Red Onion Jam

Hello, there.  I meant to post more last week but, well, life kind of got in the way.   Darling Daughter, who was supposed to be walking down the aisle this past weekend, instead packed up all her worldly goods and moved to Podunk to start afresh.  (Long story, but it seems that Mr. Fixit’s feet got a little on the chilly side.  That’s okay; he’ll have plenty of time to kick himself with those sized 9 1/2 ice blocks in the future.  The very near future.)  She’s bearing up well, and while she’s sad and hurt, she’s also excited at the opportunities her future now holds.

At any rate, after spending the week dealing with the logistics of getting DD, as well as her stuff, here in very short order, we had a moderately large family gathering on Sunday for Chocolate Bunny Day dinner at our house.  I’m exhausted, but things went quite nicely, and the dinner was delicious.

Our main course was boneless leg of lamb – or, as The G Man called it, Lego Lamb (hey, it got him to eat it) – that I butterflied and stuffed with a mixture of mint, parsley, dried currants, toasted pecans and sourdough bread crumbs.  It was just delicious, but since mint was part of the stuffing, it was served with this incredibly simple but oh-so-delicious condiment.

Nor is this jam good with just lamb (many variations of lamb, as you’ll see with my next recipe), but it would go excellently with beef, pork, or game – in fact, venison will probably be the next protein I make to to serve with it.  It would also be a lovely part of a charcuterie or cheese platter.

While this isn’t hard to make, it does take a little time – about 45 minutes (it’s so worth it, though).  A little goes a long way, however – you’ll start off with at least 6 cups of sliced onion that will cook down to about 2 cups, and a serving is a mere 2 tablespoons.  A wonderfully flavorful – tart, sweet and earthy – 2 tablespoon that will totally rock your taste buds.

Red Onion Jam. This richly-colored, sweet and tangy condiment goes really well with red meats and strong cheeses.

Click the image to enlarge

Red Onion Jam
Serves: 16
[i]Makes about 2 cups[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with a little salt and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft but not brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and honey; reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and almost all of the liquid has cooked out, another 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar; season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the jam to cool to room temperature before serving.
  4. Nutrition Facts
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 96 calories, 5.9g total fat, 15.3mg cholesterol, 3.7mg sodium, 13.1mg potassium, 9.7g
  6. carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 4.9g sugar, <1g protein

Adventures in Yogurt Making

Here I am again, and devastated to report the slot on my Nikon that holds the SD card has decided to commit suicide.  If that’s not bad enough, it selfishly decided to take the 16GB memory card containing ALL of my unpublished (read: unsaved) food photos along with it.  This means the images of all the recipes that I’ve been photographing, but haven’t had time to post, have gone to That Great Mass Storage Device In The Sky.

So, yeah…no photos.  Have I mentioned I’m devastated?

(In a desperate ploy to at least partially appease his devastated – and, possibly, hysterical – wife, Beloved suggested I look at a new camera body so I didn’t have to try and take photographs with my lousy-for-taking-pictures Anroid phone for the 3 weeks it will take my D90 to be repaired.  I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D5300; the D90 will serve as a backup upon its return.)

Fortunately, I had already saved this particular photo and since making yogurt was one of the things I’ve been wanting to talk about, well, there you go.

As I’m sure My Better Half will tell you, I’m often guilty of coming up with Grand Plans that don’t see fruition.  Not from lack of follow-through, but from becoming distracted by other, sometimes more important, things that aren’t part of the Grand Plan – and, as I’m sure he will tell you, I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew.

In other words, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

At any rate, homemade yogurt has been on my list of Grand Plans for quite some time, and I have finally gotten around to giving it a whirl.  As I am wont to do, I began by researching and the first thing I researched was yogurt makers.  Since, like Alton Brown, I don’t like one-use gadgets, after reading that yogurt makers can suddenly lose their temperature control – and successful yogurt depends on pretty precise temperature control – it didn’t take long for me to look into other methods of making yogurt in my own kitchen.  And there are lots of different methods.

– Both David Lebovitz and Bon Appetit suggest just putting your tempered milk/starter mixture in a jar and leaving it in a “slightly warm spot” in your kitchen for 10 to 12 hours.  So much for precise temperature control. (I’m sure this will work, but the yogurt will be thin.)

– If you don’t feel comfortable leaving jars of warm milk sitting on your counter for hours, Aimee at Simple Bites tells you how to culture it with a heating pad and towels.

– The Creative Simple Life shows us how to make yogurt with a slow cooker.

– Don’t have a slow cooker or a heating pad?  Marisa at Food In Jars cultures hers in a small insulated cooler.

– Sarah at Heartland Renaissance started out making yogurt in her slow cooker, but now makes it in the oven.

While doing all of this research and considering all of these different methods for making yogurt, I found one site that suggested in an offhand manner that it’s possible to make yogurt using a Sous Vide Supreme.

Hold the phone.  I have one of those.

And it works.

Fabulously, really.

One of the reasons yogurt makers work so well is that they can (or are supposed to) hold the culturing milk at a steady, correct temperature, usually somewhere between 105 F and 113 F, ensuring that the yogurt doesn’t get too hot or too cold so the happy, beneficial little bacteria have the perfect environment to become fruitful and multiply.  Holding food at a steady temperature for hours is what a sous vide is designed to do, making it the perfect appliance for making yogurt.

Now, if you look at many homemade yogurt recipes, you’re going to find that some use just milk and a starter culture – usually yogurt, either store-bought or from a previous batch – while some include things like powdered milk and/or heavy cream.  The purpose of these additions is to thicken it; yogurt made with just milk tends to be a little on the runny side.  While I don’t have a real big problem with powdered milk per se (there is some concern about the process oxidizing the cholesterol, which is A Bad Thing), I’m not real crazy about the taste, and decided to use a combination of whole, vat-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from a local dairy that grass feeds their cows, and organic, vat-pasteurized heavy cream.

The results are nothing short of delicious.  While still not as quite as thick as popular commercial yogurts, it is incredibly creamy, fresh and tangy.

A candy thermometer – one of those glass ones that clip to the side of the pan – makes the job much, much easier.

Homemade Yogurt
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
Instructions
  1. Fill 3 sterilized pint Ball jars 3/4 full with water, and set them in the empty sous vide. Fill the sous vide with water until it reaches the bottom of the necks of the jars. Remove the jars, pour out the water and wipe them dry with a clean cloth.
  2. Plug in the sous vide and set the temperature for 107 F. Cover with the lid.
  3. While the sous vide is coming to temp, combine the milk and cream in a large, heavy saucepan. Over low heat, slowly bring the milk/cream mixture to 180 F; this should take at least 15 to 20 minutes – if heated too quickly, the yogurt may turn out lumpy with a “grainy” texture. Remove from the heat and allow the milk/cream mixture to cool to 110 F.
  4. Whisk in the yogurt and pour the mixture into the jars, dividing it equally between the 3. Cap the jars and place them in the sous vide for 4 to 5 hours, or until the yogurt has thickened.
  5. Allow the yogurt to cool on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour, then refrigerate – it will continue to thicken as it becomes cold.
  6. Eat within a week.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 162 calories, 14.1g total fat, 50.3mg cholesterol, 54.7mg sodium, 156.5mg potassium, 5.6g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 5.1g sugar, 3.8g protein

 

Of course, if you don’t have a Sous Vide Supreme, you can choose any of the other methods listed above with good results.

And what can you do with this wonderful, rich, creamy and delicious yogurt?  Just about anything you want, really.  I’ve used it to cook with, eaten it straight out of the jar (something I never did with plain store-bought yogurt – blech) and made this lovely, filling breakfast.  Which would also make a damn fine dessert.

Banana-Berry Yogurt Parfait.  Delicious, healthy and filling, this makes a great quick breakfast or dessert.

Banana-Berry Yogurt Parfait
Serves: 1
[i]Gently heating the honey will help it mix into the cold yogurt completely.[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup Homemade Yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/2 medium banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries, thawed
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and yogurt. Layer the sweetened yogurt in a tall parfait or dessert dish alternately with the berries and bananas.
  2. Serve immediately.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 275 calories, 14.4g total fat, 50.3mg cholesterol, 57.8mg sodium, 534.9mg potassium, 34.9g carbohydrates, 3.9g fiber, 23.1g sugar, 4.9g protein

 

Pink Sauerkraut

Hello, there.  I’m working from home today because I have this thing about going outside when it’s -11 F outside, with a windchill of -40 F.

Just sayin’.

Anyhoo, this was part of our (new) traditional New Year’s dinner.  When I moved from Texas to Ohio in 2005, I was a bit perplexed my first New Year to find no displays of bags of black eyed peas alongside heaps of collard greens in the produce section of the grocery stores.  Instead, there were bags and bags of commercial sauerkraut alongside all of the pork in the meat case – it seems that up here, sauerkraut and pork are the traditional foods for the New Years.

Repulsed by commercial sauerkraut, I defiantly sought out the pitiful 1-pound bags of black eyed peas hidden next to the bags and boxes of rice.  I was by golly gonna have my black eye peas and cornbread anyway, thank you very much.

And so it’s gone every year I’ve been here.  Until this year, when I decided, you know, pork and sauerkraut just might be nice with some Hoppin’ John.  And that’s what we had.

(A note about the Hoppin’ John:  if you read the post I’ve linked to, you’ll see that I state black eyed peas do not need to be soaked.  I have completely reversed my stance about this, but we’ll go into this some more later this week.)

At any rate, around Christmas I decided if I wanted sauerkraut with my New Year’s dinner, I better get started and make some.  But rather than a traditional kraut, I thought I’d shake things up a bit and see what would happen if I used a red cabbage, a sweet yellow onion, an apple and whole allspice berries.

What happened was a vibrantly hot pink sauerkraut that is just delicious – crunchy and earthy, with a slight bite from the onion and just the faintest hint of sweetness from the apple and allspice.  It’s a news favorite here at the Sushi Bar.

Pink Sauerkraut. Add a beautiful splash of color to any dish with this vibrant and deliciously different ferment.

Click the image to enlarge

Pink Sauerkraut
Serves: 16
[i]Makes one quart[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • filtered water
Instructions
  1. Have ready a clean, dry, 1 quart glass jar.
  2. Toss the cabbage, onion and apple together in a large bowl until well mixed.
  3. Layer the cabbage mixture into the jar until it is about 1/3 full. Sprinkle some of the salt on top of the cabbage and pound it down with a wooden spoon or pestle until the cabbage begins to give off liquid. Sprinkle in a few of the whole allspice berries.
  4. Repeat layering the cabbage, salt and allspice, pounding in between each layer, until all of the ingredients are in the jar. Add filtered water to cover the cabbage if necessary. There should be about 1 inch between the top of the kraut and the top of the jar.
  5. Top off the sauerkraut with about 1/4 cup of olive or coconut oil to keep the cabbage submerged beneath the liquid, or use a glass weight. Cap loosely and store at room temperature (on a counter out of direct sunlight is fine) for 3 days, or until the kraut begins to bubble. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 22 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 364mg sodium, 121.9mg potassium, 5.5g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, 3.2g sugar, <1g protein

Roasted Sprouts and Spuds

I’m still not doing a lot of cooking; in fact, we’ve pretty much been living off of Thanksgiving leftovers for the last 5 days.  Today, though, I’ll probably freeze what’s left of the turkey and toss the rest.  I’m sick of looking at it.

I made this dish for the first time last week a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and loved it so much I made it again for lunch the next day – it was just delicious with the Cider Glazed Chicken Bites.  Really, though, it’s delicious no matter what you serve it with – heck, I’d probably be perfectly happy eating a great big ol’ bowl of just this, it’s that good.

It’s so tasty, in fact, that I’m willing to bet that even if you don’t like Brussels sprouts, you’d like this.  Roasting is such a good way to prepare vegetables – it does wonders for strong-tasting veggies like Brussels sprouts, and shredding or thinly slicing them cooks them more quickly than leaving them whole and gives them a great texture, completely devoid of the “woodiness” that can sometimes plague the nutritious little beauties.

And then there’s the potatoes; whether you choose to eat them or not, if you say you don’t like roasted potatoes, you’re either fibbing or just odd.  That’s okay, of course…I’m not exactly the poster child for “normal” myself.

To make the preparation easier, I ran the sprouts through the slicing blade of my food processor.  I used the fingerlings because it’s what I had on hand; you can use whatever kind of potato you have on hand – yes, sweet potatoes would be fine, and would make it Whole30 compliant – but if you’re using large spuds, I’d cut them into 2″ cubes instead of just slicing them in half lengthwise.

Roasted Sprouts and Spuds. Healthful and seasonal, this side dish is just delicious, and couldn't be easier to prepare.

Click the image to enlarge

Roasted Sprouts and Spuds
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 3 cups thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
  • 4 ounces fingerling potatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Combine the Brussels sprouts and potatoes in a large bowl; drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Add seasonings and toss again.
  3. Spread the vegetables on a shallow rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through the cooking time, or until the sprouts are beginning to brown and the potatoes are fork tender.
  4. Serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 232 calories, 14g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1448.7mg sodium, 799.8mg potassium, 24.5g carbohydrates, 6.7g fiber, 3.4g sugar, 6.2g protein

Sprout Kraut

The last batch of sauerkraut I made is but a memory, the dilly beans are long gone and the escabeche is but a few pitiful carrots and jalapeno slices floating around in a jar.

Time for another ferment.

The idea for this came from a recipe for Brussels sprouts, halved and fermented with dill, garlic and chilies I found at Saveur.com.  I was tickled that it was actually fermented; most mainstream recipes I find for pickles (and that’s all a ferment really is) are made with vinegar.  But since Beloved has been asking me to make more ‘kraut – he loves it with the grass-fed beef hot dogs our butcher has begun making – I decided to see just how it would taste using my favorite cruciferous vegetable.

It’s interesting.  I tend to prefer ferments before they get too terribly sour (the exception to that was the dilly beans, which just got better the longer they fermented); not much of a problem because we eat them quickly once they make the transition from the counter to the refrigerator.  This particular ferment, however, is different.

Brussels sprouts have a much stronger flavor than cabbage and even a week after transferring the jar to fridge, the kraut still tasted overwhelmingly of garlic and Brussels sprouts.  The longer it cures, though, the more sour – and the tastier – it becomes; I’ve begun to wish I’d left it on the counter for at least a week before putting it in cold storage, which slows down the fermentation process (but does not stop it).

Again, it’s interesting; I pull the jar out of the fridge every day or two and eat a big forkful to see how it’s coming along.  I’m literally tasting it as it changes character from salty, garlicky Brussels sprouts to a sharp, sour kraut that makes my tastebuds tingle.  It’s going to be marvelous by the time we get to the end of our jar, and I’ll make it again.

I used celery seed in this instead of the fresh dill called for in the original recipe because, for one, I have a large jar of celery seed in my spice cabinet that should be used and because the fresh dill in the dilly beans, while delicious, was a bit of a mess at the end and I didn’t want to have to pick most of it out of the kraut in order to eat it.  It was a good choice; the celery flavor is subtle, but delicious.  You can leave out the red pepper flakes if you like, but they do a lot to tame the strong, cabbagey flavor of the sprouts.  The garlic is a must – don’t skip it.

Sprout Kraut. For a twist on traditional sauerkraut, shredded Brussels sprouts are fermented with celery seed, peppercorns and garlic.

Click  the image to enlarge

Sprout Kraut
Serves: 16
[i]Makes 1 quart[/i]
Ingredients
  • 4 cups shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • filtered water
Instructions
  1. Have ready a clean, dry 1 quart glass jar.
  2. Layer the shredded Brussels sprouts into the jar until it is about 1/4 full. Sprinkle some of the salt on top of the cabbage and pound it down with a wooden spoon or pestle until the sprouts begin to give off liquid. Sprinkle in a bit of the celery seed, a few peppercorns, a pinch of the red pepper flakes and a clove of garlic.
  3. Repeat the previous step, pounding the mixture between each layer, until all of the ingredients are in the jar. Add enough filtered water to cover the kraut. There should be about 1 inch between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar.
  4. Top off the kraut with about 1/4 cup of olive or coconut oil to keep the cabbage submerged, or use a [url href=”http://www.pickl-it.com/products/94/pickl-it-dunk-r-3-pack/” target=”_blank”]glass weight[/url]. Cap loosely and store at room temperature (on a counter out of direct sunlight is fine) for 3 days, or until the kraut begins to bubble.
  5. Transfer to the refrigerator and continue to cure for 3 to 4 weeks before eating.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 13 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 358.6mg sodium, 99.3mg potassium, 2.7g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, <1g sugar, <1g protein