Happy spring y’all. Happy or not so happy crazy March weather. I’d be lying if I said I miss those surprise 1foot of snow blizzards of the North East United States. It’s been a pretty busy month on the home front. I’ve been traveling (hello Hawaii) for work, preparing food swaps, planning pickle contests, writing for the local Indy Week food column, and on top of it all gearing up for a move. Oh, and did I mention writing for (stay tuned… guest posts) and prepping shrubs for the Food in Jar’s Mastery Challenge?
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.
Wondering what to do with those pretty purple blossoms that you’re seeing atop your chive plants? I spent the majority of my morning running around the Durham Farmers’ Market shopping for herbs for my new garden. After careful planning, mental designing, and avoiding plant conflicts, I finally settled on chives, dill (duh?), basil, thyme, and oregano. When I got home this afternoon, I was routinely picking the the wild strawberries from the property, when all of a sudden I came across an herb garden… a decorative herb garden that my previous landlord Emily-Kate so smart-fully and generously planted with tons of the same herbs that I just purchased… damnit. Nonetheless, I still plan on planting my own crops as practice makes perfect (right?) for this kill happy (of plants) California gardener. In full bloom, the chives were running rampant with these beautiful purple…rain… chive blossoms. A few quick thoughts… “what can I do with those purple blossoms?” and I decided to go for infused chive blossom vinegar.
Super easy: (1) wash the little buggers out of 2 cups of chive blossoms and pack in quart jar, (2) bring 3 cups white vinegar, white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar to just a boil, (3) pour hot vinegar over blossoms, (4) cap and let set for ~ 2 weeks, (5) strain and enjoy!
I’m kind of dragging my feet here, it’s well into tomato season and I haven’t yet pulled out my pressure canner. I don’t know about you, but my tomato consumption (due to the large amount of stews/soups/chilies I make) skyrockets during the winter months. My over enthusiastic plan for this winter was to put up enough tomato concoctions (sauces, pastes, stewed, diced, etc) to last me through the winter without buying a single canned tomato product… but then… I remembered the last time…
… Last summer, before the birth of this here blog, without a care in the world and absolutely no plans for the day, l I was frequenting the Baltimore Saturday morning farmers’ market, when I came across a vendor selling tomato seconds (i.e., tomatoes that aren’t as pretty as the rest). I quickly scanned my mental rolodex of canning ideas, and over-zealously and sooo naively decided that I wanted to put up 25 of generic marinara sauce. Super! This lead to the not so successful bike trip across town, to return home and realize that not only was this going to be an all day affair, but also that in order to avoid using a crap ton of citric acid additive that a pressure canner was needed… which I didn’t have at the time (my enthusiasm was waning). Hours (like 7 of ’em) later not only was every vessel in the kitchen that somewhat resembled a pot in use, but every inch of me and my kitchen was splattered in red sauce (remember your childhood art project where you blew paint through a straw? Ya like that…).
Mustard frustration? You know those times when your only objective in life is to enjoy a corn-dog with a little bit of yellow mustard? Those times when you forget to shake the bottle, proceed to apply said mustard, only to get mustard separated water all over everything, leaving you with nothing more than a soggy pungent smelling hot dog…? Luckily making your own whole grain mustard not only helps avoid this awful situation, but also provides you with a damn good homemade condiment and saves money to boot. Another awesome thing about whole grain mustard is it’s antimicrobial properties. The hyper antimicrobial properties of mustard seeds are so strong that apparently when added to meats they can prevent growth of things like E. coli bacteria (woah!?!). The compound responsible for this is called allyl isothiocyanate. Unfortunately, and most likely due to pasteurization, the store bought prepared mustard typically found in the United States does not contain allyl isothiocyanate.
Last week while deciding what to make for the August food swap, I was thinking,”what can I make that is not only easy and good, but that I can make a ton of at once?” I came across this pomegranate vinegar at Trader Joes and figured I’d give pomegranate mustard a go. Until this point, I had only made beer/cider based mustards. Fortunately the result was a sweet, amazing, light purple whole grain mustard.
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