Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings

A favorite recipe of my daughter, this chicken and dumplings recipe is perfect for the crockpot . Make sure to use a stewing chicken - if you can't find one at your grocery store, use a couple cans of chicken broth instead of water. Frying chicken just doesn't make a flavorful chicken stock. It's hard to find stewing chickens these days. Locally, Sparrow Meat Market in Kerrytown has them, as well as Hillier's Market. This year, I have ordered some stewing chickens from Back Forty Acres when I visited the Chelsea Farmers Market a few weeks ago. I asked the gal behind the table if her stewing chicken had a lot of flavor, and she said "absolutely the best" so I signed up for 5. I took her at her word because she was wearing a sash that read Homemaker of the Year and a rhinestone tiara. (it was the day of the Chelsea Fair Parade - I am sure this isn't her usual farmer's market getup). It's going to be a great fall!

Chicken and Dumplings

3 lb. stewing chicken, cut up
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
3 stalks celery
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 t poultry seasoning
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t fresh ground pepper
2 bay leaves
3 1/2 c water, divided
1/4 c flour

For the dumplings

3/4 c flour
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
1 T. snipped parsley
1/2 t dried thyme or dill
1/4 c milk
2 tsp vegetable oil

Put vegetables in the bottom of a large crock pot (or dutch oven in you are camping), and place chicken on top of vegetables. Add seasonings and 3 c. water and cover, cook on low for at least 8 hours. Remove chicken from pot and turn crock pot on high. Remove chicken from bones and return to the pot. Mix 1/2 c. water with 1/4 c. flour and stir in broth to thicken and cover.

Make dumplings by mixing dry ingredients and herbs in a small bowl. Mix milk and oil and add to dry ingredients and stir with a fork until combined. Drop by spoonfuls on top of chicken stew - make about 4-6 dumplings, and cover and cook for 15 minutes in crock pot on high. Do not remove lid to check for doneness until 15 minutes have elapsed. Check with a toothpick and see if the dumplings are done after 15 minutes; if not, cook 5 minutes longer with the lid on.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's still summer

That's what I keep telling myself - despite the fact that my thermometer outside the kitchen sink window currently reads 42 F this morning. It's been a cold summer in Michigan this year. I had some plants do well in the garden, others not so much. The coneflowers are doing well - they always do well and they self seed every year, which is a good thing for a lazy gardener like me. My mailbox garden of morning glories are still going strong, and I grew those from seed myself, which makes me very proud. I am hoping they will self seed, too.

The Japanese anemone are not doing so well - normally I am pulling them out by the handful, they were borderline invasive in my flower garden, but this year, there's only a couple blooming. I have always liked these flowers because they bloom in the fall and they are different than the same old mums everyone else has. They must not like our cool Michigan summer. Today I am going to plant a rose bush. I haven't had much luck with roses but maybe this year will be different.

Speaking of summer in Michigan, we spent a weekend in Grand Haven at my friend Liisa's rental cottage which is called "Trainspotting" because it is next to the train tracks. While there, we got to be in the most spectacular storm that blew in off of Lake Michigan. We were eating burritos at the Tip A Few Tavern in Grand Haven at the time. Motorcycles were blown over, street lights knocked down, trees fell. I don't think I have ever seen winds blow so hard. Earlier in the day we had been swimming in Lake Michigan and the waves were like the ocean. People were actually surfing! We had tried to book a sailing trip the night before, but it had gotten canceled because of the rough water. It was a strange weather week prior, my daughter had been at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp earlier in the week for band camp and her director told us that she had to huddle the entire band, instruments and all, into the center of an outdoor structure while another horrific storm pelted them from all sides. I went to the Grand Haven Farmer's Market and the rain just came down in buckets. A couple hours later, it was all sunshine and blue skies. Strange!

Grand Haven, or as Liisa calls it, "the Grandest of Havens" is a wonderful place to visit. The picture I have used in this post is of the Grand, and old movie theatre made into a restaurant in Grand Haven. They serve fantastic sushi, which was a pleasant surprise for the west side of the state. It was taken by squeeg who has lots of great west Michigan photos. I found it on a fantastic website about happenings in Michigan called Absolute Michigan. It's tag line is "All Michigan, all the time" and I really enjoy reading it. There's always new stuff to find out about my home state.

Time to get back to the garden, so I will sign off for now. It's still summer, but it sure feels like fall.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cabbage Onion Salad

Here's a great recipe for what to do with all that cabbage that's around this time of year and into the winter. It comes from an old Farm Journal cookbook. If you should come across any Farm Journal cookbook from the past at a garage sale or used book sale, buy it. They always have great recipes in them! This recipe can keep a long time in the fridge, and it cost next to nothing to make.

Cabbage-Onion Salad

1 head cabbage, shredded
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 c. sugar
1 c vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 c. vegetable oil

Mix cabbage and onions in a large bowl with your hands. Combine remaining ingredients except oil in a saucepan and heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add oil. Drip the hot dressing over the cabbage and onions - do not stir. Let it marinate overnight in the fridge and toss salad before serving. This recipe keeps well in your fridge and is a great fall/winter salad. Make some when you are making sauerkraut.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cabbage, and lots of it!

This year, I find myself drawn to cabbage at the farmer's market. A few weeks ago, I came across a head of cabbage that was easily 18" in diameter, so I had to buy it! The other day, a favorite farmer at the Dexter Farmer's Market was selling some of his cabbage and I thought I would make coleslaw for a picnic, so I got another head. Then the picnic was rained out. What to do with all the cabbage? That's a tough one, since no one in my family likes cabbage but me! For the first giant head, I decided to make sauerkraut, which has to be the easiest pickle ever to make. All you need is cabbage and pickling salt, and it's a great first pickling venture for the pickling neophyte.


5 lbs. cabbage
3 T. pickling salt

That's it! My giant head of cabbage weighed 5 lbs, (weigh it after you've cored it and removed any tough or damaged leaves). If you have a 3 gallon crock, you could fit 15 lbs of cabbage in there. That would be more than I need for my family for sure. No crock? No problem! Five lbs. of cabbage (probably about 2 normal sized heads) would fit in a gallon gar. Or, do what my blogging friend Emily suggests in her interesting blog Eat Close to Home, and use the ceramic liner of your crock pot. If you live in Ann Arbor, Kilwin's ice cream shop will sell you a food grade plastic ice cream bucket 3 for $1, and that will work, too. That's what my friend Patti at A Good Life did when she made pickles earlier this year.

You'll need to shred your cabbage. I used a mandoline, but a knife will work just fine. The Germans have a special tool called a krauthobel made of hardwood and big enough to hold an entire head of cabbage. (note to self: Krauthobel would make a great name for a punk band) Anyway, since no one in my household will eat kraut, I best stick with the mandoline. I'll never be making enough kraut to justify a krauthobel. Once the cabbage is shredded, put it in a large bowl and add the salt and mix it with your hands. Put it in your pickling vessel. P.S....on the day you make kraut, you should make some extra shredded cabbage for cabbage onion salad. which Even cabbage haters love it!

It's important to weigh down your kraut with something. In recent years, while pickling, I had started to use a large plastic bag filled with brine, But I've stopped doing it. However, it is a good choice if you are pickling in a jar. To make your own brine, mix 1 1/2 T. pickling salt for each quart of water to fill your plastic bag. That way, if it springs a leak, it won't mess up your fermentation like regular water would. Instead of a bag, I use a dinner plate with a couple quart jars filled with water sitting on top in my 3 gallon crock. You can cover the top with some muslin or an old pillow case. (note to self: Start doing this! I keep my pickles in the laundry room and have almost dropped dirty sweat socks and lint balls in the brine).

The next day, check on your kraut,. It should have emitted enough juice to submerge itself. If not, add some brine (see the recipe above for brine). Every day, check for scum. If there is some, be not afraid. Check my post about kosher dill pickles to see what scum looks like. Take your weights and plate (or bags of brine) off and skim the scum off the top with a ladle or spoon, and wash off the plate and weights and replace them. I find it's easier to wash a plate and quart jars, so that's why I've gone back to using them instead of bags of brine.

In my laundry room, the temperature is around 65 takes about 4 weeks for the kraut to be done in that environment. A warmer spot ferments faster (2-4 weeks for 70 - 75 F) cooler slower (5-6 weeks for 60F). Start tasting your kraut at around 2 weeks. It should be a pale, slightly golden color and taste sour. Tap the side of your container and look for bubbles. If it is still bubbling, it is still fermenting. When it stops, you'll need to either can it, freeze it or refrigerate it. I read Sandor Katz' Wild Fermentation, and he has had AIDS for 20 years and considers fermented foods and important part of his healing. The food industry certainly has noted the health benefits of what they call "probiotics" and keep adding them into all sorts of factory food. So, I decided not to can or freeze my kraut, because it would kill the "probiotics". I stored it in the fridge and then made kapusta, a traditional Polish dish that is so tasty that my non Polish carpool partner Alison makes it too! I've got a small jar left in there for sandwich and bratwurst topping. It will keep well in the fridge for months.

Here's something else I learned about kraut and pickle brine. In eastern Europe, women use on their hands and faces to make them soft and smooth. It supposedly eliminates wrinkles. I haven't tried it on my face, but whenever I take my pickles out of the brine with my hands, it does make them soft and smooth for days afterwards. When my next batch of pickles are done, I am going to save a jar of brine to rub on my face for a while! I think there might be something to this old country practice.

Monday, September 07, 2009

More Books on Canning

Here are more books about food preservation.

Canning and Preserving for Dummies, Amelia Jeanroy and Karen Ward

It includes only USDA approved techniques, it also has a small pressure canning section. Nothing remarkable in this book - you'd do better with the "Ball Blue Book", I think.

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year-Round, Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard

This book boasts over 300 recipes, but many are for the finished product - -i.e. using your preserved food as an ingredient. That's a pet peeve of mine! Also, I don't consider books that suggest me combining ingredients and putting them in a container in my fridge as "preserving". There are other better books about canning out there to keep on your bookshelf.

Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning, by Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivant

Interesting read, but many of the ingredients and processes aren't common to the U.S>

Preserving Summer’s Bounty: A Quick and Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, and Preserving, and Drying What You Grow, Rodale Food Center and Susan McClure*

This book is more for the "cooking once a month" type of person. Lots of casseroles and soup recipes for the freezer. Not much canning.

Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Katz

This book is as much about gay pride as it is about fermentation and it is an engaging read. However, there are some really strange foods in this book I don't think many would try. Linda Ziedrich's "Joy of Pickling" is probably more accessible for most people interested in fermentation. It advocated eating live cultures for your health (Sandor Katz is living with AIDS) long before the "probiotics" food marketing trend of today.

More about canning books here.