Apples, Apples, Apples & a recipe for Apple Cheddar Muffins

There’s no doubt about it – apples are in season at the Calgary Farmers’ Market right now! We all have our favourites, that’s for sure, but if you’re looking to do more than just bite into a refreshing snack – do you know which apple is best for the job?

I took a moment to chat with Chris Souto of Souto Farms to learn a bit more about the plethora of apple varieties they carry at the market. They currently have 10 varieties of apples to choose from; read on to learn a little bit about each one!

Honey Crisp – This delicious eating apple is a top seller at Souto Farms; it is the crispest, biggest and hardest to grow. The results are worth it though for this sweet, tart, juicy favourite. (Season: early September – late January).

Ambrosia – This medium sized apple is a crisp, sweet eating apple. It also happens to be Chris Souto’s favourite! (Season: mid September – late May).

Pink Lady – Another medium sized eating apple, the Pink Lady is tart, but full of flavour and super crisp. This later season apple isn’t harvested until November. (Season: early November – late May).

Gala – The Gala is an older generation eating apple. It’s sweet, with a medium crispness. The Ambrosia is slowing taking over the place the Gala used to hold at Souto Farms. (Season: early September – late May).

Mac – Most people are familiar with the classic Mac; it is one of the older generation apples that Souto Farms carries. Its softer texture and tart taste make it best for cooking, though in season it’s still an enjoyable eating apple. (Season: late August – late May).

Granny Smith – This apple is super crunchy and very tart! It is another older generation apple that is very popular in cooking. (Season: mid October – late May).

Aurora – This small apple is slightly crisp, and the sweetest that Souto Farms carries. It is a great eating apple, but also makes a wonderful apple sauce. (Season: October – mid January).

Golden Delicious – The Golden Delicious is a classic. It is a very, very old generation apple that is sweet, crisp and perfect for eating. (Season: late September – late May).

Spartan – Another old generation apple, a bit sweeter than a Mac, but still tart, the Spartan is good for eating. It may be small, but it’s still slightly crisp and makes a great snack. (Season: late September – late May).

Empire – With a slightly  crisp texture, small size and sweet taste, this old generation apple is a nice eating apple. Maybe less popular that the other varieties, but still delicious! (Season: mid October – late December).

All this apple research had me seriously craving some elaborate apple creations – but sometimes simple is best, so I decided on this simple Apple Cheddar Muffin recipe. Who doesn’t love apples and cheese, anyway? Right?

Ingredients in a rowApple Cheddar Muffins

Market sourced ingredients:

*Sylvan Star Cheese has more than just cheese! They’ve also got a selection of eggs, yogurt, organic milk and goat’s milk – basically a one stop shop for dairy!

**While Beeland has a huge variety of honeys, especially this time of year, I chose their basic all-purpose clover honey for this recipe. It’s the best value in cases where honey isn’t necessarily the star of the show!

Other ingredients:Muffin Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour*
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 3 Tbsp oil (olive or vegetable)

*While I used baking supplies on hand in my home, you can source many flours and other baking ingredients from Blush Lane Organics at the market!

First, preheat your oven to 350° F. Grease your muffin pan, or line with muffin liners. This recipe makes 12 muffins.

Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl (flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices). Toss in the cheese and mix until it is evenly distributed.

Whisk wet ingredients together in a separated bowl (eggs, honey, molasses, oil, and yogurt). Stir in the grated apple and mix until is it evenly distributed.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently stir until just combined.

Muffin bowls1
Might not look like much, but the smell of the apples at this point made my mouth water!

Pour the batter into the muffin pan, and bake about 30 – 35 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. I like these best served with a pat of butter, but you could also go big and melt a fresh slice of cheddar on yours. Try your best not to eat them all at once!

Muffins done

Marbled No-Can Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

Pumpkin Tart 7

Thanksgiving may be our favorite holiday here at the market; it’s the ultimate food holiday and it brings people together over steamy stuffing, a beautiful bird, and the perfect pumpkin pie.  We have some pretty incredible products on offer in the days leading up to the holiday weekend, from free-run and organic turkey’s to mini pumpkin mousse desserts and a Pie Bake Off in support of the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank just to name a few.  And because we’re always trying to offer our incredible guests something new and delicious, we have an incredible recipe to share with you.  Inspired by Smitten Kitchen, we have a easier-than-pie-dough no-can pumpkin tart that is better than the average, run-of-the-mill pumpkin pie, but tasty enough that even pumpkin pie purists will love it.  With freshly roasted pumpkin purée, rather than the canned pumpkin, this tart is fresh, vibrant, and yummy to boot.

Pumpkin Tart 1

Market-Sourced Ingredients

Crust

2 large molasses ginger cookies from Yum Bakery

16 graham crackers

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

Cheesecake Batter

125g of cream cheese, well softened from Blush Lane Organics

3 Tablespoons (40 grams) granulated sugar

1 large egg yolk

Pumpkin Batter

1 good-sized pie pumpkin from Souto Farms

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1 1/4 cups pumpkin purée

1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon table salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon from Silk Road Spice Merchant

few fresh gratings of nutmeg from Silk Road Spice Merchant

250g crème fraîche from Blush Lane Organics

DIRECTIONS:

Pumpkin Tart Collage

Roast Pumpkin
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and guts. Cut pumpkin into large slivers, rub with olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Roast for approximately 30-45 minutes, or until the pumpkin flesh is soft to the touch.  Let cool completely and blitz the flesh in a processor to make the pumpkin purée.

Make crust
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Finely grind the molasses ginger cookies and graham crackers in a food processor (you’ll likely need to do the graham and ginger cookies separately). Add the melted butter, and process until the cookie- crumb mixture is moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9- inch- diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Make Cheesecake Batter
Mix together the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Make Pumpkin Batter
Beat the egg and the egg white lightly in a mixer with sugars, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in the pumpkin and then the crème fraîche.

Pumpkin Tart 6

Assemble Tart
Pour the pumpkin batter into gingersnap-graham crust. Carefully dollop the cheesecake batter over pumpkin batter, then marble the two together decoratively with a knife. Try not to pierce the bottom crust as you do. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, or until the puffed up centre doesn’t jiggle freely.

Pumpkin Tart 8

To Serve
Cool the tart completely on a rack. Serve when cool or refrigerate until Thanksgiving dinner when it can be served to prying eyes and full tummies; they’ll make room for this tart, it’s just that good.  Theoretically, the leftovers will keep for several days, but the crumb crust will soften on the bottom as times goes by.

Grilled Apple, Bacon, & Cheddar Sandwich

It’s that time of year… the sun is rising a little later to crisp, cool temperatures, the kids are moaning to stay in bed a little longer, and your blissful sunny summer vacation is starting to feel just a little too far away already.  But with the warm days of summer slipping through or chilly fingers, beautiful gourds, greenhouse-treasures, and apples! are gracing our shelves.  There’s something really comforting about cozying up in a sweater with one of your favorite meals; ours is a grilled cheese.  Yes, you may say it’s just a sandwich…. but it doesn’t have to be.  With seasonal tart apples, smoky bacon, and oozy sharp cheddar, this isn’t just a sandwich… it’s a warm hug on a cold day, a nostalgic mainstay, a damn good quick dinner.  And if you don’t like apples or bacon (you might be a little crazy), but you can throw just about anything between two slices of fresh bread and make a hearty, kid-friendly, speedy dinner for those nights when you’re running out the door to soccer practice or piano lessons or just need a little piece of cheesy heaven.

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Market Sourced Ingredients

2 slices whole wheat bread from Yum Bakery

4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked crisp from Spragg’s Meat Shop

4 slices Farm House Cheddar (we chose 8 years for it’s deliciously strong flavor) from Sylvan Star Cheese

1/2 Honeycrisp apple, cored, sliced thin from Souto Farms

*Brassica Whole Grain mustard from Blu Seafood

Butter

*This can be substituted nicely with the Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Garlic Onion Jam from La Cucina

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Preheat a seasoned grill pan or griddle over low to medium heat.  Assemble this sandwich just as you would a traditional grilled cheese sandwich: spread 1 slice of bread with some whole grain mustard, then top with cheddar (you can go as little or a lot as you like; we covered most parts of the bread with thin slices of cheese), the bacon, the apple slices, finishing with another mustard-slathered slice of bread.  We chose to use the Honeycrisp apple instead of say, Granny Smith, because it’s the perfect balance of tart and sweet that compliments the rich, sharp aged cheddar.  Unlike Granny Smith that are really quite sour, these may just be the perfect apple.

Butter the outsides of the bread generously and transfer to the pan. Grill about 3 minutes per side until golden. Remove to a cutting board and cut the sandwich in half on the diagonal to serve.  And if it’s a particularly crisp evening and you’re yearning for a hot bowl of soup to dip your ooey-gooey salty, sweet sandwich in, check out The Stock & Sauce Co. for a wide array of hearty, healthy soups.

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Cobb Salad with Roasted Sweet Onion Dressing

photo 3

Have you ever met someone who just doesn’t like a cobb salad?  Sure, there are vegetarians or vegans and ingredient-restricted individuals who steer clear of this delicious, often-reinterpreted salad, but there’s something for everyone in the well-rounded salad that eats like a meal.  This version, with a southern sweet onion twist, is sure to please even the pickiest of palates.  While it has many individual elements, it all comes together quickly and taking the time to make your own dressing is entirely worth it.  So let’s get started.

Ingredients

Market-Sourced Ingredients

Dressing:

6 unpeeled garlic cloves from Souto Farms

1-2 large sweet onions, peeled and quartered through the core from Souto Farms

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing from La Cucina

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

juice and zest of 1 lemon from Cherry Pit

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Salad:

1 clamshell of fresh Alberta romaine lettuce from Cherry Pit

1 clamshell of fresh spicy microgreens from Cherry Pit

1 avocado from Cherry Pit

1 bag of sweet tomatoes (your preference) from Gull Valley Greenhouses

2 cups shredded cooked Bowden Farms chicken from Spragg’s Meat Shop

1 package of bacon from Spragg’s Meat Shop

4 ounces crumbly Gorgonzola cheese, (1/2 cup) from Fresh DELIcious

1/2 cup toasted pecans, choppped from Going Nuts

2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced lengthwise from Sylvan Star Cheese (or Blush Lane Organics)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Cobb Salad Collage

MAKE THE DRESSING: As we are likely enjoying the last week of warm sun and beautiful blue skies, we opted to grill the chicken and onions.  We even wrapped the garlic in foil and threw it on the grill too.  If you choose to do this step of the process in the oven, roast at 425°. Wrap the bulb of garlic (or individual cloves) in foil and set on a baking sheet. Brush the onions with oil and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, until the onions and garlic are lightly charred and soft. Let cool.

Peel the garlic and transfer the cloves to a processor. Add the onions, cider vinegar and lemon juice and puree until smooth. With the blender on, gradually add the 1/2 cup of olive oil until incorporated. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.  At this point, we’d like to be perfectly transparent and admit that while our recipe calls for absolute measurements, we prefer to free-pour the vinegar and oil and trust our instincts.  Food is all about what tastes good right?  So if you want to add a little more vinegar, knock yourself out!  This dressing should have a good kick to it as it will cut through the rich chicken, bacon, and avocado and balance the salad.  Remember: Taste. Taste. Taste.  Taste as you go.

Set Up

MAKE THE SALAD: In an effort to not overdress the salad (who wants wilty, wet salad?), we placed the romaine and micorgreens in the bowl and arranged the remaining ingredients on top.  Just before serving, add your fresh-made sweet onion dressing and allow your guests to toss it all together to really see the magic happen.

This salad is a full meal that is sure to leave your family satisfied, hitting every mark: crisp lettuce leaves, succulent chicken, salty bacon, creamy avocado, bright tomatoes, nut-crunch…. and that’s just a few!  If you don’t like blue cheese, a milder cheese will absolutely work in this salad.  Choose what you like…. because let’s face it, food is meant to be enjoyed so use what you love and leave with a full and happy tummy.

*The onion dressing can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Canning Extravaganza!

It’s that time of year when we’re surrounded by incredible local produce at every turn, so much deliciousness we couldn’t possibly eat it all.  So can it!  We’ve received quite a few requests for canning recipes and guides, tips and tricks.  And while we are making every attempt to provide you with stellar answers, we must admit that we are not seasoned canners.  But does that mean we can’t enjoy the process of packing little morsels of summer into jars so we can pop a honey vanilla peach in our mouth in the dead of winter and be transported back to that perfect sunny day with peach juice running down your arm in the park?  No, it doesn’t.  And would we ever suggest that our loyal and fabulous customers shouldn’t try their hand at pickling vibrant green cukes that are meant for a last-days-of-summer-BBQ Caesar?  Never!  No, we believe there’s something beautiful in getting your hands dirty and giving it a go.  So, we rolled up our sleeves and jumped right in.  Strawberry Preserves, Honey Vanilla Peaches, and Dill Pickles… go big or go home right?  Wanna join us?   These are the things you’ll need.

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Market-Sourced Ingredients

1 Flat of Strawberries*

1 Case of Peaches*

3 Bags of Pickling Cucumbers*

3-6 Heads of Alberta Garlic (depending on how garlicky you like your pickles)*

*Items sponsored by Souto Farms

2 Heads of Beck Farms Cauliflower from Innisfail Growers

1, 500ml Jar of Nixon Honey from Innisfail Growers

3 Bunches of Dill from Blush Lane Organics

1 Bag of Pickling Spice and 2 Vanilla Pods from The Silk Road Spice Merchant

Canning Equipment Required:

*We purchased a home canning starter kit from Canadian Tire that includes everything you’ll need for years of canning ($50); it includes a 21 quart canner, a rack, jar lifter, funnel, lid lifter, bubble remover, 4 pack collection elite decorative jars with lids, original crystals pectin and recipe booklet AND an instructional DVD for beginners.

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Let’s start with the Strawberry Preserves.  As we stated earlier, we’re not traditionalists when it comes to canning AND we believe when you have such gorgeous seasonal produce, it ought to shine.  So, we did away with the traditional 4 cups fruit + 4 cups sugar, (we want to taste the fruit, not the sugar), and instead opted for the No Sugar Needed Bernardin Pectin.  Our recipe was simple:

1 flat of Strawberries

the black gold of one vanilla pod

juice and zest of one lemon

1/2 cup of apple juice

1 cup of sugar, and

1 package of pectin

*We followed the steps included in the pectin box.

Canning Collage 1

Start by washing the strawberries and rough cutting into smallish chunks.  Add to your pot with the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla.  Bring to a boil, add pectin, and bring back to rolling boil.  Add sugar, stir, return to a rolling boil for 3 minutes (as stated in the pectin instructions).  While all of this is happening on one side of the stove, you should have your mason jars, lids, and metal bands/rings sterilizing in the canning pot on the other side.  Funnel hot strawberries into hot, sterilized mason jars with 1/4 inch head space.  Top with hot, sterilized lid and place ring (or metal band) on (do not over-tighten).  Process the filled jars in your hot water bath (in canning pot) for 10 minutes. The lids will start to ‘ping’ and you’ll know they’re sealed.  As a disclaimer, these strawberries are called preserves, not jam, because they don’t fig up like a traditional jam… but they taste darn good and are perfect on waffles, ice cream, scones… yum!

Canning Collage 2

Now, on to the peaches!  If you’ve been to the market lately, you’ve seen the cases and cases and cases of peaches we have.  They’re fuzzy, sweet, juicy orbs of yum.  And what could be better in the middle of a freak snowstorm than pulling out a jar of honey sunshine to top french toast or make peach crisp or balk at Old Man Winter and eat them with a bowl of ice cream?  While they take a little more effort as they need to be blanched in hot water for 1-2 minutes (depending on how ripe they are), peeled, and quartered before soaking them in water with lemon juice… they’re worth it!  So, here’s what you’ll need:

1 case of peaches

a couple lemons (or the Bernardin Fruit Fresh if that’s your preference)

1 vanilla pod, and

1 500ml jar of Nixon Honey for a light syrup

Start by blanching the peaches in hot water for 1-2 minutes and then transfer to a sink full of ice cold water to stop the cooking process.  You don’t want to cook the peaches, just shock the skins off and seal in some of the nutrients.  Add more ice to the water to ensure it stays nice and cold as you continue with blanching the entire case of peaches.

Now the peeling.  Here’s where you can choose two based on your preference.  You can either half them and remove the pit, then peel the skins away and cut into quarters.  OR, you can peel the skin away and try to keep the slippery little peach in hand while you quarter the fruit away from the pit.  We actually found the latter to be more effective than the former, but it’s a personal preference.  These quarters are far from Del Monte perfect… but should they be?  Our hands made them and that kind of makes them yummier, no?

Place all of the peach slices in a sink of cold water with the juice of a couple lemons (or Fruit Fresh); this will help prevent browning.

Let’s get started on the syrup.  We opted for a light syrup as we wanted all three ingredients to shine equally and not be overpowered with a cloying honey sweetness.  We use 1 cup honey to 4 cups water (and used this ratio 3x times to fill all of the peach jars).  Heat water, honey, and seeds of the vanilla pod together until boiling.  Pour honey syrup in hot, sterilized jars stuffed with peaches (pack them in, but don’t squish ’em) with 1/2 inch head space.  Top with hot, sterilized lid and place ring (or metal band) on (do not over-tighten).  Process the filled jars in your hot water bath (in canning pot) for 25 minutes. (Ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water; cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time).  ***Remove jars from water bath without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.

Peaches can be enjoyed a mere week after… they do not require a long steep time like pickles.

Canning Collage 3

Ok pickle time!  So pickling is dead simple.  By this stage, we were a well-oiled produce-prepping, jar-sterilizing canning machine.  We decided to pickle cucumbers, cauliflowers, and green beans, though other great options are carrots, asparagus, beets, onions, or jalapeno peppers.  Here’s what you’ll need:

3 Bags of Pickling Cucumbers

3-6 Heads of Alberta Garlic (depending on how garlicky you like your pickles)

2 Heads of Beck Farms Cauliflower

3 Bunches of Dill

1 Bag of Pickling Spice

Start by washing (gently scrubbing) the pickling cucumbers.  Slice how you prefer; we chose to do them two way: spears in quarters and coins.  Wash and cut cauliflower.  Peel garlic.  Place mason jars, lids, and metal bands/rings in the canning pot to sterilize while you’re making the pickling brine.

Our brine is made up of:

4 cups water

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup coarse pickling salt

1/2 cup white sugar

*Some may find this brine too strong; you may choose to add more water but do not over-dilute the brine as this will affect the crispiness of the pickles.

Bring the brine ingredients to a boil.  Drop 4 cloves of garlic, a few fronds of fresh dill, and approximately 1 tbsp of Silk Road Pickling Spice into jars.  (We used 1 tbsp in 500ml-1L jars, and 2 tbsp in larger jars).  Pack your vegetables of choice into hot, sterilized mason jars and pour hot brine over them with 1/2 inch head space.  Top with hot, sterilized lid and place ring (or metal band) on (do not over-tighten).  Process the filled jars in your hot water bath (in canning pot) for 5 minutes.  Pickles will require approximately 4 weeks of fermenting time before they’re at their best.

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We sure got a lot done!  So, do you need to do all three of these in one day?  Absolutely not!  In fact, it’s a pretty aggressive undertaking.  We do, however, think you should take a stab at one of them.  There is a plethora of delicious canning recipes out there; you can find some of the ones we love on our Pinterest Canning Board.

What will you be canning this year?  Do you have an interesting recipe to share with us?

*A quick note on processing times: times will vary depending on the altitude you live at.  For the purpose of our recipes, we have stated altitude-appropriate times for Calgary, Alberta.  If you live elsewhere, you can consult this very useful altitude chart from Bernardin.