Fun with Gelatin: Pink Strawberry Terrine

Pink Strawberry Terrine 24

This is another cleaning-out-the-pantry post, but it’s a little less nuts than the one we had on Monday.  At least this one is a bit more common.  It’s only got five ingredients and it’s super simple, and perfect for a hot summer day when  you really don’t want to do any baking.  Like when there’s a forest fire in Québec and the smoke has smogged up the whole island and the sun is a little pinky orange ball.  Those kinds of days.

Pink Strawberry Terrine 1

I have a ton of unflavoured gelatin packets in my pantry, as well as many cans of condensed milk.  There are lots of things you can do with gelatin, making aspics and whatnots, but I like the idea of creating a terrine of happily suspended fruit.  This one is a nice pretty example.  Then, if you want to get super adventurous, you can try layering your gelatin, and create a lovely contrast by adding sweetened condensed milk to gelatin to create a nice white alternating layer.  Beautiful, right?  And then you can sort of combine the two techniques by creating stained/broken glass jello.  So I’m gonna put all that together.  Because I CAN.

Pink Strawberry Terrine 3

Also I keep thinking of this, every time I make something with gelatin: I AM MADE OF JELLY.

http://www.weebls-stuff.com/

Start with some juice.  I like cranberry juice.  Tart and tangy and a lovely colour.  Pour half a cup of room temperature juice into a bowl and sprinkle 2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin on top of that (each package contains 2 1/2 teaspoons gelatin granules).  Leave that for 5 minutes to “bloom”.

Pink Strawberry Terrine 5

Here I have most of a container of strawberries that I picked up at the grocery store.  I think it’s about 2lb worth of fruit.  Anyway, wash that and cut it up to a manageable size.  Use whatever fruit you want, but I’m going with strawberries because they’re pink and that’s what I have.

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Take another 1 1/2 cup juice and huck that in the microwave (because I didn’t want to turn on my oven in this heat).  Heat that until it boils, which will be a few minutes depending on the type of microwave you have.

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Slowly pour the boiling juice over your bloomed gelatin.  Stir that like a crazy person until all the jelly goodness is dissolved throughout the liquid.

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Add in 1 can sweetened condensed milk.  Stir to combine.  It will curdle a little bit, but don’t fret.  If you want your gelatin to remain clear, leave the milk out of the equation.

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I also added in a splash of grenadine syrup, for more colour.  Let that cool to just warm.

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Toss your fruit into a loaf pan.  You can layer it if you want to get fancy, with different fruits, but that’s a little too high-falutin’ for my tastes today.  Plus my gelatin is opaque so you won’t be able to see the layers anyway.

Pink Strawberry Terrine 7

Drizzle the gelatin mixture over your fruit, careful not to pour too hard (if you’ve got layers that could be disturbed).  If you don’t want your fruit to float to the top (which will end up being the bottom when you flip it), drizzle only half your mixture in and chill that for at least 15-20 minutes first before adding the rest of the liquid.  This will gel your fruits into the places you want them to be.

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Chill that sucker for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).

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To serve, set the loaf pan in a sink full of warm water for a few seconds.

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Wipe off the pan, and invert it over your serving dish to release the gelatin. I need a bit of practice with my dismount it seems.

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Slice it up like a loaf of bread.  I suggest you use a warm wet knife for this, as you can see that mine kind of fell apart a bit when I didn’t do that.

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The Empty Ocean Spray Bottle

Like a good little girl who suffers from frequent UTIs, I consume some form of cranberry juice on a daily basis.  In my experience, Ocean Spray has the right amount of cranberry goodness in their juice to make me feel all right.

Ocean Spray Bottle

As a result, I end up with a lot of empty Ocean Spray bottles.

So as a result of THAT, I recycle a lot of empty Ocean Spray bottles.

But you can do more than that.  The lovely squareness of the Ocean Spray bottle makes it a good fit for many things.

Currently, there is one, filled with water, inside the tank of my toilet.  It tricks my ancient toilet into thinking that it’s fuller sooner and so I don’t waste as much water every time I flush.

Ocean Spray Bottle

You can use them as  cooling packs as well.  Fill one about 2/3 full of water (because water expands when it freezes) and chuck it in the freezer.  Not only will it help you to keep your freezer full and thus working at peak efficiency (this is not a problem I have) but it will also make a handy cooler addition for picnics and camping.  The squareness of the bottle means it will fit anywhere, and as the water melts, it will keep your food fresh and provide a nice refreshing drink at the end.

Ocean Spray Bottle

Let’s not forget that you can re-use them for their original purpose, and put more juice, like the stuff you make from powder or concentrate, back in them.  They’re also a good way to store iced tea that you’ve brewed, or to flavour water.  I like to have an extra container of filtered water in the fridge for dinner parties, because we tend to get thirsty with all that talking and eating and my Brita pitcher just can’t keep up.

Ocean Spray Bottle

The squareness, again, lends itself to storage just as nicely.  Small pastas, like macaroni, or rice or any other small nodule-like dry good (jelly beans?), will be easy to find and compactly stored in your pantry — just make sure the bottle is fully dried out before you pour in your foodstuffs.

Ocean Spray Bottle

And if you want to get really creative, you can turn the empty bottle into a bird feeder to help out your avian friends over the winter.  Make it into a giant spare change holder.  Or  drum.  Or use it as a float (filled with air) or a weight (filled with sand) for keeping track of your dock moorings at the cottage.

Cut off the bottom and use the top as a funnel for birdseed, cat litter, sand … whatever you need to funnel.  Fill it with water and bury it in your garden to keep your tomatoes watered.

Ocean Spray Bottle

Use the square bottoms as drawer organizers that you can move around at your whimsy and fill with all your odds and ends.  Decorate them and keep them on your desk, in plain sight.  Make them hold pencils or buttons.

Ocean Spray Bottle

Many years ago I had a client who was a bit of a hoarder, and he had kept all his bottles, filled with water, and lining the shelves that ran near the ceiling in every room.  He was preparing for the apocalypse, I suppose.

That’s about all I can think of.  If you have any other uses, please feel free to add them in the comments section.  I would love to have more things to do with all my empty bottles!

Cranberry Cobbler

This simple, zesty cobbler has a hint of citrus that takes it from ordinary to extraordinary, and is wicked easy to make.  The recipe, taken from the O Magazine Cookbook, calls for orange zest, but I substituted it for lime, because that’s what I had on hand. 

I also used flash-frozen cranberries instead of fresh, and they worked out just fine.

Preheat your oven to  350°F.

In a large bowl, beat together 6 tablespoons softened butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until smooth and creamy. 

Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, until well blended.

Add in 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange (or lime) zest and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Add in 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder and beat until fully blended. 

Set that aside for a wee bit.

In a 2-quart shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, pour in 6 cups cranberries.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon orange zest (or lime zest) on top.  Give it a bit of a stir.

Spread over this 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup cranberry juice.

Spoon the topping batter over the cranberry mixture by heaping spoonfuls. 

Feel free to spread it and flatten it a bit if you like.

Bake for 40-60 minutes (depending on your oven), or until the filling is bubbly around the edges and the topping is brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped or ice cream.

Cranberry Sauce

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

For those of you from elsewhere, Canadian Thanksgiving has nothing to do with pilgrims taking advantage of the hospitality of the local folk.  It’s a celebration of the end of the harvest (which, as Canada is further north than the United States, is a mite earlier in the year), and the harvest has been good this year, so let us FEAST.

I’ve been making this simple cranberry sauce (because, really, how can a cranberry sauce be complicated?) since I was tall enough to see the top of the stove.

We’ve got ten people coming to our feast tomorrow and they all like cranberry sauce so I’m going to make quite a bit of it.  If you’re familiar with my general-purpose fruit sauce, the process is very similar.  Or identical.

Take two packages (340g/12oz) fresh cranberries.

Wash them and bung them in a pot.  Add about 3/4 cup of granulated sugar as well as 1/2 cup cranberry juice or water.  You can add more sugar later if it’s not sweet enough for you.

Bring it to a boil, stirring often.

The berries will start to pop and foam.  You can help them along by gently squishing the popped berries against the side of the pot with the back of your spoon.

Then all of a sudden you’ll have a sauce.  You can add a bit of corn starch dissolved in liquid if you like a thick, jelly-like sauce, but we like ours runny so I didn’t bother.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Plop it in a pretty dish (though if it’s going to be there a while, avoid ones that are white in case they stain) and serve it with turkey and all your Thanksgiving goodness.  You can keep it covered in your fridge for ages, so it’s a good thing to make ahead, and make plenty of it for leftovers in the days to come.

Have a great holiday!

Fruit Sauce

I spent 1990-1995 living on a relatively high security naval base in British Columbia.  As a shy girl with an overactive imagination, living in the relative isolation of that place was the best time of my life, despite the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War followed by a subsequent vicious and terrifying CUPE strike.  I went back to the base in February of 2002, and it just wasn’t the same.  For one thing, there were actual guards at the front gate now, with really big guns.  As an adult I was subject to quite a bit more scrutiny than I had been as a child.  But it was fantastic to visit the place where I used to have so much fun.

My front yard was twenty metres from the ocean and a rocky beach.  Helicopters would land in the field behind my house.  The admiral would let me pick roses from his garden.  Destroyers, frigates, and minesweepers would signal me in pseudo-morse code when I waved (well they would if my dad or someone I knew was on them).  Frogmen would magically appear next to me on the beach, having emerged from the ocean.  Things got exciting when nuclear submarines came to visit.  There were enormous cliffs to climb and fantastic old ruins to hide in.  And there were wild apple trees, cherry trees, and a blackberry bush the length of a football field.

It wasn’t uncommon to pass by this particular bush on any given day in the summer and find it full of not only bees and wasps but engineers, sailors, police officers, and anyone else who happened to be passing by and wanted a snack.

We ate a lot of blackberries in those summers.

My mother would stew the blackberries with a bit of water or juice, a spoonful or two of sugar, and a little dab of corn starch to thicken it.  We would eat this stuff on ice cream, cake, pie, pancakes, waffles … you name it.  It’s a multi-purpose sauce and can turn any dessert into an elegant treat in a flash.

Blackberries are obviously my favourite ingredient, but you can use any other kind of berry you want.   Living in Newfoundland I have discovered that partridge berries make a nice tart sauce.  Raspberries, blueberries, and halved strawberries work well.  Frozen berries work very well in this, as you don’t have to work on breaking them down as they cook.  I will try to quantify the amounts for you here.  If you’re cooking for a dinner party, make the full recipe below, but you can halve (or double) this recipe easily.

Take 2 cups fresh or frozen berries and bung them in a small pot.  I used blueberries this time.  Add in 1/2 cup of water or juice (I like to use cranberry juice to boost the flavour) and 1/4 cup of sugar.  You’ll need a little extra liquid if you are using fresh berries.

Heat on medium, stirring often, until all the berries are defrosted and broken up.

Suspend one tablespoon corn starch in three tablespoons water or juice and pop that in as well.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Remove from the heat and drizzle over the food of your choice.  

I recommend Pound Cake.

Ham with Cloves

While I fully intend, some day, to make a ham from scratch, until then I remain lazy and use pre-cooked hams.   In Newfoundland they are one of the few things that are readily available and cheap, and you can get them in any size.

So take your ham.  Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and plop the sucker down. Stud with cloves, and pour a little cranberry juice over the top.

Bake at 350°F until the internal temperature reaches 160°F, which comes to about 15 minutes a pound.

Cover the ham with foil if it is especially large, as it will tend to blacken after a bit.

Remove cloves before slicing and serve.  We generally live on the leftovers for several days afterward.  Cold ham is good fried with eggs, sliced into omelets or fritatas, stewed in Scotch broth, sliced in sandwiches . . . you name it.