Grilled Corn

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Awesome grilled corn!

Being married to a Nebraska Boy, corn takes a special place in our house. We don’t eat it often, so when we do, it’s gotta hit the spot and hold you over until the next round.  Now, I don’t discriminate when it comes to corn–I love it all. Creamed, boiled, steamed, or grilled in the husk. But we’d had grilled corn when we were out and about that was nothing short of awesome.  It was sweet, corny, and speckled with little charred spots.  But trying to reproduce this at home by way of grilling in the husk just didn’t produce the same effect. Finally we tried just slapping it on the grill sans husk.  Perfecto!  You can add lots of things to it (paprika, sour cream sauce, cheese, japapeno, etc.), but I think plain ol’ butter does the trick. This stuff is a great pair for anything grilled.  Bonus?  The dogs love, love, love to pick the cobs and get all the little bits off (Be careful to not let them eat the cob–it can’t be digested and can cause problems)!  Not to mention it’s hilarious to watch them munch off the leftover kernels typewriter style. Happy dog and happy Cornhusker = Happy life!

Grilled Corn

  • As many ears of corn as you need
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Hot grill

Score the husk near the bottom of the cob with a pairing knife. Remove the husk and silk. Place on a hot grill, turning occasionally, until the kernels darken a bit and char spots appear.  Remove from the grill, brush with butter, and sprinkle with salt. Dig in. Don’t forget to share with your furry buddies (just make sure they don’t get ahold of the cob!).

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Grilled corn pairs well with just about everything!

Tea and Molasses-Brined, Pecan-Smoked Pork with Peach Salsa

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Too good! Tea and molasses brined, pecan smoked, Boston Butt with peach salsa. You never had it so good!

Whew! That’s a mouthful! I really can’t shove any more Southern things in one recipe.  Tea, Molasses, Pecan, Pork, and Peaches. Seriously….love! Love! Love! Now, some of you may think this is a big ol’ pain in the rear…brining overnight, long hours on the smoker. Well, first, it’s totally worth it.  Just trust me on this one.  And second, almost nothing makes me happier than tending a smoker all day (I’m so jealous of my buddy at work, Brad’s, awesome smoking ability that I have to practice, practice, practice!).  It’s a great excuse to kick back, have an adult bev-er-aghe, and relax.  Listen to the birds, hang out with Charlie-dog. Watch the grass grow. Whatever floats your boat. Now, some say smoking meat is an art.  And I guess the fact that every BBQer has their own process and recipe for brines and rubs does make it a bit of an art. But there’s also a science to it. For this beauty, ya gotta go low and slow until the fat and connective tissue break down and move the meat from a dense, tough wad into a loose, tender delight!

Now, supplies. You need a non-reactive container large enough to hold the meat and brine. You need a smoker. Now, if you don’t have a smoker, you can still brine this beast and let it roll in a 225 degree oven.  You won’t be sorry.  I digress back to smokers…I use an electric one. Yes, gasp, electric. It’s what I started with when I had no experience, and frankly, I kept it out of being partly comfortable with it and partly lazy.  The idea of tending coals to keep an even temperature completely ruins my put the meat on and ‘watch the grass grow’ philosophy.  Last thing, you need wood chips (unless you’re doing the oven thing).  I used pecan, but apple or cherry would work great too.  Just no big, heavy ones like hickory or mesquite.

Now go get yourself a 5 pound pork Boston Butt and a 6-pack of Woodchuck Cider and come on back….

For Brine (heat all components together and let cool completely, or take my lazy way and mix together until dissolved):

  • 2.5 quarts water
  • 8 ounces molasses
  • 8 ounces Kosher or Pickling Salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 TBSP black tea leaves
  • 1 TBSP dry rosemary
  • 1 TBSP black pepper

For Rub (process in food processor until you reach sugar-nut-spice dust):

  • 1 TBSP flavor-neutral oil for coating meat first (gives rub something to stick to)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup pecans
  • 1 TBSP dry rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt

For Peach Salsa

  • 4 peaches, slightly unripe
  • 1/2 jalapeno, cored and deseeded, chopped fine
  • 1 TBSP finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse your Butt (ahhhh….I couldn’t help it!). Place brine in large enough container to hold brine with meat submerged…a gallon Ziplock does the trick.  Let ‘marinate’ and sit overnight, in the fridge, or at least a few hours.

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Pork’s in the brine!

Fire up your smoker according to your smoker type and wood chip preference–pecan chips were used here and 2 Woodchuck Ciders were used as the liquid to keep things from drying out.

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Get your smoker rollin’ before you’re ready to put the meat on…I find that keeps a bitter taste from forming with the first massive smoke production.

After brining, remove pork, discard brine, and rinse well to remove some salt. Pat dry with paper towels (or kitchen towels if you want your Hubbs to give you scornful looks!).

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Porky-pork is ready to go…you can see here how the brined portion is a bit darker that the close end that was sticking a bit above the brine solution.

Coat pork in oil lightly. Cover all visible porky goodness in the rub.

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Brown sugar, pecan, herb dust. Or rub. Whatevs.

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Lump-o’-meat covered in rub. Yeah, I got nothin’ witty about that!

Place your Pork-Masterpiece-In-Progress, Lunp-O-Meat close to the braising liquid (closest rack) and close up your smoker.

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Pork is positioned and ready to go…commence to watching the grass grow!

Feel free to indulge in your excess Woodchuck as things are brewing. On further introspection, you may have needed a 12-pack. After 2 hours, lift the lid and quickly dampen the meat with its drippings. Get back to your Woodchuck. In another hour, repeat. Repeat again in an hour (we’re up to four hours for those who have spent too much time with chain saws or too much time ‘catfish noodling’ and are missing the appropriate number of counting appendages).  Now, your pork should be sitting at about 160 degrees.  It will stall there and make you depressed that you will never get to eat that porky goodness. Don’t distress. We’re gonna fix that with a ‘crutch’.

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‘The Crutch’. This helps the meat reach the appropriate temperature to break down all the fat and connective tissue to produce a super-tender, juicy HUNK-O-MEAT! Oh…excuse me…I lost control of my senses for a minute there….

Remove the meat from your smoker and quickly wrap it in two layers of foil with a bit of liquid in the bottom. Seal super tightly. Put it back in the smoker and go, go, go until the internal temp reaches 190-200 degrees. ONLY THEN, remove your Early Christmas Present from the smoker and let it rest for about 30 minutes or so before shredding.

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Oh…My…Goodness. I’m not gonna lie…I debated clutching this thing like a lost pup and running into the wilderness just to prevent The Hubbs from having some. That. Good. You can see where we got all sortsa impatient and nibbled off of it before it’s photo shoot.

You can place the wrapped lump in a cooler for up to 4 hours and it will stay warm (as if you’re gonna be done before any guests arrive).

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Awww…aren’t those pretty peaches. Cut ’em up people! It’s salsa time!

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Peach salsa Yo!

Now, for the peach salsa. Just mix up your diced peaches, onion, and jalapeno.  Add your brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Taaa-daa! Done!

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Now that’s dinner!

Serve pork with salsa and creamy grits, salad, or side of choice. Certainly creamy grits are my favorite choice!

If your will is made of steel, save some pork for chile rellanos or awesome omelettes!

Totally Divine Duck Liver Mousse

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Duck liver mousse..it’ll make you rethink liver! Served here with Dijon mustard, strawberry-balsamic reduction, and pecans.

Oh. My. Stars. You will want to try this no matter how much anything with the word ‘liver’ conjures images of shoe leather and palate-fumigating funk. I didn’t start out as a fan of liver. Even worse, my mind flashes images of those little blue-labeled cans of potted meat that my great-grandmother would eat (and you too, Shane!).  God bless her, she was a Depression Era gal and had grown to like it…but it just has never been my fancy if ya know what I mean.   Frankly, the 1950s version of liver (pan-fried with onions)  generally doesn’t look that appetizing either, totally funks out your house, and can taste horrendous. I was always wanting to eat liver…mainly due to memories of being a tiny tot sitting atop my Memaw’s washer (yes, in the days of simpler and functional houses, it was right next to the stove) watching her fry up liver in bacon fat and onions. Her version is the only calf’s liver that has ever tasted good.  Fried chicken livers abound in the South, but many are waaaay to funky for me to choke down.  Then I tried Glass Onion’s chicken liver mousse. It was a total deal changer.  I was hooked and began searching out ways to fit in some liver.  Seriously, eating just the prime cuts of an animal was starting to work on my conscience and I had found many ‘rooter-to-tooter’ foods were fabulous.  Further, I knew if I could teach myself to eat anchovies or pancreas and thymus (sweetbreads), for Pete’s sake, I could find a way to eat liver.

This duck liver mousse came on the heels of getting a boat load of duck livers from Wishbone Heritage Farms and having some dangerously good duck liver mousse at Glass Onion (if you haven’t been there, run…do not walk…and get yourself some good eats pronto).  This started with Chris Stewart’s basic chicken liver mousse recipe an added caramelized onions, a bit of bacon fat, and some sherry. You could easily substitute a port jelly on top during the cooling stage or just serve with a cherry compote or strawberry preserves and some great mustard. Pickles, pickled veggies (green beans or okra like the Glass Onion serves it), and pecans (as FIG does) work well too.

  • 1 pound of duck livers
  • 2 cups of buttermilk (for soaking livers)
  • 3 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 5 farm fresh eggs
  • 3 tablespoons rendered duck fat (yes, I keep a stock in my fridge, can substitute melted and cooled butter)
  • 1 large onion, caramelized with 2 TBSP bacon fat and 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 2 TBSP Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp curing slat (can leave this out, top of mousse will turn a bit brown)
  • 1 TBSP ground white pepper

 

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Soak livers in buttermilk for an hour or so (or overnight) to reduce any bitterness.

Soak livers in 2 cups buttermilk for an hour or so (can do overnight) to reduce funk. Drain and rinse. Pulse in food processor until smooth.

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Add the eggs, salts, pepper, caramelized onions, and blend until smooth.

Add eggs, duck fat, caramelized onion, kosher salt, curing salt, and white pepper. Pulse until smooth.

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Add 2 cups of the heavy cream.

Add 2 cups heavy whipping cream and pulse a few times. Push through fine sieve (bouillon strainer works well!).

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Straining through a fine sieve to get a super smooth texture.

Whisk in remaining 1 cup heavy cream.

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Whisk in remaining 1 cup cream and pace into ramekins in hot water bath.

Place in ramekins (mine filled 6), and place in roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water and place in 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until mousse is firm but jiggles in middle.

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Lift these guys out carefully and chill completely.

Lift ramekins out carefully and cool completely. Add your favorite accoutrements:  French bread crostini, pickled vegetables, mustard, cherry compote, strawberry preserves, rhubarb jam, pecans, or roasted walnuts. Pour yourself a big ol’ glass of Suaternes wine and go to town. You’ll be delightfully surprised how much you might like liver!

Blanching Greens

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Okay. This topic might sound a bit simple, or unnecessary.  BUT I’ve found lots of folks who don’t know how or why you should blanch greens.  If you’re no stranger to greens, you know they can be bitter and pungent.  Blanching often reduces this bitterness.  Don’t believe me?  Peel some outer leaves off of brussel sprouts, blanch quickly, shock in ice, and serve with a citrus vinaigrette.  You’ve just made a sweet, tasty salad out of one of the most despised vegetables. No bitterness or funk to be found. Blanching can also reduce cooking times.  Thinking about adding greens to a pasta dish?  It’ll be faster, and tastier if they’re blanched.  Blanching also lets you add greens to other dishes–like a quiche. If you didn’t blanch them and squeeze out the liquid first you’d have egg, greens, and cheese soup! If none of this convinces you of the merits of blanching…let’s go with ‘it just makes the colors so darn pretty’.

Now that we’ve learned the merits of blanching, don’t stop at greens.  Blanching other vegetables can work in your favor too.  Blanched green beans turn out sweet but still crunchy and are perfect for a Salad Nicoise (or a snack!).  Blanch a tomato to help the skin slip off.  Blanch tiny baby carrots to make them even sweeter while retaining some firmness. Or blanch fresh corn or field peas prior to freezing in order to retain freshness (it kills natural bacteria on the skin that can produce off tastes later).

  • Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl with both ice and water.  Nest your sieve or colander down in the bowl and set it aside (the nesting makes it easier to strain away the water).
  • Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. As Chef Thomas Keller states, “It should taste like sea water in the summer”.
  • Working in small batches, gently place your greens (or other veggies) in the boiling water. Be careful to maintain a boil throughout. The idea is to cook the veggies as quickly as possible.  Small batches and a high salt content help keep the water boiling so the veggies cook as quickly as possible.
  • Watch for the color to ‘pop’.  Don’t worry, you’ll see it.  The veggies will get much brighter.  Now, if you’re still wanting a crunch to them, pull them out with a slotted spoon or skimmer.  If you’d like, you can cook them until your preferred firmness. If you like a super squishy vegetable (I hope not!), there are probably better methods of cooking them so there’s more flavor. Too long in the pot and you’re just boiling the veggies. They will look sad and depressing and taste like, well, water. We all know from our school cafeteria days what a boiled veggie looks like! No. Thank. You.
  • Plunge them into the ice bath and cool completely to stop the cooking.  You can season and eat as is or you can saute, roast, or add them to other preparations. Go wild!

Next time you’re cooking up some fresh veggies, give blanching a go. You might just find you like those brussel sprouts after all!

Check out these unblanched greens…

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Unblanched kale. Lovely, but a little dull.

Now, check out the same kale after blanching…

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Gorgeous! And super tasty…no bitterness to be found!

Easy Chevre

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Creamy, delicious goat cheese straight from the farm to your kitchen!

Ok. So I spend a lot of money on goat cheese. Probably more than one person should. I joke with my husband that one day he’ll come home to a couple of goats in the backyard. In reality I’m really not kidding all that much.  They probably wouldn’t cost much more than my goat cheese addiction.  And I might not have to mow the lawn anymore.  So, given my predilection for goat cheese…and lack of my own goats…I set off to make my own supply of goat cheese.  I set out with all the excitement and fervor any good chevre lover should have and immediately hit a roadblock. Goat’s milk can be difficult to find unless you know someone with goats. Luckily I found a farm down the road a piece that offers raw goat’s milk and in case of a major I-need-goat-cheese-now impatience, a local store that sells pasteurized goat milk  (not ultra-pasturized or homogenized).  First road block tackled!  Little did I know, a seemingly insurmountable number of roadblocks were to follow.

So, I’d like to say everything went swimmingly and making chevre was super duper easy. But, I’d also like to think that I’m pretty honest so I won’t lie to you. I had several failures.  Several starter cultures didn’t seem to work, the milk wouldn’t set to curd, the curd wasn’t hard enough to hold together, and the resultant cheese wasn’t quite dry enough. I nearly gave up, and then I quit trying so hard.  I put down my fancy schmancy artisanal cheese making book and turned to the ‘world wide interwebs’ (as my friend Drew likes to sarcastically call it) and Youtube.  I’m a firm believer in sharing knowledge, the legacy of non-professional knowledge, and that Youtube can indeed be used to learn things and is not just for watching some random dude smash his goods while attempting physics-challenged skateboarding tricks.  After a quick search, I found what seemed like a bazillion videos on making cheese. Being I had already read an entire book on making cheese, I watched a few and set to work.  Finally, fresh chevre. Perfect!

I actually used the same technique for the first step in making cottage cheese curds and then processed them like I would for most other soft or semi-soft spreadable cheeses in my repertoire.  Easiest, fastest, and super delicious. This recipe starts with 1/2 gallon and produces about 14 ounces of drier (like the store-bought kind) chevre.  The milk cost me about $8. So, for my fellow chevre addicts, this recipe gets you your fix for about 1/2 of the regular price per ounce.

Simple Chevre:

  • 1/2 gallon goats milk (raw or pasteurized)
  • 1/4 tsp veal rennet in 1 cup cold, non-chlorinated water (spring water)
  • 1 cup cultured buttermilk (must contain live cultures)–you can also use mesophilic cultures but I’ve never had luck with those
  • 1 tsp or so quality sea salt
  • any herbs you’d like mix into or press into the exterior of the set cheese
  • Stainless heavy bottomed pot with a smaller stainless pot that nests inside (helps to hold heat when you’re done)
  • Large stainless spoon
  • Instant read thermometer capable of measuring as low as 80 degrees
  • Stainless strainer
  • Butter muslin, double cheesecloth, or cut off white pillow case (from new; my favorite method)
  • kitchen twine

First, sterilize all of your non-reactive (stainless) materials. I run them through the dishwasher despite my fancy schmancy book stating I should soak them in a 10% bleach solution.  I’ve never died.  After all, people all over the world are making cheese  that don’t have access to bleach. That being said, I don’t dabble in long aged cheeses and I eat mine up pretty quickly.

Place your smaller pot with the 1/2 gallon of milk in it inside of your larger pot and fill the space in between the two with water (like a double boiler of sorts).  Place on low heat. Slowly heat the milk to 80 degrees.  This should take 15 or so minutes. Note that 80 degrees will not pasteurize raw milk, so if you’re afraid of bacteria or don’t know your raw milk supplier you may want to look into pasteurizing techniques.

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Heat the goat’s milk to 80 degrees. Don’t mind the thermometer here…I was making yogurt which requires higher temperatures. The set-up is the same. Heavy pot, milk, thermometer or pot nestled in hot water bath and thermometer (I like the second choice better).

When the milk reaches 80 degrees (you don’t feel a chill when a very clean finger is inserted into it and yet it does not feel warmer than you), remove the pot from the burner. Add the 1 cup of live-culture buttermilk and stir, making sure it is well mixed, for 30 seconds or so. Next add the 1/4 tsp rennet dissolved in 1 cup of cold water and gently stir for 30 seconds, making very sure it is evenly distributed.  Put your lid on the pot with milk and put it in your oven. Turn on your oven light. Wait.

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Prepare your strainer to get rid of excess whey–dampened butter muslin, two layers of cheesecloth, a tea towel, or a cut off white pillow case will work.

Now the waiting part seems to take forever so I like to do it while I’m sleeping.  You want to wait until you have a nicely congealed curd, like a very firm custard. You’ll see liquid in the pot with the curd–that’s whey (just like Ms. Muffet’s curds and whey). This process takes about 12 hours depending on cultures in the buttermilk, your milk source, and temperatures. When the firm curd has formed and the whey has separated, cut the curd.

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Cut the curd.

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Drain the curd to release excess whey.

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Gather up your material, tie it off, and hang from the kitchen cabinet over a bowl (to catch the whey).

After the curd is cut, gently spoon it into your butter muslin/cheesecloth/pillow case-lined strainer. Let it drain the whey for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the curd with about 1/2 tsp salt and mix it in well.  Gather up the edges of your material, encasing every bit of curd in the material, and gently twist to drain more whey.  Tie up the top of the material securely and hang your bag ‘o cheese curds from an upper kitchen cabinet knob, placing a bowl beneath it to catch the whey. Wait again. To get spreadable goat cheese, you may only have to wait 6 or so hours. For a drier one like you’d buy in the store, I usually have to wait about 12 or as much as 24 hours. Trust me, it is so worth it.  If this freaks you out, hand it in the same manner in your fridge. Again, I’ve never gotten sick, the good bacteria do their job, and the end result is more tangy.

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Voila! Homemade goat cheese!

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Look at that! You just made some taaassteee goat’s cheese!

Once the cheese has reached the desired consistency, remove it from the material and press into any bowl that has a good shape. Refrigerate. Once it is good and cold you can pop it out of the bowl and sprinkle it with any herbs.  Garlic, rosemary, fennel, dill, cracked pepper, and/or sun-dried tomatoes work well and I use various combinations of them often.  You could mix herbs in before you put the cheese in your makeshift mold if you’d like.  My cheese generally never makes it the stage of being put into a mold.  And frankly, I’ve never shared it so I’ve had no need to make it pretty. You’d probably draw back a bloody nub if you got your hands a little too close to my, I mean, this cheese.  Hey, I told you I had an addiction to chevre!

Enjoy!

Creamy Turnip Soup

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So, I found myself with an ungodly number of turnips. Now usually I would get a vat of greens going, with a little smoked oddity thrown in, and then add handfuls of wedged turnips somewhere near the end for a delightful addition to just about any meal. But alas, there I was, full of turnips and no greens in sight. What’s a girl to do?  Turnip soup of course! I thought for a millisecond about roasting them, but they were a little larger than I like and those tend to be a little bitter I’ve found. Unfortunately, roasting sometimes brings out that bitterness in my experience (did you know your genes determine whether you find turnips to be intolerably bitter?  Seriously!). So, soup it was. And boy, did it turn out good!

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About the top limit on size…the smaller, the less bitter.

The recipe makes about 8 full cups and makes use of about 1/2 of a large potato and a blender to produce creaminess without tons of heavy cream or making a roux.  A swirl of roasted walnut oil and some chives as a garnish make for a good presentation and seem to simultaneously liven it up and soften it.  A drizzle of browned butter and tiny croutons works too. If your turnips are more bitter than you care for, try a pinch of salt if you’re salt is not optimized or try a tiny pinch of sugar, although salt is purported to be better at decreasing bitterness: http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/salt-trumps-bitter/?_r=0).  The smaller the turnip , the less bitter it will be.  That being said, I’ve made this soup with large turnips before and only ended up with the slightest pungent note at the tail end, somewhat like cabbage, and it was a great contrast to the potato-like start.  But hey, maybe my genetic blessings let me love the ‘lowly’ turnip!

If you’re going full-tilt paleo, try using Japanese Sweet Potato, White Yams, or Classic Sweet Potatoes–NOT the orangey ‘yams/sweet potatoes’.  I have access to Japanese Sweet Potatoes and they work fine for thickening soups without being overtly sweet like they are when roasted and become caramelized.  Even if you use a sweeter potato I don’t think it would hurt here, especially if your turnips are bigger and possibly prone to bitterness (I’ll try it next time and report back).  Skip the cream and butter if you’d like (tell me you wouldn’t??), more of the turnip flavor will shine so be aware.  A great way to change this soup up is to add other veggies such as carrot, celery, celery root, parsnip, or parsley root. I love the taste of turnips, so I like to let them shine on their own. You can also try substituting cannellini beans (nutty, earthy, smooth) or great northern beans (grainier, nutty) or navy beans (mild, smooth) for the potato.

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Silky smooth, potato-esque start, slightly pungent finish, nutty warmth from roasted walnut oil and brightness from snipped chives. Tastes like fall!

Creamy Turnip Soup

  • 24 ounces cleaned, peeled, and cubed turnips (about 4-5 medium or 8 small/baby turnips)
  • 6 ounces Russet, or other starchy potato (see note above), cubed (peel if you like or if it’s a sweet potato)
  • 6-8 cups filtered water
  • 2 tsp organic paste chicken bouillon, I use Better than Bouillon unless I have frozen homemade stock available (http://www.superiortouch.com/retail/products/better-than-bouillon/organic-bases). Using your own stock assures quality and ingredients but sometimes ya just don’t have any in the freezer!
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 2 TBSP salted butter
  • 6 quart pot
  1. Place peeled and cubed turnips and potato in 6 quart pot. Cover with filtered water until water level is about 1/2 inch above turnips (about 6 cups or so).
  2. Bring to a medium boil over medium high heat. Add 2 tsp paste bouillon (enough to help flavor but not overpower the turnip, adjust as you see fit).
  3. Boil turnips and potato until a fork easily pierces the centers of both and they are mostly translucent.  Do not overcook. They should not fall apart. Do not drain liquid.
  4. Allow to cool enough to handle in a blender.
  5. Working in small batches (so blender does not overflow and a smoother texture is obtained), place turnip-potato mixture and some of its juices in the blender. Leave lid slightly ajar (not too much!) for steam to escape and process until silky smooth (you may need to run each batch for a couple of minutes depending on your blender).
  6. Transfer smooth soup back to pot.
  7. Temper the 1/4 cup heavy cream by slowly adding a small amount of soup to it until it is about the same temperature of the soup in the pot. Then slowly add the tempered cream back to the soup in the pot and whisk in. Add butter and stir to incorporate. By now you should have a subtle, lovely shimmer to your creamy soup.  The cream and butter also seem to mellow the turnip a tad for those with less pungent palates.
  8. Taste and season as necessary with salt and/or sugar (see notes above).
  9. Dress with a swirl of roasted walnut oil (Limerock is nice http://www.limerockorchards.com/product/small-roasted-walnut-oil/) and snippets of chives, browned butter and teenie croutons, fried or caramelized onions, sautéed turnip greens (for the life of me I can’t cook those!), or plain ol’ cracked black pepper.  Each slightly changes what side of the turnip is presented. So many bowls, so little time!

**I think letting the soup cool a tad mellows the pungency of the turnip (Not exactly room temperature, but you shouldn’t be blowing on it–like Goldilocks…”not too hot, not too cold”).  If you’ve got someone in your house that doesn’t love turnips, this may be an option.**

Easiest Homemade Yogurt

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Some may think making your own yogurt is just for the ‘Granola’ folks, but trust me, you will want to try it at least once (and by then you’ll be hooked).  Way back in the late ’70s I can remember my Mom hollering after my brother and I ‘not to bump the yogurt’ as it sat nested in it’s tidy little yogurt maker.  I could never understand why she just didn’t buy it from the store, after all, wouldn’t that be so much easier?  Sure it would be easier, but you’d miss out on all that fun kitchen chemistry (or microbiology) and some seriously good eats.  Although I always liked yogurt in my adulthood, I never loved it until I made it myself.  I’ve tried a gazillion methods of heating and incubating the yogurt and have settled on a low-tech, fairly hands-free method that turns out beautiful yogurt every time.  Follow these easy steps and you too can take yogurt to a whole new level.  Local antibiotic- and hormone-free milk can offer increased flavor (and decreased toxins) but if you don’t have access to it, opt for pasteurized and not ultra-pasteurized and homogenized milk ( the latter won’t firm up). You can also decrease the quantities in this recipe, but I find a gallon at a time keeps me in yogurt without having to make it too frequently.

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Look at that delicious yogurt! Preserved lemons and local, raw honey make nice additions.

Easiest Homemade Yogurt

  • 1 gallon whole local, antibiotic- and hormone-free milk (feel free to try 2%, skim, or a decadent light cream!)
  • 4 quart-sized, wide-mouthed canning jars and their lids
  • Dairy or kitchen thermometer that clips to the side of a jar/pan
  • Large pot or dutch oven that can accommodate all 4 jars
  • 4 heaping TBSP Yogurt starter (use your favorite store bought plain brand, making sure it says ‘live active cultures’)
  • 1 Dishcloth
  • Sterilize your jars and lids by placing in the dishwasher on the sanitize mode (there is a more stringent process for true canning but this suffices here)
  • Fill each jar with a quart of milk, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top (to add the starter)
  • Place the dish towel in the bottom of the pot, place the filled quart jars on top of the dish towel and fill the pot with water, leaving enough room for boiling the water.
  • Place the pot with the jars inside on the stove top over high heat, affixing the thermometer to the side of one jar with the temperature probe in the center of the milk (not touching the glass, etc.).
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Heating the milk in the jar prevents scalding while the dish towel prevents the jar from jostling. Holding the temperature at 150-160 degrees for 20-30 minutes seems to produce a thicker yogurt.

  • Being to a vigorous boil, eventually registering approximately 160 degrees in the milk.  Adjust burner temp as necessary and check each quart a few times to make sure they are heating evenly. There is no need to stir.
  • Hold the milk temperature at 150-160 for approximately 30 minutes. I have found this produces a thicker yogurt.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the jars from the water (HOT! HOT!) and place on a heat resistant surface to cool (an aluminum pan will help heat dissipate faster).  Do not discard the water in the pot. Let the jars cool to about 110 degrees (I almost never wait quite that long, usually adding the starter at 120 degrees because I’m impatient!).  Cooling usually takes about 40 minutes to an hour.
  • When your milk is almost at the right temp, preheat your oven to 110 degrees. Mine only goes as low as 170, so I preheat to a temp of 130 using an oven thermometer (temp falls when I open it to put in the milk).
  • When your milk has reached 110 or so degrees (better slightly over than under I’ve found), mix 1/2 cup or so of the milk from each jar with 1 heaping TBSP yogurt starter (from store) PER QUART and gently fold until smooth.  Mix gently into each quart.  I do this one quart at a time to assure each quart gets the appropriate amount of starter yogurt/culture.
  • Put on your lids and put the quarts back in the pot of water.  Place the pot in the preheated oven and wrap the whole thing in a big towel. Turn off the oven, turn on your oven light, close up the oven, and go to bed or run errands, etc. (after all, the oven is off and it’s not hot enough for the towel to burn). If your oven doesn’t have a light or it’s not functioning, don’t fret–I’ve forgotten to turn it on and it still seems to work out fine.  If your oven heats to 110 degrees, then you can leave it on, however I don’t like the idea of sleeping or leaving the house with the oven on.
  • Try not to bump or disturb the yogurt during the ‘sit time’ as doing so can interfere with it thickening up.  Gently check the yogurt after 6 hours or so. If it has ‘gelled’ to your satisfaction, then remove and cool in the fridge. If not, try a couple more hours.
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You can see the yogurt has set up to where it pulls away from the side of the jar. The liquid is whey, which can be saved for other uses, stirred in, or drained off for a Greek-style yogurt.

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Again, you can see the yogurt has firmed into a soft curd and some of the whey has separated.

  • After chilling the yogurt, you can drain it for an hour or so through cheese cloth to produce a thicker product similar to Greek yogurt (see caption below). After draining you can also add a tablespoon or two of milk or cream and whisk for extra creaminess. Afterward, place the yogurt back in jars and chill. It will last for 2-3 weeks (although mine never hangs around that long!).
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Straining the yogurt after it has chilled gives a creamier texture and milder flavor. Here a chinois cap lined with cheesecloth is used, but a bouillon strainer works wonders too. You could also use a non-reactive colander lined with cheesecloth.

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Almonds and local, raw honey on top of your homemade yogurt makes for a great treat!

Homemade Mayo…You’ll Never Eat Storebought Again!

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Some may be thinking, “You can MAKE mayo??”.  Why yes, it’s easy, you most likely have all the ingredients, and it takes about 2 minutes. And best of all, it’s like soft, billowy, tart and satisfying, addicting, little cream-colored clouds from Heaven.  Seriously.  I’ve not bought mayo since the first time I made it. Trust me, you won’t either!

Homemade Mayo

  • 2 raw egg yolks (**many sources say children, the elderly, those who are pregnant, and those with compromised immune systems should not consume raw eggs**)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1TBSP vinegar (use the good stuff as there are few ingredients and it will really stand out); for a bit less of a tang, use 2 tsp vinegar or try different vinegars depending on what you’re using it for.
  • 1/8 tsp honey (in other words, a tiny little blob)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups extra light tasting olive oil (or any combination of oils–I’ve even used a few TBSP of bacon fat for BLTs or a little bit of walnut oil to use in almond-tarrragon chicken salad).
  • Cracked pepper to taste (or any other herb you’d like; they’re entirely optional)
  • Wide mouth pint-sized mason jar
  • Immersion blender (I’ve used both the Cuisinart and the Bamix and both work well)
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The humble beginnings of glorious homemade mayo

  • Put all the ingredients into the jar, pouring the oil in gently.  Llet the eggs settle to the bottom (important).
  • Immerse the blender with the head all the way to the bottom (important so emulsification occurs).
  • Pulse blender and ‘clouds’ should start to form after 5-7 pulses. After clouds form, and only after, you can begin to move the stick blender upward, still pulsing. The ingredients should be emulsified within about 30-45 seconds (take your time if you need to–better too slow than too fast).  Do not over-process.
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Note the blender head is at the very bottom of the jar; Also note the billowing mayo clouds forming

  • Once all the oil is incorporated, you can give a few swirls with the blender to create some thickness, but don’t overdo it. Err on the side of too little so as not to cause separation.
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In a couple of minutes you have created Heaven in a jar. Now slap a little on good bread or put a bit on some tomato slices and you’ll never turn back!

  • Put a lid on and store in the refrigerator. I’ve used mine for as much as two weeks but it usually doesn’t stick around that long in my house!

Ferment Nation: It’s Sauerkraut Time!

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Summer’s winding down and the first hints of cooler weather are in the air.  That means I’m getting antsy to stew and braise and make big, bubbling pots of goodness that fill the house with their savory aroma all day long. Unfortunately it’s only slightly less hot than the Hinges of Hell here, which is not quite cool enough for standing next to a steamy meat cauldron all day.  What does one do then, to prepare for fall cooking? Ferment. That’s what.

With just a little bit of prep and a whole lot of waiting, barely chewable raw cabbage is turned into that salty, sour delight we call sauerkraut.  Setting out jars on the counter now will allow for braised pork steaks with sauerkraut, apples, and onions in about a month. Or a mound of sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, kielbasa sausage, and a little German mustard.  Or pork belly (or braised ham hock or pork neck) and sauerkraut mashed potatoes.  It also goes well on a sharp cheddar cheese grilled sandwich.  So much sauerkraut, so little time!

Here we go (for 3 16 ounce jars):

  • 3 sterilized, quart-sized, wide mouth canning jars
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • 2 medium heads of cabbage
  • quality sea salt
  • Caraway seeds to taste (I used about 1 tsp)
  • Juniper berries to taste (I used about 2 tsp)
  • Coconut oil, about 6 TBSP, gently melted (olive oil may be substituted)
  • Sterilize canning jars by submerging in boiling water for 10 minutes. Or, cheat like I do and put them in the bottom of the dishwasher and run the sanitize cycle.
  • Thoroughly clean cabbage.  Remove about 3-4 outer leaves from each head of cabbage.
  • Fill a pot large enough to fit one outer leaf of cabbage at a time half way with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, blanch each outer cabbage leaf for a minute or two or until soft enough to manipulate without tearing.  These will serve to hold the shredded bits of cabbage under the brine. Set blanched leaves aside. Discard water.
  • Finely shred each head of cabbage using a cabbage shredder, mandolin, food processor, or chef’s knife.  I really do seem to like the rustic feel when done by hand—big pieces, little pieces, and varying textures.
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A sharp knife makes easy work of hand-shredding cabbage

  • Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a large bowl. Place a layer of shredded cabbage on top of the salt. Sprinkle that layer with salt, caraway seeds, and juniper berries and add another layer of cabbage. Continue until all of the cabbage is layered with salt, caraway seeds, and juniper berries. Mix thoroughly with very clean hands. Press firmly with the wooden spoon to encourage the cabbage to release more liquid (or squeeze firmly with those very clean hands). Allow to sit for one hour.  The salt will continue to draw liquid out of the cabbage to form a brine. Do not discard this liquid as it will serve to cover the cabbage and create an oxygen-deprived state for the microorganisms to do their job.
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You can start to see little beads of water forming on the cabbage: This is your cabbagy brine starting to form.

  • After the cabbage has wilted for an hour, stuff into sterilized quart jars and pack tightly (do so every few handfuls and the task is easier). After all jars are packed, tuck a blanched cabbage leaf or two over the top of the shredded cabbage. Now pour the remaining brine over the cabbage in the jars equally. If there is not enough brine to cover, add more brine made of 1 tsp. sea salt to 1 cup of non-chlorinated water (I use filtered).  Make sure no cabbage is peeking above the brine level. If it is, it will serve to encourage undesirable yeasts and molds.
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cabbage packed neatly into the jar and covered in brine (I’ll take care of that little piece trying to escape a bit later)

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The blanched whole cabbage leaves work to hold all the bits and shredded cabbage under the brine

  • Cover each jar with two layers of cheesecloth or butter muslin and tie with kitchen twine.
  • Place the jars in a warm spot (I’ve read everything from 68-73 degrees; my house stays an even 72 in summer and fall here in the South) on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a kitchen towel. The mixture may produce more brine over the next day or two and spill over (hence the tray and towel).
  • When the jars stop producing more liquid (1-3 days depending on temperature), I make sure everything is tucked in and cap with coconut oil by gently melting enough coconut oil to form a 1/4 inch layer on top of each jar’s brine. Over several hours the coconut oil will harden and form a close-fitting cap. It is easily removed later and I can easily ‘smell the progress’ through the cap.  I’ve also used a layer of olive oil (it can be mixed in prior to eating).
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Note how the color changed from bright green to yellow and slightly translucent–this is normal

  • Sit back and enjoy the show for the next 3-4 weeks (mine usually seems to hit the spot at about 2.5 weeks with the house at 72).
  • Do watch for mold, browned cabbage, pink cabbage, or fuzz. This indicates you need to throw it away. Apparently a bit of white sludge in the bottom or on top is normal. Mine have never produced that, so I can’t say how it affects taste.
  • When it reaches the desired taste and texture (anywhere from 1 week to 6 weeks or longer), make sure all parts are still covered in brine, remove the coconut oil cover, put a lid on the jar, and place it in the fridge. It will keep for months (if you can keep it around that long!).

I don’t know if I’ll ever learn all there is to know about fermentation. It’s part science, part art, part instinct.  If you’re brave, read up on the internet posts and get going–that’s how I started. Looking back, I’d have done a little more reading first. That being said, two great resources I now own and highly recommend are Wild Fermentation:  The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (found here http://www.wildfermentation.com/wild-fermentation/) and The Art of Fermentation (found here http://www.wildfermentation.com/the-art-of-fermentation/).

An Obsession: Tomato Pie (Paleo Crust)

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Everyone who knows me, knows I live for tomato season.  In fact, I just dragged my sad, half-dead tomato bush into a sunnier spot in hopes it might produce a few more jewels.  I love the smell of ripe tomatoes and I adore them sliced thick, with salt, right out of the garden.  I keep them stacked up in my kitchen window sill all summer and I’ll eat them until my mouth is just about raw.  One of my absolute favorite  treats is tomato pie.  It can be simple with just a bit of cheese and herbs or thick and gooey, layered with loads of cheese and bacon.  You can use a barely there crust, a thick and toothy crust, a gluten-free crust, or no crust at all.  With a crust it can be paired with a salad for a light lunch or dinner, or without a crust it can function as a side dish.  There are so many variations on this dish, you’ll never get tired of it!  This particular recipe is a paleo/gluten-free version that I use most often.

Try switching up your herbs and cheeses:  Asiago and chervil, goat cheese and basil, cheddar with bacon and green onions, or Gruyère and thyme as a few suggestions. you can also play with the thickness of the tomato, whether you keep skins on or off, and whether you remove the seeds or not.  I like to leave the skins and seeds intact and I prefer mine sliced fairly thick.

Tomato Pie with Paleo Crust

For Crust:

  • 3/4 cup almond flour plus 1 TBSP almond flour
  • 2 TBSP coconut flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 TBSP coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • cracked black pepper to taste

For Pie Filling:

  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes (the better the tomato, the better the result); cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
  • 2 TBSP fresh, chopped basil (can use 2TBSP Garden Gourmet Basil Paste mixed into mayo in a pinch–see pics)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade is best)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut flour
  • Cracked black pepper

1.  Slice the tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Place tomato slices on a double layer of paper towels and salt the top-facing side with 1/4 or so teaspoon salt. Let sit for 10 minutes.  While tomatoes rest, prepare crust.

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Look at those beauties!

2.  While tomatoes rest, add almond flour, coconut flour, salt, and pepper to food processor.  Pulse 5 or so times to combine.  Add coconut oil and egg. Pulse about 10 times until ingredients are thoroughly mixed and dough resembles cookie dough.

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Crumbly paleo crust

3.  Press dough into a 9 inch well-greased pie plate, slightly wetting fingers or spatula if necessary. Dough should be extremely thin. Place dough on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until edges start to brown.

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That once crumbly crust now pressed into the pie plate

3.  While pie crust is baking, flip tomatoes, salt with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and let rest 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, cover with another double layer of paper towels and press firmly to release excess water.

4.  Remove pie crust from oven and let stand 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, spread 1/4 cup mayonnaise on pie crust and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese, top with 1 TBSP fresh basil.  Sprinkle with coconut flour.

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Here comes the mayo, herbs, and cheese!

5.  Follow with a single layer of tomatoes. Add a second layer of 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup cheese, 1 TBSP fresh basil (or mix your Garden Gourmet Basil Paste with your mayonnaise as shown here), and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon coconut flour. Add another single layer of tomatoes. Top with 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of cheese, and cracked black pepper.

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More layering

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Final topping

5.  Return pie to oven and bake for 40 minutes until cheese is melted. Watch closely as a foil collar may be needed to avoid the crust becoming too dark. Let pie stand for a few minutes after removing from oven and before slicing.  Perfect tomatoey heaven.

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A tomato pie I’d fight over!

If you don’t have access to in-season, ripe tomatoes, look for organic vine-ripened varieties at the grocery store.  A day or two on the window sill will get them sweetened up, juicy, and red all the way through.

If you don’t want to use a crust, sprinkle a greased 9 inch pie plate with about 1 tablespoon of almond flour or 1 teaspoon coconut flour and about 1/4 cup of cheese.  Build pie the same after that. This method works best as a side dish as it’s a tad messy (but sooo delicious)!

Also, try switching up your herbs and cheeses:  Asiago and chervil, goat cheese and basil, cheddar with bacon and green onions, or Gruyère and caramelized onions as a few suggestions. You can also play with the thickness of the tomato, whether you keep the skins on or off, and whether you remove the seeds or not.

Enjoy!