Got Crabs?

Crabapples, that is.

I was fortunate in my travels to Ontario to visit my in-laws neighbouring farm in White Lake, Ontairo about 45 minutes outside Ottawa. The Brearley farm provides incredible produce for the renowed Castlegarth Restaurant restaurant, just down the street from the farm. Looking at their menu is inspiring and proof that eating locally can be both delicious and gourmet. Mr. Uncanny, our toddler and I really enjoyed a tour of the gardens and were amazed at the variety of heirloom tomatoes that we enjoyed sampling as we toured the various gardens and polytunnel. While our daughter enjoyed chasing the chickens around the sprawling farm, I couldn’t take my eyes off their gorgeous, full and healthy crabapple trees that graces their front lawn.

Clearly seeing the longing in my eyes, they offered up their trees and let me go to town picking and before long, I had 7 lbs of crabs to take as carry-on back to Sackville.

Recognizing this gift and wanting to make something extra special, I made this:

Crabapple Star Anise Jelly

It’s really just a basic crabapple jelly recipe, with a couple of star anise thrown in the stewing process to liven up the flavours and add that licorice intrigue that matches well with poultry/game meat as it would used as a glaze over a fruit tart. It’s subtle, so if you like it spicier, feel free to add more. Here’s how I did it:

Crabapple Star Anise Jelly

Yields: 3×250 mL jars

7 cups washed, stemmed and quartered crabapples

3 cups water

2 whole star anise

2 1/4 cups sugar

1. Combine water, crabapples and star anise and bring to a slow boil until crabapples are softened. With a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, mash to help it break down further.

2. Pour into a dampened jelly bag and suspend over a large bowl and let it rest overnight. I like to rest a fine mesh strainer in a large pot, underneath my suspended jelly bag. That way, in case it falls, it’ll fall into the strainer and not into your pot of juice (a heavy bag of pulp splashing in a bowl of bright red juice wouldn’t be pretty).

3. Measure your juice – it should measure around 3 cups. Add water to bring it up to 3 cups, if necessary.

4. Pour juice in a clean preserving pan/pot and pour in sugar. Bring to a full boil, checking your setting point after about 5 minutes and keep boiling under jelly has set. Pour into clean, sterilized jars with a 1/4 inch headspace and process for 10 minutes. Voila!


Thinking Outside the Jar: Repurposed Marroni Al Liquore

Back in December, I made a batch of Marroni Al Liquore and I was so excited to try it. I waited a couple weeks to really let the flavours mellow and give the chestnuts a chance to soften and eagerly tucked into my winter treat.

Maybe it’s me, but it really didn’t float my boat. The brandy liquor was delicious, as the vanilla beans, cloves and cinnamon had made for a delicious drink, but the chestnuts were mealy and too boozy for my liking. So my poor jars sat in the fridge, getting pushed to the back as new preserve jars made their way to the front of the line. So today I had an idea, a way to repurpose those chestnuts into something useful, delicious and still decadent.

I present you with:

Chestnut and Apple Bread Pudding with Brandied Honey Caramel Sauce

Chestnut and Apple  Bread Pudding with a Brandied Honey Caramel Sauce

Bread Pudding:

1/2 lb loaf of day-old bread, cubed

1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and diced

4 eggs

1 cup of pureed sweetened chestnuts*

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tbsp maple syrup**

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Brandied Honey Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp Marroni Al Liquore brandy


1. Beat eggs and combine the rest of the ingredients. Combine apple and cubed bread and place in greased and wide casserole dish. Pour egg/milk/chestnut mixture over top, stir to combine and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature until bread has soaked up the egg mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until tester comes out clean.

2. While pudding is baking, make your caramel sauce. Combine milk and honey and bring to a boil on medium heat, swooshing your pan frequently. When colour begins to turn golden remove from heat, about 8-10 minutes. Don’t be tempted to reduce as it will thicken once its cooled. Let cool for 5 minutes or so before adding brandy. Warm sauce before serving on pudding.

* To make chestnut puree, combine jar of chestnuts with roughly 1-2 tbsp of brandy and grind in a small food processor until smooth. Add more brandy liquid if necessary.

** This is a 100 Mile Challenge friendly recipe, so feel free to substitute 1/4 cup brown sugar if you prefer a sweeter bread pudding. The recipe as printed is on the less sweet side, which suits our preference.

Thinking Outside the Jar Series: Cranberry Double Apple Crisp with Maple Chantilly Cream

Cranberry Double Apple Crisp with Maple Chantilly Cream

Have you ever seen “Castaway”? When Tom Hanks’ character figures out how to build fire, it’s a huge celebration and he proclaims: “I have made fire!”.

That’s how I feel about this apple crisp. Over at 100 Mile Locavores our family is doing the 100 Mile Challenge and it’s super handy to have a pantry full of preserves. Like tonight: we really wanted a dessert and were tired of plain yogurt mixed with jam, so I came up with this apple crisp that uses very basic, readily available ingredients. It’s delicious, simple and easy. It may even make you shout that *you* have made fire!

Cranberry Double Apple Crisp with Maple Chantilly Cream

2 lbs Empire apples

1 lb fresh cranberries

1 cup plus 3 tbsp apple butter

1 tbsp flour

pinch of salt

2 cups large flaked oats

1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 cup whipping cream (35%)

1 tbsp maple syrup


1. In preparation of whipping the cream, move bowl and beaters to the fridge to get cool while you prepare your crisp. Rinse and pat dry the cranberries. Peel and slice apples (I like to quarter them and slice them lengthwise) into a large mixing bowl. Add cranberries.

2. Add apple butter, flour and salt and toss together with apples and cranberries. Pour mixture into a deep dish pan.

3. Stir flour and oats together, pour in melted butter and maple syrup. Toss to coat evenly. Pour topping mixture over apple/cranberry combo and spread evenly.

4. Bake at 375 until bubbly and the topping is crisp and slightly browned, about 45 minutes.

5. While crisp is baking, prepare Chantilly cream.  With cold beaters and bowl, whip cream until slightly stiff. Pour in maple syrup. Whip until stiff and serve a nice fat dollop’s worth on your warm apple crisp.


** This recipe makes a LOT of crisp. I had enough to make a small 9 inch pie pan’s worth and freeze it for a future date. The apples cook up a bit mushier, but it still tastes great.