Sunday, September 27, 2009

What you can't weed, cook!

Once the Fall comes, it is time to turn to the produce of our gardens, to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of our labours. We are no longer consumed with pinching and pruning, we are ready to enjoy our produce.
The Farmer's markets are overflowing with abundance. The Market at Square One is one of the best in Southern Ontario. But I am doubly fortunate, because, my sister has a farm in Quebec, just outside of Ottawa. I came home with apples, crab apples, and beets.
My partner in business, Theresa has encouraged me to tell you these things.
I enjoy cooking, but that does not mean life is without mishaps. The kitchen, like the garden is all about creativity and inspiration. Sometimes RULES ARE BROKEN.  Actually, since my desires are larger than my knowledge, I often attempt things with which I have no experience.
Hence, that is why I consulted my mother's scarred and spattered Canadian Cook Book, copyright 1923.  She used this in school.  It is the eighteenth edition, published, November, 1945. The spine is missing 2/3 of its cover and there is a burner impression from the stove element burned into the navy cover.  You can picture the scene now with the book open on the stove, while the cook carefully consults the next step.  Now you have an impression of the cooking arts I learned at my mother's knee.
The reason I had to consult the cooking text was because I brought home all those crab apples from my sister’s.  I looked in a few books, but one recipe told me to melt cinnamon candies in water and boil halved crab apples in it.  That was a recipe for a ‘gourmet’ jelly.  If I want to make something from scratch, I had to go back to the 1945 text.  I found it a little cryptic.  Who knew you could make coffee jelly
I seemed to remember my mother making crab apple jelly and she never used pectin.  Just boiled and strained the fruit.  But the details....
The text said to “Test for Pectin”.  It involved a tablespoon of alcohol and a tablespoon of the fruit juice; waiting time; and ‘if little pectin can be collected, the juice should be given longer boiling and tested again.    I had no idea if I was to use the pectin in the jelly or if it was just a method of identifying the strength of pectin in the mixture.  Luckily, the word ‘alcohol’ gave me inspiration, and as I sat drinking, I thought it would be great to make a merlot crab apple jelly, just like in the wineries in Niagara!  So I poured merlot in one of the batches.  It did not jell.  But I just boiled it down in the microwave, and eventually I got a product! Actually, it tasted very good.
I’d write out the recipe for you, but I don’t remember it!
Since rain is forecasted for tomorrow, I probably won’t be able to garden and I will detail another mishap, I mean recipe, from my kitchen.