Tag Archives | hanukkah

Low Sugar Apple Ginger Butter

A light, silky apple butter with shot through with fresh ginger. Try it with latkes instead of plain applesauce.

Apple Ginger Butter - Food in Jars

Back in October, Janet sent me two boxes. One contained an assortment of apples and the other was filled with fragrant, fuzzy quince. I laid the fruit out on big, rimmed sheet pan and spent a day admiring it (and sniffing the quince for the pleasure of their rosy scent).

apples for butter - Food in Jars

Soon though, it was time to get down to the business of preserving. There were enough apples for two recipes (we’ll talk about the quince later). I transformed half the apples into a batch of maple sweetened butter (like this one, but with several tablespoons of apple cider vinegar stirred in at the end for extra tang). The remaining six pounds became this light, gingery butter.

apple butter on the stove - Food in Jars

I’ll confess, I’ve gone back and and forth inside my head, debating as to whether or not to actually call this recipe a butter. You see, most of us think of fruit butters as intensely dense things, brown from spices and hours on the stove.

This apple and ginger preserve is light in color and silky in texture. It is zippy and bright where a traditional butter is earthy. But jam isn’t quite right. Neither is jelly, conserve, sauce, or puree. Until I come up with a better name, butter will just have to do.

apple ginger nectar - Food in Jars

If you decide to make this preserve, make sure to save those cores and peels left over from prepping the apples. Heap them into a saucepan, add more fresh ginger, and fill the pot with water.

Let it simmer away on the back burner for an hour or so, until the peels are soft and translucent. Once strained, you’ll have an apple-ginger nectar that is delicious sipped warm or chilled. It’s an almost effortless way to get all the goodness from your apples that you can.

Apple Ginger Butter close - Food in Jars

In this, the season of latkes (Hanukkah starts on December 6!), I can think of no higher calling for this butter than a top a disc of fried potatoes. However, if latkes aren’t your thing, don’t think you can write this one off. It’s awfully good stirred into a bowl of steel cut oats and I can’t stop imagining it layered into shortbread bar cookie.

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Preserves in Action: Hanukkah Edition

rugelach

Hanukkah took me by surprise this year. It started last Saturday night, which felt impossibly early to me (I still wake up most days thinking it’s November, so I’m woefully out of sync). The days since have passed in a blurry haze of deadlines, gift wrapping, and holiday parties. Though I’ve struggled to wrap my hands around this holiday of miracles and illumination, I’ve somehow still managed to light my menorah (two nights out of six so far) make a couple of appropriately celebratory foods. They both just happen to involve preserves.

The first thing I made was a batch of rugelach. These cookies are eaten all year long, but are particularly traditional around Hanukkah. The dough is made with butter, cream cheese, flour and just a bit of sugar. After some time in the fridge to chill, you roll out the dough, spread it with fruit jam, and spread chopped walnuts and raisins over top. The round of dough is sliced into wedges, rolled, chilled (ideally, at least. I rarely have room in my fridge to chill a sheet pan) and baked. They are divine and when I make them, I feel connected to all the women in my family who rolled these same cookies long before I was born.

latkes and applesauce

 

On Wednesday night, I made latkes. I don’t really ever follow a recipe for latkes (though I do employ this trick of soaking the shredded potatoes in a bowl of ice water to help extract the starch and prevent discoloration). Much like I assume my great-great-auntie Tunkel once did, I grate potatoes until it looks like I have enough. Add shredded onion, an egg or two to bind, flour to thicken, and salt and pepper for flavor. And then fry until crisp in a bit of oil. Topped with a layer of sour cream and applesauce (there’s the preserve!), they are such a treat.

How are you using your preserves this week?

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Dark Days: Mostly Local Latkes

dinner

Hanukkah started last Friday night. For a secular, half-Jewish girl (with Ashkenazi roots) like me, that means it’s latke season. I didn’t grow up with latkes (my mother has something of an aversion to fried foods), but I adopted the practice of making them in college.

In fact, the second time I ever made these shredded potato pancakes was as a snack for a study break, when I was an RA in North Hall (a former hospital turned residence). I made around 150 in rapid succession. I learned a lot about the art of latke making that night (I also ended the evening with a number of grease burns on my forearms).

yukon golds

Over the years, I’ve developed a process of latke-making that utilizes both a frying and baking method. It means that I can use just 2-3 tablespoons of oil/fat and still have a latke that’s crispy on the outside and tender (and fully cooked) on the inside.

grater blade

I shamelessly use my food processor for the shredding of the potatoes. I’ve tried hand-grating them as well and I’ve found little discernible difference between the two. In this instance, I happily choose technology over elbow grease (it is about ten times faster). My Aunt Flora, who’s vintage Cuisinart I now possess, would be so proud to see it used in this fashion.

The only problem I come across when using a food processor is there’s always a thin bit of potato and onion that doesn’t get grated. I pluck those bits out and give them a quick chop, so that they mimic the size and shape of the food processor veg.

squeezing potatoes

One of the secrets to making a good latke is making sure that you squeeze as much moisture out as possible. Some people suggest putting the grated potatoes in a colander and weighing them down. I find that wrapping them in a kitchen towel (the floursack variety works best here) or some cheesecloth and then twisting to remove the liquid, works the best.

local lard

Hanukkah is a celebration of oil. The reason we celebrate for eight nights is that lamp oil that was only supposed to last for one night, miraculously stretched to cover eight nights (the time needed for more oil to be produced). That’s why we eat fried foods at this time of year, to honor the gift of that oil.

Because I was trying to keep these latkes local (they did contains non-local salt, pepper and flour) I made a decidedly un-Kosher choice. I cooked them in local lard. It was the best local cooking medium I had (I considered clarifying some butter, but could not find the time) and honestly, they were some of the most crisp and celebratory latkes I’ve ever made. If you aren’t trying to keep your latkes local (or you live in a different area of the country, with wider local fat choices), peanut, olive or some other vegetable oil would all be more traditional choices.

browning latkes

Last night’s batch of latkes used three small to medium Yukon gold potatoes, a quarter of a very large yellow onion, 1 egg (those first three ingredients were all-local), 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and bit of salt and pepper. Grate the potatoes, wring the liquid out, combine them with the grated onion, egg, flour, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. I’ve found that a fork is the best stirring tool for this particular job.

latkes on cookie sheet

Add 2-3 tablespoons of fat to a frying pan (I like using a cast iron skillet for this job) and line a cookie sheet with foil (it’s important that you use foil here, parchment or a silpat will make for soggy latkes). When the fat is hot, grab a small palmful of latke batter, give it a quick squeeze (too much liquid is the enemy of the latke), form it into a patty and add it to the pan. You can pat it down with a spatula if you’d like, but do not move a latke in the first couple minutes of cooking. Early movement can destroy the structural integrity of the latke and you’ll end up with hash browns instead of pancakes. Still delicious, but not the plan.

Give the latkes 4-5 minutes on the first side and an additional 2-3 minutes on the second. When they’re nice and brown on both sides, move them to the foil-lined cookie sheet. I made a relatively small batch of latkes (just the 15 you see above) so they all fit on a single sheet. When the cookie sheet is full, put it in a 350 degree oven and let them baking for an additional 15-20 minutes (baking on the foil allows for further browning. It’s best to put the lighter side facing down so that you don’t get over crisping).

Once they come out of the oven, spread them out on newspaper, paper towels or brown paper shopping bag, to absorb the excess grease. Eat with sour cream and applesauce (preferably homemade). We ate ours as part of a dinner that included steamed broccoli (local), roasted brussels sprouts (local) and roasted salmon (sustainably fished and purchased through Otolith Community Supported Seafood).

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