Recipes: Condiments & Sauces

Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Salt, Two Ways

Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Salt, Two Ways

Vanilla Salt

There are all kinds of fancy salts out there for you to blow your paycheck on. Confession: I own many of them

Thankfully, one of my favorite salts is one that I make at home. Vanilla salt couldn't be easier to prepare, and the end result is lovely. I have two methods for creating vanilla salt, yielding different yet equally delightful results. I am sharing both methods with you; try each one and see which fits you best. I use my vanilla salt in baked goods, with fruit, over roasted sweet potatoes or squash, sprinkled over chocolaty desserts, or with roasted or grilled meats (helloooooo pork and chicken). I think you'll like it too. If you decorate the jar with a cute label and a bit of ribbon, you have a wonderful homemade gift. 

Vanilla beans are über-expensive if you buy them one-by-one or in small quantities. The trick is to buy a big bag and split the cost with a friend. A fellow foodie and I split the cost of this 1/2 pound bag of vanilla beans. We each ended up with about 30 beans for only about $13 per person. Sweet deal, right? 

A Farmers Market Demo with Sweet 'n Sour Rhubarb Pickles and Rhubarb-Apple Compote (gluten-free, cane sugar free, vegan options)

Preparing ingredients for Rhubarb Apple Compote

On Saturday, June 11, I gave a rhubarb-themed cooking demonstration at the Minneapolis Farmers Market during their weekly Market Talk segment. This was my third cooking demonstration at the market, and as usual, it was an absolute blast. Market Talk host (and local food blogger) Emily Noble and I walked the crowd through a brief history of rhubarb, shared suggestions for selecting and storing rhubarb, and gave advice on how to care for plants of your own. Then I demonstrated how to prepare Sweet 'n Sour Rhubarb Pickles and Rhubarb-Apple Compote, recipes that I had developed for the event. Despite the rather chilly temperature and high gusts of wind that nearly took away our tent a few times, it was very sunny and the market was hopping. 

As usual, I had a wonderful kitchen setup to work with, complete with large stainless tables, utensils, a gas-powered double burner, and a snazzy microphone headset. Emily shopped the market that morning for the freshest, most beautiful rhubarb, apples, ginger, local honey and maple syrup, and a few other ingredients. I came armed with everything else I needed, including one of my favorite vintage aprons. 

Preparing ingredients for Rhubarb Apple Compote
Stirring the Rhubarb-Apple Compote
Explaining the process for making Sweet and Sour Rhubarb Pickles

The crowd was highly engaged and interested, asking lots of questions and offering up their favorite ways to prepare rhubarb. They even laughed at my jokes! My assistant (yes, I had an assistant!) passed out samples, which were quickly eaten up by the crowd and received enthusiastic smiles and thumbs-ups all around. And the retention rate was excellent, even though the demonstration went well over an hour.  

Curious about the recipes? The pickles are a sweet and sour pickle, heavily flavored with clove, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger in an apple cider vinegar and honey (or maple syrup) brine. They celebrate the natural sourness of rhubarb rather than trying to cover it with lots of sugar. It's like they say, "I'm sour, love me for it!"  The compote was the sweet counterpoint to the pickles, an aromatic and flavorful mix of apples, rhubarb, raisins, honey or maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, cooked together with apple juice. The high amount of pectin in apples allows the compote to thicken considerably, creating a luscious fruit mixture that is ideal eaten on its own, over ice cream or yogurt, or with pancakes or waffles. 

I passed out a recipe booklet of some of my favorite rhubarb recipes from my kitchen and my family's kitchen, which included both the pickles and the compote. The recipe booklet was a hit with the crowd and I will share it with you here on the blog. But first, I need to scan my hand-illustrated cover and attach it to the Word document, then set the whole thing up in Google docs so you can have access to it or figure out how to load a PDF into this post. When I do, I'll be sure to let you know!  

In the meantime, I want to share the recipes for the two recipes that I demonstrated that day. I hope you enjoy them. Happy rhubarb season!

Previous Farmers Market demonstration recaps and recipes:

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Kim’s Sweet ‘n Sour Rhubarb Pickles 

By Kim Christensen

These pickles are inspired by cucumber bread and butter pickles. They are sour, sweet, and heavily spiced, and are a bold addition to a relish tray or served with Indian, Middle Eastern, or North African dishes. A fun and unexpected way to preserve the rhubarb harvest! I like this recipe because it celebrates the naturally tart, sour quality of rhubarb, rather than hiding it below lots of sugar. Rhubarb tends to be a bit fibrous and hard to bitd through, so you may opt to cut your stalks into shorter, bite-size pieces. 

Yield: 2 pints or 1 quart

  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar (I suggest using raw and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, such as those by Bragg's or Eden Organic)
  • ¾ cup filtered water
  • 1 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 ¼ - 1 ½ pound rhubarb, thin stalks if possible (about 1/2-inch thick)
  • 1 ½ inches peeled ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp whole allspice berries
  • 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 dry chili peppers

Place vinegar, water, and maple syrup/honey in a saucepan over medium heat. While mixture heats, cut rhubarb stalks into lengths that fit inside the jar with approximately 1-inch headspace (about 4-inches long if using a pint jar). If your rhubarb stalks are much thicker, slice them in half or quarters so they are about 1/2-inch x 1/2-inch before cutting into 4-inch lengths. Set rhubarb aside.

Divide cloves, allspice, and fennel between the jars. Then place rhubarb stalks inside, tucking sliced ginger, chili peppers, and cinnamon sticks between the stalks.

Pour boiling vinegar mixture over rhubarb until jars are full, leaving about ½-inch headspace and making sure rhubarb stalks are fully covered. If you have leftover brine, save to use for salad dressings or other pickling projects.  Screw on jar tops and let cool on kitchen counter until approximately room temperature. Then place in the refrigerator. For best flavor, let sit for 1-2 weeks before consuming. 

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Rhubarb Apple Compote served over organic yogurt is a wonderful breakfast or light dessert.

Rhubarb-Apple Compote 

By Kim Christensen

Sweet and aromatic, this compote is excellent served warm or chilled. For a simple fruit dessert, it can be served alone, or spooned over yogurt (as in photos above) or ice cream. It is also very good served over pancakes or waffles. For a savory twist, serve alongside grilled or roasted pork or chicken. The flavors of this dish are perfect for autumn, so freeze some of your rhubarb to use later on this year when the seasons change!

Yield: approximately 1 quart

  • 3 cups rhubarb, sliced in 1-inch x ½-inch pieces (about 1 pound rhubarb) - use either fresh or frozen (not thawed)
  • 3 apples, quartered, cored, and chopped in 1-inch x ½-inch pieces (about 1 pound apples)
  • ½ cup raisins or currants
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup honey or maple syrup (or more or less, to taste)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Prepare rhubarb and apples as directed. Place in a saucepan with raisins/currants, apple juice, and spices. Bring to a high simmer over medium-high heat, then turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir in honey, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Replace cover and let sit for 3-5 more minutes. Let cool slightly before serving, mixture will thicken as it cools. This is also excellent served chilled. 


*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

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Cashew Pumpkin Seed "Cheese" with Apple-Cranberry Sauce (gluten-free, vegan, ACD)

Cashew Pumpkin Seed "Cheese" with Apple-Cranberry Sauce (gluten-free, vegan, ACD)

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This dish appeared at my Thanksgiving family feast last week, and was a big hit. It satisfied two things that are an absolute must at any of my family's holiday get-togethers: cheese and cranberry sauce.

I'm from Wisconsin. Cheese makes an appearance at every family meal. And we're not talking fancy little wedges of imported stuff or raw milk cheese from small cheesemakers. No sir, we're talking classic Wisco favorites like multiple tubs Merkts cheese spread and slices of cheddar, colby, or pepper jack hacked from big blocks of the stuff.  There is always cheese.  And crackers. And summer sausage.

And as for the cranberry sauce? Well, each of my grandmothers make different yet equally delicious cranberry dishes that always seem to be there. Grandma Smith makes a raw cranberry relish that is to die for, a simple combination of raw cranberries, sugar, and orange juice. Grandma Christensen makes a cranberry mold that is spiked with Coca-Cola.  And I, for some reason, always succumbed to my strange fascination with the canned jellied variety that lines the grocery store shelves every holiday season.  I would insist on having a can of that on the table as well, and I would meticulously slice it following the can ridges.  Thus, we would have three varieties of cranberry per meal. Crazy. 

Thai Red Curry Vegetable Soup and Homemade Garlicky Red Chili Hot Sauce (gluten-free, ACD, vegan option)

Thai Red Curry Vegetable Soup and Homemade Garlicky Red Chili Hot Sauce (gluten-free, ACD, vegan option)

 

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Autumn is soup weather, and I wanted soup when I returned from the farmers market this morning. I found myself inspired by Elena's recipe for Thai Vegetable Soup, and although I started making soup with her recipe in mind, in my usual style, I quickly went off the path and made up my own recipe. The whole project sort of took on a life of its own, since I had a bunch of wonderful fresh produce and a jar of red curry paste burning a hole it my pantry.  It took hardly any time to throw together and it was absolutely delicious, a fragrant and flavorful soup that is perfect for a chilly fall day. The broth is rich and rather addictive, and makes the soup surprisingly filling. I think I am just going to start making curry coconut broth to have as a satisfying and nourishing beverage on chilly mornings.  

Although it stood up just fine on its own, my bowl of soup was especially delicious with a swirl of homemade Garlicky Red Chili Hot Sauce. The original recipe is from the New York Times, and I found it by way of Seven Spoons. After reading Tara's amazing description, I knew I had to make it. So I made a big double batch of it last weekend, tweaking a couple things from the original recipe. I roasted the red peppers first to bring out the sweetness, and subbed apple cider vinegar for the white vinegar.  It smelled amazing while I made it, then I put in the fridge and let it cure, tasting periodically over the last week. The flavor has developed nicely - it packs a lot of heat, but not the kind that kills your tastebuds. It starts sweet and finishes with a bite in the back of your throat. You feel a little dampness on your forehead. Your lips tingle. You smile. Beyond being delicious, it is also gorgeous - that color is amazing, isn't it?!

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Spicy Niter Kibbeh (Ethiopian Spiced Ghee) (gluten-free, vegetarian, ACD, casein-free)

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Okay, I just need to get this out there first: this photo is totally killing me. There is something Hitchcockian about that shadow in the upper right corner that feels a little ominous.  And the hard light, color of the ghee, and the slightly grainy quality of the image reminds me of those gross-looking old 1970s cookbooks.  It's like a film noire movie and my parents' old cookbooks had a bastard child!  The color in all of these photos is a bit wonky, but that's what I get for taking photos in my dimly lit apartment at night. I should know better. Moving on.

Last year I saw that Pure Indian Foods, makers of a wonderful grass-fed, organic ghee, make a variety of herbal and spice infused ghees.  I was in Portland at a food co-op, and wanted to buy one of each variety. Knowing I had limited suitcase space, I didn't purchase any of them, and decided I needed to try making my own. Well, one thing led to another, life happened, yadda yadda yadda, and I just never got around to making a batch. But those ghees have been dancing around in the back of my mind like little sugarplums dancing around on the night before Christmas.

giving my spice rack a little workout