fruit

Raspados-A Sonoran Summer Treat

                  Summer fruit perfect for a raspado.

We’re heading into deep summer here in Southern Arizona. Days typically top 100 degrees. It’s perfect time for a raspado.  Raspados are sweet, creamy, fruity, sometimes a little salty, and always very cold. They are a cross between a Snow Cone, a slushie, and a fruit sundae. Perfect to cool you down from the inside out on a Tucson summer day. Since there is usually plenty of fruit, you could call it lunch.

A raspado from a shop that puts the ice cream on top with fruit layered between crushed ice.

The raspados that hail from Sonora are found throughout Southern Arizona and other spots where Mexican culture florishes. Similar treats appear throughout the tropical world, differing in detail from country to country.

The typical prep steps of the Sonoran style raspados are simple,  but they vary from shop to shop. In general, it is a layer of shaved or finely crushed ice, then fruit in syrup,  then the layers are repeated. A topping of  sweetened condensed milk trickles down. Canned Mexican crema can be used instead of the condensed milk. Sometimes vanilla ice cream is the final layer. Or the ice cream could be added halfway up. Typical fruits are fresh strawberries or peaches. Go tropical with mango, coconut, or pineapple. Then there can be nuts or chile in some form. If you followed Tia Marta’s suggestion for gathering saguaro fruit, you could add some of that for a special regional flavor.

My raspado with the ice cream in the middle, and more fruit on top.

The fancier raspados called Macedonias include several fruits and more creaminess.  Obviously, you’ll have to explore for yourself! Be bold with the flavors. There’s no way you can go wrong.

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Carolyn Niethammer has been writing about ancient and modern foods of the Southwest for forty years. You can see her books at her website. She has a new book coming out (Fall 2020) on the 10,000 years of food history of the Santa Cruz Valley that is the basis for why Tucson was named the UNESCO World City of Gastronomy.

 

Categories: fruit, Mexican Food, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Raspberry Beet Stem Turnovers

Amy here today, with beautiful red beets! You know, beet stems look like rhubarb…what if…

I had beets from Tucson CSA and from a friend’s garden. There are plenty of beet root dishes I make, like roasted beet salads, pickled or fermented beets, and borscht. Also, I LOVE cooked beet greens, with their salty, mineral character, sautéed in olive oil and garlic or many other ways. I usually chop the stems and cook along with the leaves, but they have a different texture and make the dish more red than green. Like in beans simmered with greens, or in a quiche, I want less of that hue. What to do with extra beet stems? Since they look like rhubarb, would they work as a substitute????


Rhubarb, and wild desert rhubarb (See Tia Marta’s desert rhubarb upside down cake and pie on this blog) are much more tart that beet stems, so I could add lemon. Strawberries are the classic pair with rhubarb, but raspberries have the tartness I wanted. I harvested wild raspberries in the mountains last summer for the freezer, but they were long gone. A little carton of raspberries from the store had the same volume as the chopped beet stems I had, so that’s what I used.


I simmered the beet stems, raspberries, a lot of lemon juice and zest, sugar and a shot of vanilla, then thickened with cornstarch. A delicious compote. It totally worked!!!!!
There wasn’t enough to fill a pie plate, so I made a few turnovers.


A simple short pastry: butter cut into all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, a bit of cold water to make it come together, and refrigerated until firm.

After dividing the dough into 8 balls, I rolled one thinly. Then filled with the compote, moistened the edges with water and folded. On ungreased parchment paper, I crimped, poked steam vents, wet the tops with water and sprinkled with sugar. Maybe next time they’ll get egg wash or fancy sugar.


At 425 degrees F they took 20 minutes to get golden brown top and bottom.


They came out flakey, tart, and beautiful color. Don’t waste those beet stems!

Raspberry and Beet Stem Turnovers

by Amy Valdés Schwemm

Filling:

1 cup red beet stems, chopped

1 cup red raspberries

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Pastry:

1 cup all purpose flour

5 tablespoons cold butter

dash of salt, if using unsalted butter

1/3 cup cold water

 

Cut butter (and salt if using unsalted butter) into flour to make uneven crumbs. Add water to make a dough, form a ball and refrigerate until firm.

Simmer the beet stems with sugar and lemon juice until tender. Add raspberries and lemon zest, and cook until reduced and the raspberries fall apart. Mix the cornstarch in a tablespoon of water, add to the pan and cook until clear and thickened. Stir in vanilla and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Divide the dough into 8 balls. Roll one ball into a thin circle and fill with two tablespoons of the compote. Moisten the edges with water and fold. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; no need to grease. Crimp the edges with a fork or fingers and poke steam vents in the top with a fork or knife. When all are formed, wet the tops with water or a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, top and bottom.

Enjoy!

Categories: Cooking, fruit, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Citrus Season is Time for Marmalade

Mix citrus for a delicious marmalade with my favorite recipe.

It’s Carolyn Niethammer here today to share my favorite recipe for citrus marmalade. It comes from an early version of The Joy of Cooking that I received as a gift in 1965. The most recent Joy of Cooking doesn’t even have an entry for jams though I hear there is a resurgence of interest in making them. I love citrus marmalade, but don’t like the overly sweet grocery-story version. I like a little bitterness, more like the English version rather than the American style.  I’ve used this recipe for at least 30 years, varying the proportion of fruit according to what I have.

Some of the oranges come from a Sweet Orange tree in my front yard that my husband as a small child planted with his dad, Dr. Leland Burkhart, a half time extension agent, half time college ag professor.  Dr. Burkhart used to travel all over the state consulting with citrus growers. Since my own grapefruit tree died, I have to snitch a few of those from my neighbors. I also gather a few sour oranges from street trees in the neighborhood because I like the tang it gives my marmalade.  If you don’t have access to free fruit, the farmer’s markets are full of all varieties right now.

Farmers’ markets in the Southwest have abundant citrus for sale now.

Although I have been using this recipe successfully for years, a couple of years ago I decided to get fancy and carefully cut away all the white pith on the inside of the fruit rinds. Then the mixture simply would not jell no matter how long I cooked it. So….I learned this is where the pectin is, what makes the marmalade thicken up. Leave the white stuff on; it disappears during the soaking and cooking.

Use whatever fruit you have; don’t worry about the proportions. You could use all lemons. Last year I foraged an abundance of kumquats and used those. You might decide to make your version of spring marmalade special by adding some thinly slice barrel cactus fruit, or a little prickly pear juice if you have some, or even some berries. This is a very adaptable recipe. I always try to stress experimentation. Here’s a place to construct your own signature jam to your special taste preference.

The recipe is very easy, but you have to start the process a few days before you plan to do the cooking. The fruit soaks and softens in a corner of your kitchen. During the days when the fruit is soaking, gather up your jars. If you have those with the sealing lids, fine. If not use any jars. Put them in your biggest pot, cover with water, and boil for a few minutes to sterilize. If you don’t have the lids with the rings that seal, be sure to refrigerate the jam until use. If you give it away, caution the receiver not to stick it on a shelf and forget it.

I use whatever jars I have for the marmalade.

Mixed Citrus Marmalade

1 grapefruit

3 oranges

3 lemons

Sugar

Scrub the fruit, cut each in quarters, and remove the seeds. Slice very thinly. Measure the amount of fruit and juice and add 3 times the amount of water. Set aside and let the fruit soak for 12 hours. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Let stand again for 12 hours.

For every cup of fruit and juice, add ¾ cup sugar. Divide into two pots if you have them or cook one half at a time. Cook these ingredients until they reach 220-222 degrees F. on a food thermometer . It will seem like it takes a long time at first and then at the end it moves rapidly. If you don’t have a food thermometer, once you think it’s looking a little thicker, turn off the heat, put a little of the jelly on a china plate and put it in the freezer for a minute. If it firms up, it is ready. If it is still liquid, cook for a little while longer. It usually firms up a bit more once it cools in the jars.

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Ready for another challenge? It was a rainy winter this year in the Southwest which means lots of edible wild desert plants. You can find recipes for 23 of the  easiest to gather and the tastiest in my book Cooking the Wild Southwest available from Native Seeds/SEARCH and from on-line stores.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Chile poblano and pomegranate season: Chiles Rellenos en Nogada

Hello all, Amy here. Every year in the late summer or early fall, I end up with pomegranates and fresh green poblano chiles at the same moment, and need to make Chiles en Nogada. The huge, green (but this time blushing red!) poblano chiles were from Tucson CSA/Crooked Sky Farms and a CSA member brought in the pomegranates from their bush at home.

There are many filling options for chiles rellenos (singular: chile relleno) but I love a traditional picadillo for this dish. I started by cooking ground pork with onion, garlic, and whole cumin. But beef, or a mix of the two, is good, too.

Then I spiced the meat with ground coriander seed, cinnamon, Mexican oregano, tomato, raisins, slivered almonds and green olives.

Charring fresh chiles over an open flame smells so wonderful! After evenly blackening the chiles, place them in a paper bag or saucepan with a lid as they cool and sweat off their skins. Peel without rinsing, as few pieces of skin are not worth watering down the chile’s flavor. While I was already making a mess on the stove top, I roasted a few chiles for other projects. Of course any chile or bell pepper could be used with this filling, so use what you have. Chile poblano, to some people at least, is the fresh version of chile ancho. I always add a disclaimer since chile nomenclature varies, and different chiles get different names and some names are used for different chiles!

Slit each chile and remove the core and seeds while keeping the stem and the rest of the chile as intact as possible. Stuff the chile with the meat.

For the sauce, soak about one cup walnuts in water.

Then drain and liquify in a blender with about one cup Mexican crema or sour cream and half a pound of queso fresco.

Salt to taste and adjust with a little water or more cheese or nuts to taste. Make plenty of this cooling sauce in case one of the chiles is very spicy! Top with sauce immediately before eating and garnish with plenty of pomegranate arils (seeds).

Unlike the fried version, this dish is great served hot, warm or room temperature, which it makes is good to serve a crowd. Another time I’ll post my great grandmother’s battered and fried version that is famous for a reason, but they need to be eaten as they are made. Also, when you have pomegranates, make this one. !Buen provecho!

 

 

Categories: Cooking, fruit, heirloom crops, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Preserving the Harvest

cook pot 1804760_1280Back in the day, the only way to preserve a harvest was to dry it. This is why grains, seeds, and nuts are popular crops and so entrenched cultures around the world for thousands of years. Meat could be dried or salted, but was most often eaten fresh.  Then, roughly 200 years ago, preserving food through canning began to be developed. We think of canning as a pioneer tradition, but it only became common in homes roughly 150 years ago.

jam 2091026_1280I am lucky enough to have learned canning from my grandmother (back in the last century). She was extra careful to follow the Extension Service guidelines for how long to process the food she canned because a childhood friend of hers got botulism from improperly canned food (we are talking about back in 1911 here).

pressure canning book

Jump to this century and the book – Modern Pressure Canning by Amelia Jeanroy (Voyageur Press $24.99). This volume is a shining gem of how to can – especially if you did not have someone’s elbow to learn at. If you already know how to can, this book is still useful to help you improve your technique, plus offer some tantalizing recipes to try. The beautiful photographs of the food, done by the talented photographer Kerry Michaels don’t hurt either.

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The chapter “Storage, Troubleshooting and Other Considerations” elevate this book from a “how to” to a “must have.” Among other tips, Amelia urges you to keep records. She shares the fact that with the help of such written records she determined what her family uses the most, and now she concentrates on that.

pressure cooker cc 3.0

I have resisted canning with a pressure cooker, because I was concerned about adjusting for altitude correctly. Amelia has solved this problem by including (on page 29) exactly what pressures to use at what elevation. That chart, plus the recipes, have me eyeballing the garden and dreaming of home-grown and home-canned harvest – months after the harvest.

Pickled sweet peppers with onion & garlic in an anise, peppercorn, and coriander brine M King web

Pickled sweet peppers with onion and garlic in an anise, peppercorn, and coriander brine, made by Monica King

Jacqueline Soule business portrait. Tucson, AZ. © 2012 Mark Turner

Jacqueline Soule

Want to learn more about growing your own food? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will sell and sign copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, fruit, Gardening | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Summer fruit: pickled figs, grape salad

Hi, Amy here today, giddy with a pile of fresh figs and fresh grapes! The Black Mission figs are from a very old tree in my mom’s yard.

My mom dries them in a hot car and freezes them to preserve. This year I decided to try pickling some. I poured about one cup red wine vinegar into a pan, along with two tablespoons sugar and a teaspoon salt. Then I tossed in about a dozen fresh but firm figs and brought them to a simmer. I’m sure honey instead of sugar is fine, and any vinegar would work as well. You could add more or less sweet or salt to suit your taste. Quick pickles are as forgiving as they are delicious.

After simmering for a few minutes, I let them cool in the liquid. I refrigerated the figs and brine together, where they softened and darkened a little more. Perfect.

A few days later, a friend shared some seedless grapes from her garden. Amazing!!!! You can see some turning to raisins on the vine.

For a fresh, light meal, I put stemmed grapes with some tart Greek yogurt.

I sprinkled some sea salt thyme blend and called it a salad. Of course, any salt and herbs would be wonderful here.

For a sandwich, I spread Black Mesa Ranch goat cheese with herbs on a slice of Barrio Bread whole wheat levain (both from Tucson CSA) and topped with halved figs. Dinner to eat while watching the clouds and sunset.

Here’s to hoping for more summer rains in the desert!

Categories: Cooking, fruit, heirloom crops, herbs, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pear Prickly Pear Desert Dessert

Hello, Amy here, preparing a dessert for some new friends completely new to the desert, passing through on their way to Costa Rica. A few pears that had seen some travel were sitting on the kitchen counter…

So I pared, sliced and put them in the oven with a few cubes of frozen prickly pear juice.

After baking and stirring, they looked like this!

Then I made a crumble topping, staring with plenty of desert seeds, from left to right: saguaro, amaranth, chia, barrel cactus.

The bulk of the mixture was mesquite meal, rolled oats, pecan meal, butter, sugar (evaporated cane juice). For seasoning, I used cinnamon, cardamon, dried rose petals and dried ocotillo flowers.

Once mixed, I crumbled the mixture over the pears and put back into the 350 degree F oven to bake until browned and crunchy.

It is best served warm, here with a little homemade goat yogurt, but cream or ice cream works, too!

The recipe can be found in the Desert Harvesters’ Cookbook:

This recipe is so forgiving. I was short on oats so increased the pecans. I doubled the cardamom, traded evaporated cane juice for the brown sugar, substituted water for milk, changed the orange/apple juice to prickly pear, and doubled the seeds. Coconut oil works fine instead of butter for this, too.

 

Amy’s Apple Crisp

2 pounds apples, local organic heirlooms if possible (Or pears. No need to weigh!)

2 tablespoons orange, apple or prickly pear juice (or more)

 

Topping:

1 cup mesquite meal

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup seeds, like amaranth, chia, barrel cactus, saguaro

1/3 cup evaporated cane juice or brown sugar (0r less)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 pound (1 stick) butter

2 tablespoons milk or water

Slice the fruit into a baking dish, add juice, and bake at 350 degrees while preparing the topping. Mix all the topping ingredients in the food processor, distribute over sliced fruit, and bake at 350-375 degrees F until browned. Enjoy!

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, heirloom grains, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Marvelous Mints

Mint is one of those plants that want to spread everywhere in the garden, and that can be a good thing if you use a lot of mint – like I like to.  Mint is useful for all manner of beverages, from mint tea to mint julep to crème de menthe, or you can use it to make jelly, various sauces, make tabouli, throw some in salad, in wine,,,, the list goes on, but you get the idea.  Oh, and mints are used medicinally and for bath and beauty products too.

mint 2480624_1280

 

Mint gets a bad rap because it can spread in the garden and crowd out other, less aggressive, plants.  The solution is to grow your mint in pots – and make sure those pots are up off the ground so the mint can’t creep out the drainage hole.  I put my pots of mint up on bricks.

mint 3175117_1280

 

There are over 100 species of mint, plus many hybrids, and more being bred all the time – to offer new flavors – like “berries and cream mint” I spotted the other day in Rillito Nursery in Tucson. Since we are here to savor the Southwest, today I will talk about using mint for culinary purposes.

Mint and Sweets

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Mint is an herb that offers a tangy counterpoint to foods, especially sweets. A slice of luscious chocolate torte offered with sprigs of mint is one good example. Several bites of rich creamy torte followed by a nibble of mint offers a refresher for your palate, allowing you to savor the chocolaty flavor all over again when you bite back into it.

 

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Mints work well with all manner of sweet things. Lime juice and chopped mint leaves combine to make a tangy and refreshing frosting on orange flavored cupcakes.

Mint and Fruit

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Mint pairs well with many fruits. Like savoring the torte, a few bites of strawberry followed with a nibble of mint offers a refreshing and more flavorful experience.

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Don’t limit your mint use to dessert, wake up your morning yogurt and granola with a sprig or two of mint. Mint is said to aid digestion.

Mint and Drinks

Summer is coming – perk up your lemon-aid and make it even more refreshing with some sprigs of mint.

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And last but not least, plan ahead for Kentucky Derby Day, and make some mint syrup to make mint julep with. Here is the recipe I got several decades ago from my friend Karen from Kentucky. Sorry that I don’t recall her last name, but I remember her sweet nature every year as we watch the Derby and sip minty drinks.

Mint syrup. In a mason jar, put one cup sugar, one cup compressed fresh mint leaves, and add one cup boiling water. Stir as needed to help dissolve the sugar. When cooled, store in the back of the fridge for up to a month. Mint syrup can be used for mint juleps but it’s also a dandy way to sweeten iced tea.

Mint julep. In a glass add 2 ounces of bourbon, ½ ounce mint syrup, sprigs of mint, and stir, bruising the mint leaves. Fill the glass with finely crushed ice. Optionally garnish with fresh mint. Sip and enjoy!

 

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
© Article is copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos are courtesy of Pixabay and may not be used.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, fruit, herbs, Kino herb, Libations, medicinal plant | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Barrel Cactus Seeds Make Irresistible Appetizers

♦Want more information on wild food and herbs in a live situation? Carolyn and Jacqueline will be speaking and demonstrating on March 25 at 1 p.m. at Singing Winds Bookstore in Benson for an Organic Food Fiesta. What’s more organic that a prickly pear or barrel cactus fruit direct from the wild? Join us. There will be tastings. Now, on to today’s post.♦

It’s Carolyn today bringing you a simple recipe to help you shine in a social situation. We’ve all had the experience of  politely asking what you can bring when invited to a dinner party. “How about an appetizer?” the hostess (or host) suggests. Oh oh, now what? We know the perfect appetizer should be both delicious and amusing. Chips and dip? Way too trite. A vegetable tray? Healthy, but nobody eats them.

These Wild Seed Cheese Appetizers are the perfect solution.  They are a good conversation starter and you can star as a savvy wild-food expert. The appetizers come together very quickly if you already have a stash of seeds; not too bad even if you have to hunt up some barrel cactus fruit.  Barrel cactus are one of the easiest wild foods to gather: they are usually about knee-level, the plants have vicious thorns but the fruit is free of spines, and as Savor Sister Jacqueline told us in an earlier Savor post, they can bloom up to three times a year, making ample fruit available.  If you happen to have some saguaro seeds, they will work as well. And like all seeds, they bring great nutrition. After all, in that tiny package they contain all the nutrition necessary for starting another whole plant.

This is what you are looking for is a cactus that looks like the one in the top photo. No need to use tongs to gather. When you get home, first wash the fruit and cut each in half and this is what you’ll see:

Halved barrel cactus seeds showing the nutritious seeds.

You can dry the seeds in the fruit or scoop them out and spread them on a cookie sheet.  If you are trying to rush the process, toast them for a few minutes in a dry frying pan. When dry, the seeds will have a little white material. Shake the seeds in a bowl and the white matter will rise to the top and you can blow it off.  If you are including the seeds in something like cake or muffins, just ignore the white and it will disappear into the batter.  You can find a recipe for gluten-free cake using barrel cactus seeds here.

The appetizer recipe is basically a cheese-butter-flour mixture most easily made in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can combine the ingredients with a heavy spoon and some elbow grease. Chile powder adds a delicious zip to the cheese balls.  I used chipotle powder,  but you can use chiltepine or another flavoring of your choice.

Now here’s a use for that melon-baller that’s been bouncing around in your drawer unused for years.  Using it to scoop up the dough made perfect sized appetizers.

Scoop out small balls of cheese dough with a melon-baller. I you don’t  have one, use a spoon and roll dough into balls.

Put about a half cup of seeds in a small dish and press each ball of cheese dough into the seeds. Then line them up on a cookie sheet to bake.

Appetizers ready to go in the oven.

And the finished appetizers, ready to serve.

A plate of cheese appetizers topped with crunchy and nutritious barrel cactus seeds.

There is a necessary warning before I go further. These little devils are so delicious you will be tempted to just take a bottle of wine to the party and keep these at home, all for yourself. Rich, spicy. So yum.  Here’s the recipe:

Cactus Seed Cheese Appetizers

½ pound shredded cheddar cheese

½  pound (2 sticks) soft butter

2 ½ cups flour (can use part whole wheat or non-wheat flour)

1 teaspoon salt

½ to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder or cayenne

¼ cup barrel cactus or saguaro seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients except the seeds. This is most easily done in a food processor, but can also be done with a heavy spoon and some elbow grease. Roll small balls using a melon-baller if you have one. Put seeds in a shallow bowl. Press each cheese ball into the seeds deeply enough so that they adhere. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 350 degrees F. for 13-15 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.

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Carolyn Niethammer writes cookbooks showcasing the use of edible wild plants of the arid Southwest. They include The Prickly Pear Cookbook, Cooking the Wild Southwest, and American Indian Cooking, Recipes from the Southwest. You can buy them through Native Seeds/SEARCH, Amazon, or ask your independent bookstore to order them for you.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Cordial Tribute to Time Itself–Valentine’s Dessert Toasts

Time–to be exact, good timing, plus duration and patience–are necessary ingredients in making most good dishes.  All of these are enlisted in creating festive cordials. Here, a native fan palm cordial made with tiny wild dates (in bowl), harvested & put up in the fall…after months later… produced a luscious cordial for a sweet Valentine surprise.  Time to celebrate! (MABurgess photo)

Let’s tip a toast to Father Time who allows magic to be wrought upon our local desert fruits.  The joyous results of his temporal magic can be festive and delightful cordials.  With a little industry, when our desert fruits are ripe in late summer or fall, there can be heartwarming dessert drinks to help celebrate chilly winter evenings–and especially fine for your favorite Valentine.

Tia Marta here, with an additional toast, this one to the father of Slow Knowledge, agricultural philosopher/author Wendell Berry.  His “slow knowledge”–yea wisdom–comes with growing one’s own food (or wild-harvesting), watching the near-imperceptable progress played by Nature and Father Time on leafing, flowering, fruiting, fermentation, decay of individual plants, small or tall, in garden, farm, wild desert, forest.  Being present is a key to “slow knowledge,” something sorely missed if one is always absorbed in a device.  Lack of slow knowledge may lead to atrophy of human brain neurons. There is evidence that practicing slow knowledge, being out in Nature, in fact enhances brain function and development, broadens associative thinking, deductive and inductive reasoning, adds serenity, promotes compassion….Hey what’s not to like about it?

We had left our Meyer lemons on the tree past the holidays to fully sweeten up. When frost was predicted, we quick-harvested 52 giant juicy fruits from one little tree! (MABurgess photo)

Meyer lemon does well in a low desert garden. It’s juice is so sweet and even its thin rind is edible!  All parts of Meyer lemon are used in creating limoncello.  Juice and thinly sliced rind all go into the mix to mull. (MABurgess photo)

Time and tequila produced the finest limoncello ever with Meyer lemon!  (MABurgess photo)

I’d like to share four of my favorite ways–four cordials– to celebrate time, with fruits that our Southwest gardens, orchards, and even prickly desert can supply in plenty:  1) Native fan palm “Desert Oasis Cordial” depicted above made with the seedy dates of our ubiquitous Washingtonia filifera (Read more by searching Jan.20, 2015’s post in this blog archive), 2) special Meyer Limoncello, 3) Prickly Pear Cordial, and 4) Colorado Cherry Cordial.  They are really so easy to make with speedy prep-time– a good investment in one’s spare minutes when there is a bumper crop of fruits shouting for attention.

General Cordial Instructions:  In order for all four cordials to “make,” i.e. to sit and mull, you will need a sanitized sealable crock or large canning jar.  Wash and cut your fruits (no need to cut the teensy native palm dates), measure equal quantities of:

a) fruit,

b) spirits (I use good 100% agave tequila or mescal, but vodka also works fine), and

c) a natural sweetener (I use agave nectar but my mother used sugar successfully).

Pack fruit into jars, add sweetener, cover with spirits, seal, and set aside in a cool, dark place for as many weeks or months as possible, checking periodically for progress or problems.

After mulling for months in tequila, the halved prickly pear tunas have lost their bright purple color but have lost none of their great flavor! Mash to free up their juices.

Decant by filtering prickly pear fruit&juice mix, separating fruit, seed, and remaining spines using a masher and coffee filter set in a funnel over a bowl or measuring cup to capture the precious cordial.

Several folded layers of cheesecloth set in a funnel can be used in decanting the prickly pear cordial.

Essentially, with the help of Time, you are making a sweet herbal tincture. Decanting is the next step.  Remember those gorgeous rosey red prickly pear tunas gathered carefully in August?  (Yes, planning ahead is paramount.  Put it on your calendar now for next August.)  At harvest, I washed and removed as many spines as possible, cut them in half, and set them in the canning jar, seeds and all, with the other ingredients.  Now at decanting time I must make sure to filter out all solid parts to clarify the cordial.  Coffee filters or layered cheesecloth resting in a funnel over your catcher-cup or bottle will work perfectly.  After filtering, store your cordial in glass indefinitely–to enjoy on special occasions.

Prickly Pear Cordial sits next to its drought-stressed provider, Engelmann’s prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii) the winter after a grand August harvest. What gifts these plants provide!  Given rain, they bounce back to give more next year.  (MABurgess)

Colorado Cherry Cordial with delicious “marinated” cherries to be used for topping on ice cream. (MABurgess photo)

You can view native fan palms on the University of Arizona campus, lemon trees at the Tucson Botanical Garden, and Engelmann’s prickly pear close up at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and at Tucson’s Mission Garden.  Find more traditional foods at http://www.flordemayoarts.com and http://www.nativeseeds.org.  And watch for upcoming City of Gastronomy tours in Tucson beginning in March at Tucson’s Presidio Museum–Stay tuned at http://www.tucsonpresidio.com.

Now a cordial toast to you, dear Savor Blog Follower!  May you delight in these spirited fruits of the desert and delight in the time they take to bring us this cheer!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Libations, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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