The Milkweed Diaries

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nightshade Preservation Projects...and Chickens

In my attempt to return to the practice of blogging, I'm just going to post a few recent food project pictures.
Wapsipinicon Peach Tomatoes

First up: Fuzzy Peach Tomato Salsa.  The velvety Wapsipinicon Peach tomato is so soft, fuzzy, sweet, and delicious.  It's a delicate, diminutive treasure of a tomato - terrible for market because it's so tender and easily bruised, but wonderful for the kitchen.

Inside a Wapsipinicon Peach
The Peach tomato makes great salsa, which you can either waterbath can or just pop in the freezer.  I made mine with onions, garlic, a couple of very hot Aurora peppers and some Mexican gerkin cucumbers I got from Andrea at the market. Yum.

Purple Aurora Peppers
Every spare moment these days is spent barely managing the ongoing tomato and pepper overload. Tomato sauce is the easiest way to dispense with a large quantity of tomatoes (like the 4 gallons pictured here) quickly.

The 4-gallon stock pot is in constant tomato action most weekend hours.
Bring it, basil and garlic.

Victorious! Coping with the tomato and pepper onslaught via  sweet pepper hash and  tomato sauce.
I've also socked away a bunch of sweet pepper hash, one of my perennial faves. Here's the recipe:

Sweet Pepper Hash
12 small onions
24 ripe sweet peppers of various varieties
2 cups honey
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs Salt

  • Peel the onions and remove the seeds from the peppers.
  • Chop the vegetables by hand or use a food processor to chop into relatively small pieces.
  • Put your chopped onions and peppers in a big bowl and sprinkle with the salt.
  • Pour boiling water over the vegetables and let stand for 15 minutes.
  • Combine the honey and vinegar in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  • Drain the peppers and onions and add to the boiling syrup.
  • Reduce heat and cook slowly for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids in a boiling water bath
  • Pack into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
  • Adjust lids and process for 5-10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

And then when there are still more peppers, I've resorted to roasting, roasting, roasting. Which makes the house smell amazing but gets tedious around hour 3 or 4 or so.

Roasted sweet peppers packed in olive oil ready to be piled
in the freezer with  rest of gigantic nightshade stockpile. 
And finally, a longer-term food project: the 6 week-old Welsummers and 15 week-old Speckled Sussexes that just joined the flock.  Bringing the total chicken count to fifty-five.

A Speckled Sussex pullet

Welsummer babies captured on video below...still photos just can't capture the cuteness of peeping.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pimento Cheese!

Roasted homegrown pimentos
After a long, long period of neglect of my beloved Milkweed Diaries, I'm breaking radio silence with a short little ode to pimento cheese.  Oh pimento cheese, I love you!

A classic staple of the American South, this delicious and creamy treat is traditionally made with Duke's mayonnaise and canned pimentos. My slightly pretentious, healthy, homegrown version is made with raw goat cheese and fresh roasted peppers.  As I spooned this experimental concoction straight into my mouth fresh from the food processor, I announced to Christopher: "I believe this is the best thing I have ever made."  Even in the clear light of day a week later, I'm pretty sure it's true.  

Here's how to make it:
  • Roast the pimentos. I did this at 450 degrees using the broiler setting of my toaster oven.  I drizzled  them with a scant bit of olive oil and broiled them until they had begun to pucker and develop black spots on one side and then flipped them and broiled on the other side.
    Roasting the pimentos
    • Let the pimentos rest in a paper bag.  This will make them easier to peel.
    • Peel the pimentos. This is the tedious and slightly time-consuming part. Remember, it's worth it.  At this point you can store the pimentos in a jar for a day or so if you need to sit the project down til you have time to complete it.
    Mixing in the food processor
    • Mix the pimentos with fresh raw goat cheese. I used a basic soft goat cheese I had made the night before from our goats' milk using Ricki  Carroll's recipe - a raw, cultured goat cheese made with mesophillic culture.  Any good mild, cultured goat cheese will do - the slight cultured tang adds a really nice zest.  I did the mixing by dumping the pimentos in the bottom of my food processor and gradually adding cheese until the consistency, color, and mix looked right. 
    • Enjoy immediately!  This cheese stores well in the fridge and also freezes well, but I find it tastes best at room temperature.
      The final product: Pimento Cheese!

    One important tip: use good pimentos - as fresh as possible.  I was inspired to make this by the abundance of pimentos rolling in from our garden this year.  I used about 25 homegrown peppers - the beautiful, plump, and prolific Ashe County Pimento from the High Country of Western NC via Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
    Ashe County Pimentos
    I also threw in some Doe Hill Golden Bells which are supposedly a bell pepper, but to me look like a small, golden pimento. This seed was also from Southern Exposure, and has been a great addition to our pepper production bed this year. The plants have produced abundantly, and the flavor is wonderful.  According to Southern Exposure, this little gem is a pre-1900 family heirloom from the Doe Hill area in Highland County, Virginia.

    Doe Hill Golden Bells

    This cheese is so delightful spread on toast, noshed upon with crackers, as a garnish on tomato salads, and eaten straight up with a spoon. I froze a ton of it and am envisioning pimento deviled eggs, pimento grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, and all manner of pimento goodness through the months to come. Yum!