Praise the Lard

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Actually this is suet, but I love how pumped Ezra is about cutting up fat and rendering it. He is quite the helper in the kitchen these days. In fact, he is known for making the best scrambled eggs; just ask and he’ll whip you up a batch! He’s pretty good at pancakes too.

We also rendered lard when we butchered the pig. Lard and suet are wonderful healthy fats and make the best roasted veggies (they don’t get soggy like they can in oil). Plus, I feel we must be as respectful as possible when butchering an animal, to me that means using as much of the animal as possible. While there are a few edible parts I have not yet tried we do keep the majority of the organs, the bones (for bone broth), the fat and, of course, the muscle. That doesn’t leave much behind!

 

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The key to rendering: low and slow.

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In the Kitchen {Herbs}

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use Rosemary sprigs as flavorful skewers

 We’ve been enjoying fresh herbs from the garden, mainly parsley, thyme and basil right now, and drying some to use during the winter. They’re flavorful and it’s much cheaper than purchasing them at the store. When cooking just remember that dried herbs are about 3 times as strong as fresh. During the summer I use fresh herbs and during the winter I use dried; substituting one for the other as needed.

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  Parsley was one of the first things in the ground and it’s still going strong. I grow it in mini rows then I cut it and let it grow back again. This method is super easy and prolific!

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This year I tried planting thyme in amongst the carrots while Noah planted some thyme indoors. It’s astounding to compare the two. The outside plants are robust, dark green with large leaves; the indoor plants just don’t look like they’re doing as well. They are small, scraggly and pale. I pick as much fresh thyme as I like whenever I need it during  the summer. When I harvest the carrots I’ll harvest the thyme too and dry it. I use thyme a lot, especially on roasted meats and veggies. I use oregano nearly as often. I have a  container of oregano and two rosemary “trees” indoors too, and while they’re not quite as robust as they would be outside, they’re doing well enough until I can decide where I’m going to transplant the oregano (the rosemary I keep indoors because of our low winter temps). It’s a hard decision because, like mint, oregano has a tendency to spread and the longer it’s there the harder it is to remove.

As for the basil, I only pick a few leaves here and there so it will keep growing strong. Eventually, I’ll make some pesto and I’ll ferment a jar full (at least) as basil takes on a wonderful liquorice flavor when fermented. I also planted some sage and dill this year. It’s not ready for harvesting yet but I look forward to having some on hand for pickling, stuffing into fish, and maybe making up some gravlax!

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Slowly, I’m expanding the list of seasonings I grow instead of purchase. Other than salt and pepper the herbs above are my most used seasonings. I’ve also made onion and garlic powder by dehydrating them and then processing the dried veggies in a blender. The flavor is fantastic! I’d like to get some perennials going (maybe alongside those chives?)  and I wouldn’t mind trying to grow some chamomile (soon!)

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sharing with Fight Back Friday

Hot Pads

Hot pads live a hard life, or at least they do in my kitchen. Stains, rips, thin or burnt(!) spots, are inevitable. I needed a few new hot pads so I decided to sew some. While I was at it I thought of a few friends and family on my gift list who might be able to use a set too. They spend their fair share of time in the kitchen cooking and baking. My boys guessed on the first try which hot pads were for who. So rather than completely give away their gifts I’ll share just the hot pads I made for my kitchen. The first two are just fabric scraps I like and then I made some to match my new apron.

I looked at this tutorial to get me going. The square ones are a cinch; the mitts are a tad more complicated but doable. Go ahead, get the sewing machine out, make your own kitchen a bit more festive this holiday season, or make a few new hot pads for the cooks in your life.

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In the Kitchen :: Baking

During the past week there has been a lot of baking going on in my kitchen. First: Stuffed Pretzels. Farmama shared Brooke’s Stuffed Pretzels recipe a while back. She stuffed theirs with provolone and pesto with caramelized onions. Not having any pesto nor enough fresh basil on hand to make some I came up with my own variations for the stuffing.

Cinnamon and Raisin

(with sucanat)

The other half I made savory. I started with brushing on some mustard then I layered provolone cheese, caramelized onions, spinach and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Other changes I made: I did not do the baking soda dip on the cinnamon raisin nor did I salt or brush them with oil. They baked up beautifully- more of a cinnamon roll than a pretzel. I have noticed that the sucanat starts getting hard and burnt fairly easily so it’s important to take them out of the oven as soon as the dough is baked. I baked the cinnamon raisin ones first which might be why I only have a photo of the savory ones after being baked.

The savory pretzels got the full treatment- a dip in baking soda water, brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt (coarser grained salt works best- I used flakes). Baked til golden brown.

Delicious! I like reheating them in the toaster oven.

Also fresh from the oven this past week: gingerbread cookies,

and yet another pumpkin pie….to go with my gingered whipped cream.  I blended several pieces of crystallized ginger in with the heavy cream. Wow is that stuff good! If you’re culturing and making your own sour cream don’t forget to add a bit in with the heavy cream and make the whipped cream probiotic.

Also baked but no photos tho, chocolate pancakes with almond extract and…. chocolate cake!

For your convenience (from the link above @ farmama’s) here’s……

  Brookespretzels

You will need:

5 Cups All Purpose Flour (I’m sure you can substitute with some wheat, rye or spelt or…..)

4 tsp. Yeast (or one packet)

1 tsp. sugar

1 1/4 Cup. Warm water

1/4 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 tsp. Salt

A bit of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Baking Soda

For the Filling:

2 TBSP. Butter

1 Onion sliced

Salt & Pepper

Pesto

Your favorite cheese (Brooke used Provolone)

Instructions:

1) Dissolve the 4 tsp. (or 1 packet) of yeast in 1 1/4 cup of water with 1 tsp. sugar. Let stand about 10 minutes.

2) Mix 5 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the middle and add about a Tablespoon of olive oil and the water/yeast mixture. If it is too dry add about one tablespoon of water at a time. Knead until the dough is smooth (about 7-8 minutes).

3) Cover and place in a warm spot for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

4)Make the filling by carmelizing the onion in the butter. To do this put the sliced onion in a pot with the butter. Cook low and slow on top of the stove until the onion is golden brown and sweet.

5) Preheat oven to 450F.

6) When dough has doubled in size, roll it into a rectangular-ish shape, about 1/4 inch thick and spread the filling evenly over the surface. Brooke also put basil pesto from our freezer and some provolone cheese in the pretzels she made us. You could use just about anything to stuff these pretzels. Lots of room to be creative! Roll up the rectangle and slice it into 12 equally sized pieces. (Brooke suggests using a serrated knife for this.) Put each slice onto a sheet tray and let the (now stuffed) pretzels rise again until about doubled.

The Dunk:

A baking soda bath is what gives pretzels their distinct flavor.

7) Mix together 1/2 cup of baking soda and 4 cups of hot water. When the baking soda has dissolved, dunk the proofed pretzels one at a time, and set them back onto the sheet tray. Brush each pretzel with some olive oil and a tiny bit of mustard, and lightly dust each pretzel with some salt (Brooke recommends Cyprus flake salt.)

8) Bake at 450F until the pretzels are golden brown.

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Let us know if you decide to make them, or if I’ve forgotten any important details. They really are as good as they look!

Thanks for sharing Brookie!

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this post is part of traditional tuesday, real food wednesday, frugal days sustainable ways, simple lives thursday, fight back friday, sunday school