Tag Archives: inthekitchen

Ramp season

If you’ve never heard of them – well I’m not surprised. They’re a member of the allium family (along with garlic and onions) but ramps (or ramsons) grow wild throughout much of eastern north america.

I’ve actually never foraged for ramps before this year. And I was starting to think that’s a good thing. Ramps have been in the news ’round these parts for some pretty serious over-harvesting. But we went out for an early season hike, and along with all those wildflowers I posted about, we found these guys:

ramps

And lots more where they came from. I’ve heard you shouldn’t harvest more than a third of any wild thing when you’re foraging. We harvested less than a tenth of the ramps growing on the hillside we found.

What we brought home was just the right amount for us. I’ve got two jars of refrigerator pickles steeping at the back of my fridge:

ramps for pickling

And we made a ginger beef stir fry with the remaining ramps and all the leaves. The first green harvest of the season:

ramps with ginger beef

Of course this was two weeks ago. The dandelions are blooming now, so they’re up next! And just in case you’d forgotten, my book (Cast Iron, Cast On) has two recipes for edible dandelions!

What’s cooking

Nothing. Nothing is cooking in this post, because I have a new fermentation project instead! I got some kimchi starter from my mom over Easter weekend. Kimchi, in case you’re wondering, is a fermented cabbage product similar to sauerkraut but different. (It’s an east/west thing: I think kimchi is Korean and sauerkraut German – but my food geography is fuzzy at best)

I started with the simple kimchi recipe from The Kitchn. In fact I decided to follow it very closely since this is my first try. The big change was that after I’d packed everything in the jar I added some juice from my mom’s kimchi. This is a basic microbiology principle, instead of just letting it sit and hoping the right bacteria take hold adding raw kimchi juice inoculates the cabbage mix with some bacteria that I already know make good kimchi.

I made a couple of small substitutions as well. I swapped out the daikon radish for carrots and I left out the red pepper flakes. I also took their suggestion and used seaweed flakes instead of fish sauce to add umami flavor. The author recommends this as a vegetarian alternative. I was just a little weirded out by the idea of fermented fish products.

I let the jar ferment for five days, tasting it every day. The kimchi had that fermented bite by about day 3 and the extra two days it was more a fading of the fresh cabbage flavor that I noticed. I’m sure the flavors will continue to meld in the fridge.

kimchi

Now I just need to decide what I’m doing with all this kimchi besides eating it as a side dish with the occasional sandwich. Luckily it keeps long-term in the fridge.

Bacon Gingersnaps

In the grand tradition of putting bacon into random things I would like to present this recipe. It’s AMAZING. Possibly because gingersnaps are not really a sweet cookie, so they go with the bacon much better than some other things I’ve tried (bacon ice cream, I’m looking at you.) I hope you enjoy it, I’m probably just gonna leave this here until next year. It’s a wonderful way to wrap up the season!

bgs ginger

Bacon Gingersnaps

Ingredients
3/4 cup bacon fat*
1 cup white sugar, plus extra for rolling
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 TBSP chopped crystalized ginger
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp cinnamon

bgs ing

In a big bowl cream the sugar into the bacon fat. In a smaller bowl beat the egg, then add the egg and molasses into the mix. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and all spices. Mix until a smooth dough forms. You can mix everything by hand. Or break out the kitchenaid, use a metal blade, and this dough whips up so quickly you’ll be able to make it AND chase a toddler around the kitchen to keep her entertained.

bgs mixer

Chill the dough for at least an hour. I’m not kidding. This dough is much softer than butter based doughs. I actually left half in the fridge while rolling cookies with the first half.

Preheat the oven to 350F and prep your favorite non-stick cookie sheets.** Put a layer of white sugar in a flat, open bowl or plate.

Once the dough is nice a firm break off tablespoon sized lumps and roll into smooth little balls. Roll these balls in white sugar and arrange them on the sheet with about 2″ between each. The cookies will spread out as they cook.

bgs balls

Tuck the cookie sheet into the oven for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will spread out, then puff up a bit (that’s the baking soda) then flatten as they cool. You want them to be dark and just starting to crackle on the top – but not burnt around the edges. Good luck with that (I rotated 4 trays through the oven and only *almost* burned one) Once out of the oven let them cook on the sheet for a minute, then transfer them to the cooking rack.

bgs cookies

Enjoy them! But don’t eat the whole batch, even if you want to. That’s a lot of bacon fat to consume in one sitting… This recipe originated from a newspaper. Somewhere. My coworker’s father copied it and sent it to her. She modified it and passed it along to me. I tweaked a couple more things before I was totally happy with it.

*Note: We save our bacon fat and use it in many recipes. I’m not going to pretend it’s healthy. But if your subbing it in for lard, crisco, or butter – it’s probably not that much worse for you either.
Also note: I’m not a purist when saving fat, some mornings it’s darker than others. Sometimes there may be bacony bits in the mix. I have never, not once, used this mottled jar of fat in cooking and thought “gee, I wish this was less bacony.”

**say whatever you want about the ugly patina on my old cookie sheets – but they don’t really need anything to be “non-stick” these days…

Jams

Our elderberry bush had a really good year. Which means I had enough fruit to try another batch of jam! In fact I had enough even after Windsor “helped” by picking and eating the berries off two or three clusters of fruit.

ederberries

I did not, however, have enough berries to try and make a seedless batch. Maybe next time… But the seeds are small like raspberries or blackberries so they don’t detract too much from the sauce.

elderberry mush

Oh yes. I said sauce. Because the jam didn’t set. Again. Anyone have a good tip for elderberry jam that actually firms up? I have this problem every time. This time around I added the amount of pectin called for in the recipe AND I cooked an apple down into the berries (apple adds bulk and natural pectin.) It’s pretty good elderberry sauce, I think it’ll be amazing stirred into yogurt. But the surprise winner for jam this year is the other batch pictured here:

elderberry etc

That’s plum orange cardamom. The plums were going squishy in the fridge drawer by the time I made it*. Also they weren’t very tasty fresh. And I only peeled about half of them. But I didn’t want them to go completely to waste so I made up this recipe without even checking the Internet. I think it was something like 2 cups of flesh and juice from some small, slightly bitter, plums and an equal part sugar. One apple, some amount of pectin, a bit of dried orange peel, and a sprinkle of cardamom.

Ohh myyy is it amazing jam. Bright, tart, flavorful, zesty. I’m very sad about how few jars there are.

*these jams, and these photos, are at least 2 months old. This is just how far behind life I am right now.

muffin challenge

We narrowly averted a breakfast crisis this weekend. We had run out of bread the day before, and the chickens have gone all sneaky and are hiding their eggs on us. Which meant that Saturday morning we had very few breakfast foods in the house.

I figured I could whip up a batch of muffins to fill the void. But it turns out that most quick bread recipes call for eggs. Flipping through my beat up copy of Joy I found just one egg free quick bread recipe – and it make beer bread. Their beer bread is dark, dense, and crumbly. It’s amazing with soup, but not really something I’d turn into breakfast muffins.

But I was working on a deadline (we were getting hungry) and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time researching. So I figured I could make it do. The flour in this recipe is half all purpose and half whole wheat. I changed that up, replacing the whole wheat portion with buckwheat. I added butter to keep things moist and fluff them up a bit. And I added raisins – because I like my breakfast muffins with fruit. I used the lightest beer we had on hand, which also happened to be a fruity flavor.

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These muffins were not just passable, they were GOOD. They still had that hint of yeastiness that beer bread always carries. But they were much lighter, and fruitier – which is a good thing in a muffin (probably not in a soup bread…)

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I felt like a breakfast hero all morning!

Testing a recipe

For the last two weekends I’ve carefully baked a pie. Starting with the same recipe each time; I carefully adjust the amounts of every ingredient.

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I’ve made up plenty of recipes in the past. And while we were writing the book I tested several of Calley’s finished recipes. But this is the first time I’ve approached the development as methodically as this.

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I’m perfecting this pie recipe for publication! I’ll let you in on the details, eventually.

Side Projects

A friend of mine has a kombucha that’s been perking along happily, and she finally felt confident to split off some of the scoby and pass it my way. We’ve just about finished drinking my first batch, and it’s really yummy! I occasionally treat myself to store bought kombucha, so I knew what I was getting into – the drink is a bit vinegary and not everyone likes it. But the home brewed stuff is much smoother, and mine is flavored with black currants, so I think it’s a bit fruitier than the commercial stuff too.

kombacha

That weird sludgy thing in the big jug is the scoby. It’s a combination of bacteria and yeast and it is what ferments the tea. After a week or so in the big jug I pour off the tea into secondary jugs and add fruit. After about 4 more days it’s ready to drink.

The great thing about this is that it’s not time consuming. Steeping more tea is much faster than brewing a batch of wine (to reference another hobby of mine that’s taken a serious back-burner these days) and if something ferments for a couple of extra days there’s no harm done.

I really enjoyed my sourdough starter one summer a couple of years back. I’m curious to see how long I can keep this going.

Have you tried any live culture sorts of kitchen projects?

Christmas cookies

I needed some cookies for a swap at work. It was December 14th when I was baking, also known as the day after St. Lucia day. Also also known as the day many of my relatives uploaded their St. Lucia photos to facebook.

So with that inspiration I went searching for a pepparkakor cookie recipe (my sweedish family has passed down several recipes, including sweedish coffee bread and sweedish meatballs. But no pepparkakors)

pepparkakor

I used this one from PBS because it has maple syrup in it (Vermonty and Sweedish, what’s not to love!) I followed it almost exactly, except I added 1tsp of cardamom as well – because every sweedish recipe from my family includes cardamom (yes, even the meatballs) so I figured it ought to go in spiced cookies as well.

pepparkakor 1

Those are my great grandmother’s cookie cutters. Since we don’t have a family recipe I can’t say for certain they were ever used to make St. Lucia cookies before. But I think it’s a pretty safe bet.

And of course Windsor helped! If by “helped” you understand I mean she had a great time eating raw dough and smashing it into the little cookie cutters I gave her.

pepparkakor baby

You can’t deny she gets the concept. The dough is supposed to go in those things, somehow…

pumpkin flavored pumpkin seeds

Don’t laugh, these are delicious. And I’d argue that in this world where EVERYTHING is pumpkin flavored around the fall, pumpkin seeds have as much right to wear the spices as anything else.

What makes things pumpkin flavored, anyway? Because I promise you there’s very little actual pumpkin going into that latte*. The truth is that what people are labeling “pumpkin” flavored is really just the collection of spices that go into pumpkin pies. Personally, I would see nothing wrong with “autumn spiced lattes” but maybe I’m just too much of a stickler for the truth.

Anyway, back to my pumpkin seeds. These actually came out of a pumpkin, although you can make equally good toasted seeds with any other winter squash. I think the acorn squash seeds are a bit small for toasting, but it’s a personal preference. Since I was aiming for “pumpkin flavored” I didn’t bother to rinse these after I separated them from the pumpkin guts. I was pretty clean about the separation though, so there aren’t any chunks of pumpkin on my tray, just a nice orange sheen to the seeds:

seeds untoasted

For one pumpkin’s worth of seeds (almost a full cookie sheet) I sprinkled on 2Tbsp of raw sugar and less than 1/4tsp of salt. Plus the spices: just a pinch or two of each sprinkled on from a height over the pan so they spread evenly. In this instance I stuck with cinnamon and allspice. I considered clove, but I only have whole cloves and getting out the mortar and pestal for “a pinch” seemed overkill.

I’d recommend toasting these at 350F for 6-8 minutes. The trick is that with all the sugar and the pumpkin juices they can burn easily. For example, I got distracted by Windsor and my seeds were in the oven for almost 15 minutes.

seeds toasted

15 minutes is much too long, but they were still tasty.

*There’s a well known pumpkin beer which actually contains ZERO pumpkin. It’s kind of a scandal in the beer world…

Blueberry Sage jam

I’ve made another batch of freezer jam. This time I used blueberries we picked earlier this month. But then we went camping, and they got squished in the cooler. So I tossed them into the freezer for “later.”

blueberry jam 1

I’m glad later came this month, instead of next year! Again I just made up the recipe. Apparently having a baby makes me even MORE unable to follow directions… I mixed the blueberries and sugar: three cups of each. And then I let them sit in the fridge for a week. (I swear, I’m not doing this every time on purpose) Finally I cooked them down, tossed in some pectin, and some sage. That last bit was Neil’s idea – and it’s brilliant! Sage complements the blueberries perfectly, earthy and just a little green bitterness to counteract the sweet, fruity blueberry. I used 1.5 tsp for the 3 cups of berries and I highly recommend it! But possibly you should follow an actual recipe. This jam is delightful, but it never quite set up…

blueberry jam 2