Chili-1

I was reminded recently that there can be disadvantages to being a chef. I belong to one of our local Kiwanis groups. The other week, another Kiwanis group, in a town a few miles away, decided to hold a Chili cook-off and invited a number of other Kiwanis groups from around the area. I was asked to represent our group in the cook-off as I was a chef, and should have no problem winning it. Needless to say, I didn’t win, or even come in second. My problem; I am a chef at heart, and I over thought the whole thing. I have cooked in a number of Chili cook-offs, in the past, geared my chili more towards those “sanctioned” events rather than the crowd that I would be feeding and who would, ultimately be also judging. Sure, I strayed outside the bounds of a sanctioned event by adding beans to my chili, but I knew that we wouldn’t be following the “professional” rules anyway and up here, in Wisconsin, it is unthinkable that Chili wouldn’t contain beans. But other than that, I made a chili that I felt confident could win any major Chili cook-off.

So what happened? What went wrong? It’s simple. I feel into the trap that many chefs fall into at sometime in their career. They forget who they are cooking for, and instead, let their ego take over, at which point they often determine that their guests are “clueless” and need to be educated about “real” food. Sometimes this can work out for chefs, but for the vast majority of us, the reality of the business side of the restaurant world slaps us in the face, and reminds us that it isn’t about feeding our egos but about creating something that our guests will enjoy and want to come back to time and again.

There are many chefs out there that like to think of themselves as “artists” and I would bet that every chef goes through that phase at one point or another. Sure for a small handful that thought process works out for them, but for most of us those thoughts eventually lead to failure as we alienate many of our guests, slowly shrinking that pool of repeat customers until our business can no longer be sustained and we have to shut our doors, putting numerous people out of work, and adding to the statistics of yet another failed restaurant.

I’m not saying that what we chefs do doesn’t have an element of artistry, or at the very least, craftsmanship to it, but once we start buying into the hype that we are artists, we start taking what we do way too seriously and give ourselves too much credit. Nor am I saying that chefs should not pour their heart and soul into their food, which will always engender a bit of ego on our part. But we can never forget that what we do is cook food for people and the people should be our main focus at times. Sure we can attempt to “educate” our customers, and should do so, but it needs to come from a genuine place, not a place filled with our ego, demanding that they understand our food or get out. Yes, food is our job, but we can never forget that our real job is people, and the serving of those people. Chefs can, and should, have a passion for food, but more importantly they need a passion for serving people. If you just have the passion for food you can get by as a chef, and maybe even gain a bit of notoriety for yourself, but while your flame my burn hot, it will die out rather quickly. But couple that passion for food with a passion for serving people and not only can that flame burn bright, but it can burn long.

So back to my Chili story; yes I lost and it was a rather humiliating loss in my eyes. The chilis that took 1st and 2nd place were soupy concoctions full of ground beef, chunks of tomato and onion and just the faintest hints of chili powder and cumin in them. And the only complaints about them were that they would have been better with noodles in them (and yes, that is a big thing up here in Wisconsin). In other words the exact opposite of what mine was; thick, hearty, with the heat of 4 different kinds of chili peppers powering it up. No ground beef in my chili, but rather a mixture of diced chuck and sirloin. While I might have found the winning chilis laughable I was obviously in the minority as these dishes readily beat me. And why, did they beat me? I could go on and on about what “real” chili is, how good mine was, and how bland theirs was, but the truth of the matter is, I didn’t think about my audience. If I hadn’t let my ego get in the way and I took a couple of minutes to really think about it, I would have realized that there was no way my type of chili would win up here in Wisconsin with the type of crowd I was cooking for.

That being said, how about a recipe for a non-winning chili? In all honesty, I think that this recipe is pretty damn good, and I shared some of the chili with a few friends that are chili fanatics like me and it has gotten good reviews, so I am going to share it. I mean, come on, it’s loaded with bourbon. What’s not to like?!

Bourbon Barrel Chili
makes approximately 1 1/4 gallons

3 cups Water
4 each Guajillo Peppers*
4 each Ancho Peppers*
3 pounds Diced Beef (stew meat, chuck, roasts, inside round, sirloin, etc.)
2 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
5 each Jalapenos, diced (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
4 cloves Garlic, minced
3 medium Onions, peeled and diced
2 tsp. Ground Cumin
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
1 Tbs. Ground Chipotle pepper
1 ½ cups Bourbon or whiskey
¼ cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbs. Cocoa Powder
1 can (6oz) Tomato Paste
1 can (28 oz) Diced Tomato (with the juice)
3 cans (15 oz each) Pinto Beans, drained

Directions
Heat a dry pan (no oil) over high heat. Meanwhile bring the water to a boil. Toast the chili peppers, on each side, until just starting to brown and add to the water. Turn off heat and allow the peppers soften for 10 minutes. Drain off the water but reserve. Open up the chilis and remove the seeds. Place in a blender with just enough of the reserved liquid to make a thick puree. Set aside.

Heat a large pot over high heat. Add the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan, sauté the meat until nice and brown.

Chili-Meat

Set aside. Add the onions and jalapenos to the pot, reduce the heat to medium high and sauté the onions until soft and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes longer. Add the cumin, oregano and ground chipotle pepper and sauté another minute. Add the chili paste you made earlier and sauté another 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and sauté for another 3 minutes. Add the Bourbon, brown sugar and cocoa powder. Cook for 5 minutes to remove most of the alcohol. Stir often to keep the mixture from burning. Finally add the diced tomato and pinto beans, along with the meat, stir, cover and cook for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is nice and tender. Stir often to keep chili from burning. Season with salt and pepper. If chili is too thick use reserved water, from softening the peppers, to thin it out.

If you want to increase the heat use more guajillos or anchos, or use cayenne. Do not use more chipotle as the smoky flavor will start to overpower all the other flavors.

*Guajillo and Ancho peppers are dried Mexican chili peppers and can be found in Mexican markets are stores with larger Hispanic food aisles.

Chili-2

Peach-Preserves1

This post probably should have gone out about 2 weeks ago, as peach season as ended for most of us here in the US, but in case it hasn’t, or you find yourself with a bunch of leftover peaches then this is your lucky day.

A couple of weeks ago my wife was out and about and had stopped at this little Amish farm that also runs a bakery out of their house. She loves to stop there to pick up their Bacon-Cheese Bread, Pecan Sticky Buns and their soft Pretzels. This day they had a number of boxes of peaches sitting outside with a sign telling people that they were free. Word was that they had gotten partially frozen and now weren’t any good for what they needed them for. Well Wanda picked up a box and brought them home. They ended up being quite mealy in texture so they weren’t very good for eating although they had great flavor which means they would be great for cooking. Pie was made. Cobbler was made, and of course, preserves were made.

Being me, I couldn’t just make plain old Peach Preserves. I had to dress it up a little so I made Gingered Peach Preserves and Bourbon Peach Preserves, but if these don’t interest you, no problem. The recipe starts off as plain Peach Preserves and I just add to it. If you want them plain then just skip the add-ins and continue to follow the recipe. Also, this recipe doesn’t use any pectin and relies on cooking down the preserves to the proper consistency. This results in a jam that may not be as fresh and vibrant tasting as a short cooked jam, but you end up with a deeper, more concentrated flavor. In my opinion neither is better…just different from each other.

Peach Preserves 3 Ways – Plain, Gingered or Bourbon
makes 8-10 half pints

8 pounds Peaches
5 cups Sugar
1/3 cup Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Candied Ginger, chopped fine (optional)*
1/2 cup Bourbon (optional)*
*(double portion if you only want to make one type and will be using the whole batch)

Big a large pot of water to a rolling boil. While waiting for the water to boil, cut a shallow “X” in the blossom end of each peach. Also prepare an ice bath. Clean and sanitize your sink then fill with cold water and about 2-3 pounds of ice. When your water comes to a boil add a few peaches at a time and cook for 1-1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure all sides get time in the boiling water. Transfer immediately to the ice bath. Repeat until all the peaches have been blanched.

Using the back of a knife gently scrape the skins from the peaches. If you cooked and chilled them properly the skins should easily come off. Cut the peaches in half, remove the pits, and then roughly chop. Divide the peaches, sugar, and lemon juice in half and place in 2 large, non-reactive pots. Add the candied ginger to 1 pot and the bourbon to the other. Alternatively, if just making 1 kind of preserves, place all the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in 1 pot. Double the portion of bourbon or ginger if adding to the whole amount of peaches.

Cook over medium heat until the juices start to develop then turn up to medium high. Gently mash the pieces to reach the texture you prefer. I like my preserves a little chunky so I don’t mash too much.

Place a couple of saucers in the freezer. While the preserves are cooking prepare your jars and lids for canning-sterilize your jars and lids, get the water boiling in your canner. Don’t forget to stir the preserves regularly while doing this so that they don’t stick and burn.

Cook the preserves for 20-25 minutes before you start checking for doneness. To test for the jellying point I use 2 methods. First is the ”sheeting” method. Dip a cool metal spoon into the preserves and pull it out of the steam rising off the pot. The preserves should come off altogether as 1 “sheet.” If it drips off in single drips, one after the other, you still have a ways to go. If it starts off as 2 drips that then meld together you still have a little ways to go. If it sheets off the spoon you should be there. At that point I then double-check with the “cold plate” test. Place a small mound of the preserves onto one of the plates you put in the freezer. Place it back in the fridge for about 30 seconds then remove. If the preserves hold its shape when the plate is tilted they are done. If it runs then you need to cook a little longer. You can also run your finger through the mound. If it runs back together cook a little longer. If it hold the line you drew then they are done.

At this point, transfer to your canning jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace. Top with lids, per the manufacturer’s directions and process, in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool, on a cooking rack until room temperature. Store any open preserves in the fridge.

Peach-Preserves2

Sauerkraut-Soup1

It’s Monday afternoon, and a cool, overcast, rainy, Autumn day. I worked all weekend so worked a couple of hours early this morning and am taking the rest of the day off. I’m not, normally, a huge soup fan, but when the weather gets like this I find myself, occasionally, craving a bowl of soup. I’m more of a stew, or chili, kind of guy. The last few days, though, I’ve been craving soup, specifically Sauerkraut soup, which is strange as I’ve never made any such thing, or even eaten something like it. All I know is that a few days ago I got the idea, in my head, that I wanted a soup made with sauerkraut, redolent with paprika, and of all things, it had to be vegetarian. Don’t ask me why, especially the vegetarian part. I try not to spend too much time inside my head as it can be a scary place!

So, I’m craving this soup that I’ve never had and I remember that not only do I have a large batch of homemade sauerkraut down in the fridge, but I’ve got a large, experimental batch of kohlrabi sauerkraut in the fermentation crock, thanks to my wife. It has been fermenting for about 3 weeks and is coming along nicely although I will probably let the rest ferment for another 2 weeks or so and get a little more sour.

So, how does one make kohlrabi sauerkraut? It is not much different than making regular sauerkraut, with a few differences. Up in Wisconsin, they grow some pretty big kohlrabi, some of them weighing 3-4 pounds each. My wife bought 2 of them to experiment with. She peeled them, cut them into chunks then used our food processor to shred the kohlrabi. Usually, the next step in making sauerkraut is to pound the heck out of the cabbage, while salting it. This both tenderizes the cabbage and helps draw out its moisture which in turn creates its own brine. Because kohlrabi is not nearly as resilient as cabbage she skipped this step and instead went straight to packing the kohlrabi into the fermentation vessel. Meanwhile she made a brine from 8 cups of water with 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of kosher salt added. She let that cool to room temperature then covered the kohlrabi with the brine, weighted it down and sealed up the fermentation crock. If you want to know more about making sauerkraut, then check out my older post on it here.

On to the soup…while I used the kohlrabi sauerkraut in this soup, it can definitely be made with regular sauerkraut, which is probably what I will use the next time I make it as I doubt the kohlrabi sauerkraut will be around long enough. I also used a mix of paprika in this soup. I used some Hungarian Hot Paprika and some Spanish Smoked Paprika. I wanted the smoked paprika in there since I wasn’t using any meat, and the flavors of this soup definitely called for some bacon, which you could also use. Feel free to use any style, or mix of styles, of paprika that you choose. Just keep the final amount the same. Finally the recipe calls for 3 European style long peppers. I’m not more specific as I am not sure what I used. We belong to a CSA and in one of our recent boxes received a plethora of unnamed peppers.

Sauerkraut Soup
serves 6-8

2 medium Onions, peeled and diced
3 each European style long, thin peppers, seeded and diced
3 medium Tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp. Hungarian Hot Paprika
1 Tbs. Spanish Smoked Paprika
1 pound Sauerkraut, drained
1 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
4 cups Water
Salt
Pepper
Sour Cream (garnish, optional)
Apple, peeled and diced (garnish, optional)

Soup-Veggies

In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat. Add the onions and the peppers.

Veggies-cooking

Saute until the vegetables start to brown. Don’t let them burn but don’t be afraid to let them brown up some. This will help to develop a depth to the flavor.

Veggies-Browned

Add the paprika and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Finally, add the sauerkraut and water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and diced apple.

Sauerkraut-Soup2

German-Apple-Pancake

For years I have wanted to travel the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive in Autumn. It’s a beautiful drive that takes you through the Kettle Moraine State Park as well as a number of cute, little Wisconsin towns. I was determined that this year we would take the drive. With my work schedule about to get crazy again, yesterday was our only opportunity to do it, so, despite the low clouds and almost constant drizzle we loaded up the van and took the drive.

Sign-Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive

The northern end the drive starts about 45 minutes east of where we live and immediately plunges into the Northern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Park, winding its way around kettles, moraines, and drumlins; all geographic formations caused by the glaciers of the last ice age. The picture below shows a kettle, which is a depression in the ground. It is created when the glaciers left behind huge blocks of ice. Those blocks got covered with dirt and debris and over hundreds of years, eventually melted. When they melted they left behind deep impressions in the land as the ground sunk along with the melting ice blocks. Many of these kettles filled with water and are known as kettle ponds. The landscape in this area is filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of these small, sunken ponds.

Fall-Kettle-Moraine

Of course, there we also passed a number of farm stands selling apples, squashes, eggs, and, of course pumpkins.

Gigi-and-giant-pumpkin

We are also blessed with the fact that we don’t live too far from Horicon Marsh. This giant marshland is a major stopping point along the migratory routes of hundreds of different species and millions of individual birds. It attracts everything from songbirds to pelicans, to various water fowl. We spotted these Sandhill Cranes in a farmer’s field looking for leftover corn to feed on.

Cranes

For me the trip was somewhat nostalgic. Not that I had ever travelled these roads as a kid, but it reminded me of the “Sunday” drives we used to take back then. With our busy lives, and the price of gas nowadays, people don’t do that often anymore. It was a time when the journey was as important, or even more important, than the destination. A time to sit back, slow down and really look at the world around you. I know, for me, I don’t do that often enough.

Despite the rain and gloom we had a great time and even my 7-year-old daughter enjoyed most of the ride although by the end of 4 hours, mostly stuck in a car, she was ready for the journey to be over. Looking out, from our vantage point on Holy Hill, at the “National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians” I hope that we can make this an Autumn tradition, not only to stop and take in the beauty of Wisconsin, but to take a day to slow down and relax before the hectic pace of the holidays begin.

Fall-Colors

German Apple Pancakes
a perfect dish for a cool Fall morning

serves 4

BATTER:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. grated whole nutmeg
3 each eggs
1 cup milk
2 Tbs. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract (almond extract also makes a good variation)

APPLE MIXTURE:
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated whole nutmeg
1 cup thinly sliced Granny Smith apple, peeled

Powdered sugar

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk, sugar, extract and butter. Pour liquid ingredients into the dry and stir to combine. Set aside.

Pre heat your oven to 425°F. Heat a large cast iron (or other heavy skillet) over high heat and add the butter. Add the apples and sauté for 2 minutes, being careful not to break them up. Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Apples-Sauteing

Cook until the mixture starts to bubble then quickly pour in the batter.

Apple-Pancake-batter

Place skillet in oven and bake for 20 minutes. The pancake will puff up quite a bit then collapse on itself. When done, remove from oven and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.

Mango-Chipotle-Chicken

It’s September and the kids are back in school. It’s hard to believe that summer is behind us, such as it was. I don’t know about your area of the world, but here in Wisconsin we didn’t get much of a summer, not that I’m complaining. In fact, in many ways it was quite nice, but it just didn’t seem like summer. First off, we had more than our fair share of dark, rainy days, and the temperatures never really got all that hot. That meant that there wasn’t a lot of swimming done this year, but as someone who likes it cool at nights, for sleeping it was great…and we saved a bundle on our electric bill this year as we rarely ran our air conditioner. With all the rain I also didn’t get out to grill as much as I like to. Now, I’m not a “fair weather” griller, but I just didn’t find myself yearning to get out and grill very often this year. Luckily, I’m not hampered by the seasons when it comes to grilling, so missing out on summer grilling doesn’t mean a whole lot as I still have 4 months of grilling time left this year.

This simple marinade is great way to bring back the flavors of summer no matter what time of the year you pull out your grill. The base of the marinade is Mango nectar which can now be found in most grocery stores, in the Hispanic section. The chipotle adds a bit of heat and lends its smokiness to that that comes naturally from grilling. While I usually preach about people turning their meat too soon and too often while grilling, because of the sweetness of this marinade you will want to turn your chicken often as the chicken will burn rather quickly if not watched and turned regularly.

Mango Chipotle Chicken
serves 4-6

2 cloves Garlic
2 each Limes, juiced
2 each Chipotle peppers, in adobo + 1 tsp of the adobo sauce
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
6 oz Mango Nectar
2 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
2 pounds Chicken Thighs

Peel and smash the garlic. Chop the chipotle pepper into a coarse puree. Combine all the ingredients except the chicken and mix until well combined. Add the chicken and rub the marinade into the chicken.

Chicken-Marinating

Place the chicken in the fridge and marinate for, at least 2, and no more than 6 hours. Pre heat your grill to medium. For this recipe the grill shouldn’t be super hot because the sweetness of the marinade, which could easily burn. Place the chicken, skin side down, on the grill.

Chicken-Grilling

After about 3 minutes, flip the chicken over. Because of the sugar in the marinade the chicken will want to stick to the grill so be gentle when turning it so that you keep the skin intact. Continue grilling, flipping about every 3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. It should take about 25-30 minutes over medium heat. Serve immediately.

Mango-Chipotle-Chicken2

waynes-jerky-logo

One of the things I love about living in Wisconsin is discovering all the great, little, local food producers around the state, from brewers and distillers, to cheesemakers, to farmers, to butchers, Wisconsin is full of wonderfully crafted, local foods. I don’t claim that Wisconsin has the monopoly on locally crafted food. Every state has it’s fair share of people making great food, but that doesn’t diminish the joy I take in discovering new, local producers here in Wisconsin.

I recently discovered a great, little company just north of Green Bay, in Sobieski, Wi, called Wayne’s Jerky. Wayne has been selling Jerky since 2006, selling to local bars, grocery stores, and at area farmer’s markets. Since then they’ve opened up an online store that can be found at www.waynesjerky.com. It’s still a small operation so you know that Wayne still makes each and every pouch of jerky he sells, and claims that he doesn’t even make the jerky until you place your order online, ensuring the freshest, best quality jerky out there. Wayne’s Jerky offers up a limited number of different flavors, 6 beef, 3 turkey, and 1 mushroom jerky. Sure, it may not be a lot of varieties, but again this is a small operation and to ensure freshness and quality sometimes it’s best to keep your selection somewhat limited.

I was recently in contact with the people over at Wayne’s and they sent me a couple of samples to check out and review. Unfortunately they only sent me some of the beef jerky to sample so I can’t offer up any opinions on their turkey or mushroom, although I have to admit I am very intrigued by their mushroom jerky and will probably have to pick some up soon to satisfy my curiosity. I received samples of their Mild, Teriyaki and Ghost Pepper varieties.

I will have to admit that I am not usually a fan of the chopped and formed type of jerky (as compared to whole muscle jerky) but I was won over by the texture of all 3 samples I tried. This jerky had a great tough, but not too tough chew to it and when it did finally give and fall apart the meat hadn’t been chopped so finely that I couldn’t detect some of the individual muscle fibers. Poorly made chopped and formed jerky can often fall apart, in your mouth, into a crumbly texture that isn’t very pleasing. This jerky still had some body to it

Flavor wise, my personal favorite was the Ghost Pepper flavored jerky while my wife (my wife absolutely loves beef jerky so she jumped at the chance to be my tasting partner) choose the Mild as her favorite. We both felt that the Teriyaki didn’t quite live up to it’s name.

The Mild jerky has a great smokiness to it, supported by just the right amount of saltiness, which in turn is balanced by a hint of sweetness. And it’s all backed up by a noticeable garlic flavor that helps to bring all the other flavors together.

If you like heat, then the Ghost Pepper jerky is for you. It punches you in the face with both it’s heat and Ghost Pepper flavor, and while it definitely burns it’s not so spicy as to render it inedible to all those except the most ardent of chileheads. If you are not a fan of hot foods this is one you will probably want to stay away from. My wife, who is not a fan of super spicy foods, tried it, and while she did not hate it, felt that it was something she could do without. I, on the other hand, ended up eating a small handful, while my other hand clutched an ice-cold beer- a great combination.

Our only disappointment was the Teriyaki flavored jerky. While the jerky wasn’t bad, neither of us really “got” the teriyaki flavor. There was a definite rise in the sweetness level as compared to the Mild jerky, but we really didn’t get any soy sauce, ginger, or sesame flavor that is intrinsic to teriyaki. And in fact, there was a definite celery seed flavor that came through that had no relation to teriyaki at. Again, not a bad piece of jerky, but one that didn’t live up to its name for either of us.

One of the other great things I really liked about this jerky is the way it is packaged. The jerky comes cut into approximately 1 1/2″ squares. This makes for a great, easy to-go snack. Just pop a couple in your mouth and you are off and running and at $6.95 for a 3.5oz bag, that’s a decent deal, compared to some of the other jerkies out there.

So while we felt that the Teriyaki jerky was a miss, for us, overall we were impressed with Wayne’s Jerky and think you will be also. Check them out on there website or look them up on Facebook, and be sure to order a bag or two.

Fermented-Veggies

I haven’t mentioned it yet this year, but we belong to a new CSA, thanks to my wife. It has been a couple of years since we last belonged to one and this winter my wife decided it was time we joined another one, and this time she didn’t want to pay for it so she decided that she would give up 4 hours a week to help at the farm in return for a worker’s share. So thanks to her we have plenty of produce filling up our fridge this summer. THANKS HONEY!!!!!

For a few weeks we were getting salad turnips in every delivery. If you haven’t had salad turnips before, and you probably haven’t, you need to search them out. They are fantastic, like a combination between turnips and radishes. They have a peppery bite, but not as peppery or spicy as radishes, but they also have that deep, mellow earthy flavor of a turnip. And the best part is they are great raw. In fact I don’t even bother to peel them. Just wash well, scrubbing away and dirt, then slice and eat, or pop the whole thing in your mouth. Of course they also make a great addition to a salad.

One day I was in the mood to get a couple batches of fermented pickles going and I wondered what the turnips would be like pickled. Doing a quick internet, and cookbook search, I didn’t come across very much about pickling turnips. Either that meant that they weren’t a good vegetable to pickle or people out there just weren’t writing about it. I choose to believe the latter as I really wanted to experiment with these and see what would happen. I’m a huge fan of Dilly Beans so I figured if I fermented them that way no matter what they would still turn out okay.

We had also received a few bunches of carrots and I had a number of jalapenos on hand so I figured, since I was going to be making up some brine I might as well make up a batch of spicy carrot sticks also. Again, since the carrots were fresh, and young the skin wasn’t terribly thick or bitter so I figured, with a good washing I would just leave the skins on again.

Ingredients Needed
1-1 1/2 pounds Salad Turnips
3/4 pound Carrots
1/4 pound Jalapenos
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 heads Fresh Dill and numerous dill fronds
3 Tbs. + 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
8 cups Water

So, to ferment your vegetables you first need to make a brine. Combine 8 cups of water with 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of either kosher, sea, or canning salt. If using sea salt and it is in large flakes crush it up a bit first. Also make sure that your salt does not contain any other ingredients; no iodine or anti-caking agents as these will ruin your ferment. Bring the water and salt to a boil to dissolve the salt then let cook to room temperature. Meanwhile wash and sterilize 2-1 quart canning jars, along with their lids. Wash your salad turnips and quarter them. Stuff into one of the jars along with half of the garlic and the dill. How much dill you use is all dependent on how “dilly” you like your veggies. I found 2 heads and about 4-6 large fronds were about perfect.

Cut the carrots into sticks, what every size you like although I would keep them no larger than 1/4″ square. Slice the jalapenos in half, remove the seeds and ribs and cut into sticks. Arrange in the second jar and add the garlic.

Pour in the room temperature brine, making sure that all the vegetables are covered by at least 1/4-1/2″ of brine. Place the lids on and just give 1 turn to the ring of the lid. You don’t want to tighten it down completely as during the fermentation process CO2 will be made and it needs to escape. Place on a tray, to catch any liquid that might escape, and place somewhere warm, but not hot, out of direct sunlight to ferment. Fermentation will take any were from 5-14 days, depending on the temperature and how sour you like your vegetables. During this time your brine will turn cloudy. This is normal in most fermentations especially if you have hard water. Usually it is nothing to worry about. After about 3 days, quickly open the jars and ensure that all the veggies are still submerged. If you see a bit of white mold on top, carefully skim it off. Close up the jars again. After 5 days you can start tasting your veggies. The longer you ferment them the less salty and more sour they will become. The vegetables will also start to soften a bit. If you want your veggies nice and crisp then 5-6 days is probably about how long you want to go. If you don’t mind losing a bit of crispness and want a more sour pickle then let them go a few days longer. Once they are where you want them at place them in the fridge but leaves the lid loose for another 24 hours as it will take time for the fermentation to slow. I usually then allow my pickles to sit another week in the fridge as the flavors will mature and mellow a bit as they sit.

I let both of these go for 1 week. I would have like to have had them a little more sour but we were heading off on vacation and I thought another week would be long and was worried that they would spoil in that time frame without me there to check them every couple of days.

And how did they turn out? Really good!!! The turnips were great, although they could have been a bit more sour. The dill flavor was just about right on. The carrots taste great but the jalapenos lost a good bit of their heat which disappointed me a bit as I was looking for something spicier, but as I said I really like the flavor.

15. August 2014 · 2 comments · Categories: Chef Talk · Tags:

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It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned one of my major sponsors for this blog, “Chef Talk-a food lover’s link to professional chefs.” As many of you are aware, not only do I write this blog but I am very active on Chef Talk, writing articles, cookbook & product reviews, and helping to moderate their forums. I recently wrote an article on the major regional styles of barbecue that can be found here in the US, entitled “A Brief Tour of American Barbecue.” Just click on the title to take you to the article. If you are new to the world of barbecue you will definitely want to check it out, and if you are an old pro then check it out also and add your 2 cents to the comments.

I also recently wrote an article on how to make Romesco Sauce, a wonderful condiment that combines roasted red peppers, garlic and nuts all ground into a wonderful paste. By its description it may not sound all that appetizing, but trust me, this something you need to try, especially now with all the great, fresh produce coming in from the garden. Just follow this link.

In addition, I’ve written a number of other articles since I last updated you on my works at Chef Talk, both food articles and cookbook reviews. Too see all that I have written recently stop by my bio page where I list all the articles and reviews that I write. You can find the link to there here.

I do need to mention a few other goings on over at Chef Talk. First, fellow writer, and friend, Jim Berman has written a few very insightful, no holds bar, articles about the restaurant industry. You can check them out here, here, and here. Jim is a fantastic writer, and teacher. Both his essay articles and all of his “how-to” articles are well worth checking out.

And, finally, every month, on the forum boards we have a Monthly Challenge. This month the challenge is Eggs. There are lots of great ideas to check out and I encourage all my readers to, not only check it out, but join the forums and get involved. It’s a great place to get inspiration and ask some of those food related questions you might have. You can find this month’s challenge at “August 2014 Challenge-Eggs”

14. August 2014 · 2 comments · Categories: travel · Tags: , ,

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I just got back from vacation yesterday. We spent 5 days in Cleveland, Ohio. It may not be the most exciting destination in the world, but my wife has lots of family there, both on her Mom’s and Dad’s side. Besides, its been 14 years since we had last been there so it was time. And I have to admit (but don’t let my wife know or I’ll never live it down) I like spending time with a lot of her family. It was a mellow trip with a bit of sightseeing and a bit of drinking, but mostly it was about hanging out with family. While there were a lot of highlights, to the trip, for my wife and I, one of our favorite highlights was our trip to West Side Market, for my wife because it was a trip down memory lane, and for me because it is foodie heaven. There is just something about the moment when enter the place as a cacophony of aromas hits you square in the face; baked goods, produce, seafood, herbs, and meats, both raw and smoked, all creating this pungent yet comforting mix smells. Built in 1902, the market actually stretches back to the 1840′s, but it was in 1902 that the building that houses the market was built. Since then it has been added to, renovated and restored, but still holds onto it’s turn-of-the-century charm.

If you have never experienced West Side Market, and you find yourself in Cleveland, it is a must do. You’ll find butchers of many different ethnicities cutting and smoking pork, beef, poultry, lamb and goat, and the Hungarian sausages found here are not rivaled in this country. There are bakers here, specializing in breads, cakes, cupcakes, macaroons, and a variety of ethnic sweets I’ve never heard of or seen.

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There are vendors there selling a huge variety of olives, oils, vinegars, and herbs, as well as a couple of fish mongers and a store that specializes in all things ethnic, from Chinese to German and everything in between. Nor can you miss the fabulous cheese purveyors. And that’s just on the inside. Outside you will find many produce vendors selling just about any fruit or vegetable you could desire. You can come and do all your weekly shopping or do as my wife does and buy a roll from one of the bakers, a 1/4 pound of freshly made liverwurst from one of the butchers and a few of the beautiful olives from another stand, and make yourself an impromptu lunch.

Rasberry-Pie-Ice-Cream

It’s July, and all around this country that means that raspberries are in season. While I love all berries, I am especially fond of raspberries, especially black raspberries, which are becoming more and more difficult to find. As a kid, growing up in Vermont, wild black raspberries grew all around the village I lived in. We’d bike around the village, hitting all the little raspberry patches we could find, hoping that we’d get there first, before the other kids cleaned the patch out of all the ripe ones, often coming home with sticky fingers and purple stains on our tee shirts.

We were also lucky as there were a couple of small patches of black raspberries on our property. I’d spend the month picking ripe berries, which Mom would then freeze until my brother and I had picked enough to make a pie. They were small berry patches so it usually took the entire season to accumulate enough for that pie. I probably could have hastened the process by saving the berries we picked around the village, but it was an unspoken rule that those random, wild patches were there for the eating by us kids and it just didn’t seem right to harvest them for any other purpose.

So you can imagine that after about a month of picking, the pie that Mom made seemed like the best thing in the world. And I still feel that way. I’ve made many a raspberry pie as an adult, but none seem to live up to the memory of those pies from my youth, even when I can get my hands on wild, black raspberries.

Raspberries

Making berry pies is a pretty simple process and at it’s most basic doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. Especially when it comes to raspberries I don’t like to add a lot of other flavors although if you are inclined, a pinch of cinnamon or a dash of ground ginger would be a fine addition to this recipe. Also, while I would love to have made a Black Raspberry pie, all I could get my hands on were your standard red raspberries. I’m not talking your standard grocery store raspberries, which more often than not, lack almost any kind of flavor, but fresh, local raspberries picked at one of the local U-pick places that pop up each summer.

Raspberry Pie
makes 1 pie (9-9 1/2 inch)

1 1/3 cup Sugar, granulated
5 cups Raspberries, fresh
2 1/2 Tbs. Instant Tapioca granules
2 1/2 Tbs. Cornstarch
1 Tbs. Butter, diced
Your favorite pie crust for a 2 crust pie

To measure out your raspberries, first gently crush them. The idea is not to smash them into oblivion, but merely to compress them so that you get an accurate measurement. The way I do it is to pour my raspberries into a 2 cup measuring cup and tamp them down with a potato masher, adding and mashing until I fill it up to the 2 cup mark. I then dump the raspberries into a large bowl and repeat until I have 5 cups of slightly smashed berries. Mix in the sugar, tapioca and cornstarch and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350°F and line your pie tin with your pie crust. Pour the berry mixture into the prepared pie tin and cover with the other pie dough. You can either do a weave topped crust, or if you go for a solid crust make sure to cut a number of steam vents into it. At this point you can leave the crust plain or you can brush it with about 1 Tbs. of cream and sprinkle it with approximately 1 Tbs. of sugar. I do it both either way depending on my mood that day. Place in the oven, with a tray on the rack below to catch and juices that might spill over. Bake for approximately 50-55 minutes or until the crust is browned and the juices are bubbling. Once done remove from the oven.

Raspberry-Pie-Baked

Now comes the hard part. You really need to let this pie cool for at least 3-4 hours for it to set up. If you cut into it too soon the tapioca and cornstarch will not have finished doing their job and you will end up with juice running all over the bottom of your pie plate. It’s hard but resist the urge to cut into it too soon. And, of course, don’t forget to serve with ice cream!!!

Raspberry-Pie

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