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2/25/2015

 Bakewell Cream Biscuits

Have you ever noticed that cold weather makes us yearn for the comfort foods of our childhood? This year’s never ending winter is certainly no exception. And while not everyone can agree on meatloaf, mac and cheese, or chicken-noodle soup, we all seem to love homemade baking powder biscuits.

Baking powder biscuits go perfectly with many dishes. Plop them on top of an everyday casserole to make it extra special. Lather them with butter and serve with soup. Spread with honey along with a cup of tea. And of course there’s always biscuits and gravy. Even fast food outlets have jumped on the biscuit bandwagon with breakfast sandwiches.

Experienced biscuit makers all have their favorite recipe, usually handed down from Mom or Grandma. But the most important ingredient in baking powder biscuits is the baking powder. Some people prefer an aluminum-free baking powder. Others prefer to use old fashioned cream of tartar and baking soda. We New Englanders have our own favorite, Bakewell Cream.

What Is Bakewell Cream?

Bakewell Cream is a leavening agent similar to baking powder. According to The New England Cupboard, the company that produces it, Bakewell Cream was created in Bangor Maine in the 1940’s. Cream of tartar, a wine-making byproduct and common leavening agent, was in short supply during the war years. Since cream of tartar is a major ingredient of many baking powders, there was a low supply of baking powder. But we must have our biscuits! So a local chemist used a different acid, sodium pyrophosphate, and called it Bakewell Cream. Bakewell Cream plus the base sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda) produces light, fluffy biscuits.

Bakewell Cream biscuits are still very popular in New England, but Bakewell Cream can be difficult to find if you live outside of that area. It can be ordered online from The New England Cupboard or King Arthur Flour. The original biscuit recipe is printed on the Bakewell Cream can.

What Is Kamut Flour?

Even though Bakewell Cream biscuits are perfect as is, I have this compulsion to play around with all written recipes. So instead of shortening I always use butter, and I often add Kamut flour to add some whole grains to the recipe.

I like to use Kamut flour because of its soft, nutty quality. Kamut is the trade name of an ancient grain, khorosan wheat, originally grown in Egypt but now grown in Montana. Although it is a whole grain, it is softer than most whole grains and is a beautiful yellow color, almost like semolina. Many people who are sensitive to wheat can eat Kamut products with no ill effects.

Bakewell Cream Biscuit Recipe

Ingredients:

• 1 cup Kamut flour
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 tsp Bakewell Cream
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2/4 cup butter, softened
• 3/4 cup cold milk

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.

3. Cut in butter with a pastry blender.

4. Add milk and stir quickly with a fork until just mixed.

5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 5 or 6 times.

6. Pat to 3/4-inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter.

7. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and leave in the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until browned.

Quick, easy and melt in your mouth delicious. Bakewell Cream biscuits are sure to keep your insides warm. Sorry, there’s not much I can do about the outside weather!

Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at Seed to Pantry


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/18/2015

Navel Oranges and Triple Sec by Tammy Kimbler

We are huge fans of citrus fruit at our house. My partner devours grapefruits. We can’t keep my daughter stocked in blood oranges. Me? I love it all. Key limes, Meyer lemons, kumquats, pumelos, Seville oranges, mandarines, kaffir limes, citrons - the list of citrus is truly long.  I have yet to meet a fruit that I didn’t like.

December thru March is citrus season in the United States. From California, across the southern states to Florida, the citrus fruit harvest is well underway. Ironically, although we associate citrus trees with warm weather, the signature bright colors actual require a cool winter (but not freezing) for their skin to turn. The maturity of the fruit, however, is independent from their color. Green-skinned citrus is often found in tropical climates.

Originating somewhere between Australia and New Guinea [1], citrus has spread and hybridized repeatedly around the world. While we often think of citrus for eating out of hand, many citrus varieties are grown specifically for their zest, oil, leaves and of course, vitamin C (citric acid). Kafir limes, for example, are primarily grown for the flavor their leaves impart in Southeast Asian curries. Citrus is also grown as an ornamental shrub (I have one on my porch) both indoors and out. During the Renaissance many famous royal gardens featured “Orangeries” [2] in greenhouses. Our own George Washington had an expansive Orangery at Mount Vernon that even Thomas Jefferson envied. [3]

With such a short season, we try to preserve as much citrus as we can for the rest of the year. Although you can still get grapefruit, lemons and oranges in July, they’ve usually been in cold storage or been shipped from South America. Preserving citrus is pretty easy. Here are some flexible techniques you can try with almost any type of citrus, recipe links included. Challenge yourself to change out the types fruit in these recipes and create flavors all your own.

Preserved Lemons and Citron by Tammy Kimbler

Preserving Citrus with Salt

Salt and citrus may seem at odds, but bitter, sour, sweet and salty make up four of the five legs of balanced flavors (the other being umami.) Preserved lemons are probably the best known salt-preserved citrus, but there is the also the lesser known Indian lime pickles. Each technique uses the whole fruit, cut up and packed in salt. The juice comes out and makes a salty brine, softening the fruit. Indian lime pickles go further and add aromatics and spices to the mixture. Both can be used to liven up dressings, sauces, curries, rice (preserved lemons are traditional in Morocan tagines), fish and poultry. I like to add preserved lemon to apple pie. Lime pickle goes into my Indian curried potatoes. Another salt preservations technique is citrus salt. It’s amazing in cooking and baking, and so easy to make. You’ll smack yourself if you’ve purchased it at the store. Consisting of nothing more than citrus zest and kosher or sea salt, I use citrus salt as a finisher sprinkled on salads, meats, popcorn and roasted vegetables as well as in salted desserts like ice cream, chocolates and cookies.

Citrus Salts at the Local Kitchen Blog
Keylime Lime Pickle at One tomato, two tomato
Preserved Lemons at The Farmers Feast

Preserving Citrus with Acid

Isn’t citrus already acidic? From sweet pickles to shrubs, citrus only seems to be enhanced by vinegar. The methods are a snap. For pickles, simply replace small whole citrus like kumquats, key limes or clementines for the fruit in your sweet pickled recipe. Think pickled peaches. I think I’ll replace my martini olive with a pickled kumquat. For shrubs, which are a delicious drinking vinegar, the citrus juice and/or peel may be used. You simply make a simple syrup with the juice and sugar, then add an equal amount of vinegar to syrup. Toss in the peel if desired for extra kick. The result is a delicious liquid that can be mixed with water, soda water, sparkling wine, or in other cocktails. I love it mixed with champaign. Yum.

Pickled Kumquats at Vanilla Garlic
Blood Orange Shrub at Food in Jars

Preserving Citrus with Alcohol

This is a classic technique. The number of citrus infusions, liqueurs and fermented concoctions is prolific! Search the internet and you will find numerous recipes. The easiest of these are citrus infusions and liqueurs, which require little to no cooking. Mixing citrus juice and peel with spirits and/or wine and sometimes with added sugar, results in complex, often deeply flavored libations. Let sit for a month or so, strain and drink. Annually I make a bunch alcoholic citrus recipes to use throughout the year, including orange triple sec, grapefruit gin and lemon limoncello.

Grapefruit Infused Gin at One Tomato, Two Tomato
Vin d’Orange at The Kitchn
Limoncello at Food Preservation

Juicing Blood Oranges and Marmalade by Tammy Kimbler

Preserving Citrus with Sugar

A natural partner to the sour and bitter citrus, sugar preserves citrus beautifully. From jams and candying to citrus sugars, every part of the fruit can be preserved with sugar. While all the techniques are fairly simple to do, they take can range from an hour to a week to make. Marmalade is probably the best know of sugar preservation methods, where peel and juice are turned into bitter sweet jeweled citrus jam. Then there are citrus curds, where juice, sugar and egg yolks merge to create a luscious, creamy spread. Classic candied citrus includes thin orange and grapefruits peels, whole clementines and thick fragrant citron wedges. Citrus sugar, like citrus salt is just the zest blitzed with sugar. Your sugar cookies and sugar dusted scones will never be the same. Use course raw sugar for better texture.

Glazed Citron at David Lebovitz
Seville Blood Orange Marmalade at One tomato, two tomato
Kaffir Lime and Lemon Curd at Vanillyn
Meyer Lemon Sugar at Cravings of a Lunatic 

Preserving Citrus with Dehydrating

Dehydrating is an excellent way to preserve citrus flavors. While you’re never going to get back the juicy goodness of an orange, dehydrating keeps all the flavor. Fantastic in seasoning mixes, soups, dressings, dried teas and sauces, dried citrus will last a year or longer. The conventional drying technique is to simply slice the fruit across the grain into circles, lay them on a mat and dry in your dehydrator. I prefer a low drying temp so that the fruit does not cook, as heat can destroy the citric acid. Each citrus fruit will give you a different flavor to use.

Dehydrated Citrus Wheels at Spoon Fork Bacon
Tangy Orange Powder at Just Making Noise

Kumquats and Citrus Cocktail by Tammy Kimbler

Preserving Citrus with Canning

Finally we have canned citrus, which will rival any insipid, store-bought variety, hands down. Because citrus is a high acid food, you can can both citrus juice and fruit, with or without added sugar. Canned juice is pretty amazing, as you actually pasteurize it at 190 degrees for a 5 minutes, hot pack it into jars, then boiling water can them for 15 minutes. Any type of juice will work. For canned citrus segments, like oranges, tangerines or grapefruits, it’s recommended that you remove the membrane around the segments before canning. I don’t bother with the tangerines-way to much work! For the big fruit I cut the peel off and then “supreme” (su-PREM - it’s French, ooh la la) them by cutting out just the flesh between the membranes. Then you have a few choices for canning: sugar syrup, water, juice, plus or minus flavorings. I think plain water is a little leaching and draws out a lot of flavor, so I prefer a bit of a light syrup. But it’s totally up to you. You can also use the fruit juice to can in - just replace the water-canned version with juice. The work is in the prep, but canning only takes 15 minutes.

How to Can Citrus Juice at The Survival Mom
Canned Supreme Oranges at Hitch Hiking to Heaven 
No-Sugar Canned Mandarin Oranges at Righteous Bacon

Sources:

[1] Origins of Citrus - Liu, Y.,Heying, E., Tanumihardjo, S. 2012 "History, Global Distribution, and Nutritional Importance of Citrus Fruits" Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 11:6
[2] Renaissance Orangeries
[3] George Washington Orangery

Tammy Kimbler is the blogger of One Tomato, Two Tomato. A cultivator at heart, Tammy’s passions lie with food, preservation, gardening and connecting to her local community through blogging and urban agriculture. She eats well and love to feed others as often as possible. She currently resides with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/17/2015

henbit pasta 

I originally invented this recipe because I was looking for a way to make henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) not only edible but actually taste good (read my post about foraging for henbit here). It is a cold-hardy plant that I wrote about a few weeks ago because it's a reliable winter forage even in areas that are well below freezing at this time of year.

The trouble with henbit is that its flavor includes musty overtones. Someone commented on my blog that it has a "mushroomy taste." Bingo! Pairing henbit with wild mushrooms turns that quality into a pro rather than a con.

If henbit doesn't grow near you, chickweed is another cold-hardy wild green that works well in this recipe. Or, in warmer months, try nettles or lamb's quarters. Other wild leafy greens would work as well. Hen of the woods (maitake) is my mushroom of choice for this dish, but you can substitute whichever edible mushrooms you have on hand, including cultivated varieties.

Wild Greens Pasta with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

• 1/2 pound henbit leaves
• 2 eggs
• 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, peeled
• 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or peccorino romano cheese, divided
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
• 3/4 cup semolina flour
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms or reconstituted from dried (save the soaking liquid)
• 1 cup mushroom stock (or soaking liquid from dried mushrooms) OR vegetable OR chicken stock
• 1/2 cup light cream
• 1/4 teaspoon dried or 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• freshly ground black pepper
• salt to taste

For the Noodles:

1. Cook the henbit leaves in very little water for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately run cold water over them. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2. Pulse the cooked henbit and the peeled garlic in a food processor (or finely mince with a knife).

3. Add the egg and puree the ingredients (or mix thoroughly by hand).

4. Reserve 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour. Whisk together the rest of the all-purpose and the semolina flours in a large bowl. Dump the contents of the bowl out onto a clean counter or cutting board. Make a well (indentation) in the center.

5. Pour the egg-henbit mixture into the well in the center of the flour. Mix the flour into the liquid mixture with a fork.

6. Knead the mixture by hand for 10 minutes (or in a stand mixer with the bread hook or food processor with the dough blade until the dough comes together into a ball). Kneading by hand is better because you have more control of how much flour ends up in the dough: stop incorporating more as soon as it is possible to knead the dough without it sticking to your fingers.

7. Cover the dough with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.

8. Lightly dust your work surface. Cut the rested dough into quarters. Roll one of the quarters out with a rolling pin or an old wine bottle until it is as thin as you can get it. Turn the dough over frequently while you roll it out, and dust with additional flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking to your rolling implement.

9. Give the rolled out dough one more light sprinkling of flour then roll it up loosely. Cut crosswise so that it forms coils of 1/4 to 1/2 - inch wide noodles. Uncoil the coils and dust them with additional flour.

For the Sauce:

1. If you're using dried mushrooms, first soak them in boiling hot water for 15 minutes. Drain (reserving the soaking liquid) and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Whether you started with fresh mushrooms or dried, coarsely chop them.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the mushrooms and a little salt. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms give up their liquid and then most of the liquid evaporates.

3. Add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high.

4. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and/or the stock a small splash at a time, stirring constantly. Add the thyme. Each addition should thicken before you add more liquid. When it is all the consistency of a thick gravy, turn off the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring It Together:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh henbit noodles and stir gently. Cook for 3 minutes. Drain. Return to the pot, add the sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese. Toss gently to coat the noodles with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Serve with additional grated cheese and a little minced fresh henbit sprinkled over as a garnish (or parsley).

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her food adventures at Leda's Urban Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/17/2015

My hero quotes Joel Salatin, listens to bluegrass music, and has cover crops, not riding crops. Every chapter ends with a seasonal recipe such as the Tender Collard Tangle below.

Fifty Weeks of Green 

Why Would a Food Evangelist Write a Response to Fifty Shades of Grey?

When I learned that Fifty Shades had outsold the Harry Potter books, I had to check it out. Clearly the author knew how to get people's attention. I found the first chapter online and was soon shocked by the idealization of heartless behavior. Billionaire Christian Grey intimidates his scuttling employees and agrees with pride when the heroine tells him, “You sound like the ultimate consumer.” This tycoon brags that if he were to sell his company, over twenty thousand people would soon be struggling to pay their mortgages.

The more I read, the more Christian Grey resembled the villains I've fought all my life. He isolates himself from the world using blindfolds, gliders, yachts, and private islands. Then he roughly takes what he wants, crushing lives and exhausting valuable resources. Would young women assume, given the blockbuster status of the books and movie, that Grey behaves in an admirable, manly way?

This thought so haunted me that I wrote Fifty Weeks of Green. I wanted to introduce the world to the folks I meet at the Mother Earth News Fairs and at sustainable agriculture conferences. For research, I joined the Edible Earthscapes community supported agriculture program (CSA) and interviewed my farming friends. To add flavor, I mixed in my favorite book by Wendell Berry, a warning about neonicotinoids, and a bluegrass song by Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road.

All these ingredients went into Roger Branch, who loves to feel good soil and makes it better with sustainable farming practices. He delights in women who know their own minds, in his lively community, and in being part of the dance of nature. He's no saint, with people skills that need cultivation, but that's part of the story. Roger and the other characters help city gal Sophia Verde heal her cynicism and cope with an excess of greens.

My big fantasy is that some readers will try recipes from Fifty Weeks of Green, explore their local farmers markets, and cook a little more with the seasons. When I go wild, I dream of farmers' markets, CSAs, co-ops, and health advocates using the book to nudge their clients in the direction of healthy food and thrifty cooking, sweetened with humor and romance.

Love doesn't have to hurt and healthy food can be delicious.

Recipe: Tender Collard Tangle

Collard Tangle 

Slice raw collard leaves thin and then massage and marinate the resulting tangle so it remains lively without being rebellious. Eat some as a salad and then steam the rest to bring out the sweetness and further relax the greens. It's a key Cook for Good technique: cook once, enjoy several times! Yield: Makes 8 servings.

• 2 ounces collards (about 8 medium leaves)
• 2 tbsp lemon juice (juice from one lemon)
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
• 1 sweet apple, perhaps a Gala or Fuji
• 1/4 cup walnut pieces
• 1/4 cup raisins
• water for steaming

Cut or pull stems away from collard leaves and save stems for another use. Cut leaves into very thin strips. I stack them up, roll them up lengthwise like a cigar, and then slice across. Put collard leaves into a non-reactive container (glass, Pyrex, ceramic, or stainless steel). With clean and loving hands, gently squeeze and massage the collards five or six times until they relax a bit. Inhale their deep green fragrance and admire your wild collard tangle.

In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour this dressing over collards and toss until well coated and glossy. If you have time, refrigerate tangle for two hours to soften the greens.

Core apple, slice, and cut into small pieces. Chop walnuts if needed. Toss fruit and nuts with collards, making sure to coat apple pieces well so they don't brown. Serve chilled as Sweet and Tart Collard Tangle.

For Relaxed Collard Tangle, put a cup of water and a steamer basket in a large pot and bring water to a boil over high heat. Put collard mixture in the steamer, cover, and steam for about 5 minutes. If you'd rather use a microwave, put collard mixture and a teaspoon or two of water in a microwave-safe container. Microwave on high for about 45 seconds per serving. Serve hot. Keeps for five days refrigerated.

Images by Linda Watson (c) 2015 Cook for Good, used by permission.

Check out Linda's website Cook for Good for more recipes and tips. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. She is the author of Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet--All on $5 a Day or Less and Fifty Weeks of Green: Romance & Recipes.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/9/2015

sprouts

The groundhog has seen his shadow, and so have I. The ruby cans of spaghetti sauce and dark frozen greens dwindle as I crave that toothsome crunch that only fresh in-season vegetables provide. Before I surrender to the winter blues, I remember two small bags tucked out of reach on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard.  How could I have forgotten sprouting seeds? Sprouts will deliver that pop of wholesomeness, the antidote to the remaining weeks of winter.

Health Benefits of Sprouts

Sprouts are germinated seeds, grains, or legumes. Sprouting is the most basic transformation of latent to live energy with only water, air, and light. When seeds begin to germinate, the starches are converted into natural sugars, and the protein becomes available amino acids that are easily digested and absorbed into the body. Sprouts are living enzymes, providing maximum nutritional benefits that promote a healthy digestive system.

Sprouting Supplies

High in nutritional value, but low in cost and time, sprouts are an easy way to spice up your diet. Supplies are basic: a quart size wide-mouthed Mason jar, sprouting lids, and seeds. Sprouting lids come as a 3-piece set with screens of varying mesh sizes for the different stages of germination. Sprouting seeds can be purchased at your local natural food stores or at Sproutpeople, an extensive website covering all your sprouting needs. Most seeds and grains can be sprouted, but be aware of the dangers of legumes. Legumes contain a toxin called lectin that can cause severe gastro-intestinal distress (acute poisoning) in some people.

How to Sprout

You will be shocked at the ease of the process. Soak seeds for 6-8 hours in 4 parts water to 1 part seed. Typically, the ratio will be 2 tablespoons of seeds to ¼ cup of warm (not hot) water. Drain the soak water. Rinse sprouts 2-3 times a day with cool water, swirling the water around the jar. Turn the jar upside down above a sink and shake vigorously. Then invert the jar at a propped angle to drain any remaining liquid. The hardest part will be remembering to rinse, but it is a forgivable mistake.

The germinating seeds will grow through varying stages. Start with the finest mesh lid. Within a couple days, small tails will begin to form. That is a good indicator to upsize. Now is the time to start your next round of sprouts with the available fine mesh lid. As the seeds awake from dormancy, they erupt into a brilliant green and start filling the jar. At this point, change to the largest lid and be patient. Although this is an edible stage, let the jar be filled with a bountiful harvest. Once the sprouts have achieved maturity, they are best kept in the refrigerator and eaten within the week. That is, if you can resist eating them.

Recipe Ideas

Sprouts can be eaten raw, added into juices and smoothies, or as toppings on salads, sandwiches, soups, eggs, pizza, and practically anything else. Let your imagination go wild: grind sprouts to make bread, hummus or even a chocolate almond torte.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/9/2015

Beef Tallow Jar 

Fat seems to come and go in relative estimations of value and devaluation depending on various factors of its content. I’ve in recent years become a fan of pasture-fed, pure beef tallow. It came to me in the form of a sort of gift along with the purchase of a piece of my cousin’s homegrown cow three years ago. Nobody else seemed to want the stuff so I took it; there was no extra charge and it would otherwise have been thrown out.

Health Benefits of Pastured Beef Fat

Then I began to research beef tallow’s health merits. As compared to vegetable shortening or margarine, tallow wins out in many respects. It’s unprocessed, meaning it has no free radicals that can lead to a greater likelihood of cancers. It’s pure, meaning there are no carcinogenic chemicals added. In addition, pasture-fed cows are less likely to have been contaminated by staph as those sold on supermarket shelves. And I know exactly where it came from, how it was treated, and who handled it. Buying from family locally and knowing the animal was pasture-fed is important to me.

I haven’t bought shortening now for over a year, though I still use it for greasing pans now and then. Likewise, I rarely use margarine, though I consider butter an essential ingredient in my cooking. I’ve rendered beef fat into quart jars of tallow two years in a row and consider myself seasoned in the art of avoiding too much of a mess in making it. I did a bit of internet recipe research and through trial and error found how to make the best of my time in the process. The last batch of fat may have weighed about 30 pounds. I wound up with just short of two gallons of tallow, poured into quart jars.

How to Render Beef Tallow

1. First, you need as many big, flat pans and casserole dishes as you can fit into your oven. They each need to have sides that are at least 2-1/2 inches deep and preferably a spout for pouring; if not, a square corner. (Otherwise the fat will be more likely to drip over the rounded sides of the pan.) Fat is not something you want anywhere but inside a vessel. Drips are a problem to be assiduously avoided, needless to say. I’ve found cast iron pans seem to be hotter than others, making the process faster.

2. Next, you need a well sharpened big knife and a large cutting board. Cut the pieces of fat into chunks around one to two inches in diameter; cubes work well but there’s no need to be uniform in shape.

3. Lay them flat in the pans only one layer deep.

4. Completely cover all pans with fat chunks.

5. Add around 1/2 cup water to each pan.

6. Heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Cover each pan with aluminum foil. This is important because it will protect the inside of your oven from being completely covered with grease splatters. I found that out the hard way.

8. Completely fill all the racks in your oven with as many pans as you can. The water is helpful in that it will heat up and start the rendering process faster. It will then evaporate in the very long process of rendering in your oven.

9. After 1/2-hour turn the oven down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and leave it to cook for 3 hours. You may want to move the pans around halfway through as the top and bottom racks will cook fastest. Other than that, don’t open your oven.

When the process is done, the chunks of fat should begin to look a bit golden will stick to the bottom of your pans. That is a convenient aspect in the regard that it probably won’t need to be strained. The fat will be a clear liquid which is rendered and ready to pour. My method is tried and true and was chosen after reading a couple of websites, but others have found it easier to cut up the fat in a food processor.

While making this fat, beware of burning. If your oven is hotter than most, you may prefer to cook at a slightly lower heat to avoid this. The fat has a distinctive odor which will fill the kitchen but shouldn’t be that distinctive smell of burned beef. This will ruin the entire effort.

How to Store and Use Rendered Fat

The fat lends a flavor to dishes that is particularly desirable for Mexican foods, fried potatoes and savory pie crusts. But if it becomes overcooked or rancid, the fat will ruin anything and everything and waste a lot of your time and effort. The final product should be completely clear of particulate matter and will not need to be strained as it is poured into jars. It will cool into a uniform milky white and will be rather hard as compared to other fats. You will need to keep it refrigerated or frozen until used. I’ve found that quart glass jars filled with the fat freeze fine without breakage. This fat keeps for three months in a refrigerator. I do sterilize the jars first and use conventional canning lids, also sterilized. And I use canning jars because they don’t break as easily as other glass jars when coming in contact with the very hot fat.

To remove it from the glass, use a knife to break pieces of the tallow loose. I use this as a way to oil my pan before cooking burgers, and in pie crusts in a half-and-half ratio to butter. It tends to be harder than shortening or butter and thus more difficult to measure so I weigh it when making pie crusts. When baking enchiladas, I use it to oil the pan and cook tortillas. I make enchilada sauce with it. I melt a few tablespoons of it in a cast iron pan to oven-fry potatoes which were previously blanched in water. This takes only around 15 minutes if the pan has been preheated. Don’t be afraid to use it to fry eggs; its flavor isn’t overwhelming yet does contribute well.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/6/2015

 Sourdough Herb Crackers

Too much sourdough starter. Starter bubbling away in jars on the counter top. Starter patiently waiting its turn in the refrigerator. Even after turning cups of the stuff into beautiful loaves of homemade bread, there’s always more, casting an accusing eye and asking, “What are you going to do with me – and when am I getting fed?!”

If you are a sourdough bread baker, it’s sure to happen to you sooner or later – an excess of sourdough starter. We all want to keep our starter alive, and a well-loved starter is almost part of the family. It’s not quite on the same level as Fido or Kitty, but roughly on par with the goldfish or the African violet that once belonged to Mom. Keeping the starter alive means feeding it, and feeding it leads to too much starter. It seems so wasteful to throw some of it out. But what to do with it all? Luckily we don’t have to toss part of our starter just to keep the rest alive. There are many uses for excess starter that don’t involve baking another artisan loaf of bread. We can:

• Add starter to quick breads and other products leavened by baking powder or baking soda.
• Add starter to straight yeast dough, giving the resulting bread more flavor and keeping it fresh for a longer time.
• Use starter as a flavoring agent, not a leavening agent, in cookies, crackers, and pizza.
• Share the love. Gift a cup of ripe starter along with feeding directions to your friends.
• Dry it for future use, or to give as a holiday gift.

Muffins and Quick Breads

Up to 1 cup of starter can be added to any standard (2 cups of flour) muffin or quick bread recipe. Sourdough starter adds a tangy flavor that might otherwise be added by buttermilk or yogurt. The starter can be ripe, but it doesn’t have to be, making this a good use for a refrigerated starter that you are trying to coax back into life. If you prefer a less acid flavor, replace the baking soda in your recipe with twice the amount of baking powder when adding sourdough starter.

• Try this recent Sourdough Oatmeal Muffins recipe from the Real Food Blog.
• Sourdough starter makes everyday Banana Bread extraordinary in this recipe from my Seed to Pantry blog.
• And this sweet Sourdough Cornbread from The Gingered Whisk looks delicious.
• Adding a cup of starter made this the best steamed New England Brown Bread I have ever made. And it’s 100% whole grains too.

Pancakes and other Griddle Breads

Sourdough has been used to leaven pancakes for centuries. But sourdough starter can also be added to crumpets, English muffins, and other griddle breads as a flavoring agent while giving a little leavening “boost.”

Some of my fondest childhood memories are when we had breakfast for dinner. We still follow this tradition with savory Cheddar Pancakes. Impress your friends with this tasty Sourdough Crumpets recipe from King Arthur Flour.

Pizza, Crackers and Cookies

• Add 1/2 to 1 cup of sourdough starter to your favorite pizza crust recipe. If making a large batch you can add more than 1 cup of starter but reduce the amount of yeast slightly.
• Homemade crackers are soooo much better than the packaged kind. Try my favorite Sourdough Herb Crackers.
• Even cookies get in on the sourdough act with this Peanut Butter Cookies recipe from Sourdoughs International.
• Every year over the holidays I make a big batch of Sourdough Pfefferneusse cookies to give as gifts. One year I forgot, and I heard about it later!

Dry For Later Use

Homemade starter can be dried just like commercial starter. Lisa Rayner, author of Wild Bread, recommends the following process:

1. Spread a very thin layer of active starter on parchment paper.

2. Let dry in an undisturbed location for 2 to 7 days, depending on the humidity in your area.

3. Crumble the dried starter and place in a freezer bag.

4. Store the dried starter in the freezer.

5. Combine starter with flour and water to reactivate the starter, and then follow your regular feeding process until bubbly.

Drying starter seems like a good idea to keep a back-up supply of your family sourdough starter on hand.

Do you have any special recipes or tips for using your excess starter? Share them with us!


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