Month: October 2014

Fir Mousse and Sea Buckthorn Cocktail

Sea buckthorn, fir needles, vodka, sugar and gelatin

We aren’t completing these recipes in any particular order, so we have finally gotten around to making the very first recipe of the book! This recipe was a challenge for us as we had no idea where to find sea buckthorn berries. Since a number of ingredients in the book are foraged, we put off doing this recipe until we could find a reliable source (or at least until we knew where to forage!). We were lucky to learn that some friends of ours knew where to find a sea buckthorn shrub, and were kind enough to able to nab us a branch of the berries before the birds and the cold got to them.

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With the most difficult ingredient of the recipe sourced, we took the dog out for a long walk to forage for fir needles. It’s nearly impossible to estimate how many needles is equivalent to any particular weight, so we brought quite a lot home.

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We measured out a comparatively small amount of fir needles than we had on hand and added sugar and water.

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The mixture was brought to a boil in a pot and then steeped for 15 minutes to incorporate as much of the flavour as possible. While the needles were steeping, we bloomed gelatin in cold water.

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Next, we strained the needles from the liquid and combined the conifer tea with the bloomed gelatin.

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After the mixture cooled to room temperature, we poured it into a siphon, charged it with N2O and put it in the fridge overnight.

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Next, we prepared the base of the cocktail–a sea buckthorn syrup which was prepared by boiling the berries in a simple syrup until they started to pop. We crushed the berries in the pot to release all of their flavours, a step which was not mentioned in the procedure for this recipe. The resulting syrup tasted super-sea buckthorny, so we were happy with that!

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Finally, the sea buckthorn syrup was strained using a coffee filter and cooled in the fridge. The following day, we prepared the flavourful cocktail by combining the syrup with vodka and siphoning the fir mousse on top of the beverage.

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We finished the cocktail with a singular sea buckthorn berry (which surprisingly didn’t sink in the foam) and some of our many leftover fir needles.

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The resulting cocktail tasted very strongly of the berry, which we loved! If you’ve never tried these berries before (like us prior to trying this recipe) they have a tangy, citrus-like flavour. The fir mousse was a big surprise for us because it complimented the flavour of the berries really well! This is a flavour combination we’ve noticed is used quite a bit in this book (we paired citrus with fir needles in the Chicken Casserole and Jar of Pigeon recipes) and so far it has yet to disappoint! We can’t wait to see what else this book has in store for us!

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Berry Vinegar and Vinegared Pulp

Strawberry pulp and red wine vinegar

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These are the last two recipes in our strawberry series—at least until we make more strawberry sorbet! We had planned to do two more recipes using the same by-products, but the volume of pulp we were left with did not allow for us to do this (we had also planned to make Fruit Water and Fruit Oil). Luckily, we did have enough to make this strawberry vinegar and vinegared pulp.

We started by mixing red wine vinegar into the leftover strawberry pulp from the Fruit Paste and Fruit Sorbet recipes.

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The pulpy vinegar was then funnelled into a jar and left to sit in the fridge for two weeks.

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After two weeks in the fridge, the vinegar looked about the same, but wow did the taste change!

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The original red wine vinegar tasted quite fresh for vinegar with a crisp, sharp acid taste. After a month in the fridge it took on a more fermented taste with some added strawberry sweetness.

The next part was easy; we just kept the vinegar and vinegared pulp aside for plating!

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After some thought, we decided to integrate the vinegar component into a salad in the form of a strawberry dressing. It also just so happened that I had planned chicken for dinner that night, so we were able to incorporate both elements into our dinner.

We chose finely diced strawberries and spinach to complement the strawberry vinegar in the salad.

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We then added some olive oil and salt to the strawberry vinegar to make a simple dressing.

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The final dish turned out great! The pulp was the most impressive component, however. It had a strong flavor that probably would have been better suited to a stronger flavored game meat, but the interesting crunchy texture and strong vinegar punch made for a really delicious dinner!

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Fruit Paste and Fruit Sorbet

Strawberries, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice

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Being someone that really loves food, I can’t really think of any foods that I don’t like or least nothing that I would not try at least once (not speaking for Melissa, of course!). Well, that’s not entirely true, there is one exception–strawberries! I grew up with a severe allergy to strawberries until around the age of 18, and therefore formed quite an aversion to the seedy red fruit. The reason we are focusing so much on strawberries is because it made logical sense to use all of the strawberries in their entirety after making the Strawberry Stem Water (the recipes do give you the option to use quite a few other fruits).

These recipes are the second stage of the Strawberry’s destruction and uses the whole strawberries after their hull removal in the previous post.

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First, the whole strawberries were blended into a smooth purée.

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The purée was then passed through our very fine meshed conical strainer to remove the “pulp”. The resulting purée was silky and smooth. The pulp was set aside for a future recipe (stay tuned for that!).

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In the picture below, you can see approximately how much pulp (on the left) we got out of our two pounds of strawberries. There’s an interesting differentiation in colour between the two. We separated the blended strawberries into two portions to use in these two recipes.

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The next step is where things got a little complicated for us. The recipe calls for yellow peach, which didn’t make sense to us, so we contacted the restaurant for clarification. It turns out, the recipe should call for yellow pectin. If anyone reading this is going to try this recipe, note this substitution!

Without thinking too much about it, we picked up some pectin in the canning section of the grocery store. Getting back home and ready to add it to the purée, we noticed something disconcerting. The regular “pectin crystals” package sold for making jams and jellies is not a pure form of pectin; it’s a combination of sugar, funicular acid and pectin, in that order. After doing some research online, it was really interesting to learn that pectin is a naturally occurring bio-polymer the walls of cells. To be used as a gelling agent, it requires sugar and acid.

Warning: Science! Low pH environments cause pectin molecules to bind together through hydrogen bonding. Sugar binds with the water in the solution and forces pectin to bind together to form the matrix needed to form a gel. The NH pectin that we need in this recipe, has added calcium bonds, which helps the gel become thermally reversible (and thus melts in your mouth).

Anyways, needless to say, we were lucky to be able to find the right pectin! We just adjusted the recipe accordingly to account for the added sugar and acid in the pectin we purchased.

The purée was brought to a simmer and mixed with water, sugar, glucose, lemon juice and citric acid. The mixture was then transferred to a parchment paper-lined dish and put into the fridge to cool and (hopefully) set.

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This resulting mixture was a glossy and viscous strawberry syrup, which tasted like the smoothest strawberry jam we had ever tasted!

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To our delight, the mixture set beautifully and we were left with a very firm gel. This is where we had some fun cutting up the gel into shapes and trying different approaches to plating.

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Here you can see the consistency of the gel:

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The final product was coated in some sugar to make it a little less sticky and easier to pick up and eat.

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We really enjoyed making this recipe. It played to our nerdy side to learn the science behind pectin and its role in making this sweet candy. I would really love to try this recipe with some blueberries or raspberries when they are in season again!

While snacking on the fruit paste candies, we added some sugar to what was left of the strawberry purée and some lemon juice to adjust the acidity. The mixture was then churned in our ice cream maker until it became a smooth sorbet. This was then placed into the freezer overnight.

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The following day, we were excited to plate up this dessert! The sorbet was a little hard, but we let it sit out for a few minutes to soften it slightly. Remember the Rhubarb Cannoli we made? Fortunately, we kept the leftover strawberry powder–it was a perfect accompaniment to this sorbet (hooray for hoarding powders)! We also still have our Elderberry, Blood Orange, and Grapefruit powders, maybe one day these will come in handy as well!

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All that was left to do was to pour some strawberry powder on a plate, quenelle the sorbet, and eat!

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This was simply wonderful! The acidity of the sorbet worked perfectly with the sweet and crunchy texture of the powdered sugar. We literally ate all of the sorbet we made in a matter of minutes, it was delicious (apologies to the friends we could have shared this with!).

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