Maine Food Cruises – Veggies and Greens, Oh My!

One of the many questions I get from folks in the cooking realm is what to do with all the veggies that come for their CSAs.  Now that Community Supported Agriculture has taken parts of our country by storm, the questions keep coming.  Among them are… What else can I do with my kale?  How do I use up that ugly kohlrabi that keeps turning up in my box?  Is there a way to combine all of these veggies in a meal or dish?

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On our Maine Gourmet Food Cruises we talk about how to combine veggies, what to do to make them interesting, and how to preserve them if you just have too darn much to use in a week’s time.

Vegetable Tip:  To keep lettuce and greens longer in the refrigerator, wash the lettuce and remove every bit of water that you can and then layer the leaves with a dish towel or paper towel.  Store in a large tub with a lid or in a resealable plastic bag.  I’ve used this technique on long, at sea adventures, on the Riggin and in my home kitchen to great effect.  Another way to preserve hearty greens is to clean and dry them, ribs removed.  Once they are dry, coat them in a thin layer of olive oil.  They will last for at least a week and a half in the refrigerator.

Annie
Thinking about greens galore and our next Maine Food Cruise, July 6 to 9!

 

The Baggywrinkle Cocktail – A Little Bourbon, A Little Pear Nectar…

This Easter, it being chilly and complete with a tiny dusting of snow, we set the menu accordingly and served lamb and several hearty accompaniments such as homemade baguette, rosemary roasted red and purple potatoes and roasted asparagus. As has become the new norm, I offered all comers to our Easter dinner a cocktail. This time, I had on hand fresh grapefruit juice, pear nectar and mango syrup. At first, people were sort of quizzical about a cocktail made with pear nectar, but by the end of the afternoon, as one person followed another, everyone, to a person, choose the pear nectar. Even my friend, who loves red wine, put the wine down for a while to sip on her own pear nectar cocktail.

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This cocktail is technically a shrub, a cocktail made with vinegar-ed syrup, due to the white balsamic. With Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. aromatic bitters, a Cranberry and Pear White Balsamic Vinegar from Fiore and home made pear nectar I created what we called The Baggywrinkle – a cocktail with a wonderful balance of sweet and spirit, sour and bitter.

For those who are not boat people, baggywrinkles are handmade chafe gear that look a little bit like furry logs. They are affixed to the topping lifts (You might not know what this is either, but it’s the wire that holds up the boom. If you don’t know what a boom is, might as well skip to the cocktail instead.) and prevent sharp bits of wire from creating a hole in the sails. This shrub is about the same manila or natural color as most baggywrinkles and because of the pear nectar, is actually has a little textural feel to it that could perhaps be described as, well, furry, if you wanted to stretch it, which I do because I’ve been wanting to call a cocktail The Baggywrinkle for some time now.

The Baggywrinkle

The Baggywrinkle
1 1/2 ounces Jim Beam Bourbon
3 ounces pear nectar
1/2 teaspoon Fiore Cranberry and Pear White Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 a dropper of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. aromatic bitters
ice for shaking and for the glass
slice of pear

Chill an Old-Fashioned glass with ice cubes. Combine the bourbon, pear nectar, vinegar, and bitters in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into the chilled Old-Fashioned glass, garnish with pear slice and serve.

Makes 1 cocktail

Annie
Cocktails for Easter!

Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”

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To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Annie
Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

Blood Orange Marmalade – It’s not too late!

Citrus season is almost over, but as I write, the last (or I’m hoping the last!) big winter storm is raging outside and any sort of canning seems like just the thing to keep the house toasty warm.  I know when summer rolls around I’ll be so happy to have these gem-like jars of coral-colored goodness for our guests to slather on biscuits or muffins in the morning or for an afternoon snack.

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This recipe for blood orange marmalade is a combination of Alton Brown’s and Margaret Yardley Potter’s and is as easy as pie.  The initial inspiration came when cozied up last night with At Home on the Range a cookbook presented by Elizabeth Gilbert and written by her great-grandmother Margaret Yardley Potter.

At Home on the Range

I’m in love with this no-nonsense woman who is far before her time when it comes to honoring ingredients and the flavor of the food she creates.  The recipes are more of a guide and written as my grandmother wrote her recipes rather than the exacting format more popular today.  It’s how I cook and it’s a book that I’m loving spending time with.  (Buy your local copy here at Hello, Hello Books!)

Blood Orange Marmalade 1

And for the more exacting formula:

Blood Orange Marmalade
1 3/4 pound blood oranges; about 5 medium oranges
1 lemon, zested and juiced
6 cups water
3 pounds pounds plus 12 ounces sugar
10, 8-ounce canning jars with lids

Wash thoroughly and slice the oranges into very thin slivers with either a sharp knife or a mandoline removing the seeds along the way.  Quarter the slices and transfer to a large stock pot.   Add the lemon zest, juice and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a strong simmer and cook for about 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.  Stop here and refrigerate the oranges and continue the next day OR continue on with the rest of the recipe right off.

Place a small plate into the freezer.

While the oranges are cooking, prepare a large water bath with either a canning basket or a cake rack on the bottom.  Add the jars and lids to the water and make sure they are covered with at least 1 inch of water.  Cover with a lid.  Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and let sit until you are ready to fill the jars.

When the oranges are soft, add the sugar and return to a full boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 222 to 223 degrees.  To make sure, place 1 teaspoon of marmalade on the plate in the freezer and wait 30 seconds.  If the marmalade still runs when you tip the plate sideways, it’s not done.

Remove the jars and lids carefully from the water bath and set upright on a towel.  Place a funnel over the jars and ladle marmalade filling the jars with 1/2-inch clearance at the top.  Wipe any remaining marmalade off the edge, cover with lid to just hand tight and return to the water bath in either the canning basket or on top of the cake rack.  Boil for 10 minutes and remove from water onto a towel.

Now comes the fun part.  Wait for each lid to pop.  This is your reward for a job well done.  (Well, and eating the goodness you just created.)

Annie
Orange you glad I shared this recipe?

Rhubarb Champagne Jam

While there isn’t much time for anything in between trips, I do try to squeeze in a smidge to process jam that we make on the boat.  I’ll make a big batch there and then bring it home to process in a water bath.  While it’s an effort to do it, I’m always so grateful in the middle of the winter that I was able to eek out the time.

This batch came from a bunch of Champagne that was open but left behind by a family celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary.  It happened to coincide with the rhubarb coming into full swing.  The combination is a lovely one with the tang of the rhubarb softened slightly by the fruity Champagne.  In any case, I love the color of it and it’s pretty special on our biscuits.
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Rhubarb Champagne Jam 2

Rhubarb Champagne Jam 1
Rhubarb Champagne Jam
4 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup champagne
1 box SureJell
1/2 teaspoon butter
6 1/2 cups sugar

Have all canning equipment and jars ready, sterilized and waiting in hot water.

In a medium stock pot bring the rhubarb and champagne to a boil.  Add SureJell and bring to a boil again.  Add the butter and the sugar and bring to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to the hot canning jars.  Screw the lids on hand tight and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars carefully from the hot water and set on a towel spread out over the counter top.  Let cool.  Make sure the lids all ‘pop’ before storing for the winter.

Makes 7 or 8, 8-ounce jars

Annie
We be jammin’

Biscuit and Jam – The Biscuit Contract

I woke up this morning to my car cloaked in a glow of pink.  The sun had not yet broken the horizon and my snow-covered car received it’s kiss as it rose to greet the day.

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Fitting that today should also be Biscuit Contract Day on our office calendar.  This contract was agreed upon and signed 7 months ago to the day.  The contract follows:

July 20, 2013 – Annie returned to shore after a 4-day cruise and proceeded to heat the entire downstairs with steam as she made batches of jam in 84 degree/humid weather.  THEN she wanted to open the windows to “cool down.”   Ha.  E made Annie promise that 7 months from now, February 20th, that we would have jam & biscuits to make up for it.  Annie agreed.  Annie hereby agrees to make biscuits with Strawberry or Rhubarb Champagne Jam as she has promised.  Signed by both parties.

And here they are, E.  As promised and as delicious.

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Baking Powder Biscuits 
This is a recipe my grandma passed on to me through my mom.  Thank you, Grandma, for being so good at making both biscuits and pie dough.  I think of you every time I make either.

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4  cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible.  Cut the butter in with a pastry knife until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Stir in any additional dry ingredients here.  Add milk and any additional wet ingredients, stirring until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix.  This is very important; if you overmix you will probably get hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits.  Great for sailors of old, but not so delicious in present time.  Turn out onto a floured board and knead 5 to 10 times, then stop.  Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick.  Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter.  Bake on ungreased cookie pan for 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes 12 biscuits

Annie
Keepin’ E happy.  It’s a good thing.

Peach Vanilla Jam – Last Days of Summer in a Jar

While we can’t hold back the tide or the change of seasons, we can bottle it for a moment and pull it off the shelf to spread on our scones in the middle of winter.  This column has one of my favorite jam recipes and thanks to a dear friend in Boothbay who has a huge peach tree, we have a plethora of jars on our shelves.  And the recipe for Peach Vanilla Jam is in yesterday’s column in the Portland Press Herald.

Summer in a jar.
Summer in a jar.
Peaches
Thank you John and Becky! (and Tom for the delivery!)

Annie
Stocking up!

Maine Today! – Thank you, Susan

The venerable Susan Axelrod of Maine Today and the blog Spoon and Shutter visited us for our Camden Windjammer Festival trip. The skies were a perfect blue and the winds gave her a wonderful romp on the bay.  We had a great time together and she left with elderberry stains on her hands, a host of words on her pad, and sun/wind-kissed cheeks.

Thank you, Susan (and Maine Today!), for your lovely words and even lovelier company.

Since we were into jam making that day, I shared our Jammin’ Bars recipe with Susan which she included in the article.

Susan adding to the elderberry hoard.
Susan adding to the elderberry hoard.

Annie
Many thanks to Susan, The Awesome

Elderberries – Takes Me Back

Okay, these shrubs are huge.  When I think shrub, I imagine bushy, low to the ground, reachable… manageable even.  In contrast, the reality of my elderberry bushes are heading-to-the-sky enormous and this is only year three.  On the other hand, I have a huge amount of juicy, aubergine berries to go with my out-of-control shrubs.

With those berries, what will I make?  A perfectly balanced sweet and tart pie with a flaky, buttery crust?  Elderberry syrup for both our mile-high pancake stacks or our viral ailments during the winter months?  Gem-like elderberry jam or jelly for shockingly purple smoothies or homemade bread and butter?  Maybe all three given the amount of berries we have.

The tiny treasures that are elderberries pack a powerful punch in both flavor and health benefits.  My grandmother used to make pies and jams the recipes for which are both on the blog already.

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StrainingElderberries

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Dear Grandma, Can I tell you about my Elderberries?

Dear Grandma,

Well, the moment I’ve been dreaming about and waited on for so long has arrived and I’m about to go out to harvest my first crop of elderberries.  When I do, I’ll don a white, long sleeved shirt that Jon tossed into the rag pile, only it won’t go down to my knees like it did when I was little and I’ll only need to roll the sleeves up once.  We used to have metal buckets when we tromped out to the fields behind Uncle Bob and Aunt Marjorie’s house, but mine all have wood ash in them from emptying the wood stove so I’ll bring a basket lined with some parchment paper so that the berries don’t fall through the bottom.  I don’t remember ever picking through the berries with you once we got home.  I suspect that I made myself scarce at that point and you and mom did the lion’s share of that work with me running into the kitchen for a snack to take out onto the patio where I sat in some much needed shade and watched the daddy long-legged spiders build nests and listened to the background music of you and mom catching up and telling each other stories.

I’m going to make your pie first, but I have a lot of berries so I’ll also make some jelly and syrup.  If you were here, I’d love to share some with you over a cup of tea, but I guess we’ll have to wait on that until I see you again in the future.

Love,
Anne

elderberry picking

picking elderberries for jam and syrup

cooking with elderberries