Mary Ellen Hughes, author of the Craft Corner mysteries, begins her new Pickled and Preserved mystery series with The Pickled Piper. The series is set in a small, upstate New York town, surrounded by farms that provide nearly all the vegetables and fruits one could want to pickle and preserve. Learn more about Mary Ellen and her books at her website.
Piper Lamb learned a lot about pickling in her Aunt Judy’s kitchen during the many childhood summers she spent at Aunt Judy and Uncle Frank’s farm near Cloverdale, New York. So when her long-time fiancé decided he needed a trip around the world to “find himself,” Piper decided she’d had enough of waiting around and living life as Scott liked it. She ended the engagement and picked up roots, leaving an unfulfilling job in Albany to pursue something she’d always secretly dreamed of: owning her own pickling shop.
She set up Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, which offered everything one needed for canning, pickling and preserving, plus plenty of jars of her own home-made pickles and jams made from a huge variety of vegetables and fruits.
When Piper took a booth at the Cloverdale fair to show off her wares, her pickles practically flew off the shelves. Many fair goers never knew the amazing number of ways you could pickle or preserve things, like making salsa out of peaches and cilantro. This unusual salsa is great not only for dipping into with tortilla chips but also good with grilled pork or fish. Give it a try!
Peach and Cilantro Salsa
5 pounds ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and diced (about 9 cups)
½ cup fresh lime juice
1 cup diced sweet onion
½ cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced seeded serrano chiles
4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
4 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Mix all ingredients except cilantro and mint in a 6-8 quart preserving pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer at low heat until the peaches are soft and the onion is tender—about 30 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and mint.
Into prepared, hot canning jars, ladle the hot salsa, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top. Wipe the rims and put a flat lid and ring on each, tightening to finger tight.
Process the jars for 10 minutes in boiling water, then let sit on a towel, undisturbed, for 12 hours, checking after the first hour that the lids have sealed. If they can be pushed down, they haven’t sealed and the jar should be refrigerated. Otherwise, label and store, then enjoy them at your next party!
The Pickled Piper
After her dreams of romance are crushed, Piper Lamb decides to pursue her dream of opening her own shop of pickles and preserves, called Piper’s Picklings, in the idyllic small town of Cloverdale. But she isn’t in town long before she encounters a barrelful of trouble…
The Cloverdale fair offers Piper a sweet opportunity to promote her business. With her new assistant, Amy, she sets up a booth centered around an eye-catching display of the ever-popular dills in an old-fashioned barrel of brine.
But things soon turn sour when fairgoers witness a fight between Amy’s boyfriend, Nate, and town council blowhard—and bagpipe player—Alan Rosemont. When Rosemont is found floating in Piper’s barrel, Nate becomes the prime murder suspect. With Amy’s boyfriend in a pretty pickle, there’s no time to dillydally. But as Piper searches for the real killer, she needs to be careful to preserve her own life…or she may end up a pickled Piper herself.