Roast Duck with Apple-plum Glaze

Roast Duck 1 Roast Duck with Apple plum Glaze

I’ve been cooking a lot of duck lately. It seems to be the new thing – and a good option when you want something special for Thanksgiving but don’t (for some crazy reason) want to cook an entire turkey. I love turkey leftovers, and so roasting a monsterous Big Bird is never a problem around here.

Duck is a little different – it has thicker skin than a chicken or turkey, with a layer of fat underneath. The bonus here is that every duck comes with a free jar of duck fat, which will keep in your fridge indefinitely and make ethereal roasted potatoes or duck fat fries. The trick – to poke the skin with a bamboo skewer in a few places (without piercing the meat underneath – this is easy to do if you just pinch the skin and poke it through) to give the fat a few extra places to escape. Then start roasting the bird, pour off the rendered fat about halfway, at which point you can add herbs, citrus, whatever you want to stuff the duck with, and roll some potatoes or crabapples in the fat in the bottom of the pan to roast for the second half.

Somehow, I missed taking photos of the process. Part of the reason: it was early morning, and still dark.
My first batch of jelly didn’t quite get to the jelling stage when I had to pull it off the stove and leave – and so I set aside a small jar before putting the pot back on the heat to finish cooking. I used it to brush on the duck as it cooked – toward the end, so that the skin had a chance to crisp first, and it didn’t burn. You could do this, or not – and use regular jelly if you do; no need to source some that hasn’t set properly.

Roast Duck with Apple-plum Glaze

The apple-plum glaze makes use of a glut of crabapples in the back yard; alternatively, you could use any bottled apple jelly.

1 3 lb. whole duck
olive or canola oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 orange, quartered
fresh rosemary, thyme and/or sage
whole crabapples (optional)

Apple-plum glaze:
2 cups crabapples, halved or quartered
1 cup plums, halved, or fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar (approximately)

Preheat the oven to 450F. Pat the duck dry with paper towel and place it in a roasting pan. Poke through the skin-without going into the meat-with a bamboo skewer or the tip of a knife in several places. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you like, tuck the orange and herbs into the cavity – otherwise wait for halfway through the roasting time, after you’ve poured off some of the fat for later use. This way it will go unflavoured.

Meanwhile, put the apples and plums into a small pot with 2 cups water and bring to a simmer; cook for 20-30 minutes, until the fruit is very soft. Place a colander over a bowl and strain the fruit into it, pressing down on the solids to get as much out as possible. Transfer to a saucepan, add the sugar and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, until thickened. Set aside. (You’ll have more glaze than you need; refrigerate about half for a sweet-tart jelly.)

Roast the duck for 30 minutes, then remove the duck from the oven and pour most of the fat from the pan into a jar (store in the fridge for up to a month). Brush the duck with the glaze, stuff it with the orange and herbs (if you haven’t already), slice the whole crabapples around their middles and add them to the pan if you like, then reduce the heat to 350F and return to the oven to roast for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the legs wiggle in their sockets and a meat thermometer reads at least 175F.

Let rest 15 minutes before carving. Serves 6.

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October 09 2014 | chicken & turkey | 6 Comments »

Crabapple Jelly

apple plum jelly 2 Crabapple Jelly

There is a common misconception that crabapples aren’t good for much, merely because their size prohibits easy peeling and coring. And their name characterizes them unfairly.

(W used to call them “crap apples”.)

apples plums Crabapple Jelly

But in reality, having all the flavour and tartness of a full apple packed into such a condensed space is a good thing; and the fact that they are ripe and ready right at harvest time can’t be a coincidence. Loaded with flavour and pectin (especially the cores, so you don’t want to core them anyway), crabapples are delicious insurance that your jams and jellies will set, without buying and upending a packet of powdered stuff into your pot. Apple is delicious with berries, plums, or any other fruits you want to toss in – but there’s nothing wrong with straight-up crabapple, either.

apple plum jelly 5 Crabapple Jelly

I happened to be gifted with a bucket of equally tart and tiny plums – crabplums – which were equally impossible to pit. And so they joined the party – a potful, covered with water, simmered until sludgy, then strained through a colander (or cheesecloth if you want a clearer jelly) and brought to a boil with sugar. You don’t need a particular quantity of crabapples – just whatever you manage to shake from your tree. And have a bag of sugar on hand.

apple plum jelly 3 Crabapple Jelly

People use jelly bags (or make them) to create a slow drip of pure, clear juice for their jellies – the rule is to not push or otherwise disrupt the solids, which will produce a cloudy (gasp!) jelly. I don’t particularly mind this, and tend to swish the apple mash around in the strainer to extract as much as possible. It’s lovely and pink. If you have a second pot, you can straight it directly into it.

What makes people most nervous about jam and jelly making is the setting. There are a few ways to go about this – you could boil it to 220F on a candy thermometer, or test it for the gelling stage by dripping some onto a plate in the freezer and pushing it with your finger to see if it wrinkles. My candy thermometer is packed away somewhere, and so I took the wait-and-see approach, and cooked it until it went from looking like bubbling juice to bubbling jam. The bubbles are thicker and slower, and the foam that rises to the surface turns dense and almost clumpy – don’t skim it off right away; it’s a good indicator that your jelly is done. When you pour it into jars, the surface will start to cool – pushing it with a spoon produces the same wrinkled effect you get by using your finger and a cold plate. You can see it starting to gel.

apple plum jelly 1 Crabapple Jelly

I don’t bother with the pressure canning process – jellies like this keep well in the fridge for months, and rather than push them to the back to be forgotten until next spring, when I decide it might be a good idea to clean out the fridge, I give away the surplus.

apple plum jelly 4 Crabapple Jelly

And if your jelly doesn’t set, just call it crabapple syrup – to drizzle over ice cream or cakes or into cocktails or tea – and it will still be delicious.

Crabapple Jelly

If you like, put a cinnamon stick or sprig of rosemary into your jars before pouring in the hot jelly.

lemon juice

Wash, stem and halve or quarter the apples into a large pot. (Don’t bother to peel or core them.) Add a few handfuls of black currants or cranberries or a few pitted and quartered plums, if you like. Add enough water to just cover them and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the apples are very soft.

Pour into a strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth (or use a jelly bag if you have one) set over a large bowl or pot, and let the juice drain out. Stir the pulp around a bit if you want to hurry it up – but any poking or prodding will result in a cloudy jelly. I don’t mind this, but you might. That’s cool.

Measure the resulting juice into a pot (this is easy if you drain it into a pot with measurements marked on the side) and add 3/4 cup sugar for every cup of juice. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220°F on a candy thermometer, or until a small amount placed on a cold plate and put into the freezer wrinkles when you poke at it with your finger. This should take about 20 minutes.

While it’s still hot, pour the jelly into clean, hot jars, skim off any foam that rises to the top with a spoon, and seal with lids. Set aside to cool. (I find that if I use hot jelly and hot jars, straight from the dishwasher, they seal properly and I can store them for a long time, but this is not proper advice – so feel free to follow proper canning instructions.)

Makes as many jars as you like.

pixel Crabapple Jelly
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October 08 2014 | preserves | 12 Comments »

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