Healthy Pickles

Who knew there were healthy pickles and unhealthy pickles! I didn’t until we discovered Wild Fermentation, a way to make pickles just like your grandmother…..well…..your great-grandmother……no, maybe your great-great-grandmother! Somewhere back in your genealogy, whichever grandmother it was who made pickles from a salt and water brine, not using vinegar or “processing” them using modern-day canning techniques, is the grandmother you want to copy. All others bought into the lies of the modern age which turned perfectly nutritious food into dead matter, unfit for human or animal consumption.

Where canning kills enzymes, heat liable vitamins and other nutrition, pickling by fermentation creates a nutrient rich solution that not only offers a wide range of vitamins and minerals, but also serves as a natural pro-biotic, aiding in digestion.

Lemon Souffle Pancakes

Every once in awhile, my thoughts wander, contemplating owning a B&B or little country inn. I’m enough of a realist, that the first “B” part of the fantasy, as in “bed”, means mountains of linen laundry and endless changing of sheets, not my idea of a good time. It’s the second “B”, the breakfast part, that keeps me dreaming. Whenever one of my latest experiments is approved by happy, contented faces gathered around my breakfast table, I find myself contemplating, “what if” and “if only”.

The irony is, I’d never have expected any of my dreams to have included the word “breakfast”, unless it had something to do with travel, Paris and croissants. For most of my life, breakfast was something to be avoided, having an aversion to boxed cereals and pancake mixes, frozen waffles, and grocery-store eggs, all of which left me feeling queasy and light-headed. A simple piece of dry toast, accompanied by a cup of hot tea, satisfied me for decades. It was when my husband and I stayed at a quaint and historic Maine B&B, that I was inspired to expand my breakfast horizon.

Brined & Roasted or Grilled Whole Turkey

It’s mid-July and already, my mind is planning Thanksgiving, looking forward to eating juicy, succulent turkey, adjectives rarely used to describe turkeys of most holiday meals. No matter the techniques – roasting bags, butter rubs, tenting with foil, or using roasters – the meat was the least favorite part of the meal. Then we discovered organic pastured turkeys – turkeys raised the way turkeys were meant to be raised. Unlike factory-farmed counterparts, pastured turkeys have a good life – running free in fields filled with sunshine, plenty of juicy insects and nutrient-dense grass from which they can forage. There’s no doubt part of their great flavor is psychological. It’s a relief to know we’re eating meat that isn’t loaded with chemicals, preservatives, antibiotics, and growth
stimulants like arsenic.

Beef Short Ribs

There are favorite foods from my childhood, such as Swedish Pancakes, that I hope my children will continue to make, passing along the recipe for generations yet to come.

There are other foods, like beef short ribs, that I decided would end with me. My mother was a good cook. Her marinara sauce, which gently simmered for hours to perfection, is not something I’ve successfully replicated. She made a veal “hotdish” (Midwestern roots are showing) that earned praises and cheers. But when it came to pork chops or beef short ribs, they were, at best, tedious to eat, always dry, leathery and tough. My father always graciously excused them, saying to my mother, “That’s just the nature of short ribs. Good sauce, honey!”

Kimchi Goes to Space....

For hundreds of generations, Koreans have long known their beloved fermented Kimchi was a rich resource of what food scientists today call, “functional properties”. Not only does Kimchi offer antioxidant, antimutagenic, and anticarcinogenic benefits, but also healthy doses of ascorbic acid (anti-scurvy used by ancient sailors), carotene and B-complex vitamins as well as calcium, iron and potassium. It’s all possible because bacteria and fungus, thriving on all fresh fruits and vegetables, breaks down components of the foods through complex biological processes, the most important being a lactic acid producing bacteria, Lactobacillus. Lactic acid gives kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, sourdough bread and yogurt their sour taste.

Sofrito Paella

I discovered two keys to a really good Paella – a really good Sofrito – a rich tomato foundation fondly called “the secret sauce” by Sofrito aficionados – and choosing the right kind of rice.

There are as many Sofritos, common to Puerto Rican, Spanish and Caribbean cuisine, as there are possibilities for incorporating their taste-tingling goodness into stews, soups or bean-based dishes, or, a Paella. All Sofritos begin with the same basic ingredients – onions, tomatoes, garlic and some form of peppers. From there, spices vary, reflecting individual cultures and tastes. Traditionally, Sofritos are prepared fresh weekly and kept on hand, used throughout the week, or in this case, prepared for one main dish.

Butter Making 101, 102, 103, 104.......

When the Almighty was yet with me,
And my children were around me;
When my steps were bathed in butter,
And the rock poured out for me streams of oil!
- Job 29:5-6

I was 5 years old when I first tasted freshly-made butter. My kindergarten teacher ceremoniously emptied contents of a Piggy Wiggly paper shopping bag (plastic hadn’t become popular yet) – freshly baked bread, a quart-jar loaded with fresh cream, and a beautiful silver butter knife from her grandmother’s special tea service – announcing, “a very special treat made by your very own hands.”

Oh, the beauty of harnessing natural energy and enthusiasm of 30 5-year-olds, shaking ordinary cream into a lifetime of fond memories! When all that remained was the sloshing of the thin buttermilk and the butter clump thumping against the side of the jar, our teacher proclaimed, “Done! Gather ‘round and share our creation!” The amazing flavor and texture was like nothing I’d ever tasted, or would for many years to come.

7,000 Online Cookbooks

Love antique cookbooks? (And you will after you read a few!) Now the best of the best are online! All 7,000!

The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum have partnered to create an online collection of 7,000 antique cookbooks, of some of the most influential and important American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century.

Digital images of the pages of each cookbook are available as well as full-text transcriptions and the ability to search within the books, across the collection, in order to find specific information

Why Butter Is Better

I’m experimenting with Photoshop Elements 6, four versions newer than the version I’ve been running and using for the last half-a-dozen years. Version 6 is amazingly powerful – so much so that I’m not sure Adobe, the creator of Photoshop, has done themselves any favor. They may have just put a little too much power in this latest version, making it less user-friendly. We’ll see, but I feel as if I’m learning their package all over again, planning on teaching my 12-year-old the finer points of computer graphics and photo editing.

In the meantime, I spent some time playing with standard graphic shapes that Adobe provides, which effortlessly edit photos into shapes that would have taken me hours to manually perform. What could be better than a heart shape filled with a beauty shot of my homemade grass-fed Jersey butter!

To many, that’s probably an odd pair – heart and butter. It wasn’t that long ago that butter was rumored to have been the cause of heart disease. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. A body needs fat, and butter is a perfect source!

Making butter is a regular routine here in our household, for which we give thanks above for every single luscious bite. And yes, that bright, golden yellow is its real color, thanks to the high-quality of beta carotene provided by the grass the Jerseys eat.

God, the Master Chef, is good and, therefore, so is butter, straight from His hands to you.

Egg Nog

This is an entry about egg nog. Not everyone is able to milk an egg nog story, so to speak, for as many paragraphs at a time, as I do. But I guarantee that not everyone has always been as madly in love with the entire taste and visual sensation called, simply enough, Egg Nog. It’s worth following along the thought crumbs, as I lead you to the best cooking tip you’ll ever discover.

This begins with my Christmas tree which is still standing. I’m contemplating leaving it in place year-round, something I debate about year after year. One year I held out until mid-February, and another, mid-March. That was the year we had an early Spring. After spending most of the day outside in the sunshine, luxuriating like cats on the warm glow of the radiant granite steps, the children and I entered the house only to find the Christmas tree staring accusingly from its steel-gray north-exposure corner. “Mama”, my daughter said, “That tree feels too much like winter”. By bedtime, every ornament, light strand and branch was packed away, out of sight. I’d no doubt that when the tree reappeared the following December, she would be thrilled to see it again.