At Buckland Farm Market, our customers will often share a recipe or cooking tip that they find delicious, unique, useful. One such came my way this week: Our customer was so delighted to find a pot of chocolate mint, he readily told me about how he uses it. Citing a recipe his grandmother used from the *Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, here is the recipe he wrote down for
4 cups sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 2 cups water, 40 stalks of mint (with leaves on).
Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan; bring to a simmer. Wash mint and crush (use a rolling pin wrapped in plastic wrap). Cut into hunks to put in saucepan with syrup mixture. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Strain through cheesecloth into clean, sterile jars. Keep refrigerated.
Great for iced tea, ice water. Mix with vinegar to make a sauce for lamb. I’m sure other uses can be found. Feel free to use your favorite mint.
*His version of the Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery is the same as the one his grandmother used. It is still available online.
The second recipe I share because I love Crisps. My favorite Crisp (until now) is the Apple Crisp served at Capon Springs and Farm in Capon Springs, West Virginia. This Blueberry Crisp was served as dessert after dinner with friends. I was particularly delighted because the Crisp stayed crisp. Now I have another favorite!
In an 8”x8” ovenproof dish, gently mix 4 cups of blueberries, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind.
In a large bowl, mix (with a fork or pastry cutter):
1 cup butter
1 cup flour*
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
Spread or sprinkle crisp mixture over the top of the blueberries. Bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees until golden brown on top and blueberries are bubbly. Can be made ahead. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
*The flour used in the dish I had was gluten-free, which may help in the “staying crisp” part. Any fruit can be substituted.
I love this because the ingredients are so simple and the recipe is simply made. I think I’ll try it with fresh peaches tonight.
verb , braised, braising.
to cook (meat, fish, or vegetables) by sautéeing in fat and then simmering slowly in very little liquid. A great winter way to cook. Simmering meat and/or vegetables fill the house with warmth and an aroma of good things to come. Braising meat has long been practiced in dishes such as pot roast or lamb stew. But most any meat or vegetable can be braised. Four basic steps to follow: Step
Season the meat on all sides. Heat oil in a heavy pot with a lid such as a dutch oven on medium-high heat, then add the meat. Don’t crowd the pot and take time to get good color on all sides. Remove meat; set aside.
STEP 2: ADD THE MIREPOIX*
Cook chopped onions, celery, carrots, etc., in the drippings left behind from searing, stirring frequently. Like the sear, use medium-high heat, until a nice brown color, but not scorched.
STEP 3: DEGLAZE THE POT**
Add the liquid of your choice, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. These bits are flavor bombs. When they’re dissolved in the cooking liquid they enrich the entire dish.
STEP 4: BRAISE.
Return the meat to the pot, with any accumulated juices and the broth. The meat should not be submerged–you’re braising, not boiling, Adding too much broth will ultimately dilute the sauce. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover and slide into a 325-degree oven.
STEP IT UP:
ADD MORE VEGETABLES: If your recipe includes added vegetables (such as fennel, potatoes, or greens), add them to the pot 45 minutes before the meat is done. Check the liquid. If it’s low (say, less than an inch), add a splash more. Return pot to the oven. Carrots, small onions, green cabbage and rutabaga all braise well, and add loads of flavor.
The braising liquid adds a great deal of flavor and defines the final outcome of your dish. Water, of course, but broth is better, maybe a combination of the two. Wine, yes, red or white depends on what you are cooking. Cider, fruit juices, soy sauce, fish sauce. Here again, depends what you are cooking. My secret, whatever is in the pot–a splash of balsamic vinegar as the last ingredient will bring all those flavors together. Which, by the way, is always better the next day.
Find some time on a cold day. Try braising, it will warm your heart.
*Mirepoix: A french cooking basic, vegetables such as celery, onion, carrot, maybe cabbage, celeriac, fennel, depends on the finish you want, small-chopped and added to liquid in a pot to enhance the flavor.
**Deglaze the pan: We all do it, but maybe don’t know the french cooking name for it. After the meat/veggies have been removed in the sear process and the mirepoix has carmelized, add some liquid to the pan. Magically, all those bits and pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan are coming loose and joining in the flavors of the dish. (Also makes cleanup a lot easier.)
The season of fresh corn on the cob has past, seemingly, everyone’s favorite vegetable. What can replace it? Try the rich flavors of winter squash. So many varieties to choose from. Acorn and butternut are well known. Spaghetti squash is becoming a favorite. Then there’s turban, carnival, hubbard, delicata. Exotic-sounding, maybe, but delicious.
Winter squashes have a hard shell, so they store easily. This rind can be difficult to chop, so it’s best sliced vertically, scoop out the seeds and fiber, roast in the oven or bake in a microwave until tender. An oven temperature of 350 degrees for 30 minutes should be sufficient. Fill the cavity with a little butter, salt, pepper, chopped nuts, chopped apple, a little brown sugar. Return to the oven or microwave until the butter and sugar melt. This is a great substitute for baked potatoes. Or let your imagination go wild with the stuffings. Anyway, the results will be heart-warming.
FYI: Winter squashes are low in calories, rich in Vitamins A and C, a good source of Beta Carotine, full of complex carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. Winter squash is uniquely American, considered by Indians as one of the three sisters, squash, corn and beans. The Blue Hubbard squash is a marvel. Weighing about 30 pounds, one could feed a small army. It’s flesh is smooth and buttery.
From soups to desserts, to breads, and side dishes, winter squashes are a versatile vegetable that needs more attention in our kitchen. Explore them for yourself. You’re in for a treat, a healthy one, at that.