Sunday, November 2, 2008

Apple Butter 2008

Once again this year, my wife's family has taken a weekend to come together and make home made apple butter. A post talking about last year's endeavor can be read here.

From AppleButter2008
This year's festivities were just as fun and resulted in a TON of great tasting apple butter. The biggest change from last year was that this year we had it at Em's and my new house (in the backyard, under where the fire pit is normally) and that my parent's were able to join in on the fun.

The basic plans/timeline were the same as last year but here they are again (in an abbreviated form).

Fearing that a neighbor, unfamiliar with our family tradition, may call the police/fire dept. upon seeing the smoke and fire, the week before I put in for a bonfire permit with our local government. A couple days later I was in procession of permit #38 and was legally able to build a fire up to 5'x5' (FIRE!)

On Friday (b/c Em and her parents were off work) the pealing/coring/slicing/juicing was done. It took 4 people 2-3 hours to core/slice/peal 3 bushels of apples (~40 lbs each). When that was finished, Em's mom brewed half of the peals in water to create a strong apple juice.

Saturday morning Em had to go into work to give an ACT, so her parent's and I started the fire around 7:30 am and had the apples in the huge copper pot along with some water by 8am.

From AppleButter2008
Over the next 8 hours my parents came by and everyone took turns constantly stirring the kettle. Along with stirring, everyone enjoyed some homemade chili and tons of doughnuts and other misc food items.

After an hour or two the juice was added, after ~3 the seasoning glove was added, and after ~5 the sugar (10 lbs per busshel). After 8 hours the apples had gone from pieces in water, to smaller pieces, to a thin apple sauce, to a thick dark apple sauce and reduced by aprox. 2/3rds in volume.

From AppleButter2008

From AppleButter2008

20 minute of canning later we had ~ 76 pints of apple butter.

From AppleButter2008

Mmmm Mmmm good.

From AppleButter2008

Some family traditions are just tastier than others. :-)
More photos can be seen here

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dill Lamb Shish-Kabobs and expensive brie

Yesterday Em and I took her parents and grandma out to the latest local Whole Foods Market and picked up some items for a "nice" Sunday meal.

First off, as a sort of appetizer, we purchased a small wedge of what can only be described as some of the best cheese I have ever had. I was perusing the cheese area with the intention of picking out a decent brie or Camembert when I began talking with David, the cheese-monger and a random guy with his wife and son who was picking out several cheeses. After a brief chat and finding out that if I wanted a good mellow brie I "just had to try" this one which was "wicked good" I knew what I needed. We ended up with a wedge of Brillat Savarrin Triple Creme Cow's Milk Cheese. So good. Almost like butter smooth. :-) And at only $30.99/lb very affordable ;-) (the wedge was only 0.13 lbs)

Next up was dinner ... Dill Lamb Shish-Kabobs

  • 1 lb lamb shoulder cut into cubes
  • several sprigs fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tbs chopped garlic
  • 1 container plain yogurt (unsweetened)
  • 3 cp chopped veggies (cherry tomoatoes, bell pepper, onions, mushrooms)
  • olive oil
  • salt + pepper

  1. marinate the lamb in the yogurt, garlic, dill, salt and pepepr for 2+ hours
  2. chop veggies and coat with olive oil salt and pepper for 30+ minutes
  3. thread onto skewers and grill over a medium fire for 12-15 minutes turning occasionally
  4. serve over rice


I thought the lamb turned out really well considering I don't cook it very often and I wasn't following a specific recipe. Next time I would try some minced mint and lemon juice instead but the dill was very good and not overpowering like I feared it might be. Also, I made a couple yogurt based sauces w/ some leftovers (didn't need as much yogurt as I thought). One had paprika + cumin + cayanne pepper and the other had some more dill, lemon juice and garlic.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Roasted Chili Relish and Reviews

I adapted this recipe from one in our Gourmet Magazine from last month:
Roasted Chili Relish

  • 0.5 - 1 lb various chilies (as hot as you want)
  • 1/2 small head garlic (4-5 cloves)
  • 1/3 cp white vinegar
  • 2 - 3 tbsp sugar
  • salt / pepper / thyme
  1. Clean peppers and remove stems/seeds
  2. Roughly chop peppers
  3. Remove top of garlic head
  4. Wrap garlic head in foil and place it along with peppers on foil on baking sheet in 350 degree oven for ~30 minutes (I used a toaster oven)
  5. Let cool slightly and remove garlic from wrappers/cover
  6. Put everything in a food processor with vinegar, sugar, and seasoning and run until chopped fine and semi smooth (<1>
  7. Pour mixture into small sauce pan and cook until liquid has reduced by half
  8. Pour into jar with lid and refrigerate

The original recipe called for actual "pickling" of the chilies but I was too lazy and hungry for that. I put this stuff on everything from my sandwiches to chicken/pork dishes to pasta. It had a great heat plus a nice tang from the vinegar and sugar.


A couple of weeks ago a couple coworkers and I took a long lunch and went to a local deli/small grocery store in south st. louis and had some great sandwiches. The place is called LeGrands Market and I find it hard to think of a better sandwhich that can be had for less than 5 bucks. The size was good, the meats were good quality, the mixtures were tasty and the toppings were great. I will be going back ... if only it were closer to work ;-) Check out their scan of their sandwich menu and just try and not get hungry!

On another lunch break, we took in what is becoming a downtown highlight. Papy's. At 11:25am the line was 30 minutes long and wrapped throughout the small restaurant (it opens at 11). All in house home made barbeque that is there until they run out each day. Despite the wait, it was well worth it ... some of the best brisket I have had in quite some time.

Em made a Rachel Ray recipe the other night and it was pretty darn good. (I don't know if I was more shocked by the fact that she made one of Ray's or that it was as good as it was) She made her Sloppy Buffalo Joes with ground turkey and extra hot sauce and they were really good.

Finally, a coworker of mine turned us on to a new (to us) local ice cream place called Serendipity which has some really good homemade icecream. No its not Ted Drews, but its closer and very good. Mmmm Gooey Butter Cake Ice Cream :)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

STUFFED! and Smoked

Kolaches this morning at work (thank you random team that the boss appreciated your work) and a team going-away lunch today at California Pizza Kitchen (yay Thai Chicken Pizza) have left me STUFFED.

Yesterday I found two links that I think will help me greatly on my quest to get a smoker this summer:

National Barbecue News (Forums)


Smoking Meat Forums

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Roast Whole Chicken

A couple nights ago I attempted to roast a whole chicken for only the second time in my life (the first being with Kev in college) and once again it turned out well with surprisingly little effort or preparation.

The only problem I had was determining when the bird was done. The recipe I followed (for cooking times at least ... I added a cut and juiced lemon to the inside and along with a couple cloves of garlic and a table spoon of rosemary) was from one of my favorite cooks books, The New Best Recipe. The books has tons of recipes along with detailed descriptions of all of the different ways they tried to make the dish before settling on this "best" one. Along with the recipes are lots of side notes about various cooking tools, preparation methods, etc. Its an all around solid cook book, if not a bit heavy.

The book's recipe called for the oven to be preheated to 350 (along with the roasting pan) and then to add the bird, one wing side up on a V-rack in the center of the oven. After 15 minutes, adjust the bird so that the other wing side is up. After another 15 minutes increase the temperature to 450 and turn the bird breast side up. It said to cook until the meat was 160/165 in various areas of the bird (~25 minutes). This was supposed to result in a not-dried-out bird with a good crispy skin.

Well the skin was crispy and a beautiful golden brown .... but the meat was a fair bit cooler and after removing the bird and doing a test cut, was not done all the way through. After 20-30 minutes more at various temperatures, it was done, still not too dry and very tasty.

Other than taking longer than expected, it was great and really simple.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I have decided to take up smoking

of the BBQ variety.

I mentioned to my dad the other day that I was considering getting a smoker this summer, but wasn't sure how often I would use it nor anything really about them. He mentioned that he had thought the same thing for several years but had failed to pull the trigger. So, we decided that this summer, things were gonna change.

Only problem is, we still don't know much about smokers. A very brief google search turned up numerous providers building several different kinds of smokers. We don't need or want something huge (ideally something that could be transported in a car/truck assuming it was semi-clean) but there are many choices along the way (e.g. style, size, fuel, etc). On first glance I am leaning toward an electric or gas model b/c it seems like unless you going to have a large smoker and do logs, the fuel isn't providing any flavor, just heat to the wood chips. And while I don't mind tending a fire, I have other things I would prefer doing.

Anyone have any experience with smokers,
and would like to share your thoughts?

Quick and Dirty Hummus

The other night I wanted a snack between meals and remembered we had a can of chick peas (garbanzo beans) in the pantry left over from another dish. From this a very rustic, fairly tasty, and moderately quick hummus was born....

After a quick glance at a online hummus recipe to get me in the ballpark I gathered the ingredients I could find and got mixing. First, I had to find a substitute for Tahini paste (which Trader Joe's also doesn't carry). I toasted a few tablespoons of sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat and added them to our small food processor along with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper and a couple drops of toasted sesame oil. After some grinding, the paste was a rough equivalent.

I added to that some more olive oil, a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, the can of drained chick peas, a couple cloves of minced garlic and some seasoning. I attempted to blend this into a nice hummusy paste, but being a very small food processor and there being a lot of ingredients ... this didn't work out so well. I ended up doing it in batches which worked ok, but made it hard to get a real good smooth texture.

In the end, the result was really good for my first try. Pita bread or something similar would have been better than the generic crackers we had on hand, but they weren't bad. The hummus had some decent flavor and was pretty close to the stuff you can get in a good restaurant. If I could have gotten the consistency better, I would have said it was easily better than 90% of store bought stuff and probably better for you.