Posts Tagged ‘cloves’

Cheer up with some gingerbread for Christmas

Monday, December 14th, 2009

pepperkake
The gingerbread cookies pictured are made with ginger, cloves and cinnamon. I didn’t use ammonium carbonate as a leavening agent for these, so no amphetamines were created “in furno” in this case. But I’m sure the cookies can cheer you up anyway!

A while ago I came across the article “Christmas gingerbread (Lebkuchen) and Christmas cheer–review of the potential role of mood elevating amphetamine-like compounds formed in vivo and in furno” (abstract from NCBI, free full text pdf download from publisher). The paper reviews a hypothesis proposed by Alexander Shulgin in a series of papers appearing in Nature in the 60’s. Shulgin noted that allylbenzenes and propenylbenzens found in many spices are “merely lacking ammonia to become amphetamines”. The author reviews the evidence that such substances may be converted in the body to psychoactive metabolites, but concludes that the evidence is equivocal at best. However, the author launches an alternative theory:
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Nocino – walnut liqueur (part II)

Friday, May 29th, 2009

nocino-glass

As I mentioned in the post about the exciting color chemistry of nocino I picked some unripe walnuts last year in August when visiting family in Germany. These walnuts were in fact a little to ripe to make nocino from. Preferably the walnuts should be picked end of June when you can still push a knitting pin through the center. Mine were stone hard, but I decided to give it a try anyway, and it shure was worth the bottle of vodka! I checked a couple of recipes and found that many use cinnamon and cloves together with lemon (with peel). I figured I also wanted to try star anise and proceeded with two batches.
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TGRWT #13: Chocolate cookies with caraway

Monday, December 29th, 2008

I thought I’d do a twist on some chocolate cookies my Mom always makes for Christmas for TGRWT #13. I tried two versions with added caraway (and a litte bitter orange peel) – one where I omitted all the spices except cocoa and one where they were added together with all the spices in the original recipes.

Chocolate cookies with caraway (more…)

TGRWT #11 round-up

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

It’s time for the TGRWT #11 round-up. I apologize for the small break since TGRWT #10, but now we’re definitely back. Many exciting recipes this time – and great photos too! Not all were a great success judging by the comments though. But several give their concoctions a thumbs up and a “will definitely cook again” verdict.

As we have seen earlier, the challenge of these pairings is getting the balance right. Several have felt the numbening effect of cloves. This is due to eugenol, the main component of clove oil, which acts as a local anasthetic (and surprisingly celery also has sufficient levels of eugenol to cause numbening in some individuals!).

If you missed the deadline and are still working on a blog post – please let me know and I’ll update this post. And if you’re ready for a new challenge be sure to check out what we’re up to in TGRWT #12 which has already been announced!


Pork-banana-clove
by Tri-2-cook
Verdict: I liked the banana and clove as a flavor pairing and thought it worked really well with the pork (…) I was happy with the result and I’ll definitely do it again.


Banana and cloves Pisang Goreng
by Mededelingen van Land en Tuinbouw
Verdict: Yummy! A bite of the soft bananas with a little lump of clove brings out a very rich taste. The aftermath, when the flavour comes back through the nose, is wonderful.


Banana Mousse and Clove Caviar
by A Chef’s Journal


Banana Clove Truffles
by Hungry soul kitchen
Verdict: These were overly sweet (…) white chocolate, banana, and clove go well together, just don’t let one overpower. Banana and clove itself is excellent and I will experiment with these two a lot more.


Banana-Soufflee with cloves
by Lamiacucina
Verdict: When tasting I would have guessed cinnamon as a spice. Cloves go very well with banana.


Banana and clove milkshake
by Fooducation
Verdict: (…) banana milk shake is on the brink to being insipid. The cloves made a difference, adding another note to the drink. Conclusion: I find the banana-clove combination to be successful.


BFBWWTFDIDWTLOB Biskit
by aka R’acquel
Verdict: “Interesting” – and nothing more, but definitely – “interesting”.


Viper’s Bile Green Curry Paste
by aka R’acquel
Verdict: (…) experienced a mild high after this meal – fairly resonant to the sensation of drinking kava.


Banana cake with cloves
by Grydeskeen
Verdict: When eating the clove-injected banacake the first impressions was like a spice cake, where the texture was like a bananacake. You could feel the banana in the mouth, but only hints of the taste was there. The taste then evolved into more regular cloves taste, and the aftertaste was a slightly bitter cloves taste, which lasted for hours.


Ginger-Glass bowl of banana mousse with cloves biscuits and lemongrass jelly
by Alessio Fangano
Verdict: The biscuits results fragrant (…) cloves appear as a back taste that spikes when biting over a shard releasing a sensation of freshness. (…) The foam exhales an equilibrated scent of rose water and banana (…) the recipe works quite well though the cloves biscuits need some further development.


Arretjes Banoffee Pie with cloves and pecan nuts
by Kokrobin (recipe)
Verdict: You’d think there was too much going on, but it wasn’t that bad. I think it really worked. Well, for my mouth, not my hips.


Banana Clove Canolli
from Blogquat
Verdict: The banana was subtle, yet lingering and deep. The clove, on the other hand, was at first over powered by the white chocolate, but then remained the lasting taste in my mouth.


Banana Martini with Clove “Olives”
by Blogquat
Verdict: (…) the vodka made my head numb and the clove made my tongue numb. This could be a dangerous drink!


Banana breads with cloves
by The bite size
Verdict: Cloves and banana is a match! Actually, I think bananas go very well with all these “autumn/winter” spices such as cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper, anis, vanilla etc.


Banana chutney
by Kookjegek
Verdict: I liked the sweetness of the banana & red onion together with the distinct flavor of the clove. Although I used a tablespoon, which in my opinion is a lot, it worked for me as a combination.


Pork tenderloin with banana and cloves
by Khymos
Verdict: I enjoy the combination of sweet and salty tastes in the banana sauce. I goes very well together with the pork.

(no picture)
Banana Clove Yoghurt Shake
by M
Verdict: Not bad but I could not detect the taste of clove.


40-second banana cake
by Mex Mix
Verdict: Just out of the microwave the cake appeared almost salty and with a lot of cheese aroma. It wasn’t the taste I was looking for. Colder however, the sweetness came out and it was just what I had in mind. (…) The purée tasted quite good, with the aroma of the cloves really coming forward and marrying itself with the banana.


Dehydrated banana with clove
by Cooking Sideways
Verdict: I was surprised how much flavour got into the bananas, considering I had only stuck the cloves in moments before drying. (…) A really good snack to eat on its own, probably not a strong enough all round taste for most culinary uses though.


Banana and cloves bavarian cream pie
by Koken met Frank
Verdict: At first glance the cloves tasted too strong. But the freshness of the lemon and the softness of the cinnamon flattened this penetrating taste and became in harmony with the cloves. Only the first bite of the pie was of strange taste, the latter bits were amazing, the cloves struggled to be the strongest tasting component, but the cream and milk kind of covered your tasting buds a bit such that the combination of all the flavors got to its best extend.

Cherry jams with a twist

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

We have a small garden with a single tree. It’s a sweet cherry tree and this year must have been one of the best ever. In May it was overthrown with flowers. Last year I made some jam which came out OK, but the drawback with sweet cherries is that their taste doesn’t really compare with that of sour cherries. They’re good to eat, but not as good for cooking and jam as their sour cousins. The summer last year was quite wet and cold which could explain the fad taste, but this year however has been quite hot and the cherries grew darker and sweeter as summer proceeded.

I decided to give cherry jam another try. To improve the flavor even further, I was pondering on adding spices. My mom has previously added cloves and cinnamon to plums when making jam. The first place I looked was under cherries in the book “Culinary artistry”. Among the numerous suggestions for flavor pairings it was black pepper and lemon that caught my attention. Who would have thought? I made a small test batch and was quite pleased by the “bite” provided by pepper so I proceeded with a full batch. I used a pre-mixed gelling sugar from Danisco sugar (which contained sugar, pectin, a preservative and an acid), but you could use whatever pectin you have at hand. Just follow the instructions on the pack (more on the science further down).

Having added pepper and a little of the sugar to get an idea of how it would turn out, it almost felt as if ginger was already there so I added a little more to accentuate that. The other spices were added to round everything off. The pepper taste is quite noticeable if you eat the jam by itself, but on buttered bread or toast it’s really nice. I also suggest that you try it with different semi-soft and hard cheeses such as Emmentaler, Jarlsberg, Prästost, Parmesan or Pecorino. My wife thinks it’s a little to much pepper, but for me it’s just perfect. In German this jam would be known as a Herrenmarmelade (a gentleman’s jam). If you’re not very fond of pepper however it’s a good idea to start with half the amount of pepper.

Spicy cherry jam with pepper
3.7 kg depitted sweet cherries
7.0 g black pepper, ground
0.8 g cloves, ground
0.7 g ginger, ground
1.3 g anis seeds, ground
0.8 g star anis, ground
zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
2.2 kg gelling sugar (with pectin and preservative)

Place enough jars in a cold oven and heat to 120-130 °C to sterilize them (this is more convenient than in boiling water). Depit cherries (conveniently done with a cherry stoner) and cut in four (helps you discover those stones that eluded the cherry stoner). Add spices and bring to boil. Remove any remaining pits that float up to the surface. Pureé with immersion blender (hopefully you will not hear the sound of cherry pits being crushed at this stage). Add gelling sugar. Let boil and skim of foam. Fill the hot jars immediately. And remember – as all chemists know – hot glass looks just like cold glass! Use a canning funnel to avoid spilling jam on the sealing surface of the jars. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes and then screw on lids. I usually wipe the inside of the lids with 40-60% alcohol and then screw them on tightly before the alcohol has evaporated. There’s more at the end regarding the procedure for closing the jars.

This way of canning is very convenient and the jam will keep for several years in closed jars if kept in a cool, dark and dry place. This is due to the high sugar concentration (sugar binds water, and unless water is available, molds won’t grow), the low pH and – if added – the presence of preservatives. A more tedious way is to sterilize the jars after filling by boiling in water. This is no doubt the best way to sterilize the jars, but for jams with a high sugar content and a low pH it’s a little overkill. The National Center for Home Food Preservation in the US has more information about this (but notice that there are different traditions – I wonder if there is a divide between Europe and North America?). There are also many books about this and good place to start would be the “Ball Blue Book of Preserving”, better known as BBB among home canners. If you chose this method you should probably use a little more pectin as the additional heating at low pH will degrade some of the pectin making the jam more runny.

Using black pepper in a jam worked really well so I googled this and found Clotilde’s recipe for a strawberry jam with pepper and peppermint. She got it from Christine Ferber, author of “Mes confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber” which has recipes organized according to season. As mint was also mentioned as a good flavor pairing for cherries in “Culinary artistry” I thought I’d give pepper and peppermint a try.

Cherry jam with pepper and peppermint
2.2 kg depitted sweet cherries
1.3 kg sugar
2.4 g fresh peppermint leaves
2.8 g black pepper, ground
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 pack of Certo fruit pectin*

Depit cherries and cut in four. Add pepper and peppermint and bring to boil. Remove any remaining pits that float up to the surface. Pureé with immersion blender. Add pectin and stir until dissolved. Add sugar. Let boil and skim off foam. Sterilize and fill jars as in the previous recipe.

[ * The Certo pack weighs 70 g and contains sugar (for easier dispersion of the pectin), citrus pectin, citric acid to get the right pH for gelling and a preservative (ascorbic acid). ]

This jam was dominated by peppermint and the pepper could barely be noticed. I found it very refreshing and there is a surprise element as the red color does not suggest the presence of peppermint. Apart from the obvious use as a bread spread, I can imagine that this jam would be very nice with roasted meat, especially lamb, reindeer, elk and perhaps also wild game.

Having experimented with different spices and peppermint, my wife asked me to also make a batch of plain cherry jam which I happily did. But next year I would like to try making cherry jam with red wine!

As you can imagine, I couldn’t do all this without offering the chemistry behind some thoughts. Pectin chemistry is quite complicated though and there are several types available (low methoxyl, high methoxyl and amidated – so far I’ve only included the two first in “Texture – A hydrocolloid recipe collection”). Commercial packs of pectin for home use do normally not specify which type of pectin they contain, but I assume that it is the high methoxyl which gels in the presence of sugar and at low pH (as opposed to the low methoxyl which requires calcium ions to gel). The easiest is probably to follow the instructions that come with the pack you chose. Always add pectin before you add sugar (unless you premix them). The reason for this is that the gelling of high methoxyl pectins is promoted by sugar. If you add sugar before pectin, it will be very diffult to get the pectin properly dispersed and dissolved (it can be done with an immersion blender though – I’ve tried that once). Ready to use pectin is often pre-mixed with an acid to get the pH below 3.5 which promotes gelling. Citric acid is often used, and plain lemon juice will also do the job. Lowering the pH is especially important when using ripe or over ripe fruit as these can be less acidic and also contain less pectin if we are talking about pectin containing fruit. After the pectin and sugar have been added, the jam shouldn’t boil for more than a couple of minutes as pectin is not very heat stable.

There are also a couple of claims found in jam recipes which I have been wondering about:

Skimming: Almost all recipes I have seen for jams call for rapid skimming of the foam which formes when the jam mixture boils. One explanation I’ve seen is that this is done to prevent growth of mold, as these apparently grow more easily in the foam. There are certainly airborn molds, but the bubbles in the foam come from the jam as it boils, so it’s been very hot and presumably sterilized. So I’m simply wondering if the whole skimming is about esthetics – which is is still a good enough reason to me (but then I wish the recipes could state that!).

Turning jars upside-down: One thing that has puzzled me for a time is why recipes recommend that the jars should be turned upside-down. I’ve googled and checked several books and have come up with a couple of explanations (but most recipes only state that it should or shouldn’t (!) be done, without giving any reason). The fun thing is that the suggested time for how long the jars should remain turned upside-down varies from 2 minutes to several hours when the jam is cool and has set.

  • One site claims it is done to prevent larger pieces of fruit from settling to the bottom. This does make sense, and in that case there is no reason to do it if the fruit has been puréed.
  • A blogpost commenter suggests that turning the jars upside-down for 5 minutes makes sure the inside of the lid gets sterilized too. The temperature of the jam at this time is probably somewhere around 95 °C, so it does seem reasonable that it might kill some molds residing on the lid. I’d give this a thumbs up. Any microbiologist who could confirm this?
  • Personally I have speculated whether turning the jars upside-down would allow water (or jam to be precise) to be drawn into the seal by capillary action and that this helps to make a perfect seal, but several sites emphasize that this should not be done to prevent the seal from being broken (these sites assume that a canner has been used – i.e. sterilizing the filled jars with lids in boiling water for 5 to 10 min). I’m not sure, but I wonder if there is a difference here between screw caps and glass lids with rubber bands?
  • A last reason to turn jars upside down would be to prevent the water evaporating from the hot jam to condensate on the lid. If the jars are left to cool upside-down for 10-15 minutes, but turned back before the jam sets this will prevent water to condense on the lid and drip back to the surface of the jam. This water could potentially mean better conditions for growth of molds. This theory is also supported by the suggestion found in old cookbooks where the jars are left to cool completely without lids to let the surface dry and form a skin, and then covered with a filter paper dipped in alcohol before tying them up with pergament paper and string.

The conclusion so far regarding turning the jars upside-down can be summed up as follows. You should chose of the three methods:

  • Cover with lid immediately and turn upside-down until cool enough to handle (~40-50 °C). Then return to upright position. This will prevent condensation of water on the lid, it might help create a better seal and it could possibly knock out some molds on the lid. The jam however will most likely not have set yet.
  • As above, with the only difference that you leave the jars upside-down until cool and set. This means that the air pocket will not be below the lid but at the bottom of the glass when turned back to the upright position.
  • Allow the jam too cool without lids until a skin has formed and the jars are cool enough to handle. This prevents condensation of water on the lid. Wipe the inside of the lids with the highest percentage alcohol available (but do NOT use denatured alcohol!) – typically it would be 40% or 60% – and screw on the lid before the alcohol evaporates. The skin formed will be less suceptible to growth of mold because there is less water present and because of the presence of alcohol.