29 July 2011

Blueberries brought me out of the funk...

I can't say why exactly I've been in a funk.  Life is good, all is well.  Yet I kept letting the small things get to me.  Well, other small things got to me as well, namely 4 quarts of exceptional Michigan blueberries! 
This year's berries are quite large and sweet, firm and plump!  John purchased them from a local fruit farmer at the Farmers Market in Saline Michigan and I began the hunt for a little something different to create.

I am the savory type, versus the sweet tooth.  I cannot make another batch of jam, we just won't eat it all!  So I was perusing a magazine and much to my delight came across a recipe for Honey-Bourbon Pickled Blueberries.  (Better Homes and Gardens "Canning" magazine)  What is not to like in THAT combination?!  I whipped up a batch at home and then presented it to my PRESERVE IT! class last night.  WINNER!  I adjusted the recipe slightly on my second and third batches...I added some white balsamic vinegar and peppercorns for a hint of spice.  I also added a bit of kosher salt which really balanced the sweetness!  The recipe that follows is my adjusted recipe!

When looking at the name and listing of ingredients, you would imagine this being too savory for sweet applications, yet not really.  I can see this layered in a sour cream coffee cake or served with a whole wheat dessert waffle just as well as drizzled over a grilled pork tenderloin or served with a lovely sharp cheddar cheese.  Another reason to make this is the yield factor...6 half pints.  Small, doable in the morning before heading to work in my case! 


3 inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole allspice
6 or 7 whole peppercorns
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
8 cups blueberries
1/4 cup bourbon
1 3/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Put spices in cheesecloth or spice bag.  
In preserving pot combine vinegars and spices and set over high heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered 5 minutes.  Add blueberries and bourbon and bring to medium heat and cook about 8 minutes until berries are heated through.  Do not stir as you want the berries to remain as whole as possible.  Remove from heat, cover and let rest 8-12 hours.  (I did these steps in the evening and let the mixture set overnight.  It was then ready to be processed in the morning!)

Remove spice bag and place mixture in a colander placed over another large pot.  Ladle blueberries evenly amongst sterilized half pint jars.

Heat juice and add honey over high heat, boiling until mixture turns syrupy, about 5 minutes.  Pour over blueberries leaving 1/2 inch headspace, wipe rims of jars and place lids and tighten bands or clips.
Process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Remember to start timing once water is boiling! 

04 July 2011

Happy Independence Day!

It's been a thrilling weekend at the Aylward household!  We have spent our days catching up on household projects and enjoying the beautiful weather in Michigan!  I've been slathered with bug spray versus suntan lotion and all is good in my life! 

I had my first garden harvest...a little odd to have both raspberries and lettuce at the same time of year!

Today I will be picking some wild blackberries to add to the raspberries and make freezer jam.  It is my favorite jam ever.  Some may not like all of the seeds, but it doesn't bother me a bit!  The wild berries are just so intense and sweet, black juice that stains your hands and lips. 

I am using the Pomona's Universal Pectin for my jam as it's a natural pectin derived from citrus and doesn't require the crazy amount of sugar usually necessary to set jam.  You can also choose to sweeten with honey, agave syrup etc. and it still sets up!

 I picked up some really nifty labels that will remind me what's inside those jars!

I defrosted my upright freezer circa 1975....I won't tell you what was stashed in the back under a film of frost.  Now it is ready for a new season of fruit and vegetable harvests!

John is always willing to rev up the smoker and with the freezer defrosting, I thawed a little roaster chicken, stuffed it with onions, garlic, salt, pepper and fresh lemon thyme!  I put it on for about 5 hours at 200 degrees with applewood chips (last month's tree trimming expedition) and some local charcoal made with any chemicals.  Here she is about 2 1/2 hours in:

This lovely little bird was a deep mahogany color when finished and beautifully juicy and crisp on the outside!  We threw the breast meat on fresh greens with black beans and colby jalapeno cheese from The Boulevard Market with tomatoes and a light maple cider vinaigrette!  So, so delicious.  I still have a couple pounds of chicken left, so I think  this recipe will be today:

2 cups smoked chicken, diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
salt & pepper to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Whisk olive oil into mayonnaise until fully emulsified, add vinegar and chives and whisk until blended.  Stir in chicken, fruit, celery and nuts and stir until completely coated.  Let rest in refrigerator about an hour until flavors meld.  Taste and season appropriately!  I've got a lovely baguette to go with and a cold cucumber soup! 

Happy Independence Day!   

01 July 2011

Summer Days...food and more

I'm in love with summer days.  Days of clear blue skies, a scented wafting breeze, berries ripening, bees buzzing lazily and days that stretch sunshine until 10pm!  I'm at home and there is no place I'd rather be, putzing in the garden, making jams and conserves in the kitchen, grilling supper outdoors and reading the last pages of a great novel. 

John and I visited a lovely farmer, Nina, at a local Farmers Market and purchased all of these beets!  I really enjoy Nina's sense of style with her signs and table layout!  I came home and made a lovely Beet Relish to enjoy this winter and present to my Preserve It! Class at The Market later in the week.

Fresh shell peas are had to come by these days!  A yield of 1 cup shelled peas for every quart of pea pods seems skimpy, yet SO worth the effort!  I made my peas into a "Pea Cream".  It's a condensed sauce of peas, stock. garlic and seasonings that can be frozen and then made into soups, a spread for toasted baguettes, pasta sauce and more! 

Our "South Bed" perennial garden is full of lovely blossoms and Pierre's playground!  Pierre is allowed to romp and roam, roll in the grass and take naps in the shade as the invisible fence encompasses this entire area.  The small red tree is a dwarf peach and he is quite smitten with it....it's just his size! 

Two years ago we lost a huge, magnificent ash tree to Emerald Ash Borer.  I wasn't planning to plant anything in it's place until this little beauty of an American Chestnut!  I cannot wait for the harvest to begin (it will be a number of years) and just ponder the possibilities of my own chestnut tree!  Soaking the leaves in Calavados to wrap tiny goat cheeses, roasted chestnuts, Marrons, a candied chestnut treat, soups and MORE! 

Pierre is always shy for the camera.....

My mom, Linda, makes a mean Strawberry Pie!  Perfectly ripe, ruby red berries in a homemade glaze...the nicest blend of sweet and tart!  

Of course I needed another tart pan, I didn't have one this shape and it was on sale.  Justification.

Pate Brisee with freshly ground peppercorns always makes a lovely tart.  I made several batches this week to keep in the freezer for quick weekday tarts and quiches.  The dough freezes beautifully and I can take a package out in the morning to be defrosted and ready to roll when I get home from the shop.  

My quiche turned out lovely and the shape of the pan inspired me to be fussy and add a few sprigs of chives!
Now it's off to work I go...the cacao beans are calling me to make chocolate bars this morning!  Peppalo Stone Ground Chocolate is our new company and we are having a blast!  More about this in the future...