I have a generous Asian pear tree that each year delivers me several bushels of fruit. My go to recipes to preserve are poached, jammed, dried and sauced but I love to play with spices and flavor combinations. Last year the new jam flavors were red wine, madras curry, tandoori and rosemary. Rosemary was the all around winner, the madras curry came in close second and the red wine was a great way to use remaining wine sauce from my poached pear recipe. I also make a vanilla pear spread by swirling in vanilla bean paste.
I make a large batch of the basic pear jam/spread and then divide it out into smaller portions in either a bowl or sauce pan if you need to keep warm. Now you can add the spice or flavors to taste, starting with a small amount (maybe a teaspoon per four cups) and adding more as needed based on taste. I use the small half-pint jars which are great for gifting. For the rosemary pear, I used sprigs, put them in the sauce whole and let it simmer for a while to to infuse flavors (taste after a while). I then remove the full sprigs, spoon jam into jars and placed some diced rosemary needles on the top before finishing the canning process.
Last year I finally broke down and bought a food dehydrator after years of concern that it would be just another appliance taking up space. Granted it isn’t running 365, but when it is time to harvest fruit or there is a great sale at the market, my Nesco Snack Master Pro (amazon affiliate) becomes indispensable. I also found myself up to my eyebrows in jam and dehydrating offers another alternative to preserving food.
Someday I might be an “Excalibur” level dehydrator but after lots of research and polling the audiences, I settled on the Snackmaster. Besides, it is fun to say snackmaster and easy to add trays, clean and adjust heat setting.
For this recipe, I used crisp sweet Asian pears because that it what grows in my back yard, but any pear would do and I would venture to say that the curry and cinnamon and a little sugar would work on apples and bananas and other fruits. I like the sneaky subtle spice of the curry with the classic cinnamon. I use just a tiny bit of sugar but you could absolutely just skip that part and have it be plain fruit. Some people will so a quick swipe through some lemon water to help prevent browning but it doesn’t bother me (and seems to be minimal), the cinnamon hides it and it adds another step.
Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon
Ingredients: Ground cinnamon, granulated sugar and Madras curry powder (I like sun brand)
I don’t measure anything but mix together maybe a tablespoon of sugar with a lot of cinnamon (3 teaspoons? more?). This made enough for two full Snackmaster loads of pears. I put the curry on separately, for no good reason, other than trying to keep it really light.
Pear preparation: Wash, dry and you can peel them if you like. I usually leave it on but Asian pear peels can sometime ‘russet’ or get thicker and in that case I peel off part of it. Now you can cut in half and scoop out the core with a melon baller, and slice into thin wedges or slices, even leave the stem on for decoration if you like. This year I sliced horizontally, sometimes leaving the core in (removing seeds) and other times i cut it out, especially if it felt tougher.
Layer the fruit into dehydrator. Sprinkle on curry powder and then cinnamon sugar. I only put it on one side, and it leaves more than enough flavor. you could also dip the slices in the spice mix and then place on trays.
How think you slice the fruit determine the drying time. I aim for a scant 1/4 inch, closer to an eighth but my knife skills are amateur and I was too lazy to get the mandolin out. Turn on your dehydrator, about 135F for 8-12 hours. Once dried appropriately let cool and then store in a zip lock, glass jar, food saver or just eat them right away. They are a health snack, good in oatmeal or baked into cookies.
Bonus! Your house will smell like pear pie, fall and hugs. Yay!
No, not an owl nor the Baha men. I did, all part of the cleaning trend and motivation (read lit a fire) in the Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Once again, the author reminded me of things I know and treasure. This time it is don’t keep around old spices (Old Spice, is ok) and buying from bulk bins is by far the most economical way to go about stocking the spice pantry.
The mission: clean out and organize my spices.
The situation: spices live in several locations, baking drawer, three spice drawers (narrow, European things – read, not that useful), side of fridge and pantries.
The plan: document the current situation, sort spices by groupings that make sense to me in my kitchen, tidy up the space around them, replace those that are less than fresh but have potential applications
The tools: time, smell, taste, touch, visual inspection
After you locate all your spices, spread them out so you can take a full inventory.
Now sort, wipe of jars, jot down notes: what is missing, what is musty and needs to be replaced etc
Extracts, Essential oils (The liquids)
Although I don’t cook with it, the tea tree, lemon grass and spearmint are used with my beeking. Almond is as well, but I also use it baking every once in a while. I use lemon grass for scenting the sugar syrup the bees feed on in spring (mimics pheromone created by the honeybee’s nasonov gland) and late fall (will post syrup about this soon), almond extract works a bit like some of the chemical bee repellents (for clearing out a box for harvest) but didn’t work too well for me, so I might have the wrong kind of almond (oh, well). Tea tree oil has lots of applications but for bees can help with mite repellant, I have yet to encounter this plague. Spearmint helps masks your human smell when working with bees, and is calming to them, decreasing the amount of smoke you may need, which in turn is better for the bees too. The meat tenderize (not in this photo) is for the bees too, when they sting. Although I noticed on inspection it comes “with spices”, so who knows how THAT will feel on a sting.
I tossed the maple extract old, not much left, can wait until a clear indication. Combined my two dark/medium vanillas.
Montreal steak – hands down the best thing to flavor a steak with, but not lose its own beauty. Good on lamb too. More people need to use this stuff. We actually buy this at Costco and just keep refilling the little container. Lavendar pepper – keeper, low use but fun to use. I last used it to top off some homemade pate. Full peppercorns. Old! Don’t really use. Toss
Curries, chili’s and Oriental spices (yes, oriental is ok to use for things, just not people)
Red pepper powder (big in Korean cuisine, but don’t need a kilo of it), three curries (kept two – 1 is MIL fave and other is Madras, different flavor profile), chili powder (replace), indian red chili (use responsibly!) and Japanese shichimi (yummy on edamame and rice.)
Indian Specific Spices (dot not feather) The good stuff in ziploc is from my dear friend Mo’s Mom! Legit stuff.
Why bother keeping the World Market Tandori. You can make it up with stuff you already have on hand ( I snapped a shot of ingredients for proof). I also had two coriander and two turmeric, so tossed the commercial/old ones and keep the fresh ones.
The Savories (Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Oregeno etc) and The Leafies (parsley, tarragon, dill etc). I really am not sure what the purpose of dried parsley is…. No flavor, not really a pretty green and they sell it in huge jars. I just decided that I don’t need it, no point and I will get real stuff or use something else.
Dippers (including ranch dressing mix powder – just mix it with yogurt, sour cream or cottage for tasty dip). Was able to combine some of the olive oil seasons, since they were the same (e.g. Parmesan blend) or darn close enough.
Baking Lot, including sprinkles. Just a few needing refreshing, like cinnamon sticks (key to my pears in red wine sauce), ginger, nutmeg and cream of tartar (important for making baking powder)
Others (although 5 spice snuck in here and belongs in the oriental pile, and then the garbage. Not my fave). I tossed from here some that have chemicals or MSG, like seasoning salt and this particular onion powder. One should worry when the back of a spice bottle looks more like a prescription pill bottle… The Fruit Fresh is “titrated to effect” so no too worried and my favorite spice was in this group too, Smoked Paprika. Get some. Poppy seeds were a bit weird and fluffy looking. Hmmm. No flavor either.
Nice and tidy. Was able to move into my Indian spice set (love!) and save big bucks by buying bulk (an alliteration!). I replaced 12 spices from bulk bins and one commercial package (whole cloves, they just didn’t have them in the bins.) all for $18.88 minus the cost of a bag of Whethers.
Everything is so much more aromatic and I was able to purchase meaningful quantities of herbs versus the size of the container. I also added in some whole cardamons, that I can grind and add in to so many different things – this was missing from the lot before. I got rid of the containers on the side of the fridge (they were always spilling their contents, centralized most into the drawers and committed to the kitchen goddess to do this again next year, or so.
What is your favorite spice? Mine is a tie with sage and smoked paprika…..
Adapted from one of my favorite classic cook books, The Gourmet Cook Book vol 1: Corn Bread for Northerners Only
Sift 1 ½ cups flour with 3 teaspoons double-action baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ cup sugar. Add ½ cup yellow cornmeal and mix well. Beat 2 eggs and add 1 cup milk and 3 tablespoons melted butter or bacon drippings. Combine with dry ingredients, stirring only until well mixed. Pour batter in baking pan or muffin tins, coated with butter, cooking spray or shortening. Bake in hot over (425 F for 12-30 minutes, depending on pan).
I added about 2 teaspoons of curry powder to the dough to see what would happen. It really brings a dimension of flavor and fragrance. Hubby preferred over plain corn muffin. This first time I added to only part of the dough after already mixed just to experiment, but would be easier to incorporate into dry ingredients portion. Alternatively, you could just make up some curry butter and spread on plain muffins. For my mini-muffins it took about 13 minutes to bake.
Serve warm with butter and honey.
I made 2 dozen mini muffins start to finish in 40 minutes from scratch, AND experimented. Hard to make the case for using a mix. I have previously kept Marie Callendar’s mix on hand. While, it turns out fine and only requires you add water, there is something eerie about the ingredients. I am trying to pay much more attention to this and really going for whole foods. I consider foods whole even if made into something else, though contrary to others’ definitions. What the heck is sodium acid pyrophosphate and why did the corn cones get degermed (how do they do this and what is a cone?)?
Corn Cones – Fine, uniform meal used in processed foods such as corn dog mix or hush puppies, extruded cereals, muffin and dry bakery mixes. Ok, not as freaky as it sounds….
Degermed – corn where the nutritious germ has been removed from the corn, and it’s not whole grain. I’ll keep my germs please.
Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate -a GRAS (Generally recognized as safe) chemical, used for a variety of things, but most likely in this mix it is an acid source for reaction with baking soda to leaven baked goods. You may also find it keeping the color in canned seafood, in leather processing it facilitates removal of hair, feathers and scurf (this word needs no definition, the pronunciation says it all) in animal slaughter an in petroleum production, it can be used as a dispersant in oil well drilling mud. Probably in combination with other chemicals not in this cornbread mix, but still makes a strong point.
Ditch the mix!
And on that note, I leave you with a steamy alternative image of the muffins. Enjoy! These are A-Maize-Ing……