The prodigal chef returns.
Obviously, I have not made this blog a priority. There are several reasons, some of them petty, some of them dreamy, and some of them practical. The main reason that I do not write about food anymore is that I have shown very little creativity with it the past year. I've been boring to a large extent, but another truth is that once a man has 50 original and excellent recipes, he does not need many more. On those rare days I am not laid up with food poisoning yet again or out in the mountains (now as a group leader and organizer often), I just whip up something I have been craving for months, already documented here in the old posts.
There was an exception recently though, when a dented can of beets (29 cents!) reminded me that I used to slave over the stove some rare nights to make "maroonara" sauce; a beet-tomato blend that goes amazing over eggplant and pasta. Well, I was struck by a sudden epiphany and realized I wanted that sauce, and that canned beets would be easier. They sure were. The result was better than ever thanks to Herbs de Provence. Here is the easy recipe:
Simmer over stove on low-medium heat for 30 min or so:
1 can tomato sauce (unseasoned)
1/2 can beets (take a potato masher to them, or use a fork to chop them up)
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tspn balsalmic vinegar
Herbs de Provence
Crushed red pepper flakes
That's it. I had delicious pasta for a week. As a matter of fact, I am making another small pot of this lovely little sauce right now. Try it with a few shavings of your favorite mid-price cheese. I am using fontinella right now, but want to try feta as well. I also suggest a few pistachios, which as I've said before, is a luxury on pasta. You can't beat 5 gourmet meals in a week for under $3 total!
But here is where this article gets truly interesting- are you ready? I was out of tomato paste one night while making a pizza, which sounded delicious beyond the bounds of depression (which does come on when mountain season ends, a man has dealt with lingering foot problems all summer, he's constantly getting sick, a check for 4 figures has disappeared in the mail, and his car has been in the shop for a week while waiting for $10 worth of teeny bolts to be shipped to his mechanic for a not-that-serious repair). (Long sentences and bad punctuation: how did you do all these months without them?!) Well, rather than walk to the grocery for a second time that day I decided to try my maroonara sauce on the pizza. I hesitated because that would burn up half my reserves, but live a little, you know? Its easy to make more.
That pizza was another in my recent line of successes. I have had several of the best pizzas of my life this year, all in a row. My "Beetza" was by far the best though. Tangy, and a little exotic, I wolfed it down in a single sitting. I am going to make another Beetza soon. Here is the recipe below. It too is easy.
Make your favorite dough and get it laid out flat. I am doing just a plain wheat dough right now because it rises better than other rarer flours I like to play with. I use 50-50 split of whole wheat and white flour.
Spread maroonara sauce liberally, and then choose your toppings and cheeses. For my exact picks, read the next paragraph.
then sprinkle over freshly washed sprouts (my mix is alfalfa, cabbage, Chinese red cabbage, radish, and clover and I grow them myself). Then sprinkle your Herbs de Provence- not too heavily because it is in the sauce too. Then toppings: 1/3 of a zucchini, julienned, 1/4 of a red bell pepper, diced, a handful of diced black olives, 12 slices pepperoni, a few pinches of pineapple, and 3 oz mozzarella cheese.
My other pizza glories were using white sauce. You can buy a Soup Starter at the store that is a basil alfredo base. As a soup, I think its paltry, or as a sauce over noodles. But on a pizza with plenty of fresh tomatoes, zuchini, peppers, olives, and spinach leaves, with a bold cheese mix such as cheddar and parmesan, it is really excellent.
Well, this was fun- and shockingly short for me. There may be hope for me yet. I hope the 3 or 4 people who still remember Camila and I ever existed as Internet muses, or sprites, of spirits, or whatever, and who come across this post will enjoy these easy ways to sneak beets into the diet. The only thing better is the Beet Beer from the Beers of the Apocalypse Series, but that is off the market now, I believe. Stay tuned, because I will surely write another article within the next twelve months.
Probably a tribute to pumpkin in the next thirty days I think. After my first pumpkin ravioli from scratch.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
The prodigal chef returns.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
You can make a variety of vibrant fruit breads with bakery emulsions, and I will give you several recipes.
Coming to you live from the DATC Computer Library, I am back with a long overdue post. It took a little time adjusting to a new technology program I signed up for and to get used to being up by 6 am every day. That is not the easiest thing to do when one has been on a swing or night schedule for 5+ years. But I am almost back to normal. I go 40+ hours a week, do not have to drive as I got a discount student bus pass, and so far I completed 2 courses by testing out, and 2 courses the old-fashioned way, in 1/2 the time I was told it would take because the program is self-directed. So I am pretty busy. But I am still cooking and will try to remember to post now.
Emulsions are a useful chemistry technology. They have been used in painting and baking for many centuries. An emulsion, to spare a definition, is a thick syrup-like mixture which holds its flavor better, especially during baking. These are a near priceless commodity, but you can find them for $7 or less per bottle. I recommend checking your local Ross Dress For Less Store in the hopes of finding some for $2.99. They are used in place of traditional juice or zest. For instance, I have on my shelf at home, orange, raspberry, lemon, and almond emulsions, and a bottle of chocolate essence, which is similar. Of those, I do not like the almond but heartily recommend the others. Zests, made from a peel put through a fine cheese grater or a special zester tool, combined with juice, make a dough harder to work with, can introduce pollutants you don't need in your diet, and will lose their flavor no matter how much you put in. The emulsion solves all these problems, especially when combined with black truffle oil which heightens and compliments flavors in cooking. As an added bonus emulsions are very stable and will not spoil, ever, for all intents and purposes, even at room temperature. What a deal.
Black truffle oil smells disgusting on its own, but I braved it in my baking and adore it now. Just don't drink it straight or anything, and use small amounts when you start out with it. I do not like it in pasta sauce and have done little other experimenting.
I think I can't say anymore without being dull. The recipes are below. All are quick breads which take less than 15 minutes of work, not counting the bake time, and these will make 6 muffins or a small loaf of bread, approximately 6 inches long. These are not translatable- what I mean is that if I list the recipe as a bread, it probably would be hard to make muffins out of, and if I list it as muffins, it may or may not make a good bread also.
Raspberry Honey Whole Wheat Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
3 fl oz honey
1 tsp raspberry emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil (or replace with an additional 1 tspn of emulsion)
Water as needed
Oil your baking dish and bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min. Check at 25 min.
Lemon Poppy Seed Bread
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup enriched flour
2 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
1 tsp black poppy seeds
1 tsp lemon emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil (Or replace with additional 1 tspn emulsion)
Water as needed
Oil your baking dish and bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min. Check at 25 min. This is not the traditional cake-style fluffy dessert lemon-poppy seed bread. Its a robust little number that retains all the sweet and aromatic pleasantries of the other, but with added health benefits.
Orange Cranberry Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup enriched flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
1/8- 1/4 cup craisins or chopped fresh cranberries
1 tsp orange emulsion
1 tsp black truffle oil (Or replace with additional 1 tspn emulsion)
Water as needed
Oil your baking tray and fill 6 cups as evenly as possible. Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 min. Check at 25 min.
And here is a bonus simple recipe without emulsion
Morning Glory Muffins
Run 1/2 carrot through a fine cheese grater, or a zester if you have one, or shred it any other practicable means to start. Add to:
1 cup bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 enriched flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 fl oz molasses
1/8-1/4 cup dates or raisins
Water as needed
I make this as muffins but it can be a bread also, with no conversion trouble. Bake at 350 F for approximately 20 min. May take a little longer. Check at 20 min though.
Coming Soon (hopefully): Making ravioli from scratch with stamps- plus a basic all-purpose pasta recipe, home-fermented kefir sodas, how to start a barter club, and a recipe for apple-fig dumplings.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Skyscraper piles of snow, deadly flu epidemics, sub-zero nights, and a good old-fashioned vintage winter with all the added horror of modern smog. AKA I've missed you too, so here are 2 recipes at the bottom.
Gout was a fine word to open a game of Scrabble with the other week, because it reminded me of the need to read about gout symptoms and see if maybe instead of some mysterious new form of pain I just had gout in my feet. Turns out I did. This surprised me as gout comes with a stigma and is lumped in with diabetes in the minds of most; one of those semi-culpability diseases people can cure by just putting the fork down or using it to scoop lima beans rather than jelly ones. I'm not exactly in terrible shape, though by my standards, I've let myself go recently. Well, turns out gout is just a form of inherited arthritis, and if there is one thing I collect, other than hippos, old music, old cartoons, squashes, and several other things, its any kind of arthritis there is. Precocious arthritis is my hobby.
Gout basically is a swelling and stiffening of the feet, also marked by redness, pain or itching or burning, and not wanting to move at all. Its usually in the big toe, but because I'm never normal, mine was in the fourth toes. This is charming to discuss, surely. I had some minor gout, but a little gout goes a long way, as the saying goes. Made famous by Henry the 8th, the late Ben Franklin, and many a comic strip French chef, gout is actually a hereditary disease triggered by diet, and specifically, uric acid from purines.
Purines come from a surprisingly-benign, or even, healthy list of foods. The most taboo food items are: mushrooms, cauliflower, lentils, beans, red meat, and sweets such as honey. (So you can see why gout is synomymous with Henry the 8th, he the man who by force of will power (less-ness) changed the Western diet to a sugar-based one after his first taste of the white powder, and he the man who invented such delicacies as "sugar-crusted roast Turkey drumstrick", and "syrup-dipped pig's feet" with jellied jam sauce.) The expended list adds chocolate, beer, wine, oats, leafy green vegetables, baked goods with leavening agents, dried fruits, and eggs. Also, by the way, peanuts are not really a nut, but a legume, so peanuts and peanut butter also trigger gout.
That doesn't leave me much to eat does it? And if you look back at my most recent posts, you'll notice that I was basically on the perfect diet to discover whether or no I am susceptible to gout. I was practically begging for gout. Hell, I ate like a gallon of wild mushroom soup followed by pot roast chili- fabulous and recipe to come below, and preceded by "Canaan Pie", made with cream and honey and dried fruits. I also satisfied a craving for cauliflower for the first time in a year. Live and learn.
Gout is cured by drinking exasperating amounts of water and avoiding foods which contain purines or uric acid. Protein in the diet should be reduced and pretty much nothing but rice and fresh fruit is acceptable. Go over that list again. Its extensive. Vitamin C is helpful. Also, there is no better medicine than dried cherries. As far as medicines go, this last one is pretty delicious. I now have 3 lbs of dried bings around for flare ups, though this was my only noticeable gout incident to date.
The best treatment is prevention. Spread out the taboo foods, or eliminate them.
Well, after my gout cleared up thanks in large part to several days of hunger, I succumbed to this flu which is apparently ravaging Utah and everywhere else, and had some infected sinuses. I started to feel poorly, then spent a 36 hour period with an animal's wiped mind, laying in a fetal position wrapped inside blankets and still shaking with cold. I slept 29 out of 30 hours at one point, sitting up just long enough to do the necessities and fill in one sudoku puzzle. Now I'm still recovering from that. So I have not been out skiing while failing to post to this blog, I promise you that.
Enough moping. My other news is I registered for college courses and will learn web development, including writing code in HTML and several other languages. This should provide me work, and hopefully that work will be stimulating, or at least, not unbearable. I am curious about programming, but its so new to me, I don't know what to expect. I had some financial aid to utilize or lose soon so the whole thing is paid for, and I will treat this like a job, a job that doesn't pay but should eventually. I will be going full-time, so we shall see how much cooking I do, and whether or no I can offer a recipe every week. That will depend on if I keep trying new things and finding the time to do so. I think I will. I started today and now I get a 4 day weekend. But I can do most of next week's work at home with a tedious text book. Hurray.
Pot Roast Chili
This is a very good option for a chili, a little more deluxe than ground chuck varieties. Also its a second recipe to use with roast cuts.
1. Slice 1 lb beef roast or pork roast/loin into 1/2 inch slices, season if preferred, and bake in oven 90 minutes at 375 F. I did not season my beef roast as it was a nice fatty cut and I let the fat do the work and get all melty.
2. On a range top, in a large pot, combine: 1 can black beans, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can butter beans, and 2 cans pinto beans, all part-drained, with 1 can diced tomatoes (or fresh is that is a palatable option), 1/4 butternut squash (pre-baked), peeled and diced into cubes, 1 cup golden corn kernals, 1/2 green bell pepper diced, onion (or powder), and seasonings. I suggest: coriander (coarsely crushed), cinnamon, minced garlic, green chives (if you did not add chopped onion), brown sugar, mustard, and white pepper. Bring to a light boil, then simmer 30 min.
3. Serve as 2 dishes. Its a vegan chili with the meat available to those who want it, as complimentary dish, or to be dipped into the chili.
I will never make a chili again without butternut squash. Its a colorful, healthy, and satisfying addition, helping to replace meat, but not conflicting with it.
Thai Lemon Butternut Squash Soup
Finally found a butternut squash soup recipe I like. Invented this one after finding a markdown deal on some "La Tourangelle Artisan Thai Wok Oil". This oil is good for wok cooking, or as additive in soups, and consists of Thai Basil and Lemongrass in Safflower oil. My roomate claims it smells like Fruit Loops, which I find insulting, as he hates sugared cereals and thus, Fruit Loops, but I think he's just not familiar with the scent of lemon or of Fruit Loops.
For your soup you need:
1 large pot
1 butternut squash, baked or boiled, peeled, and cut into cubes.
16 oz vegetable broth
16 oz water
1/3 cup wok oil
white, red, and black pepper
1/8 cup brown sugar
Add all into your pot and boil for 30 minutes. Then let cool, put through blender or food processor, and reheat to desired temperature for consumption. Pretty easy and pretty basic. Might be improved by adding some noodles or fresh leaves, or peanuts, or something else I am not thinking of, but as an experiment, I just made it as basic as possible. The above recipe would reduce to a very thick near syrup and will probably take water before serving, but you can also serve it very thick. Will make 8-10 bowls.
Next post will be about fruit emulsions and how to use them.
Rather than a music recommendation I offer you a book this week: Parnatti's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. Great fun. Delightful 2 page or less stories about where almost everything you've ever touched in your life or heard in your life comes from.
Friday, December 28, 2012
Many people make resolutions this time of year and then break them. But better ideas include making gourmet butters while taking up bartering.
Usually by the third week of January, they are back to their normal un-improved selves. I never have that problem because I don't make resolutions, or if I do, I make them the third week of January and so out-last the crowd. But this year, I have set some already. None involve this blog. But you may want to make some modest goals yourself. They can even be food related. I set up a budget and am really really going to follow it this time.
Thoughts on fresh eggs
I found a source for farm-fresh eggs, and by that I mean I have friends, well, acquaintances really, but when you have no friends you see more than 3 times a year, its the same thing really. And by "found", I mean, they told me they had farm-fresh eggs and asked if I wanted any. A big affirmative there, buddies.
Teresa and I got to go inside the hen house, which smells. Hen houses tend to do that, but those 19 chickens and especially those 2 roosters seem like pretty healthy and contented birds. Teresa got to collect the eggs, which was fun. And we've been asking plenty of questions about laying. For instance, most chickens will lay within 4 months of hatching, but it may take 6, and they will give one egg daily, usually, though once my "farmer" friend collected 20 eggs in a morning. Arakana chickens lay green eggs (just the shell) which are fun, and younger chickens are prone to lay double yokes, but that goes away with time.
The taste of a fresh egg is really far better. And they will perform better in recipes or the pan. These eggs will scramble almost instantly, and the yokes are strong, very orange, and if fried lightly, do not run all over when poked. That is a good sign. If you poke a raw or a lightly cooked yoke and it flows like water, you've got the egg of an unhappy or unhealthy chicken, brother.
Very fresh eggs should be used as friers, as the yoke is strongest and most resistant to breaking. Your oldest eggs should be boiled. Fresh eggs boiled within a few days of being laid will not separate easily from the membrane and so make a bad choice for hard-boiled eggs.
My seasonings of choice for scrambled eggs are lemon pepper and lemon-lime paprika. I recommend finding some great eggs and making Huevos Rancheros from scratch with fresh tortillas formed by hand and a raspberry salsa diced right then and there. Or try a duck omelette, or a chinese pork omelette. Chinese pork is made in a slow cooker with Chinese Five Spice. Check your local grocery. Delicious. I usually add green chiles and eat it on tortillas or tostadas, but the leftovers go in an omelette.
My second attempt at flavored butter went much better than the first, when I tried melting the butter over heat. To do it right, let butter soften at room temperature, or aid it a little by setting it atop the range (in a bowl or tub) or toaster oven while you bake something inside. Mash it up with a fork and your desired seasonings. Then put it into a tub to chill and solidify again, or try reshaping it into a log and putting it back in the wax paper wrapper. My butter this week is 1/4 lb stick, 2 tsp plum butter (yeah I'm on a kick right now), 2 crumbled dried basil leaves, and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Pretty excellent on sourdough bread, which I've been eating also with my mushroom soup. Fresh basil would surely be better. Next week I am going with apple, fig, and almond butter, made with my apple, fig, and almond preserves. To die for by the way. Village Green Preserves. I found my jar at a Home Goods store and since big boxes break out like pimples by the thousand, you probably have one near you. 1/4 stick butter, 2 tsp preserves. I assume it will be delicious.
I also suggest what I tried once at "The Mark", a fine restaurant in Portland. Blackberry, basil, and garlic. I didn't want to crack open a jar of blackberries just for that.
When you get the hang of your new butter hobby you can start baking in concert with your gourmet butters so that you never end up with an artisan bread that fails to synchronize well with your condiment. Is butter a condiment? I'm not sure what else to call it.
I went a whole month without having butter in the house. Can you believe that? My goal right now is to eat what I have in storage and from the harvest and keep food bills below $20 a week. Going well, by the way.
Bartering Is a Fantastic Hobby
I think I have mentioned my love of barter recently, but if not, well, I love to barter. I bartered an 11 X 14 photo I had several copies of for a watermelon (the best of my life) and 1 dozen ears of corn, and I just bartered my rarely used Juicer to a friendquaintance (Teresa's friend really, like most of mine) mother of 3 and soon to be 4. She gets the juicer and I get a spot of cash and 5 different variety of preserves to go with my canned applesauce. The juicer gets used and I gain a little counter space. I tested the old girl one last time with a fine brew of carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, apple, celery juice. Very fine. Still works great. Saved the pulp to make a couple batches of vegetable stock for free. I am going to miss that juicer, but I only used it a few times a year because I get my veggies in soup and on pizza and in salads when in season.
Right now though I am living seasonally like never before. The great bulk of my fruit and vegetable intake right now is squashes, potatoes, and canned goods, all local. Squashes stop being a thrill after about 3 a week, so I can only imagine what Indians thought of them in an era without brown sugar. I try to make some spicy when I mash them up, but I just don't love that flavor mix yet. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. Its nice to never run out of crunchy toasted seeds to eat though.
Apparently there are "Seasonal Living" groups all over the US and even here in Utah. These groups seem to be poor at communication, as am I. Which I guess could be expected since they are anti-fast food and anti-technology, at least, to a degree as opposed to the rest of the modern world. So you can probably find some foodies near you, even if they can't, or don't want, to find you.
And yes I am still drinking tea every day and often 2 or 3 brews with my new (used) beautiful tea pot. I hope this is making me healthier. It is increasing my tea bill though, even using bags twice each.
Your musical advice this week is Songs From a World Apart by Levon Minassian and Armand Amar. I have no idea how to describe this. Samples for free on Itunes or Amazon. It only takes 5 seconds to determine if I'm crazy or your life was previously incomplete. Resolve to check it out. Right now. Or at least by the third week of January. Now I'm 2 Mondays ahead with my posts. If you get fat its not my fault. Though maybe with that recent pecan pie post, it kind of will be.
Here is a decent recipe to produce with your pounds and pounds of dried mushrooms.
Since no one enjoys or reads my witty remarks anyway, here is the recipe, and I am posting it 3 days early since another holiday is coming up and I will otherwise lose my passion and put off my "article" for a week:
Saute 8 oz baby bella mushrooms and 8 oz white crimini mushrooms in 3 tbsp butter and a squirt of olive oil for 10 min, add 2/3 cup Tawny Port (the only beverage alive which tastes like Christmas and actually produces Christmas inside you if you are drunk on it), and 32 oz vegetable stock, or water with vegetable pulp in it (such as carrot, cucumber, and pepper pulp from a juicer). Simmer for 10 more minutes, then let cool long enough to put into a processor or blender. Once creamy, return to pot along with 1 cup dried mushroom mix (or fresh). I used Oyster, Ivory Portabellas, Shiitaki, Brazilian, Morels, and Porcini, because those are what I have. Lots of. Still, after 3 years. Some mushrooms are an acquired taste. Season with garlic powder, onion or onion powder, 1 red chile diced (dry or fresh), green chives, and 1 tsp all spice. Zest 1/2 of a carrot through a fine cheese grater. Add 16 fl oz water, and boil for 30 min. Remove from heat, add 16 oz creme. Stir and serve.
Its not a revolutionary mushroom soup, but it has 7 kinds of fungi, a good blend of seasonings, a nice undertone of sweet liquor, and its easy. Better hot than cold.
Easily spruce it up with some gratuitous German Bratwist slices. You know, if you can't eat a thing unless it has meat in it.
Musical recommendation: Siwan (Ocrd), composed by Jon Balke, with vocal by Amina Alaoui, includes performance by Jon Hassell, who I think is famous. A stunning collaboration with an early music feel that is also modern and minimalist with strings, percussion, and ghostly out-of-this-world singing inspired by the Arab-Andalusian traditions. I got chills just remembering I had this tucked away in a binder and have not listened to it in months. I am going to right now.
I hope you don't hate this soup. It was my first effort at a mushroom soup and perhaps it can be improved later, but for now, its pretty good.
A few changes to a classic recipe.
I decided while baking a pecan pie for the first time around Thanksgiving, that the pecan pie was in need of a revamping. Did you know, or want to know, that the pecan pie is essentially pecans, sugar, corn syrup and eggs, all on a white-flour crust with lots of shortening. That is exactly 1/2 of a healthy ingredient. Also, it leaves much to be desired. That is essentially a sugar mallet. Put enough sweet crap in anything and it will taste good. But if you want more, then read on and get my recipe for "Canaan Pie", named of course after The Torah's "Land of Milk and Honey."
So here are your ingredients:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
0.5 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all vegetable shortening
(Yes I know its still not very healthy. Its a pie. I think if you are quibbling over the kind of flour used primarily in a dessert crust you are mistaking dessert, a treat, for food and main courses. That said, the little amount of whole wheat flour will make a stiffer crust that browns around the edges and can be picked up by hand and gobbled down, without tasting like wood. I prefer this recipe. Its more stout.)
Mash it all together, form it into a crust like you would a pizza dough, (and yes I did flip it in the air once), pat in a greased dish until mostly even and in the right shape. Do I really need to explain this?
1.0 cups pecans
0.5 cups honey
2 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup plum butter (or another quality jam you have on hand, such as blackberry preserves)
1/4 cup creme
3 whole eggs
1/4 cup diced figs
1/8 cup currants or dates
1/8 cup slivered almonds
Beat by hand your 3 eggs with the honey, butter, plum butter and creme, then add to it your pecans, figs, and currants or dates. Stir up, pour into your pie crust. Bake on high 350 F for 15 minutes, remove, scatter and lightly press almond slivers all along the top surface. Bake another 15 minutes. Check to see if done. If not, watch carefully for 10-15 more minutes. Remember the pie will continue to cook when removed from the oven.
Serve with a little whipped cream, or don't.
Don't add butter and creme and use egg substitutes if you want a Vegan option. Not sure how great that would be, but probably still a little better than standard pecan pie. Add some extra fruit I say. You can never have too many diced figs. Some scholars believe the houris, or perma-virgins, of Muslim paradise, a controversial regenerating supply of babes to the devout, originally read "figs" meaning you'd have a nice fat supply of sweet fruits that never run out.
Is this my shortest post ever? I think so. And its 5 days late too.
Music advice: "A Musical Banquet" starring countertenor Andreas Scholl. Composed by John Dowland and others, this is court music from the Elizabethan era starring the world's most famous high-pitched male voice, a sound which in previous eras could only be produced by castrating children before they could hit puberty. All in the name of Christ and music, right? But we have full-time music schools now and with billions of humans to choose from, there are at least five genetic freaks who are the singing equivalents of Olympic athletes and can live butch lives while performing these songs. Great CD. I listened to it while inventing this pie.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Andrew attempts home canning for the first time.
I am not going to go into the exact specifics step by step, because there are a lot of them and the information is out there other places, such as on the labels and instructions that come with glass "canning" bottles you can buy, and will need if you are going to try canning, but let's just say that I am now familiar with the process of home canning, my many fall apples are all processed, save for six reserved for one last apple crisp dessert, and I could not get out of bed this morning.
Canning is a lot of work. Really its an all day process, so start early. I also suggest you not come up with clever ideas like: I will do this while drying 10 more apples to replace the dehydrated slices I already ate on recent hikes so I won't run out in July, and I will also provide dinner for 4 people by roasting 3 lbs of pork in a slow cooker (which needs to be shredded at some point) and dicing 4 kinds of vegetables to go with it, and I will do this all myself because everyone else is addressing 300 Christmas cards and going on an 11 hour "tis the season" shopping run to buy XXL sweaters for an in-law who I have never seen wear a sweater. Those are bad ideas. Don't entertain them. (Side note: I have never understood the theory of needing to buy everyone a Christmas gift if you buy anyone a Christmas gift. Christmas is for girls and kids. Kids love to get gifts because they're greedy and need attention and have no money and women love to shop and will take any excuse to do so. We men put up with it, and we are willing to lackadaisically open a few packages while trying to watch football or dreaming about a decent breakfast and half-heartedly pretend to be excited that our wife/girlfriend's sister or mother is now effectively dressing us, and we are even willing to thank you profusely for driving to Walmart and choosing the same gift card for us that 1,000,000 other ladies choose every Saturday, but that doesn't mean we will wear the XXL sweater or the new pair of slippers or pajama bottoms with puppies on them that you force on us. And the response of "he's a jerk, he never likes my presents, but THIS year I will get him something he can't hate!" is not a rational one. And none of this is about me or anyone I or you knows in any way. Resemblance is coincidental. But point is, no man will or has ever cried because he didn't get a present from everyone on Christmas. A man wants something, he goes and buys it. That's why he works horrible jobs. Did you think it was so you could have a duvet and French doors out to your patio?)
Canning should be done in the long-standing traditional way: throw on some music, invite friends or family over, everyone chain themselves to a cutting board or to the range, divide the labor, and make an assembly line of a weekend of it. Some or all of the men may be out bagging trophy bucks at the same time. Order dinner out or go sit somewhere and let morose young college graduates coming to grips with the realities of a job market in a down economy and a world with 7 billion largely superfluous people wait on your every need. And also, maybe don't start with apple sauce. There are a several additional steps for that.
Okay, so here is what will pass for a recipe this week. 27 apples gave me 1 gallon of applesauce, which fills 8 pint jars. That might sound like a lot, but for a whole day's work, it is not a ton. Also I gave away 3 jars because Teresa's mother supervised and instructed me on the use of bottle tongs, sterilizing jars, and so forth. She earned them I say. Next time, I would use 50 apples and go for 2 gallons. That provides a year's worth for a small family if you also have peaches and jams and squashes and potatoes piled high.
I used 18 red delicious and 9 granny smith green apples, which turned out pretty good. I diced, then boiled for 20 minutes, then partly drained which means I lost some nutrition and flavor, but oh well. Next time I hope to streamline things. That dirtied 3 large pots. Then I let the mushy apples cool, put them in a blender, which took 7 loads, put them all back into one large pot, seasoned with 1/2 cup white sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and ancho chile powder. Then we sterilized our jars because they were dusty and gross and old. First a wash with dish soap, then sterilization by boiling, then sterilize the lids by boiling, then pack the hot sauce into the hot jars, then bring a HUGE canning pot with jar rack to a boil, then add the jars, add more water to cover the jars by 1 inch which stops the boil, let boil 20 minutes since we are at nearly 5,000 ft elevation and the process time is longer. Remove, let cool for 12 hours. Hopefully they "pop". All did. Hurray. Oh yeah, and this required moving 8 bottles 4 times each to different counters with bottle tongs so I am now skilled with those, though they are intimidating at first. And there was a pork dinner fit in the middle, did I mention that?
I was exhausted this morning and slept in. I also hiked through snow for 2 miles yesterday morning, once with Teresa which involved pushing 150 lbs of combined wheelchair and girl up a steep hill. So at the end of the day, she rolled her eyes at me and suggested I stop doing so many things at once like always. And that seems like a good idea. I hope this proves helpful to you at some point. Home canning can save you large amounts of money and makes the health spooks of recalls and salmonella warnings merely something to say "hmm" to disinterestedly, while flipping the electronic digitized page of your e-reader newspaper, or whatever you kids use these days that probably gives you cancer and creates a need for mood-enhancing drugs. However, that savings does come at the incredible input of time. But if nothing else, I learned a new skill and have a greater appreciation for pioneers and the attention to detail people needed in the past. Screw up this task while gossiping and your whole family dies of food poisoning. Life was a lot of work. So try canning sometime, though I'd recommend getting your HUGE pot boiling with the rack in it, and then leave it boiling all day or at least all afternoon, and processing 50-100 jars. That's the way our forebear mothers did it. And the day after, I bet they really enjoyed a walk outside in the fresh air, while thinking deeply about the cosmos and expressing themselves intellectually and artistically with their free hours, or at least, they thought: thank God I don't have to chop another apple for 8 months! That's about what my sentiments were when I finally did get up this morning.
Musical advice this week: "Vivaldi for Valentines" is a wonderful compilation of short pieces by the composer best known (or is that only known) for "The Four Seasons" on strings. You get to hear 20 of his other highlight pieces. Pair it with "Liszt for Lovers" in the same series, 11 long pieces on piano by a true eccentric composer.