Sunday, November 28, 2004

Pruneaux - Prunes in Wine

At the end of a fine evening meal, what better way to prolong its enjoyment than to nibble at a prune preserved in spiced armagnac. The liqueur that results from making the pruneaux can be used as a sauce over Coeur a la Crème or drizzled over a fine aged cheese and nuts.

Take a pound of prunes and prick them with a needle four times. Pour warm, strong tea over them and mascerate overnight. Drain the tea (can be used over ice cubes for a delicious drink). Fill preserving jars 3/4 full with prunes.

Bring to a simmer 2 parts red wine, 1 part armagnac (rum or eau de vie can be used as well), 1 part sugar, 1 vanilla bean and 1 stick cinnamon [Jean Paul has told me I forgot a bit of orange zest]. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the cinnamon, vanilla and orange zest and pour liquid over prunes. Seal and set back in a dark cupboard for at least two weeks. The longer it sits, the better it is.

To serve, place one prune in a goblet and cover with liqueur. Nibble with a spoon along with coffee.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


This is my first contribution to IMBB, Cookie Swap #10, hosted by Jennifer.

In the 18thC there were no cookies as we know them today. There were little cakes baked in special molds and other foods such as confectionary and meringues could be said to be used as we would use cookies today. The meringue jumelles are actually 17thC and the madeleines are representative of the types of little cakes that were such a treat in the 18thC. Enjoy.

Meringues Jumelles Massialot's Les Confitures, p. 210.

Take three or four fresh eggs, according to the quantity of meringues which you want to make; separate the white, and whip until they form stiff peaks: after put in a little grated lemon rind, & three or four spoonfuls of fine powder sugar. One needs to whip the whole together, until sugar is dissolved and it looks satiny: Then take a sheet of white [parchment] paper, & with a spoon form round or oval meringues, according to which you want, of the size of a walnut, leaving distance from the one with the other; sift over a powder of fine sugar; & without removing them from the same table or you will have to reform them, cover with lid of the furnace with fire above [lid of a dutch oven with coals on it]: they will swell early, & will take color, leaving a void in the middle, you will fill it with candied fruits according to the season, fruit of cherry, strawberry or raspberry, & will cover it with another meringue which to close the whole of it, & they will be meringues jumelles.

I put them together with some black cherry jam made earlier this summer.

Madeleines Madeleine Kamman's The Making of a Cook, p. 1129.

Madeleine Palmier was the young girl who, in Commercy, presented the first known madeleines to King Louis XV of France.

Butter and flour your madeleine tins [preheat your oven to 350ºF]. Cream 1 cup butter until white. Beat in 2 egg yolks. Separate 3 large eggs. Whip whites until stiff in separate large bowl. Beat yolks in to butter alternately with 1 cup sugar. Beat in the grated rind of one lemon and 2 tablespoons dark rum and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sift and then measure 2 cups cake flour. Fold flour into egg and butter mixture. Fold whites in until just barely blended. Drop by tablespoonsful into madeleine molds and bake until lightly golden around the edge. Unmold and cool. Can sift powdered sugar over madeleines or dip one end into chocolate.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Sauced Duck Breast with Onions

The ponds haven't frozen yet, so a few ducks still remain before flying south for the winter and I was able to share in the largess of a friendly hunter who gave me some ducks. I sliced a breast and marinated it in a little thyme, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar for about 20 minutes. Next I heated my frying pan and melted some duck fat in it and then seared the breasts until crispy. I removed the duck to a heated plate to rest and deglazed the pan with more vinegar and added some plum jam and walnut ketchup. When the sauce was bubbly and slightly reduced, I put the duck back into the pan and turned each slice to absorb the sauce and add color to each slice. I served the duck breast on a plate of grilled onions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Green Walnut Chutney

When I drained the salty vinegar infusion from the chopped green walnuts, onions and garlic to make walnut ketchup, I couldn't bring myself to throw those aromatics away. Although the liquid was somehwhat brown, the solids were still greenish. I added chopped, peeled apples & pears, raisins, grated ginger, mustard seed and one crushed cayenne pepper to my poële. Then I added brown sugar and vinegar to cover. Had I layered all this in a glass jar and just left it to sit macerating, uncooked or "unfinished", I would have had a plain compote. But as I simmered the chutney, the mixture turned inky brown and put forth a wonderfully pungent aroma.

I will use this chunky dark jam to flavor grilled meats and to finish sauces with game. I will even add it to cream sauce to pour over noodles on meatless days. French Catholics observed a lot of meatless days in their religious observance and many early cookbooks spoke to the need to offer "rich" fare that was legal. A rich sauce will please the eye and fill the stomach.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Walnut Ketchup

Last Midsummerday I was allowed to walk through my friend's walnut orchard to pick green walnuts to make vin noix. After picking an apronful, I put three fourths down for wine and the rest I ground and set to steep in vinegar with some onions, garlic and salt. Several weeks later I drained the mixture, reserving the liquid for ketchup and the solids I turned into a chutney [see next post] to eat with game this winter.

To the liquid in the pan I added some wine, a few blades of mace, peppercorns and a few cloves. I simmered this until reduced in volume by half, strained it into a jug, and set it back on the shelf. Use walnut ketchup to deglaze the pan or to add that certain something to vinaigrette.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Tarte aux Pommes

On my table sits a basket of apples, more windfalls that I rescued from the deer. For supper tonight I made a tarte and glazed it with some apple jelly for color.

After peeling and slicing the apples I cooked them with a little white wine and freshly crushed sugar until they were translucent, then I piled them onto a round of pâte brisée in my baking pan. I then dotted the apples with a few nubbins of butter and folded the crust up to make an edge.

I placed the pan into the dutch oven and set it into the coals and placed a few coals on top of the lid. After about 20 minutes, I lifted the lid and brushed on a bit of jelly, setting the lid back on for another 5 minutes. When I lifted the lid again, I had a golden, juicy tarte for dessert.

This is my first contribution to the second edition of the Sugar High Fridays, the food-blogging event hosted by Jennifer.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Tonight I had but a small piece of smoked meat for supper so I made garbure, a delicious soup of greens, either cabbage or lettuce, carrots and onions. First I sliced a small cabbage into eigths and placed these on the bottom of the marmite. Next came two medium onions quartered followed by four carrots sliced. I threw in a clove of garlic, well minced, and placed the piece of meat on top. Broth was then added to just barely cover the vegetables.

On went the lid and the marmite was set into the ashes at the edge of the fire. As the garbure bubbled merrily away in the marmite, I turned it several times, but did not lift the lid which had been sealed with a flour paste mixture.

Just before the garbure was done, I fried some slices of bread in butter on the spider. I placed fried bread (or a few crusts) in the bottom of the bowl and spooned the vegetables onto the bread and ladled on some broth. When I have more than a dab of meat to flavor the garbure, I save it to use in a forcemeat for stuffing poultry.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Apple Jelly

Yesterday the wind was cold with threats of snow, but it brought down the last remaining apples on the trees, ones I couldn't reach before. Windfall apples are sometime perfect, but normally covered with russeting or scabs or bruises from hanging on the tree so long or from unfavorable growing conditions prior to falling. But they make excellent apple jelly.

Cut away blemishes but leave the seeds and cores. Quarter your fruit and put into a copper preseving kettle and add a little water, just to barely cover the fruit. Place on a slow fire and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Put all into chinois or jelly bag and allow to drain overnight.

To each cup of juice add one cup of freshly crushed fine sugar in the preserving kettle. Bring to a boil and cook until a small dab on a cold plate shows the correct set or it falls from the spoon in a curtain. Pour into pots and cover with a cloth until cold. Place a piece of paper cut to fit the inside of the pot which has been soaked in eau de vie on the jelly and tie a cloth or paper around the pot.

Apply jelly can be used in small amounts in cooking other fruits to help them set jelly. Aside from being great on bread as a snack use it to brush on bread slices in making fruit Charlottes and to deglaze the pan when cooking meat. Can also be used as a basting sauce on roasting meats to retain moisture.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Raspberry Vinegar

This evening I reached into the back of the cupboard and brought out the jar of raspberries I've had mascerating in white wine vinegar for several months. The raspberries have since become a mass of brownish pulp, but the vinegar has an intense color and a fresh raspberry smell. And the taste! It's like popping a fresh-picked berry into my mouth in the height of summer--tart, but full of flavor.

I strained the whole through two layers of cheesecloth and after the vinegar settled once more, I decanted it into a flacon with a new cork. I purposely steeped the fruit in the cool darkness of the cupboard, rather than in the windowsill, because I wanted to retain as much of the glorious color of the raspberries as possible. Using it to deglaze the pan after searing game will add just that extra something to the sauce and several tablespoons of vinegar and sugar to taste in cool water will make a refreshing drink. Here's to the memory of summer now past.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Pea Soup

Pea Soup

The geese are flying south from the lakeshore, and a chill wind is blowing. It's a perfect time for some hot soup. The quintessential soup of Nouvelle France is dried pea--whole yellow and green or split pea. Four recipes are found for "pease" potage in La Varenne's Le Cuisinier François, 1651, using both fresh and dried peas. Peter Kalm's Travels, 1753, describes that "often the third course [food which the better classes of Frenchmen ate] at dinner [our noon meal] consisted of green peas." He goes on to say French soldier's rations are plenty of peas and that it was the "general custom to allow the soldiers a plot of ground for kitchen gardens. At Fort Frontenac you can see the soldiers' kitchen gardens, potagers, laid out. Georgeanne Brennan says, "the potager has for centuries produced meals that are seasonally fresh." Here you can see a restored potager, for which habitantes and soldiers alike were justly proud from the fortress of Louisbourg. Peas did especially well in the cool, moist weather of Novelle France and early plantings normally produced large yields. As soon as the habitante could scratch in the soil, in went the peas. The peas were allowed to dry in the shell and then were harvested and put into storage.

To begin my soup I start by sautéing a mirepoix of 1 onion, 2 carrots and 1 rib of celery in butter or a little chicken fat. At this time I also add to the sauté one bay leaf and 1 teaspoon caraway seed which I've bruised in a mortar; this helps to release more flavor. When the onion has caramelized to golden brown, I add a little boiling chicken stock to the poêlon [French frying pan] and stir to deglaze the pan. Then I scrape it all into a marmite with two handles and add two cups of dried peas and the rest of 7 cups of boiling chicken broth.

I place the cover on the marmite and put it into the ashes and mound some coals and ashes around the outside of the pot. After it begins to bubble again, I taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. I can raise or lower the cooking temperature of the marmite by adding or removing ashes and coals from around its base. It also helps to pile coals against the walls of the fireplace and heat the stone prior to placing the marmite next to the stone. The reflected heat can help keep the pot simmering for hours. When the soup is done, I serve it with fresh bread and a dollop of crème fraîche. Bon appétit!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Pâte de Coings

I have some lovely large quinces, from which I wish to make quince paste or pâte de coings, also known as fruit cheese, for the winter holidays. Quince paste is one of the thirteen desserts of a Provençal Christmas. From a very old book given me by a friend, NOUVELLE INSTRUCTION POUR LES CONFITURES, LES LIQUEURS, ET LES FRUITS, Chez Claude Prudhomme. Paris, MDCCXVI, I have translated the following recipe:

"Page 150, Paste of Quinces
Have large Quinces well ripe & the yellows, healthiest which you will be able. Peel them & remove the heart if you want, if not leave the whole, satisfying you to cut your Quinces by quarters. You make boil water on fire, where you throw them, & make you cook them until they feel well soft. When they are, you drain it, to put them in a colander or net [chinois]; then pass them to you by the sieve [put through a food mill]. Being passed, you give your Paste for the drying to large fire, & then incorporate it with crushed Sugar, five quarters of Sugar for Fruit pound. You make it boil, & draw up it like the Others [It is necessary then to make it boil, & also early draw up it on slates or in your moulds of tinplate, made in heart, square, flower-of-lily, & other manners, which you will put at the oven for drying.]"

I did not peel my quinces --I wanted to make sure that as much pectin was extracted from the skins as possible, but did quarter them and I removed the core. I put them to simmer with a little water in a poëlon [frying pan or ceramic French casserole] for about 30 minutes. I then poured them and their liquid into a conical food mill and saved the juice and the pulp after reaming. To this juice and pulp, I added as much white sugar by volume and returned it to the pan to cook very slowly on the lowest heat, allowing as much moisture as possible to evaporate. I stirred the mixture from time to time, and after about an hour, the mass was a dull clear red and so thick it would draw away from the sides of the pan and leave wide, clean tracks so that I could see the bottom of the pan and it did not fall back into itself. I then poured, dumped really, the whole into a buttered tian [flat ceramic baking dish] and smoothed the top of the paste with a spatula. It set up into a fine paste, much like a gumdrop, which I then cut into squares [Because they had cooked so long and were so dry or "drawn," it wasn't necessary to dry them on screens. If your pastes should be ever so slightly moist, do dry them between plastic screens to keep insects off until they are dry to the touch and not sticky.] I then rolled each cube in white sugar and put them into a waxed paper-lined box with a tight fitting cover, in order to make sure they will last until the holidays. Each bite was an intense flavor burst with fruity-floral aroma on the palette--exquisite.

Pears, apples, sloes [sadly not available in America], crab apples, japonica fruit or medlars can be processed into paste the same way. And on this delightful site, I found many ways to use the quince paste other than as a candy. Enjoy!

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