end result very low on appeal.
There is another way.
And now that the autumn evenings are closing in and the last of the fruit presses are shutting down for another year, I have time for the keyboard again by way of a change from apple picking.
All of our apples are picked by hand. Each and every apple passes through our fingers, into the basket, and then into the sacks.
The apples on the ground are the windfalls waiting for the sheep to come and enjoy them.
Nine to ten sacks (about 300 kg in total) make up one press run with our home press. Once we have a batch – or at the height of the season, two batches (about 20 sacks) picked, its off to the apple press.
In the garage.
Where our all-in-one stand alone home press processes some 3 tonnes of apples for us in any good “apple year”. The apple years tend to be alternating but it is Father Frost who has the ultimate say in around April of every year- a single night of frost when the trees are in blossom can wipe out the whole year’s harvest.
Assuming this has not been the case, though, its back to the home press in the garage:
Pressing one batch of up to 300 kg apples takes about 4 1/2 hours.
Each sack of apples produces about 20l of juice, depending on apple variety and what stage of the harvest we are at. The apples get juicier as they ripen further into the season.
Further facts for fans:
An insulated 200l tank takes about 5 hours to reach 80°C, at which point the apple juice is then filled into bags (Bag-in-Box) or bottles. It takes about 1 hour to empty the tank into bags / bottles.
At the end of the season we fill the tanks with the last of the press runs, pasteurise the juice and it then stays in the tanks, preserved via the floating lid and oil technique: a floating lid is placed on top of the pasteurised juice. Food grade vaseline oil is then poured around the lid to ensure that the pasteurised juice has no air contact at all. The juice stays fresh for months and is drawn off from the tanks via a silicon tube “tap” at the base of the tank.
The pomace – that’s the mash left over after the juice has been pressed out of it – is placed in these barrels which are then collected by the local forestry commission. They use it for winter feed for the deer in the forests, and also as “bait” for their deer culling activities. Doesn’t sound as appealing but facts are facts.
Our apple harvest starts around the middle of August and lasts through to around mid-October.
By the end of the season in a good apple year we will have pressed around 3 tonnes of apples, producing some 1600l of juice (and around 1400 kg of pomace for the foresters).
Word of mouth sales account for just a small proportion of our harvest which keeps us in apple juice for about a year.
Blessed with many a pocket full of pears in the orchard this year I have been refining my recipe for Pear Mustard and am now very happy with the results 🙂
Here comes the recipe: Makes about 3 kg finished mustard, which keeps for months on end and just gets better and better in the process!
Pears 1 kg
Mustard seeds 550 g
Apple juice 1150 ml
Fresh Ginger 3cm piece, peeled and finely diced
Salt 4 tsp (I use my homemade celery-apple-onion salt)
Grind 550 g of the mustard seeds to a fine powder using a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. Place the ground mustard in a large glass or ceramic bowl, jug or similar, together with 650 ml of the apple juice and the remaining 150 g of whole mustard seeds. Mix together well, cover and leave to stand overnight.
Core the pears, place in a pan with 500 ml of the apple juice and diced fresh ginger . Bring to the boil until pears become soft. Remove from heat, leave to cool and then puree with / in a blender.
Combine the soaked mustard seeds, pureed pears, salt and honey, mixing together well. Blend again briefly if you prefer an even smoother mustard – I prefer a degree of wholegrain though.
Fill into sterilised jars and seal. Kept in a cool, dark place like a cellar the mustard will keep for many, many months and just gets better with age.
Perfect for salad dressings, marinades and sauces all winter long!
One of many ways of getting through the winter: cake!
Our firm winter favourite: Winter Fruit and Spice Cake knows many variations and never fails to please the punters when it comes to “Kaffee und Kuchen” on a winter weekend. Currently trending here when it comes to coffee and cake is this year’s Quince, Cardamom and Coffee version.
Use the recipe in the link with quince puree and substitute instant coffee powder for cinnamon (or use both if you prefer).
Even in the depths of winter I find ingredients for whizzing up salts of my own creation, and come the magical month of May it becomes a must: Mother Nature has just so much on offer from meadow to hedgerow:
What you do:
Pick your dandelions on a dry day and leave them for an hour or so
a) for the bugs to crawl off and out and
b) so that the flowers close up again and become tassel-shapped for you to then cut of the petals just above the green bits (that way you leave out the fluffy bits where the seeds start).
Place your petals in a food processor or blender.
Add the same quantity of fine sugar as you have petals (50% sugar, 50% petals). Whizz everything up together until you have a fine, even mix. Spread your sugar mixture out thinly on a large baking tray or similar and either leave to dry in the sun or in the oven at 50°C, with a wooden spoon holding the oven door ajar, for 2-3 hours.
Once the sugar is completely dry, whizz it again in the food processor to break up any lumps and store in airtight glass jars.
Use for summery things… like Summer Butter Biscuits with Dandelion Glace Icing 🙂
Add the same quantity of relatively fine pure (no additives!) salt* as you have of the herbs (50% salt, 50% herbs). Whizz everything up together until you have a fine, even mix. Spread your salt mixture out thinly on a large baking tray or similar and either leave to dry in the sun or in the oven at 50°C, with a wooden spoon holding the oven door ajar, for 2-3 hours.
Once the salt is completely dry, whizz it again in the food processor to break up any dried lumps and store in airtight glass jars. And yes: this salt really does have nuances of hay and herbs and meadows on warm summer days 🙂
Use for summery things… like savoury cheese scones with labneh (or cream cheese), meadow herbs salt and fresh meadow herbs – here Garlic Mustard aka Jack by the Hedge:
Sugar and salt act as preservatives in the same way: both bind with water molecules, increasing osmotic pressue which subequently draws water out of bacteria, thus inhibiting growth. And so helping us to preserve just some of the ephemeral magic of May!
“IN ANCIENT AGRICULTURAL SOCIETIES, EGGS PROVIDED A VITAL SOURCE OF NUTRITION. BY MID-MARCH, FOOD STORES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR WOULD HAVE BEEN RUNNING LOW. THE FIRST EGGS OF THE YEAR, LAID BY DOMESTICATED FOWL OR FORAGED FROM THE NESTS OF WILD BIRDS, ADDED MUCH-NEEDED NUTRIENTS TO PEOPLES’ DIET. …”” read more