Pomegranate-Infused Vodka & Gin

recipe from NYTimes.com

Ingredients
– 2 cups seeds from about 3 pomegranates ($1.50/lb @ Venice FM)
– ¼ cup sugar
– 2 cups gin or vodka

Learnings
SEEDING. I’ve never even held a pomegranate, much less seeded one. But it’s actually really easy using this water bowl method (plus this way keeps your fingers from being stained). The process is still pretty time-consuming since you have to be so gentle with the juicy seeds.

Usings
I’ll let you know in 3 weeks!

Brandied Peaches

recipe from NYTimes.com

Ingredients
– 3 lbs peaches  (Yellow Autumns for $2.50/lb @ Culver City FM)
– 3 cups sugar
– ¾ cup brandy

Learnings
WILD KINGDOM. As you can see above, these peaches brought a little buddy with them. He even survived blanching!

SPIKING & INFUSING. This is my first, of hopefully many, endeavors into the realm of spiked fruits and infused spirits. This article from NYTimes.com is a great introduction and even inspired me to buy a case of quart jars! (Here I come, Mr. Rumtopf, you sexy beast you.)

PEELING. I knew my peach peeling luck would soon run out. Last week a good blanching worked like a charm but this week these yellow peaches would have none of it. I’d read that you could also try rubbing the peel with a towel and if that didn’t work, then you’d just have to use a paring knife. So much for easy tricks.

Usings
I’ve got boozy fruit tarts, drunken fools, and warm peaches over ice cream on my mind.

Apple Butter

recipe from Canning for a New Generation, pg 186

Ingredients
– 6 lbs apples ($3/lb @ Santa Monica 3rd St FM)
– 2 cups water or apple cider
– 1½ cups sugar
– ½ tsp ground allspice
– 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
– ½ tsp ground cloves

Learnings
CORING. It appears that I have the absolute worst kind of apple corer out there (it’s more of a double-edged serrated knife than this or this kind of awesomeness), hence my first ever apple coring experience made me weep and cry for mommy.

CIDER vs WATER. I don’t understand why you would add apple cider (especially if it has to be store bought), so I didn’t just to see if the appleness flavor suffered. In the end, adding water instead of cider worked wonderfully.

FOOD MILLING. If you don’t have a Squeezo, then the process for separating apple pulp from seeds/skin is to core, slice into chunks, boil to soften, then food mill to separate the peels. But food milling is such a pain in the ass—the mush is hot, turning is hard, and digging out the leftover peels is messy and time-consuming. I’m thinking that next time I should just take a few minutes to peel the darn things as I core. Oooh or invest in this crazy contraption!

TEXTURE. My texture wasn’t quite as smooth as the store bought variety so maybe I shouldn’t have skipped the optional blending before the pulp went into the slow cooker.

SLOW COOKING. This was a joy to watch (and smell) cook down all day. Unlike most dishes cooked in the slow cooker where all is lost if you peek in, the apple butter has to be stirred every so often which means, of course, that you have to taste every so often (joy!). The recipe doesn’t actually say to taste but I’m sure it’s implied.

Usings
Besides pairing with hot biscuits and turkey/brie sandwiches, I also want to try this stirred into roasted squash soup (Canning for a New Generation, pg 229), mixed with mustard as a glaze for pork loin, or blended with other goodies for barbecue sauce.

Peach Chocolate Dessert Sauce

recipe from local kitchen

Ingredients
– 3½ lbs peaches ($2.50/lb @ Culver City FM)
– 2 cups sugar (1 cup turbinado & 1 cup granulated)
– ½ cup Godiva chocolate liqueur
– 4 tbsp bottled lemon juice
– ½ cup sifted unsweetened cocoa
– ¼ tsp sea salt
– lemon juice (to prevent browning)

Learnings
SPLATTER. Boy, did it ever. I’ve actually never seen anything like it. I knew the sauce was going to splatter, I saw local kitchen’s photo, yet still I thought my splatter guards and I would be able to protect the virtue of my brand new shiny stove. But no, in the end it was as if someone had played chocolate paint ball in my kitchen.

YELLOW AUTUMN vs WHITE SNOW. I really didn’t know which variety of peach to use. I love them both but they taste so different—super bear hug peachy vs subtle kiss on the cheek peachy. I went with the yellow Autumn bear hug variety since it’d probably marry better with all the cocoa and Godiva liqueur.

MACERATING. This means to mix the chopped fruit with sugar then cover and refrigerate for a few hours. The sugar will force out the fruit’s juices and enhance its natural sweetness. In this recipe she mentions that although she macerated her peaches for a few days, she felt that it didn’t really add to the flavors in the end so feel free to skip that step. Which I did, but what I didn’t do was account for that missing juice by adding extra water to the pan. So my juice/cocoa mixture boiled down much faster than in the recipe and almost burned before I knew what was happening. I think my common sense was out at the club or something.

Usings
I see a tub of vanilla ice cream in my future. (And many, many more Café Godivas.)

Garlic Dill Pickles

recipe from Food in Jars

Ingredients
– 2 lbs pickling cucumbers ($2/lb @ Venice FM)
– 4 cups apple cider vinegar
– 4 cups water
– 6 tbsp kosher salt
– 16 garlic cloves (2 per jar)
– ¼ tsp crushed red pepper per jar
– 1 tsp dill seed per jar
– ½ teaspoon black peppercorns per jar

Learnings
SNACKING. Of all the snackable jars I have in the fridge, it’s the garlic dill pickles that I gravitate to most. There’s just something about the flavors and friendliness of those fat little coins that makes me happy. Which is why I absolutely had to replenish my pantry of the gifted jars.

MANDOLIN. What a perfect project to test out my new mandolin! No more hand slicing 20 cucumbers. But dadgum if the thickest setting was too thin for my likes. (I like my pickles around 1/8” thick and these were turning out 1/16”.) Since one mustn’t compromise when it comes to pickle coins, out came my knife and slicing I began.

HOLEY COINS. I read in one of my books that when slicing the cucumbers, you have to toss aside any coins with holes since bacteria can crawl into the holes and survive. Whew! I just saved your life.

PICKING & PACKING. I’m sure there’s an art to picking the perfect cucumbers for packing into jars. The only thing I can figure so far is to avoid cucumbers that are curved, since it’s hard to slice flat coins out of them. And because I’m using the squat pint jars, it’s good to have a mix of thick and thin coin diameters for maximum packing.

Usings
I’m hoarding these all for myself, to be pulled out in the middle of winter for that perfect sittin’-ass, beer-drinking Saturday snack.

Peach & Cilantro Salsa

recipe from Canning for a New Generation, pg 112

Ingredients
– 5 lbs peaches ($1/lb @ Venice FM)
– ½ cup lime juice
– 6 oz sweet onion
– 3 oz red bell pepper
– 2 tbsp minced serrano chile (I used jalepeno instead)
– 4 tbsp sugar
– 4 tsp kosher salt
– ¼ cup cider vinegar
– 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
– ½ cup fresh cilantro
– 2 tbsp fresh mint

Learnings
WHAT A DEAL. Are slightly bruised seconds really the way to go? I’m not sure why these peaches were so cheap (usually they’re $2.50-$3/lb) but they were delicious and barely ripe. I will not be afraid.

FLAVORS. This flavor combo just didn’t hit it for me, but I’ve never really been a fan of any salsa other than the red tomato variety.

PEACHES ON MY MIND. I’ve been trying to find the perfect way to preserve my favorite stone fruit that isn’t a jam, chutney, too sweet, or only tall pint/quart jar worthy (those size jars don’t fit well into my canning pot). Maybe Peach Chocolate Dessert Sauce, Peaches in Sweet Tea Syrup, Boozy Rum Peaches, or a Peach BBQ Sauce.

Usings
I’m sure these will be married with many bags of Trader Joe’s Black Tortilla Chips.

Strawberry Preserves w/ Balsamic Vinegar & Black Pepper

recipe from Saving the Season

Ingredients
– 2½ lbs strawberries ($5 @ Santa Monica 3rd St FM)
– 2 cups sugar
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– 1/8 tsp black pepper
– 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Learnings
PRICING/QUALITY. I don’t understand how one vendor can have 3 lbs of strawberries for $5 then the one across the aisle will have the same for $14. There are no samples or signs touting this one’s superiority so what gives? I’ve been burned by strawberries 3 times now. The first 2 came from the Playa Vista FM in the form of soft, moldy berries hidden at the bottom of the baskets. The third time at the Santa Monica 3rd St FM, I feel like I examined every single berry in my batch but still found a few brown softies on the bottom once I arrived home. Those experiences plus this investigative reporting by NBC LA has made me so suspicious of the vendors that now I carefully examine the price and quality of every piece of produce before purchasing. It’s tiring! But I suppose that’s because I’m lazily accustomed to the cheaper unblemished testtube food found in supermarkets.

SWEETNESS. I enjoyed this recipe loads more than the Strawberry & Lemon Preserves. The balsamic and pepper really tempered the sweetness of the sugar and lemon juice and gave the whole shebang so much more depth.

Usings
My fave is peanut butter toast with a smear of preserves. On hot biscuits ain’t bad either.