Monday, March 03, 2008

Taste of Things to Come

As oranges are good at this time of year, here is a recipe for a fruit curd which will keep for 1 month in normal storage, but up to 3 months when kept in the fridge. Also, in this recipe, the squidgier the strawberries the better. So frozen ones would be ideal as they collapse after thawing.
Strawberry and Orange Curd:
8 oz (225g) ripe strawberries
grated zest and juice of 1 large (or 2 small) orange
5 oz (125g) butter, diced
12 oz (350g) caster sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
Put the hulled strawberries (wash if using fresh), into a basin and mash with a fork. Add the orange zezt and juice, the sugar and the butter, stir in the sugar, and add the eggs (if you have a food processor you could blitz the lot together to make it easier). Place the basin over a pan of simmering water (or use a double saucepan), and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens - this will take about half an hour, but the end result is worth it. Pot up into warm, sterilised jars, and cover as for jam.

Fruit butters are similar to jam and to fruit curds, just a little firmer and make good sandwich and cake fillings. These butters will normally keep stored in jars with airtight lids, in a dry dark cupboard, for 3 - 6 months. But books advise checking the jars regularly. Again, this is a recipe using seasonal produce, so could be made fairly soon. As the original recipe using quite a lot of rhubarb, I have scaled down the amounts to make one or two jars (depends upon the size of jar of course).
Rhubarb and Orange Butter:
1 lb (450g) rhubarb
grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
8 oz (225g) sugar to each 1 lb (450g) pulp
Chop the rhubarb into even short lengths, and place in a pan with the orange zest and juice. Cover and simmer for 15 or so minutes or as long as it takes until the rhubarb is soft. Remove from heat and beat to a pulp (or pop into a blender and let that do the work for you). Weigh the pulp and add the correct amount of sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil (fast simmer). Cook/stir for a further 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and creamy (texture of lightly whipped cream) and of an even colour. Pour into warm sterilise jars and cover with airtight lids.

This next recipe is for apricot jam. The original recipe used 'proper' dried apricots, not the no-soak variety which we tend to favour today - thus more water needs to be used.
Apricot and Almond Jam:
1 lb (450g) dried apricots
3 pints (1.5lts) water
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 lb (1.3kg) sugar
2 oz (50g) flaked almonds
Rinse the dried apricots and place into a bowl. Cover with the water and leave to soak for 24 hours. If the fruit has stones, remove these. Transfer the fruit and the soaking liquid to a pan, adding the lemon zest and juice and heat gently to the simmer, then cook for half an hour until the apricots are quite soft. Remember to stir frequently. Remove from heat and add the sugar (if possible warm it first), then stir in the almonds. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a rapid boil, still stirring frequently or the jam will stick and burn, and cook until setting point has been reached. Cool for 10 minutes, give another stir to prevent the almonds settling on the bottom, pour into hot, sterilised jars and cover in the normal way.
apricot and orange jam: include the zest and juice of two oranges together with the lemon zest and juice.
apricot and walnut jam: substitute sliced walnuts for the almonds
apricot and sultana jam: substitute sultanas (or raisins) for the almonds

With my preference being for eating pickles rather than chutneys, I have not too much experience making these, but I do have the guidelines which are:
Make sure all excess liquid has evaporated (which can take from 1 - 4 hours).
The longer a chutney is cooked, the darker it will become and the more mellow its flavour.
To tell when a chutney is cooked, draw a clean wooden spoon across the surface, and if the mark stays for some seconds and does not fill with liquid then it it ready.
Chutney should be bottled whilst still hot, filling the jars up to the brim. Airtight and vinegar proof lids must be used
Store chutney in a cool dark place. Leave to mature for 3 months before eating. They will store, unopened for 2 t0 3 years.

The first chutney is a light and fruity one that (by the very nature of its name) goes well with pork and poultry. Substitute mint for the sage and it would eat well with lamb. Start your Christmas Hamper with this.
Sage and Onion Chutney:
3 lb (1.35kg) prepared cooking apples
3 lb (1.35g) onions, chopped
1 lb (450g) sultanas
grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1 1/2lb (675g) demerara sugar
1 pint (500ml) malt vinegar
5 tblsp chopped fresh sage leaves
Prepare the apples by peeling, coring and dicing. Then check the weight. Put the onions, sultanas, and apples into a large pan, adding the grated zest and juice of the lemons, the sugar and the vinegar. Heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer, cuncovered, for one and a half hours, or longer, until the mixture is very thick. Stir in the chopped sage. Pot up and seal in the normal way. Let it mature for several months before eating.

This next recipe uses apricots, but as the recipe says these could be either fresh or dried, I think the no-soak apricots would this time be suitable. Just give them a soak overnight to plump them up to almost-like-fresh.
Apricot and Apple Chutney:
8 oz (225g) dried apricots
1 lb (450g) prepared cooking apples
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp rock 0r sea or cooking salt
4 oz (100g) sultanas or raisins
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1 pt (500g) pickling vinegar
1 lb (450g) soft brown sugar
After soaking the apricots, drain and roughly chop. Place in a pan with the prepared (peeled, cored and chopped) apples, the rest of the ingredients except the sugar. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the apples are pulpy (this could take 30 - 45 mins). Remove pan from heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Return to the heat and simmer for about 20 - 25 minutes or until the chutney has thickened.
Spoon immediately into prepared hot jars. Seal and store in the recommended way.