Saturday, January 31, 2015

Yuzu Marmelade

   A bee store customer brought me a very special present this past week, a small jar of home made yuzu marmalade.  Yuzu is a very hardy citrus tree imported from Japan and Korea. My customer is the gardener for the Herb Farm Restaurant. She learned about yuzu as she tended their garden and decided to get one of her own. Three years later her little yuzu tree produced its first fruit, which look like a mandarine orange but taste like a cross between a mandarine and a grapefruit. Since the tree only produced 18 little yuzu, she was only able to use it in two different recipes.  It just so happened that I had a few left over biscuits in the fridge at the store and we had an impromptu marmalade tasting at the Beez Neez.  It was really quite tasty. I liked it better than any marmalade I had ever tried before. I have to admit that I was quite impressed just with the fact that the citrus in the marmalade had been grown right here in Snohomish County, Washington.

   I looked up yuzu on the internet and found that it is about the hardiest citrus cultivated by man. The internet article claimed it was hardy to 15 degrees. It is used in both Korean and Japanese cuisine.  Rarely is it eaten fresh, but rather cooked to produce a sauce or a tea. I learned from my daughter, Sarah, that the Koreans call it yuja. She has a favorite Korean fruit tea in which yuja is a primary ingredient. My Korean son-in-law would argue that the Japanese got yuzu from the Koreans and he would probably be right. It was domesticated from a wild hardy citrus found in China. Korea's colder climate would give them a lot more incentive to adopt or develop a hardy citrus. I'm wondering how well it might go as a substitute ingredient in Key Lime Pie? The name Yuzu Pie doesn't particularly grab me, but it just  might taste wonderful.

    My friend from the Herb Farm grows her yuzu in a green house, following the example of her employer. After my internet research, I'm not sure that is completely necessary. I've lived in Snohomish County for 22 years and the coldest temperature I've seen is 19 degrees.  That is still a four degree cushion. I'm thinking a yuzu could safely be planted in the ground and just covered during severe cold snaps as a precaution.  I found a source for these wonderful little trees. One Green World, a nursery in the Portland area, has yuzu trees. They're not particularly pricy at $29.95. Even more amazing, One Green world claims their Yuzu trees (Yuzu Ichandrin) are hardy to zero degrees.  That sounds more like an apple tree or cherry tree than a citrus tree. Now I really want to grow one.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Day in the Life...

     I thought I would do a post about how I spend my time on a typical day off. It ended up a bit random.

   I started off my day as usual, feeding the goats, ducks, and chickens. Then I listened to Chapter Twenty of last year's Priesthood Manual on my iPad for my morning scripture study. The iPad was a gift from Linda's sister Penny.  I have really enjoyed the teachings from the life of Joseph Fielding Smith. He was the Prophet of the church when I left to serve a mission in Northern Italy and he died a year or so later.  I learned of his death while we were tracting in Torino, Italy.  We knocked on the door of someone who had just heard it on the news.  One of the things I recently learned about Joseph Fielding Smith from reading the Priesthood Manual was that he liked to bake pies.  What's not to like about a man who bakes pies. The particular chapter I read yesterday morning was about showing love and kindness to our fellow man. I am personally very grateful for the good kindly men who lead the Church.

     After scripture study, I removed the failed lower element from our oven and drove to Everett to visit a dermatologist for a mole check.  I have accumulated a fair amount of moles. Linda thinks they are all cancer looking for a place to happen and worries about them a lot more than I do.  The doctor once again confirmed that none of them are a problem. After the doctor visit I drove back to Snohomish and stopped by the Beez Neez so I could do the bank deposits for Friday and Saturday. After the bank I stopped by the appliance recyclers in Snohomish and bought a new lower element for our oven.

    Next I drove to Staples Office supplies in Monroe to buy some hanging folders and a file cabinet for Linda. She is trying to get more organized in her family history work. She wants to write a book about her Ingram and Israel family lines, a very worthy project in my opinion.  I found a great deal, paying just $40.00 for a new two drawer file cabinet.  On my way home I stopped by the feed store next to the fair grounds in Monroe. That store was recently purchased by the Snohomish Co-op. I was curious to see what changes had been made. The only significant one I noticed was the conspicuous absence of the singing parrot. While I didn't get to listen to the parrot sing "I've Been Working on the Railroad" they did have a great sale on books. I paid half price for a wonderful book about poultry breeds. It has lots of beautiful color photos of chickens, ducks, and geese. I also bought a twenty pound bag of field corn (on the cob) in case visiting grand children want to play with my corn sheller. All of the corn I grew this past year has already been run through the corn sheller.
My restocked corn sheller

yet another poultry book

    I returned home and set up Linda's file cabinet.  I told her I had bought the file cabinet for her just so I could have the cardboard for mulching our vegetable garden.  After installing the file cabinet I installed the new element into our oven.  The absence of a working lower element had sabotaged the lemon meringue pies I baked on Sunday afternoon. The pie shells slumped and didn't bake properly on the bottom. The filling and meringue tasted great, but the crust was disappointing. Needless to say with bread dough sitting in the fridge, I was very anxious to have the oven fixed

    I spent a few hours working outside. I raked out the goat barn and put down fresh straw there and in their sleeping shelter. We bought one of those small calf shelters a few months back to give the goats a drier place to sleep.  I think it has worked out well, but it did need a fresh layer of straw.  I also put down fresh straw in the duck pen and the chicken pen and cleaned out the chicken coop and nest boxes. I did all of that with just one bale of straw. It is amazing how it expands once the baling twine is cut. After taking care of the animals I put down some more cardboard in the front garden area and spread straw over it.  There is always a small amount of wheat kernels left in the straw so I end up with wheat trying to grow up from the straw mulch.  Its pretty easy to weed out the wheat before it establishes any serious roots. However, I'm very tempted to let the wheat grow up some time just so I can finally try out the scythe Quentin gave me.  I'm not sure I can bring myself to sacrifice very much of the garden area for that.

    Probably the most important event of the day was the arrival in the mail of our most recent family portrait. My grand daughter Sofie had done an anime style portrait of Linda and I as a Christmas gift.
She did the finishing touches after our return from Maryland. Linda and I were both very pleased with how it turned out. I think she could put herself through college doing family portraits if she was so inclined. Note the personal touches she included such as the honeybee in the blossom above my head, the red huckleberry bush, the large rock from our yard, Black Jack, and an anonymous chicken.
I think Linda makes a pretty cute anime character

   After my time with the animals and vegetable garden I spent an hour or so working on a blog post. Then I had to go down to the Beez Neez to get ready for a talk at the Snohomish Garden Club.  This was a pretty convenient speaking engagement as the garden club meets at the Snohomish Senior Center, located just around the block from the bee store. I don't think its much more than 100 feet from door to door.  I was a little stressed as I couldn't locate the DVD which had my power point presentation on it. Instead I just gathered up some posters and props and prepared to do it the old fashioned way. The talk seemed to go well.  I used some of the jokes I've accumulated from 8 years of teaching beekeeping classes. They all wanted to know what they could do to help the bees The short answer I gave them was to use less pesticides.  Its nice to plant things that are bee friendly, but the most important thing is to just stop using the poisons. I think I may have picked up a few honey customers as well.

    I got home from the garden club meeting at about 9:15. I enjoyed a late supper of stuffed bell peppers with a slice of lemon meringue pie (with a slightly soggy crust) for dessert. Then I spent some time looking at letters from my mission that my daughter Sarah has been scanning into the computer.  I thought it was pretty good day.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Artisan Bread in five Minutes a Day

   My daughter Rachel gave me this wonderful new cookbook for Christmas. It is titled "The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" , written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I've gotten three new cookbooks in the last month or so and I'm having a little trouble absorbing them as fast as I would like.  However, I love good sour dough bread so I was very anxious to try some of the recipes in this book.

   The main thrust of this book is that a relatively wet bread dough will store well in the fridge for several weeks. This method offers the flexibility of making very nice artisan bread throughout that two week period on fairly short notice.  This is somewhat similar to a book by Peter Reinhart, also an advocate of refrigerating dough. However, these authors seem to have further simplified the process. I tried it out for the first time yesterday.

     I had mixed up the dough on Saturday morning.  All I had to do was put the yeast in luke warm water, mix that with the dry ingredients until all of the flour was incorporated into the dough, let the dough rise for a few hours, then put it into the fridge. The dough is then available to be baked into bread any time over the next two weeks.  There was absolutely no kneading. I mixed it by hand with a wooden spoon in a big plastic container with a lid. I let it rise for two hours with the lid cracked. At the end of the rise I put the container in the fridge and I was done.  The active bread making literally took less than ten minutes.

   We had Stake Conference yesterday so I was home from church at 12:30 pm rather than the usual 5:30 pm.  I had nothing particular on my plate until 6:30 p.m when I was hosting a meeting for the family history consultants in our ward. I had committed to make some lemon meringue pies for that little event so I was going to be in the kitchen anyhow. It seems like a good time to bake bread too.  This time all I had to do was to shape the loaf, let it rest for about 40 minutes, then bake it in the oven at 450 degrees for about a half hour. It turned out very well. Linda pronounced it to be delicious.  My only mistake was in slicing the top of the boule loaf I made. I cut a cross into the top to help it expand better in the oven. I didn't cut the second slice as deeply so the loaf didn't rise evenly in the oven. Instead it blew out a little to one side. I am still very excited  that my first effort turned out so well. I'm now looking forward to making homemade sourdough bread bowls.

My first effort from Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day
    This is book is an update to an earlier edition. I had actually looked closely at this book at Powell's when I was visiting Rachel last fall. I almost bought it, but instead bought an Italian version of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". Talk about having your cake and eating it too. I was really tickled when I opened Rachel's Christmas gift and found the book I had almost purchased at Powell's in Portland. I wonder if she was stalking me at the bookstore?

They truly are the gift of California Sunshine

     On the subject of Christmas gifts, when Linda and I returned home from visiting Lia in Maryland I found a package waiting for us on the back deck. It turned out to be a box of oranges from my younger brother Guy and his wife Heidi.  They live in Napa, California and have both an orange tree and a lemon tree in their back yard. The oranges are so amazing. They are so much more flavorful than what passes for oranges in the grocery store. They really aren't even the same fruit.  There is only one down side to this lovely gift.  After they are gone, we won't be able to bring ourselves to buy oranges in the store for about six months.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Cornbread Book

    I received several cookbooks as Christmas presents this year. My daughter Sarah gave me the wonderful little book featured in the title. My daughter Rachel gave me an updated edition of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes. I opened Sarah's gift before we flew back to Maryland to visit my daughter Lia and family. That gave me the opportunity to read the book on the flight and while on vacation at Lia's house.  Not that it was a difficult read. It only has 132 pages, counting the index.  I just usually don't have that much free time to breeze right through a cookbook.  On the other hand, I didn't feel comfortable trying out a lot of recipes, being in a strange kitchen.  I think making 150 tamales over New Year's Eve was probably enough experimentation in Lia's kitchen for one visit.

    The book is hardbound with a very yellow plain cover. It starts with some interesting historical information about corn and cornbread.  The author,  Jeremy Jackson, has a funny style of writing that I enjoyed. The recipes finally start on page 29, so subtracting the index there are only about 95 pages of cornbread recipes. The first one in the book, "Sweet Cornbread",  is the one closest to the recipe I use from the Fanny Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook, "Golden Corn Cake". However, between my use of home grown and ground indian corn vs store-bought cornmeal and the use of buttermilk and baking soda rather than milk and baking powder, I'm not sure the resulting cornbread would seem to be that close.

     Once we arrived home I was very anxious to try out some of the recipes.  The recipe I chose for my initial effort was Nut-butter Biscuits, found on pages 58 and 59.  I found this an intriguing recipe for several reasons. First of all I have never tried adding cornmeal to a biscuit recipe. Secondly, the recipe uses peanut butter for the oil rather than lard or butter. There is a warning in the recipe that the resulting biscuit dough will be very wet. I found that to be the case. My dough wasn't too much thicker than pancake batter. Rather than add a little more flour I simply made drop biscuits They turned out very tasty but it was a little strange eating them. They smelled more like peanut butter cookies than biscuits. Linda was a bit suspicious when I offered her a biscuit, but conceded that they tasted good. I took one downstairs to Grandma Cozy, my resident biscuit expert. She pronounced them to be pretty good biscuits, noting that the peanut butter smell seemed much stronger than the peanut butter taste.  She told me that if I added a quarter cup of sugar to the recipe I could probably call them a cookie.  Now for all of the peanut butter lovers among my family and blog followers I have included the recipe as follows:


    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    2/3 cup cornmeal
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    6 tablespoons peanut butter
    1 cup buttermilk
    1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions (abbreviated somewhat)

1. Preheat oven to 450
2. Mix dry ingredients, then cut in peanut butter with a pastry cutter
3. Add buttermilk and cream and stir until everything is combined.
4. Turn dough onto well-floured surface, pat into a rectangle and fold in half. Pat again into a rectangle and cut out the biscuits.
5. Put biscuits on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 16 minutes until they're light brown.

Nut-Butter Biscuits

    I did a number of substitutions of course. First of all, why use baking powder when the recipe calls for a whole cup of buttermilk. I used one teaspoon of baking soda and no baking powder. I used pastry flour rather than all-purpose flour since I have pastry flour and I know it will make a lighter biscuit. Last of all, I substituted an additional 1/2 cup of buttermilk rather than use heavy cream because I didn't have any heavy cream in the fridge at the time. The recipe instructions actually suggested that as an alternative. I was not trying to make a low calorie version, I just didn't have that ingredient on hand. The extra buttermilk rather than cream probably contributed to my dough being too wet to fold.  I chose to make drop biscuits rather than add more flour.  The results were good but I intend to try this recipe again using the heavy cream.

   I so enjoyed this little cookbook. It was obvious that the author shared my love of cornbread and that the book had been written as a labor of love. I did a little checking on the internet and found the author's email address.  Then I wrote the very first fan letter of my life. I simply told him how much I enjoyed his book and thanked him for writing it. He had mentioned in the book about the great yellow cornbread vs white cornbread controversy. (This is primarily a north vs south issue.) I told him that I used home grown indian corn instead.  A few days later I got a response from the author, thanking me for my note and asking if I had any recommendations as to indian corn varieties. That makes me "one for one" on getting a personal response to a fan letter.

   I mentioned the book Rachel gave me in the opening to this blog post. Unfortunately, I didn't get to open that gift until we returned from Maryland. It is a much bigger book and will require more time to absorb.  However, I am very anxious to read it and guarantee it will be prominently featured in some future posts.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Knitting with little Cozy

   We were visiting family in Maryland during Christmas break. I was sitting on the couch knitting when my five year old grand daughter, Cozette, asked me to teach her how to knit. Cozette is quite the fun little elf. I wouldn't be surprised if her ears developed points sometime in the future. I wasn't particularly optimistic that I could teach a five year old to knit.  However, it is hard to tell Cozette "No" so I found a ball of acrylic yarn (a good use for acrylic yarn), picked out some larger needles, and sat down with Cozy to teach her to knit.
I just couldn't tell Cozette "No" when she asked to learn to knit.

    For the purpose of instructing my grand daughter I divided the process into four steps, 1. Insert needle knitwise, 2. Wrap the yarn around needle, 3. Pull the yarn through, and 4. Slip the stitch off  the original needle.  I figured we would have a little knitting lesson and she would then get bored and lose interest.  I was very surprised when that didn't happen.  Over the course of the last week of our visit I had about ten knitting lessons with Cozette.  I kept the lessons pretty short and added the operations gradually. I let her start out just wrapping the yarn around the needle for each stitch.  I gradually added the other operations such that she can now do all four steps.  She would sing out the different steps as she did them. She determined that our little practice piece would be a rug for the new dollhouse she got for Christmas.

   I'm sure I didn't get Cozy to the point where she could knit all on her own before we flew home to Snohomish.  First of all, she has just learned how to do the "knit" stitch. I didn't taught her how to "purl", "cast on", "cast off", etc. Also, no one in her immediate family knits so there isn't anyone who can give her refresher training or help expand her skills. However, if she lived near us, I am sure I could have her knitting all by herself within a month. I was surprised by her perseverance. We managed to finish the "rug" for her new doll house before we left.

Cozy learning to knit

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Years Eve Tamales

    Linda and I are in the midst of a two week Christmas vacation visit with the Romeros in Rockville, Maryland. Several weeks before our arrival, my daughter, Lia, had expressed a desire to learn how to make tamales during our visit. We decided this would be a great New Years Eve activity.

   I did my homework before taking on this project. To start with I spent about 45 minutes discussing the making of tamales with Ethan, my personal Mexican food consultant.  He serves as the financial clerk in our ward so I count tithing with him after church about every other week. Between Ethan's hispanic heritage, his passion for Mexican food , and his service of a mission for the church in Mexico, he is the most qualified authority on Mexican food amoung my personal acquaintances.  Ethan stressed the importance that the masa is very well mixed so there are no little dry lumps in the tamales. I followed that counsel carefully and I know it contributed to a successful outcome. He also gave me advice on the steaming process and the value of using a tamale steamer.

    In addition to my consultation with Ethan,  I also watched a number of YouTube videos on the making of tamales. I love You Tube because I'm very much a visual learner. It's so much easier for me to do something after watching somebody else do it. That helped a great deal when it came to preparing the corn husks, spreading the masa on the masa on the corn husks and using the proper amount of meat and sauce for the filling. As Linda watched me add the filling she expressed serious reservations as to the relatively small amount of meat and sauce I was putting into the individual tamales. Having seen it done by an expert I had the confidence to ignore her well-intentioned "back seat driving." I'm sure if I hadn't watched the videos I would have used way to much filling.
The proper amount of filling per the you tube videos

    We had some initial difficulties locating a few key ingredients. First of all, we had to go to a genuine Mexican market in order to buy lard. I was surprised we couldn't find lard in the regular grocery stores where Lia normally shops. The visit to the Mexican market was well worth the trouble as while we were there we discovered a good deal on a tamale steamer. They also sold the dry feild corn used to make the masa, but Lia didn't want to start totally from scratch. We decided to buy the sauce in a jar rather than making our own. Part of that decision was out of concern that the tamales not end up too hot.  The sauce recipe we had called for dried ancho chiles and we were unsure as to the degree of heat we would have in the finished product.  We were also experiencing some serious time pressures as a youth dance and a Chinese dance performance at the DC Temple Visitor Center had also found their way onto the Romero family's schedule of New Years Eve activities.
I'm using an oiled plastic bag to spread the masa mixture on the wrapper 

     We boiled a four pound pork roast with onions and garlic, deboned the pork, and cut it into small pieces.  Lia's recipe called for water in the masa mix. One of my You Tube videos suggested using the stock from cooking the pork and the addition of the onion and garlic.  We both thought that sounded much more flavorful. We used an entire 4.4 pound bag of masa flour to mix up the masa as we were determined to fill our huge tamale steamer with about 100 tamales.  The recipe on the bag called for the following ingredients:

2 cups masa harina
2 cups water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard

        There were 14 cups of masa flour in the bag so we expanded that out to 14 cups of water (we used mostly meat stock), 4 2/3 cups lard, 7 teaspoons of baking powder, and seven teaspoons of salt. In for a penny, in for a pound.  About the time the pork was shredded and the masa mixed, Lia had to leave to drive Anthony and Sofia to a church dance in Germantown, MD.  I then spent about an hour making tamales befoer we too had to leave in order to drive to the Chinese dance performance with Cozette, Jonny and James. I only had time to get about fifty tamales made before we had to leave. Tony was staying home as he was coming down with a cold so he steamed the tamales.
The tamale steamer just half full

     The tamales turned out quite well. Everybody seemed to like them. I thought they were at their best when we first removed them from the steamer. When we reheated them as we ate them over the following days they weren't quite as soft and tender. That may be a reflection on our tamale rewarming technique as they were mainly microwaved. I will definitely have to get me a tamale steamer when I return home. As much as Linda and I both love tamales it seems like a good project to do once in a while.
Linda enjoying the finished product