Uncategorized

Pressure Cooker Navy Beans

Fissler Stove-top Pressure Cooker

 

For some reason, I decided to buy a bag of dry navy beans the last time  went to the grocery store.  I guess I had the idea to use my Fissler stove-top pressure cooker and was having some nostalgic feelings about my Mother cooking a “big pot of soup beans”. She usually added a big ham bone from a recently cooked ham supper. I used to complain about these meals that had no “main dish” focus…in my mind, the should have been meat. Mom would say, “If you want meat, fish that bone out of the beans. It has plenty of meat left on it!” When I objected to that, she would say, “Then make yourself a hamburger.”

I think these meals were a piece of nostalgia for Mom, too. She’s a bona fide coal miner’s daughter from Harlan County, Kentucky, born and raised during The Great Depression. Sometimes, she would make navy beans, and sometimes, it would be pinto beans; but the way she ate them was always the same: the beans has a some generous dashes of Texas Pete hot sauce. A bite of beans, a bite of onion, and a bite of good ole’ white bread. Though I’m sure beans were a cheap way to feed a lot of people in hard times, you could tell that she truly enjoyed her beans ritual.

Years later, I would try my first “real” Boston Baked Beans. Of course, I had eaten Campbell’s pork & beans; but I had never really had baked beans, from scratch. My Mother in-law was from Upstate New York and did some dishes that I didn’t get much in North Carolina. She made rare roast beef, instead of pot roast. And she made baked beans. She even had the real deal bean pot to cook then in the oven. A few years later, she would learn some German recipes. She and my Father in-law lived near Stuttgart for a couple of years, when he worked for IBM. During that time, she bought her Fissler stove-top pressure cooker…which she recently gave to me, when she found it while cleaning out a closet.

So, here we are with a pound of dried navy beans, a pressure cooker, and years worth of memories from two families. I have to admit that, while I like a bowl of navy bean soup, really prefer baked beans as a side dish, when it comes to dinner. And I still want meat. Sorry, Mom. I’m probably going to make that hamburger.

I started by soaking the dried beans in plenty of water, overnight. I started yesterday afternoon, and changed the water before I went to bed. This morning, I drained and rinsed the beans, added them to the pressure cooker pot and covered them with water. I added a few carrots, a little onion, a couple of bay leaves, a tablespoon of oil, and some salt. I have been warned not to salt beans, before cooking them, because it would make them tough. I have recently heard that it is not a problem, and that the dried beans can even be soaked in brine. I didn’t go that far, but I did salt them for cooking.

Soaked beans, water(too much), bay leaves, carrots, onion, celery, garlic clove, and salt.

Consulting some online sources, I found that navy beans should be pressure cooked for six minutes. There were also cautions about not overfilling the cooker with water…no more than halfway for items that expand, like beans or rice. The oil, by the way, is supposed to help suppress the foam during the cooking process. At this point, I have to admit that I must have overfilled with the water. I thought it was about halfway, but a couple of minutes into full pressure, the cooker started sputtering and spitting. After the six minutes, I released the pressure and tested a bean. It was obviously not nearly done, so I’m assuming that the pressure had be lost for most of the process. I carefully poured out some of the liquid (I didn’t measure how much, but the beans were still covered.). After a little clean-up and washing the cooker’s lid and seal, I repeated the cooking cycle for another five minutes. Now, they are soft and creamy. I hope they are still going to hold up to the process for transforming them into baked beans.

Cooked beans.

After cooking the navy beans, I discarded the celery, carrots, and bay leaves. The onions and garlic pretty much dissolved. To the beans and remaining liquid, I added about 2/3 cup molasses, 1/2 cup ketchup, a handful of thickly sliced onions, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 Tbs. cider vinegar, and about 1/3 cup real bacon crumbles, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.  I also had a pinch of Coleman’s English dry mustard powder…I wanted to add a teaspoon, but ran out. I was going to use some kind of smoked or salted pork product, but didn’t have any; so I substituted the bacon crumbles. One last missing ingredient is Worcestershire sauce. I thought I had some, but I’m out. Wanted a couple of tablespoons. So, I mixed all of the ingredients thoroughly and poured everything into a deep, round souffle/casserole dish.

Ready to be covered and baked.

Now it turns out that we may not be at home all afternoon/evening, so I’m popping this into the refrigerator, for now. If I make it by the store, I’ll grab some Worcestershire sauce and Coleman’s English dry mustard. Otherwise, I’ll go with it like it is.

Game show countdown music….

Okay, so I never made it to the store for the additional ingredients, and I forgot to add the brown sugar. Ugh. But honestly, my blood sugar probably benefitted from that omission. I went ahead and baked the beans for an hour at 350°F, covered with foil. Then I stirred them and baked them another hour at 275°F, uncovered. They did not turn extremely dark, like some Boston baked beans that I’ve seen. With the omissions, they probably don’t qualify; however, they were tasty anyway! Generally,  I’m happy with the learning process, the lessons learned, and the results. I’ll definitely  give it another try, soon!

 

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

Pickled Mushrooms

 

I found a couple of packages of mushrooms on the bargain rack at the grocery store recently for about $2.50 total. One was standard white mushrooms and the other was cremini. Both batches weighed just over a pound and looked to be in perfectly good shape to me…especially if I were just going to cook them anyway. I didn’t really have a specific plan, at the time, but they were a great deal.

Free time this afternoon nudged me into the kitchen. I haven’t canned anything in awhile, since the house has been in turmoil with renovations for months (ugh), so I pulled out the pressure canner, rounded up some jars, and gathered the other supplies that I needed and set to work. I found a recipe for pickled mushrooms that looked good and wouldn’t require the pressure to can. I’m using the canner pot, but not the top.

I started the prep by washing and quartering the mushrooms.

Cleaned and prepped mushrooms

in addition to the other ingredients in the recipe, I decided to add a sprig of rosemary to each jar, because I think mushrooms and rosemary go together very well.

Flavorings.

Note: I found that a pound of mushrooms ends up being about right per pint jar. I was hoping for more, but it didn’t work out that way. Benefit from my miscalculations! Next time, I’m buying a little over 5 pounds…and I might increase the brine ingredients to accommodate them. I knew I was going to bit short on mushrooms…the recipe only called for 3 pounds…but I cut mine into fairly big chunks and thought I’d get more than two jars. Ah well.

The recipe is originally attributed to Morton Salt Company and these are the proportions that were given:

3 lbs Mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed, quartered (I recommend 5 lbs, they reduce in size substantially while simmering i the brine.)

2-1/2 cups white vinegar

1-3/4 cups water

3 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt

1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns per pint jar

1/3 cup onion, sliced or chopped, divided between jars

1 whole garlic clove per jar

optional: 1 each 2 inch sprig rosemary per jar (my addition to original recipe)

Directions: Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a large sauce pan. Add mushrooms and bring to a boil.

Mushrooms added to boiling brine.

Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Mushrooms after simmering.

Pack mushrooms into sterilized pint jars with other ingredients added to them. Leave a half inch head space and fill with hot brine to same. Remove any air bubbles and wipe rims with a clean cloth or paper towel. place prepared canning lids on the jars and screw on rings. Make sure water in canner covers the jars by 2 inches and is boiling. Process the jars for 20 minutes. Remove to a towel on a level counter for 23 hours. Check for good seal. Remove rings and store in a cool dry place.

Ready for 'shrooms

Pickling flavors in the pint jars

I’ve seen a recipe for marinated, canned mushrooms; but I decided not to go that route, because the oil can interfere with the seal. I believe it would be better to use some of the brine and make a vinaigrette  when I use the mushrooms, if I go in that direction. I also like that mushrooms these could be used in a cocktail or some other application where oil is not desired. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with them yet. I may enter one on the NC State Fair. I don’t have anything else yet, for competition. Either way, they should pickle for at least a couple weeks, so I’ll figure it out later.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

My New Kitchen Toy: Sous Vide Cooker

img_20170125_171542614

I’ve seen a few people doing sous vide cooking at home for awhile now, on some cooking forums that I follow. I’m not sure of the full potential, but I’m intrigued. With a little Christmas cash to spend, I decided to buy a portable sous vide cooker that I believe was a good buy. After a little research, I settled on a model made by Gourmia that seems to get good reviews. The model number is GSV-140. Amazon was selling it for $99.00…retail is supposedly $199.00, which I probably would not have been willing to pay. A Foodsaver vacuum sealer is handy to have as well, though you could get away with using zippered storage bags…they just would be a little more likely to leak, and the vacuum makes the sous vide process more effective, I think. I’ve had a vacuum sealer for 20+ years. Disclaimer: I am not in any way sponsored by or reimbursed by either Gourmia, Foodsaver, or Amazon.

Okay. So, the sous vide cooker arrived and I unpacked it, and read through the quick start-up guide and some other literature that came with it. I’m not going to cover the definition of sous vide, or all the technical stuff here. You can find tons of information online. This is just to document my experiments and share them, if anyone is interested.

I had a vacuum sealed bag of chicken drumsticks and thighs on hand and decided to make that my first foray into sous vide.

Vacuum sealed chicken pieces.

Vacuum sealed chicken pieces.

It was pretty simple: follow the directions for clamping the cooker to a container (I’m using a stock pot), add water between two marks, using the bagged chicken to get the amount right with volume displacement. Remove the bag. Enter the time and temperature according to the instructions for the cut of chicken I used, and start. When the water is up to temperature, I added the bag back in, and clipped it to the side of the pot.

Dial in the time and temperature.

Dial in the time and temperature.

You will find that sous vide recipes often give a wide range of time for cooking. Without getting bogged down in the technicalities, what you are doing is a long, slow poaching; at a very accurate temperature. You cook for a minimum period of time required, to reach the target temperature throughout the product being cooked. At that minimum time, the food is safe to eat, but you can go to the maximum time in the recipe, without seriously affecting texture and quality of the product. Passed that time, some foods could get overcooked…mushy.

I set the temperature according to directions, at 158F. I cooked it for three hours. I could have stopped at two or gone for five, but I decided to do three hours. It was a bit unsettling that the juices in the bag were not “running clear”, like other cooking methods use as a gauge for chicken being “done”. They were still a murky, dark reddish color.

Chicken, unbagged.

Chicken, unbagged.

Cooked chicken

Cooked chicken

However, when I opened the bag and pulled a piece of meat apart, it was cooked through. It was very moist and had a good texture. At this point, I could have finished on a grill or in a saute pan, if I wanted to brown the meat. I decided to just eat one of the thigh pieces and put the rest into the refrigerator for a later recipe.

Checking to see if cooked through.

Checking to see if cooked through.

Day two, I have done some reading on sous vide cooking eggs. I’m doing four eggs currently at 147F for an hour and a  half.

img_20170127_095856046

The result should be like an over medium egg, or a medium boiled egg. I like a set white…no slime, and a yolk that has begun to gel, but not solid. If I were cooking in a pan, the result should be a yolk that is starting to solidify on the outside and still runny in the middle…so that, when I cut it up, there is enough runny yolk to coat the cut white pieces…but not runny enough to pool on the plate. I get pretty specific about how I like my eggs…I know!  Will update later today.

Egg update: Holy mackeral. The egg yolks are perfect. The texture is creamy and amazing! The whites were a little underdone for my liking, but from my reading, I know that some may remain watery…and I was able to dribble that little bit off. So, now I just need to experiment with adjusting the temperature up a couple of degrees and/or try adding another half hour to the time. It was fairly easy to get the eggs out of the shells. I just cracked them on the large end and removed enough shell to allow the egg to be tipped out into a small bowl.

Tipped out into a small bowl.

Tipped out into a small bowl.

Carefully opening the egg.

Carefully opening the egg.

After I checked the yolk texture, I gently lifted the eggs onto some awaiting toast, leaving that little bit of watery white behind.

Sous vise eggs on toast. Yum.

Sous vise eggs on toast. Yum.

Yolk test...oh, MY!

Yolk test…oh, MY!

I will say that, while the whites were very soft, there were not what I would call “slimy”…that really repulsive stuff on eggs when someone under-cooks the whites. I would just like them set firmer. Overall, I’m very impressed. I have seen sous vide recipes for creme brulee and hollandaise sauce. I haven’t gone through them yet, but I’m betting the texture is remarkable. We’ll see!

Standard
Uncategorized

Easiest Dessert Ever!

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

 

I have always been an admirer of Jaques Pepin. The man is a culinary technique master of masters. Today, I happened to catch an episode of his PBS television show “Fast Food, My Way” and watched him prepare the following recipe. It was SO simple, that I had to prepare it immediately! I didn’t catch a name for the dish, but it’s basically a berry crumble. I can’t imagine a dessert being any easier, and still being “homemade”.

Ready to bake...blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Ready to bake…blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

2 small containers of fresh or individually frozen berries, plus/minus (I used frozen blackberries.)

1/3 cup sugar, more or less, depending on sweetness of berries

Your choice of cookies, crumbled. (I used my homemade shortbread) About 1/2 cup plus/minus

4 T. butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. In a pyrex or similar baking dish, around 8″x8″ or 9″x9″, add enough berries to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle cookie crumbles over to evenly cover the berries. Sprinkle sugar over, evenly, Break up the butter into pieces and dot around the top of the crumble. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling throughout the dish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to warm or room temperature.

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Serve with your choice of accompaniment, such as ice cream, whipped cream, crème fraiche, etc. I can see doing these in individual mini dishes for guests. Enjoy!

Standard
Uncategorized

Muscadine Grapes: Unexpected Bounty!

Big, juicy muscadine grapes!

Big, juicy muscadine grapes!

 

I got a text message from a niece recently, because she saw that I had made scuppernong jelly, and I had commented that my usual foraging locations were not productive this year, so I had to purchase the grapes at the local farmer’s market. She and her husband had just moved back to my area recently and she discovered that the property has a large grape arbor in the back yard. Would I like to come by and pick some grapes? Absolutely!!!

I have an 18 month old grandson and she has a 13 month old baby, so we arranged a play date and grape picking get together. A couple of days later, she mentioned that they had friends over this past weekend and they had picked a big bag of the grapes, but she thought there were more available. *sigh* Well, I guessed the grapes would be pretty sparse. After a little playtime inside with the babies, we headed outside…hmmm…there’s a cluster of ripe grapes, and a few more, and more…and I realized that there was no shortage of grapes here.

Kids outside by the grape arbor.

Kids outside by the grape arbor.

I filled a 2 gallon pail and there were plenty left! After another week, there will be more ripened and ready to pick. I have weighed what I picked, and I have 11 pounds, 6 ounces!

Nice haul of muscadine grapes!

Nice haul of muscadine grapes!

So, now I have to decide what to do with the grapes…if I need them all for a batch of wine, or if I will have enough to make some jelly, too. I may have to go back next week for a smaller batch to do jelly. I’ll be reviewing my last two wine batch blogs to see what I did with them. Two years ago, I did a muscadine red wine that turned out pretty dry, due to the yeast I chose. https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/day-144-muscadine-wine/  Last year, I did a muscadine/blueberry wine that was a little lighter/softer, but still fairly dry. https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/starting-blueberry-muscadine-wine/  I would like to do one that is a little sweeter, but I still don’t want to do the overly sweet wines that are normally associated with muscadines. Also, for last years wine, I bought a pH test kit and something to adjust it, if necessary…have to track that down and read up on it again. I also rented a wine bottle corker and bought bona fide wine bottles and corks. The first batch was put into beer bottles. I might have to open a bottle of each…for research.  I have also read that sweeter homemade wines don’t preserve as well, so just a little sweetness would be good. More to follow after research and when I get time to work on it.

Standard
Uncategorized

Scuppernong Jelly 2016

Scuppernong grapes

Scuppernong grapes

 

Well, this year hasn’t been too productive in my usual spots for wild foraging my Muscadines; so, I wound up purchasing some Scuppernongs at the local farmer’s market. Scuppernongs are the green/gold variety of Muscadines. I think the flavor is a little lighter, and maybe has a little honey note to it. (I’ve thought about making a Scuppernong mead, but haven’t done it yet.) I bought a “one gallon” bag of grapes for $10.00 and weighed them when I got home. It was literally one big grape over four pounds. Of course, I ate about 4 or 5, so it was about 3 pounds and 14-1/2 ounces when I started the jelly making process.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

The recipe that I’m using is from the USDA Guidelines…pretty much have to do that if I want to be able to enter my final product in the N.C. State Fair Food Preservation competition. (I’ve entered a number of things over the last four years and won two first place blue ribbons and several second place ribbons.) Here’s a link to the recipe: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/grape_jelly_powder.html   But keep in mind, things don’t always work out perfectly regarding volume.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

This time, the grapes I had yielded only 3-1/2 cups of juice…even though the recipe only calls for 3-1/2 pounds of grapes and a cup of water. The recipe is based on Concord grapes, though…maybe they provide a better yield than Scuppernongs. Anyway, to get to the 5 cups of juice that is called for, I strained my grapes through a cheesecloth bag that I created and hung from a cabinet and allowed to drip into a bowl.

Extracting the grape juice.

Extracting the grape juice.

After squeezing the pulp, I put another 1-1/2 cups of water in a pot on the stove and boiled the cheesecloth bag in it, like a teabag for ten minutes. I poured the now-flavored water into the bowl and re-hung the bag to drip. I’m trying to keep the flavor from getting watered down.

The juice is now refrigerated until I’m ready  to continue the process tomorrow. This allows any sediment to settle and reduces the chance of tartrate crystals forming in the final product. The juice will be filtered through cheesecloth again before continuing.

Next Day: I ran the juice through cheesecloth and held back a tiny amout of sediment. I needed to add about a 1/2 c. of water to make 5 cups total.

Almost ready to can.

Almost ready to can.

Followed the rest of the recipe instructions and ended with nine 1/2-pint jelly jars and processed them in the water bath canner for 5 minutes. Now they sit for 24 hours. (I love hearing those lids popping as the vacuum seals them to the jars!)

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

Standard
Uncategorized

Gnocchi from Leftover Mashed Potatoes

 

Mashed Potato Gnocchi

Mashed Potato Gnocchi

Last night, I made mashed potatoes.  For what I’m doing in this post, I’m sure any mashed potatoes will do; as long as there’s nothing strange about them. Mine were peeled, boiled russets with butter, milk, and salt. Mashed with the traditional hand mashing tool. Basic, but delicious! So, I wound up with some leftovers and did a little searching, and I realized that I could make gnocchi. I really like potato gnocchi.

I found a basic recipe that called for two cups of mashed potatoes, 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 egg, and a pinch of salt. I found that the flour component was a little less than I required…the dough was way too sticky! The amount of flour really depends on how much moisture is in the potatoes and the humidity in the room. I just kept adding a little at a time, until I could handle the dough and knead it, without it sticking to my hands.

First, I put 1/2 cup of the flour on my board with a pinch of salt, and added the mashed potatoes on top.

IMG_20160715_115716737

I created a well and added the egg, and another pinch of salt.

IMG_20160715_115738742

Then, I topped that with the rest of the flour and mixed together. This was the messy part. Until the egg starts getting absorbed, it’s just a sticky mess on your hands. Have extra flour on hand that you don’t have to get out of the bag…it will save some time and wasted flour. Add a small handful of flour at a time, until you can knead the dough without it sticking to your hands or the work surface. Do not overwork the dough, though…you’re not making bread! You want light little pillows of pasta!

Kneaded dough ball.

Kneaded dough ball.

Since I hand-mashed the potatoes, there were bits of potato visible in the dough; however, they were never noticeable when cooked. Anyway, I divided the dough into four pieces and rolled out a rope, about the thickness of a soft pretzel. Maybe a tad thicker.

Dough divided. rolling out ropes of dough.

Dough divided. rolling out rope of dough. (Rope was rolled out about twice this long.)

Using the dough divider, I cut the rope into pieces. They don’t have to be perfect, but roughly the size of the the first digit on your thumb.

Cutting the gnocchi.

Cutting the gnocchi.

Now the tricky part! Make sure your gnocchi are not too sticky. Turn a fork with tines facing down on your work surface. Take each gnocchi and, beginning on the top of the slots on the back of the tines, gently roll the dough down the hill and release.

Rolling dough off of the back of the fork.

Rolling dough off of the back of the fork.

You can use the tip of your pointer finger or the side of your thumb…whatever works better for you. Ideally, your gnocchi will have ridges on one side, and a finger dimple on the other. These features will help hold sauce on the pasta.

Mashed Potato Gnocchi

Mashed Potato Gnocchi

Handle the gnocchi carefully and place them on a parchment-lined tray…or something that you can spread them out on, without them sticking. If you are not going to cook immediately, the pasta should be refrigerated or frozen. I prefer freezing. They can be cooked directly from the freezer and freezing helps them keep their shape. After they are frozen solid, they can be removed from the freezer and transferred to a zip top bag, and put back in the freezer until ready to use.

Spread out and ready to cook or freeze.

Spread out and ready to cook or freeze.

When you are ready to cook your gnocchi, bring plenty of salted water to a boil. Do not add oil! When you have a rolling boil, add the gnocchi and gently stir. Bring back to a boil. The pasta cooks very quickly. When they are floating, they are ready. I like to remove them with a skimmer, so I can handle them carefully. You can pour into a colander, if you are cautious. I like to drop mine into a saute pan with a little melted butter. This is about 7 ounces of the total yield, which was about a pound and a half.

Saute pan with melted butter and cooked gnocchi.

Saute pan with melted butter and cooked gnocchi.

One of the traditional recipes for gnocchi calls for them to be tossed in browned butter and flavored with sage. It could certainly be served with a nice ragu sauce, but cream sauces are a popular choice. I really like an alfredo style sauce flavored with Gorgonzola cheese.

This time, I prepared a basil pesto cream sauce. I happened to have some in the fridge that I made with basil and garlic grown in my garden, but there are good pesto sauces available fresh in some gourmet groceries, and bottled pesto sauce in the grocery aisles of most stores.

Sauce ingredients. Not shown: toasted pine nuts, milk.

Sauce ingredients: pesto, parmesan cheese, butter.  Not shown: toasted pine nuts, milk.

A little goes a long way. I added probably a tablespoon and tossed it a couple times for it to loosen up and start coating the pasta. Then I added enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan. I did it by sight, but I’m guessing about 1/3 cup. Tossed the pasta in the pan (or carefully stir), to combine the pesto and milk and coat the pasta. Bring to a simmer and thicken a little.

Building the sauce.

Building the sauce.

Off heat, toss in a quarter cup(-ish) of grated parmesan cheese. Transfer to a serving dish add some toasted pine nuts, to taste. (This made one serving…easily doubled.)

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

 

Standard