I love King Arthur Flour. They stock the best cooking equipment, and their flours are high quality and reliable. I also have a Pavlovian response to their cinnamon buns.
But… my appreciation is deepened every time I find valuable resources – tiny treasures for bakers – hidden in their website. Today, it was a table of how to thicken fruits for pie using flour, corn starch, tapioca, sure gel, and their branded “Pie Filling Enhancer.”
I caught this interesting description of Dirt Oven Cooking from Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham (not related to the Hunger Games sequel… which makes it a difficult book to find on Amazon searches.)
“…the Aranda of central Australia [way of cooking meat] involved digging a hole, filling it iwht a pile of dry wood, and topping that with large stones that did not crack when heated–often river cobblestones that had to be carried from a distance. When the stones were red-hot and fell through the fire, they were pulled out with sticks and the ashes were removed. The hot stones were then returned and covered with a layer of green leaves. Cooks liked to wrap meat in leaves to retain its juices before placing it on this layer, sometimes on top of a plant food such a roots. More green leaves and perhaps a basked mat would be laid on top, water was poured on, and some people added herbs for taste. Finally, the hole was filled with a layer of soil to retain the steam. After an hour or more–sometimes it was left overnight–the meat and vegetables would be ready and superb. The meat was laid on leave branches, carved with a stone knife, and served. The even heat and moist environment made earth ovens efficient for gelatinizing starch and other carbohydrates, and they offered effective control over the tenderness of meat. This sophisticated cooking technique doubtless increased the digestibility of the meat and plant foods” (pp124).
So, backyard pot roast anybody? Gristly beef chuck roast, fat potatoes, sweet potatoes, maybe some onions and herbs. I’d eat that.
Should I try it out in my backyard? Anybody have some river cobblestones that I could carry from a distance?
I found out on the Upper Valley Mailing list that there was a half of a hog available for sale. YES! I drove up to Bradford, VT to pick up my slaughtered, processed and frozen pork, with dreams of tasty tasty things. From the hog farmer, I found out some unfortunate soul had to back out of their pork order. Their loss.
I had to fill out a complex sheet for the butcher to process my pig. I do NOT want a bunch of ground pork and pork chops. We just don’t eat them. I want my pork in large roasts, which allow me to make roast pork, or, if I so choose, cut down the roast into smaller pieces. When I put food by, I want it to be as versatile as possible.
(That is not my pig, but is one of the porcine brethren that was raised with my pig.)
What’s the term for a group of vegetables? We have a herd of cows, a flock of sheep, a murder of crows… but what do you call a bunch of vegetables? A bunch?
Either way, we got a lot of leeks this week in the CSA. I tried to chop and freeze them a few years ago, but I just didn’t get back to using them and they got freezer burn. I think I will put them into a quiche. Sound good. Maybe with bacon?
That’s a lot of leeks. A bunch of leeks? A bramble of leeks?
Do you really have any zucchini left after all of these recipes? This is the BEST way to hide zucchini. You’ll never know it’s there… And POOF! Two zucchini will disappear without a trace.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
3 large eggs
2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini
5 2/3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9″ round or square cake pan.
Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, soda, powder, salt.
In the stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then add Vanilla and coffee.
Combine the zucchini, chopped chocolate, and a third of the dry ingredients, making sure the zucchini strands are coated with flour.
Add the remaining dry ingredients into the wet. Keep the stand mixer on low to avoid a big mess.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. By hand, fold together the zucchini into the batter until just combined.
Pour into the cake pan and spread out flat.
Bake 45 mins, or until a probe comes out clean. Let cool.
Now, if you really need to get rid of some zucchini make two cakes, then make zucchini lemon curd, and chocolate frosting. Now ou you’ve used up about 5 zucchini!
After all of this, do you really still have zucchini left???
Late August is the only time that New Englanders lock their car doors. If you leave your car unlocked, somebody will leave you a box of orphan zucchini on your front seat. (Photo from greenstag.net)
We have the first week of our CSA where we don’t have lettuce and do have more zucchini (and other summer squash) than we expect to eat in a week. This marks a big move in our Summer eating. Up until this point, we have new vegetables trickling in for the first time – the first cucumber, the first tomato, the first zucchini. We’ve now reached the peak of novelty and descended into bounty. We must smash tomatoes into jars because there are just too many to eat. The cucumbers get huge, bitter, and neglected on the vine. The lettuce, spinach and other greens have gone to seed and are bitter and inedible. We now have to hide zucchini in other foods. We now move into crisis mode. There are vegetables coming out our ears.
I have a lot of strategies for handling the bounty. Of course, you’ve read about my adventures with canning, drying, and other odd types of preserving. I also have strategic approaches for cooking that use up lots of vegetables. I went through some of my recipes for using lots and lots of greens, and now over the next few days, I will let you in on my secrets on how to cook a lot of zucchini.
Yes, I will share my recipe for chocolate zucchini cake.
During the hands-on portion of the workshop we made a mixed vegetable ferment with carrots, napa cabbage, radishes, salad turnips and onions. The onions came to dominate the flavor but have mellowed out while fermenting.
After chopping the vegetables and adding salt, the next step is to macerate the veggies to release juices and start the fermenting. This wooden macerator was handmade by a workshop attendee and the weight of the wood made quick work of macerating the vegetables.
Sandor Katz and a vat of homemade blueberry soda.
On Jul 22-23 I participated in a Fermenting workshop with Sandor Katz, the author of The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation. Shelburne Farms, just outside Burlington, Vermont hosted the event. If you’ve been to Shelburne Farms before, we were in the Coach Barn for the event. Over two days we covered the basics of fermenting, lactic-acid fermentation of vegetables, a hands-on exercise making our own ferment, (day 2) dairy fermentation, fermenting grains and legumes, and fermented beverages like kombucha.
In general, I was impressed with Mr. Katz knowledge and experience with fermenting. He clearly has a passion for the art and has experimented with a lot of interesting techniques. Admittedly, that was where my enthusiasm stopped. Sorry to drag work into my blog, but I was criticizing Mr. Katz classroom technique throughout the workshop and found his teaching to be lacking. The entire second day was blocked out into 2-hour chunks with 30, 60, and 30 minute breaks between (8 hour day total). Most of the content was basic lecture with a few quick demonstrations (blueberry soda and yogurt). We had a hands-on activity after lunch on day 1, but day 2 was uninterrupted sitting. To compound the fatigue from sitting, the space had uncomfortable chairs and was not air-conditioned. We were pretty short tempered and sweaty in a 90+ degree room with little moving air. I didn’t get much out of the second day, even when I abandoned my uncomfortable chair to stand in the back of the room and hope to catch a little breeze. I did learn a lot, and the course definitely met my objective of motivating me to make better kraut and kimchee. I think I may even start to make our own yogurt.
I had three major takeaways from the event:
Everything is rotting, being digested and broken down by microbes. Fermenting is just using different techniques to control the process of rotting food by favoring different microbes over others. Malted barley plus water makes sugars that can be digested by yeast to make alcoholic beer, or by other molds to make nasty undrinkable stank.
Fermenting refers to two different processes. Process 1 is where yeast convert sugar to alcohol in the presence of oxygen, then acetobacteria convert alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar), again, still with oxygen. Process 2 is where lactic acid bacteria convert carbohydrates and sugars to lactic acid in the absence of oxygen. The following table may help clarify the difference between the two foods:
Lactic Acid Bacteria
Carbohydrates and Sugar
Alcohol + CO2
Lactic Acid + CO2
alcohol to vinegar
Tart, tangy, softer
Fermentation has become very “faddish” due to confusion and misinformation about the well-supported versus not-so-well supported benefits of fermentation. Fermentation has three well-known and supported benefits: pre-digestion of food, preservation of unstable foods, and increased diversity of gut flora. With pre-digestion, the bacteria or yeast break down the substances in the food into simpler forms. Complex carbohydrates (e.g. cell walls) become simple carbohydrates (sugars), and complex sugars (disaccharides like sucrose or lactose) become simple sugars (monosaccharides like fructose or glucose). Fermented foods are more stable over time – sauerkraut lasts longer than a plain cabbage, and yogurt lasts longer than milk. Additionally, fermented foods are home to a culture of microbes that have been shown to have benefits for diseases of the gut.The confusion comes from the secondary effects. In the process of fermenting foods, some people argue that the food becomes more nutritious, makes certain nutrients more available for the body to absorb, and may have broader effects on the whole immune system of the body. Some participants at the workshop even argued (from their own personal experience) that fermented foods helped them recover from cancer, HIV, and other serious diseases. While these are nice stories to tell, the research just doesn’t pan out to support these effects. I’m working on a systematic review of the literature and when it gets complete, I’m happy to provide detailed citations. In the few areas where there have been studies, the studies have been small and results are non-conclusive. In the absence of good evidence, it’s fine to eat fermented foods because you like to eat them and drink them, but don’t do it because you think it will be some health panacea. It’s just a fad.
I know them’s fightin’ words, so please give feedback in the comments.