As the title says, this page is all about FOOD- cooking, recipes, tools, gadgets, contraptions for the kitchen, grill or camp stove.  It’s about selecting and acquiring foods.  It’s about preserving food through canning, freezing, drying, root cellaring, etc.

Don’t know why it never occurred to me to ‘can’ my chicken stock.  Normally, I make stock from a roast chicken or turkey carcass and keep it in the fridge.  That means trying to use it up quickly before it goes bad.  But now with the garden preparing to explode, I’m gearing up for preserving lots of produce.  Seeing a chicken carcass in the fridge and a new pressure canner on the counter, the light bulb went off in my head.  So guess what’s simmering on the stove?  The house smells fantastic!  Here’s my very loose recipe for chicken stock:

1 chicken carcass

2-4 stalks of celery-rough chopped

1 large carrot, unpeeled-rough chopped

1 large or 2 small onions with skin on-quartered

about 4 1/2 quarts of water

1 tablespoon of Grey salt or any good coarse sea salt (you can also use kosher salt)

10-12 peppercorns

2 bay leaves

Place everything in a stockpot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer until all the meat has fallen from the bone (about 30 minutes).  Remove from heat and strain.  Let cool until fat solidifies (usually several hours).  You can also place in the fridge (after cooling) to do your canning the next day.  Skim and discard fat.  Heat the stock and pour into hot jars leaving a 1 inch head space.  Process pints for 1 hour and 15 minutes or quarts for an hour and a half at 10 lbs of pressure.  Yields approximately 4 quarts.

Now for that risotto…

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Just put up strawberry preserves using berries from the garden.  Here’s an easy breezy recipe:

2 lbs of hulled strawberries

The juice of 2 lemons or 5 tablespoons of bottled juice

4 cups of sugar

Cook together all ingredients on medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved.  Ladle into clean jars.  Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Wait for lids to pop.  The fresh strawberry flavor will be great in the middle of winter.

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Thought I’d share a great vegetarian recipe which I discovered tucked away in my recipe menagerie.  You know…the loose scraps of paper with scribbles noted after eating a great meal with friends.  Or remember the remnants of a magazine page with a ripped-out recipe you just loved at one time but then forgot all about.  Or what about those super duper dishes we all made in Home Ec and wrote out the ingredients on index cards which we then tucked into an old cookbook.  Someday, I vow to organize all those greats into a volume I can access readily.  But for now:

Walnut Roast

1 egg, beaten

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup chopped English walnuts

1 tsp salt

1 tsp basil

1 tsp parsley

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cups milk

4 cups cornflakes

Mix altogether in a bowl.  Pour in a greased 8 inch square baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until brown on top.

This is a great substitute for meatloaf.

Note:  With all the genetically modified corn out there, I use organic cornflakes.  Also be sure you get milk which comes from cows without the antibiotics or growth hormones administered.

Hope you enjoy.

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Red sumac is an aromatic, slightly floral spice used in Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Arabic cuisines.  In powdered form it looks much like paprika.  Red sumac is liberally sprinkled over ground fruits and rice.  Mixed with freshly cut onions, it is frequently eaten as an appetizer.  It is rubbed on beef, lamb, fish and chicken kebabs before grilling. The juice extracted from sumac is popular in salad dressings and marinades and the powdered form is used in stews and casseroles. Sumac can be mixed with yogurt and fresh herbs to make a dipping sauce or side dish.  It serves as an alternative to lemon or vinegar.  On Turkish tables, it is used as a condiment much like we use salt and pepper.  I buy my ‘Syrian’ powdered sumac from The Spice House in Chicago.  www.thespicehouse.com It comes in a glass bottle with a shaker top.

In this country, native Americans have traditionally used red sumac as a tea and a smoke.  While the berries contain some vitamin C, the fuzzy looking little hairs hold the most.  For that reason, you’ll want to harvest prior to heavy rain, if possible.  Even if the berries are shriveled and “hairless”, it’s still worth the effort to collect them.  Tea made from red sumac is great for a sore throat.  I take about a half cup of berries and grind them with a little water in a mortar and pestle.  Then I add boiling water and pour through a coffee filter.  With a little honey, I have a yummy and nutritious tea.  You’ll need to play around with berry and water proportions till you find the right combination for your taste.

So now you want to harvest your own red sumac.  It’s easy to spot in early fall because it turns scarlet before most other foliage begins to change color.  The shrubby trees grow along roadsides and edges of fields.  They thrive where land has been disturbed and they can get bright sunlight.  Often the best “cones” are high but the branches are flexible and will bend down easily.  Just snap off the cone shaped cluster of berries and drop immediately into a plastic bag or bucket.  The cones break apart easily so handle with care or you’ll spend all your time re-seeding the ground.

As I’ve stated, I buy powdered Sumac to use in dishes and harvest berries for tea.  If you want to make your own powder just plan on two harvests-one in early fall for the “fuzzies” and one much later for “bald” berries.  After collecting “hairless” berries, you can omit the water and grind them in a mortar and pestle to create a powder.

It’s that time of year again.  Autumn!  My favorite season of the year is bursting with rich golds, oranges and reds.   You may drive by fields full of pumpkins.  Stores are decorated with corn shocks.  Farmstands carry a bounty of squashes and gourds.  Time to choose the perfect jack-o-lantern material.  When carving that scary face or preparing for pie, don’t forget to save the seeds.  Pumpkin seeds are not only a healthful out-of-hand snack food but they are great sprinkled on salads or in granola or fresh baked bread or oatmeal cookies.  Get creative and then share your uses of pumpkin seeds.  I love new recipes.  In addition to the popular use of the seeds to boost prostate health, I’m now reading that they are good for reducing inflammation caused by arthritis.  Yippie!  I’m all for that.

If you have never tried saving your pumpkin seeds before, it’s very easy…

After cleaning out your pumpkin, you may need to wipe the seeds a bit with a clean dish cloth or paper towel to remove any excess pulp.  Spread them out evenly on paper towels, a paper bag, wax paper or even a wooden cutting board.  Let them dry overnight.  Place them in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast in the oven at between 160 and 170 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes.   The low temperature is required to preserve the healthful oils of the seeds.   The light roasting brings out the sweet nuttiness and adds richness to the flavor.  Store in an airtight container.

Another great option is Tamari Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:

After harvesting the seeds from the pumpkin, rinse off all pulp and drain thoroughly.  Soak in Tamari soy sauce for 1-2 hours.  Drain and pat dry with paper towel.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.  Heat a skillet to medium high.  Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of pan.  When the oil is hot, add the seeds.  Saute for one minute, stirring and coating with oil.  Then spread evenly on a sheet pan.  Sprinkle liberally with kosher or coarse sea salt.  Bake for 30 minutes or until browned.  Let cool and enjoy.  Can be stored in an airtight container once thoroughly cooled.

Happy Harvest!!!!

Let’s start by talking about free food.  How many of you have ever walked the roadside or woods in search of berries?  Do you take advantage of abandoned apple trees?  What about cattails and acorns?  Yes, those are edible and in a future post, I’ll talk about preparing them.  I watched a TV program about a year ago which briefly discussed free food in urban areas.  I wouldn’t have thought of it, but if you know where to go, you could rack up!!.  You see, the fruit trees growing in yards in neighborhoods are on private property.  The branches and fruit hanging over the sidewalk or street, however, belong to the public domain.  In Florida and California, there are tons of orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit trees planted at the outer edges of yards.  Take advantage.  Same thing in the country.  Often there are branches dropping fruit in the road or ditch.  Catch it before it drops.  If you don’t need it, take it to a local soup kitchen, pantry or shelter.

In Maine and Vermont, spring fiddleheads are a delicacy and you can find them yourself if you look in the woods along streams and in damp places.  Mushrooms are great rewards for foraging but learn from someone who really knows his/her stuff.  Eating the wrong ones can be deadly.  Check out books in the public library on wild edibles.  Look online.  Invest in reference books for your home library.  Learn how to cook dandelion greens.  Do you know what goosefoot looks like?  What about ramps?  Did you know that daylily buds are edible?  Have you ever made rose hip tea?  What about red sumac tea?  The world around us is teaming with free food if we know where to look and how to recognize it.

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