Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pom-Apple "Sauce"

As a chef, I'm always striving to improve my culinary abilities. While I think I have the flavor component of jam and preserve-making down, I've got a lot to learn in the "set" department. Practice makes perfect, thus I endeavored to create a preserve which would stand in for they typical cranberry jello that adorns many a Thanksgiving table; a "sauce" in the old-fashioned sense of the word, one recognizable as a traditional dinner accompaniment, but that people want to eat.

I do enjoy a chunky cranberry sauce, and wanted to include apples- this month's Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge ingredient- to add to the texture of the jam. Originally intending to make my jam cranberry-based, I changed my mind when searching for an appropriate juice, I couldn't find a single one that didn't contain extra sugar or additives. And then I saw it: 100% pomegranate juice. It seemed to be exactly the tart flavor base I was looking for- original, yet basic enough to dress up the way I liked. For a third flavor and floral scent I threw an orange into the mix, and then laid it down with traditional holiday spices.

5 1/2 pint jars, lids and rings
24 oz. 100% pomegranate juice
3 green apples, peeled and diced
1 orange, juice and zest
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/4 star anise
1 clove
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 box ball powdered pectin

Tie cinnamon, anise and clove in a small sachet. Combine juice, apples, orange, ginger and spices in a medium pot. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook until apples have poached and are dark pink in color, about 15 minutes. Add sugar and pectin, turn up the heat to a medium simmer and cook until "set", about another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let the jam rest for 5 minutes. This step will ensure the apple will be evenly dispersed in the jam, instead of floating on the top of the jar. Remove sachet, ladle into 1/2 pint jars, attach lids and rings and process 10 minutes.

I am extremely happy with this jam! The balance of sweet-tartness, and the flavors of orange and traditional spices are perfect. The jars are a beautiful garnet color, with gems of apple suspended within. The set is lovely, and I'm already imagining spoonfuls of pom-apple "sauce" on turkey, stuffing and biscuits. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thai Curry Pickled Pears

The mission here was simple- a deconstructed Thai red curry paste cleverly disguised as a brine for pickled pears. While most of the ingredients in a curry paste are transferable to this sort of application, some (namely, shrimp paste) simply would not work very well. The main components are lemongrass,ginger, dried Thai bird chilies,shallots,garlic,coriander root,lime juice/zest and/or kaffir lime leaves and shrimp paste. There may be subtle differences from kitchen to kitchen but for argument sake, we picked the elements that work the best with this recipe. The fully frontal citrus notes from the ginger,lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves give these pickles an otherworldly goodness. These assertive flavors stand up well to the heat of the Thai birds and the sweetness of the brine. The aroma is fresh and the flavors are irresistible. This recipe is adapted from pickled pears in the Joy of Pickling which calls for a syrupy sort of brine so keep that in mind when building a flavor profile. The addition of coconut water is designed to compliment the red curry as it is usually paired with coconut milk in curry bowls in Thailand. If you're looking for a heavier essence of coconut, I would suggest coconut extract as it is a clear liquid like coconut water and won't make the brine cloudy. We've already munched through a jar of these addictive pickles!

Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

6 pint jars, lids and rings
2 red anjou pears
2 green anjou pears
2 bartlett pears
2 bosc pears
1 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups coconut water
1 1/2 cups rice vinegar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3 cups sugar
1 tbsp canning salt

6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp lemongrass, sliced
12 Thai bird chilies
12 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp cracked coriander seeds
1 tbsp cracked peppercorns

Cut pears into 6 slices each, remove seeds and hold in water acidulated with lemon juice. Bring water, coconut water, rice vinegar, white vinegar, sugar and canning salt to a boil, cover and hold. Divide garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilies, lime leaves, coriander seeds and peppercorns among 6 jars. Stuff jars with pears alternating colors with the skin side out and top with brine. Attach lids and rings and process for 15 minutes.