Appetite for Perfection: Fruity fun!

After Chanukah and the 'holiday' season, I'm sure we are all in a constant state of feeling bloated after so much food in general and especially oily food. I for one need a break. I wanted to make some recipes with fruits and vegetables and when asked by my cousins to set up a granola and yogurt stand at her sons bar mitzvah, it was the perfect opportunity for me to have some fun with fruit.
Jews internationally throughout history have always been very into making jams, compotes, poaching etc. Specifically, if one could not afford the expensive, perfectly ripe and often imported fruits of the age, making these concoctions allowed one to imbue more flavors into the fruit so a sour and hard kiwi, for example, was no longer something to be upset about. They also keep for quite a while which means the effort is worth it as it can be appreciated for days, weeks, or even months, and jams can also be used in many other dishes as a flavoring, be it tarts for dessert or a marinade on meat.
Here are a few of my fun takes on using fruit with recipes for all kinds of crowds so your grandma will be just as happy as a teenager.
The first jam I made was butternut squash and orange. I love trying to use vegetables in desserts and fruits with savory dishes. I'm not quite sure who in history defined that they have to be separate and why one thing falls into one category whilst another falls into another, but I don't want to be limited by something just because that is what is the norm. I also love using alcohol in my cooking. Ferran Adria is known to ask people what their definition of wine is. What's yours? If your answer is a drink then you use it in cooking as a flavoring, what does it become now? Due to this you will see some fun ways of using these 'flavorings' here. Just like we add stocks to elevate dishes instead of plain water, so too it's done for elevating desserts.
Butternut squash and orange jam
Peel 2 squash and cut half into tiny cubes and blend the other half to a lumpy paste. Add it to your pot with 4 oranges' zest and juice, 2 lemons' zest and juice, white wine, a cinnamon stick, allspice berries and grated nutmeg. Add an equal amount in weight of sugar and two tablespoons of pectin (depending on the amount). Slowly bring to the boil and cook until the temperature gets to 104°C and when put a spoon of jam into the fridge for a few minutes it hardens to the consistency of a jam.
Next up is a kiwi and strawberry jam
Because of the high water and sugar content of these fruits only add half the amount of sugar to the weight of the fruit. With this I added lime juice, lime zest and rum, light or dark is up to you depending on preference but I always like the richness of dark rum in cooking. Add two tablespoons of pectin. Cook in the same way and if you don't mind a bit of food coloring you can use either red or green depending on which fruit made up the majority in the jam. It makes it look a lot cooler but isn't essential at all.
I then decided to make a rich and flavorful compote. My grandmother used to always have some in the house when I was a kid so wanted to give it a flavor boost to reintroduce it to the modern world and 4 liters was consumed within 20 minutes of me opening my station.
Dried fruit compote
Soak some dried figs in boiling water and brandy for 1-2 hours as the dried figs take longer to break down than the other fruits. Add all to a pot and add whichever other dried fruits you want - I chose apricots, prunes, cranberries and raisins.
You can also add apples or pears if you wish. As the end result is going to have a consistency of a fruit stew, place the following seasonings in a muzlin/cheese cloth as it will be too difficult to pick them out and it's not too pleasant biting into an allspice berry.
Use a cinnamon stick, 2 star anise, some allspice berries, a few cloves, strips of lemon zest and orange zest. Also add half a cup of sugar, some silan, some orange and lemon juice and more brandy depending on how much you want to taste it. Bring to a boil and them reduce to a low simmer and cover for approximately 1 hr 15 minutes and then uncover and continue for 10 minutes. Add some arrow root mixed with a little water and simmer for 2 minutes more and then leave to call down, remove the muzlin and serve. Delish and good for the constitution - if you know what I mean ;-)
Poached pears in honey and earl grey syrup
Lastly I poached pears in an earl grey and honey syrup. Peel, core and cut the pears into quarters and leave until ready to use in a bowl of water and lemon juice so they don't turn brown. In a pot add water, orange and lemon juice and strips of zest, honey, sugar, star anise and a cinnamon stick. Add two tablespoons of pectin. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and add an earl grey tea bag and let seep for 5 minutes. Squeeze out, bring to the boil, add the pears, bring to the boil again and cover with a ring of baking paper and simmer for 15 minutes - not letting the pears get too soft as want them al dente. Let cool in the syrup to room temperature.
Here I've shown a few techniques of what one can do with fruit and fun flavorings. You can really add anything you feel and experiment with your favorites - your own twists on classic Jewish fruit (and vegetable) recipes. Remember, your creativity is only limited by your imagination.
Next time we'll show some ways of using these concoctions in other recipes. If you have any ideas then let me know. I live learning!!!
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