“Shannon, don’t let anyone pick my scallions! I’ll be back next week for them!” Three weeks before moving out of the Lil’ House the frost lifted, Durham was showered with plenty of rain, and bam (!) the garden that I thought was otherwise dead, started thriving. “Crap, I’m moving, should I harvest them early? Or just let them go for the next renter?” Luckily I had a two week buffer before the next tenants moved in with plenty of time to harvest my goods. Inspired by the white kimchi that I reviewed last week from Durham’s Kokyu Na’Mean, I felt it only appropriate to try my hand, yet again, at food fermentation. I say that because seemingly I can’t ferment food goods worth shit. Liquid ferments? No problem? Kimchi, sauerkraut, slaw.. nothing.
Happy 2017!! What better way to kick of the new year and nurse the morning after hangover than with some good ol’ pickling. With black eyed peas and collards on the range, bursts of rain outside, and aromas of wood fired stoves burning around my Durham neighborhood, I figured I’d set aside this 1st day of the year to catch up on some blogging. I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. After spending several days with the folks, we headed down to Charleston to eat, drink, and play stupid tourists. Charleston was amazing. Impressed by the old culture, houses, and history that Charleston has to offer, I also found myself up to my ears in pickled goodies. Known as the 1st foodie town of the South, I was not entirely surprised when I found pickles on most of if not all of the menus. My indulgences ranged from pickled giardiniera at Edmund’s Oast to fried pickles at Bar Mash, and a tart and sweet pickled green tomato martini at The Grocery. After three days doing little other than eating and drinking, even this girl was looking forward to a detox diet.
The weekend before last, I visited the Carrborro Farmers’ Market for the 1st time. What makes Carrborro’s market different from the rest is that the actual owner of each business or farm is present at Market each week. So it’s basically as local as it gets! While the summer market probably boasts many more vendors and goodies than the chilly winter market, I still managed to score a couple pounds of tiny turnips from Maple Spring Gardens, a farm located in Cedar Grove, NC. I consulted my girlfriend Kristen who suggested an Indian flavored pickle (not like the ones I’ve sworn off). I decided to pair these lil’ turnips with some fresh turmeric, ginger, red onion slices, and curry powder. Enjoy!
My very first week in town at my very first Downtown Durham Market last summer I came across the Waterdog Farms stand, a small tea farmstead located north of Durham and Hillsborough. From across the stall, I couldn’t help but notice their axolotl (google it) logo! I probably came off as very rude, as the sight of that sign took me daydreaming back to my days of newt and amphibian pet keeping. Snapping out of it, I noticed these odd hibiscus fruits. I had figured that hibiscus flowers bloomed out of something, but I was never aware of hibiscus fruits, also called rosellas. Made up of a seedpod and a stout fleshy red calyx, rosellas can be used in a variety of culinary ways including: tea infusions, food coloring, and jams and preserves. The plan was to pickle them, but when I figured out exactly what they were, jam seemed like a better bet.
I scooped up a hearty pint of rosellas, a huge stalk of fresh ginger from Waterdog, and grabbed some fresh blueberries and citrus from my local grocer. Depending on your process, the seedpods are in fact a great source of pectin. My attempt didn’t go so well as I forgot to cover the pot and all my pectin evaporated off, but if you simply cover and boil the seedpods in just enough water for 10-15 minutes you will get rosella derived pectin. Great for jams and jelly making! A tart somewhat bitter, mildly sweet, and vibrantly red jam. Serve this jam as you would any berry jam. My choice will be atop a scone or a fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuit.
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!
Amaro… amaro… such a pretty, romantic word. Before moving to Durham almost 4 months ago now (wow), little did I know that I had in fact tried amaro before in the form of Fernet Branca, a more well known amaro that is hitting the food/hipster world. So aside from just a pretty name, which turns out means “bitter” in Italian, amaro is an herbal liqueur that is commonly enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif. It usually has a bitter-sweet flavor, sometimes syrupy. Thank you Mr. Wikipedia…. The second time I tried amaro was earlier this year at The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club. I had no clue what I was tasting, but I knew I enjoyed it more than Fernet Branca. At the time I was a bit distracted by the amazing aesthetic of the establishment, so much that I didn’t make note of what we were tasting. Fast forward 5 months and I instantly recognized the iconic bottle with an artichoke on it while enjoying a drink at a neighborhood cocktail hangout. Cynara scolymus, known commonly as artichoke, is the predominant ingredient that lends to the drink’s name, Cynar.
In following in the footsteps of my boozy cranberry creations from the past two years, I decided to try Cynar as the main ingredient for this years’ cranberry fun. Port was awesome, whiskey was safe, Cynar is just weird. But weird in a really complimenting way with the tart flavors of the fresh cranberries. For this recipe, I kept it quite simple: berries, spices, sugar, citrus, ginger, and booze. Depending on your palate, I’d recommend tasting your sauce before canning, though know that as the mixture sits and cools, the flavors change a bit. I wouldn’t typically opt for bitter, tart, and sweet together for my canning recipes, but as a friend all knowingly suggested pretending that I was making a strong cocktail surprisingly worked out great. Enjoy!
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