Posts Tagged ‘old fashioned favorite’

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

May 19, 2017

As I heaved yet another heavy load of weeds from my community garden plot, Elizabeth stopped by to say hello. She noticed the lush rhubarb plant in the front corner and asked if I’d tried Rachel’s rhubarb and ginger jam. ‘It’s lovely with a bit of aged cheddar; I’ll send the recipe,” she added and set my mind whirling. I’ve poached, stewed and roasted rhubarb. Baked it into pies, tarts, muffins and braised it with meats for Persian Khoresh. My sister sent a similar rhubarb ginger jam recipe a few years ago but then I had only the old fashioned green pie plant so my jam wasn’t rosy. Now that I have this healthy clump of red rhubarb, it was time to revisit the jam.

Rhubarb may be one of our most ancient cultivated perennial vegetables, though we use it as a fruit. It’s thought to have originated in Siberia and has long played a major role in traditional Chinese medicine. As we learn more about natural plant healing properties, rhubarb offers benefits for our bones, eyes and brains; it’s claimed to fight cancer, memory loss and tummy troubles At its very best right now, pick rhubarb for a healthy, delicious treat.

A fruit conserve goes nicely with cheese for dessert or a course on it’s own. The quince paste, membrillo, is trendy while in winter, little fig and almond cakes with fennel add that holiday touch of sweetness. This tart rhubarb jam fills in at any time and the punch of ginger makes it a perfect complement for crumbly cheddar, soft goat cheese or creamy Brie. It’s equally good on toast or biscuits or baked into pastry for jam tarts. If your rhubarb plant needs stalks pulled to prevent bolting and to keep it going through the summer, now’s the time to put up a few jars of jam. This small batch recipe will take only a few minutes to prep and about 15 minutes to cook, so in very little time, you’ll have something special to enjoy now or hold for later.

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

 16 oz. sliced rhubarb (4 cups)

15 oz. sugar (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons)

tiny pinch salt

4 teaspoons grated, peeled fresh ginger (use microplane)

grated rind ½ lemon

2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (optional)

Remove leaves and end bits from rhubarb and weight 16 oz. clean stalks. Cut into ½ inch slices.

Cover cut rhubarb with sugar; add pinch salt, grated ginger, lemon rind and lemon juice. Mix well and allow to stand an hour or overnight until the juices start to run. Bring the mixture to a slow boil stirring occasionally. Increase heat and continue a steady boil, stirring occasionally, for approximately 15 minutes or until the mixture is jam thick. (test by watching jam drop thickly from a spoon, or place a blob on a small, ice cold saucer to check for the set.)

Have ready 2-3 sterilized jam jars and lids heating in a small pot of simmering water. Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars, wipe any drips from the jar rims and tightly pop on the lids.,Jam should seal as it cools. If you are uncertain of a seal, store in the fridge. Makes about 2 ½ cups jam

 

 

 

Creamed Asparagus on Toast

May 27, 2016
Creamed Asparagus on Toast

Creamed Asparagus on Toast

June Freels farmed acres of asparagus at the edge of Butler County where Ohio bumps into Indiana. Just minutes into the rolling countryside west of Oxford, I turned into her long dirt drive and pulled up to the farmhouse. June bounded out the back door and headed for the barn where an old fridge held the day’s picking. “Just had creamed asparagus on toast for lunch,” she chirped as she doled out my ten-pound order. I handed her a twenty, patted the doggie admired the blooming lilac and drove back to town. . .

Creamed asparagus, or asparagus served in a light white sauce was once the most common way to serve the spring bounty. Back then no one roasted, grilled or shaved raw asparagus into salad. It was invariably well cooked and sauced, served on country tables where the green spears were often foraged in spring from fencerows, ditch banks and along train tracks. Restaurants opted for fancier Hollandaise sauce, but our old béchamel (first of the mother sauces) held forth for everyday fare. A little butter, a little flour plus warm milk whisked up in minutes makes a light gravy to bind tender, sweet asparagus. A sprinkle of fresh dill if it’s in the garden, a twist of pepper and a slice of crisp buttered toast make this a comforting vegetarian lunch. Add a welcome boiled egg to lift the humble dish.

The asparagus time of year is here again with abundant bundles on offer in all our Midwestern farmers’ markets. Here near Chicago we often see the purple variety which has become my first choice for flavor. I always opt for the thick stalks which grow from mature roots; they’re the sweetest and most tender. Every now and then it’s fun to fold some fresh asparagus into a white sauce, spoon it over a slice of crusty sour dough toast, and tip a fork into a taste memory worth bringing back.

Creamed Asparagus on Toast

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 ½ cups milk (warmed in microwave or saucepan)

salt, freshly grated nutmeg and freshly ground pepper

fresh dill or parsley, lemon juice (optional)

1 pound fresh asparagus

2 soft-center hard-boiled eggs

4 slices toast (peasant or sourdough bread if possible)

Melt butter in heavy saucepan. Whisk in flour and stir for a minute to cook the flour. Whisk in hot milk and simmer to form a smooth sauce. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste to correct seasoning; add a few drops fresh lemon juice if desired. Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Trim any tough ends from the asparagus and diagonally cut into half-inch slices (you should have 4 cups). Salt the boiling water generously and blanch the asparagus for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Make sure to cook it a bit longer than the ‘crisp-tender’ stage. Reserve half a cup of the cooking water and drain the asparagus.

Warm the white sauce and thin it if necessary with some of the cooking water. Add the drained asparagus and heat it through. Fold in a tablespoon of chopped fresh dill or parsley.

Spoon the creamed asparagus over warm, buttered toast and garnish each serving with quarters of boiled egg. Sprinkle with flaky salt, cracked pepper and fresh mint, parsley or chives. Serves 4.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corn Relish

September 1, 2015
Corn Relish

Corn Relish

Every Saturday since early July we’ve met Pablo next to the big galvanized horse trough heaped with ripe ears of sweet corn in our farmers’ market. $6 a dozen, then $5, and now $4. Each week we bring home another bag packed with the lush grain. I throw the outer husks on the compost pile, stash neat ears in the fridge. I for one am quickly corn-on-the-cobbed out, but happy to have the crisp kernels for pilafs, vegetable salads, succotash, soups, and polenta. Now that we’ve come through a two-month corn cycle, the colored peppers are reddening, and it’s time for corn relish.

Popular throughout the Midwest, the corn relish we know seems to have Germanic origins from Pennsylvania Dutch immigrant farmers. These frugal people—expert preservers, always finding ways to use every scrap of food—corn relish was an end-of-summer means to blend garden vegetables into a savory pickle to can for winter. In some old cookbooks the relish is called corn salad, found in the canning section. Here’s a sweet/tart condiment that could be served with roast chicken, sausages or a supper of leftovers—and stand in for fresh greens no longer a part of winter’s larder.

Once you’re corned out and ready to leave those golden cobs until next summer, try to gather a few more along with some red peppers, onions, cabbage or celery and simmer even a small pot of old-fashioned corn relish. It’s pretty, lively, tasty, and here given a zesty boost with some fresh ginger, garlic and chili. It’s a welcome end of summer treat before the frost is on the punkin.

Corn Relish

2 ½ cups kernels of cut fresh corn (2-4 ears) plus cob scrapings separate

1 tablespoon flour

¾ cup small dice red pepper

¾ cup small dice tender celery, or cabbage

¾ cup small dice onion

2 cloves garlic chopped

1-2 teaspoons chopped Serrano chili (optional)

2 tablespoons finely chopped julienne fresh ginger

1 cup distilled white or cider vinegar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed or mustard seed

Combine corn kernels, pepper, celery, onion and set aside.

Sieve the corn scrapings and blend flour into the corn milk. Hold aside.

In a medium saucepan bring garlic, chili, ginger, vinegar, sugar, salt, turmeric, mustard and seeds to a boil. Add corn, pepper, onion and simmer 10 minutes; add corn milk + flour and simmer 5 minutes more until thickened. Cool uncovered. Keeps in glass jar for a month in fridge. Makes 3 generous cups.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon