Posts Tagged With: preserving

Festive Pear & Cranberry Chutney

Pear & Cranberry Chutney

Pear & Cranberry Chutney

Making your own chutneys at Christmas is a joy! A jar of homemade chutney is such a lovely gift and is so special to crack open at this time of year.  The gift of chutney!

This is a traditional-ish recipe with less sugar and a very decent kick of spices.  I have made chutneys and jams with chia seeds and no sugar etc, but my Auntie Betty would approve of this one and at Christmas, Auntie Betty know best!

This festive time is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the bounty of the year, all those tantalising tubs of things we’ve been keeping in cupboards, tucked away for a special occasion, finally get dusted off and shared with loved ones.  We have loads of interesting little foodie bits that have been amassed from food fayres and markets this year and have no idea how we can form a cohesive, tasty meal out of them?  I’m sure we’ll figure something out!  Theses pots and parcels have many positive memories attached to them.

We’ve been getting some wonderfully sweet pears at the minute and really relishing them.  This is the ideal time to think chutney and preserving, when there is a glut, the jars come out!  When made in bulk, things like chutney are easy and cost effective.  I know we are all a little busy at this time of year, but this is something I think you’ll squeeze in.  The flavour is worth it!

This chutney could hardly be easier, pop in a pan and simmer.  The results are suitably chutney, like a tangy taste explosion!  I’ve reduced the amount of sugar in here, as I find most chutneys way too sweet.  I like mine with plenty of spice and twang.

CHUTNEY TIPS:

If you’re planning on keeping a chutney for a while, check what your lids are made of.  Most jar lids are metal and you’ll need to place a disk of greaseproof paper between the lid and the chutney to stop it reacting.

Chutney can be kept, in a dark place for years, if jarred properly.  This means that the jars must be well sterilised in an oven, which is the easiest way to sterilise a large number of jars.

Shaking bicarb and water in jar can get rid of unwanted, lingering smells that may taint your precious chutney.

Chutneys are like fine wines, they get better with age.  Some people keep chutneys for years!  Vintage chutney.  The flavours definitely mellow and deepen after around a month but this chutney is good to go straight away.

Recipe Notes

If you are short of fennel, use something like celery or even carrots.

Pears, glorious pears......

Pears, glorious pears……

The Bits – For two regular sized jars (280g-ish) 

475g firm pear – cored and peeled (cut into 1cm small cubes)

130g fennel – ½ medium sized bulb (finely diced)

140g unrefined brown sugar

50g onion – 1 small

175ml apple cider vinegar

2 inch cinnamon stick

1 teas ground ginger

50g dried cranberries

Large pinch chilli flakes

1 small clove garlic (crushed)

Large pinch sea salt

3 cloves

1 teas mustard seeds

 

Do It

Put all ingredients into a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil.

Stir regularly and simmer with a loosely fitted lid for 1 1/2 hours, until the chutney is a nice dark brown colour and has thickened.  We don’t want it to be like a jam, the pears and fennel will still have a little texture and the chutney will be thick but runny.

Spoon into clean jars straightaway and screw lids on firmly.  This should mean that the jars are well sealed (i.e. the lids are sucked in and pop when opened)

Decorate with amazing labels and enjoy!

Pear and Cranberry Chutney - on the hob

Pear and Cranberry Chutney – on the hob

Foodie Fact

Pears are a member of the rose family and are a great source of fibre and vitamin C.

Categories: Chutney, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney plus the Tale of Johnny Appleseed

 

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Its that time of year in the Beach House garden, when you step outside, you’ll probably find some form of fruit landing on your head.  Its raining fruit! Jane very sensibly converted a load of our plums and apples into small pots of gorgeous chutney, I have to say my favourite bit is the label, all hand designed.  Family and friends, may we introduce you to your Christmas pressie!  Chutney bubbling is such a British autumnal pursuit, it seems heavily engrained in our consciousness, we were born here; on this fare island to conserve and pickle at will, then spread it all on a seeded cracker…….with a brew (cuppa tea).

Mum bought me a Bardsey Apple tree for my birthday back in May.  We are preparing a rockery out the back for it to live, but it has thrived this summer after missing the storms and gales that robbed the blossom from our more established apple trees.   Bardsey apple trees are very special, all can be traced back to the ‘Mother’ tree on Bardsey Island, off the rocky tip of the Llyn Peninsula (the eyebrow of Wales when you look on the map).  The Llyn is like Devon or Cornwall 20 years ago, especially the North Coast and Jane and I love to camp over there on the beaches and do some seal watching (they’re massive and quite sociable).  The Llyn is a special place and all roads over there lead to the mythical Barsdesy Island.  I wrote an article on my other blog about it, Bardsey Island – Island of 20,000 Saints and there is plenty of info here about Ian Sturrock and his single handed resurrection of the Bardsey apple tree.  Ian discovered it growing beside an old house on the isolated outpost and ancient pilgrimage site.  After testing the tree, he realised that it was completely unique, nothing like it in the world.  Since then Ian has grafted and grown probably thousands of the trees and exports them as far a field as the U.S. and Japan.  It amazing to think that we are eating almost extinct apples!

The original Bardsey ‘Mother’ Tree

The Bardsey Apples themselves are succulent and golden and a very good ‘all rounder’.  They go great in a pie and a have a lovely sweet and sour twang to them, nice crunch too.  Our little tree has done a great job this year, its young branches heavy laden with apples for most of the summer, it has even survived the regular gales we get up here (even in summer!), Jane and I have had to pick it up a few times after finding it blown across the front garden!  Proper gales up here on Tiger Hill!!!!

Other than the apples, this year has seen a bumper crop for fruits of all varieties.  I have never seen or tasted blackberries like it, huge and super sweet and fragrant.  Our plum tree has gone made, its branches full of plums, reminding me of an abundant Mediterranean grape harvest, not a craggy, long suffering plum tree cowering behind a dry stone wall.  Add to that a huge raspberry harvest earlier in the year and from a fruity perspective, we’ve had a ball!!!!

I’m not sure how Jane dreamt this chutney up, we have been experimenting whenever we have gluts of things in Spain and Wales.  Whatever happened in the pan, it worked, this chutney is well balanced between sweet and sour and had gorgeous occasional chunky surprises like the soft raisins or a lump of plum.

Good organic apples are essential here as apples grown non-organically are normally treated with high levels of pesticides which you cannot get rid off, even after a good rub on your jumper.  Heres an article we wrote about the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ – The 12 worst foods to buy non-organic, not exactly a light read, but worthy information that we regularly incorporate into our fruit and veg foraging escapades.  Organic apples also have a habit of tasting loads better.  As usual, we are lucky sorts, having a bumper crop down at Trigonos has also meant that we can keep things local this year.  I absolutely love apples and Judy’s Discovery’s are up there with some of the tastiest, crunchiest apples I’ve ever scoffed.

I think its probably worth making this all organic actually, especially if your giving it to loved ones as a gift (that seems to be what we end up doing with chutneys and jams).  Our bodies love organic food and non-organic food puts serious pressure on our digestive systems, liver and kidneys, to try and deal with the poison. Its a strong word I know, but pesticide is undoubtedly a poison and when we eat non-organic, we have to deal with it somehow.  We fully appreciate that unless you are rather wealthy, very devoted or have an organic small holding/ farm, being 100% organic in life is a tall order.   We are mainly organic and there is something intangibly wonderful about starting the day with a 100% pure organic juice/ smoothie.  It probably all in the mind, but I am (almost) literally floating around the place after one of those beauts, charged with energy, it certainly cleans out your tubes.

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) - Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) – Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

If you live anywhere near a farm or even better, someone with an orchard, knock on their door with a hefty chocolate cake and get into some gentle chatter about how you enjoy apples and wondered if they liked cake.  Trade could happen and you may end up with bags filled with proper apples to make into things, eat whole or have a go at Apple Hooch (basically crush or juice the apples, leave in a clean bucket with a light covering and taste after a week, then everyday after that.  Eventually it will ferment and become alcoholic and you have just made the easiest and probably one of the healthiest forms of booze known to humankind.)

You can buy pickling spice from most shops, even the supermarkets have it.  If you are just making this as a one off, you can use roughly 1/2 teas of the following whole spices (namely, not ground): coriander, cloves, mustard, dried ginger, chillies, all spice and wrap them in a bit of muslin.   If you don’t have them all, add a little more of the others although I would go easy on the cloves and all spice unless you love ’em dearly.

If your planning on keeping this chutney for a while you will need very clean jars.  We keep a stash in the garage, a decent jar for us is a real gift!   Janes method of jar sterilising works every time and we regularly keep chutneys for months without any obvious microbial issues.

Big BHK Love to all happy chutney bubblersX

Gorgeous plum-age

Gorgeous plum-age

The Bits – 8 Medium Jars

750g tomatoes (peeled and chopped)

500g apples (hopefully from a local tree – chopped into small chunks)

120g Onions (chopped)

400g plums (stones removed)

15g pickling spice (tied in a muslin bag)

15g mustard

10g salt

150ml apple cider vinegar

110g sultanas

130g light brown sugar (unrefined)

 

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Do It

Put tomatoes, onions and apple into a pan and stir, on medium heat, until they start to soften. Add a little water to stop it sticking if you need to.  Then wrap the pickling spice in a muslin bag and add to the mixture, stirring as it simmers.

Blend the mustard and salt with a little vinegar and stir it into the mixture. When the ingredients have softened add the sultanas, sugar and remaining vinegar.

Continue to simmer, stirring often until you have a thick smooth chutney.

Chutney bubbling

Chutney bubbling

While that is going on, sterilise your jars.  Give them all a good wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry.  Put your jars on a baking tray and place in an oven, turn on the heat to 180oC.  Leave for 10 minutes and then pop in the lids (make sure the’ye not plastic!) and leave to warm up for between 5-10 minutes.  Remove them and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

The jars will still be hot so use a kitchen cloth to handle them.  Pack the chutney into the hot jars, wiping away any spillages around the lip.  Screw the lid on tightly, pressing the ‘button’ down on top.  This should make an airtight seal as the chutney cools.   Store for 2 months or longer before opening.  If you can resist its fruity charms!

Serve

Chutneys go with almost anything, but we found that this went like a dream with home-made loaf toast, or a breakfast pan-bread. Try it on the side with salads, or generously lathered on crackers with fresh sliced tomatoes and salad leaves as a midday snack!  We have also paired this chutney, with great success, with a Goan style curry (one with tamarind/ lemon in to make it a little tarty).  Bascially, you’ll find any excuse to eat this type of chutney!

We Love it!

Sweet and sour, can be eaten at anytime of day on almost anything, we can find little to not like about chutney, especially when its falling from trees!   Money does not grow on trees, but chutney does and it tastes alot nicer than a fiver (that’s 5 British pounds).

Danger - Plums falling!

Danger – Plums falling!

Foodie Fact

“An apple (or two) a day……..”

Apples are part of the rose family, a surprisingly comprehensive family of fruits and nuts including almonds, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears and….roses.

We all know that apples are beautifully sweet, but this does not mean that the sugar is doing us harm.   Apple contain phyto-nutrients that actually regulate our blood sugar levels.  Apples have good levels of fibre, but due to the unique mix of chemicals within apples, this decent level of fibre is transformed into benefits that would normally be associated with foods containing vastly higher levels of fibre (long winded description, but cool non-the-less!)   Apples also allow us to absorb more goodness from our foods in the large intestines.    Apples do contain vitamin C, but not loads, they do however boast a load of polyphenols (which actually act as a sunscreen and are the main reason why apples brown so easily) and most of these chemicals acts as strong antioxidants.  Regular munching of apples will also lower bad cholesterol.

JOHNNY APPLESEED

The coolest story we know about apples is that of Johnny Appleseed (aka Johnny Chapman) who lived in the U.S. in the 1800’s.  He spent a large portion of his life wandering barefoot around the country, some say 100,000 sq kilometres, sowing apple seeds as he went which provided early settlers with food.  He was a generous and caring nurseryman who placed huge significance on the symbolism of the apple and conservation of nature.  Folk who plant many trees and conserve nature are surely worth remembering, in our eyes they are the real heroes.

Categories: Foraging, Garden, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Beetroot, Apple and Caraway Sauerkraut

Great jar, inaccurate label.  It should read 'Beetroot, Apple and Caraway' Sauerkraut

Great jar, inaccurate label. It should read ‘Beetroot, Apple and Caraway’ Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a well disguised super hero. Cloaked in cabbage and a fermented glow, Sauerkraut is a dish that is not only delicious, but is very easy to make and gives us some very pleasant nutritional boosts.

China, with its amazingly rich and ancient food tradition seems the source of picklin’. It is said that traders brought many of their tasty pickles and fermented fare from the Far East to Europe. ‘Sauerkraut’ is the German name for fermented cabbage, the French call it ‘Choucroute’ and British people just call it “Fermented YUM”.

The fermentation of Sauerkraut involves a number microbial species; one creates an acid environment for another to thrive and the process continues until the ph is acid and we are left with the perfect conditions for pickling a cabbage. You just need to form a decent brine, cover the vegetable with it and leave it until you like the texture and flavour. Any kitchnen will have the equipment necessary to produce a decent ‘kraut and you can play around with the veggies, mixing and matching different combos.

This time of year, early Autumn in North Wales, is the perfect time for Sauerkraut making. All the ingredients we use here are bang on seasonal and we’re stocking up our larder for another long winter time, when vividly coloured sauerkraut is a pleasant surprise to unearth (not that we’ll be here, we’ll be in Turkey!!!!!!!). A ray of purple light in the chilly grey gloom. We like the addition of apples here, it gives a hint of sweetness. Beetroots are also doing well up here and a little caraway is always welcome to the party, giving things an unmistakeable, East Europe feel (where this kind of preserving behavior is very popular). Red cabbage makes an appearance to add even more colour and a backbone.  Proper cabbage-ness.

The process may seem a little long winded, but I’ve tried to simplify it down and make it accessible to the ‘kraut curious.

Buster (always interested in the smell of sauerkraut)

Buster (always interested in the smell of sauerkraut)

This recipe is lifted, with a few BHK modifications, from the brilliant book ‘Wild Fermentation‘ book by Sandor Ellix Katz. We are really getting our teeth into all things fermented at the minute, coming soon, the easiest Apple Juice Hooch imaginable (you almost have to do nothing to make home crafted booze!) and a really simple Kimchee recipe.

If you are avoiding salt, there are many salt-free sauerkraut recipes out there. We are yet to try them, but they will definitely be interesting!

You can add virtually anything to sauerkraut and it tastes good (this is not a challenge!); different herbs, spices etc.  We’re just sampling an Indian spice stylee version (you will not be surprised to hear!!!!) Can’t wait for the pokey results.

Fermenting and conserving vegetables using brine is something that once picked up, will be a constant source of inspiration in the kitchen. Making things like the glorious Kimchee or pickled onions/ gherkins is a not to dissimilar technique and of course, homemade stuff tastes leagues better than our shop bought friends. Once you start picklin’ and preservin’, its hard to stop (strange as that may sound).

Get your ‘kraut on!

The Bits – Makes roughly 1 kg of ‘kraut

1 medium-sized red cabbage
2 beetroots
1 red onion
(roughly grate these)
1 apple (cored and sliced)
2 teas caraway seeds
2 tbs sea salt

Grated and ready for action

Grated and ready for action

Do It

In a deep bowl or pan (preferably with straight sides), add the grated bits, caraway and sprinkle over the salt. Mix in well with your hands, pack down as well as you can.

Pick a lid/ plate that fits snugly over the sauerkraut and place a weight on top. Use kitchen weights, bottles of wine, whatever is handy and weighty. This weight will force the liquid from the veggies and fruit, the salt takes care of the rest via osmosis. The brine will begin to form. As the liquid gradually rises, keep pressing the lid down regularly until the brine covers the sauerkraut (this may take 24 hours). This is what we want. You can now cover this with a kitchen cloth and leave for 2-3 days and let the microbials do their work.

Some cabbages contain less water than others, if after 24 hours the brine is not covering the veggies, add salted water (1 tbs salt per 250ml water). Check the ‘kraut every day or two and skim off any ‘bloom’ that may form. This is technically mould, but is rare and does not affect your sauerkraut as it is protected by the brine.

The sauerkraut is normally ready after 3 days, depending on the heat of the room (the hotter the less time it takes to mature, the cooler the longer it can be left). It should be tangy and crisp.

You may like to scoop some out and keep it in the fridge when it is young and leave it for a few more days to mature, noting the flavour difference and what is your preference. We like ours funky and leave it for 5 days-ish. If the sauerkraut is getting soft, its probably passing its best and should be eaten pronto.

Serve

We’ve been having ours all over the place.  Great for picnics and packed lunches, on toast and a nice little surprise package on a plate of salad.

Foodie Fact

Fermented cabbage and other Brassicaceaes (Bok choi, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard, kale, spring greens and many more) have been shown to help against cancer. When the cabbage breaks down, it goes through a chemical shift and the resulting isothiocyanates have been shown to fight the big C.

Sauerkraut juice is also a magical tonic, regarded as a digestive aid second to none.

Hell's Mouth Beach, Llyn Peninsula - Ideal picnic spot for sauerkraut scoffing

Hell’s Mouth Beach, Llyn Peninsula – Ideal picnic spot for sauerkraut scoffing

Categories: Healthy Eating, Raw Food, Recipes, Side Dish | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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