Wednesday, August 31

Pork Chops with Peach Salsa

Yay! It's peach season! Of course peaches have been in the grocery store bins for a couple of months already, but those early imports are a poor excuse for peaches. Nothing quite compares to the pure, sweet taste of a tree-ripened peach grown and picked close to home. And they're ready now!

So at this time of year, I use peaches in all sorts of meals, in all sorts of preparations: warm peach compote on waffles; grilled peaches with honey and ice cream for dessert; peach and blackberry crisp; chilled peach and yogurt smoothies; or simply washed and eaten straight out of hand. 

This morning I filled small rounds of pastry dough with a smear of cream cheese and a dollop of my sister's homemade spiced peach jam. I folded them into half-moons, crimped the edges shut and baked up tasty little handpies to serve as the baked good with breakfast. So good and--if you have the dough on hand--so easy. 

But as sweet as peaches are, they don't need to be restricted to sweet dishes. They are right at home at the dinner table, too, and are the perfect foil for pork, chicken or fish.

For a quick, simple meal for me and Jim, I tossed together a fresh peach salsa and a peach-and-lemon marinade for some pork chops. The salsa came together in a flash with just a few ingredients I typically have in my fridge at this time of year. The pork chops didn't need a long soak in the marinade. They came from local naturally-raised pork from Ivanita Farm and Meats and we really can taste the difference compared to factory-farmed meats.

If you can get naturally-raised chops for this recipe, do use them. If you don't have spiced jam, just use regular. My sister makes many wonderful things, not the least of which is her spiced peach jam. I'll see if she'll share the recipe with us and get back to you!

Peach Salsa
  • 3 ripe, juicy peaches, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 of a large red onion, peeled and finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 of a red sweet bell pepper, diced
  • juice from 1/2 of a small lemon
  • generous pinch of coarse kosher salt
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • two generous pinches of brown sugar
  • wee pinch of hot red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • small handful of chopped fresh basil
Stir all ingredients together in a glass or ceramic bowl. Let sit at room temperature for half an hour or cover and refrigerate for up to two days.

Marinade and Pork Chops
  • 1 heaping tablespoon spiced peach jam
  • 2 tablespoons of juices from the salsa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 of a small lemon
  • 4 pork chops, about 1 inch thick, bone-in or boneless
  • coarse kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
In a shallow baking dish or zip-top plastic bag large enough to hold the chops, mix together jam, salsa juices, olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper and add to the marinade. Soak for 20 minutes at room temperature or up to 4 hours refrigerated.

Heat a grill or griddle to medium-high. Coat with oil. Add pork chops and cook, turning once, until just cooked through and a meat thermometer reads 70°C/158°F, about 5 to 6 minutes per side.

Top pork chops with peach salsa and serve immediately. Grilled or roasted sweet potato wedges make an excellent side dish. 


Thursday, August 25

Ilfracombe Idyll

Most of the towns, beaches, and scenic spots of Muskoka are bustling and busy on a summer afternoon. Not Ilfracombe. This tiny hamlet is actually part of the municipality of Huntsville but it's nestled on Buck Lake in the north-west corner of the township, far from shops or restaurants or crowds.

We often like to spend an afternoon at the beach there, or even just a half-hour if that's all we can fit in our day. The beach is sandy and the shoreline shallow; so shallow, in fact, that the water is as warm as a bath and swimmable even in the cooler days of late August and early September.

A short drive past the beach is a beautiful old stone church, built in 1886 and still in use today. If you want to stop and take pictures, turn up the road just after the church to access the small parking area at the back of the building.

Continuing further south beyond the church is a shady picnic area, also on the lake. Pooches aren't allowed at the beach but you can let your dog have a swim here. It's also a great place to put in a canoe or kayak. You can paddle around Buck Lake if you like open water, or take a little tour up the river (you'll see it when you drive over the bridge on the way to the picnic spot).

Muskoka in the summer is often a busy, exciting, high-traffic destination. A visit to a quiet hamlet like Ilfracombe is the perfect foil when you want a little less excitement in your getaway and a little more breathing space.

To get there from the inn, you head west from our parking lot (away from the direction of Hwy 11) and follow Fern Glen Rd, past Round Lake, to it's terminus just south of the town of Sprucedale. Turn left (south) on Stisted Rd and follow it for 10 lovely kilometres to Ilfracombe. 

Stisted Road is in great shape, paved and not too busy. It winds and turns, going up hills and down, and passes through a section I always think of as Sherwood Forest, where the trees knit together overhead forming a green (or, in the autumn, red) tunnel. 

South of Ilfracombe, the road becomes Ravenscliff Rd and meanders its way all the way to Huntsville proper. Watch for the Hutcheson Beach Road if you want to sample another beach along your way.

I can't tell you about Ilfracombe without mentioning Badger Paddles, a small, family-run business making hand-crafted one-of-a-kind solid wood canoe paddles. They make the paddles at their shop in Ilfracombe but it's not a retail store. Visit their website for information on where to purchase their paddles and paddlesocks. Badger Paddles.