Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Donut Peaches and Nectarine Mustard

Last week the first white donut peaches of the year arrived at our house. After eating as many out of hand as we could hold, say 4 or 5 apiece, I pulled the skin off a flat of peaches and put them in the freezer for future smoothies. Then we ate a few more. The next flat went into the pot to make a favorite condiment, Nectarine Mustard. I know, these were peaches, but the original recipe called for nectarines and so it will always be known.

DH and I were discussing the difference between peaches and nectarines and, other than the peach fuzz that is lacking on nectarines, we couldn't think of any other. I've read that nectarines are usually smaller than peaches but over the last several years the nectarines we've had are often softball size while the peaches are closer to baseballs. In size, not feel! And then there are these small donut peaches. DH always swears that when the nectarines are at their ripest they are sweeter than any peach but since we rarely have them ripe at the same time to compare I think I'll just say the difference is in the skin.

So some years I make nectarine mustard with nectarines and sometimes I make it with peaches. As long as I use fragrant, juicy-ripe fruit it tastes great with no noticeable difference in flavor. The picture above shows this year's peaches with a little jar of last year's nectarine mustard.

We use this mustard for almost everything -- it's excellent for dipping pretzels, spreading on a sandwich or adding to ham salad with a little mayonnaise. The recipe calls for granulated sugar but I substitute local honey when available. Sometimes I reduce the amount of honey to 1/4 or 1/3 cup since it has more sweetening power than regular sugar but if I leave it at 1/2 cup the mustard makes an excellent honey mustard dressing with only a bit of yogurt added upon opening to give it a creamier pouring consistency.

I found the original recipe on the web about 7 years ago and it was attributed to the El Dorado County (CA) Master Preservers. They have a page of their own now but don't currently include this recipe. The only cookbook I have that lists a recipe for Nectarine Mustard is "The Glass Pantry: Preserving Seasonal Flavors" by Georgeanne Brennan but when I prepared it I thought it hotter and more vinegary than this one.

Nectarine Mustard

1/2 cup dry mustard
1 cup cider vinegar, 5% acidity
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups ripe nectarines, peeled, pitted and pureed

Combine mustard and enough water to make a smooth paste. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat and *whisk 1/4 cup hot mixture into mustard paste till smooth. Repeat from * twice more, then pour all mustard mixture into saucepan with remaining fruit blend. Puree in blender/food processor until smooth.

Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims, adjust lids, and rings. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath.

Yield: 3 half-pints

Note: I successfully triple this recipe using a small dutch oven on the stove. The recipe works with peaches instead of nectarines and honey can sub for regular sugar.

Check out Kitchen Tip Tuesdays at Tammysrecipes.com for more kitchen how-to.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

One Local Summer challenge - week 8 (and weeks 6 and 7, too)

I know the premise of the One Local Summer challenge is to eat at least one completely local meal each week, excepting spices and oil perhaps, and report the details for compilation in weekly regional report. But given the last few weeks, I think it almost would be easier to report what we ate that WASN'T local.*

Our garden is supplying the basis for every meal. Green beans, four kinds of potatoes, zucchini and yellow squash, green and red cabbage, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, beets, onions, chard, sugar snap peas, blackberries, blueberries, garlic and all kinds of herbs (even bay leaves) come in to the kitchen fresh every day. The pantry still has 40+ pounds of local wheat ready for grinding and baking in our twice-weekly bread batches and the freezer's stocked with local meets like beef, venison, chicken and a bit of lamb. We collect over 2 dozen eggs every day and my sister has kept us supplied with local fruit as it comes in season -- this week it's been donut and regular peaches, earlier in the month it was sweet cherries. All we've had to pick up at the store the last few weeks has been local milk, a box of orange pekoe tea, and a bag of granulated sugar to make sweet tea -- I like mine unsweetened (heresy, I know) but I can't convince DH and DS that it's better that way tho we all agree adding fresh-picked mint or lemon balm/verbena is a good idea. As for the milk, I keep telling DH we need a cow or at least a couple of dairy goats but so far no luck.

Today was the first day for regular eating tomatoes. Lunch was a couple of red ripe tomatoes on toasted homemade whole wheat bread spread with homemade mayo. A sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper made the sandwiches perfect. To go along with them we had Harvey House slaw from our own cabbage and onions, sliced cucumbers and a bowl of just-picked blackberries with a spoonful of top cream from the milk jug. Now that's a local meal.

*Non-local foods or ingredients used in our kitchen over the last few weeks:
-oils (olive, sunflower, peanut, sesame)
-sugar (DH uses it in his coffee every day and it's always in the pitcher of tea otherwise we mainly use local honey, maple syrup and sorghum for cooking)
-unbleached all-purpose flour (baked a couple of cakes for the local fireman's lawn party fund-raising effort)
-rolled oats or old-fashioned oatmeal (tho farmers around here grow oats I haven't been able to find a local source for rolled oats)
-dried beans (pinto, kidney, garbanzo and black beans -- DH has grown kidney beans before but it's been a few years)
-seasonings and canning supplies like salt, black pepper, mustard seed, vanilla beans, distilled white vinegar, and pickling lime

Sunday, July 6, 2008

One Local Summer challenge - week 5

We raise a lot of our own food so keeping to the OLS challenge isn't a hardship most of the time. This is prime gardening season in our region and we're having to put in more hours weeding and, unfortunately, watering these days. (We've watched storms move around us for the last couple of weeks but still haven't gotten more than a few drops of rain.) The kitchen chores fall in importance this time of year -- well, except for preserving what the garden produces, that is. So many of our meals are all about quick preparation and, where possible, providing really good leftovers for other meals. Saturday's lunch fit both criteria besides being just plain good.

I made a frittata with eggs from our own chickens and a few vegetables and herbs from our garden along with a little local chevre. I used my "Anything Goes Frittata" recipe adding leftover boiled new potatoes, a walking onion and the very last of our asparagus -- no more fresh asparagus till next spring. A handful of garden-fresh herbs comprised mainly of parsley and chevril went in to the mix right before I poured it into the iron skillet. The frittata tastes great hot but is also good as part of a cold meal for another day.

A choice of pickled beets (homegrown and pickled last month) or cucumbers in vinegar (from my sister's garden -- our cucumbers are late this year) and a plate of steamed green beans (homegrown) drizzled with olive oil and dashed with kosher salt completed the main meal. DH and DS had glasses of grape juice to go along with their lunch, I opted for water. The juice, which we canned last fall, came from my mom's grape vines.

No dessert as we still had a lot of work to do -- DH went to work setting up a larger rainwater collection tote so if it ever does rain here, we'll be able to hold onto some of it. Hope to have pictures up later this week.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Make-ahead Summer Salads

I think it's a big help to have something prepared ahead in the fridge and with our summer garden vegetables it's easy. A jar of cucumbers in vinegar or sweet-and-sour cucumbers and onions help make a sandwich into a meal. DS even likes to put the cucumbers ON his sandwich in lieu of a regular pickle. Fire-and-Ice Salad, the Hot Shoppes' Marinated Tomato and Green Pepper Salad, or Bean Zucchini Salad all can be prepared ahead of time and brought out to serve alongside a quick meal comprised of other garden produce or something from the grill.

Harvey House slaw and pickled beets are two other side dishes we always have on hand in the fridge over the summer. Even better than just being able to make these dishes in advance of a meal is that they will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and, in the case of the cucumbers a minimum of a week and the Harvey House slaw for at least a month tho ours is always long gone before that.

Cucumbers in Vinegar

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced
water to cover
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water

Place cucumbers in medium bowl. Sprinkle with salt and then pour over enough water to cover cucumbers, then lightly stir to disperse salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and place cucumbers in bowl or jar for refrigerator storage. Pour vinegar and water over cucumbers. If necessary, add additional liquid at the same 1-to-1 ratio to completely cover cucumbers. Store in fridge till ready to serve.

Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers and Onions

3 medium cucumbers, peeled and cubed, seeded if necessary
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Mix togther. Store in covered container in refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving.

Fire-and-Ice Salad

4 tomatoes, cut into eight wedges each
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeno, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1-1/2 teaspoons celery seed
1-1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish, optional
1 teaspoon salt
7 drops hot pepper sauce, optional
2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

Combine tomatoes, peppers, and onion in a large bowl; set aside. Combine the next seven ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour over vegetables. Let stand until mixture returns to room temperature. Stir in cucumbers. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Drain before serving.

Marinated Tomato and Green Pepper Salad
(from Marriot Hot Shoppes Cookbook: Sixty years of American cookery)

4 medium tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1/4"-thick rings
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup salad oil

Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Remove core and cut each tomato half into three wedges. Cut green pepper rings in half. Mix tomatoes and green peppers together. Combine remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Beat with a wire whisk until well blended. Pour liquid over vegetables. Cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for two hours or overnight before serving.

Bean Zucchini Salad

1-1/2 cups small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, cut in strips
1 cup cooked green beans, canned or fresh
15-ounce can red kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
3 green onions or 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Combine vegetables. Combine other ingredients in small bowl and pour over vegetables. Stir well. Refrigerate in covered bowl for several hours, stirring occasionally. Toss lightly before serving. A small jalapeno pepper, minced, will add a nice touch of heat, too.

Check out Kitchen Tip Tuesdays at Tammysrecipes.com for lots more how-to information.