Aigre Doux

fillmeupI have wanted to make an aigre doux (meaning bitter sweet) recipe out of The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant since last summer.   It isn’t that I didn’t have the will to create a totally random new type of recipe but I didn’t have the nerve to use a huge quantity of fruit ($$$) on a recipe that calls for pickling fruit in wine and vinegar.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out and it seemed pretty costly to try something so unknown.  Then Chapman’s happened and I found myself with 7+ pounds of fruit, a bottle of bargain Whole Foods (seriously – $3) wine in the rack and a blissfully unplanned Saturday, on a holiday weekend no less.  The time was right, the fruit was ripe and I was totally ready.   This is a basic standard pickling style recipe.

  • boil jars
  • make liquid
  • pack jars with fruit
  • pour liquid in
  • cap and boil

And then the chaos began.  First jar out of the pot.  I set it on my white (lunacy) kitchen towel and immediately red wine is oozing out of every inch of the lid.  I panic and shove the jar back in the pot and turn it off.  I move the pot–it’s giant–off the burner and let the whole shooting match cool for 10 or 15 minutes–while cursing poor Michelin starred Paul Virant.  It should sit in the hot water and cool a little before it is pulled out –just until the boiling starts because the contents inside the jars are boiling too at this point.   I pray that everything seals and wait.  Fast forward to Monday afternoon.  I check the seals.  They actually seem to have sealed and don’t appear to be ready to kill me so I open a jar (wearing a white tee shirt I don’t want to talk about-more lunacy) and reopen The Preservation Kitchen.  I mix up a TBD cocktail using the blueberry aigre doux, freshly grated and pressed ginger juice, simple syrup, lime juice and vanilla.   I think that Paul Virant is on to something.

bread and butters

fillmeupIn my ongoing love affair with all things Southern, I made three jars of Hugh Acheson’s recipe for Bread and Butter pickles.  He has a chapter in ‘A New Turn In The South‘ called ‘Pickles, Put-Ups and Pantry Items.’  Honestly, I’m kind of obsessed.  I want to make ALL THE THINGS!  He doesn’t even give great direction for canning them.  He just writes these interesting little recipes for pickling and ends each with, ‘follow your jar manufacturer’s directives for canning.’   So, I looked in other books and made my best guess–ten minutes in a hot water bath should do it.  So, a year or two ago I would NEVER have dared to guess how long to process jars.  I would have been sweating at the mere thought of combining two recipes.  I must be getting better at this canning lark.  Three beautiful blue Ball jars later and  I have three pints of Bread & Butters with a fun addition that is celery leaves.  I can’t wait to whip up some southern delight like cheddar waffles with fried chicken so I can use them for a garnish or maybe just on hotdogs.  Can’t wait!  Oh wait, I still quake a little at the mere thought of making fried chicken.  Hot dogs it is.thosepickles***tasting note.  So, we opened up a jar of these crazy things.  They don’t taste like anything I can put my finger on.  Definitely very cheffy.  A little bread and butter.  A like tart.  A little je ne sais quoi.  They are very layered in their flavor and seem to have more flavors than I added in.  Also I found out Hugh Acheson just published a small book on canning.  If, I was that girl I’d say squee.  Good thing I’m not.

Cherry Bomb!

fillmeupA couple weeks ago I made Brunswick Stew.  When I was grocery shopping for the ingredients I ended up all over town and then actually buying everything at the grocery store 3 minutes from my house.  Such is life.  In my travels across town I stopped in to Whole Foods to find some specific brisket.  I didn’t walk out with any brisket but I did walk out with the following…

  • Bottled of cold brewed espresso mixed with Almond Milk – totally enjoyed that over multiple days
  • Best yogurt I’ve ever tasted – Noosa – Made in Colorado with Australian probiotics (sounds like the hippies won that one)
  • Most interesting yogurt I’ve ever tasted (and not interesting bad, Skyr Icelandic yogurt flavored with mango & jalapeno)
  • Cherry Bomb Peppers

So, outside of having a million other cooking projects I managed to pickle three pints of cherry bombs.  Pickling peppers is probably the easiest canning that I have done.  If you like jalapenos and want to try your hand at preserving I would actually really recommend it.    It’s about the easiest thing and the super spicy chopped peppers will be great on pizzas and in Italian cold meat sandwiches (like Muffalettas.)  This recipe is from Food in Jars website and if you have a mind to start canning it is a great place to start.cherrybomb

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

fillmeupWhen I got the idea of preserving stuff, either by jamming or pickling, I probably had the idea that I would be doing it all the time.  Isn’t it something that cooks do?  But, the reality is that it can be a whole lot of work.  I’ve really decided I like what amount to micro batches.  3 or 4  precious little jars of tasty things.  When I have to boil multiple batches I find that things don’t work for me as well.  I get stressed out  Things in the second or third batch don’t seal.  Things don’t gel.  Things go …wrong. The Sunday I came down with the flu Z went to the grocery store for me.  It is something I normally do on Sunday afternoons.  I made him an ambitious list thinking I’d be better in a day or two.  He came home with the whole deal and 2 1/2 pounds of Meyer Lemons too.  Meyer lemons are a super sweet lemon that is a Chinese hybrid between lemon and mandarin oranges.  So, after I started to rebound from the flu I figured I’d make some marmalade.  Ever since we were offered marmalade on a cruise I have been a total fan.  I used to have those kid feelings, of gross-the peel’s in there-but I’m over it.   I like the faint bitterness and long cooked carmelly texture of a well done marmalade.  It usually  has a certain body that is richer than regular jam.  fudinjarsThe recipe I used was out of Food In Jars by Marisa McClellan – She is kind of a darling of the canning/food blogger world right now during this rebound time from the recession where people are looking at how and what they spend and eat and with the explosion of Pinterest where people can take pretty pictures of things that someone made and packaged up nicely.  In this particular recipe she advocates for soaking the chopped fruit for a couple of days.  I think this made my jam  bitterer than I would’ve liked.  I’d probably actually skip it next time.  I tend to like a bit more sweetness although the offset of butter and English muffin cures some ills.  For some reason my marmalade also doesn’t have much jelly-more thick and bitey.  I don’t think I’ll share these jars out which kind of defeats why I make it.  This makes two marmalade fails recently which is sad.  Hopefully I can get back in the game next month.

starting today…

52cookbooksgoals.  It seems like every blog I read or come across lately has been touting the same thing –  #oneword – to the extent that Z has made up his own one word that is somewhat less than shall we say, holy.  I thought a lot about one word coming into the last week of the year and there wasn’t really any one thing that just resonated with me.  Nothing that insinuated it’s way into my head and could be something that would stick for the entire year and be a filter with which I can put everything I do.   Either that makes me a jerk or just honest with myself. I have taken time over the holidays to update the look of my blog with a responsive magazine style theme, a winter header, and a few other tweaks and I have a few more things up my sleeve for that too as time goes on.  My outlook for 2014 is fresh.  I am hoping to be more present and continue my word from last year which was refine.  I think that word has happened and but it wasn’t necessarily intentional.

Alongside these personal goals I have had some good ideas for the blog too.  I have a pretty extensive bookcase of cookbooks, a lot of which have only been ogled and read but not taste tested.  So, I am going to cook from 52 cook books this year and see where it takes us.  Hopefully we can enlarge our borders.

fillmeupI’m also going to pickle or preserve an item a month – hopefully with something in season and hopefully some new recipes.  As usual, just small batches that do not stress me out.  A fleeting few jars of something delicious to both hoard and share.  Pickles, preserves and marmalades and jams. That should be both fun and delicious.

Less strictly kitcheny but things I am excited about?  Potential for travel, seeing new countries, places and people and also continuing to work on our cute house and maybe publishing some home tours here.  2014 is here!  Life is an adventure.