Tag Archives: Preserving

Figs

 

Figs evoke such wonderful memories…

 

Fig tree - 2

To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean. (Elizabeth David)

The beautiful big fig tree down by the creek at our old family home – we always knew that if the creek flooded in the spring and/or summer that we would have a wonderful crop. Then there is the Christmas cake and pudding that I make every year, that has a jar of fig jam included in the recipe – I am happy to say it is always fig jam from our store cupboard. And who could forget a day at the races in the country, with my beautiful friend Sophia, where a platter scattered with fresh figs, feta, walnuts and prosciutto, drizzled with honey was handed around to get the day started. This is where I totally fell in love with the flavour of the fresh fig.

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A great fig should look like it’s just about to burst its skin. When squeezed lightly it should give a little and not spring back. It must be almost unctuously sweet, soft and wet. (Yotam Ottolenghi)

We both have very fond memories of our time with an elderly couple in France where I received some of the best advice ever. Over breakfast, we were talking about the fruit grown on their property and how it was stored… Genevieve told me that the apples were stored in the old stone chapel across the way, and, in fact, we were eating the last of what they had stored away from last season for our breakfast. I asked, what to do with excess figs, apart from drying them or making jam etc. She told me that she just threw them in a bag in the freezer, then whenever she was cooking a roast, she would grab a few out and scatter them around the roast as it cooked – she assured me that they would keep their shape and not become mush, and she was spot on!

So whenever anyone asks if I could use some figs, I never turn them down. I bring them home, wash them, and throw them in a bag in the freezer.

This year I don’t know how many kilograms we have received, but I recently weighed what is left and there are still 11 kilograms frozen and waiting for me to use. I follow Genevieve’s advice and toss them around a roast, but I also take them out and dehydrate them. Occasionally I grab a few, slit them down squish in some feta and wrap them in prosciutto, grill them and then scatter with some toasted walnut and drizzle with a little honey or fig vinegar glaze.

Last week the weather turned very wintery providing the perfect opportunity to use some of the figs from the freezer, together with some dried figs and fig vinegar. This Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds was the perfect warming meal on such a bleak, cold day. The pork just fell apart and was perfect with all the sticky figiness!

Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds

This delicious winter warmer was inspired by the onset of winter and the need for some yummy comfort food - the thought of combining some delicious Coltish Pork with figs and fig products I had been making over the last month or so seemed obvious!

Ingredients

  • 1 kg pork neck
  • 150g diced onion
  • 80g diced celery
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup fig vinegar
  • 2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage
  • ¼ cup dried figs, diced
  • 2 cups pork stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 150˚C.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, pound the fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt to a powder.
  3. Cut the pork neck into four even sized, thick slices and season lightly with the spice powder.
  4. Heat oil in a large heavy based, ovenproof pan or casserole and fry the slices of pork in two batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from pon and set aside.
  5. To the same pan, add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender. Add the remaining spice powder and stir.
  6. Turn up the heat and the fig vinegar and diced fig, stirring to deglaze the pan. Cook until the fig vinegar has reduced by half, then reduce the heat, and stir in the sage.
  7. Place the pork in a single layer in the pan, add the stock and bring back to the boil.
  8. Cover with the lid and place in the preheated oven for 1½ – 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
  9. When the meat is cooked. Remove it to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  10. Skim the fat from the juices in the pan, then place the pan over a medium heat to reduce the sauce to a nice syrupy consistency.
  11. Serve hot with steamed greens, creamy mash potato, and if you wish, some grilled fresh figs.

Notes:

  • Source: SBA’s Kitchen
  • If you do not have pork stock, I would suggest using chicken stock.
  • I prefer to purchase the pork neck in the piece and portion it myself, but you could ask your butcher to do this for you.
  • If you do not have fig vinegar, try using a combination of cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
  • I love to support our local farmers, so purchase my pork from Coltish Pork. It is wonderful to get to know the producer and become friends with those who are providing such a wonderful quality of product to work with.

 

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Finally just this weekend we had our great friends, Caitlin and Paul visit, and to start a long, leisurely evening meal we prepared a Salade de Chevre et Figues. I love it so much when our guests join in the food preparation – I had such fun cooking and chatting and catching up.

Of course there is always a good supply of figs waiting in the freezer so that I can make another batch of fig vinegar, which is fast replacing balsamic vinegar in a lot of dishes in our meals.

Until next time…

Happy cooking & bon appétit!

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Apples for pie

A couple of months ago we visited Picnic Point Apple Orchard, about an hour’s drive from here, to pick up some new season’s apples. We purchased a box of Picnic Apples, which were very juicy, but the flavour was not as intense as I expected.

We decided to store them in a cupboard in the hallway of our home, and as time went by you would catch the delicious aroma of apples as you passed by. They softened a little, but cooked up well and held their shape, which I was thrilled with.

With that in mind, I decided to preserve them, there is no room in the freezer, so they had to go into jars. On Tuesday I set to peeling, coring and quartering them. They were then added to pots with sugar, water and lemon juice and cooked until just tender. After leaving them to cool over night,

I packed them into jars, before sealing and waterbathing them ready for use in pies and other apple treats throughout the year. As I said to Gary, all I need to do is take a jar of apples, roll out some pastry, maybe add some rhubarb from the garden, bake it and we have a quick, easy and delicious dessert.

Before the apples were bottled, I decided that we needed a treat! First I removed some apples from the pot and set them in a strainer over a dish to drain off all the liquid  Then I rolled out some gluten free sweet shortcrust pastry and prepared a delicious dessert for our evening meal. I think that apple pie has to be one of the most comforting, homely desserts one can ask for. Add some vanilla ice cream or a dollop of luscious double cream and you’re set.

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Sweet Shortcrust Pastry - Gluten Free

  • Servings: makes one large tart which serves 8
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The perfect pastry for making your favourite fruit pie or delicious little lemon curd tarts.

Ingredients

  • 210 g Gluten free flour blend
  • 70 g pure icing sugar
  • 1 tsp xanthum gum
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 100 g ricotta cheese, drained (or homemade cheese)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Directions

  1. Add the flour, icing sugar and xanthum gum to a bowl and mix together.
  2. Place the butter, cheese, egg yolk and vanilla into the bowl of a food processor and then add the dry ingredients.
  3. Pulse only until the dough starts to form a ball.. (TM speed 3, 20 seconds)
  4. Remove the dough to a large sheet of baking paper or a pastry sheet and knead to form a smooth ball.
  5. Divide the dough in half and flatten into two discs.
  6. Cover each disc closely with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Notes:

  • You can store the dough in the fridge for up to two days, or freeze it until needed.
  • If you have time, make a batch and freeze it for when you need to whip up a quick tart or pie.
  • I always blind bake the tart base for 10-15 minutes in a preheated oven at 200˚C, then add the fruit and if required a pastry lid, before continuing baking.

The other benefit of having jars of delicious apples in the store, is that you have a quick delicious breakfast treat when served with some natural yoghurt and crunchy gluten free granola!

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Until next time…

Happy  cooking & bon appétit!

 

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Links:

Crunchy gluten free granola

Gluten free flour blend

Sweet shortcrust pastry – gluten free

Oranges 1 – A recap!

The oranges are gone, well, with the exception of the few that have been set aside for our breakfast fruit over the next week or so. Overall things went really well, and we have some lovely goodies stashed in the store for future use. We’ve also enjoyed some orange flavoured meals as well.

That being said, the marmalade proved to be my nemisis. The first batch didn’t set and discoloured!  What to do… Add Cointreau to the mix, and lable it as Orange and Cointreau Syrup for use with desserts – I have to say it goes deliciously with date pudding !

So what was the problem?  More pectin you say? That’s what I thought, anyway. So I saved all the pips from the oranges and lemons used in all the other recipes – I had a lovely little pile of them by the time it come to revisit the marmalade. Neither Gary, nor I, could understand what happened to the first batch, it’s never happened before…

With everything prepared, I started again – it was looking beautiful, time to test for set, and again… it just wouldn’t set and turned dark. Fearing it would burn, I took it off the heat and bottled it. The next morning when I checked, it was syrup, nothing like the lovely jelly like consistency of marmalade. By this time I thought I knew what the problem was – while the pot I was using was big enough, it was tall and narrow, not wide and squat.

Not wanting to waste the fruit sugar and time and effort, this time we decided to try and cook it a little more. It just got darker, and again wouldn’t set. Finally, I had to bite the bullet and use commercial pectin (I have plans to make my own in future, but didn’t have time at this point). Set was reached, it doesn’t taste too bad, really, just sweeter than usual and it looks like treacle!  A new wider, shallower, preserving pan style, pot has now been ordered and is on its way. I am hoping that by using it, we will avoid any more marmalade dramas.

So what was cooked? You will have seen some of the goodies in previous posts, but here is the list in full…

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There is one more recipe brewing, but it is going to take another couple of weeks – Collette’s Vin D’Orange. I will put up a post about it when its ready, and let you know what it is like.

Finally given that Jan provided all the oranges for this little marathon, I thought it only propper that I share the recipe for this delicious dessert that she has shared with me – Spiced Oranges & Dates with Greek Yoghurt Cream.

Spiced Oranges & Dates with Greek Yoghurt Cream

This simple little dessert is the perfect way to finish a meal. It can be prepared ahead - adding the Yoghurt Cream and pistachios just before serving.

Ingredients

  • 6 large navel oranges
  • 6 fresh dates, pitted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbs pure icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 55 g (1/3 cup) pistachio kernels, coarsely chopped

For the Greek Yoghurt Cream

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) Greek-style yoghurt
  • 125 g light cream cheese
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthways
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) pouring cream
  • 1 tsp pure icing sugar

Directions

  1. To make the yoghurt cream, place the yoghurt, cream cheese and honey in a bowl. Use a small sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until combined. Place the cream and icing sugar in a bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form. Fold into yoghurt mixture. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to chill.
  2. Cut top and base from each orange. Use a sharp knife to remove skin and white pith. Holding each orange over a bowl to catch any juice, cut along either side of the white membranes to remove orange segments.
  3. Combine orange, dates and mint in a bowl. Sprinkle with icing sugar and cinnamon. Toss to combine.
  4. Divide fruit among serving plates and serve with pistachios and yoghurt cream.
  5. Garnish with sprigs of mint.

Notes:

  • My sister Jan passed this recipe to me, she received it from her friend, Mandy, who found it in Australian Good Taste – September 2011, p.80 .
  • Allow 2 hours chilling time.

 

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

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Links:

Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Sticks 

Nana Mac’s Potato and Orange Salad

Orange and Mint Jelly 

Orange Cordial

Spiced Oranges

Spiced Oranges & Dates with Greek Yoghurt Cream 

Sugar Coated Candied Orange Sticks 

Zingy Citrus Mocktail

Spiced Oranges

 

Apparently oranges were preserved this way in days gone by, when citrus fruits were rare and expensive! They are said to pair beautifully with ham, pork and game, and I can’t wait to serve it with duck.  Unfortunately we have to wait a little while to taste them.

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Spiced Oranges

  • Servings: Makes 6 jars
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I think these look like sunshine in a jar...

Ingredients

  • 10 large thin-skinned oranges, washed well and cut into 5mm/1/4 inch slices
  • 600 ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 kg white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 g whole cloves
  • 6 blades of mace

Directions

  1. Put the orange slices into a large pan and cover with cold water. Simmer gently, partially covered with a lid until the peel is tender – about an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, put all the other ingredients into a pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. When the oranges slices are tender, drain them and place them, together with the syrup, into a bowl. Leave to stand overnight.
  4. The next day return the orange slices and the syrup to a clean pan and cook for 30-40 minutes until translucent.
  5. Pack oranges into warm sterilized jars and cover with syrup.
  6. Seal and lable.
  7. Store in a cool dark place for six to eight weeks before eating.

Notes:

  • Adapted from Good Old-fashioned Jams, Preserves and Chutneys (1985) S. Paston-Williams p58.
  • Mace is an aromatic golden brown spice obtained from the dried net-like sheath that covers the Nutmeg seed, It is yellowish to reddish-tan in color, made up of flat, shiny branched pieces with a fragrant, nutmeg aroma and warm taste. It looks wonderful when left whole in your spiced syrup.
  • Keep any excess syrup for topping up the jars, as the oranges tend to absorb the syrup.
  • The flavour is said to be even better if left for several more months.

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Source: Spiced Oranges

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Glossary – Mace

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Oranges 1

My beautiful sister Jan, recently visited us for a little holiday. Jan lives in the north of the state of Victoria, very close to the great Murray River, and a wonderful citrus fruit growing area – about six and a half hours drive from here! When I knew that she and her friend, Heather, were going to come for a visit, I asked if she could pick up a couple of bags of oranges, thinking that they would be the same size as those you can pick up at fruit and vegie shops – 3 kilograms… When she arrived, I was presented with 2 bags of oranges – each weighing about 10 kilograms! 20 kilograms of oranges for $12 – that is crazy!!! Of course, I was not allowed to pay for them, but now the challenge begins…

I have given some to visitors, and we have eaten quite a few, and I think I have had to throw about 6 out! I have made old fashioned butter cake – gluten free, which after a couple of tries, is pretty darned good. The orange cake has been iced, sliced and frozen, so that we can have cake when we feel like it.

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However, over the next week there will be a lot of orange based recipes being prepared, and at times, concocted in my kitchen. On the list so far:

  • Orange marmalade – a must for Gary;
  • Orange and mint jelly – already half made;
  • A delicious refreshing citrus mocktail – which could easily be turned into a cocktail for those who must;
  • Orange cordial;
  • Sauces;
  • Salads;
  • Desserts, etc!

Oh, and a little tip, for an easy way to peal oranges, that I read about in an old recipe book of mine The Times Calendar CookBook by Katie Stewart, 1975. This works beautifully, but would probably only do 4-6 oranges at a time, because they still need to be hot for the peel and pith to come away cleanly.

To peel oranges:

Score the peel of the oranges into quarters with a sharp knife. Put all of the oranges in large basin and cover them with boiling water. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then drain and peel away the skins. Using this method, both the outer peel and the inner white pith will come away from the fruit. If any white pith remains, simply scrape it away with a knife.

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I have also tried this method on lemons and it worked just as well, so would imagine it could be used on most citrus – grapefruits, limes etc.

I hope that you enjoy seeing everything orange from my kitchen over the next week!

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

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