August 17, 2012
I picked up a beautiful, heavy and sweet local watermelon at my neighborhood Giant Eagle Market District. I still can’t believe that this is my normal, everyday, hey-we’re-out-of-milk grocery store – it’s humongous. But I have to give them props: for being as huge as they are, they do try for a couple of months to really bring in a bunch of locally grown and raised produce. I really like that.
So back home, I was cutting it up and then slicing up all the leftover rinds so that they would break down faster in the compost pile and it hit me. People make pickles out of this stuff. And thankfully it’s less for the compost pile to try to digest, which is a good thing this time of year, just ask my husband, who often gets stuck with the job of carting out all the scraps. He’s a good man.
Is that a cucumber in the foreground? No! Just a well trimmed watermelon rind.
So a quick browse around and it’s a simpler method than I even thought. For half of a medium watermelon the brine is
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July 12, 2012
We just got back from vacation in Georgia. It’s such a great state with so many people committed to delicious food fresh off the farm. My kind of place, really. And to be honest, they make some mean fried chicken.
While I was there I couldn’t help but do some canning of some fresh Georgia peaches. I basically followed this method for canning the teeny ten pounds I had into four quart jars. In some of the jarred peaches I packed in some fresh basil,
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June 27, 2012
This is something I will be making repeatedly throughout the summer.
Roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, finely chopped, along with copious amounts of garlic and a bit of olive oil and salt. I was quite astonished to find the depth of flavor in something that truly only had four ingredients. Roasting is certainly what certainly makes it so good. And the thing is, with a gas stove (or this summer the grill, which is in near constant use) roasting takes almost no time. Five to seven minutes or so straight on the burner over the heat, turning every so often to completely blacken the outsides. Put in a covered container to steam and cool for 10 minutes, the skins on the peppers slide off like a silk dress.
This is sexy stuff.
I want it on steaks, on fish. On these balkan burgers. On regular burgers. In my eggs.
In this recipe, I included a bit of roasted eggplant (at which Balkan traditionalists would have been shocked and horrified) but I found it gave a gorgeous texture.
For some background: ajvar is typically made in Serbia in the fall, where in small towns its process requires just about everybody who lives there to pitch in and help. The peppers are roasted, peeled and deseeded. Everything is pureed and put up in jars for the winter. Only here, I can’t wait that long: I ate spoons of it out of the dish while we were waiting for company to arrive. They were lucky they got here when they did. I would have eaten it all.
2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped
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May 20, 2012
It’s the time of year that it’s hard to pin me down. I’m outside. Busy in the backyard, planting, weeding, sitting, contemplating. I just want to be outside. Watching for the return of Chestnut. Seeing if we have any new baby rabbits in the yard. I just find so much peace there, that you’re hard pressed to get a post out of me. I have better things to do.
Because of this I was there, in the backyard, when the peonies bloomed this year. They are my absolute favorite flower: profuse, heavy blooms; heady fragrance. I turned the confetti of abundant petals into syrup. I did this last year, but not as adroitly.
Marry to this that I went strawberry picking with friends last week. And 17 pounds picked meant there was certain to be some jamming. Did there happen to be some master pastry chefs along? Why yes, there were. (Thanks, B.) So I asked them how to incorporate my peony syrup into the jam that was sure to follow all that picking. Add the syrup at the last minute, they said, to keep all the flower essence. But of course.
Ten cups of strawberries
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August 23, 2011
These are my first pickles.
I thank sites like Hounds in the Kitchen and Food in Jars for giving me the nudge in the direction of preserving and pickling.
What is it about these methods that seem so daunting? Perhaps it is that you hear stories of the six thousand pints that your grandmother used to make at one sitting. (Who has time?) Perhaps it’s the old stories that it won’t keep as well as you hope. Fear mongers. Truly folks, don’t listen. You can put up just a few pints at a time, in two hours or less.
And the satisfaction of a pickle from a cucumber you grew or just picked up at a farmers’ market is like nothing else.
I made up my own pickling spice, because I think things can be a bit boring if you go the conventional route. I like a bit of extra spice. I also kicked in some fresh ginger in some and a massive quantity of garlic as well. They turned out crispy and salty and kind of awesome.
PK Szechuan Dill Pickling Spice
1 t caraway seeds
1 T corriander seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 t celery seeds
10 juniper berries
8 green cardamom pods
1 T black peppercorns
1 T Szechuan peppercorns
2 T dill seed
Lightly crush all larger spices, especially the cardamom pods and juniper berries. Use in quantities as your pickle recipe advises.
Playlist included My Heart Skips a Beat by The Secret Sisters.
June 22, 2011
As you might remember if you read this blog with regularity, I picked ten pounds of strawberries over the weekend. This left me with plenty to jam. Plenty. Especially since I’m (gasp!) kind of a novice canner. Between picking and managing a boisterous Cherub, I chatted with a very sweet friend, Jenn (editor of the tremendous Greener Grocer newsletter) and she told me she had recently made some great strawberry balsamic jam. Well, that’s right up my alley.
She kindly forwarded me the recipe. I decided I’d do that (a recipe that is pectin-free – Demeter is convinced I don’t need it) and a strawberry rhubarb jam using pectin (I’ve been told by Rachel at Hounds in the Kitchen that Pomona’s is the best kind to use).
The strawberry balsamic with pepper is a jam purist’s dream. Lots of low simmering, pleasurable skimming, and
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