Tuesday, October 26, 2010

blackberry spread

These clean, bright jars of blackberries are the product of much mess: gnarly brambles, sticky hands, long red scratches.  That was a month ago.  I froze the last batch of berries, saving them to deal with on a rainy day and it really rained this weekend.  My stove top became a gruesome mess of splattered berry blood as the sweet, earthy smell of blackberries spirited through the house.  Now all that mess -- all the goodness too -- is sealed in glass, labeled and lined up on the pantry shelf waiting for another rainy day.

Blackberry Spread
(my own combination of several recipes)
*This spread isn't quite as thick as jam, but it's just right for spooning over pancakes or ice cream.  Best of all, there's no refined sugar or artificial pectin*

10 to12 cups of blackberries
2 cans of frozen apple juice concentrate with no added sugar (for sweetness)
8 to 10 apples, peeled, cored and cubed (for pectin)

Throw everything in a stock pot, bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for a very long time.  It can take a couple of hours to boil off all the water in blackberries, so choose a day when you'll be home and make a point of wandering through the kitchen every 20 minutes to stir and adjust the heat.  Let it boil lightly until you get a spreadable consistency.

Note:  Judging the correct consistency has taken practice, but I look for a thick, splattery boil (like porridge) and keep in mind that when the spread cools, it'll thicken a little more.

Fill sterilized canning jars and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

zucchini-mint croquettes

These croquettes, boasting subtle crunch and not-so-subtle flavors of mint and olive oil, are the perfect way to savor the tail end of this year's zucchini crop.  One supper last week we munched through a whole batch of them, leaving two perfectly grilled steak portions as leftovers.  They're that good.

Zucchini-Mint Croquettes
(Mollie Katzen, The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without, 2007)

1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small to medium zucchini
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
olive oil as needed

Place the mint and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until fine and feathery.

Without emptying or cleaning the food processor, switch to the grating attachment (regular or medium sized, not tiny) and grate the zucchini into the mint mixture.

Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add the bread crumbs, Parmesan and egg.  Mix with a fork until thoroughly combined.

Place a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat and wait about 2-3 minutes.  Add a generous amount of olive oil (enough to easily cover the bottom) and swirl to coat.  Wait another 30 seconds or so for the oil to become very hot.  Add round teaspoons of the batter to the hot oil, pressing them down slightly when they hit the pan.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side or until deep golden brown.  Transfer to a place lined with a double thickness of paper towel and leave then there for about a minute before serving.

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