Mr. Birks [Hungarian Long Peppers Stuffed with Farmer’s Cheese, Kasha, Dried Fruits, and Nuts]

Hungarian long peppers8

I can still see my little brother in his red Northern Getaway shorts and blue frog T-shirt craning his neck upwards.

“Hell-o Mist-a Birks!”

We lost our neighbour of 25 years, a dear friend of the family last week.

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Mr. Birks, thank you for letting us “borrow” your leaves at Halloween to bury our scarecrows in. We had no idea we were being such a big help with the yard work. Thank you for snow-blowing onto our side of the lawn so that we could have a bigger snow bank to build our fort in. Thank you for letting us chase your cats around the neighbourhood with dog treats.

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Thank you for teaching me how to use a computer. Thank you for finishing our basement so that I could have my own room. Thank you for giving me my first job. You are always with us.

xox

Hungarian Long Peppers Stuffed with Farmer’s Cheese, Kasha, Dried Fruits, and Nuts

For the farmer’s cheese:

2 quarts whole milk
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
cheesecloth
Butcher’s twine

In a heavy-bottomed pot set over low heat, slowly heat the milk, stirring occasionally, until it scalds (tiny bubbles will form around the edges of the pot). Stir in the buttermilk. Stir in the vinegar. Remove from heat.
Slowly stir the mixture with a wide rubber spatula until the milk curd separates from the whey. Set aside for 15 minutes. Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes.Line a large strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth, and place over a stockpot to catch Ladle the mixture into a strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth. Allow to drain well before  tying up the cheesecloth.
Hang the bundle by the faucet of the kitchen sink for about an hour. Put the cheese in a container. Season with salt. Keeps for up to one week.
For the kasha:

1 egg
1/2 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)
1 cup boiling water
salt and pepper, to taste

Stir together the kasha and egg until the grains are well coated with egg. Pour the mixture into an ungreased saucepan set over medium heat. Toast, stirring constantly, until the grains separate. Pour in the boiling water and season with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to stand another 10 minutes before serving.

For the stuffed peppers:

1 cup cooked kasha
14 Hungarian long peppers
4 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
2 tablespoons currants
6 tablespoons mint leaves, torn
2 tablespoons Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped
5 ounces farmer’s cheese (syr)
olive oil
salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F

Trim the tops off the peppers, and set aside. Pull out the seeds and membranes. Turn upside down and shake to get all of the seeds out.

Mix together all of the remaining ingredients. Push the mixture into the peppers, compacting it. To get it all of the way to the bottom, use the end of a wooden spoon to push the mixture down.

Place on a baking sheet. Replace pepper tops. Drizzle with olive oil to promote browning. Bake for 30 minutes, or until speckled with brown and the peppers are tender.

This dish is fantastic served at room temperature. Serves 5.

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