Comfort me with apples

This has been a brilliant year for apples. Everywhere I go in Liverpool I have found trees dripping with apples. I have been given bushels of them by generous friends and even my cat Csardas got in on the act, bringing me an apple from next door’s tree. I do love an apple. I totally subscribe to the “one a day, keeps the doctor away” maxim and consume at least one every day. I love their variety – from the sharp almost wince making tang of a Granny Smith to the rough skinned but juicy Russet to the sweet Royal Gala. Aside from the so called dessert apples, we also have the wonderful Bramley – tart but flavoursome, with flesh that turns into a glorious fluffy puree when cooked; and the crab apple – wild fruit that makes clear apple jelly perfect for adding spices or herbs to .

I always make apple chutney – a spicy condiment with chilli, cloves and turmeric that goes fabulously with cheese. I also make apple jellies, taking immense satisfaction from the resultant clear viscosity, ranging in shade from pale gold to dark red depending on the skin of the apple used. What I haven’t done hitherto though is made much jam using apples, other than pairing them with brambles for the classic autumn jam. I’ve been ruminating on uses for apples – turnovers, tarte tatins, crumbles, pies – all of which involve the addition of sugar, spices such as cloves and cinnamon or caramel. Why not take those flavour profiles and make a jam? It’s not a new idea, there are various apple jam recipes available but I wanted to make an Apple Pie Jam – partly because I’ve been playing with traditional dessert flavours in jams and curds recently – rhubarb custard curd, black forest gateau jam, peach melba jam etc.

Bit of research yielded the following recipe from www.nutmegsseven.co.uk, which I’ve slightly tweaked to suit my own taste buds. Apple Pie Jam. It’s a thing you NEED in your life.

Apple Pie Jam (makes approximately 11 x 190g jars):

1.5 kg cooking apples (weighed after peeling and coring), half finely diced, half finely sliced
1 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
1 tsp allspice
1kg granulated sugar
325g dark muscovado sugar
Juice of 1 lemons
275g stoned dates, roughly chopped

Put the peeled apples (add the lemon juice as you chop them to prevent them browning too much) in a large pan with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, dates, sugar and two tea cups of water. Slowly heat until the sugar starts to melt and the apples release their juice. Increase the heat, stirring regularly to prevent the sugar catching on the bottom of the pan and burning. Put a small plate in the freezer.

Bring to the boil and boil until the apples have softened and the liquid has started to turn golden and reduce and the dates have begun to dissolve (you will still have some chunks of apple left through) – about 15-20 minutes. Continue to simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes but keep stirring regularly to stop it burning on the bottom – be careful and wear oven gloves for this and use a long handled spoon, as it can bubble up suddenly and scald you.

To test for a set, spoon a small amount of jam onto the cold plate from the freezer and run your finger down the middle – if it wrinkles and parts cleanly, then it’s ready. If not, continue to boil for a little while longer.

Decant into sterilised jars, (I pour just boiled water from the kettle into jars then dry them upside down in the oven at 120C for half an hour), and seal while warm to create a vacuum.

Allow to cool before labelling. Absolutely delicious on hot crumpets and also rather nice stirred into plain yogurt over porridge.

Rhubarb, rhubarb

So wittering on Twitter in my usual fashion and I got into conversation with Grown With Love. In case you’ve not heard of them, @GrownWithLove is the twitter tag for Barfoots – a sustainable farm business based in the South of England http://www.barfoots.com/products-services/grown-with-love/
Anyway, upshot of the conversation was that they very kindly offered to send me some rhubarb. Now I don’t know about you but I LOVE rhubarb – something about those sharp, pinky green stems really works for me. And of course now is the time to eat the homegrown stuff.

picture of rhubarb

Rhubarb from Grown With Love

Rhubarb is in fact a vegetable, but like the tomato (strictly speaking a fruit that is eaten as a savoury) it is treated in the opposite way ie as a sweet item. It matches beautifully with ginger, cardamom and vanilla spices; and likes orange, almonds and strawberries. Of course, you can keep things simple and just gently poach the rhubarb with a little water and sugar to taste, which will make a lovely rhubarb compote perfect for swirling into plain yogurt.

I like to make rhubarb jam – this year I’ve mixed it with cardamom to create a gorgeous pale pink, orange spiced jam that goes rather well with a scone. Wash 1 kilo of rhubarb and slice into 1/2 inch chunks. Put in pan with a splash of water – literally just enough to stop the fruit from sticking to the pan base as it heats. Crack open 6 cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle and give them a good bashing to smash up the seeds and husk. Add to the rhubarb and let it simmer on a gentle heat until the rhubarb releases all its juices and becomes soft strands. Add 650g granulated sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook until the jam is thickened and drips off the spoon in big flakes – or use the wrinkle test – dollop a spoonful on a chilled saucer (taking jam off the heat while you check for the set or you’ll wind up with toffee) and let it cool, then push with your finger to “wrinkle” the surface – if that happens, the jam is ready, if it’s still runny, cook a little longer. This jam doesn’t set particularly hard but you want to spoon it not drink it…

I wanted to try something else though, I toyed with the idea of a rhubarb cake but hey, I always make cake. Then I thought about almonds. More specifically, a rhubarb frangipane tart, maybe with a little splash of Amaretto? See where I’m going with this? Patisserie is not my forte – I can make it taste good, but glamorous fiddling about with precision decoration isn’t me. So excuse the pictures of the tart – others will make it look far better but I can assure you it tasted very very nice indeed.

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

Pastry Case:

(Shop bought pastry gives me indigestion – so I make my own but feel free to use a good ready made sweet crust pastry – no judging here!)

175g plain flour

25g icing sugar

125g unsalted butter, chilled and diced

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons cold water

Frangipane Filling

3 tablespoons rhubarb jam (or use raspberry or strawberry)

400g roasted rhubarb – wash and chop into 1 inch pieces and roast in 180C oven for 15 to 20 minutes until tender.

3 eggs

1 egg yolk

110g caster sugar

110g unsalted butter, melted

110g ground almonds

2 tablespoons of Amaretto (optional but NICE)

Handful of flaked almonds.

Make pastry by sifting together flour and icing sugar. Rub in cold butter with fingertips or using a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix egg yolk with cold water and add to the flour/ butter mix to bring it together into a soft dough. Handle gently! Shape into a flat disc and chill for half an hour. Roll out the pastry and use to line a 23 cm loose bottomed tart tin. Prick the base with a fork and put back in fridge to chill and firm up for another half hour. Preheat oven to 200C/ 400F or GM6.  Line pastry with baking parchment and fill with dried beans or scrunched up foil. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the parchment and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Turn oven down to 180C/ 350F/ GM4

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Make filling by mixing  eggs and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add Amaretto if using and the melted butter. Mix well then fold in the ground almonds.  Spread jam over the cooled pastry base, and top with the rhubarb pieces. Spoon over the frangipane topping and smooth.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle over the almonds and return to the oven to bake for another 10 minutes until the filling is golden brown and just set – it should wobble a little.

Serve with ice cream

Served with ice cream

 

 

Serve with lashings of cream or vanilla ice cream.

Thanks again Grown With Love!