Hello from a really really hard floor at Chicago Midway airport. The hard floor next to an electrical outlet… oh the pains I endure to bring you pickle goodness. What better time than a three hour layover to write about pickles and catch up on blogging? What’s new with all of you? Falling into autumn? I’d love to hear what everyone is putting up these days. The Durham Farmers’ Market is phasing out its peppers and beans and moving on to squash, squash, and more squash. I get that I live in the southern growing belt now and that produce is bound to show up earlier than I was accustomed to in New England… but butternut squash in August!? It’s like seeing Halloween candy in September, which consequently means that the beautiful days of summer are coming to an end.
Speaking of squash, can we talk about the curious green markings of these locally sourced squash… from Meadow Lane Farm, these Zephyr squash appear to be a hybrid of summer and zucchini squash. “Delicious nutty taste and firm texture. Straight-neck fruit is as attractive as it is delicious… High yields and plenty of blossoms so you can enjoy both fresh fruit & fried squash blossoms!” This time last year I put up a batch of pattypan and pepper squash pickles. Here I decided to mix these squash coins, a couple hot citrus peppers (Four Leaf Farm), some fresh cilantro, coriander seeds, and garlic slivers. OK. We are boarding… Till next time.
“Bartender… What is the most offensive pumpkin beer you carry? Like so offensive that you’d never drink a full pint of it?” Yep, ’tis the season for booze based canned goods… My favorite season. First up this year: a whole grain pumpkin ale mustard. Last week my boss and I played hosts for 20 plus agency scientists from around the U.S. After 3 days chock full of debating/brainstorming I suggested we take the crew to The Glass Jug in Durham, NC for some tasty brews. After some discussion amongst the bartenders they decided that Pumpking Imperial Ale from Southern Tier was my best bet. Why offensive you may ask? Basically for flavor- to taste the underlying pumpkin notes over the strong mustard tang. Mixed with some maple agave syrup and brown sugar this fall time mustard is sure to prepare your palate for the seasonal flavors to come.
After an exhausting and downright emotional couple of days, breaking out the canner, drinking my 8.6% left over ingredients, watching a stupid comedy, and playing with a mix of fall flavors last night was exactly what I needed. Interested in other booze based mustards? Check out my other recipes here.
Did you know that in early European cultures eggplants were thought to exhibit a bitter disposition? “… eggplant held the undeserved and inauspicious reputation of being able to cause insanity, leprosy and cancer.” Come on, give the poor aubergines a break. Two memories come to mind when thinking eggplant: 1) the first time I ever tasted eggplant parmesan prepared by a friend at a hostel in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and 2) the first time I ever tried to cook eggplant. Both memories are on completely different sides of the good/bad spectrum. The gooey cheesy amazingness of a home-cooked meal after months of traveling versus not knowing that salting eggplant was a thing. “Erin, I’m sorry, but this eggplant tastes really bad, let’s go get pizza?” Oops…
If you’ve noticed the absence of blog posts since last week it’s because of these damn eggplants. You could say I’ve been experiencing a bit of “pickler’s block”. For the year and half before moving to Durham I had what one may call a “pickle muse”- I’d bounce flavor ideas off of them, which typically led to the utmost encouragement to keep things weird. Speaking of weird: this recipe. I had complete intentions of going for a similar recipe to the one I posted last September, but then I spotted the keywords Sriracha & eggplant over at the Local Kitchen Blog. Bam! Can’t pass up a Sriracha inspired recipe. This brine is so good that I reserved the extras to use in savory cocktails. Last but not least, the beautiful fairy tail eggplants featured in this recipe were acquired from Fickle Creek Farm located in Effland, NC.
What a whirlwind of a weekend, Mom was in town! Now that I live super close to my parents (~2hrs, the closest I’ve lived to them since I was 18), my mom is finding every reason possible to visit… Reasons thus far (1 month) have included: delivering a rug, buying wine at TJs, seeing a baseball game (I think she goes solely for the food- don’t you?), and lastly to help me decorate the Lil’ House. After countless hours of driving around to every midcentury modern store in the Triangle last Saturday, we landed at Alley Twenty Six in downtown Durham, NC. A dirty martini later and I noticed the pickle plate on their menu. No matter what the cuisine, if there is one thing I can’t pass up it’s a pickle plate. With a quick mention of the blog and pickle ‘pinon, food zealot Jonathan Werz hooked us up with an unforgettable pickle platter. Pickled items ranged from bread and butter pickles, to miso peaches, beet eggs, pickled peppers, pickled dark cherries, balsamic watermelon rind, and pickled green beans. I’ll definitely be making Alley Twenty Six a regular occurrence. Oh man, the cocktails, the the live music, the pickles… meet me there?! 🙂
Through inspiration from the pickled green tomatoes made by Greg at Get’n Pickled, I knew I was going for something spicy– the idea of using ginger sounded weirdly good. Depending on your preferences, you can easily modify the amount of habanero and ginger in each jar. While shopping for ingredients at the market last week, I managed to meet a new friend and score a few pounds of green tomatoes from Maple Spring Gardens located in Cedar Grove, NC.
As a kid I would spend hours watching my godfather slice peaches. He would use his pocket knife to make individual cuts, then eat each slice one by one. If I made myself obvious enough he would occasionally tease me then offer me a slice. Years later (2007) during my trip to Central America, I adopted the ways of that wise man and bought myself a pink pocket knife, interesting story in itself… “no i’m not looking for a knife to stab someone”. I bring up this story because while I was waiting for my stuff to arrive after the move to NC, all I had for cutting was my handy pocket knife. After these nectarines arrived, an entire week went by as I was cutting nectarines, onions, and other fresh fruit and veggies without any kitchen utensils. Thanks to a video tutorial from Mr. Texas I even learned how to open a can with a pocket knife… yes, I almost lost a finger.
So nectarines… this was actually my first time working with nectarines for the blog. I’ve always been quite partial to peaches over other stone fruit as I felt they offered the most juiciness per fruit. Alas, the people over at Washington State Fruit Commission and Sweet Preservation surprised me again. Brainstorming with flavors I thought, “what would go nicely on a salad with nectarines?” First I was thinking marmalade, then I opted for grapefruit juice preserves. Grapefruit and mint (?), awesome. Inspiration for this recipe came from the Local Kitchen blog, with an easy adaptation: I swapped out the watermelon for grapefruit juice. The result: sweet and tart, deep orange in color nectarine, grapefruit, and mint preserves. Tasty, simple, and perfect for your summer morning toast. 🙂
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