Friday, February 27, 2015

Crock Fermented Sauerkraut

We typically grow cabbage and if it's a good season that yields a big harvest, we'll ferment a few heads for sauerkraut. I grew up in a German/Irish family where we ate kraut throughout the winter and sometimes twice for New Year's (eve and day). My mom would roast the kraut in a slow cooker along with a pork roast, smoked sausage and brown sugar. It was the kind of meal I could smell before I entered the house.

The fermentation process takes a few weeks. Be aware the aroma of fermenting vegetation can waft throughout the house. I try to close off the crock in a spare room or a cool basement to minimize the odor. If I have enough cabbage, I ferment 50 pounds at a time, which requires a five gallon crock. I've also had success fermenting a smaller batch (25 pounds of cabbage). I tend to avoid ferment-in-the-jar recipes. I think a large batch of fermenting cabbage has a better flavor. If we make more that what we'll eat, my friends and family enjoy the excess.

I ferment the cabbage in a five gallon, lead-free crock. Other non-reactive
containers suitable for curing include food grade plastic, glass or stainless steel.

Discard outer leaves and cut into quarters. Remove core.

We use a large antique slaw slicer (this one belonged to the hub's grandparents).
The small box on top slides across three large and very sharp blades in the base.
You could also use a food processor or knife to slice the cabbage.
Mix the cabbage and salt in the crock. Press until the liquid covers the cabbage.
Cover cabbage with cheesecloth and place a dinner plate over the cloth and top
with a weight to keep the cabbage submerged under the liquid. Remove scum daily.

Fermentation will be complete in 3-6 weeks. The cabbage will be wilted and yellow.
Remove kraut from crock to a large stock pot. Bring just to a simmer.
Pack hot kraut into jars and process quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Allow to cool for 12 hours. Remove rings, wipe down jars and store in a cool, dark place.

from Ball Blue Book
50 lbs cabbage
1 pound canning salt

Wash and drain heads. Remove outer leaves, cut heads into quarters and remove core. Use a shredder or sharp knife to cut cabbage into thin shreds. In a large clean, lead-free crock, thoroughly mix 3 Tbsp salt with 5 lbs cabbage and let stand for several minutes to wilt slightly. This allows packing without excessive breaking or bruising. Using hands, press down firmly until juice comes to the surface. Repeat shredding, salting and packing until all cabbage and salt is used. If juice does not cover cabbage, make a bring by boiling 1 1/2 Tbsp salt and 1 quart of water. Cool before using.

Cover cabbage with cheesecloth, tucking edges against the inside of the crock. Weight cabbage under brine by placing a dinner plate over cloth (add additional weight on top of plate, if necessary). Formation of gas bubbles indicates fermentation is taking place. Remove and discard scum formation each day. A room temperature of 70-75 degrees F is best for fermenting cabbage. Fermentation is usually complete in 3 to 6 weeks.

To can:
Bring kraut to a simmer (185-210 degrees). Do not boil. Pack into hot jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Ladle hot brine liquid over cabbage  leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust lids. Process pints 15 minutes, quarts 20 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yield: 18 quarts

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stuffed Baked Sandwich

Stuffed sandwiches are popular dinner option at my house - fresh bread baked around savory meats, cheeses and vegetables. I can usually find stuffing options in my fridge (leftovers are great) and the sandwich can be served hot or room temperature making it a popular tailgate, buffet and cocktail party dish. The sandwich is pretty and slices are fun to eat with various sauces for dipping.

The filling below is a guideline. I routinely change up the ingredients, using what I have on hand. I've added some ideas below but you can use whatever meats and cheeses your family likes. Shaping takes a bit of patience but gets easier with practice. And even if it's not perfect, it tastes fantastic.

Make dough and let rise. Punch down and roll to a 14 x 10 inch rectangle.

For the filling, I used ham, large pepperoni, salami and provolone. Instead of pimentos,
I sauteed sweet pepper, onion & mushrooms and topped with home canned banana peppers.

Layer filling in center of dough. Make one-inch cuts in the dough on both sides of the filling.

Place alternating dough strips across filling. Allow dough to rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
Brush dough with beaten egg white, sprinkle with seeds, salt and/or pepper and bake.

Allow sandwich to rest for five minutes before cutting,
or let cool completely and serve at room temperature.

I serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

Stuffed Baked Sandwich
Adapted from Fleischmann's Yeast Best Ever Breads
Makes one loaf

3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (up to half can be substituted with whole wheat flour)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 pkg regular or quick yeast
1 tsp salt
1 cup very warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 oz sliced deli ham
3 oz pepperoni
3 oz salami
3 oz sliced provolone cheese
1 (2 oz) jar chopped pimentos, drained
1 egg white, lightly beaten
sesame seeds, poppy seeds, salt or pepper

In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add warm water and oil. Beat 2 minutes with mixer. Mix in remaining flour. Knead until smooth about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes. (With quick yeast, omit rising and proceed with shaping).

Punch down dough and roll to a 14 x 10 inch rectangle. Move dough to a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Layer meat and cheese lengthwise over center third of dough. Top with pimentos. With a sharp knife, make cuts on both sides from filling to dough edges at one inch intervals. Alternating sides, fold strips across filling. Cover and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes. Brush loaf with egg white and sprinkle with your choice of seeds, salt and/or pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool five minutes before slicing. Serve with pizza sauce or Italian dressing for dipping.

Additional Filling Ideas:
These sandwiches can be made with a variety of fillings. Some of my favorites:

  • Reuben: corned beef, sauerkraut and swiss cheese with Thousand Island dressing for dipping
  • Ham, cheese and dill pickles with mustard for dipping
  • Slow roasted beef, cheddar and red onions with horseradish sauce  
  • Veggie: Sauteed onions & peppers, artichokes, black olives, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Drying Shelling Beans

Dried shelling beans are a staple in our pantry - they're a very shelf stable food that makes a hearty addition to meals. Last year we had a good growing season and were able to dry several quarts. My favorite shelling bean is cannellini, but we also grew Tongue of Fire and Kenearly Yellow Eye beans.

If you're considering growing beans, add several rows to your garden and preserve the excess. Drying beans is easy and you'll be able to enjoy your garden goodies all year long in a variety of dishes.

Since much of the drying is done in the pod while it's on the plant, you'll want to plant beans in wide rows with enough spacing between plants to provide pods with plenty sun and air circulation.  If plants are too close, thin the stand. Pods are ready to harvest when leaves turn brown and wilt. The pods will be brittle and crumble easily.

Strip the beans out of the pod, discarding damaged beans. Place shelled beans in a brown paper bag or other container that allows for air to circulate around the beans. Beans are dry enough to store when they are hard, similar to commercially dried beans. Once the beans are completely dry, place in an airtight container with a tight fitting lid, like a mason jar, and store in the pantry.

A note about harvesting at the right time: Drying beans can sprout in the pod if they're exposed to rain. If your pods have started to dry and it looks like rain, pick the pods, shell and lay out beans to dry. It will take a bit more time, but you'll save the harvest.

Top to bottom: Cannellini, Kenearly Yellow Eye and Tongue of Fire.
All of the pictured beans were picked early for fresh eating. Later in the season,
we harvested and dried the cannellini and Kenearly beans.

The Kenearly beans dry beautifully. These will hold in the pantry for
at least a year. We usually eat them long before that!

We add our beans to soups and casseroles, but our favorite way to eat them is in
savory homemade baked beans. So much better than the commercial stuff!

Friday, February 6, 2015

My Top 5 Chocolate Treats

We're big chocolate fans and generally have chocolate sweet somewhere in the house. I can always tell it's time to replenish the freezer stash of cookies when I find the hub eating chocolate chips from the bag.

I'm a fan of old school, made-from-scratch desserts without lots of extras: no candy mix-ins, overly sweet sauces or other adornment that takes away from the dessert. These favorites are easy to make, fool proof and real crowd pleasers.  

1.Whole grain chocolate chip cookies
These cookies are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Don't be put off
by the whole grain flour - it adds a nutty flavor without making the cookies coarse.
I always keep a batch in the freezer for a quick dessert. 

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flours, soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Using a mixer, beat butter and shortening for 30 seconds. Add sugars beating until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well. Add dry ingredients beating until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Using a teaspoon or dasher, place dough on ungreased baking sheet leaving two inches between cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Makes about five dozen.

This cake comes together fast, is easy and magically bakes up with a cake floating on a layer of rich pudding. I've tried several versions and found this recipe to be the best. The hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool before eating! Serve with a scoop of ice cream for a delish hot fudge sundae cake.

This cake might seem traditional (read: boring) but don't be fooled. It's tender and moist with a great chocolate flavor. It's perfect for a birthday celebration as well as a weeknight dessert. 

This is the pie for non-pie makers. Just whip up the ingredients,
pour into a baked pie crust and refrigerate. 
Although this is the hub's favorite pie, I only make it a couple times a year. Super rich, it's loaded with butter, chocolate, sugar, and not much else. Despite the fat and sugar, the filling is surprising light and airy. I usually serve without the whip cream topping, but if you enjoy gilding the lily, it adds to the richness.

This rich chocolate pudding makes beautiful individual desserts. And since it's gluten-free, it makes a great ending for dinner parties. I usually serve in small ramekins topped with fresh whipped cream.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Quick Side: Roasted Veg

Roasted vegetables are one of my go-to side dishes. With one technique, I can make a variety of quick, homemade sides. I always have some sort of vegetable on hand: in my pantry, fridge, freezer or garden, so even if I don't plan ahead, I can have a tasty side dish ready in 30 minutes or less.

Roasted vegetables start with the same technique: Prep veg and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on an oiled baking sheet and roast at the suggested time and temperature below. If your oven has a convection roast function, this is the time to use it. The rotating air helps develop crispy, caramelized edges. Be sure to stir/flip the vegetables once during roasting.

Feel free to mix up the seasoning according to your tastes with different citrus juice and zest, herbs, spices, vinegars and cheeses. You can develop hundreds of flavor combinations!

Think you don't like beets? Try roasting. You'll want to make
extra to toss in a salad the next day.

Roasted cabbage pairs well with roast pork and sausages.

Caramelized carrots pair well with beef. Perfect with cube steak and gravy.

Crispy fries can be made in your oven. Your family will think they're deep fried!
I used a crinkle cut knife to create marcelled edges.
After prepping vegetable, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on an oiled baking sheet. Roast according to directions below stirring once during roasting.

Leave asparagus whole, snapping off tough ends. Roast at 400 degrees for for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of the stalks. Sprinkle with the juice of half a lemon after roasting.

Peel and cut into small cubes. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with horseradish dipping sauce.

Break into florets. Roast at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with juice of half a lemon after roasting.

Brussels  Sprouts
Remove outside leaves and cut sprouts in half. Roast at 425 for 30 minutes.

Slice cabbage into thin wedges making sure to keep leaves attached to core. Roast at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the wedges.

Chop into uniform sized pieces. Roast at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Top with fresh parsley after roasting.

Break into florets. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with parmesan after roasting.

Green Beans
Roast whole beans at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese after stirring.

Cut into one-inch cubes or planks for fries. For for more spice, sprinkle with cayenne and garlic powder. Roast at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes
Peel and cut into small cubes. Roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Toss with fresh rosemary after roasting.

Cut plum tomatoes in half lengthwise. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Roast at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil after roasting.