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Posts Tagged ‘Punk Domestics’

Pickled Cranberries: Not Your Grandmother’s Cranberry Sauce

In our humble opinion, Thanksgiving is superior to any other day of the year. In an effort to make this year’s feast the best of all time (sorry, Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe), we’re bringing you the recipes, how-tos and decorating ideas to help you become a Turkey Day pro.


There are a few things you don’t talk about at the holiday table lest you risk the conversation turning sour. Religion. Politics. And whether jellied or chunky cranberry sauce is better. Seriously, it could come to fisticuffs. But to that I say: to heck with the sauce. This year, pickle your crans for a side that is surprising and delicious — and will surely mollify both sides of this intractable debate.

Now, when I first mentioned this idea, an Internet friend squawked: “Pickled cranberries? What will you pickle next, sorrel?” Allow me to alleviate your fears. We’re not talking kosher dills here. Think more bread-and-butter pickles, with a sweet brine that tempers and complements the cranberries’ natural pucker. Small-batch canner extraordinaire Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars first put forth this concept. Like most pickling projects, it’s easy as can be. The only thing to consider is to make them far enough ahead of time for the flavors to mellow and round out. A couple days will do, so there’s still plenty of time for Turkey Day.

As a bonus prize, your leftover brine will be a cranberry shrub, or drinking vinegar. Serve one part of the shrub mixed in four to five parts sparkling water for a bright, refreshing beverage that makes a lovely alternative to wine for your non-drinking guests.

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More Bourbon, Less Sugar: A Ketchup Worth Making

There are many reasons to make your own ketchup. The bottled stuff (even the most top-shelf variety) has an indeterminate amount of sugar and “natural flavorings” — what does “natural” taste like, anyway?

The easiest way to find out is to make your own, out of strictly natural ingredients. You’ll be able to tweak the flavors to your preference, pulling back on sweetness, if you prefer, or dialing up the spices. And one thing’s for sure: You won’t find bourbon in your grocery store squeeze bottle.

Maple-Bourbon Ketchup Recipe

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Mustard That Passes Muster

When I was a senior in high school, I spent a week abroad, staying with a family in Nantes, at the mouth of the Loire River on the Western shore of France. It was a world-expanding trip on many levels, but one of the things that surprised me the most was that the food was nothing at all like I expected. Somehow, I figured that in every French household, dinner was a multi-course affair of meats bathed in rich cream sauces, washed down with flagons of claret and followed by mighty towers of croquembouche.

In fact, of course, French home cooking is simple, straightforward and delicious. Humble fare like roast chicken and potatoes is the norm. One evening we had a meal of sausages, poached and then seared, accompanied by tart gherkins and a healthy dollop of grainy Dijon mustard. Previously, my idea of Dijon mustard was Grey Poupon. This was no such thing. It unleashed a chemical blast that crept up the sinuses and seared the backs of the eyeballs, causing involuntary deluges of tears to well forth.

I was hooked.

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Hot Stuff, Comin’ Through: Pickled Jalapenos

Guilty confession: Despite my nearly fanatical devotion to all things DIY food, there are a handful of store-bought canned goods that I have a soft spot for. I still occasionally enjoy those bland, waxy black olives, for example. You know, the kind you used to stick on your fingers when you were a kid. (Or maybe you still do that. Don’t let me cramp your style.)

I also love pickled jalapenos. They’re an absolute necessity for all things Mexican, most especially nachos, and I all too often find myself simply plucking them out of the jar and eating them right off the fork. I’m a glutton for punishment that way.

But, hey, when the peppers are popping, there’s no reason not to can a bunch of your own. It’s easy, they’re tasty, and you can tinker a bit with the seasoning to suit your tastes. For example, a touch of honey or sugar helps temper the natural fire of the chiles’ capsaicin while allowing the natural sweetness of the pepper to shine through. Or, leave it out for the full-force burn. (Again, don’t let me cramp your style.)

Pro tip: Be sure to wear latex or plastic gloves while handling hot peppers. If you don’t, there is approximately 100-percent chance you will promptly touch your eyes (or other mucous membranes, ahem). Trust me, it’s not a pleasant experience.

Pickled Jalapenos Recipe

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Everything’s Better with (Apple) Butter

How to Make Apple Butter

I grew up in the Mohawk Valley of Upstate New York, where apples abounded. In the autumn, we’d go to one of the local orchards to pick our own. I especially loved the crisp, sweet-tart Macintosh apples, which have the perfect combination of satisfying crunch and flavorful juice.

For the last 22 years, I’ve lived in Northern California, and while the produce here is generally unparalleled, our apples are, at least for eating out of hand, pretty lackluster. Some may have the right crispness, but are either puckering-ly sour or insipidly sweet. Others may have the right balance of flavor, but suffer from mealy texture.

However, the one surefire way to conjure up the flavor of the apples of my youth is by cooking them down into a rich, smooth apple butter. Slathered on an English muffin or swirled into a warming bowl of morning oatmeal, it transports me back in a single bite.

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Your Cue to Make Q

Every time I’ve traveled in Italy, I’m impressed by the micro-regionalism of the food. For example, in Romagna, near Bologna, they make a flatbread called piadina. It’s always the same ingredients: Grade 0 flour, lard from the prized moro pigs, sea salt, baking soda and water. But in one town it’s maybe 5 mm thick, and in the adjacent town it’s more like 6 mm thick, and on and on through the province. And, of course, each of them is the right way to do it.

There aren’t too many hyper-regionalized foods like that in America, but there is one biggie: barbecue. The word evokes clear and specific things depending on where you’re from. Through much of the south it’s pork, slow-roasted and smoked until extremely tender, then pulled and tossed with sauce, though in western Kentucky you’re prone to find mutton, and in Texas it’s brisket and nothing other. (And for those of us who grew up in the Northeast, “barbecue” just means grilling.)

The sauces vary the most. In the Carolinas, they favor a thinner, more vinegary “mop.” In Memphis it’s thicker and sweeter, and smokier in St. Louis. And in Texas you can bet it’s spicier.

It doesn’t stop at a regional level. Q aficionados toil and tinker to develop their own signature recipes, striving to develop the very epitome of their local sauce.

Even here in San Francisco, a place not at all famous for its barbecue culture, my friend Michele makes her own special blend. She gives a nod to the classics, but folds in flavors iconic of San Francisco: Coffee, chocolate, red wine vinegar.

Why not make your own masterpiece? The basic building blocks of barbecue sauce are not esoteric; it’s all about how you put them together. Put your own stamp on it, and develop a microregional cuisine all your own.

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How to Make Your Own Hot Sauce

How to Make Your Own Hot Sauce Recipe

I’ve already written about my passion for, nay, addiction to spicy foods. My long-cauterized palate is apparently incapable of tasting anything unless it’s got a capsaicin kick.

Subsequently, there’s always a wealth of hot sauces in the house. Sometimes I reach for the clean vinegar-based heat of Tabasco; other times it’ll be a dollop of spicy salsa from our local taqueria that is like pure crack to me. But most often of all, Sriracha is my go-to hot stuff.

It’s practically perfect in every way, with clean, sharp heat, good body and a faint sweetness to back it up and create a longer finish. For ages, I assumed this magically-balanced sauce must employ some mysterious Asian ingredient that makes the whole thing sing. And yet, on the rooster-adorned bottle, the ingredients are just chili, sugar, salt, garlic and distilled vinegar. Oh yeah, plus potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xanthan gum. I could live without those last few ingredients.

It turns out that those first five ingredients really are all that are needed to make a flavorful, almost shockingly red sauce that stands up to the stuff in the bottle. Best of all, you can tweak the heat up or down with the selection of peppers. I used a mix of red jalapeño, habanero and red padron peppers; if you want to tone it down a bit, feel free to include sweet red peppers in the mix as well.

Sriracha-Style Hot Sauce

Total time: 24 hours
Prep: 30 minutes
Inactive: 23 hours
Cook: 20 minutes plus 10 minutes

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Like Pie for Breakfast (Sort Of)

Most days, I like to eat pretty sensibly in the morning. A couple eggs, a forkful of kraut and beans are regular staples on our plate. But if there’s pie in the house, you can be darn sure I’m eating it for breakfast.

I’m not particular; any kind will do. Classic apple is always nice, though the tartness of cherry plays nicely against a bracing cup of coffee. During the holidays, pumpkin pie is perfect for both the beginning and end of the day.

It’s easy to justify as a breakfast food. After all, pumpkin pie employs three food groups: Grain in the crust, dairy in the form of butter and cream, plus protein from the eggs in the custard. Heck, it’s even made with a vegetable. It’s practically health food.

But diet food, it ain’t. That’s why, when I’m craving breakfast pie, I fall back on the next best thing: Pumpkin butter. It’s a great delivery mechanism for the flavors of pumpkin pie, without the added pound of butter and pint of cream.

Slathered on an English muffin, you can almost trick yourself into believing you’re enjoying that slice of pie for breakfast. Well, maybe before you’ve had your coffee.

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Bean There, Jarred That

Dilly Beans Recipe

In preserving, as with most things, it’s all about the right tool for the job. To the untrained eye, one mason jar may look more or less like another, and while it’s true they all get the job done, each has its strengths. For example, wide-mouth jars with shoulders are particularly good for when you need to pack things in and not have them float, like pickles or whole fruit. I have a cache of more than 50 quart jars that we use almost exclusively for our annual tomato-canning extravaganza. And while you can never have enough half-pint jars for jams, I also really love the tiny 4-oz. jars expressly because they make quick, cute and inexpensive gifts.

But there are two jars that have particular use: The Ball 12-oz. quilted jars and 24-oz. pint-and-a-half jars. Each of these is 50% larger than their standard counterparts (half pint and pint, respectively), and each has a straight, cylindrical profile. This, then, makes them perfect for canning long, narrow things, like asparagus — and green beans.

When I’m feeling a bit peckish, I don’t grab candy. Salty snacks and crackers have a siren song, but even then I can navigate those waters. No, my ultimate go-to bite is a pickle. It ticks all the boxes: Cool, juicy, salty, tangy. And if it can be a bit spicy, so much the better. Dilly beans tick all the boxes. You can settle in front of the tube with a big bowl of popcorn; I’ll curl up with a jarful of these slender, spicy spears.

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Summer Spa Water, or Cucumber-Infused Vodka

While the rest of the country swelters, we’ve been enjoying one of the most gloriously mild and sunny summers I’ve experienced in more than two decades in San Francisco. Normally around now, the city is covered with a heavy, wet fog, and blustery winds slap sheets of it in your face like a cold washcloth. Instead, once the morning fog pulls back, it’s been downright nice, even occasionally what passes for hot around here. Like, in the 70s.

If you’re in the scorched center or eastern parts of the company, maybe you’re looking for some of that cold washcloth treatment to cut the edge. I can’t deliver the fog to you, but I can offer you a solution that’s almost as good.

Think about it. When else do you sit around sweating in unreasonable heat and humidity? That’s right, in a sauna or steam room. And what refreshes in said environment? Spa water. Only, we’re talking summer here, and mere water just ain’t gonna cut it this time. No, clearly this calls for vodka. Ice. Cold. Vodka.

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