Post #3071: Tis the season to put down some pickles….

Summer has been full of things thus far, and so has work – leaving me little extra-curricular time for posting on my blog. But I think I’m going to return to writing about food since we are in the season of bounty and the preserving instinct has once again kicked in (not to mention cooking! but more in the next post on that).

We’ve just wrapped up our long weekend open house (with camping in the yard) – which started on Friday and ended around noon yesterday – and as at the end of every party, we were left with a glut of a few things. At every one of our gatherings we supply the main food items for breakfast and dinners (with grazing foods for lunch) – but we usually ask that people bring a few other things to share – particularly those that get expensive. This year those requests were for coffee and limes (for drinks). Our friends are generous when we ask – the result being that whatever we desire we get times ten. Last year was cheese, and we never did eat it all before it went bad.

With coffee — it’s not such a problem — it keeps in the freezer and we drink it every morning so we’ll go through it happily. Limes – on the other hand — need to get used.

And so as exhausted as I was yesterday, I managed to rouse myself from the couch to deal with some of the leftover foods. The pictures in this post represent some serious good eating in our future as I am in the process of:

  • Lime pickle using this recipe
  • Lacto-fermented dill-green beans (3 tbsp to 4 cups of water for the brine ratio)
  • Salt-preserved eggs from the book Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon – these are salt cured with star anise, in the shell and raw for five weeks – which flavours them for addition to fried rice and other dishes.

As we were preparing for our weekend, I also managed to put my hands on some meyer lemons (first ones I have seen in over a year) and now have three jars of salt-curing lemons in my cupboard as well.

In the kitchen today, Brian is making tomato sauce out of 30 pounds of roma tomatoes that we bought through okanaganfruit.ca – this being the first year in our relationship that we couldn’t make the timing work to be in the interior to buy late-season offerings (I have a trip to Toronto at the end of August when would normally go). I also have 20 pounds of cherries that need pitting before going on the dehydrator – so I expect when my working day is done I’ll be sitting outside on the deck and taking care of that.

As always – I have more plans in the wings as I am expanding my cooking repertoire and new flavours, sauces, and pickles are on the menu. Still need to track down a few ingredients at the asian markets when I am back in Vancouver this fall – but looking forward to some new dishes and techniques to bring to the table.

 

 

Post # 3061: Carrot muffins

For whatever reason, possibly due to the rain, I’ve been baking a lot this winter. Mostly bread (more on that in another post), but because I love a good muffin every once and awhile, I’ve also been on the hunt for healthy-ish muffin recipes. This one ticks off all my boxes because it’s low in sugar, and has a decent amount of fibre. Sourced from allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/23787/awesome-carrot-muffins/) – the only thing I’ve modified here is the sugar amount. Most carrot muffin recipes are way skimpy on the carrot – but not this one!

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  1. Combine raisins and water in a small bowl. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain raisins, discard water and set raisins aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, oil and brown sugar; beat well. Combine egg mixture and flour mixture; mix just until moistened. Fold in carrots and drained raisins. Spoon into prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before frosting.

Post #3030: Canning complete

As of our leave today, we have filled our larder with almost every possible thing: crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, pumpkin, corn, corn salsa, curry sauce, sweet pickles, pickled beets, pickled asparagus, jams, preserves, and more. We are totally ready for the eating season to begin when we come home.

Post #2083: Leek and Mushroom Tart Recipe

Looking for an appetizer or holiday party offering? I made this leek and mushroom tart on the weekend and it was a huge hit. Serve it warm at your dinner table, or cool and cut thin for finger food (which is how I served it) – either way, so great!

Nice to have:

  • 11-inch tart pan – we aren’t making a quiche here so you want something shallow, and preferably with the removable side-ring for easy cutting and serving (plus presentation!)

Ingredients

Pastry
Whatever pie pastry recipe you normally use. Lots of suggestions on the Internet.

Filling
5 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 small leeks sliced very thin (or one large)
15 mushrooms sliced very thin  (any variety – you are looking for 1 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms)
1 cup grated gruyere cheese

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make your pastry, let it rest and then roll it out to the size of your pan. (I personally don’t like rolling out pastry so for tart recipes in the past I have simply pressed the pastry into the form – but my husband doesn’t mind, so he did this for me on the weekend).
  3. Prick all over with a fork, bake the pastry shell for 25 minutes until it is pretty much done. Remove pastry shell from oven.
  4. Turn oven up to 375.
  5. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the gruyere cheese on the bottom of the tart, then spread the leeks and mushrooms over that.
  6. In a small bowl, hand beat the 5 eggs and the heavy cream until they are well-mixed.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of the grated cheese to the egg/cream mixture and stir in.
  8. Pour the egg/cream/cheese mixture over the other ingredients in the pastry shell. Ensure even distribution.
  9. Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of the cheese over the top.
  10. Put your tart pan on a large cookie sheet and place in the oven. (The cookies sheet is there in case the egg mixture wells up and overflows during cooking).
  11. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the egg mixture has set and the top is golden.

Enjoy!

Post #2080: Instant Pot breakfast goodies

As promised, here’s the quick skinny on my second set of weekend kitchen experiments — homemade granola and homemade yogurt in my Instant Pot. For those of you who don’t know about the magic of the 7-in-one Instant Pot, I highly recommend you look it up. It works as a electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer, and sauté pan all in one – and so far I’ve been very impressed with everything I’ve made in it. More on that later.

This weekend, I decided to get the week’s breakfasts in order by making both granola, and yogurt in the instant pot (but not at the same time!) Recipes and instructions are below – and let me tell you, this makes for one amazing start to the day. Also, given that both of these are multi-hour projects, I give a time breakdown at the bottom that can help you plan for getting this all done in a day for a week’s worth of good starts.

Cherry Almond Granola

5 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Put everything in the instant pot except for the seeds and coconut. Stir. Turn the post onto slow-cook and adjust to high. Leave for one hour. After the machine beeps, add the seeds and coconut, stir and then turn down to low for four hours. After four hours is up, spread the granola in a roasting pan and pop into the oven for about 30 minutes – at 350 – stirring every 10 minutes until the granola crisps up. I didn’t find the slow cooker really got the granola crispy on its own, which is why I think the oven step is necessary. I’ve seen people recommend keeping the lid slightly ajar in order to let moisture escape – but really, the last bit in the oven is pretty straight forward and you can crisp it to your preference. Let cool completely on a cookie sheet and then store in an air tight container.

Instant Pot Yogurt

1 quart of milk
1/2 cup yogurt

Pour milk into the instant pot, press yogurt button and the adjust to boil. Milk will boil in the IP and then machine will beep. Take the inner lining out and allow the milk to cool in it (for about 1/2 hour or so) until it goes down to 115 F. Whisk the yogurt into the warm milk and then put the inner liner back into the IP. Press the yogurt setting again and don’t adjust this time! The IP will automatically set the time for eight hours. Once eight hours is up, the machine will beep and you’ve got yogurt! For Greek style yogurt, you can strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer for three hours or overnight which will separate the whey from the yogurt and leave you with a really dense and creamy yogurt.

Timing for getting this all done on a Sunday

8:00 am – get the granola going in the instant pot. It will be done and cooling by 1 pm.

1:00 pm – get the yogurt going in the instant pot. It will be done by 10 pm.

Strain yogurt through cheesecloth overnight – in the morning there will be awesome breakfast!

 

Post #2079: Moosioloi and other kitchen adventures

Yesterday was a bit of a kitchen day – and a playing music day – and an eating day. It was a day at home after a month of mostly being away – and it was sorely needed.

IMG_20151206_142028877IMG_20151206_135551377The upshot of that kitchen day was a number of small experiments – the first being the olive-tasting that I wrote about in my last post. I later fed some of the olives to our friend Jon who came over to teach us about pasta-making and he said they were the best olives he had ever tasted. Real deal!

Then we got onto the pasta making. We had decided some time ago that moose ravioli was a think that should exist in the world. With a freezer full of moose, a pasta roller given to us by a friend, and Jon to show us how to put it all together – we decided that this was the time to make some food magic happen.
I won’t go into great detail here about the process, since there are a million places that you can learn about making stuffed pasta on the Internet, but I will give you the recipe (below) so that if you happen upon some ground moose (or venison, or beef) you can replicate the amazingness that was our pasta dinner.

The finished produce looked like this – not the prettiest thing I have ever made, but one of the tastiest by far:

IMG_20151206_185707486

We served this alongside pickled beets, a salad of greens, apple, and almonds, a tuscan bread and a nice chianti. All around fabulous food experience!

Moose Ravioli

Pasta Dough:
3 eggs
2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
water if necessary

I do my dough in the Cusinart with the dough blade so I can only do a batch as large as this at a time. Basically, you throw all that into your food processor or breadmaker and churn until it forms an elastic and non-sticky dough.

We made two batches of dough which would feed 5-6 people (or 4 very hungry people and our dog).

Moose Filling:

4 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 pound moose meat
1 moose sausage (which gives a bit of fat and flavour)
1/2 cup blue cheese (or more if you like)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 a bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsely

Saute the garlic and onion, then brown the meat. Once the meat is cooked, crumble the blue cheese into the mixture along with the pine nuts. Stir and season to taste. Add the parsely near the end. We added a lot of blue cheese which meant we didn’t need any additional salt, but fresh ground pepper bumped the whole thing up.

This filling recipe is enough for two batches of the dough recipe above.

Sauce

1-2 cups Tomato sauce
Fresh rosemary (to taste)

We used the tomato sauce that we canned this summer and added about a 1/4 cup of fresh rosemary from the garden to it. You don’t want the sauce to overwhelm the plate, so just make enough to coast the pasta.

Once the pasta is made, and then cooked, toss it in the tomato sauce and serve with parmesan cheese.

And delish! If you have a chance at some moose this season, and an afternoon with friends – this is a great social activity and meal rolled into one.

Next post? Homemade granola and yogurt – the second part of yesterday’s experiments.

Post #2078: Report back on the olive experiment

Remember how I bought ten pounds of olives back in September – and I wasn’t really sure what to do with them or how they would turn out? Well. I’m glad to report that the water-cured olives have so far turned out great, and the brine-fermented olives seem to be doing their thing. Here is the blow-by-blow on what I think about each:

Water-Cured: Cracked

IMG_20151206_121818952Besides lye-curing, the quickest way to cure olives is by water curing them. This involves breaching the flesh of the fruit and then soaking them in water for up to a month, changing the water each day. This leaches the bitter oleuropein out of the fruit, and once that is done, you can cure the olives in brine.

One way that you prep olives for water-curing is by cracking them with a back of a spoon – you don’t want the pits to come loose, by you do want to create a split in the fruit so the water can do its work. We transferred these olives from the water to a herb-brine at the end of October and started eating these about two weeks ago. Here is what my cracked olives look like now, two and a half months after I started the process:

 

By far, this is the quickest fermenting method as the smashed olive allows for a lot of “flushing” to happen in the water cure. Also, these olives pick up the brine flavours quickly (after four days in the brine they were edible). On the downside, the smashed olives seem to be degrading relatively quickly and they are softer on the inside than I would like. We have eaten close to half of the jar, so that’s fine – and I’m thinking of turning the rest into tapenade.

Water-cured: Cut

EverytIMG_20151206_121828892hing about these olives is the same as above except instead of smashing them, I took a paring knife to each one and made an incision. They look much nicer as a result, and they have held their firmness since being transferred into the fridge. They are certainly more bitter than the smashed ones, but not unbearably so and I think the slight bitter taste gives them a bit of kick. This combination with the brine makes for a very edible table olive, and truly – these can be ready in as little as six weeks. I just broke these open for eating today though and I do think the extra month in brine really makes a positive difference.

Brine-Fermented, Unbroken

IMG_20151206_121920582These olives have also been kicking around in the curing process for two and a half months, but unlike the water-cured olives they still about about two and a half months to go. Brine fermenting leaves the olives intact, but takes much longer to cure them. You can see from the picture that the olives look a lot more “whole” and less degraded than the split examples above (the photo at the head of this article is of the brine-fermented olives you see on the plate here. Although I know these are far from ready, I did brave a taste today – I couldn’t help myself really since I was photographing after all. And though these are still on the not-as-edible side of bitter – they are actually ok, as in they don’t make you gag from the astringency. I definitely want to leave them until the new year – but by far these had the strongest flavouring from the brine, plus they are as firm as ripe olives can be with no degradation of the flesh at all. I don’t think these olives fermented as actively as I would have liked in the beginning, but still they seem to be well on their way to becoming an edible thing.

Overall I am quite pleased with the olive experiment so far and have no problem serving the water-cured olives over the holiday season. That means that when olives come into Vancouver in early fall, there is plenty of time to cure some up for Christmas gifts with the water-curing method. Though cutting is more work, I think that I prefer this over the smashed olives because it leaves the fruit with better consistency over time – but if you don’t mind a softer olive, or want olives for tapenade, the smashed route leaves them less bitter.

I’m really looking forward to the brine-fermented olives in the new year – and I highly recommend trying this out when you have fresh olives available. I can easily see doing double the amount next year and putting together some Christmas gifts of small jars of olives to give away with the other seasonal treats.

Post #2058: Ten pounds of olives

A couple weekends ago I was at my local market and a bag of raw olives just jumped into my basket. Besides that, I have really no explanation for how I managed to bring home ten pounds of Sevillano Olives without the faintest idea of what to do with them.

But here they were in my kitchen, wrapped in a mesh bag all the way from California, and so after about eight days of that I realized – I have to get going on these before they shrivel and become unusable, and so at the end of last week (right before the start of meditation retreat) I got down to processing them.

This extension office hand-out is the best thing I found, by far, on the many ways to cure olives. (I personally think the Extension Offices in the United States are pretty much the best thing about that country and I don’t understand why Canada doesn’t have something similar.)

Although I am super-curious about lye-curing olives, I didn’t have any lye on hand, nor did I have time to stop at the Homesteader’s Emporium to get some. Instead, I opted to try them two different ways – Brine Ferment, and Water Cured. Because ten pounds of olives translates into 2 gallons of processed olives, I’ve got two jars of each, and I’ve done each jar differently. The brine-ferment jars are spiced – one with pickling spice, and the other with peppercorns and chilis. I plan to spice the water-cured ones differently as well, but I also processed them in two different ways – cut, and cracked. I figure that since this might be the one and only time I get my hands on raw olives (I’ve never seen them in a store here before) – I might as well experiment and see what turns out the most edible.

IMAG1477

At the moment, I’ve got them lined up on the counter, mostly so I can keep an eye on the brine-fermenters, and so that I don’t forget to change the water on the water-cured ones every day for the next couple of weeks. I’m notoriously bad about starting fermented projects and then leaving them to dry out or mould – which is basically why I ended up with no sauerkraut this year. (It fermented super fast because of the heat and then turned to mush pretty much just as fast.)

Anyhow, these definitely require some attention, so I’m leaving them where I can see them.

Post #2044: Yes, it’s an amazing canning cupboard but nope I’m not a prepper…

The picture above was taken the other night, after Brian and I packed the cupboards at the bottom with tomatoes and tomato sauce made and canned over the weekend. At one point, both the pressure canner and the boiling water canner were going at the same time – and we ended with about thirty more filled jars for our basement “pantry”. Last night he made BBQ sauces, and this week I’ll round out the canning with some apples, stewed plums, and pickled beets – thus completing the major cycle of canning that we do each year in preparation for the winter.

For the record, I also did my annual “clean-out” where I remove all jars that are 2 years are old (from 2013 at this juncture). This year that was twelve jars – which I consider exceptionally good since we can about 200 jars worth of food a year (possibly more, I don’t keep good track). I used to have a much worse record of actually using my canned foods which was related to making too much of things that I wouldn’t be inclined to use (I never needed 12 jars of zucchini relish, for example). Over the years we’ve learned to make what we will eat, and eat what we make – an integral part of ecological sensibility around food supply.

I’ve noticed that whenever I post a photo like this out in the world – to Facebook for example – an awful lot of comments come back in the “well I know where to go when the apocalypse comes” variety – allusions to the fact that this looks like prepper behaviour and so forth. So to set the record straight! Though we have developed many skills (hunting, gardening, seed saving, canning, food storage, building small things, sewing, knitting, and so forth) – we are *not* doing it because we believe we will need to survive a nuclear winter or even a really bad drought.

In fact, despite what we were taught as children (my mother, in particular saw learning these skills as somewhat pointless because why bother in the age of mass manufacturing), some of us derive great satisfaction from making our own things, keeping a stocked larder, sustaining our own lives through the work of our hands, wearing clothing made in our own style, and continuing the learning cycle throughout the whole of our lives. At least, that’s my main motivation. I’m not really sure what else is a worthy use of my time either – I mean, I could be watching TV in the evenings or playing video games, but instead I choose to knit, sew, play music and so forth.

Additionally, we economize by purchasing food at its cheapest point in the cycle, and by preparing our own sauces, preserves and so forth – we eat gourmet-quality food all year long without paying ridiculous prices for so-called “bespoke” foods (which are all the rage these days).

I’ve been around prepper behaviour lots in my lifetime – had friends that stockpiled for Y2K (remember that?) and carved bunkers into their basements. For the most part those foods rotted in the ground or got bugs (one of my old roommates brought several bins of Y2K foods into our house and then left them there while they developed moths) – and the culture around prepping was fearful and secretive. That’s not my life, nor the life of my community now – which means that we get to do things just because of the joy of doing them.

The prepper label suggests that those of us who pay attention to what we eat, wear, and make are somehow driven by fear and anxiety – and ultimately slapping survivalist terms on the making of everyday life diminishes the value of what we do and the homes we create. The Urban Crow Bungalow is a place of great joy and love, where we frequently invite people to share at our table in the continuation of our community network. We are not stockpiling ammo and hoarding food – but growing outwards from our own labour in order to support our lives and the lives of those around us. It’s not survivalism that drives us, but love – and nothing more than that.

 

 

Post #2042: What I did on my summer vacation