A documentation of my preservation and preparation of local foods as I work through the seasons. This will serve as a reference tool for me in the future and as a sharing guide for family and friends...and anyone else interested. Hopefully, I can offer some useful methods, tips and recipes to share with everyone--be they novice or pro--and encourage them to join me in the exciting world of preserving and cooking with local foods.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Continuing a Family Tradition--Sunday Smorgasbord

While growing up, our Sunday "supper" consisted of hot and cold appetisers, deli meats, cheese and more--an assortment of family favorites, new creations, butcher-shop cold meat and artisan cheeses.  Some of my favorites come to mind:  Mom's chicken wings, braunschweiger and ring bologna from Tushners Meat Market in Winona, cheese from the Zumbrota Dairy, fudge!, sardines and/or herring.  In the Winter, we ate watching a Disney movie and Bonanza.  During the summer, we gathered in the back room at the River with the food spread across the bar.  With little conscious effort, I continue this tradition.  Sunday afternoons I find myself in the kitchen putting together "deli plates" of appetisers, cheese, meat and/or fish.  We enjoy these watching the ballgame or a movie.  Pictured below are a few of our "Sunday Suppers".  Good food and fond memories!
Summer-style:  Shrimp, crab spread, veggie dip, wontons
 Winter-fare:  warm venison sausage with hot mustard,
cheese, pickled herring and wine-braised mushrooms, candy

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Remembered

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love its simplicity--just that families are gathering 'round a table to share a special meal together.  After a busy preserving season, my pantry is bursting with color and flavor.   Thanksgiving is the time I can now enjoy and share the fruits of my labor.  Traditional family favorites are pulled from my recipe box, relishes and chutneys inspire new creations and the pickle jars are opened for their first tasting. 
Thanksgiving is the debut of everything I've preserved that year.

  I have included recipes below for our family favorites--without which the meal would not be complete.  But first, a poem my Grandpa Springer wrote for Thanksgiving.  In his honor and memory, it has become a tradition to recite this after the prayer and before our meal.

What Thanksgiving means to me
The harvest is finished, our Fall work is done
The past year was one of showers and sun
The seeds that we planted grew tall and more
We have everything now to be thankful for
Come take a look as I open the door
The fruit cellar's full as never before
Apples, peaches, onions and pears
Fruit jars are filled by a mother who cares
But the best will come on Thanksgiving Day
When relatives come by car and by sleigh
To help us enjoy this wonderful meal
Except for the turkey--he got a raw deal!
Traditional Favorites: 
 Squash and Pumpkin Bake   Serves 12+
6 cups cooked squash (I like butternut or a combo)
1 cup cooked pumpkin (not canned)
6 med. potatoes, cooked and mashed
Mix and mash all three together, then add:
2/3-1 cup butter
1 cup Half and Half
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 TBlsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Combine all, bake at 350 until heated through (or heat in microwave)
Scalloped Corn   makes one 9"x11" pan
5 cups frozen corn (four 10 oz packages)
4 cups cracker crumbs
1 cup melted butter
3 cups Half and Half (or whole milk)
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
-Spread cracker crumbs in even layer on bottom of pan.  Spread corn on top.  Beat together rest of ingredients and pour over.  Cover and bake at 350 for 1 hour; but, stir well halfway through (after 1/2 hour).

Waldorf Salad  Makes one 8-cup mold, two 4-cup molds or 9x11 pan
Two 3-oz packages orange jello
small pinch salt
2 cups boiling water
1-1/2 cups cold water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1-1/2 cups diced unpeeled apple
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Dressing: 1 cup whipped cream, 1/4 cup Miracle Whip, 1 TB sugar
-Dissolve jello and salt in boiling water.  Add cold water and lemon juice.  Chill until thickened.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour into mold.  Chill until firm--about 4 hours.  Unmold.  Combine dressing ingredients and serve with jello salad. (center opening of mold)

For "Rosemary Green Beans" see post from 8-26-11.  This dish is a lighter alternative to the common green bean/mushroom casserole.
For "Pickled Beet, Pea and Onion Salad", see 7-21-11 post on Beets

Deluxe Pecan Pie
1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup lard, 3 TB cold water
Mix flour and salt, cut in lard with pastry blender or fork until mixture is like small peas.  Add water 1 TB at a time, tossing until ball in formed.
Roll out  and lay in 9" pie pan
3 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 TB melted butter, 1/2 cup dark corn syrup, 1/2 cup whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup brandy, 1 cup pecan halves (or broken pecans)
-Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare crust.  Beat together eggs, sugar, salt, butter,  syrup and cream.  Stir in vanilla, brandy and pecans.  Pour into pastry.  Bake 40-50 min until filling is set and crust browned.  Cool.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner with a twist

Our Thanksgiving Dinner this year was a bit unusual.  First, we celebrated it last Sunday when we drove with Dave's folks up to daughter Abby's and Tim's home to have a dinner prepared by Abby.  We were joined by other-daughter Holly, her boyfriend Emo and his daughter Sophia.  A friend of Tim's from Utah was also there.  The second twist was the menu which was definately not traditional Thanksgiving fare.  Abby is a creative and accomplished chef and we can always count on her meals being delightful surprises.  She didn't let us down.  Knowing we all love seafood, here is the meal she served:
  -mussels in white wine butter sauce with crusty baguette
  -cinnamon squash and walnuts on mixed greens with
     sliced prunes and gorgonzola
  -parsley-crusted salmon with warm tomato and kalamata vinaigrette
  -brown-butter couscous
  -roasted brussels sprouts
And for dessert:
  -ginger pound cake with lemon-lavender cream and roasted grapes
To quote Holly: Most Awesomest Thanksgiving Dinner Ever!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Butchering Venison and Making Broth

With permission for Dave to hunt deer on land belonging to the Mark Timm family, we were treated to butchering lessons after Mark and Laurie Timm had each bagged a deer.  We watched as Mark stripped the hide from the carcus and readied it for cutting.  We were all eyes and ears as Laurie put her butchering skills to work; describing each cut of meat and providing several tips for preparing and cooking each type.  I also learned that venison has red meat's highest concentration of heme iron which is essential for cell development.  It decreases fatigue, enhances work performance and increases immunity.  When the butchering and packaging were almost finished, Laurie sent me to her kitchen to retrieve an electric fry pan, eating utensils and some onion & garlic.  Meanwhile, she cut and thick-sliced the tenderloin pieces, the most tender and flavorful part of the deer.  We ended the butchering session gathered around a frying pan of sizzling tenderloin enjoying good food and conversation with friends.  What a wonderful time!

The venison event didn't quite end there though.  Eyeing the meaty bones in the discard pan, I envisioned canning jars filled with rich and flavorful venison broth.  Before leaving, I filled a few plastic bags full of bones and promised Laurie half the broth.  Recipe follows the picture.
   My efforts were rewarded--the broth was superb!

Venison Broth                makes 12+ pints                 
Four jointed, meaty leg bones from large deer, sawed to fit in large pot
16 quarts water
6 large cloves garlic, cut in half
1 medium onion, thick sliced
1 cup carrot slices
2 cups sliced mushrooms (1#)
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup celery leaves
1 rounded teaspoon peppercorns
1 rounded Tablespoon juniper berries (Penzys Spices online)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 beef boullion cubes (or one Knorr beef cube)
-Wash bones and remove all fat .  Put all but venison bones and water in large cooking pot.  Add venison bones and then water.  Bring to boil, turn down to slow bubble and cook for 4-8 hours, until about a third of the liquid has evaporated.  As broth cooks, skim foam that collects on top with small, fine-mesh strainer.  Turn off heat, let cool a bit and strain into smaller containers.  Let cool some more, then put in refrigerator overnight.  Next day, or when broth is chilled, remove any fat from the top and return strained broth to a pot.  Cook slowly (as above) until reduced to half.  Pour hot broth into hot canning jars and pressure can at 10 pounds of pressure: 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts.    

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making Sauerkraut

Making sauerkraut signals the end of my preserving season.  It means I can settle in for Winter with a stocked pantry and full freezer.  I always wait until the first week in November to do this as that's when the inside temperature is best for fermenting; approx 65-72 degrees.  (At temperatures lower than 60 degrees, the kraut may not ferment; above 75 degrees the kraut may become soft.)  It's also best to use late-season cabbage--it's more juicy-sweet and flavorful.  Using my traditional kraut crock, I shred two large heads of cabbage which packs the crock full and yields about 8-10 pints of canned sauerkraut.  The crock measures 12" high by 8" in diameter.  It isn't necessary to can sauerkraut; fully fermented kraut can be kept in its fermenting container for several months and it will continue to ferment, getting healthier and developing complex flavors.  Alternatively, it can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for several months where the flavor will mellow.  Recipe below picture.

Sauerkraut=nutrition.  It's fermentation increases vitamin levels & produces helpful enzymes, antibiotic & anticarcinogenic substances.

10 pounds of heavy, dense red or green cabbage (approx. 2 large heads)
6 Tblsp. of unrefined sea salt
Method:  Discard outer leaves from cabbage.  Rinse under cold water and drain.  Slice cabbage thin--about the width of a quarter.  I use the shredder setting on my mandoline--works great!  Working with 5 pounds of shredded cabbage at a time, add half of salt and mix well with clean hands.  Let sit a few minutes until cabbage starts to "juice".  Pack tightly into stoneware crock or food-grade plastic container.  Repeat with remaining cabbage.  (I make coleslaw with any extra over 10 pounds.)  Continue to pack tightly into container, pressing down until juice rises above cabbage.  To avoid spilling juice, rim of container should be 4-5" above liquid. Put plate on top of cabbage, under liquid.  (Note:  If you need more liquid, boil and cool more brine: 20 grams of salt per quart of water.) Weigh plate down with heavy, clean rock or 2 quart jars filled with water.  Put towel over top of all to keep out dust and other particles.  Check a couple of times a week to be sure cabbage is below liquid and to remove any scum forming around/under jar.  Scum or darkened cabbage will not make you sick, it just looks bad.
To Can Sauerkraut
Fill hot jars firmly with kraut and liquid, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims and add lids & screw bands.  Process in boiling water bath: pints 20 minutes and quarts 25 minutes. 

November Table

As soon as Halloween's over, I get out my November table decor.  The tablecloth and napkins were made by my mother-in-law, Gen Lutzke.  It's got a Native American type pattern which reminds me of Thanksgiving.  I like to be sure Thanksgiving decor isn't forgotten between pumpkins and Christmas trees.  The dishes I use are called brownware and the set includes individual lidded soup pots.
 Getting these dishes out means it's time
to start cooking soups, stews and chili.

Freezing Brussel Sprouts

I always wait for a frost to occur before buying brussel sprouts to freeze.  They're much sweeter and more flavorful after a frost.  Freezing them is simple:  Wash and remove any soiled or soft outer leaves.  Cut off any long stem pieces to within a quarter inch.  Immerse 2 cups at a time in 2-3 quarts of boiling water for 3 minutes.  Lift from boiling water and immediately dump into pan of ice water to cool.  When cool, drain and pat dry.  Package in freezer bags or containers.  I put two servings each in sandwich bags, then put the filled sandwich bags into a larger (gallon) freezer ziploc bag.
If I want to put a smile on Dave's face,
I serve these for supper--it's his favorite veggie!