Friday, June 29, 2012

Peach Jam All Summer Long – June 30, 2012

To me, a girl raised in Alabama, summer’s arrival is announced the first time you eat a peach while the juice runs down your arm.  There were some beautiful peaches at the Lexington Farmer’s Market last week, so I was dying to make jam.  The big lesson I learned during this cooking experience was that peach jam is best made with just ripe peaches, not those that are starting to get too soft.  The sweet tartness of these peaches made the best jam I’ve ever made.  The smaller lesson I learned is that these firmer peaches didn’t mix as well into the jam, so if I were doing it again (definitely will next summer), I’d turn the jars upside down and back as they cool to mix in the peach chunks more.  I also need to give thanks to my niece, Ella, who is already a great cook and helped me made this batch of jam.  It’s much more fun to can with a friend!

I don’t really need to give you the recipe because it’s in the box of Sure-Jell pectin you buy at the grocery, but in order to make sure you have all the ingredients, here you go:

8 cups peeled and chopped peaches (about 6 pounds)
4 T. lemon juice
2 boxes Sure-Jell Pectin
11 cups of sugar
6 pint jars (or ½ pint jars)

Wash and dry jars and lids.  Peel, pit and chop peaches.  This is easier if you boil a pot of water and drop the peaches in after cutting and x on the bottom of the peach.  Once briefly boiled, the skin will come off easily.

Place fruit with lemon juice and pectin in heavy pot on stove and bring to boil.  Stir in sugar and keep boiling while stirring for one minute.  Skim off any foam and spoon into jars leaving ½ inch from the top.  Cover with lids and wipe jars.  Seal jars by boiling 10 minutes.  Remove and allow jars to cool.

I also learned a great new way to use peach and other preserves from my friend Anne.  I am not a big bread eater so I rarely eat fruit for lunch.  I also know I should be eating more low fat yogurt for my health.  Anne makes her own fruit in the yogurt breakfast by mixing some jam into plain Greek yogurt.  I tried it with the peach jam and it was delicious!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Using up the Last of the Spring Veggies - June 23, 2012

This is an interesting time in our garden because things are changing from Spring to Summer growth and so we have a little bit of a lot of things.  We usually just harvest whatever we have into zip lock bags in the veggie drawer, but sometimes they start to go bad before we have enough of any one thing to make a meal.  One great solution for this is Spring Vegetable and Grain Salad.  It’s very healthy and can be adapted to whatever Spring veggies you have or whatever veggies and grains you like.  Here is the basic recipe and you can use this to adapt to your garden and taste.

Spring Vegetable and Grain Salad

1 chopped shallot
3 T chopped herbs (I used basil and thyme, but you could use parsley, oregano, etc.)
2 T. red wine vinegar
1/3 c. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 c. rice or other grain, cooked and cooled (I used Basmati, but brown rice or couscous would be great)
2 c. chopped Spring vegetables (I used snap peas, zucchini and corn, but radishes, beans, tomatoes, etc. would be great and I used asparagus and carrot ribbons last time)
¾ c. chopped leafy greens (I used lettuce and beet leaves, but any lettuce, shoots or small leaf greens are great)
1/3 c. chopped onion (I used green onions and chives)
2 T. pine nuts

Blend first three ingredients in blender and slowly add in the olive oil while blender is running.  Mix other ingredients and add dressing to taste.

OK, so now for the secret ingredient.  I love this salad and eat it all summer with everything because it changes with the harvest, but it is especially good with a small amount of really good cheese.  I add little pieces of a local cheese from Kenny's.  It is Barren County Blue which is fabulous with the fresh herbs in the salad.  But, too much is overpowering.

I also attended a food tasting at Oliva Bella in Lexington this week with my friends Mary and the two Alices, as well as my fabulous mother-in-law, Mary Ellen.  We had a wheatberry salad which was wonderful.  I'd like to see how it works with this.  I think I'll add a little sugar to the dressing plus some dried fruit. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Preserving and Using Garlic – June 16, 2012

We had a beautiful harvest of garlic this week.  We grow softneck garlic so we can braid and hang them in the kitchen as we use them (just pull off a bulb as needed).  After you dig up the garlic, pull off the outside leaves carefully until you get to a layer that is clean.  Then lay out the garlic bulbs with stems and braid.  You will need to braid the garlic within the first two days.  Once the garlic dries out, it will no longer be pliable and the leaves will just break off when you try to move them.  You can hold tight once braided with a rubber band and ribbon.  Before braiding, you need to select and set aside plenty of the largest garlic cloves because these will be what you plant to harvest next year.  Keep these in a cool dry place to dry before planting in the Autumn.

Now that you have all this garlic, why not try:

Anchovy and Garlic Dip
4 oz. canned anchovy fillets
2-4 garlic cloves, cut in half
½ c. softened butter
1 T. olive oil
fresh parsley to taste

Place all ingredients except parsley in blender and mix.  Garnish with parsley and eat with fresh bread.

If you prefer to grow hardneck garlic, there is another great advantage.  Hardneck garlic shoots up garlic scapes (kind of space age flowers) that are a delicious mild version of garlic.  These scapes are great in a frittata, stir fried with vegetables or tossed in a salad.  You just cut off the flower and stem and chop it all into a recipe.

Garlic Scape Frittata
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 T. milk
1 T. olive oil
¼ c. Gruyere
4-6 chopped garlic scapes

Mix eggs, salt and pepper and milk with whisk.  Heat oil in pan to medium high.  Pour in egg mixture.  Preheat broiler to high.  Sprinkle cheese and scapes on top of eggs and stir gently.  Once the frittata starts to brown on bottom, move to broiler and cook until top is set and starts to brown.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Please Eat the Flowers – June 6, 2012

Our summer flowers are blooming early and so we have filled the house with hydrangeas of every shade.  But I have found a better use for the daylilies – dinner.  As their name implies, daylilies only last a day, so eating them is not a great loss.  Plus, they were delicious!

Basically, this recipe is a play on fried squash blossoms which you may also have too many of and want to use in this recipe.  I have been told that most vine plants like squash and melons make the best fruit when you pull off at least a third of the flowers to put more energy toward fruit growth versus flower production.  Did I say these were great?  It is a much more rewarding way to use flowers than nasturtiums in your salad or violets in your tea or to decorate your goat cheese.  Not that there is anything wrong with those
ideas. This recipe allows you to try tempura batter if you haven’t made it before.  You can also make this recipe by just filling the flowers with herbed goat cheese, but I prefer the taste of pumpkin or sweet potato stuffing which also has fewer calories.  Both taste about the same but you have to work harder to press all the water out of the pumpkin to keep it from getting soggy.

Stuffed and Fried Day Lilies

One 10 ounce container of Philly Cheese Italian Cheese and Herb Cheese Cream
One sweet potato, roasted in the oven, peeled and mashed (or roasted pumpkin)
16 daylily blooms
6 cups vegetable oil
1 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 c. chilled sparkling water
small basil leaves

Stir together cheese, sweet potato, and chopped basil to taste.  Place in fridge until ready.  Pull the stamens out of the flowers.  You must be careful here because I tended to pull off a petal when doing this.  You can still stuff with one missing petal per flower.  Wash each flower well and sit out to dry.  Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon of filling into each blossom and twist ends of petals gently to close. Chill, covered, until ready to fry.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a 3-quart saucepan to 350°F on thermometer.  Set a bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, then whisk together flour and salt in smaller bowl. Then whisk in sparkling water until combined well.  Working in batches, coat blossoms in batter, lifting each out by its stem and letting excess drip off, then fry, turning, until batter is crisp, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer blossoms as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels, drain, and season with salt. Top with more basil.