Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Diary #544

It’s always satisfying when one does something for the first time and it goes without a hitch.  When it came time to press my apples for juice, I knew I wanted to ferment most of it into cider so it would keep longer.  But when I tried to locate the instructions for doing so online, I discovered a lot of websites advising me to wash off all of my apples’ natural yeasts and introduce champagne yeast instead.  Given that people were making cider for millennia before fancy packaged yeast became commercially available, I knew that this was both overcomplicated and plain wrong.  So I kept searching and eventually found a site written by a woman with a small backyard orchard who gave me what I was looking for:  yes, there are already sufficient yeasts on the skin of raw apples to cause fermentation.  So after pressing my crop into juice, I simply filtered the debris out and put the juice into a clean glass carboy (like the one in the picture), put in a stopper fitted with an air lock, and placed it in the cool, dark pantry under the stairs.  The air lock allows the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation to escape without letting air in, and as the alcohol content of the cider increased it killed off any other bacteria that might be present.  After nearly two months, I decided on Thanksgiving that it was time to check out the results; since the foam seemed to have died down, I filtered the cider through cheesecloth to remove the top foam and precipitates, and transferred the result into a clean carboy.  The result?  A perfect balance of sweet and tart, with an alcohol content so smooth it didn’t even make my nose wrinkle up.  I had a big glass with my Thanksgiving dinner, and another the next day with leftovers; there is still some slight fermentation going on, because there’s a satisfying hiss of escaping gas when I unscrew the top.  My family likes it so much, I’m afraid it won’t last long.  But I bought a set of four carboys, so next year I’ll gather a lot more apples and make four times as much!

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Diary #537

I think I’m just about done processing apples for the year. There’s a gallon carboy of cider fermenting out in the garage, and three jars each of apple jelly and apple butter in the larder. That does not count the open jars in the refrigerator; when I make jam or jelly I put all of what’s in the pot into jars, even if the last one isn’t full enough to form a proper vacuum once they cool.  I then open the underfull jar the next day so we can sample the contents.  This way, I not only avoid waste, but also test the product to make sure it’s up to snuff.  Next year, I’d like to make about twice as much; considering that we should be finished the bathhouse project well before next harvest season, I think that’s doable.  See, the limiting factor isn’t really the amount of fruit, but rather the time and effort it takes to pick it, sort it, prepare it (pitting plums, coring apples, juicing, etc), and prepare the preserves.  Next year, I should even have enough fruit and time to do mincemeat.  And even though the pectin I extracted performed perfectly, I think next year I’ll just buy it; it was a lot of effort for just enough pectin to make 31/2 jars of apple jelly, and the animals seemed less enthusistic about eating the pomace which had been boiled than that which had merely been juiced.

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Diary #532

It’s been years since I made jam; I believe the last time was in 2013, because the year after that I was on tour all summer, then in 2015 I moved to Seattle.  But we had a bumper crop of plums and blackberries, and the apples are almost ripe as well; Jae picked a big basket of plums last week, and even after making two huge plum cobblers I had plenty left.  So on Thursday I made plum jam, then on Friday blackberry, and both came out perfectly!  I have to admit I was a bit daunted; I like making jam, but it’s a lot of work, and, as I said, it has been a while.  But it was a lot easier this time than it was in Oklahoma, for several reasons.  First, Jae picked and pitted the plums for me, and she and a visiting friend picked the blackberries.  Second, I have an electronic cooking thermometer now, which makes monitoring the jam mixture’s temperature much less of a hassle.  And speaking of heat, the Washington coast in September is dramatically cooler than southeast Oklahoma in June, so I wasn’t stuck in a sweltering kitchen while working.  Today I’m going back to Seattle and I’m going to visit the gent I call Dr. Quest this weekend.  But on Monday I’ll be back at Sunset, and soon I’ll be using our apples to make apple cider, apple jelly, apple butter, mince meat, and other lovely treats.

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I’ve always been dedicated to the idea of this as the time of year for spooky fun.  So every year I collect all the spooky, creepy or scary links and other content from the previous year into one place just before Halloween.  If you’ve come to my blog in the past year, or don’t remember previous editions, they are “Trick or Treat”, “More Trick or Treat“, “Tricks and Treats“, “This Trick’s a Treat”, “Tricky Treats“, and “A Trickle of Treats” (because I also love wordplay).  Horror, death or Halloween-themed columns of the past year include “Eros and Thanatos“, “Not Your Costume?“, “Its Own Reward“, “Frozen Smoke“, “The Science of Sin“, and the short story “Wheels“; there are creepy or spooky-fun videos in Links #433, #435, #445, and #447; and here’s a collection of spooky or Halloweeny links:

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Diary #449

I haven’t made gumbo for a long time, and because it used to be the centerpiece of my Imbolc feast I decided to go out to Sunset over the weekend and make some.  I remembered to order the andouille from my favorite supplier, Bailey’s in LaPlace, Louisiana, on Monday so it would be sure to arrive on time, and prepped the chicken on Wednesday (see my gumbo recipe, linked above) so on Saturday all I had to do was chop up the sausage & onions, make the roux, combine the ingredients and wait.  Well, I also had to make potato salad, which many Louisianians (including Grace) enjoy plopped down right in the middle of the gumbo.  I did share my potato salad recipe on Radley Balko’s old Agitator blog years ago, but since that, sadly, is no more, here it is again: cook as many peeled potatoes as you like until soft, and hard-boil one egg per potato. I use small russet potatoes; you don’t want too little egg in proportion to potato.  Crush the eggs with a fork as one would for egg salad, then add the potatoes and mash it together with a potato masher.  Add 1 heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise per potato, then one heaping tablespoon of prepared mustard per two potatoes, then one heaping tablespoon of pickle relish (I use sweet relish) per two potatoes.  You are going to have to fiddle with the proportions a little to get it the way you like it; I usually end up adding more mustard.  You’ll note that south Louisiana style potato salad is much creamier than the styles from other parts of the country, which use much less thoroughly-cooked potatoes for a chunkier texture.  Oh, and most down there like it cold, though some (including a couple of my sisters) prefer it soon after it’s made, while it’s still warm.  Speaking of cold, I headed back to Seattle on Sunday, a day earlier than planned, due to the snow; Seattle drivers in snow are as stupid and dangerous as Los Angeles drivers in rain, and I had no desire to see the effects multiplied by an overnight freeze.

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Diary #422

As you may have already guessed from this picture, my chickens have begun to lay!  And not just a few measly pullet eggs, oh no; they all seem to have started laying simultaneously and at full adult rate!  Nor are the eggs all tiny; though some are small, others are normal-sized and one of them is consistently laying big double-yolk eggs!  Those are noticeably larger, which is how I managed to get two of them into my skillet at the same time; for those interested in such things, these went onto a nice piece of sourdough bread, topped with two slices of cheese, two strips of crispy bacon and another slice of bread.  Such are the simple, homely meals I prepare for myself when I’m alone; they make a nice contrast to restaurant meals I share with friends or clients.  I’m learning to enjoy my time alone much more than I did in the past; I’ve even managed to figure out a work schedule that neither overwhelms me nor triggers my inner nun to start shaking a ruler at me and calling me a “lazy creature”.  But anyway, back to Sunset: the new (smaller & more fuel efficient) pickup Grace put together is out of the shop & ready to run, and I bought a new chainsaw & brush cutter so Chekhov can extend the animal fence to take in a dense brush patch on the east side of my property.  By the time you read this Grace should be digging new French drains in preparation for repairing the floor, and soon we’ll be opening up another protected chicken yard.  And this autumn, I’ll have some lovely pictures of fresh apples from my trees.

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Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.  –  Franz Kafka

Even though it’s in German, I think you’ll appreciate this short animation of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” provided by Ed Krayewski (or else you won’t).  The links above it were contributed by Nun YaScott GreenfieldWWAVMike Siegel,  Brooke Magnanti, and Michael Whiteacre (in that order).

From the Archives

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Grace’s Chili

Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili.  –  Harry James

One of the things I really missed on the road was my own cooking.  I don’t mean that in a vain sense, as though my cooking was better than everyone else’s; what I mean is that I am, as I reminded y’all on Tuesday, a creature of habit, and it feels weird to go that long without cooking.  It’s part of the rhythm of my life, something that shapes my days, and my husband and Grace will both attest to the fact that no matter how tired I am or how busy my day, I insist on preparing a proper evening meal for my family unless I’m either too ill to stand up or we’ve already planned to do something else.  In fact, when I arrived home a week ago today I insisted on fixing dinner, despite having just driven for more than eight hours; it was part of the process of re-orienting myself to my normal life.  That’s not to say that Grace couldn’t have done it; she’s a competent cook herself, and though her repertoire is very limited she does what she does very well.  Today I’d like to share her recipe for chili; though I’m the one who cooks it for us nowadays, she developed it all by herself over 20 years ago and in my opinion it’s the best chili ever.

3# (1.4 kg) ground beef
2 (8 oz/225 g) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 oz/170 g) cans tomato paste
2 sauce cans water
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Ro-tel tomatoes)
1 medium onion, minced
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) chili powder
2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons (10 ml) paprika
½ tablespoon (7.5 ml) black pepper
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) granulated garlic*
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) prepared brown mustard
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) sage
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) mace
Tabasco sauce to taste

*If you don’t have granulated garlic, use half as much garlic powder or twice as much finely-minced garlic or garlic flakes.

Brown ground meat thoroughly in a large, deep skillet, then add onions and saute until tender.  Transfer to a large pot and add all other ingredients, stirring well after each addition.  Simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve with crackers.

You will notice that the recipe contains no beans; that’s because we prefer beanless chili.  If you like beans, there is an additional step which must be performed first:  in a large pot cover one pound of pinto beans with water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for an hour.  Then drain the beans completely and add two liters of fresh water; bring water to boiling, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 90 minutes.  At the end of this precooking process, drain the beans again and add them to the chili with all the other ingredients; increase the chili’s cooking time to 90 minutes or until the beans reach the desired degree of tenderness (it won’t hurt the chili to cook longer).

One thing that’s really good about this chili is that when prepared as directed it’s spicy, but not blisteringly hot; however, it’s really easy to turn up the heat if so desired.  You could use the hot Ro-tel tomatoes instead of the original ones, use a hotter type of chili powder (or increase it to three tablespoons), use hot Hungarian paprika instead of the mild Spanish variety, substitute red pepper for the black, substitute horseradish for the brown mustard or increase the amount of Tabasco…or if you really like to live dangerously, all of the above.  The recipe makes enough for six people (nine if you make it with beans), but it also freezes well so don’t hesitate to try it even if there are only two of you.

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There may be people who like centipedes.  I have seen people handling tarantulas and scorpions, but never a centipede handler.  Personally, I would regard such an individual with deep suspicion…If such a man exists, I say kill him without more ado.  He is a traitor to the human race.  –  William S. Burroughs

The first video this week was contributed by Angela Keaton; it’s really the only important comment on Arab-Israeli hostilities you’ll ever need.  The second video, and the links above the first, were provided by Jesse Walker, and the links between the videos by Korhomme (“buttocks”), Dave Barry (“recipe”),  Saladin Ahmed  (“Venn”), Michael Whiteacre (“accident”), Grace (“Nazca” and “dog”), Radley Balko  (“satire” and “ticket”), Luscious Lani (“employee”), Cop Block (“police state”), Nun Ya (“rescue”), and Police Misconduct (“medal”).

From the Archives

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I Scream, You Scream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.  –  Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert King

boys making ice cream, 1940Here in North America, summer has started and the weather is starting to get hot; one of the nicest ways to beat the heat is with a dish of homemade ice cream.  You may think it’s hard to make, but you’d be very wrong; modern electric ice cream freezers are quite inexpensive, and most of them use table salt now instead of rock salt.  The freezer can sit in the sink while running to catch any spill, and the canister can be placed in the freezer to harden the ice cream.  Nor do the recipes have to be difficult; while custard-style ice creams (like French vanilla) require cooking, simple fruit- or syrup based ice creams or sherbets do not, and are both simple and delicious.  Here are three recipes I always use; note that these are for a two-quart freezer, so if yours is larger or smaller just adjust everything in proportion.  It won’t look like enough when you pour it into the canister, but it expands considerably during the freezing process.

Syrup-based ice cream

2 cups half-and-half
2 cups whipping cream
¾ cup syrup
¼ cup sugar

Pour all ingredients into container and process as directed by your freezer’s instructions.  Yes, it really is that easy, and the results are delicious.  You can use any kind of syrup, thick or thin; I like to use those Italian syrups that go in sodas or coffee.  Note that if you use a syrup stored at room temperature, the freezing time may increase somewhat.  Also note that this recipe is fully compatible with the fruit-based one, so you can make, say, chocolate banana or cherry vanilla by simply mixing a half-batch of syrup-based with a half-batch of fruit based; the machine will do the rest.

Fruit-based ice cream

2 cups chopped or pureed fruit, as you prefer
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup sugar (if fruit is already sweetened, reduce to ¼ cup)

I prefer to use pureed fruit because it gives a more even consistency and flavor.  Note that if you use frozen or near-frozen fruit, the freezing time may be shortened somewhat.  See above for comments about combined flavors.


2 cups fruit juice
3 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar

You can use any drinkable-concentration fruit juice; if it’s too concentrated to be a pleasant drink (lemon juice, for example) you’ll need to dilute and/or sweeten it to beverage strength before using it or your milk will curdle and the sherbet will be much too sour.  Of the three recipes, I have tested this one the least; it works perfectly with orange juice, though.  The first two recipes I’ve made many, many times and the only time the results were less than perfect was the time I used insufficiently-pureed frozen bananas, resulting in more banana chunks than I personally care for.

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