Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BBF Travels: Cape Cod

My first drive on beach ride! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Putting Up Peaches

The law of unintended consequences, first coined as such by sociologist Robert Merton, is defined as "outcomes that are not the ones intended by purposeful actions." This principle can be seen at work when one unsuspecting woman affirms in an off-handed manner, "Sure, we can leave for the beach a day early," to her dear boyfriend. 

An example of an unanticipated outcome is that she will then have to spend an entire evening canning and freezing 40 pounds of peaches. 

I kind of hated peaches by the time I was nearing the end. 

First up was peach salsa. Made from mostly peaches, but with one red pepper, one onion, spices, and 4 jalapenos. I recommend seeding the jalapenos first, despite the recipe failing to mention the incredible spice levels that will result if you don't. Lesson learned. 

Then I made peach barbecue sauce, which was very similar in composition to the peach salsa, but with more honey and other savory barbecue spices. 

By chopping the peaches very finely, they broke down into a thick sauce after a slow simmer.   

And three quarts of halved peaches in a Bourbon simple syrup, where I wondered, maybe I should make one without booze? Then I thought, is there ever an instant where I'd want booze-free peaches? ...Nope! 

And for the rest of the peaches, I froze them, sliced in a simple syrup. I knew tackling jam after all these other recipes was unwise, so now I'm free to make peach jalapeno jam from frozen peaches later. 

I will say, as Vrylena (who also bought a case of peaches) notes, that peeled peaches are very slippery. So prepare to cover your kitchen in peach juice and therefore at least triple your kitchen's fruit fly population. 

Recipes below!

Peach Salsa
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

6 cups chopped pitted peeled peaches
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 1/4 cup chopped red onion
4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed finely chopped cilantro (optional)
2 tbsp honey
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 ground cumin
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and heat for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Ladle hot salsa into hot 8-ounce jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Apply two part canning lids and tighten until fingertip tight. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: about 8 8-ounce jars (I got 7 1/2)

Peach Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

6 cups finely chopped pitted peeled peaches
1 cup seeded and chopped red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 1/4 cups honey
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp hot pepper flakes (I substituted in a jalapeno for some of the 1 cup of sweet pepper)
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and heat until sauce is thickened slightly, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes more.

Ladle hot sauce into hot 8-ounce jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Apply two part canning lids and tighten until fingertip tight. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: about 8 8-ounce jars

Peaches in Spirited Syrup
Adapted from National Center for Home Food Preservation 

For medium simple syrup:
(For other syrup ratios, such as heavy or light, visit NCHFP)

8 1/2 cups water
3 3/4 cups sugar

Combine water and sugar in a large stockpot and bring to a boil.

Peel, pit, and halve peaches, placing the peaches in the prepared syrup as you work. Bring peaches in syrup back to a boil. Pack peaches into quart jars, cavity side down. Add 2 tbsp bourbon, whiskey or rum to quart jars.

Cover peaches with syrup, leaving 1/2" headspace. Remove air bubbles, remeasure headspace and adjust as needed. Apply two part canning lids and tighten until fingertip tight. Process in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.

Makes enough for 3 quarts of peaches and 4 1/2 quarts of peaches frozen in syrup.

Freezing Peaches

From National Center for Home Food Preservation 

Peel, pit, and slice peaches and place into leftover syrup. Fill freezer grade quart bags, being sure not to overpack and leaving room for expansion. Label and date bags and freeze. Use within one year for best quality.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Peach Haul

I bought a case of peaches. It looks like this: 

...times about 40. 

I've never gotten too into buying peaches when they're in season in Maine, since they're very expensive. I'd imagine peaches aren't too prolific in Maine, since places like Georgia are better known for their peach growing abilities, causing the price to reflect that small supply. 

But at $45 for 25 pounds, I was happy to pick up a case and start dreaming of recipes. So far, I've found peach salsa, peach barbecue sauce, spirited peaches (probably with Bourbon), and peach jam (either also with Bourbon or more Bellini jam). (...Actually, I think I can add Bourbon to all of those recipes.)

I will of course update you with recipes! 

I picked the peaches up out at Maple Springs Farm in Harrison with Vrylena. The peaches are from Connecticut, and after a few days, they are now ripe and taste and smell divine. I'm excited to roll up my sleeves and start canning tonight. 

If you are interested in purchasing your own case of peaches, Mark of the Peaches is going to make another run by the end of the month. Email him at  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review-O-Rama: Taco Escobarr Again

...sigh.... I can't, you guys. I just can't. 

I will for your sake though. Here we go.

As part of this month's O-Rama (a series of collaborative reviews on a theme from your team of local food bloggers), we were tasked with revisiting a Portland restaurant we'd didn't like. We're calling it Second Chances.   

My thoughts immediately turned to Taco Escobarr, the taco joint from the Nosh guys, which I gave up on in December of last year after many negative experiences.  Despite the bad food, I initially said I'd continue to go there, for convenience sake (and took a beating in the comments - who knew that'd be the most controversial part of my review?). 

But time told a different tale, one in which I avoided the bar, and actually no one I knew even suggested we go there. I guess the feeling was mutual. 

Friday night dinner after happy hour at the Thirsty Pig was the perfect time to try Taco Escobarr again. Three beers in, I was hungry and thought that would carry me through any small quibbles over the food. 

The meal started out well enough, with a salted margarita and chips and guac. Both good. 

I then had three tacos - one in each kind of shell they offer (from left to right: puffy, soft, and hard), filled with pulled pork, fried fish, and spicy ground beef filling respectively. I got the medium green salsa.

I started with the fish taco, since I knew it was the strongest in the bunch. And it's great - plus I love fish tacos. It was a little overwhelmed by the amount of creme fraiche on top, but that's easily remedied. The fish is perfectly fried, with a great ratio of crust to fish. The picked slaw on top is a nice touch. 

However, a few bites of the puffy pork taco revealed the same problem I had last time - the puffy shells are pre-fried and sit around, becoming soft and sometimes greasy. 

Fresh food lovers, avert your eyes...

Photographic evidence of pre-fried puffy taco shells!!

While I'm just being silly, and it's certainly not a crime to pre-fry taco shells, I do think they would be vastly improved by being fried to order.

The just straight up sad part came when I moved onto the "hard" shell filled with ground beef. There was nothing hard about this taco shell, and instead was doused with orange grease that make it tough and slick.

Poor A. had three hard shell tacos, so his basket of food was swimming in grease. I did not finish my pork or beef tacos, but he slogged through his and then felt greasy and heavy for the rest of the night.

Unfortunately, my second visit to Taco Escobarr just revealed more of the same. Greasy food, over priced compared to Amigo's (yes, I believe Escobarr is comparable to Amigo's), in a loud, neon, fratty environment.

If you're in the mood foor crunchy Tex Mex Taco Tuesday-esque food, go to Amigo's, where at least you know what you're in for. If you want good tacos, with interesting fillings and salsa, head across the bridge into South Portland to Taco Trio.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

East End Cupcakes

Ed. note: East End Cupcakes is now closed.

East End Cupcakes, the hip, cupcakes-only bakery on Fore Street in Portland's Old Port, was once a competitor in the Cupcake Challenge a few bloggers and I held as an attempt to catalog the plethora of local wee cake offerings. 

But both buttercream topped options participating in our tasting failed to wow me, and I was swayed by other cream cheese and ganache frosted cakes in the bunch. Unfortunately, this led me to the premature conclusion that I didn't like any of the cupcakes coming out of East End Cupcakes. 

But since these cupcakes keep finding their way into my life (and no, I don't just mean that I just stop in the shop a lot!), I've had a chance to reevaluate my opinion. And I've learned that I just don't like American buttercream that much, not East End cupcakes. Instead, give me a cream cheese frosting to swoon over, please. 

So a recent visit (when the owner lent me equipment to bake cupcakes for a friend's wedding - thanks again, Alysia!), I picked up a red velvet frosted with cream cheese frosting and a Key lime cheesecake topped with a lime chip.

And the red velvet was fantastic as usual, with a tender cake and sweet yet tangy frosting, the cheesecake won my heart. Perched on a crumbly graham cracker base, the filling was light, creamy, and far from cloyingly sweet. The dollop of whipped cream on top complimented with a sweet and fluffy kick. And the lime chip prompted me to think, and where's the tequila? A fun confection.

So I've come around and now enjoy stopping into the shop to marvel over the beautiful display of cupcakes, picking out my favorite one (most definitely the vanilla with coconut cream cheese frosting), and having a bite-sized sweet treat to satisfy my small sweet tooth.

And those cupcakes I baked for a friend's wedding? Here they are in all their glory:

Carrot with cream cheese frosting and chocolate with chocolate buttercream. These were made on the mainland, boated out to the island, and frosted at the reception site. You might think this is the start of my career as a private event baker... but yeah, no, I'm good.

Congrats to Jacky and Ian, and mad props to my partner-in-baking, Amanda, as they turned out beautifully and were very well received and appreciated by the happy couple and guests alike.