Friday, December 30, 2011

Husbanding Floyd: Franklin Gives a Shout-out!

Franklin wants me to give a heartfelt Thank You! to Gladys for the wonderful catnip mouse she sent home for his Christmas present!

 He said the mouse was very well made and the catnip stuffing of the highest quality...

...and he greatly enjoyed getting his jungle cat on!

After racing up and down the stairs with it, satisfying a HUGE munchie binge, and passing out,

 he can't remember where he left it!

And he is very P.O.'d with himself!
Thanks Gladys!

Gardening Floyd: Growing Winter Salad Update

On December 1st I posted about how we set up our seed starting shelf to grow tender greens for winter salads.  Twenty-eight days later I harvested our first batch of salad greens.  The little plants are still very baby-like and I had to gently pinch off the larger outer leaves but with each harvest they'll grow sturdier and by the third or fourth harvest I'll be cutting the whole plant off about 2" above the base.

The spinach prior to pinching back...

...and the first spinach harvest.

Mixed lettuces...

...and the first lettuce harvest.

All together I got about 4 cups of tender baby greens out of the first harvest, enough for the two of us to enjoy for our evening salad!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Dark Days Challenge: Dec. Week 4

Kale Pasta

Recently I've been exploring making our pasta.  It took me several tries to be able to produce a consistent nicely textured basic all-purpose flour and egg pasta but once I did I wanted to try making different kinds and flavors of pasta dough.  My first variation was a buckwheat dough for Butternut Squash Raviolis.  (You'll also find a tutorial for making basic pasta on that post.)  This time I wanted to add kale since I had a bagful of kale flakes from kale chips that had turned out too bland for snacking.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Save Money, Cut Meat Yourself - NY Strip Steaks

It's possible to save yourself a whole lot of money by learning a bit about cutting your own meat.  Whether you buy from the grocery store or from a local farmer, the less the seller has to handle the meat the more money you'll save.  I recently bought a whole strip loin, cut it into steaks, and saved approximately $8.99/lb.
NY strip steaks, ready to cook, retail for around $12.99 a pound.  As you can see from the label, this 12 pound loin was retailing for $8.99 a pound and was on sale for $4.99 a pound.  This loin broke down into twelve 1 1/2" thick steaks a little under a pound each.  Michael and I will split one of these for a meal.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Dark Days Challenge: Dec. Week 3

The solution to this week's challenge feels like cheating.  It's not, it's exactly the result I was aiming for when I froze them: an effortless meal.  Stuffed Marconi Peppers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Dark Days Challenge: Dec. Week 2

A quick glimpse last week at some of the other DDC participating bloggers posts, including mine, reveals that we may winter squash ourselves to death before the challenge is over!  It's just that winter squash is so darn versatile and at the same time so comforting and filling, no matter how you use it.  Next week I will not use squash!  This week I did.

Last night we had a warm butternut squash salad with Boursin-style cheese toasts inspired by Gordon Ramsey's "Warm Pumpkin Salad with Ricotta Toasts" from his cookbook In the Heat of the Kitchen.  I really like Gordon Ramsey's food.  His recipes are well-tested and reproduce well for the home cook. I really dislike the circus he's built around himself.  Same deal with one of my other bad boy chef icons, Marco Pierre White.  The day I saw him touting Knorr products all I could think was "say it ain't so, Marco".  Hopefully this is a momentary lapse.  But I digress.  On to the salad.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Husbanding Floyd: Hunting and Processing a Deer

I've thought a lot about this post and how to present it.  I've talked to other food bloggers who hunt and process their own meat and there seems to be no agreement on how to present the topic without offending somebody or stirring up controversy but total agreement that it will offend someone and stir up controversy.  Joel over at Well Preserved says his readership drops off considerably when he just talks about his family's annual moose hunt.  I feel that people who eat meat, especially people whose meat arrives in cling-wrapped styro trays, out of respect for the animal they consume and respect for themselves, should at least once witness the cold cruelty of an industrial feedlot and slaughterhouse and contrast that with the personal involvement and concern of someone who carefully hunts and/or raises livestock and processes it at home to feed family and friends.  Bacon does not grow from a seed.  If you don't want to or can't bring yourself to acknowledge where meat comes from and how it gets to you, you're probably better off not eating it.

Does that mean there are no irresponsible people hunting or raising their own livestock for the table?  Unfortunately, no.  But so far they are non-existent in the circles I travel.  I am fortunate.

Responsible, ethical hunting is a far cry from the anti-hunting propaganda some organizations disseminate.  It's all about forestry and wild animal management, husbanding the woods and wildlife, if you will, to maintain a healthy balance that nurtures the sustainability of the wild.  There are few things sadder than the sight of malnourished deer because the woods can't support the population or road-killed deer every few miles as they move about trying to find food.

Michael and I took the time to photograph the process of butchering and wrapping a deer for freezing but I realized that what we had to offer wasn't nearly as good as some of the videos on YouTube and the books we have on the subject.  I'll concentrate on the wonderful things that can be made with it.

If you are local and would like to learn hands-on when we get our next deer, leave your email and phone number in a comment on this post.  Your contact info will not be published.  Michael will be hunting tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 9) and most Saturdays until the end of the season.  Since we can't predict when he will get a deer be prepared for spur-of-the-moment notification.

So, for a list of deer processing videos on YouTube click here

Books I've found very helpful are:
The Ultimate Guide to Butchering Deer by John Weiss.  Everything from field dressing to cutting to cooking venison.  Good tips on how to cook different cuts of meat although the recipes themselves are very buck camp run-of-the-mill.  Black and white, fairly sterile photos.

The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making: How to Harvest Your Livestock & Wild Game by Philip Hasheider.  Lots of photographs.  Clear, color photographs.  Graphic.  Not for the faint of heart but rooted in the how it is reality photographs.  Good recipes, good writing.  Covers nearly every kind of domestic livestock, poultry, and fowl, both large and small game, and fish.

For those of you who want to go beyond basic fresh sausage-making I highly recommend Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman, Brian Polcyn, and Thomas Keller.  This book will take you into ways of preserving meats you never thought were possible to do at home: dry cures, smoke cures, salt cures, BACON!, as well as confits, pates, and terrines, and the condiments to go with them.  Excellent recipes that are adaptable to game.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cooking Floyd: The Dark Days Challenge, Dec. Week 1

The more I think about the Dark Days Challenge the more I realize what it entails.  I thought I was doing pretty well already.  What veggies and fruits we don't grow and preserve I buy locally.  But wait!  This means no citrus, no avocados, artichokes, olives, bananas, etc., as well as what happens when I run out of what I have canned, dried, or frozen.  I've been getting flour and cornmeal from a local mill, but I don't know where they get their grains from.  Rice is right out.  Local butter is exorbitantly expensive and cheese, well, don't get me started.  Cheese is expensive anyway, even before going local.  But I can do this.  It's one meal a week.  And I am going to learn so much!

This week's meal is trout from Big Pine Trout Farm dredged in cornmeal from Big Spring Mill (where I also get my flour), tarter sauce, roasted butternut squash bought in bulk from Wade's Orchard (where I also get my apples in bulk), and green beans that we grew and canned.  Dessert is apple dumplings.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blogging Floyd: 2011: A PC Odyssey plus the Dark Days Challenge

HAL appears to be dying.  A little over a week ago we had some kind of power surge and it took our desk top PC down.  We took it in to Ben Kiser and it turned out to be the power supply.  Everything else was fine.  HAL was back up and running happily.  Then, right before this past weekend, the power went out for several hours.  HAL came back online but without video input.  I keep hearing strains of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" whistling through the eaves of our house and a well-modulated but sad voice saying, "Dave?  Dave? D-a-a-a-v-e?"  So HAL is going back to Ben for a visit and I'm back on the P-O-S laptop which I've discovered has a very crude photo editing program.  All just in time for the beginning of the Dark Days Challenge with my first post due tomorrow.  Of course.

I've been following the Dark Days Challenge for the last couple of years.  This year, with a reminder from Cynthia at Mother's Kitchen, I got my butt over to (not so) Urban Hennery in the nick of time to sign up.  The Dark Days Challenge is to cook a minimum of one meal each week featuring SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients and write about it.  ..."Traditionally, local food challenges call for a 100 mile radius. Winter time is more difficult in many climates, especially if you’re new to eating locally, so my default winter definition is 150 miles. You can choose to make your radius smaller or slightly larger as you need. Typical exceptions to the local requirement are oils, coffee, chocolate and spices." - (not so) Urban Hennery.

So those are the parameters I'm working within.  My first thoughts on accepting this challenge were, "Am I stuck with only trout since Big Jim's trout farm is within the local circle but Indigo Seafood is a local business and brings fish and seafood to me?" and "Where the hell am I gonna find local blue cheese for my Stuffed Venison Backstrap post?"  Darius, can you help me out?  I can just hear HAL saying....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gardening Floyd: Growing Winter Salads Indoors

Out in the garden Swiss chard, cilantro, dill, and our perennial herbs are still thriving despite several really hard frosts and many lighter ones.  I'm sure that could end any day now but that doesn't mean it's the end of fresh greens.  Last February I showed you our seed-starting shelf and how we built it.  I talked about how we use it to grow greens in winter and today I want to show you how we set it up for that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Turkey Talk Post-Feast

We had a Thanksgiving Feast First this year.  Our first free-range turkey and my first experience brining a turkey.  Michael's been trying for a few years to bring home a wild turkey but has been unsuccessful so far.  They taunt him.  They brazenly show themselves in large numbers, flaunting their feathers at him when he's out hunting deer, presenting and holding still for the perfect shot, knowing full well that they are out of season and perfectly safe because Michael is an ethical hunter and won't shoot them.  As soon as turkey season arrives - POOF - they're gone.  Not a turkey to be seen.  I, pining to cook a wild turkey and being (ahem) maybe a little less ethical than my husband, have been saying, "Ef 'em! Shoot the bastard!  I wanna cook it!"  Michael smiles tolerantly at me and keeps me honest.  So this year he bought me a free-range turkey from our friends at Indigo Seafood.  I admit to suffering sticker shock, being used to .57/lb giants from the supermarket, but the point is to get away from factory farmed animals and without government subsidies and with responsible animal husbandry comes a higher reality-based price, as opposed to the artificial low price supported ultimately by the taxes we pay.

Without a doubt and with unanimous agreement of everyone sitting around our holiday table, that was the best damn turkey we've ever eaten!  We will be raising a couple-three turkeys for next year's feasts!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Apple Craic

This is my 100th post!  Today also marks my first full year of blogging!  Thanks Michael, for the encouragement and help, and for pointing your friends and co-workers in this direction.  Thank you Joel and Dana, Gloria, and Cynthia for providing such fine examples of preserving and blogging inspiration.  And thank you Readers and Followers, for your time, comments, and input.  You all help to make it all better!

Apple Craic.

Michael loves tender, deeply spiced baked apple slices.  He asked me to come up with a baked apple preserve in half and full pints that he could grab off the shelf and throw into his lunch bag.  I worked off a pie filling recipe, modifying the spices and foregoing the thickener.  Michael found it so addictive he started calling it "Apple Crack".  I was kinda uncomfortable with the implied reference so when writing it down I called it "Apple Craic".  "Craic" (pronounced crack) is the Irish word for a good time spent with friends, music, drink, and food.  It was a bit disconcerting the first time one of our Irish hosts asked us how the craic was down at the pub the night before but the word soon slipped into our conversation while we were there.  Now we'll occasionally say without thinking that there was good craic last night and receive some strange looks.  But this craic, Apple Craic, is sweetly satisfying and only slightly addictive.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Preserving Floyd: The Pantry to Date

Michael's off getting a bike ride in and I'm taking a break from processing our second deer of the season.  I thought I'd amuse myself by taking a look at the pantry inventory for this year so far.  We just finished 19 jars of Apple Craic since the last post, the latest entry in the pantry inventory.  I have photos and a post for that but I have no idea when I'm going to get that post up because a couple of days ago we had a power blip that fried the on/off switch on the desk top PC.  Where the photo editing software is.  Where pretty much everything is.  Folks, when your instincts tell you it's time to update your back up, don't put it off til later.  Because something is guaranteed to fry something in the next couple of days.  And it won't be in your saute pan.  So now I'm temporarily blogging from my P-O-S laptop.  But enough about that.  I really wanted to publish my pantry list to date because when the Apple Craic's made, that signifies the end of my canning season.  Mostly.  I'd put up a picture of the pantry and freezer but well, we've already been through that.  The inventory is after the jump.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Canning Venison

Michael brought home his first deer of the season, a button buck.  That's a young male deer just beginning to grow antlers.  He shot it in late afternoon so by the time he got home with it we were losing the light.  It became imperative to get it skinned, quartered and into the fridge because (a)the nighttime temperature was going to be too warm for me to feel comfortable about hanging it overnight and (b)we have no safe place to hang it where the coyotes, fox, and the neighbor's Labradors won't get at it.  Taking you through the steps of processing a deer for the freezer will have to wait until Michael (hopefully) gets the next one in the morning.

We decided to make really good stock and can the meat from this deer.  Since this was a yearling buck it's meat is already veal-like.  Canning should make it meltingly tender.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Apple Pie Filling Spiced 2 Ways

I really love having pie fillings on my shelf because they get used in so much more than just traditional pies.  I'm only a few minutes away from cobblers, turnovers, fruit dumplings, cake fillings, and ice cream toppings to name a few.  This year I did 2 six quart batches of apple pie filling and spiced each batch differently giving me two distinctly different flavors.  This is a great example of safely customizing a tested recipe to your tastes by simply switching up the spicing/seasoning.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good!

I was following a thread awhile back on Chowhound about Dorie Greenspan's book Around My French Table.  One of the recipes everyone was raving about was "Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good".  Bacon was involved, and cheese and heavy cream.  Of course everyone knows that bacon and cheese, separately or together, make everything better.  And Julia Child said if you can't use butter use cream.  I rarely argue with Julia.  So, armed with my trusty knife I set about disemboweling a Kuri squash.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Preserving Floyd: The Last of the Red Hot Peppers. I Promise!

One morning last week on my way into the diner for coffee Julius passed me on the way out.  "Frost on the pumpkin tonight!", he said.  I took his warning to heart.  If anyone around here knows when the first frost is going to hit it's Julius.  His family's been working the land here going back to the original grant given to one of his ancestors.  In fact, once upon a time our 4.5 acres were part of that land grant.  Later that afternoon I picked the last of the hot and sweet peppers and pulled up the plants.  I diced and froze a lot of the sweets but the small ones that would hold a tablespoon of stuffing I filled and froze for appetizers for a dinner party or potluck.  That left me with a small pile of hots to put up somehow.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Preserving Floyd: mmm....Applesauce

Making applesauce creates a scent that smells like all the ripe apple trees of Floyd condensed into one and spilled into our house.  I swear it has the ability to attract the neighbors who arrive at the door with spoons in hand!
Applesauce straight from the jar, applesauce dressed up with spice and cream, applesauce topping pancakes and waffles, applesauce baked into cakes and pastries, applesauce glazing ham or pork, applesauce cooked down into butter or leather.  So many uses for applesauce!

Cooking Floyd: Kale Chips

People are always looking for something to feed kids in place of potato chips.  Heck, I'm always looking for something to satisfy our urge for crispy, crunchy, salty-good snacks.  I think I've found it with Kale Chips.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Drying Apples

Some of you may remember this very helpful gadget from last fall's Extreme Deep Dish Apple Pie post.
Well, it's time to break it out again!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Butternut Ravioli...

...and the Basics of Making Pasta and Storing Winter Squash
Red Kuri, Butternut, Acorn, and Spaghetti squashes
This is the time to stock up on winter squashes.  Right now they are cheap, plentiful and there's lots of varieties. Winter squash are versatile and delicious from their simplest preparation roasted in the oven to soups, risottos, stuffed, and stuffings.  They are also the simplest of vegetables to store.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Eating Floyd: Between Road Trips

Cooking, preserving, gardening, foraging, husbanding posts have slowed down the past couple of weeks because we've been on the road.  When we've been at home I've been trying to catch up on all the things that have continued on their merry ways in our absence.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Husbanding Floyd: NIMBY

Michael and I just got back from 7 days spent on the Pennsylvania-upstate New York border.  The area is about an hour and a half north of where I was raised and where Michael and I lived for two years while he worked in Corning, NY.  It's very pretty country often referred to as the "Gateway to the Finger Lakes".  It's also an area that abounds in natural gas and when we bought a house there it was my introduction to mineral rights.  If there's something valuable under the ground, like natural gas, your ownership of what's under the ground may or may not convey to you when you buy that property.  For example, it may already have been bought by a gas company from a previous owner.  Or the owner you're negotiating with may want to keep the mineral rights but sell the property.  Or some other sort of configuration.  Anyway, there's a lot of natural gas in that area.  And that means a technique of mining it called fracking.  And laying pipeline to move it.  Miles and miles of pipeline being laid in wide swathes of clear cut forest and across farmland and your backyard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Concord Grape Juice - Drink Your Flavinoids!

When it comes to antioxidant activity, Concord grape juice rates right up there as one of the most healthful juices you can drink.  It is one of the easiest grapes to grow and the grape used in classic jelly and juice products found on store shelves since your grandparents were kids.
 The smell and taste of Concord grape juice is one of Michael's nostalgia triggers fostered by a childhood friend's mother who made her own and had a frosty glass waiting for him every school morning.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foraging Floyd: Chicken of the Woods

Last Thursday there came a knocking on my door.  When I opened it, there stood a dark, curly-haired hobbit, a twinkle in his eye and hands full of mushrooms.  Ok, it wasn't a hobbit, it was Jagger.  But all the rest is true.  He had found a treasure trove of Chicken of the Woods mushrooms and was looking for a scale to weigh them out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Leather Britches or The Green Beans Keep Coming In

I've put up quarts of pressure canned green beans, pints of pickled green beans, and the beans just keep rolling in!  Michael would eat green beans at every meal if I made them and I feel compelled to preserve everything we grow or are offered so I had to find another way to preserve the beans.  Not wanting to lose freezer real estate with hunting season coming up, I turned to drying them.  Drying green beans is a traditional Appalachian method of preserving them, turning the beans into "Leather Britches".
Top: freshly strung beans  Bottom: dried beans  Photo courtesy of

Friday, September 9, 2011

Preserving Floyd: 2011 Harvest Festival Entries

Entries selected and labeled?  Check.
Recipes printed? Check.
Form filled out?  Check.
Everything safely and securely boxed?  Check.
Registration time?  3 p.m.
Man, I LOVE county fairs!  Just goes to show computer nerds don't have a corner on geeky.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Growing & Preserving Floyd: Edamame - Fresh Soy Beans

Edamame, or fresh green soy beans, may be familiar to vegetarians and vegans but we omnivores need to get friendly with these legumes as well.
We've discovered that they are easy to grow, resistant to pests (including the dreaded bean beetle and larvae), yield a pretty high return for the space the plants take up, and are nutritious, tasty, and versatile.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Curry Powder

I was asked recently what curry is.  There are several definitions of curry.  There is the leaf from the curry tree that grows in South India and plays a huge role in that region's foods.  It can be found here in shops specializing in Indian ingredients or online.  There is the "curry plant" that's showing up in nurseries in the spring.  Smells like curry, tastes terrible.  Great for potpourri, horrible for cooking.  Curry is a South Asian/Indian dish with a sauce or gravy as opposed to a dry stir-fry type dish which is not.

And then there is the spice, curry powder, which I think is what I was being asked about.
 Curry powder is not just "a" spice, but a blend of spices.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Floyd County Harvest Festival, Sept. 10, 2011

This year's Floyd County Harvest Festival is September 10, 2011 at the Floyd County Cooperative Extension Office and Grounds on Fox St. in the Town of Floyd.

If you garden, farm, raise livestock, grow flowers, sew, craft, preserve, woodwork, paint, photograph, make jewelry, arrange flowers, holiday decorate, and a whole lot more, there's something for you here!  Come out and compete or enjoy the talents of your neighbors!  Details are here and competition details are in the green menu tab on the left side of the festival website.

In addition to the displays and exhibits there's live music, vendors, games for the kids, and lots of food!

See ya there!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Marinara and Ketchup

I previously talked about how most tomato recipes start with scalding or blanching, peeling, and coring.  When it comes to tomato sauces and condiments more of the actions starting out are the same. Which means you could prepare a huge batch of tomatoes up to the point where the flavorings diverge, divide the plain prepared tomatoes and make multiple sauces and condiments.  It's ambitious but can be done.

An example of this is marinara and chunky pasta sauces.  I start out my sauces by combining tomatoes, peppers (sweet and mildly hot), onion, garlic, basil, cutting celery, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper in my large roasting pan.  I pop it into a 350F oven and roast until the vegetables are tender.  If you prefer this can be done in a pot on the stove.  Just give the tomatoes a good mash to start the juices.

Preserving Floyd: Faux Peppadews

I came across Peppadews on the Mediterranean Bar at the local grocery store when I was living in Horseheads, NY and immediately became addicted.  Peppadews are a sweet, spicy, small red pepper that I've only seen in pickled form.  They were discovered in South Africa as a sport or naturally occurring hybrid.  Somebody realized the potential of these little beauties and patented the seeds and plants, making them unavailable for anyone who is "unauthorized" to grow them.  It's said that the fields where they are grown are heavily guarded, leaving one to wonder just what the big mystery of the Peppadew is.  That story can be read here.  I also had difficulty finding a photograph of a Peppadew plant or raw pepper.  There are lots of photos of the processed peppers.
Since moving back to Floyd I've been able to find Peppadews in very expensive jars so I started a quest to reproduce faux Peppadews.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Diced and Herbed Tomatoes

It occurred to me that many tomato recipes start out the same way: peel and core the tomatoes, crush, quarter or dice them.  Some variation occurs from this point.  The easiest way to peel massive amounts of tomatoes quickly is to blanch them and then shock them.  So bring a good sized pot half full of water to boil on the stove and fill your clean sink half full with cold tap water.  When the water in the pot is boiling, cut a small X just through the skin on the bottom of a tomato and drop it in the boiling water for about 30 seconds (blanching).  Remove it with a slotted spoon to the sink of cold water (shocking).
The blanched and shocked tomatoes almost peel themselves.
Allow the tomato to cool, then with a sharp paring knife remove the stem scar and core.  The skin should slip right off.  Place your peeled and cored tomato aside in a bowl.  You can drop several tomatoes into the boiling water at once and allow several batches of blanched tomatoes to cool in the sink together.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Canning Essentials - Canning Tomatoes and Acidity

Yesterday I got an inquiry about canning tomatoes and acidity.  This is a topic I hear a lot in conversations with home canners.  People tend to think of tomatoes as a highly acidic fruit/vegetable when in fact they most definitely are not.  Tomatoes ride the dividing line between high acid and low acid and there is no way for the home canner to know which side of the line the tomatoes they are working with that day fall on.  Some sources say the lower acid tomato is a result of breeding a tomato for sweetness and palatability.  But if sweetness indicates low acid then there are plenty of sweet heirlooms out there that must be low acid.  My personal theory is better testing methods show that tomatoes have been a fairly low acid fruit all along.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge August: Cumin

Michael has had a distaste for Mexican and Southwestern food ever since he roomed for a few years with a blonde haired, blue eyed, Hispaniophile.  Dan was a great guy and pretty much the perfect room mate except for his love of all things south of the border touristy kitsch.  Dan's idea of great Mexican/southwestern cuisine was pretty much on a taco hell level and so every time it was his turn to cook that's what he imitated.  It's close to twenty years since Michael roomed with Dan and only in the past year or so that he's actually started to enjoy food with a southwestern flair.  I'm a lot okay with that because the boys and I used to have to wait for Michael to go away on business to indulge our cravings and since they've grown up and moved out I haven't had a reason to cook it.  Now I can!

This is the first year I've canned salsa since I met Michael.  We like it straight with chips, stirred into our guacamole, and I like it on eggs.  It was a happy coincidence that the tomato lime salsa I decided to put up contained cumin and I happened to be ready to can it at the same time as the challenge!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Herb Stuffed Tomatoes

All things tomato are happening now.  I've made tomato lime salsa which yielded a bonus of some tasty tomato juice.  I did one batch of tomato paste and have another reducing as we speak.  I did 7 pints of diced Italian herbed tomatoes and along those lines we had Herb Stuffed Tomatoes on a bed of pasta for dinner last night.  I've been yearning for this since early last December because there's just no other way to make it than with fresh herbs, alliums, and warm tomatoes straight from the garden!

Even having had a good day at the market I brought herbs home.  These went into supper and the diced tomatoes I canned.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Preserving Floyd: More Than Just Tomato Paste

I made this stuff last year and didn't make near enough of it.
Rich, dark, and sweet from it's own sugar, this is what we use instead of tomato sauce on pizza.  This gets spread on crostini and paired with a host of other goodies.  This is a surprising condiment on sandwiches.  A spoonful of this on pasta is as redolent of summer as any pesto.  In addition to it's many other uses and applications, this is the best damn tomato paste you've ever tasted!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles is one of the easiest preserves ever to put up.

Cooking Floyd: Useful Gadgets 1...

...or How Did I Ever Get Along  Without This?

I've admitted to being a sucker for kitchen gadgets and actively reining in purchasing stuff when the "Oh! That's so cool!" urge strikes.  But sometimes I put off purchases of things I know will be extremely useful for reasons I don't understand.  I know, I'm sure I need counseling.

Here are two items I've purchased in the past few months that have proven so useful I don't know why I put them off for years!  Now I wonder how I got along without them!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Leek and Potato Soup

The leeks and potatoes are coming in now.  We grew leeks for the first time this year and I've been using them straight out of the garden for the last month but last weekend it was time to harvest the whole bed.  I don't know if it's possible to cure and cellar leeks like onions, garlic and shallots, but it became a moot point when I realized this year's potato harvest was also starting to come in.  Marco Pierre White says look around and see what else is mature and edible at the same time as what you're foraging or hunting for flavor pairings and that good advice holds true in the garden.  What's more classic than leek and potato soup?  And leek and potato soup can also be the base for more elaborate soups, stews and chowders with just a few easy additions.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Peach and Earl Grey Ice Cream

Spring rains and dry summers combine to turn out superior stone fruits and this year's peaches and nectarines are superb!  I'm done with squirreling away various peach preserves and we're concentrating on fresh eating while the peaches last.  Yesterday at the grocery store that carries local fruit I noticed they had nectarines as well as peaches and the nectarines were a good bit cheaper per pound and box then the peaches.  I bought a few and had one on the way home and they are wonderful.  Just so you know, you can swap out the peaches for nectarines in any of the peach recipes I've posted.

Last night's dinner was barbequed chicken and roasted ears of corn, with cucumbers in dilled sour cream followed by Michael's favorite flavor of ice cream, homemade peach.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Boursin-style Herbed Cheese Spread

I have trouble throwing perfectly good food out and that extends to my herbs as well.  To keep the herbs producing leaf and staying bushy they need to be cut back on a regular basis.  That leaves me with lots of cut herbs of all types.  I unload a good bit at the farmers market but even then I bring home herbs.  I'm thinking I should feed them to the chickens we're going to raise for broilers and roasters and have them herbed from the inside out but I know that's just fanciful thinking.  Probably.  I'm always on the lookout for ways to use up fresh herbs.  The other day in the pricey cheese section of the grocery store I was looking at a container of Boursin cheese spread.  Boursin cheese is a soft creamy cheese flavored with a mix of herbs and garlic.  Looking at the ingredients on the package I thought, "How hard can this be?"
Turns out, not very hard at all.

Preserving Floyd: Peaches Part III, Peach Butter

If I have any signature preserves it's probably peach butter and bread and butter pickles.  Those are the most requested preserves by friends and family that I make.  Luckily, the peach butter is another one of those recipes that can be made in any size quantity.

Preserving Floyd: Peaches Part II: Jam 2 ways

I like citrus.  A lot.  And I especially like lemony things, but lime is creeping up there too.  This year I planted lime and lemon basil and I am just enchanted with both flavors.  In fact, lemon basil pesto has supplanted traditional basil pesto in my affections!.  I like basil on fruits as well and this year thought I'd try the lime basil in my peach jam.

Another recent discovery is how much I like sweet spiked with a tiny bit of hot.  Enter peach jam sweetened with maple syrup and warmed with red cherry peppers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Peaches Part I: Dried and in Tea Syrup

Mmmmm..., Peaches.  If anything comes close to rivaling strawberries, it's peaches.  I put up peaches in multiple ways and we'll start with the easy ones.  Peaches in a medium Earl Grey Tea infused syrup and dried peaches.

I buy my peaches from Wade's Orchard in Woolwine, Va, just down the mountain from Floyd on Rt 8.  They are my source for plums and nectarines as well.

Preserving Floyd: Finishing Up Currants

Back when I posted about currants I showed the 5 lbs of black currants we picked but never got further than that. There's been a lot of (mostly peach) preserving going on but not a lot of posting.  This is the first of the catch-up (as opposed to ketchup - that's later) posts.

Black currants are dark, tart, and musky in flavor, and are very seedy.  For many people, and I'm one of them, they're an acquired taste.  Michael wanted to see what they were all about since black currants are relatively easy to grow and disease and pest resistant.