Saturday, September 09, 2017

A little old fashioned English cookery... not going to hurt you...

Crumpets for your tea.

People don't remember what they're supposed to be like. Americans think they're the same thing as "English muffins" and English people think they're those little white rubbery things that look like hockey pucks with holes in that you get in plastic packets at Tesco's.

But try this:


about 2 teaspoons of fresh yeast
cup of warm water
splash of milk
tablespoon of sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter

Soften the yeast in the warm water with the milk and the sugar dissolved in it. Wait until it's getting nice and foamy (ten mins or so). Stir it down a bit and add in the flour a bit at a time while whisking briskly. Whisk in the oil and maybe a bit more milk until the consistency is like thickish pancake batter.

Nice and fluffy.
Allow the batter to rest while you prepare the ring and the pan. It will get fluffier and start showing little bubbles... this is a Good Thing. It means the yeast is working and you will get the proper consistency and those nice little holes to catch the honey when you're done.

Just right.

Prepare a ring. If you don't want to buy crumpet rings (which come in silicone nowadays I hear) you can just take the top and bottom off a tuna tin. I found it works just fine. Gently oil the inside of the ring with your finger.

Warm a griddle or skillet. Be very careful not to let it get too hot. Melt a pat of butter. You will know if your pan is too hot if the butter starts to burn or smoke. If the pan is too hot, the bottom of the crumpet will scorch and it will be raw inside. Which is gross. The pan should be just warm enough to make the butter start to bubble a bit. Butter has a lot of water in it, so this is just the water boiling off and leaving the fat.

Place the ring in the pan, scooping up most of the butter so it sits in the bottom of the ring. Let the ring warm up for a minute or so.

Give your batter one quick whisk and gently scoop enough into the ring to bring it to a depth of about half an inch. Be careful not to let any drip down the sides of the ring or into the pan. Now leave it alone. if it's a cool day, put the lid on the skillet pan, but leave a bit of space for steam to escape.

On the left, I think the batter had not been allowed to sit and develop long enough, and I poured just a little too much batter into the ring. The one with the holes was a little thinner, and the batter had got really fluffy. Timing and precise control of the temperature in the pan is essential. I think they would be quite difficult to do on an electric burner.
The crumpet is done when it has risen in the ring and the top surface has formed the famous little holes. If you gently tap the top surface with a finger, no batter should stick to your finger tip.

Nice and toasted, golden brown, on the bottom. Firm and smooth top surface. 
Lift the whole thing out of the pan with a pancake flipper, ring and all. Shake the crumpet out of the ring and onto a plate with a cloth or paper towel to catch the butter. It should be toasty, crisp and golden brown on the bottom, springy and spongey on top and have the little tunnels all through. Timing and temperature control are everything.

Keep the heat low, but not so low that it comes out pallid or too soft on the bottom. Practice makes perfect. If it's a little under done, just pop it back into the hot pan for a few minutes.

When you go to make the next one, wash the ring thoroughly with a bit of soap to make sure there's no residue left, or the next one will stick.

I tried it this morning and I'm amazed at how very exactly they are like the ones I remember. Ideally you eat them hot out of the pan or off the griddle with a pot of good strong tea. No need to toast them. You only toast the ones that come rubbery and deflated like sad little balloons in plastic Tesco's packets.

Tea time. Darjeeling, for the afternoon.


Sweet Pickled Figs

I did this one late last night and was a bit tired, so didn't take pics of the process, but it's not very difficult. Nothing like as finicky as crumpets.

2 pounds of fresh figs
1.5 cups of apple cider vinegar
1.5 cups water
6 cups sugar
Pinch + of salt.

Wash the figs and put them in a bowl. Boil some water and pour it still very hot over the figs to cover and allow them to sit.

Put the water, vinegar and sugar in a large pot and bring slowly to just under the boiling point.

In a mortar grind, then combine, to taste, the following spices
fresh ginger minced fine
whole allspice beads
whole cinnamon
(a very small quantity of) cloves
coriander seeds
cardamom pods
Ginepro beads

Grind these fairly coarse, each separately, then combine and stir and add them to the sugar/vinegar/water mixture. Bring all to a low simmer, and while stirring, add in the figs, being careful to stir very gently so as not to bruise the fruit.

Turn the heat down as low as it will go and simmer 30 minutes.

Place a small quantity of the syrup in jars and add the figs gently one at a time. Fill up the remaining space in the jars with liquid and plenty of the spices. Lid the jars, finger tight, and prepare a water bath in a large pot. Place each jar in the water bath and boil ten minutes. Remove the jar and allow to cool. The jars should seal.

They're ready in about 4 weeks, but of course get better the longer you leave them.

And I have just learned that I am sorely in need of one of these. Scalded my fingers a couple of times last night trying to get the jars out of the pot. I ended up just holding them in with the lid and pouring the water off. 


Now, if you all would be so kind, pray for an end to the Italian drought. The temperatures have come down, but the promised rain has still not arrived. 

I realize this is an Advent hymn, but it seems apropos.

In your infinite mercy, O Lord, have pity on your nation Italy and send us rain.
Save us, Lord, for we are perishing...

Deus, in quo vívimus, movémur et sumus, plúviam nobis tríbue congruéntem, ut, præséntibus subsídiis sufficiénter adiúti, sempitérna fiduciálius appetámus.
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.


Anonymous said...

The jar lifters you need are sometimes found in 2nd hand shops or yard sales, if you have those things in your area. I do have a spare lifter, or I could maybe find another for you, if you can't locate one.

Sheryl said...

The figs look very similar to Ukrainian pickled plums, except you don't cook the plums before you pour the syrup over and put them in the hot water bath.