Apple Johnny is a cake from eastern Canada that is baked in apple sauce. This is the third traditional cake from that region I’ve come across that is baked in a sauce or syrup. I think that’s enough to classify this as a family of cakes. I am going to call them drop cakes, because you make a batter and drop it into some manner of delicious sauce or liquid. Not a traditional term by any means but there it is.
Anyways, the most famous drop cake is pouding chômeur, which is a traditional Quebecois cake baked in maple syrup. When I mentioned this to a friend who grew up in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, she said that they … Continue reading.
Sour cherries, being sour, are best cooked with sugar, so their most obvious applications are pies, pastries, compotes, and the like. This is a problem because sour cherry trees are prolific, and a man can only eat so much pie. Over the years we have struck upon other winning preparations for the efficient preservation and consumption of sour cherries, notably drinks like rum pot and cherry liqueur. But to really showcase the fruit’s versatility we’ve been eager for ways to use them in savoury meat dishes. Enter sour cherry barbecue sauce.
For most of my grown-up life my house barbecue sauce has been the Carolina-style recipe in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie. It is what I call a “pantry sauce”: … Continue reading.
The best time to plant a plum tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
-“Chinese proverb” (probably not though…)
We have two Japanese plum trees in our yard. The cultivar names are confusingly but unmistakably Slavic: Ivanovka and Ptitsin #3. The trees were purchased as cuttings from the University of Saskatchewan, but the varieties were first developed at the Morden Research Station in Manitoba and first released in 1939. We chose these specific varieties for their cold-heartiness, fruit quality, and pollination requirements.
For most of our other fruit trees we didn’t have to give much thought to pollination. Our sour cherries, for instance, are all self-pollinating. And while apples must … Continue reading.
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.
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.
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.
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.