Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cold Chicken and Pickles

"'Put on a few eggs, there's a good fellow!' Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. 'And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!'"

For this party of hobbity greatness, the condiments are nearly as important as the rest of the food. I want everything to be delicious, to be home made or local or simply fantastic. Everything right down to butter and jam and yes, pickles.

Tolkien mentions quite a few condiments directly in the texts - The Hobbit opens with dwarf-filled scenes that include raspberry jam, butter, pickles, and more. Where I can buy ahead, I've started.

Here are the hand-picked condiments I've gathered together:

That's buckwheat and clover honey from my favorite bee man, who was kind enough to have a long discussion with me on the day our backyard spruce was taken over by a swarm. Also, Bonne Maman raspberry jam and orange marmalade, which isn't local but is a variety I've wanted to try for ages. I could swear I remember seeing a jar in my friend the cake-maker's kitchen, too, a sure sign that it's passed stringent taste tests.

Then there are the pickles. I work in the state offices at the Empire State Plaza right now, where they have a farmer's market every Wednesday. Bird Haven Bakery sells pickles and jams alongside their delicious sticky buns, so I bought some bread and butter pickles from them (and some whoopie pies for my son, who is obsessed for some reason). Then I visited the lady from The Grey Mouse Farm; she was offering a discount if you bought two jars, so I got baby sour dills (tiny! dill!) and dilly beans. Beans don't seem hobbity to me - too American - but you know, I wanted something a little different. She had some lovely gardeniera, but that being so associated with Italian food, I was afraid it would seem even more out of place.

I also bought some pretty molds to shape the butter (which I won't buy till closer to the event, for obvious reasons of flavor). Rather than a traditional wooden butter mold, I got a silicon muffin mold with a number of fancy shapes. It'll be so much easier to wash. I don't really like wooden implements, and I avoid them as much as I can.

Yesterday's trip to the Saratoga Farmers Market yielded two-plus pounds of lamb for Shire Hotpot, plus a brace of coneys for stewing. I got myself a new-to-me chest freezer that's all plugged in and freezing stuff to beat the band, so next weekend, the first of the real, non-test-kitchen cooking can begin.

It's on.

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