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.