Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recipe: Apple Cake

What a heavenly smell this cake makes in the kitchen!  Perfect for this time year when the apples are ripe for the picking. Ha!   This cake is super moist, spicy and made to be eaten with a cup of tea.  You could gussy it up with one of those fancy bundt pans and spiced whipped cream I suppose....or a caramel whiskey sauce - yum.  I have no idea whose this recipe is, it was clipped from the newspaper - my guess is the Chronicle Herald in Halifax.  The only changes I made are described after the recipe.

Apple Cake

4    medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced or chopped
2    cups sugar
2    large eggs, beaten
1    cup butter, melted
3    cups flour
2    tsp baking soda
2    tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1    cup walnuts

glaze:  1/2 cup icing sugar
           1  cup apple cider.

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Lightly butter standard size bundt pan.  Place apples and sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir to coat.  Set aside for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Combine eggs and cooled butter; mix well.
In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and walnuts.  Add butter and egg mixture to flour mixture, then sugar and apples; stir well.  Pour batter in into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cake cool 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack placed on waxed paper.
Place cider in small saucepan; boil until reduced by half.  Let cool 10 minutes; whisk in icing sugar: drizzle over warm cake.

I did things a bit differently this time.  I used two 8" square pans instead of a bundt.  I wanted one to put in the freezer for later.  The batter was just right for the two pans.  It still seemed to need at least 50 minutes to cook, as this is a super moist cake.  Because I wan't needing all that glaze, I just took 1/4 cup of icing sugar and thinned it with a tablespoon and a half of apple cider.  The flavour of the glaze in the original recipe is super yummy and worth making properly, I was just lazy and made a basic drizzle.

happy baking!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wild Crabapple Jelly

I have never made jelly before.  Jams, yes with a package of Certo at the ready.  But, jelly from scratch?  it always seemed like it would be a tricky sort of alchemy that you work only if you've grown up with an old school Gramma who canned everything.  This site made it seem doable.
 I had seen the tree full of lovely red crabapples on my run during the week. It's a route I used to run in the winter and would never have seen the lone tree in the mix.  I decided that making jelly from a wild crabapple would be really cool.   I rode to site Saturday morning and realized that I was a couple of weeks too late.  Up close, most of the fruit had be partially devoured by hornets.  I went ahead and collected as many unblemished apples as I could

They are small like cherries and a lovely red.  I hoped this would bode well for the colour of the jelly.  I'd read some recipes where they had added food colour to give the jelly a deep red hue.  I was hoping this batch wouldn't need it.  Being small it took quite a few minutes to remove all the stems and blosssom ends and cut in half.  Thank fate they didn't need peeling!  I also thank Trev for giving me a hand.

It was a lovely afternoon to sit on the deck

All the fruit measured 8 cups when cut.  This is half of the amount used on the website I linked to above. MMs' instructions were clear and concise, but I was glad my amount wasn't an odd number.  She recommends half the amount of water to the amount of fruit.  So far so good.  8 cups fruit, 4 cups water. This was brought to a boil for 10 minutes before smooshing.

Once the fruit was boiled for 10 minutes, then mashed and cooked for another five,  it was put into a cheesecloth lined colander over a large bowl to let the juice extract itself.  You can supposedly buy a jelly strainer bag, but given how many people in the various stores I went to, looking for the cheesecloth - knew what cheesecloth was - I'm guessing that jelly making is a lost art here in South Ottawa.

The pulp is wonderfully red.  It took a couple of hours to drain.

Once the juice is drained and ready, MM recommends measuring it (making a note for future reference) and adding slightly less than that amount of sugar.  I had almost three cups, so I topped it up with a bit of water ( maybe 1/8 c) to make an even three.  I measured 3 cups sugar and then removed two spoonfuls. Once this mixture started to boil, it turned a gorgeous deep, clear red.  I was starting to get excited that this might work out after all!

Getting the temperature to 220*

I did a gel test as I was skimming off the foam and it really seemed like gelling was not going to be a problem.  Being nervous, this my first foray into jelly making, I did both the plate test and the spoon in the ice water test!  The stuff gelled like a dream!  The boiled jars were waiting in the oven at 225* and I had the lids boiling away and ready.  In the past when I've made jam according to the Certo instructions, I've never used a water bath.  I've had the canning pot for quite awhile, but have never used it!  So I popped the jars into the boiling water, waited for the boiling to commence again and set the timer for ten minutes

Make sure to start timing after the water has returned to a boil.

This morning, I popped open one of the jars and spread the jelly on hot, buttered toast.  It tasted just like Crabapple jelly should!  I got seven 250ml jars, just the right size for gifts.  Next year, I have to remember to go a week or so earlier and take Trev with me so we can get some of the fruit up high!

Like Jewels!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Checking Out Ottawa -The Mer Bleue Trail

So with a borrowed car at our disposal, we decided to check out a trail that is close to home but still out of our range by bus: The Mer Bleue Trail.  This is a 3500 sq. hectare wetland/bog that is quite a unique part of the National Capital Commissions trail system.
Going in we realized that there was more than one entrance so I took a pic of the trail number for future reference

The trail really ranges at first from foresty trail and meadowland.  We walked for ages, wondering where the heck this boardwalk was that we'd read about....

is this the result of the Fisher Cats we were warned of?  Eewww

still in the foresty area, wondering if we were in the right place.... Trev found himself a stick, while I check out the flora and fauna

Eventually, after chasing big ass dragonflies, unnamed flying bugs and seeing the landscape change back and forth, from deciduous forest to northern seeming meadowlands, we finally came to what we were originally looking for: the boardwalk!

To be fair, coming from the Maritimes - well, Trev being a Maritimer - we were sceptical of anything not attached to an ocean, calling itself a boardwalk!  After 40 minutes of walking we started to wonder if the wee bridges we crossed over old creeks, were what was meant by 'boardwalk'.  We were pleasantly surprised.

There are lots of the NCC signs along the way so that you can grasp where you are.  Ecologically, it's a fabulous area, more indicative of a northern landscape than a valley and to see the traces of the ancient Ottawa River was quite humbling. The thing that most amazed me, was the fact that on the last holiday weekend before school started, there was no one to be seen!

and suddenly the marsh turned to a peat bog!

Apparently, there are very few plants that can survive in a peat bog given the acidity of the 'soil'.  Nonetheless, it was quite lovely and I loved that there was a wonderful calm, despite the fact that highways were not that far away...

Eventually we found our way back onto a trail.  We decided that to walk the road back to the car might be quicker than taking the forest path back the way we came.  Yes, we were WRONG!  the road back was probably equal in distance, and because we had NO idea where we were it seemed like forever to find our way back.  Long enough for me to be so starving, that I considered eating at McDonalds on the way home.  Now, that's drastic!  But, just before we got onto Ridge Road to look for the entrance to #53 trail, a friend decided to send us off with a farewell:

cutie!  I'm glad we had a chance to check out this corner of our world, it's amazing the natural wonders that are sitting on your doorstep.  You just have to never stop thinking like a tourist in order to find them!