Foil packet fire pit cooking: preparations

I am really looking forward to our cookout this afternoon, and have been doing some preparations for things beyond hot dogs and corn dogs. 🙂

I’ve got 4 foil packets now sitting, ready and waiting, allowing several hours for the seasonings to work their magic. Here is the first one I made up.

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The base of this one is a packet of mixed baby potatoes. I stabbed them all over with a fork to allow the flavours in. The rest is mix and match of what I had available. A couple of carrots, a leek, and some asparagus (there was a good sale on those recently. 😉 ). They were tossed with Rosemary Lemon Salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil.

This amount ended up being split between two foil packets. I used a double thickness of heavy duty aluminum foil to wrap them in.

This is something I’ve done before, using whatever vegetables and seasonings I had, and cooking it in an oven. Today will be the first time I’m doing this over a fire. I can hardly wait!

I am also trying out two versions of cabbage.

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I’d found a recipe and instructions online, modified slightly for what I had on hand. This is one cabbage, outer leaves removed and cut into 8 wedges. The cut sides are spread with softened butter. In with is is half a medium onion, Scarborough Fair Garlic Salt, pepper, and extra garlic powder.

Because you can’t have enough garlic.

These were also wrapped with a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil.

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With this version, the only thing I changed was to toss everything in olive oil, instead of buttering the wedges.

As you can see, some of the leaves of cabbage came loose. Before wrapping it up, I took one out to give it a taste.

Wow.

I am totally still craving it right now. I think this is going to be a future salad; raw cabbage chunks tossed, with the same seasonings, tossed in olive oil. It was so, so good!

You know. When I was a kid, I hated cabbage. We used to grow lots of it, and my mother used it to make sauerkraut, or to wrap cabbage rolls. I don’t recall us ever eating it raw. My mother’s sauerkraut was incredibly strong – at least to me – and I didn’t like it. As for cabbage rolls, I loved the filling. Hated the cabbage. I still am not a fan of cabbage rolls (for a Polish person, that’s heresy! 😀 ), and it’s because of the cabbage leaves. I’ve since eaten and enjoyed sauerkraut, cooked in bigos – something my mother never made – but that’s about the only time I’ll eat it.

Anyhow…

These cabbage wedges were also wrapped in double thickness, heavy duty aluminum foil.

Along with these, I have cut a pineapple into slices (with the core still in; otherwise it falls apart) to cook up on the grill for desert.

It should warm up to -4C by the time we’re going to start cooking over the fire. It’s going to be a beautiful day! I am so looking forward to it!

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.

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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! 🙂

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.

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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.

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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! 😀 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! 😀

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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. 😉 Can also be frozen.
  10. Enjoy!! 🙂
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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!

Flavored Salts: Raspberry Wine

Though I made five different flavored salts at once, I will be doing a post for each flavor separately.

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Using wet ingredients to flavor salt requires a fair bit more time.  The typical recommended ratio for a red wine salt was 3 cups wine to 1 cup salt.  I chose to use a locally made raspberry wine I found, instead.  Most bottles are about 3 cups, but we had to taste it, too!  Which means the actual amount of wine we used as about 2 1/2 cups total.  Of course, feel free to adjust quantities to your taste!

Also, the raspberry wine tasted much like the raspberry wine my father used to make!  I’m not a big wine person, but I think we have a winner, here!

The wine will be reduced to a syrup, which means 3 cups of wine works out to roughly 3 Tbsp syrup.

Raspberry Wine Salt

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups raspberry wine
  • 2 cups Kosher salt

Also needed:

  • baking tray lined with parchment paper
  • saucepan large enough to allow roam for foaming
  • very strong stirring spoon
  • food processor or coffee/spice grinder
  • jar with lid
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Step 1: pour the win into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a gentle boil.  Continue cooking until the wine is reduced to a thick syrup.

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For the raspberry wine we used, it took about 45 minutes to reduce to a syrup.  Near the end, it began to really bubble and foam.

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Once reduced to a thick syrup, remove from heat and let cool briefly.

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Step 2: stir in the salt and mix to thoroughly coat the salt with the syrup.  This is where I had to switch to the stronger mixing spoon!

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Step 3: spread the salt and wine mixture onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet and spread evenly.  Place into the oven with the light on and the temperature at the lowest setting.  After an hour or so, turn off the oven but leave the light on.  Leave overnight to dry. 

Note: you can take the baking sheet out every now and then and turn the salt – this can be made easier by using the parchment paper to fold the salt over itself, then spreading it evenly again.  After doing this, reheat the oven to the lowest setting again, then shut it off, leaving the light to help maintain the heat.

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Step 4: once thoroughly dry, remove the baking sheet from the oven.  Break apart the salt and crumble it with your hands as much as possible.  There will still be some clumps.

Step 5: using a food processor or spice grinder, pulse the salt in batches, just enough to break up the clumps.

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Step 6: after processing the salt mixture, transfer it to a jar, or divide among small gift jars, and seal.

Links for all five flavors made:

Rosemary Lemon
Scarborough Fair Garlic
Mushroom
Raspberry Wine
Bacon


Flavored Salts: Bacon

Though I made five different flavored salts at once, I will be doing a post for each flavor separately.

flavoured.salts.five.mixes

Bacon Salt

Ingredients:

  • 1 package thin cut bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
  • 2 cups Kosher salt
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Also needed:

  • food processor, coffee/spice grinder
  • small rubber spatula
  • jar with lid, large enough to have room to shake the salt, or a mixing bowl
  • a larger funnel or canning funnel would also be handy

Note: the bacon needs to be cooked until very crisp, then drained of as much fat as possible.  I find the easier way to do this is to cook the bacon in the oven.  Line a baking tray (a 13×9 inch jelly roll pan works well for this) with aluminum foil and top with an oven safe cooling rack.  Lay your bacon slices out on the rack.  It may take some finagling to get them all to fit!  Cook the bacon in a 350F oven until dark and crisp, flipping the slices about half way through.  Once cooked, place the bacon on paper towels to get rid of any surface fat.  Go ahead and crumble it up with the paper towel in the process.  Leave the bacon on paper towel to cool completely – I left it overnight.

Step 1: using grinder or processor, pulse the bacon pieces in batches until they are quite fine. 

Note: the bacon may quickly become paste-like, and stick to the sides.  Use the rubber spatula to scrape it off in between batches.

Step 2: measure 2 cups Kosher salt into a jar.

Step 3: add the bacon bits to the salt and shake.

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I should have used a bigger jar!

Note: it may be necessary to use a mixing bowl to combine the salt and bacon.  Use your hands to rub the bacon into the salt and break up any clumps, then transfer to a jar, or divide into small gift jars.

Due to the fat content that may still be on the bacon, this salt is best stored in the refrigerator.  

Links for all five flavors made:
Rosemary Lemon
Scarborough Fair Garlic
Mushroom
Raspberry Wine
Bacon

Flavored Salts: Mushroom

Though I made five different flavored salts at once, I will be doing a post for each flavor separately.

flavoured.salts.five.mixes

Dry salts are made with a basic ratio of 1 tsp flavors to 1/4 cup coarse salt.  Feel free to adjust to your own personal tastes!  For the salt, you can use Kosher salt, pickling salt, sea salt, or any coarse salt you prefer.  I used Kosher salt, which is fine enough to not need further grinding, but coarse enough to maintain a nice texture.

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Note: you can use any dried mushroom you prefer for this mix.  I used a gourmet blend from Costco. 

Mushroom Salt

Ingredients:

  • dried mushrooms
  • Kosher salt

Also needed:

  • food processor, coffee/spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • jar with lid, large enough to have room to shake the salt
  • a larger funnel or canning funnel would also be handy

Note: you will need about 4 tsp powdered mushroom for 1 cup of salt.  I used quite a bit more dried mushroom than needed for my 2 cups of salt.  After grinding it down to a powder, I measured out what I needed for the amount of salt I had, then put the rest into a sealed jar to use as flavoring during cooking.

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Step 1: grind the drive mushrooms to a powder. 

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Step 2: measure the Kosher salt into a jar.

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Step 3: measure our your mushroom powder and add it to the salt.  Cover and shake thoroughly.

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Step 4: Label your jar and set aside for about a week, out of direct sunlight, to give the flavors time to meld, giving the jar a thorough shake on a regular basis.

If desired, measure out portions of the combined mixture into gifting jars.

Links for all five flavors made:
Rosemary Lemon
Scarborough Fair Garlic
Mushroom
Raspberry Wine
Bacon

Flavored Salts: Rosemary Lemon


Though I made five different flavored salts at once, I will be doing a post for each flavor separately.

flavoured.salts.five.mixes

Dry salts are made with a basic ratio of 1 tsp flavors to 1/4 cup coarse salt.  Feel free to adjust to your own personal tastes!  For the salt, you can use Kosher salt, pickling salt, sea salt, or any coarse salt you prefer.  I used Kosher salt, which is fine enough to not need further grinding, but coarse enough to maintain a nice texture.

Rosemary Lemon Salt

Ingredients:

  • lemon zest
  • dried rosemary leaves
  • Kosher salt

Also needed:

  • food processor, coffee/spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • jar with lid, large enough to have room to shake the salt
  • a larger funnel or canning funnel would also be handy

Step 1: measure out the lemon zest and rosemary leaves (see note below).

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Dehydrated lemon zest and rosemary leaves.

Note: For 1 cup of salt, you will want about 4 tsp ground rosemary/lemon mixture.  I made mine using 2 cups of salt, so I used about 3 rounded tablespoons total (1 Tbsp = 3 tsp) of the lemon zest and rosemary leaves, to get approximately 8 tsp after grinding.

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Lemon zest and rosemary leaves, ground together.

Step 2: grind the rosemary leaves and lemon zest together, to a fairly fine powder.

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Two cups Kosher salt.

Step 3: measure out your salt into a jar.

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Kosher salt with rosemary, lemon zest powder.

Step 4: add ground rosemary and lemon zest to the salt.  Close the jar and shake thoroughly.

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Step 5: Label your jar and set aside for about a week, out of direct sunlight, to give the flavors time to meld, giving the jar a thorough shake on a regular basis.

If desired, measure out portions of the combined mixture into gifting jars.

Links for all five flavors made:
Rosemary Lemon
Scarborough Fair Garlic
Mushroom
Raspberry Wine
Bacon

Nutty Seedy Brittle

I decided to try something new tonight; making a brittle.  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.  This is something I don’t normally have in the pantry.  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.

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

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Second, make sure you have a baking sheet or pan oiled/buttered and ready before you start.  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.  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.  Since the sunflower seeds and butter were both salted, I was lighter on the added salt.  I also used kosher salt; being a coarse salt, there’s a bit less in the measuring spoon than when using table salt.  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

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

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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.

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This is after 10 minutes. 

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

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

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

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

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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.  It’s just a bit finicky on technique.  Well worth it!

Enjoy!

The Re-Farmer