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Category Archive for: ‘Cooking Tools & Techniques’
How to Make Pie Dough (and why)

This is one of the basic skills necessary to become a good cook.   Learn this and you are on your way to greatness.

Why

Why, you ask.  Because I told you to…. Oh, sorry I digressed to my teen years and flashed on my father.  I’m thinking that we all should be able to make a killer pie crust from scratch with out looking at a recipe  in case we are unexpectedly on a cooking show?  No, how about, because it is way better than store bought dough in a tin pan and scratch pie crust “makes” a pot pie great, or a cherry pie amazing, or a hot apple pie melt in your mouth.  But I’m going to go with “Because I told you to…..

How it should end up

Are you used to your pie crust tasting like freezer burn?  Does it crumble into tiny pieces when you touch it with a fork?  Is it the last thing sitting on every one’s plate?  If you answered yes to any of these then you have been using store bought pie crust.

Your crust should be flakey not dry and it should melt in your mouth and enhance the flavor of your pie.  If you are thinking that every attempt you’ve made at your own pie crust has turned out tasting like cardboard, then you are trying too hard.

Method

Pie crust is only flour, butter, salt and water.  The rest is up to you.  The only way to screw this up is by overworking the dough or using ingredients that are too warm.

side bar – flour by its very nature contains a protein called gluten.  When the flour gets wet with any liquid, those glutens link together to form chains.  Those chains are great when you make bread because the more you work the dough, the more chains of gluten proteins are formed and those chains trap gases in the dough making it rise during cooking.  Bread flour has even more gluten in it making the bread dough rise more easily.  We don’t want our pie crust to rise at all.  We want it to be flaky and tender, not chewy and soft.  So…… don’t work the pie dough more than it takes to mix it together.

The butter – If you bake, you might soften your butter before you incorporate it into the batter.  DO NOT soften the butter with a pie crust.  In fact you want your butter as cold as you can get it and still cut it.  I have been known to slice my cold butter then put it in the freezer before cutting it into small bits that I barely distribute by mixing  thought out the  dough.  Your pieces of butter should look like small yellow peas in the flour.  These pieces of cold butter will melt and expand when cooked to make your pie crust flaky.  So chill all of your ingredients and the bowl before making your dough.

Ingredients – to make a double pie crust, or two single crusts, use

  • 2 1/2 cups of all – purpose or pastry flour
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter cut into pats
  • 1 t of salt or a little less, not more
  • 1 cup of ice water – you won’t need it all
Directions-
  • Chill all your ingredients and the work bowls in the freezer for 10-15 minutes
  • put the flour salt and butter pats into a chilled food processor bowl
  • Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas 10 -15 pulses- they don’t have to be consistent – less is more
  • Pour about a tablespoon of the ice water through the feed tube of your processor while pulsing once or twice
  • Depending on the conditions in your kitchen you will now need anywhere from a few tablespoons to 1/2 cup or more of the ice water
  • open the lid and squeeze some of the flour mixture in your hand.  If it sticks together you are done.  If not add a tablespoon or two of water and test again
  • when it “just” sticks together
  • dump the work bowl onto a large sheet of plastic wrap on your work bench
  • bring the sides of the plastic together and squeeze the dough
  • if at any point the mixture seems to be warming up or the butter is melting, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes
  • repeat bringing the plastic up from several sides until the dough comes together
  • Wrap the dough ball in the plastic tightly and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.
  • You are now ready to roll out your dough to make the crust
  • dust your work surface lightly with flour and turn out the dough
  • roll it out until it is just less than 1/4″ thick and about 2 inches bigger than your pie pan
  • use scissors or a knife to trim the extra dough
  • then pinch with your thumb and forefinger to crimp the edge

You can now finish your pie and feel secure in the fact that you are now a “scratch” baker – jughandle

In the following video the recipe is a little different from mine above.  I don’t use sugar and I use more butter.

 

 

5 Other Blogs on Canning/Pickling

I’ve been reading a lot on pickling and canning the last couple of weeks and I thought you might be interested in a couple of other blogs I found helpful, funny, interesting or all three.

1. Starving off the Land -“My week of pickling dangerously” –  One of my favorite on-going blogs to follow

2. Serious Eats – Garlic Dill Pickles – Great site for recipes of all kinds

 

3. The Smitten Kitchen – bread and butter pickles – A very sophisticated blog on all things food.  Great recipes fantastic pictures

4. Hunter Angler Garderner Cook, Sunchoke Pickles – This blog is everything about living off the land, hunting and fishing.  Great recipes

5. david lebovitz – Moroccan Preserved Lemons – This is probably my favorite blog, I’m not sure why, maybe it is just nicely designed.

Canning Pickle Basics

I felt that since I was going make my signiture pickle recipe and name one for one of my readers, it might be a good idea to know what I was doing so that I wouldn’t make anyone sick.

 

Basics

Methods

Pressure Canning

 

Vacuum Sealing

 

Water bath – Fill hot, sterilized jars with product leaving 1 inch headspace.  Ladle cooked brine over the product leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe the rims.  Adjust the two piece lids.  Process by boiling in your canner for 10 minutes.

 

Refrigerator Pickles

 

pH

I have found that to be safe while processing via the “boiling water canner” method, the product should have a pH of 4.5 or lower.  That means the more acidic the better.  So, since I want to really mess around with the recipes, I’m going to have to get a pH meter, but I think I’ll just get the cheap strips.

Processing Time

Also important is the amount of time your jars and ingredents are in boiling water.  The high temp. of the boiling water kills harmful organisms that might later grow under the canning conditions.  For that reason alone, I will be making refrigerated pickles.

 

Another Method Of  Making Pickles – Naturally Fermented

Be safe Fat Farmers and have fun being healthy – jughandle

Pickling Spices – Contest

Every year we get pickles from our relatives to enjoy through the winter.  And brother, we do enjoy them.  Inspired by these ambitious people I thought I’d like to make a “signature” pickle of my own.  If you give me the winning combination of spices for my pickles I’ll name them after you.

Now, I do enjoy my mother-in-law, Ella Ween’s, bread and butter pickles and brother-in-law, Brent’s, dill pickles and they are always generous with their offerings.  But I want to “give back” to the family and come up with a pickle that is radically different, but good.  My research finds that my task may be more difficult than I thought.  I don’t know what spices my in-laws use, but I’m smart enough to know the spice is what makes the pickle what it is.  I’m avoiding store bought premixes and I’m trying my own mixes.  I found some suggestions on the net below:

Spice Recipe #1

6 T mustard seed
3 T whole allspice
6 t coriander seed
6 whole cloves
3 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp red pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks

Spice Recipe #2

1 cinnamon stick
5 bay leaves
2 T mustard seed
1 T ground ginger
1 T dill seeds
2 tsp cardamon seeds
2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tsp whole cloves

Spice Recipe #3

2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon crumbled whole mace
1 teaspoon dill seeds
4 dried bay leaves
1 small piece dried ginger

Spice Recipe #4

4 cinnamon sticks (each about 3 inches long)
1 piece dried gingerroot (1 inch long)
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons whole mace, crumbled medium fine
8 bay leaves, crumbled medium fine
1 small dried hot red pepper (1 1/2 inches long), chopped or crumbled medium fine, seeds and all

Spice Recipe #5

yellow mustard seed
brown mustard seed
allspice
cinnamon
crushed bay leaves
dill seed
cloves
ginger
black peppercorns,
star anise
coriander
juniper berries
mace
cardamom
crushed red peppers
whole hot peppers

There are obviously common ingredients in each recipe and the amount of each ingredient would be a factor,  but the following are the compete range of choices:

yellow mustard seed
brown mustard seed
allspice
cinnamon
crushed bay leaves
dill seed
cloves
ginger
black peppercorns,
star anise
coriander
juniper berries
mace
cardamom seeds
crushed red peppers
whole hot peppers

What else could I add to make mine unique without messing it up:

Celery seed?

caraway seed?

Cilantro? (I know, coriander is the seed of the Cilantro plant)

garlic?

onion?

lemon zest?

lime zest?

How about spices like?:

Thyme

oregano

rosemary

sage

basil

lemon grass

Tarragon

Turmeric

 

Please help me decide.  I’ll post a followup when I get my final mix.  If you give me the winning pickling spice recipe I’ll name my pickles after you.- Jughandle

 

 

How to Blanch and Peel Veggies and Fruit

For anyone who has tried to peel a “mess” of tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, apples, bell peppers or any other thin skinned fruit of vegetable, you know that peeling with a knife or vegetable peeler isn’t any fun and is very time consuming not to mention the large amount of the “meat” of the veggie or fruit that is lost in the process.

Blanching

Blanching is a method of dropping the fruit or vegetable into rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then removing straight into cold or iced water to stop the cooking process.  Have you ever gotten a bad sunburn and later your skin peeled off?  Well, blanching is a similar process.

You’ll be amazed at how fast and efficient it is.  It is totally worth the time it takes to bring a large pot of water to a boil.  With tomatoes, cut a little x on the end opposite the stem.  When you put the tomato into the cold water the x will give you small handles to start the peeling.  If you are going to make an apple pie, apples will peel the same way.  Going to “put up” some of those nice bell pepper you grew this year?  Blanch them, that tough thin clear skin that makes the pepper hard to cut and eat will peel right off.  I thought that I’d freeze a large batch of beautiful white peaches that were so sweet this year.  I blanched them first to quickly remove the skin, then easily pushed out the seed and cut into quarters before filling some freezer bags.  Easy peasy

If the skin doesn’t easily peel off, almost by itself, increase the time in the boil.  Make sure you cool them in cold water for at least as long as they were in boiling water.

I still catch myself pulling out the potato peeler to quickly skin 3 or 4 potatoes, but any more than that, or if I’m trying to get the skin off of small red potatoes, I most definitely blanch them. – jughandle

Silk Purse out of a Pigs ear

They (the proverbial they) say you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  I beg to differ.  I’m going to show you how to make the best Balsamic vinegar you ever had (within reason) out of the cheapest balsamic vinegar you can buy.

Considered a wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar is made from un-fermented grape pressings, not wine.  The pressings are boiled down to a syrup and aged by rules, hundreds of years old.  The real deal balsamic, only made in two provinces of Emilia-Romagna, Modena and Reggio Emilia, is then placed in unsealed oak barrels with a vinegar “mother” and allowed to turn to vinegar.  As it ages the mother will reduce the amount of liquid available and that liquid, now vinegar, will be transferred to barrels made from different woods to add to the complexity of the flavor profile over years.  This process takes a minimum of 12 years by law and as much as 100.  The 100 year aged Grande Vecchio vinegar below has been treated in just such a way.

Balsamic vinegar like the one pictured above goes for $361.00 for 2.4 oz on line.  I’m sure it would be amazing, but I can’t afford nor justify spending that much money on vinegar, no matter how good it might be.  Good “real” aged balsamic vinegars can be sipped straight from the bottle like a fine liqueur.  But wait, there is another process, a more modern process, to make balsamic vinegar that takes hours instead of years, even if it doesn’t qualify as the real thing.

The modern method uses huge presses, heat and adds sugar instead of letting time reduce and concentrate the natural sweetness of the grapes.  This grocery store stuff is not to be consumed straight from the bottle in a good crystal glass, but treated properly it can be very nice for dressings and cooking and will cost you less than $6 per liter.

Method

The thing to do is to find a large bottle of nice acidic, sweet, inexpensive grocery store balsamic vinegar and reduce it to a syrup by gently boiling it down for a couple of hours.  Just pour the whole bottle into a sauce pan and bring to a slow rolling boil.  Make sure you save a little to taste the difference.  Reduce by at least 1/2.  I bring it down by 3/4.  But God knows, don’t burn it.  It smells terrible.  Let it cool and then use it over meat or in dressings.  Taste the difference, you’ll love it.  Note: when it cools it will be much thicker.  I’d start by reducing only by 1/2 if it is your first try at it.

 

Recommended Brands

This isn’t really as important as you might think.  Find a nice bottle and try it as I suggested.  If it works great, if it doesn’t try another.  You’ll only be out $3-6 but when you find the one that works stick with it, you’ll use it a lot.

 

Farm on, you Fat Farmers let me know what you think – Jughandle

Rice and How to Cook it

Wikipedia says

“Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima. As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after maize (corn).

We are more interested in how we can prepare it and what nutritional value it has for us.  The most common type of rice in the US is white long-grain.

100g or 3.5 oz of raw rice has

Calories – 365

Carbohydrates – 80 g

Sugars – .12 g

Fiber – 1.3 g

Fat – .66 g

Protein – 7.13

 

GI of boiled long grain white rice – 64 where 0-55 is low, 56-69 is med and over 70 is high

Serving size is 1 cup = 36 g of carbs

GL per serving is 23 where 0-10 is low, 11-19 is med and over 20 is high maxing out around 60

How To Cook Rice

Most rice can be cooked by boiling 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water for around 20 minutes.   The way I prefer is to use a rice cooker.  The following is a video of Jamie Oliver showing you how to cook rice.

 

The Glycemic Index and Load

 

We on the Fat Farm are interested in eating well but eating things that will keep our blood sugar in the 60-80 mg/dl range. That is the concentration of milligrams of glucose  in deciliters of our blood.  Rice is all over the Glycemic Index depending on which type you choice.  Before I get into the index values of the various rice types, I want to confuse you some more.

The GI compares foods at the same carbohydrate level, rating their ability to raise your blood sugar, with glucose being 100. This is the Quality of the food.  Since different foods contain various amounts of carbohydrates we need an index that shows the blood sugar effect by volume.  That is the Glycemic Load indicator. The GL measures the Quantity of carbohydrate in a food.  The GL is a much more accurate measurement of the effect of the food on our blood sugar.  The glycemic load of a food is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate in grams provided by a food and dividing the total by 100.

Neither the GI nor the GL are easy concepts to grasp, but for the health of our pancreas it is important that we try.

Notice in the list below that Jasmine Rice has a higher GI rating than Glucose itself.  That means that Jasmine Rice will spike your blood sugar very quickly.

 

 Types of Rice and Their Loads

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of rice and most even very by country.  Here are a couple to contemplate.

Type
white Rice
Brown Rice
Basmati Rice
Jasmine Rice
GI
64
55
58
109
Serving Size
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup
Carbs/serving
36
33
38
GL/Serving
23
18
22
46

To sum it up – Brown rice good, white long grain rice OK, Jasmine rice Bad.

Farm On You Fat Farmers.  Let me know if you have any questions – Jughandle