Friday, 5 April 2013

Rubies Around Us

It has been a colourful few days, luscious ruby colours.  One of my favourite things about autumn are the magnificent sunsets.  As the sun swings round to the bottom of the hill, we are blessed with magnificent views of spectacular cloud striated sunsets.  This is Tuesday's sunset, and with the high cloud bank it looked like the fires of hell raining down upon us.  Magnificent but very quick.
Then last night I think all of WA was treated to magnificent lengthy sunset.  It was amazing.  First it started off all pinks and yellows.
The big tree looked like it was on fire with the bursts of glorious colours blazing through the branches.
Then the oranges crept in and the colours deepened.  A staircase of coral, scarlet, ruby and claret hovered over the Denmark Hills.
Finishing with the deepest of deep reds before the night sky took over.  It was so spectacular at this point that my camera just couldn't capture the depth of deep colour.  It was fantastic, and it went on for about 15 minutes.
I had a day in the kitchen this week, dealing with fruits to preserve.  Firstly quince.  I wanted to have a go at making quince paste which I had heard goes rather well with cheese.  Firstly I cored the quinces and cut them into pieces.  I also added a squeeze of lime juice to increase the pectin content to help it set.  I also left the skins on (after scrubbing all the fluff off) to help with setting. Into the pot, covered with water and simmered for about 40 minutes until soft.
Then the stewed quinces are pureed, and after measuring the cupfuls of puree, it is returned to the pot.  Doesn't this look silky and smooth. 
Then the same number of cups of sugar is added to the cups of puree.  Using five quinces I ended up with 3 1/2 cups of puree and thus added 3 1/2 cups of sugar.   Then it's boiled until very very thick, stirring regularly.  To stop the bottom burning I raised the pot onto a wok trivet and sat it on a simmer mat, which worked well.  Isn't it amazing the colour change as quince cooks down, from creamy yellow to a rich pinky red.
After about an hour of cooking my paste was ready.  I poured it into a baking paper lined pan and let it set.  Sometimes this stage needs to be dried off in a cool oven for a day to help it set further but mine didn't need it.
When set I cut it up into squares and wrapped them in baking paper and put them in an airtight container.  I am going to store the container in the pantry but it remains to be seen whether this is a mistake or not, there are many differing opinions in recipes as to whether they need refrigeration.  I suspect it wont last long enough to be an issue actually.  :-)
This was dinner that night, quince paste (apparently the correct name is membrillo) with cheese, crackers and olives.  It was very very nice, particularly with the saltiness of blue cheese.
I also had a big bag of apples thanks to the generosity of my neighbour and her abundant harvest of apples.  I had read about apple butter and thought it sounded nice, there is no butter in it, it's called thus because of the texture I presume.  Apple butter is pretty much a concentrated, sweetened and lightly spiced apple sauce.  First job was the peeling, coring and slicing of about 18 apples of varying types.  I used my trusty apple machine, this thing is brilliant, does the whole job in one go.  All I had to do was chop the slices up into smaller pieces.
Then I filled my crockpot to the brim with the chopped up apples, adding about 2 cups of sugar, pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Then it was cooked in the crockpot on low for 15, yes, 15! hours.  But it was dead easy, just the odd stir.   When it has turned dark dark brown and thickened, it was ready.  I used a stick mixer straight into the crockpot to puree it down and poured it into sterilised jars.
This is the finished product, apple butter.  It is extremely yummy.  Really nice with natural greek yogurt, on porridge or muesli.  I confess that I forgot to take a photo of the finished product so as I was writing this blog I just HAD to get myself a bowl of yogurt and apple butter, just so I could photograph it.  It's empty now... :-)
And this was my view out the kitchen window whilst cooking, my furry audience.  I just love them, even though they eat my plants and drain the birdbath, they are just gorgeous.

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