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!
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.”
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.
Breakfast cheesecake and sunflowers to start my day! Today is a new day (obviously) and I’m feeling a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. If you haven’t noticed (all my mother’s friends have), I’ve been a little MIA lately. Hesitant to share too much of my personal story here, but a friend suggested I try it, so here it goes. I recently got out of perhaps one of the best relationships I’ve ever had. It’s hard to explain, but the insecure feeling of moving forward is more than daunting as I no longer have that friend around to “have my back”. I’m learning how to avoid situations and adapt to growing in such a small area where everyone knows everyone’s business. Receiving condolences while in downward facing dog is not really what I had in mind when I decided to zen out that morning… On the upside, my lightened and brightened shoulders are starting to defrost (multiple meanings here) and I’m determined to get myself and this here blog back in routine. News of local farms starting their seeds, and writing for the local Edible edition is preparing me for the bounty of spring and summer harvest to come.
Last Saturday I walked the farmers’ market for over an hour searching for pickle inspiration. Nothing, nothing, and nothing. But then these brightly colored watermelon radishes caught my eye. No stranger to watermelon radishes, this lot from Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, NH was more than beautiful. These sichuan style pickles boast tons of flavor and color. I recommend serving them atop your favorite asian salad or cold noodle dish. Enjoy!
I’m going to be honest, my apartment smells like a night of bad life choices… Think what you will, and maybe you should… but, a solid night out for me typically includes a couple whiskey and gingers (commonly referred to as a bourbon highball). Last January during the doldrums of winter and thus the lack of fresh fruits for tasty jelly and jam making, I started experimenting with alcohol based canned goods. To my surprise, not only was everything I made pretty damn good, but also a huge hit on the blogosphere. The main risk of canning with alcohol is spending 20 plus dollars on the booze to have it fail or not set up correctly. Plus, following the typical jelly set tests is a crap shoot because the lack of “water” causes different boiling temperatures and consistencies. The inspiration for this whiskey ginger jelly came from my cinnamon whiskey jelly that I put up last winter. I suggest using a mid-range whiskey or bourbon here as you don’t want to spend the money and have it fail, but also you don’t want the flavor of cheap booze lingering in your sugary jelly goodness.
The flavor of this whiskey ginger jelly is perfect. Smooth, not overwhelmingly boozey, yet strong in ginger flavor which would work nicely as a pork glaze or simply on a biscuit. Yum, think about it, a hot homemade buttermilk biscuit topped with jelly and some local free-range bacon strips!! While cooking this jelly down does burn off most of the whiskey, only so much can be lost from 750ml. To that end, I may advice against using this jelly for little Johnny or Sally’s lunch time PB&J. 🙂
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