Wine Cherries!

Eugenia Bone is a genius. Her book, “The Kitchen Ecosystem” has inspired me to look at food differently, particularly when it comes to waste. But that’s another issue. Right now it is cherry season. I’ve already plundered my friend’s sour cherry tree (by her invitation, of course) and made a luscious sour cherry pie and some jam. Now it is on to one of my favorites: wine cherries. Wine cherries should be huge, succulent and sweet. Bing!

I used Eugenia’s recipe from her book “Well-Preserved,” making one small change. I added a dozen juniper berries as well as the cloves. It’s a simple recipe that gives you a versatile ingredient for sweet and savory dishes as well as the perfect cocktail garnish. Maraschino cherries, even if they aren’t the scary, non-food kind, have nothing on these babies when it comes to a Manhattan. Trust me on that one.

Here is the recipe. I made 10 half-pints and had some syrup leftover, which I cooked down until very thick and truly syrupy. It gave me a half-pint of fantasticly flavorful syrup, some of which I will be using shortly on a pork tenderloin with braised Swiss Chard stems – again, thanking Ms. Bone for inspiring me to do something with those colorful stems besides compost them.

WINE CHERRIES, adapted from Eugenia Bone’s “Well-Preserved”

2 bottles of red wine (think Trader Joe’s or BotaBox cheap here)
2 cups sugar
2 cups orange juice
24 whole cloves and 12 juniper berries
Rind, pith removed, from one large orange or 3 tangerines/clementines
4 pounds Bing cherries, pitted

Have 10-12 half-pint jars sterilized and hot. Lids and rings too. You know the drill.

Place all ingredients except the cherries in a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to boil, stirring to prevent burning. Add cherries and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon and set aside, covered, to keep them warm.

Return the liquid to a boil and reduce by half  – about 15 minutes longer.

Fill hot jars with cherries. Don’t pack tightly, so the cherries keep their shape. Cover, leaving 1″ headspace, with hot syrup. Seal and process in hot water bath for 20 minutes.

As I said, I had some syrup leftover. I removed the orange zest, cloves and juniper berries, and reduced the syrup until it was very thick and syrupy, probably another ten minutes. That stuff is gonna be wicked on this tenderloin. I also had about a dozen cherries left over, which will find their way on some of that Oatscream I made last week.

 

Mustard Mayhem

I started making mustard in 2012.  I had long ago fallen in love with Vilux Peppercorn Mustard.  I used it on roasted veggie sandwiches, in dressings, and to make a sauce for grilled salmon and just about anything else I could think of.  I loved it so much that I bought a case of it before we moved from Minneapolis to NE Tennessee – thinking that would tie me over long enough to find it in a grocery here.  Ha!

Not only could I never find it around here, but our favorite grocery in the world (and only place we could find it in Minneapolis) also stopped carrying it, citing difficulties with the distributor.  Yes, it is available online, but it’s already expensive enough without including shipping.

Mustard is ridiculously easy to make.  It also lasts a long time in the fridge, and can be made shelf-stable with a water-bath canner.  It’s cheap, too.  For the cost of one jar of Vilux or other “fancy” mustard, I can buy a pound of mustard seed – enough to make 14 half-pint jars, easily.

Last year I added homemade mustard to the list of goodies in the Christmas – or as is the case this year – MLK Day goodie basket.  In preparation, I purchased 5 pounds of yellow mustard seed from Penzey’s.

THE BASICS

The process for making mustard is simple.  Pour mustard seed into a large bowl.  Cover with apple cider vinegar.  Let it sit.  Keep adding vinegar until the mustard seed stops absorbing it.  You can add things to it at this point, as well: herbs, seeds (like cumin, caraway, etc.).  I wanted to make Green Peppercorn mustard, but I also knew I was going to make some other varieties, so I soaked 8 ounces of green peppercorns in vinegar in a separate bowl.

At this point you can process the mustard or do like I did and carry on with life for a day or two.  Or in my case, three weeks.  It’s all good.  When you are ready, grab your additions, more vinegar, maybe some wine, and a food processor.  Let the Mustard Mayhem begin!  1013363_10152128749128116_2117184311_n

SOME VARIATIONS

Each recipe below starts with 2 cups of soaked mustard seed.  That’s enough to keep normal people in mustard for quite  while.

Green Peppercorn: The One That Started it All

2 cups mustard seeds that have absorbed as much vinegar as possible.
1/2 c. soaked green peppercorns
1/2 c. white wine*

*I had some boxed chardonnay that needed to be used (no one seemed to want to drink it).  If you don’t have wine, use more vinegar.

Place the mustard and peppercorns in the bowl of a food processor.  Process.  Pour the wine through the feed tube and continue processing until it is the consistency you like.  I process mine for about 3 minutes.  That’s it!  Mustard!  Delicious, earthy, pungent, peppery mustard.  Add more peppercorns or fewer.  Whatever.  These proportions suit us nicely.

Red Pepper Mustard

2 cups mustard seeds that have absorbed as much vinegar as possible.
3 dried red peppers
1/2 c. White wine
1 Tbsp Turmeric^
1 tsp sea salt

Soak 3 dried red peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Coarsely chop.  Add these, along with the mustard seed, turmeric and salt, to the bowl of a food processor.  Process.  Pour the wine through the feed tube and continue processing until it is the consistency you like.  I process mine for about 3 minutes.

^ Turmeric is the spice that gives good old French’s mustard that insane yellow color.  It is also good for you.  And it can be a bit bitter.  The salt balances the bitterness.

Rosemary Thyme Mustard

2 cups mustard seeds that have absorbed as much vinegar as possible.
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground thyme (or 2 Tbsp fresh, coarsely chopped)
1 c. white wine

You get the idea.  I used more wine in this one because I just wanted it to be a little thinner.  Sometime you just want to go crazy.

And Finally…

Black Gold

Look, I had to call it something.  It has more stuff in it than the others, so it needed it’s own name.  While it is sometimes fun to give recipes names like this,  it is after all, only mustard.  Still, I really like this stuff.

2 cups mustard
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1/2 cup dried red shiso leaves, ground
3 ounces pickled sushi ginger
2 Tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup umeboshi vinegar
2 cups apple cider vinegar

This is the kind of thing you can do when you make your own mustard.  It gives you something to do with the shiso that grew very well last year, as well as the open jar of pickled sushi ginger that you used once last year and would love to get out of the refrigerator.  Not to mention the half-quart of apple cider that no one drank last fall so you cultured it with some umeboshi vinegar, with this very day in mind.

CAN IT

Well of course, 5 pounds of mustard seed is a bit overboard.  But as I said, it is for gifts, and for long-term use.  And that means putting it in glass jars and sitting it on the shelf until I need it.

That is also quite simple.  Gently heat the mustard at a simmer, stirring often so it doesn’t burn.  Sterilize your jars.  My canner holds 14 half-pints or 10 pints.  A double batch of any of the recipes above will make enough to fill a canner with 1/2 pint jars.  It just so happens that 5 pounds will make about 10 batches of these recipes.  Woo hoo!

Fill the hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Done.  Mustard for gifts, or to last you one very active grilling season.

Orange Marmalade

I recently made some chocolate bread from these wonderful folk, and while enjoying it with mascarpone cheese and strawberry jam, thought how yummy it would be with orange marmalade – not the sickeningly sweet kind found in the grocery, but the slightly bitter stuff  you would find in some tiny British Isles import store in DC.  it is navel orange season, and the ones I found recently were particularly tasty. So, I bought a bunch and decided to try my hand at homemade marmalade.

Recipes for the stuff are easy to find, but I noted little similarity among them, other than the main ingredient: oranges. Some called for pectin, others not.  Some called for crazy amounts of sugar, others for honey and corn syrup.  Some were as simple as “slice oranges, add sugar and lemon juice and boil the hell out of it,” while others were more complicated than the directions for building one of those fake Rolls Royces out of a VW chassis.  Vanilla, cinnamon, brandy, vodka, peel, roast, scald, seed, chop, STOP!

Hoping for something fairly simple but not so simple it wasn’t worth the effort, I did what I often do, and took pieces of several recipes and patched them together, hoping it would turn out in the end.  I started with a recipe that called for a long poaching of a bunch of oranges and lemons together, along with cinnamon sticks.  I did not want to peel the oranges, then remove the pith and chop the fruits and the peels, as some recipes called for. For one thing, the pith is bitter, and I wanted that element.  For another, I’m just not that motivated. So, poaching sounded good.

Fruit is thinly sliced and returned to poaching liquid.

Fruit is thinly sliced and returned to poaching liquid.

I wondered if it made any real difference to poach whole fruit and then cut it, or if I could just cut the fruit and start boiling it straight away.  I’m still not sure, although when I did slice and then poach one orange, I noticed the pith stayed solidly white and, well, pithy.  When I poached the whole fruit and then sliced it, the pith was translucent and more solidly attached to the peel.  It looked more appealing, in any case.  So, I poached.  Most of the recipes called for far too much water. I’m no jelly-making wizard, but even I can tell that 12 cups of water, three cups sweetener and eight whole fruits was not going to make anything remotely spreadable.

In the end, I made two batches, with two different amounts of sugar and water.  One was plenty thick, and the other not so much.  Combined and cooked a little longer, the two were just about right.  Here is what I came up with:

ORANGE MARMALADE, 8 pints

Sugar is added and boiled to the gel point.

Sugar is added and boiled to the gel point.

14 seedless navel oranges
4 lemons
1 – 3# stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces
10 cups water
10.5 cups sugar

Poach fruits and cinnamon in water for 2-2 1/2 hours.
Cool. Remove cinnamon pieces and discard them.
Remove fruit from liquid. Quarter, seed as needed and thinly slice fruit.
Return fruit to water.
Bring to boil.
Add sugar and boil, stirring often, until syrup is desired thickness. At least one hour.

Process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Done and ready for the pantry!

Done and ready for the pantry!

Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em! Anaheim Chili-Corn Relish

My friend Jennie gave me a grocery bag full of gorgeous Anaheim chilies from her garden.  She also gave me a bag of pared jalapeño peppers she wanted smoked so she could make some jalapeño mustard (more on homemade mustard, later).   I decided to smoke the Anaheims along with the others peppers on the grill with its maximum surface area and easier reach than the cylindrical smoker.  Peppers are small and will burn to a crisp in a short time if not tended a lot.

I let them smoke at a low temperature for about an hour, then turned up the heat to blister the skins.  It was my initial thought, once skinned and seeded, to freeze them for use in making chili relleños.  Then I realized that we really don’t eat them at home.  I rarely deep-fry foods, and really, I like to use things in a variety of ways that gets the most out of the flavor without boring us to death.  I am not one of those “If it’s Wednesday, it’s Prince Spaghetti Day” types.

Thus the idea of canning them began to roll around.  And while that idea rolled around in my head, half a dozen ears of corn were rolling around on the grill with the apple wood.  And so the two items became one.  Romantic, eh?  Heres what I came up with for a recipe:

75 Anaheim chilies, smoked, skinned, seeded and chopped
Corn from 4 smoked/roasted ears, removed from the cob
6 bell peppers – I used an heirloom variety with a beautiful garnet-bordering-on-chocolate color, seeded and chopped
1 yellow onion, pretty finely chopped
1 tsp canning salt
1 Tbsp Celery Seed
3 Tbsp Cumin
4 ounces Lime juice.  I used bottled
About a cup of apple cider vinegar – enough to provide a nice liquid for the relish without turning it into salsa.

Into a pot the ingredients went to be heated and poured into sterilized jars and processed in a water bath for 15 minutes.  This amount made 7 half-pints and 2 pints.

This relish is going to look and taste fantastic this winter, topping some chicken, cheese, or vegetable enchiladas, or added to corn muffins, or tossed in with some black beans, or chili, or baked eggs.  The Anaheims pack just enough heat to warm the body and the soul!

The Sweet Joy of Sauerkraut

I am canning sauerkraut today, for the first time.  I’ve made it several times, but never in a quantity great enough to warrant canning.  I’m excited about it.  It will go very nicely with the cubed pork tenderloin I canned earlier this year.  Now, on busy evenings when I am late in getting home, or just don’t have the supplies, mental of physical, to make supper, I will be able to open a pint each of kraut and pork, and with the addition of a few crushed juniper berries, and either potatoes or dumplings, will have a fantastic supper for two, with enough left over for a lunch for Mr. Dewey.

“Did she say ‘Dumplings’?”

Yes. Yes, I did.  It is a dish Mr. Dewey said his mother made when they were kids.  I was skeptical.  Of course I grew up on Chicken and Dumplings.  It never occurred to me that dumplings could go anywhere else, much less on something as exotic as sauerkraut.  As a matter if fact, it seemed WRONG.  Almost insulting; like ketchup on oatmeal.  So, I resisted.  Finally, one night, I tried it.

I am hooked.  The juniper berries were an inspiration.  I simply can’t leave well enough along.  And that is sometimes a good thing.

But, I digress.  I am canning homemade sauerkraut.  It is easy to make at home.  Sandor Katz, author of “The Art of Fermentation,” makes the process of fermentation almost playful.  So, I played.  With the old, cracked crock I found at the Tree Streets sale a couple of years ago, and with a couple of large glass jars; those big olive or pickle jars that you find in the “Institutional” section of the grocery store.  I had purchased a giant jar of dill pickles, and ended up tossing out the pickles once about three-quarters of them molded in the fridge.  Ah well; so much for that idea.  At least I got a great jar for making a couple pints of kraut.  The cracked crock was rendered useable, thanks to Katz, with the application of melted food-grade wax in the cracks on the outside.  If I can get a few more uses out of it that way, great!  So, I started a jar for Mike, one for us, and the crock for canning.

The kraut in the jars was ready to eat in only a few weeks.  The larger crock took about 5.  But it was no work at all.  The only thing to do I did was unscrew the caps on the jars every day so gas didn’t build up and cause an explosion, and check the crock to make sure there was nothing unsightly growing around the edges.  I’d pull a few strands of questionable looking kraut off the edges, and put the plate and dish towel back over the top.

And now I have nine pints of goodness – complete with probiotics for digestive happiness (from that which I did not can)- bubbling away on the stove.

Beans!

Beans are great.  They are flexible.  They are nutritious.  They are cheap as dirt when you buy them dried and cook them yourself.  But, they take forever to cook.  You really need to plan ahead.  And you probably don’t want the stove going for four hours when it’s 90°F outside.  Well, I don’t.

Store-bought cans of beans can be pricey – especially the organic brands.  And the cheap, store-label brands can be pretty mushy.  You open a can of beans thinking you’re going to toss them with a little dressing, some fresh veggies, and garlic and have a nice salad, and you end up with refried bean paste mush.  Yum!

That’s why I started canning my own.  In the time it takes to cook a pot of beans for chili or soup beans, I am able to put 7 quarts or 10 pints on the shelf.  And I can reuse the jars.  And they are perfect, whether I want them for soup beans, salad, or if I really do want refried bean paste mush.

I do pinto beans and garbanzo beans in quarts.  One quart of pintos is perfect for a nice big pot of chili that will feed 6.  That size is also perfect for a dinner of soup beans and cornbread for Mr. Dewey and I.  Not so much left over that you get sick of eating them before they’re gone.  A quart of garbanzo beans makes a perfect amount of hummus, too.

The black beans go in pints.  I can add a pint to my chili if I want, or toss them with veggies, a little cumin, coriander, and garlic, and make burritos, enchiladas, and so forth.  The canning process makes them perfect for cold salads, too.  They stay firm and pretty, but are perfectly cooked.

And they cost about a quarter the amount of store-bought canned beans, including the cost of the energy to process them.

Tonight I tossed a can of black beans in with some leftover rice, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeños and garlic from the garden, and just for fun added a quart or so of roasted veggies I had on hand.  Plenty of cumin, coriander, garlic, and we had a great vegetarian dinner for a cool, late summer evening.