Family Centered Kitchen

Happy. Holy. Home.

 

“Like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, by siblings. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. “ – Pope Francis

 

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How to Really Satisfy Your {French-Canadian} Man

Got your attention, didn’t I?

Seriously gals, if your husband is French-Canadian, as mine is, this one thing may just be the best thing you do for your marriage: learn to make tourtieres.  And I’m here to help you with that.  And if your husband isn’t French-Canadian, I’m pretty sure that he’ll still love this pie.

A tourtiere is a meat pie.  And there are as many ways to make meat pie as there are memeres (grandmothers) to hand down the recipe.  Traditionally made with just ground pork, I prefer a mixture of pork, veal and beef.  It makes a very tasty and tender filling.  Tourtiere can be served at any meal – as the main dish, or as a side dish.  It is beautiful for breakfast, and lovely with a garden salad for lunch.  At Christmas, we serve it as a side dish.  And then again at Easter.  Here’s the one I make:

Tourtiere

Tourtiere (makes 2 pies)

  • 3 lb. ground meat (1 lb each pork, veal, and beef)
  • 3 lb potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed (reserve some of your potato water)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 T poultry seasoning
  • 2 tsp. ground cloves
  • Impossibly Flaky Pie Crust (or your fave recipe)

Sauté onions in a bit of oil until quite soft, add the ground meat and spices.  Cook until the meat is done.  Add your potatoes and mix well, adding potato water if needed to keep the mixture smooth.  Set aside to cool completely.

 

Impossibly Flaky Pie Crust

The trick of the crust is to keep it COLD until you bake.  People will tell you that you can’t get a flaky crust with butter.  Totally untrue.  Keep it cold, and you’re golden.  I use my fingers to flake my butter and still get a fantastically flaky crust.  If that idea scares you a little, get that butter near freezing and grate it in order to get small, blend-able bits.  You can absolutely use a gluten free AP flour mix for this.  Gorgeous.  Divine.  No worries about tough crust – ever.

  • 2 1/2 c. butter, cubed or shredded
  • 6 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 c. ice water

Mix all of the dry ingredients together really well.  You want something that looks like wet pebbly beach sand – the kind of stuff you could pack into a pail and make a castle with.  Now add your ice-water (leave the ice cubes out!).  Mix by hand or with an electric mixer until the whole lot holds together in one big piece.  Divide dough in half and form each into a disc.  Wrap in plastic wrap or butcher paper and place in the coldest part of your fridge while you wait for the filling to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 450° F  Cut each disc in half and roll out to fit your pie plate.  Line two plates with dough, then fill right to the top with your meat filling.  Roll out remaining dough to top your pies.  Brush water onto the edge of your bottom crust so that the top will stick right down.  Flute or crimp your edge, and put a couple of steam holes in the top crust.  At this point, you can brush on an egg wash  before putting your pies into the oven.  But after you’ve made this the first time, you’d better be quick about it because he’s going to be impatient for those tourtieres! 

Bake at 450° F for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350° F and bake a further 30 minutes.  Serve them hot from the oven, or at room temperature.  Alternately, you can make these into little turnovers and pop them into his lunch box.  He’ll go a little crazy.  You may get flowers.

 

Tourtiere

Bon appetit!

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

{Written with Jack, our eldest son and charcutier}

Yes bacon.  Home cured, home smoked bacon from pastured pigs.  You can do this.  It takes some space, but it is really simpler than you’d think.  You don’t need one of those expensive smoker contraptions for Christmas.  The curing was done in a roaster in our spare fridge, and Jack built the dry brick smoker in about an hour.

Curing and smoking your own meats allows you to control ingredients and flavour.  It can also save you $1 or more per pound, than if you get it from your farmer already smoked.

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

Smoker in Wonderland

 

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

Jack’s smoker is a 36″ cube, give or take.  It has an old grill rack inside it that rests on a ledge inside the smoker, made from scrap wood.  The rack sits about 2/3 way up the smoker.

 

What you need:

15 lb fresh slab bacon, right from the farm or butcher (make sure you specify that you want it uncured, unsmoked)

Maple wood for fire

Maple wood splits  (1-2″ thick by 20″ or so), or chips for smoke, green.

Brine:

  • 1lb salt (we used Kosher)
  • 3 qt very hot water
  • 1- 2/3 c. maple syrup

Dissolve the salt in the water, add syrup.  Cool the brine before adding the meat. Place a clean stone on top of the meat to hold it under the brine liquid. Do NOT use anything metal. Cure in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Remove bacon from the brine, and drain.  Build a small, slow fire in the smoker.  Let it burn until you have a bed of coals in the bottom of the smoker.  On top of the coals, place a few small, green maple splits.  When the splits start smoking, place the bacon on the smoker rack.  Add logs as needed to keep the smoke going.  You can smoke the meat from 2-6 hours, depending upon how much smoky flavour you want.  Keep your smoker temperature below 120° F.  Flip your bacon over halfway through smoking for even flavour.  Bacon is NOT cooked at this point.

Bring that slab indoors.  Slice and fry up as normal.  You can also freeze or fridge your meat.  What we’ve read says that you can keep it for up to a year, even in a pantry.  I doubt it will hang around that long.  You’re going to eat it right up, aren’t you?  This amount will last our family 6-8 weeks.

There are loads of curing options, and several smoking options.  We have just given you what we used for our bacon.  We are experimenting with dry and wet cures, and with various smoking woods.  We chose a hot smoke method to improve storage time.  It’s what we would recommend to you, particularly if you are making sausages.

We choose not to use ‘pink salt’.  There is a lot of controversy about the safety of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrite.  If you have enough salt in your liquid to float a potato, you should have the right amount of salt.  If you don’t use ‘pink salt’, the meat portion of your bacon will not be red.  It will be gray.  But awesomely delicious.  Yum, yum. yum.

We used slab bacon that was not aged.  Aged slabs are supposed to taste even better.

Bricks were reclaimed from an unused chimney in the farmhouse.  Our spare fridge was picked up on FreeCycle.  You could probably pick up used bricks on FreeCycle, or from a architectural salvage company.  The corrugated top on the smoker is a piece of sheathing that had fallen off of our barn.  The steam pan was purchased, used,  from a local restaurant supplier.

Next up… rosemary ham for Christmas Dinner

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Lilac Jelly

Last month, the little ones helped me make some lilac jelly.  Our farm has been overrun with lilacs.  We are so overrun with them, in fact, that we will be dividing them and selling the potted lilacs to farm visitors next year.  That way, everyone can own a little piece of the farm (and make their own jelly, too!).

It was such a lovely day.  We threw open the kitchen windows while we worked.  The scent of lilac blossoms permeated the air. It doesn’t last long enough, lilac season.  This country jelly is a clever way to preserve it, in edible form, until next year.

I began by filling a 5 gallon bucket with lilac panicles, early in the morning, before the precious oils evaporated.  it is really important to get them early for the best results.  Remember to shake off the little critters.

We plucked the individual blossoms from the panicles.  You don’t want the green bits because they can make your finished jelly bitter. And when we made the infusion, we were surprised to see that the pretty pale purple blossoms produced a pale green liquid.

 

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

 

William kept us entertained by catching butterflies and moths, bringing them to the window to show us.

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

If you aren’t familiar with making jelly, you just need to remember these things:

Real Food, Pure and Simple  | Lilac Jelly

  1.  Your maximum batch size should not exceed 10 c. of infusion.  If, like me, you need to make much more than that, make your infusion in one batch and divide it into smaller batches before adding pectin and sugar.
  2.  I recommend ALWAYS using low-sugar/no-sugar pectin from real fruit.  This allows you to adjust your sugar content to your taste.  For this recipe, I cut the original amount of sugar by half.  My recipe below is exactly what I used.
  3. Always add pectin to the infusion and boil BEFORE adding sugar. 

Lilac Jelly

Lilac Jelly

10 c. lilac infusion

1 c. lemon juice

1 jar powdered pectin (low-sugar/no-sugar)

10 c. organic sugar

In a large roasting pan or steam pan liner, on top of the stove, pour lemon juice into the infusion.  Slowly stir in pectin with a whisk to prevent lumps.  Bring to a hard boil (one that can’t be stirred down).  Add sugar all at once, bring back to the boil and cook for about 1 minute.  Turn the heat off and pour jelly into prepared jars.  Wipe the rims clean, place lids.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes (or as long as needed for your altitude).    Viola!  That’s it.

I’m not bothered by foam, but you can disperse it with a pat of butter or oil during the second boil.  Skim off any remaining foam.  It is still perfectly good to eat.  It just isn’t as pretty to some folk.

ETA: I TOTALLY forgot to give instructions for the infusion!  Mea culpa. You want:

10 c. lilac blossoms

11 1/4 c. water

Bring to the boil, reduce to simmer.  Simmer for 40 minutes, take off the heat and allow to steep overnight, covered.  In the morning, strain the blossoms and press all of the liquid out.  Measure the liquid.  If you need to, add some water to ensure that you have 10 c. of infusion.

 

If you missed lilac season, you can purchase some of ours here.

 

 

{Family Centered Kitchen} Real Food, Pure and Simple

Farm Fresh Eggs

 

There is quite a discussion going on on my Facebook page today after I posted a meme about people who will spend $5 (it’s actually closer to $7 here in Massachusetts), but complain about the price of truly free-range, grass-fed, farm fresh eggs at $5 per dozen.  According to one friend, I am being judgmental.  I disagree.  I am the farmer who is insulted by someone standing in front of me at my farm stand or farmer’s market, sipping that $7 cup of coffee, when they tell me that my eggs (or vegetables, or meat) are too expensive.  It is a slap in the face to me and my family.  It is the same as saying that we should hold our tongues and know our place.  Because we are peasants.  And we have no right to ask for a living wage for raising wholesome food for our community.

I suppose they agree that farmers should earn a paltry .60 an hour – which is how the government values farm work.  Please, please consider when you visit your local farm family, or their farmstand at market.  They work really hard to produce truly healthy, wholesome food.  We deserve the dignity of being paid well for that work.

Most people have been positively wonderful. We are grateful to all of the people who purchase from us – plain or fancy, carrying a Starbucks or their own mug from home, whether they are dressed to impress, or just came from working a dirty job, whether they live in an affluent neighbourhood, or in a city tenement.  So grateful.  We are blessed by your encouragement and compliments; and that you entrust the production of your food to our family.

 

Farm Fresh Eggs

Here are some recipes that you can make with your lovely farm fresh eggs and other farm-fresh products:

Crockpot Oatmeal – It’s Irish oats, cooked overnight on low. You can add all
kinds of nice things with the oats. Dried or fresh fruits, canned pumpkin and
spices, nuts… Awesomely simple. The kids can just scoop it out and go when
they’re ready. My non-oatmeal eaters actually love Irish oats.

  • 4 c. water (or milk), boiling hot
  • 1c. Irish oats
  • 1/2 c. sugar, honey or syrup (optional)
  • 1 c. fruits
  • 1-2 tsp ground spices (optional)
  • salt to taste

Place all ingredients in your crockpot and cover.  Set your cooker to low and let cook overnight.  Serve with fresh milk or cream.

Special Egg Scramble or Frittata

What about tossing some eggs and milk in a jug the night before? You can just
shake it up and cook it in a skillet in the morning. If you’ve pre-cut cooked
meats, cheese, or veggies, they can toss those in, too. Or the same can be
tossed into a buttered baking dish and baked for about 30 minutes at 350 F for a
frittata.

  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c. milk (or water, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. pre-cooked meat, diced
  • 1/2 c. cheese, crumbled or shredded
  • 1/2 c. vegetables, diced (tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and greens are all wonderful)

 

Scones – leave the dough in a roll (wrapped in parchment, plastic) to cut with
with a knife or string and bake.

  • 2 1/2 c. flour (freshly ground is lovely
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 c. currants (or other dried fruit, diced, if needed)
  • 1 c. buttermilk

Cut the dry ingredients together with the butter until you have what looks like a coarse meal.  Add fruit and blend well.  Pour buttermilk in slowly and fold to combine.  You may not need the entire cup, or you may need more, depending upon the humidity.  When you have a workable dough, form it into a log 2″-2 1/2″ thick, wrap and refrigerate overnight.  If you haven’t got buttermilk, use yoghurt, sour cream, or milk that is curdled with a tsp of vinegar.  Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes, or until done.  Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Serve with clotted cream and homemade preserves.

Try replacing all or part of your fruit with herbs or edible flowers.  Lavender comes to mind.

**GF AP flour mix would be PERFECT for this.  Bonus: you can work the dough as much as you want and it won’t toughen.

Baked Custard made the night before (loaded with dairy and eggs) served with
fruit (stewed is nice) and toast. It’s dead easy to make (scale up in
proportion).

  • 2 eggs,
    1c. milk,
    1/4 c. sugar (you could use half and still get a nice custard)
    pinch salt
    spices (nutmeg and cinnamon)

Bake in a greased baking dish at 350 until set, or at 400 over hot water if
you’re in a hurry. Add a T of flour and some lemon juice and zest for a yummy
lemon pudding style custard. Remember to scale up for your size crowd! This
recipe as written serves two little ones or one medium one. You probably find
you need 3 or 4 eggs worth for a big boy.

 

I used to feed my little ones custard for either breakfast or luncheon when we
lived in England. I served with fruit and wheaten crackers (McVities
digestives, homemade graham crackers would work as well). Doc thought it was excellent for them, very wholesome. 🙂 Same
idea as above, mix ahead in a pitcher or large canning jar, shake it and bake it in the morning.

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