St. Joseph Pignatelli
I just made my first ever batch of pickled prunes. I measured out my fruit, mixed it in a sauce pan with orange zest and juice, apple cider vinegar, and many spices, then set it to simmer. It filled the whole house with the smell of vinegar and cloves and spice. Even though I ate a good dinner not too long ago, the smell set my mouth to watering all over again. When it had cooked down and cooled, I spooned it into a Weck’s canning jar I bought on a whim last fall, and felt like Martha Stewart.
Before I put the lid on, I spread some Greek yogurt on a slice of bread, and topped it with a couple of the warm, juicy prunes and some of the juice. It was the most incredible thing – the tart, spicy, sweet fruit melting into the thick, creamy yogurt that tempered the bite of the spices, and the sturdy bread bringing it all together.
The reason I was simmering prunes in spiced vinegar and citrus juice on a cold and rainy night was because not too long ago I read A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. The book came out in 2009, and Molly’s blog Orangette has been one of the best food blogs around since long before that, so I’m kindof behind the curve. But better late than never, right? I have a theory that you can tell the best cookbooks for the impact they have on your shopping lists. By that measure, this cookbook has already been a success. For example, there’s the heavy cream that ended up in my cart for the fabulous custard-centered cornbread. But ironically, pickled prunes is not one of the recipes given in the cookbook. She just mentions them, in the list of all the pickles she and her now-husband made for their wedding reception. That mere mention was enough to make me write myself a note: “Look up pickled prunes.” and go looking for recipes to try them. I’m so, so glad I did.
As I was luxuriating in the taste of my pickled prunes with yogurt on bread, I realized that almost everything I was eating had been procured from our local Farmers Market. The bread from Rahn’s Artisan Breads (always the best bread ever), the yogurt from Star Dancer Dairy (the best milk I’ve had since the last time I visited Tree & Ivy’s farm). I have to admit that the prunes came from Aldi’s, but the spices were from the Spice Rack, aka the dry goods stall (also where you get that wonderful Amish butter that comes in a roll).
A while ago I decided to start hitting the Farmers Market more regularly. I’ve always been a fan of the market, and feel kindof smug that I remember what it was like when it was in the parking lot of Wegerzyn Park back in the day, before it moved into the swanky new digs in what used to be our train station. I’m not a foodie or a food snob, but I am the daughter of hippies, and I like knowing where my food comes from. I don’t quite have enough disposable income to buy all my groceries there, but I can get bread and yogurt, and some of my produce. I don’t mind that it costs more – the way I see it, if we really paid our farmers what their work is worth, all of our food would cost much more, and then maybe we would value it more.
And then, sometimes as a little added bonus, you come home with some of the most beautiful things. Like these ridiculously adorable cauliflowers from Mile Creek Farms.
Seriously. How cute is that? Tiny little darlings just big enough to cup in my hands. I was helpless before them. I bought three, then just had to hold a photo shoot while they were still sparkling fresh and gorgeous. And then I took them over to Mom & Dads, where we steamed them whole and ate them up. They were delicious.