My refrigerator… and ham salad.

So I didn’t go to the grocery store like I should have today, and now I feel like making something but I have to make do with what’s in my refrigerator. And here is what I have to work with: Boursin, chutney (not homemade, boo), puff pastry, dates, bleu cheese dressing, a lemon, eggs, butter, bleu cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino, Brie, Kerry Gold Reserve Cheddar, and Hormel ham steak.

What should I make? What can I make? It is a weekend and I will get to the Publix at some point and then I have a whole other list of things to make for my work week lunches.

So here is what we are going to try and make work – we shall see how it goes. I feel confident that it will not be a disappointment. At least I hope not. We shall see.

Another no recipe recipe. That is not a bad thing when you get right down to it. D&D_2093

8 oz smoked ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge (what is that?), and cube it. Into the food processor it goes for 8-10 pulses.

3 Tbs sweet relish, drained like you would do for deviled eggs.  Totally subjective – add more or less to your taste, but do make sure you drain it. I like relish in my ham salad.

Yellow or Vidalia Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater and make sure you get all the onion juice – that is really important. Or if you are like me, you can use the food processor for this too – no need to clean it since the ham and onions are going in together.

Freshly ground black pepper. A great spice in my opinion. But it must be freshly ground – I think that goes without saying.

Duke’s Mayo* – just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last. 2-3 Tbs seems to work, though to be honest, I don’t measure, I just wing it.

This must site for at least a day or two. Same thing with chicken salad – do not try to eat it the day you make it – it just do not work. ~

*No substitutions, I mean, if you live in the South anyways. Not sure what the rest of you do for Mayo – sad to say.

~The same thing can be said for hummus too. The flavors need to come together to really work.

Ham Salad – here I am attempting again … ugh, am I destined for failure?

I know I say my favorite (only) ham salad is from the Apple Market, but it is true. And then I look at the list of ingredients and see this: chopped ham. sweet relish, mayonnaise, onions, and black pepper.

D&D_2041And that really kind of makes me grumpy. Why can I not make a great ham salad out of simple ingredients. I do it with chicken salad, so what is the difference?? Makes me slightly crazy.

I do know I am going to have a ham salad sandwich for breakfast tomorrow. Yes, I eat all kind of random things for breakfast – cold tofu pad thai, pasta, cold pizza – and then some traditional things – peanut butter toast, toast with really good salted butter and apple jelly, toast with really good salted butter and local honey. Yes, toast seems to be a thing. Pop Tarts – specifically blueberry or brown sugar.

Okay, after wondering far afield, let us get back to ham salad.

1st – what kind of ham to buy and what to do with it. In the Apple Market version is seems more than just chopped as I know it. Almost minced. Maybe run through a food mill, or pulsed a few times in a food processor?  Wonder who at Apple Market I can bribe to find out the answer?

So what I did was buy an 8oz ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge, and cube it. Then I put it in the food processor for 8-10 pulses, until it looked like what I thought would work best. 

2nd – The sweet relish always made sense to me, but you should not go overboard, nor should you make it to liquidy – drain that relish for the most part, just like you do with deviled eggs.

This ended up to be about 3 Tbs, but that is a subjective thing – more or less if you would like.

3rd – Mayonnaise, Duke’s specifically, needs to be just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last.

It was only 2 Tbs and that was almost too much, but in the end, it worked out well.

4th – Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater.  Again, it’s the – how much – that’s the issue.

Tasting as I go along will be key. I took a small onion and instead of grating on a box grated, used the food processor to pulse it to very small pieces and kept the juice and used it too – about 3 Tbs total when it came down to it. I’d say 3/4 of a small yellow onion.

5th – Seasoning with black pepper should not be a problem. I love black pepper.

Now the question is do I just make it or do I have some Apple Market ham salad to compare. Is that wise? Perhaps or perhaps not.

Also, I must let this sit for at least a day or two. It tasted okay as I was going along, but I know I won’t really have a good idea for how it will work until it has sat in the fridge for at least, I’m thinking, two days.

It did make a difference. I had been worried I put too much mayonnaise , but after a days rest in the fridge, it worked well. Actually might have needed a bit more.

Apple Market Ham Salad

Okay, this is another thing that I have found that someone, Apple Market, does so much better than any version I have ever made. Yes, it is ham salad.

Let’s just get all the disclaimers out of the way. I will eat deli ham on occasion – see chicken, cheddar, apricot sandwich in which ham plays a key role. But a big ol’ Easter ham is not for me. The cut is too thick and I just do not care for it which is slightly interesting since I really like the vast majority of the rest of the pig (pork) parts a lot, no really, A Lot.

The MotH says this ham salad is too sweet and I am guessing that is the sweet relish, but I really really like it.

Apple Market is an interesting place. It is a local (yeah) small grocery store that has a great deli, excellent beer selection, a real butcher shop, sushi, really fresh dairy, and I think they employ most of the teen-aged kids from the area of East Pensacola Heights. They were one of the first grocery places to open after Ivan and after that you could tell that they had increased the generator back ups for the whole store.

Apple Market is a real treat. I do not get there as often as I would like, but since I have had the ham salad recently, I am motivated. May not look like much, but you should envy me. Yes, you should. D&D_1849

Okay? Does it look like cat food? Or is that just me? Sigh. I just stay up too late. I really should not say that, but the idea just struck me. No matter – it tastes amazing. And I am going back this weekend for more. Yep. Also to see if they have some really old chickens that will make a great chicken and rice.

Yukon Gold Potato Salad

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Yukon Gold Potato Salad

We like to stop by Bailey’s Farmers’ Market to see what’s going on almost every weekend. It is right up the road from our house, and the hours are great (read: long). It is a fun experience and I have no plan when I go in – just buy what seems a good price – usually local – and then I get home and do the “what the hell am I going to do with this”  part of the equation.  But honestly, that is the fun part of the deal. I keep waiting for nectarine prices to drop (hello, cobbler), but a week ago the Yukon gold potatoes were excellent and beyond cheap (does that mean I’m cheap – probably), so I went for it and got a pound. That’s more than enough for me and the MotH since the Boy moved out. Sad, but inevitable – still make food for him though and that does ease it a bit for me.

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Vinegar, the kind you like best

1/3 cup sweet relish

1 rib of celery, peeled and small diced

Duke’s mayo

yellow mustard

1 scallion, sliced

2 Tbs flat-leaf parsley, minced

This is a no-recipe recipe. There is some methodology to it, but really you just taste and adjust as you go along.

Boil the potatoes in very salted water until they are easily pierced by a paring knife and then drain. The most important part is dousing the hot potatoes with vinegar and perhaps some relish juice – they soak it up like crazy. Then let them cool.

I tried this idea with Dijon mustard, but you need something more substantial – plain old yellow (hot dog) mustard. I think it is the extra vinegar factor and vinegar is a must with this non-recipe recipe.

Then just mix everything else in. And add chives, if you have them. Maybe a shallot or even grated onion, but I did not. I do not think the scallion was enough. This was a perfect Southern potato salad – at least to me it was.

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

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Cranberry Horseradish Relish

Totally wrong time of the year, but you can’t help what you want when you want it. This is excellent!

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

  • 2 pkgs (6 cups) fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Combine sugar and orange juice in sauce pan. Boil until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries and return to boil. Simmer until cranberries begin to burst. Let cool completely; mix in horseradish and cloves. Refrigerate.

Bench Notes: Easy peasy. I’ve been making this since (gasp) the late 1990’s. If I remember correctly, this was a Southern Living recipe and I used to make it for my small family but share half with a great friend and her family. Now I make for my larger family and another great friend, and her family enjoys it too.

I bring it to all Thanksgiving gathering whether anyone wants it there or not, because I like it – not any protest as far as I’ve heard. It will last in the fridge for months and is excellent on leftover turkey sandwiches esp. with bleu cheese dressing. And really good with any roasted meat. I make sure to set some aside for the best Mother-in-Law a wife could ever have.  But, by definition, it is Thanksgiving to me. My Thanksgiving because I made it when it was just me and The Boy.  Funny, because we always had the Ocean Spray canned stuff with the marked lines for cutting – which I also loved – growing up.* Guess we all grow up at some point.

Oh, and fresh cranberries can be stored in the freezer for later use – for about ever.  Nice since my grocery store sells them for Buy one – Get one for the week before Thanksgiving.

It’s now July and I am craving this. I think I know why. Our freezer puked back in the spring and I lost my cranberries and everything else except for the nuts and chocolate chips. Just couldn’t take the chance with the cranberries. But I am so ready for this Oct / Nov. Will not be w/out this again.

* We also had a pickle and olive tray at our Thanksgiving table. Olives – ugh, but sweet Gerkins were my favorites – other than bread & butter, the only pickle I like except for the ones I make. I think I may ask my Dad for that tray. Don’t expect anyone else will – at least I hope not.

Roasted Red Potatoes

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Roasted New Red Potatoes

We get these really great creamer potatoes this time of year. They are these small red potatoes and they are so great for roasting – like candy.   Local, from the farmers’ market, and short lived, but wonderfully addictive. But I never realized how good those roasted potatoes could be for potato salad.  I have been on the search for really good potato salad – for years. Now I have some ideas. Will be hitting Bailey’s Market this weekend and if that fails – the By-Pass Market in Milton.

And how to I do this amazing roasting – it’s dead simple. Cut potatoes in half – they are small, like golf ball sized, and put in a large bowl. Add olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Line a baking sheet w/foil and dump potatoes out and turn cut side down. Roast at 350 until a paring knife pierces the potato easily – about 15 – 20 minutes or so. That’s it. Not rocket science, but damn good potatoes.

So what makes a good potato salad?* To be honest, it is not something I grew up with and I’m not entirely sure why, but it may be that we were a rice family – not a potato family. And to this day mashed potatoes – ugh. I do love a good baked potato, but I think that’s because I can put cheese (cheddar) and sour cream and chives, if I’m growing them, on top. It’s really about the toppings, not the vehicle.

Gingras Apple Cider Vinegar

Gingras Apple Cider Vinegar

Okay, back to what makes a good potato salad – potatoes cooked well, to me, is a key thing. Also, seasoning them while they are warm and will soak up whatever flavor you add. A friend taught me a little trick – she used juice from a jar of pickles while the potatoes were still warm – it is a wonderful thing. I prefer sweet pickles, but if you like dill it will work too. I’m not a huge fan of potato salad w/lots of mayo. There needs to be restraint, and a good bit of acid – either vinegar or lemon juice. I tend to favor vinegar either from the pickle juice or just a little jolt of cider vinegar – esp. the good stuff – Gingras ExtraOld Apple Cider Vinegar – beyond amazing and used for special occasions. I really think I could just drink it, but I won’t.

Aside: I want to make a good pasta salad too – but what are the particulars? Again, I’ve tried and made some advancements on that front, but I’m still not really happy.

 

*German Potato Salad is another story entirely but it involves vinegar and bacon. And is another challenge.

Squash Relish

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Squash Relish

So after the last batch of squash pickles (Oct 2014), I decided I needed to work on the texture of them. Following the Man of the House declaring he liked the flavor, but not the texture. The texture was, how shall I put this, um, squeeky when you chewed them. So they weren’t really like a pickle at all which caused me to look at the method of making them.

First, considering the squash: using smaller, less ripe squash would help. Smaller would also lead to less interior seed space which gets softer faster. Removing the seeds entirely would help too, especially in larger squash.

Second, taking a lead from cucumber pickles, weigh the squash/onions down while salting/draining them. And consider chilling them with ice while doing this as well.

Then …

I went back to the original recipe and read it again. It appears I had been doing this wrong the whole time – for 10 years! I had always sliced the squash in rounds like, well, pickles. But the recipe is squash relish, not squash pickles, and if you read it, which I apparently didn’t, the squash and onions are chopped, not sliced. Duh.

So I actually did the recipe as it was supposed to – finally. I still think I want to come up with a way to deal w/the pickle idea. I was half way there without really trying.

10 cups squash, chopped
4 cups onions, chopped
5 Tbs salt

4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix squash and onions with salt and let sit overnight

Drain, mix all ingredients together and boil for thirty minutes.
Put in jars and seal. Can be hot water canned or refrigerated.

  • 5 June 2004. First adventure in canning
  • 12 June 2004
  • 4 September 2004 using turmeric is important, give pickles a honey color
  • 22 June 2008 made w/squash from Patton/Jeanette. Vg crunchy sweet/spicy

This vinegar / spice blend is pretty amazing. I have done this recipe with all sorts of variations  – but keep the ratio the same. Squash to onions to vinegar to sugar.