Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en Eagle Tavern Corn Muffins

Yes, I do want you to spell it with the apostrophe....just like we used to do....

I am really blessed to be a member of the Henry's a museum complex right across the street from my office that my company's founder started so we could remember our past.   Henry once famously said "History is bunk" but he also created what he called "The Edison Institute" (what we now call "The Henry Ford").   About it, he said "I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used.... When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition."

The Henry Ford has a great collection of vintage Hallowe'en art, such as the witch postcard above, complete with the smiling moon, or the one above showing a witch riding in a melon car.    Check out the witch plane:

This charming postcard from the 30's says "May Hallowe'en frolics engage you tonight and your future by witches predicted be bright".  I love the cats having all sorts of fun in this one.

Looking for some good recipes to make for a tasty Hallowe'en dinner?  Recently the Henry Ford published an online collection of recipes called the Historic Recipe Bank.    I also found an out of print cookbook from the Eagle Tavern, Henry Ford's historically correct restaurant that makes the best corn muffins I have ever tasted.   Here is the recipe:

Eagle Tavern Corn Muffins

3/4 c all purpose flour
2 1/2 t double acting baking powder
2 T sugar
3/4 t salt
1 1/4 c yellow stone ground cornmeal
1 egg
3 T melted butter on bacon drippings
1 c milk

Preheat oven to 425 F and grease muffin pan with butter, oil or bacon drippings.  Place muffin pan in the oven until it is sizzling hot.   Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, then add cornmeal.   In a separate bowl, beat egg and add butter or drippings and milk.  Combine with the dry mixture with a  few rapid strokes. Put the batter in the hot pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.   Makes about 15 muffins.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yeasted Waffles

I'm currently reading a wonderful inspirational memoir by food writer Kim Severson called Spoon Fed and it featured Marion Cunningham's yeasted waffle recipe.  Marion was famous for serving guests these waffles, and I have to say they are a total hit at my house, too.   The recipe can be found all over the internet, including Orangette, but I tweaked the recipe to make use of what I have on hand....instant yeast and a round waffle iron.   The best part of the recipe is that it is started the night before and left to rise on the countertop, a la "friendship bread".  

Yeasted Waffles

½ cup warm water
1 package (2 ¼ tsp.) dry yeast
2 cups whole milk, warmed
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp. baking soda

Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. (The batter will rise to double its volume, so keep that in mind when you choose the bowl.) Sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour, and beat until well blended and smooth with a whisk. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it stand overnight at room temperature.

Before cooking the waffles, preheat a waffle maker. Follow your waffle maker’s instruction manual for this, but my guess is that you’ll want to heat it on whatever setting is approximately medium-high. My waffle maker has a heat dial that runs from 1 to 7, and I turned it to 5. My waffle maker is nonstick, so I didn’t grease it, and Marion Cunningham doesn’t call for greasing it, either.

Just before cooking the waffles, add the eggs and baking soda, and stir to mix well with a whisk. The batter will be very thin. Cook until golden and crisp.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vodka Pie Crust

Yesterday, I taught a pie making class for Ann Arbor Rec and Ed and several of my students had what I call "pie crust phobia" - they were scared of making pie because of the crust.   One woman wanted to make pie like her grandmama, but every time she rolled it out, it would crumble.   Another was from Puerto Rico and had never made a pie in her life because she heard it was difficult.   Pie has always been a passion of mine - I have loved making them since I was a girl and it saddens me that no one is making them any more.  I am thrilled that my good friend Ellen has gotten involved with Slow Food Huron Valley's Pie Lovers Unite, an annual celebration of pie.   If you'd like to impress others at your next potluck or surprise someone with a wonderful hostess gift, bring a pie!  Don't use the disposable aluminum pie pans that can be bought at the grocery store, they tend to burn.  Instead, stock up on pie pans.  I see tons of them all the time at the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Shop - they are usually no more than 50 cents.  Often they can be found at estate sales, too.   In the winter I shop estate sales for pie pans, vintage pyrex mixing bowls, and canning jars.  

My usual "go to" pie crust recipe is the one I like to call my Old Reliable Pie Crust, which is the same recipe I've been making since my 7th grade home economics class, and it's a good one straight from the familiar red gingham plaid Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.   However, it can be a challenge to roll out right if not enough water is added.   The challenge for new bakers is that water encourages gluten production, and if a crust gets manhandled when rolled out by making repairs or rerolling, it tends to get tough.     So, I started to experiment with a new technique that includes vodka popularized originally by Cooks Illustrated but now it's all over the food blogosphere.  By replacing some of the water with vodka, and goosing up the fat content with respect to flour, a novice baker is able to have a really wet dough with a soft consistency that is very forgiving.    Like many Cooks Illustrated recipes, their original is fraught with fussiness; it requires a food processor and lots of complicated instructions.   Any recipe that requires me to get my food processor out is what I consider an ordeal - not something I'd do unless I planned on spending the day in the kitchen.   

I wanted a recipe for my pie students that was easy and one that they could make on a weekday evening without lots of gadgets.  This recipe requires only a fork and a rolling pin.   If you have a bench scraper, it's nice to have to pick up and move the dough, but an egg turner would do in a pinch.  I've heard of people using a bottled water to roll out pie dough, so I guess you don't even need a rolling pin!  (However, rolling pins can often be found at estate sales)  The recipe uses both butter and shortening, although it could be used with all shortening or even lard.  No need for any fancy pastry flour.  The result is a light flaky crust and it's easy to roll out - it doesn't tend to form cracks.  Make sure to use lots of flour on the countertop and on the rolling pin - this dough has a very wet consistency.  If you need to pick it up and reroll it because you've made a mistake, have no fear, it will still come out great.   I prefer to use shortening in stick form - it makes it an easy job to cut it into small pieces.   Use the cheapest vodka you can find - save your Grey Goose to treat yourself to a cosmopolitan when the pie is in the oven.   The vodka will cook out while baking, and it won't leave any flavor in the crust.  Since alcohol prohibits gluten formation, it allows the dough to be wet enough to roll out easily.

Vodka Pie Crust - enough for a double crust pie

2.5 c all purpose unbleached flour
1 t salt
2 T sugar (omit for savory pies)
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter (if salted is all you have on hand, use it)
1/2 stick shortening  (8 T or 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup cheap vodka 
1/4 cup cold water

How to make pie crust:
1. Keep the fat  and liquid cold - I store my shortening and vodka in the fridge
2. Mix the dry stuff together with a fork
3. Cut up the fat in small pieces and mash it into the dry stuff with a fork until the pieces are about pea sized
4. Add enough liquid to form 2 hockey pucks that hold together well.
5. Refrigerate the pucks until it's time to roll out

How to roll it out:
1. Make sure the hockey puck doesn't have lots of cracks around the edges - use your hands  to fix any cracks
2.  Put  plenty of flour on the countertop put the puck on it.  Sprinkle flour on the puck.
3. Rub some flour on the rolling pin and roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick circle, rotating the dough to make the circle even. 
4.  Flip the dough over and sprinkle dough with flour and roll out to about an 1/8th inch thick.
5.  Use a bench scraper or spatula to fold the dough in half and put the pie pan next to the fold.
6.  Use the scraper to help place the dough in the pan, and unfold it. 
7.  Fill the crust and top using the same roll out and transfer technique. 

Want an idea for what to fill it with?  How about's how to invent your own apple pie 

6 apples good for baking - Ida Red, Northern Spy, Empire, Rome peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 - 3/4 c. sugar
3 T. flour
Spices - some ideas are 1 teaspoon or so of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, and (go easy on these! they have strong tastes) maybe a pinch of ginger, mace, nutmeg or allspice

Mix together and fill a double crust pie.  Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes with foil around the edges. Remove foil and bake for 20 - 25 min until crust is golden

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can Jam October: Corn Relish

I love sweet corn!  My family, however,  is officially sick of eating corn on the cob this season.   While I never tire of it, it happens every year...this time it was my son announced at dinner the other night that he would not eat any more.  "We have it, like, every night, Mom", he announced, and my husband nodded his head in agreement.  "You'll miss it come winter!" I warned them, but they would not be convinced.    What to do with it all?  Corn can be pressure canned, but it's far better blanched and removed from the cob and frozen.    However, this year, I am going to try something a little different - corn relish.   Linda Ziedrich, in her wonderful book Joy of Pickling describes it as an old fashioned stand in for salad when served chilled, or it can be mixed with cooked rice for a side dish.  I've tasted corn relish before - it's sweet and tangy... it's one of those things everyone's grandma used to put by.   I can't wait to crack into a jar come January!   
Linda's recipe omits the usual turmeric and powdered mustard typically found in corn relish recipes, like this one from the National Center for Home Food Preservation or this one  from Ball.   It usually makes the brine cloudy.  My suggested tweaks to her recipe is to use hot peppers instead of the mild peppers for something a little different, and use honey instead of the brown sugar if you like.   

Corn Relish - Sweet or Spicy
printer friendly

2 qts. (18 ears) fresh corn kernels
2 c. diced green bell peppers (3 large) or a mix of mild and hot
2 c. diced red bell peppers (3 large) or a mix of mild and hot
2 cups chopped onions (4 medium)
1/4 c. chopped garlic (1 head)
1 T. pickling salt
2 T. whole yellow mustard seeds
1 qt. cider vinegar
2/3 c. firmly packed light brown sugar or honey

Bring all ingredients to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Pack relish in jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.    I think it is time for corn relish to make a comeback, along with another old timey relish called piccalilli (or chow chow).   I am going to give those a try in the coming weeks.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Spiced Apple Rings

Today at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, I will be demonstrating how to can apples.   This recipe is from the National Center for Home Food Preservation which is an outstanding resource funded by the USDA and the state's extension services.   It's the place to find answers to all of your canning questions.   Spiced apple rings are technically a sweet pickle, and I fondly remember them from my youth.  On vacation one time, we were at a restaurant that featured what we called a "smorgasbord" and they had a bowl of spiced apple rings in their bright fluorescent red dyed glory.  I ate them all!  Here's my shot at making them myself, sans the red food coloring.  

Spiced Apple Rings

12 lbs firm tart apples (maximum diameter 2-1/2 inches)
12 cups sugar
6 cups water
1-1/4 cups white vinegar (5%)
3 tbsp whole cloves
8 cinnamon sticks

Yield: About 8 to 9 pints

Wash apples. To prevent discoloration, peel and slice one apple at a time. Immediately cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, remove core area with a melon baller and immerse in ascorbic acid solution. To make flavored syrup, combine sugar water, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon sticks and in a 6-qt saucepan. Stir, heat to boil, and simmer 3 minutes. Drain apples, add to hot syrup, and cook 5 minutes. Fill jars (preferably wide-mouth) with apple rings and hot flavored syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Sweet Pumpkin Pickles and Jardiniere

This weekend, I am teaching a class for Ann Arbor Rec and Ed about making pickles. These two recipes are the ones we are going to make in the class...both inspired by recipes I saw in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  and The Joy of Pickling. I've tweaked them a little to make them work out for my class of 6.

Sweet Pumpkin Pickles
Makes about 6 pints

2 cinnamon sticks, halved
12 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
1 lemon
6 c. granulated sugar
4 c. white vinegar

6 lbs pie pumpkins (depends on size) to make 24 cups peeled seeded pie pumpkin cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Tie spices in a square of cheesecloth; set aside.  Zest lemon, remove pith and separate sections from the membrane and coarsely chop.  Squeeze any juice from the membrane into a stainless steel pot, and add zest and sections.  Add spice bag, sugar and vinegar and boil for 10 minutes.  Add pumpkin and heat through, about 3 minutes.

Pack pumpkin into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Ladle hot syrup into jars leaving 1/2 inch space. Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Makes about 6 pints

Prepare 12 cups fall vegetables, including pepper strips, pattypan squash, carrots, shallots, cauliflower florets.  Prepare 5 pint jars.  Into each jar, place....

a garlic clove
4 peppercorns
4 allspice berries
a fresh tarragon sprig -OR-  a bay leaf
a fresh thyme sprig -OR- a oregano sprig
a fresh hot pepper or two

Fill each jar with vegetables. Prepare a brine with:

2 3/4 c. white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
2 1/2 c. water
5 t. pickling salt

Bring brine to a boil in a non reactive pot, stirring to dissolve the salt.   Pour brine over vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.   Store jars in a cool dark space for a month.