Whidbey Recipes

"Remember the days when you had to write What I Did This Summer when school began each year? Well, this is going to be What I Learned at the Fair This Year, 2001.It all began when I realized I'd become careless. After 20-some years of Fair attendance, I went only to the exhibits I was particularly interested in, hurrying through the Commercial barn because there's seldom much new there, and ignoring all the animal buildings except where the horses and dogs were hanging out. Not fair, I said to myself, and decided this year to see it all, with new eyes. And, what did I learn?1) That HHPLH is not some new, exotic breed of cat. As I stood looking at Sheena, stretched out in a cage adorned with a huge rosette pronouncing her Grand Champion and regally indifferent to all of us gawkers, I puzzled over the HHPLH lettered on the line of information that said Breed. Sheena certainly looked like an ordinary cat (not to her owner, I'm sure, but to the rest of the world). There were, in fact, a number of HHPLH cats and some HHPSH as well, and they were all different from each other but certainly not particularly rare or exotic looking. After years and years of peering at dogs of all breeds, I was familiar with the names. But cats? HHPLH? I love cats, but I'd never had anything but a giveaway in my life and they'd been both long-lived and special, but not any particular breed. But, as always, there was a polite, eager and helpful 4-H person right there to solve my dilemma. HouseHold Pet Long Hair and HouseHold Pet Short Hair. Duh, Margaret. That's what you get for years of ignoring the cats and only going to see the dogs, who don't seem to have household pet as a distinct breed, short or long haired. And so I learned that I'd had a couple of very fine HHPSH's in my life and just didn't know it. 2) That chickens can bite, which I'd already learned as a child but was reminded of again as I stood in front of a cage containing a mean-tempered Wheaton English Game Rooster. I did my best to be fair at the Fair, but chickens are still silly birds and I prefer dealing with them only in my kitchen. And let's not go any further with that.3) That there is a breed of cat that has cleverly found the best way to catch a rat, and that's to look like one itself, thereby tricking rats into allowing it to get very close. I ask you, what other explanation can there be for a cat that has grey, almost hairless skin, is small and skinny with a narrow head and small beady eyes and that has a very long, grey, hairless, tapering tail? The card on its cage said it was a Cornish Rex and it had won many ribbons, but I couldn't help but wonder if, in fact, it was a very large, smart rat. (With apologies to Cornish Rex cat owners; please don't send me hate mail - or a cat).4) That a little karaoke goes a long way; and a lot of karaoke, day after day, goes way too far. And no further comments on that, either. 5) That the Island County Fair is still the fairest of the fair for us who dwell on this too rapidly changing long, narrow strip of water-surrounded land.RecipesI did, as always, hit the Food section first and there were some fine looking, mouth watering goodies in the display cases there. And thanks to Ann O'Farrell, tireless and dedicated Fair overseer and advocate, you'll be getting a look at those recipes next week. Meanwhile, because the ICFair is, to me, one of the indicators that summer is about to leave us and it's a long long time from... (August to August?), here are more recipes for using some of those wonderful fruits of summer. I ran out of space enough last week to give you another great way to use peaches, should you be fortunate enough to have a plenitude. Since specialty mustards are all the rage now, you might want to try your hand at this one.Peach Mustard2 jars (3 oz. each) mustard seeds1 can (4 oz.) dry mustard (such as Colman's etc.)2 cups boiling water4 cups cider vinegar1-1/2 cups pitted, peeled and puréed fresh peaches (about 1-1/2 lbs.)1 small onion, minced 1/4 cup packed brown sugar1 T. chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 t. dried, crumbled)1 T. minced fresh dill weed (or 1 t. dried)2 t. ground allspice1-1/2 t. salt3 T. light corn syrup1. Combine mustard seeds and dry mustard in medium bowl; pour in water and let stand, uncovered, for 24 hours. Purée in blender or food processor until smooth.2. Mix the mustard seed purée and all remaining ingredients except the corn syrup in a large saucepan. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until mustard is very thick (about an hour). Press mustard through a fine-mesh sieve; stir in corn syrup.3. Spoon mustard into half-pint jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace, and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes. (If you're not familiar with canning/boiling water bath procedures, look in the Canning/Preserving section of your most comprehensive cookbook). Makes five to six half-pints.Note: This is excellent with honey-cured ham as well as roast goose, duck or pheasant, and a great gift at holiday time.And here's one you can use for the final blueberries of the season or, even better, any huckleberries you may be lucky enough to pick as you hike the paths from summer to fall.Blueberry (Huckleberry) Cornbread1-1/2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal1 cup flour2 T. sugar1 T. baking powder3/4 t. salt1-1/2 cups blueberries or huckleberries, rinsed, dried in paper towels2 eggs1 cup milk1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted1. Heat oven to 400 degrees and butter or spray an 8-inch-square baking pan or a 12-cup muffin tin.2. Sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the blueberries or huckleberries and toss gently to coat berries.3. In a small bowl, beat eggs until frothy; beat in milk, then melted butter. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring together quickly and lightly with a rubber spatula just until the dry ingredients are moistened (don't overmix).4. Spoon batter into prepared pan, smoothing surface; or divide among muffin cups. Bake until golden brown and firm to touch (25-30 minutes for cornbread; less for muffins). Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes; serve hot (excellent with honey). "

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