Friday, July 29, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Boursin-style Herbed Cheese Spread

I have trouble throwing perfectly good food out and that extends to my herbs as well.  To keep the herbs producing leaf and staying bushy they need to be cut back on a regular basis.  That leaves me with lots of cut herbs of all types.  I unload a good bit at the farmers market but even then I bring home herbs.  I'm thinking I should feed them to the chickens we're going to raise for broilers and roasters and have them herbed from the inside out but I know that's just fanciful thinking.  Probably.  I'm always on the lookout for ways to use up fresh herbs.  The other day in the pricey cheese section of the grocery store I was looking at a container of Boursin cheese spread.  Boursin cheese is a soft creamy cheese flavored with a mix of herbs and garlic.  Looking at the ingredients on the package I thought, "How hard can this be?"
Turns out, not very hard at all.

Preserving Floyd: Peaches Part III, Peach Butter

If I have any signature preserves it's probably peach butter and bread and butter pickles.  Those are the most requested preserves by friends and family that I make.  Luckily, the peach butter is another one of those recipes that can be made in any size quantity.

Preserving Floyd: Peaches Part II: Jam 2 ways

I like citrus.  A lot.  And I especially like lemony things, but lime is creeping up there too.  This year I planted lime and lemon basil and I am just enchanted with both flavors.  In fact, lemon basil pesto has supplanted traditional basil pesto in my affections!.  I like basil on fruits as well and this year thought I'd try the lime basil in my peach jam.

Another recent discovery is how much I like sweet spiked with a tiny bit of hot.  Enter peach jam sweetened with maple syrup and warmed with red cherry peppers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Peaches Part I: Dried and in Tea Syrup

Mmmmm..., Peaches.  If anything comes close to rivaling strawberries, it's peaches.  I put up peaches in multiple ways and we'll start with the easy ones.  Peaches in a medium Earl Grey Tea infused syrup and dried peaches.

I buy my peaches from Wade's Orchard in Woolwine, Va, just down the mountain from Floyd on Rt 8.  They are my source for plums and nectarines as well.

Preserving Floyd: Finishing Up Currants

Back when I posted about currants I showed the 5 lbs of black currants we picked but never got further than that. There's been a lot of (mostly peach) preserving going on but not a lot of posting.  This is the first of the catch-up (as opposed to ketchup - that's later) posts.

Black currants are dark, tart, and musky in flavor, and are very seedy.  For many people, and I'm one of them, they're an acquired taste.  Michael wanted to see what they were all about since black currants are relatively easy to grow and disease and pest resistant.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Summer Eating Has Commenced!

We have been seriously craving that first summer tomato.  Ours are only now beginning to ripen but tomatoes started showing up at the farmers market last weekend.  I resisted buying them there but ended up buying 2 reds and 2 golds when I stopped at Wades Orchard to pick up peaches.  I couldn't wait for ours.

And in that same vein, greedy as Michael and I were for that first taste, I forgot to take pictures of the tomato and fresh mozzarella salad we had with supper.  But it was awesome!  Chunks of red and gold tomato, cubes of mozzarella, sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, garnished with ribbons of lemon basil and drizzled with first press oil from last fall's harvest of Sevillano olives.  So, so good.

I did remember to take a picture of dessert.  Sliced farm fresh peaches surrounding a scoop of strained yogurt, garnished this time with lime basil and drizzled with honey.

The entire dinner conversation consisted of "mmmmmm...." and "I love summer!"  This is the big reminder of why we eat seasonally and preserve.  Out of season store bought fresh produce just can't compare.  Even in season store bought produce that's been shipped in from god-knows-where has nothing on our local crops.  It doesn't even compare with our own preserved produce in winter.  Summer eating is our reminder, reinforcement, and reward for our efforts of growing, preserving, and eating local.

Husbanding Floyd: Fulfilling Destiny

One evening last week during the brief respite we had from the current heatwave, we had the windows open and were enjoying a breeze when we heard a god-awful cacophony coming from the chicken coop!  Immediately our protective instincts kicked in and we rushed down to chase away whatever predator was after our chickens to find...  nothing.
Assuming they were having a sibling spat and establishing pecking order, we returned to our own coop.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Water Bath Canning Workshop

Dawn Barnes of the Floyd County Cooperative Extension is offering a water bath canning workshop on August 3rd from 5:30 – 8:30 pm.  Please click on the Food Preservation Workshops tab above for details.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Salt Preserved Herbs Part II - The Reveal

Salt civilized the world.

Salt is necessary for the body to function.  Since the body doesn’t produce salt it must get it from outside sources. In earliest times, that meant getting salt from the meat of animals (who got it from naturally occurring salt deposits) and plants. Later its preservative qualities were discovered enabling people to create and save all kinds of food; dairy into cheese, vegetables and fruits into pickles and ferments, meats and fish into hams, jerkies, etc. The ability to cure and ferment allowed people to get through periods of little fresh foods, take longer journeys, trade foodstuffs, and explore. Salt itself was a highly valued and traded commodity, as well as finding its way into ceremonies and rituals of many religions. Its importance can be seen in common phrases like “salt of the earth” denoting someone of sound values and common sense or “above the salt” indicating a person’s societal position of wealth and power. In many ways, the development of civilization and society was salt-centric allowing us to be here today to discuss the merits of salt as the #1 culinary discovery.

Today we're going to finish up the Salt Preserved Herbs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Reader's Request - Walnut Acres Honey Sesame Seed Peanut Butter

Back in February I did a post on making nut butter and waxed lyrical about the joys of Walnut Acres Honey Sesame Seed Peanut Butter.  Yesterday I got a comment from a reader requesting a reproduction of that yummy spread.  Michael selflessly volunteered to act as taster so I set off on a search for any information I could find.

Walnut Acres and the Keenes' philosophy were very influential in my life starting in my teen years and affecting choices I made concerning my career as a cook, gardener, preserver, and cooking at home for my family.  I knew Walnut Acres had been bought out a few years after I moved away from Mifflinburg, Pa which was just a few miles away from Walnut Acres' Penns Creek location.  But nothing prepared me for the heartbreaking story I found of the Keene family's desperate deal to keep the farm afloat and the trusted Walnut Acres brand's demise at the hands of dot com idiots playing at being organic Big Food giants.

It was with mixed feelings of sadness, nostalgia, and disgust for corporate food entities that I set about playing with my ingredients.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gardening Floyd: Garlic & Shallots

Back in mid-April I posted this photo of the allium bed:
That's garlic in the back, shallots in the center, and leeks in the front.

Michael harvested the garlic and shallots over the weekend and they're curing downstairs:
The garlic and shallots are covering two thirds of the floor in that room and it's probably still not enough to see us all the way through until the next harvest but we're getting closer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge July: Basil

Coconut Scallops with Crispy Shallot, Basil and Sesame Sprinkle

This month's challenge is timely since I just harvested the first overload of basil from the garden.  This year we planted Genovese, Lemon, and Lime basil.  So in addition to the recipe for the challenge I put up more than enough pesto to get us and a couple of other households through the winter.  And that was just from the first harvest!  The tomatoes haven't started coming in yet but they will shortly and it's nice to know I'll have enough basil to be indulgent with it!

The recipe I adapted for the challenge came from an advertisement in the July 2005 edition of Food & Wine that I came across while sitting in a waiting room.  I really hate it when waiting room magazines get defaced by people ripping out pages.  The page that's missing always contains the continuation of the article I'm reading.  So I saved other possible readers that frustration and just swiped the whole magazine.  C'mon, it was 6 years outdated anyway.

Spice Rack Challenge June: Mint

Better Late Than Never Mint Syrup

We were so set back in the garden from the previous month of rain that June was a race to get the summer garden planted, salvage what we could of what made it through the rains from the spring garden, and preserving what we buy in at that time of year.  While I did posts I just didn't have a moment for a mint-specific one.  So here it is.  Better late than never mint syrup.

Flavored syrups are simple to do.  So simple that the base is called "Simple Syrup".  Mint is a useful one for us because it sweetens so many things: ice tea, smoothies and shakes, fizzy water, fruit, sherbert, lemonade, popsicles, the list goes on.  Wherever a touch of minty sweetness is called for there goes mint syrup.

The ratio of sugar to water for this syrup is 1:1.  This ratio equals a heavy syrup.  Simple syrups can be varied from extra light to heavy depending on the sugar to water ratio.

Bring 2 cups sugar and two cups water to a rapid simmer over medium heat.  When the sugar is all dissolved bruise a large handful of mint sprigs and submerge them in the syrup.  Remove from the heat and steep until cool.  Remove the mint sprigs and filter the syrup through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a jar.  You can garnish the jar with a few fresh mint sprigs or not.  Label, date and store in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

You can use other herbs and fruits to make flavored simple syrups as well.  Basil, thyme and lemon balm are particularly nice, as is any citrus (use the zest).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Salt Preserved Herbs "...kind of fabulous." Part I

Last August when the Denver Post's food blog writer and author Eugenia Bone (Well Preserved) was discussing various ways to put up herbs, I sent her a technique to preserve herbs by salting them which she termed "kind of fabulous" on her blog (End of first paragraph.  Scroll down to comments where she reposts the recipe.)

It's a Canadian method for preserving the fresh taste of herbs for winter use.  Quebec claims it as does Newfoundland but in the international interests of peace, love, and understanding, I'm gonna go all Switzerland and credit the entire country..  Not to mention that I've veered from the traditional with other herb blends and so could claim the Caribbean, Italy, France,or the entire continent of Asia.  But Canada is where I learned it and Canadian it shall be.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Red Currant Jelly and Red Currant & Raspberry Jelly

I mostly make jams, butters or fruit cheeses when I preserve fruit spreads but while those were an option, I really wanted to retain the jewel-like glow of the red currants I picked...
...and turn them into a crimson jelly.
Jellies are, well, not exactly finicky, but care must be taken with them when extracting the juice to end up with a beautifully transparent product.
I started out with 5 lbs of red currants which I divided in half to make red currant jelly and red currant-red raspberry jelly.  My friend Katie gave me red raspberries from her bushes last fall and I wanted to use the last of them with the currents.