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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mom's Scalloped Potatoes

Growing up, we loved my mother's scalloped potatoes.  They were usually served in the Winter, when warm potato dishes seem most appreciated.  With lots of diced ham thrown in, this was a main dish.  Without any (leftover) ham, this was a side dish.  Cheese was added if Mom had some on hand; but they're just as good with or without cheese.  Here is her (easy) recipe, passed down from her mother (and I'm sure generations before that).
Soooo good and filling for supper on cold Winter nights
Easy Scalloped Potatoes
In a casserole dish, layer: 
Thin-sliced potatoes
Thin-sliced onions
Diced ham, if desired
Shredded Cheese, if desired
small pats of butter, 3-5 inches apart
salt and pepper to taste
Layer all a second time
Pour milk over all until half to 3/4 up side of casserole dish
-Heat at 350, approx. 1 hour, until potatoes are done.  Can be heated on high in microwave until potatoes are done, approx. 30 min.

Ice Cream 101

Thanksgiving morning took an unusual twist this year.  I was invited to
observe homemade ice cream being made in an electric ice cream maker.  Since I wasn't hosting any Thanksgiving dinner this year, I was eager to learn.  My own ice cream maker has been shelved since we received it for a wedding gift--18 years ago!!  I have been telling myself for that long that "one of these days..."  Now, with hands-on experience, I would have no excuse.  I rode my bike over to Mark Larsons where Mark and his girlfriend Mary had the ice cream churning.  A sampling of the finished product and I knew I would be making my own soon.  I swear it was the most delicious ice cream I've had (and I usually buy the best).  Mark was kind enough to share his blue ribbon recipe, below.  And, below that, are my own blue ribbon chocolate and caramel sauces for sundaes.
  Mmmm, my two favorites!

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 gal. whole milk, approx.
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla (Mark says: "Don't bother with fake.")
12 oz. evaporated milk
1 pint heavy cream
-Combine eggs, 3 cups of the milk and the sugar in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat until it thickens.  Cool. (This is the custard.)  You may refrigerate at this point if you want to do later or the next day.
Mix together custard, salt, vanilla, evaporated milk and cream.  Pour into ice cream freezer.  Top to fill line with milk.  Freeze. 
Note:  Mark uses regular or canning salt for freezing; says rock salt is dirty.

Excellent Chocolate Sauce
1/2 cup butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk or 1 cup Half 'nHalf
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
-Melt butter and chocolate.  Add rest.  Boil 1-1/2 minute.  Can serve warm or cooled.  Stores well in refrigerator or freezer.

Best Caramel Sauce
1 cup butter
2-1/2 cups brown sugar
pinch salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
-Melt butter.  Add remaining ingredients.  Cook on stove to soft ball stage; or put in microwave on high and cook in two-minute intervals, stirring in between.  Cook to soft ball stage.  Stores well in refrigerator or freezer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Waffles and Cakes Breakfast Fare

These are my favorite recipes for a high-carb breakfast.  I started with old tried-and-true family recipes and doctored them over the years for improved flavor.  I love making any one of these from scratch.  They are especially good with ingredients such as homemade bread, local sweet corn, farm fresh eggs, fresh cream...    You'll never go back once you've had this old-fashioned goodness in breakfast fare.  The homemade flavor will zoom you back to your childhood--the warmth and comfort of the family breakfast.    Moderation is the key to enjoying these without guilt; so we limit ourselves to not more than once a week for this type of fare; usually on  a weekend morning with a bike trip to follow, or during cold Winter months when a breakfast like this adds to the comfort of a warm room.  These recipes are also perfect for company--friends and relatives will rave about your delicious breakfasts!  Note:  also see bread pudding--5/17/2011 post.
 No packaged mixes or frozen fare here!

Homemade Maple Syrup 
1 cup packed dark brown sugar 
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp maple flavoring
*Note: A healthier choice would be honey with or without maple flavoring.

Buttermilk Pancakes   
Note:  H&H or whole milk may be substituted for the buttermilk.  
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
Buttermilk Waffles  (20, 4-inch waffles)
Note: H&H or whole milk may be substituted for the buttermilk.
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup melted bugter
2 cups buttermilk
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
-Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt.  In separate bowl combine melted butter, buttermilk and egg yolks.  Stir in flour mixture just until moist.  In separate bowl beat egg whites with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into flour mixture, leaving a few fluffs of egg white.  Pour one cup batter on preheated, lightly-greased waffle iron.  Close lid quickly and don't open until done.  Bake according to directions.  When done, use fork to lift waffle off grid.  Serve warm.

Belgian Waffles           Makes 10, 4-1/2" waffles
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs, separated
1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-Combine flour, sugar and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and add milk, butter and vanilla.  Combine dry ingrediients and egg mixture.  Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold into batter.  Bake in preheated waffle iron according to directions.  Serve with fresh fruit or syrup.

French Toast      makes 5-6 servings of two slices each
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups cream, H&H or evaporated milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
10-12 slices bread 

Corn Cakes
Note:  This recipe is from Dee Nelson and uses real corn
Drain and mash with a potato masher:  1 cup cooked corn
Beat 2 eggs and add 6 Tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.  Melt butter in a fry pan and add batter by the Tblsp.

Cornmeal Pancakes
1-1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (H&H or whole milk may be substituted)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
-Mix and fry.

Potato Pancakes
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded potatoes, rinsed well and drained
1/2 cup butter
-Combine egg, flour and salt. Stir in potatoes. Heat butter in skillet. For each pancake use 1/4 cup of mixture and fry in butter until crisp and golden.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Home-Rendered Lard

It's easy to make home-rendered lard.  And to make flavored lards too.  The instructions are below, but first, the benefits:

Home-rendered lard:
-has less saturated fat than butter  (40% vs 60%)
-is higher in monosaturated fats than butter, decreasing risk of heart disease
-has 3 times more beneficial polyunsaturated fats than butter
-helps skeleton absorb calcium
-protects liver from toxins
-bolsters the immune system
-is a good source of Vitamin D
-contains no unhealthy trans fats (as in oils and margerine)
a sampling of my lard, flavored lards and packaging

To prepared lard for rendering:
Remove skin from lard and cut into 1" square pieces or grind.  (You can buy it from the butcher by the pound, either in chunks or ground.)  I buy the chunks and cut it because the cracklings are larger and more defined.

To render:
Depending on the amount of fat you have, either put the fat in your crockpot on low or in a roaster pan in the oven at 250 degrees.  The lard should not fill more than half of the crockpot or pan.  No need to cover, but add a little water to the bottom of the pan so it doesn't scorch.  The water will evaporate.  Just cook 6-8+ hours until most of the fat has melted and bits of cooked meat (cracklings) come to the top.  When the cracklings are brown and shriveled, remove the fat from oven or other heat, before they start to sink back to bottom.  Strain the fat well so there are no bits or crumbs.  Put into containers (see below).

Using the cracklings you have strained out of the fat:
I get out my largest fry pan and fill it with a single layer of the hot cracklings.  Fry them over medium heat until all of them are brown and somewhat crispy--not too dark, but a light brown.  Remove some to a small bowl, add some cinnamon and a little milk, H&H or cream and whoo-boy!--are you in for a treat!!  Remember, you only do this once a year so don't worry about calories here.  Besides, this is a delicacy in NY restaurants, so treat yourself.  The rest of the cracklings can be frozen and used in breads, cookies and atop salads.  See the internet for recipes.   

To store the fat:
When the fat is still liquid, pour it into storage containers.  The hot fat is yellow, but will turn white as it cools and solidifies.  I package mine in three different amounts:  2/3-cup for pies, 1 cup for bread making and a larger tub for general cooking.  I keep the larger tub in the fridge and freeze the rest for longer keeping.  It keeps in the fridge well for about a year and for several years in the freezer.

For flavored lards:
This is a bonus!  For a few months before butchering season (usually Sept and Oct), I save the fat after roasting or cooking meats.  This fat comes from meats or poultry flavored with herbs, fruits, marinades, BBQ rubs, smoke flavoring, etc; so the fat has that flavor infused in it.  Since this fat is too thin for pastry or bread, I mix it half and half with my newly-rendered lard.   The best time to do this is when the lard is hot so that it melts the fat and you can mix them better.  These flavored lards are remarkable for frying, making appetisers, potted meats or for homemade bread and pastry.  (i.e. use herbed lard for pot pie crusts or pasties; use smokey BBQ lard for homemade BBQ buns; fry potatoes or veggies in any flavored lard)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bye-Bye Microwave

I never thought in a bijillion years that I would even consider getting rid of my microwave, but after reading from this website: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/18/microwave-hazards.aspx, I have not used my microwave once.  And it's now sitting by the back door, ready for disposal.  I won't go into detail, just read from the website for yourself.  I don't doubt what it says is true, and I stopped using my microwave right then and there.

My daughter first tried to "enlighten me" when she was visiting, and I appeased her by allowing her to remove my microwave from the kitchen to basement storage.  But at the end of her visit, I was waving good-bye to her with one hand and had the other hand on the basement door ready to retrieve my microwave.  "She's totally crazy" I thought--no microwave???!!!

Since then, I revisited the subject with her and she reminded me of the "watering plant" experiment; where two identical plants were watered--one with tap water and one with microwaved water; and the microwave-watered plant died.  She also suggested I google "microwave hazards and read it for yourself".  I did and I was convinced.  I'll never use a microwave again.

In the short time I've gone without it and used the stove, I've discovered a few things I like about not having a microwave:
-I can have all the meal dishes cooking on the stove at one time, and monitoring their  doneness, versus putting dishes individually in the microwave for a few minutes to several minutes each.
-I do not have to overheat the first few dishes going into the microwave so they are still hot when the last dish is ready for the table.
-I get benefits like bacon grease for frying and pan scrapings for gravy.
-I use fewer dishes.  I cook, refrigerate and reheat in the same pan.
-Food tastes better.  Hubby noticed this immediately!

My peace of mind is well worth it!!!  Life is more simple.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Decorating with Food

It's hard to wait until after Thanksgiving to start Christmas decorating; but I've made it my rule out of respect for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Preparing the decor for my kitchen, though, takes the edge off my anticipation; and I have so much fun doing so!  Since I spend most of my time in the kitchen, it gets lots of decorating.  Trees, crocks, bowls, shelves and cupboards are adorned with natural and culinary symbols of the season.  My prepared inventory is below, ready for stringing, trimming, hanging and arranging. 
  Gingerbread men, dried fruit slices, studded oranges,
bay leaves, whole spices, popcorn, cranberries, peels.
an illustration:  my previously-empty bowls
Note: The orange peels in the pan at the bottom of top picture are for simmering potpourri during Christmas week when the family has begun to gather and friends are stopping by.   I have us save our peels and then toss them with cranberries, cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise stars and whole allspice in a pan of simmering water. I add water as needed, keeping the water a couple of inches above the spice and peels. It simmers all the while there is someone in the kitchen.  Every few days, I discard it all and start over.  Mmmm--a warm and wonderful yuletide smell for our gathering kitchen. 

The Celery Made Me Do It

Normally, I only buy veggies from farmers and farmer's markets, year-round.  If I run out, or don't have it put up, I go without until the following year.  This year, celery crops were scant and scarce and my frozen supply is almost depleted.  Then I spotted the HyVee ad for celery on sale at such a low price I couldn't resist.  I broke my own rule and stocked up--guilty, but rewarded.  Here is what I did with six bunches of celery. (before freezing)
From left to right:
Wide ends, skinny stalks and leaves.  These are for celery broth: 
Put in large pot, cover with enough water to double volume in pot and cook down to approx. half.  Simmer until it has a strong celery flavor.  Freeze in ice cube trays and one-cup portions for soups, stews, meat broth, rice, gravies...
Sauteed Chopped Celery:  Ready to go atop or stuffed in meats/poultry.
Celery Chunks:  For soups, stews, roasts and pressure cooking.
Chopped Celery:  Stir fries, meat loaf, stuffings, winter salads...

Note:  Celery needs no processing before freezing.  Just be sure it is fully dry after washing it.  Just package and freeze. 


If you have never tried dehydrating grapes, you are in for a real treat.  You will never go back to store-bought raisins.  I just rinse them and toss them on the dehydrator tray.  It takes from 1-2 days, but it's worth the wait.
Red and black varieties work best--I buy organic.
These are the sweetest, juiciest raisins you'll ever eat!

Rutabagas in Disguise

My annual rutabaga "roast and freeze" consists of peeling and cubing one large rutabaga, roasting it and freezing it in 1-cup portions.  Here is the roasted rutabaga:

And here is the story behind why there is one and why I disguise it:

Being of Norwegian heritage on my mother's side, rutabagas were always represented at traditional holiday meals.  I tried to continue the tradition, but the bowl of rutabagas on my holiday table would be returned to the kitchen with nary a spoonful gone.  Noses were turned-up at the suggestion to my kids that they at least have a little taste.  My conviction that all seasonal foods should make at least one appearance at the table, and be tried at least once, forced me to pull a fast one with the rutabagas.  I mixed a combo:  squash, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and a little rutabaga.  Add a hunk of butter, a heavy pinch of brown sugar and a light sprinkling of nutmeg.  Called it "Squash Bake" and a family favorite was born.   The actual recipe is as follows:
Disguised Rutabaga   aka  Squash Bake    Serves 12-20 
1 med-large butternut squash
1 med acorn squash
1 small pumpkin, preferrably small pie pumpkin
2 large potatoes (peel, cube and boil and mash)
2 sweet potatoes (peel, cube and boil and mash)
1/2-1 cup cooked, mashed rutabaga
Cut squash and pumpkin in half, scoop seeds and lightly coat with cooking oil.  Place flat side down on baking sheet.  Bake at 350 until flesh feels soft when pushing finger against outside skin.  Remove each half as it is done.
When all squash and pumpkin are cooked, let cool slightly and pull off skin.  Mash all together, either with a potato masher and strong arm or a large bowl and mixer.  Place in large baking dish or roasting pan.  Bury small hunks of butter throughout, sprinkle some brown sugar on top and then a light dusting of nutmeg.  Add salt and pepper.  Return to oven at 350 and bake until heated, stirring halfway through.  Note:  This can be made ahead, put in the pan and refrigerated until baking.

Root Cellaring Guides for Fruits and Veggies

With a slow start to the cold season, I've been able to catch up on my root cellaring activities.  Actually, I'd be a bit worried if I did have it all stored--outside temp is too warm yet.  I've been watching the forecasts for near-freezing temps before storing carrots, apples, cabbage, potatoes and squash.  Looks like next week will be perfect for a trip to the farm to stock up.

Cabbage, Carrots, Apples and Potatoes should all be stored in a very cold, dark and, preferably, damp space.  Temp should be 33-40 degrees.  This could be achieved in a garage, unheated entry or basement room.  Store each as follows: 

Apples:  Apples should be stored separately as fruit gives off ethylene gas which will cause other produce to spoil sooner.  Pick late-ripening apples.  Wait to pick until apples are ripe to avoid shriveling.  Leave stem on to avoid breaking skin.  Store in shallow layers to avoid bruising.  Apples will keep for 4-6 months.

Cabbage:  Select unbruised heads.  Store as is on shelves, not touching.  Keeps 2-4 months.

Carrots:  Dig before freeze, shake off dirt, break off green top.  Pack in single layers, close together, with a layer of damp sand, sawdust or moss in between each layer.  Put damp newspaper over top layer of sand.  Keep newspaper moist by occasional spraying or soaking.  Keep 4-6 months.

Potatoes:  Dig after tops dry up and before frost.  Store in mesh bags or in small piles on shelf.  Air should be able to circulate freely around them.  Keep 4-6+ months.

Squash, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes should be stored in mild and dry conditions.  Temp should range 45-60 degrees and 60%-79% humidity.  Store each as follows:

Squash and Pumpkins:  Remove surface bacteria by wiping down with bleach solution of 4 drops of bleach per quart of water.  Store in single layers on shelf.  Keep 1-3 months.

Sweet Potatoes:  Store in sawdust or oats so they are not touching, or wrap individually in newspaper.  Keep 1-3 months.

Onions and Garlic  should be stored in cool (35-50) and dry (60-70% humidity) and dark condition.  This environment can be achieved by putting produce in a paper bag in a cold closet or a dry cold basement room or an insulated dry garage. Put onions or garlic on shelves not-touching, or store onions in nylon stockings with a knot between each onion and hang garlic by stalks.
Garlic - hang by stalk.  keep 4-6+ months
Onion - Store onions in nylon stockings with a knot between each onion.
              keeps 4-6+ months.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Rich Chicken Stock and Soup

For the richest and most flavorful chicken stock, full of body, use chicken backs.  They are higher in gelatin for a thick, gelationous stock.  The stock is also higher in bone minerals because the many, small bones expose more surface area to the stock.  The backs are usually sold for a minimal cost from farmers who sell packaged chicken pieces at farmer's markets.  If you don't see them for sale, just ask the farmer.  I take as many as I can get from my chicken farmer, make batches of soup and stock, and can it.  It can also be frozen.  My method is below the picture.
   Mmmm, a cup of warm, homemade stock.
 Sooooo comforting and healthy too! 
Chicken Stock
Thaw 4-6 chicken backs.  Rub with oil on all sides.  Roast backs on sheet pan in oven at 400 for 20-30 min, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and put in large pot.  Scrape cooking pan and add with drippings to pot.  Add 2 quarts of water for each back.  Bring to boil, then turn down the heat so the water remains at a "slow bubble".  Simmer for 6+ hours, until water is half in volume and stock is flavorful to the taste.  Color should be similar to above jars and consistency should be slightly gelatinous when cooled.
To Can:  Pour hot stock into hot jars.  Process in pressure canner for 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.
To Freeze:  Cool stock completely.  Put in freezer containers and freeze. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Veggie Cups and Cubes

Pictured below are cups of vegetable broth (corn, green bean, potato and broccoli) and a dish of vegetable broth ice cubes (carrot, cauliflower, asparagus, beet, celery, bell pepper).  Their individual flavors are concentrated and somewhat-roasted tasting.   I also have fruit juice cups and cubes (peach, pear and apple).
They're flavorful! They're free!

As for how I make them:  Start with  any vegetable (or fruit) scraps and peelings (as in carrots), stalks (as in broccoli and cauliflower), leaves (as in celery), etc. Also use any vegetables that are getting limp or that you know would otherwise go to waste.  Put the vegetable pieces in a saucepan, add water to cover 2-3 inches and then simmer on low until the water is half volume.  Drain and toss the veggies out (They will be tasteless at this point).   Depending on the amount of broth I have after straining, I either put it in freezer-safe cups or ice cube trays.  Also, when I use a vegetable or fruit I have canned for meals, I pour the leftover juice/syrup into ice cube trays.  When I am blanching veggies for the freezer; I save the veggie water, add in the peelings, scraps or ends and proceed as above.  For corn, I take a huge pot and using the cobs after I have cut off the corn for freezing, pack them in tightly and then add water almost to the top, cooking down to half.  I save all my fruit syrups over the year, freeze them and use them for desserts and canning. 

As for how I use them:  For added flavor to everything I make, I use these wherever I would use water.  I use them for making rice, couscous and pasta;  adding to soups/stews/chilis;  adding to meat broths, sauces, gravies, stirfrys.  Use them instead of water, in all or part, for poaching liquids and brines.  I use these sometimes for just a "hint" of a veggie flavor or when I do not have that vegetable on hand but want it's flavor in a dish.  I use peach and/or pear syrup, saved and frozen over the past year, for making applesauce in the Fall. What a delicious difference!  Veggie broths and fruit syrups are also great for health drinks, smoothies and cocktails.  Use broth instead of water for rehydrating veggies or dry soup mixes.  Use your imagination!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Storing: a bunch of garlic, a leg of onions and my rista

The beginning of my winter storage begins with the crops which have to be picked before a freeze.  summer onions, hardneck garlic and chili peppers 
summer onions, hardneck garlic and chili peppers

Storing Garlic:  Both the softneck and hardneck varieties of garlic store well.  The softneck can be braided and stores longer (6+ mos), but I prefer the hardneck for its easier-to-peel, larger cloves.  I store it in a bunch without any of the cloves touching and in a cool, dark and dry place, it lasts 4-6 months.

Onions:  I store both summer and winter varieties of onions.  I love the sweeter, milder "Candy" varieties of summer; yet the winter varieties are designed for storage as they store longer and maintain their quality better with minimal prep.  Summer onions should be stored not touching; otherwise they will spoil.  An old tried and true method for achieving this is to store them in nylon stockings, see pic above.  I found that a nylon knee-high holds 4-6 onions (knots between onions).  Winter onions can be stored in a bin.  All onions store best at from 35-50 degrees in a dry, dark place.

My rista (string of chili peppers):  I prefer to dry my chili peppers over dehydrating them.  (Dehydrating very hot peppers gives off strong fumes, so do that in a well-ventilated area.)  Tie them by the stem, or use needle and thread through stem, along a string so they are not touching.  Hang them to dry where they'll get plenty of sunlight and fresh air.  It should only take a few days.  After drying, I hang them in my kitchen and pull them off as needed.  The rista pictured above has arbol peppers, my favorite.  They are somewhat like cayenne pepper in heat and flavor.

In the alternative, on cool and cloudy days, I oven-dry them.  Lay them out on a sheet pan covered with parchment or foil.  Put in oven at 250 until dry.
  Too pretty to crush; I keep them in a jar on
the counter and crush them as I use them.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What to do with all those cherry tomatoes?

I have now found what I think is the most practical way to use an abundance of cherry tomatoes.  I've canned them, dried them, pickled them and frozen them; but never got around to using the preserved product--until now! 
Here is the way I prepared them:  I sliced them in half, added some basil leaves and whole garlic cloves, tossed them in a little olive oil (a tablespoon or two for a cookie sheet full)  and slow roasted/dried them in the oven at 250 degrees until they were wrinkly and somewhat dry.  It took 4-6 hours.  Afterwards, I packed the tomato halves, garlic and basil in a jar and added olive oil until they were covered (running a knife around the outside to be sure the air was out).   Store them in the refrigerator.  They will last for several months, but you will probably have devoured them before then. 
We tried some over pasta with grated parmesan on top.  Delicious!!!  They would also be good on French bread or atop cream cheese as a dip.
I will never turn down an offer of cherry tomatoes again--gardeners always seem to have a surplus towards the end of summer.

Ready for the oven!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dill Beans

My nephew, Andy McCaleb, offered me all the green beans I wanted to pick from his garden.  I hung up the phone and I was off--never been one to turn down any garden produce.  Since I already had several jars of cut and canned green beans, I thought these would be perfect for dill beans.  They were!  These were also a big hit with all who tried them. 
A piece of hot pepper spices them up!
Dill Beans            Recipe makes 4 pints
**Note:  Jars must first be put in boiling water for 10 minutes to sterilize
them because processing time is less than 10 minutes.
2 pounds of green beans, washed and cut to fit into jars
4 heads dill or 4 tsp dill seed
4 cloves of garlic
4 pieces hot pepper (optional)
2-1/2 cups water
2-1/2 cups vinegar
1/4 cup salt
Method:  Divide beans between 4 jars.  Add 1 head of dill, 1 clove of garlic and, if desired, 1 piece of hot pepper to each jar.  Bring water, vinegar and salt to boil.  Pour over beans in jar leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Put lids and screwbands on jars.  Put jars in canner with hot water so water covers top of jars by 2 inches.  Bring to boil and boil 5 minutes.  Remove and cool on rack.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Blueberry Jam

It's that time of year again when we visit our favorite "U-Pick Blueberries" farm: Rush River Produce in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin.  (See original post from 8/4/2011 for freezing how-to's and recipes)
I swear; the landscape gets more gorgeous and the folks there get more friendly every year!  Their blueberries have us spoiled; the flavor can't compare to store-bought.  A year without this trip means a year without blueberries (a long year).  If you haven't been there, put it on your "bucket list", something you must do at least once.  It's very family friendly--all ages!

Envisioning this jam with lots of things:  pancakes, scones, biscuits...

This year, I decided Blueberry jam was a must.  I made my own canning-safe version with less sugar so the natural blueberry flavor is more pronounced.  Delicious!  I also did not mash the blueberries for more of a whole-fruit jam.

My own Blueberry Jam  
12 cups blueberries
6 cups sugar
1 package instant fruit pectin
Note:  Jars must be sterilized first because processing(boiling) time is less than 10 min.  To sterilize jars, put them in pan of water on stove.  Bring water to boil and boil jars for 10 minutes.
Method:  Put blueberries and sugar in deep pan on stove.  Bring slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Continue cooking until jam reaches 220 degrees on a cooking thermometer.  Remove from heat, stir in instant pectin.  Put in hot, sterile jars.  Place lids and screwbands on.  Place in hot water with at least one inch of water above jars.  Bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Three Generations of Farmers

Love seeing these close-knit farm families! 

I so enjoy the multiple-generation farm families that come to market.  In this case, the Kleins of Hidden Stream Farm.  Grandpa Everett and Rosemary Klein were dairy farmers.  Daughter Lisa and Eric Klein raise free-range pork, beef and poultry, along with their family of five children (Andy, Ben, Katie, Sara, Issac and April).  Pictured from L-R are Rosemary Klein with grandaughter April, Everett Klein, Lisa Klein with sons Issac and Andy Klein.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mysost; a sweet-sour Norwegian whey cheese

Every week after picking up our milk at farmers market, I make mozarella cheese (see 7-27-2011 post).  The by-product of my weekly cheese-making is whey.  The first week of the month, I bottle the whey and store in the fridge for adding a daily tonic to beverages--most often our morning tea.  The rest of the month, the whey is made into a cheese; either ricotta, ziergerkase or mysost.  Wonderful that nothing goes to waste!

The process for making mysost is quite easy.  It should be made within three hours after draining the whey from the mozarella (while it's fresh).
How I make mysost:
Put the fresh whey in a pot on the stove and bring it just to a boil.  Skim off any foam and then pour it in a crockpot.  Set the crockpot on low and let it slowly cook, stirring occasionally.  It will need to cook from 6-18+  hours.  Towards the end, it will begin to thicken and turn a light brown.  Anytime after it has begun to get thick, you should (carefully) put it in your blender and blend for a few minutes so that it does not have a grainy texture when done.  Blend in batches, filling blender only half full to avoid getting burned.  Return to crockpot and continue cooking on low until as thick as peanut butter or paste.  Put into small canning jars with lids so you can put one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.  Cool and refrigerate or freeze.  If the cheese turns grainy, you can warm it in the microwave or on the stove and stir it.  If you want it milder, you can also stir in some cream while it is warm.
 We prefer this to peanut butter on our toast.
(means it's good-- we both love peanut butter!)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Quark (cheese)

An early European cheese still consumed daily in many European households.  Quark is a fresh soft cheese with a mild flavor and similar in texture to whipped butter or ricotta cheese. It is similar to yogurt, but more versatile and not as sour.  It can be used in baking (cheesecakes, souffles), as a filling or garnish (waffles, scones, raw veggies) or eaten fresh with herbs, fruit, jam or honey.  It keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
We enjoy it for breakfast with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
It's also nice with fresh herbs as a side or snack.

Quart is very easy to make, either with or without a culture.  I usually use a culture for consistent texture and flavor, but have also made it with my buttermilk left after making butter.  I like it as well either way.  Instructions for both ways follow.

Quark made with starter culture:  This makes 1 to 1-1/2 pounds.
1 gal. pasteurized milk
1 packet direct-set buttermilk starter (order @ www.cheesemaking.com)
2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream, H&H or milk
strainer or colander
cheesecloth or butter muslin
Directions:  Heat milk to 88 degrees in a non-aluminum pot.  Stir in culture and mix thoroughly.  Cover and let sit at room temp 24 hours.  The curd (solid) will partially separate from the whey (liquid).  Place the strainer in the sink (or over a large pot) and line it with the cheesecloth. Pour the contents of the pot into the cheesecloth and cover the cheese with the ends of the cloth.  Let it drain for 2-3 hours.  You can speed the drainage to 1-2 hours by weighting the cheese down.   Add cream, H&H or milk; a little at a time, until spreadable consistency.  Store, covered, in refrigerator 2 weeks.

Quark made without starter culture:  (this makes 1-2 cups)
1 quart cultured buttermilk (1% fat)
1/4 cup skim milk, as needed
kosher salt, to taste
glass baking dish
cheesecloth or butter muslin
strainer or colander
Preheat oven to 150.   Pour buttermilk into the baking dish and cover (lid or tinfoil).  Place the dish in the oven for 8-12 hours.  Remove the dish from the oven. The curd (solid) will have partially separated from the whey (liquid).  Place the strainer in the sink or a large pot and line it with the cheese cloth. Pour the contents of the baking dish into the strainer and cover the cheese with the ends of the cloth.  Let it drain for 2-3 hours. You can speed the drainage to 1-2 hours by weighting the cheese down. Add cream,  H&H or milk, a little at a time, until it is a spreadable texture.  Add salt to taste.  Store, covered, in refrigerator 2 weeks.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Grandma Lutzke's Sausage and Cabbage Stew

I am fortunate to be enjoying weekly dinners with my in-laws; Paul and Gen Lutzke.  Father-in-law Paul prepares the main dish using unscripted family recipes passed down from his mother.  Gen prepares fresh sides and sweet desserts.  I am the "go-fer".  There is much variety in Paul's weekly fare;  there is much consistency in the warmth and comfort of our meals.
One of my particular favorites is his Sausage and Cabbage Stew.  Like most traditional Upper Midwest food; it is simple, yet mouthwatering.
Sausage & Cabbage Stew
1 pound kielbasa (or other) ring sausage, cut in bite-size pieces
1 small head cabbage
1 large onion, chopped
hunk of butter
2 quarts chicken broth
heavy pinch of ground cloves
salt and pepper to taste
--Fry onion, cabbage and sausage over med-low heat just until cabbage wilted and sausage heated through.  Combine with chicken broth, cloves, salt and pepper in a pot and warm slowly over low heat 1-2 hours. Serve with crusty, thick-sliced bread
Caught in the act!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Watergate Cake--March dessert of the month

This is a flavorful, rich cake with a light topping. 
The recipe was passed down to me by my sister, Sally Jack.  I never fail to make it for St. Pat's Day; either for us or some other deserving souls.  This year my in-laws were the lucky recipients.  I don't exactly recall why it is called Watergate cake, but I recall it has something to do with the color (green), the number 7 (7-up), the bake temp (335), the bake time (32 min). 
This melt-in-your-mouth cake is always a hit!
Watergate Cake     335 degrees   32 min
1 deluxe white cake mix (B.Crocker or Pillsbury)
1 box pistachio instant pudding
3 eggs
2/3 cup oil
1 cup cold 7-Up
--Combine and bake at 335 for 32 min.  It may not look done, but it is.
1-1/2 cups milk
1 box pistachio instant pudding
1 tub Cool Whip (8 oz)
--Mix milk and pudding; let stand until thick.  Fold in Cool Whip.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Table

My March table combines green for the Irish holiday and colorful flowers for our early Spring.  The placemats are cross-stitched shamrocks on Irish linen, made by my Grandmother.  I am fortunate to dress my table with family heirlooms.  I just purchased my pitcher this past winter at a church rummage sale with my sister Judy.  It matches everything!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Table

To avoid crowded restaurants on Valentines Day, I take a raincheck on eating out and prepare a special meal at home.  Valentine's Dinner is always served on the china I selected for my hope chest at age 15. It is the Norwegian "Farmer's Rose" pattern.  They were purchased at a Norwegian gift shop, Dannevigs, owned by my Aunt Marge Danewick.   Many place settings and serving dishes for this pattern were received as wedding gifts.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February's Chocolate Dessert of the Month

It's just a simple chocolate brownie; but it's rich and chewy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness!  With a little sauce, caramel or fruit atop; it qualifies for a  special-occasion dessert.  It's got good keeping quality too.

With raspberry sauce for a Valentine's Day dessert

Best Chocolate Brownie Recipe      8" square pan.  325   approx 30 min. 
2-1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
--Melt chocolate and butter together in microwave by putting in for 1 min, then stirring until chocolate melts.  Heat a little longer if necessary.  Mix sugar and eggs and add to chocolate mixture.  Add vanilla, salt and flour and stir to combine.  Spread in greased 8" square pan.  Bake at 350 for 25-40 min; until pulling away from sides and top is set and dry (with little holes starting to appear).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Homemade Pizzas with Red Sauce

Superbowl food!
A stay-at-home weekend is the perfect time for homemade pizza.  I make all ingredients from scratch, including the sausage and cheese.  No other pizza compares in taste to one prepared with totally homemade ingredients.  It's worth the extra work; homemade ingredients will give it a much better taste over packaged pizzas.  For the best texture and flavor, I use fresh (not canned) veggies.  You may want to make the mozarella ahead of time (see post 7/27/11).  It's surprisingly easy and only takes a short time.  Fresh, warm cheese on top of a homemade pizza is mouthwatering!  The more time you put into it, the more prized the end result will be.  Following are recipes for the crust, sausage and sauce.
Pizza Crust  (makes two 12" round or 9" square pizzas)
3 cups flour
1 package dry yeast
1 cup luke-warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
-Mix half of the flour with yeast and salt;  Add oil and warm water and stir to combine well.  Beat for a few minutes.  Add flour until a stiff ball can be formed.  Turn out onto counter and add any remaining flour.  Knead 6-8 minutes.  Divide in half. 
For thin crust pizzas:  Cover balls and let rest 10 minutes.  Grease two 12" pizza pans.  Roll out dough to fit pans with a bit extra.  Put into pans and build up edges.  Bake @ 425 for 10-12 min--until lightly browned.
For pan pizzas:  Grease two 9" square pans.  Pat dough into pans, going halfway up sides.  Cover and let rise until double in bulk (30-45 min).  Bake @ 375 for 20-25 min, until lightly browned.
Red Sauce 
1 can Hunts tomato sauce (15 oz can); (or cook down 6 garden-fresh          tomatoes until soft and strain for sauce)
2 Tablespoons fresh, finely-chopped oregano
  (or 1 Tablespoon dried oregano)
2 teaspoons fresh, finely-chopped basil
  (or 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves)
2 tsp sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Homemade Sausage
1 pound ground pork
1 Tablespoon rubbed sage
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Italian Herb seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch ground clove
--combine all and fry into crumbles
Toppings:  Use any or all of the following fresh toppings:  onion, green  peppers, mushrooms, sliced olives and cheese.  Note:  recipe for homemade mozarella is on 7/27/11 blog post.
Assembling and Baking:  Spread sauce over hot pizza crusts.  Place desired toppings on sauce.  Add cheese last. (can be frozen at this point)
Bake thin crust pizzas @ 425 for 10-15 min. more, until cheese melted and bubbly.  Bake pan pizzas @ 375 for 15-20 min more, until cheese melted and bubbly.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Seafood Chowder

When fridays roll around, I often get a hankering for seafood (and I'm not even Catholic).  I love all kinds of seafood prepared in any manner, but creamy seafood chowders taste so good and warm during Winter months.  Following is my recipe for a seafood chowder that was a huge hit with restaurant patrons.
The seafood sunk to the bottom but there's lots in there--promise!

Seafood Chowder
3 cups of seafood, any variety or combination thereof.
  (I usually include a can of clams with juice)
1 cup cubed red potatoes  
1 Tablespoon butter or bacon fat (best flavor)
1/4 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1 Tablespoon flour
2-1/2 cups chicken boullion
1 Tablespoon clam or seafood base - dissolved in chix broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups Half and Half
--Boil red potatoes (skin on or peeled) just until starting to soften.  Set aside.  In large saucepan, cook onion, celery, garlic and herbs (parsley, thyme, dill weed) in melted butter or bacon fat until starting to soften.  Add flour and stir to paste.  Slowly add broth with base, stirring, until creamy.  Add wine, Half and Half and sugar, stirring until incorporated.  Add potatoes and seafood.  Heat to simmer and let slowly simmer 15-20 min.  Serve with a few drops of tobasco sauce or hot pepper flakes, if desired.

French Onion Soup

A quick check of my stored onions and it looks like I have enough until July--unless I come up with some meals using lots of onion.  So it's French Onion Soup for lunch.  I took a good recipe several years ago, doctored it up, and it's been one of my favorite soup recipes ever since.  I often suspect that recipes like this originated with someone who also had lots of winter onions in store.
Onion Soup + Homemade Pepper Cheese + Homemade Bun =
Delicious French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup
6 cups beef broth with 6 cubes of beef boullion dissolved in it
  or 6 cups beef boullion prepared with 6 cups water & 8 cubes boullion
2 huge onions (or 3 large onions), thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1-2 Tablespoons butter (enough to brown onions)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of dill weed
small pinch of celery seed
(very) small sprinkle nutmeg
4 thick slices French bread (buttered & toasted)
8 slices Swiss cheese (4x4)
--In large fry pan, slowly cook onions in butter over very low heat until soft. Add garlic, celery seed, dill weed and continue cooking until onions turn light brown (caramelize). Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Turn heat down low and simmer, covered, for 20-30 min. Ladle hot soup into 4 bowls, top with 2 slices of the cheese and then the bread; or put bread in first, top with cheese and put under broiler until cheese melts.
Note: cooking onion on low heat for a long period of time dissolves some of the strong sulfur compounds and breaks down the onions' natural sugar, resulting in mildly sweet onions that are deep brown in color

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January Table

January's table is soft and subdued, fitting for post-holiday, quiet winter evenings. 
The dish pattern is, appropriately, "Ice Flower".

Venison Roast in the Pressure Cooker

This was the perfect Sunday dinner--roast venison with stored root veggies.  I started by putting four cups of venison broth  in the bottom of my pressure cooker.  (venison broth--see post 11/22/11)  To that I added lots of minced garlic, diced onion, diced celery, a dozen juniper berries (to remove wild taste), a few splashes of red wine, 1-2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 4 beef boullion cubes, a little paprika, a pinch of dill, a pinch of nutmeg and black pepper.  On the cooking rack, I placed a couple of small roasts and surrounded them with large carrot chunks, whole potatoes, quartered onions, whole mushrooms and ears of sweet corn (rubbed with a thick coat of butter).  Generously salt and pepper the veggies and roast, put the top on and cook at 15 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes.  After removing the meat/veggies, strain the liquid and serve a little with the meal.  Save the rest for a delicious French Onion Soup.
The meal was mouthwatering!! 

Homemade Mustard

With both yellow and brown mustard seeds from Penzy's, I'm ready to make and can homemade mustard, something I've always wanted to try.  After some research for recipes, I chose a "Country Mustard" for the yellow seeds and "Oktoberfest Beer Mustard" for the brown seeds.   Both of these recipes can be easily canned by heating until thickened, ladeling into hot jars and water-bath canning for 10 minutes.  However, heating the mustard will produce a spicey-hot mustard, similar to horseradish mustard (We like the "heat").  If you are planning to can your mustard, be sure not to use recipes that include egg yolks, like many mustard recipes do.  Also note:  If you taste the mustard(s) soon after making them, they will taste quite bitter.  If you wait a few days to taste them, the bitterness will have dissipated and the taste will have dramatically improved.
Ready for the bratwurst!

Country Mustard
3/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup mustard powder
1/2 cup vinegar (cider, wine or white)
1 cup white wine or water
4 teaspoons salt
--Grind mustard seeds in coffee grinder or with mortar and pestle.  You do not need to grind them fine as you want a little texture to your mustard.  After grinding them, put all ingredients together in a glass jar.  Store in refrigerator.  Wait a day to taste.  It will last a few months.  Makes 2 cups

Octoberfest Beer Mustard
1-1/2 cups dark beer (good beer=good mustard)
1 cup brown mustard seeds
1 cup water
1/2 cup malt vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 Tablespoon onion powder
--Bring beer and brown mustard seeds to boil over med-high heat.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit at least 2 hours (until seeds have absorbed most of the moisture).  Combine with rest of ingredients and mix well.  Put in jar in refrigerator for at least a day or two before using.  Makes 2-1/2 cups.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Using my whey bread dough (previous post), I took a soft-ball-size amount and flattened it out with my hands.  I sprinkled the flattened dough generously with cinnamon powder (a little sugar added) and then placed raisins and a few walnuts all over it.   I rolled it up, pulling the dough as I rolled so it would be thin and tight, then pinched the edges. After letting it rise for an hour or so, I baked it at 350 until golden brown.
Flattened out with cinnamon, raisins, walnuts.

Rolled up and in the (greased) bread pan.

Perfect cinnamon bread!

Whey Bread and Buns

After making cheese (previous post), I had quite a bit of whey left over.  I decided to make bread and large buns with it.  I also saved some dough to make cinnamon raisin bread (next post).  This bread dough produced lofty, soft buns with a slight tangy flavor--heavenly!
Sliced in half, these make delicious toast.
Whey Bread  350 for 25-40 min (15-20 min for buns)
2 cups whey
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter (or lard)
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon yeast (1 pkg)
5-6 cups flour (more if needed for soft dough)--Melt butter; Add whey and heat just to lukewarm.  Add yeast and let sit until the yeast bubbles (15 min) Sift 3-4 cups of the flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt and mix. Make well in center and add liquids. Stir in remaining flour until large ball can be formed. Place ball on floured surface and knead 10 minutes. Put in large bowl, cover with light towel and set in warm place to rise until doubled. Takes approx. one hour to rise. Punch down and put in greased bread pan or make buns on greased cookie sheet. Let rise a second time. It will take less time, approx. ½ hour. Bake until golden brown on top and has hollow sound when top is tapped on top. Cool before storing.

Whey--The Valuable By-product of Cheesemaking

After making any kind of cheese, I end up with lots of whey--up to a gallon of it.  It's valuable stuff!  Whey has a lot of minerals. It keeps your muscles young, joints movable and ligaments elastic (a natural anti-aging tonic for us boomers). It can aid digestion (1 TB in a little water). It can treat stomach ailments (1 TB three times daily.) It tastes like (very) watered-down milk. It keeps for up to 6 months. I use it for all kinds of things: breadmaking (substitute for milk or water), cooking rice, in smoothies or breakfast drinks, as a tonic.

Following is a standard whey drink--a healthy way to start your day.
Whey Drink
1/2 cup whey
1/2 cup filtered water
juice of one lemon
--Mix all together and drink soon after.  Don't store, it will lose its potency. 

Homemade Pepper Cheese with Currants & Honey

A soft, buttery cheese with hot pepper flakes.

Dave and I were both hungry for homemade cheese, and it's been a while, so.........  This is an easy and quick cheese recipe.  I added hot pepper flakes for variety. While it was still warm, we had it on crackers with currants and honey drizzled atop--boy did we every enjoy it!!

Note:  **The Rochester Good Food Store carries the rennet, lipase powder & citric acid. Otherwise, you can order them online at www.cheesemaking.com.

Soft White Cheese        Yield: one pound
1 gallon whole milk  (don't use "ultra" pasturized milk)
1/8 teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water*
  (*use bottled or distilled water--or let a cup of tap water sit out 24 hours)
1/8 teaspoon lipase powder, dissolved in 2 Tablespoons cool water and
   allowed  to sit for 20 minutes. (optional but adds flavor)
1-1/2 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
  (or 6 Tablespoons lemon juice)
1 teaspoon salt (best is canning salt, or cheese salt if you can find it)
1. Add the citric acid/water solution to the milk while stirring
2. Put milk in pot over med heat, warm milk to 90 degrees. 
3. Remove from heat. Slowly stir rennet into warm milk with up-and-down chopping motion. Cover and let sit 5+ min. Check to see if milk is separating into solid whitish curd and watery-like whey. If not, let sit a bit more.
4. With long, thin knife, cut the curd into 1" cubes.
5. Put back on heat and warm to 105 degrees, stirring the curds gently. Remove from heat and stir gently for a few more minutes.
6. Use a slotted spoon to lift curds into 2 quart microwave-safe dish. (Save the whey in the pot for other uses.  See following post.) Gently press down the curds into the bottom of the dish and drain off any excess whey. Do not cover the dish.
7. Microwave on high for one minute. Fold cheese over and over (like kneading bread) to distribute heat evenly. Use either a spoon or heavy-duty rubber kitchen gloves to do this. Drain off any excess whey.
8. Microwave on high for 35 secs. Repeat folding/draining process above.
9. Microwave on high for 35 secs. and repeat folding/draining process.
10. Add salt and knead in to distribute.  Herbs, pepper flakes or other can be added at this time (approx. 1 teaspoon).  Drain excess whey.
12.  Mold, form and/or cut the cheese into any size or shape desireable.
Store covered in the fridge for up to one week.