Preserves

PRESERVED LEMONS (1)
This is the simplest way to do preserved lemons. Done like this, the lemons remain quite firm so it’s best to use them recipes like daubes, tajines or casseroles which require long, slow cooking – add them at the beginning of the long, slow simmer.

Cut 3-4 lemons in quarters, not quite through to the bottom, and open them up like a flower with 4 petals. Pack about 2 tablespoons of coarse salt into the center of each lemon, pushing it down well. Choose a Kilner jar (glass jar with rubber zeal) into which the lemons will just fit (this one is 1/2-litre size.) Press the salt-stuffed lemons tightly into the jar and snap the lid shut.

Leave for about 1 week in the fridge, during which you should periodically open up the jar and press the lemons down firmly. They’ll make plenty of their own juice – there should be enough to completely cover them. If not, add a layer of olive oil on top to exclude air. Re-cover and leave for another 2 weeks before using. After a few months they will turn a rich dark brown and look slightly sinister but taste delicious.
To use, lift out lemon or section(s) required, discard pith and pips and rinse the peel. Dice small and cook with meat, fish or vegetable tajines or daubes.

PRESERVED LEMONS (2)
In this recipe from Thierry Voisin, formerly chef at Les Crayeres in Reims, the lemons are first blanched, then packed into jars and covered with a sweet-salty syrup. They are a bit softer and less salty than in the first recipe, so good for salads or for dishes where they get minimal cooking. They also keep their colour nicely.

3-4 lemons
100g coarse salt
150g sugar
½ litre water
several sprigs of fresh thyme
olive oil

Blanch the fruit three times in boiling water, discarding the water each time and starting again with fresh.  Drain and pack the lemons into a 1/2-litre Kilner jar and poke the thyme sprigs down in between them Dissolve the salt and sugar in the water and pour it (hot) over the fruit. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 3-4 weeks before broaching.

MRS GREG’S PEPPER, APPLE AND TOMATO CHUTNEY
A brilliant brick-red, sweetish chutney. A food processor makes light work of the chopping.

Makes about 8 x 450g jars
1 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 kg apples, quartered, cored and chopped
4 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, mashed
4 red peppers (or green, but the colour will be dreary), seeded and chopped
4 fresh green or red chiles, seeded and finely chopped
a walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
750g sugar
200g sultanas
2 tbsp salt
1 litre wine vinegar or Melfor

Put the prepared tomatoes, apples, onions, garlic, peppers, chillies and ginger in a preserving pan. Add the sugar, sultanas, salt and vinegar and stir well to mix and dissolved the sugar a bit. Close the kitchen doors, switch on the extractor, bring the chutney to a rolling boil and simmer it steadily for about 45 minutes. It should reduce by about one-third. Be careful towards the end that it doesn’t catch and burn on the bottom.
Tip into the jars, cover tightly and keep for a month before using.

PLUM CHUTNEY
My friendly neighbour and wizard gardener Malou has just come round with tons of plums, apples, pears (Williams, mmmm) and tiny peaches. The plums have gone into this chutney, adapted from (I think) a recipe originally from Jane Grigson.

Makes about 8 x 450g jars
2 kg plums (Malou’s are the typical Alsace black plums called quetsches, but use whatever you have), halved and stoned
250g carrots, finely chopped or shredded
500g apples, peeled, cored, quartered and chopped
500g onions, chopped
250g raisins or sultanas
500g sugar
2 Tbsp salt
2 tsp ground cloves, or 6 whole cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp allspice or quatre-épices
3-4 dried red chiles, or 2 tsp ground red chiles
1 litre red wine vinegar or Melfor (a secret Alsace ingredient, like vinegar but not a wine by-product)

  • Put the halved, stoned plums in a preserving pan
  • Add the chopped carrots, apples and onions (I chop all these in batches in the food processor)
  • Add raisins, sugar, salt, cloves, ginger, allspice/quatre-épices, chiles and vinegar and leave to steep for an hour or two
  • Bring the pan to a boil and let it cook steadily at a rolling boil for about 45 minutes – instead of a loose, watery mixture of fruit and vegetables, you should end up with a nicely knitted together, jammy mixture, which will be somewhat reduced
  • Pull pan off the heat, scoop chutney into jars, cover and label the jars
  • For best results, keep the chutney for a couple of months before using – should be just right for Christmas!

QUINCE AND ORANGE CHUTNEY

4 quinces, peeled, cored and chopped
2 oranges, thinly sliced
500g brown or raw sugar
500ml white wine vinegar
250g sultanas
a walnut-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
500g onions, finely chopped
1 Tbsp mixed spices (mustard seeds, cloves, cinnamon, cumin)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice and finely grated rind of 1 lemon

  • Combine all ingredients with 1½ cups water in large preserving pan
  • Simmer 45 mins or until well reduced
  • Spoon into hot sterilised jars and seal while hot
  • Keep in a cool dark place

BABY GOATS’ CHEESES IN OIL

It’s good to have a stock of these squirreled away in the fridge for use in salads, on top of quiches, frittatas or pizzas, or grilled over salads, or for midnight feasts. They keep beautifully for several months, during which time the flavour develops nicely, without them ever becoming unbearably goaty. Be sure to use the small, fresh, soft goats’ cheeses (Chèvretines or similar).

For 10 goats’ cheeses
10 small, fresh goats’ cheeses
olive oil to cover
sprigs of thyme
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled

Choose a Kilner jar (glass jar with rubber seal) into which the cheeses will just fit. Layer them in the jar with the thyme sprigs and garlic cloves. Cover completely with olive oil, snap the lid shut. Put them in the fridge and keep for 2-3 weeks, if you can bear to keep your paws off them.

WILD GARLIC PESTO

A brilliant green pesto, great on top of soups, or for pasta, or stirred into a risotto or pilaff. It also goes well with lamburgers – burgers made from cut-offs from a well-trimmed shoulder of lamb. Keep in the fridge for a month or two, or freeze it.

Makes about 300ml – a generous cupful
100g wild garlic leaves, weighed after de-stalking
1 tsp salt
25g pine nuts or blanched almonds or walnuts
100ml (4-5 tbsp) olive oil
50g freshly grated Parmesan, Pecorino or Grana Padano

  • Wash the wild garlic leaves and chop roughly
  • Put them in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth with the remaining ingredients
  • Pack into small screwtop jars or other perfectly airtight containers
  • Keep refrigerated and use within 1-2 months

HERBY OIL

photo by John Miller, from Fruits of the Forest by Sue Style

Makes about 1.5 litres (6 cups)
several handfuls of herbs – basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, tarragon, fennel, winter savory all work well, either alone or in combination
optional: 4 cloves garlic, peeled
1.5 litres neutral-flavoured oil (I use sunflower)

  • Don’t wash the herbs unless mud-splashed – if you really must wash them, make sure they’re fully dry before putting them in the jar and covering with the oil, otherwise it will go cloudy and the herbs may go mouldy
  • Pack them into a glass jar with a rubber stopper and a tight-fitting lid (e.g. Kilner) – you need enough herbs to fill it to the brim
  • Add the garlic if used, and pour oil over to completely cover the herbs
  • Cover the jar and leave the oil in a cool dark place for at least a month
  • Once the oil is well-flavoured, strain the herbs through a colander into a large jug.
  • Strain the oil again through muslin and pout into clean, dry, clear glass bottles
  • Close with corks, label attractively and give them little hessian hats

Special faves:
basil oil – for salads and vinaigrettes
sage oil – great for pork roasts
fennel oil – for fish on the barbecue
savory oil – gorgeous drizzled over cooked green beans
rosemary oil – irresistible with lamb
parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (‘Scarborough Fair’ oil)

GRAPE JELLY

Grape jelly from our Muscat grapes comes up a fabulous colour, rich ruby red, and is yummy with toast. I’m mentally reserving some to give a nice grapey flavour to a wine sauce – perhaps for game?

Makes about 6x450g jars
1.5kg grapes, preferably black Muscat
about 1.5 litres water
preserving sugar (with added pectin)

  • Sort through grapes, discard any bad ones, remove stalks and place grapes in a preserving pan
  • Barely cover the grapes with water –  the amount you add will depend on the size and shape of the pan, but the plump black tops of some of the grapes should be just keeping their heads above water
  • Bring to the boil, simmer gently for about 20 minutes from boiling point, until the grapes are soft
  • Pull the pan off the heat
  • Line a large colander with a J-cloth or muslin and set it over a large bowl
  • Carefully tip the cooked fruit into the colander
  • Cover the colander with a teatowel to protect against fruit flies and leave for 12 hours or overnight until all the juice has run through – press the grapes down a bit at the end using a potato masher to make sure you’ve got all the juice
  • Measure the juice – for every litre you need just under a kilo of preserving sugar [for 1.2 litres juice, I used 1 kg preserving sugar]
  • Wash jars and give them a spell in an 80 C oven to dry/sterilize them while you get on with the jelly
  • Pour the juice back into the preserving pan, add sugar, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally so all sugar is dissolved and you can no longer hear/see crunchy crystals
  • Then raise the heat and bring to a galloping boil – count 5-7 minutes at this fast boil before testing for setting: put a saucer in the freezer to get thoroughly cold, then when you’re ready to start testing, remove saucer, drop in a teaspoon of juice/jelly – on contact with the cold saucer it should stop in its tracks, hold its shape and not run about in an unruly manner – run your finger through it and a definite channel should form and stay formed
  • If setting point is not yet reached, rinse saucer and return to the freezer, repeating the process until it is
  • When setting point is reached, pour jelly into warm sterilised jars
  • Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids
  • Label when cold and store in a cool, dark, dry place

QUINCE JELLY

  • Take 8 fine quinces, wash, quarter and roughly chop them, put the flesh in a preserving pan
  • Add water to cover the chopped quinces (about 2 litres for 1.5 kg quinces)
  • Simmer gently for about 45 minutes or until the quinces are soft
  • Tip them into a colander lined with a teatowel or J-cloth set over a large bowl and let the juice seep out – give it a good squeeze at the end to extract maximum juice
  • Discard pulp
  • Pour juice into a measuring jug and for each litre of liquid, allow 750g granulated white sugar (no need to use preserving sugar for this jelly as the quinces have tons of pectin of their own)
  • Put juice and sugar, plus the juice of 1 lemon, in the preserving pan
  • Bring to a rolling boil, then boil for about 20 minutes, testing towards the end for set (put saucer in freezer, spoon a little jelly onto it and pull your finger through it – it should wrinkle a make a distinct channel)

QUINCE CHEESE (aka ATE DE MEMBRILLO)
On return from Catalunya researching an article on Catalan artisan cheeses, I was reminded of the wonders of ate de membrillo, which goes so perfectly with the sharp, acidic goat’s and ewe’s milk cheeses of the region. It’s a perfect pain to make, but worth it because it’s so delish.

Makes enough for a loaf of quince cheese about 25 x 10 cm
6-7 whole, unblemished, ripe quinces
water to cover
sugar

  • Scrub the quinces, but don’t peel or slice
  • Put them whole in a preserving pan with water to cover generously
  • Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for about 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife
  • Let the quinces cool in the pan
  • Lift them out, peel them and cut away all the flesh from around the cores
  • Discard the cores and weigh the flesh – you need 1 kg sugar for every 1 kg of flesh
  • Put the weighed out flesh and corresponding quantity of sugar in the preserving pan and bring gently to a boil, stirring
  • Keep the pan at a bubbling boil, stirring, for about 45 minutes (yes, really) or until the mixture darkens in colour and starts to come away from the sides of the pan and a channel forms as you pull the wooden spoon through the mixture – at the beginning it’s very messy, plops about a lot and burns you – protect yourself and the hob! Once it starts to thicken, things settle down a bit, but – I repeat – it’s a pain!
  • Once thick and a dark burnished brown, tip ate into a loaf tin about 25 x 10 cm and let it set
  • Keep in a cool dark place and cut slices as needed

SALSA DE TOMATE VERDE COCIDA
The classic table sauce served with tacos and quesadillas: tomates verdes (tomatillos) are simmered with fresh green chiles, then blended with raw onion, garlic and coriander.

Makes about 500ml/2 cups sauce
500g tomates verdes (about 30)
2 fresh green chiles
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste
plenty of coriander, roughly chopped

  • Remove husks from tomates verdes, put tomates in a saucepan and barely cover with water
  • Cut the tops off the chiles (but do not remove seeds) and add to pan
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until tomates turn from pale green to khaki-coloured and are soft but not collapsed
  • Pull pan off the heat and allow tomates to cool a bit
  • Tip tomates into a blender with their cooking water, add quartered onion, garlic and salt to taste and blend till smooth
  • Add the coriander and blend again
  • Check the seasoning – serve with quesadillas, tacos etc. or freeze

PARSLEY AND WALNUT PESTO WITH CHILE CHIPOTLE
A terrific parsley crop has coincided with a bumper walnut harvest, and I needed to find a recipe to take care of at least some of the parsley before the frosts – here’s my adaptation of a recipe snipped out of Gourmet magazine way back when (sorry, don’t know who the author was). Great with chunky pasta, like the wonderful fusilli from Gragnano in Naples, a gift from my foodie friend Carla Capalbo on her last visit.

Makes about 1 cup
1 dried chile chipotle
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons shelled walnuts
2 good cups flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
salt and pepper
¾ cup olive oil
juice of ½ a lemon

  • Snip the stalk off the chile, split it open down the side, tip out the seeds and discard
  • Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan over moderate heat and toast split chile and (unpeeled) garlic, pressing down on chile to flatten – turn both once or twice; chile should be lightly toasted and fragrant and the garlic clove soft inside its skin
  • Slip garlic out of its skin and put in blender
  • Put toasted chile in a small bowl and cover with warm water – leave till soft (about 20 minutes)
  • On same griddle/pan, toast the walnuts briefly till fragrant – be careful they don’t burn!
  • Tip walnuts into blender
  • Strip leaves off parsley, discard stalks (or use for stock), add leaves to blender, with soaked, drained chile
  • Blend everything to a paste, add salt and pepper to taste and then pour the olive oil in a steady stream through the hole in the blender lid – keep going till smooth and green
  • Finally add lemon juice – check seasoning
  • Keep in jar(s) in fridge and use up within a month or so

THE WONDERS OF SLOE GIN, aka SLUGGINS…

The sloe (Prunus spinosa) is a prickly beast. In order to brave the dangers of picking its bloomy fruit (left), it helps to understand the wonders of sloe gin. Faithfully brewed in the pantries of English country houses since Victorian times, this wonderful drink (known in our family as ‘sluggins’) is a great way of converting a wholly unpalatable fruit into a rather memorable experience. To make it, the sloes are macerated with sugar and gin and left to their own devices in a cool dark place. After a few months you’ll have a wonderful, warming winter liqueur, great after brisk country walks, guaranteed to bring a smile to your cheeks and the circulation back to your toes.

I give you two recipes, one from Dad (via Constance Spry), the other from my friend Georgie. Try them both – then you can have a [blind?] tasting:

DAD’S SLUGGINS
Makes about 1.5 litres
850g sloes
350g sugar
1 litre gin
a few drops almond essence

  • Remove stalks from the sloes and prick them all over with a pin
  • Put them in a wide-necked bottle or Kilner jar with a lid
  • Add the sugar, gin and almond essence
  • Shake up well, then leave in a cool dark place to macerate for at least 3 months, turning the bottle gently and reverently from time to time to mix well
  • After this time, (according to Dad’s succinct hand-written instructions) ‘strain, and drink’

GEORGIE’S SLOE GIN

In this recipe, the sloes get a few days’ maceration with the sugar to encourage them to release some of their delicious, ruby-red juice, before adding the gin.
Makes about 1 litre
500g sloes
200g sugar
1 litre gin
a few drops almond essence

  • Remove the stalks and prick the sloes all over with a pin
  • Mix the fruit and sugar in a wide-necked bottle or jar with a lid, cover and leave for 2-3 days, shaking and stirring daily until the juice begins to run
  • Add the gin and almond essence
  • Cover the jar and leave for 3 months in a cool, dark place, shaking occasionally
  • Strain the liqueur and discard the fruit
  • Filter the liqueur through a coffee paper or muslin and transfer to a bottle
  • For best results, leave for a further 6 months to mature. (The 6-month period – and the quantity of the resulting liqueur – tends to get whittled down due to the frequent samplings which will prove to be necessary.)


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