Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cranberry Curd

Vermont Cranberries
Cranberries came jellied, fresh from the electric can opener when I was growing up.

That jiggly tubular lump was plopped into a CorningWare cereal bowl every Thanksgiving.

That was the day set aside for hosting the relatives on my father’s side. I came to associate it, and certain other holiday foods with arguments, general unpleasantness and yelling.

I’ll never understand why my parents insisted on that ritual
or expect that “this time” was going to be the one golden moment they could be civil to each other.

If any food deserved derision, cranberries had it coming.

You may have noticed by now, I am not the type to gloss over personal memories with cherubs and roses; I am someone who associates food with –– everything.

Thank goodness, I matured and developed a new respect for the cranberry.

I eat those produced in Vermont by “Cranberry Bob” Lesnikoski.

We met so many years ago, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment; but we eventually wound up vending at the same farmer’s market in Burlington’s City Hall Park.

Real fresh cranberries, and cranberry stuffs!

I first had them in cranberry bread (which I made for a holiday gathering -- yeesss, don’t judge). 

I use cranberry vinegar in salad dressings, and pair cranberry compote with game.  My husband Dan eats dried crannies with breakfast cereal in the mornings.

Most recently I’ve made cranberry curd.

What’s that curd thin? 

It‘s an intensely flavored soft pudding/spread that can be enjoyed with scones and crepes, dolloped on slices of angel food or pound cake, and devoured as the sweet/tart topper of baked meringues.

So, here’s a heartfelt humble tip of the hat to a fellow Vermont farmer that I fully credit for returning cranberries to my menus.

Cranberry Curd

Cranberry Curd
Adapted from a recipe by Land O’Lakes
Makes about 1 Cup

1 Cup Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
½ Cup Water
¼ Cup Brown or White Sugar
2 Egg Yolks, lightly beaten
Pinch of Salt
2 TB Butter, cut into 2 pieces

Place water and berries in a microwave-safe dish.

Heat until berries burst, about 1 – 2 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.

Fill a medium saucepan with 1 - 2 inches of water and bring it to a simmer; reduce heat to low.

Place all ingredients except the butter in a large heatproof bowl and whisk to combine.

Set the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water and whisk constantly until the yolks thicken and the mixture forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl, about 10 -15 minutes.

(Check to make sure the water does not boil. If it does, remove the bowl so the eggs do not curdle and allow the water return to a simmer.)

Remove the bowl from the heat; whisk in the butter one piece at a time, waiting until each piece is incorporated before adding another.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl. Strain the curd and discard any solids.

Refrigerate until set.  Keeps for xxx

Wild Lawn Pesto

Dandies, Lamb's-quarter, Daisy, Oregano, Wood Sorrel, Garlic Chives, Dame's Rocket 
There are apple, plum and pear trees living on my lawn.

Songbirds nest in maples and bring their babies to the seed feeders, who in turn do the same.  An occasional bunny, turkey or quail, stops by. 

I consider this a success, but it hasn’t been all roses and kittens.

There was the double-down disaster that was the first two lilac hedges (wrong species for our sub-climate).

Peaches and sour cherry starts were run over twice in two years by the lawnmower. 

Gooseberries, blueberries, elderberries? We have the wrong type of soil.

Nowadays, there’s heavy shade to contend with and I didn’t divided the irises or lilies in decline.

Plants thriving at this level of neglect are hostas, weeds, and wildflowers.

This week, garlic chives busted out all over.  A twenty-year old oregano patch struggled to make it just one more season; wood sorrel (sour grass) and Lamb’s-quarter (pigweed) came up. *

Each became an ingredient in my lawn-pesto recipe.

My mother’s reaction to this news, ‘You’re eating weeds now?’

Yes, yes. I am.  And, they’re delicious!

*Lamb’s-quarter tastes like mild spinach and can be used fresh or cooked.

Weed and Wildflower = Pesto
Lawnmower Pesto
Makes about 1 Cup

1 Packed Cup Mixed Greens (Lamb’s-quarter, Garlic Chives, Wood Sorrel, Oregano)
¼ - ½ Cup Sunflower Oil
2 – 4 TB Grated Hard Cheese (I used Comte)
1 TB Hemp Seeds (or pine nuts)

Wildflower Petals: Dame’s Rocket, Dandelion, Garlic Chives

Wild Lawn Pesto
Pick and wash your greens.  Let them drain in a colander to give any hitched-a-ride insects the opportunity to vacate the premises.

Place all ingredients (except oil and petals) in a food chopper fitted with a blade.

Slowly drizzle in oil with the motor running until you have a serviceable paste.

Process, taste, adjust for salt.

Stir in flower petals. 

Store under refrigeration.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Vermont Maple Cream

Maple Cream on Gluten-free Toast

It made sense for my mother - a woman who canned, fermented dandelions and wild grapes, and foraged the backroads for wild fruits, nuts and berries to give making maple syrup a try.

We had two old sugar maples on the front lawn of our Main Street Bakersfield (Vermont) property. 

Our tiny 70’s kitchen with its orange/harvest brown theme was filled with fragrant, sweet steam.

She boiled a bucket of sap on the electric stove, added another the following day, and repeated until she had a batch of sketchy “maple tar”.

No matter, it wasn’t a cost or labor-effective endeavor.

Far easier to truss my sister and I in parkas  – the ones that caught our Adam’s apples in the zipper – and travel down the road to a sugar maker in the avocado-green wood-paneled station wagon.

I remember that she would sit diligently at the stove on the “step-stool”; periodically dropping teaspoonfuls of boiling sugar into a bowl of cold water to discern soft ball or hardball stage to make fudges and toffees or sugar-on-snow.  

Unfortunately, candy-making didn’t stick to me.  

To make this recipe I watched a how-to video by America’s Test Kitchen.

It took four tries to get an acceptable result, but the experience was worth it. 


Oil is necessary to stop boiling over.

Calibrate the thermometer with boiling water to 212f and adjust the recipe accordingly. 

The temperature outside this time of year will chill hot syrup in 15 -20 minutes without having to make or buy ice.

Vermont Maple Cream 
Maple Cream
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes about 1/2 cup


1 Cup Fancy or Grade A Maple Syrup

¼ tsp. Canola Oil

Special Equipment: candy or digital alarm thermometer

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring syrup to boil over medium-low heat. Make sure thermometer is not touching the bottom.

When the temperature reaches 235f, remove from heat.

Pour syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer and move to the porch to cool, or place in a bowl of ice until 100f.

Stir with a paddle on the lowest setting until pale in color and no longer glossy or beat by hand for 20-30 minutes.

Finished cream will be the texture of peanut butter.

Store in refrigerator.  Some separation is normal.