Carrot Jam

This is a recipe that has grown out of a task I took on last autumn: volunteer vegetable photographer  for our community supported agriculture initiative here where we live in Germany. A nice gallery of veggie photos we have built up in the process too: Veggie Gallery.

And, while the orchard is enjoying its winter rest, I have been pickling and preserving my way through the produce 🙂

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Carrot Jam

 In the Orient a classic, for us, something different for the breakfast table

1kg carrots, peeled and grated

Zest and juice of 1 untreated lemon

Zest and juice of 2 untreated oranges

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

½ tsp crushed cardamom seeds

500 g brown sugar

250 ml apple juice (naturally cloudy i.e. unfiltered)

 

  1. Combine the grated carrots with the sugar in a bowl, cover and leave to draw overnight.
  2. The next day, place the carrots and sugar in a large saucepan together with the remaining ingredients and stir over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, remove the lid and boil for 30 to 60 minutes until the liquid has reduced to the consistency of jam (test for a set if you want to be sure).
  4. Place in sterilised jars and seal immediately. Keeps for several months if stored in a cool, dark place.

 

Makes about 1.3 kg

Fruit and Spice

…and all things nice is what this winter fruit cake is all about.

Actually, it is more like your classic Anglo-Saxon gingerbread in texture, made with pureed fruit (apples, pears, quinces or plums), preserved in the autumn and full of mellow fruitfulness. The fruit puree is what makes the cake wonderfully light and moist.

And the glazed walnuts on the top are reason enough on their own to make it!

Those lucky enough to live in my vicinity will find it in my (German language) pop-up shop this winter, the rest of you will have to make it yourself – here’s the recipe:

Winter Fruit and Spice Cake

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Pureed fruit

(apples or pears or quince or plum all work well)            300g

All-purpose flour                                                                        300g

Baking powder                                                                              2 tsp

Salt                                                                                                   1 tsp  

Cinnamon                                                                                       1 1/2tsp

Ground cardamom                                                                       1 1/4tsp 

Unsalted butter, softened                                                          120g

Rapeseed oil                                                                                   120ml

Light brown sugar                                                                         300g

Large eggs                                                                                        

Crème fraîche                                                                                 80ml

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C and butter and flour a ring tin (26 cm).
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together in a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter, oil, and brown sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each egg. Add the crème fraîche and fruit puree, stirring to combine. Fold in the flour mixture.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared ring tin. Bake the cake until golden and cooked through, 55 to 65 minutes. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
  5. Allow to cool before glazing, if desired.

For the glazed walnuts and browned butter glaze:

Walnuts                                                      about 12 whole walnuts

Unsalted butter, soft                              6 Tbsp

Icing sugar                                                  150g

Milk                                                                2 to 3 Tbsp

Pinch of salt

  1. Place the butter in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat. Let the butter melt completely and begin bubbling. Add the walnuts, turning them to cover them on all sides in butter. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the walnuts are lightly browned and the butter begins to smell nutty and darkens in color. Remove the walnuts and set aside. Remove the butter from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Beat in the icing sugar and a pinch of salt followed by enough milk to make a smooth, pourable glaze. If the glaze breaks or curdles, add a bit of warm water to help it re-emulsify. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, arrange the walnuts on top and allow to harden slightly before slicing

 

Quince Inspiration

It is that wonderfully fragrant time of year again 🙂

Its always a bittersweet task, rounding up my favourite quince recipes for the quince harvest, but the quinces do make a wonderful conclusion to the orchard year!

My firm favourite first up (click on the links for the recipes):

Candied Quince with Ginger

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This is a famous recipe this one is, featuring as it does in The Edible City, a kind of urban kindred spirit to this blog, written by London’s foremost forager, John Rensten, and published this last September by Pan Macmillan.

And what a classy publication this is (and not just because John features my Candied Quince with Ginger!). Beautifully illustrated by Gwen Burns, it features foraged food fit for a feast from a man whose “green vision” I can totally relate to:

Once turned on, your ‘green vision’ will be impossible to turn off: otherwise neglected street trees will suddenly bear fruit, patches of previously irrelevant land will become focal points and the city will reveal a network of free, edible treats, coming and going throughout the year.”

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 My other firm favourites during the quince season include:

 Quince and Honey Sorbet

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Quince Chutney

Quince Confectionery

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and of course

Quince Liqueur

Happy quince season everyone!

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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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Gingerbread Rescue & Recovery

Not quite as accomplished as last year’s efforts, perhaps, but there is a whole lot more dramatic effect involved when the gingerbread tree house collapses …

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and the building material is transformed into a Forest Hideaway (“Waldversteck“):

And the village on the hill survived intact…

Same rules every year: it stays standing – no touching and no nibbling – until Christmas Day when it is then free to be plundered…

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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 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.