Monthly Archives: January 2012

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This Week’s post is written by a guest blogger:  Jessica Rabe.

I would like to apologize.  I am a guest blogger today, and I accidentally published something while trying to link.  This is why I don’t have much to do with technology 🙂

With Valerie is in Kansas for a week to help with an ill family member, I have the pleasure of being a Guest Blogger for Bygone Basics.  First, I’ll introduce myself, and then, I’ll let you read what you came for in peace 🙂

My name is Jessica, and I’m Valerie’s oldest daughter.  Mom, jokingly calles me her Scullery Maid.  I’ve been helping with the heritage kitchen whenever I can, and I love *almost* every minute of it.  (I mean, who truly enjoys the cleanup?)

Waste Not, Want Not

Have you ever thought about all of the trimmings you throw away, or even toss on the compost?  I never really did either, but it turns out the answer is: A lot!  Recently, Valerie and I stumbled upon a wonderful blog post: Five Packaged Foods You Never Need To Buy Again by Jane Mountain.  I’ll be the first to admit that I got a bit carried away in my excitement.  My second favorite part of the Bygone Basics is learning how to take food as far as it will go, so the idea of saving the trimmings, bones, and juices really got me excited.

You mean….. I can use garbage to make all the soup I could ever hope for!!?

(For those wondering, my favorite is the health aspect.  There’s just nothing like using raw closest-to-nature products, and the only drawback is cost.  Hence my excitement!)  Imagine my shock when Valerie told me that she already knew all about this.  It’s so easy, why weren’t we already doing this?  (Her answer was that she found she got great eggs from the chickens by feeding them the trimmings.)  I figured we can do both….first make the soup stock and then feed the skimmed off, boiled stuff to the chickens.  Worked like a charm!  We got four times the product from our food.  ate the carrot, peelings and ends went into making stock….and the the chickens got everything strained out of the stock…and we got our eggs.  NOTE:  chickens didn’t get the bones…those got composted.

A lot of product was gotten out of everyday "trash". This is a shot of our fresh soup stock and some of the day's pasta sauce all canned and ready for the shelves.

After about a week of saving, we had enough to start making a meat/vegetable stock.  (I’m still waiting to make just veggie stock.  There is much anticipation for a huge mess and a delicious way to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of these vegetables .)  It sure isn’t a pretty process, and it takes a lot of time to boil down.  But really, we just did other things while it simmered (sure smelled good).  I have to tell you, I don’t see any future need to buy soup or bullions.

Now is the time

During the summer, everyone is rushing to get their produce in jars before it spoils.  There’s really no time to try out any of the fancy recipes you dream of doing when it’s a race against time.  However, winter is the perfect time to start unsealing some of those jars and making that spaghetti sauce, or to try any other experiment you’ve always wanted to try.  Such an urge grabbed Valerie just last week, at the same time we were doing the meat stock.  She began breaking into some canned basic tomatoes, herbs she’d dried, and threw a few fresh ingredients in there.  This is also a great way to turn disappointment into satisfaction.  Amanda and myself had messed up a bruschetta recipe…she added that too…a perfect way to put some good use to those still-good tomatoes.  The result was a delicious pasta sauce that’s also healthy!  (My favorite part.)

Remedy from Ukraine

In December, I returned home from spending a few months in Kiev.  I was there teaching English, and honing my Russian language abilities.  Of course, I ended up sick a couple of times, and so my host family made me some “tea.”  Surprisingly, it was as easy as putting some lemon slices in some hot water, and squishing the juices out of them with a spoon.  It went down so nicely.  What a great way to give your immune system a boost!  This is the time of year when people begin to get sick, and this is a great, simple home remedy to drink before or after you start feeling poorly.  Stay healthy!

Contact Valerie today by calling (231) 740-4065, or emailing ICan@bygonebasics.com to ask about the February classes, (click to here check them out) put in an order, or schedule your own Experience.  Be sure to visit the newly redesigned (and easier to navigate Bygone Basics website.  www.bygonebasics.com

You might not agree, but I think this photo is a thing of beauty. Stock simmering in the back and pasta sauce simmering in the front. I wish you all could have shared in the aroma!

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…wearing a fetching apron,

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“And now have a look at you! You’re so pretty … wearing a fetching apron, of course, and your hair’s neat and beautiful, held back by a ribbon”

The title of this post comes from a line (the rest of it is above) in one of my favorite interests…older cook books.

Aprons are fun and VERY handy. I am not sure why they fell out of use. This is one of mine.

This one in particular is special.  It was my first foray into old cookbook land.  I bought this First edition 1955 “Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book for the Hostess & Host of tomorrow” about 15 years ago at a yard sale.  My daughter Jessica was getting interested in the kitchen and I wanted to encourage it.  At the time she really didn’t see the charm in the old book, like I did.

She was 10 and the cookbook was “soooo….yesterday.”  🙂

If you can get past the chuckles you’ll have at the quaint language and gender assumptions, older cook books are fabulous peeks into our history.  They are windows into how family life was conducted in homes during period in which the cook book was printed. By reading them, we are peeping-toms of a sort.  Through the ingredients, we learn what were common staples in the pantry.  In the description of tools to use, we know how much time was spent in the kitchen, or how tricky cooking over a wood burner or early gas or electric range may have been.  Even the portion sizes change over the eras.

One of our fun cookbooks.

I love my old cook books.   I have a lot of them, including one from the White House circa 1901, filled with hand written notes and old news clippings. (and yes, I do wear an apron. We have many of them so our guests can put one on too when they are experiencing our heritage kitchen.)  What makes me sad is that the recipes don’t please the average U.S citizen’s palate today.  The cook books of today use far more sugar and shortenings in recipes.  The scone of today certainly isn’t the scone of a 100 years ago.  I wonder why we have an obesity epidemic in the U.S…?

Now…a recipe from the BH&G Junior cook book:  “Everyday drumsticks”

1 lb. gr beef

1 tsp salt

1 egg

12 soda crackers

6 wooden skewers

3 slices bacon

The Drumstick recipe. Easy for a child...and adult.

Set oven to 450.  Put beef, salt and egg in a bowl.  Mix.  Divide into 6 parts.

Put crackers in a bag.  Roll with a rolling-pin to form crumbs.  Put crumbs on waxed paper.

Shape the balls of meat around skewers to look like drumsticks.  Roll in crumbs; place on greased baking pan.  Bake 15 minutes.

Cut bacon slices into 4 pieces.  Put on meat.  Bake 15 minutes more.

This recipe is what a little girl of 9 – 12 in age could be expected to do in 1955.

If you have older cookbooks that are at least 40 years old, have a look at them with an eye toward looking at the home and family life.  It is a unique way to look at cook books and may just inspire you to make a dish you’ve never tried before.  Share your own cookbook discoveries and new old recipe attempts in the comments area below or by emailing ICan@bygonebasics.com.

A side note of news for you….I’ve completely redesigned our Bygone Basics website.  Please, have a look at it and tell me what you think.  It is easier to navigate, cleaner, and uses photos to show people what an experience is like here at Bygone Basics.

Check it out:  www.bygonebasics.com

Parting quote from the old cookbook:

You’re about to turn the page to a heap of fun. So…hands washed? Have on a pretty apron, and is your hair looking mighty smooth?  O.K., Kitchen, here we come.

And a parting photo…how fun!:

Boys and girls can have fun in the kitchen...even in 1955. Though, it would seem from the photo that boys do take a bit of a back seat ...

The Apple of my Pie

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“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness” ~Jane Austen

Heirloom Depression era pie recipes...in person.

Since opening our licensed kitchen, creating wonderful heirloom foods, I have made a LOT of pies. I was efficient before, but boy, let me tell you, when running a “made-to-order” bakery that gives each customer the freshest and most delicious product possible, you learn to be even better. Yes, there is always room in our heads to learn more.  My customers often comment on how hard making pies is for them, or time consuming…or both.  I’m very glad I can make pies for them.  🙂  I love it and feel blessed to be able to do “work” that is a passion.

Not only do I sell baked goods, but I have also spent years teaching people heritage cooking and baking.

Practice does help, but so does the simple fact…knowing it isn’t that hard.

The intent was to take a photo of a nice pie. My family had other ideas...when I came back to take the shot...there were a few holes in my plan. I suppose that is a compliment.

If I could inspire novice pie makers, I would somehow help them to see that they are “creating” and engaging with the natural world by transforming flour and butter into pastry to hold something as beautiful as an apple or peach.  They are “knowing” their food.  They are serving their creation to others for enjoyment and nurturing.  Pretty cool.

Recently, to dispell myths about how difficult pie making can be, I made two videos and put them on YouTube.  Mind you, they are unusual to say the least.

My point was…HAVE FUN IN YOUR KITCHEN! While showing some basic techniques.

Click the Links below to open the videos on YouTube:

Pie Pastry Fun

Pie Fillings – Easy (and friends love to watch 😉 )

Enlightenment on Leavening

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There’s not much that can hold a candle to enlightenment. Sorry. Couldn’t help that pun.  January in Michigan causes us to get a bit loopy in the short cold days and lack of sun.  🙂

As a “Kitchenaire” at Bygone Basics (www.bygonebasics.com) I help a lot of people experience kitchens in the way they developed as the heart (and the stomach) of the homes of our establishing country.  We do a lot of exploring of old customs and current ones…and the how and why of them.  It is a great way to learn our history and culinary heritage.

One question I get a lot is “What is the diference between baking soda and baking powder?”

It is honestly a fabulous question.  And certainly due a good answer.  The short answer is…Baking powder is baking soda-plus.  In other words.  Baking powder has baking soda plus other agents that help it leaven in blends that only baking soda doesn’t do as well in.

Some recipes call for multiple leavening ingredients. Crumpets, for example call for yeast to raise the dough like a bread and then a baking soda and warm water solution is added right before cooking.

A bit longer explaination is that baking soda alone does well as a leavener in mixtures that include an acidic ingredient.  This could be buttermilk (lactic acid), vinegar, sour cream, molasses, lemon juice and honey (yep honey).  BUT….when the recipe requires leavening and there are little to no acidic ingredients, baking powder is your secret weapon.  Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and added acidic ingredients, such as cream of tartar, to help with leavening.  Baking powder cannot be used as a single substitution in recipes that call for baking soda.  Your recipe will fall flat. (sorry, another pun, I guess, I’m a bit “light” headed)  As a rule of thumb, baking soda is used in cookie recipes and baking powder is used in more neutral recipes ( that contain flour, sugar, milk, oil, salt) like cakes and biscuits.

Yeast is the biological leavener for Bygone Basics' artisan stone baked bread.

A note on leavening…because I can’t help myself.  I looked it up in Wikipedia to see if I could share the knowledge in an easy to understand way.  According to that source, there are multiple types of leaveners in food stuffs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leavening_agent).

Biological:  Anyone who uses yeast in breads, or makes beer or wine is going to understand the use of microbes and their resulting gas release as part of their life cycle.

Chemical:  These are used in everyday modern baking.  Baking soda, powders.  Used to release carbon dioxide (usually that is the gas) when heat is applied.

Bygone Basics' hierloom recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies calls for a lot of oats, nuts, chocolate...and baking soda.

Valerie’s note:  In the case of baking soda, it begins acting immediately, before heat, (resulting in recipes falling flat if there is a delay in baking)….FYI….this is also where baking powder helps…delayed actions…aka double acting baking powders have an ingredient that waits for the heat of the oven.

Mechanical:  Think….meringue.  Mechanical leavening is the introduction of trapped air into the ingredients through whipping or whisking.

Steam/air/gas injection:  Water is flash expanded into steam in the case of pop-overs.  Nitrous oxide is used to “leaven” aerosol “whipped” cream.

There is a leavening agent that isn’t mentioned much anywhere these days.  Ammonium Carbonate.  It was the predecessor of modern leavening chemicals.

It was mainly used in heirloom recipes of northern Europe and Scandinavia.  I have learned that you cannot substitute baking powder or baking soda in these old recipes and get the same light airy results provided by Ammonium Carbonate.   One of my husbands favorite childhood memories involves a recipe called Princess Gems.  It’s leavening agent is Ammonium Carbonate (aka Baker’s Ammonia or Salt of Hartshorn).  I was determined to give him that memory this last Christmas.  It took some doing, but I managed to secure some of the historical leavener.  Right in the old recipe card are the instructions not to breathe in the fumes from the leavener.  (It doesn’t mention not to breathe when you open the oven door when baking them, but that’s another story)  The ammonia bakes off in the oven and leaves an incredibly light and melt-in-your-mouth airy cookie.

Does anyone else have an old recipe that called for Ammonium Carbonate?  Please, share it with me!!!  I am truly fascinated by old recipes and ingredients.

Well…until next time.  I’m delighted that you read this blog.

Parsnip Pleasures

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Late summer harvest

Potatoes, squash, and other hunks of garden goodness.

I should note right up front in this blog that I LOVE winter storage crops and the food that comes from it. Many people say they don’t and then indicate that they prefer the tomatoes and strawberries of summer. ( To be honest…I like it all!)
I’ve noticed that many people haven’t really spent much time “meeting” winter crops. By winter crops, I mean those yummy hunks of goodness that are harvested late in the year and store well over winter. 

Some examples here in western Michigan are:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Rutabaga
  • Squash
  • Ida Red apples
  • Chestnuts
  • Sweet potatoes

Parsnips make potato dishes much more flavorful and interesting. Try some cabbage and chestnuts in your next stew.

If you are lucky enough to still have a farmers market open near you…pay it a visit.  You’ll be rewarded with extra nutrition, “stay-with-you” hearty food, and a dimensional flavor that many summer crops don’t give.

Here is one of my favorite winter recipes.  It is easy and tasty:

3, 2, 1 Potatoes!

  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled (or not, lots of good nutrition in that peel, wash well though)
  • 2 medium Parsnips, peeled (Rutabaga works too)

Chunk them up into 1 1/2 chunks or so and toss them in a pot of hot water.  Turn the heat on and bring to a boil.  After 10 minutes of boiling, add:

  • 1 large clove of garlic.  (just peel and toss in)

Boil for another 15 minutes.  Drain. If you used a colander to drain (I just use the lid of the pan to keep everything still in the pot and drain over a colander to catch the run-aways and put them back in).  While the pan is still hot, add:

  • 1/4 cup of cream (milk will do in a pinch, just up the butter a bit)
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 dashes of black pepper.

Mash the potatoes.  I use my hand-held electric mixer to mash faster to keep every thing hot and result in a fluffy dish.  Ta-Da! 

A mix of just about any winter crop using the same 1 strong flavor (onions, garlic…), 2 medium flavor (rutabaga, parnsip, carrots), and 3 mild flavor (pretty much potatoes but I have used cabbage and chestnuts here and it went well) results in a great winter dish.  Flavors will vary of course…YAY for variety!!

I’d love to hear about your winter favorite winter crop recipe.  Email me at ICan@bygonebasics.com.

Of course visit the www.bygonebasics.com website and our Facebook page.