Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rooting Around the Root Cellar

   A cold, brittle morning in Michigan's UP (-11 with windchill up to -25).  The small weathered bird house swings slowly, like a pendulum outside my window. It lets me know there is a bit of a breeze.

  January is a time for reflection, a time to begin again, and a time to use the pantry items that were carefully put away during the sunny, fragrant autumn days.  Jars of canned apples, jams, homemade wines, meads and beer stack the metal shelves of an old coal room converted to a root cellar six years ago. It now smells slightly of the onions and garlic hanging from long rusted nails. Pumpkins and other squash fill the shelves below the jars.  Potatoes, beets and carrots sit on the floor in pine crates.
Canning Apples 201
     My small chest freezer boasts a stash of venison along with chicken and beef from the farmers market.  There is also some amazing beef from my sister and brother-in-law's farm. My Sis also gave me two frozen jars of grated horseradish which brought back memories of the torturous task of grating the pungent roots when we were kids.  This stuff is nothing like the those little jars you buy in the store. It has plenty of bite.
   The many containers of pesto are hidden beneath all the kale and sit on top of the quart jars of sour kraut my daughter and I made in October. We are pretty well stocked.
 Yes, I  have become my mother, I have become my grandmother(s).

So now. Let's cook !

Apple Pie (with my grandmother's pie crust and my canned apples)
Savory Butternut Squash Soup

My Grandmother's Pie Crust

1 Cup Lard (yes, lard makes the best pie crust, but I often use softened Coconut or Palm oil. Never use commercial shortening)
1 Tbs. real Butter
3 Cups Flour (preferably Organic Whole Wheat, Pastry, or unbleached)
1/2 cup Milk (you made need more when using whole wheat or other more absorbent flours)
Braid crust made by my daughter
Using a pastry blender, work lard and butter into flour until it forms a 'fine' crumb. Like cornmeal.  Mix in milk using a wooden spoon and then gently mix with your hands, just enough to form a pliable ball of dough. Never over mix or knead pie crust!  You may have to adjust the amount of liquid.  Makes a top and bottom for a pie or 2 bottom crusts.Apple Pie:
Roll out 1/2 of dough on a floured board, fit into pie dish. Poke pie shell with fork in few places.  Drain two quart jars of home canned apples, reserve juice/syrup for another purpose. Put apples in a bowl, add 3/4 - 1 cup sugar (depending on desired sweetness), 1 teas. Cinnamon, 2 Tbs. flour, fold gently.  Pour into pie shell. Roll out top crust, add vents, place on top of apple mixture. Seal ends.  Brush top of pie with milk, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350° for 45 min - 1 hour.

Pie dough and crusts can also be frozen. Label and use within a month.

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

Approx. 2 - 3 lb squash, cooked and mashed (use a sweet winter squash, such as a pie pumpkin, butternut, acorn or hubbard squash)
1 Cup peeled, cored and diced apple, sweet/tart such as Granny Smith
8 slices of thick bacon cut crosswise into 1/4 pieces
1 quart chicken or beef stock (preferably homemade)
2 Tbs. finely chopped sage leaves
1 teas. sea salt
1/2 teas. fresh ground black pepper
Cook the bacon in a large stockpot using medium heat until lightly brown and crisp, about 10 min. Transfer bacon to a plate using a slotted spoon. Return stockpot to heat, turn up to med-high.  Add the squash to the bacon fat and cook until beginning to brown, 6 - 8 min. Do not over stir, you really want the carmelized browning to happen. Stir in the apple pieces, sage, salt and pepper and cook for about 4 mins more. Add in the stock. Scrape the bottom using a wooden spoon to loosen up the nicely browned bits.  Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 8 more minutes until apples are very soft.
   I like to use a potato masher to crush some of the apple pieces, this depends on how small the dice were. Add the bacon pieces back into the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning.

 Can be garnished with fried sage leaves. Fry fresh sage leaves in a small cast iron pan with olive oil. Takes only a few seconds, remove as soon as they change color.
** A modified favorite from Fine Cooking magazine.

Hope you will try some of these favorites on a cold January day!

1 comment:

  1. As always ... as we leave your words, the stomach grumbles at opportunity lost.