The Basic Ingredients
Before jumping in and making your first fruit rice pudding, I want to run through some of the staple products that I use, so that you can get the same end results. You are free to purchase whichever brands you prefer, of course, but I will explain the reasoning for why I use them. In most instances, substitutions can easily be made. I will also offer suggestions on where to source the ingredients. I also strongly recommend that you take a look at the Basic Instructions post as well.
The majority of my flavors are made using a small handful of ingredients. I developed my product line to be as allergen neutral as possible. They are nut free, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan. I don't use corn, soy, legumes and in most cases, save a few, I don't use anything containing sulphites. The exceptions to my sulphite ingredient rule would be Balsamic Vinegar, wines and alcoholic beverages. All rice pudding flavours are low fat, low sodium and low cholesterol. Soime of them are lightly sweetened and others are more of a dessert sweetness. The sugar content can be reduced in all cases if preferred although I do recommend at least some sweetener to help bring out the fruit's flavours.
My first year making the rice puddings at the Carp Farmers' Market, I experimented with multiple rice varieties and combinations of rice mixtures, in varying ratios. Each adjustment to the rice formula gave a different end result, usually in respect to how much or how little the rice absorbed the sauces, as well as the texture of the cooled rice. Every week was a science experiement, as I had one 'kick at the can', one time a week, Saturdays only, to test out new recipes and then wait to get customer direct feedback. It was a long, slow process to develop favourites such as my Coconut Cream flavour. I would attempt a new flavour. Get the feedback. Adjust the recipe for the next Saturday. Get the feedback. And so on. It was a bit nerve wracking, as the product that I turned out of the hot steel pots was seldom the same product, the next day, once it had fully cooled and was ready to be packaged. Some weeks were very frustrating but all in all, they each, especially the difficult weeks, gave me considerable insight into my products. This is why I hope that everyone reads this post, and the next one, The Basic Instructions, before making their first batch. I have developed all of my recipes to be easy and very adaptable. Most pudding mishaps can be corrected and puddings salvaged. I also encourage people to send me your questions if you are having trouble with the recipes or would like advice on attempting other flavours that I haven't posted yet. I may be able to help based on my past experiences and experiments.
Rice - By the start of my 2nd year at the Carp Farmers' Market and my first year at the Ottawa Farmers' Market, I had decided on a Calrose, medium grain rice, for most all of my weekly flavours. Calrose rice is considered a 'glutenous' rice even though it doesn't contain any wheat gluten. It is glutenous in the sense that it is a starchy rice that is soft and sticks together easily when cooked. I always rinse and drain the rice 3 times before cooking it, to reduce the starch content. Calrose is available in most grocery stores and is grown largely in California. I often use the Cedars Brand, Botan Brand, the Rooster Brand and the Dainty Brands. It is also available as a No Name product, in small formats, if you are just starting out and don't want a large quantity to store.
Coconut Milk - My favorite coconut milk brand is Aroy-D. I find it has a nice rich texture. It's not too thin and it doesn't contain any gums or emulsifiers, which are often bean based, and used to improve a 'thin' consistency. As I said above, I try to use allergen neutral products. Beans and legumes are a whole other category of allergens. There are other 'clean' coconut milks. This just happens to be my 'go to'. It can be found in most all large grocery stores.
Sugars - I have experimented with many sugars and sugar substitutes over the years. I do use white sugar in many of my flavours. I always used an organic raw cane sugar in the rice puddings that I sold in the specialty shops. An organic cane sugar can be substituted into my recipes where ever you see 'sugar' called for. I often purchased the organic raw cane sugar at Costco, in a 7 kg bag but it is readily available at most grocery stores. The organic cane sugar is less sweet tasting and a bit mellower than white sugar. Some fruits and flavour combinations, such as my Caramel based rice puddings, are enhanced with a light or dark brown sugar. I like using Ontario real maple syrup in some recipes. Good quality wild flower honey is equally worth the addtional cost when it is prominently featured in other recipes.
Delicious maple syrups and wild flower honeys can be found at Farmers' Markets and in many specialty shops. The regular grocery store varieties will work perfectly well in my recipes, if that is what you have in the kitchen.
Fruits - I have used many flash frozen fruits in my rice puddings. Often, this is the best option, when the alternative is a semi ripened import. Good quality frozen fruits are usually frozen at their peak, while in season, in their host country. I often source frozen berries and frozen pitted cherries at either Costco or Wholesale Club (formerly National Grocers on 1435 Cyrville Rd). Wholesale Club is owned by Loblaws now. This is a wholesale store that sells in larger formats and case formats to restaurants and smaller grocery shops. Anyone can shop there though, as they are not Members Only. As many of my customers know, I love making rhubarb flavours.
I usually picked up my frozen chopped rhubarb and frozen pitted sour cherries in the freezer departments of Wholesale Club. Frozen rhubarb can also normally be found at Tannis Trading located at 288 Catherine St, Ottawa. Or, if you are in the west end, I have seen it sold at Herb & Spice food shop at 1310 Wellington St. in Westboro.
Fresh Fruits - We are lucky enough to have many wonderful farmers to supply us with fresh berries and orchard fruit during the Farmers' Market season. I also like experimenting with different vegg in some flavours. Ditto. our local farmers' are a great source for those.
China town is another great source if you are in centre town.
Dried Fruits - I have created many recipes that feature a mixture of fresh and dried fruits. Dried fruit are a great way of boosting the puddings sweetness and flavour profile without adding a lot of extra liquid. They also add texture to a soft pudding. These dried Mulberries and dried organic apricots are sulphite free. The apricots have a darker colour because they don't have the sulphites to keep their color golden. They are both beautiful products and make great snack food on their own. I find them at Food Basics stores, generally in the refrigerated section with the fresh berries. They also have a decent selection of 'clean' dates and dried figs. I usually buy the SunMaid brand 'clean' raisins, in the 750 gm format. If purchasing smaller formats be sure to check that they are sulphite free as well, if you have any food sensitivities Many dried fruits are coated with oils to keep them soft and from drying out. Again, if you have allergies to different oils, check the label as you may not expect to find oil on your dried fruit. Dried ground ginger can often have sulphites in it too, but not all brands do.
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