Saturday, August 8, 2009

Good things grow in Ontario

One of the best things about living in Southern Ontario is the produce. Unless you're after citrus fruits or mangos, southern Ontario is the place to be. From the beginning of May when asparagus season hits, til the fall when apples and squash abound, the roadsides of Ontario southwest of Toronto are littered with produce stands. And nothing beats fresh, local produce, except of course for fresh, local produce purchased straight from the farmer's driveway. Sadly, I have no car to go out and collect my bounty directly from the producer, but luckily for me, farmers markets are also quite popular and provide one stop shopping for all ones fruit and vegetable needs.

Want to know what's growing in Ontario? Check out Foodland Ontario's website and you'll see that, in the words of DJ Laura C Chord, there's more up here than hockey and beer!

If you ask me - and since you're reading my blog I'll assume you did - happiness is a ripe peach. Could there be a more perfect fruit? Sweet, soft, pleasing to the eye. There really is nothing more heavenly than biting into a fresh peach, juice running down your hand, sugary and sweet, an explosion of flavour on your tongue that transports you to a more lovely place, making you forget for just a moment all your troubles and cares. Alright, so maybe that was a little melodramatic, but I really am passionate about produce. And peaches are king - truly nature's candy. The only downfall of the peach is that they really don't keep very long. I have chronic eyes-bigger-than-stomach-itis, and always find myself with a 2L basket of peaches, feverishly trying to use them all up, for allowing peaches to spoil is a sin greater than any other.

Normally I would just gorge myself on peaches until they were all gone, but this time, inspired by my food blog, I decided to actually do something with them. Now don't get me wrong, peaches are perfect as they are, but they could lend their transcendent deliciousness to other dishes. Having just purchased a bunch of cilantro for my El Salvador inspired blog post, I decided to try my hand at some peach salsa. As luck would have it, there was a terrific recipe on Foodland Ontario's website. I, of course, replaced the parsley with cilantro, and the results were to die for. Easy, fresh, delicious. Highly recommended.

That recipe only used 3 peaches, which hardly made a dent in my basket, so I decided to try my hand at some peach chutney. I LOVE chutneys. I consulted a number of chutney recipes online, and came up with this modified version of a number of them. Many of the recipes made a very large quantity of chutney, and used a large quantity of peaches. I don't need that much chutney, have nowhere to store it, do not have any canning jars, and quite frankly wanted some peaches left over for myself!

The Non-Canner's Easy Hot Peach Chutney
(makes about 1 1/2 cups or so)

1/2 smallish yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
1 tsp hot pepper flakes (add more or less to taste)
a few dashes of salt & pepper
6-7 peaches, cored, peeled, diced
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

In a sauce pan, saute onions and spices in a bit of oil until onion softens. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced, peach chunks get nice and soft, and it gets a chutney-like consistency. This should take about 40 minutes. Allow to cool and store in the fridge.

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