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Archive for June, 2012

Pickling season is upon us! The BEST farmers’ market – Willey Farms – is a 15 minute drive from here, and they are just loaded with Kirby cucumbers. They’re about five inches long (some are smaller) and hold up really well in a vinegary brine. They’re perfect for making pickles, but this morning, while I was gathering them up by the armfuls, I thought to myself, “I’ll make some relish!” I’ve been just dying for a hot dog cooked out on the grill, and I never seem to have any sweet, tangy relish in the house, so here was an opportunity not to be missed.

After hunting around for a good recipe, and finding several variations, this is what I came up with:

(Not-Too-Terribly) Sweet Pickle Relish – makes 5 half-pint jars

  • 2 lbs Kirby cucumbers, seeded and small-diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, small-diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, small-diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, small-diced
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water

Cukes, peppers, and onions hanging out in the salted water bath.

Cut up the cucumbers, peppers, and onion and place in a large non-reactive pot. Stir in the salt, cover with water, and allow to sit for 4 hours. Drain vegetables in a colander, put back into the bowl, cover with fresh water, and allow to sit for an hour. Drain again and set aside.

In the same pot used to soak the vegetables, pour in vinegar, sugar, garlic, and water and heat to dissolve. Tie mustard seeds, celery seeds, allspice and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth (or put into a tea ball) and infuse in the vinegar solution. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes; remove cheesecloth. Add strained vegetables and return to a boil. Reduce heat, continuing to boil, for 10 minutes.

Fill prepared jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Fit lids on jars and screw bands down to fingertip tightness. Process in a boiling water bath canner with water at least 1 inch above the jars for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove the canner cover, and wait 5 minutes before removing jars to a tea towel on the counter. Allow them to sit undisturbed for 24 hours; check for seal after about an hour. If any jars haven’t sealed, put them in the refrigerator for use in the near future. What a great excuse to fire up the grill!

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I’ve been eyeing the bunch of bananas my husband bought at the grocery, wondering what to do with them. Neither one of us is a big fan of bananas, but there was talk of making up some smoothies with them. Just the same, I had my doubts. Not a big fan, personally. It occurred to me that I enjoy bananas in every possible way except for the way nature intended – peeled and eaten like the piece of fruit that it is. Ick.

Bananas foster, banana cream pie, frozen bananas – that’s it! Frozen bananas! I peeled them, cut them in half, and jammed a large lollipop stick up the middle and placed them on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and whisked them off to the freezer to firm up while I made the chocolate. To my horror, and possible for the first time ever as an adult, I found there wasn’t a chocolate chip in the house. How did that happen?! So I rummaged around and found a package of chocolate batons, the kind you use to make pain au chocolat. Eureka! This might work! So here’s how I did it.

4 relatively ripe bananas, peeled and cut in half, with a stick of your choice shoved up the middle
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate batons
2 tbsp. butter*
2 tsp. canola oil*
mixed nuts, chopped up fine (I had a container of already chopped nuts intended for use as an ice cream topping, so I used those)

Dispatch the bananas and put them into the freezer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for at least 15 minutes (but not enough to freeze them solid – the ice crystals that might form will totally seize up your melted chocolate and become claggy).

Melt the chocolate and fats together either in a microwave or over a double boiler. Spoon the melted chocolate over the bananas rather quickly, scraping off the excess gently. Sprinkle nuts (if using) over top and place back onto the cookie sheet.

Return cookie sheet to the freezer right away and allow bananas to freeze up firm. Enjoy!

* You could probably use 1/4 cup of cream instead, making it more of a ‘ganache’. But whatever, butter and oil worked just fine.

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