Archive

Monthly Archives: November 2011

We had a turkey carcass, celery, onions and carrots leftover from Thanksgiving. Of course I’m going to make stock out of it. It came out alright, even though I had cans that seemed to take on a life of their own and nearly explode.

So early last friday I toss all of that, some bay leaves, some garlic cloves, salt and lots of water into our biggest pot. I brought the mixture to a boil, which took forever, then turned it down, put the lid on and went and sat on the couch with my wife.

A movie later the stoke stock was done and Jamey was taking a nap. Instead of just throwing it in a jar in the fridge, I decided to can the stuff. And not just a hot water bath, but pressure canning. So I did the prerequisite of sterilizing everything, getting the water boiling in the pressure cooker, which again took forever, and filling the cans with the stock.

I put the six jars back in the cooker, put on the lid, and waited. Eventually it was up to 10 pounds of pressure in there, what the book tells me is safe for stock, and I kept it there for 10 minutes. Then came the fun part of letting the pressure escape. It was like a jet took off in our kitchen.

Finally, the pressure hit zero and I could take out the jars. As soon as they came out, lids and bands on, seemingly perfect, stock began to jet out through the seal of the lids. It scared the hell out of me.

I didn’t know what was happening. Doesn’t stuff shrink when it’s heated? Why is my floor covered in delicious stock? When will these jars stop shooting liquid everywhere?

It didn’t take long for them to stop. Turns out I ignored a terribly important part of canning — head room. Head room’s the space between the top of your liquid in your can and the lid. I didn’t leave much, wanting to get as much of my hard work in the jars as possible. Turns out, the boiling liquid and gas inside the jars needed about 1/2 an inch, I left 1/8.

So now the stock, seals not perfect, sits in our fridge instead of our closet.

Read all the instructions. Lesson learned, for now.

I didn’t quit realize just how long it had been since I posted here. A lot has happened since Nov. 15. and now.

The first was a housewarming party. It was filled with food, friends and fun. We broke out the cider press and squeezed apples on a nice fall afternoon. That excitement was followed by indigestion. Eating all the spicy nuts, chocolate and pumpkin in sight is a debilitatingly bad idea.

The following week was the gastro-gluttony holiday of Thanksgiving. You’re probably surprised I didn’t blog about it, I know. Well, here’s a picture of the bird.

All other food was great, but I’m sure you had a similar spread at your table. What I really enjoy about Thanksgiving is sitting down at a table with my friends and family and spending hours in conversation, not worrying about our jobs or bills or anything except whether unbuckling your belt would offend anyone sitting near you or not.

I lied. It’s a few words too. My wife cooked lasagna last night. It was delicious. What’s even better, though, is having it as cold leftovers today for lunch. Most food is better as leftovers, and cold. Most notable exception — steak.

Hope all of your weekends were full of lounging and eating — just like the old Romans, minus the peacock feathers.

Here at the McArthur Manor our days were full of painting and soup, potato and leek soup.

The basic recipe is a few leeks and cloves of garlic cut up and sautéed, then throw in some broth and chopped up potatoes. Salt, sage and a little ground up pepper. Let that boil for a while, then I used our immersion blender to  blend everything. You could also move the stuff to a regular blender and back to the pot. Next we added some frozen pork we defrosted that was leftover from the wedding. It cooked for another 10 minutes like that. Pretty easy, pretty delicious.

The keen eye will notice there are mushrooms in that second picture. It’s because we had 3 mushrooms that needed used, so why not?

That’s the beauty of soup. It’s so easy to make and so hard to mess up. That, and it allows for almost limitless experimentation. Oh yeah, it’s pretty quick too.

On a food related note, the AP is reporting that locally grown food was a $4.8 billion economy in 2008, and is set to hit the $7 billion mark this year. Go local food!

Seeing local economies, especially food economies, grow means people are actually meeting the people who make their stuff, a point that is especially important when talking about food.

There’s a whole lot of people out there that want to start farming. A generation or two removed from the land and we want to go back. That says something. But that’s for another post.

If you live around a metro area and travel to the outskirts, you’ll notice signs selling farmland for development. Some old farmers, not having anyone to pass their operations on to, make a lot of cash off of letting people turn soil into strip malls.

There’s a movement out there to prevent that. Groups of people across the country are creating agriculture easements. These easements basically keep the ground in the hands of some farmers for perpetuity.

I’ve watched as Champaign, a medium-sized central Illinois town, has marched northward, eating what was once farmland. The farmhouses standout against Ruby Tuesday’s and ticky-tacky suburbs without lawns.

I think this line from a Grist article says it all.

For the 80 percent of Americans who reside in cities, it has become far too easy to take farmland for granted.

 

If you’re willing to put in a few extra minutes in the kitchen, I can tell you how to have better tasting food and save money. I sound like an infomercial salesman, I know! But I’m not Billy Mays. I’m still alive.

So next time you’re in the mood for chicken, buy a whole bird. Do what this video tells you and you’ll have all the pieces you’d get separately in the store, only cheaper. Cook them however you want. Buttermilk pan fry? Oven roasted? Sure. If you’re single, the meat’ll that’ll last you a week. A couple should have enough meat for three or four meals. A family of four could get at least two meals out of a bird.

After eating skillet roast legs and thighs last week, we had chicken, mushroom and pepper pizza on a homemade yeast crust.

Eat and enjoy, just don’t throw away the bones and carcass.

Once all the meat’s deboned, toss the inedible parts into a stock pot. Throw in two onions, two celery stalks and two carrots, all coarsely chopped. Toss in a few pealed cloves of garlic and a couple of bay leaves, then fill it up with about 10 cups of water. Add salt, maybe 3 or 4 tablespoons. Stir. Bring it to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, throw on a lid and forget about it for 1.5 hours. Skip the greasy spots on top and you’ve got homemade broth that’s delicious and cheaper than the stuff you’d get at the store. And it should be enough for almost two soups, depending on the size of your clan. It should stay good in your refrigerator for a week or two. For longer preservation you could freeze it, or if you’re real ambitious you could can the stock..

So out of a $5 chicken, you get between three and six meals. Not bad at all. Also, you know what exactly went into those meals, another plus.