Saturday 23 November 2013

Minted Apple Relish

In searching for ever further and different ideas for using apples, I turned once again to one of my favourites, Sensational Preserves by Hilaire Walden. She is a prolific author mainly of cookery books and many of her books are available in France - see Priceminister for more.

The French edition of "Sensational Preserves" - cover photo by David Gill

We brought two mint types with us from the UK - black peppermint and a particularly good strain of spearmint which we found originally growing on the side of our allotment manure pit! For this recipe I used the peppermint, which is extremely poky, although apple mint, which grows wild here, would provide an interesting combination.

The principle of the recipe is to brew up a poaching liquor using spiced vinegar, sugar and extra seasonings, to poach sliced apples in the liquor and to layer them in jars with the chopped mint. As there was a teeny quantity of mint to quite a lot of apple, Tim had the brilliant idea of mashing the mint with a couple of tablespoons of the poached apple. This extended the mint considerably and made it much easier to spread. The quantities below made two Le Parfait 350g terrines plus another small jar - you will need wide-mouthed, straight-sided containers, plus a selection of rubber spatulas to spread out the layers. You get a more even result if you work on two jars at a time.

Minted apple relish

225g/8oz onions, sliced
2 teaspoons English mustard powder (make sure this is 100% mustard and no other ingredients)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, cut in half (use a hacksaw with a new blade and cut up a batch)
¼ teaspoon ground mace (macis en poudre)
1 teaspoon salt
225g/8oz sugar
300ml/10fl oz spiced vinegar
675g/1½lb sharp apples,  peeled, cored and thinly sliced
15g/½oz fresh mint, finely chopped.

Put everything except the apples and the mint in a saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and simmer gently for ten minutes. Add the apples, return to the boil and cook gently for a further ten minutes or so until the apple slices are tender but not falling apart. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool completely.

Place three scant tablespoons of apple mixture, including some free liquid if there is any, in a small bowl with the chopped mint. Blend the mint with the apple until an even mix is obtained. Spread a layer of apple mixture in the jar. Rap the jar smartly on the chopping board to eliminate air pockets. Smooth the surface of the apple mixture with a rubber spatula. Don't press hard! Spread a thin layer of mint mixture over the apple. Repeat alternating layers of mint and apple until you run out. Seal the jars and leave in a cool dark place for a month before serving. The green unfortunately goes brown very quickly - you could add a drop of green food colouring to the mint mixture if that bothers you.

Serve with smoked chicken or smoked pork. Or use it as a stuffing for a boned shoulder of lamb. Or make a rather fine potato salad with it. Lamb for Christmas dinner anyone? Doesn't do much for the Christmas imagery, I'm afraid...

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