Roasted Garlic Sriracha BBQ Sauce

I have made about a million different iterations of BBQ sauce in my life but have never really settled on a master recipe.  This problem is exacerbated by the fact that I have some friends from the south who argue at length about the relative virtues of regional BBQ variations and what, in fact, constituents a proper sauce.

Well, rather than try to mimic (or appropriate in the parlance of our time) a southern BBQ sauce, I decide to simply focus on the flavors I like and work out a master recipe that I can continue to tweak over time.  After all, I’m not a southern boy, but rather a son of Pennsylvania  now living in New England so why be fettered by BBQ provincialism?

I’d hardly call this done by any means, but initial batches are very promising.  I started with a generic BBQ sauce base that seems pretty common across the internets and built from there adding in maple syrup as a nod to my New England home, roasted garlic, and Sriracha.

Ingredients:

1/2 large sweet onion

1 head of garlic, roasted

2 cups ketchup

1/3 cup + 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

4 tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground mustard

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 1/2 tbsp Sriracha or to taste

  1. Roast garlic in the oven and allow to cool for easy handling
  2. Roughly chop the onion and saute until it develops a golden color
  3. Add the onion to a food processor.  Remove the roasted garlic from its husk and add to the food processor.  Pulse until fine but do not turn it to mush!
  4. In a saucepan combine the onion and roasted garlic with the other ingredients and simmer until thickened (about 20 minutes or so) and adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. You can store in a container in the fridge for a week or two, or freeze it.  Given the acid content, this recipe could also be canned in a water bath canner.

That’s it!  I rarely make a recipe the same way twice but this is a good master recipe from which to tinker.  My best friend of 35 years and his family will be arriving this Sunday and I will be smoking a large brisket on the Big Green Egg.  This sauce will go nicely on a brisket sandwich.

Waste Not Want Not: Radish Top Pesto

Our daughter loved radishes and so we have been planting, harvesting, and replanting in quick succession and will do so as long as the weather permits (radishes bolt when the warm weather sets in).  Radish sprouts are great on salads and sandwiches, and we of course love the full grown radish root.  However, radish tops/greens are a different story.  Unlike beet greens, radish greens are not as appetizing in their raw state.

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Elsie sowing radish seeds in early spring
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She reaps what she sows!

The leaves are rough if not somewhat spiny and, of course, they have some zip to them.  But after all the effort that goes into planting, we hate to simply toss the greens onto the compost pile.  My wife discovered a recipe for radish top pesto that we have really enjoyed over at Genius Kitchen.

Ingredients:

2 -3 cups radish greens/radish tops

3 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place the first four ingredients in a food processor and pulse into a fine paste
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine
  3. If the pesto is too bitter, add some additional sugar.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
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Radish greens are good in the compost but better in a pesto

That’s it, pretty simple.  Be forewarned, this pesto is very different from its basil based cousin; the spiciness of the radish definitely comes through!  We really enjoyed it though and it was a nice change of pace from the tomato sauce or traditional basil pesto we typically put on pasta. Special thanks to Genius Kitchen user Just Garlic for posting this recipe!

Food Memories: Varenyky (AKA Pirogi)

Atop the dry sink in our dining room is one of my favorite photographs. It is my maternal grandmother  and grandfather’s wedding photo from 1928 or 1929. All of the grandchildren called them “Babu” and “Didu,” which were shortened versions of the Ukrainian words for grandmother and grandfather “babusya” and “didus”

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Babu and Didu in the late 1920s.  They called my grandfather “Big John”–look at the size of his hands for god’s sake. After a stint in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Detroit in the early 1920s he spent the bulk of his career working at the Sun Oil refinery in Marcus Hook, PA. On the weekends he tended bar at the Ukrainian Club in Chester, PA.

My grandparent’s were Ukrainian.  Babu was born in Galicia (an area that straddled the border region between modern day Poland and Ukraine) as a subject of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  Didu was born in the U.S. to parents who were also ethnic Ukrainians from Galicia; as a boy his family returned to what is now Ukraine but shortly thereafter returned to the U.S.  Babu and Didu spoke Ukrainian, attended the Ukrainian Catholic church in Chester, PA, and they ate Ukrainian food.  I was very close to them both and there are few people I respect or admire more. They exemplified the American immigrant experience, and their hard work, self sacrifice, and thrift laid the foundation for their childrens’ and grandchildrens’ success.   They were also deeply involved in their church and community.  Babu died in 1992, and Didu died just a few years later.  I absolutely adored them and all these years later I still think about them frequently.

Apart from the virtues and values they passed along, I also learned from Babu how to make varenyky (know to many people as the pirogi). Foods from our childhood are often filled with great memories.  Proust puts it better than I ever could:

“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.” —Swann’s Way

That is the inextricable link between food and memory.  So when our daughter Elsie had a world cultures themed meeting for her Girl Scout troop I took a trip down memory lane and made some varenyky.  Memories for me, and a chance for her to share her Ukrainian heritage with her fellow scouts.

It is a simple dish; at their most basic, varenyky is just potato filling wrapped in  pasta dough, sort of like an Eastern European ravioli.  There are several variations on the filling including sauerkraut, mushrooms, and fruit filling.  I opted to make an North American adaptation of the original Ukrainian varenyky using a filling of potato and cheddar (though I believe Babu used American cheese in hers).  I had forgotten how much work they were, but I was helped along by three prized possessions: I have the bowl, rolling pin, and biscuit cutter Babu used and that I would have used as a kid. I’m not sure how old they are, but I’m guessing they date to the 1930s.

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It appears that at some point the handle on Babu’s biscuit cutter came off or broke off.  Ever thrifty, Didu repaired it with a bit of metal and a couple of screws rather than spend what at the time was probably 25¢ for a new one.  Didu certainly lived by the mantra “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”  He was a spirited man. He fixed or built almost everything himself; I remember him building his own electric lawnmower from a discarded mower deck and a washing machine motor.  He never wasted and rarely threw things away.  He was green before people knew what that was.

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Not many people other than Didu would spend the effort in repairing an inexpensive biscuit cutter.

The Filling

You always make the filling first.  In fact, I make it the day before so it has ample time to cool in the refrigerator before use.  There are many variations on the filling, but here is a basic one to get you started.

1 small onion

1 tablespoon butter

2 1/2 cups cold mashed potatoes (I use Yukon gold)

1 cup shredded cheddar, farmer, or American cheese

Salt and black pepper

Saute the onion in the butter for 5 to 10 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add the onion to the mashed potato and allow to cool.  Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or, ideally, overnight.  If you have some leftover sauerkraut from your winter provisioning, chill some of that and use it in place of the potato filling on a couple, just to try it out.

The Dough

The dough is also a relatively simple affair.

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 extra large egg yolks, beaten

1 tablespoon melted butter

You can use a mixer or food processor to make the dough, or you can mix by hand which is what I do.  Combine the salt and flour in a bowl or in your mixer or food processor.

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To the mixture add the egg yolks and 7 to 8 tablespoons of cool water a few tablespoons at a time.  To do it by hand I make a well in the middle of the flour where I start by adding the yolks and 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.  I then gather the flour to the center and begin mixing, adding more water as needed until the dough comes together and I have the consistency I want.  If you are using a mixer or food processor, start by adding the egg while the machine is running then slowly add water until the dough binds around the paddle, hook, or blade.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.  Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a towel.  Allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Making the varenyky

Before you start rolling out the dough, put a large pot of salted water on the stove and turn it on high heat so that it will come to a boil as you are assembling your varenyky.

I have a secret weapon that Babu did not: pasta rollers for my kitchen aid mixer.  The dough tends to be fairy springy and I find it much easier to use pasta rollers.  Babu never used anything but a rolling pin.  I like to divide the dough into thirds or quarters and work in small batches.  I roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch before putting it through the pasta roller.  I run it through on the widest setting to start working the dough before setting the rollers to give me a dough with a final thickness of about  1/16th of an inch.  After it is rolled out, lay the dough on a floured surface and use a cutter to cut circles.  I use Babu’s biscuit cutter which is about 2 or 2 1/2 inches in diameter; many contemporary recipes use a 3 or 4 inch cutter.  Your call, just adjust the amount of filling accordingly.

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Dough circles in the front, stuffed varenyky in the back

After you have cut out a bunch of dough circles you can assemble the varenyky.  Depending on the size of the circles you have cut, you will take 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of the filling and roll it into a ball.  Place the ball in the middle of the circle and while holding the verenyky with your thumbs and middle fingers (like you are rolling a cigarette…or something else) press the filling lightly into the dough while folding up and stretching the dough over the filling.

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Be careful not to allow the filling to touch the edges of the dough or it will not seal properly.  Seal the edge by pinching it closed or, as I do it, pressing the edges together with the tines of a fork.

Working in batches, drop the varenyky into the boiling water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly before placing them in a bowl or dish and drizzling with a bit of melted butter or oil to keep from sticking.  To serve, saute the varenyky in butter and onions.  Plate them along with plenty of onions and a dollop of sour cream. No, it is not the healthiest meal, but varenyky are a nice treat now and again. Then again, perhaps it isn’t the caloric and fat content of the food as much as the quantity and attitude toward foods that matter most. Babu and Didu lived on a steady diet of varenyky, kielbasa, and stuffed cabbage but they were not gluttonous people; neither of them were obese and both lived into their late 80s. An anecdote I know, but something worth thinking about.

I made a couple of dozen for the girl scout meeting and they were gone in no time.  It takes some time and effort but the varenyky aren’t too hard to make and they are always a huge hit.  It was also a chance to think about my Babu and Didu while I puttered away in the kitchen.  All these decades later I could still hear her leaning over my shoulder saying “oh, you make them soooo pretty.”  She was an endless fount of pride and love and encouragement.  Thanks, Babu!

 

Saint Patrick’s Day Baking: Brown Soda Bread with Oats and Molasses

I had my DNA analyzed a year or so ago, and it confirmed what I was already pretty certain of: I am predominately Easter European (My mom’s parents were Ukrainian immigrants), German (PA Dutch through my father) with a smattering of England and Wales, also likely my father’s side.  I’m not the least bit Irish, though the hardships that prompted Irish immigration to the US in the 1800s are strikingly similar to those that propelled my Ukrainian grandparent’s families to flee Galicia in the early 1900s.  While I lack a genetic connection to Ireland my wife and daughter do have Irish heritage.  That means that for Saint Patrick’s Day we did the quintessential Irish-American dinner: Corned beef and cabbage and soda bread.  Corned beef was adopted by Irish immigrants to the US who learned about it from Jewish immigrants with whom they were crowded into urban tenements. It is not or at least was not common in Ireland.  As one food historian pointed out, both beef and salt would have been prohibitively expensive for most Irish in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Furthermore, cattle were used predominately for dairy production or for field work. Soda bread, however, was a staple in Ireland since the introduction of baking soda as a leavening agent in the 1800s.

So, I made our dinner of corned beef and cabbage and soda bread.  The corned beef was fine, the potatoes and cabbage were good, but the standout was the soda bread.  Here is the recipe (adapted from the Complete Irish Pub Cookbook)

Brown Soda Bread with Molasses and Oats

2 Cups all purpose flour

2 Cups whole wheat flour

1/2 Cup rolled oats (plus extra to sprinkle on top)

1 1/2 Teaspoons salt

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4 Cups buttermilk

2 Tablespoons molasses

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F.  Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix
  3. In a measuring glass or pitcher stir together the molasses and buttermilk.  Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture reserving just a teaspoon.  Using a fork, spatula or your hands (my preference) stir the liquid, gradually pulling in the dry ingredients until well combine.  Dump the dough onto a surface dusted lightly with flour and knead the dough until fully combined and smooth.
  4. Shape the dough into a circle and press flat to a thickness of about 2 inches and place on the parchment lined sheet or pan.  Brush the top with the remaining teaspoon of buttermilk mixture and sprinkle the top with additional oats and lightly press them into the surface (this bit is optional).  Cut a cross into the top of the dough with a sharp knife or lamé.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 450°F.  Reduce the oven temp to 400° F and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes.  You know it is done when the bread sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.  I suppose if you want to be certain you can also use and instant read thermometer–the internal temp should be about 180° F.

 

soda bread

 

 

Of Cows and Cheese

Given my longstanding love of all things (or at least most things) agricultural I was anxious to find some way to indulge my interest in husbandry and agronomy.  Thankfully, one of my favorite organization–The Trustees of Reservations–posted a volunteer opportunity at Appleton Farms in Ipswich.  I have loved the farm since I relocated here 6 or so years ago, mostly because the rolling pastures remind me of home, or at least what home looked like before developers decided that McMansions were a preferable crop to hay or corn.  I’ve also had a longstanding love of the channel island breeds, and so I could not be happier that Appleton maintains a herd of Jersey cows.

Jersey cows have good dispositions and are inquisitive and at times goofy.

The members of the dairy team are really fantastic and though I came in with a little bit of knowledge there is a lot I don’t know and they have patiently indulged my questions and tolerated my enthusiasm.

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The farm maintains a farm store where they sell dairy products produced from the Jersey herd and beef culled from their herd of White Park cattle in addition to products from other producers.  Now having a steady supply of Jersey cow milk (higher in butterfat and protein than that produced by the ubiquitous Holstein) I decided to have a go at making cheese, something I’ve never tried before.  So, cheese made from milk from a humanely managed herd of Jerseys that I get to help feed and care for.  Farm to table indeed.

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I knew nothing of cheese making so I went to New England Cheese Making Supply Company and bought one of their beginner kits.  They provide you everything you need to get started including well written instructions.  Elsie and I decide to start by making Mozzarella. These instruction are not mine, but are directly from the recipe pamphlet provide with the cheese making kit.  This recipe requires 1 gallon milk, citric acid, rennet, and salt. In addition to ingredients, you need a 1 gallon stainless steel pot, thermometer, colander, knife, and slotted.spoon

  1. Dissolve 1/4 rennet tablet in 1/4 cup cool, chlorine free water (or use 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet).
  2. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid into 1 cup cool water and pour into your pot.
  3. Pour 1 gallon milk into the pot and stir vigorously.
  4. Continue to stir while heating the milk to 90° F.IMG_1069
  5. Remove pot from heat and stir in the rennet.  Continue to stir for 30 seconds.
  6. Cover the pot and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.
  7. Check the curd.  If it is too soft or the whey is still milky let it sit a few more minutes.
  8. Cut the curd with a knife in a criss-cross pattern.
  9. Put back on heat and raise temp to 110° F while slowly moving the curds about.
  10. Remove from the burner and stir slowly for 2-5 minutes
  11. Pour off the floating whey.
  12. Heat a pot of water to 185°F.
  13. Ladle the curds into a colander.
  14. Dip the curds into the hot water.  After several dips use a spoon to fold the curds until they become elastic and stretchable.
  15. When it becomes stretchable enough remove the curd from the water and pull like taffy.  Add salt.IMG_1068
  16. Form into a ball and chill in ice water.

So, how did we do?  Not bad for the first time.

The cheese is a little harder/firmer than I intended–next time we will reduce the amount of time we stir it in step 10.  We could also use a bit more salt.  Nevertheless, we are really happy with our first effort.

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It made a great chicken Parmesan, which Elsie cooked up using a Raddish Kids recipe.

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I cannot recommend the kit from New England Cheese Making highly enough.  The instructions are great for a novice like me.

 

 

Fall Harvest

I spend the spring planting, the summer cultivating, and the early fall harvesting.  When the gardening and canning is done I turn my attention to the hunt.  First day out for small game was cold and wet; that is to say, it was a magnificent fall day and though drenched to the bone I would trade very few things for the three hours I spend trudging through the underbrush.

“…hunting provided us with an ever scarcer relationship in a world of cities, factory farms, and agribusiness, direct responsibility for taking the lives that sustained us. Lives that even vegans indirectly take as the growing and harvesting of organic produce kills deer, birds, snakes, rodents, and insects. We lived close to the animals we ate. We knew their habits and that knowledge deepened our thanks to them and the land that made them.” —Ted Kerasote

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Tim and I took three pheasant.  After cleaning and dressing, I spatchcocked the bird and brined it:

1 Gallon water

1/2 Cup Kosher salt

2/3 Cup light brown sugar

Brine for as little as a few hours or as long as 24 hours.  I brined for 24 house before marinating the birds in olive oil, rosemary, garlic, and season salt.  I was originally going to grill them with a bit of sherry wood smoke but a Nor’easter blew through and outdoor grilling was off the table so I opted to pan sear and oven roast.

 

Preserving the Harvest: 2018 Edition

This was the first year for our new vegetable garden.  The results were a bit uneven–tomatoes and leeks did great, beans and beets did not.  The weather may be partly to blame as the spring was unseasonably cool and quite wet.  Between what I was able to grow myself and what I was able to purchase from Clark Farms and Brooksby Farms we managed to put up more food this fall than we have in previous years.

About one half of the produce grown in the United States is thrown away; food is cheap and people only want to buy produce that is pretty.  This wastefulness is a boon to those who don’t mind a little bit of effort.  While my garden managed to produce perhaps 30 pounds of tomatoes, that would hardly be enough to get us through the winter.  Busy families such as ours need a healthy supply of tomato sauce on hand for quick dinners.  Yes, I know that one can buy tomato sauce pretty cheap, but I like tomato sauce to actually taste like tomatoes so I prefer to can my own fresh.  To augment what we grew ourselves, I bought an addition 50-60 pounds of “seconds” from Clark Farms and Brooksby Farms at just under a buck a pound.  I volunteer every Saturday morning at the Marblehead Farmer’s Market; at the end of market, Bill Clark from Clark Farms was happy to sell me (at a steep discount) all of the damaged or split tomatoes that nobody else wanted.  Sauce tomatoes don’t need to be pretty! Similarly, Brooksby sells off their tomato seconds (in 20 pound boxes) at the end of the season.  Not only do they offload their not quite so pretty tomatoes, they also sell peach seconds in the summer and apple seconds in the fall.  I skipped the peaches this year as I still have some left from last season, but did cash in on the tomatoes and apples.

This fall we put up:

15 half pints of corn relish (recipe below).

16 quarts tomato sauce.

10 pints dilly beans

10 pints pickled beets

6 pints pizza sauce

7 quarts apple sauce

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The only thing left to make is my sauerkraut; I’ll wait until the weather is a bit cooler lest the fermentation go nuclear in my basement.

Now for a little taste of home:

Pennsylvania Dutch Corn Relish

Kernels from 12 ears of corn

2 medium red onions, diced

6 red bell peppers, diced (I had 4 large and 2 small ones)

3 green bell peppers, diced

4-5 ribs celery, diced

 

1.5 cups sugar

6 c. vinegar (white or cider or a combination)

1 Tbsp ground mustard

1 Tbsp brown mustard seed

1 ½ tsp yellow mustard seed

 

Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer for ½ hour or so.  Adjust sugar and mustard to taste.  Pack into clean pint or ½ pint jars and process in a water bath for 1/2 hour.  This batch made 16  one half pint jars plus a pint.

If you don’t have mustard seed you can substitute with more mustard powder.  Some versions of this recipe will also include a small head of cabbage, shredded.  I like it with cabbage (shred it finely like you would for kraut) but Hilary is not a fan so I left it out this time.  Most recipes also use almost twice as much sugar, but I think it makes it too sweet but, of course, make it to your taste.  I’ve wanted to try adding jalapeno peppers to it but haven’t done that yet.  After tasting this batch I think I will increase the mustard powder next year.

Corn relish is great by itself or on hotdogs and hamburgers

And as they say in Berks County, PA, “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.”