The secret got out to book publishers: canning is big again. The most significant food preservation renaissance since the 1970s has spurred cookbook and how-to sales as demand for instructions and good recipes has shot up and onward. This year alone more than 40 new titles are slated to hit shelves. I haven't bought too many of them, mostly because I've already run out of room on my cookbook bookshelf shelf so that Ball Food Preserving and 2 Gooseberry Patch titles are spilling onto the floor. But there was one tome I couldn't resist picking up last year at Costco. The Williams-Sonoma Book of Preserving is a contemporary and gourmet take on the old-school hobby that included new flavors, recipes and usage ideas.
I think usage is one of the hardest concepts when you start canning. A few projects in and you've filled your shelf with largely condiments. Last summer we bought a huge box of peaches, and I made the peach jam and peach butter recipes from the Williams-Sonoma book. Most of it has sat on the shelf; I have one jar of peach butter in my fridge at work for topping frozen Trader Joe's french toast on mornings when I don't want reconstituted oatmeal, and I know I've given away a couple jars of peach jam here and there. For clearing things out in use-up week, I knew I'd have to get creative with these amber gem jars.
I also have beer mustard that we made a couple years ago to round out German-themed Christmas gift baskets. To be honest, I haven't used much of it because I don't really like it. The beer we used was a dark, hoppy variety, and the mustard seems very bitter to me. But the sauce I had in mind for the peach jam called for a little mustard to add some acidity and cut into the sugary sweetness of the fruit, so I could condescend to letting it play in the background.
Pork and peaches are a wonderful combination. Case in point? Peach-scented barbecue sauce smothering a batch of pulled pork so tender you can only eat it with a spoon. Peaches are good chicken companions as well (I'll always remember eating my mom's cold apricot chicken at the park in Puyallup when I was a kid), but today is Sunday, the day for dishes that I can't even fathom on a weeknight. I'm thinking a braised New Seasons pork roast with... kale gratin.
Not sure why that popped into my mind, but probably because I saw a whole feature on gratins in FoodDay last week. "Gratins," I told Matt, "came from French people wondering what to do with all their leftover fresh produce and cheese."
"Tough problems for those French," he said.
I think I totally made that up. The French love food stories, though. There's this cheese called Fougerous, a small soft-ripened round that always comes hand-topped with a fern leaf. Why? Legend has it that the first wheel had a blemish, and the cheesemaker decided to cover it up with the leaf masquerading as a garnish. Either way, gratins ARE the perfect solution for winter vegetables and miscellaneous nubbins of cheese hanging around.
This was the first time I'd steamed kale. I've ripped it up and put it into soup before, but never the traditional eat-your-greens method. I followed all the advice I'd received about salting it within an inch of its life and not over-steaming. I added about 6 cloves of olive oil-sauteed garlic, just for good measure. Along with toasty panko crumbs and Metropolitan Market sheep-goat's milk cheese, how could it not be charming?
I seared the pork roast on the stove to get a nice browning, and deglazed the pan with white wine. I let it chill a second in its sauv-blanc bath while i mixed together the peach sauce. It was the first jar of that peach jam I'd opened in months, and I couldn't believe what I found. The recipe had left the peaches in large chunks, making them more like candied peach preserves than a thick jam. You could eat them with a spoon, which is exactly what I did... raving loudly over the Chopped All-Star finale on TV. "These peaches are a-maz-ing!!" I insisted, shoving one down Matt's throat. That's how we discovered that my candied peach jam chunks are a perfect pairing for Ninkasi Oatis beer. Another canning usage idea? Maybe for another day.
When everything was done in the oven (I also made some oven "fries" with sweet potatoes), I sliced the roast into medallions and served with ladles of sauce and peach chunks. The jam became so much more than a vehicle for toast. And the mustard? Well, hey. At least I'm down another jar of that.
Peach-Lacquered Pork Roast
1 pork roast, 2-3 pounds
1 1/2 cups of homemade peach jam (or buy some...cheaters.)
3 tbsp whole seed mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tbsp cider vinegar (I used Cranberry Pear vinegar, but that's a pretty specialty item. I still need to write that vinegar store blog! Damn it)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp Vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Warm the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
Mix together jam, mustard, brown sugar, cumin and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Rub the pork roast liberally with salt and pepper. Add to Dutch oven and sear on all sides to develop a brown crust, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the roast and place on a plate; add wine to the pan and deglaze with the white wine, using a spatula to stir up any browned bits on the pan. Restore roast to its place in the pan and cover with the peach sauce. Cover and roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Slice and serve with sauce reserved in the pan.