Tag Archives: cooking

New W.I.P.:
Feeding Your Dog

feeding time!Since I’ve started putting a dollop of home made bone broth on top of the dogs kibbles, excitement among our canine companions at feeding time has really ramped up!

This experiment is the first step in hands-on research for a new book on feeding dogs.  It will cover the full spectrum from commercial kibble (what to look for and watch out for) to home-cooked dog food, to raw diets. Continue reading New W.I.P.:
Feeding Your Dog

Pottery House Cafe’, An Engagement to Remember

Marie and I rarely eat out.  By rarely I mean almost never.  There’s no reason for it.  We have a fully functional kitchen that is well stocked with foodstuffs.  Marie is an excellent cook and enjoys practicing that art.  Most of the time.  Sometimes she’d rather not.  I am … capable, in the kitchen as well.  I take a turn at the cooking several times a week and neither of us has died.

One occasion when we do eat out is Christmas eve.  This is an annual celebration.  We’re celebrating the anniversary of my proposal of marriage to Marie and her acceptance (she did not need to ponder the proposal for long).

The original event occurred at the Pere Marquette Lodge  near Grafton Illinois.  It’s actually in a state park of the same name.  There is a wonderful, rustic dining hall there, and that’s where I popped the question and bribed her with a ring.

While we lived in the area, we would return to Pere Marquette every year on Christmas eve to celebrate that event.  When we moved away and could no longer get to the actual scene of the event, we found similar locations to stand-in for that lodge on this annual celebration. Continue reading Pottery House Cafe’, An Engagement to Remember

Punching Up the Pizza with Cast Iron

My wife and I enjoy having a homemade pizza on Saturday nights. This pizza ends up being at least two dinners, sometimes a lunch as well. So it’s worth the effort we put into doing it up right.

Earlier this month my wife and I celebrated our birthdays — just 6 days apart. Part of our Birthday Week celebration was a trip to the Lodge Cast Iron factory outlet store in a nearby city where we bought several new pieces of cast iron cookware. One of these is a 16 inch cast iron pizza pan.

Cast Iron Pizza Pan

Around a hundred years ago (or it seems so) I worked my way through the management training program of a popular pizza chain store. On my way to management I learned a lot about making pizza by making and serving many thousands of them. One of the secrets of why a take-out pizza tastes better than most homemade is the oven. Continue Reading …

Peppers by Peter Piper n Polly

It rained during the night last and everything is wet.  Too wet to mow, but because it has been dry for most of last week I do not (for a change) have to worry about gnu’s and wildebeests moving if I don’t mow right away.

Last night when I took Bristol’s dinner out to him, I saw a medium sized rat crawl out through the skirting under my workshop and scamper into a drain line that leads up behind the garage – which is right on the edge of the forest.  It is getting to be that season, and I don’t want rats taking up residence in my workshop, so I patched the hole it used and put out some fresh D-con packets in places where vermin may find them but dogs won’t.

peppersAmong my chores this morning are to can a pint of red jalapenos and a pint of banana peppers. These can be water bathed, so I will use our stock pot to whip them up. It holds up to 4 pint jars. More than that and I need to drag out the big pressure canner, even if I’m water-bathing, because it’s big enough to hold up to 10 pints. It’s also heavy and takes a lot of water to fill it, so I only use that for large batches of water-bathed goods — and pressure canning, of course. But that only takes a little water. Continue reading Peppers by Peter Piper n Polly

Pickled Sandwich Peppers

peppers
Jalapenos and banana peppers

My pepper plants are doing very well this year.  Last year they were disappointing, but they like the conditions we’ve had this year – and maybe the composted chicken poo I mixed into the soil helps.  Marie and I like jalapenos and use them in cooking a variety of dishes.  Banana pepper rings are great as sandwich peppers and can be used in soups, casseroles and stews.  I’m about to put up a batch of peppers for use through the winter and next spring.  Want to watch?

Peppers can be preserved by freezing, dehydrating or canning. If canned, they can be pickled and water-bathed, or pressure canned in water. I’m going to can these. Pressure canning means cooking them at a high temperature for a longer time, and results in a mushier end product, so I’ll pickle this batch in a vinegar brine.

If I were going to can them whole or cut them into long strips, I’d blister them first and remove the skins. But putting them up as rings sidesteps the need for that.

What You Need:
• 6 pounds of peppers
• A fist of garlic (only for the banana peppers)
• A sharp knife
• 10 pint jars with lids and bands
• 1 stainless steel or enamelware pot for heating the brine
• A large pot or canner
• A canning tool kit is very helpful, but you can do this without it.

Brine:
• 10 cups white vinegar
• 2 cups water
• 8 teaspoons pickling salt (pickling salt has no iodine added, Kosher salt works too)
• 6 teaspoons Truvia (or 4 tablespoons sugar)

The Process:

Core and slice your peppers into bowls. I’m doing jalapenos and bananas so I keep them separate, but the recipe and processing is the same so they can all be canned in one batch.

Coring a banana pepper is easy: cut through just the pepper flesh all the way around the shoulder but not into the core. Now grab the stem and give it a gentle, rotary wiggle. That will break the webbing, and the core – complete with seeds – will slide right out.

For jalapenos, core them if you want, but keep the seeds to be included with the peppers. A lot of the heat is in the seeds, to keep their heat, include the seeds.

Put your jars into the canner (or large pot), cover with water, and sterilize by boiling for 10 minutes (more if you are above 1,000 feet of elevation). Do the lids too.

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In the stock pot combine the vinegar, water, sweetener and salt (note the salt is not a preservative but for flavor enhancement; you may omit it if you want). Heat this mixture just to boiling, then reduce the heat to maintain an easy simmer just to keep it hot.

Remove the jars one at a time with your jar grabber (found in that oh-so-handy canning tool set) and dump the water out of the jar into the sink. Fill the jar with pepper rings. If this jar is banana peppers, put a clove of garlic in the bottom first. Don’t waste your garlic on the jalapenos, you won’t taste it anyway. Go for a “firm fill” of the rings. Too loose and you’ll have little product in the jar and will run short of brine. Too tight and the rings break and become strips. Some people are kind of obsessive about having rings, so don’t mash them in too tight.

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Install your jar funnel (tool kit) and ladle in hot brine. You will want 1/2 inch of head space (air space above the liquid) so stop ladling a little short of that. Remove the funnel. Use a thin implement (I use an orange peeler, but anything you have on hand will do) to slide down the sides of the jar to jostle the rings a bit and dislodge any trapped air bubbles. Now top off the brine to achieve the 1/2-inch head space.

Wipe the rim with a clean paper towel or cloth, install a lid and a band and tighten just until finger tight. Guys, this is not the time to display your inhuman strength; just barely snug it up. Put this jar back in the canner and repeat.

If you run a little short on brine, top up that last jar with some straight vinegar.

When they are all filled, turn up the heat under the canner and bring to a boil. Start timing when you have a good rolling boil going. Process for at least 10 minutes: more if you are at a higher elevation. I do mine for 13 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the canner cool down a bit.

Remove the jars from the water. Be careful not to clank the jars into each other or the canner; they have an unfortunate tendency to explode right now. Be gentle and set them on a tea-towel-protected counter top to cool. Leave plenty of air space between them. Let them cool for a good 30 minutes.

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You should hear the lids plinking as the vacuum builds inside the cooling jars and the lids seal. That’s a good thing, it means you have done well.

After the jars have cooled so you can touch them, test all the lids. They should be sucked down tight so they don’t move or make noise when you press on the center of the lid. If it makes a plink-plonk sound when you press and release it, move that jar to the fridge and eat it first (give them two weeks to pickle). Those that sealed can be labeled, moved to your canned foods shelves, and put into long-term storage.

Originally Published by Grit Magazine: 7/29/2015

Biscuits and Gravy Casserole

Biscuits 'n' Gravy CasseroleWe often enjoy having breakfast for dinner. Not cold cereal, but eggs or biscuits and gravy, or sometimes even pancakes. During a particularly cold week I wanted something warming and comforting for the family dinner, but not the usual fare. I decided on a biscuits and gravy casserole. It turned out to be a great choice: a satisfying meal that warmed us up after a session of recovering a stuck truck from a long, icy driveway.

Biscuits and Gravy Casserole

  • 1 pound ground pork sausage.
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions divided in half
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 jumbo refrigerator biscuits

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease an 11-by-7-inch baking dish and place it on a baking tray larger than the dish (in case any casserole spills over during baking).

You may want to make your own biscuits instead of using the store-bought. That’s fine, just cook your sausage before you make the biscuits and roll the biscuits out to 1/4-inch thickness.  Read more…

Cast Iron Cookware: Part 2

Last time we looked at the history and development of cast iron cookware, this week we look at some more practical applications of the topic.

Where to Find Cast-Iron Pots and Pans

cast iron
Lodge cast iron cookware set

If you are looking for high quality cookware, you will be seeking Griswold and Wagner Ware items. As these companies went out of business half a century ago, antique shops and cooking specialty stores will be the best place to look. On occasion we read about someone who bought a box full of disused cast-iron cookware at a farm auction or yard sale for just a few dollars and hidden among them were a few treasures worth hundreds of times what he paid for the whole lot, but this is rare. More likely you will be finding Lodge cast-iron goods. They are still manufacturing in America and their products are available in many stores selling housewares as well as online. Lodge enjoys a good reputation for new-school cast iron. Finex Premium Cast Iron Cookware is an Oregon based company that was established to provide hand crafted high-end cookware for the specialty cooking market and is also an option if price is no object.

There are several French companies such as Le Creuset and Staub that are making cast-iron cookware, but these are mostly enamel coated. There were many European manufacturers, but most have gone out of business. Their products will be floating around out there, but not so much here in America as Griswold and Wagner, which were manufactured here and considered top brands. You may also find Vollrath, Favorite, Atlanta Stove Works, and Wapak brands, which were made in America but have since gone out of business or changed to other products.

Old-World vs New-World

The main difference in old world and new world cast-iron cookware is the means of casting the products. The old school way was to pour the molten iron compound into molds made of ceramic, then grind away the flash flanges after the molds were opened.  Read More…

Cast Iron Cookware

Cast-iron cookware has fallen in and out of favor with the masses over the course of settling and developing the North American continent. Early on, cast iron was one of the few materials practical for cooking implements because of its non-toxicity and durability. But as steel and aluminum were developed the dance began. Today, it seems, cast iron is again enjoying a resurgence of popularity.

History of Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron was developed during the 5th century B.C. in China. It was originally used to make ploughshares, pots and pagoda parts. Steel was more desirable for some of these uses, but was much more expensive so only the wealthy could afford it. In Europe, cast iron was not in use until the 15th century and its earliest uses were for cannon and shot.

Cast-iron cookware was developed in China during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.). First used for salt evaporation, cast iron cauldrons and cooking pots became favored for their durability and ability to retain heat, which improved the quality of meals cooked in them.

cast iron
Lodge cast iron cookware set

Europeans favored the material as well because they tended to cook in pots hung in a hearth or fireplace. Once wood or coal fired stoves took over, the cookware began to change, but then the stoves were cast iron. These trends were reflected in early American homes as well. Cast-iron pots and pans were durable, easy to use, and heated well. Cooking pots and pans with legless, flat bottoms were designed when cooking stoves became popular; this period of the late 19th century saw the introduction of the flat cast iron skillet.

Cast-iron cookware was especially popular among homemakers and housekeepers during the first half of the 20th century. Most American households had at least one cast-iron cooking pan, and such brands as Griswold and Wagner Ware were especially popular. Although both of these companies folded in the late 1950s and the brands are now owned by the American Culinary Corp., Wagner and Griswold cast-iron pots and pans from this era continue to see daily use among many households in the present day; they are also highly sought after by antique collectors and dealers. The Lodge Manufacturing is currently the only major manufacturer of cast-iron cookware in the United States, as most other cookware suppliers use pots and pans made in Asia or Europe.

Cast iron fell out of favor in the 1960s and 1970s, as teflon-coated aluminum non-stick cookware was introduced and quickly became the item of choice in many kitchens. Today, a large selection of cookware can be purchased from kitchen suppliers, of which cast iron comprises only a small fraction. However, the durability and reliability of cast iron as a cooking tool has ensured its survival, and cast iron cookware is still recommended by most cooks and chefs as an essential part of any kitchen.[1]

Strengths of Cast-Iron CookwareCast iron’s durability and ability to withstand high temperatures without warping made it popular with cooks throughout history. It is long lasting: some cast iron pans have been circulating for a hundred years. Even rusty models found in thrift stores or garage sales can be restored and made usable again – as long as they aren’t cracked or very badly pitted by rust.  Read More…

Green Tomato Relish

Over the weekend I pulled out my tomato plants.  The big ones; the cherry tomatoes are still producing and are in a bed that will lie fallow for the winter, so I’ll let those go a while longer.

The tomato plants I pulled yielded a quarter-basket of golf-ball sized green tomatoes; too small to batter and fry (I do like fried green tomatoes!) but too many to just toss in the compost.  I decided to make some green tomato relish.  I also have an abundance of sweet peppers right now; I could put those in there as well.  And of course some onion… and maybe some jalapeno to give it some zing.

green tomato relish

To save time, I ran the whole lot of them through a food processor with a grater blade installed.  I get better results – more consistent pieces – if I cut it all by hand, but that is very time consuming and I have other things that must get accomplished today.  I still had to pick out some large chunks and dice them by hand, but not too many. Continue reading Green Tomato Relish