Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hot Lunch and Vinegar.

I feel like it's been months since I've eaten lunch. At least, the lunches I was used to eating before my Kiddo went to full-day Kindergarten. While most of the time I do make a point to carve out a proper lunchtime for myself, the past month or so has been bread and cheese eaten on the fly type lunch, or cold whatever I had for dinner last night lunch. I was just telling a new friend how the school lunch time for my son is only about 15 minutes long, and how important meal times are to us. Before the Kiddo went to school, we would frequently sit for an hour around the table for lunch, chatting and lallygagging over a proper meal. How is it I've reduced myself to 10 minutes of cold food?

taco fillingtaco lunch.

This past two weeks, I have been swamped in sugar. I haven't really tried to eat my fill, but it seems that in testing (and you do need to taste things, just to make sure they are good, right?) multiple sweets many times during the morning, my belly was just aching for some real vegetable food. When half of a sweet potato fell out of the Tetris of my refrigerator around lunchtime today, it was as if I was being beckoned to cook for myself. A hot lunch of vegetable drawer items, sauteed in olive oil and finished off with a bit of hot, home-canned jalapeno brine. Lucky for me, I had a couple of pinto bean tortillas hiding in the freezer that quickly came back to life under the steam of the skillet, and the remains of some cotija cheese I found buried in my cheese drawer. I felt lonely at the table by myself, but fortunately, my eyes wandered across the room to the cider vinegar that I've been putting off for a while now...

Satiated with my wholesome, non-sugared lunch, I started my afternoon by tasting the jars of vinegar. The larger of the two jars I started first, just after pressing the apples for the first time this fall with my Parents. It was pleasantly floral, vinegary but still gracefully reminiscent of the apples we picked. Since I plan to use these vinegars to cook with or dress salads (or drink with seltzer), I am not worried so much that they aren't very strong, not nearly as strong as Bragg's cider vinegar. The smaller of the two jars was considerably weaker but still a bit acidic. I figured it could benefit to stand longer, but I decided to use some right away in my fermented hot sauce I had all but forgotten about.

apple cider vinegar

The vinegar mat that formed on the tops of the smaller diameter jar was much thicker than the larger, shallower jar. I'm not sure if the type of jars I used contributed to the time frames that the vinegars took to complete. I almost suspect so. I saved my "mothers" (if you are local and want some, let me know...), and I'm saving them not quite sure where my vinegar adventures will take me going into the new year. I have taken a break from kombucha brewing, in part because I don't have a huge space to store all my projects and I was a bit worried about cross-contamination. I'd like to get back to daily kombucha consumption, especially since I have quite a cache of tested fruit syrups that have made their way to my freezer!

the mothers of vinegar.

I had quite a time finding jalapenos this summer, which I remembered when I was eating my taco lunch devoid of any additional peppers. I was able to find an ice cream pail of mixed hot peppers, and I got to pick them alongside an Amish man as we talked about his family and who in it liked hot food. The Amish, for the most part, like spicy things which is kind of surprising to me. I didn't get to make as many candied jalapenos as I had hoped this year, instead I got a pint of wicked orange pepper paste. It was much too hot to eat a spoonful on anything (and I can handle things pretty warm, mind you), so after I fermented it I left it in the fridge for months where I nearly forgot about it. (You can read more about my search for peppers this year over here. The recipe link that I loosely followed to lacto-fermenting my hot sauce is there as well.)

fermented hot peppers

I transferred it to my VitaMix, and added some of the mild vinegar to taste. Taste testing hot sauce is a difficult thing, but I did my best. I threw in a casual soup spoonful of honey and added more of the mild vinegar. This is a pretty hefty heat, but one that hits the front of your tongue first and then moves on fairly quickly. It's not the lingering, throat coating heat of a jalapeno, and it's a good thing, since it's maybe 10 times hotter. I think I got my sauce to a good flavor, but it's nearly water in consistency. No matter, since just a few drops of this stuff will enliven anything I can throw at it for the next year or so. I got one old Frank's Red Hot bottle full, plus two small 8 oz. vanilla extract jars. Even though they were washed thoroughly, I wonder if a nuance of vanilla will be found in the sauce after it sits, or if that hot sauce will just eat its way through any residual vanilla perfume. Time will tell.

fermented hot pepper sauce

I sat down last night to make a quick label for some Blueberry Vinegar, this was the only vinegar success I had after obtaining my original mother of vinegar from Lizzy, my Parents neighbor. I had 3 half pint jars, plus this little re-purposed vial:

blueberry (apple) vinegar
I clarified this vinegar by bringing it up to 140 degrees. It's no longer raw, but very pretty!

Since my Husband has been working more evenings, I have lately felt ravenously hungry by the time 5 o'clock hits, too hungry to wait for him for supper. But not so much today. Hot lunch is something I'll have to implement for myself again on a regular basis. I've talked before on the pleasures of cooking for one, and it is such a good feeling. I had no idea what would become of throwing vegetables into my cast iron skillet, and then miraculously tacos appeared. Even eating alone didn't feel quite so lonely when contemplating the vinegar and all of its complexities, though I still felt the pangs of aging as I remembered the solemn fact that my son is now going to be in school, unable to spend the lunch hour with me for most of the year from here on out. I suspect I'll be making labels now for my hot sauce, provided I can think of a clever name that isn't too trite. Maybe I'll ponder that over tomorrow's lunch.

vinegar creations.

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering how your vinegar adventure was going. Looks like it has gone very well indeed! Yes, I remember my Dad being very specific about the jars he used.


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