Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen

Waldorf Salad – My Version 0

Posted on July 08, 2014 by Sahar

The origin story of Waldorf Salad is a fairly straightforward and simple one.  It was the creation of the long-time maitre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (later to become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) in New York City, Oscar (“Oscar of the Waldorf”) Tschirky, in 1896.  It became an instant favorite with diners at the hotel.  Oscar, while not a chef, was the creator and inspiration of many of the dishes in the Waldorf’s first half-century. (He stayed with the hotel from 1893 until his retirement n 1943).

The original recipe consisted of simply apples, celery, and mayonnaise.  Not long afterwards, walnuts were added and became an important component of the salad.

Later variations have included turkey or chicken, dried fruit (especially raisins), lemon juice, orange zest, grapes, and yogurt.

It’s really a dish that simply lends itself to interpretation.

While I’ve stayed with the basic version of the salad, I have added my own variations as well.  Somewhere along the way, I thought, why not add some blue cheese?  It goes well with apples and walnuts as well as cutting some of the sweetness of the dried fruit.  Besides, I just like blue cheese.


A few notes:

1.  I like to use a mix of apples.  As always, whenever I use apples in a recipe, Granny Smith apples are my base.  I’ll add Pink Ladies, Gala, MacIntosh, or, if I’m feeling extravagant, Honeycrisp.  The flavor contrast works well.

2.  I’ve used both walnuts and pecans in this recipe.  It just depends what I have on hand.

3.  If you want to use yogurt in the salad, I would recommend going half-and-half with the mayonnaise.  Yogurt alone would be too strong a flavor.  Also, use a full-fat yogurt.  Fat-free – yuk.

4.  My preferred blue cheese in this recipe is either Amish Blue or Maytag Blue.  These are both excellent American blue cheeses and are readily available.  European-style blue cheeses (i.e. Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales), while delicious, are simply too strong.

5.  I don’t peel my apples.  You shouldn’t either.

6.  I use very little celery in my recipe.  Unlike the original recipe, I use it for flavoring, not as a main component.  However, if you prefer to use more celery, feel free.

7.  To make this dish vegan, simply omit the cheese (if you still want the cheese flavor, use nutritional yeast to taste), and use vegan mayonnaise.


The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Maytag Blue Cheese

Maytag Blue Cheese. Good stuff.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.


4 lg. apples, approx. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs.

1 lg. stalk celery, finely diced

1 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans, chopped (If you would like to toast them, put the nuts in a 350F oven for 5 – 7 minutes. Let cool before adding to the salad.)

1 1/2 c. dried fruit – one of each or a combination: cherries, cranberries, diced apricots, raisins, sultanas (gold raisins)

4 oz. (1/2 c.) Amish Blue or Maytag Blue Cheese, crumbled

1 c. mayonnaise

Salt & Pepper to taste


1.  Cut and core the apples.  I like to use a melon baller to core out the apple and cut out the blossom and stem ends with a “v” shape cut.  With the flat side down, cut the apple in to 1/2-inch thick slices.  Then, with 2 – 3 slices laying flat on the cutting board, cut the apples into 1/2-inch dice.  Place the apples into the bowl.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it's safer than either a knife or an apple corer.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it’s safer than either a knife or an apple corer. (I frankly find apple corers to be completely useless.)

Core. Out.

Core. Out.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Blossom end cut out.

Blossom end cut out.

Apples cored, cleaned,  and ready

Apples cored, cleaned, and ready

2.  Add the celery, nuts, and dried fruit.  Toss together.

All mixed together.

All mixed together.

3.  Add the cheese and mayonnaise.  Mix together until well incorporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.



4.  Traditionally, Waldorf Salad is served on a bed of lettuce.  I generally don’t.  However, if you would like to, go ahead.   I like to serve the salad with crackers or a good crusty bread.






Apple Honey Jelly 0

Posted on January 22, 2013 by Sahar

It’s January. We all know what that means.


Arguably, the most popular is lose weight.  As most all of us know, one of the best ways to lose weight is to consume less sugar.

Hence, I came up with a recipe for one of the most popular sugar-laden foods out there: jelly.  Many commercial jellies have sugar and/or corn syrup as one of the main ingredients. (I know you can get low- and no-sugar alternatives off the grocery shelf.  However, I personally find many of them below par in taste and texture.)  And, if you decide to make your own, a typical recipe will have  4 cups of sugar for roughly 4 – 5 cups of finished jelly.

I wanted to come up with an alternative that I would eat and enjoy. My recipe is sweetened with honey (equivalent to 2 1/4 cups sugar) and reduced apple cider.

Honey instead of sugar? Yes. For one, honey is a very natural sweetener (so is sugar, but it is generally heavily processed), you use less, and it tastes better. (You can also find sugar-free honey as well.)

I’m also using a more, well, older and ancient form of pectin. Fresh apple pectin.

Fresh apple pectin.

Fresh homemade apple pectin.

What exactly is pectin? By way of a  quick explanation, this comes from

“In cooking, pectin is used as a thickening agent, and could be considered one of the most natural types around. The first pectin available for purchase was derived from apples, which have a high amount. There are other fruits that naturally contain this gelling agent, including many plums and pears. The properties of pectin were discovered and identified by the French chemist and pharmacist, Henri Braconnot, and his discovery soon led to many manufacturers making deals with makers of apple juice to obtain the remains of pressed apples (pomace) that were then produced in a liquid form.

Pectin is a complex carbohydrate, which is found both in the cell walls of plants, and between the cell walls, helping to regulate the flow of water in between cells and keeping them rigid. You’ll note some plants begin to lose part of this complex carbohydrate as they age. Apples left out too long get soft and mushy as pectin diminishes. When apples are just ripe, they have a firm and crisp texture, mainly due to the presence of pectin.”

I did a lot of research before writing this recipe and almost all of the recipes I read used fresh apple pectin in their apple jelly.  So, that’s what I decided to use.

Now. To the recipe.


Notes: a) I use apple cider in this recipe.  It has a better flavor than juice, plus, it still has the pectin.  Pectin has been centrifuged out of apple juice.  I generally use Martinelli’s Cider because it’s always available.  However, if you can get fresh cider, all the better. In other words, don’t substitute apple juice for cider.

b) Green apples will have more pectin than red.  Granny Smiths have the highest concentration of pectin (at least that I’ve found).  Make sure the apples you use aren’t too ripe or bruised.  The riper the apple, the lower the pectin.  You want them to be firm.

c) Admittedly, this recipe takes some time to make.  You are making pectin and reducing 3 liters of apple cider.  So, be prepared to take a couple of days making this recipe from start to finish. It won’t be continual work, but there will be a lot of waiting.

d) If you need to know the hows & whys of making sweet preserves, jelly, etc., please look at my August 10, 2012 post, “Classic Strawberry Jam”

The Ingredients

The Ingredients


10 lb. Granny Smith apples (make sure they are firm and have no bruising)

6 c. apple cider or water


a total of 6 cups combined cider or water

3 liters apple cider, reduced down to 2 cups

6 tbsp. lemon juice

1 1/2 c. honey


1.  Reduce the cider: In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the cider over low heat.  It will slowly reduce over several hours.  Be patient.  Stir occasionally, especially if you’re using fresh cider because the solids will settle at the bottom.  (I don’t like to let the cider come to a boil. I find it makes the cider taste cooked and there’s a risk of “burning” it.)

You want the cider to reduce down to 2 cups.  It will be much thicker and darker in color.

Cider in the saucepan before reduction.

Cider in the saucepan before reduction.

2 cups reduced cider. Much darker and thicker.

2 cups reduced cider. Much darker and thicker.

Reduced cider. A view from the top.

Reduced cider. A view from the top.


At this point, the cider will keep in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days.  Just leave it in the measuring cup and cover it with plastic.

2.  Meanwhile, make the pectin: Quarter the apples and remove the stems and blossom ends (discard or put in the compost).  Then put the quarters, peels, seeds, cores, and all into a large stockpot.  Pour in the cider or water (or both).  Place the stockpot over medium heat, cover, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to medium-low.  Stir frequently to make sure the apples don’t stick to the bottom.

Cook the apples until they resemble soft applesauce; about 45 – 60 minutes.

Cooking the apples to make pectin.

Cooking the apples to make pectin.

3.  Have a large colander or strainer set in a large bowl or hung over a large stockpot lined with dampened cheesecloth.  Carefully ladle and pour the cooked apples into the strainer or colander.  Let the liquid drain for at least 2 – 3 hours, and up to 24.

Making pectin: Straining the cooked apples

Making pectin: Straining the cooked apples

Many apple pectin recipes warn not to weigh the apples down because some solids may get into the liquid and make a cloudy jelly.  Me? I don’t really care.  I’ll let the apples drain for several hours and then weigh them down just to be sure I extract as much of the pectin as possible.  But, it’s up to you.

You should end up with at least 6 cups of pectin. This is what you’ll need for the recipe.  If you have any extra, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or, you can process it like preserves (leaving a 1/4″ head space; hot water process for 10 minutes).  It will keep for 1 year if you process it.


There is a way to test your newly made pectin.

Take 2 tablespoon rubbing alcohol and 2 tablespoons cooled pectin and mix them together.  (Hot pectin won’t work for this test.) The alcohol should jell.

Testing the pectin. Note the gelled alcohol on the fork.

Testing the pectin. Note the gelled alcohol on the fork.

Be sure to immediately discard the mixture. It’s poisonous.

If it doesn’t jell, you may need to cook your pectin down a bit to strengthen the pectin.


4.  In a large stockpot (I like to use my pasta pot), combine the pectin, reduced cider, honey, and lemon juice.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot or have one handy.  Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat.  Lower the heat to medium-low and slowly cook the jelly until the mixture reaches 220F. (220F is the optimum temperature for gelling.)

Cooking the jelly.

Cooking the jelly.

Another way to test the set-up of the jelly is to pour a small amount onto a plate that has been in the freezer.  Place the plate back into the freezer for a few minutes.  When you take it out, run your finger through the jelly. It should be firm and wrinkle as you run your finger through it.

5.  Once the jelly is done, remove the stockpot from the heat.  With a large spoon, skim off as much foam as you can.

Skimming off the foam

Skimming off the foam

6.  Ladle the jelly into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ head space.  Process for 10 minutes (begin timing after the water comes to a boil).

Once you take the jars out of the canner, let them sit for at least 12 hours. The jelly needs time to fully set.


Jelly! The dark amber color is due to the reduced cider. I think it’s lovely.

Once the jelly has sealed, label & date it.  It will keep for 1 year.  If it doesn’t seal, place the jar in the refrigerator and eat the jelly within 3 weeks.

Makes approximately 4 – 5 half pints.


















Maple Apple Butter 0

Posted on December 05, 2012 by Sahar

I can’t really say what my favorite food season might be. They each have their own delights.

But, I will say Autumn ranks in the top 4.  Especially when the apples really begin to show up.

Malus Domestica.  The fruit that brought down Adam & Eve.  Ubiquitous in myth and symbolism since, well, forever.

Likely the earliest fruit tree to be cultivated.

I enjoy an apple on its own, with some really good cheese, or in a pie.  But, I have to honestly say, my new favorite way is in apple butter.

Enjoying apple butter is a new thing for me.  In the past the ones I’ve eaten have all been your basic commercial brands.  I always found them either too sweet or too bland.  So, when I finally began to make it myself, I realized that, yes, apple butter could be good. Delicious, even.

If I do say so myself.

However, I have to say I can’t take full credit for this recipe.  It’s an adaptation of a recipe from a wonderful book, Tart & Sweet. (Kelly Geary & Jessie Knadler. Rosedale Books, 2010).  The big differences between my recipe and theirs is that: a) I use maple syrup as opposed to maple sugar.  Maple sugar can be difficult to find and very expensive (generally $15 for a 6-oz jar).  Maple syrup, while not cheap, is an excellent alternative that is easily found in just about any grocery store; b) I use brown sugar. I prefer the flavor over white sugar; c) I use a larger mixture of sweet spices; and, d) I don’t puree the apples.


Now, to the recipe.

A note:  If you want/need a more thorough explanation of the how’s and why’s of making sweet preserves, please go to my August 10, 2012 post “Classic Strawberry Jam”.

The Ingredients

My sweet and spice (clockwise from top): Brown sugar. ground ginger, ground cloves, ground allspice, grated nutmeg. Center: kosher salt, star anise

I prefer to use whole nutmeg instead of ground. The flavor is so much better. And, as with all spices, it lasts much longer in its seed/whole form.

The whole nutmeg seed.

My nutmeg grater. A very small Microplane. It’s the best one I’ve ever owned.

The inside of the nutmeg seed. It looks strange. But smells lovely.


4 lbs. mixed apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4’s

1 cup maple syrup (Be sure it’s pure maple syrup. Not the fake stuff.)

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

2 whole star anise (optional)

3 tsp. total mixed sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger)

Juice of 1 lemon (about 1 tbsp.)


I used 3 varieties of apples in this recipe.  My base apple is always Granny Smith.  I love its sweet-tart taste and firm texture.  It’s generally considered one of the best cooking apples.  My other 2 apples are Honeycrisp and McIntosh (use any varieties you like).  I like the taste of both and it adds a depth of flavor to the final product.  However, if you want to use all one variety, it’s up to you.

Of course, I begin the prep by peeling and coring the apples.  I use a vegetable peeler for the apples.  I know some who use a paring knife to peel apples, but I’ve never mastered that technique.  I also use a melon baller for coring.  I find the tube-style corers don’t actually core the apple, rip them up, and are rather useless in general.

Peeling the apples.

Be sure you have a sharp peeler or paring knife. You want to take off the peel, not rip up the apple.  Also, a dull peeler or knife will slip and you could get a rather nasty cut. Not fun.


Coring the apple. Note the use of the melon baller.

Ta Da!

Cutting out the stem and blossom ends.

Cleaned and ready to go. Now, just do that another dozen or so times.

If you are using star anise, you want to wrap it in a bit of cheesecloth before you put it in with the apples.  I learned this the hard way.  The star anise can break up during cooking and stirring.  And, if you don’t get out all the pieces, someone will get a rather unpleasant surprise.

Whole star anise.

The wrapped star anise.

1.  Place the apples, syrup. sugar, salt, star anise (if using), spices, and lemon juice in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot.

All the ingredients ready to cook.

Cover the stock pot and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.  Stir occasionally.

2.  Lower the heat to medium-low, partially uncover the stockpot, and cook until the apples are soft.  Stir frequently.  The apples will begin to soften within 15 – 20 minutes. (I like to leave the stockpot partially covered so I don’t lose the moisture too quickly and risk burning the ingredients.)

Partially uncovered stockpot.

After 15 minutes. The apples are beginning to soften.

After 30 minutes. The apples are beginning to break down.

After 45 minutes. The apples are now soft enough to mash or puree.

2.  After 45 minutes, remove the stockpot from the heat.  With either a potato masher or an immersion blender (depending on what texture you prefer), carefully mash or puree the apples. (Be careful of the little packet of star anise.  Just pull it out when you get ready to process the apples and put it back in when you’re done.)

I prefer a little texture in my apple butter, so I use a potato masher on the apples.

After mashing the apples.


3.  Place the uncovered stockpot back on the heat.  Turn the heat down to low.  Cook for another 15 – 30 minutes, depending how thick a consistency you want. Stir frequently.

The finished apple butter. Close-up view.

Pull out the packet of star anise and discard it.

4.  Carefully ladle the apple butter into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace in the jar. (See my August 10, 2012 post “Classic Strawberry Jam” on how to process jars for canning.)

Ladling the apple butter into jars.

Filling the jar to the correct level.

Checking the headspace in the jar. It’s extremely important that this is correct.

Check for and remove as many air bubbles as possible.

Removing the air bubbles.

Wipe the rims clean with a damp towel. (This helps the jars to seal properly.)

Wiping the jar rims with a damp paper towel.

Place the lids on top and then the ring. Screw on the rings to finger-tight. (Be sure not to over-tighten. The air needs to escape during processing.)

Put the jars back into the hot water.  Process for 15 minutes. (Start timing when the water comes back to a boil.)

Processing the apple butter.

After the apple buter has been processed, carefully remove the jars from the canner and set on racks to cool. (I use a towel lined baking sheet to transport the jars. It’s safer and easier.)

Let the jars sit and cool.  As the jars cool, the lids should seal.  You’ll hear a “ping” sound as they begin to seal.  This can take up to 24 hours.  After the jars are sealed, you can tighten the rims.  If you have a jar that doesn’t seal, refrigerate and eat the apple butter within 3 weeks.

Be sure to label and date the jars.  The apple butter keeps for a year, unopened (recommended).  Once it’s opened, eat within 3 weeks.

Yields 4 – 6 half pints.

Yummy, yummy, yummy.











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