What’s in season: Celebrating strawberries with homemade Strawberrycello

What’s in season: Celebrating strawberries with homemade Strawberrycello

 

If I was going to name one skill to master to save money and really intensify the flavors of your home cooking, it would be to deeply start exploring the juices. We throw away so much flavor and nutrition because we don’t value that extra bit of juice in the pan. Yet we will buy a separate spice or sauce to do exactly what that discarded juice will do if you would only recognize it.

Seasonal fruit is a great example of how harnessing the power and flavor of those natural peak-of-freshness juices makes your cooking extraordinary. Most recipes solve the issue of too juicy in pies and jams by cooking the fruits down, and adding thickener. But reverse that thinking, and slow down your process, and I think you will be amazed at the difference.

Got my first strawberries from the local Amish farmer a couple days ago. Plain, simple, straight-up strawberry jam may be one of my very, very favorite kitchen staples. But last year, I made this. And it’s a pretty wonderful way to celebrate that unmistakable flavor of a fresh, ripe, local strawberry in January. And a really excellent DIY gift idea, if you are inclined to think ahead that way.

Strawberrycello

  • 2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced, or 1-1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1-1/2 cups Simple Syrup*
  • 1 fifth vodka, 80 – 100 proof

Muddle the strawberries and simply syrup with a wooden spoon in a half-gallon jar. Stir in the vodka. 

Seal the jar and put it in a cool, dark cabinet until the liquid smells and tastes strongly of strawberries, about 7 days.

Strain the mixtue with a mesh strainer into a clean quart jar. Do not push on the solids to extract more liquid – it will make your Strawberrycello cloudy. 

Note: If you feel your berries may have been a little overripe, and the flavor of your liquor seems a little flat, add a Tablespoon of strawberry or raspberry vinegar to restore the balance.  

Seal and store in a cool, dark cabinet. Use within 1 year. 

Perfect for sipping on a summer day, for spiking a cosmo, mixing with a summery white wine like Prosecco – don’t forget to chill the glass! 

From the very fun book, Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits by Andrew Schloss. 

Martha will show you how to make herb sugar here.

 

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Oinkers: pork burgers with pineapple salsa

Oinkers: pork burgers with pineapple salsa

Tomorrow is Father’s Day, have you got a plan? Steak, steak, steak, kind of expected. But these unique burgers are something everyone will like, are less expensive, still fun and special, and pretty foolproof.  Oinkers are made from unseasoned ground pork mixed with ground smoked & cured ham –  a spin off that classic rural family favorite; ham loaf.

Traditional ham loaf is a little sweet for me, but I knew there was something modern and extraordinary there. So, by eliminating a lot of the sugar, substituting saltines for the traditional graham cracker binder, adding the smoky flavor only a charcoal grill can create, and topped with a spicy pineapple salsa, I am pretty pleased with this incarnation.

A brioche, or other soft white, bun is great, white American cheese is perfect, and basting the burgers with Stubbs Original BBQ sauce added a nice, tangy, peppery flavor, though I loved the plain, unabated burgers just as much.

I actually don’t eat my burgers on a bun –  I prefer a bed of chopped salad or slaw with the salsa and rice. All straight from the fridge is a nice cold lunch for a sweltering day. See? No rules. Just like the best kind of summer day.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 slice bone-in cured ham, 1.5#
  • 1 pound unseasoned ground pork
  • 1/3 cup crushed saltines
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 TBS spicy brown mustard
  • BBQ sauce – optional
  • White American cheese slices – optional
  • Buns and your favorite burger fixings – shredded lettuce, tomato, etc.  I used shredded lettuce, scallion greens, and pineapple salsa.

Directions:

Cut the ham into chunks, removing the bone, and pulse in a food processor until finely ground. Mix with the ground pork, cracker crumbs, eggs and mustard in a large bowl until well combined – but don’t overword the meat. – and refrigerate at least an hour, or overnight.

Form the meat into six to eight patties. On a greased grill* rack at medium high direct heat, grill the burgers for 5-6 minutes, flip, and gril another 2-4 minutes. Baste with your favorite BBQ sauce if you wish to add another layer of flavor, I liked the peppery flavory of Stubbs Original, but the plain oinker was pretty great.

Add cheese and melt, remove  burgers from the grill when the internal temp is 160° F.

Assemble and serve. 

Lunchtime chill:  Grab-and-Go  Buttermilk Soup

Lunchtime chill: Grab-and-Go Buttermilk Soup

Summer is time to put buttermilk on the menu. 

 

I have never been one for drinking big glasses of butermilk, but I LOVE the variety of buttermilk and spring veggie soups.  So refreshing, so easy, and something you can prepare big batches of ahead, so you can pull out a chilled glass jar of refreshing soup when you need it later. And, I would not lie about this – a pint of this soup for lunch will literally cool you down, and keep you working.

Did you know too, that cucumbers are amazingly nutritious?  Cucumbers are naturally low in calories, but high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, electrolytes, and water. So do something your future self will thank you for, and put that summer protein buttermilk to work for you this year. 

A glug here, some easy home made buttermilk dressing there, a great natural marinade for meats like pork and chicken, plus cornbrread just is not  cornbread without buttermilk. And let us not forget buttermilk chocolate cake, and buttermilk pie. It will not go to waste.

Here in Pittsburgh, we have a couple local, easily sourced, independently owned and bottled choices for excellent, delicious, buttermilk. If you can, Pasture Maid Creamery is a single-farm choice in glass returnable bottles, and is low temperature pasteurized to retain the most nutrient density from the milk. Supermarket ultra pasteurized will last longer, but many of the nutrients are destroyed by the high temperature used in the pasteurization and homogonization processes.

Here’s my favorite, super-simple Martha Stewart-inspired recipe. Whenever there are very few ingredients, it pays to use the best quality ingredients you can find. 

Martha serves hers in bowls, garnished with cucumber slices, but I measure mine into pint Mason jars, and store them in the fridge for a grab-and-go lunch when things get hot. The frosted glass jar somehow makes it all more refreshing and delicious. 

2 cucumbers peeled, halved, and seeded, plus thin cucumber rounds, for serving
2 cups buttermilk
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving 

1/2 tsp granulated garlic (optional)

Roughly chop or grate the cucumbers. Place roughly chopped cucumber in a food processor or blender with buttermilk and granlulated garlic if using.  Blend until smooth, 1 minute. 

Season with salt and pepper. Divide soup among four bowls and stir in diced cucumber, or portion into mason jars – the plastic lids are extra nice. 

To serve, top with cucumber rounds, a drizzle of oil, chopped herbs, or more pepper, if desired.