Swappers Do It In the Heat of Summer (recipes for Strawberry Wild Rose Shrub and Elder Flower Goat Cheesecake)

You'll have to excuse me, I'm in a bit of a post-food swap funk.  It's the inevitable let down after the big event, the slight case of melancholy that a child feels after their birthday, or an athlete after the trophy game.  Food swapping is my Super Bowl, the culmination of a month's dreaming in the kitchen, a meeting of like-minded food lovers - my favorite social event of any month  Yeah, like I said before, my favorite part of the monthly Mile High Swappers events is meeting the people.  It is so flipping exciting to rub elbows with like minds, to have found my peer group.

Don't get me wrong, the event is all about swapping food, excellent food.  Everyone there brings their best.  Some people (comme moi) excel at pushing boundaries and bringing exotic new flavors.  Others bring rock-solid can't be beat classics - salsa, granola, garden fresh veg, eggs from backyard chickens.  All are welcome, all are equally enjoyed and valued.

The week after a food swap, I live off the good food that I bring home.  This time, I came home with quinoa salad, the first real tomatoes of the year, a preserved lemon, eggs, jalapeno poppers, tdf caramels, brandied cherry jelly, limoncello (yep, nummy adult beverages!), and more.  Can you imagine what this haul would cost at a high-end market or boutique?  Instead, I was able to trade for this food (no money is allowed at swaps), for food that I would be making anyhow.  And instead of endless rows of the same preserves, swapping allows me to line my shelves with a tasty variety of treats.

But anyhow, did I mention the people?  Haha, ok, yeah I mentioned that.  But you've gotta understand that for a shy yet somewhat bouncy-excitable food-loving nerd like me, it isn't easy to find my peeps.  But when the food swappers get together, I don't feel like people are looking at me as if I have five heads when I speak or foraging or roadkill.  These people aren't just ah-ha (please quietly go away now you weirdo) interested, they are genuinely interested in engaging such conversations.  It is a treasure for me.

And each month, with each new city and host site, comes a new opportunity to meet people.  It seems that there is a core of people (some of whom have become dear friends, yay!) at each swap, but also a new mix of people, so that each month has a new flavor to it, a tantalizing mix of familiarity and newness. 

You know how it is with good things in this world, when a project has lots of good feelings and people participating, good things grow from it.  And so it doesn't surprise me that the Mile High Swappers are coming together, as good food citizens, and building a strong community, which means giving back.  Plans are in the works for the harvest season to combine the collective expertise of the swappers with a sister organization to put unwanted produce (mainly fruit from yards around the city), into the hands and mouths of the hungry.  I will update as soon as the ties solidify, but for now, if you are interested you can check this page for details.

Being the high growing season, this month I swapped a few treats utilizing flowers and berries.  Here are the (sorta) recipes.

Strawberry Wild Rose Shrub

Fruit shrubs are like syrups pumped up with the tang of vinegar.  You can make a shrub with pretty much any fruit, so be certain to play around (the other shrub I took to the swap was a strawberry balsamic black pepper).  Shrubs taste best when aged for at least six months, so that the vinegar mellows, and all of the other flavors mature and mingle.  Serve with seltzer for a mocktail, or seltzer and something harder for a more grown-up drink.  But if you must use your shrub right away, try it to dress fresh fruit or as a glaze on meat.

The basic recipe for a shrub is one part fruit, one part sugar, one part vinegar.  By weight or volume you ask?  I say, don't sweat the details, eyeball it, no biggie.

To make strawberry wild rose shrub, start by slicing your strawberries, and placing them into a large bowl.  With clean hands, reach in and squish the heck out of them.  Combine with an equal part of sugar, stir, and let sit in a cool place for a day.  Strain out fruit bits (and save to use as a refrigerator jam, or as a topping for cheesecake).

In the meantime, gently heat up some vinegar to baby bottle temperature.  Pour over either fresh or dried (preferably wild) roses.  No need to use just petals here, steep the whole heads.  Let infuse for a day, strain out rose bits.

Combine the juice from the berries with an equal amount of rose-infused vinegar (or a bit less to taste).  You should taste a strong kick of tartness, followed by the sweet of fruit, and finishing with an aftertaste of the rose.  All of these flavors will continue to meld and become more complex with time, and your patience will definitely be rewarded.

Elder Flower Goat Cheesecake

These amounts are approximate.  As you know, I'm not much for measuring anything.  Just keep in mind that cheesecake is a custard, and all will go well.

Combine cookies of your choice (I used a gf pecan shortbread) with melted butter in a food processor until they resemble wet sand.  Press into the bottom six greased wide mouth half pint mason jars.

In a bowl, combine about one pound total of goat cheese chevre and cream cheese, in proportions that please your palate.  Beat in two egg yolks, one whole eggs, and 1/3 c. elder flower syrup. 

Pour cheese custard mixture onto cookie crusts, and bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees, or until cheesecake looks set halfway to the center (but is still runny in the middle).  Cool.

Top with leftover strawberry goo from above recipe, or topping of your choice.

I'm sharing with the Hearth and Soul Hop.

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