Event wrap-up


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!

(more…)

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…)

tomato CanningSeptember saw two tomato canning workshops with Preserving Traditions: one at our original Ann Arbor / Pittsfield Grange location, and the first-ever event at our West Bloomfield / Westacres location! Here are the reports…

Sept. 13, at the Grange

Over a dozen canners turned out to learn the basics of water-bath canning, converting many pounds of tomatoes into sixteen quarts of canned chopped tomatoes. In a rarely-seen event, the tomatoes chopped exactly filled the jars available, which exactly filled the two canning kettles we had on the stove! Y’all have been warned, it never works out that perfectly at home. 🙂

The next Ann Arbor event will be Apple Turnovers on October 11th.

Sept. 20, Westacres

cannersThe Preserving Traditions-West Bloomfield Tomato Canning event was a hoot!  We ended up with 4 enthusiastic canners from 4 different experience levels.  One participant was fairly proficient at canning, one was an “ex-canner”, another had only made jam and the last was completely new to the whole canning experience.  The approach was very laid back with much support and input by all attendees,complete  with active discussions!  One conversation revolved around why our mothers learned to can from *their* mothers, but didn’t pass that knowledge to us.  Why was that?  Was it because of too many memories laboring over a hot stove in a summer kitchen that lacked air conditioning?  Were our mothers the result of the convenience food era, that canning was considered “backward” or unsophisicated?  Our “ex-canner” spoke on behalf of our mothers, and confirmed that these reasons could have very well lead to the broken link between generations.  However, with use of the commercial kitchen at the Westacres clubhouse we had lots of room in which to work, a relativity cool kitchen that didn’t need the aid of air conditioning and best of all great company that made the task all the more enjoyable!

Our October 18th event will involve making no-knead bread and saurkraut.  Won’t you join us?

All together now...
“All Together Now…” – photo by Dan

The final tally on Sunday’s salsa canning extravaganza was 52 pints of salsa! We started with somewhere around 70 pounds of tomatoes (from our gardens and Tantre Farm), 5 pounds of onions, numerous peppers, a fat bunch of cilantro, and other miscellaneous ingredients and ended up with three different batches of salsa. It tasted fabulous on some Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory chips.

Even better was the conversation throughout the 5-hour session. Farm schools, the changing nature of fraternal organizations, the challenges of getting edible gardens into parks (the neighbors think vegetables look “weedy”), and more. And we even had an event photographer – see photos from this event and others (and add your own) on the new Preserving Traditions Flickr Group!

And did I mention the mid-session yoga break upstairs on the dance floor?

For those wanting to recreate this salsa – the recipe was:

  • 7 quarts of diced, seeded tomatoes (about 10 pounds)
  • 4.5 cups of diced, seeded peppers (a combination of sweet and hot to your taste; try 1/2 c. jalapenos to start)
  • 5 cups of diced onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
  • 2 Tbl salt
  • 2 Tbl ground cumin
  • 2 Tbl ground dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients except the cumin, oregano, and cilantro. Bring to a boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. Add herbs and spices and simmer another 20 minutes or until it’s cooked down to your desired thickness. Ladle into jars and process 15 minutes in a water-bath canner.

Next event is Sept. 13th, when we’ll be doing another intro to canning workshop with tomatoes. Details coming soon!

DSCN1580The August 9th introduction to pickling was a ton of fun! Preserving Traditions and Sustainable Michigan met together and presenter Blair Nosan explained the difference between lactofermented and brined vinegar pickles and showed us how to make old-fashioned fermented dill pickles.

Lactofermented pickles…

  • get their name from the lactobaccili that turn the cucumbers tangy and sour, not from anything having to do with milk
  • are full of live probiotics (much like yogurt), which makes them very healthy
  • can be kept for weeks or months in a cool place, and the flavor and texture continue to develop during that time
  • take very little time, energy, and equipment to prepare
  • need at least a week to develop full flavor

Vinegar pickles…

  • get their tangy flavor from the vinegar
  • are processed in a hot water bath canner
  • have no live cultures
  • are completely shelf-stable and will keep for years with little or no change to flavor (they may get softer, though)
  • are rarely as crunchy as fermented pickles
  • are ready to eat right away

The choice is yours – you might want to make some of each!

How to make old-fashioned lactofermented pickles (after the break…) (more…)

Oh, my. The pie! I have to send out a huge THANK YOU to Jim and Mary Wessel Walker for leading us through an amazing pie-making class. Here’s a bit of what we did:

First, Jim explained that the key to good pie is keeping the crust cold. Therefore, you want your butter, shortening, or lard to start off cold, and you want to chill both the dough and the filling before you assemble the pie…or your dough will melt and slump instead of remaining light and flaky. So the order of the workshop was a little backwards, but it worked out very well.

First, Jim demonstrated rolling out the pie crust. The secret, he said, was to use lots and lots of flour. If it tears or cracks, you can patch it, but never try to add water or lump it back together and re-roll it from scratch.

After putting the cold filling into the crust, you can either put a solid sheet of crust on the top, slashing it a few times to let the steam out, or create a beautiful lattice crust, as Jim demonstrated.

DSCN1557

Then we made pie filling. You want to cook it lightly – enough to get the fruit to break down a little and start to thicken, but not nearly so much as to turn it into jam. This helps ensure your filling will jell. Our participants made pies from cherries, mixed berries, and even apricots!

DSCN1560

Finally, we made the crust. While you can do this by hand, a food processor with a steel blade really helps. This video demonstrates the technique of blending the fat (in our case, lard and butter) into the flour.

The next video (sorry for the orientation…) shows how to dribble ice water into the fat/flour crumbles to make the final dough. The final dough looks like this:

DSCN1567

Then we wrapped up our dough and fillings and chilled them (to be assembled at home later) while we ate the finished pie. It was sublime!

Any word from participants about how your final pies turned out? I’m making mine tonight…

strawberry jamPreserving Traditions’ first canning event, strawberry jam, went pretty well – though it was not without its moments! We discovered that the hot water was a bit…murky, probably because none of the other groups at the Grange use twenty gallons of hot water at a go! It’s probably time to drain the water heater. Luckily, the cold water runs clear; it just takes a bit longer to heat up. There was also a Kettle of Soap incident, which taught us the value of using a properly-sized canning rack to keep jars off the bottom of the canner, instead of improvising with a towel.

Despite these small setbacks, the jams were fabulous. Y’all did a wonderful job! For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s the basic recipe:

  • 3 c. strawberries, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 c. sugar (“raw” sugar or sucanat is fine, but don’t use Splenda or honey or any other sweetener)
  • 2 Tbl. lemon juice

This makes a pint or so of jam. You can double the batch, but I’ll wait to hear from participants to tell you if it’s ok to triple the batch. Jam can be tricky about triple batches; sometimes it just won’t set.

Cook everything together in a large pot on medium-high heat. Once it boils vigorously (it’ll foam up a lot), start timing. After 10-12 minutes, test the jam for jelling. You do this by dripping a very small amount of jam (1/4 tsp or so) onto a chilled ceramic plate. Let it sit for 30 seconds, and tilt the plate. When the jam is properly jelled, the drop of jelly will ooze slowly down the plate. If it’s runny, you’ll need to cook it some more. Turn the heat down to medium and stir constantly. Every few minutes, try the jell test again with a cold plate (keep the plate in the freezer between tests).

When the jam is sufficiently cooked-down, you can can it in a water bath so you can store it at room temperature. Or just pour into jars and put the jars in the fridge. They’ll keep four to six months in the fridge without canning – very nice if  you’ve only made one pint.

yogurtJarSeven people joined us at the Grange last Sunday to learn to make yogurt and granola. Yogurt, as a process, takes time but not much attention once the milk has come up to temperature. Granola is also easy, though you really need to watch the timer once it goes into the oven.

We made half a gallon of plain yogurt and three batches of granola: pineapple/coconut, sesame/currant, and “the kitchen sink” with wonderful crispy walnuts, sesame seeds, and several kinds of dried fruit. Even after our yogurt parfait buffet, there was plenty for each person to take home.

There’s lots of variation in recipes for both yogurt and granola. The instructions below are a good set of guidelines – don’t be afraid to play with them a bit to suit your taste.

Yogurt

  1. Heat one or two quarts of milk to 180 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat it until just before it boils. You want steam and a few bubbles, but not actual boiling.
  2. Cool it to 110 degrees – just barely warm to the touch.
  3. Take about 1/2 cup of milk out and dissolve your starter. You can use prepackaged starter or existing yogurt.
  4. Add the starter back to the big pot of milk and mix thoroughly.
  5. Pour into containers and keep warm for 4-8 hours. We used a cooler with a hot pack – you can use any method you can think of to keep the jars at around 90-100 degrees.
  6. Once it’s thickened, store in the fridge.

Yogurt notes:

  • You can use any kind of milk: skim, whole, creamtop, powdered, ultra-pasteurized, and even soy.
  • There’s a lot of variation using yogurt as starter. Best results come from homemade yogurt started with packaged starter, but you can also use Dannon plain yogurt – about 2-3 Tbl per quart of milk.
  • The thickening of the yogurt comes from keeping it warm during the incubation period.
  • The yogurt will reach maximum tartness (and lowest lactose levels) after 3-4 days.
  • It’ll keep at least 2 weeks in the fridge.

Granola

You can mix an match any flavor combination you like, but keep these proportions roughly equal:

  • 5 cups dry ingredients: rolled oats, other rolled grains, puffed grain cereal
  • 1 cup nuts or seeds
  • 1/2 cup oil plus 1/2 cup honey or other sweetener
  • 1 cup dried fruit and/or coconut

Method of assembly:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and the nuts.
  2. Heat the honey and oil until it’s very liquid.
  3. Pour the honey and oil over the dry ingredients and stir to coat thoroughly.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  5. When the nuts start to get toasty, or the oats start to brown, remove from oven.
  6. Stir in the fruit and coconut while it’s still warm.
  7. Cool and eat!

garden planningAbout 18 people attended Sunday’s garden planning workshop at the Pittsfield Grange. After a short intro, folks got to work laying out their garden beds with graph paper and colored “dots” of various sizes, representing different vegetables. There were also Photoshop templates for those who brought laptops – though we discovered they didn’t translate to the Mac very well due to font issues. There was lots of time for one-on-one questions about building beds, soil, crop rotation, and the like, and most folks got individual feedback on their designs.

And the next morning, we discovered 6″ of heavy, wet snow on the ground! Well, that’s why the garden is pretty much all on paper this time of year…

For anyone who couldn’t make it to the workshop, here are the documents we used:

  • The handout (32Kb) listing the spacing, plant family, and general planting time of a couple dozen common garden vegetables.
  • Paper “vegetables” (17MB)- sized for appropriate spacing. The scale is 1″=1′, and if you use graph paper with 4 squares per inch to draw your garden beds to scale, it’ll line up perfectly. Using removable double-sided tape really helps with this!
  • Photoshop template (1.5Mb – right click and “save as” to get this to download) – It will definitely work on any of the last 3-4 versions of Photoshop on Windows; it may also work in Photoshop elements. The Mac changed the fonts and ruined the alignment.
    • First, be sure your ruler is set to pixels and the grid is set to show up every 100 pixels (with 4 subdivisions)
    • Then, draw your garden bed on the background layers. There are three 4’x8′ beds as examples.
    • Vegetable patches are actually text layers. To add an area of vegetables, duplicate the layer…say, peas. Move the square foot of peas to your garden outline. then use the text tool to change the size of the bounding rectangle. It will automatically fill with enough properly-spaced dots to fill the area.

One thing I forgot to mention to folks was GrowVeg.com – this is an online garden planning tool that allows you to fill rows with vegetables just by clicking and dragging. It automatically spaces the plants out for you, and it has a number of other nifty features, such as the graph of your garden’s planting and harvest dates. It also keeps track of your gardens from year to year and warning you if you didn’t rotate beds (e.g., if you try to plant tomatoes in the same place year after year). It’s not free, but I know several folks who think it’s worth it.

wheat event crowdThe March 8th event on wheat and home grain milling was very informative and well-attended! Over 35 people listened to man of the hour Lee Purdy, wheat farmer and miller, as he explained about the milling process, different types of mills, and about wheat itself. A few key points:

  • Wheat will keep indefinitely until the kernel is broken (ground or cracked). Wheat was found in Egyptian Pharohs’ tombs, planted, grown, and harvested.
  • Flour starts to lose its nutrients immediately. To keep the most nutrition in your bread, grind your wheat and use it within 72 hours.
  • A kernel of wheat can be likened to a chicken egg. Shell = bran; egg white = starch; egg yolk = wheat germ.
  • The whole wheat kernel is ground, then the germ and/or the bran may be sifted out to make:
    • Grocery store white flour = starch only. The starch has calories and a few nutrients.
    • Westwind Milling “unbleached” flour = starch + bran. Leaving the bran in gives a huge nutritional boost to the flour.  (Note that unbleached flour from the store does not have the bran.)
    • Graham flour = starch + bran + germ. The germ adds fiber, but not a lot of nutrition. This is likely the flour you’d end up with if you grind your own at home. If it’s too coarse, you can sift out some of the bran without sacrificing much nutrition.
  • Gluten is the main protein found in wheat. It’s what makes pizza dough stretchy and is found in “hard” wheats. “Soft” wheats, like pastry flour, have less gluten and are better suited to cakes, biscuits, and quick breads or muffins.
  • All-purpose flour is half hard and half soft wheat; it can be used for bread (kneading helps develop the gluten) or cakes (stir it gently to prevent toughness).

lee purdyAfter Lee’s talk, we got to experiment with a few home-scale mills. One was an older electric stone-burr mill, which let us see just how close those stone have to get! There was also an old-fashioned granite mortar and pestle. Though many folks took a turn at the mortar and pestle, we didn’t end up with anything remotely like flour, and we all agreed we’d eat cracked wheat porridge instead of a lot of bread if that were our only grinding option!

Of the home hand mills on display, we only set up and tried the German Family Grain Mill. Lee commented that it was the easiest-turning hand mill he’d ever seen, and indeed, the youngest participants had a great time turning the handle and cranking out flour of varying textures. (This mill also has attachments for making oatmeal, shredding/slicing vegetables, and grinding meat. You can turn it by hand, its own electric base, or attach it to your KitchenAid or Bosch stand mixer. You can buy it at Lehman’s or Everything Kitchens, among other places.)

P.S. – Love to take pictures? Want to be our event photographer? Contact Emily at preservetrad@gmail.com to volunteer to save the world from my inept point-and-shoot action shots!

« Previous Page