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My Colander Runneth Over: Sex in the Wine Country

I am sitting here at my laptop, thick curly white-girl ‘fro in a monstrous bun on top of my head and some ridiculous outfit that was an attempt at cuteness and comfort to beat the heat, and I can’t help but wondering… am I the Carrie Bradshaw of Cheese Blogging? I have a fabulous home, more clothes and shoes than I know where to store, go to fabulous events with fabulous food and wine, write a column on my vices, and go through cheeses in an almost episodic rhythm. I am, however, currently going through a little “dry spell” (a.k.a. luxuries like wine and cheese are the first to go during an austerity period) and so my “column” is drying up as well.

What would Carrie do for her hungry New Yorkers longing to read about her sexcapades at a time when there are no men in sight? Write about daily life, other kinds of love, weathering the blues, and good times with friends. One thing that happened when I decided to be a food writer and moved to Napa was that I found the perfect home in Sonoma. In spite of what they tell you in the Craigslist housing section, Sonoma is, indeed, very different from Napa,. Beautiful, yes, but a lot more John Deere than James Beard, if you catch my drift. Nightlife on the Square can’t compare to an evening at Bounty Hunter or Carpe Diem with some girlfriends, but since I don’t have those yet, it’s me and the garden. I am a newly single food geek in a new town, and I am home alone on a Saturday night with my garden. Because this is my first garden, I am often out there with a paintbrush in the early mornings, pollinating my female flowers (basically having sex) in fear of a low yield. Basically, I’m doubting the bees, which is foolish. I’d had my doubts for a handful of cityslicker reasons, but now there is an explosion of color and texture with all sorts of promise. And it all sits just below an enormous Cherry Plum tree, whose generous dumping of hundreds of bite-sized plums per day has taken up my entire freezer for a rainy day project.

Cheeseless and without wine, I fell into my couch tonight in self-pity, only to hear another round of hailing plums befalling the herb bed outside the window. I imagined my basil being pummeled flat and before I knew what I was doing, I was outside collecting the little suckers until my Colander Runneth Over, once again. In a frenzy, I washed the tiny purple bombs and drained them in the sink. There were a ridiculous number more than the ridiculous number I already have. I was just about to add them to the frozen bumper crop when something stopped me with my hand on the freezer handle. Was it the vacuum from the empty cheese compartment of the fridge over my right shoulder that was halting me in my tracks? (This is the part on the show where Carrie is always seen looking perplexed while typing the question, with a cut to the laptop screen itself, and her voiceover…) Was I experiencing the ultimate “cheese freeze?”

I decided to play with the plums and make a Midsummer Chutney to pair with the cheese I will buy with the first paycheck I get from the new job I will be celebrating in the coming weeks. The power of affirmation was in full throttle. Once canned, chutney should be left to season for a month or longer, so I’m good to go on the paycheck by the time the chutney does its thing. Perfect timing. If Carrie can put Manolo Blahnik’s on layaway, I can make chutney to pair with my future cheese. Honestly, what I put in the jars tonight was so delicious, I am paying it forward by sharing here, and having a hard time believing that it could be even more flavorful a month from now. In a perfect world, I get all sorts of comments from readers with cheese pairing suggestions, and in a utopian one, I come out of this with a job, some cheeses, and some new friends of like mind and spirit to explore this fabulous food culture with.

Midsummer Chutney

  • 6 cups cherry plums, pitted and halved
  • 2 cups organic brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 medium-sized jalapeno peppers, finely chopped with seeds included
  • 2 cups fresh, organic frozen or organic canned corn
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 green apple, finely chopped
  • 1 bulb of garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 Tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons mustard seed

In a stock pot, add all ingredients EXCEPT CORN, and bring to a boil. Once the boil is underway, stir well until sugar dissolves completely. Lower heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking at the bottom.

Prepare hot water bath for canning and begin sterilizing canning jars. Allow mixture to reduce for about 45-50 minutes, depending on plum water content. When the simmering chutney has reduced and thickened significantly, spoon a small bit into a bowl and place in the refrigerator for five minutes. Check consistency for thickness and turn off flame or continue to boil and test again. Once desired consistency is reached and flame has been turned off, add the corn to the mixture and stir in evenly.

Remove sterilized jars and lids from boiling bath and add hot chutney. Place lids and process for 15 minutes and remove from bath. Let cool overnight. Store in a dark, cool place for at least one month to season. Excellent with aged parmigiano-reggiano, goat cheese, and BBQ pork chops and loins. Grilled corn on the cob and meatier fishes (salmon, swordfish) are also an excellent Southwestern pairing with the Mid-Summer Chutney and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Makes about twelve 4 oz. jars.

Image from From My Sweet Heart

Lauren Berley

Living in New York and Los Angeles, Aspen and London, as well as rural agricultural communities, Lauren has tasted her way through life. Says Lauren: "I want to explore and unearth, both around the globe and at the local fish fry. And taste every cheese, wine and spice in every town, mountain, port, or city... food is a very intimate way of understanding our global brothers and sisters, our heritage, and the beautiful differences that make this a glorious planet."

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