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CUISINE: Experiencing the grasshopper
Thank you, Discovery Channel.
Without your often fine programming, it may never have wriggled into my consciousness.
It may never have hopped or jumped or flicked its way into my mind.
I may never have know that, pound for pound, grasshoppers provide more protein than chicken.
More protein, too, than beef.
Than duck, pheasant, venison and, presumably, buffalo, quail, ostrich, lamb or goat.
Certainly, I did already know, having grown up on the Canadian Prairies, that grasshoppers are plentiful.
They are inexhaustible.
We could, in fact, sieve an entire plague off the land, even as it’s munching its way through a wheat or canola crop, and another yummy plague would simply grow up in its place.
And, because a grasshopper once flew into my mouth while I was trying to get to my grandmother in her devastated garden, I know, too, that grasshoppers come in handy bite-sized portions that are lightweight and easy for snacking.
As they would be for shipping.
Given a change of consciousness on the part of Canadians, we could probably save our grasslands from grazing livestock, having taken to heart grasshopper ranching is the future.
And, for those lucky enough to have grasshoppers in their own yards, they can be eaten fresh from the garden, sizzled in oil as a popcorn substitute, dried for storage or cooked up in thousands upon thousands of different, delectable ways, including dry-roasted, tossed in a wok or (and this is my favourite idea, courtesy of one very odd blogger) hidden in Christmas fruitcake.
I know, I know.
There’s the heebie-jeebie effect we in the West just can’t seem to overcome, no matter how much ketchup we splatter on the idea.
But, let us consider that in much of Asia, grasshoppers are a symbol of good luck and abundance.
Fancy varieties are even kept as cherished pets in intricate handmade cages, while the more ordinary sorts are enjoyed as street food, skewered on bamboo sticks.
And, since pestilences are scheduled to increase as we lunge towards a warmer world, Waste Not, Want Not is an concept we might as well adopt — especially given a wasted opportunity just so happens to be hopping around our feet.
Hopping and scrabbling.
Hopping, scrabbling and scratching.
And that, right there, Dear Discovery Channel, is my problem at this very moment: Roughly 0.54 grams of the ickiest creature that’s ever stood between me and my front door.
Now, with my social consciousness adjusted, do I stop and think to myself, “Oh look! An ingredient!”
Or, “There’s the garnish I was looking for?”
No, I do not.
The only thing I think is slowly, stealthily, slip the flip flop from my foot and SMACK! that grasshopper into jam.
A few moments later, however, after my heart rate has knocked its way back to resting, and as I stoop to scrape crunchy-slimy, yellow-green thorax from my sole, I do feel the quickening of an idea.
Well, OK — maybe I’m not quite there yet.
(Wherein jalapenos substitute for hoppers)
6 lbs. fresh peaches (about 15)
Fresh jalapenos, seeded and very finely diced or processed
6 c. granulated sugar
Juice from 1 large lemon
1 tbsp. butter
1 1.75-oz. package pectin
12 8-oz. canning jars, lids and bands
In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with the blade attachment, puree five peaches at a time until slightly chunky. Transfer to a large pot, add jalapenos and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.
When simmering, stir in sugar, lemon juice and pectin until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.
Continue to let the jam simmer for another 15 minutes to thicken. Add butter to prevent foaming.
If any foam does come to the surface, skim it off with a spoon and discard.
Boil jars and lids for 10 minutes to sterilize. Use a funnel and ladle to fill each jar, leaving about one-quarter inch of room at the top of each jar.
Wipe each jar and top it with a lid and band.
Place jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes to process, making sure the simmering water covers the jars by at least an inch.
Remove jars and let them cool completely for 24 hours. If any jars are not sealed (lid still pops down when gently pressed), reprocess.
Store sealed jars in a cool dark pantry for up to one year.
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press). For past recipes, go online. She can be contacted at email@example.com.