Savory Schmeres

This pair of recipes may be used as dips, schmeres, spreads, dollops, or any other way you can think of to serve them. I personally like them in small dollops on a cheese cracker or spread on biscuits hot out of the oven.

BACON JALAPENO JAM
Prep Time: 30 minuntes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Serves: 10

Ingredients
1¾ lb. thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1” pieces
2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
? cup cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup strong brewed coffee
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 bags (large) Kettle Brand Original Chips

Directions
Cook bacon over medium-high heat in a large skillet, stirring occasionally, until bacon is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Transfer bacon pieces to a large plate or tray to drain.

Saute jalapeño, onion and garlic in bacon fat until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, then add the vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup and coffee.

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet.

In a crockpot, combine the bacon and the vinegar mixture, stirring briefly to combine.
Cook on high, uncovered, for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and two tablespoons of the cooking liquid; stir into the bacon crockpot mixture.

Continue to cook on high, uncovered, for 3 hours. Carefully transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse mixture until coarsely chopped.

Transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool before serving with chips.

Mixture can easily be made and refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 weeks before using.
MEATY ONION RELISH
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Serves: 10

Ingredients 
2 cups drippings from pork loin, roast beef or other roasted meat
4 large sweet yellow onions
1tsp black pepper
1tsp garlic powder or minced garlic

Directions

Peel and dice onions.

In crock pot, combine all ingredients. Set on medium and allow to cook until all onions are soft and clear.

Turn heat to high for 10 minutes. Add arrowroot powder and allow to thicken, stirring often.

Allow to cool before placing in a bowl to serve.

Relish may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks before using. Also good for canning project.

This relish relies on the spices used for the roasted meat as a major part of the flavoring. It will be a little different with every batch, depending on the drippings. Bits of meat and fat may be included, adding to the savory flavors.

 

I apologize for the lack of photos, but these were oddities in my kitchen. Hopefully you will give them a spin and let us know what you think.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

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Crock Pot Sweet Spreads

Have you seen the price of jams and jellies lately? Why not make your own? You can get as crazy with flavors as you like, and make enough to share. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due to the many variations that are available for each.

APPLE BUTTER
Warm apple butter is like a taste of fall on a spoon, and it’s even better homemade. Peel, core and dice six pounds of Gala apples and put into the slow cooker. In a separate bowl mix one cup of sugar, one cup of brown sugar, one tablespoon of. cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of cloves, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and one tablespoon of vanilla extract. Combine with the apples and cook on low until the mixture has cooked down. Uncover and cook for 2 more hours. Blend until smooth and serve or store.

BACON JAM
Bacon jam is an amazing savory AND sweet onion garlic spread that is, we need to repeat, amazing. In a slow cooker, combine 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, and 3/4 cup of coffee. Add 1 1/2 pounds of bacon that has been lightly browned and drained. Mix in two small diced onions and three garlic cloves that have been cooked until translucent. Cook on high for four hours. Coarsely chop in a processor and serve warm on toast points.

Spread some of these taste treats on a warm biscuit after you make them, and let us know how you enjoyed the results.

–Ann Cathey

Serving Cheeses

Cheese plates are a nice addition to any gathering, from a dinner for a few friends all the way up to a large wedding reception. The most often seen cheese tray is at a wine and cheese party, though, so your pairings for tasting must be carefully chosen.

I will concentrate on this last serving for today’s blog to keep it fairly simple and give you an idea that may be expanded on to fit your own cheese tasting experiences.

You will want to present a selection that offers several of tastes and textures, and there are plenty to choose from in the cheese world. Don’t be daunted by the variety. It’s not as difficult as may seem to choose just a few. Pick 3-5 cheeses so that your guests can experience each without confusion or being overwhelmed.

Start your list with a cheese that is familiar to your guests. A cheddar makes a good starting point. Having your other choices be easy to cube and handle can be reassuring to guests, especially if you are introducing your audience to new things.

Soft Cheeses
Soft cheeses are often the choice for melting, but they are also delightful for tastings. They most often spread well and may be served on crackers that are sturdy, but not dense. There are any number of soft cheeses that are flavored (naturally buttery or with added taste sensations such as garlic or raspberry), and will offer a singular mouth feel.

Boursin, Queso Fresco, Chevre (goat cheese), and fresh Mozarella are all readily available and interesting in both flavor and texture.

Creamy Cheeses
While there is some overlap between the soft and creamy cheeses, each type offers unique selections. Butterkase, Camembert, Danablu, and Cahill’s Irish Porter Cheddar all have their own flavors while sharing a creamy texture.

These cheeses match up with acidic flavors and crisp textures such as whole wheat crackers or apples.

Semi-Hard Cheeses
This is the range of firmness most commonly seen by most Americans: Cheddar, Swiss, Monterrey Jack, Gouda, and Provalone. For specifics, Kerrygold’s Blarney Castle, Applewood, Colby Swiss Cheddar (or just Colby), and Jarlsberg.

Pair these cheese with party sized breads such as pumpernickel and baguette. Serve with simple jellies, jams or preserves. Apricot and fig are popular.

Flavored Semi-Hard Cheeses
Many cheddar and similar types of cheeses are now available in flavored varieties. These cheeses are created using the same time-honored method most readily recognized in blue cheeses – where the flavoring has been stirred into the curds before they are pressed into molds. Some popular examples are Sage Derby, Pepper Jack, Red Windsor, and White Stilton with Mango and Ginger.

As these cheeses are already flavored, pair them simply with mild flavored crackers.

Smoked Cheeses
Most of the semi-hard cheeses mentioned above can be found in smoked varieties. Smoked Gouda and Tillamook Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar are extremely popular examples.

Nuts make a nice accompaniment for these cheeses. I have enjoyed them with smoked baby oysters and sliced baguette as well.

Aged Cheeses
Gouda and Fontina age remarkably well, each changing in flavor, texture and hardness at different stages of the aging process. Pair them with things that will balance the flavors. Caramelized nuts or English mustard work well.

Hard Cheeses
Parmesan, Asiago, Romano and other hard or brittle cheeses may be used, but generally have very strong flavors and can be difficult to slice and serve in such a way to be easy for guests to handle. If your guests are cheese officionados, they shouldn’t be afraid of a little crumbling.

Pair these cheeses with green and red grapes as a counterpoint to both texture and the strong flavors.

Wine Pairings
The links included above go to cheese specific pages, many of which offer suggestions for wine pairings.

Setting Up your Platter
A large wooden cutting board or cheese board will make an excellent surface to present your cheeses on, and will allow you to offer cut pieces as well as the remainder of the whole cheese for a good visual effect. The whole piece may be cut right there if you need additional servings.Depending on your selections, parsley, cilantro or mint may be used for a bit of garnish on the platter. If there is room, crackers and fruits may be included, or served on separate dishes. Mustards, jams, or other wet offerings should be served in separate bowls.

Make labels to display on your platter. Small fold-over cards, or cards mounted on toothpicks which are inserted into the respective cheese work well. They may be hand-written or pre-printed to suit your gathering.

 

Don’t be afraid to try new things. There are literally thousands of cheeses worldwide, and with so many of them now available in groceries an markets across the US, they are readily available to consumers. Taste them, cook with them, share them with your friends!

–Ann Cathey