Apple Ginger Cardamom Jam

So, my oven broke.  And since I’m living in a so-called “developing” country, and eeeevvverrrrything takes longer to get done, it might be awhile before I can post anything that requires an oven.  SADness.

Soooooooo, I decided to can, since I have a plethora of jars.

Has anyone out there made apple jam before?  With an abundance of apples in these parts, I figured why not give it a try.  I know it’s not your typical fruit to be used in jam, but it actually turned out quite delightful!  And paired with cream cheese on whole-grain, homemade bread?  You can’t beat it.

Apple Ginger Cardamom Jam

*Note: this recipe doesn’t make very much…about enough for 4-5 small mason jars.  If you wish to make more, double it!

6 cups grated, peeled apples
Juice of one lemon
2 cups sugar (or more if you prefer it more sweet)
3 tsp ginger (more if you want more kick)
15 green cardamom seeds

Place peeled, grated apples in pot with lemon juice, sugar, grated ginger and cardamom pods. Cook all on medium-high heat for about 25-30 minutes, or until you get a nice jam-ish set. The temperature should be around 240 degrees.

When slightly cooled, place in prepared, sterilized jars, and following hot water bath canning procedures.

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Cinnamon Apple and Blackberry Upside-Down Buttermilk Cake

The best thing about living in Costa Rica is the abundance of fruit year-round. And in this zone, more so than in other parts of Costa Rica. Apples, peaches, plums, blackberries, avocados, tomatoes – you name it, they’re almost always available.

As I was out tromping around my property this morning, I came across a previously undiscovered blackberry bush, chock full of large, plump, juicy blackberries just waiting to be picked – screaming to be picked, in fact. And so I did. The thorns poked my hands and arms as I reached in deeper to get the hidden ones, and I came away with violet-stained fingers. But I didn’t mind. It was worth it.

On the way in I quickly grabbed a few ‘limón acidas‘ or limes to garnish a salad.

Earlier that morning I passed by my neighbors’ house who own Las Manzanas Cabins to purchase a bag of organic apples, some avocados, and some anonas all for only two dollars.

Upon returning home, it wasn’t too long before I was enjoying this cinnamon apple and blackberry upside down buttermilk cake.

Pure goodness with fresh, local ingredients.

Happy 2010 to you all! May many healthy meals come your way!

Cinnamon Apple and Blackberry Upside Down Cake

* 1 cup fresh blackberries
* 2-3 small apples, thinly sliced
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon mixture
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
* 1 large egg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line bottom of a buttered 8- by 2-inch round cake pan with 2 rounds of parchment paper, then butter parchment. Dust pan with some flour, knocking out excess.

Arrange blackberries and apples in 1 layer in cake pan. Sprinkle fruit with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar/cinnamon mixture and shake pan to help distribute sugar.

Whisk together 1 cup flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix at low speed until just incorporated. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 batches, mixing at low speed until just incorporated.

Spoon batter evenly over berries, smoothing top, and bake in middle of oven until top is golden and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edge of pan, then invert a large plate over pan and, using pot holders to hold plate and pan together tightly, flip cake onto plate. Peel off parchment and serve cake warm and/or with ice cream.


Chai-Infused Applesauce

For me, the holidays are a time when I put aside my green and herbal teas and turn to more hearty drinks such as chai, hot apple cider and homemade hot chocolate.  Recently, as I was making applesauce with apples right from my family’s apple orchard, I got the idea to throw in a few bags of chai tea…which I was drinking simultaneously.  What a delicious fall treat it turned out to be!

Chai-Infused Applesauce

4 lbs of apples (MacIntosh work well, or any other cooking apple), cored, cut into small cubes, and peeled if preferred
1-1 1/2 cups of apple juice/cider/nectar (more if necessary)
honey to one’s likeness (1/4-1/2 cup)
3-5 chai tea bags
squirt of 1 lemon and its zest
2-3 cinnamon sticks

Cook apples, apple juice, honey, lemon zest and juice, and cinnamon sticks in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the chai tea bags into the apple mixture, immersing in the liquid, being careful not to break them open. Cook until fruit is very tender and broken down, about 45 minutes, adding liquid periodically so that the apples do not get dry, and the tea bags still have some liquid in which to infuse.  Once the mixture is quite tender, discard the tea bags and cinnamon stick.  Mash apples with a potato masher, or if you prefer a smoother applesauce, pass through a medium-mesh sieve or a food mill fitted with fine disk into a bowl.  Enjoy warm or chill before serving!


Lunch on the Farm

“Look at the view from my office!” Abelle exclaimed as he pointed out towards the lush rolling mountains high in central Costa Rica.

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Abelle lives on a farm at the end of a high road in central Costa Rica with his wife, Ellie, three grown children, two dogs, one cat, a handful of trout, and plenty of cows.  

The farm is his office.  

There, in this magical wonderland, where the sun casts warmth and nourisment upon it’s land, alchemy is created.  

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Ellie and Abelle have been making a living off their farm since before time.  Their land is chock full of blackberry bushes, apple tress, passion fruit vines, lettuce, herbs, kale, chard, tomatoes, and the list goes on.  Also smack in the center of their hill facing the sun, a solar dehydrator, to ensure none of their prolific fresh produce goes to waste. 

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But what roams the land, is the most important part – cows, “plenty of cows,” says Abelle.  The cows are milked twice a day and Ellie and Abelle make four rounds of fresh cheese daily, to age for months in their cheese cellar, and eventually to be sold to gourmet restaurants in the capital city of San José.  Small slices of artisan cheese and whole grain crackers was our appetizer for lunch that day.

Aside from how they make their living, I was so lucky enough to be invited to their farm for a lovely, home-cooked, homegrown meal.  We started out the day by catching the trout – rainbow trout, which is prolific in these parts of Costa Rica.  Then we ventured over to the garden to grab some lettuce, kale, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs, stopping to crack open a passion fruit and grab a blackberry or two.

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Upon arriving inside their modest home, hands chock full of garden edibles, we prepared a simple, nutritious meal with olive oil, fresh lemons, sea salt, fresh herbs, salad fixings, trout, and couscous.  We sat down to enjoy it, valuing the hands that grew it, prepared it, and now those that were eating it. 

It was a slow afternoon, we didn’t do much.  It was one so rich in community, simplicity, food and friends.  But in my mind, there’s nothing quite like it.

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