February 21, 2011

Apple butter

4 Dec 2010, Robin ‘Pumpkin, winter, etc’.

Grah. I keep meaning to look for my old apple butter recipe, and keep forgetting. However. You don’t really need a recipe: Take your apples. Core, peel and chop them—and you don’t have to chop them fine, just chop them—put them in a large, heavy, wide-bottomed pan with as little water as you can get away with—or better yet, apple juice—and boil, gently, till they go mushy. At this point use a potato masher on them. I personally find this a lot less effort than all that chopping-small stuff. Depending on the tartness of your apples and how sweet you want your butter you’ll need somewhere around ¼ to ½ c sugar (brown or white: I like brown) per cup of apple pulp, and if you mix it in with a whisk you’ll get the last of the lumps out. Again, depending on how spicy you like your butter, you’ll want anywhere from about ¼ to 1 tsp of cinnamon per cup, and about half that of allspice Then turn the heat down to low and let it cook forever. If you want to stand there and stir it you can have the heat a little higher, and it’ll take a little less time but . . . not enough less. Stirring is one of the most boring occupations on the planet.† You should be in the same house with it, however, your large, heavy, wide-bottomed pot with your future apple butter in it, because you need to stir it occasionally and make sure it’s not sticking. It will eventually congeal into . . . apple butter. I don’t remember how long it takes, but it’s one of these put it together before lunch and it’ll be done by dinner things, and then you’ll have fresh apple butter for breakfast tomorrow. As you’d expect with something that slow-cooks and is full of spices, it improves with a little age.

I never bottled it the way you’re supposed to. A couple of big jars of apple butter in the back of the fridge didn’t last long enough to be a nuisance. And the way I make it—without stirring—if you made it in a big batch it would take FOREVER to cook down to sludge. My way it’s simple enough that doing it again is not a big deal.

One more warning: you lose a lot of pectin—the stuff that stiffens the applesauce it into something you can spread—by peeling and coring. The first time I made it I’d automatically peeled and cored, because that’s what you do before you cook apples, and then I reread the recipe and thought, oh, frell . . . and besides, sieving the muck to get the peels and cores out is again to me way too much like work, like endless stirring. So I did it my way and it still came out butter, and has always come out butter†† every other time I’ve made it my way. I don’t know if I’ve been extremely lucky in my apples, or what. So you might want to follow a proper recipe.

Salt-free pickles

Melissa Mead, Recipe Thread, 10 Jan 2010

One of the things I’ve really missed since I put myself on a reduced-sodium diet is pickles. (My mom makes the best sweet-and-sour pickles ever.) The salt-free pickles in stores contain potassium chloride, which isn’t safe for some people. And it has a nasty aftertaste, at least to me.

For Christmas, my husband and parents gave me a cornucopia of salt-free seasonings. One was Sauerbraten spice. I sniffed it and thought “This smells like pickles!” ( http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/sauerbraten-spice-blend- I see they have “real” pickling spices too.)

Yesterday I tried the following experiment:

1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tblsp Sauerbraten spice
1 tsp dill weed
1 tsp garlic powder

Mix ingredients together, heat, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. (Don’t inhale the steam!)

Slice approx 2 cups of cucumbers into a glass bowl. (Our store’s pickling cukes didn’t look so great, so I used a bag of “snacking cucumbers” that looked like baby European ones. A bit pricey, but they had a nice crunch.) Pour the liquid over the cucumbers (is it called a brine if there’s no salt in it?) and refrigerate overnight.

Given my track record with cooking, I expected that today I’d find that I’d ruined some beautiful cukes. Nope. They were tangy, sweet, sour, crunchy… they weren’t as good as my mom’s, and they still had a note of raw cucumber, but they tasted like Real Pickles. And they have no salt at all. Wink

Tomato Salad

Susan from Athens, 7 June 09, ‘Summer Foods’ thread

In my book the ultimate summer food is tomato salad: wonderful fresh tomatoes are a wonderful seasonal vegetable and at their very best now. Currently I am enjoying a salsa I made in the evenings and served over rusks, although it is just as good over rustic brown bread.

I chop up three to four spring onions and marinate them in a bit of olive oil and vinegar. “A bit” is colloquial for enough for them to be sitting in the oil but not actually swimming in it, which is as accurate as I am willing to get (I always do things like this by eye, hand and mouth to the frustration of my mother who wants a precise recipe). I use red wine or balsamic, depending on my mood, sometimes a combination of both, but never too much: the vinegar is there to add a bit of zing not to drown the taste of the tomatoes. I add a pinch of salt and some oregano, sometimes some freshly chopped chives as well and let the onions marinate while I chop up sufficient quantities of three different kinds of tomato. Using more than one kind gives differences in texture and a deeper taste to the salad. I mix all this together add a pinch of sugar (only because the tomatoes are super-tart at the moment and I mean a pinch) and serve away.

Sometimes I have this with anthotyri cheese, at others with whatever else I’m in the mood for (it goes really well with pate, cutting through the fattiness).

Lemon Whipped Cream

Eeralai, 28 May 09, ‘Summer Foods’ topic

The Lemon whipped cream recipe I got from Bon Appetite:

* 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
* 2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat to soft peaks. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk before using.)

I dished the whipped cream into four bowls and topped with raspberries. I used 6 oz of raspberries.

Low salt popcorn experiment

Melissa Mead: Recipe Thread: December 12, 2008

Here’s an experiment I just tried, for anyone who likes popcorn but has to cut down on salt. I haven’t worked out exact amounts yet.

1 large mixing bowl full of popped popcorn.
1/2 stick melted butter.
Approx. 1/2-1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and turmeric.

Stir the spices into the melted butter. (Chili powder makes a nice twist, but adds salt.) Drizzle the mixture onto the popcorn. Stir until the popcorn turns golden. Enjoy!

Super-easy ultra-quick pie crust

Mori-neko, 14 October 08, from the Recipe Topic


For pie crust, unless I’m doing something special (like an ultra-flakey cream cheese crust that i do with apple pies), I usually stick to my super-easy ultra-quick recipe/method. Dry ingredients in food processor, pulse a couple times to mix, then add butter (which starts out frozen and is cut by virtue of a large knife into about .5″ square pieces). Pulse it some more until it’s sorta cornmeal textured, then with the pour spout open and the processor on, add a dribble of ice water until it’s just starting to come together in a lump. I generally let it finish coming into a ball, then dump it out to roll.

It’s not as perfectly tender as a more hands-on crust can be, but it works pretty well for something quick.

Adding rummy raisins to a chocolate brownie

Debra, 25th August 2008, in “varieties of book mail”

Try mixing your rummy raisins into your favorite chocolate brownie recipe. Yummmm. A bizarre but excellent version mixes in rummy raisins AND a can of mixed nuts. You can use the cheapest of brownie mixes and they wind up tasting like a Chunky bar. (As an American during the 70s and a chocolate lover, I expect you’ll remember those.)

Surviving Non-Dairy

skating librarian: comment to “In Honour” on August 11, 2008

http://www.mimiccreme.com/   Nuts, water, no chemicals …

This is all you need to survive being a non-dairy person … the ” ice cream” you can make with it is heavenly (using the sweetened version). I started using it to satisfy the cravings of my dairy/ egg intolerant friends and even folks who can eat Ben and Jerry’s ’til the cows come home swear it is fantastic.

So far I’ve done various chocolate versions, as well as raspberry, wild strawberry, lingonberry, and peach and have moved the ice cream maker from storage to center stage. Everyone from my elderly parents to the fussiest kids and my health food phobic brother has declared it deluxe. And the best thing is that it’s so easy … you dump a carton into a blender or bowl, mix in your flavoring, put it in the ice cream machine  and you go do something else until it’s done.

I will be experimenting with other “creamy” things in the near future. If I come up with the results I expect I will keep you posted. Don’t know if anyone is importing it in the UK, but if they can ship in fruit from Chile, South Africa,  and Australia …somebody ought to be importing mimiccreme.

Alternative Cranberry Sauce

Diane in MN: Comment to “In Honour” on August 11, 2008

Here’s an alternative cranberry sauce recipe that’s so easy it’s a joke:

Take 1 12-ounce package of cranberries, add 1 cup grade-A maple syrup, and boil together until cranberries pop.
(You want the grade-A syrup for this recipe so the maple flavor isn’t overwhelming.)

This does *not* come out too sweet.  I like a rather spicy cranberry sauce, so I add cinnamon and cloves to the mix.  It would also be easy to add orange peel or even orange extract.

****Have lots of friends over when you make it****

Yes, SHARE those calories! ;)

Cooking with white chocolate…

Robin in Celebratory Food, July 25, 2008

I do use Green and Blacks when I want white chocolate but I think white chocolate is tricky stuff anyway and maybe that day the weather was really heavy and humid and the chocolate was sulking and didn’t mix with the butter right, or maybe it took exception to your stirring, which in my experience needs to be very gentle and very thorough–far more of either than you need bother with with good old mellow black chocolate. I don’t know if anyone out there has more experience of white chocolate, or can recommend a reliably good-natured brand of the stuff.

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