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July 4th Picnic: Sweet Cherry Chutney

finished cherry chutney

I have spent the last couple weeks preserving my way through a sea of cherries. First came a 20 pound box of sweets from the nice people at the Washington State Fruit Commission as part of the annual Canbassador program. Then, just when I’d finished turning them into chutney, jam, kompot, clafoutis, and shrub, I picked up a flat of sour cherries from Three Springs Fruit Farm. I have one more pound of those to work through from that flat and then I’m done.

cherries for chutney

Happily, cherries were a perfect fit for this July 4th cheese board project. I made a fresh batch of sweet cherry chutney with some of the Canbassador fruit. Paired with a wedge of sturdy blue cheese and piled on those homemade graham crackers, it was pretty darn delicious.

chopped cherries

If you don’t have the time or desire to pit four pounds of cherries (admittedly, it can be a little tedious), I suggest you make a batch of pickled cherries. These can be preserved with the pits still in them and after a few days, they are ready to eat. These honey-sweetened cherries with fresh rosemary would also pair up nicely with that wedge of blue.

chutney in spread

Tenaya posted her tips for stirring up tasty summer sparklers to drink with cheeses today. Make sure to head over there and take a look!

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July 4th Picnic: Spiced Blueberries & Goat Brie

reflective spiced blueberries

Blueberries were one of the very first ingredients that Tenaya and I discussed when we first started talking about creating this 4th of July-themed cheese and preserve picnic. They typically come into season in our area in the last days of June and they can be transformed into all sorts of cheese-friendly preserves.

blueberries in a bowl

Instead of making jam, I opted to make blueberries in a highly spiced, slightly tangy syrup. I wouldn’t call them pickled blueberries, because they don’t pack a huge amount of pucker, but they have a small amount of apple cider vinegar in the preserving liquid to ensure that they taste zippy.

cooking blueberries

We paired these blueberries with a round of goats milk brie and it was an awfully good bite. They were also tasty gently mashed into the homemade graham crackers that Tenaya made. One of our friends who came over to help us eat the cheeses and preserves after our shoot was over was of the opinion that they would also make a very nice addition to a bowl of oatmeal. I wouldn’t disagree.

boiling berries

Like many of the recipes I post here, consider the listed spices as mere suggestions. You can change the flavorings without impacting the safety of the finished preserve. These would be equally good with vanilla beans, lightly crushed cardamom pods, or even some dried hot peppers if you like spicy things.

spiced blueberries and goat brie

You should get three pints of berries from this recipe, with approximately 8 to 12 ounces of liquid leftover. There are two really good things to do with this leftover goodness. You can store it in a jar in the fridge for adding to glasses of sparkling water. Or you can cook it down into a thick syrup that you can then drizzle over slices of toast spread thickly with fresh ricotta. The choice is up to you.

open spiced blueberries

More about our celebratory picnic tomorrow!

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Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote + OXO GreenSaver

shipped rhubarb

A couple months ago, I started hearing some positive buzz about the new OXO GreenSaver containers. I like to keep a variety of greens on hand for smoothies and salads but it’s always something of a race against time to eat them before they get turn slimy. More often than I care to admit, I’ve pitched the last quarter of a bag because it’s gotten too funky to be good.

rhubarb in the greensaver

In an attempt to waste less, I bought myself the medium GreenSaver and started packing it full of greens as soon as I got them home from the grocery store. After the first week, I was a believer (hallelujah!). Those greens stayed good days longer than they would have if stored in bags in the crisper drawer. Week after week, I used up every last spinach leaf and arugula tendril.

The way the GreenSaver works is that the filter pack absorbs the ethylene gas that ripening produce releases, while improving airflow around the produce, and helping control the humidity in the container (the door the holds the filter pack in place slides back and forth to help either retain or release the moisture).

rhubard after 1 week

So, when I got an email from OXO, saying they were looking for bloggers to participate in a campaign they were running with Melissa’s Produce featuring the GreenSaver containers and an assortment of seasonal produce, I submitted my name for consideration (since I was among the converted).

I danced a small jig when I heard I was picked and waited anxiously for a large GreenSaver and a bundle of rhubarb to arrive.

rhubarb strawberries sugar

Now, this is not the first time in my life that I’ve received produce in the mail as part of some blog campaign. Typically I clear my schedule when I know fruit is arriving, because I know it’s going to need to be used within a fairly short window of time.

In this case, the point was to store the rhubarb for a bit in order to prove the efficacy of the GreenSaver so when it arrived on May 15, I simply trimmed the stalks down enough so that they’d fit in the container and popped them in the fridge.

roasted rhubarb and strawberries

There they sat until the following Thursday. I could have let them go longer, but we were headed out for the long weekend and I wanted to couple those rhubarb stalks with some strawberries and they weren’t going to last until we got back.

After a week in the GreenSaver, the rhubarb was in amazingly good shape. It had aged some, but had it been stored in a plastic bag it would have been unusable (just a few weeks back, I’d neglected some rhubarb in the crisper and it molded and liquified after a five days. It was tragic).

roasted rhubarb and strawberries side of jar

I trimmed the rhubarb into lengths of about 2 inches long and quartered the strawberries. I tossed the fruit with a scant half-cup of cane sugar and rubbed the seeds from a split vanilla bean into the mess.

The pan went into a 350 degree oven and the fruit roasted for 20 to 25 minutes. I like the rhubarb to have retain some structural integrity and so pull it out when it has softened but before it fully disintegrates.

roasted rhubarb in a jar

I like to eat this rustic compote with plain yogurt and a sprinkle of simple granola (Cheryl’s nutmeg crunch would be good too). It’s also good as a topper for oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, and french toast. Hey, I wouldn’t judge if you ate it straight out of the pan (I may have done a bit of that myself).

For more information about OXO GreenSavers, visit their website. If you long for rhubarb and live in a place where it’s hard to come by, Melissa’s Produce has got you covered.

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