Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to Make Red Currant Jelly...plus two summer recipes

Focused on my garden tasks, I often forget how much Dayo likes to be near me until I just happen to stride by his location to get something from the potting room, and lo and behold, I spot him, the little sweetheart that he is.

Dayo inside a lavender bush

Madame M told me the fruit harvest in France has been adversely affected by the fickle weather--cold, hot, cold, hot.  I got just two cups of red currants this season; last season I harvested about four quarts.  While for the black currants, the harvest weighs in so far as two berries!

Translucent little globes of perky flavour

Happily, two cups is enough for one 250 ml jar of red currant jelly.  One jar of this jelly goes a long way as it has intense flavour which I take advantage of by melting a small amount over low heat for a quick and easy desert sauce.  Red currant jelly requires making a puree first.  Add the berries to a pot, barely cover the bottom with water, and over medium heat, cook until soft, about five minutes, mashing all the while.

Pass the mashed berries through a Foley mill and weigh the puree.

Measure out an equal weight of sugar.

Then follow instructions for regular jam making which can be found here.  Red currant jelly sets fairly quickly, so start testing for setting after a few minutes instead of the usual ten.

Red currant jelly reigns supreme as a glaze for strawberries.  I created an easy recipe for the luscious, jumbo, ever-bearing strawberries--they rival the size of small plums--that are fruiting presently in our patch.  When eating sensibly, that is, when not piling on the calories, focus on flavour.   Large, ripe strawberries stuffed with thick, strained yogurt flavoured with vanilla and topped with red currant jelly supplies just that.

For each serving, strain about four ounces of plain yogurt to which a tiny segment of vanilla has been added and place your straining set-up in the fridge for about two hours--thickening and infusing at the same time!

Almost a third of a cup of whey collected at the bottom.

Slice a bit off the bottom of three washed berries so they will sit flat and carve out a bit from the top of the berry, filling them with some of the yogurt.  Spoon the rest of the yogurt in desert dishes and then place the stuffed berries on top.  Melt  jelly--about two tablespoons per serving--by gently heating it and pour over the strawberries.

Unfortunately, I got a zero appearance from the yellow summer squash seeds I sowed indoors about eight weeks ago.  Since the seeds passed their viability test, I suspect I just did not plant them deep enough in their flats.  I don't care that much for the squash, but I do love to eat the puffy, hot goodness of squash blossom fritters.  Monsieur M caught me coveting their squash plants and asked me what I was looking for.  Flowers, I said.  He graciously let me come and harvest them.

The female flowers should be closed at the top

Yellow summer squash flower beignets (fritters) give two flavours--the mildest eggplant one of their petals and the other of the sweetest globe artichoke of their bottoms.  I gently snap off the female flowers at the end of five-to-six-inch-long squash, choosing flowers that have recently closed which will act like a pillow of hot air steaming the insides tender when being sauteed.  The flowers that do not form on the ends of the summer squash are male; they are edible also and their larger size is perfect for stuffing.  Both flowers are necessary for the squash to form, so keep that in mind when harvesting their flowers.  Mix up 1 part of grated Parmesan to 1 part of flour seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Beat an egg in a separate bowl.

Wash lightly if required and pat dry the flowers, dip them in the beaten egg, and dredge with the flour mix, rolling them around and filling the crevices well with the coating. There usually is some left over egg and cheese/flour, so I mix them together and shape little patties which get sauteed along with the squash flower fritters.

I add what is left over on the breading plate into the bowl with the eggs

Cover the bottom of a heavy skillet with olive oil, and fry till golden on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.  Blot with paper towels and serve piping hot.  I eat them just as is for supper, but they can also be served with a regular meal.

Bon appétit!

Michelle's Astuce

Any bits of used vanilla pod can be washed, dried, and then put in the sugar bowl.  Voila!  After a day or so, vanilla sugar is yours to sprinkle.