Pickle Relish

I don’t know why it’s called – or why I call it – pickle relish. Hot Dog relish? Whatever. That delicious green stuff you put on dogs and maybe burgers too. You use it to make tartar sauce and Thousand Island Dressing. Some people put it in deviled eggs – no thank you – or tuna salad. How ever you use it, you probably buy that bright green jar of it and don’t even consider making your own.

But it’s so easy to make!! with minimal sugar and no chemicals. It doesn’t even take that much time. Here’s a picture of the batch I have on the stove right now – I am making a third of the original recipe because I am not going to process it, just put it in the fridge for immediate consumption:

The recipe I use comes from my go-to canning cookbook – “The Complete Guide to Home Preserving” by Ann Seranne. (You can order a “new” copy on Amazon for a mere $851??) Page 206: Hot Dog Relish. I made 1/3 batch.

Take 2 pounds of sweet peppers – you can use bell, Anaheim, poblano (if they are not hot) or a mixture thereof. I used a total of 2 Anaheims and 3 rather hefty bells from Arnold Farm. Grind the peppers with 1 pound of yellow onions in your food grinder. (Maybe you have an attachment, maybe a table side one. Otherwise, chop very fine.)

Now the recipe says to cover the peppers and onions with boiling water and let it sit for 5 minutes, then drain. I decided to skip this step because there was so much juice in the ground up peppers and onions, I hated to lose it. However, I think this part may have been important to the overall texture, particularly the onions, so I would say “do it”.

Put your drained, ground vegetables into a saucepot and add 1 and 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 2 Tbl. + 2 tsp. sugar, 1/3 tsp. each of mustard seed, dry mustard and celery seed, plus 2 tsp. kosher or pickling salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

This amount yielded about 3 pints of relish, which is plenty for one season at least! I’m not going to process it, just putting it in the fridge and start in on it next week, after the flavors have melded a bit.

Another thing I’ve enjoyed lately is a version of “pickled” shrimp, or a way to poach shrimp that yields a very tasty product. Take your shrimp – in the shell, de-veined – and figure out how much liquid it would take to cover them. (I am using 16/20s.) You can just pour some cold water over them, measure it and then proceed with the method. Let’s say you need 3 cups to cover the amount of shrimp you have. Put a mixture of 2/3rds cider vinegar (2 Cups) and 1/3rd water (1 cup) in a saucepot large enough to hold the shrimp. Add a bay leaf or two, some crushed peppercorns, maybe a few cloves, some mustard seeds, a crushed juniper or allspice berry or two, what ever you have in your pantry that you think would flavor the brine compatibly with the shrimp. Add some celery leaves, or a stalk of fresh parsley. I’ve pulled up a cilantro plant and put that in, roots and all. (but then I’ve got a lot of cilantro..) Add a bit of salt, about 1 teaspoon per cup of liquid. Boil this vinegar mixture for 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and add the shrimp, setting the timer for 60 seconds, and stirring the shrimp around in the hot brine to help them cook evenly. Take one out after a minute, check for doneness and if it’s not quite done, leave in for another 15 to 20 seconds. It doesn’t take long! The first time I did it for two minutes and that was about 45 seconds too long. (Don’t forget they will continue to cook a little, even after you drain them, unless you cover them in some ice to stop the cooking.) Drain the shrimp and eat as hot peel-n-eat style or chill in the fridge for what ever other use you may have in mind.

And don’t forget – ha! – we offer 16/20 IQF Gulf Shrimp conveniently here at the K-B Market!

Got Hot Peppers?

Make pickled peppers!

The above jars of peppers are the results of maybe 30 minutes of work per batch – the two on the left contain jalapeno peppers sourced from our neighbor’s garden. (Which we just pickled this morning, hence the early Christmas coloring – that will fade.) The three on the right are a combination of the havasu peppers and seranos that we grew in our garden and pickled last week. All hot. All good.

Here’s what you do: stem and core (if it’s a thick core) your peppers. Slash them on the sides deeply in several spots. Pack them in a heatproof jar with a smashed clove of garlic and a half dozen or so black pepper corns. Heat about one cup of vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint of peppers. When the vinegar is boiling, pour it over the peppers until they are submerged. Once they are cooled you can put them in any jar you like with a non-reactive lid and keep them in the fridge. Let them mellow for a week or so, and then just tuck in whenever the need strikes.

The recipe – from “The Feast of Santa Fe” – says that the peppers will keep indefinitely. Not likely! We have found ourselves adding them to sandwiches, chopped up and added to salads like macaroni or potato, or included in condiments like tartar sauce, or to guacamole or salsa or anything else that needs a quick hot tangy pickle addition to it. And the vinegar – which is basically what the recipe was titled: Chili Vinegar – can be used with tacos, grilled porkchops, chicken salad, Caesar dressing, what ever recipe you have that you want to galvanize with a splash of hot vinegar. A two-fer! And it couldn’t be easier!

We’ve made several batches this summer, so don’t be surprised to see them on our Pantry Menu in the near future.

Meanwhile, Kevin is making the pickled vegetables for his miso-cured salmon this week.

Tomatoes of August

I’m going to start this Post with a bit of a rant against Social Media – why do they make it so hard? Why do they change the rules all the time? New FaceBook is impossible. Instagram says it’s already on my phone, well, where is that? And WordPress just loves their new Editor, so hey, how do you frigging use it, okay? I’m about to give up all together I tell you. Either that or hire a 12 YO to help me.

Enough whining, let’s eat!

Corn is still a big part of the picture, and watermelon is currently a daily part of the diet, but tomatoes are stealing the show right now, as they often do in August. We were gifted a flat of various heirlooms yesterday, so of course that means BLTs for dinner!

Anyway, it was the best BLT ever – we added avocado which was not necessary, and fontina cheese, which was – with KBM bacon, on Kevin focaccia bread. And plenty of Duke’s!! Sandwiches for Supper!

Elotes

I’m fairly certain that I have written about elotes, or Mexican street corn, in a previous life, but as our area becomes sweet corn central, it’s not a bad thing to refresh your memory about this superior way to eat corn on (or off) the cob.

Elotes – or its cousin, esquites – is one way to make corn a meal.  We first became acquainted with it due to our worship of Pati Jinich, the Queen of the Mexican table. Here is her technique for what she calls “Mexican Crazy Corn”. You can google both styles to find many, many “recipes” for this dish, or you can just gather together the following ingredients and have at it:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Lime juice
  • Cojita cheese or queso fresco (both readily available at the Hispanic market in Chestertown, or use Parmesan instead)
  • Cilantro – if you hate it, skip it
  • Cayenne or chile powder, if you like

What we do is mix the mayo with a little lime juice, enough to thin it out somewhat, and then we add the chopped cilantro and some of the crumbled cheese into that mixture.  Some techniques just spread the corn with mayonnaise and then sprinkle on the cheese separately, but we figure, it’s all going to the same place…

So, take your hot corn – grilled, boiled, steamed, whichever works for you – and spread the mayo-lime-cheese mixture on the cob just like you would butter.  Serve more crumbled cheese on the side to add as needed.  Sprinkle a little hot pepper powder on it and dive in.  Be sure to have plenty of napkins for this one!  And a spoon to scrape up the tasty bits that fall off the cob!

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The Only Muffin Recipe You’ll Ever Need

This is a real muffin recipe, not a cupcake posing as the more healthy muffin in hopes of getting on the breakfast table. This is a bran muffin, and now is the time to make it with some of the local blueberries available to us this time of the summer. I’ve had it in my loose-leaf recipe binder for decades, coming from a woman who worked with us at the Ironstone and later at Brooks as well. One of the main attractions is that you can make the batter, keep it in the fridge and just scoop out what you need the morning you need it. It will last for more than a few days.

(When I thought about posting this, I thought I’d take a picture of the original recipe to share it. But. My phone has died. The Friday before the Fourth of July weekend and I am going to be without it for the weekend at least. Funny how depressing that is, not to have your phone? I mean, how does a person survive a weekend safely isolated at home without their phone?? Well, we’ll find out.)

Lisa’s Bran Muffins

  • Combine 3 cups of bran flakes, 1 cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of boiling water in a mixing bowl. Combine and let cool before adding the remaining ingredients.
  • Add to the cooled bran mixture, 2 beaten eggs, 2 cups buttermilk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup dried fruit (if you are planning to use fresh blueberries, eliminate the dried and add the fresh when you are actually baking the muffins).
  • Mix together in a separate bowl 2.5 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2.5 cups all purpose flour. Add to the wet and combine thoroughly.
  • When ready to bake, add any fresh fruit like the blueberries, if you have chosen that option, set the oven to 425 and bake for 20 minutes or so.
  • Keep the batter in the refrigerator to use as needed for up to 2 weeks (although it lasts longer it does begin to get a little “tired” if you keep it too long).

This Fourth of July weekend won’t be like any we’ve celebrated in the past.  But one thing won’t be any different – it’s going to be hot!  And one thing that is a lifesaver over a hot holiday weekend when you can’t go anywhere and don’t even have your phone anymore, is a nice pitcher of rosé sangria in the cooler!  I like to take not my favorite or most expensive bottle but one that is  more like the “house” rosé, and add to it 1/4 cup raspberry liqueur, 1/4 cup brandy and 1/2 to 1 cup of a juice that you think would go well – I like the Ceres brand selections of berry juice or the passion fruit.  Add fruit – raspberries, whole cherries, blueberries all would be good right now – and a few thin slices of fresh orange.  Let it all meld together for a few hours in the fridge and when ready, pour a generous glass over ice, making sure to get some of that macerated fruit in there, top with seltzer water and head out to the patio to enjoy.  Soon you will be saying, “Pandemic?  What pandemic?”

Remember to play a few patriotic songs, wear a nice red white and blue outfit and have your own parade around the yard, hoisting your glass of sangria and waving a blueberry muffin.  Your neighbors will thank you for the entertainment.

 

 

Produce Time

As bad as things seem to be these days, when just waking up in the morning can bring a whole new calliope of anger and pain, it’s good to know that the farmers of the Eastern Shore are out there continuing to provide us with fresh fruits and vegetables each summer.

We made a stop at the Redman’s Wagon on Monday, and as luck would have it, not only was our man Bill Kelly manning the stand, but who should also show up but Cathy Redman herself!  No hugging was allowed, but it certainly was great to see them both, and to see all the things they had on the Wagon. Cucumbers and strawberries, cabbage and cauliflower, sugar snap peas and English peas.  Not to mention plants!

And Godfrey’s in Sudlersville, another respite from reality.  Here we get tons of asparagus, blueberries and cherries, corn of course and every manner of vegetable in between.  Plus, Godfrey’s has the added bonus of selling their own kettle corn, popped right there in the barn, sometimes right before your eyes.  And ice cream! And Lisa’s delectable baked goods, using Godfrey’s produce.  It’s impossible to leave empty handed.

And Arnold Farm, with their wagon parked conveniently besides the Tastee Freeze, right now offering spinach and chard, squash and lettuce, plus plants and later on the best heirloom tomatoes you can find.  Not to mention corn.  And sunflowers.  And melons and peppers and beets.  All summer long we have access to this bounty of produce, without getting our own fingers dirty.

And these are only a small number of the Produce Production People in this area. Let’s then add to our riches, because we also have the Chestertown Farmer’s Market, currently set up at the East Coast Storage on lower High Street.  We have not been good customers at the Market this spring, due to our own business taking up extra time on Saturday mornings, but it is the place to go for every variety of fresh produce you can ever want, with the added bonus of talking to the people who grew it.

Eventually there will be smaller farm stands at the end of farm lanes around the county.  Perhaps even more this year than usual, since it seems that a greater number of people are gardening than usual, and when they discover they just cannot eat one more zucchini, maybe they’ll set up shop at the end of their road and sell some to us!  One summer we discovered the absolute best sweet corn we’d ever had, at a little stand selling only corn on Still Pond Road.  It was a one time deal, but we’ve never forgotten it.

Right now we are in the thick of peas and cherries.  We got a big bucket of English peas from Redman, and immediately set ourselves on the porch shelling, as is customary.

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They are now all happily ensconced in the freezer.  The cherries, sour pie cherries, are from Godfrey’s.

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Half are already pitted and half of those are in the process of becoming Sour Cherry Preserves with Cherry Brandy.  The recipe comes from one  of my favorite cookbooks, “Fancy Pantry” by Helen Witty.  This recipe is new to us,  and is a three day affair.  So far we have cooked the cherries for 20 minutes with a little water, then strained them and added sugar and lemon juice to the liquid left behind.  This was boiled for 5 minutes, then added back to the cherries, which will sit out over night.  Tomorrow we will cook them again, in the syrup, for 4 minutes, then set aside for another 24 hours, until Friday when we will cook them one more time, for 3 minutes.  We are definitely adding the “optional” Kirschwasser just before we process them.  I’ll let you know how it turns out, seeing as preserves are not something we make every day.

The rest of the cherries will become jam and cherry hand-pies, a project for Friday as well.  Cherry pie must be eaten every summer, and since it would be uncomfortable for Kevin and I to eat a whole cherry pie by ourselves, we are going to make individual hand-pies, which can go into the freezer and baked as needed.

Thinking about sugar corn, prepared as “Elote”, or Mexican Street Corn, with mayonnaise and queso fresco, gets me out of the bed in the morning.  Or watermelon, which I eat every single day when it is in season.  And of course, everyone’s favorite – real field grown tomatoes, sliced thick between two slices of white bread, tons of mayo and plenty of salt and pepper.  Who needs more than that?  All this produce, soon at a stand or market near you.  Thinking about it makes wearing a mask and refraining from hugs a bit less trying.  Life may not be what we’d like it to be right now, but the Farmers will see us through and we will eat like nothing is wrong with the world.

 

MacSal

I am a big fan of macaroni salad.  But I am particular – I don’t like it gloppy and overly mayo-d or sweet. And of course no one really needs a recipe for this iconic summer dish, just make it like your mother made it before you, right? Well, maybe I don’t need a ‘recipe’, but I do need some way to shake it up a bit, get away from the mayonnaise pickle relish rut. And finally I have found a recipe that works for me, which I am going to share now with you so you too can have life-changing MacSal any time you want.

The original recipe came from the NYT recipe section, which isn’t accessible without a subscription to that service, separate from the newspaper.  Luckily I had printed it out when it first appeared, and so we don’t have to suffer the frustration of trying to share it without being able to link to it.

Macaroni Salad with Lemon and Herbs:

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ⅔ cup minced bread-and-butter pickles
  • 2 large stalks celery, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill, plus small sprigs for garnish
  • ¼ cup drained jarred capers, chopped, plus 3 tablespoons caper brine
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest and 4 teaspoons juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optionalI didn’t use any)
  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni

Here’s what you do: the beauty of this recipe, to me, it that you pretty much do what you want to do.  The only important guideline is the use of equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk for the dressing: this is key.  But basically, the procedure is something like this:

  • Cook your pasta – I personally am a big fan of either cavatappi or even better, ditalini.  But elbows will do.
  • Mix together the buttermilk, mayo and mustard, lemon zest and juice.
  • To that, add everything else except the chopped herbs.
  • If you don’t have bread and butter pickles, obviously you can use any pickle you like – I’ve made it with cornichons as well as the b&b: both good.  Also, if you like pickles like I do, add more!
  • I’ve also substituted finely chopped red onion for the scallions, as much as I thought it needed.
  • As far as the herbs go, here’s where you can just do what you want to do.  Don’t have dill? Use cilantro.  Hate cilantro?  Use more parsley and maybe a little basil or tarragon.  Or equal parts parsley and tarragon.  Or all parsley.  Or, and this is where you can really go crazy – add shredded butter lettuce or chopped steamed spinach.  Add avocado – especially if you use cilantro as part of your herb mix.  Asparagus is great in it, and so would be fresh peas.  Monday I added steamed lambs quarter to it.  There’s no end to the madness!!  The only thing to consider is make sure the flavors you select go will together, that’s all that really matters.
  • And don’t let the measurements of the herbs threaten you – add as much as you want, I’d say up to a cup or two total, especially if you use any salad type greens.
  • Toss your selection of greens and vegetables with the cooked macaroni, then add the dressing.
  • Salt and pepper to season is your own preference.  (Don’t forget to salt your pasta water when you cook the macaroni!!)

It’s good right away and even better with an hour chill down in the fridge.

Bacon would be good…

Biscuits Lead to Shortcake

Of course this time of year – May, that warm, sunny month that welcomes summer, right? – biscuits are the gateway to Strawberry Shortcake.  Once you’ve got your biscuit thing down, you are on your way.

If your recipe calls for sugar, you are set.  If it doesn’t, add a tablespoon to sweeten up the biscuit for its dessert duty.  You can either pat your dough into one big cake:

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Or make your individual biscuits as usual.  We had planned to make a big cake, just for us! but common sense won out, so we made a big cake but cut wedges for each portion.  Either way, it is important, while the shortcakes are baking (if not before) to start your berries sugaring.  They need time to put off some syrup to juicy up those biscuits:

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These were the best strawberries we’ve had in a long time.  Probably since last May, at least.  They were offered as “seconds”, for 1.25 less a quart than the “firsts”.  Who cares if they are lumpy and misshapen?  You’re just going to cut them up anyway!  I’m not going to tell you where we get them, because they regularly sell out and I want at least two more quarts before this already short season ends all too soon.

The process for putting your strawberry shortcakes together is a simple one, but important steps must be followed.  You must split the biscuit(s) and spread them with soft butter.  Then, either heat them up in the oven, or place them on a griddle, butter side down, and toast them until they are golden brown and warmed through.

Place the bottom biscuit half in a generous plate or shallow soup bowl, for maximum efficiency.  Spoon a bunch of sugared berries on top, place the top of the biscuit on the berries and ladle the rest of the strawberries and all of the juice over that.  Lastly, a mound of freshly whipped cream, very lightly sweetened, over all.  (Lewes Dairy makes the best cream for this purpose, hands down.)  Finally, dig in.

I recommend having this for supper at least once during the season.  Not for dessert after supper: For. Supper.  Life is short!

 

 

Biscuit Mania

Since the ShuTDowN, we have been enjoying Sunday Cocktail and Appetizer Hour with our neighbors, who also happen to be my brother and his wife.  We gather (safely distanced) in our respective yards, maybe with a fire going, maybe not, to drink wine and have an appetizer together, before departing back home for dinner.   (Sometimes dinner doesn’t happen but we plan for it anyway.)  My sister-in-law is a very good cook, who likes to try new recipes, so having a Chef for a guest gives her quite an opportunity to experiment.  She knows Kevin will try anything!

A couple of weeks ago she really raised the bar with a perfect campside snack of pizza dough mini-pies filled with hot dog, various condiments and tons of deliciousness.  With that effort the bar was raised considerably, and Kevin was on the defensive.  Then, last week, the bar went even higher as she threw down the biscuit gauntlet, serving us some of the flakiest little cocktail biscuits we’ve ever had, stuffed with ham salad.  Oh my.  It was all I could do to stop at two.

We were haunted by those biscuits.  We had to attempt to make some for ourselves.

I tried twice, with 2 different recipes and methods.  First, Monday night.  The Joy of Cooking classic biscuit recipe calls for working the fat into the flour in the same way you make pie dough, creating  dough-y clumps, which, upon the addition of the milk or buttermilk, come into a mass of dough with a little kneading at the end.  I used lard, which I love for the flavor.  Success was mixed – I think I overworked the (soft) lard into the dry ingredients, and then compounded the problem by rolling them out too thin.  Some people don’t even want you to roll out the dough, just pat it out, for that very reason.  Here’s the look:

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You can see they are kind of flat, not flaky.  Flavor wise they were fine, if a little “gummy”, maybe from less than desirable cooking time.  Anyway, we’re going to try again.

Tuesday night – a new recipe from a cooking magazine.  This recipe calls for grating frozen butter into your dry ingredients, tossing it together with a fork and then adding the milk/buttermilk.  I got worn out grating the butter after just a few ounces, so Kevin had to take over that chore.  Everything else remained the same, except I patted the dough out instead of using a rolling pin.  Also, you may notice our biscuits are square – that’s because we cut them with a knife into blocks, rather than cut them in rounds with a biscuit cutter.  Because, no matter what they say, re-rolled dough is never as tender as the original.  Cutting them eliminates the leftover pieces and you can get some weird shapes to boot – like the “boats” below – if your “rectangle” is a little “rounded” on the edges:

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A little taller and seemingly flakier, but in the taste test, they were still a tad underwhelming, a little of that “gummy” texture again.  Still not competitively flaky in texture.  We had to eat two each to figure that out.

So, the scale is not too friendly after two biscuit laden meals in a row – biscuits and butter! – so we skipped Wednesday for trials and went back to it on Thursday.  This time Kevin got into the act and went through his method of biscuit making, using the same magazine recipe for proportions of ingredients:

(FYI – click on the first image to start a slideshow of events, if you’d like.)

The only ding is that they are kind of unevenly shaped.  Chef  says the reason they are sort of rounded on one end is he should have brushed the flour off  before folding so the ends would have risen more evenly.  Flavor – check plus.  Texture – check plus.  Ease of production – well, maybe a little more complicated, but not terrible.

Next time, we are adding a little extra sugar to the recipe and having ourselves some strawberry shortcake for our biscuit dinner!!

 

Ricotta Cheese

In these days of panic buying and hoarding, you’ve got to wonder what are people doing with all that chicken, not to mention toilet paper.  And of course, my big question is, where are all the chicken wings?  Every restaurant in the country had chicken wings on their menu, so shouldn’t there have been a glut in the grocery store by now?

We had an excess of milk.  Not hoarding or panic buying by any means, just bought a gallon of whole milk last week when a half would probably have been enough.  So, with half of it still sitting in the walk-in, and the expiration date being the 28th of April, what should we do?  At first we thought to freeze it to use in soups and such later, but then we read about making ricotta cheese!

There seems to be thousands of recipes for making your own ricotta, with three things being constant: whole milk, salt and some kind of acid.  We went with a version from the website “Master Class“, with, of course, a few tweaks from our in-house Chef, our very own Master.  This recipe calls for citric acid, instead of the more traditional vinegar or lemon juice, with the latter being an option they include as well.

It was not hard.  You heat the milk to about 180 degrees, some say higher, none say lower, add the acid, stir as it “curdles”, strain it through cheesecloth, let it drain and voila, fresh ricotta cheese!  The MC recipe adds a little heavy cream to the finished product, which makes (obviously) a creamier result. Other recipes mix milk and cream together in the beginning of the process.  That’s what I would do next time.

We had some commercial ricotta, so we tried the two side-by-side, and it was interesting how different they were.  The Bel Gioioso had a more ‘cheese’ flavor, while our homemade version tasted ‘milkier’, most likely due to the after-addition of heavy cream.  Textures were very similar, both creamy and spreadable.  Of course there is also economics to consider – our half gallon of milk plus about half cup of cream yielded 1 pint of cheese, which isn’t too bad, considering that #1 the milk was not going to last much longer, and #2 you got some delicious, freshly made cheese. The left over whey is not thrown out either; you can use it in soups, breads, pancakes, even potatoes, as a replacement for water in your recipe.

It was ridiculously easy, and we were so glad we didn’t lose the milk!  Spread on a crouton with a little sea salt and black pepper, very happy we didn’t lose the milk!