Gluten-free peach-blueberry crisp.
Yesterday we went up to visit friends outside of Frederick, to take a walk through the woods and enjoy their kitchen garden. Usually I bring a pie, but in the new world of gluten-free dairy-free living I wanted to try something simpler. Peaches from our CSA, blueberries from the freezer, and a pretty nice crumb considering it was made with vegetable shortening were just right. I’m pretty sure the sprout had more sugar in one sitting than he’s probably had in his entire life up until now (“Nummy! More peaches!”) so I’d call that a success. Recipe from The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook.
Tossed with blueberries and sugar.
Covered in crumb and ready to go.
The finished product straight from the oven.
A couple of weeks ago, upon our return from vacation in the Great White North, I made a blueberry pie. The pie was exciting for a few reasons: it had a gluten-free crust (I’d say the best one so far, but the most recent always seems like the best); it was made with blueberries both from the ancestral homestead and from our CSA; and it used lemon verbena from our garden (the first use I’ve found for it, since “muddle it into a fruity drink containing hard alcohol” is great advice but only works when you are actually consuming fruity drinks containing hard alcohol). I combined the filling from this recipe with the gluten-free crust from The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook that I’ve previously used for apple pies, and it was not a bad pie at all. (I don’t even feel the need to qualify that with “for a dairy-free gluten-free one.”)
The assembly of the pie was pretty standard, now that I’m used to working with the sticky tart-like dough that results when you are using starches held together by egg to make a crust. The filling smelled very lemony, as I just tossed the berries with the juice and zest, not seeing any instructions otherwise in the recipe. I remembered the shortening inside the pie (which I often don’t) but did forget the rice milk wash for the top. That turned out to be a lucky mistake, as I preferred the flakier drier crust and it didn’t have the overly-ricey taste that some of the other versions have had. When I took the pie out of the oven curiosity got the better of me and I spooned up a taste of the filling that had overflowed onto the cookie sheet. I then became very nervous as the filling tasted like nothing more than a blueberry Lemon Drop, a “martini” that I hadn’t had in years because of the cloying sweetness. In the endwhere the end is the next day after the pie had cooled completely overnightthe lemon was not overbearing and the pie was quite good. I will definitely chop the verbena more finely next time, but I’d make it again. Blueberry is a good combination with the gluten-free crust, too, as the color and flavor permeate the lower crust and the tart berries stand out against the bland backdrop.
The filled shell. Mmm, blueberries.
After blueberry, the next seasonal pie is usually sour cherry. Well, sour cherry is usually first (here in DC) and blueberry usually follows (after we return from our summer trip in early August). This year we missed sour cherry season entirely and the blueberries were a few weeks early so we had barely cleared Canada Day when we had blueberry pie. Which means that next up is most likely peach, as those are already rolling in to our CSA. After a banner year of plums two summers ago I suspect that the one little bag I have in the fridge might be all I have to work with, so a peach-plum (dairy-free gluten-free) crisp might be in the making. What could possibly go wrong?
This is the time of year when my to-do list starts to be mostly recipes centered around using up the vegetables and fruits that are flowing in our house. (Most of the other items on the list are some subset or variation of “clean house.”) When I have the time and energy, I find myself trying to knock out three or four items at once to stay on top of things: something baked, some kind of salad, and something for dinner are pretty typical. Earlier this week I tackled about half of the zucchini, turning it into muffins and fritters. I also used the cabbage to start homemade sauerkraut for the first time; I just couldn’t face more cabbage soup, as we are still working our way through last year’s freezer stash. The sauerkraut is still fermenting on the counter and won’t be ready for a few more days at the earliest, so I have no sense of whether it’s a success or not. Or rather, whether it’s edible: it’s a success either way since there is no longer a cabbage in my fridge! Yesterday I made two salads and yellow beans (with savory from our garden) for dinner. That was only a qualified success, since I had to buy tomatoes for one of the salads (it’s hard to find recipes using up cucumber that don’t also require tomatoes).
This is the crux of the challenge: using the vegetables you get without either too much supplementation or endless days of eating sliced cucumbers for lunch. There are some things I don’t mind getting, like the leek I use in the beet salad recipe. My partner is not a huge fan of the beet and we eat them only one of two ways, in the salad that requires a leek or roasted, the latter way not being really appropriate for the longest heat wave in local history. It pains me to buy tomatoes, though, since I know we’ll be getting more soon and I know the local heirloom ones that will start to appear at the market are vastly superior in all ways to what’s currently available, even at the local organic store. However, it also pains me to continually throw away food and we are coming off the second winter of doing so with the majority of our winter CSA. We just haven’t been able to stay on top of it since the sprout joined our family. Also, the types of vegetables we get in the winter are delicious when prepared well but not the sort that are easy or good raw; a large part of their appeal is the satisfaction of turning something bitter and kind of unappealing into a tasty meal. Which requires the creativity, energy, and time to turn something bitter and kind of unappealing into a tasty meal.
Now that the more amenable vegetables of summer are here, I’m determined to use them. This weekend’s list includes a blueberry pie (with gluten-free crust and lemon verbena from the garden), refrigerator pickles, another batch of beet salad, another batch of zucchini muffins, and possibly some rhubarb muffins if I haven’t left the rhubarb too long already. Probably also roasted potatoes one night, although there’s less time pressure to use the potatoes. Then on Tuesday it will be time to start the process over again.
Oh, and let’s not forget the effort to use up last year’s stores from the freezer, too!
Apple pie, round two.
Never in a million years, after spending years tweaking the ingredients of my pie crust until I had it just the way I like it, did I expect to be attempting to make pies without flour or butter. Never! Yet, here I am, as it wouldn’t be autumn without apple pie. Partly because I myself can no longer eat butter and partly because the sprout now wants to be sure that he’s eating what we’re eating by feeding himself directly from our plates, I went in search of a dairy-free gluten-free pie crust recipe that would taste decent. For this, I invested in The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook, which promised to deliver.
The first attempt at pie was not a success, pretty much entirely because I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. Yes, I know, you would not be the first, last, or most vociferous to point out that not following the recipe at least the first time I make something means that we never actually know what the recipe tastes like. Point taken. In this case, I didn’t follow it because the very expensive special rice flour had not yet arrived in the mail AND I wanted to see if the very expensive special rice flour was actually necessary or if the only fairly expensive special flour mix from the store would work just as well. The answers are yes and no respectively, mostly because the gluten-free flour mix from the store is mostly bean flour and as you might imagine, bean crust does not taste super fabulous in a pie. I addressed the problem by dousing each piece in maple syrup (should you ever find yourself in this situation and need a solution). In addition, I forgot the dollops of fake butter for the filling in my rush to get the crust on before it dried out and totally fell apart, so there were some challenges all around.
The second attempt produced a respectable (albeit ricey) pie, using Pascal’s crust and baking instructions and my regular apple pie filling. The quirks of the gluten-free crust are that it doesn’t move as it bakes. It basically dries out and keeps its shape, so the big domed up top you make over the raw apples is still a big domed up top once the cooked apples have compressed into a normal-sized pie. While perfectly edible and nice looking when it comes out of the oven, it’s a bit of a pain in the keister to cut a piece without breaking the crust or to fit the pie into the handy-dandy pie container when it’s time to store it. The best way to address these issues is to only share the pie with really good friends and eat it all as soon as possible so it doesn’t need to be stored.
I didn’t know about the Can Jam challenge until December, and it’s probably for the best: there’s no way I could have canned anything more than the three things I made last year. Reading through Local Kitchen’s summary of the challenge was interesting, though, as I realized that I’ve canned something in nearly every category at least once. Just for the heck of it, I sorted through my canning results of the past few years to see how they matched up to the challenge categories. In the process, I discovered that I was truly woeful at documenting the vast majority of these efforts, so I’ve annotated the list somewhat. I’m definitely not at the stage of making up my own recipes, so I’m excited to get back in the swing of things this year and try some of the hundreds of mouth-watering recipes generated by folks who actually participated in the challenge.
The canning larder. Top shelf: mincemeat, brandied peaches, pear mincemeat, pear applesauce, cranberry sauce, applesauce, cherry sauce. Bottom shelf: cherry conserve, quince jelly, apple butter, plum jam, pear jam, pear butter, apple chutney, onion relish, pepper jelly, pickled beets, lemon-garlic pickles, bread and butters, sweet and sour relish, pickled pumpkin, summer squash pickles.
- citrus: Traditional Preserved Lemons, using Meyer lemons and a recipe from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving : I was determined to make these, as I had visions of Moroccan dishes dancing in my head, and they were the last thing I did the night before we left for our holiday drive in 2008 (in the end, I only used them twice in rice and they mostly had to be thrown away when the went off; which won’t, of course, stop me from making them again the next time organic Meyer lemons are available); Sour Cherry Conserve  (also stone fruit), from the Ball book: this was the only successful cherry recipe, and while it’s quite tasty it’s not the most appealing-looking which will teach me to only use the freshest cherries for canning (and to not go overboard at the market); Lemon Garlic Pickles  (also cucurbits), from the Ball book: these were nice, but I think I vastly overestimated my capacity to eat pickles as we’ve only made it through the one jar we opened for Thanksgiving two years ago.
- carrots: not a single thing (the only root vegetable recipe I made was Pickled Beets , from the Ball book).
- alliums: Onion Relish , from an online recipe: I needed to use the onions that were piling up badly enough that I canned while 7 months pregnant during the hottest summer on record in years; I’m looking forward to eating this on sausages at the pool this summer.
- herbs & flowers: Mojito Pickles , from The Joy of Pickling: not canned, but preserved by freezing in order to retain the lime and mint flavors (also cucurbits).
- rhubarb and asparagus: Rhubarb-Ginger Jam , from an online recipe that I cannot for the life of me now locate: this was the second thing I ever canned after quince jelly, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t write about it because it was out of season (I used frozen rhubarb) and it relied heavily on candied ginger, both of which made it seem at the time like I was cheating (hah!); my dad loved this jam and he was the lucky recipient of most of it.
- berries: Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce , from the Ball book: this basic has been a favorite for the past two years, and something I’m happy to be able to contribute to other people’s holiday dinners.
- cucurbits: Pickled Pumpkin , from The Joy of Pickling: this did not turn out to be something that I liked, with the strong garlicky flavor (I made it because I was intrigued by what was described as a traditional Estonian holiday food); Pickled Summer Squash , from the Ball book: sweet and tasty, this was more my style of pickle (with the advantage of using up some of the summer squash we were inundated with that year); Spicy Bread and Butters , from The Joy of Pickling: I really need to start making egg salad sandwiches again to use these up.
- tomatoes: Spaghetti Sauce , using Barbara Kingsolver’s family recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: making this sauce was a big project, made bigger by the fact that I used all Roma tomatoes that did not cook down, requiring me to add more ingredients as I went; as a result, I ended up with a double batch and we were able to eat this sauce for an entire year.
- stone fruit: Brandied Peaches : we still have a number of jars of these, as I’ve forgotten to eat them at Christmas for both of the past two years; Spiced Golden Plum Jam , from the Ball book: this was only the second time I used pectin in a recipe, and was a way for me to use some of the oodles of plums we received in our summer CSA this year.
- chiles: Pepper Jelly [2008, 2009], from Simply Recipes: I tried this two years in a row, and both times it was a pain and never really came out right, so while I love the idea of it I am not sure I have it in me to keep trying; Sweet and Sour Pepper Relish, from the Ball book: I have yet to try this, but I plan to break it out to accompany our easy dinners of grilled sausages this summer.
- pomes: Pear Butter , from Simply Recipes: delicious, and a spice inspiration for the pear applesauce; Spiced Pear Jam , from the Ball book: this was the first time I used pectin in a recipe; two types of Pear Mincemeat  (also dried fruit), from the Ball book; Pear Applesauce , totally off the cuff after making applesauce and pear butter; Apple Butter ; Applesauce [2008, 2009]; Apple Pie Filling ; Apple Chutney [2008, 2009] (also dried fruit and chiles), from Simply In Season: this has turned out to be a hit, and I plan to make it each year so we can slather it on our turkey sandwiches with abandon; Quince Jelly [2007,2008, 2009], from Simply Recipes: still a household favorite, so I make it any time the trees actually bear fruit and we hoard it through the year (although it never lasts past spring).
- dried fruit: Brandied Fruit Mincemeat  (also pomes), from the Ball book: fruit plus booze equals quintessential holiday food!
Canning goals for 2011 include blueberry jam and more spaghetti sauce, in addition to the usual apple suspects. Plus whatever else looks absolutely irresistible from the Can Jam entries!