I pondered pears. I considered quince only long enough to notice them at the store and think a passing “hmm…” But the recipe I wanted to do was a relish I meant to do back in allium month.
I lived in England for a bit over 3 years during my so-called formative years. We lived near Cambridge and took a lot of vacations. My parents had the travel bug, the exchange rate was rockin’ and we were on the go. Weekends were for day trips around the area or weekend getaways. Spring/summer/winter break meant longer trips to other parts of Europe. If a trip fell during school then, well, traveling was education. Travel trumped school. It was definitely understood in our family and it seems it was by the school as well. Families were always jumping ship to head off to Germany or Spain or France.
One particularly memorable trip was taking a canal boat trip with my family and aunt, uncle and cousins. Canal boating is great fun! The boats are narrow and long and they top out at about 4mph so you can’t do much damage. There are boat elevators and tunnels to navigate. Endless locks to work. There are pathways running parallel if you want to walk a bit. Warning: If you are 14 and sassy you might get sent off the boat for a bit for an attitude adjustment walk… These things happen. Anyway, you meander along the countryside and pull up to small villages and go to adorable traditional pubs for lunch and overnights. It is a blast and I can’t wait to take a trip again.
Anyhow, kids are allowed in pubs and we never got tired of the Ploughman’s lunch. A Ploughman’s lunch is essentially thick crusty bread, some sharp cheese, assorted pickled items and a pickle or relish. I think I’ve channelled my inner 14-year-old this year because I’ve had pickling & relishing on my mind. My favorite items I’ve canned (so far) are items I can top a bit of cheese with and this relish made it to the favorites list! I added a teensy bit of kick because I wanted it more savoury than sweet.
Apple, Onion and Ale Relish
(adapted from Jennifer MacKenzie’s The Complete Book of Pickling)
Yield: 7 half pints
- 4 cups chopped onion (I used red onion)
- 2 tablespoons pickling salt
- 1.5 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds (I used yellow)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 2 cups tart soft apples, peeled and chopped (I used a mix of golden delicious and cameo)
- 1 cup dark ale (I used Ninkasi Sleigh’r Double Dark Ale)
- 4 cups tart cooking apples, peeled and chopped (I used granny smith)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Combine onion and salt in glass bowl and let stand (covered) at room temperature for 2 hours.
- Drain onions in a colander lined with cheese cloth. It is easiest to do this a bit at a time as you’ll want to drain and rinse them very well.
- Then drain and rinse them again. Allow to drain in colander until you are ready to use them. Squeeze out excess fluid.
- Combine sugar, mustard seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg and vinegar in a large-ish pot. Over medium heat, bring to a boil and stir till sugar dissolved. Increase heat and add onions, ale and the soft apples.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat to keep at a low boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until apples are starting to break down and sauce is beginning to thicken.
- Add cooking apples and bring to a boil again. Then reduce heat to keep at a low boil. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until apples start to soften slightly.
- Ladle into prepared jars and leave ½ inch head space. Refer here to get detailed info on how to properly prepare and process your jars.
- Process 10 minutes in hot water bath.
I filled 7 half pints with only a bit leftover for tasting. I wish I would have taken a photo. But I didn’t. I was too busy devouring it on top of fresh homemade bread and extra sharp white cheddar. It was fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it is after it has a chance to meld flavors and settle in. YUM!
I had a hankering to make a pear butter as well. Seemed easy enough to do in a crock pot. When I got to reading the how-tos I realized I would be cooking down the pears into sauce first. I realize this is a big duh moment, but until then I hadn’t thought the process completely through. Why would I do that when I have 27 jars of frozen applesauce in the freezer and the Babylady is in the midst of The Applesauce Strike of 2010?
I took 5 pints of sauce out and thawed them. Plopped them in the crock pot on low for 8 hours with the lid cracked and let it cook down. I stirred it every hour or so. Food in Jars has posted on the ease of using a slow cooker for making butters. And she is right. It was so easy and relatively un-messy! At the end of cook down time I added sugar (a mix of brown and white) to taste and then add spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger), also to taste. She recommends adding a bit of lemon juice and I did that too. I jarred with ¼- inch head space and processed 15 minutes.
The Apple Butter is smooth and spicy. If I don’t give it all away, I hear a bowl of ice cream begging for some topping calling my name…
Can Jam November a double success!