Sauerkraut

It’s been so long since I’ve posted [1].

Summer is in full swing so it’s time to preserve summer’s bounty for the coming winter.

As I tend to do, I got carried away the Columbia City Farmer’s Market last week and came home with 2 huge cabbages.

Cabbages
Cabbages

The answer to the question, “What to do with 2 huge cabbages?” is obvious: Sauerkraut!

Take that cabbage and slice it thin.

Slice Cabbages
Sliced Cabbages

And sprinkle it with salt and pack it into a crock.

Packed Cabbages
Packed Cabbages

And then let it rot. I put it in our mudroom. Debbie was in there the other day and said “Something’s died back here.” “That’s just the sauerkraut,” I told her.

The sauerkraut will rot for about a month and then I’ll can or freeze it. A mudroom that reeks of death for a month is a small price to pay for a winter of Rueben sandwiches and choucroute garnie and pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day [2].

1. The reasons for that are many and sundry and will be divulged in good time. Or maybe not.

2. Which brings you good luck for the rest of the year.

Read More

Makin’ Bacon

We went to Albright’s grocery in Corunna last Sunday. If you’ve never been to Albright’s you’re missing out. They have the most amazing meat counter you’ve ever seen, and prices are incredibly low.

We came home with an armload of goodies, one of which was a boneless pork loin roast. I’d stumbled across Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for Canadian bacon recently and I’d been hankering to try it.

I pretty much followed Ruhlman’s recipe step by step. When it comes to cured meat, I like to have a trusted source and to listen to them.

First was brining the pork for 3 days in sugar, salt, lemon, spices, and the oh so essential sodium nitrate.

Brining
Brining

After 3 days I removed the pork from brine and let it dry in the refrigerator. After drying I hot smoked it for about 4 hours at 225 degrees.

Smoking
Smoking

Now I’m a purist when it comes to smoking. I like to smoke over a wood fire with blends of hardwoods I’ve cut myself. But it was howling wind and blowing snow on Thursday when I needed to smoke the Canadian bacon and I wasn’t up to building a fire and babysitting it in those conditions. Instead I got out the electric smoker that I inherited from my Dad’s good friend Sam Taulbee.

The electric smoker is so easy to use. You just set it and it holds the cooking temperature exactly there. All you have to do is throw a few wood chips in every now and then.

Smoked
Smoked

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and it’s hard to argue with results like these.

Sliced
Sliced

Tasting something like this makes you realize how weird, unnatural, and chemical-y commercial Canadian bacon is. It was easily one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, let alone prepared.

Read More

Keeping it Clean

I’m not a “greenie,” [1] but I was watching a cooking show tonight, one of my favorites, American’s Test Kitchen. They were making a curry and roasting peppers in the oven. To do that they lined a baking sheet with foil.

I like the idea of keeping the baking sheets clean. We scrub and scrub and scrub ours and they’re still blackened and pitted. It’d sure be nice to have pristine baking sheets that look like new. Maybe I should line my pans.

But if I line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, I’ve not only spent money on the foil, but the foil then has to be thrown away. I can’t recycle it with food baked on it. An irreplaceable natural resource headed for the landfill, all because I wanted a baking pan to look pretty.

I love my pans, I really do. And I wish they looked perfect. But does it really matter how shiny they are?

I don’t think so.

1.

green·ie
ˈɡrēnē/
noun informal derogatory
a person who campaigns for protection of the environment.

Ok, yes, I am.

Read More

Bread and Soup

Several restaurants we visited in Iceland offered bread and soup. They had a big kettle of soup that you served yourself from, and loaves of bread beside it that you sliced your own slabs of bread from [1].

And it was cheap [2], appealing to the backpacking crowd.

Since it was a cold and rainy day here [3] I made my own version. Potato and leek soup and rye bread, made with rye flour from rye we grew.

Bread and Soup
Bread and Soup

Delicious!

1.You sliced your slabs holding the bread with your bare hands, no latex gloves. And if you wanted another bowl of soup you used the same bowl. Eeek! That must be why there are so few people in Iceland, they’ve all died from food poisoning. [4]

2. Don’t believe it when anyone tells you how cheap it is to visit Iceland. That bowl of soup will cost you many króna, I tell you what.

3. But still about 30 degrees warmer than Iceland.

4. That’s sarcasm. It’s so hard to tell.

Read More

Tomatoes, Spinach, and Polenta

We had some small tomatoes from the garden to use up. Debbie found this recipe and it was incredibly delicious.

Delicious
Delicious

What you’ll need

A nice bunch of small tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are great, golf ball sized ones are good too. If they’re bigger just cut them in half.
Olive oil
Fresh herbs
About 6 cloves of garlic
A big bunch of spinach
A cup of polenta
About 4 oz of soft goat cheese
Water
Salt
Pepper

How to do it

Heat the oven to 425. Line a baking pan with parchment paper (or not, you’ll just have to scrub the pan)
Put the tomatoes in the pan and drizzle with olive oil, roll them around to coat on all sides
Toss in some fresh herbs if you have them, sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and oregano are all nice.
A few cloves of garlic are nice too. Leave the papery husks on.

Cook for 20 minutes or so, toss and cook a bit more.
Remove from the oven.
When they’ve cooled remove the herb sprigs, squeeze the garlic out over the tomatoes, and give them a rough chop.

Finely chop, or even mince, 3 cloves of garlic.
Add some olive oil to a big pan and simmer the garlic over very low heat. Don’t brown it, just poach it in the oil.
In the meantime take a nice big bunch of spinach and remove the stems and roughly chop it.
Put the spinach in with the garlic and cook until the spinach is wilted.
Remove the spinach from the pan and season the spinach with salt to taste.

Add 3 cups water to the pan and bring it to a boil.
Add a cup of polenta and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Cook, stirring often, until it’s creamy.
Add 4 oz of goat cheese, a soft fresh one. Any cheese you like will be splendid.
Stir until the cheese is melted.
Give it a nice seasoning with pepper.

Serve by putting a big dollop of polenta on a plate, then topping with spinach, then with the tomatoes.

You may have noted at this point that in the picture my tomatoes aren’t chopped, and neither is the spinach. And the spinach has its stems. I didn’t chop the tomatoes or the spinach or remove the stems, but it would’ve been so much better if I had.

Read More

Eating Locally

This morning I went to the opening day for the Columbia City Farmer’s Market. I came home with greens, ramps, miner’s lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, and a loaf of crusty bread. Tonight I whipped that into an almost entirely locally grown meal.

Salad with Smoked Duck

I had a whole Maple Leaf Farms duck in the freezer. I thawed that out and smoked it in the Jay Rosswurm Big Stone Cooking Area with some cherry logs cut from our farm.

I made that all into a salad topped with an orange vinaigrette. The oranges were probably picked by slaves and trucked 1,500 miles. I should’ve used the apple cider vinegar I made.

Oh well, it was tasty all the same. The duck was rich, fat, and smoky, the greens were bitter and fresh, the ramps pungent, and the vinaigrette cut it all with its sharp and bright acid.

Read More

Fish and Lemons

If you’re like me you have a container of preserved lemons in the refrigerator.

Preserved Lemons
Preserved Lemons

I love to preserve things; canning, salting, fermenting, smoking, freezing. You name it, I like to do it. But then I end up with things like a quart of preserved lemons and wonder, “What do I do with this?”

The quart of preserved lemons in our refrigerator finally guilted me into using them. I diced about a half dozen of the lemon slices fine and used them to top fish with olives.

Before Cooking
Before Cooking
After Cooking
After Cooking

Really easy, really tasty.

Baked Fish with Lemons and Olives
For 2

Ingredients
Two whitefish fillets, I used tilapia
About 6 slices of preserved lemons
About a handful of green olives, pitted
2 cloves garlic
2 rosemary sprigs [1]
Olive oil
White wine
salt and pepper

Procedure

Turn your oven on to 450.

Finely dice the preserved lemons
Slice or roughly chop the green olives
Thinly slice the garlic

Scatter the garlic in a baking dish
Brush the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Consider how salty your olives and preserved lemons are when salting the fish.
Scatter the lemons and olives over the fish
Top with the rosemary sprigs
Pour about 1/2 cup of white wine in the pan

Cook until the fish just flakes apart. My fillets were about 3/4’s of an inch thick and it took about 18 minutes.

Plate on top of some sauteed greens (I used collards) with rice. Spoon the sauce over and serve.


1. Debbie has kept a rosemary plant alive all winter. It’s so nice to be able to clip a sprig of fresh rosemary in February when it’s 5 degrees below 0 outside.

Read More

Hard Cider

With harvest done I have time to catch up on important tasks, like racking my hard cider.

Racking
Racking

Tom and I crushed apples on October 14th, and the cider has been fermenting away ever since. The solids settle out of the cider over time, and you siphon it off into clean containers, a process called racking. Do this a few times and the cider gets nice and clear.

Of course, you have to taste it as you rack it, to make sure it’s ok.

A Taste
A Taste

Nice color, and it’s starting to clear. It smelled great and tasted even better. It tastes fresh and apple-y.

And of course, you have confirm the taste from every carboy.

Another Taste
Another Taste

It was as good as the first. Down the hatch!

Read More

Cider

After last year’s apple bonanza apples are scare here this year. My trees had hardly any. A nearby orchard where I’ve gotten apples didn’t have any for cider. I looked on Craigslist though and found an orchard about 20 miles away that had plenty of seconds for cider.

10 Bushels
10 Bushels

After getting an inch and a half of rain in the last two days we’re out of the soybean fields for a while, so Tom and I crushed apples today.

Ready!
Ready!

The old cider press, cleaned up, sanitized, and ready to press!

Pressing
Pressing

With two baskets it really goes fast. One of us would be throwing apples in the grinder and filling a basket while the other was cranking down the screw, pressing out the cider.

We ended up with about 25 gallons of cider. I’ve got around 17 of those gallons in carboys, ready to become hard cider. We’re cooking down some for apple syrup, and the rest is for drinking fresh.

Becoming Syrup
Becoming Syrup

And we have a big pile of pressed apples to feed to the cows and horses and chickens.

Apple Pomace
Apple Pomace

Read More

Grape Pie

My Grandma Zumbrun used to make grape pie, so in a fit of nostalgia and grapes I made one yesterday.

Our grapevine, despite having been savaged by rabbits last produced grapes like crazy this year.

Grapevine
Grapevine

I didn’t expect to get any grapes this year because of the rabbit damage. So I didn’t prune the vines or thin the grapes. We ended up with lots and lots of little grapes.

Bowl of Little Grapes
Bowl of Little Grapes

Debbie glanced at that bowl and asked, “what are you doing with blueberries?” That’s about the size they are.

To make a grape pie you start removing the skins from the grapes. Yes, every one of this little grapes I picked up, pinched it on the end away from the stem, and if everything was right the plup and seed would pop right out.

Peeled Grapes
Peeled Grapes

This made me really wish I’d thinned the grapes so I would have had fewer big plump grapes to skin. It took me about a half hour to skin 4 cups of grapes and by the time I was done there were skins and pulp everywhere and I looked like I’d dispatched a large and very bloody creature with my bare hands.

You cook the pulp briefly and run it through a food mill to remove the seeds. Then you recombine the pulp and the skins. The skins give you the deep purple color and a lot of flavor. Your reward, I guess, for going to the work of skinning all those grapes.

Filled Pie
Filled Pie
Covered Pie
Covered Pie

Into the oven it goes and about 45 minutes later…

Baked Pie
Baked Pie

And after cooling, the splendid result.

Sliced Pie
Sliced Pie

It tastes just like you’d expect, like grape jam. It’s a lot of work, but it makes an unusual and tasty pie for a different sort of treat.

Grape Pie
For 1 8″ pie

Ingredients

About 4 cups of red grapes
Sugar
Cornstarch or flour or tapioca
Salt
Butter
Pie crust

Procedure

Prepare your favorite 2 crust recipe
Peel the grapes by pinching them at the end opposite the stem, put the seeds and pulp in one bowl and the skins in another
Bring the seeds and pulp to boil and simmer for 5 minutes
Allow to cool and then run through a food mill or colander to remove the seeds
Combine the skins and pulp (they can sit for several hours and continue to pick up flavor and color)
Heat your oven to 450
Add sugar to taste to the grapes. My grapes are very tart and I used about a cup of sugar. If your grapes are sweet you may want to add some lemon juice for tartness.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Add 1 to 4 tablespoons of cornstarch (or whatever thickener you like). I used about 3 tablespoons as my grapes were very juicy.
Pour grape mixture into bottom pie crust
Top with dabs of butter if you like
Cover with top crust, seal and crimp and make cuts for venting
Bake 10 minutes at 450 and then turn oven down to 350
Bake another 30 minutes or until bubbling and the crust is golden
Allow to cool several hours at least before slicing.

Read More