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Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts

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Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts (2)

Myhistory with both strawberries and walnuts goes back a long, long way. Growing up as the oldest of a large family, we always had long rows of strawberries where we fought with varied feathered and furred creatures to be the first to get to as they ripened. Later I married into the Martin family and they had a pick-your-own patch in those early years. I remember picking with Asian pickers and being simply agog at their flying fingers while chatting at equal breakneck speed with each other. After the stork began using our home as a drop-off location, I sold strawberry plants in the spring from our house as a little sideline income as a stay-at-home mom. It turned out to be a great way to meet the neighbourhood, as well as neighbouring communities. I also got to know the berry types and which ones grew best in certain soils. Those were good years.

We children considered walnuts the bane of our existence. Our property had formerly been a black walnut grove and my parents had opted to keep about a dozen trees on our lawn. Starting in September, we had to pick up those big green globes before we could mow. At the end of the season we saved a few bushels of them and spread them out on the lower garage floor, then drove over them with the garden tractor to remove the thick pulpy, leathery skin. When the skin was squashed and cracked, we peeled them off, wearing rubber gloves. You know what walnut stain colour on wood looks like, right? Well, dear ones, that’s the colour our gloves were after that job was done and the stain dried. We let the nuts dry in their hard wooden shells for weeks down there, then gathered them in bushel baskets and stored them in the furnace room. Then…and this is the good part…on a cold, rainy night those old enough to help would gather in a circle and pound those wooden little nuts with a hammer until the shell split and pry out the nutmeat inside. We would beg dad to tell stories of his boyhood and he obliged with delight. When we were done, we trooped upstairs and Dad (or Mom, if the little ones had been put to bed already) would fry up those little hard-earned beauties in butter until they were sizzling and fragrant, shake some salt over them, and we devoured them with gusto. To this day, I cannot brown a nut without having memories of those late autumn delights flood my being. It’s funny how memories are attuned to smells like that.

Summer Strawberry Salad (2)

This salad uses an assortment of fresh seasonal goodies that are available now. I had to use English walnuts because I have no black walnuts on hand, but it was still delicious. The dressing is from the yummy Festive Tossed Salad in our cookbook. I cut back the sugar and butter amounts from the original recipe, as I often do.

Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm and my blog is featured on their new website. The views and stories presented here are my own.

Strawberries come in many varieties and types. It is best to grow them in raised rows so that the berries don’t sit in water and rot during wet weather. The plants need to be covered in winter with straw to prevent winterkill (hence the name). With the advancement of the day neutral or ever-bearing berry, we are able to have strawberries much earlier in the spring and later in the fall than we used to. Ontarians are now making fresh strawberry pies in October for Thanksgiving, alongside the iconic pumpkin pie! They are easy to freeze for smoothies or shakes.

Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts

Ingredients

NUTS:

Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts (2)

  • 1 cup walnuts, or pecans if you prefer them
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DRESSING:

  • 1/2 olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar or honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or basil (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in quarters
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

SALAD:

  • 10 – 12 cups torn romaine, or a mix of lettuces
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
  • 1/2 cups sliced green or red onions
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, or your favourite kind

Directions

NUTS: Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add nuts and cook until sizzling and fragrant over medium heat (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper; stir it in. Set aside until serving time. These can be done ahead.

DRESSING: Blend dressing ingredients together in food processor or blender lightly.

SALAD: In a large salad bowl, layer half the lettuce, strawberries, onions and cheese. Repeat layers. The salad can be covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours. When ready to serve, top with the candied nuts and drizzle with enough dressing to suit your tastebuds. Eat and remember those who gathered the walnuts.

Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

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Strawberry Rhubarb Scones (3)

I just love living in a country where we have so many seasons. Every season is exciting because each one brings new and wonderful goodies to see, smell, taste, hear, and feel. These days we see apple blossoms gleaming in the sunshine; feel the glowing warmth; hear the orioles singing and the tractors chugging; smell the lilacs, and lastly, taste all the gastronomic pleasures the season offers.

Of those gastronomic spring pleasures, rhubarb rates right up there as one of the best. That burst of tartness on the tongue, surrounded by sweetness could draw forth odes to joy. Any takers on penning an Ode to Joyous Rhubarb?

We enjoyed a trip to Ireland in April and my attention was caught by the many and diverse ways the UK serves and sells rhubarb. We had noticed it when we were in England too. Rhubarb chutneys and preserves, rhubarb sticky toffee pudding (oh, yeah!), rhubarb crème brûlée (OH, YEAH!!!), not to mention in salads, on meats, in porridge, and in drinks. Rhubarb is slowly catching on here in Ontario in a commercial way, though, as the local food trend is growing. That’s good news!

You know what else is big in the UK, right? Scones. Yes. Do you see where this is going? Rhubarb + scones = Rhubarb Scones. And we’re going to add strawberries too, because by the end of this week, we should be getting in our first strawberries! So now we have arrived at Strawberry Rhubarb Scones. You see the progression.

I make these scones each spring. Sometimes I brush them with an egg white wash, then sprinkle with coarse sugar, sometimes I drizzle with a vanilla glaze; this year I brushed them with cream and sprinkled with regular white sugar, which resulted in a softer top. I think so far my favourite is the egg white wash, because I love crusty things. But that’s the beauty of cooking, right? You can personalize it to your own tastes.

 

See my post on Double Apple Scones for some tips on making scones. The frozen butter trick was a life-changer for me. Just remember to have everything cold, cold, cold.

 

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Glazed with egg white wash.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Scones (8)

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Check out other recipes on their new website! The stories and views presented here are my own.

Although rhubarb is technically a vegetable, it is most often served as a fruit. It grows in large bushy clumps with huge leaves, which are poisonous. Since it requires cool weather to grow. it is found in more northern climates. Once it gets hot, it wilts and gets stringy. It can be frozen and used from the frozen state. 

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Fresh strawberries and rhubarb; beautiful!

Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flourStrawberry Rhubarb Scones (3)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, scored, frozen and grated
  • 2/3 cup half and half or whipping cream
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped coarsely
  • egg white wash, cream or glaze

Directions

SCONES: Score the butter at the half cup mark, then freeze for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F or 218°C. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Whisk together the egg and cream. Grate cold butter into the bowl of dry ingredients to the score mark and stir lightly with a fork to mix. It should look like dry pie pastry with little lumps of butter showing.

POUR the egg mixture into the bowl and add the chopped rhubarb and strawberries. Lightly toss and stir with a fork again just until the dough starts to gather together but is still crumbly and wet. Turn it out onto a floured surface and gently fold everything together until it holds together, adding a little more cream if needed. Divide into two balls, sprinkle flour over top, and pat each into an 8″ disc, about 1″ thick. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. 

PLACE the wedges on a greased or parchment-lined pan, leaving at least 1″ space between each one. Brush the tops of the scones with cream or egg wash (1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon water), and sprinkle with coarse or fine sugar). If you’re planning to glaze them, don’t do anything. 

BAKE the scones for 18- 22 minutes until they look golden and have crusty edges. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving or glazing. 

SIMPLE VANILLA GLAZE: Whisk 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 – 2 tablespoons milk or cream and a splash of vanilla to a drizzle consistency.

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

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Asparagus Bacon Quiche
Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

Spring has been peeping around the corner for a while to tease us with her warmth and sunshine, only to sweep it away out of reach coyly. But she seems to have tired of her flirtatious game and has finally taken up residence in earnest. There is an old proverb that claims that good things come to those who wait, and whoever penned it knew whereof he/she spoke.

One of the good things that I wait for impatiently in the Spring is asparagus. I love asparagus and use it in a dozen different ways in the short season it is here for. Click here for last year’s Asparagus, Ham and Egg on Toast recipe; it’s great for breakfast or brunch. I can’t wait to make it again.

A sidekick that accompanies asparagus for an even shorter period is wild leeks, or ramps, as they are known as. An older friend of ours delighted in telling us a story at market about his class eating wild ramps during their noon hour break and having the teacher send them home from school early because the class reeked so badly. Imagine a room full of kids each eating a handful of fresh garlic and you might have a sense of how that classroom smelled! I have fond memories of meandering through the woods behind our place with grandma and pulling up the leeks and eating them straight out of the soil.

Asparagus and ramps combine with bacon, eggs and cheese to deliver this scrumptious quiche. I used an applewood-smoked bacon and a variety of cheeses, including Gruyere and an intriguing straw-smoked Scamoria that looks like a potato that I brought home from our recent trip to Ireland. The overall result was a swirl of flavours that blended superbly, yet allowed the asparagus to shine through.

I use the recipe for pie pastry that is on the box of lard, mix up a big batch and divide it into 5 or six portions, depending on the size of the pie plates, and freeze them individually. That way, it’s ready to go when I want to make a pie or tart. Or quiche, in this case. Chop and lightly fry the bacon, cook the asparagus quickly and chop the ramps, shred the cheese, and beat the egg mixture while they’re cooking. This egg mixture is a basic quiche base; you could also substitute broccoli or spinach for the asparagus, and ham or chicken for the bacon. If you want to make it gluten-free, this recipe is my go-to GF pastry.

Layer everything in the pastry-lined pan, pour the beaten egg mixture over it all and bake.

Asparagus Bacon Quiche (4)

Savour every bite and thank the good Lord for Spring’s bounties! I served it with a Caprese salad on the side. We didn’t eat the tulips.

Asparagus Bacon Quiche (3)

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Check out my blog and other recipes on their new website! The stories and views are my own.
Asparagus grows best in light sandy soil. As soon as warm weather arrives, it begins poking its head out through the ground. It grows quickly and needs to be harvested nearly every day. Cut off the grey woody bottoms until you reach the tender part of the stems. Asparagus can also be eaten raw, or very lightly blanched and chilled and makes a stunning and conversational addition in a fresh vegetable assortment.
Ramps grow wild in shady areas of the woods. They are in the garlic family, so you may use garlic or shallots as a fine substitute.

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 10″ pie crust, homemade or store-bought Asparagus Bacon Quiche (5)(I use the recipe on the lard packages and freeze the extra portions). Use a GF crust to easily make it gluten-free.
  • 3/4 to 1 pound fresh asparagus, washed well and trimmed (about 3 cups when chopped)
  • 1 bunch wild ramps or 2 garlic cloves, washed
  • 6 slices bacon or 1 cup ham
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded assorted cheese
  • 3 large or extra-large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half or whipping cream or whole milk*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • generous grinding of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grainy or dijon mustard

Directions

PASTRY: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a 13″ circle. fold into quarters and transfer to a pie or quiche pan. Unfold and fit into the pan, pressing it in lightly. Trim edges or fold them underneath inside the rim and crimp the edges.

FILLING: Preheat oven to 400°F or 205°C. Chop bacon coarsely and fry lightly. Slice asparagus into 1 inch pieces and cook uncovered in a little water for 3 – 5 minutes, just until it turns bright green. Finely chop the ramps or garlic and shred the cheeses. Whisk the eggs, add the seasonings and cream or milk*. Tilt pan on a low trivet to let the grease run to the bottom, then remove the bacon onto a paper towel. Strain hot liquid off of asparagus immediately.

LAYERS: In the prepared pastry, layer half the cheese, asparagus, bacon, and ramps, then repeat the layers. I start and end with the cheese; it keeps the crust from getting soggy and gives the quiche a lovely golden top. Pour the egg mixture over the layers.

BAKE for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the quiche. Don’t poke into the crust! Let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with a salad for a lovely light lunch or supper and be thankful for spring.

*Using cream will result in the firmest quiche with less water separation happening as it bakes. I recommend using whole milk if you wish to use milk.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

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Old-Fashioned Apple Cake (6)

I was waffling a bit in trying to decide the theme I wanted to use for April this year, because Easter was so early and is already past and gone. We have been hovering on the cusp of spring for ever so long, but it flirts with us, teasing us with a glimpse of sun and daffodils, then slips away behind a dark snow cloud again. Soon we shall have rhubarb, asparagus, wild leeks, and fiddleheads, but for now, we still have apples!

Every now and then I get a craving for this solid, moist pound-style cake. It needs no frosting, just a light dusting of icing sugar, and is ideal for breakfast or dessert. It has been in my recipe file for many years, and is perfect to serve on heirloom dishes, like the plate I have pictured above. That plate is part of a setting from my grandmother’s Royal Winton Sunday set and I treasure it. I use it occasionally and think of her tuneless under-her-breath whistle while she ironed; the way she always had time to read to us and take us for walks through the woods behind us; sitting at the table in her green visor bent over the newspaper while she ticked off the crossword puzzle in that day’s issue.

I wasn’t in photo mode when I was preparing the cake, so I don’t have pictures of the prep steps, but they are quite basic: prepare batter, peel and thinly slice apples; toss apples in cinnamon-sugar, and layer the batter and apples in a large bundt or tube pan. Because I’m obsessive about foods looking pretty, I saved a dozen apple slices and laid them in a circle on top of the cake. Then you bake it for a long time, over an hour.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

I served it to our Bible study group that night, but my daughter and grandson came earlier that day and we had to test it to see if it was like it should be. Yup, it was.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake (3)

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. They have a beautiful new website now and my blog is a part of it! Yay! Check it out in the News section. As always, the stories and views on this site are my own. 

I used a Honeycrisp apple for this recipe. I love its full flavour and juiciness in baking, while holding its shape nicely. 

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

Ingredients

CAKE:Old-Fashioned Apple Cake (6)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large or extra-large eggs
  • 1 cup canola, olive or your favourite oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice (freshly squeezed or Tropicana)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)

FILLING:

  • 4 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced (4 cups sliced)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • icing sugar for dusting

CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour a large (10″ or 4 L) tube or bundt cake pan. Combine the first four dry ingredients. Beat eggs, oil, juice, vanilla, and zest if using, in a large mixer bowl. Add dry ingredients in two additions, beating just until smooth (the batter will be quite thick). 

FILLING: Toss the peeled and sliced apples with second amount of sugar and cinnamon. Set aside 12 slices for the top.

ASSEMBLY: Spread one third of the batter thinly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with half of the apples and spread them as evenly as you can. Repeat layers, ending with batter. Lay set-aside slices in a spoke fashion around the top of the cake. 

BAKE in centre of the oven for 70 -75 minutes, or until your toothpick comes out clean. Cool upright in pan for 20 minutes, then remove by running a knife around the outside edge, placing a plate over the top of the pan and tipping it upside down. Place rack on the turned up bottom and tip it again right side up. It will make sense when you do it, trust me. Let cool another 10 minutes before dusting with icing sugar and serving.  To dust evenly with icing sugar, place a little of the sugar in a small fine-mesh sieve and shake it gently over the cake. Eat it and think of your grandma with fondness. 

 

Maple and Brie Baked Apples

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Maple and Brie Baked Apples (2)

For the last few weeks our internet has been floating in Never-Never Land. Those that write blogs depend heavily on internet, for how shall they post recipes without any pictures? And how shall they load pictures without any internet? And how shall they have internet unless it is restored? Thankfully, after much trotting on various rooftops and tapping of keyboards by people who know how to trot on rooftops and tap on keyboards efficiently, we are back in the Land of Now. Just in time to squeak in another maple recipe for March.

Although baked apples go way back in time, I don’t personally have a lot of history with them myself. I remember my grandmother making them occasionally, and my mom making them occasionally, and me making them occasionally, but that’s it. So this is not an old family recipe, it’s just a great way to serve apples. It’s simple, gluten-free, easy to make for two or twelve, and… you’ve gotta admit it… kind of pretty.

But! the plate it’s on… now, that’s got history. It’s an Antique. Please repeat that phrase reverently with me. It’s an Antique! Depression-era Milk Glass, to be precise, for those of you who care as I do for old, precious dishes. My family used to own a gift shop in the village of St. Jacobs and one thing we sold was antiques. It was so much fun going with Mom and Dad to auctions to buy them and research the value of them. I am of the firm opinion that old, precious dishes are to be used and enjoyed, so it seemed right and proper that this traditional dessert should be showcased on a heritage plate.

For this recipe, I used a similar syrup as the Maple Mustard Chicken in my last post. By the way, thanks to those of you who tried that recipe and messaged to say how well you like it! That is music to a food blogger’s ears, let me tell you. I cored an Ida Red apple, stuffed it with pecans and Brie cheese and basted it with the syrup. If you prefer sweeter apples, use a Gala or something similar that holds its shape well. I always peel them halfway down, both for aesthetics and because the peel gets a little tougher from baking.

Maple and Brie Baked Apples (3)
Check out that deliciously oozing centre!

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own. 

Ida Reds are a favourite of many bakeries for strudels, cakes, and muffins. They are a deep red colour with a semi-tart flavour and resist browning after being cut.  

Maple and Brie Baked Apples

Ingredients

  • 2 large, firm apples (sweet or tart, your choice!)Maple and Brie Baked Apples
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used Amber)
  • about 8 pecan halves
  • 4 Brie cheese slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Core the apple with a thin knife (a filet knife works well) or an apple corer. Make the hole large enough to stuff with 2 slices of Brie cheese. Peel the top half of the apple. Heat the butter and maple syrup together just until it begins to boil. Place the apples in a baking pan and stick 3 pecan halves down the hole to the bottom of the apple. These help to keep the Brie inside the apple. Stuff tightly with the Brie slices, top with another pecan half, then scoop the boiling syrup over the apples. Baste the apple with the syrup from the baking dish a couple of times while baking. Bake the apples for at least an hour, or until the skin begins to split and the apple is soft to your fork, but still holding together. Place the apples on your prettiest plates and scoop the syrup from the pan over top. Serve with ice cream, if you wish.   

*Because I wanted to experience the flavours of the Brie and the maple syrup, I opted not to add cinnamon. I’m sure it would be good with cinnamon, though, so go ahead and add it if you like!

Maple Mustard Chicken

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Maple Mustard Chicken

Can you believe that we are nearing the one year anniversary mark for my blog? Yeah, me neither. I kicked it off with a post about a Waterloo regional specialty, Egg Cheese, which is nearly always eaten with maple syrup, and boy, oh boy, did that stir up the yeas and the nays! I got a 2 litre carton of buttermilk last week in preparation for making it again soon. Our grocery store had the big jugs on sale last week. It’s like they know that it’s Egg Cheese season!

There is no denying that March is the Month of Maple in Ontario. Everywhere you look, there is maple this and maple that. I happen to like maple syrup too and we are rather closely connected to a certain young maple syrup producer, so in the interest of self-preservation and for the good of mankind, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and contribute my two cents.

I have fond memories of traipsing through our bush behind our place, collecting sap after school. At least they’re fond memories now. We didn’t have a farm, but we did live in the country and Mom and Dad wanted us to know where our food came from. Dad built a cute little sugar shanty at the back of our lawn, and many were the evenings we would spend out there in that warm steamy darkness, the kerosene lamp softly hissing above us. Drinking freshly gathered sap, watching it boil and skimming off the foam, opening the furnace door to add more logs to the fire, listening to Dad telling stories about his childhood: what a sticky feast for the senses. And sometimes… oh bliss, oh joy… sometimes, we took a jar of it in to Mom and she would pour it into a kettle on the stove and carefully boil it down further to the taffy stage. When it was done, she poured it into well-buttered enamel pie plates and let it cool. We waited impatiently until it had hardened enough that we could swirl it on our forks like sticky spaghetti and take that first marvelous bite. We would pop popcorn and wash apples to eat with it, because the best snack combination ever is popcorn, taffy, and apples!

I thought it was time to feature a meat entree again, so I cobbled together a simple, yet highly flavoured glaze for chicken. It would be delicious on pork chops as well, or perhaps on your Easter ham. I used bone-in chicken breasts that I had in my freezer, so they took a little longer to bake than boneless ones would have, but wow, were they tender! I served them with mashed potatoes, brown butter rutabaga, and a simple salad on my nice plates because I was going to be taking a picture of them. And we saw and tasted that it was good.

Maple Mustard Chicken (2)

Treat your special someone to a delectable dinner of Maple Mustard Chicken, mashed potatoes, rutabaga with brown butter, and a salad.

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own.
Depending on the amount of natural sugar in the sap, it takes from thirty-eight to forty gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. It is boiled in evaporator pans until it condenses and becomes thick and golden. There are four grades of syrup in Ontario: Golden, Amber, Dark and Very Dark, which is mostly sold directly to bakeries. We sell the first three grades at Martin’s. It has been interesting to watch the transition from the earlier desired grade being a lighter syrup to now, where most people desire the Amber, or even the Dark. I guess people enjoy more robust foods than they used to!
I used a shallot in this recipe. Shallots look like mini oval red onions, and the taste is somewhere between a onion and a garlic. It is adds wonderful depth of flavour to roast beef and other meat dishes, as well as to roasted vegetables.

Maple Mustard Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butterMaple Mustard Chicken
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I like Amber for cooking)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons desired mustard (I used grainy)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots or onions
  • 4 large or 6 medium boneless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Boil together the first six ingredients until it starts to thicken slightly; about 5 minutes. Lay the chicken in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Brush half of the sauce over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and baste chicken with juices from the pan. Coat chicken with remaining sauce and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife, and the glaze is getting all carmelly and golden. Serve and savour every bite.

Note: Ovens vary greatly, so if it doesn’t seem to be browning nicely for you, turn the broiler on for a wee bit, but watch it carefully! I used my convection setting, and I think the fan carmelizes better than a conventional oven does.

Early Days and Canned Applesauce

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Canned Applesauce with Cinnamon

With Family Day upon us, I asked Steve’s oldest sister Laurel what she remembers doing together as a family in those very early days when Martin’s Apples was just a fledgling business. This is what she remembers, “I have memories of picking apples every day in the fall, after school (it seemed like every day, at least!). I remember it was quite amazing when we made that old shed into a cooler and we had a cold place to store our apples. Before that, I remember storing apples (russet; Dad’s favourite back then) in our basement under the old kitchen/study, because it was cooler there. I also have memories of polishing apples in the driving shed before we went to market the next day. One Friday evening in particular stands out in my memory. It was a cozy fall evening and we were all out there together sorting and individually shining each apple for a very large order* that was being picked up. Janet (another sister) and I ate an incredible amount of apples that night.” *This order was for about 20 bushels of apples, which would be the equivalent of around 2200 apples! 

It’s hard to imagine polishing each apple by hand, but there you have it! The Martin’s took pleasure in having an attractive product from the very beginning. I have a personal attachment to that cement pad that housed that first apple cooler, because some years later it became the foundation for our mobile home; our first abode when we married. It was tucked in the orchard, partway down the “bush lane”. It was a very romantic location for a young couple’s first home, I thought. I have many good memories of living in our orchard bower. 

The Martin family has also reminisced about picking up the Melba apples that had fallen from the tree in the back yard before they could mow the lawn. These apples were then turned into applesauce for their large family. Incidentally, that old Melba tree is still standing and is the only apple tree left from those days. It was in the back yard before the orchard was planted. In an earlier post, I mentioned that creamed potatoes and sausage were two of the quintessential foods of our Mennonite culture. There is another one that should be added to that list, and that is applesauce. There are many families that eat it two, or even three times a day. It is on their table morning, noon, and night, usually as dessert. 

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The apples of my eye!

Traditionally, applesauce is made by washing (don’t peel) apples, cutting them in quarters, and cooking them in a bit of water. Then the hot apples are put through a strainer, and sugar or honey is added. The sauce is funneled into jars, covered and steamed for 20 minutes. Sometimes I like to make a chunky sauce that I don’t preserve, in which I peel the apples, core and cut them, and cook them in about an inch or so of water until soft. I mash them with a potato “stomper” as we used to call it, add desired amount of sugar (or not), and let it cool. You could also use an immersion blender, or a pastry cutter. Be aware that if you choose not to add sugar to your canned sauce, your applesauce will turn brown in the jars after it’s been sitting for awhile, since sugar is a preservative. 

A lot of people use the first apples to make applesauce. You can do that if you wish, but if you wait until the apples are riper, the sauce will be much sweeter and full of flavour naturally. Most apples can be turned into sauce. I think a blend of apples makes the best sauce, just as it does in fresh cider. 

There are several types of strainers; the old-fashioned cone ricer that my mom used, the basket-style that is pictured here, and a high-falutin’ Victorio strainer. Take your pick! 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own. 

Canned Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bushel of apples (Macs, Empire, Cortland, Crispin, Jonagold are all good)
  • sugar, honey or other sweetener to taste if desired 
  • water
  • canning supplies*

Directions

Put about two inches of water into a very large kettle. Wash and quarter the apples, placing them in the kettle until the kettle is about 2/3 full. Cover  the remaining apple quarters with water in a large bowl until kettle is free again. Cook the apples until soft and puffy, starting them at a boil, then turning them down to a low boil. Stir to keep from scorching on the bottom of the kettle, especially at the beginning. Meanwhile heat empty clean quart jars in the oven on 250° for at least 10 minutes to sterilize. Put snaplids into a little pot, cover with water, and boil for 5 minutes to soften the rubber. Turn down to simmer. Prepare another kettle or crock with the strainer over it, and ladle the hot apples into the strainer in batches. Rotate through strainer until the pulp is dry. Scrape out the junk and repeat process until all the apples are used. Add desired amount of sweetener to the sauce (I usually add 1 – 2 cups per kettle); stir and taste. Funnel the sauce into the sterilized jars, filling to middle of the neck (about 1/2″ from the top), then wipe the rim of the jar, carefully fit the snaplid on the top, and screw on the ring just until tight. Fill a canner half full of warm water, set jars in the water, and top up the water if needed. It should come to the base of  the jars’ necks. Cover the canner and turn the burner to high. Once the water is boiling, turn heat to medium-low, and continue steaming for 20 minutes. When timer goes off, turn off burner, set lid ajar, and let the jars sit in the water for about 10 minutes to settle. This keeps them from spitting juice after they are removed. Remove carefully and set on a towel to cool. Listen for the pings and pops as the lids seal; such a sweet sound of success! Let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove rings, being careful not to disturb the seals, wash up and store in a cool place until ready to eat. Enjoy plain with pork chops or with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a slice of cheese or chocolate cake! 

*Most hardware stores have canning supplies. The basics are a canning kettle with a rack, jar lifters, jars, snaplids, rings, and a funnel. There are kits that include a magnetized lid lifter that I have found useful.

One half bushel of apples yields approximately 11 litres or quarts of sauce