As story goes, fennel is good for healthy vision and sight. I remember days past when hiking through the Central Coast California foothills, smelling the aroma of wild anise. Personally, until I tasted German black licorice, I always detested the smell, flavor, and sight of black licorice, commonly confused with the the flavors of anise. Turns out that the very wild anise that I was dismissing may in fact have been wild fennel. Wild fennel is apparently an invasive species in much of North and South America, South Africa, and parts of Oceania and the British Isles. Check out the USDA Plants Database to see if it’s found near you, cool!
Above the lower plants it towers,
The Fennel with its yellow flowers;
And in an earlier age than ours,
Was gifted with the wondrous powers,
Lost vision to restore.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1892)
It always makes me laugh when I see that my most popular blog post of all time is pickled eggs. Guess I caught that Sriracha fad at the perfect moment. Have you ever ordered a pickled egg (I’m not talking the marinated tea eggs you get at Asian restaurants) and found it to be bland, lacking the punch of vinegar and pickle goodness that you were hoping for? Me too! Pretty much every time. In my experience, when ordering a pickled egg from your typical fancy food establishment, it downright sucks! Sucks because they didn’t let it pickle long enough, or sucks because their vinegar to water ratio was too low. Fast forward to last night when the gent pleaded, “I understand that we live in a tiny house with a stupid tiny fridge, but why don’t you make some pickled eggs? Pickled spicy eggs? Oh, I’ll make them, can I make the pickled eggs?!” Once I reigned in his excitement, I suggested we pair fresh dill with multicolored jalapeño peppers and some garlic. To ensure that spiciness, we infused the brine with red pepper flakes first. Regarding time needed to properly pickle an egg, I have found that a healthy balance of patience and eagerness is needed. The first time I made pickled eggs, I ate them all within 2 weeks. I remember kicking myself thinking, “I should have let those pickle for like 3 more months.” With this batch I’ll try to keep my hands out of the pickle coop for at least 1 month. We’ll see…
Holy crap people, Christmas is NEXT weekend! I personally am making a valiant attempt to not panic: over presents I haven’t yet purchased, holiday travel, holiday family plans… and/or things I haven’t done or said yet this year.. oh god. My strategy thus far has included eggnog… lots of eggnog… holiday shopping for myself, and keeping up with the usual farmers market-pickling routine. Year after year, especially this year, I’ve heard a few friends and family members mention, “Erin, I don’t know what to get you from Christmas this year.” My first thought is, “duh, shoes!?” followed by my second thought, “duh, have you tried typing pickle in to an Etsy search!?” I assume that because you’re reading a pickle blog that you’re the one in your group of friends that always receives silly, novelty pickle items during the holidays. I admittedly have three.. cough four… Christmas pickles currently hanging from my table-top tree (thank you ex.’s mom).
It is pretty amazing the things you can find if you Etsy search pickle gifts. A simple search returned: pickle pen (cute?), pickle pipe (yes, please), pickle necklace (kinda odd), pickle bottle opener (scored one of these this year!), pickle hand towels, pickle flavored chap stick (eww). Anyways, you get my drift.
Happy December! Happy belated turkey day as well! I have an important question up for debate: when you think of warm winter boozy drinks do you think of a) hot toddies, b) hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps, c) mulled red wine, and/or d) hot cinnamon apple cider with schnapps? By no surprise, I personally think of hot cocoa with any type of booze. Recently my friend Ed invited me over to learn and assist in his homemade eggnog making shenanigans. At that point, I was pretty sure that I had tried real eggnog before. Walking in to Ed’s kitchen and laying eyes on the 2 liters of bourbon, 1 quart of brandy, and 1 quart of rum, I realized that I had not in fact tried real eggnog before, tasting our creation, 100% confirmed that uncertainty.
Following in the tradition of my last three “booze jelly” winters, I figured it was time to dust off my limited, yet growing, bar. Browsing the web, I searched for top warm winter cocktails… Schnapps, schnapps, and more schnapps. Peppermint schnapps. Knowing from experience that booze plus sugar doesn’t equal jelly, I decided to search for peppermint & apple cider cocktails. While any bartender guru (just sayin’) may find this combo a bit undetectable, I made myself a cocktail (OK two- one warm, one cold) and deemed it pretty tasty and definitely worthy of some homemade jelly play. Depending on your peppermint flavor yearnings, you may need to either up your schnapps volume (careful as this will add liquid volume adjusting your liquid to sugar to pectin ratio), or add a few drops of peppermint extract right before pouring the jelly into the jars. Warning, peppermint extract is crazy strong compared to other pantry extracts.
I’ve come to accept the seasonal fate, it’s fall, no denying it now. Last week I found myself all joyous about scarves and flannel and boots… this week I’ve begun to realize that fall means brown, orange, and off yellow veggies. Not that I’m complaining, but I’ve been trying to hold on to summer produce as long as possible as I know that within a couple weeks things are going to get real colorfully dull around here. While perusing Wednesday’s farmers’ market, one of the friendly vendors candidly asked, “Hey! Have you ever tried pickling pumpkin, or maybe pumpkin butter?!” Yes & yes! Not discounting her idea, I responded with a smile and a, “Yes, but I’m not ready yet.” Fast forward to last night, weathering hurricane Matthew… a couple rum drinks in… and I all of a sudden, I was craving fall baked goods. Flinging open the cupboard for ingredients, I reminded myself, “Erin! Stop, you’ve been on a roll with health, you only want cookies because you’re hurricane tipsy!” Pie puree in hand I thought, “OK what can I make to satisfy my angst and rainy day sentiment?” Pumpkin pie mustard? I was surprised to find very little when I Google’d pumpkin mustard. Bored, stir crazy on a Saturday night? Why not experiment with pumpkin mustard, plus some rum! 🙂
So my first step was achieving that pumpkin pie flavor aside the strong pungent flavors of mustard seed. I decided to go with yellow mustard seeds over brown hoping to get a mellow mustard flavor. I used raw honey as my sweetener (shout out to an awesome Bull City Food Swap trade), and threw together my own pumpkin spice mix following this recipe. After much taste deliberations, which is always difficult with fresh mustard (it can take at least a couple weeks for the overwhelming mustard flavor to mellow), I decided to make it sweeter than originally planned. 6 half pints later, canned, cleaned up, and I was back to drinking rum and enjoy the almost near tree timber anxiety of my first NC hurricane experience.
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