• Peach Lavender Jam

    Peach Lavender Jam.

    A bit of a “peachy” hue on the blog these days. But when you have a few hundred peaches with a limited shelf life, you work with the peaches (we are also giving them away to friends, whether they want them or not 😉 ). The only thing at the farm we have more of than peaches is lavender. It’s everywhere, and mostly for the bees. But since we have peaches and lavender, we are making Peach Lavender jam.

    We have lots of these…

    …and tons of this. Let’s make jam.

    This recipe comes from the excellent canning and pickling book “Tart and Sweet” from Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler. We are by no means experts on canning and pickling, so this book is a great tool with both recipes and very clear guidelines for safe canning. But the key for any home canning / pickling is to use the base recipe and then follow your standard, safe processing instructions. Most setups will be similar, but some equip will vary. Just remember, sterilization is always a good thing.

    As for the actual jam, this is really a peach jam with a touch of floral, herbal and tannic notes from the lavender. The lavender keeps the sweetness of the peaches from overwhelming the flavor of the jam. But the key is just a hint of lavender. Too much lavender and your jam will taste like soap. In fact, you don’t actually put lavender in the jam at all, just steep some lavender in water, strain it out and the add the water to the fruit. Again, go easy with the lavender- less is more.

    The peeling and pitting dis-assembly line.

    This took a while.

    The process of making jam isn’t complex, but it is time-consuming. Making jam is a good activity to do with friends and/or a great way to put your kids to work. First you must sterilize and prepare your equipment. Make sure everything is good order before you start. As for the jam, you need to skin and pit 6 pounds of peaches. This involves cutting an X in the base of the peach, briefly blanching it in boiling water, plunging it in an ice bath and then skinning and pitting the peach. We take an assembly (dis-assembly?) line approach, but even with help, this takes a while. But we don’t do this every day either, so it was (kinda) fun.

    Steep the dried lavender and strain it out.

    Cook the fruit, lemon juice and sugar.

    Blend until smooth.

    Add calcium water, sugar and pectin.

    Once you have the peaches peeled and pitted the work is easier, but still requires time. You need to bring the peaches, some sugar and lemon juice to a boil in a large pot and cook the fruit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile you need to steep some dried lavender flowers in 1 cup of boiling water for about 20 minutes. Strain the lavender from the water and add the water to the peaches. Then blend the peaches with an immersion blender, or in batches on a stand-up blender. Then add calcium water, pectin and sugar to the fruit and cook until you get a jammy consistency. To finish the jam, put it in hot jars and process for 10 minutes. Then cool and eat. Continue reading

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  • Weekly Cocktail #21: The Bellini

    The Bellini.

    It’s Red Haven peach season at Putney Farm, so now we need to use them. We made peach-lavender jam (recipe later today) and will be making peach preserves, peach butter and peach-vanilla ice cream. So we may as well make a cocktail. And if you have peaches, you might as well make Bellinis.

    To be fair, Bellinis typically combine white peach purée and prosecco (think Italian champagne, but sweeter and much less complex). We don’t have white peaches or nectarines (yet), so we are using our Red Haven peaches. But to our tastes, that is a good thing, as yellow peaches have more acidity than white peaches and/or nectarines. And while we like Bellinis with white peach purée, they can be cloying a bit sweet- so using more balanced yellow peaches improves the cocktail and provides a better color. But regardless of the peaches you have, the Bellini is a light, sweet and “long” drink that is good for summer brunch and afternoon parties. And we like cocktails at brunch and afternoon parties.

    Make the peach purée.

    As for the origins of the Bellini, the dates are bit hazy. But we do know that Giuseppe Cipriani, owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, created the Bellini sometime in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. He named it after Giovanni Bellini, a renowned 15th-century Italian renaissance painter. Bellini’s paintings, as with many works of his era, tended toward darker hues and somewhat bleak subject matter. So the connection to sweet peaches and sparkling wine seems a bit tenuous. At least the name sounds good.

    Muddle your peaches.

    In any event, the Bellini was originally a seasonal cocktail to feature local white peaches, but someone figured out how to preserve peach purée and it became a year-round drink. And the recipe has become somewhat “fungible” over the last 70 years, and not always to the good. At one point the Ciprianis licensed the name and recipe to a company to mass-produce the Bellini and it was so terrible different they bought back the rights. And good for them, some things are only so “fungible”. In the end, if the peaches aren’t good, it might be best to make something else.

    Fine-strain the muddled peaches.

    But if you do have ripe peaches, then making a Bellini is worth the effort, but there are a few extra steps. Firstly, you need to make a peach purée. There are a few ways to do this. If you are making a big batch of Bellinis, you should skin (make an X on the bottom of the peach with a knife and then blanche for 20 seconds), pit and then puree the peaches in the blender. If making just a few, muddling and fine-straining the peaches will be faster (don’t worry about the skins). Then you need to taste your peach puree and your prosecco. If both are sweet, add a scant dash of lemon juice. If both are tart, a dash of simple syrup might be a good idea. And then you need to deal with the bubbles. Peach puree and prosecco create a lot of foam. And we mean a lot. It will take a few minutes to fill the flutes as the foam subsides. You just need to wait it out. Relax, eat a peach, maybe listen to the Allman Brothers.

    A final note, if using champagne (and we don’t recommend it) use extra-dry or demi-sec, both are sweeter than Brut and will work better. But as Prosecco is almost always cheaper than Champagne, it is the right call and is readily available at most supermarkets or liquor stores. And when a Bellini is just right, it is a very tasty sip, and worth making. After all, if you have peaches, you need to use them…why not drink them?

    The Bellini:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. fresh peach puree
    • 4 oz. Prosecco (or sweeter champagne or sparkling wine)
    • Lemon juice (optional, to taste)
    • Simple syrup (optional, to taste)

    Assemble:

    1. To make puree, expect 3 small or 1 large peach per serving. Pit the peaches. Muddle and then fine-strain to extract the puree.
    2. Add the peach puree and a few ice cubes to a cocktail shaker and shake to chill. Strain the puree into a chilled flute. Slowly add the prosecco, letting the foam settle, until full. Serve.
  • Coconut – Curry Cabbage

    Coconut-Curry Cabbage, served with seared ahi and coconut rice.

    As we mentioned a few posts ago, we made a Hawaiian-themed meal for some friends last week and it featured this cabbage dish. And since we liked it so much, we decided to make it again and post it. This cabbage recipe takes just a few minutes to make, but the mixture of bright, crispy cabbage with rich coconut milk and “funky” curry paste (and, optionally, fish sauce) is a real winner and a great compliment to tropical or Asian-influenced dishes.

    Basic ingredients that are available in most grocery stores.

    The recipe itself is easy, but very tasty. It comes from Bev Gannon’s Hali’imaile General Store Cookbook. This is a restaurant cookbook that often features very ornate and complicated preparations. But the flavor combinations in Gannon’s dishes are always original and intriguing, so usually we use the cookbook for inspiration and adapt the recipes, but this recipe only has minor revisions. It is one of the simplest recipes in the cookbook, and perhaps not surprisingly, one of the best (IMHO).

    Slice the cabbage and dice the onion.

    Saute the onion and the curry paste.

    You start by dicing a small onion and then thinly slicing a medium green cabbage. Then, in a large skillet, add some oil and then soften the onion over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of green (or yellow) curry paste and some salt and cook for a few more minutes. Add the sliced cabbage and cook for a minute or two and then add about a cup of coconut milk. Simmer the cabbage for 6-8 minutes, or until the coconut milk reduces. Then add a splash of fish sauce (if you like it, we do), taste for seasoning, sprinkle on a few black sesame seeds and serve.

    Add cabbage and coconut milk and briefly simmer. Season with fish sauce and salt.

    Garnish with black sesame seeds.

    Another bonus to this dish is that it is easy to scale up/down the recipe to match the number of guests. Expect that 1 medium cabbage will feed 4 guests. So use an overall ratio of 1 cabbage / one tablespoon cooking oil / one-half of a small onion / 1-2 tablespoons of curry paste / 1 cup of coconut milk / 1 tablespoon salt / 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds / fish sauce to taste. You can simply increase or decrease the recipe to match your needs. And as you can make this dish ahead, and then reheat it before service, this is a great side dish for entertaining.

    So far, we enjoyed this dish as a side with sesame-crusted opah and with seared ahi. In both cases, the cabbage added a bit of crunch, pleasant richness and that touch of curry “funk” to the overall dish. As we really like coconut, we serve the cabbage along with coconut rice, and rather than being “too much” we find they are an excellent compliment to each other.

    A great compliment to fish and rice.

    As Californians, and living near the “Cadillac Desert”, we get cabbage year-round. We love making cole-slaw for summer barbecues and putting shredded cabbage in our tacos. But this dish takes cabbage to another level and is worth making at any time of year. And if you live in an area where cabbage is a fall / winter crop, we suggest you try this dish when cabbage is in season- it will give you a quick taste of the tropics.

    Coconut-Curry Cabbage:

    (Adapted from Beverly Gannon)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • You can use green or yellow curry paste in this dish. Curry paste varies, so make sure to add a little, taste and adjust the first time you make this dish.

    What You Get: A tasty, sweet cabbage dish. A particularly good side with tropical or Asian-influenced fish dishes.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About 20 minutes. The only real “work” is slicing the cabbage and onion.

    Ingredients:

    (serves 4)

    • 1 medium green cabbage, thinly sliced- 3-4 cups
    • 1/2 small white onion, diced
    • 1 tablespoon canola or other vegetable oil
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons green or yellow curry paste
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • 1/2 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
    • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce (or to taste- optional)
    • 1-2 tablespoons black sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

    Assemble:

    1. Slice the cabbage and dice the onion.
    2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and then the onion and curry paste and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the cabbage and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it just starts to wilt. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until the coconut milk reduces and the cabbage is tender, but retains some crunch. Taste and season with salt and fish sauce, if using. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and serve.
  • Memphis-Style Barbecue Ribs

    Memphis-style ribs (with our house-made pickles)

    There are few American foods that elicit more passion than barbecue. Questions like pork vs. beef (even lamb), “wet” vs. “dry”, ribs, butt or brisket, mustard or vinegar in the sauce all make for dozen of varieties of barbecue. Depending on where you are from, passions can run very, very high. Particularly in the American south if you ask for the “wrong” thing in some areas you may get the “around here we serve “real” barbecue and we use…X”.  The only thing most aficionados will agree on is that barbecue may be the perfect summer meal.

    As a Californian, we don’t really have a regional style (unless you count Santa Maria-style Tri-Tip, which is more of a roast), so we get to “pick and choose” a bit. We will cop to a preference for Carolina-style pulled pork– the hot vinegar sauce variety, but mustard-based is good, too. But the kids and many of our friends prefer ribs, and they do take less time, so we make them pretty often. And when we barbecue ribs, we go for Memphis-style.

    Simple ingredients + time = deep flavor.

    “Mop” sauce.

    Put “rub” on the ribs and let “marinate” for 6-48 hours.

    If you are unfamiliar with Memphis style ribs, they are ribs prepared using a dry spice rub and a vinegar-based “mop” during smoking. Unlike ribs from St. Louis or Mississippi / Alabama that feature a sweet, “wet” sauce, Memphis-style ribs develop a nice dry, spicy “bark” and a very light glaze from the “mop”. Sauce is usually tangy and served on the side, although like all barbecue, opinions on sauce vary. You can use either baby-back ribs or St. Louis-cut ribs (middle of the ribcage) and get good results. Memphis-style ribs are more like pulled pork than most ribs. Good stuff. Really good.

    Get your charcoal ready.

    Let gray ash form on the coals and you are ready.

    And relatively easy to make. One of the misconceptions about making barbecue is that it is difficult. In fact, it’s easy, and requires relatively few ingredients. But the main ingredient you need is time, and there is no substitute. It isn’t an accident that barbecue mostly gets made, and consumed, on weekends. If you need an excuse to laze about with friends for an afternoon (perhaps with a beer or cocktail), making ribs will certainly do the trick.

    Add liquid to a drip pan- the extra moisture helps in smoking.

    Smoke your ribs until internal temp reaches 185 degrees.

    The steps are pretty basic. Get some baby-back or St. Louis-style ribs. Make or buy spice rub (recipe here and below) and rub into the ribs and let them rest in the fridge for at least 6 and up to 48 hours. Soak some wood chips or chunks- we like a mix of hickory and fruit woods like apple or cherry. Get you smoker or grill ready at a temperature about 210 degrees (follow the instructions for your grill or smoker). Set up your smoker with a drip pan, and it helps to put some liquid like beer or apple juice in the drip pan, and then start smoking the ribs. Meanwhile make the “mop” with some vinegar, salt, apple juice and a touch of your dry rub. Liberally “mop” the ribs with the sauce every 30 minutes or so.

    Brush ribs every 30 minutes with “mop” sauce.

    Rest for 20-30 minutes and then slice the ribs.

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