Last night was the very best night of the summer— tomato cobbler night! My feelings on this dish have been well-documented. This time, I had a cup of home-grown (not by me) cherry tomatoes (mine are present but unripe), but several cups of Roma tomatoes purchased recently. I’d say that the tomatoes were somewhat less glorious than homegrown, but it was still wonderful. I accidentally went a little long on cayenne and I think that made up for the less flavorful tomatoes. I did them with a very simple lemon pepper chicken breast and a less simple pickled collard greens. I’ve got a bumper crop of collards in my garden, and I had one jar of pickled collards from a previous season. Pickled collards by themselves are pretty brassy, but if you mix fresh and pickled, it’s pretty good.
About this time last year, my company had a building-wide bake sale as a fund raiser for a charity we’d decided to support. My coworkers turned out in droves, donating, and we had a really successful bake sale. But a few things were left over at the end of the day, and I brought an assortment home for my mom to try.
I told the story of the subpar cherries in a previous post— here’s the story of making a shrub.
A few years ago, my eldest niece told me that she thought I’d like a shrub. I am inordinately fond of vinegar and many things tart, and she knows me well enough to know it. I had never heard of a shrub, also called “drinking vinegar.” Though I have been known to sample pickle brine, the idea of a drinking vinegar has been too much for me until this spring. At the first of those storytelling events that I went to, late last winter, my friend mentioned that she’d heard they had a shrub. I had already had a cocktail on arrival, and I wanted to buy her a drink for her birthday, but I wanted something nonalcoholic for me. It was snowing, I had a long drive, and I’m a one drink per evening if I’ll be driving kind of girl anyway.
I was equal parts interested and trepidacious, but I tried it. I was under the impression that you drank it straight, but you don’t— you mix it with club soda. I also didn’t understand that you macerate fruit to create a fruit syrup which you then blend with vinegar. You can infuse it with herbs and all kinds of things. The shrub was delightfully interesting— tangy without being overpowering, and I was disappointed that they didn’t have it when I went back a month or so ago.
When I ran into the cherry situation, I thought it might lend itself to using the cherries in a way that gave them the chance to be the best they could be.
I used this recipe for a cold-processed shrub, and I skewed it two ways. I started one cup of cherries in a cup of granulated sugar. I planned to mix it with cider vinegar. Then, I realized you could do balsamic vinegar, and you could add citrus zest. I have some aging limes, and I’ve always loved the combination of cherries and limes, so I went and got the cherries in granulated sugar and zested a couple of limes into it.
I pitted another cup of cherries and realized, to my horror, that I was out of sugar. This is what comes of not eating sugar/baking for a month. I was faced with the idea of eating the subpar pitted cherries, running to the grocery store at nearly 10 p.m. on a work-night, or improvising. I had brown sugar, and started the new batch in that. I decided that the brown sugar cherries would be for the balsamic.
I let them sit a couple of days in the fridge, until they looked like this:
Then, I strained out the cherries and added the vinegar (1 cup per batch).
I haven’t tried them yet, but I’m looking forward to them! I’m also looking forward to serving the candied cherries on top of ice cream. Shrubs are preserved enough to last a long time— that was their original purpose, back in the days before refrigeration.
Over the weekend, we had a Toastmasters social gathering. These only happen a couple of times a year, and since I’ve joined the Board and am looking at Board president, I feel like I need to make more of an effort to participate. Last year, I went to one, but it was an awkward “I’ll go, but if I’m not feeling it after 30 minutes, I’m out” affair. I stayed more than 30 minutes, but was painfully self-conscious and spent the entire evening in a rather more intense conversation with one person than I think either of us hoping for, partly so I didn’t have to keep mingling.
Can I just tell you how magical it seems to me that you can take vegetables and turn them into really awesome fertilizer for… vegetables? We have awful soil quality, in Colorado. Our soil is mostly clay mixed with some sand. It seems largely devoid of nutrients, and when paired with our unstable weather patterns (yes, there will be snow in May, just no telling how far into May it will go. Yes, it could snow again as soon as Labor Day, in the metro area, or it could be mostly lovely well into December,though there will be hard freezes in there, make no mistake. It could also be 100 degrees in mid-June, we could be dry all summer or have a stretch of unseasonably cold rainy weather. There will be hail. Nobody, including the local meteorologists, know for sure, from day to day.) it means gardening here is no joke.
My chocolate shake powder ran out with this morning’s shakes. I’m not even sure we have enough of the vanilla for two shakes for tomorrow. The fiber powder has been gone for a few days, and we’re coming to the end of our other products as well.
We’re down to the last five days or so of the great Arbonne experiment, as I mentioned, and I’m still trying to keep things fresh. Yesterday, I did spicy pulled pork, based on Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I did it before work and was trying to go quickly, so I didn’t bother with the processed onion etc., and I skipped the brown sugar because of our food restrictions. I quartered some onions and put them in the bottom, and threw in vinegar, chicken broth, and did the spices on top. I used some of my fresh spicy oregano instead of dried. I had Mom check it in the afternoon and add a little water, and I squeezed limes over it as it rested after I shredded it. We didn’t bother with turning it, and it turned out okay— more done on one side, but the Dutch oven is a little heavy for Mom, and we both like the crispy bits.