I awoke last night to the sound of rain pummeling the roof. It was a welcome sound as we south shore Nova Scotians in Shelburne County have been experiencing drought conditions recently. It’s still raining, mid-morning as I write. Some folks in town have been without water since the end of June. Glenn and I are lucky to still have water in our well, but it is getting low.
We’ve been invited out for a Thanksgiving potluck dinner this evening and my plans to make a large Grilled Veggie Salad have been foiled by current weather conditions. It’s most definitely not a day for firing up the BBQ. So I’ve been thumbing through my ragged old notebook (filled with recipes and clippings collected over time) trying to decide what to make for Georg and Harry’s gathering.
I’ve finally decided on a recipe given to me at least 25 years ago by a dear friend from my Yukon days, Heather Alton. Perhaps this recipe, Buns for Fifty, was passed along from grandmother, to mom, to daughter … or; maybe it originally came out of an old, self-published church cookbook. It kind of has that feel to it.
6 C lukewarm water
1 T sugar
4 T baking yeast
½ C white sugar
1 C softened butter
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp salt
6 C unbleached white flour
4 – 6 additional cups of unbleached white flour
Dissolve 1 T of sugar in the lukewarm water and sprinkle in the yeast. Set aside for a few minutes until the yeast gets soft and bubbly.
Combine the soft butter and ½ C of white sugar and beat, using a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time while continuing to beat using the mixer on a low setting. Pour in the yeast/water mixture and add 6 cups of flour, one cup at a time, while continuing to mix.
Add the remaining flour, one cup at a time mixing by hand until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface sprinkled with flour and knead for 15 – 20 minutes, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Oil a large bread bowl and place the dough inside the bowl, rolling it around until it is lightly coated with the oil. Cover with a clean tea towel and place in a warm draft-free place to rise, until double in bulk (about 1 ½ hrs). I place my bread bowl in the oven with the internal oven light turned on. The heat from the light bulb makes the oven a perfect warm and draft-free spot for rising bread dough.
Punch down the dough and divide it into 6 equal portions. Roll each portion out into a rope about 3 inches thick. Cut each rope into 10 equal sized chunks and form these chunks of dough into round, bun shaped balls. Line cookie pans or round cake pans with parchment paper and place dough balls on the pans so they are close but not touching. Brush the tops of the buns with melted butter and let rise for 25 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 350 F and bake the buns on the middle rack of the oven for 15 minutes or until a nice golden brown on top.
In days gone by I used a mock mincemeat recipe from a really old version of The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, but sadly this book has gone missing from my bookshelf. I have a newer edition of the book but I think the recipe in this one has been altered from the original.
So, here’s my current version of Vegetarian Mincemeat. It combines what I can remember from that original recipe with the spices I have available in my pantry. Plus, I have also factored in the amount of green tomatoes and apples I have on hand. The butter in this recipe replaces the suet used in traditional mincemeat.
Once again I have to give kudos to my good friend Pat who allowed me to pick green tomatoes from her garden. She also supplied lovely Gravenstein apples from the Annapolis valley. I used quite a few of the green cherry tomatoes that don’t have a hope of turning red before the killing frosts set in. I found these little green orbs to contain more moisture than their larger cousins so I strained them (once chopped) before adding them to the big pot.
The end result: just under 5 pints of really tasty mock mincemeat.
6 C green tomatoes, very small dice
6 C tart apples, very small dice
3 C raisins
2 C apple cider vinegar
4 C dark brown sugar
2 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp finely grated whole nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 ½ tsp allspice
¼ – ½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp kosher salt flakes
2/3 C butter
Prepare the green tomatoes and apples. It takes quite a while to dice these ingredients by hand so feel free to use a food processor. Just make sure to work in small batches and use the pulse action. The apples and tomatoes can easily go from being pulsed into an ideal small dice to unusable mush in the blink of an eye. Drain the tomatoes after they have been diced if necessary.
Put everything except the butter into a large pot and bring to the boiling point slowly, stirring occasionally. Note: I’ve used the smaller amount of ground cloves as I find it can be a strong and overpowering spice. Let your taste buds be your guide!
Adjust the heat so the mixture continues to simmer. Continue to stir now and then over the course of approximately 3 hours. The apples take a while to cook. The mincemeat is done when the apples are no longer white. The mixture will be slightly chunky and a dark golden brown when ready to come off the heat (see picture above).
If you need to keep the mincemeat until Christmas have your pint jars and lids sterilized and ready for canning. Process the filled jars according to your canners instructions.
Last year there was a bountiful harvest from the wild apple trees surrounding our home but this year there aren’t as many apples for easy picking. However, it seems the rose bushes are yielding plenty of ripe red rosehips so I’ve paired these tart little wonders with the apples I can easily reach for a small batch of vitamin c rich jelly.
I used approximately 5 cups of apple chunks (stems removed but skin and cores with seeds included) and 3 ½ cups of rosehips (stems removed and bottom parts cut off). You can vary the amounts of chopped apple and rosehip for this first part of the recipe. Just make sure to use more apples than rosehips as the pectin from the chopped apples is what actually causes the jelly to set up. You won’t be adding any extra pectin to this recipe for jelly.
I like to start the jelly making process in the early evening. This allows the juice used for the jelly time to drip out of the prepared fruit overnight.
Preparation Part One
The rosehips take longer to break down so start the jelly making process by placing them in a stainless steel or enameled pot and add enough water to just cover the fruit. Bring to a boil and adjust the heat so the mixture stays at a slow boil for about 30 minutes or until the rosehips become soft and their skins break open. You may have to add extra boiling water from the kettle during this process.
Add the apple chunks and more boiling water to just cover the fruit and continue to boil for 20 more minutes. Remove from the heat and lightly mash up the soft apple chunks and rosehips.
Pour into a sterilized muslin jelly bag and suspend over a glass or stainless steel bowl. Refrain from squeezing the bag if you want your jelly to be clear and not cloudy. Allow the juices to drip out slowly overnight. Alternatively, you can also line a large enameled colander with several layers of clean cheesecloth and place the boiled and mashed fruit inside. The colander can then be placed over a stainless steel or glass bowl and left overnight so the juices can drain out slowly.
Preparation Part Two
Measurements must be more exact for this part of the process. Measure the juice that has gathered overnight. Use one cup of sugar for every cup of juice. The amounts of fruit I used garnered 3 cups of juice so I used 3 cups of sugar to make my small batch of jelly.
Place sugar and juice in a stainless steel pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Adjust the heat under the pot to keep the liquid at a rolling boil. This mixture must reach 220 F which is thegelling point. The best way to know when your jelly should come off the heat is to use a thermometer. If you don’t have one you can always use the old fashioned method of placing a small amount of liquid on a cold plate. Place in the refrigerator for a few moments then drag your finger through the liquid. If the trough created holds its shape then it’s time to take the jelly off the heat.
Note: The amounts of fruit cited above took 20 minutes to reach 220 F. If you are making a larger batch the boiling time will be longer. I ended up with 3 ½ small jars of jelly. Each jar holds about 1 cup of jelly.
Pour jelly liquid into sterilized jars leaving ¼” space at the top of the jars. Screw on the sterilized lids and seal by placing in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (at sea level). Add one minute for every 1000 feet above sea level.
Here’s an easy variation of my Quick Banana Bread Loaf recipe. Simply add 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and spoon the batter into a muffin tin lined with paper cups. The yield from this recipe will be 10 large sized muffins. These moist muffins freeze well and make a great snack or lunch-box addition.
Don’t send those black bananas to the compost bin! You can whip this recipe up in one bowl. It tastes great, stays fresh for quite awhile and around our home it’s a family favourite.
3 very ripe bananas
1 C brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 C melted butter
1 1/2 C unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place peeled bananas in a large bowl and, using a fork, mash the bananas into a pulp.
Crack the egg into the bowl and beat it into the banana pulp. Add the vanilla, melted butter and brown sugar. Mix well.
Sprinkle the flour, baking soda and salt into the banana mixture and continue to mix until everything is well incorporated.
Spray a loaf pan with cooking oil and spoon the batter into the pan, spreading it around evenly.
Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Let the loaf rest in the pan for 5 minutes before removing and placing on a rack to cool.
My friend Pat was good enough to share the last of her wax bean crop this year. Lucky us! So, tonight I am preparing these beautiful beans with the basil from my herb pot and some garlic (Last week’s bounty from Pat’s garden).
½ C packed basil leaves (reserve a few for garnish)
¼ C pine nuts
3 large garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
¼ C olive oil
¼ C finely grated parmesan cheese
black pepper & salt to taste
3 C wax beans, washed & trimmed
Combine basil leaves, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor. Pulse a few times then pour in the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the grated parmesan and pulse a few more times until a paste forms. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. You can use a blender to make the pesto as well but you will have to scrape the sides down more often.
I usually leave the yellow beans whole, just trimming the stem end of each bean. Steam the prepped beans for about 5 minutes being careful not to overdue the cooking process. Toss the steamed beans with the pesto and serve immediately garnished with a few basil leaves.
Glenn and I LOVE fudge, so I rarely make it … too hard to control ourselves. However, with the holiday season ahead I’ve made several batches for friends and family members also afflicted with the sweet tooth syndrome. I always thought the fudge I made was top notch. However, this year I’ve discovered an even better fudge recipe, made using Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche sauce. You can get the recipe for this caramel flavoured Dulce Fudge on the Eagle Brand website. It’s simply the best fudge I’ve ever tasted. If you are a fudge fan then give this recipe a try. You can make it using the microwave and it never disappoints!