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Basic Flan

Basic Flan. Yum!

Flan. Not what most kids want for dessert. But, if you can get them to TRY it, many will like it. As an adult, with more mature tastes, almost everyone will appreciate it. Flan is a custard that is pretty firm, and is baked with caramelized sugar that becomes a syrupy sauce.

Many cultures have a version of flan, especially Latino and Hispanic cuisines. The one I am doing here is a pretty simple, basic Mexican style flan. I ordered a flan pan via the internet to cook mine in; however, you can use an 8″x3″ deep cake pan or something similar, with or without the water bath. Using the water bath, I believe is supposed to give a more even heat and a finer texture.

Here’s the recipe:

Basic Whole Egg Flan

5 whole eggs

1 can of evaporated milk

1 can of condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup granulated white sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to to 350F. Add sugar to a small saucepan, preferably non-stick, over medium heat. Pay close attention and stir often. Adjust heat as necessary.

Starting the caramel.

Sugar starting to melt. Stir!

In a large mixing bowl, add 5 whole eggs. (I remove the little white globs with a fork, or you could strain, after mixing in other ingredients.) Add condensed and evaporated milks and vanilla. Combine well, using a wire whip.

Eggs and milks.

When the sugar is completely melted, it should be a nice amber color. It will burn VERY quickly, so don’t push it too much and pay close attention! It will be extremely hot and sticky, so handle with care! I think I went just a bit too long, as some stuck to the pan and was hardened. (see photo below)

Caramel is ready!

Carefully pour the caramel into the flan pan or baking pan.

Caramel in the pan.

Ladle the egg mixture into the pan. I probably should have let the caramel set-up just a minute or two. We’ll see how it turns out. (see photo below)

Custard mixture added.

If using flan pan and water bath, affix lid to flan pan, place in a larger, oven safe dish, on a sheet pan or other larger baking pan. Add boiling water to the bath pan, coming halfway up the flan pan. Carefully transfer to preheated oven.

In the water bath and oven.

If not using flan pan  or water bath, just put baking pan on a cookie sheet onto the oven rack. Oven rack should be in the center of the oven. Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate for a least a couple hours prior to serving.

Out of the oven and cooling.

To serve, run a knife around the sides to release, invert a serving dish onto the flan baking dish. Make sure you have a dish that will hold the caramel liquid, without overflowing!

I used a pie plate to invert my flan onto.

Carefully, but quickly flip over, and then remove the baking dish.

Ta da!!! Looks like I should have let the caramel set for just a minute, but looks pretty good.

Some caramel hardened onto the pan. Next time, remove from heat sooner?

Heading to the fridge for a couple of hours.

Cut into servings, plate, spoon syrup over.

May be served with whipped cream and/or berries, if desired.

You can find versions of flan with various flavors, such as coffee, chocolate, pumpkin, almond, coconut, and more. Once you are comfortable with the basic recipe, try some variations! Enjoy!

UPDATE  (9/2/17)  Since the initial post, I’ve made a couple more flan and experimented a little. First, the hardened caramel kind of bugged me, so I’ve tried to remove it from the heat sooner…just trying to make sure its completely melted. I also have given just a couple of minutes before adding the custard mixture. I’m still getting some hardened caramel, though. But I’ve found that I can break it up, and either eat it like candy, or try to melt it in a sauce pan with a couple tablespoons of water and then pour it back over the flan, after it has cooled. Melting it again takes some time and constant vigilance, though.

Eat it,or melt it?

It has produced a better top surface…nice and smooth.

Nice smooth top.

Other experimentation, has been in flavoring variations. The above photo is actually a coffee flavored flan. I just dissolved some instant coffee, about 1/3 cup, into just enough water to dissolve it. I stirred than into the custard mix until well combined. I think it was very good.

The other variation, that I did today, was chocolate. For this one, I added 1/3 cup cocoa powder directly to the custard. It was a little messy and slow to get mixed in, but I worked at it and prevailed! Here are a few photos of that flan coming out of the pan:

Out of the oven and lid removed.

Smooth, glassy top!

Mmmm…chocolate.

Nice! Definitely has that cocoa powder chocolate flavor.

 

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Scuppernong Jelly 2016

Scuppernong grapes

Scuppernong grapes

 

Well, this year hasn’t been too productive in my usual spots for wild foraging my Muscadines; so, I wound up purchasing some Scuppernongs at the local farmer’s market. Scuppernongs are the green/gold variety of Muscadines. I think the flavor is a little lighter, and maybe has a little honey note to it. (I’ve thought about making a Scuppernong mead, but haven’t done it yet.) I bought a “one gallon” bag of grapes for $10.00 and weighed them when I got home. It was literally one big grape over four pounds. Of course, I ate about 4 or 5, so it was about 3 pounds and 14-1/2 ounces when I started the jelly making process.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

The recipe that I’m using is from the USDA Guidelines…pretty much have to do that if I want to be able to enter my final product in the N.C. State Fair Food Preservation competition. (I’ve entered a number of things over the last four years and won two first place blue ribbons and several second place ribbons.) Here’s a link to the recipe: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/grape_jelly_powder.html   But keep in mind, things don’t always work out perfectly regarding volume.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

This time, the grapes I had yielded only 3-1/2 cups of juice…even though the recipe only calls for 3-1/2 pounds of grapes and a cup of water. The recipe is based on Concord grapes, though…maybe they provide a better yield than Scuppernongs. Anyway, to get to the 5 cups of juice that is called for, I strained my grapes through a cheesecloth bag that I created and hung from a cabinet and allowed to drip into a bowl.

Extracting the grape juice.

Extracting the grape juice.

After squeezing the pulp, I put another 1-1/2 cups of water in a pot on the stove and boiled the cheesecloth bag in it, like a teabag for ten minutes. I poured the now-flavored water into the bowl and re-hung the bag to drip. I’m trying to keep the flavor from getting watered down.

The juice is now refrigerated until I’m ready  to continue the process tomorrow. This allows any sediment to settle and reduces the chance of tartrate crystals forming in the final product. The juice will be filtered through cheesecloth again before continuing.

Next Day: I ran the juice through cheesecloth and held back a tiny amout of sediment. I needed to add about a 1/2 c. of water to make 5 cups total.

Almost ready to can.

Almost ready to can.

Followed the rest of the recipe instructions and ended with nine 1/2-pint jelly jars and processed them in the water bath canner for 5 minutes. Now they sit for 24 hours. (I love hearing those lids popping as the vacuum seals them to the jars!)

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

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Pineapple Pickles

Pineapple pickles, left.  Grape leaf experiment, right.

Pineapple pickles, left. Grape leaf experiment, right.

I recently was playing around with trying to pickle some muscadine grape leaves. I think it was successful, but the muscadine leaves are so small, and they are difficult to handle after blanching. I wound up adding some yellow squash slices to fill the jar, plus some lime wedges and fresh dill. I doubt I’ll ever do it again, and I have no idea what I’ll do with the leaves. Maybe the squash slices will be good? Anyway, I had some leftover brine; so I decided to use it with some fresh pineapple that I had in the refrigerator.

The brine was a one to one ratio of apple cider vinegar and water, plus kosher salt. I used a cup each of the liquids and 1/8 c. salt. The pineapple was in large wedges, so I removed the core and cut into “spears”. I put the pineapple into a jar, added a few fresh basil leaves, and then covered with hot brine. I sealed the jar and processed in boiling water bath for 15 minutes. If these turn out to be good, I’ll probably experiment more and do some larger batches.

Update 5/22/15: Tasted the pickled pineapple and it was pretty good! Definitely has a sweet/sour thing going on. I’m not sure if I get the basil. I put the rest in the refrigerator  and will try it again chilled. I bought another pineapple and removed the peel and core to make tepache, a fermented Mexican pineapple drink. I only use the peel and core for the tepache, so I decided to pickle the fruit. I went with 1-1/2 cups each water and apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Added a stick of cinnamon and boiled. Removed from heat and tossed in a couple sprigs of rosemary. I packed the pineapple into 3 pint jars, divided the cinnamon stick and rosemary between the jars, added brine to a headspace of about 1/4″ and sealed. I processed the jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. I went back and tasted the brine and it was EXTREMELY salty. It may be okay for pickling…but maybe not. We’ll see. Hey, it’s just a pineapple!

Update 5/24/15: I opened a jar of the pineapple pickles that I made with the rosemary and cinnamon. Definitely strong on the salt! Then it’s sour and the rosemary comes through. I think rinsing the brine off helps with the saltiness, but it IS a pickle! It’s not pineapple in juice or syrup. I think I would warn folks and not surprise them with this one! In the future, I think I would try to back off the salt and increase the sugar (being careful to make sure the brine is still appropriate for safe pickling). The rosemary and cinnamon are good.

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2014 Foraged Muscadine Jelly

Muscadine Jelly 2014

Muscadine Jelly 2014

This year, my first batch of forgaged grapes went towards making wine.

Muscadine Wine in the fermentation bucket

I have almost 3 gallons fermenting, but when the crushed grapes are removed (they are in a mesh bag), and I go through the process for extended fermentation and clarifying, I’ll probably wind up with about 2 gallons. So, I went for another round of grapes from my closest sources and gathered another 2 pounds of grapes, plus a couple of ounces. Referring back to last year’s post, I made another batch of jelly. The main difference is that this year, I was short on the juice by just a little over a cup. So, I pulled out a pint of crab apple juice that I canned last year and brought the measurement up to 5 cups.

Prepared crab apple juice, high in pectin.

Prepared crab apple juice, high in pectin.

Crab apple juice that has been made from cooked crab apples, and strained, is supposed to be high in pectin, too.

I followed the instructions and wound up with eight 1/2 pints and a little extra that I stuck in the fridge.

Eight 1/2 pints of muscadine jelly

Eight 1/2 pints of muscadine jelly

As I write this, the *ping* of sealing lids is making me happy! Will one of these jars be a ribbon winner at this year’s N.C.State Fair? Time will tell.

Here’s a link to last year’s post with instructions for making the jelly. (Store bought or farmer’s market bought grapes are usually bigger and juicier…but they ain’t free!) https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/wild-muscadine-grape-jelly/

This year, I have a compost bin, so I’ll be composting the grape skins/seeds. Since the seeds have been boiled, they should compost and not germinate.

Cooked and squeezed grape must, headed for compost bin.

Cooked and squeezed grape must, headed for compost bin.

I pulled the little extra jar from the refrigerator, once it had chilled and sampled it…a little tart, great grape flavor. The texture good…not loose. Good stuff. This would qualify as “spoon fruit”!

Pretty...tasty.

Pretty…tasty.

Little extra for sampling.

Little extra for sampling.

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Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Foraged wild muscadine grapes

Foraged wild muscadine grapes

It is unfortunate  that my previous blog host lost all of my posts from August 31 through early October. Fourteen in all! Luckily, I DID save recipes on my computer. If you’re interested, “pin” this one or save it for next August/September when the muscadines are in season again! Muscadines are the native grapes in North America. This would have been the only grapes available to our settlers for wine-making and jelly. It would be a long time before “table grapes” and European wine grapes made it to this continent. I have located a few secret spots to forage enough wild grapes to make a couple of batches of jelly each year. I love the idea of foraging and using FREE fruit! You can, however, get cultivated muscadines (and scuppernongs) in grocery stores and, in some areas, at local farmer’s markets. To be technically accurate, both the purple and the green grapes are “scuppernongs” and the purple ones, specifically, are “muscadines”. Typically though, we use the term “scuppernong” for the green ones. Aaaanyway, they’re both delicious and make great snacks, jelly and wine! I haven’t tried making wine yet. Next year!

To eat these grapes as a snack, you point the end of the grape where the vine was attached into your lips and you squeeze the grape, so that it pops the insides into your mouth. Squeeze the skin for any remaining juice and throw it away. Now, the pulp is a little blob with a couple of seeds. It can be sucked through your teeth to remove the seeds. Spit out the seeds and eat the pulp. A little odd, but fun and delicious!

For making jelly, you cook the whole grapes. The skins give the muscadine juice a beautiful purple color.  This jelly was entered into competition at the 2013 NC State Fair and came in second place! This is a big category and I was very pleased to win a red ribbon! (I also won a red ribbon for homemade ketchup!)

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

I wanted to get this post back on the books, spread the recipe and encourage everyone out there that might enjoy foraging for grapes or making jelly. Just make sure that you only forage where you have permission or don’t need it . I’m also currently trying to get a couple of grape vines to survive on my property. So far, the dogs have thwarted my attempts. I have a couple outside of their area now…I hope they make it through the Winter! Now for the jelly recipe. Enjoy!

Muscadine Grape Jelly  Originally published 9/5/13  [2nd Place, 2013 NC State Fair]

Ingredients

Muscadines

Muscadines

7 cups Muscadine Grapes

3 cups Water, plus extra, if needed

7 cups Sugar, white, granulated

1 box Sure-Jell Pectin (6 Tablespoons, if using bulk)

½ teaspoon Butter

Directions

Put the grapes and 3 cups of water into a sauce pan, 5 quarts or larger, on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil and continue for 10 minutes, stirring often.

IMAG1074IMAG1077

Using a potato masher, mash the grapes.

Mashing the cooked grapes

Mashing the cooked grapes

Prepare a colander over a large pot or bowl with 3 or 4 layers of cheesecloth. Dampen the cloth with water first and wring out. Make sure you use plenty of extra overhang on the cheesecloth, as you will be gathering it into a bag shortly. (If you have a “Jelly Bag and Frame” set-up, you can use that instead.)

Cooked, mashed grapes, cheesecloth, colander, stock pot.

Cooked, mashed grapes, cheesecloth, colander, stock pot.

Pour the grape mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander that is set over a pot or bowl for draining. Next, gather the cheesecloth into a bag and tie with kitchen twine.

Tie and hang the bag to drip.

Tie and hang the bag to drip.

Make the tie so that there is a loop you can use to hang the bag.

Hang the bag from a kitchen cabinet knob and position the bowl or pot under it. Allow to gravity drain for an hour or so. When cool enough to handle, squeeze any remaining juice from the bag. Some recipes say not to squeeze the bag, but this is a dark jelly and clarity isn’t really a major factor. If you want to wait a few extra hours and waste some juice (which equals flavor!), then go ahead.

5 cups of juice...look at the color!

5 cups of juice…look at the color!

Once all the juice is extracted, pour into measuring cups and, if necessary, add just enough water to equal exactly 5 cups. If you need to take a break in the process, now is the time to do it. The juice can be refrigerated overnight or 24 hours.

Prepare water bath canner set-up and supplies. Sterilize jars and heat lids in water, just below the simmering point. Next, in a 5 quart or larger sauce pan, bring the 5 cups of juice to a boil. Add the pectin and whisk well. [Side note: I use pectin powder because it requires less cooking and, I think, a more true muscadine flavor.] Add ½ t. butter to reduce foaming. Pour in all the sugar at once and quickly whisk until it is all incorporated. As soon as the mixture returns to a full rolling boil, set timer for one minute and continue to whisk constantly. Be careful to keep from boiling over! As soon as time is up, remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Canning the jelly

Canning the jelly

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly.

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly.

Ladle the hot jelly into jars, leaving 1/4” headspace. Clean rims with a damp cloth or paper towel. Place lids and threaded rings on the jars and screw down the rings until snug. Place jars in the water bath canner with enough boiling water to cover the jars by 2 inches. When canner returns to a good boil, set timer for 5 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars to a cloth lined counter and allow seals to firm for 24 hours. Check seals, remove rings, label and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Any lids that don’t seal can be refrigerated and used right away.

Makes 8 to 9 – 1/2 pint jars. I would have 9 ready plus a 4oz jar, if you have one, just in case. If you have leftover, you can always put it into a small storage container or glass and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Peanut butter and jelly? Yes, please!!! Enjoy!

PB and the best grape J ever!!!

PB and the best grape J ever!!!

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