Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stalking the Wild Yeast

    Lately I've been taken with a desire to learn how to bake bread. I've always been a big bread fan. I loved all of the different breads I tried in Italy and I really love the "artisan" type breads you can buy now like the pane pugliese they sell at Costco.  However, I'm quite certain that the bread would taste much better if I were able to make it myself.  Also, I don't like the idea of my quality of life being linked to closely to the continued existance of Costco

    I decided to take my budding obsession to the public library where I checked out a book entitled "52 Loaves".  The author was extremely obsessive (not merely mildly obsessive like me) and went on a one year quest to learn how to bake a particular type of bread that he really liked. He baked a loaf of what he called "peasant bread" every week for an entire year.  His journey of discovery included, among other things, trips to Morocco and France, a homebuilt outdoor clay oven, a week of baking school at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, a week of baking bread in a French monastary, and the capture of his own home grown sourdough starter known as a levain.  While I'm not planning on taking a class at a fancy hotel in Paris, I do think the idea of capturing my own yeast culture sounds pretty cool. Everything is better homegrown.

    So where does one go to hunt for wild yeast?  Fortunately, I didn't have to go any further than my backyard as wild yeast grow in abundance on many types of fruit.  The instructions in the book suggested using a couple of apples.  One of the apples is cut up into one inch cubes while the second apple is peeled. This is place in a jar with about a cup of water. If tap water is used it has to be poured into a jar and left open for 24 hours before use so that the chlorine can offgas.  The mixture is stirred daily and after three days it should be a bit foamy.  At that point the water is strained off and some flour and more water are added and Voila, you are a yeast farmer.  Needless to say my little science projects are sitting on our kitchen counter as I write. I'm at day two at the moment.  In order to hedge my bets I'm also trying a similar experiment using some of my grapes.  Linda has developed a great deal of patience over the years with my numerous hobbies.  This has stood me in very good stead in this latest endeaver.  I think she feels this is pretty harmless compared to the possible construction of an outdoor clay oven in the backyard.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ward Talent Show

   On Saturday night I played my fiddle at our ward talent show with James playing guitar. We played "King of the Fairies" while Brie Gidewall and Angelia Harper danced.  I would have asked Sophia and Annika to dance but they are inconveniently living way too far to the east. James and I were only able to practice together with the dancers a short time before we performed. Amazingly, it turned out very well. It was a big help that everyone's attention was riveted on the dancers which diverted their attention from the fiddler.  I think people enjoyed it almost as much as the synchronized swimming skit which was absolutely hilarious. (You can check out the skit on You Tube by searching SnychronizedSwimming-SnohomishWard.)
Sorry, but I didn't get any pictures of me playing or the girls dancing.

    I have been doing my best to try to use up my supply of barter pumpkins.  I made pumpkin pies a few days ago and another batch of pumpkin soup this afternoon.  My first effort at squash soup was seasoned with dried thyme, garlic and onions.  This time around I used onion, curry, tumeric, and nutmeg.  Linda said she liked this version better than the first one.  I had looked through about a dozen squash soup recipes on the internet and found quit a bit of variety in the spices used. I reached the conclusion that squash soup is a very flexible dish.

    On the subject of pumpkin pies, I have found a very good use for excess pumpkin pie filling. I always seem to have extra filling left over.  The last two times I made pumpkin pies I used the extra filling to make a pumpkin bread pudding. I just added some raisens, bread and some extra milk and or cream.  Both times it turned out very well. I think I liked it even better than the pies.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Homemade Hot Sauce

    About a week ago my good friend Terry Johnson shared the bounty of his garden and gave me a gift of a bag of various hot peppers and a bucket of tomatillos. He knows I'm an obsessive canner and knew I would find something to make of them.  The tomatillos and a handful of jalapenos are still waiting to be made into salsa verde but I cranked out a batch of hot sauce last night.  I'm not really a big hot sauce fan, but we do have several of those in the family so it seemed a good use of the hot peppers.  Sadly, I don't recall the names of two of the peppers, the long skinny curly red ones and the roundish red ones.  I'll have to ask Terry the next time I see him. Most of the peppers were either jalapeno or serrano peppers so I'm sure the hot sauce turned out pretty spicy regardless of the variety of the red pepper ingredients. You can tell I'm not a big hot sauce fan as I didn't personally sample my product.  Linda was complaining that her eyes were watering just from the peppers being cooked.  I actually wore rubber gloves to cut up the serrano and jalapeno peppers.

    I found my hot sauce recipe on the internet on a website entitled "Not Your Ordinary Homestead" The recipe goes as follows:

50 jalapeno peppers, sliced (obviously I used a mix of jalapenos, serranos, and two unknown varieties)
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of onion, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (omitted for the benefit of those in the family for whom salt is poison)
4 cups water
2 cups distilled white vinegar

    Sautee the onion, garlic and peppers in the oil for about five minutes, then add the water and cook for about twenty minutes until everything is soft. Let the peppers cool, then whiz it up in the blender, adding the vinegar gradually.  I have to admit that I just put the vinegar in all at once and blended it a bit longer.  The recipe was supposed to make about six cups and I ended up with a little more than eight. I canned 4 pint jars of hot sauce and put the remainder in the fridge to be added to my next batch of salsa verde. It came out a light orange-yellow color because of the mix of the green and red peppers.

   Speaking of orange-yellow, I baked a couple of pumpkin pies using one of the sugar pie pumpkins I got in trade a week or so back.  I used the recipe from the bottom of my ceramic pumpkin pie pan.  I will include the recipe later as part of it is still covered up by pumpkin pie.  They turned out so well that I have determined to bake and freeze the remaining sugar pie pumpkins over the next month lest any of them go to waste.

   The apple pie on the right was destined to settle a debt with one of my boy scouts. I used a mixture of Melrose and Ashmead's Kernal apples.  I love the flavor and texture of the Melrose apples but they are a little too scab prone.  Some years they turn out okay and others they are a scabby mess.  This is the first year I have harvested  any of Ashmead's Kernal apples. They were a nice combination of sweet, tart, and crisp and they were completely scab free. I just delivered the pie last night so I don't have any feedback on how well the apples worked in the pie.