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.
Mojitos… what do mojitos make you think of? Summer, bathing suits, rum? For me, it’s a standard mojito that I once ordered at an overpriced Cuban’eqsue bar in Baltimore. A spot where I recall years back hanging with my good friend John sipping minting sugary drinks from a pitcher. Located in a more “bro-dude” part of town, I remember my tom-boy ways, always comparing myself to all the tanned, tiny, sorority type of girls adorned in pastel dresses and beige high heals. Running my fingers through my short pixie hair and looking down at my cutoffs and chucks, I say to John, “compared to all of these pretty girls, guys like “that” would never go for a girl like me.” “Erin (!!), you’d never go for guys like that.” Bam, I knew he was absolutely correct, but my self doubt and body consciousness was still at question. Things have changed, I now realize that I too am and always have been a “pretty” girl. I highlight this quick memory for Body Positivity Week. OK, onto this super sexy jelly…
The tales of the traveling Tonic bottle… In checking out their photos online one could say that this little bottle gets around. Being that funny limbo time between fresh summer and early fall harvest, I’m always forced to get creative with my canning ideas. Thanks to my new friends over at Alley Twenty Six and Behind the Stick Provisions, LLC, this week I decided to put up a small batch of jelly using the Durham produced craft Tonic Syrup. Local, weird, and easily the prettiest colored jelly I’ve ever made. With hints of lemongrass and spice, I plan on serving this Tonic jelly with goat cheese and crackers.
What’s up with the burnt orange color? The color is caused by the bark of Peruvian cinchona trees that they use. Never heard of it? Neither had I. As the name suggests, the main use for this syrup is cocktails. Gin + Tonic syrup + soda water = close to the best gin and tonic I’ve ever tasted. Interested in trying or making this somewhat regionally specific jelly yourself? You can find Alley Twenty Six’s Tonic in many drinking establishments and bottle shops around the Triangle. For those of you who don’t live in the area, Tonic is currently being sold in store and online at Southern Season. Word on the street is that their website is going hit the interwebs any day now. In the meantime, for news, ideas, and a list of retailers, check out their Facebook page.
Rather than rambling on and on about how I didn’t (again) wear gloves while prepping these hot peppers, instead I’m going to talk about how the magic of homemade kefir saving my pepper oil burned hands. “I’m a badass, I don’t need to wear gloves…” fast forward 3 hours.. don’t worry I remembered not to touch any of my bits… and my hands were on fire. A few years back following a similar pepper situation, a friend suggested I try yogurt for heat relief. With no yogurt on hand, the only thing that I had that would suffice was my precious kefir. So picture this: 1am in the morning, buck naked, rubbing creamy kefir all over my hands. Sexy? NO! I swear, if only I was a bug on the wall observing my odd behaviors… But the point here is that it worked. So there ya’ have it, yet another awesome reason to make your own homemade kefir (see recipe link above).
Quite surprisingly, this is my first pepper jelly. Surprising because I use hot peppers in everything. Perhaps the fear of the prep. process, or perhaps because I felt it would be hard to create a hot sweet jelly comparable to the stuff other people make, but after 3 years of routine canning I decide to just go for it. To keep it weird, I added some fresh ginger acquired from Maple Spring Gardens and cilantro (really just for the touch of green) to the melange of hot peppers found at the Four Leaf Farm market stand. What makes this pepper jelly a bit different is in the use of a specific bastardly-hot pepper: the lemon drop pepper… “a hot, citrus-like, lemon-flavored pepper which is a popular seasoning pepper in Peru, where it is known askellu uchu.”
© 2017 Erin A. Urquhart All Rights Reserved.