citrus

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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Nothing Ice Cream

Eggs, cream, sugar and various fruit juices

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After a short break for family visits and work-related activities, we are now finally getting to posting some of the recipes we were able to finish in between family-related events (in order, hopefully). I believe our first recipe was “Nothing Ice Cream” –which turned out to be a really interesting (albeit frustrating) experience and a great learning opportunity. We had the day off due to Good Friday, and had planned on waking up late and making some ice cream and fruit powders to serve as dessert for the family Easter dinner.

The day started off really promising. We had bought some beautiful citrus: lemons, limes, blood oranges and grapefruit. These had very vibrant colours, and made for some really nice pictures.

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While Melissa was juicing and photographing the citrus, I quickly made the ice cream using eggs, milk, cream and a little sugar to form a custard, then churning the mixture in an ice cream maker.
With the ice cream done, and four cups of different citrus juices ready, I turned my attention to making the powder. That’s when things started to get sticky!

The instructions on how to make the powder were clear: mix albumen (egg white) powder with citrus juice, then heat some sugar and water to the soft crack stage, mix the juice with the sugar, stir and voilà! Fruit powder! Nope. Not what happened.

As I don’t have much experience working with sugar, my first attempt was with the lemon juice as we had extra lemons on hand in case of failure. I set some sugar and water to a boil, and the juice to simmer until reduced by half. Then I tried adding the albumen power–the powder formed huge chunks, and seemed to be impossible to incorporate. This is when the troubleshooting started. Maybe the juice was too hot, and it was cooking the egg white powder? I whisked until it was relatively homogeneous, and then added it to the sugar syrup that had reached the proper temperature (more quickly than I had anticipated). This first attempt resulted in a yellow sticky glue, not quite the outcome we were hoping for!

To keep a long story short, we proceeded to attempt to make powders with all of our citrus juices while following the instructions in the book to the letter. This resulted in varying levels of success ranging from:

gloopy mess…

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to “did I just make Nerds?”…

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to actual powder-making success!

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The only citrus juice that managed to resemble powder was the grapefruit juice, and we have no idea why it worked while the others didn’t.

A few weeks later we had to opportunity to travel to Montreal to eat at Toque!. While there we had the amazing opportunity to speak to one of their pastry chefs, and asked him what the secret was to making this elusive fruit powder. To keep the albumen powder from clumping, he recommended mixing it with some sugar first in order to break up all the clumps and to keep them separate even after sifting. For the sugar part, he explained that the most important part of the procedure was to dehydrate the mixture, and that this could be done at a lower temperature. We had erroneously focused on bringing and keeping the sugar caramel to the right temperature, which resulted in sticky failure. Good to know!

Armed with this new knowledge, the next weekend we bought a bottle of elderberry juice which has a beautiful dark purple colour. We hoped to make a fruit powder that could nicely contrast our only other successful powder (grapefruit, which had a light yellow colour).

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Following the chef’s tips, the powder turned out perfectly! The colour turned out beautifully, and tasted strongly of elderberry without an overpowering caramel flavour. Finally, success!

Plating and eating this desert was really fun. It looked great on a plate, and the play on textures is really different and fun.

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Initially we were worried the nothing ice cream would taste too eggy as the recipe used quite a bit more egg yolk than we were used to–but the flavour helped to enhance the taste of the powders.

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We learned a lot making this recipe, and we’ll certainly be making this one again for friends!

Important takeaways:

  • Don’t use a whisk for this recipe, you will make a tremendous mess. A wooden spoon or spatula works great!
  • This recipe is not limited to citrus juice, feel free to use any juice that has a strong enough flavour to withstand being mixed with caramel.