Apple jelly

When we moved into our house there were a small little apple tree one corner of the garden. The first year we lived there it produced about three apples. Fast forward eight years and the tree hasn’t grown much {it keeps getting battered it in the wind and seems to have decided it’s safer to hide behind the fence}, the crop on the other hand has increased tremendously – this year we got about three large bowlfuls!  IMG_2806_small

After a few apple crumbles I started thinking about what else I could use all the apples for. They were a bit tart so the kids weren’t keen on just eating them, however I remember having bought some lovely apple jelly a few years ago.  A quick google came up with several good recipes, in the end I settled for one by David Lebovitz.

When making jelly you need a jelly strainer, to strain the fruit juices from the fruit pulp. I was only able to find a jelly strainer bag and not a stand, which the bag is usually attached to and placed on top of a bowl. The instructions for the strainer bag did suggest attaching a hook underneath a shelf to hang the bag from. Our kitchen cabinets are ridiculously low though, and I didn’t fancy attaching a hook to them, so I improvised and stuck a wooden spoon between the handles of two of the cabinets and hung the bag from it – it worked a treat!

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If you can’t find a strainer bag, a clean muslin or tea towel can be used – one site recommended sterilising it by ironing it then lining a mesh sieve or just tie the ends into a knot and find a way of hanging it – do note that the apple pulp tends to be quite heavy, so it needs to be hung from something that can carry the weight.

Apple jelly

Apple jelly

Ingredients
2 kg apples
900g sugar
1 lemon, juice only
water to cover the apples

Method 
1) Rinse the apples and cut them into chunks, removing any bruised bits. There is no need to peel them first, or to remove the pips – just add it all to a large stock pot {I ended up having to use the two largest pots I had, neither which are proper stock pots, as I had so many apples}
2) Cover the apples with water, cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, leave the lid askew, or take it off, and simmer the apples for about 30 minutes, until they are soft.
3) Place the jelly strainer over a large bowl and ladle the apple and liquid into the jelly bag. Most recipes recommend to leave overnight or at least 3 hours. I left mine for about 3 hours and by the end of that time there was no more liquid coming though. It’s important to NOT try to push the fruit down to extract more juice as this will result in a cloudy jelly.
4) Measure out the strained liquid and add 150g sugar per 250ml juice. Add the juice, sugar and lemon juice to a pot and bring to a boil. I found that jelly takes a lot longer to set than jam – some more lemon juice would possibly have helped it set faster, but I only had one lemon at the time. The jelly should set at 104C however, at this point mine was still a runny mess. About half an hour later {at least!} and after about a third of the liquid had reduced mine finally set. David Lebovitz mentions his took time to set as well, his didn’t didn’t set until at 110C, and although mine started setting at 108C I left it to 110C just to be sure it wouldn’t be too loose.
If you don’t have a candy or digital thermometer, spoon a little bit onto a chilled saucer {I kept a few in the freezer while I was making the jelly to keep them chilled}. Return the saucer to the freezer for a minute or so and then run a finger gently through the jelly – if it wrinkles it’s set and is ready to pour into jars,  skiming away any white scum that rises to the surface beforehand. {I found it easiest to do this once I had taken the saucepan off the heat}
5) Make sure you have sterilised you jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinse with hot water then place in a low oven (about 100C) to dry and sterilise. Take one jar out of the oven at the time when you are ready to add the jelly to them.
6) Ladle the jelly into jars and screw the lids on tightly. I ended up with 5.5 jars of varying sizes, the largest ones probably held approximately 300ml.

The jelly is lovely with pork, as an alternative to the traditional apple sauce, or with cheese and biscuits.

Apple and jelly

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Cheese tart

It’s been a very busy few weeks lately with three birthdays, visiting parents, holidays and a kids birthday party. A lot of baking and not so much time to update the blog, but it’s time to rectify that now!

Starting with something savoury in the shape of a cheese tart, which we had for a starter when our parents came round for dinner. The recipe is based on a Swedish recipe for a tart made with Västerbotten cheese – a hard cheese that is somewhat similar to Parmesan. As I wasn’t able to get hold of Västerbotten cheese, I substituted it with Parmesan instead. I have also used 1 part Cheddar cheese and 2 parts Parmesan cheese in the past when making it for a buffet.

Cheese tart uncooked

In order to save time I decided to go with ready-made pastry, but I have included the ingredients for the pastry below if you want to make it from scratch. The tart ended up a bit on the dark side – it still tasted great, but I should probably have covered it with some tin foil or baking parchment towards the end of the cooking to keep it golden rather than brown.

Allow the tart to cool to room temperature before serving. Serve with a green salad and possibly a dollop of creme fraiche.

Cheese tart - cooked

Ingredients
Pastry:
300 ml plain flour
125 g cold butter, cubed
2 tbsp cold water

Cheese filling:
3 eggs
200 ml single cream
200 g Västerbottens or Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
freshly ground black pepper

Pastry
1) Combine flour and the cold butter in your food processor and process until you’ve got coarse crumbs.
2) Add the cold water and process again, until the dough comes together.
3) Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Rest in the fridge for 30 – 60 minutes.
4) Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, large enough to fill a 26 cm tart tin.Transfer the pastry dough into the tin, prick the bottom with a fork.
5) Blind bake in a 200 C oven for about 15 minutes.

Filling
1) Whisk the eggs and cream until combined, then season with pepper (no salt is needed as the cheese is salt enough).
2) Add the grated cheese.
3) Pour into the pastry case and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is set and the tart is golden.

Cheese tart

Raspberry and Blueberry jam

At the weekend we made another trip to the pick-your-own farm to stock up on raspberries for some more jam making, having had great fun making strawberry jam after our previous trip there. Unfortunately they don’t grow blueberries, which I needed for the raspberry and blueberry jam (or Queen jam as it’s known in Sweden) so we had to pick them up from our local supermarket.

Berries for jam

The jam took longer to set this time around, so I added lemon juice to help with the setting process, and that seems to do the trick.

Jam boiling

Raspberry and Blueberry Jam (Queen Jam)
Ingredients

500g raspberries
500g blueberries
1kg jam sugar
juice of 1 lemon
knob of butter

Blueberry Jam

Raspberry Jam
Ingredients
1kg raspberries
1kg jam sugar
juice of 1 lemon
knob of butter

Raspberry Jam

Method
1) Put 3 saucers in the freezer
2) Wash the jam jars in hot soapy water, rinse with hot water then place in a low oven (about 100C) to dry and sterilise.
3) Crush the berries with a potato masher and place them in a saucepan
4) Add the sugar and lemon juice and heat gently over a low heat until the sugar has fully dissolved
5) Add a knob of butter, stir until melted and disolved
6) Increase the heat and bring the jam to a rolling boil that bubbles vigorously, rises in the pan and can not be stirred down
7) Start timing and boil for 4 minutes or until temperature reaches 104C on a jam thermometer. Keep stirring the whole time to stop the jam sticking to the bottom.
8) Remove from heat. Take one of the saucers out of the freezer, pour some jam onto it and leave to cool, or put back into the freezer for 1 minute
9) Gently run your finger through the jam – if the surface wrinkles it is ready. If not, return to the boil for 2 minutes, then re-test. Ensure you keep stirring the jam if bringing it back to the boil to prevent it from burning (Go on, ask me how I know that!!)
10) Once the jam is ready, take a jam jar out of the oven at the time and pour the jam into the jar using a ladle and jam funnel, or using a jug (if you like me don’t have a jam funnel)
11) Place a wax disc on top of the jam, making sure it covers the whole surface.
12) Cover the jar with the jar lid or with Cellophane and a rubber band (which usually comes with the wax discs)

Raspberry and Blueberry Jam

Fruity frozen yogurt

One of the best things about blogging is that you do things you may not have done otherwise, in this case trying new recipes that I for different reasons may not have gotten around to otherwise. And once I have done it, I wonder why on earth I didn’t do it earlier!!

Frozen yogurt is something I have been thinking about making for quite some time but have never got around to. I finally decided to have a go the other day in order to use up the last of the raspberries, that were hiding in the back of the freezer, from our trip to the pick-your-own farm last year in preparation for this year’s visit to the fruit farm.

I vaguely remembered having seen a recipe in Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals and it turned out there was not one but three recipes in there – they were all pretty much the same though; frozen berries + yogurt + sweetener = frozen yogurt

I tried using raspberries the first time, mixing them with Greek style yogurt and some honey. The result was fantastic! I couldn’t believe how easy it was!! I had been worried that it would melt quickly, but it held it’s nice soft ice-cream texture. The kids weren’t too keen on the honey flavour coming through to so I’ll probably just use a bit of icing sugar the next time instead.

Today we tried a different flavour – banana. It’s usually pretty rare to have bananas lying around our house, as both hubby and teddybear are going through them like they are going out of fashion, but ever since teddybear was unwell a few weeks ago he’s not been back to his normal banana-inhaling mode, and when he has had one he hasn’t finished it.  So, for once we had a few sitting in the fruit basket, gathering more and more brown spots (which means hubby won’t touch them). When teddybear only had a couple of bites of a banana the other day before declaring he didn’t want any more, I decided to chop up the rest of the banana along with the ones that were going brown in the fruit basket and stick in the freezer. Today, after tea, I got the sliced banana out, stuck it in the mixer with some yogurt and got whizzing. It took a little while to get it smooth, as some of the banana slices were stuck together in big clumps, but we got there in the end. I think next time I will try to freeze the banana in single layers instead of chucking them all into a bag to prevent them from becoming one big lump. Anyhow, the end result was delicious! Definitely something I will do again, I’m already looking forward to trying out new flavours. We don’t always have ice cream in the house but we always have yogurt and it’s practically as quick to whip this up as it is to try to scoop rock hard ice cream.

I didn’t add any sweetener to the banana mixture as bananas are usually pretty sweet anyway, particularly very ripe ones. If using other fruit, add about a table spoon of honey, icing sugar, golden syrup or maple syrup (or whatever other sweetener you prefer) and add more if needed once mixed.

Banana frozen yogurt
Ingredients
4-6 bananas, cut into slices and frozen for at least 6 hours
200-250g yogurt

Method
Put the frozen banana slices and yogurt into a mixer and mix until smooth.

Banana frozen yogurt

Update – added recipe for raspberry frozen yogurt

Raspberry frozen yogurt
Ingredients
500g frozen raspberries
500g yogurt
1 tbsp (or to taste) icing sugar, honey or other sweetener

Method
Put all the ingredients into a mixer and mix until smooth.
Taste and add more sweetener if needed