Tag Archives | Heather Francis

Guest Post: Cranberry Blueberry Compote from Heather Francis

Today’s guest post is from adventurer and home canner Heather Francis. She is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada but has lived and worked on the ocean for over a decade. A professional cook who’s worked on both land and sea, these days you’ll find her in the galley of Kate, the Newport 41’ sloop she and her Aussie partner, Steve, have been sailing since 2008. They are currently looking for wind in the Philippines. Follow their adventures on Yacht Kate.

I hate store-bought versions of cranberry sauce, you know the ones. They slide out of the can with that sickening “slurp” sound that reminds you of feeding the cat in the morning and stand erect on the plate, wobbling. Or they come in a little jar, have a uniform smooth texture and so much sugar in them they should really be labelled “Cranberry Jam.”

The cranberry sauce that I like is slightly tart and full of fruit, ready to burst on your tongue. It is all about the cranberries, with just hints of other flavours to dress it up for a special occasion. Ideally, I would make it just as I am about to serve it with our holiday feast, and usually there is only just enough for leftovers on Boxing Day.

However, I have spent the last decade sailing in the tropics, not a place where cranberries grow, let alone get shipped. So our holiday roasted chicken (they also don’t grow turkeys in these parts) have been accompanied by a mango chutney. Not at all a bad stand in but not quite what I crave this time a year.

This fall, after five long years, I was lucky enough to make a trip back to Nova Scotia. Not only did I get a chance to catch up with family, but I spent some time at my Mother’s stove making a few batches of seasonal preserves.

Nova Scotia is the “Wild Blueberry Capital of the World” and this year was a bumper crop that lasted well into a very warm September. Two rounds of jam, a few pies and a traditional Blueberry Grunt and the freezer was still overflowing. Then October rolled around, and the first cranberries hit the grocery stores. I jumped at the opportunity to put two of my favourite berries in the same jar.

Ready in less than half an hour this compote is a dressed-up version of the classic cranberry sauce but is simple to put together. You can use fresh or frozen berries and have a light hand with the sugar since cranberries always set so well. I like using the petite 4 oz. jars, they make for a nice gift and are a little easier to fit in your luggage. The addition of almonds and a hefty splash of rum (I am a sailor!) make it feel special enough to add to a cheese board.

I won’t be heading home for the holidays this year, but I will be enjoying a little taste of Nova Scotia with my festive feast in the Philippines. I hope you enjoy it too.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 0 }

Guest Post: Pink and Yellow Pickled Eggs from Heather Francis

Today’s guest post comes from Heather Francis. Heather is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada and has spent the last decade working and living on boats. Since 2008 she and her Aussie partner Steve have been living and sailing Kate, their Newport 41’. They document their travels and their edible DIY projects on their blog, Yacht Kate. Last year, Heather shared her recipe for mango chutney with us. Today, she’s telling the tale of pickled eggs. Enjoy!  

Eggs

Captain Chook is the Master of the good ship Pollo Picante. He watches over his crew, keeping everyone safe as his vessel is heaved to and fro by the ocean. His job is not an easy one, his crew are not the heartiest bunch and his vessel has limited space. No more than 24 can live aboard in peace and late one night we woke to find that mutiny broken out.

Overloaded, the Pollo had broken free from her mooring and was run aground. We were able to salvage the ship and some of her crew, but several were mortally wounded and were given a burial at sea. We think Chook he is a fair and able Captain; not many under his command could be considered ‘bad eggs’.

We eat a lot of eggs onboard. A couple mornings a week we have an egg for breakfast and I will often make a frittata for lunch or serve a fried egg perched atop a stir fry for dinner. On passages there are always hard boiled eggs in the fridge for an easy to grab snack while on watch, and when there is fresh bread and good mayo around I treat us to a curried egg sandwich.

eggs in a carton

Fresh eggs have never been hard to find, once I stopped looking in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, that is. In most places we find eggs sold at the local open-air markets alongside all the fresh fruit and vegetables that people grow or forage. These markets are held in the municipal center or large township and islanders from surrounding villages often travel for several hours and camp out for days in order to participate.

I frequently buy my eggs in bulk, a flat at a time, so we have enough on board to last 3-4 weeks, or until we get to the next market town. However since my hanging egg basket (A.K.A the good ship Pollo Picante) can only safely hold so many I use another method to store eggs onboard; I pickle them.

I didn’t realize that pickled eggs were something unusual until I mentioned it to an Aussie a few years back. Turns out the pickled egg phenomenon never made it Down Under. I, on the other hand, have been eating pickled eggs for as long as I can remember.

Pickled Eggs Jar

On hot summer days when we all piled into the family car to take the long meandering drive through rural Nova Scotia to visit my Grandparents we would always stop for a pickled egg. On a sharp corner of a long wooded road was a small milk-carton shaped building, not unlike nearly every other house we passed that day. Maybe it was a corner shop, maybe it was just someone’s house; there was no sign or takeout window and none of us kids ever got out of the car to find out.

My Father would disappear around the corner of the building and a few minutes later return with a half a dozen pale brown pickled eggs in a small clear plastic bag. The bag was passed around the car and we would each pick out our own firm, but slightly squishy pale-brown egg. I could literally taste the anticipation as I waited or my turn, the air filling with the acidic tang of vinegar that would tickle my nose and make my mouth water. It has been over two decades since I last drove down that road and stopped at that mysterious house but a good pickled egg is still a favourite snack of mine.

Making pickled eggs is easy: hard boil and peel the eggs, put them in a large jar with desired spices and cover with a vinegar brine. When cool put them in the fridge and wait at least a week before eating. Eggs will keep for 4-6 weeks in the fridge and the flavour will continue to develop and intensify the longer you let them sit.

Traditional pickled eggs are flavoured with a blend of pickling spices; bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, caraway and mustard seeds. And although I have a soft spot for that classic flavour profile I also like to experiment. Which is how I came to make pink and yellow pickled eggs one year around Easter time.

Pickled Eggs

Unlike painted Easter eggs the colours for my pickled eggs are not achieved used dyes but by adding natural ingredients to the pickle brine. For the pink eggs I layer the hard boiled eggs with slices of pickled beets from a tin and add a little of the water from the can to the brine solution. The deep burgundy colour is slowly absorbed by the eggs and after a couple weeks penetrates almost all the way to yolk. When the eggs are sliced they are both startling and beautiful. Although many people have aversions to pink foods most agree that my Beet ‘n’ Pickled Eggs are delicious.

Anyone who has cooked with turmeric knows of its power to stain hands/aprons/dishcloths/utensils. I figured a teaspoon of ground turmeric would do good job of staining eggs too, and then I threw in some mustard and cumin seeds and a few chillies for good measure. The turmeric doesn’t penetrate the egg as severely as the beets but the result is a pretty sunshine-yellow egg with bright Indian flavours.

To most batches of pickled eggs I also add onion slices to the jar. The onion not only adds flavour to the eggs and ends up nicely pickled as well, and is a delicious addition to sandwiches or sundowner crudité plates. Of course you don’t have to wait until Easter; I keep a jar of pickled eggs in the fridge year round.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 8 }

Guest Post: Sailboat Canning and Mango Chutney from Heather Francis

Galley

Today’s guest post comes from Heather Francis. For the last six years, she and her partner Steve have been sailing around the world. They document their travels and their edible DIY projects on their blog, Yacht Kate. Enjoy! 

I didn’t start canning until I moved into my smallest kitchen ever; the galley on Kate, our Newport 41’ sailboat.
The galley (boat speak for kitchen) is a typical U shape. It would politely be described as compact but I often just say that there is only room for one bum.

When I stand at the stove it feels like I am getting a hug from the countertops. It is designed this way so there are lots of places to hold onto and lean against while we are sailing. The sink, stove, pots, pans, dishes, utensils and ingredients are all within arms-reach, literally. When I cook organization is of the utmost importance and chaos occurs after a few dirty dishes are in the sink.

Teeny Tiny Stove

The first preserve I ever made was Strawberry Jam. Six months after we bought Kate in board in Southern California strawberries went on sale; $10 for 10 pints. The plan was to sail south to Panama and then across the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean to Australia. I knew we wouldn’t be seeing strawberries for a long, long time. I lugged 10 boxes of berries, a bag of sugar and a new case of mason jars across town on the trolley and set to work.

I read a couple recipes, followed the directions loosely (I have a tendency to fiddle with recipes) and in no time had a pot of jam bubbling away on the stovetop. To take my mind off of obsessively checking to see if the jam had set I turned on the oven and made a batch of bread. The cabin became unbearably hot but I didn’t leave the stove. I couldn’t. I was mesmerized by that pot and the sticky, sweetness that filled the air.

Strawberry Jam

By the time I had ladled the jam it into jars and taken the bread out of the oven it was almost dark. I sat in the cockpit with few slices of warm bread and the small bowl of froth I had skimmed off the surface of the jam and watched the sun set.

Before I knew it I had eaten half a loaf of bread and most of the bottle of still warm strawberry jam. It tasted like summer. It tasted like childhood. It tasted just like the jam my Grampy used to make, well almost. That it came out of my little galley was nothing short of amazing.

Preserves

Since then I have made Lemon Lime Marmalade in Costa Rica, Pineapple Passion Fruit Jam in Bora Bora, Mango Chutney in the Marquesas Islands, Sweet Pepper Jelly in the Kingdom of Tonga and recently Tomato Relish and Sweet Mustard Pickles in Fiji. Whenever there is an excess of fruit and some empty bottles you’ll find me sweating next to my little stove.

Sometimes I have to be creative as the standard canning cookbooks don’t usually have recipes that include passion fruit or mangos. Out of necessity I often have to use what I have on hand or what is available in local shops; substituting a bitter orange for a lemon, or using raw sugar instead of the near impossible to find white sugar (in the South Pacific anyway). The results may not look picture perfect but they are always pretty tasty.

Fiji Preserves

I do a lot of cooking and every piece of equipment in my galley does double duty as space on a boat is at a premium. I use my pressure cooker with a standard glass lid for boiling bottles and a stainless steel or well-loved enamel cast iron pot I bought at Goodwill for cooking the preserves.

I do all the chopping, dicing and grating by hand, no matter how tedious. We depend on solar and wind power so except for a small immersion blender I don’t own any electrical appliances. If I have a really big bunch of fruit to use up I either make several small batches or borrow a large pot from another boat in the anchorage. But no one seems to mind me asking when I offer to repay the favor with a jar of homemade chutney.

Mango Prep

I don’t remember what island we were anchored at when I opened the last jar of strawberry jam. Chances are we had been on the move for the last few months and hadn’t seen anything resembling a traditional super market in several weeks. Most likely we were getting bored of eating bananas and pineapples.

I know that it was a Sunday and Steve had made us pancakes as a special treat. And I recall searching deep in the bilge for the jar and feeling like I stuck gold when I found it. We had breakfast in the cockpit and dabbed tiny spoons of strawberry jam onto our pancakes, hoping that the little bottle would last forever. The flavours were bright and sweet and familiar. It tasted like home.

Mango Chutney

Continue Reading →

Comments { 20 }