I really want to like candy apples. They are so closely associated with fall and carnivals and country fairs, they seem like a fantastic way to celebrate our local apples.
In practice they are usually disappointing. They are often died a garish red. The candy coating is either adamantine, or it sticks to your teeth and threatens to pull out your molars. And usually the fruit is so large that it cannot be eaten comfortably from the end of a stick. You have to unhinge your jaw, which compromises your ability to break the adamantine candy coating.
In theory all these problems can be solved.
Let’s talk apples. Any good eating-apple is a good candy-apple. Firm, crisp, juicy. Apples … Continue reading.
When you have hundreds of pounds of something you start thinking deeply on how you can preserve and consume the bounty. This time of year apples are the subject of those deep thoughts. Of course cider is the supreme way to preserve and consume apples, but I’ve been experimenting with some other techniques that involve cooking and reducing the fresh apple juice.
I got the idea from the cuisine of Modena. Obviously they have an abundance of grapes, and obviously the majority of those grapes end up as wine or liquor, but they also have a few preparations made by cooking and reducing fresh grape juice. The most famous is traditional balsamic vinegar, but there is also a … Continue reading.
Originally published December 14, 2013.
Pâte de fruits, literally “fruit paste,” is a simple confection made of fruit, sugar, and pectin, though some recipes call for gelatin instead.
Pâtes de fruits have a very distinct texture. They are firmer than a spreadable breakfast jelly, but without the persistent chew of a gummy bear or gummy worm or any other fauna from the gummy kingdom. One of my chefs compared the texture to a medium ganache.
Another distinction between true pâte de fruits and inferior industrial candies is flavour. They are very bright, pure expressions of the fruit from which they are made. They tend to be tart, though well-balanced.
The chemistry behind pâtes de fruits is the … Continue reading.
In retrospect this is a pretty straight-forward homemade cherry liqueur, but it was actually inspired by a drink from Normandy called pommeau. To make pommeau, Normans combine two parts fresh apple juice with one part Calvados (apple brandy), then age the resulting mixture in barrels for several months before bottling. You can purchase this traditional, aged pommeau at fine liquor stores, but fresh pommeau made with just-pressed cider and consumed without barrel-aging has become one of my favourite parts of the cider season.
This formula (two parts fresh juice, one part spirit made from that juice) occurs in a number of other places. Pineau de Charentes is another famous example, made with grape must and Cognac.
So I wondered if … Continue reading.
The only time you should ever peel apples is when you are going to cook them. Once cooked apple skins are hard, like photography film, if you can remember what that tastes like.
The only time I peel and cook apples is when I’m making apple pie or apple sauce, which is only a few times a year. Most of the apples that pass through our home are crushed and pressed whole to make cider. In this process the skins are broken up very fine so that they lend some body and tannin to the drink.
What I mean to say is I don’t actually peel very many apples. But when I do peel those very few apples it bothers … Continue reading.
One of the greatest French bistro desserts is tarte au citron, or lemon tart: a rich, tangy curd set in a buttery French tart shell. In furtherance to ending the tyranny of the lemon in our fair city, I’ve been experimenting with substituting citrus with our local sour cherries.
Background: Classic Fruit Curds
In pastry books there are usually two fruit curd recipes: one for lemon and lime, and another that can be used for almost any other kind of fruit.
Lemon has two traits that let it have its own style of curd: a yellow colour and a very intense acidity. If you cook lemon juice with enough egg yolks and butter that it sets as a curd … Continue reading.
One day I was bored so I made this drawing. It contains some thoughts on the flavour of rhubarb, with the intent of deepening our appreciation of the plant, and broadening its culinary application.
Rhubarb is almost always cooked with a sweetener to balance the sharp acidity of the plant. Brown sugar deserves special mention. Honey also works well, which has me wondering if Sauternes would pair well with a rhubarb dish.
Most forms of dairy, whether sweet or cultured, pair well with rhubarb. Rich dairy tempers the acidity of rhubarb. Ice cream is especially good at this. Salty dairy like aged cheddar can be a good counterpoint to rhubarb’s bright acidity.
Eggs work surprisingly well with rhubarb. Picture a … Continue reading.
The Tyranny of the Lemon
I like lemons. Tarte au citron and lemon meringue pie are two of my favourite desserts. A quick squeeze of lemon adds friendly punch to everything from salads to roasted chickens and pots of tea.
To me lemons are the epitome of our thoughtless dependence not just on imported ingredients, but imported cuisine. Every week of the year the happy yellow fruits are shipped by the ton into our city to spread the insidious influence of Mediterranean and Californian food.
What is frustrating about our lemon dependence is that our region and its local plants do “sour” very well. We are awash with tart, flavourful ingredients like apples, highbush cranberries, sour cherries, rhubarb, and … Continue reading.
This is a citron. Its name is confusing: most hear it and assume it is part of the citrus family. “Citron,” after all, is the French word for lemon, and there is a citrus fruit grown in the Mediterranean called a citron, or kitron, that resembles a large lime.
The subject of this post is emphatically not a citrus fruit. It is a type of melon, so it often goes by the name citron melon to avoid confusion.
At first glance a citron melon looks like a small watermelon, except that it is perfectly round, with spackled streaks arching from pole to pole. If you cut this globe into hemispheres you’ll find an interior that is pale green, crunchy, … Continue reading.
Some detailed notes on a North American staple.
The Dough. I take for granted that you already know how to make a superlative, flaky pie dough. If you don’t, this pie dough is a good start, but you should probably add a handful of sugar to the mix.
The Filling. The first important consideration for the filling is the variety of apple to be used. High acidity and firm, crisp texture are key. Of the common commercial varieties, Granny Smith is probably the best, but there are lots of varieties growing within the Edmonton city limits that make good pie. Sweetness, of course, is also desirable, but we can balance the tartness of the apples with sugar. Look … Continue reading.