Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Every Sunday morning from Mother's Day through Thanksgiving, I go shopping at my local farmer's market. Nothing gives me greater joy than to visit the market each week and see what fruits and produce are ready that day. It keeps me in tune with the season and how it progresses.
Farmer's markets are the best way to support local, sustainable agriculture. Farming is very hard work. For that one pepper that you buy in August, there is a farmer planting a seed in a greenhouse in March. He or she is nurturing that seed bed until a little green pops up - watering whenever the soil dries out (can be 2-3x a day depending upon the weather). Then, they transplant it carefully into a bigger seed bed, with fresh soil, fertilizer (organic or otherwise) and some type of mold prevention. That tray is then watered for about a month, until the plant is just about too large to fit in the tray, and the danger of frost is gone.
From there, the farmer will have tilled the soil and created a bed - some use plastic, some use mounds, but whatever the method, they work the soil so it's ready to accept that little plant that they have nurtured along until now.
I have helped my friend Sue at Pine Hill Farm to seed, water, transplant seedlings, lay plastic and transplant into the ground. Let me tell you - a tremendous amount of work goes into getting your food from seed to ground.
Then the real work begins, they lay drip tape along the fields, and make sure to water several times a day, every day. They weed constantly, to keep the plants from getting strangled out - this is back breaking work. They nurture the plants along until they begin to bear fruit/vegetables.
One frost, all that work is gone. Too cold, the plants don't thrive. Too hot, they scorch. Farmers have to fend off all manner of critters, like deer, rabbits, groundhogs, birds, and so many others.
Months later, when the food is ready, they go out to harvest. Picking is also back-breaking work. It requires enough skill to know when to pluck and when to leave them on the vine.
So, by the time the produce makes it to market, and see that this produce is a little more expensive, you know why. Someone has put months of back breaking labor into growing you a perfect, delicious tomato or pepper. There aren't giant machines doing all the work in an environment that has been sprayed with so many chemicals that you need a mask to walk through the fields. There aren't massive government subsidies going to small independent farmers (certainly not at the scale that agribusiness receives).
When you see how your food is grown, you know what you want to eat - and what you don't. The same is true of locally made cheeses, eggs (see my egg blog for more), beef, bison, chicken, ostrich, and goat (all available at my local farmer's market).
Different regions have different types of specialities too. We are fortunate enough to have an unbelievably delicious local maple syrup called Breezie Maples Farm. We often have a range of local bee keepers that make and sell raw honey. Raw honey is incredibly good for you. If you take a spoonful of local raw honey every day in the spring, it will lessen your seasonal allergies because you will build up an immunity to the pollens in the area. When honey is heated, all of it's goodness is gone and you are left with a sweet syrup.
What's more, when you buy local, from your local farmer's market, you are supporting local, independent businesses - people - not corporations.
Most major cities these days have at least one market, and if you live in a rural area, you likely live near farmers of some sort or another. So, visit your local market!
I follow a fabulous baker on Instagram called @thelavenderbakery. She runs a bakery in London called, The Lavender Bakery. Not only is she an incredible baker, but she's a lovely person as well. I recently shared a photo of my lilacs in full bloom (for the first time since I planted them 8 years ago) and she suggested that make Lilac sugar.
Well, the next day, I cut some lilac blossoms. I made a bouquet with some and transformed the rest into Lilac Sugar.
This is really more of a method than recipe.
First, I washed the blossoms and let them dry completely. Then I pulled the flowers from two full blooms and made sure there were no stems.
Next, I poured granulated sugar into a dry, quart sized container and mixed the blossoms in. I sealed it and put it in the cabinet. In a few weeks, I'll try making lilac sugar cookies, Lilac brioche, or maybe even lilac whipped coconut cream...
Before I can make egg salad, I need to make mayo. The store bought mayos have a lot of chemicals and preservatives - and quite frankly, don't taste very good. For egg salad, a quality homemade mayo is a must. So, here is the recipe for the mayo.
*Make sure the egg yolk has no white in it at all
Put the egg yolk, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and salt into the bottom of a blender. Mix until combined. With the blender on, slowly stream in the olive oil until it forms a creamy consistency.
BE CAREFUL not to let it break. Mayo is an emulsion, so that egg yolk can only absorb a certain amount of oil. The trick is to add enough oil to make the emulsion creamy but not enough to make it break.
You know it’s broken if the liquids separate from the fats. Then, you have to throw it out and start again.
Now we are on to the egg salad itself. So, let's talk about eggs. In my opinion, the highest quality and best tasting eggs come from organic, free range and local chickens. In my case, I am fortunate enough to get them from a wonderful woman that raises heritage breeds of chickens, feeds them a completely organic and soy free diet, and allows them to roam her property and eat grass, worms and all the other things chickens naturally eat.
While not everyone has access to this kind of egg, I do strongly recommend that you purchase free range, organic eggs if you want to make a great egg salad.
Homemade Egg Salad
I like to chop all my veggies and add them to the bottom of a bowl. Then add in the eggs and slowly fold in enough of the mayo to make it creamy. (You may need more or less than the amount stated. Just add accordingly.) Then I’ll add the herbs (to taste) and fold them in as well.
I used to add cucumbers to my egg salad, but they are too watery to go in. Now I just slice them thinly and put them on top of my egg salad sandwiches.
If I want more of a lemony flavor, I zest some lemon into the salad. If I want more of a mustard or vinegar flavor, I’ll whisk the mustard and/or the vinegar into the mayo before folding it into the eggs.
And finally, on to the sandwich... I use Peter Reinhardt's Sandwich bread recipe from the course materials of the Craftsy platform, but you can use the version in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which is quite similar. Sometimes, I shape it into a Pullman's Loaf, other times, I make these fabulous clover leaf rolls. I've used it to make hamburger and slider buns. It's an incredibly versatile recipe. Regardless of it's shape, they deliver a moist, delicious sandwich bread or roll.
My favorite garnish for an egg salad sandwich is thinly sliced cucumber and radish. If I can find purslane, I'll dress it with that lovely green too. Bon Appetit!
I'm a home cook with a lifelong passion for learning, exploring and experimenting in my kitchen. You can find me at @Debs1 on Twitter and @Debs121212 on Instagram.
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