Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Favorites

Get Grilling

It’s the end of July; summer is in full swing in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.  I've been grilling for weeks now.  It helps to cut down on the heat in the kitchen.  I use a Weber grill, occasionally I purchase charcoal, however most of the time I use small chunks of wood from branches that have been trimmed.  My husband uses spruce sap as a starter, it works really well.  You also don’t get the chemical taste from starter fluid.  Cooking over wood is just the best.  Even when I use charcoal my husband puts some pieces of green wood atop it so as to get the nice smoked flavor.

Potatoes and Chive Side-Dish for the Grill

Since I am picking a bunch of chives today, it seems only right to have some for dinner.  I don’t have potatoes yet but they had a pretty good deal on them at the co-op today.  This recipe is quick and easy, it has taken me longer to type this then it will take to prepare. 
You will love this side-dish for the grill; cube 5-6 medium potatoes, sprinkle with zesty country seasoning, salt and pepper, then top with lots of chopped fresh chives and dot with 3 tablespoons butter (unsalted). Wrap up the foil you are ready for the grill. Takes about 20-25 minutes, turn after 10-12 minutes.  Yummy!

Homemade BBQ Sauce

I make my own BBQ sauce.  I've been using this recipe for over 20 years.  I originally found this recipe in an old cook.  At first it just appeared to be an old newspaper clipping.  Then it turned into our family BBQ sauce recipe.  I have made a few adjustments over the years to the original newspaper clipping.  One side of the clipping has a date, 1957, my birth year.  The original recipe is for making “Beef in Barbecue Sauce”.  And it is very good like that… pulled beef.  If you want to make the pulled beef just add 1 cup stock to the recipe, and your beef of course. 

In a skillet heat 4-6 tablespoons of grape-seed oil (I like this oil because it has a very light flavor and you can turn the heat up without burning), add 1 heaping cup of chopped celery, 2-3 large diced onions.  Simmer until celery is tender and onions are translucent. 

Add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar (this will de-glaze the pan), now add 4-6 tablespoons of brown sugar (depends how sweet you like your BBQ) and 2-3 cloves of garlic, simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. 

Then add 1 ½ cups of ketchup, 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, and a teaspoon of salt.  Simmer for about 20 minutes to combine all the flavors.  This sauce is quite zippy, the vinegar zippy that brings a sweat on, but not spicy.  Like your sauce spicy?  Add a dash of cayenne pepper.

I made it ahead of time and put it into the fridge.  Today I am putting it on grilled chicken. It is awesome on Burgers with an onion ring (we call it a cowboy burger).  This sauce makes a great dipping sauce for chicken tenders and onion rings too.  

I would love to be able to can some of this up for the pantry.  I will have to experiment with the recipe and quantities.  Surely all that you would need is a boiling water bath.  I have pinned some recipes for ketchup.  So I think that that would be a good place to start.  If I am going to be making enough to can I surely will need quite a bit of ketchup.

The Rock Quarry

About 25 minutes from our house, nestled in a wooded area, on private property, that everyone enjoys. I am pretty sure that it adjoins a large area of state land.  And for the most part it is taken care of by its’ patrons.  Most people don’t leave trash behind.  I know that every time we go there we leave with more than we arrived with.   We make it a point to look for litter. 

The swimming is great!  Not much fishing to speak of, it has been over fished; you might find some catfish in the deep water.  We have caught and released 3” blue gill.  Kids love catching those little fish.  There are some crayfish too.  The kids catch them on willow branches.  Silly crayfish to greedy to let go… so the kids capture and carry them in buckets all afternoon, only to be set free before departure.  I wonder how many crayfish have been brought home to fish tanks.  I know my kids took a few home, only to find that they will snatch up a gold fish.  Poor Fishy!  

So peaceful!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Great Pies

Great Pies Start with Great Pastry

I make an awesome Blueberry pie! I really like my apple pie too. You might say I have those recipes down. I have never made a cherry pie, can’t keep a peck of cherries long enough to make a pie. But I would love to try it some time. I always seem to have a little trouble with all of the juice in a rhubarb pie. I have never tried using tapioca in a pie for thickener. It just always seemed weird to me. It certainly doesn't bother me that it is tapioca because tapioca is one of my favorite puddings, but why the aversion to it as a pie thickener? I know that I have made a few pies in my time that had just way to much flour for thickener. They were good, nice and sweet and nothing was running all over the plate. But the site and texture of too much flour isn't very appealing. I have never used cornstarch either. Cornstarch to me has always been a tricky thing. You have to reach the ideal temperature and not go over or hold it too long or everything goes back to soup. 

Surely a great crust will make any pie! Maybe no one will notice a little extra juice if the crust is perfect. I have been using the same recipe for years and have shared it with many along the way. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have! 

Pie Crust Recipe 

2 cups flour, 2/3 cup shortening, 1 tsp salt and 7 tablespoons cold water. Combine flour, shortening and salt until crumbly. Drizzle with cold water, stir only until dough follows fork around the bowl. It will be a little sticky. Divide dough. Flour pastry towel, flatten dough, turn flatten slightly more then roll. Repeat for top crust. After I have applied the top crust I cut a few vent holes then brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. This makes for a beautiful lightly brown yet sparkly crust. Even if I am making a cream pie, I use this recipe, and make a sparkly crust to be filled with pudding. 

Blueberry Pie Filling 

Keep in mind I use a 10’ large glass pie pan, adjust accordingly. In a large bowl; 5-6 cups of blueberries (if using frozen thaw and lightly drain), 1 ½ cups sugar, ½ cup flour, a dash of salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Lightly fold the sugar and flour into the blueberries. Do not mash the berries! Make sure all of the berries are covered with a coating of the mixture. Put blueberry mixture into uncooked pie crust, sprinkle blueberries with any leftover flower/sugar mixture, dot with butter, about 2 tablespoons. Now you are ready for the top crust. Make a cute smiley face or a message pie. I once wrote “Eat Me” on an apple pie. *Wink* Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar, bake at 400 for about 40-50 minutes. 

It is getting close to blueberry season here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My daughter-in-law and I are planning on picking, tons. LOL Well, not a real ton but I hope to pick a lot. My grandson loves blueberries. Fresh or frozen, he eats them as if they were candy. Fruit, nature’s candy; I would say it is probably one of the best fruits to eat. I try to eat it on a regular basis, even if it is not in season. I freeze as much as I can whenever I can. I sure hope that there will be a substantial amount for freezing this year. It is looking good for the apples this year too. I promised my daughter that I would share applesauce recipes this fall. There are more apples this year than I've ever had. It is usually a race to get to the apples before the deer. Somehow the deer know when the apples are perfect for picking. 

I don’t think that that will be a problem this year, even if the deer get all the low ones there will still be plenty. Somehow my apples trees got quite large when I wasn't paying attention. Or so it seems. I have gone through fazes with my apple trees. It seems as though for a few years we will prune and shape, then we will let them go wild for awhile. They have been going wild for a couple years now, recovering from over pruning. We over did it for a couple years, thinking we knew what we were doing. Since then I have found some great sources on pruning apples and other trees and shrubs. Next pruning I will use one of the guides that I found on Pinterest. You can check out a few sources on my Pinterest boards; "On the Farm" or "Gardens".

Bake a pie on the next rainy day!  It will take the dampness out of the air!