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I once bought a jar of caramelised onion chutney at a fayre and promised myself that one day I would hunt out a recipe and make some myself.   It is a really useful addition to the store cupboard: delicious with cheese or cold meat, so especially good around Christmas when there are plenty of cold cuts, but also good stirred into gravy to add extra flavour.  If you like hot dogs then you could substitute this chutney for the fried onions and if you like sausage rolls then why not try the recipe on this site for Sausagemeat Plait substituting Caramelised Red (or White if you prefer) Onion Chutney for the Fennel & Apple Chutney.

Finding nothing particularly useable in my recipe books, I turned to the web and discovered several helpful recipes, in particular one from Tesco called Caramelised Onion Chutney, but I consulted other recipes as well.  One of these Red Onion & Balsamic Chutney, a Lesley Waters recipe on the Good Food Channel site, added orange which I wanted to include in my recipe, having made some onion marmalade (a mixture of seville orange and onions) some years ago. The Tesco recipe used a pinch of chill, but I used Piment d’Espelette as an alternative.  The recipe did not specify the type of onion, so I assume that it should be white ones, however as I had plenty I used red onions instead.  The only comment I would make is that I would have preferred the chutney to be pinkish rather than brown, reflecting the rosy colour of the onions.  The darkening came both from the brown sugar, even though I used light brown, the dark balsamic vinegar and the red wine vinegar.  If I did this again I woudl certainly use white wine vinegar and white balsamic vinegar and possibly white granulated sugar as well.   Ideally this recipe should be kept to mature for 6 – 12 months, according to the Tesco recipe.  I made mine at the start of November so by Christmas it will have matured for almost 2 months: not quite long enough I know but I plan to keep one jar by for next Christmas to see if it really does improve with age.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney
(3 x 500g/1lb jars)

3tbsp olive oil
1·5kg/3lb onions – I used red onions
zest & juice of 1 orange
300g/10oz light muscovado sugar (or white granulated to help preserve colour)
200ml/7fl oz red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar to help preserve colour)
3tbsp balsamic vinegar (or white to help preserve colour)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
½tsp salt
large pinch paprika
large pinch crushed chillies or Piment d’Espelette (Espelette pepper)

1.  Peel and thinly slice the onions.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan and using a low heat gently fry them for 10 minutes until they have softened.  They must not brown.

2.  Stir in 3 tbsp sugar.  Turn up the heat and cook the chutney for 3-4 minutes and allow the onions to brown, although if you want to preserve the pink colour of the chutney try not to let them brown very much.  Stir in the rest of the sugar and then add the remaining ingredients.

3.  Simmer the mixture gently for 10-15 minutes.  The liquid should reduce, the mixture thicken and turn a dark caramel colour.  (This instruction comes from the original: using white vinegars and sugar should hopefully preserve the colour a little better although adding the sugar will make it darken a little.)

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

7.  If you can wait that long it is recommended that this chutney is stored for 6 – 12 months before use.

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Some time ago I added a recipe to this site for Cucumber Bread and Butter Pickle.  Put simply, this is a pickle to eat with bread and butter, perhaps alongside some cold meat or cheese.  (I actually enjoy it on its own in a sandwich.)  The original recipe was a fairly traditional one and shortly afterwards I added a second version with coriander seeds which gave a citrus flavour to the pickle. (Well at least I think coriander seed tastes a bit lemony!)  Here is a third version: different again, this time with a spicy bite from the chilli and mustard seeds and called American style, though I am not quite sure why.  I love this one, but next time will make sure I have washed off the salt a little more thoroughly.  The first batch was fine but the second needed either an extra wash or perhaps I should have used a little less salt – it was rather too salty for my taste. The salting is essential as without this step, which draws out the excess water in the cucumber, the pickle would go mouldy.  All of the cucumber based bread and butter pickles are worth making in the summer months when cucumbers are plentiful, but a smaller quantity can be made at any time of the year, especially if you can find a good offer on the market.  Adjust the chilli according to taste: I added a very small one the first time but find I am increasing the quantity with each batch I make.  Just a word about the vinegar: this version uses cider vinegar but another type such as wine or malt can be substituted, however it should be at least 5% proof in order for the recipe to be successful.  If you substitute malt vinegar the distilled clear type will better preserve the bright colours of the ingredients.

The recipe comes from Pam Corbin and the spin off series from River Cottage, River Cottage bites.  I scribbled down the ingredients from the television and am pretty sure they are right.  I expect the full recipe is in one of the two River Cottage volumes that Pam has written but I am not sure.  Now I just have to decide which recipe to make each time!

A note on how to dry the salted cucumber and onion: Tip rinsed items into the centre of a clean tea towel, gather the corners together and making sure there are no gaps for the cucumber and onion to fly out, take outdoors and shake by flicking your arm downwards, towards the ground.  This is Pam’s method demonstrated in the series but has been our family trick for drying lettuce years before the invention of salad spinners.  (Be sure to keep away from anything you could hit and try to avoid spraying the windows or the cat!)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
(Makes 2-3 x 1lb jars)

1kg cucumber
1 medium sized onion
3-4tbsp salt (sea salt recommended if available)
300ml cider vinegar (must be 5%proof – see note above)
200g granulated sugar
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp celery seeds
2tbsp white mustard seeds
1 chopped red chilli (size to taste – removing the seeds & membranes will make it milder)

1.  Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, quarter lengthways and slice into 3-4mm thick slices.  Peel and chop the onion fairly small pieces (no larger than the pieces of cucumber).  Mix the cucumber and onion pieces together in a non metallic bowl.

2.  Sprinkle over the salt, gently toss through the cucumber and onion and leave for 2 hours.

3.  Rinse the cucumber and onion well in icy water. Taste check the cucumber and rinse again if it is too salty.  To dry see note above.

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Place the vinegar into a saucepan that will be large enough to eventually take all the ingredients. Add the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, white mustard seeds and chopped chilli.

6.   Heat gently so that the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine and bring to the boil.

7.   Add the cucumber and onion, stir and bring back to the boil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  It needs this long to destroy any bacteria which could cause the pickle to deteriorate. Any longer and the pickle will be less crisp.

8.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

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Regular readers of this site will know by now that we love a good chutney!  My previous posts for Beetroot Chutney and Tomato Relish are two of the most visited and commented on recipes that I have posted – Spiced Damson Chutney has also proved popular (see comment below – thanks Sharon!).  Here, I suspect is another favourite.  Certainly, the half quantity I made  was eagerly received and left me wondering why I had not risked making the full amount.  However, I still have lots of apples to use up – what a bumper harvest (and generous friends) – we have had this year.

I was first alerted to the recipe for Spiced Apple Chutney by Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen.  That was way back last year at the end of November when I did not have enough time (and had also just made a shipping order of different chutneys).  I made a note to have a go at making the original recipe for Spiced Apple Chutney which came from BBC Food  as it looked so good.  The amounts spice used looked rather a lot, especially the paprika, so I used scant quantities, but I think I need not have bothered.  Shaheen used Allspice rather than Mixed Spice but I am not sure why as they are not the same: it may of course be a personal tweak adding a flavour she really liked – not uncommon!  Allspice are berries from the Pimiento.  Mixed Spice is a blend of ground spices especially used in the UK which usually includes Cinnamon (or Cassia), Nutmeg, Cloves and Ginger (occasionally Allspice, Cayenne and/or Coriander as well).  It is similar to the French Quatre épices (literally four spices): pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger (sometimes substituting allspice for pepper and cinnamon for ginger), commonly used in meat dishes such as paté and terrines.   Additionally in the Netherlands (Belgium and Germany too) the Speculaas/Speculoos biscuits contain a spice mixture called (in the Netherlands) Speculaaskruiden, which is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamon and white pepper.  (I keep promising myself I will make some of these biscuits…)  Although this is rather going off on a tangent, there is an interesting post listing Spice mixtures worldwide on Wikipedia.  However, back to the chutney…  I’m thinking of putting in ginger another time in addition to what is already in the mixed spice to enhance that flavour.  The original recipe gave a choice between adding sultanas or raisins (which are similar) and as an alternative, dates.  There was never any contest for me as I would find dates just too much in what is already rather a sweet (though delicious) chutney: sultanas it was!  The only other tweak I made was to use my usual method of adding the sugar later once the other ingredients have reduced a little.  The sugar can be inclined to make the mixture burn before it has fully reduced and I find this helps to prevent this.  Overall I would recomment Spiced Apple Chutney as having a lovely mixture of sweet and spicy.  It is delicious eaten with pungent cheese, ham or pork (but I am sure it would be a good accompaniment for all meats.

Warning: Do not try to make a double batch in one pan.  Reducing the extra liquid will be difficult and leaving it to cook down for a long time could lead to the sugars burning.  I speak from experience!  I apply this rule to all home made jams and chutneys: nothing worse than a bitter burnt flavour lurking in the background.  I find using the widest saucepan I have gives the biggest surface area for the quick evaporation of liquid.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Spiced Apple Chutney
(Makes 4-6 jars)

225g/8oz onions, chopped
900g/2lb apples, cored & chopped
110g/4oz sultanas, raisins or stoned chopped dates
15g/½oz ground coriander
15g/½oz paprika
15g/½oz mixed spice
15g/½oz salt
340g/12oz granulated sugar
425ml/15fl ozs/¾ pint malt vinegar

1.  Put all the ingredients apart from the sugar into a saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer for 1 -1½ hours, stirring from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.

2.  Reduce the mixture until it has thickened.  You should be able to draw a channel across the bottom of the pan through the mixture that doesn’t close over too quickly.

3.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Continue to cook on a medium/high heat, stirring regularly to avoid burning.

4.  Continue to cook until the chutney is very thick and you can once more draw a channel across the base of the pan that does not immediately fill with liquid.

5.  Meanwhile wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

6.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

7.  Store in a cool, dark cupboard for two to three months before eating.  (Actually I opened one jar immediately to test it and it was fine: it will be interesting to try a more mature version around Christmas.)

8.  This is particularly good eaten with cheese, ham or pork.

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I certainly don’t claim to be the worlds biggest fan of tomato ketchup, but I live with people who do like it – and I admit that it has its uses.  One small bottle usually lasts quite a long time at the back of our fridge.  However I like a challenge so when I came across a recipe for home made Tomato Ketchup I thought I had better give it a try, particularly as I could see exactly what the ingredients were.  The finished result was a bit of a revelation.  If you are going to keep ketchup in the fridge then this is definitely the type to have.  Not that I will be splurging it over all my food from now on, but I will sometimes be using it in cooking (a lovely pork marinade recipe will follow soon) – and it has made my family very happy!

Celia at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial first brought this tomato ketchup recipe to my attention.  It comes from Pam Corbin who often features in the Channel 4 River Cottage television series and her book Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No 2.  Celia has two versions of Roasted Tomato Ketchup on her site.  In the first one you pre-roast and sieve the tomatoes with other ingredients to make home made passata which is then made into ketchup.  This is the quick version, which uses shop bought passata.  Using commercial passata has its disadvantages as you miss out on the flavours of the onion and garlic which are roasted with the tomatoes, however these can be added if you wish.  (Chop and fry a small chopped onion with a crushed clove of garlic in a little olive oil, without browning, before simmering with the passata and mixing with the remaining ingredients.  The pieces of of onion and garlic need to be strained from the ketchup before bottling: for a more pronounced flavour liquidise the onion and garlic into the passata before straining.)  In its form without the added onion and garlic this is a fairly speedy recipe, taking just 45 minutes from start of cooking to filled bottles.  The yield was two 300ml bottles with a little over.  The only disadvantage is that the shelf life is fairly short.  The finished ketchup must be kept in fridge and used within 4 months.  I have discovered that the remainder of a bottle close to its use by date freezes well for later use in marinade type recipes.

(This needs a better photograph – something to rectify when I make my next batch of ketchup.)

‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’ http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Speedy Tomato Ketchup

1ltr passata (or home made roasted tomato passata)
100ml white wine vinegar
50ml lemon juice (about one lemon)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 heaped teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
a few grinds of black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
100g brown sugar

1.  Put all the ingredients, apart from the sugar, in a heavy based pot.  Bring to a gentle simmer.

2.  Add the sugar and stir well until dissolved.

3.  Continue simmering for 20-30 minutes.  If the sauce is removed from the heat too early it can be rather thin so it needs to reduce until it has the usual familiar thick ketchup consistency.  It will continue to thicken a little as it cools as well.

4.  Wash the bottles well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the with boiling water and also putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each bottle and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on to seal.

5.  Taste the ketchup and adjust the seasoning if needed.

6.  Using a sterilised funnel, pour the ketchup into the prepared bottle, screw on the tops.  Allow to cool and label.

7.  The ketchup must be stored in the fridge.  The original recipe states that it will keep for up to four months.  Any ketchup close to its use by date can be frozen.

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I don’t know what your favourite Chinese dish is, but anything containing duck seems to rate very highly in our house.  Duck with pancakes is regularly ordered when we visit a Chinese restaurant but I don’t think I would attempt the crispy duck or the special pancakes. Duck with Plum Sauce is just as popular whilst being much less complicated and when I came across this simple recipe I knew it would be well received.  The aromatic spiced sharp sweetness of the plum sauce is a perfect contrast for the rich flavour of the simply pan fried and beautifully crispy duck.  I first made it last November for my husband’s birthday supper using duck legs and then once again in this March as part of the Chinese banquet I served for mum’s birthday, instead using duck breasts.  I know I will be making it again.

The original recipe for Duck Breasts with Plum Sauce came from the November 2010 issue of the ASDA Free instore magazine.  It is a useful dish as the sauce can be made in advance and the duck cooked fairly quickly just before it is needed, initially on the hob before being finished in the oven. The amount of sauce is very generous and is enough for at least 8 people, if not more (though 6-8 if you like a large serving).  On both occasions I ended up freezing half of the sauce for later use.  I need to remember to halve it on another occasion but meantime I have sauce to use up!  The sauce would also be delicious with pork, whether a roast joint, chops or belly strips and also with chicken.  It could also be used as a pork marinade in a similar way to that used in the recipe for Aromatic Finger Lickin’ Pork.  As one of several dishes, I served this on a bed of shredded lettuce, cucumber sticks and tomato wedges.  As a single main dish I would serve it with plain or egg fried rice and a dish of stir fried vegetables.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Duck with Chinese Style Plum Sauce
(Serves 4)
4 small Duck Breasts (as a main course – one or two breasts if serving several dishes)
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 garlic clove, choppedcrushed
1cm/½inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled & grated
350g/12ozs plums, halved & stoned
2tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp white sugar
1tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2tbsp Soy Sauce
1tbsp sweet chilli sauce

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2.  Remove the duck from the fridge and pat the skin with kitchen paper to remove any moisture before leaving it at room temperature, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

3.  Make shallow, parallel cuts in the duck breast skin, being careful not to slice right through the skin to the meat.

4.  Heat the oil in a pan and gently cook the garlic and ginger on a low heat for 1 minute.

5.  Add the plums, vinegar, sugar, five-spice, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce.  Cover the pan and gently simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and simmer the sauce for a further 5-10 minutes to reduce.

6.  Liquidise to make a thick smooth sauce and return to the pan to keep warm.

7.  Meanwhile, gently heat a large frying pan and cook the duck, skin-side down, on a medium heat, for 5 minutes.  Thee skin should become golden brown and start to crisp.

8.  Drain off the fat and reserve – it is delicious for roasting potatoes. Turn over the duck and cook on the other side for 1 minute more.

9.  Transfer the duck into a roasting tin and place in the pre-heated oven, skin-side up, for 9-15 minutes, depending on how pink you like your duck meat.

10.  When cooked, leave the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Then slice and place on a serving dish on a bed of lettuce, cucumber and tomato.  Alternatively place unsliced onto a plate and serve with Chinese style rice and stir fried vegetables.

11.  The sauce should be reheated to serve with the duck, either poured over or alongside in a small serving jug .

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Prunes: love them or hate them?  Perhaps it is the humourous asides that accompany their mention – perhaps it’s memories of school dinners – I don’t know, after all, they are simply dried plums and if you like plums I cannot understand why you would not like prunes as well.  So, let’s hear it for the much maligned but versatile prune!  How do I eat them?  Well stewed, of course, hot or cold, which is the simplest way but I also put them in fruit cakes and even, in spite of my dislike of meat and fruit together, in a Moroccan style dish we love of chicken.  Now I have a new way…

I came across this recipe recently whilst leafing through one of my favourite chutney and pickle books The Penguin Book of Jams, Pickles & Chutneys by David & Rose Mabey and is extremely simple.  The instructions say it goes well with ham and I plan to make sure it goes on the table at Christmas & New Year.  I tried a quarter quantity using inexpensive supermarket Value brand prunes and was able to almost fill two attractive tall jam jars, just having to add a few extra prunes (say 50g) for good measure to top up the jars.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pickled Prunes
(Makes around 1½lb)

8-10ozs/250-300g no soak pitted (stoneless) prunes
2ozs/125g sugar (I used white)
1 small blade of mace – original used a pinch each of ground nutmeg & mace
12 black peppercorns
½pint/10fl ozs/300ml white malt vinegar
½tbsp brandy (optional)

(As I was using no soak prunes I omitted the step soaking them in water overnight until plump and juicy, before draining.)  However … 

1.  … if the prunes seem a little dry cover with boiling water.  Leave for 5-10 minutes to plump up before draining well. 

2.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water  from the lids as possible before filling.

3.  Place the sugar,vinegar and spices in a small pan.  Boil for about 10 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and the flavours to permeate the vinegar.

4.  Pack the prunes into prepared jars, using extra prunes if necessary.

5.  Adding brandy is optional and if using it should be divided equally between the jars before adding the vinegar mixture.

6.  Place the peppercorns and mace blade in the jar (cut the blade into pieces if you have more than one jar) and finally pour the vinegar over the prunes.

7.  Put the lids on the jars and invert until cool, which helps with the seal.

8.  These prunes can be eaten immediately but are better kept a few weeks or even months.  They have a spicy slightly sharp flavour and are good eaten with cold ham.

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I have been thinking ahead to Christmas cooking as some of the recipes need to be made in advance to allow the flavours to mature. I will make our Christmas cake, Christmas Pudding, Christmas Chutney and Mincemeat very soon but first here is the recipe for some delicious spiced pears.  These are good served with cold meats or cheese at a festive seasonal buffet.

The recipe comes from the Hairy Bikers BBC Christmas television series The Hairy Bikers Twelve Days of Christmas.  They credit Italian chef Antonio Carluccio as their inspiration.  I followed the original recipe for Pickled Pears almost exactly using 2lb jars (which had originally been full of Mincemeat).  Kilner type preserving jars would be ideal if available.  These pears should be eaten within two months and stored in the fridge once the jar is opened, so if you are unlikely to eat a large quantity in one go it could be a good idea to make smaller jars containing just one or two pears.  Juniper Berries are becoming easier to find, though still not widely available in the UK.  I have a small jar, bought from the herb and spice section of a French supermarket which is labelled Baies de Genièvre.  The original recipe did not specify the size of pear, but I chose small evenly sized ones, digging into the bottom and removing the end opposite to the stalk.  These are designed to be served whole on a buffet with slices cut from them by diners, but I wonder if  pear quarters might be a good alternative to whole pears.  I think too that peach or plum halves would be delicious prepared to the same recipe and even perhaps mixed in the same jar – something to try another year! 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pickled Pears
(Makes 2 or 3 large jars)

1 litre/1¾ pints white wine vinegar
0.5 litres/17½fl oz water
500g/1lb 2oz caster sugar
3 small star anise
1 large cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (one for each jar)
1 tbsp allspice berries
1 lemon, zest peeled off in a large strip with a potato peeler
½ tsp cloves
2 tsp juniper berries
20 evenly sized small Conference pears, peeled with stalks intact
Small sprigs fresh rosemary (one for each jar)

1.  Place the water, vinegar, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, lemon zest, cloves and juniper berries in a large, lidded, non-reactive pan and bring to the boil.

2.  Peel the pears carefully leaving the stalks intact.  I like to gently dig out the end opposite the stalk.  Add the pears to the saucepan and cover the pan with a lid.  Reduce the heat and let the pears simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until they are tender.

3.  Carefully remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4.  Bring the liquid back to the boil for 4-5 minutes so it is slightly reduced and thickened.  (In practice I found it best not to overdo this step as it is important to have enough liquid to top up the jars after they have been filled with pears.)

5.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

6.  Remove the spices from the liquid and return it to the pan on a low simmer to keep it hot.  Divide the pears between the sterilised jars, handling them gently as they will be soft but packing them in as tightly as possible. As you fill the jars equally distribute the spices and lemon rind between them, at the same time adding one small sprig of rosemary to each jar.  Finally divide the reduced cooking liquid equally between the jars.   (I found that the jars were not filled right to the top so I topped them up with some freshly boiled water from the kettle, hence my comment above about not boiling the mixture away too much.) 

7.  Seal the jars tightly.  I find that inverting the hot jars, until they are cool, helps with the seal.

8.  These pickled pears can be stored for up two months.  They can be eaten after one week but once the jar is opened it should be stored in the fridge and eaten within two weeks.

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Having made Crab Apple Jelly my recipe recommended that the remaining pulp in the jelly bag be made into Crab Apple cheese, a thick sweet puree, so never one to be wasteful I gave it a go.   Fruit cheeses can be so thick that they can be turned out with slices cut from them and were a feature of Victorian dinner tables.  Crab Apple cheese was eaten at Christmas time as a dessert, studded with hazelnuts and decorated with whipped cream, alongside a second dark coloured cheese made from Damsons.  As with apple sauce, it can also be served with cold meats.   The instruction was to sieve the apple pulp to remove the peel, cores and seeds.  These had not been removed as they were necessary to give a high pectin content to the jelly.  There was a sizeable amount of pulp but sieving the pulp was very time consuming and in the end I gave up.  I think an old fashioned mouli blender may have been more successful (the sort that used to be used before the advent of liquidisers and food processors.  In the end I opted to remove the pieces of peel, which thankfully were quite large, by hand, taking out any large pieces of core and seeds as well.  Then I used my metal potato masher to turn the whole mixture into a puree. 

The recipe, as with the one for Crab Apple Jelly, was from The Penguin Book of Jams, Pickles & Chutneys by David & Rose Mabey.  The resulting puree was very sweet indeed.  We ate it with pork but we have also found it is equally as good eaten as jam.  I think it would be good spread on slices of bread and made into a Bread & Butter Pudding.  This version is simply apple and sugar, with no other flavourings as recommended by the original recipe which said the wonderful flavour of the apples would speak for themselves. I have seen other versions which are flavoured with cinnamon or ginger.  Would I make this again?  Probably, just because I don’t like to see waste, however I would have to think of a way of making it less time consuming, perhaps by removing the peels, cores and seeds but still cooking them in a small bag within the jelly bag, possibly.  I wonder if anyone reading this has had a similar experience and how they solved the lengthy sieving process?  Your comments and thoughts would be welcomed!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Crab Apple Cheese

Puree left over from Crab Apple Jelly
Sugar (amount equal to weight of sieved puree)
Straight sided jars, or similar, so that the cheese can be turned out.

1.  After making the Crab Apple Jelly, turn out the puree in the jelly bag and sieve to remove pips and skins.  These are laborious to remove but it is important that they are included in the mixture as they add to the flavour. 

2.  For each 1lb/545g of pulp weigh out 1lb/545g of sugar.

3.  Discard the peels and pips and place the pulp in a saucepan.  Stir in the sugar and cook until it is dissolved.  Cook until very thick. 

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

9.  Pot into the prepared jars.  Cool and label.  The cheese should be kept for several months and may shrink slightly in storage, which is normal.  Serve as a dessert or with cold meats.

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On a bright and sunny mid September day my eye was drawn to a small tree of what I thought were probably crab apples, but not a variety I had ever seen before.  They were the size of small plums but the colour of pale red cherries, the tree thick and the ground carpeted with the fallen fruit.  This same day we had made our annual trip to Plum Corner, this year sadly (and literally) unfruitful, so there were containers in the car which I filled instead with the fallen crab apples.  Some research when I arrived home indicated that this was a variety of  Crab Apple (or Malus) called ‘John Downie’.  I don’t remember seeing such pretty crab apples before, usually the ones I see are yellow ( a variety called ‘Golden Hornet’).  I also read that the best place to gather the fruit was, as I had done, from the ground.  My initial intention was to extract the pectin to help with jam making, however I also planted some of the fruit.  Eventually I wouldn’t mind my own little tree, though I’m not worried about growing one that would yield enough fruit for cooking purposes!

 

Expecting the liquid to be very sour I was pleasantly surprised at its sweetness, with just a slight sharpness, once it was strained through the jelly bag so I wondered if I could use it for something other than just pectin.  In The Penguin Book of Jams, Pickles & Chutneys by David & Rose Mabey there was a recipe for Crab Apple Jelly where the resulting fruit pulp could then be turned into Crab Apple Cheese.  As I love the idea of wasting nothing I had to give it a go, retaining just a little juice for pectin for my jam, which I froze.   This variety of Crab Apple gives a jelly that is fiery red in colour and other varieties will give different shades, but all are delicious with pork.  My only complaint about the jelly is the inevitable small yield from what seems a good quantity of apples, but this is the case with any fruit jelly product.  Under no circumstances should you be tempted to squeeze the jelly bag to extract more juice, as you are aiming for a clear jelly and the squeezing will make the juice cloudy.  In the end be thankful for the small amount you get.  Just enjoy its wonderful colour and clarity.

Crab Apple Jelly (Malus ‘John Downie’ or another variety)

Crab Apples
A small amount of water
Sugar

1.   Collect a good amount of apples and wash them well.

2.  Chop them up without peeling or coring and put them in a large saucepan with a very small amount of water (just enough to stop the apples from burning and sticking to the pan).  Cook over a gentl heat until they are soft, stirring occasionally.

3.  Stretch a jelly bag over a jug and spoon in the apple mixture.  Suspend the jelly bag above the jug and allow to drip at least overnight, but preferably for 24hours.  Do not squeeze the contents of the bag at any point or the juice will become cloudy.

4.  Reserve the apple pulp for crab apple cheese, if you wish.

5.  Measure the strained liquid and weigh out 1lb sugar for each pint of strained juice.

6.  Dissolve the sugar in the juice in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil.  (If you have obtained a large quantity of juice then it may be appropriate to use a larger saucepan.)

7.  Turn the heat down a little and, stirring regularly, reduce the liquid until it starts to set.  (I small amount dripped onto a saucer than has been in the freezer will wrinkle when pushed if it is ready.)

8.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

9.  Pot into the prepared jars.  Cool and label.

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The English Lake District holds many happy childhood memories for me.  Each summer we visited my grandparents who lived at Arnside on Morecambe Bay, in what was then called Westmorland (a county name that is sadly no longer used, being part of Cumbria since 1974).  We had many day trips to the lakes and fells for picnics and walking.  A few weeks ago I happened upon a daytime programme on Channel 4 called Lakes on a Plate, which promised good scenery with food and recipes.  I am currently working my way through what turned out to be a series of about 20 half hour programmes. 

One early Lakes on a Plate programme included a sausage roll recipe, but with a twist: Peter Sidwell, a chef who is also the presenter, added home made Fennel & Apple Chutney.  I was intrigued as this was a chutney I had not heard of before.  Fennel has, of course, a mild aniseed flavour.  The flavour can be found in flavoured alcoholic drinks such as the French Pastis, Greek Ouzo and other similar drinks, although these are usually made from distilled Star Anise, which is an asian spice unrelated to fennel.  In the UK you can buy boiled hard sweets such as aniseed balls and aniseed cough candy or twist where the flavouring comes from oil of Aniseed, a border herb with an umbrella shaped flowerhead but also sometimes from Fennel seeds.  Both seeds can also be used as part of a spice mixture or in cooked dishes and breads.   This recipe uses Fennel, sometimes called Florence Fennel, a white bulb often topped with green feathery fronds, which can be sliced or finely chopped into savoury dishes, or baked and is often used in fish dishes, although not exclusively.  (Find more recipes and mentions of Fennel  on this site.)  As I have mixed feelings about aniseed flavour (disliking the drink, but loving aniseed sweets and fennel in food) I decided to make just a half quantity of the recipe, but I wish now I had made more!  The flavour is delicate and sweet rather than overpowering and it is delicious and unusual spread on toast: a sort of Fennel & Apple Marmalade.  I am still deciding how I might incorporate this chutney in recipes and other than the sausage rolls of the original recipe, what else it could be used in.  I am not a great sausage roll fan, probably because when they appear on buffets they tend to be greasy apologies with fatty pastry and poor quality sausage.  I think, however, that these sausage rolls containing fennel and apple chutney would be in a different league altogether.  I fully intend to use this to make a Sausagemeat Plait in the very near future, just as soon as I have found and bought the good quality sausagement it deserves.  The quantities of apple and onion are a little unclear in the original recipe: I used aproximately the same weight of each as the fennel bulb and I chose to finely chop rather than follow the original instruction to roughly chop them.  I also used my usual method of adding the sugar later, once the vinegar has mostly gone, to lessen the risk of burning the chutney.  This recipe does not make a large quantity, so watch out for when fennel is being sold off on your market at the end of the summer or early autumn and stock up.  I find uncooked fennel bulbs, quartered, freeze reasonably well.

Warning: Do not try to make a double batch in one pan.  Reducing the extra liquid will be difficult and leaving it to cook down for a long time could lead to the sugars burning.  I speak from experience!  I apply this rule to all home made jams and chutneys: nothing worse than a bitter burnt flavour lurking in the background.  I find using the widest saucepan I have gives the biggest surface area for the quick evaporation of liquid.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Fennel & Apple Chutney
(Makes aprox 2 x 1lb jars)

2 fennel bulbs
1 onion (weighing the same as the fennel)
1 apple (weighing the same as the fennel)
100ml white wine vinegar
350g white sugar
1tsp fennel seeds
Salt & pepper

1. Finely chop the fennel and onion.  Place in a medium sized heavy pan with a drizzle of olive oil.  Cook on a medium heat until soft, making sure they do not start to brown. 

2.  Meanwhile peel, core and finely chop the apple.  Add to the pan and continue to cook the mixture for a few more minutes. 

3.  Add the white wine vinegarand fennel seeds. Continue to cook for a further 20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half and is thick. 

4.  Add the sugar and reduce until thick once more. Season with salt and pepper and leave to cool.

5.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

6.  Pot into the prepared jars.  Cool and label.  I find that chutneys are best stored for about four weeks to mature before eating.

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