Tag Archives: Gourmet Cookbook

Canning!

Sorry for the hiatus, everyone! This little thing known as “law school” crept up on me…but now that I’m back to more important things I figured I should get re-started with a bang! Or with the small but satisfying pop of a Ball jar vacuum-sealing…

I always thought canning was a really huge process, but I recently discovered that the sealing part can be taken care of mostly with boiling water. And that one can make many, many lovely preserves/conserves/jams/jellies/chutneys/etc. without ever touching (or, more importantly, finding) pectin. I already had a big lobster pot deep enough fill with water to cover pint jars, and I picked up a jar lifter…and was ready to go!

The recipe below is actually one-third of a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook: I could not handle 6 pounds each of pears and sugar on my first go at canning. I kind of tasted some of the conserve that didn’t fit in my jars, but it was still so hot that I mostly just burned my tongue. What flavor did register around my cries of “Hot! Hot! Hot!” was gorgeously spicy and fruity. I’ll report back for real when I crack Jar #1 this Friday for a friend’s pancake breakfast party.

Pear-Ginger Conserves (Fills 3 pint jars)

2.5 lbs ripe pears, peeled and chopped
2 lbs sugar
Peel and juice of 1 lemon**
4 oz. crystallized ginger, chopped

To make conserve:
Put all ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 10 minutes. Be careful to watch the conserve so it doesn’t burn or caramelize.

To seal:
Fill a large pot with water to 2 inches above the top of whatever jars you’re using. Bring to a boil. While the conserve is bubbling, boil the jars and lids for at least 5 minutes to sterilize. Remove and fill while still hot. Screw the lids on – not too tight – and place upright in the boiling water. The jars should not touch each other or the sides of the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove and wait for the top of the lid to pop in. And your jar is sealed for months! Voila!

**Use a peeler to remove the zest of the lemon in small pieces, leaving the bitter white pith. Then open and juice the lemon.

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DUMPLINGS! (OK, German prune ones but still…)

I love all dumpling/bun variants – even the spaetzle type which have no filling. I am not picky – steam or boil a blob of dough and I will go nuts for it. So, when I got an invite to a potluck brunch and then came across a “Dumpling” section in my 1960s Gourmet Cookbook and found some sweet-savory types I went through the roof. And then I calmed down and made…Zwetschgenknoedel!

OK, so technically I didn’t make proper Zwetschgenknoedel: these German dumplings are technically supposed to be stuffed with fresh prune plums. I misread the recipe in haste and bought dried prunes. Thankfully, prunes are the moistest of all dried fruits, so I figured the wrinkly version would do fine. I even soaked them in a bit of triple sec to moisten them up a bit more (you might have noticed I have a penchant for boozy cooking). Google yielded a number of traditional German takes on these plum poppers: some have yeast dough, some use quark or cream cheese…

The Gourmet Cookbook uses a potato-based dough. This is why I love vintage cookbooks: I’m not sure whether this is super traditional or whether this is Gourmet trying, in its 60s way, to be cosmopolitan – whether this is the German equivalent of a Chop Suey recipe. Anyhow, my dried prune potato dumplings turned out pretty tasty. The one problem was they they were stuck in a kind of limbo between Sweet and Savory. I’d advocate adding more spices and maybe rolling the prunes in flour instead of sugar…and then using these as a tasty unusual accompaniment for a sauce-heavy meat dish. They’d go really well with a red wine-based pot roast, for example.

And inside…

Zwetschgenknoedel (Prune Dumplings)

(Makes about 16)

3 medium-large boiling potatoes
1/2 c. flour, plus more for dusting
1 large egg
Nutmeg
Salt
16 dried, pitted prunes
3 tbsp. triple sec
1/2 tsp. spices (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) mixed with 1 tbsp. sugar

1. Place the prunes in triple sec to soak. In the meantime, peel, boil, and mash the potatoes.
2. When the potatoes have cooled, add the egg, 1/2 c. flour, nutmeg, and salt. Mix with a fork, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead until well combined. The dough should feel smooth, not sticky; add more flour (a tablespoon or two at a time) if it is not cohering properly.
3. Flour your hands. Take a 1 1/2-inch ball of dough and flatten it in your palm to form a 1/4-inch thick disc. Roll a prune in the spice-sugar mix, place it in the middle of the disc of dough, and pinch the edges of the disc shut to form a ball. Repeat until either the prunes or the dough are used up.
4. Cook the dumplings in salted, boiling water for 10 minutes.
5. Drain, toss with a little melted butter, and serve as desired while warm.

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