October 2009

appleTurnoverWe had a small, fun group for our apple turnover class, led by J.J. Jacobson (the Culinary Curator) on October 11th. Turnovers, for the uninitiated, are a buttery, flaky crust wrapped around half a peeled, sliced apple, spiced with cinnamon. Sort of a hand-held pie, but the crust was a revelation (at least to me). Far easier to work with than pie crust – more elastic and forgiving. Beats me how this works, because the ingredients and methods look very similar to pie crust (though we used all-purpose rather than pastry flour).They tasted amazing – truly the best baked-apple-pastry thing I’ve ever had.

The recipe is after the cut!


cabbageOld-fashioned, homemade sauerkraut is nothing like the salty, sharp kind you get at the store. Instead, it’s tangy, crunchy, and full of healthy probiotics (like in yogurt). It’s also really easy to make!

Bring one head of green cabbage, the fresher the better. You’ll also need to bring a wooden spoon and about 1 gallon’s worth of containers. If you don’t have the traditional pickling crock, you can use any of the following:

  • The ceramic liner of a crockpot you don’t plan on using for a couple months and a 1-gallon freezer bag
  • A clean, food-grade plastic pail and its lid, or a freezer bag
  • Two half-gallon mason jars  and plastic lids <–these are actually my favorite kraut pickling jars
  • Four quart-sized mason jars and plastic lids (or just bring one or two and make less kraut for this first trial run)

Sunday, November 8th
Pittsfield Grange
3337 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI

Cost is $5; free for members of the Grange. RSVP here!

grange logoIf you’ve been enjoying Preserving Traditions events, you might consider joining the Grange! The Grange is full of folks who are interested in old-fashioned food and friendship…it’s part of the reason Preserving Traditions has been such a great fit.

As a member of the Grange, you’ll attend all Preserving Traditions events for free and get first chance to sign up for our most popular (and space-limited) events, like canning work days and farm visits. As a member of the Grange, you’ll have be able to participate in monthly potlucks and hear interesting presenters. There’s also a discount on the Grange’s family dances, and membership in the national Grange organization, as well, giving you a voice in local, state, and national Grange business. (And yes, there is actually a secret handshake!)

Annual membership is $40 (or $70 for the whole family), but we’re running a “special” this year: if you sign up before December, we’ll extend your membership through December 2010. You can download an application and mail it to our membership director, Joan Hellmann (info is on the application).

Sept. 27th was the first Preserving Traditions workshop in animal processing. We learned to kill, pluck, and clean chickens at Back Forty Acres farm in Chelsea.

We started with a tour of the farm. Stephanie and Larry Doll raise meat and egg chickens, goats, sheep, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and hogs. The laying hens have the run of a large enclosure (I’d guess it was over a quarter of an acre) and a hoophouse-type “coop” for  protection from the weather. The hens keep most of the grass and weeds very low, but one type of weed (not sure what kind) stands nearly 3’ tall throughout the pen. This has a sort of “forest” effect, providing shade and shelter, and a little camouflage from hawks. The pen is surrounded by an electrified net, which the Dolls say is sufficient to keep out coyotes and other predators.

The meat birds (including turkeys) are in “pasture pens” made out of PVC pipe, wire fencing, and a corrugated roof over part of the pen. These pens get moved to fresh grass daily, so the birds have plenty of greenery and bugs to supplement their chicken feed.

Some of the turkeys are Bourbon Red and Slate Gray heritage breeds, and they were a hoot! Every once in a while, they would all gobble in unison. That made the people laugh, and the laughter made the turkeys gobble again.

After the tour, we returned to the barn for  an overview of the chicken cleaning process, and then it was time to do the deed. Each person placed her or his chicken upside down in a cone, cut the jugular veins with a knife, and waited for the chicken to bleed out. It took less than a minute for the chickens to close their eyes and go still, though they would often twitch some in the next few minutes.

Then we dunked the birds in hot water, plucked them, and removed the head, feet, and oil gland. Gutting was next, and cleaning any of the giblets we wanted to keep, and finally simmering and “peeling” the chicken feet in order to clean them for soup-making. There are lots of very good descriptions of this process on the web, so I won’t go into that detail here.

The mood at the event was respectful, but not at all morbid. All of us were there because we find something intriguing about the life-to-death-to-dinner process. Most of us have seen video of factory farms and industrial slaughter operations, and the opinion was unanimous that this life and death are far more humane than anything industrial agriculture has to offer. And while some may argue that taking any life for food is unacceptable, it was pretty clear to us that if one were to choose to eat meat, it would be ideal if it could all be produced this way.  In fact, several folks at the workshop saw the class as a step toward raising their own small livestock. Others said that now that they’ve had the experience, they’re happy to let small farmers like the Dolls raise their meat animals and have them processed.

I really believe that as oil becomes more scarce, our industrial agriculture system is going to fail. We won’t be able to ship animals long distances to huge slaughter/processing facilities, then ship the refrigerated meat halfway across the country to be sold for 99 cents a pound. If we continue to eat meat at all, it will be raised on small farms near where we live.

If you are financially able, I strongly suggest you start supporting local farmers for as much of your food as possible. Doing so will ensure that they will be in business when we really need them. Here are some resources to help you find local food in the SE Michigan area:

Apple tastingSept. 26th was Apple Day at the Grange.* This is an annual event that features all things apple. Inside, we had an apple-themed bake sale. Apple-rhubarb pie, a variety of apple cakes, apple baklava, and any number of cakes and cookies with applesauce in them. There was also an apple tasting – 15 or so varieties of apples, both fresh and dried crispy, many of which I’d never heard of before. And finally, some craft activities and displays (including one on food preservation methods that I set up).

*We’re talking the real Grange here, the Pittsfield Union Grange, not the new restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor.

Making apple sauce and butterOutside was where the real action was happening: a demo of making apple sauce and apple butter, and the make-your-own-cider activity. The apple sauce was made in batches throughout the day and doled out in paper cups to anyone who wanted them. We probably sauced 50 pounds of apples for sampling. Follow the cut for a visual tour of how to make your own apple cider! (more…)

appleTurnoverIt’s the apple time of year…come learn to make luscious apple turnovers with Preserving Traditions! JJ Jacobson, chef, blogger, and curator of all things culinary at the Bentley Historical Library, will show us how to make the pastry and the apple filling for these tasty pocket pies.

Bring two apples of a tart, crisp, baking variety (cortlands, empires, or spys are good bets right now). We’ll provide the rest of the ingredients, and you’ll take home (or scarf down…) two turnovers.

October 11th
Pittsfield Grange
RSVP at http://appleturnovers.sign-up-sheet.com/

$5 donation suggested; free for Grange members.