Friday, August 31, 2012


We love our beets around here, and pickled beets have been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember.  In the 50's and 60's when I was growing up, pickled beets were usually part of the "relish tray" that was always put out for Sunday dinner, and which also included carrot and celery sticks, olives, and other small bites.   Sunday dinner was usually served around 1 or 2 PM, after services at the United Methodist church.  Somewhere along the way the frumpy sounding relish tray gave way to the ultra chic sounding Crudite', but they both serve the same purpose of light nibbles to stave off hunger as everyone took their seats and the final carving and serving began.

Of course my mom's beets are the best, how could they not be?  Here is my version based on a recipe from "America's Best State Fair Recipes" compiled by Catherine Hanley.   This recipe is from Loraine LaPole of Anderson, Indiana and was an Indiana State Fair winner.  It doesn't say from which year, but the book was published in 1993.

6 pounds of beets,well scrubbed
1 1/2 cups of water
3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons allspice
2 cinnamon sticks

I also added a couple whole cloves, bay leaf and mustard seed, which were not in Miss LaPole's recipe.

Blanch the beets until tender but still firm-20 to 25 minutes.

Wash and scald 6 (1 pint) jars-I just ran them through the dishwasher on sanitize.

In a non-reactive kettle bring the water, vinegar, two sugars, salt, and spices to the boil. 

Slip the skins from the blanched beets and cut into uniform quarters, if you are using baby or really small beets, leave them whole.

Add the beets to the vinegar mixture and simmer for 15 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, pack the hot jars with the beets and some of the spices.  Cover the beets with the pickling solution, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove the air bubble by running a knife inside the edge of the jars.  Wipe the rims clean and seal with hot lids and screw bands.  Process 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.  I processed mine in a steam canner my mom gave me as a gift a couple of years ago-uses less water and energey and keeps the kitchen cooler while you are working.

Of course pickles taste better after they sit for a couple of weeks if you can resist opening them-I can't.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Figs

One small upside to our strange weather this year is a bumper fig harvest.  Usually the local figs become ripe in late summer early fall-often in October.  But this year the fig bushes didn't die down over the winter, so they have been producing earlier and more abundantly.  Here are some from my friend Ardel's farm.

For a special at the restaurant one night last week, we tossed the figs with some fettucini, proscuitto, capers, and sweet peppers for a special.  The salty proscuitto and briny capers were a delicious compliment to the sweet juicy figs.  While it might seem a little strange to add fresh fruit to your pasta, it was the perfect vehicle to carry this mix of savory and sweet.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Heartbreaking Summer Corn

Here is a picture of our local corn this year.  The drought this summer is an agriculture disaster.  This is sweet corn, but the field corn is worse and the bean crop is almost as bad.  If you shop in stores and aren't close to a rural area you probably won't see this-picture perfect produce will continue to arrive from other parts of the world.  But it will affect prices soon.

While the absence of sweet corn is bad enough, the lack of field corn as feed affects any livestock grower.  Cattlemen can't graze their animals-the grass is all burnt up and they can't afford to buy the corn that is available.  Beef prices will temporarily go down as the cattlemen rush to market the animals as soon as their weight is minimally met, and next year beef prices will probably skyrocket.  Dairy herds are of course in just as bad of shape-we are losing small dairy herds daily.

Not to get political, but the congress adjourned without addressing the farm bill.  While some of the grain farmer's have crop insurance-there is currently no help for the livestock end of things.