Earth Mother in the Winter Kitchen

I admit it, preserves and preserving bring out the Earth Mother in me and I have been known to disappear into the cellar on occasion just to sneak a peak at my rows of jars glistening in gorgous colours…

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But I am not a hoarder and so I do use them up. With snowmen and winter pruning being all that is going on in the orchard at present, all that mellow fruitfulness preserved during the preserving season is keeping us supplied with ready-made (almost) meals through the winter:

Full-Bodied, Fruity Red Cabbage

with

Spicy Plum Chutney

 Plum Sauce with copyright

+ red cabbage 

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= a winner in our house from the autumn through to the spring.

The chutney has all the flavours you need for a a really fruity, flavourful dish of red cabbage (whether for a festive table or  for weekday suppers to accompany some full-bodied sausages):

  1. Thinly slice your red cabbage, chuck it in a saucepan together with a jar of Spicy Plum Chutney, give it all a good mix and simmer slowly over a low heat (not too hot otherwise the chutney will catch and burn on the bottom of the pan) – the liquid from the cabbage, together with the chutney, provides enough cooking liquid – do not add water as it simply makes the end result insipid.
  2. Simmer, covered, for about an hour, then remove then lid and increase the heat a little to then boil the liquid down (you’ll be surprised how much water there is in red cabbage!) About another half an hour of cooking and you will have a pan of glistening, fruity  red cabbage.

This recipe also works well with

Quince Chutney

which also makes a fine

Fruity Winter Beetroot Salad:

Chutney 

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+ beetroot (steamed or roasted)

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is all you need.

Spicy Plum Chutney and/or Quince Chutney dressing

(dilute with a dash of olive oil and/or red wine, fruity vinegar or similar according to taste)

on a winter salad of leaves, nuts and citrus

 

Comprising almost 50% onion and garlic,

my Quince Chutney also makes a great addition to meatballs and vegetable fritters

and I have used it in sauces and risottos  as a replacement for sautéed onions.

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And last but not least, spreading either

Spicy Plum or Quince Chutney over a flammkuchen base

before adding the rest of the toppings is a really good idea – believe me!

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Twelfth Night in the Orchard

The Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Twelfth Night, depending on which strand of this ancient European tradition, marks the end of the “Mittwinterfest”, or Yule – celebrating the rebirth of the sun as we (slowly) turn the corner towards the light half of the year again…

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It is an ancient festival featuring countless legends, rituals and symbols, not to mention the many omens – each of the twelve days of Yule are said to predict the weather in the corresponding twelve months to come, for instance. In the Germanic and northern European tradition, the twelve days of Yule therefore had to be a time of peace, as well, and a time of no work so that there would be less work to be done in the new year. Spinning and weaving, in particular, were forbidden and all the flax had to be spun before the start of Yule. Only the Goddess Frig (Frigg, Freyja), the Germanic goddess of love, was allowed to weave together the threads of destiny for the coming year… No work involving a circular motion was permitted at this time either, because the wheel of time was at a standstill during Yule and so every other wheel had to remain motionless too…

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The English tradition of wassailing in the orchard on Twelfth Night has its parallels in other European traditions as well when the remains of the Yule festivities (bread and cake) were laid at the foot of the fruit trees as offerings in return for a good harvest. The English tradition sees the fruit trees showered with cider while bread and cake are hung from the branches. The tree trunks were sometimes beaten with sticks in a symbolic act intended to encourage the sap to flow, while the villagers would sup on mulled cider and serenade the trees with the Wassail song:

Old Apple Tree, we wassail thee

And hoping thou wilt bear

Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls

And a little heap under the stairs

Hip! Hip! Hooray!

(Source: Orchards, by Claire Masset 2012, Shire Books)

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We refrain from beating our trees from sticks, but the mulling and the cake … and perhaps the serenading … do feature while the winter pruning is going on!

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Christmas Mince Pies, Orchard Style

A widely-circulated “organic” food magazine here in Germany is currently featuring a recipe for “Mini Nut Pies”, described as an “English speciality”, with a list of ingredients based on dried apricots and “nut mix”… oh dear, oh dear… not what the English would recognise as their Christmas mince pies!

In the interests of improved culinary integration, here come my orchard-style Christmas mince pies…

Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat

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encased in almond pastry – these are alcohol-free (no brandy) and vegetarian (no suet) but still very close to the original “English speciality”:

10418394_10204265921821260_8817699170069391702_n Mince Pies

Image courtesy of www.taylorsphotosafaris.co.uk

Almond Pastry

Plain flour                                                 225g

pinch of salt

Butter                                                        110g

Ground almonds, blanched                140g

Sugar                                                          45g

Beaten egg

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the ground almonds.
  2. Stir in the sugar and add enough beaten egg (probably one whole egg) to just bind the mixture together. Knead lightly. Chill before use then roll out, cut out rounds, fill them with Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat and bake at 200°C until golden brown

Advent

It starts with a wreath :

Typically featuring four candles representing the four seasons enjoyed during the course of the year, the candles on the Advent wreath are lit one at a time on each of the four Sundays preceding the “Wend”, the Winter Solstice, now ‘Christianised’ as Christmas Eve (in Germany) or Christmas Day (in the Anglo Saxon realm).

And the first week of Advent is going to be about:

Mulling Syrup, Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat and The BEST Gingerbread Biscuits

for Advent in Germany is about “Plätzchen”, the bright side of the dark time of the year!

Plätzchen with copyright

Quince and Honey Sorbet

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As an Elizabeth David devotee and a quince fanatic, this was one I simply had to try this year, a recipe apparently first brought to light in 2011 by the UK’s Independent on Sunday newspaper with the then claim that it had never been published before:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/secrets-in-preserve-1234115.html

Elizabeth David’s QUINCE AND HONEY SORBET

This is quite a trouble to make, but worth it to addicts of the strange flavour and wonderful perfume of quinces.

First bake six fine, ripe unpeeled quinces in a covered pot in a low oven until they are soft. Add no water. This preliminary cooking will take about one hour to one hour and a half.

Peel, slice and core the fruit, putting the parings and cores into a saucepan but discarding any bruised or damaged parts of the fruit.

Cover the cores and peel with cold water – about 1.2 litres (2 pints). Boil hard for a few minutes, until the water is well-flavoured and coloured with the quince parings. Strain through a fine sieve into a large bowl or jug. Return this quince water – there will be 750ml (114 pints) – to the saucepan. Add the sliced fruit – there should be approximately 1lb/450g – and let it boil for about 10 minutes until quite soft. Now add eight tablespoons of honey and boil until the juice has turned to a light syrup which just drops from the spoon.

Puree the whole mixture in the blender and chill in refrigerator. Immediately before freezing give the puree another quick whirl in the blender adding a good 300ml (12 pint) of whipping or double cream.

The quantities given will yield about 1.2 litres (2 pints) of mixture, too much for freezing all at once in a small-scale sorbetiere, but since it is hardly worth cooking fewer than six quinces at a time, the best course is to divide the prepared puree into two parts, adding cream only to the amount to be frozen. The rest of the puree will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Again, add the cream only immediately before freezing.

Note: Instead of double cream try using buttermilk, or half and half fresh home-made yogurt and cream. The flavour of quince is powerful enough to stand up to the acidity of buttermilk and yoghurt.

My verdict: I did not find it “quite a trouble to make” at all, but then I will go a long way with a harvest of quinces! A wonderfully creamy autumn sorbet that found favour with Hermann the German and Mini-Kraut too.

Quince Chutney

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Golden, garlicky and quintessentially delicious!

Quince Chutney

Prep. Time: about 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 90 minutes plus overnight infusing

Makes about 3 x 400 g jars

Ripe quinces                                                                    1 kg

Sugar                                                                             300 g

Onions                                                                            4

Garlic                                                                             1 bulb

Fresh ginger                                                                    1 piece about 3 cm long

Bay leaves                                                                      5

Cinnamon stick                                                                 1

Red wine                                                                         150 ml

Apple cider vinegar                                                           150 ml

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Peel the quinces, cut into quarters, remove the cores and then finely dice – or grate (dicing will give you chunky chutney, grating will give you mushy chutney).
  2. Place the diced/grated quinces in a large bowl together with the sugar, mix together well, cover and leave overnight. The sugar will draw the liquid out of the fruit, negating the need to add water for cooking and giving you a more intense flavour.
  3. The next day, finely chop the onions and sauté them slowly in the preserving pan until they start to caramelise (at least half an hour). Peel all of the garlic cloves from the bulb, crush them and stir into the caramelising onions. Peel the ginger and chop finely; stir into the onions and garlic.
  4. Add the sugary diced quinces and their juice to the pan together with the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, red wine and the vinegar. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, covered, until the quince pieces have softened.
  5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Turn up the heat and boil rapidly, uncovered, for about another 30 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the chutney has turn a translucent golden red. Keep checking to make sure it does not stick to the base of the pan and burn.
  6. Pour into sterilised jars and seal, leaving to mature for at least a month before using.

Brilliant on a festive season cheeseboard!

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Candied Quince with Ginger

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Based on what was my autumnal revelation last year:

 Mustard Apple Pickle from Mantua

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With origins going back to the 14thcentury at least, this is essentially candied fruit made with quinces as much as with apples and this year, with the quince season upon us here north of the Alps, I am using the same principle, a tad more sugar for the quinces and ground ginger instead of mustard to make:

Candied Quince with Ginger

Prep. Time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes each time over three days

Makes: about 1 kg

Quinces         1 kg

Sugar           500 g

Ground ginger      1 Tbsp (or more according to taste)

  1. Wash, peel and core the quinces before cutting them into bite-sized pieces (save the debris, place in a pan, just cover with water, boil until the quince leftovers have softened, strain through a muslin cloth and use to make wonderfully fragrant Quince Jelly using the same method as for Apple Jelly – you will be glad you did!). IMG_3714 (1)
  2. Place the quince pieces in a bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, cover and leave to marinate for 48 hours.
  3. Strain the quince pieces over a saucepan. Place the strained pieces back in the bowl and bring the juice in the pan to the boil. Simmer for 4 minutes and then pour the hot syrup over the pieces in the bowl. Cover and leave to marinate for 24 hours.
  4. Repeat this process another two times of the next two days.
  5. The next day, bring the quince pieces and the juice to the boil in a saucepan, simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the ground ginger and pot in sterilised jars.
  6. Stored in a cool, dark place the candied quince will keep for many months. Serve as an accompaniment to meat and cheese (in Northern Italy they also use it as a tortellini filling) or else with toast and croissants, or a fragrant addition to apple pies and other bakes.

Flammkuchen Orchard Style with Pumpkin and Quince

Related to roses, apples and pears, the tantalising quince was almost certainly the “apple” of the Garden of Eden fame say those more expert than I.

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For me, quinces are all about “…the scent of buffet tables laden with bobotie, breyanis and bredies, sambals and salads, frikkadels and Cape Dutch Chicken Pie, melktert, Malva Pudding and koeksisters… in cool, character-filled rooms set in rolling green sunny spaces…

Thousands of miles and many thousands of days… all it takes is a quince.”

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Heralding the start of the quince season here north of the Alps,

Flammkuchen with pumpkin, quince and bacon:

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Toffee Apple Time

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This Toffee Apple recipe is the real thing and it really works – promise!

To make 8 toffee apples you will need:

Sugar    400 g

Golden syrup 4 tbsp

Vinegar 1 tsp

Wooden skewers

and this is what you do:

  1. Wash your apples in warm water to remove any waxy coating they might have – this helps to ensure that the caramel sticks to the surface of the apples.

  2. Stab a wooden skewer into the top of each apple deep enough to give a firm hold.

  3. Place the sugar in a pan with 100 ml of water over a low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

  4. Add the vinegar and the syrup, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Boil, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes until the caramel reaches “hard crack” stage which you test by dropping some of the caramel from a spoon into a cup of cold water. If the drops become hard and brittle immediately upon entering the water, your caramel is ready. If it is still elastic and stringy, keep boiling and repeat the test.

  5. Once your caramel is at the “hard crack” stage, dip each apple into the caramel, swirling it around to give a good covering of caramel. Place on a sheet of baking paper to harden. You can give the apples a second coat if you still have caramel left over, or else use it to make caramel decorations for cakes, etc by drizzling it over a separate sheet of baking paper and leaving it to harden.

  6. Toffee apples can be made up to 2 days in advance if stored in a dry place.

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