Fermentation – The Waiting Game

Time to  start another project. This one is based on harvest. It’s pickle time! These pickles are going to be fermented first for about 3-6 weeks. The recipe is – 4-5lbs pickling cucumbers. They should be about 4″ long.

The Brine
8 cups water
1/2 cup pickling salt, NOT KOSHER. It must be pickling salt, there is a big difference in salinity in various types of salt
1/4 vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cloves of garlic smashed
2 dried red chili peppers
5 dill fresh blossoms. You can use dried dill instead of fresh 2 Tbs.

Wash the cucumbers in room temperature water. Then be sure to cut about 1/16″ off the blossom end.

The blossom end has enzymes that will make the pickle soft and sometimes unsafe to eat. Dissolve salt in water and vinegar. Layer your cucumbers into a crock (mine is a 2 Gal), add the garlic, chili’s and dill and cover with the brine. Be sure to weigh the cucumbers down so they are below the liquid. Put in a cool place 70-75 degrees is best. Check them often as you may need to skim the top of the brine as scum will form. After 3 weeks it’s time to start seeing how they’re doing. They should be olive green in color, but not soft or slimy.

Water, Water Everywhere…

Water, our bodies need it, but sometimes it can be a bit boring. And soda just isn’t healthy. I recently started trying these home brewed infused waters and I am in love. Be sure to use ripe fruit and the freshest of herbs to maximize flavor.

Here are 8 home made vitamin water recipes to help you keep the water flowing and taste wonderful! (#8 is my favorite so far)

Infused Waters

Infused Waters

1) The Classic : Lemon/Cucumber:

Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water + 1 cucumber and a lemon, thinly sliced + 1/4 cup fresh finely chopped basil leaf + 1/3 of finely chopped fresh mint leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

2) The Granite : Strawberry/Lime or Raspberry/Lime

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 6 strawberries / 0r Raspberries and one thinly sliced lime + 12 finely chopped fresh mint leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

3) The Digestive : Fennel/Citrus

First: infuse 1 to 3 grams of dried and crushed fennel in 150 ml of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water + lemon juice (put the leftover lemon in the mix) + a small thinly sliced orange + 12 fresh chopped mint leaves + the infusion of fennel seeds. Leave in refrigerator overnight before serving.

4) The Antiox : Blackberry/Sage

Note that a part from the berries, sage leafs is the herb that has the highest antioxidant content.

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of blackberries that have been very slightly crushed + 3-4 sage leaves. Leave in refrigerator overnight before serving.

5) WATERmelon : Watermelon/Rosemary

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of watermelon cut into cubes + 2 rosemary stems. Leave in refrigerator overnight before serving.

6) The Exotic : Pineapple/Mint

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of pineapple cut into cubes + 12 fresh mint leaves finely chopped. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

7) The Traditional : Apple/cinnamon

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of apple cut into cubes + 2 cinnamon sticks + 2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

8.) The Zingibir : Ginger/tea

In advance: heat 1 teaspoon of ginger in two cups of tea, let it cool down.

Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water with two cups of the ginger tea + 4-5 pieces of fresh ginger cut into cubes. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Cranberry Ketchup

So the other day I was able to get my hands on 10 pounds of Oregon Coast cranberries. One of the greatest perks of living up here is the availability of some of the best produce I’ve ever encountered.

At first thought I wouldn’t have enough to do all the things I wanted to try. Well I’ve used maybe 5 pounds and today I canned 10 half pints of Cranberry Sauce and 9 half pints of Cranberry Ketchup. So stay tuned for another cranberry post on cranberry salsa.

One of the first recipes that intrigued me was Cranberry Ketchup. The uses of this condiment seems endless. Used to top a great turkey meatloaf sandwich, how about a juicy grilled turkey burger?

Let’s gather our ingredients. The only thing not in the picture is the brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.

Cranberry Ketchup Ingredients

Garlic Germ

Garlic Germ

 

One of things I want to point out is the garlic. Always slice your cloves in half. If they sprouting or green in the center, take a small pairing knife and lift the germ out. (Some call it a pip) The reason for this is when it’s green it can impart a bitter flavor.

 

Minced Garlic

Minced Garlic

 

 

Now lets talk about mincing your garlic. We see this in so many recipes and yet when you watch a lot of cooking shows you will see the chef do a basic rough chop. This is not minced. Minced is what you see here. Very small, compact. This will yield a much better garlic flavor in your dishes because the oils of the garlic are released into the food.

 

When you add the cranberries they will be dense, but as they heat up they will swell. It will seem like there isn’t enough liquid to cook them down. Fear not there will be plenty. Once pureed they will be rich in color. As you add the sugar and spices the aroma is fantastic. You can smell the garlic, the tartness from the cranberries and the sweet brown sugar.

When it’s all cooked up you’ll be the hit of everyone on your Christmas list!

Final Product of Cranberry Ketchup

Final Product of Cranberry Ketchup

 

 

Cranberry Ketchup (Yields 8-9 half pint jars)

This is a Ball Canning Recipe that has been tweaked to add more flavor. I talked to 2 very experienced Master Food Preservers who gave the nod that this is a safe recipe.

11 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 TBS Olive Oil (no more)
2 cups chopped onions
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup vinegar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 TBS Worcestershire sauce (optional)

In a large stock pot add olive oil and sauté onions until tender. Add garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Do not brown. Add the cranberries and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently for 6 to 10 minutes, until cranberries pop and become soft. (I used a manual potato masher to help release the juices).

Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade, working in batches, and purée until smooth. (I used my Ninja blender with the bowl attachment. It gets things a bit smoother than a food processor. You could also use a food mill)

Return mixture to saucepan. Add brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, cloves, salt, black pepper, allspice and cayenne. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 30 minutes.

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.

Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and re-measure headspace. If needed, add more ketchup to meet recommended headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Ode to the Souffle’

So today I got new eggs
Their shells so clean and new
I knew for sure that I would make
A dish that was my debut.

I gathered my ingredients
And strengthen my resolve
Tonight I would make a dish
And hope I had the gaul.

The soufflé I exclaimed!
And whipped up my egg whites
I browned up some bacon
Much to my delight.

More cheese! Said my hubby
I told him do not worry.
The cheese you see me adding
Will make it nice a gooey.

We watched the timer ticking
And wondered how it would taste
The smells were fantastic
I dare not use pull with haste.

Alas it was done!
And ready to devour,
We scooped it up and love it,
It was gone within an hour.

Cheese Souffle'

Cheese Souffle’

Preserving Blackberries – Sort Of…

I love blackberries. I even enjoy picking them. Of course when it’s hot and I’m competing with the bugs and the deer maybe not so much.

But there is quiet contemplation in searching for the hidden plump gems. Quiet in between “Ouch!” “Dang IT!” “Are you serious?! You have to wrap AROUND my leg?!” “Oh for the love of Pete! All that to cut a clump to have half of them fall off?!”

Today it was all worth it. Well, actually the ones I picked last week. Today’s harvest is in a pie, freezer and BBQ sauce tomorrow. But last weeks berries, picked while it was warm and sunny became this.

The essence of summer - Sweet Black Berry Liqueur.

The essence of summer – Sweet Black Berry Liqueur.

Note – I did not muddle my berries on this batch and was so happy with the clarity. I also add everything at once and let it sit in my fridge for week, giving a very slight swirl every other day. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 cups blackberries
3/4 cup brandy
2 cups vodka
zest of one lime without pith – just use long strips, not a grater
1 cup simple syrup – 1 cup sugar/1 cup water heat till sugar dissolves and let cool completely.

Procedures

1 – Place the blackberries and lime zest in a seal-able glass jar, muddle lightly to release juice, and then add brandy and vodka. Seal and shake. Let mixture steep for 3 days at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down to extract juice, then filter mixture through a coffee filter or through two layers of cheesecloth. Discard solids.

2 – Combine blackberry infusion and simple syrup in a seal-able bottle or jar, then shake to mix. Let rest for a minimum of one day. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

I hope this inspires you to find other ways of enjoying the fruits of summer. If you’d like to join the conversation come over to the Facebook page and chime in!

Blackberries are here!

Blackberry season is once again upon us. So right out of the gate hubby and I went out and picked, and picked and picked. Last year I made the mistake of only making about 14 jars of jam. I figured that’d be plenty! But when you share the love and give some away you end up with a lot less than you thought you would. That being said my first batch was 28 jars! I a couple of days I will pick a smaller batch for a Blackberry Ginger Jam with Orange Zest.

Picking blackberries means donning ‘the gear’. For me this is jeans, long sleeve t-shirt, thick apron, gloves, clippers, a hook made out of a coat hanger to pull those out of reach clusters to me, a big hat (which has almost made me lose an eye on several occasions. You can’t see what’s coming above you as you’re walking along and BAM a branch whacks you on the head, or a rampant berry vine slithers up under the brim of you hat and sticks you in the eye. Hats can be very dangerous), boots and an assortment of profanity. Because no matter how careful one is, you will be ‘bit’ by the thorns numerous times. Even with long sleeves my arms look like I have the pox. You will sweat profusely, be investigated by lots of bugs and for me a curious doe wanted to know what I was doing, that is until momma ‘huffed’ and he took off. The more you pick, the sweeter you smell as sugars are released and this time of year the wasps just love you. I have learned not to swat at them just let them hover around. We don’t want a repeat of the 2012 incident. You may wonder if it’s all really worth it? You bet it is! There is nothing more tasty than opening a jar of ‘summer’ when it’s cold and snowing outside.

Blackberry Jam

Blackberry Jam

Now it’s game on! This year will hopefully bring a new level to my blackberries. I’ve done martini’s, jams, BBQ sauces, pies and cobblers. It’s now time for something new. I shall attempt Blackberry Wine! And this is where patience in both harvesting and fermentation will test my limits. I need almost 30 pounds of blackberries for 5 bottles of wine. And since there is no way to pick 30 pounds on my property in one day, I shall be picking every few days and freezing them till I get what I need. Thank goodness we’ve really gone thru that side of beef we bought over a year ago or I’d be in the market for a second freezer! Summer brings so many wonderful things. If you don’t have room for a garden do check out local Farmer’s Market’s. You will be treated to some of the best produce you’ve ever eaten!

Grilled Meat Leftover’s – Make Pizza!

I am a huge of fan of reinventing leftovers. Having made a good dinner I will not let leftovers go to waste. Sometimes it’s a repeat of dinner the night before. Other times it takes on the guise of a frittata or a new tasty pasta dish.

But tonight…ah tonight we had the optimum conditions. See we have had windy days and nights for the last 8 days. Last night I was able to smoke a turkey which was a succulent dish all on it’s own. I prepared the breast meat in small packages for lunch meat at a later date. The leg meat however…oh my but they became a pizza worthy of my dear friend Jean Denham – A Chef’s Journey

Pause – While many of you don’t know Jean, I do and must say I have her Pizza, Pizza, Pizza book and love it! She has inspired me to experiment and branch out.

Tonight’s morsel –

Grilled Smoked Turkey Pizza

Grilled Smoked Turkey Pizza

One round of pizza dough (recipe to follow)
1/2 red onion sliced very thin
Your favorite BBQ Sauce – Big fan of Mr. Stubbs
1/2 lb of smoked turkey meat
1/2 cup of shredded cheese – I did Manchego such a wonderful flavor that went very well with the smokiness of the turkey and BBQ sauce
1 avocado sliced

Pizza Dough –

Note – We like our pizza’s very thin and with a slight crunch. We want authentic Italian dough, and this recipe I got from a great pizza maker in Rome Italy. I think we ate our weight in pizza while there. His name was Marco and he’s been cooking pizza’s for 30 years in his brick oven. The dough recipe below will give you enough for 4 pizza’s. While we only ate one pizza, I freeze the other 3 for use later. Just take them out of the freezer the night before and let them thaw. 2-3 hours before cooking take them out of the freezer and let them come to room temp and rise. Also I do recommend using bottled water, or filtered water IF you live in an area where you water has a lot chlorine.

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups Semolina flour, plus extra as needed
1/2 tsp kosher salt (if using table salt use 1/4 tsp)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

To make the dough, in a small bowl stir the yeast with about 2 Tbs lukewarm water and let it stand about 5 minutes. It will get creamy and a bit foamy.

The next part is doable on a work surface, or in a kitchen aid mixer. If doing in a mixer sift flours into the bowl and then put all ingredients into mixer and slowly add 1/4 cup lukewarm water. With a dough hook keep mixer on low and add another 1 cup of water, slowly. You may not need to add the whole cup depending on the humidity where you are. Once it’s all incorporated mix on a medium speed for about 10 minutes. Dough will be smooth and springy. You’ll know it’s ready when you cut off a small piece with kitchen scissors and it’s riddled with small air holes. If doing this on a work surface sift the flours on the work surface, add salt, make a well and add yeast mixture, oil and 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, incorporate with your hands while adding the additional cup. Again slowly as you may not need all the water. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes and test for air holes.

Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes, cover with slightly damp towel. Then divide dough into 4 equal pieces. I use a kitchen scale to make sure they all the same size. Form into small balls, cover and allow to rise for about 2 hours or double in size. This may take longer if your house is cool. After one hour of rising preheat your oven to 500 degrees and put your pizza stone on the very bottom rack.

Time to make pizza’s!

Sprinkle work surface with some semolina flour and roll out one of the dough balls. You may need to add semolina to the top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll it out thin, your pizza will be about 14″ in diameter. Take a couple of forks and stab little holes all over the dough. Take about 1/4 of the BBQ sauce and smear it all over the dough. Now slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone. Wait don’t panic I didn’t forget the toppings. Let the dough cook for about 5 minutes. This really lets the dough get crispy. If you add everything at once the dough, especially towards the middle, steams and stays soft. Once you remove the dough add your cheese, meat and onions. If you do other pizza’s and add fresh basil you want to put the cheese on top to keep the basil from burning. Now slide the pizza back into the oven for 5 more minutes top with fresh avocado slices. Let it cool about 1 minute before slicing. Time to enjoy!

 

The Harvest

My green beans are producing, and pretty good too. I was able to harvest almost a full pound them.

Fresh Picked Green Beans

Fresh Picked Green Beans

So dinner tonight simply had to feature the harvest. Along with a couple of other things I grew like the tomatoes and fresh herbs.

Green Beans, Quinoa and Chicken

Green Beans, Quinoa and Chicken

Ingredients –

1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 med red onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, diced (I used the ones from a rotisserie chicken from Costco. If you want to cook your own you can roast them, boil them or however is your favorite method)
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced (if none available one can of organic diced tomatoes, drained)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
Fresh Herbs – I used 1 Tbl oregano, 2 tsp thyme leaves, 2 Tbl basil
Red Pepper Flakes – Optional and to Taste (I did about 1/8 of a tsp)

Directions –

Cook the green beans till tender, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In 2 quart pan, bring chicken stock to boil, add add quinoa, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, fluff with fork when ready to use.

While quinoa is cooking, in a large pan, add oil, sliced onions and garlic some S&P and sauté till just getting tender, do not brown. Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes (if using) and cook till tomatoes are cooked down and tender. If using canned tomatoes cook until residual liquid is just starting to evaporate. (Even when drained they still have some liquid). Add cooked diced chicken and heat thru. Fluff the quinoa with fork and add to chicken mixture, add green beans and toss well. Add basil and toss again and serve. S&P to taste.

Tri Tip Debacle

So…just so you all learn from my mistake. When one buys a 15 pound whole, and I quote WHOLE, bottom sirloin tri -tip, do not assume it’s one hunk of meat. Had I known when I bought it, that it was 4 individual tri-tips, I would have removed them and packaged them separately and cooked them one at a time over the summer. Why they said “whole” I will never know. I like to buy primal cuts and fabricate them myself. Now that I have thawed this “whole 15 lb. bottom sirloin tri-tip” I have to cooked up 4 tri-tips tomorrow. One is in a liquid marinade and will be done directly on the grill and the other 3 will each have different rubs and grilled. And that is how you make the most out of a beef mistake. At least when we go camping I’ll have some great beef already ready to go.

Well the reviews are in and the recipes below. Derek and I had different opinions.

Tri-Trips ready for the grill!

Tri-Tips ready for the grill!

Beef Tri-tips look FaBu!

Beef Tri-tips look FaBu!

Here is what I did. Three were covered with a dry rub and one was marinated. All four were done on the grill, seared and then cooked at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes, rested for 10 minutes to medium/medium rare in the thicker areas.

Rub # 1

1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Rub # 2

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Rub # 3

1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 teaspoon dry rosemary (or fresh, finely minced)
1/2 teaspoon dry sage

The marinaded tri tip was –

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups apple juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 ½ tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons seasoned salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Prior to cooking, removed from marinade and 2 bullion cubes were crushed and rubbed all over the outside.

Reviews – In order of what we liked best. Rub #3 won hands down as the favorite over the other 3 flavor profiles. It was well balanced and the char had such great flavor. You couldn’t pick out one distinct flavor over the others which is exactly as I like a rub to be.

Now for # 2 Derek like the marinated one next. I preferred rub # 2. Derek like the flavor of that the soy and lime  juice imparted. I loved the simplicity of flavors of rub #2. I think I might add a skosh more of the mustard.

For our 3rd favorite Derek liked Rub #2 and I liked the marinaded one. I find soy can be over powering in some dishes, but was very happy with the balance of flavors. I think next time I would add maybe 1-2 TBS of brown sugar to help with the caramelization of the apple juice.

For out 4th favorite both of us picked rub # 1. While it has potential it just was lacking in flavor.

And there you have what to do when you have far too many tri tips to grill 😀

 

Freezer Diving…What’s for Dinner?

So we’ve all done it. Dug back in the deep recesses of our freezers to pull out something for dinner. And then once thawed only to discover it was not even close to what you thought it was.

My fopaux was pulling out what I thought were chicken wings, only to discover it was a chicken bones I had saved to make a stock.  Needless to say we went out for pizza that night.

I am an active member of the Cuisine at Home forums and have had the pleasure of meeting many of the members and forming friendships that will last a lifetime. About every 3 months or so we do a “Mystery Box” dinner. Those who want to participate add an item to the virtual box if they so choose, or you can just sit back and see everything that is added. Then it’s off to your local store to pick up the ingredients. This is such a fun event for us.

This got me thinking back to the chicken bone/wings fiasco. So I came up with a new Mystery Box Challenge – Freezer Diving. We are putting together the ultimate Mystery Box dinner and I would love for each of you to sign up on the FB Page here. Or comment here on this blog. You go to your freezer, grab something you have no clue what it is, thaw it and turn it into something delicious and beautiful.

Up to the challenge?