I’m kind of dragging my feet here, it’s well into tomato season and I haven’t yet pulled out my pressure canner. I don’t know about you, but my tomato consumption (due to the large amount of stews/soups/chilies I make) skyrockets during the winter months. My enthusiast plan for this winter was to put up enough tomato concoctions (sauces, pastes, stewed, diced, etc.) to last me through the winter without buying a single canned tomato product… but then… I remembered the last time…
… Last summer, before the birth of this here blog, without a care in the world and absolutely no plans for the day, l I was frequenting the Baltimore Saturday morning farmers’ market, when I came across a vendor selling tomato seconds (i.e., tomatoes that aren’t as pretty as the rest). I quickly scanned my mental rolodex of canning ideas, and over-zealously and sooo naively decided that I wanted to put up 25 of generic marinara sauce. Super! This lead to the not so successful bike trip across town, to return home and realize that not only was this going to be an all day affair, but also that in order to avoid using a crap ton of citric acid additive that a pressure canner was needed… which I didn’t have at the time (my enthusiasm was waning). Hours (like 7 of ‘em) later not only was every vessel in the kitchen that somewhat resembled a pot in use, but every inch of me and my kitchen was splattered in red sauce (remember your childhood art project where you blew paint through a straw? Ya like that…).
My apologizes for the tardiness of this post, but better late than never, right? A few Sundays back, we hosted the second monthly Seacoast Food Swap in Durham, NH. Emery Farm was gracious enough to let us use their outdoor farm stand space to barter, heckle, and trade our wares. The turnout was around 8 swappers (including a couple new faces). With the exception of some amazing raw energy balls and fruit filled granola, swappers focused more on savory goods rather than sweet treats this month. Homemade breads, a variety of salsas, pestos, ricotta cheese, jams, and sweet syrups graffitied the swap tables. I decided to bring some dill pickle relish and a pomegranate whole grain mustard. While the turnout was smaller than expected it was good to hash out some more details including our decision to open the swap up to homemade household items (think soaps, detergent, dog food, etc.). I am hoping that this will only expand the swap as it will include those who are crafty in non-edible ways.
Last weekend the beau and I randomly decided to head north into western Maine towards Rangeley Lake. Albeit mildly comfortable and somewhat romantic, we decided that car camping wasn’t an option (again) and opted for tent camping instead. Unprepared, hungry, and a tad bit bored we hit the local minimart for food, firewood, and… whiskey. One would think that after several flavored alcohol fueled hangovers that I would have learned to steer clear of such evil evil elixirs… “I’ll take a bottle of that Canadian Club Dock no. 57 blackberry whiskey, please!” To say the least, only about half the bottle was consumed and I won at our rendition of whiskey cribbage.
Back in town Monday morning I found myself thinking, “What the hell am I going to do with the rest of this fire syrup?” Later that morning, while getting my muffler looked at in Barrington, NH (apparently logging an average of 300 miles/weekend on a 40yr old car is problematic), I happened to pass a “peaches” sign which led me to Union Lake Peach Orchard. I drove 5 miles off the beaten path to realize that I had no cash in my wallet and that country orchard stands don’t typically take plastic (surprise). The quick trip back to the ATM was well worth it as the 6lbs of yellow peaches that I I brought home were some of the best I’ve tasted in years. Word is that the orchard is debuting their white peaches next week!! Not only were these pickled peaches the answer to my left over whiskey woes, but I’m looking forward to cracking open a jar during the duldrums of winter hoping the blast of summer flavor will revitalize my palate and remind me of why… oh why… I moved to the frigid Northeast. Enjoy!
Happy Labor Day… happy September! Did you know that peaches and nectarines are the same species?!? Late night science here: while peaches are characterized by a fuzzy skin, nectarines are characterized as a fuzz-less fruit. “Genetic studies suggest nectarines are produced due to a recessive allele, whereas peaches are produced from a dominant allele for fuzzy skin.”
Smack dab in the middle of peach season here in New Hampshire and I’ve had a pretty hard time resisting stopping at every farm stand labeled PYO peaches that I come across. There is nothing worse (OK, maybe there’s a few worse things) than splurging on a ripe’ish peach to find an un-sweet and mealy fruit. But a great peach… a great peach is stopping by a roadside stand, buying the biggest and juiciest fruit possible, and then slicing off peach pieces in just the right way. As a matter of fact, just last night I led a previous peach naysayer towards peach enlightenment with just one bite of a locally picked peach. When it came time to put up this peach and corn combo., I was having a hard time deciding, if not deciphering the difference, between a corn salsa and a corn relish. I ended up going the salsa route as I didn’t think adding sugar was necessary with the sweet peach flavors.
Except for the bell peppers, the rest of the produce used in this salsa came from a cornucopia (can you tell I’m ready for fall?) of local sources: peaches (Applecrest Farm Orchards), corn (Barker’s Farm), jalapeños (Wake Robin Farm), tomatoes (beau’s garden), and white onions (Black Kettle Farm). Stay tuned for more peach’tastic recipes.
Starting next Monday (whoa.. how the heck is it September already?), I am starting a 3 week cleanse comprised of different weekly steps. The first step involves consumption of massive amounts of veggies and fruits. While looking at the cleanse “guidelines” last night, I was a little surprised to see that eggplants were advised against and that my plan to live solely off of baked eggplant chips had been foiled… Why!?! Together with tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes, eggplants are akin in that they are all nightshades. Nightshades are a family of flowering plants that are often rich in alkaloids and can be not only mildly toxic to a fair number of people, but when eaten in excess are thought to have suppressing effects on digestion. Eggplant elimination from the diet during a cleanses makes a bit more sense seeing that detox regiments are typically not about sluggish foods and slowing down ones metabolism.
While perusing the local Saturday market, I came across loads of eggplant (I can’t remember the name of the farm for the life of me…) including but not limited to some purple, Asian, Fairytale, and Green Apple varieties. I picked up a mixed variety (mostly Green Apple) with plans of re-creating Marissa’s (Food in Jars) pickled eggplant recipe. The only thing I changed from the original recipe was apple cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Oddly enough, and I’m not sure why, these pickled eggplant rings exhibited an oily flavor. The texture is a bit mushy for straight out of the jar pickle eatin’, but I imagine these basil pickled eggplant rings would go great atop pizza, pasta, and salads. “I really like putting up things that are pretty.” and let me tell ya, these eggplant pickles turned out über pretty. Enjoy, and have a great Labor Day weekend!
Mustard frustration? You know those times when your only objective in life is to enjoy a corn-dog with a little bit of yellow mustard? Those times when you forget to shake the bottle, proceed to apply said mustard, only to get mustard separated water all over everything, leaving you with nothing more than a soggy pungent smelling hot dog…? Luckily making your own whole grain mustard not only helps avoid this awful situation, but also provides you with a damn good homemade condiment and saves money to boot. Another awesome thing about whole grain mustard is it’s antimicrobial properties. The hyper antimicrobial properties of mustard seeds are so strong that apparently when added to meats they can prevent growth of things like E. coli bacteria (woah!?!). The compound responsible for this is called allyl isothiocyanate. Unfortunately, and most likely due to pasteurization, the store bought prepared mustard typically found in the United States does not contain allyl isothiocyanate.
Last week while deciding what to make for the August food swap, I was thinking,”what can I make that is not only easy and good, but that I can make a ton of at once?” I came across this pomegranate vinegar at Trader Joes and figured I’d give pomegranate mustard a go. Until this point, I had only made beer/cider based mustards. Fortunately the result was a sweet, amazing, light purple whole grain mustard.
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