Category: Core Recipes
I’m thinking jam. Tis the season with the berries and stone fruits harvesting.
We have become very accustomed to fruits available all the year round, but you will find they have nowhere near the same level of flavour. Fruits are fleeting, lasting only a few weeks, but there is a way to capture that moment — jam. But not jam as you might know it, but a spoonful of deliciousness that tastes like the fruit it is, with just enough sweetness to bring out it’s full flavour. A snapshot of the season in a jar. Now I am often asked can you make jam with something other than sugar, or less sugar and the answer is complex, and included below. So here it all is – as Wholefood Baking is currently out of print, I’ve put the recipe here for you. I promise you that once you know the hows, it’s very easy. But there are rules….
The only fruit to use is that which is ripe, preferably organic and in season. Fruits such as this are bursting with natural sweetness, colour with enormous complexity and luscious flavour. The jam (it’s a universal recipe) here relies less on sugar, and more so on technique to capture the true complexity and glory of fruit flavour — it is a snapshot of the fruit at its best and the season. Jams are very easy to make, and will store in the pantry for up to one year. On a cold winter’s day, when you take that batch of scones out of the oven, you will thank yourself for your stash of homemade jams and the colour and taste of summer will lift your spirits.
Technically, the object of preserving is to slow down the process of decay. Food spoils from the continued activity of natural enzymes in all fruits and vegetables and the continued work of microorganisms in the form of moulds, yeasts and bacteria present in the food and air.
SUGAR, PECTIN AND ACID
Jam relies on sugar to saturate the natural moisture of the fruit and thus preserve it. I am often asked if something other than sugar can be used to make jam — the answer is complex. Many of the sugar-free jams you see are made with white grape juice concentrate, use pectin and have been processed in a boiling-water bath. Because there is not enough sucrose to saturate the fruit and preserve it (and this is true of many other non-sucrose based sweeteners, such as stevia, agave and brown rice syrup), the boiling-water bath is the preserving method. I prefer to use one of the semi-refined organic raw sugars (not rapadura, which is too low in sucrose and too strong in flavour)( I like to use the Billingtons Golden Castor Sugar) in the smallest possible amount, this allows the glorious flavour of the fruit to shine through. Most jam recipes call for equal quantities of sugar to fruit by weight. You need about 60–70 per cent sugar for good gelling to occur naturally (sugar, pectin, acidity). I find this way too much sugar and prefer a ratio of 20–40 per cent sugar to fruit, but this will vary with the fruit — tart fruit will require more, and sweet fruit will require less. Because the holy trinity of sugar, pectin and acid is disrupted, this will result in a softer ‘set’, which I happen to prefer.
Pectin is a carbohydrate that helps to ‘set’ jam. It is particularly concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit. The conversion of the pre-curser substances to pectin occurs naturally during ripening but can also be forced by long cooking, as in the traditional methods of making jam without added pectin. Fruits vary in how much pectin, or pectin pre-cursers, they contain. Pectin produces structure and a kind of stiffness in jam by forming a water-holding network within the crushed fruit. Before gelling starts, individual molecules of pectin are surrounded and isolated from each other by water molecules. If the surrounding solution is acidic enough, the pectin loses some of its attraction for these isolating water molecules. Sour fruit will normally provide enough acid to take care of this step. If the acid content of the fruit is low, lemon juice can be added to make the fruit mixture more acidic. Once the pectin has loosened its hold on the water molecules, something more attractive must pull the water away from the pectin — this is the role of sugar. With its water stripped away, pectin opens out into a structure that links readily with other pectin molecules to form a three- dimensional network — a gel.
Fruits with high natural pectin and acid content include: blackberries + crab apples + cranberries + plums+ quinces+ sour apples
Fruits with low natural pectin and acid content include: apricots+ blueberries + figs+ grapes+ guava+ peaches+ pears+ prunes+ raspberries + rhubarb+ strawberries
Low-pectin fruits benefit from the addition of lemon, to boost the acidity and thus setting. Unripe fruit (sour) will also increase acidity. Jam is best made with a good percentage of fruit that is not overripe because as the fruit ripens, the pectin breaks down and you will not get a good set.
PICK THE RIGHT POT
The right pot is critical to making low-sugar jam, I cannot stress this enough. Mine is a traditional French copper preserving pan that is shallow and wide. It’s about 12 cm (41⁄2 inches) high, 36 cm (141⁄4 inches) across the base and 39 cm (151⁄2 inches) across the top, with a 10 litre (350 fl oz) capacity. The wide surface area encourages evaporation and reduction, thus cooking the jam quickly. It is extremely difficult to make jam in a deep pot with a small surface area — tall pans are a major cause of runny jam.
However, you can make smaller amounts in your average large domestic saucepan. You can use a simple stainless steel pan — just make sure it is not too deep. A wider and more shallow pan with less capacity (for example, a sauté pan with a 5 litre/ 175 fl oz capacity and a depth of 8 cm/31⁄4 inches) is better than a pot with a 10 litre/350 fl oz capacity, but a depth of 16–18 cm (61⁄4–7 inches), or even a frypan with a large shallow surface area. It will mean you can only make small amounts at a time — about 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) of fruit, but your jam will be more successful. You can also use a 20–24 cm (8–91⁄2 inch) typical domestic saucepan, but keep the amount of fruit to 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz).
Never make jam in large quantities — another cause of runny jam — and never crowd your pan. How much fruit you use (the weight) will depend on the size of your pan — for mine, I use 4 kg (9 lb). A good guide is to only fill your pan two-thirds full of fruit.
JARS AND LIDS
Always use tempered jars that can withstand the temperatures involved in sterilising, jam-making and storage. Some jars manufactured for products such as coffee, peanut butter and mayonnaise are not tempered and do not have strong seals on the lids. Jars must not be cracked, chipped or damaged in any way, and lids must not be scratched or dented. Jars can be re-used, but lids are good for one use only.
STERILISING YOUR EQUIPMENT
Your jars, lids, ladles and funnels must all be sterilised. This is easy to do in an oven at 120°C (235°F/Gas 1⁄2) for 20 minutes. Jars and lids must be sterilised, dry and warm. Once sterilised, turn the oven off and leave in the warm oven until the jam is ready. Equipment can also be boiled for 12 minutes in a large saucepan of water, then dried in the oven at a low temperature.
PUTTING THE JAM INTO JARS
Bottling technique is the other very important part of making low-sugar jams — the jam must be spooned with a sterilised ladle through a sterilised funnel into warm jars (as hot jam into cool or cold jars will cause the jars to break) as soon as it is ready. Make sure the sterilised jars are warm (from sterilising and then being kept warm in the oven) and sit them on a wooden surface or on towels (so they don’t crack when the hot jam is added). This process will ensure the jars seal properly and that the jam does not spoil.
After ladling the jam into the jars, make sure there is no spillage as this will hinder a seal being formed. Gently wipe any spillage, taking care not to touch the sterilised lip of the jar. Place the lids on, taking care to touch only the outside of the lids. Holding the jars with a damp cloth (for a good grip), turn the lids until firm.
Let the jars sit until fully cool — do not move them for 12 hours or you can disrupt the vacuum process. A concave dip in the middle of the lid indicates a vacuum seal. If there is no concave dip, store the jam in the fridge and use straight away.
Once opened and the seal is broken, the jam begins to deteriorate and must be kept in the fridge.
The beautiful photo at the top of this post is ©Cath Muscat and all copy is ©Jude Blereau and Murdoch Books, and taken from Wholefood Baking. Published by Murdoch Books, 2013.
I’ve just arrived back home after nearly 5 weeks away on the east coast of Australia, teaching and I think a pot of simple beans are in order. This post on beans began some weeks ago, but is ending up somewhat differently to what I envisaged. It was to be a discussion on cooking beans, but now – well it’s more about being, how grounding a simple meal of beans can be and how they can remind you that simple is sometimes all we need. This is happening a lot for me lately – you will see it also reflected in the new book (due June, 2016) – elemental flavours, simple wholegrains and legumes, fundamental animal foods, simple vegetables, simple fruits – foods that are local, seasonal, ripe, and grown in great soil with great ethics. It’s the elemental that gets me, and it’s this elementality (yes it’s my made up word) that is the key. It connects you immediately to what is real and true, and what really matters in life – it takes us into our core, our heart and soul. I have been privileged in classes – especially the 4 day intensives – to see that when simple, good, organic and/or biodynamic food is around (and a lot of it) and when people are supported, something exceptional happens – they cry, they open, they connect to each other and to themselves. It is never ever just about the food, it’s always about the energy that food carries and the context in which we eat it. And good, real food ? Well that’s mighty powerful stuff, and it seems the simpler it is, the more powerful it is. There’s a lot of crazy food out there right now, and whilst it might suit the latest fad, or marketing campaign it doesn’t seem to suit many humans, or nourish on that deeper level.
But, sometimes we do have to know how to prepare that food, how to make it optimally digestible for our human tummies, especially that grounding bowl of simple beans. Beans are part of the legume family, and require a bit of attention. First up, a bit about how they grow – they are ridiculously easy to grow. In Australia, I often find organic beans impossible to cook properly (they are really old, and | or they are heat treated for entrance to Australia and thus never cook), so I try and grow what I can. This year I’ve added the Christmas Lima Bean and Bean Frost to my repertoire of Borlotti, they are easily available online from Diggers, or some wonderful person may share a seed with you (Belinda Jeffrey shared her Christmas Lima with me). But if you live in the U.S you will easily be able to access the glorious Rancho Gordo beans, which offer a huge range of young, heirloom beans.
I know you may have heard that you need to soak your beans, but when you look at the picture above you can see that when they are fresh of the bush, how moist they are (you can also see how lush the pod is, and how bright the colour when fresh, too). They don’t need soaking, as those sugars have not yet begun to convert to very long chain carbohydrates that are hard for us to digest. Once they begin to dry though, you will need to soak them. In lots of water to cover them by about 10cm, and for Borlotti, Frost and Christmas Lima, you will need to add an alkali – many people use a pinch of baking soda, but I prefer Kombu sea vegetable, with contributes minerals, and has a special enzyme that helps to break those long sugars down. A 2cm piece is plenty for 1/2 cup of beans, which when cooked will give you around 1 1/4 cups cooked beans. Leave the beans to soak for 12 – 24 hours in a warm place. Warmth is important as it will help encourage lacto fermentation, which will also help to make the bean more digestible, and help with getting rid of anti nutrients such as phytic acid. Then drain and rinse, add to a pot with fresh water or stock with the soaking kombu, or use a fresh piece. Using a bone stock will help to make them even more digestible. Cook until they are done. The time they take depends on how old they are – beans under 1 year tend to cook from 45 – 1 hour | older – around 1 – 2 hours |older still – much longer, around 2 1/2 – 3 hours. If they are not cooked by then, they most likely never will. They are ready when gentle pressure yields a creamy centre – no pebbly bits. Pebbly bits are not digestible. I hear you saying ‘but where can I get kombu, as it’s not available in Australia?’ Kombu has been banned in Australia due to high iodine levels (crazy as we are a low iodine country, but go figure) – I buy mine online here, but you can also use Wakame which is freely available, it’s good, but it’s not quite as effective. (just a caveat about kombu, it’s great, but use it in small amounts, don’t go nuts with it).
Even though the weather is warming up, I hope you find time for this simple pot of beans in a cooler moment. But, you could always simply cook them as I have just described and use them to add to a salad with a delicious dressing. It was so wonderful to meet you all people in classes, thank you for enriching my life. I’ll be back with some Christmas treats shortly…. x Jude
Superfoods are hot topics at the moment – yet, I think that sometimes in our distraction for the quick boost, or quick fix, it’s very easy to forget some very profound basics.
I’d like to make the case that real food grown in or raised on foods from nutrient rich soils are all super foods in their own right. Notice that I using the word as an adjective – a describing word. Run the 2 words together and it suggests a whole new category of food (one that is usually very expensive), almost a superhero food. All of these real foods, grown or raised on foods from nutrient rich soils, carry the vast store of the nutrients we require to survive and run these amazing cellular machines we call our body. Proteins, fats (even saturated), carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients are all found in abundance in real food. I think the obsession with superfoods is simply another manifestation of our fractionalised approach to food. What I’d love to see is more people eating good food (you can read in more depth about what I think makes food ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ here) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually, I’d love to see more people eat breakfast, lunch or dinner and not exist on snacks all day long. I’d love to see people actually stop to eat and not eat on the run or in a rush. I’d love to see people relax while they eat and perhaps have a companion to share the time with, chat and laugh a bit. I’d love to see people enjoying their food and not worrying about the fat, the carbs, the protein, the phytonutrients of it, their blood type or if it’s raw etc. In short, I’d love to see us eat how we used to, when we had a strong food culture within Australia and we cared about the food we gave our children, and ourselves.
How about we do this instead?
- Buy food grown in nutrient rich soil, without synthetic pesticides and sprays. This will be called lots of different things, but organic, bio dynamic are good places to start.
- Cook and eat this nutrient rich food every day (and eat some raw).
- Keep your food as close as possible to it’s natural state – with as little that is edible taken away and as little that is inedible (additives) added back.
- Eat a broad range of nutrient groups each day – don’t just eat carbohydrates.
But, if I had to choose a food that I think is most super – well, firstly, I would find it hard to choose between eggs (especially the yolks), animal bones and marrow, animal fat, fish and butterfat. And then I’d say, make bone stock, don’t leave your home without knowing you have a stash in the freezer. Bone stocks have been used by just about all traditional cultures for nourishment and healing – the original nature doctor, Dr Vogel describes it’s use in Europe for healing; in New York, Chicken soup is known as Jewish Penicillin (it’s because chicken fat contains Palmitoleic Acid – a powerful immune boosting monounsaturated fat) and throughout Asia, fish stock is the restorer of Chi – life force (it’s also a rich source of iodine). This is why it’s super:
- Bone stock is an incredibly rich source of minerals – especially calcium and trace elements pulled from bone, cartilage and vegetables as they cook, all in a bio – available form.
- Bone stock ‘spares’ protein. This means that your body can make better use of the protein it eats.
- Bone stocks also has the superhero gelatine – this enables food to be digested more easily and is also exceptionally healing to the gut – as is the fat (cooking your grain in a bone stock makes it so much more digestible).
- Bone stocks are great sources of glucosamine and chondroitin, used for healthy joints. In fact gelatine was the go to ‘superfood’ for healthy joints back in the 50’s.
- Bone stocks are the original frugal food, giving you a lot of nourishment (and ability to eat minimal expensive protein) for very little money.
Those ‘real’ stocks you see advertised on tv? I’ve never seen one all wibbly and wobbly from gelatine. I also find them shallow and harsh in flavour, and expensive. Bone stocks are so easy to make, simply requiring a lovely big pot – and when using bones, some acid (such as wine or vinegar) to help draw all the gelatine and minerals from the bone. You can’t muck them up and they freeze brilliantly. You can find a massive amount of information on the internet about stocks at many of the traditional food sites. If you google around you will be in undated.
I nearly forgot to tell you that this is a great time of the year to be making and liberally using chicken stock – boosting your immune system.
So, that soup above. Silky and shiny from the gelatine in the stock :) It’s a cupboard love corn chowder, using what my fridge and garden had. Oh, and did you notice I used kale ? From my notes above you might think I hate it – I don’t, I love it, but I love lots of other vegetables also. This is a wonderful way to use kale – serving it with fat (from the chicken stock) which will or help to ensure all those amazing minerals in kale are actually bio – available. And, you’ve cooked it, which breaks down the oxalic acid (kale is best cooked). Also when you look at my stock (up there in the pink jug) it’s not that golden – it was a cupboard love stock after all, but when you use chickens raised on lots of wonderful green pasture, the fat will be quite yellow, reflecting the beta-carotenes in the grass.
There’s a fabulous recipe for corn chowder in Coming Home to Eat (oooh, good news, it’s being re printed and should be available soon), but a quick version (let’s face it, that’s what we most often do). Before I start, just know you can add as much vegetable or stock as you like. Add some ghee, chicken fat, olive or coconut oil to the base of the pan, add diced potato (helps thicken it), I like pumpkin, leek or onion – you can see mine above, I also added a good handful of basil because I have tons. Pinch of salt. Cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then (you are developing a flavour base). Add the stock, and the corn cob (you’ve cut the corn kernels off it to add later), cook gently (don’t boil madly) until those base vegetables are cooked. Add the lighter cooking vegetables – corn kernels, zucchini and kale. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes until they are just tender, add chopped basil. Taste and season as desired – I like a bit of fish sauce. If you would like (and I did) take some of the soup out and blend it (add it back) before adding the corn, etc. It makes a thicker broth.
One Good Dressing
I tend to think of managing food in a busy life from the perspective of core units. It’s a lot like having core pieces in your wardrobe – 1 good white shirt, 1 good pair of shoes, 1 good pair of pants, 1 great cardigan etc. You build a daily outfit with them and they make life easy. Good food in a busy everyday life is a lot like this. At this time of the year, one good dressing in your fridge fits the bill. I love this tamari, garlic and coriander dressing and love how it works with grain salads.
This is a recipe I’ve been making for many, many years and a staple in the salad line up at The Earth Market (my wholefood cafe, long since gone). It is an infinitely variable – “take a grain, add things to it and give it a good dressing salad”, and indeed the salad below is one of those variations. The occasion was my nieces birthday and this was her request for the salad line up at lunch. The thing about this salad is that it’s not rocket science – I used what I had on hand – namely heirloom carrots of all colours and spring onions from the garden, flat leaf parsley that has sprung up everywhere, roasted pine nuts and toasted sunflower seeds. But a word first about the jar above – I love these small preserving jars – I bought them when in the U.S a few years ago (yes, I buy cooking equipment when I travel !!) and love using them for small storage of all descriptions. I’d been planning this blog a few weeks ago and smiled when I saw Heidi Swanson using them for her dressings in this post – loved the synchronicity. It’s a beautiful photo – I love Heidi’s photography. You can find those jars here.
But to the recipe – this is a robust dressing that works well with robust whole grains – barley and rice work particularly well. In a word, it’s easy – I hope you enjoy it.
You must be wondering where I’ve gone – my blog is up, and no posts. Well – you know that desk I showed you? It’s not been looking so clear these past weeks since I posted that first blog, and the work was covering it. Now that’s all gone, new flowers are set, the space is clear – in more ways than one. So, with a clear desk and work put behind me for a bit, my thoughts have turned to stocking up the kitchen. My daughter is returning home after traveling, my niece is arriving, my cousin and her children arriving (all next week) and one of the best things to have on hand is puff pastry. A good puff can take you anywhere and do anything. Now, I know. I hear you before you even say it – truly Jude, when do I have time to make puff? But truly, this recipe is so easy – the pastry spends most of it’s time in the fridge, resting. It demands very little from you. AND – once made, wow, do you save time. It will give you a variety of meals for very little work. So, here we go…
2 cups white/unbleached spelt flour
3/4 cup iced water
250gm unsalted butter – well chilled
1/2 cup white unbleached spelt flour, extra
Before we start: The most important thing about making this pastry, is to take care that the butter does not melt into the flour dough – it needs to be firm at all times. You are layering dough, butter and air, many times over. If, when rolling, the butter starts to soften and smear through, immediately put your pastry on a tray lined with baking paper, cover this with baking paper and put in the fridge until chilled (but not solid) again. It’s a great pastry to use in summer, but an easier one to make in winter. What do I do when it’s warmer? Make it early in the morning, chill my rolling pin and flour for rolling, and chill the pastry well between rolls.
1: Place the flour in a bowl. Using a butter knife, gradually ‘cut’ the water into the flour. The dough should hold together, but not be at all wet – you will be surprised how the spelt ‘gives’ as it sits for a couple of minutes. (You might need to use 1 – 2 tablespoons more water, as different batches of spelt flour absorb different amounts of water. Form the dough into a ball – do not knead or play with it, and wrap in a tea towel, then flatten a little and chill in the fridge.
2: Place the butter between two sheets of baking paper and beat (gently) with a rolling pin until it forms a rough 20cm square – about 1cm thick. You may need to lift the paper from both sides from time to time, to release and allow the butter to spread. it doesn’t matter if the butter ends up more of a rectangle.
3: Return the butter, between the paper sheets to the fridge to chill for a bit. Put the extra in a bowl near where you will be rolling, to use for dusting. Place the dough on a floured work surface. Sprinkle a little four over the pastry and rolling pin. Roll the dough into a square, about 26cm – again, it doesn’t matter if it’s slightly rectangular. To prevent sticking, keep the pastry and rolling surface lightly dusted with flour, even turning the pastry from time to time. Starting from the centre of your square, roll out each corner to make an ‘ear’, creating a king of ‘cross’ shape.
4: Remove one piece of baking paper from the butter and invert it onto the centre of the pastry. Remove the remaining paper, and fold over the pastry ears, so they completely cover the butter – you should need to stretch the pastry. They will overlap and that is fine. You should end up with a completely sealed parcel of butter. Pat the edges a little to make a nice, neat rectangle – the pastry should be right up against the butter. If the pastry and butter at this stage still feel cold and chilled, you can start to roll. if not, cover and place in the fridge to chill.
5: You are now commencing to make turns. (You’ll be rolling the dough lengthways, so make sure you have plenty of space.) Making sure your rolling surface and pin are dusted with flour, begin to roll out the dough lengthways. When the butter is very chilled, this might take a couple of times where you simply press along the pastry to gently flatten it evenly. As the pastry begins to ‘give’, continue to roll out until you have a rectangle about 67cm long and 24 – 26 cm wide. You are only ever rolling lengthways.
As you roll, you need to continually move the pastry and dust with the flour underneath and on top of the pastry. As you are moving the pastry, take care not to hold it for too long, as your body warmth will soften the butter. Work swiftly to prevent the butter softening. Try to avoid ending up with pointy, uneven bit at the two outside edges on the ends of the pastry, using the rolling pin to push (not press or roll) them back into a more even line. Otherwise you can incorporate the pointy ends into the fold (next step). You are now ready to commence the first turn.
FOLD THE PASTRY INTO THREE – the pastry up from the bottom, and down from the top. Repeat the rolling to make a rectangle about 67cm long, following the guidelines above. Fold the pastry as described, rotate so the closed fold is to your left, and mark it with two dents. This lets you know you have completed two turns.
6: Place the pastry on a tray lined with baking paper, top with the baking paper (to avoid drying out) and cover well, so it doesn’t dry out. Place in the fridge to rest and chill for 2 hours. Repeat the above rolling and folding twice – you have now completed four turns. Mark the pastry with four little dents. Place on a tray lined with baking paper, top with baking paper and cover, sealing well. Chill in the fridge for another 2 hours.
Repeat the rolling and folding twice more – you have now completed six turns and the pastry is ready. Place on a tray lined with baking paper, top with baking paper and cover, sealing well so it doesn’t dry out. Place in the fridge to rest and chill.
You can now freeze the pastry, but I prefer to cut it into quarters and roll the pastry into four sheets ready for use, each about 24cm square. To roll keep the table, rolling pin and the top of the pastry lightly dusted with flour. Try to keep the shape fairly even as you roll, but don’t worry too much as you can trim it to shape later. The pastry should end up about 2 – 3mm thick. As each sheet is rolled, place it on a tray ( I use a cake cardboard) covered with a sheet of baking paper, with a piece of baking paper between each pastry sheet. Top with a sheet of baking paper, cover and seal well with plastic wrap and freeze, or use immediately.
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