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.
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!
Happy June! Welcome to the latest version of “Friends Putting up with Erin”. This past Friday, a fellow yogini graciously suggested that we pickle at her house. Little did I know, her house meant a little, old farmhouse! Clearly a sucker for old, tiny, somewhat impractical things, Morgan’s abode presented a magical pickling experience for me. Working with bellies full of wine, pouring rain, lots of laughter, and limited surface space, we crafted these sweet and spicy zucchini pickles. Morgan was not only prepared for a vinegar filled night of fun, but also for habanero slicing. Unlike myself… idiot, Morgan didn’t even think to NOT wear gloves while slicing hot peppers. Her medical grade bright blue gloves really added a cute touch.
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.
Hey everyone, sorry for being MIA lately. With the holidays, family in town, some pretty harsh deadlines (science), and the snow, life has been a bit hectic lately. Also, with our local farmers market series on hold during the summer to winter market transition, my selection of local ingredients was limited. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having a hard time mustarding (my way of saying mustering) up the creativity for a second year of new fall/winter produce recipes. With the return of my long-overdue “canning hour”, I had planned on putting up yet another cranberry recipe (mainly because I still have 3lbs of berries left). But seeing that Thanksgiving has already passed, I decided that I would toss them in the freezer and use them later when one of my brown winter recipes is in dire need of some color.
Last night on the way back from a meeting at Redhook Brewery, I decided to swing by a local grocery spot to pick up some veggies for the weekend. I typically try to stay away from big-name grocery stores for my canning items, but I couldn’t pass up a 2 for $1.50 pomegranate deal!! So I bought 3 packs… but… then, when I got home 10 minutes later, I realized that I had forgotten the bag with all the pomegranates in the checkout line… damnit! I haven’t re-visited chutney making since my somewhat disappointing apple adventure last fall. I knew I wanted pears, pomegranates, and jalapeños to be the base of this recipe, but wasn’t really sure where to run with it. Luckily my flavor muse of a boyfriend was around to lend a helping hand. Ginger, red wine vinegar, dried currants? Yes, yes, and hell yes! Not only is this savory pomegranate pear chutney pretty amazing, but I learned quite a bit about chutney making during the process. For example, did you know that you can hear and see caramelization while it happens? Yes? OK, well I didn’t… Enjoy this tart and savory chutney with a holiday pork chop, or take it to a Christmas party for absolute all around enjoyment. 🙂
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