Bigos – Re-Farmer Style!

Traditionally, bigos – otherwise known as Hunter’s Stew – is made with game meat and a whole lot of ingredients I don’t typically have on hand. I just used what I had! Maybe I should call it Non-Hunter’s Stew? ๐Ÿ˜€

This is my version of Poland’s national dish!

I made this yesterday evening, for today’s eating, and I must say, it turned out very well!

It was breakfast – and a fine breakfast it made!

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar fermented vegetable sauerkraut or purchased sauerkraut
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 5-6 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 small to medium sized head of cabbage
  • 5 or 6 crimini mushrooms or mushrooms of choice
  • cooked sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces, to make about 2 – 3 cups
  • 2 cups cubed pork or fresh meat of choice
  • 1 package bacon
  • 1/2 cup crab apple cider vinegar, mixed with 1/2 cup vegetable broth, or 1 cup de-glazing liquid of choice.
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • optional: seasonings to taste
Top row, left to right: sauerkraut (rinsed and draining), chopped crimini mushrooms, cubed pork, cooked sausage (honey garlic).
Middle left: frying bacon pieces. Middle right: de-glazing the pan
Bottom row, left to right: softening cabbage mixture, all ingredients stirred together, stew after 1 hour in oven, stew after 2 hours in oven.
Centre: Bigos, after resting overnight, topped with sour cream and parsley

Instructions:

  1. Turn oven on to 350F.
  2. drain sauerkraut, rinsing if desired. Squeeze out excess liquid.
  3. chop onion and garlic coarsely
  4. core and finely cut fresh cabbage. Cabbage, onion and garlic can be combined into one bowl for later.
  5. trim mushroom stems, cut mushrooms in half, then slice. (Alternatively, re-hydrate dried mushrooms in boiling water, then chop coarsely. Reserve liquid to add to the stew.)
  6. cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces
  7. prepare de-glazing liquid (my vegetable stock was hot water and powdered bouillon)
  8. Place the cooked sausage pieces into a large, oven safe pot with lid.
  9. In a large frying pan, fry the bacon pieces until just browned. Add bacon to the sausage, reserving rendered fat in pan.
  10. Brown pork cubes in the bacon fat. These do not have to be cooked through. When browned on all sides, add to the sausage and bacon mixture, reserving fat in pan.
  11. Add mushroom pieces to the reserved fat and cook until just starting to brown, stirring frequently. (If using reconstituted mushrooms, skip this step and just add the mushrooms to the pot with the meat.)
  12. Add de-glazing liquid to the pan and cook liquid down to about 1/3rd volume.
  13. Add cabbage, onion and garlic to the pan. Cover with lid to steam for a couple of minutes, and for the cabbage to reduce slightly. Continue to cook, turning the mixture often, until vegetables are softened.
  14. Add the sauerkraut and softened cabbage mixture to the pot with the meat and mushrooms.
  15. Add the crushed tomato and tomato paste (plus reserved mushroom stock, if reconstituted mushrooms were used). Mix thoroughly.
  16. By now, the oven should be preheated. Cover the pot and place in oven.
  17. Check after about an hour and stir. If the liquid level seems low, add boiling water, as needed to prevent burning.
  18. Check after 2 hours and stir. Adjust liquid again, if needed.
  19. Cook for another half hour or so.
  20. Can be eaten immediately, or left to cool and rest overnight (recommended).
  21. Serve with rye bread, or a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with parsley if desired.

For this, I used no added seasonings at all. The ingredients themselves add a lot of flavour on their own. However, feel free to add whatever seasonings you like, if you feel the need.

Of course, after this was done cooking last night, I had to have a small bowl to taste it. It was definitely a success! Letting it rest overnight did allow the flavours to mellow and combine very nicely. It was a subtle difference, but enough for me to recommend giving it that extra time.

The more traditional ingredients for this dish includes a greater variety of meats, with game meat being the prime ingredient, and even prunes – though the bigos I’ve tasted in the past did not include prunes. Some versions include things like grated carrot, but my fermented vegetable sauerkraut includes carrots, so there was no need to add more.

The amount of sauerkraut I used is a bit on the low side – a typical jar of commercial sauerkraut is about 900-1000ml (approximately equal to a quart jar) and my jars are 500ml. Even adding the last of my plain sauerkraut gave me just over that amount. However, that is also the equivalent of more than half a head of cabbage. The fresh cabbage I used was more on the large than medium size, so between the two, the total quantities didn’t change much.

This makes quite a large quantity of stew, and it really helps to have a very large, deep frying pan with a lid. Even then, I had to be careful adding the cabbage mixture to the pan! Using the lid to let it braise for a bit made it much easier to stir, as the cabbage released its liquid and reduced in size.

This dish can be made on the stove top instead of the oven, but that would require continuous attention and stirring to make sure it cooks evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom. Using the oven is just simpler and more efficient.

If you try this recipe, do feel free to let me know how you liked it!

The Re-Farmer

Things with crab apples: jelly, three ways

Once we got our crab apple cider vinegar made up and set aside to ferment, it was time to turn to the rest of the crab apples!

The apples had been cleaned and left to soak in cold water with vinegar overnight. The extra time allows for any damage and bruising to the apples to be easier to see.

The next steps were to remove the stems, then cut the apples. These crab apples are small enough that I just cut them in half.

This was the time to cut out any damaged bits – or remove some apples completely.

There were quite a few that looked fine on the outside, only to be bad in the middles. The above photo is what I removed from the apples, including the small batch I used for the apple cider vinegar.

Just a little something for the compost pile. ๐Ÿ™‚

As I have some of our choke cherries and sour cherries in the freezer, I decided to make several small batches, including spiced jelly. Some of the recipes I saw said to cook and strain the apples first, cook the juices with the other additions, strain them again, then make the jelly.

I had no interest in cooking and straining these twice, and saw no reason to. Instead, I divided the cut up apples into three pots. I had two medium sized pots plus my smaller stock pot, so after I filled the two smaller ones, any left over apples went into the bigger pot. My smaller pots each held about 6 cups of chopped apples, and the bigger pot had about 7 cups of apples.

I then made my additions.

The spiced batch got a couple of cinnamon sticks, 2 pieces of star anise and about a tablespoon of whole cloves. The others got about 1 cup of frozen fruit added.

Next, water was added until the fruit was just covered. They were then brought to a boil, covered and left to simmer until soft.

The pot the choke cherries were in turned out to be just a touch too small, and I had to transfer it to my other stock pot to prevent it from over flowing.

After about 20 minutes or so, I stirred them down to break up the fruit a bit; I had to use a potato masher on the spiced apples, as the pot was too full to stir properly!

I continued to cook them until the fruit was quite soft.

This is the sour cherry batch on the left, choke cherry batch on the right. I forgot to get a picture of the spiced batch before I put it up to strain.

While the apples were cooking, I prepped for straining.

I currently have only one jelly bag, so I lined colanders set over large bowls with cheese cloth.

I used the jelly bag for the spiced mixture and hung it up in my usual spot. By then, I already had over a litre of juice strained out!

I had to get creative to hang the other two. I used one of those wire frames made to hold bags open, like for leaf bags. Thoroughly cleaned, of course. I set it up on the dining table and hung the tied off cheese cloth bags of apple pulp on the frame, with their bowls of juice set up under them and the colanders removed. I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the set up, though.

I then left the bags to drain overnight, though we did cover the various bowls with whatever we had on hand. One got a piece of cheese cloth stretched over it, another bowl was the perfect size for our mesh frying pan splash screen, and the big measuring cup got covered by a large mesh sieve. These all allowed the juices to keep dripping in, while keeping out any dust, cat hair, insects or whatever else might be floating about.

Note: they don’t need to be left overnight, but the pulp should be given at least a couple of hours to drain. Some recipes suggest to squeeze the pulp to extract more juice. This will result in a cloudy jelly, so that’s up to you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

That was all done yesterday. Today, it was time to cook things down!

I did each batch one at a time, rather than all at once, starting with the juice that was already in the measuring cup.

This is the spiced apple pulp from the jelly bag. The pulp all went to the compost pile.

I ended up with almost exactly 5 cups of juice from the spiced apple and the choke cherry batches, and almost exactly 8 cups of the sour cherry batch. For each cup of juice, I added a 3/4 cup of sugar.

Which felt like an insane amount of sugar, but that’s how it works!

Each batch was boiled to the gel stage.

Before I started cooking any of them, though, I started sanitizing my canning jars. With how much juice I ended up with, I knew my dozen 250ml (1 cup) sized jars would not be enough. I decided to use one 500ml (2 cup) for each batch, then use however many of the smaller jars I needed to empty the pot. The larger jars will be for our own use, and the smaller jars can be given out as gifts, if we want.

I also made a discovery.

We have not been able to replace our damaged hot water tank yet, which means it’s still heating the water to extremely high temperatures. I figured I would take advantage of that and use it to sanitize my jars and implements.

I was able to set up all the jars in a large container on the counter near the stove. I was also going to use my candy thermometer, so I dug that out, washed it, then put it into one of the jars to scald. Shortly after, I pulled the candy thermometer out. The whole set up with the water had been sitting for about 5-7 minutes since I added the hot tap water, so I had to do a double take when I saw the thermometer.

It was at almost 100C.

That’s 212F.

The instructions I was following said to cook the juice and sugar mixture to 210F to reach gel state. My tap water was already hotter than that!!

The juices reached beyond 210F very quickly, so there was no way temperature alone was enough to reach gel stage, so I kept boiling it. After the first testing, I went to wash the thermometer and discovered there was water in it.

???

Looking closer, I discovered that the glass covering the bulb of the thermometer was gone! For all I know, this is damage from our move. I very rarely use the candy thermometer.

So I threw that out.

Which meant I was checking for the gel state using the *spoon test.

Each batch took me at least half an hour of boiling before it reached the gel stage.

Once each batch was ready, I filled some jars – I added cinnamon sticks to the jars with the spiced jelly – covered them, then set them aside to cool while I washed everything before starting the next batch.

My 8 cups of sour cherry juice mix, and 5 cups of spiced juice mix, each gave me the same number of cups of jelly, but for some reason the 5 cups of chokecherry juice mix resulted in only 4 cups of jelly!

I still don’t have the tools to do a hot water bath, so these are not shelf stable, and will need to be stored in the fridge.

I absolutely love the colours in these!

After they had a chance to cool, my daughters used some when making supper this evening. They made grilled cheese sandwiches with some of the sour cherry jelly spread in with the cheese. It was really good!

The Re-Farmer

Homemade Crab apple jelly, with flavour variations

Items needed:

  • cheese cloth or jelly bag
  • bowl to drain juices into
  • if using cheese cloth, a colander that fits in the bowl
  • canning jars, jar funnel and lids, sanitized
  • place to hang pulp bag over the bowl
  • large saucepan or stock pot with lid

Ingredients:

  • crab apples, washed, stemmed and chopped. (no need to peel or core)
  • sugar

Optional flavour additions

  • about a cup of fruit or berries per 6 cups of chopped crab apples.
  • any combination of whole, not ground, spices, including cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, star anise, etc. to taste.
  1. Place cleaned and chopped apple pieces into a large pot.
  2. Add any flavour options desired.
  3. Add enough water to just cover the fruit. Bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until apples are very soft. Stir the fruit every few minutes.
  5. Mash the mixture with a large spoon or potato masher. Cook for a few more minutes.
  6. While the mixture is cooking, dampen a jelly bag and ready a bowl to catch juices, or line a colander placed in a bowl with cheese cloth (in 4 layers) and prepare a place to hang the pulp over the bowl.
  7. When the fruit is cooked until completely soft, spoon the mixture into the jelly bag over a bowl, or into the prepared cheese cloth. Tie off the bag and hang over the bowl to drain for at least a few hours, or overnight. (After draining, pulp can be composted.)
  8. Prepare canning jars and sterilize implements.
  9. Measure the juice extracted and place into a large saucepan or stock pot. Add 3/4 cup sugar per 1 cup of juice.
  10. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring often, until mixture reaches gel stage*. This will take about 20-40 minutes, depending on how much juice there is.
  11. Pour hot jelly into heated canning jars. Skim off foam, seal and set aside to cool.
  12. Process in hot water bath or store in refrigerator.

* Sheet test for gel
Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread.ย  Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally, edge down, and watch how the mixture drops.ย  When the mixture reaches the gel stage, it will begin to โ€œsheetโ€, with the jelly breaking off the spoon in a sheet or flake, rather than pouring or dripping.

Things with crab apples: apple cider vinegar

Things have been a bit crazy lately, weather wise. Some severe storms have blown across our area and, while we have pretty much just caught the edges of them, they still resulted in internet outages and our power flickering in and out.

Perfect weather to stay indoors and to things with our crab apples!

I decided to use the small amount of apples from one tree to make apple cider vinegar.

A recipe I found called for filling a quart jar 3/4’s full, and it seemed I had enough to do that with just these.

I washed all the apples in cold water with a splash of vinegar, leaving them to sit overnight. The recipe I found called for the scraps of apples – skin and cores – adding that if whole apples were used, to chop them coarsely. Since the crab apples are so small to begin with, after removing the stems, I cut them all in quarters. Some also needed to have bruises or damage cut out, and a few turned out to be bad on the inside and could not be used.

In the end, I had just the amount I needed to fill the jar 3/4’s full, perhaps a touch extra.

The next step was to dissolve a couple of tablespoons of sugar into a cup of water and adding that to the jar, then adding enough water to completely cover the apple pieces. Filtered water was suggested. As we have well water, we could have just used that, but our water is very hard and iron rich, so I used bottled water I happened to have.

The apples need to be kept submerged, and there are fermentation weights available for this. I have none, and had never seen one before looking it up on the internet. The alternative was to put a small jar in to weigh it down.

I have a collection if tiny jars that I have hung on to, and one of them fit perfectly into the quart jar! This is from a package of yogurt that came in 4 little jars to a package. I admit, I bought it just for the jars because they were so adorable. Handy, too!

The next step was to cover the jar with something that would keep dust or whatever out, but allow air in. It could be a piece of cheese cloth, some thin cloth or a coffee filter, fastened in place.

I stole one of my daughter’s coffee filters.

Now it needs to just sit in a dark place at room temperature to ferment into vinegar. This should take about 3 weeks. I’ve tucked it into the top of a cupboard we used fairly frequently, so it will be easy to check if there is any mold happening.

After 3 weeks or so, it will be strained, then left at room temperature to continue to ferment for another 3 or 4 weeks.

Once it’s at the desires taste/strength, it just needs to be strained and re-bottled. We’ll see how it turns out!

The Re-Farmer

Apple Cider Vinegar

Items needed:

  • quart size jar (an air and liquid tight lid will be needed after fermentation is complete)
  • fermentation weight or another jar small enough to fit into the mouth of the quart jar
  • cheese cloth, clean cloth or coffee filter to cover the jar
  • cord or elastic to fasten cover in place

Ingredients:

  • apple scraps or whole apples, coarsely chopped; enough to fill a quart jar 3/4 full
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • about 2 cups filtered water
  1. Sanitize a quart jar and let air dry.
  2. Fill the jar 3/4 full with apple pieces.
  3. Dissolve sugar in 1 cup water and pour over the apples.
  4. Top up with more water until apples are covered.
  5. Add weight or small jar to keep apples submerged. Exposed apples may start to mold.
  6. Cover the jar with a cheese cloth or coffee filter and use a cord or elastic to hold it in place.
  7. Place in a dark location at room temperature and leave for about 3 weeks. Check regularly to ensure the apples remain submerged and no mold is growing.
  8. After 3 weeks, strain the apple pieces out, return liquid to the jar and cover again with cheese cloth or coffee filter.
  9. Return jar to a dark location at room temperature for another 3 or 4 weeks, stirring every few days.
  10. Taste after 3 weeks to see if it has reached desired tartness. If not, leave to ferment longer until it reaches the desired flavour.
  11. Cover with a lid and use as desired. The vinegar can also be transferred to a different jar or bottle, if preferred.

If you notice a film has formed at the top of your vinegar, congratulations! You have developed a “mother.” It can be used as a starter for future batches of vinegar – or a small amount of a previous batch can be used.

Crispy rice patties

I had a birthday recently, and my awesome daughters treated me to Chinese food. We ordered a bunch of mostly protein dishes to pick up in town, while my older daughter cooked scallop noodles, coconut sticky rice and plain white rice at home to go with it.

On unpacking the order, we discovered they had thrown in a couple of free orders of white rice and chicken fried rice.

Which left us with a pot of plain white rice that ended up in the fridge, untouched.

Not a problem at all! I used it to make these crispy, pan fried patties. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice, though tasty enough to be worth making a bunch of rice, just for this!

Rice Patty Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cooked, cold white rice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 – 2 cups shredded cheese (I used medium cheddar and a fine grater)
  • seasonings to taste (I used bacon salt, freshly ground pepper, paprika and garlic granules)
  • oil and butter for frying

Tip: when your cooked rice is ready to go into the fridge for the night, put it into a large slide-lock freezer bag. You can then more easily break any lumps of chilled rice apart in the bag, before putting it into the mixing bowl.

Note: I used a fine hand grater, normally used to grate Parmesan, for the cheese, as a regular sized grate could make the patties fall apart more. If using a regular size grate, reduce the amount of cheese used. The cheese can be skipped, too, if you wish.

Sauce ingredients:

  • mayonnaise
  • sour cream
  • white wine vinegar
  • dried herbs and seasonings to taste (I used a Mrs. Dash mix, plus a bit of rosemary lemon salt and fresh ground pepper, but feel free to combine whatever herbs you like or have on hand!)

To make the rice patties

  1. add your chilled rice into a medium bowl. Add seasonings to taste.
  2. add eggs and mix well with your hands, breaking up any remaining clumps of rice.
  3. add shredded cheese and mix in. Let rest for a minute or so (this is a good time to make the sauce). Note: if the rice mixture seems too loose to form patties, mix in a small amount of flour, then let rest again to allow the flour to absorb moisture.
  4. prepare a deep frying pan by adding about half an inch of oil (any oil with a higher smoke point, such as canola, sunflower or peanut oil, will work) along with about a tablespoon of butter, at high heat. The butter adds flavour, but it also lowers the smoke point of the oil. It can be skipped, if you wish. Note: it is important that the oil is very hot before adding the patties, so that they will crisp up rather than absorbing the oil.
  5. begin to form patties by taking about 1/4 cup of rice and pressing it into your hands to form a sticky ball. Flatten slightly, then set aside on a plate.
  6. when the oil is very hot, gently add several patties into the pan (I could fit only 3 in my pan). Use a spatula to gently flatten the patties.
  7. cook until the bottoms are crispy and golden. Gently turn the patties to cook the other side until also crisp and golden.
  8. remove patties and drain on a paper towel. Keep warm as you continue cooking patties in batches. If it become necessary to add more oil and butter to the pan, make sure to give it time to get very hot before continuing cooking.
  9. serve with sauce while hot. Garnish, if desired.

To make the sauce:

  1. place equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream into a small bowl or measuring cup. I used about 2 – 3 Tbsp each.
  2. add a splash of white wine vinegar and any dried herbs you wish.
  3. mix well and set aside to let the flavours meld.
  4. drizzle over crispy rice patties just before serving.

Making these is rather messy, and the rice mixture tends to want to fall apart until it starts to get crispy, but it is so worth it!

Enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Recipe: Roasted Chickpeas

Here is a really easy recipe for a healthy snack to satisfy those cravings for something crunchy!

Roasted chickpeas.

Roasted, Seasoned Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • canned chick peas
  • olive oil
  • seasonings to taste

I have found that a 9×13 baking tray fits 2 cans of chickpeas in a single layer very well.

Instructions:

  1. Turn oven to 400F.
  2. Drain the chickpeas into a colander and rinse well. Spread the wet chickpeas onto a baking tray and let the water dry off for a while.
  3. Put the dried chickpeas into a bowl large enough to toss them. Add olive oil and seasonings. (In our last batch, we used Scarborough Fair Garlic Salt and freshly ground pepper. You can use ordinary course salt and pepper, if you wish. It would be great with Rosemary Lemon Salt as well, or if you want to stay away from salt, use your favourite Mrs. Dash mix. )
  4. Toss the chick peas until well coated with olive oil and seasonings.
  5. Return the chick peas to the baking tray and spread into a single layer. Place on centre rack in pre-heated oven.
  6. Roast for about 20 minutes. Take the pan out and give it a shake to turn the chick peas. Return to oven and continue roasting to desired crunchiness, giving the pan another shake every now and then. (We like them extra crisp. With our oven, that takes more than an hour of roasting time. Our oven also has some cold spots, so when we give the chick peas a shake, we also turn the pan, to ensure even roasting. )
  7. When done, remove the pan and allow the chick peas to cool.
  8. Once cool, store in an air tight container.

These make a really excellent and healthy snack, and are downright addictive!

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer

Getting Steamed

We got to try out the new bamboo steamers last night, and these are the results!

First up; pork and mushroom bao.

20190226,steamed.bao

I was sure I’d bought some frozen bao, but I looked at so many things, I think I actually bought the in-house made bao at the same counter I got the dumplings. Either that or the buns were completely thawed out by the time we got home. Since the other frozen food wasn’t, that seems unlikely.

They were the first things my daughter prepared in the steamer. The instructions I found suggested putting something as a liner in the steamer, such as cabbage leaves or parchment paper, so food wouldn’t stick. These already had their own little parchment papers under them, so no extra liner was needed.

The dough was satiny soft and tender, and they were delicious. They did tend to stick a tiny bit to their papers, which is much better that than sticking to the steamer tray! ๐Ÿ™‚

The variety tray of dumplings I got had so many that, even with 3 steamer trays holding 5 dumplings each, they had to be cooked in batches. These also did not need anything to line the trays, since they are each wrapped in their own little cabbage leaf.

20190226.dumpling.pork

The first batch was pork dumplings.

Definitely my favourites. I realize these are just “grocery story” dumplings, and I’m sure purists would be quite unimpressed, but boy did they ever hit the spot. Meaty and juicy and full of flavour!

The tray also included seafood dumplings; about half as many as the pork ones.

20190226.dumpling.seafood

Personally, I found them too strongly fishy in taste; something my daughters did not find at all. There isn’t a lot of seafood I like, so the girls happily ate the rest of my share! ๐Ÿ˜€ They preferred these to the pork ones. The dumplings were big, heavy and dense with seafood. No skimping, here!

The store we got these at have other varieties that were not included in the mixed tray I got, and we look forward to trying others the next time we shop there!

Now that we’ve broken the steamers in and have an idea of how to use them, it’s time to break out some of my cook books. I have dim sum recipes that I would love to try out!

The Re-Farmer

Cracker Toffee with Bacon Salt

A super easy and quick recipe to share with you today. Warning: these are amazingly addictive! ๐Ÿ˜€

20181226.cracker.toffee.with.bacon.salt.graphic

This recipe takes something I don’t normally like – chewy toffee – and turns it into a delectable treat (that doesn’t stick to my teeth!). Using semi-sweet dark chocolate chips and unsalted crackers helps keep the sweet and salty flavours from becoming overwhelming.

Cracker Toffee with Bacon Salt

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • unsalted saltine crackers (about 35-40)
  • 2 cups semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
  • Bacon Salt for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Spread a layer of crackers on the tray. Lift the edges of the aluminum foil around the crackers to keep them snug and in place. Set aside.
  3. In a small pot, melt the butter and sugar together. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. After 5 minutes, pour the toffee over the crackers and spread evenly, making sure all the crackers are completely covered.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven, then spread the chocolate chips evenly over the crackers and toffee. Let sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate (if necessary, place the tray back into the still-warm oven to soften the chocolate), then spread the chocolate to cover the entire surface.
  6. Sprinkle a small amount (a little goes a long way!!) of bacon salt over the top, ensuring that each cracker gets a bit. (Note: you can substitute coarse Himalayan Sea Salt, or any other sea salt, in place of the bacon salt.)
  7. Let cool completely. Can be refrigerated to harden faster.
  8. Once completely cold, peel away the foil, then cut or break apart into pieces.
  9. Can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Not that they will last that long. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Can also be frozen.
  10. Enjoy!! ๐Ÿ™‚
20181226.cracker.toffee.with.bacon.salt

A thought occurred to me as I was resizing the above photo, noting my very grungy looking baking pan. A 9×13 jelly roll pan, I’ve had this for many years. In fact, when I moved off the farm at age 18, it was among the items I took with me, along with cutlery I still use today, and a few other necessities. I have had this pan for 32 years and 18 moves. My mother had this pan for longer than I can remember.

It’s entirely possible that this pan is older than I am!

Nutty Seedy Brittle

I decided to try something new tonight; making a brittle.ย  While I’ve certainly had brittle before, I’ve never made it until now.

When I started looking up recipes, I thought I might not be able to, since they all included corn syrup.ย  This is something I don’t normally have in the pantry.ย  However, I did find some without corn syrup, so it worked out in the end.

Before I share the photos and recipe, here are some important notes.

20181028.brittle1.ingredients
First, make sure you premeasure all your ingredients, first.ย  Once the sugar starts to caramelize, you will have to work quickly, so have them all ready and on hand.

20181028.brittle2.preparedpan

Second, make sure you have a baking sheet or pan oiled/buttered and ready before you start.ย  If it’s not well oiled first, it will be next to impossible to get the brittle off once it hardens.

It would also be preferable to use a heavy bottomed saucepan, if you have one, for even heating, as sugar can burn easily.

And finally, have a trivet or pot holder near the pan.ย  When the sugar caramelizes, you will need to work quickly to remove it from the heat and add the final ingredients, so make sure to have a safe place where you can put your hot pot, stir things in, then immediately pour it onto your prepared pan.

For this brittle, I used a mix of pecan pieces and roasted, salted sunflower seeds, because that’s what I had on hand.ย  Since the sunflower seeds and butter were both salted, I was lighter on the added salt.ย  I also used kosher salt; being a coarse salt, there’s a bit less in the measuring spoon than when using table salt.ย  If I were using table salt, I would reduce the amount by about half, unless I were using unsalted butter and none of the nuts/seeds were salted.

Nutty Seedy Brittle Ingredients (makes about 2 – 2 1/2 cups)

1 1/2 cups nuts and seeds (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp baking soda

20181028.brittle3.syrup.mixture
1. Combine sugar, water and salt into a saucepan over medium/medium-high heat.

20181028.brittle4.syrup.mixture

2. Bring the syrup mixture to a gentle boil, then set timer for 10 minutes.

3 . Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, watching for the colour to change.

20181028.brittle5.syrup.mixture
This is after 10 minutes.ย 

4. Continue to boil until the colour changes from clear to a light amber colour.ย  This may take another 10 minutes, depending on your stove.

20181028.brittle6.syrup.mixture

5. As soon as the colour changes (or the temperature reaches 300F on a candy thermometer), remove from heat.

20181028.brittle7.adding.ingredients

6. Quickly add the butter, vanilla and baking soda, while stirring constantly.ย  The mixture will foam up.ย  Continue stirring until the foam subsides and the mixture begins to look glossy.

20181028.brittle9.adding.ingredients

7. Quickly stir in the nuts and seeds, then pour the mixture onto the prepared pan.

20181028.brittle10.setting.brittle

8. Flatten the mixture, as needed, and allow to cool for about 20 minutes, or until brittle.

That’s it!

It’s a simple recipe, using some pretty basic ingredients.ย  It’s just a bit finicky on technique.ย  Well worth it!

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer

Brined Turkey with bacon

I was interrupted while making our Thanksgiving dinner today. I got a call from home care, telling me that there had been a sick call, and no one would be able to do the meal assist with my mother.ย  I did confirm that she would still be getting her bed time assist, then said that I could go over to do the meal assist.ย  So I turned all over to the girls to finish, and headed out to help out my mother.

Everything was ready by the time I got back, so we went straight to setting up for dinner.ย  I half carved the turkey before I realized I forgot to take a photo! ๐Ÿ˜€ย  So here is half of our bacon covered, brined turkey! Continue reading