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? 😀

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. 🙂

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! 😉

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.  Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally, edge down, and watch how the mixture drops.  When the mixture reaches the gel stage, it will begin to “sheet”, with the jelly breaking off the spoon in a sheet or flake, rather than pouring or dripping.

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

Cracker Toffee with Bacon Salt

A super easy and quick recipe to share with you today. Warning: these are amazingly addictive! 😀

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

Flavored Salts: Raspberry Wine

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

flavoured.salts.five.mixes

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.

flavoured.salts.raspberrywine.6

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.

flavoured.salts.raspberrywine.7

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
flavoured.salts.bacon.1

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.

flavoured.salts.bacon.2
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.

flavoured.salts.mushroom.1//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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. 

flavoured.salts.kosher.salt

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).

flavoured.salts.rosemarylemon.1
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.

flavoured.salts.rosemarylemon.2
Lemon zest and rosemary leaves, ground together.

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

flavoured.salts.kosher.salt
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