Nigel’s gooseberry pie

There’s really only one reason in my book (blog?) to grow gooseberries. sure jam is nice, and i wouldn’t shake my spoon at a serious gooseberry chutney. but the reason i brought my three little gooseberry sticks home from the nursery that day (nay, first begged my neighbor who manages our local gardening shop to order them against his advice that they’re not easy to get started and maintain in our neck of the woods) four years ago and nursed them through that awful tomato blight that terrorized the land in 2010, various forms of fungus and other i-don’t-know-what-the-hell-happened-but-all-the-gooseberries’-leaves-fell-off-overnight-things. was. for. pies.

(note, that’s the first time i ever did that period after each word thing because i don’t particularly care for it, but alas, it’s warranted here. unequivocally.)

before we get into it, i feel i should say a few things directly to you peeps who think you don’t like fruit pies. at the risk of sounding ferocious, i think it’s because you haven’t had one of my fruit pies. you see, fruit pies do not need a lot of anything other than the choices of fruits, a bit of sugar and a kick-ass pie crust.

This particular pie, gooseberries, sugar, and a sweet buttery crust that melts in your mouth and unabashedly soaks up, without the least bit of sogginess, the full-fat cream that is essential to pour all over it, is perfection.  there is no sourness quite like the sourness of gooseberries, they were, i believe, created for the sheer joy of eating them with cream and crust.

let’s continue.

I call this nigel’s gooseberry pie as this summer continues my love affair with the writings of nigel slater. an english gardener-cook whose prose on life in his garden and kitchen make me swoon. and the man can make pie.

If you are not growing gooseberries, or have an extra quart or so of cream layin’ around, go to your local farmers market now and look around. you need this in your life.

5 spice kumquat chutney

This is the last of my 10 pound batch – ordered from here quite some time ago. as you may know, i love kumquats, those not-so-sour fruits that half-heartedly roll around masquerading as pucker-inducing citrus. i swear, they must have to practice. but i’m not fooled.

these little guys are sweeties!

having just returned from a trip to british columbia to find my last couple pounds of ‘em barely hanging on to their youth, i had to quickly devise a plan to get them sealed up in jars.

kumquats always make me think of places far, far, east – places i’ve never been. chinese 5 spice powder, or some variation of it, is ubiquitous in that part of the world. using that as a jumping off point, this is what i did:

5 spice kumquat chutney

well actually, hold on, let’s back up. first, i climbed to the top of my larder, reached my paw behind the skull and crossbones sign, careful not to disturb the trap, and pulled out my secret chile basket.

(i just realized we must truly be chummy cats now, ’cause i’m telling you about my hidden chile basket!) yes peeps, this is my basket full-o’-hot-gold gathered from around the globe. there’s more underneath, but what you can see is aleppo-style pepper from turkey, white peppercorns from kerala, new mexican chile powder, the whole red chiles are from a particularly succulent bush from thine own garden, and, ok, there’s some real cinnamon from sri lanka on the side there. but, what you really want to know about is the two bags in the front, brought back by yours truly from bhutan, where it’s called local pepper, but what’s otherwise known as szechuan pepper.

it’s the real deal, not the unfortunate pink and white peppercorn mix mislabeled here in the states, no no. upon having my first – and probably a little bit too much – taste of szechuan pepper, my throat, lips and chest became tingly and then numb, and my tongue, of it’s own accord, stopped behaving inside my mouth and took a leap way out and south. it is, in fact, the stuff legends are made of. but that was not the half of it. while all of this was happening, and in what was certainly not our coolest traveling moment, it sent M running from the restaurant, gasping for breath, both hands pulling at his shirt collar, and me running after him, tongue fully exposed, yelling, “ah you ahlight?” respect.

eaten though, in proper doses, it has a pleasant tingling effect which enhances both the heat and one’s ability to take the heat of accompanying chiles. it, in fact, is not a pepper at all, but the seedpod of a wild citrus variety.

if you don’t have a trip planned to bhutan, china, or another country in that ‘hood anytime soon, and you don’t have a chinatown near you, you could try this place. though i’ve never tried their szechuan pepper, i’ve had great luck with other spices i’ve purchased there. and by the description, they know what they’re talking about.

if you can’t get your paws on any this go round, you can omit it all together and you will still have a very lovely and exotic tasting chutney. you can just call it 4 spice kumquat chutney and no one will be the wiser.

let’s try this again.

Carrot spears with chervil

If you’ve been over here recently then you know that i have been rather busy the last few weeks. Haven’t had a whole heck of a lot of time to pickle, jam or blog even. You may have noticed. but i am here to say that even when you have

26,000 friends over for the weekend. you can still find time to pickle! ok maybe not that weekend, but still you see what i’m sayin’ right?

here let me show you:

carrot spears with chervil adapted from the joy of pickling by linda ziedrich

4 lbs fresh carrots (no more than 4 to 5 inches long)
2 bunches chervil
8 garlic cloves (cut in half)
8 green chile peppers
2 teaspoons black peppercorns (lightly crushed)
2 tablespoons sea salt
4 cups white wine vinegar
4 cups water
1 cup sugar (i use raw)
4 quart jars (washed in hot soapy water)

yields 4 quarts, let me start by saying these are refrigerator pickles, otherwise known as quick pickles, which means there is no canning or water boiling involved. see: time saver!

since they go straight in the fridge i use jarden plastic lids but whatever lids you use, make sure they are non-reactive, meaning if they are metal they should be coated on the inside, like the regular mason flat lids.

my chervil exploded this year and i love it’s punchy anise flavor, fennel fronds either from bronze fennel or from the top of finnochio would be equally as good. and of course you can never do a pickle wrong with dill.

1. trim and wash carrots. if they are thin, slice them in half lengthwise. if they are rather thick carrots you my need to slice them in thirds lengthwise. each slice should be less than 1/4 of an inch.

i used a mixture of orange and purple carrots, so my pickle turned a lovely shade of pink. use any color carrots you choose.

2. bring a large pot of water to the boil. drop carrots in and blanch for 2 minutes. (carrots should still be firm, but should pack slightly less of a crunch). immerse carrots into ice cold water to cool.

3. divide and pack carrots tightly into four quart jars. add chervil equally to jars.

4. place remaining ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil.

5. take off heat and divide garlic and chile peppers equally into jars. pour liquid over carrots and cap jars.

6. let cool then place in fridge.

you should let them hang out for a couple of days before you indulge to let the flavors settle and mingle. these pickles will last in fridge up to 3 months.

they are so good that eating them right out of the jar is pretty much how they are consumed around our place. but i imagine chopping a few up and adding to a salad would add the perfect amount of punch and crunch. the same with a bowl of steamed rice.

Jam on it: Plum hot jelly & almond butter

Attention: this is a public service announcement You may remember this

Plum hot jelly look, I know plum season seems like forever ago and forever again but as tigresses do, sometimes i just need to roar about just those things that need to be roared about. this october in a jar tastes like heaven on the plate in feb.

I think it’s the way the subtle fruity-sweetness wraps itself around the fatty nut butter and the firebirds fly up and out and give the tongue a wack.

Plum Hot Jelly!

this weekend went by very fast! up here in the southern berkshires we had our first frost the leaves have been whipping around and their colors… …oh my, their colors! I’m talking b-e-a-u-t-y folks.

and since we are talking about beautiful colors… (we are, aren’t we?) this jelly holds one of the most beautiful colors i’ve yet witnessed in a jar.

ruby red to be exact. but it’s not because of it’s color that i am writing to you about this, or because of it’s tingling flame-like heat
(that pairs superbly with any cheese – yes, i did just say any cheese).

although both of those attributes are enough to make me plumb hot excited about this jelly (i’m writing home about it as we speak)!

what i really love about this jelly is it tastes like october in a jar. that is if your october has that one farmer at last saturday’s market with a table full of heirloom tomatoes spread out like an antiques collector displaying his wares.

that is if your october has your local farmstand or organic market with a last wooden barrel, or possibly two, whittled down to the bottom of this year’s plums and all the rest of them bulging to the brim with just picked apples. all types.

that is if your october’s garden not only has a bunch of root veggies waiting to be pulled from the ground quite expectantly, but also has in one corner a bevy of little hot chile plants that finally pulled through and have some red, purple & green orbs and trinkets hanging in it’s leaves just ready to be plucked.

you see, i’m not quite ready for the cinnamony, clove-scented stuff that winter is made of. i want more of this mixed up beautiful month. i want to make it last… and this my friends, is it.

Plum hot jelly! adapted from in season: cooking with vegetables and fruits by sarah raven there are a couple of things that need to be said before we get on with this recipe; one is that in season: cooking with vegetables and fruits is a beauty of a book. sarah is a master gardener and a masterful cook. it is a treasure of simple, delicious recipes organized by season. i know that is nothing new at the moment but this book is most definitely a cut above.

second is that you need one of these: trust me. i know we all be jammin’ and who am i to complain but
when it must be jelly ’cause jam don’t shake like that

well then all that gorgeous fruit needs to be strained. so i do suggest a jelly bag and strainer as it keeps it all neat and tidy and the bag is reusable. there are other ways to drain jelly – if you have butter muslin or really good, tight weaved cheese-cloth and can devise a way to hang the filled pouch over a large bowl then you are in business.

2 lbs tart or crab apples
2 lbs any variety plums (i used a damson variety)
3/4 cup cider vinegar approximately 8 cups sugar (i use raw)

chiles (i used 6 one-inch long hot firebird chiles, you can use 3 two-inch long thai or cayanne, or even 3 jalapeno if you don’t like the bite too hot). 6 1/2-pint canning jars, or more smaller jars

yields approximately 3 pints

Day 1
1. pit plums and coarsely chop unpeeled apples. place them in a large non-reactive (no iron) preserving pan and 7 cups water. bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. add the cider vinegar and boil uncovered for 5 minutes.

2. while this is happening take your jelly bag and boil for 10 minutes in a little pot all its own.

3. place the jelly bag on its holder set over a bowl and use a ladle to transfer the apple/plum mixture to the jelly bag

4. let the fruit drain on its own for 8 hours or overnight. important: do not press the bag or you will have cloudy jelly. depending on how large a bowl you used you may need to do some transferring, so keep an eye on it.

Day 2
1. place 8 cups of sugar in a large bowl in a very low oven (about 120 degrees) for 30 minutes.

2. place water-filled jars in your canning pot and bring to the boil, boil for 10 minutes to sterilize. place 3 or even 4 small plates in the freezer to test set later on.

3. cut chiles in half and slice very fine. you can leave the seeds in or out, depending on how hot you like your jelly.

4. measure the jelly juice and for every 2 1/2 cups of juice you’ll need 2 1/2 cups of sugar.

5. pour juice and warmed sugar in preserving pot and over low heat continue stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. once the sugar has completely dissolved add the chiles and turn the heat up to a vigorous boil.

important: do not stir. the key to successful jelly making is to get to the jelling point as quickly as possible to save as much of the fruity flavor. over-cooking means lack of flavor. if you stir you will most likely need to cook longer to get to the jelling point. of course adjust the heat if you need to, but keep it at a strong boil.

6. you should come to the jelling point after 15-20 minutes of boiling. check the set by placing 1 teaspoon of jelly on a frozen plate and placing plate back in freezer for one minute. then slide your finger through jelly and it should wrinkle underneath your finger. you may need to try a couple of times, if you think you are getting close turn the burner off while you do your testing.

7. let jelly stand for 15 minutes and then give it a stir to distribute chiles evenly.

8. place jelly in jars and process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

there you have it – october – all year long!
one last thing, cause i know you’ll all be askin’ about these very cute old fashion jars. yes they are vintage jars, yes i used weck rubber rings, yes i am now addicted to ebay and… I owe it all to marisa at food in jars and her fateful post.

Blue apple jam with fennel & bay

I wanted to title this post ‘fall!’ but as any good blogger knows if there’s a recipe in the post you gotta name the recipe in the title or your peeps will never know its there after the post disappears from your homepage, their feed, your facebook timeline, etc.

basically, i just want to say, fall is here mo%*erFU@(Ker$!!! i really, really hope you can get out there and enjoy it. if it’s not fall where you live, then get out there and enjoy whatever season you’re in. and make something with whatever you gotz growing on in your neck of the earth, will ya? …here let me try this again:


Can jam December round-up: Dried fruit

First i want to send a big wet furry tigress kiss (ewwww!) to everyone that participated in the great can jam of 2010! whether you participated in each & every month or just a very few, whether you’ve blogged along with me, or followed along quietly at home, whether you’ve put jar to boiling water for the very first time right here, or taught me a thing or two…

It just wouldn’t have been a ball without you! :)

(well ok, let me just give one weee little extra shout-out for those of you that canned every monththroughout the entire 2010!)

I’m touched by all the thanks and kind words about the can jam on many of your blogs this last month. thank you. i hope the intentions of celebrating and saving local produce, building a vibrant on-line canning community that’s both inspiring and helpful, and having fun while doing it all were realized. mostly i hope that if you’ve been learning to can with us here, your enthusiasm and delicious creations will inspire others to can.

finally, if you haven’t starting canning yet don’t despair because now is the perfect time! there’s a whole lotta info in the side bar essentials section to the right, and a whole lotta-lotta recipes from all of the can jammers listed by month in the side bar too!

now on to december’s recipes – i know some of you thought i was crazy when i said dried fruit.

ahem, howya like me now?…

Chutneys, conserves & compotes

apple cherry compote with hazelnuts – locally preserved
ooh, a compote! finally a compote. i have been thinking lately that we really need to start a compote renaissance, no? oh, and i am all about this spicy fig jam!

apple cranberry raisin conserve with port and thyme – prospect: the pantry i really love your pairing suggestions! a little conserve brightens up wintry dishes it’s so true! bengal style chutney – flamingo musings yes i agree, indian flavors can turn even the most mundane tofu steak into a magnificent meal! :)

chewy spicy chutney – tigress in a pickle this chutney is hot! (and he knows it) cranberry chutney- sugar crafter did you say tangy chutney? you do know i’m a chutney-lover, don’t you? and how great that you’re going to keep on canning!

dried fruit conserve (minced-no-meat) – café del manolo i don’t think i have to say twice that this is my kind of conserve! and i love that you’re going to make a pie with it for your father-in-law. ‘updated’ family favorites are where it’s at! :)

figgy lemon chutney – grow & resist first, i just like sayin’ this; figgy lemon chutney, figgy lemon chutney, figgy lemon chutney…second, this looks like a wonderful adaptation of my beloved onionz limone (RIP).

mango chutney– leena eats this blog i love me a good mango chutney, and this one sounds amazing with dates, raisins and curry powder! congratulations on your pregnancy too! pear & dried apple chutney – notes from a country girl living in the city i’m just wondering if you compared the ratios to an existing recipe from a good source. the acid level could be questionable here.

pear port compote – backyard farms love the photos of you and your year of jarred bounty, love that you did a compote, and love the pelham variation! persimmon & dried cherries with brandy conserve – showfood chef i’ve never had a persimmon, fuyu or hachiya, but i’m damn sure going to try one now! pronto!

rhubarb conserve – bigger than a breadbox i for one am always looking for ways to preserve rhubarb, since i happen to have a field of it. thanks for this one!

spicy cranberry chutney – just the right size did you just say fan-friggin-fabulous? i think you did! well ok, then. i think that means you like it! (and i must say this looks like much more than a cranberry chutney!)

Jams, jellies, preserves & marmalade

apricot cranberry & amaretto jam – laundry, etc. i love it! and thanks for the sugar % info on canned and non-canned fruit – very good to know! CherryMeyerGingerAde – rufus & clementine look, you made me use caps! this one looks all nikki – love the dried cherries in a marmalade!

christmas jam – what julia ate kudos to you for making this! it has been on my list for a while – and yours looks mouthwatering! …here kitty, kitty, kitty. cranberry jam – all types of cooking and a whole lot of canning here! i love the idea of cranberry and pecans! now, tell me, is it really true that this can cool you off when it’s 100 degrees outside!?

cranberry marmalade with dried apricots – food in jars you just keep taunting me with that book don’t you? (i totally know what you mean about book recipe emergencies – i have 3 books i’m totin’ now!) oh, and the cardamom sounds perfect in this!

cranberry orange marmalade – toronto tasting notes candied ginger and cranberries are one of my favorite combos! and i agree, these would make wonderful holiday presents! festive indeed!

dried fig jam with lemon & port – cafe libby i love figs so much i thought about making a dried fig jam for my entry this month too! glad you did! :)

habenaro hot pepper jelly – the kitchenette you are going to have a lot of happy family members this christmas, aren’t you? you rockstar-i-learned-so-much-in-the-can-jam you! jalapeño sunshine – knit & nosh i would eat this for the name alone, yes i would!

name that marmalade – hip girl’s guide to homemaking hurry peeps, get on over there and name kate’s marm to win a jar! so great, kate, to be reminded of your enthusiasm at the start of the can jam…and look at you now – you preservin’ fool you! :)

quincemeat preserves – the artisanry of acorn cottage yay for you! this looks resourceful, original, and most of all – delicious!

red onion marmalade with dried cranberries – my caffeine diary if it’s quite tasty then of course you did it right! i don’t hear your friends complaining, do you? (all i hear is those crackers crunching!) savory triple-ginger pear preserves – married …with dinner
i’m a ginger lover, so this one is calling my name…and i see you got yourself some weck jars. nice!

spiced cranberry preserves – bread making with the bread experience this looks like the perfect condiment of the holiday table! and the color is beautiful too!


blueberry maple syrup – simply loving home first of all; you make your own maple syrup – way cool! second of all; now you’re making blueberry maple syrup – way cooler! :)

cranberry mustard– mother’s kitchen i must admit, i really love it when you get ‘hell bent’ ;) and i am so happy that it has been a great canning year for you! your mustard looks delish!

dehydrated apple apple sauce – well preserved love this idea! sounds like it will make for incredible taste and texture, and honey instead of sugar – right on! dried fruit relish – wine book girl this looks very interesting. have you tried it yet? would love to hear your pairings?

grand marnier preserves – putting by ’tis the season to get boozy, tra-la-la-la-laa-la-la-la-laa! this looks very festive! ;)

raisin d’etre mustard– local kitchen ok, you don’t have to beat me over the head with it. I NEED TO MAKE MUSTARD!!! (and thanks for the lovely, lovely, post. how wonderful to see all you’ve canned for the jam in one place!)

stewed stuffed prunes – mock paper scissors how great that you recreated your auntie’s stewed prunes! i kinda love prunes myself, and i love that you used the term renaissance spices! :)

sundried tomato gazpacho – put a lid on it yes my dear, of course the tomato is a fruit! and i love that you used sundried tomatoes for this month’s challenge! are pepper’s fruits? ah, it doesn’t matter i’ll take these too!

photo prospect: the pantry we did it can jammers – a whole year of preserving! (omg, it feels weird not listing the next recipe posting dates)

ok, so here’s the kazillion $ question that i have been receiving on twitter, facebook, in the comment sections and a flurry of emails:

will there be another can jam in 2011? the answer is YES!

but there are some things i want to work out, like making it easier on me, and easier on peeps who want to can when they can, and come back in the jam even if they couldn’t can for a month or two. i like a challenge as much as the next cat, but what is really important about the can jam is the community – canning together, learning together, having fun and roaring all about it!

so i am going to work on all this, and roll it out at some point next year. it’s part of blog redesigns and move to WordPress that may take a while, bear with me and stay tuned for the new installment of tigress’ can jam!

in other exciting news, i am leaving in 2 days (YIKES!) to sri lanka and india and i am so excited i am bursting at the stripes! i have another post i hope to get up here before i leave, a guest spot on the kitchn going up sometime while i’m away, and big tigress-sized plans to check-in with photos and roars from the road.

Shizzles with picklz: shallot pie

The holiday season is in full swing and i’ve been feeling kinda generous. (have you noticed?) i mean, perfect pie crust over there, fried shallots over here. i’ve been giving away some of my most prized secrets. why stop now i say!

look at these instigators. they always look like they’re ready to rock and roll, don’t they? or is it just me? 🙂

I love shallots. they are the pièce de résistance of my allium bed each summer (not that i’d kick the onions, leeks or garlic out of it for eating crackers) and it’s not only because of the above mentioned fried shallots, oh no! it’s because I love shallot pie!

But before we get into the recipe let me explain why i’m roarin’ about shizzles with picklz in the title of this post. hint: it’s about the mustard.

I learned a little trick a while back from sarah raven and her lovely cookbook in season. basically, she slathers mustard all over her tart crusts. it’s a wonderful way to add flavor, and to use lotz of your homemade mustard.

please, do not be deterred from making shallot pie if you don’t have homemade mustard at the ready. just make it with the best dijon you can get your paws on this time. and next time when you find yourself in your kitchen with your right (or left if you’re left handed) index finger resting politely on your bottom lip, saying to yourself, “hmmm, should i make me some homemade mustard like ms k does from the amazing blog local kitchen?” i bet i know what your answer will be.

shallot pie

1/2 recipe perfect pie crust (i like to use whole wheat flours for this pie)
3 cups sliced shallots*
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
4 large eggs plus 2 yokes
1 & 1/4 cup cream or half and half
6 ounces chévre (fresh, soft & crumbly goat cheese)
salt & pepper

makes one 10 inch pie

1. roll out crust and place in 10 inch pie-dish. put in the fridge for 30 minutes. preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. warm the oil in a fry pan on medium heat. add shallots and fry until they just begin to color, about 8 minutes.

3. after 30 minutes take pie out of fridge and prick the bottom in several places with a fork. place a sheet of parchment paper over the crust and spread pie beads or dry beans over it to weight down the crust. bake for 20 minutes or just until lightly golden. remove parchment and beads or beans and let cool a bit. keep the oven heated at 350 degrees.

4. while pie shell is cooling, whisk together eggs, yolks and cream, and add salt and pepper to taste.

5. spread mustard over the bottom of the cooled crust. i like to use a pastry brush. add the shallots first, then crumble the goat cheese over top of them. pour the egg mixture gently over the whole lot.

6. bake for 25 minutes, or until the center of pie is set (which means just firm).

eat warm or at room temperature.

oh and BTW, this is the perfect pie to have around if you happen to have a hangover (not that i’m sayin’ you’re planning to have one anytime soon). …so there, you get another one of my tricks.


*pawnote: *i love shallots so i often use them in this pie, but you can do an onion pie – with a gutsy brown or beer based mustard, leeks with a honeyed dijon, or ramps with something spicy like this. i have! there’s a kazillion ways to mix and match your favorite allium with your favorite mustard in this pie.

Cultured butter (and créme fraîche)

Iam happy to report that sore shoulders (me) churner’s elbow (M) and one broken lehman’s best butter churn later, M and i have buttered our way through 8 gallons of cream! (if you need to catch up start here) see this?It’s a vat o’ créme fraîche. do you know how hard it is not to just stick your face into a vat o’ créme fraîche when it is sitting on your kitchen table? I do.

You get créme fraîche by mixing in half the amount of cultured buttermilk to cream. cultured buttermilk is the kind you can typically find at the market or farm stand – or directly from the farmer. remember to source it and the cream well because this is the glorious stuff that cultured butter is made of!

For each gallon of cream i used to make cultured butter i added a half gallon of cultured buttermilk.

Stir it to make sure the buttermilk is distributed evenly throughout the cream. let it sit for 12 to 24 hours – depending on the temperature of your kitchen – until it gets thick and tastes deliciously sour.

You might want to stop right here and reserve some of this luscious soured cream for an ulterior plan. i did. (and remember this technique the next time you want créme fraîche – D.I.Y!) with the rest of it, you need to get it in those jars and get shakin’! follow steps 2-8 here.

after the cream is cultured by adding the buttermilk, all is pretty much the same when making either sweet butter or cultured butter. though you will notice a slight difference in the way the fat globules clump together as they are a bit more delicate when making cultured butter.

when it looks something like this:

you’re ready to drain the buttermilk into a bowl. do remember to strain and save it in jars in the fridge. there is much you can do with this cultured buttermilk – more on it below.

once you press all of the buttermilk out you’ll be left with a deeply flavored cultured butter. this is a good time to add salt to taste, and mix it in so it’s evenly distributed.

you can see the cultured butter is lighter in color than the sweet butter – that’s because of the added cultured buttermilk. it’s the buttermilk that gives it the unmistakable tang cherished in many european butters.

once salted, i packed mine into smaller jam-sized mason jars for freezing, as this is the butter i like best for eating out of paw. absolutely nothing is better for spreading on all manner of toast, scones, pancakes, and biscuits! and my favorite of all, nestled snugly under a tart and sweet marmalade. oh!

in general cultured products last longer than non-cultured. this means that the butter will last for 2-3 weeks in the fridge as long as you’ve pressed the buttermilk out completely.

now, back to the buttermilk: this buttermilk will last in the fridge for a few weeks. i won’t argue with you if you want to use it all up for the best damn pancakes you’ve ever had, but there’s so much more to it than that! first off, you don’t have to keep buying it, you can use it to sour more cream to make more créme fraîche and cultured butter. you can also use it to make more buttermilk – just add 1/4 cup to a quart jar and fill the jar with milk, seal tightly and give it a shake. leave it a room temperature and you’ll have a quart full of buttermilk the next day – at about 24 hours.

this buttermilk is outta this world in these salty yogurt drinks when used in place of the yogurt. if you are a raw milk drinker like me, the very cool thing about the buttermilk culture as opposed to the yogurt culture is that it doesn’t have to be heated to a higher temperature to make magic. so you can make your buttermilk for drinking exactly as above by filling the quart jar with raw milk, and enjoy raw milk ayrans and lassis!

oh gosh, there’s just so much to roar about today! and speaking of paws (i was, wasn’t i?) i gotz mine on the first strawberries of the season up here in the berkshires.

local strawberries + créme fraîche made from local cow’s cream + local maple sugar

Shell-stocked (shellfish stock)

Yes, i said i eat (shell)fish occasionally! so occasionally in fact at this point in my life that i’ve had exactly one lobster dinner in, oh i don’t know – about a year. it was in the summer and it went something like this:

  • we live in new england and can order fresh new england lobsters from our local co-op.
  • we had guests staying for the weekend.
  • my *bright idea* “if we’re going to eat them we should be able to slaughter them ourselves.” (is that the right word for a lobster?)
  • the grill was going, the guests were outside, the cilantro chile butter was prepared.
  • M & i were in the kitchen frantically dealing with 4 large, wiggly (and kinda cute) lobsters.
  • …google searching i might add, “how to humanely…”
  • the cats also in the kitchen; getting antsy, eyes round, ears perked, noses & tails twitching.
  • i said a prayer (or 4).
  • i made M do it.
  • we halved them, slathered them, and put them on the grill.
  • i tried not to think about the kitchen scene of the crime while i dug in.
  • they were better than delicious.
  • after dinner i put all of the shells in the freezer.
  • and most recently i did this:

I make this stock ideally twice a year (usually sometime around the holidays i indulge myself in another some-such scenario). it’s equally as good with crab shells, and though i haven’t tried it with shrimp shells yet i imagine it would be just as divine. it’s crazy good and my ace in the hole when i want to make an over-the-top risotto, pasta sauce, paella, curry, soup, and even fideuá.

The first step is to put all the shells of a shellfish dinner, or two or three, into the freezer. they will last this way for quite a few months. when you have enough to make at least half this recipe, proceed.

Shellfish stock
adapted from the improvisational cook all the shells from 4 approximately 1 & 1/2 pound lobsters
1/2 cup olive oil
4 medium leeks (or 6 shallots, or 2 bunches scallions)
1 whole head garlic, peeled and crushed
4 cups white wine
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme sprigs (or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried leaves)
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon aleppo pepper (or cayenne powder, or spanish smoked paprika)
1/4 teaspoon saffron leaves
6-8 fresh plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or 1 quart canned, broken into pot with juice)
a very large stock pot. i use my canning pot.yield: approximately 4 quarts1. upon taking the shells out of the freezer, break them into roughly 2 inch pieces. depending on how they were cooked originally you can do this with your hands or with kitchen shears. (if they were grilled, they are pretty easy to break with your hands, or at least with my paws.)

2. heat all but 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the pan on high heat. once heated drop the broken shells in and toss frequently for about 8 minutes, or until you smell the most wonderful aroma and begin to see some charred spots on the shells.

3. move the shells over to the side, turn the heat to medium and add the remaining oil. to the oil add the leeks and sauté until golden, about 8 minutes. add the garlic cloves to the leeks and sauté for 1 minute more.

4. add the wine, thyme, bay, fennel, pepper and saffron. add the tomatoes and give it a stir.

5. add enough cold water to cover by about an inch, this will be approximately a gallon of water. bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered. if the shells begin to pop out of the liquid during the simmering process, add water to cover.

6. strain through a fine meshed strainer. return to pot and let cool completely.

7. once cool, pour into freezer containers. i use plastic quart containers, and i also do ice cube size for when i need and extra jolt of flavor but i don’t need a whole quart of broth. to do this, freeze in ice cube trays, after 24 hours empty into plastic freezer bags.

This stock will last for 6 months or more in the freezer, and it’s oh so good!