Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ground Cherries and Applesauce

Thyme Flower closeup, taken with an old Cannon Powershot
I have been very absorbed in beautiful food styling photography lately. I have been completely caught up pinning photos on Pinterest, to a board I called Artwork & Photography I Like. I am always in raptures over foods, and when I can take a photo that seems to really do it justice, I am well-pleased. I created the food, the food was amazing and I photographed it well - what more can one ask? Sometimes I am inspired by a photo I have seen, and try to do something similar - just to see if I can. I love photography. That said, I am no well-schooled photographer. I love taking photos. For the longest time my entire focus was on flowers. Big flowers, tiny flowers, and sometimes the tinier the better. All this is because I love to see what my naked eyes cannot. When I can get a photograph that shows me what a thyme flower (at about 1/8-inch in diameter) looks like closeup - now that makes me ecstatic. Stevia Flowers were one of the hardest for me to capture. They are similar sized to the thyme flowers, but for some reason came out slightly blurry every time. The thyme and stevia and many other tiny things, were photographed with an old Cannon Powershot digital camera that had the ability to do macro-like photography. I spent more time with that lens practically right against the subject than any other way.

Litchi Tomato - Solanum sysimbrium courtesy of Mother Earth News
Now I have a Nikon SLR digital, and use some of the functions, but am still no expert. The manual settings are a now and again venture. Most often I use Auto! I cannot take the closeup shots to simulate macro with the current lenses I own, so it's probably a good thing that I am mainly taking photos of food. And, when it comes down to it, my old iPhone often takes photos almost as good! 

So on Thursday, Farmers' Market Day, I went to one of my favorite vendors this year. He has been selling exclusively heirloom varieties of tomatoes, and has had a lot of varieties. Many of the photos I have posted have been of his tomatoes. I should have his name, but I do not! So as of this past Thursday, my own tomato plants decided to - finally - ripen a lot of tomatoes. There were so many I was not sure if i should keep on picking, since the bag was getting so heavy. I went to my favorite tomato vendor with no need to buy tomatoes this time, but he had a few other things. One was something I had never seen before: Litchi Tomatoes. They are not actually tomatoes at all, but are a member of the nightshade family. They were in a prickly husk. The fruit was the size of a larger cherry tomato and very red, yet the inside, filled with edible seeds was bright yellow. He had some for people to try and I tasted one. It is sweet, not really like a tomato at all.
Ground Cherries. Probably Physalis pruinosa, though there are nearly 100 different varieties.

The other fruit he had to sell were little bowls of Ground Cherries, another plant of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. These are fruits I have seen before, and actually tasted once a couple of years back. These also are sweet, with another flavor in there I cannot describe. I liked them, and bought one bowl worth. When I was in Guatemala I became very well acquainted with Tomatillos. Tomatillos grow inside a papery husk, just as do these ground cherries. Tomatillos can grow to small tomato size, though in Guatemala, they were generally not much larger than an inch or so in diameter. The ground cherries are, on average, about 1/2-inch in diameter. They are filled with seeds and look similar to a tiny cherry tomato, but these are an orange-yellow in color. Where tomatillos fill out their husk and sometimes split it open when ripe, the ground cherries do not fill out the husk at all. They are tasty though. This morning I wanted to take some photos before I ate them all. The photo of ground cherries above, setting on a whiteboard, was taken with my Nikon D5000. Below is a photo of ground cherries on a mirror, taken with my older iPhone.

So here I was with this little bowl of ground cherries. I ate a few just as they were, but with my son and his wife here, I had other things to eat. Last evening, with the kids gone home, I had a few tiny apples from my sister in law's trees. The trees are amazingly laden with fruits, but this year the apples are so small, barely the size of a ping-pong ball. Far too much work to try and peel and freeze. I fear this years crop will all end up on the ground. But I had about 9 of these tiny little apples. I had a leftover pork chop to eat. I thought: APPLESAUCE! I rarely eat applesauce. I do love it when made fresh, with a lot of cinnamon. But I have been avoiding sugar as much as possible, so I wondered what it would be like with stevia? 
I peeled and cored the tiny apples, yielding slightly less than 1 1/2 cups of fruit. I set the apples in a small saucepan to cook with about 3/4 cup of water and a teaspoon of cinnamon (cassia), intending to just let the mixture cook down to mush. And last moment I thought about the ground cherries, which are sweeter than the apples. I took husks off and cut in half about 1/2 cup of them, as an experiment, and added them to the apples in the pan. Obviously, this could be made with only apples. My sense is that the ground cherries, if you have enough of them, would also make a wonderful sauce all on their own. I let the mixture cook down for about 25 minutes or so and most of the water was cooked out. I added in 2 droppers full of English Toffee flavored liquid Stevia and stirred. It was just delicious. And just enough for two, though the recipe can be doubled, tripled or made as needed.
No Sugar Apple & Ground Cherry Sauce

No Sugar Apple & Ground Cherry Sauce
serves 2

1 1/2 cups tart apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1/2 cup ground cherries, husked, halved
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon liquid Stevia English Toffee flavor was great!

Place all ingredients except stevia into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, lower heat to medium low and cook until the fruits are completely disintegrated, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the stevia.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. .