Monday, October 13, 2014

A Sweet & Sour Kind of Day

~ lavender honey in the works ~
Today is a dark & stormy day out on the coast. Some of us are calling this the first 'winter' storm. Huge amounts of rain & ferocious winds which mean it is a day for indoor projects!

My first winter project was to make a batch of flavoured honey... I made a citrus honey last year that was extremely interesting in flavour - mostly because it fermented, I believe, due to the extra added liquids from the lemon & limes. This year I wanted some more lavender honey.

So simple to make! I had just finished drying my last harvest of lavender & put about 1 cup of whole blossoms into a large jar - covered it with honey & then gently warmed it all in the microwave. Stir it around & let it steep for a few days or a few weeks (depends on how intense you want your flavours) & there you go - flavoured honey!

I usually strain out the herbs by gently reheating it & pouring it through a strainer into a clean jar, but with honey - that gets really sticky very quickly. I might scoop out the herbs (as they will float to the top of the jar) & use this thick, gooey mix as a coating for on top of roasted salmon or chicken. The rest will be used in teas & other recipes throughout the winter. Honey is a great item to have in your pantry - super healthy!! I tend to go for the unpasteurized varieties which still contain a little bit of the 'extra goodness' from the bees & pollen.
~ sage apple cider vinegar ~
Next on my list was to strain out & rebottle my herbal cider vinegar. Earlier this spring I had made up a large batch of marjoram vinegar & that one went very well with my brines & marinades.

At this time of year, the marjoram had already been harvested for drying for use during the winter, so I pruned back my large sage shrub & brewed up a batch of sage vinegar.

Try marinading your chicken breasts for about 20 minutes a side in a dish with some cider vinegar. Then bake or bbq it as you normally would. There is an extra sweetness to the chicken & the meat is super-juicy!

My favourite is to brine a whole bird overnight in a mix of salt, water & cider vinegar, rinse off the next morning & let sit in the fridge til it's time to roast it. Amazing flavour!

~ fruit vinegars ~
I also have a couple batches of fruit vinegars that I like to sell to the local foodies at the beginning of the holiday season.

The first is a fresh raspberry white wine vinegar - since this year was such a great berry year, I added extra raspberries to the jar & the result is an intense raspberry flavour. I like to strain the vinegars many times through cheese cloth so that the end product is clear with as little sediment as possible. I might do one more strain before rebottling in time for the Craft Sale at the end of November.

The other fruit vinegar is a deep fruity-herbal blend of salal & rosemary with red wine vinegar. Every year it is different, depending on the amounts of salal juice & fresh chopped rosemary I put in the jar. Some years I'll add a touch of balsamic vinegar or maybe even a 'secret spice' to mix up the flavours. This is a great vinegar to have for salad dressings - add a bit of dark fruit jam, grapeseed oil, Keene's dry mustard, salt & this vinegar... voila! You'll never go back to store bought salad dressings again!

Now the house smells a bit tangy from working with my vinegars, but I'm going to sit in front of the fire with a cup of tea & a spoonful of lavender honey! Perfect way to spend a quiet Thanksgiving Day out on the stormy west coast...

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