Farming Camaraderie and Summer Corn Salsa

The weeks have been busy as the activities of spring get rolling along. Luckily one of the best things about living in a farming community is that you are rarely alone during these busy times. Farmers have a camaraderie that appears in the hardest of times and builds friendships that last for years and transcend generations. We are blessed to count many other farming and agricultural families as friends. Neal has been spending the past few weeks helping a friend plant peanuts and cotton. That same friend will be helping us to spray hay fields later in the season as well as lending his hired help to us once his crop is in the ground. Rarely is currency exchanged, but instead an understanding that when one farmer is there for another it will come back around in short time.

This weekend was supposed to be quiet with no particular task to be done. Of course, it didn’t remain that way for long. Another farmer ran short on the chicken litter he’d been using to fertilize his fields and called the friend Neal was assisting. Between that friend and our own litter suppliers we were able to obtain what the farmer needed and were rewarded with a beneficial purchase price. While working to finish up that job Neal got a phone call from another hay farmer who was having trouble with his recently serviced square baler. Neal and company were able to stop what they were doing, head to the hay field, and get that baler back on-line so hay could be baled and stored before over drying in the field. Four completely different farming operations all tied together within our community network of farmers. Farming is hard and I am of the belief that it is nearly impossible without the support of peers in both good times and bad.

While my plans to enjoy a Saturday evening outside with a cold beer and the company of my husband were dashed, it was that hope that was the reason for whipping up a batch of this fantastic salsa. I got this recipe from Neal’s mother who makes it regularly for gatherings as well as quick bites when everyone is on the move. The recipe lends well to doubling or even tripling if you are feeding a crowd and the amounts are all easily modified to fit the taste of anyone particular. Today I left out the red onion only because I forgot to grab one at the store showing that you can make this recipe fit whatever you need it to and it will still be delicious. Do yourself a favor and stick with the fresh version of all the ingredients when you are able. The canned versions will work when things are out of season, but won’t be the same.

Summer Corn Salsa

IMG_1347

Ingredients

3 ears raw sweet corn – kernels cut from the cob
1 cup grape tomatoes – diced into quarters
1/2 cup red onion – finely diced or sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro – chopped
1 16oz can of black beans – drained and rinsed
1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine corn, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and beans in a bowl. Cut lime in half and squeeze the juice from both halves over the mixture being careful to not have any seeds fall into the bowl. Mix well and taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Recommend being conservative on the salt and pepper as this mixture will settle with time and the flavors will blend. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving with corn chips or using as a topping for any lean meat.

IMG_1348

 

Maple Mustard Salmon

Spring has official rolled in. The garden is growing, the hens are laying, and the hay fields are growing tall and green. At the same time our annual food stores are running on low in anticipation of the coming year’s bounty. There are still plenty of items that we tend to use in lower numbers. The carbohydrate rich corn and field peas are still available in plenty, but the favorites are becoming few. We are all out of the Italian seasoned tomato sauce. The frozen broccoli is gone. All that is left of the dehydrated peppers are tiny bits of broken vegetables at the bottom of plastic baggies.

I’ve been very late in assessing what we have available as well as what needs to be pitched after a year or maybe even two years of preservation. The chickens have been eating well as I clean out the freezer a little bit at a time. Sunday it was freezer burnt corn on the cob and today it was a two year old catering pan of stuffing. I think there is a fairly large stash of frozen field peas at the bottom that I’ll be digging out next. There is a thick layer of ice at the bottom of the freezer back from when Hurricane Matthew partially thawed it during the power outage that will have to be cleaned out as well.

All this comes to mind because I paired yesterday’s dinner entree with one of the final jars of garden green beans. They are a favorite in our house and so we planted a few extra rows this spring knowing that our supply is nearly out. I don’t look forward to the weeks of picking, snapping, and canning, but I do look forward to fresh beans throughout the summer and personally canned beans throughout the coming year. They’ll go great with anything just like they went great with this salmon.

MAPLE MUSTARD SALMON

IMG_1216

1 lb salmon
1/4 cup real maple syrup – splurge for the real stuff, it is worth it
1/4 cup stock  – seafood, chicken or vegetable will work
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven 425 F. In a small bowl mix together all syrup, stock, mustard, and soy sauce. Pour small amount into a small baking pan. Place salmon in pan and pour remaining sauce over fish. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool five minutes. During cooling time spoon sauce over surface of fish. Plate, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately. Enjoy.

IMG_1219

Shrimp and Beetroot Salad

Picky eaters. I don’t understand them. How can anyone possibly not want to explore all the amazing varieties of food out there at every chance they get? I love food. I love cooking food. I love growing food. I love trying new foods. Isn’t everyone like this?

No. And I somehow happened to marry one of those other people. Neal is one of the pickiest eaters I have ever encountered. I don’t think I realized this when we were dating or even engaged. Maybe that was because I was enamored with the amazing man that would become my husband or because I tried harder in the kitchen to impress. For whatever reason, I see clearly now that I’ve married a man who likes consistency and reliability. In other words he eats the same foods over and over again. He’s culinarily boring.

He use to keep quiet and tolerate my cooking adventures well. Not to brag, but it is pretty rare that I steer too far off course and create anything that isn’t pleasing to the palette. As our marriage has aged I’ve noticed he’s more prone to point out to me when he doesn’t care for something and these times are become numerous. Numerous enough that I have come to the realization I am yoked to a picky eater.

I explain this because the recipe I share with you here was one of the ones that was on the “Jenn Only” list because Neal hates beats. I love beats. They have been my favorite vegetable as a kid. Just don’t pickle them. Bless it, I hate a pickled beat, but I digress.

Neal was working late in the machine shop of a friend, working to rebuild two large wagons that had recently been added to our arsenal of hay baling equipment. When he told me he wouldn’t be home until late I knew it was my night to bust out the beats and make this delicious salad. It was fantastic. I even used the left over ingredients (minus the beats) to make two sandwich wraps to take to Neal for dinner while we worked. Maybe I can work with this picky eater I love after all.

IMG_1211

SHRIMP AND BEETROOT SALAD – one serving

8oz uncooked, easy peel shrimp
1T minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2.5 cups of chopped greens of your choice
1T feta cheese
1T slivered almonds
0.5 cups of sliced beets – cooked fresh and then sliced or canned sliced
2t olive oil
2t balsamic vinegar
2t dijon mustard

Thaw if necessary and peel shrimp. Place in bowl and toss with the garlic as well as the salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat until thoroughly cooked. Set aside.

Plate the salad by layering the greens, feta, almonds, beets, and the shrimp. In a small bowel mix the oil, vinegar and mustard. Serve on the side.

 

 

Upside Down Peach Cake

Peaches! My favorite fruit on this entire earth. I have yet to have any luck planting peach trees here on the farm. No luck, as in I killed two of them. Probably because I brought them home and then failed to put them in the ground for several months. Not my best plant parenting. Luckily, we are a stone’s throw away from the great peach producing state of South Carolina which actually out produces Georgia in peaches. This year I received a text from a friend that one of her other friends would be making a trip to a nearby peach farm and was willing to take orders. Between myself, my mother, and my mother-in-law we ordered two and a half, twenty-five pound boxes. I was in peach heaven!

We enjoyed a few fresh ones and froze the majority for future use, but one recipe that I absolutely had to make before the summer was over was this fantastic variation on Pineapple Upside Down Cake. I love it so much and will likely never make the traditional tropical version again if I have the option. Give it a try and see if you agree.

Upside Down Peach 08

 Upside Down Peach Cake

11 tbps unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3-4 large peaches, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tbps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk

Upside Down Peach 01

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using a 10” cast iron skillet, melt 3 tbps of butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and let melt until it melts and bubbles to make a sticky, thick syrup.

Upside Down Peach 02

Remove from heat and allow to cool five minutes. Place the peaches in the pan in a circular pattern.

Upside Down Peach 03

In a large mixing bowl, beat 8 tbps of butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla then the eggs.

Upside Down Peach 04

In a separate bowl, mix the flower, baking powder, and salt. Stir half of the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Stir in the milk. Stir in the remaining dry mixture and stir just until mixed. Pour the batter of the peaches spreading it to the edges of the pan.

Upside Down Peach 05

Place in the preheated oven for 60 minutes or until the edges of the cake pull from the sides and a knife poked into the center of the cake comes out clean (pushed only through the cake portion, not the fruit).

Upside Down Peach 06

Allow the skillet to cool for 20 minutes before flipping it over onto the cake plate. Allow to cool slightly and then serve while still slightly warm (with vanilla ice cream as a bonus treat).

Upside Down Peach 07

 

Pimento Cheese

It took me a good couple of years to create the perfect pimento cheese recipe to fit my tastes. I searched and searched cook books and blogs for that tasty blend of smooth cheesy goodness and sharp pimento flavor. Alas, I was unsuccessful. Instead what I present to you here is a recipe that I built piece by piece during my search. For me what makes this recipe perfect is as much the technique as it is the ingredients. I want pimento cheese to have a smooth texture and consistent flavor in each bite. I loathe tasting chunks of sharp cheddar or bland cream cheese in a spread. I believe that use of the electric mixer for this recipe is key.

PIMENTO CHEESE

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature (Not the end of the world if you forget to set it out and it is still firm from the fridge. You will just have to blend with the mixer longer.)
1 cup finely grated mild cheddar cheese (MUST be fine grated and MUST be mild)
1 cup finely grated  monterey jack cheese  (again, MUST be fine grated)
(Note: Two cups of a mild colby jack blend works well here, just make sure it is finely grated)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 fresh pimento
1-2 fresh jalapeno peppers (option)
(Note: For this particular batch I used dehydrated pimentos and jalapenos from our Spring 2015 garden. Dehydration removes many of the oils from hot peppers giving them a much milder flavor when re-hydrated. I am not a fan of super hot heat in this recipe, but using the dehydrated peppers gives the perfect balance of jalapeno flavor and just a hint of heat. Below are photos of the dehydrated peppers when they first hit the water and then about two hours later.)

 

Dice the pimentos (and optional jalapenos if using – removing the seeds to reduce the heat if desired) in a food processor and pulse until the peppers are very finely minced and blended well.

Pimento Cheese 03

Place the pepper mixture along with all other ingredients in an upright stand mixer with the paddle attachment (a hand held mixer would work just as well). Blend on low to medium speed until all ingredients are well incorporated and you can no longer distinguish the individual ingredients except for the bits of pepper.

Pimento Cheese 04

Serve immediately with crackers, fresh veggies, or on sandwich bread. Place left overs in a resealable container and place in the fridge.

Pimento Cheese 06

Happy Homesteading and God Bless!

Jennifer

Sweet and Sour Wild Duck

I’m so excited to share another great wild duck recipe! As I mentioned in the Wild Orange Duck post last month I am always on the lookout for good recipes to use with the wild duck Neal brings home from his hunts. This particular recipe was largely inspired by a recipe found in After the Hunt: Louisiana’s Authoritative Collection of Wild Game and Game Fish Cookery by Chef John D. Folse which is on the shelf at a dear friend’s house. I’ve had a copy of the recipe for some time, but just now got a chance to try it. I made a few changes, but not much. I doubled the amount of duck, doubled the flour coating ingredients and deep fried the duck instead of pan fried. Everything about this recipe came out delicious. The duck was flavorful and moist while the sauce was the perfect blend of sweet and tangy. I served it with white rice and broccoli that was frozen from last spring’s garden. It made enough for two meals of two servings each. The leftovers the next day were just as good as the first night. Make sure to include this recipe on your list next time you have duck brought home by your own hunters.

Happy Homesteading and God Bless!

Jennifer

SWEET AND SOUR WILD DUCK

Sweet Sour Pork 01

Ingredients:

8 wild  duck breasts cut into cubes
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp cornstarch, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp and 3 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2/3 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
18 oz chunked pineapple, drained with juice reserved

Directions:

In a large bowl whisk together the beaten egg, 2 tbsp cornstarch, olive oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, salt, and white pepper. Add the cubed duck and coat. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for one hour.

In a saucepan whisk together sugar, vinegar, 2 tbsp cornstarch, and 3 tsp soy sauce. Place reserved pineapple juice in measuring cup and fill with enough water to equal one cup. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until thickened. Add pineapple and turn sauce down to lowest setting to keep warm while preparing duck.

Heat a deep fryer with oil to 350 degrees.

In another large bowl blend  flour and baking soda. Toss the marinated duck in batches. Deep fry duck in batches (however many you need in order to fry in single layers – it took me three). Let drain on plate with paper towel.

In a large bowl toss duck in sauce to coat. Serve over rice.

Sweet Sour Pork 02

 

Hummingbird Cake

I’m not sure when the first time I ever had Hummingbird Cake was, but I do know it was many years ago after I had moved to Laurinburg as a college student. I remember loving every scrumptious bite and wondering where this Southern tradition had been all my life.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago while standing in the grocery store aisle where I saw the 50th Anniversary issue of Southern Living (Feb. 2016).

Hummingbird 03

Being one of my favorite magazines I grabbed a copy and let it make a home on my living room end table until I had a quiet moment to enjoy it. Low and behold, the Hummingbird Cake was featured as a reader favorite from 1978 with many appearances since then.

Hummingbird 02

It had been so long since I had last enjoyed a delicious slice of this favorite of Southern cakes that I just had to find an occasion to make one. When a going away party was planned for a friend I grab the opportunity and got to baking. 
For those who have never had Hummingbird Cake I would describe it as a sweeter carrot cake with a bit more texture due to the fruit chunks.

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE

3 cup flour
2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
8 oz crushed pineapple undrained
2 cup chopped bananas
1 cup chopped pecans (optional – I omitted)
shortening/flour for greasing pans
Double batch cream cheese frosting (One patch = 8 oz cream cheese, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 16 oz powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla)
1 cup chopped or whole pecans for decoration (I chopped)

Hummingbird 01

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together flour (I sifted the 3 cups first), sugar, salt, soda, and cinnamon. Add oil and eggs, stir until just moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, and bananas. Pour into 3 well-greased/floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake 25-30 mins. Cool in pans for 10 mins. Cool on wire rack out of pans for 1 hour. Layer with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle top with nuts.

The batter is very thick and chunky so don’t be alarmed when it doesn’t resemble other cake recipes.

Hummingbird 05

I recommend freezing the layers before icing them because it is a very tender cake that is easy to tear when icing. I also prefer thinner layers of icing than many people which is easier to do with a frozen cake rather than a fresh cake.

Hummingbird 06

The nuts are optional both inside and outside the cake. Neither Neal or myself care for nuts in our cakes very often and think this recipe is just as great without them. Neal suggested fresh fruit as a top garnish and I might indeed give that a try next time around. However you choose to top your Hummingbird Cake, I hope you enjoy this Southern classic as much as we do.

Happy Homesteading and God Bless!

Jennifer