From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I should deny any knowledge of its existence, but that would make me guilty of mendacity of the highest order, so, I will instead admit that I have more than a passing acquaintance with top milk. When I was very young, milk was delivered to our home quite early in the morning. In the winter months, freezing temperatures would cause the cream in the milk to rise and pop the paper seal that topped the bottle, producing a popsicle-like protrusion that rose 2 to 3 inches above the rim of the bottle. We called the top milk poor man's cream and I can assure you it never went to waste. I mention that only because my Irish grandmother used the top milk to make the apple and barley pudding that I want to share with you tonight. This is a very traditional Irish dessert that was originally created to use up the surplus apples that remained after cider making. These apples were covered in straw and buried in the coolest place that could be found on farms, and while they became mealy and wrinkled, they did not lose their flavor while in winter storage. They were paired with a small amount of barley which also was locally grown and cooked down to a thick puree that was lightly sweetened and chilled until it set. The tart pudding was served with cream that mellowed it and gave it a lovely richness. This is not a dessert for the masses, but if you're looking for an authentic, yet easy to make, novelty for St. Patrick's Day, you might want to give this recipe a try. The barley and the pectin in the apples produce a smooth, yet thick applesauce that can hold its shape. While cream was stirred into the original puddings just before they were served, these days the cream is more likely to be whipped and layered with the pudding in parfait glasses. This is a dessert worth trying, if only for its curiosity value. It's very simple to make and it may appeal to those of you who do not like your desserts to be too sweet. Here is how its made.
Apple Barley Pudding ...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Ethel Minogue's Modern and Traditional Irish Cooking
4 cups water
1/4 cup pearl barley
1-1/2 pounds tart apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided use
1 cup heavy cream for beating or 2 tablespoons heavy cream to stir into pudding
1) Add water to a heavy pot, add barley, and bring to a boil. Add sliced apples and cook gently until both barley and apples are soft, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and puree -- either in a blender, or in pot using an immersion blender.
2) Return mixture to pot and stir in the 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil again. Boil for about five minutes, or until syrupy bubbles form. Remove remove from heat and cool.
3) When cooled to room temperature, transfer to another container and refrigerate until very cold. If you prefer a truly simple dessert, stir 2 tablespoons cream into pudding. If you wish to be a bit more fancy, whip 1 cup of heavy cream with 1 tablespoon sugar and layer with pudding in parfait glasses. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
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