Sunday, September 29, 2013

Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar

My cousin Patti’s husband, Paul Crosby is a Renaissance Man and a culinary DIYer. He makes honey straight from the hive, taught himself the art of blacksmithing, and has recently been lagering  his own beer at their home in western Vermont. What I’ve learned about Paul is when he sees something in the environment around him, eventually he finds an innovative way way to bring it into the kitchen or home. His latest creation, plucked from nature, is Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar.
“Elderberries grow wild where I live,” explains Paul. “But, I'm actually growing my own berries.”
Paul says it takes up to three years to get good berries on the bush and he starts new plants by rooting each year.  The deep purple or blue elderberries are high in vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium and have medicinal benefits, including cold and flu prevention.  Paul describes the flavor as “sweet, fruity and tangy.” He uses the berries to make syrups, jelly and also dehydrates the berries.  
The inspiration for Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar began with a bumper crop of berries.

“This year's crop was large so I was thinking of how I could use the extra berries,” says Paul.  “I've always had a interest in vinegars and how they were made, so I decided to try it. I searched for recipes and found a British recipe on line and tweaked it to my liking.”

According to Paul, the recipe just takes a little patience.  “I take three cups of ripe berries and seep them in a gallon of white vinegar for a week,” he explains.  He then strains the vinegar, adds sugar, and brings it to a boil on the stove for 20 minutes.
“I add just enough sugar to get the right combination of flavors the berries provide.”

Paul thinks Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar hits that sweet spot of a healthful and uniquely culinary ingredient.  

“Why not make a vinegar that benefits the cook and get all the health benefits of the elderberries,” says Paul.  “I think cooks for restaurants can experiment with this vinegar and get some awesome recipes that people will enjoy.”
I have a great time experimenting with Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar in the kitchen and use it three ways to prepare a salad of chicken and local greens and vegetables from Restoration Farm.   First, I marinate the chicken breast in a combination of one part vinegar and three parts olive oil.   I use additional marinade for basting.   The greens are dressed in vinaigrette using Crosby’s Elderberry Vinegar.  Finally, I drizzle the sliced chicken breasts with an elderberry vinegar reduction.   I boil about a quarter cup on the stove until it is reduced to the consistency of honey.   The jammy-purple color of the reduction provides a nice contrast to the chicken and the deep colors of the radishes and heirloom cherry tomatoes.
Paul is already tackling his next home grown culinary project – a specialty Vermont Acorn Vinegar with a nutty flavor he says goes well with wild game or makes a tasty dressing combined with Vermont Maple syrup. 

©2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Peachy Jam

Saturday To-Do List:

1) Visit neighborhood farmers market early before it gets too hot; purchase best selection of ripe peaches.
2) Admire and adore the color and texture of the peaches, even if we don't know exactly where they came from, and farmer is kind of vague about their origin. Contemplate how their lovely blush color seems so iridescent in the sunlight.  
3) Resolve to hang on to that peachy summer goodness as long as possible.

4) Peal and chop peaches fine and add lemon juice and a ton of sugar.

5) Simmer mixture on stove until it looks a bit like corn chowder.
6) Add liquid pectin and raise heat until mixture turns amber gold, and is the viscosity of warm honey. Inhale and appreciate how entire kitchen smells like warm peach pie.  
7) Affirm that personal canning skills remain in tip top shape. Fill rustic mason jars with hot peach syrup and process in a boiling water canning bath.  

8)  Listen for popping sound to assure that vacuum seal has been achieved.   

9)  Cut a thick slice of artisan bread and slather with gooey, golden  peach jam.  Marvel at fact that summer flavors and memories can be savored well into the winter months.   
© 2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved   

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Grilled Cheese Grill - Portland, Oregon

What's more comforting than a grilled cheese sandwich made by Mom?   Believe it or not, the answer might just be a hot and gooey grilled cheese sandwich cooked up by a couple of bearded dudes in a gleaming silver trailer in Portland, Oregon.
We'd heard that The Grilled Cheese Grill featured the best grilled cheese in Portland (who could doubt Reader's Digest?) - but how cool to learn that it's all served from a truck, at one of Portland's numerous food cart pods -- this one located at SE 28th and Ankeny.

It's hard to decide which is more enticing - the sleek, torpedo-shaped trailer that houses the grill, or the double-decker Partridge Family style school bus that serves as the dining facility. The youngest in our party insists that the bus is THE place to dine, and climbs to the top floor several times. 
The tabletops are covered in easy-to-clean decoupage featuring dozens of elementary school class pictures.   

Step up to the grill window and place an order.  You'll be greeted with a smile, and handed a claim check featuring the face of a 1980's TV icon.   Appropriately, mine was Mr. T of the A Team.   
Our order is as varied as our party, and one can experience everything from classic grilled cheese to nouveau cuisine.  
The Gabby features four cheeses – Tillamook Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Colby Jack. The Jersey offers sautéed mushrooms and Swiss on marble rye. The Mondor layers Pepperjack Cheese, avocado, fresh red onion and roasted red pepper.  The Kindergartner (appropriately chosen by our Kindergartner-to-be) is classic grilled cheese on white or multi-grain topped with the regions best - Tillamook Cheddar Cheese.  You can opt to have the crusts cut off.  And there are plenty of other options that will have you reliving your misspent youth. 
A few bites, and we're all luxuriating in a luscious lactose high.  The recipe is simple - just butter, bread and cheese. But, what stringy, delicious satisfaction!  If you're ever in Portland, take some time to savor a scrumptious, second childhood courtesy of the Grilled Cheese Grill.

©2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved