Thursday, 27 January 2011

Frozen food - update

You may remember that back in December when the temperatures plummeted to -13°C, my cupboard full of potatoes froze, along with the apples and onions in store. Well the temperatures have been above freezing for a few weeks now and to be honest I have avoided opening the cupboard door to deal with the potatoes.

As it happens, Tuesday night Steve decided he really needed a bottle of cider to go with his pork chop. The cider just happens to be in the same cupboard as the potatoes so off he went. A few minutes later I heard him exclaim, "Oh my God!". Then he returned to the kitchen to get an black bin bag. Fortunately, it is bin day on Wednesday so the timing was good. I didn't feel the need to see the sight for myself but Steve described the potatoes as bags of soggy, stinking mush. Thank goodness of the cider urge I say... except, of course, after all that he forgot the bottle of cider and had to go out again.

Strangely, the onions didn't seem to succumb to freezing in the same way and I have been continuing to use them up since they thawed out. I wonder whether the internal chemistry or cell structure of onions is significantly different and prevents the bursting of cells damage that goes on when potatoes freeze. Whatever the reason I'm glad that that crop is still usable.

But what of the apples? They were in a box on a high shelf and I couldn't see into the box without lifting it down. I had hoped to use the apples up to make brown sauce. Brown sauce is Steve's favourite homemade sauce and my parents are fond of it too. Unfortunately, I'm down to my last bottle of last year's vintage so need to make some more. It had been my intention all year to make some more but over and over again it seemed to be thwarted. At first, when the plums and apples were harvested I simply didn't have the time to make the sauce. The sauce takes about 5 hours to make from start to finish, whereas jam may only need one to two hours to make. Then the next problem was the low plum harvest because I only managed to gather a few pounds of Victoria plums from my tree this year. After making jams etc. I used up all my plums. But then on Monday Sue invited me round for a coffee and before I left I re-acquainted myself with the contents of her chest freezer. I had remembered the 3lb of greengages and pounds and pounds of tomatoes but had forgotten about the 4lb of plums. Hurrah, brown sauce back on the menu... Wait... what about the apples. Brown sauce needs 1lb of plums and 4lb of apples.

So it was with some trepidation that I lifted the box down with morning but what a pleasant surprise! Three mouldy apples but otherwise a perfect box, apparently unaffected by their freezing. The skins were a little wrinkled but they was destined to come off anyway. Brown sauce here we come.

Brown Sauce

Makes about 3 pints (2 litres)
4 lb ( 1815g) apples
1 lb (454g) plums
2 large onions
2 pints (1300ml) water
3 pints (2000 ml) malt vinegar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 oz (55g) salt
2 lb (900g) light brown sugar

Peel and core the apples and cut into pieces. Halve and remove the stones from the plums and cut into pieces. Peel the onion and finely chop. Put the fruit and vegetables into a preserving pan and pour in the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-20 minutes until the fruit is soft and pulpy. Blend in batches until smooth in a blender then return the puree to the preserving pan. Add all the other ingredients and bring back to the boil then simmer until thick. Remove from the heat and transfer into warmed bottles and seal immediately.


And 5 hours later, in a freezing cold kitchen (doors and windows open), I had 8 bottles of brown sauce. I also had half a box of apples left so I whipped up a batch of apple waffles (recipe to follow) and apple & cinnamon flapjacks too.

Apple Cinnamon Flapjacks

3 apples
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons apple juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 oz (25g) corn flour
7 oz (200g) oats
2 oz (50g) light brown sugar
4 oz (110g) butter

Preheat oven to 190°C (gas 5) and grease a shallow tin or baking tray. Peel, core and chop the apples and place them in a saucepan with the granulated sugar and apple juice. Bring the fruit to the boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until soft. Place in a blender and blend until smooth. Mix the corn flour with enough cold water to make a thick liquid. Return the puree to the saucepan, add the cinnamon and the corn flour and bring to the boil, stirring continuously until it forms a thick paste. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a bowl, mix together the oats, sugar and butter until it just binds together. Press half the oat mixture into the tin. Spread the apple paste onto the oat base then cover with the remaining oat mixture and press to form a sandwich. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden. Mark out the biscuit whilst still hot then allow it to cool completely in the tin.

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