Schmear!

My friend asked me where the muffins went – I’m getting there!  In the meantime, I have been making things to schmear on muffins.  It’s ten days to Christmas, and since buying gifts is so pre-recession, I have been puttering away in the kitchen making little jars of yummies.  I have never done any sort of home canning before, so hopefully I did it right and no one dies.  Or gets a tummyache.  Or whatever.

To usher me into my exploration of pioneer-housewife-domesticity was a Cranberry and Apple Chutney recipe by the ever effervescent Nigella Lawson.  Here is the recipe, slightly modified, to support my laziness and ill-equipped kitchen:

Cranberry and Apple Chutney

5-6 small Macintosh apples, chopped roughly and de-seeded (leave the skin on – it’s going to be cooked anyway!)
a handful of dried cranberries
1 small onion, diced
350 ml cider vinegar
1 c. sugar
1 tsp each of ground ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon
1.5 tsp salt

Chuck everything into a pot.  Bring it to a boil.  Let everything get friendly under a fast simmer for about 30 minutes with the pot uncovered until it is all thickened slightly and the fruit is soft.  While the fast simmer is happening I like to sterilize my jars (I might be lazy, but I’m organized).  Nigella sterilizes her freshly washed jars by putting them in a 140 C oven.  She doesn’t say how long, so I figure that during Fast Simmer time is good enough.  (Some people like to boil their jars in water, which I did once at a job, and unless you have special tongs for pulling jars from a vat of boiling water, it’s slightly terrifying business.)  When the chutney is ready, spoon it into the warm jars and seal the lid on immediately.  As it cools, the air inside the jar condenses, which causes that satisfying pop to happen in the lid, which means that a vacuum has been created.  Decorate jar according to your fancy!

Note: this is a great way to reuse old jars that once contained store-bought relish, jam, pesto, and the like.  Virtuous recycling never felt so good!

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The next recipe isn’t exactly canning – I can’t really boil the crap out of chocolate hazelnut spread.  Well, I probably could, but I was scared that something Bad would happen.  Not sure what, but really, who has trouble finishing Nutella?  So the next recipe must be stored in the fridge and probably should be eaten in a month; if you need help, I will gladly take one for the team.

And, this is my own recipe :)

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

2 c. whole hazelnuts
1 c. dark chocolate
1 c. milk chocolate
1 can evaporated milk
pinch of salt

Toast the hazelnuts until they are slightly brown and the skins start to pop.  (Some recipes say to remove the skins now by rubbing the nuts in a tea towel, but I say why make more laundry when you are going to blitz the nuts into little bits of oblivion?  Next!)  After toasting, transfer your hazelnuts to your blitzing equipment of choice (processor, blender) and blend while the nuts are still warm until they get a bit pasty.

While the hazelnuts are toasting, multitask like any self-respecting domestic goddess by melting the chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Scrape the chocolate into the blitzer with the hazelnuts, add the milk and salt, and whirl away.  It might get really thick now and it would be better just to stir it.  Might be nice to unplug your machine in case your other hand gets naughty and turns the machine on (hehe.  Heh.)

Spoon into jars and seal.  I used sterilized jars, even though the spread goes into the fridge, just to cut down the chances of a microbe lurking around, waiting to ruin my good reputation.

I have to confess that I didn’t follow the recipe above, though I have made it before.  This time I didn’t have milk chocolate or evaporated milk, so I used a bit of cocoa powder, a handful of white chocolate chips (blasphemy I know, it’s not even REAL chocolate) and whipping cream and 2% milk.  And I didn’t measure anything.  And you shouldn’t worry about it either; just keep tasting and see if it’s sweet/chocolate-y enough (as if you need encouragement to taste test).  The consistency will be thick, but remember that it’ll get even thicker when it sits in the fridge. 

Ta da!

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