Kitchen Witch Lughnasadh 

Lughnasadh is not a pagan sabbath that I have ever felt much connection to, but this summer I set myself some goals about bringing more magic into my daily life, so I decided to find my own way to honor the holiday. I honor this the same way I honor just about any holiday: with food and booze. 

 

I wanted to create a combination that encompasses the flavors, colors, and memories of late summer in Northern California. For me that means the rolling golden hills dry from summer heat and drought. It means heady perfumes of Alyssum and Lavender growing through clay soil baked hard in the sun, and dust in the air whose earthy scent always reminds me of something like old books and vanilla.

  

Today’s first recipe is an adaptation of Marisa McClellan’s Pear-Lavender Jam recipe on foodsinjars.com. Hers is my absolute favorite canning resource for her creativity of flavors, small batch recipes, and accessibility. She has also published recipe books which I highly recommend. I’ve modified it to capture my own sense of late summer and the start of harvest season that Lughnasadh is meant to celebrate.

  
Lughnasadh Jam

Ingredients

3 1/2 lbs peeled, cored, and chopped tart green apples

3 1/2 cups white sugar

1 vanilla bean

3 tsp dried lavender flowers

Juice and zest from 1 lemon

Instructions

Prepare 3 pint jars or 6 half pint jars and a boiling water canner. Place lids in a small pot and bring to a very low simmer.

Combine chopped apples, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla in a large pot. Stir to coat the apples evenly with sugar. This will start bringing liquid out of the apples in a process called maceration

Put your lavender into a tea ball or Muslim sachet for infusing so you can remove them later. If you don’t have these options, you can grind up the flowers then add them loose, but you won’t be able to remove them.

Put pot on stove and heat on high. Bring jam to a boil, stirring regularly. Make sure not to caramelize the bottom. Continue to cook over high heat until apples become fully translucent and the jam thickens. It should have a even glossy appearance once the pectin in the apples is activated.

When jam is done (about 20 minutes) turn off heat and quickly pour jam into prepared jars for canning.

Wipe jar rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes for shelf stable jars or refrigerate immediately and consume within the month. 

This jam tastes amazing with a punchy cheese like Asiago or Stilton to balance the floral sweetness.

  
The second recipe of the holiday calls more to my German heritage and memories of summer days in my great grandmother’s big green garden. I have faint but fond memories of sitting in the shade picking currants and gooseberries into a big yellow glass bowl and climbing a short ladder into the branches of the cherry tree. The tiny red cherries were so sour than I couldn’t eat them fresh, but my mother and grandmother did, spitting pits over the fence into the neighbor’s flower beds. We pitted cherries on the balcony and my hands and face would get covered in little red spatters of juice, fingers stained pink for the rest of the day. All the fruit would get coated in sugar and set to marinate in its own natural syrup to be served over whipped quark, a soft sweet cheese like something between creme fraiche and ricotta. 

  
Kirsch Soda

4oz cherry juice

2oz amaretto

6oz soda water

Garnish with Morello cherries and serve over generous amounts of ice for a wonderfully refreshing drink on a hot day. I think this has got to be my new favorite and I went out and bought more cherry juice as soon as I figured this one out so I will have no shortage during our current heat wave.

Hey there, Honey!

A couple days ago, I joined my friend Kitty Sharkey in extracting her honey. Last winter she lost her bees but was able to save the frames of honey in her freezer. If you’ve ever stored honey, you’ve probably noticed that it crystallizes if it gets cold. Interestingly though, it only does that between 40-32 degrees Fahrenheit. Below freezing however, the water crystalizes and leaves the sugar in suspension and when thawed it returns to its liquid golden state. That’s what Kitty did with her frames to store them for a time when extracting the honey was actually a possibility.

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One of the perks of my job at the Biofuel Oasis and Urban Farm Store is that I have access to the equipment needed to extract the honey from the comb, so I offered to help her out.

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Together, we uncapped the comb and used the extractor to spin out the liquid gold. The honey runs through a filter to remove all the stray wax, leaving only pure raw honey in the bucket.

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Unfortunately my recent back injury made me unable to finish the project with her and she was up til the wee hours of the morning before she was done, but overall, the haul was around 45lbs from about 20 frames. Not bad for a lost hive.

Of corse this called for celebration so we dipped glasses under the stream of unfiltered honey and filled up with bourbon. Cheers!

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Catering: Can’t Afford it? You can do it!

I have always wanted to host a  formal cocktail party with tons of tiny, beautiful hors d’oeuvres. This past weekend, I got my chance! Three weeks ago we got a new place in Berkeley (with enough space for a craft room!) and we used the opportunity to properly warm the place in high style. As someone with no steady income, buying catered food was out of the question, but I have a lot of time, which means it’s DIY time! The product of my toils was 72 Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry buttercream frosting, 30 mini apple-onion quiches, 36 mini bacon-apple-onion quiches, 24 mini broccoli quiches and one baguette’s worth of bruscetti. Below are some of the recipes I created or adapted for the event.

The cupcakes were made using Orangette‘s Far-From-Disaster Cake, by far the most delicate and moist chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever come across. A half recipe made 72 miniature cupcakes which I frosted with a Raspberry Buttercream adapted from Mommy23Monkeys.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed raspberries (Don’t worry about bruising them.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp citric acid granules
  • 16 oz. powdered sugar
Directions: Blend together wet ingredients and citric acid. If you like your frosting sweeter, leave out the citric acid. They will not emulsify perfectly because the raspberry seeds will leave lumps, but get as close as you can. I like smoother frosting, so I strained out most of the seeds before blending these ingredients. Slowly add powdered sugar until the frosting is stiff and smooth. If you use lemon juice instead of citric acid granules, you will need extra powdered sugar, or meringue powder to give the frosting enough hold.

I dont own piping bags but I still wanted a consistent and beautiful finish for my tiny little desserts. I got a single piping tip for under $2 at Sur La Table which I inserted into the cut off corner of a ziplock bag. That saved me the $8 piping bag and still let me give my cupcakes the “professional” look I wanted for my swanky party. They got the stamp of approval from several foodie friends.

As for the quiche, I actually tried several crust recipes before I found one I was really happy with. In all cases, the key seems to be the temperature of the butter. The colder the butter is at the start of the process, the more flakey and tender the crust will be in the end. I ignored the baking instructions given by this recipe and used a three-inch circle cutter to stamp out little crusts. I dropped them into the tins by ruffling the edge and pierced the ever-loving heck out of the bottom of the crust to keep them from bubbling and deforming. I prebaked them at 350°F for 7 minutes the day before the party and stored them under plastic wrap. Then, in the hour before the party, I filled them and gave the filled quiches their second bake.

Mini Quiche Recipe

Ingredients:
Crust (makes roughly 24 minis)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 Tbsp ice water
Filling (makes roughly 48 minis)
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 1 onion
  • 2 strips thick-cut bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F

1. Combine dry crust ingredients in a Cuisinart using the chopping blade. Cut in butter just enough to distribute it evenly then begin adding in the ice water one tablespoon at a time until the dough begins to clump using the pulse setting. To test if the dough is wet enough pinch a 1cm ball and try to flatten it. If they crumbled add a little more water. If only the edges crack, your dough is perfect!

2. Roll dough into sheets approximately 1/4 in. thick and cut out 3 inch circles. Gently drop circles into the mini cupcake tins, pushing in the ruckled edges at regular intervals. Use a toothpick to poke holes all over the bottom of the crust. This will keep bubbles from deforming your crusts. If you want shiny crusts, you can brush them with egg, but I didn’t bother.

3. Bake crusts for 7 minutes at 350°F. This shouldn’t be enough time for them to brown, only for them to become firm and start to crisp. Allow them to cool on a rack before filling them.

4. While crusts are cooling, prepare the filling. Chop onion, apple and bacon into 1/4 in cubes then saute until onions and apples are caramelized and bacon is browned. Whisk together the eggs and half and half. Fill 1 tsp of sautéed filling into each quiche shell then carefully pour the egg mixture over it being sure not to spill over into the tin. If you do overflow your shells, wipe away the excess and bake the overflowed ones anyway. I had no problems with the overflowed quiches sticking to the tins so you probably won’t either. I baked my quiches for 18 minutes, but start checking them at 14 minutes to be sure you don’t burn them.

5. As soon as you take them out of the oven, sprinkle shredded cheese on top. The heat from the quiches will melt the cheese without burning it. Then cool them on racks again. Serve them hot immediately or at room temperature, both are delicious!

I made two other versions of the quiches which were both vegetarian, one with apple and onion and another with only broccoli.

All of these made for an impressive and beautiful spread, perfect for the classy cocktail party theme. The last thing we needed was a signature drink!

The house drink was invented two summers ago when Colin and I were camping at the Lost Coast and wanted to make Cosmopolitan. Thinking we had all the ingredients covered, we trekked through the wild-fire fraught coast from Ashland, OR to the teeny tiny town of Honeydew, CA. The night we decided to have our campsite cocktails, we discovered that we only had one of the necessary ingredients to make the drink we had intended. Black Cosmos were the result of our desperate experimentation. It’s a full-bodied fruity drink that isn’t sweet like most cocktails and therefore appeals to almost anyone.

Black Cosmos
  • 2 oz. unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1 oz. triplesec
  • 1 oz. sweetened lime juice
Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice and serve up. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

I hope you enjoy the recipes and put them to good use!