Friday, June 17, 2016

Cherries & Cheerwine - Three Ways

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Cherry season seems to blow by.  One minute they appear in the front of the grocery store ripe and busting with possibility.  The next, they've been replaced by grapes.  Grapes.  They're good and all, but not cherries.
The cherry baking struggle is real.
As you might have noticed in the picture (there will be a quiz at the end of this article), these cherries brought along a friend!  North Carolina is home to a particular cherry-flavored soft drink called Cheerwine.  While not wine our good friends grapes provide, which is enough to forgive them for showing up in the cherry bin at the grocery store, Cheerwine is quite a North Carolinian staple.  And the variety out the glass bottle is the best.  Just sayin.  It also has become a fresh ingredient in a lot of dishes!  Many times pared with it's BFF cherries.
Reunited and it tastes so good!
Steve Gordon, the food blogger for Our State, the magazine covering all things North Carolina, blended Cheerwine and cherries in a simple and intuitively delicious dessert: Cheerwine Cherry Cobbler.  By reducing cherries in Cheerwine (sidebar: the glass bottled stuff), one of the best cobbler fillings is created and North Carolina bats 3 for 3 for the title of "best state ever".  I definitely lean towards 1lb cherries (unpitted) to 1 bottle of Cheerwine.
About 10 minutes away from reduced heaven
However!  This delicious mixture can be used in a variety of different ways simply by separating the reduced Cheerwine Cherry Syrup from the Cherrwine Cherries. Aka: strain the cherries and get a-baking!  Of course the first thing I made with both is bundt cake.
Now saying you ate a whole cake by yourself is slightly less impressive
I was inspired by this Cheerwine Bundt Cake at A Spicy Southern Kitchen. This cake defeated me the first time we met, but I knew we were headed in a positive direction.  The main problem boiled down, or rather over-onto-my-oven-floor, to carbonation in the Cheerwine.  The Cheerwine Cherry syrup had no carbonation, plus deeper flavor and color from the cherries.  A win all around!  This, topped with a vanilla, almond, or chocolate glaze, ice cream, or nothing at all is the Cheerwine Cherry Bundt Cake of your dreams.
Notice how one didn't even make it into the picture-taking experience

Cheerwine Cherry Bundt Cake substitutions:
Red food coloring = slightly more Cheerwine Cherry syrup (we're talking like a 1/4-1/3 tsp) to make up the liquid ratio
1 cup Cheerwine = 1 cup Cheerwine Cherry Sauce
1/2 shortening = 1/2 butter; this sub can be made, and I sometimes prefer it so the outside doesn't darken as much.  Let the beautiful red out!


This left me with the "problem" of the Cheerwine Cherries.  After some thinking during my first solution (read: eating with a spoon), I decided to throw them into my favorite berry bundt cake recipe: Strawberry Yogurt Cake from Tide and Thyme.  I stumbled into this cake while trying to find something to do with a leftover raspberry reduction.  I find it's a great lighter vehicle for any fruit or fruit reduction.
Why yes those are the cherries going in the next batch.
Strawberry Yogurt Cake substitutions
12 oz strawberries = 1 heaping cup of Cheerwine Cherries.  I added cherries until it looked good for me personally; just mind the volume increase

Of course this is only the beginning for this delicious mixture.  I've also used the Cheerwine Cherry Syrup in a frosting recipe (results: delicious), and the Cheerwine Cherries as a topping for mini white chocolate pudding cups (results: indeterminate due to "mysteriously vanishing" pudding.  Oh darn, going to have to make it again...).  I'm doing further experimentation with these 2 wonderful ingredients which hopefully you'll read about right here.  Stay tuned, and go forth to experiment yourself!
Easiest photo setup ever.


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Friday, June 3, 2016

NC BBQ Dim Sum: Potlikker Soup with Collard Greens Wontons

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One of the coolest parts of a CSA is discovering new veggies.  Collard greens, while fairly common in southern dishes, were something I never had picked up before.  Spinach is in my wheelhouse, and leafy greens had bitten me in the past.  Curse you arugula; that's waaaaay too bitter for me.  So when collards started showing up, it was a new challenge to find recipes that weren't just using them as sandwich/wrap alternatives.  While trying to replace bread is not a great way to get into my good graces, collards redeemed themselves and may have even pushed past spinach with this recipe.  I don't prefer soup, but I finished every drop of the leftover broth.  The extra nutritional value is just a bonus on top of the tangy, savory taste.


Ingredients  Based on Southern Style Collard Greens from Southern Living (I made 1/2 a serving)
6 oz salted pork belly finely chopped
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 - 1.5, 32oz container chicken broth
1.5lb collards washed and trimmed.  Cut into ribbons.
1/6 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 + 1/8 tsp pepper
46 wonton wrappers

Heat a large stock pan over high heat.  Cook pork belly over heat until browned.  Remove from heat; add sweet onion and garlic cloves.  Cook until soft.  Add back pork belly.

Deglaze pan with chicken broth.  Add all the ingredients except the wrappers.

Put lid on pot.  Let cook for 3 hours until soft.  Check the liquid level and add some water if it gets too low.

Take off heat and strain the solids from the liquid reserving all the liquid.  This is the soup!  Let the greens cool a bit.

Time for some wonton folding!  I followed the tutorial from the Kitchn.  I used the soup to wet the edges of the wonton wrapper for an extra vinegar punch.

This might take awhile.  In the meantime, boil some water to cook the wontons.  You might alternatively want to boil the soup and cook the wontons there.  I didn't want to lose more liquid.
I couldn't wait and had a bowl of soup while boiling wontons. Sorry, not sorry.
Cook in batches; give the wontons some room in the pot.  Boil for about 5 minutes.
There are about 4 in the pot here.
Strain out and add to the soup.  Enjoy!  This is amazing reheated if it lasts that long; I was excited every day I had this for lunch.

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