When I started this blog post the plan was to give a very brief history of muscadine grapes, their health benefits, and their history. One wiki search later and I quickly realized, “oh man, there is a lot to learn, and love, about these medium-sized, funny textured grapes!” So, where to start?
“Of the bounteous store of natural gifts… upon the soil of North Carolina few have been more celebrated than the muscadine grape…” Discovered (not really as it was already growing in nature) in 1755, the muscadine grape (commonly referred to as a scuppernong) was first cultivated in North Carolina. Much less common than your typical market grapes, muscadine grapes offer a wealth of nutrition from bowel regulating (think fiber), to weight management (think fiber again), and rich in antioxidants. “One study… found that muscadines are a particularly good source of ellagic acid…. appears to inhibit cancer cell reproduction… Muscadine grapes also contain twice as much vitamin C as seedless grapes.”
“These are fall peaches, firmer on the outside, but sweeter on the inside… try one, I swear you’ll love them.” And I did, loved them, I swear. 🙂 Last Wednesday I picked up several pounds of locally grown “fall” peaches from the boys over at Kalawi Farms located in Eagle Spring, NC. Essentially my last opportunity to get some peach canned goods out this season, I’m glad I snagged up these stone fruits. In keeping with my savory peach jam tradition, I was playing around with a couple savory/sweet ideas. After a bit of inspiration, I decided to go with this rum and thyme based peach butter.
Initially I had planned on making a jam, but being a firmer fall variety of peach, the flesh did not break down as much as I would have liked. Impromptu, I decided to grab my immersion blender and turn this into more of a thick jam/peach butter. Low in sugar, with hints of thyme and demerara rum. Great with cheese and crackers, or reduced down to a pork glaze. With the Bull City Food Swap coming up at Beer Durham on the 19th, this rum & thyme peach butter should do just the swap trick.
Brinkley Farms got themselves a lady friend… and she’s adorable. You’ll often find me pouring over the southern hospitality and drawls of the Brinkley Farms market boys. But, this past Saturday at the Durham Farmers’ Market this vendor shot me a huge smile as I walked by. I instantly knew I wouldn’t be passing up their Creedmor grown okra. Fresh, green, and beautiful, I scooped up 4 pints to play with. Pickled okra, the perfect southern treat. Loving the flavor combination of the tarragon and vinegar, I decided to experiment here with tarragon and fresh dill. Herby goodness delivered.
Slimy pickled okra… the horror! In pickling okra there is always the fear of slimy pickled okra. Normally I don’t water bath process with the hopes of avoiding the slime. I was recently invited to participate as a judge in the upcoming Stone Brothers‘ Piedmont Pickle Pageant. Discussing the ins and outs of the contest, the pageant convener decided it was only appropriate that we do a little pickle tasting. First up, water bath canned pickled okra. I admit, I initially jumped to slimy conclusions. But, the texture wasn’t slimy at all and I figured, “hell, maybe I should try canning them again”. I present to you slime free tarragon & dill okra pickles!
It’s not every day that I pickle something as cute as mouse melons. By everyday, I actually mean ever… Second to maybe fiddlehead ferns, these fruits resemble superminiaturized watermelons, the perfect scale for a mouse-sized picnic, and were an absolute delight to not only come across but to also pickle. Native to Mexico and Central America, the mouse melon, also known as the Mexican Sour Gherkin is about the size of a grape. Honestly expecting them to taste somewhat sweet like a melon, I was quite surprised when I bit in and tasted cucumber. “Nope, I’m not a huge fan of these raw. Guess I’ll pickle them”. I had no clue what to expect when I picked up the last pint of these from Ever Laughter Farm last Saturday. As I’ve been going crazy trying to keep up with my garden bounty of daily cucumbers, I decided to extend my quick fridge pickle cucumber recipe to these little guys. I am looking forward to sharing them in a couple weeks and even more excited to grab a couple more pints at the market this weekend. Enjoy.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned it times before, but I LOVE pick-your-own. The act of picking, searching, and being silent amongst the bugs, birds, and dirt is like meditation for me. A few weeks ago, I ventured out of downtown Durham, NC and headed towards Falls Lake State Recreational Area. GPS turned off, I cruised the back roads with the windows down and bluegrass music blasting. I came upon a perfect picnic spot, a good trail run, and some decent sunbathing. Falls Lake was amazing, but coming across a hand drawn pick-your-own (PYO) sign at the cross road of two country roads, catapulted my adventure over the edge. A familiar farmers’ market stand, I was surprised to find Lyons Farm in such an idyllic setting and so close to town. I thought, “12 minutes from home, why am I not out here every chance I can get!?”. I didn’t have much cash on me, so I went for some free crop info. and a strawberry cider. They ensured my return by mentioning their upcoming crops: peaches, blueberries, and raspberries!
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