Category Archives: Culinary

Sourdough Sally

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Hi folks.  Remember me?  I know, I know.  It has been a bit of time.  But, I’ve been here all along….. just apparently really “messy” over the holidays, as things keep falling off my plate….including this blog.  😦

Today, I’m sharing my pet with you.  Sourdough starter.  This pet (or rather these million pets, a combination of beneficial yeasts and bacteria, if you are feeling technical) is easy to keep.  You just have to remember to feed.  I call mine Sally and she lives in my refrigerator in a half-gallon blue Ball jar.

Here is Sally in all her yeasty glory.

Here is Sally in all her yeasty glory.

I have literally shared Sally by giving some of the starter to guests who had an intense interest in sourdough bread.  But since attempting to send the real thing to you via electronic signal might get a little messy …. especially for my computer … I hope you’ll be ok with sharing Sally via blog.

I’m somewhat of a sourdough snob in that I believe that sourdough bread should be comprised entirely of my own cultured yeast.  Most recipes you find these days call for part sourdough starter and part commercial yeast.

Soon, in this Bygone Basics blog, you will get a recipe for Sourdough bread.  I am giving you time to get your own pet in the refrigerator….ready to make bread.

Ever hear the old adage, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”?  There is more than one way to start your own culture.  Some include potatoes, some take much longer…

Here’s a basic flour and water way:

  1. Make a paste with 1/2 c flour (unbleached/bread if you can) and 1/2 c water.  Loosely cover and leave at room temperature for 1 day.
  2. Stir in another 1/2 c flour and 1/c water.  Loosely cover and leave at room temperature.
  3. On the third day, it will smell a bit sour and be a bit bubbly.  Stir in another 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. water.  Loosely cover and leave at room temperature.
  4. On the fourth day….you may get the drill by now…. Stir in the 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. water.  Cover and leave at room temperature.  You should be seeing some clear evidence of the yeast “working”.
  5. On the fifth day, you should have a bubbly, fermented, pungent mass.  You have just given birth to your own Sally!  If it looks like it isn’t frothy and yeasty, leave it out another day…it could be your home wasn’t warm enough to encourage the growth in 5 days.   Once, I was making it for someone and it took about 9 days at room temperature to get a thick bubbly mass.

Another method…think “Easy Button” to borrow a phrase ….is this:

Mix 2 c. warm water (not over 115 degrees F) with a packet of active dry yeast.  Then stir in 1 1/2 c. flour.  Cover loosely and leave in a warm (not hot) place overnight.  It should be a frothy mass, but will not yet have the pungent, alcohol-ly, smell and depth of quality and flavor (some things are best taking the slow-road for).  At this point treat just as I describe above (as if it was the fifth day).  It is usable as sourdough starter and will develop the same depth of flavor and taste over time as it ferments in the refrigerator.  Don’t forget to feed her!

I just fed Sally.  I leave her out of the 'fridge for an hour to ensure feeding.  I feel better knowing my pet is alive and the little bubbles tell me she's doing just fine.

I just fed Sally. I leave her out of the ‘fridge for an hour to ensure feeding. I feel better knowing my pet is alive and the little bubbles tell me she’s doing just fine.

Regardless of how you start Sally, she will live indefinitely as long as you don’t starve her.  Her flavor will evolve based on the flours you use and even the wild yeasts that are present in your environment.  She will become, one of a kind, YOURS over time.

You can now make bread with her.  It is time to store her in the refrigerator.  She’ll live in there for 7 to 10 days.  Then, if you haven’t used some and refreshed her, you need to feed Sally.  Just take out a cup of the starter to make room for the “feed” and add in a 1/2 c. flour and 1/2 c. water (sound familiar?)  Every 2 or 3 feedings, I add a tablespoon of honey; and swap the white flour for whole wheat or…another flour every several feedings….but that’s just what I choose to do.

Do you make sourdough bread?  How do your techniques/recipe for starter differ?

Just don’t forget to feed her every week or so…

“I would say to housewives, be not daunted by one failure, nor by twenty. Resolve that you will have good bread, and never cease striving after this result till you have effected it. If persons without brains can accomplish this, why cannot you?” –’Housekeeping In Old Virginia’ Marion Cabell Tyree ed. (1878)

 Soon…..a nice recipe for bread using Sally and no commercial yeast.

To really add depth of learning and wonderful memories, you can come the our heritage kitchen here at Bygone Basics to learn heirloom  bread-making hands-on…and/or many other heritage home arts… http://www.bygonebasics.com.  You can even stay here at our immersion bed and breakfast!  www.amandasbequest.com

Better than Wedding Cake.

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Gather ingredients and tools. It is such a disappointing feeling to get part-way through a recipe only to discover you don’t have everything you need.

I think I may have a serious addiction. Pumpkins. They really do capture my attention as they are the source of the pure goodness known as: Pumpkin Pie.Welcome to the second part of the pumkin series.

I love pumpkin pie.  I could eat it morning, noon, and evening meals….and the occassional 1 a.m. kitchen raid.  In fact, when we married, I didn’t want a fluffy, fancy wedding cake.  I wanted pie.  🙂  The bridal cake was a pumkin pie, in case you wondered.

“Pumpkin pie, if rightly made, is a thing of beauty and a joy – while it lasts…..Pies that cut a little less firm than a pine board, and those that run round your plate are alike to be avoided. Two inches deep is better than the thin plasters one sometimes sees, that look for all he world like pumpkin flap-jacks. The expressive phrase, ‘too thin’, must have come from these lean parodies on pumpkin pie. With pastry light, tender, and not too rich, and a generous filling of smooth spiced sweetness – a little ‘trembly’ as to consistency, and delicately brown on top – a perfect pumpkin pie, eaten before the life has gone out of it, is one of the real additions made by American cookery to the good things of the world. For the first pumpkin pie of the season, flanked by a liberal cut of creamy cheeses, we prefer to sit down, as the French gourmand said about his turkey: ‘with just two of us; myself and the turkey.'” –‘The House Mother’

So this blog post is a follow-up to the last one.  If you remember, we baked pumpkins and saw how easy it is to get to the point of making a pie.  (I’m sure you rushed right out and cooked up pumpkins yourself!)

Pretty nice ingredients. Our free range hen eggs, milk from a local dairy, pumpkin from our garden…mmmmmmm

As I type this, I probably should have done a post on the pastry, but oh well, forward motion.

Pumpkin pie is pretty easy too.

Find your recipe.  I hope you’ll consider sharing your favorite one with me in the comments!  I use one that has become my favorite.  It requires simple ingredients….(no milk product from a can).  Now, gather your ingredients.

Two basic rules that will really help you enjoy your time in the kitchen is to prepare (premeasure, make sure you have everything) and clean as you go.

One pie pastry. Line the tin, forming the pastry to the pan. Flute the top.

Line your tin with the pie pastry.  In these photos, I’m making a smaller pie that will be gifted to a friend so it is in tin that she doesn’t have to get back to me.

Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  This such a great recipe for requiring very few tools and bowls.

Now is time for the wet ingredients.  But first…Did you preheat that oven?  I frequently forget so thought you might like a reminder too.  A couple of comments on how I do things.  You might do them differently, but am sharing them anyway.  I bake my pies on a foil lined cookie sheet to catch drippings.  I also bake my pies in the lower part of the oven to direct the heat right onto the bottom pastry so it bakes before getting too soggy.

Add the wet ingredients.  With Pumpkin Pie, the usual suspects will be milk, pumpkin, eggs, extract.  But your recipe may differ.  It is really important to get the eggs thoroughly whisked into the filling.  If they are not incorporated well, you will have bits of egg white visible in your baked pie.

I whisk the eggs and pumkin in first. Taking care to get a good blend.

Place your pastry lined pie tin on the cookie sheet now if you are going that route.

Now, pour into the pastry lined tin and pop into the oven!  Be sure to double check your recipe for baking time.

I line my crust with foil to prevent overbrowning and to help support the pastry until it bakes some. It is so sad to discover your crust gave way and the filling poured out!

VOILA!

The recipe:

3/4 cup Brown Sugar             1/2 tsp Salt

1 TBSP Flour                            3/4 tsp Ginger

1 tsp Cinnamon                       1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1/2 tsp Cloves                          1 1/2 cups mashed cooked Pumpkin

3 Eggs                                       1 1/2 cups whole Milk

1 pie tin lined with pastry

Bake at 400 F for 50 minutes

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PUMPKIN PIE RECIPE?  Does it have a family history?

As Easy as Pie


Oh…the joys of Spring and Summer are upon us….no?  It’s Autumn, you say?  Really?  Where’d my Summer go?!!

You might also feel that way…just a bit?

These little 3 to 4 pound beauties make the best pies!

This post really brings me into reality.  I just realized it was time to bake the pumpkins. (still shaking my head that it is autumn)

“Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin…. We anxiously anticipate it every year.” ~Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, October 2010

I usually prefer to bake up actual pie pumpkins and my favorite one is the little “Winter Luxury” pie pumpkin, as smaller tends to mean sweeter.  I get the seeds from the Jung Seed company in Wisconsin.  But since my unofficial motto is (according to my husband) “Can it before it rots” I pretty much put-by food regardless of pedigree.  I rather enjoy carving a huge jack-o-lantern and baking a pie from the face parts I cut out.  It brings a chuckle to any kid in your home to be eating “face pie” on Halloween.  I also will use hearty sweeter pumpkin like squashes like Red Warty Thing and hubbard as pumpkin mash as they are pretty much interchangeable in recipes.

Pumpkin is the one thing I don’t can.  Instead I prefer to freeze it.  The pure density of squash leaves too much question about whether the pressure canning process brought the center of the jar up to the right temperature and for long enough.  Additionally, I prefer to take it out as ready to go mash.  NEVER, can mashed pumpkin as it is too dense for safe home processing.

So….this morning, my house was 59 degrees.  By George, I am NOT lighting the furnaces in September.  That makes it a perfect day to bake pumpkins.  Here is what I do:

Just halve the pumpkins and place on a cookie sheet to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 (you can do 350 for a faster bake, but don’t go higher).  You want to slow simmer the flesh, not bake it crispy.  Take a long carving knife and slice the pumpkin in half.  Scoop the seedy center our with a spoon and …in my case at least….feed that yummy center to the chickens and ducks!  Lay the halved pumpkin face down on foil covered (for clean-up ease only, foil bottom not necessary) cookie sheets and cover with foil.

Boy…that took all of 5-10 minutes.  Really…this isn’t that hard or time consuming.  I might lose my day-job if people realized how easy some of these very heirloom activities actually are….

Bake for 1 to 3 hours, depending on how much you have in your oven and how big the pieces are.  Smaller equals faster.

You know the pumpkin is done when a fork slides easily in all the way to the shell as if warm butter.

You know they are done when you can sink a dinner fork like into warm butter until it reaches the shell.  Take out and let cool a few minutes.  You probably can read half of “Fifty Shades of Grey” during this effortless time and people will thing you slaved to make them a pumpkin pie from scratch.  Your secret.  🙂

After baking let the pumpkins cool just enough to handle. It is easier to work with when warm.

Next is up to you.  At this point the pumpkin is ready to use in recipes.  I don’t like the texture of the occasional strings in the flesh.  So here is what I do:

With a soup spoon I scoop the now soft and warm flesh into my old food mill.  Press it with a few turns of my hand and it deposits into the bowl underneath.  Any strings are strained out by this extra step and it is also not time consuming.  Warmer is better.

If not using it right away, stir and premeasure into freezer containers or bags, writing the amount,date, and of course, contents on a label.  100% pumpkin.

SO EASY.  AND, it is your family food quality control … You know what is in that pumpkin puree and what isn’t.  You may not have read that aforementioned book, but I get a lot done when baking pumpkin and I adjust the oven temp lower if I have to run on an errand that is longer than an hour or so.

This food mill may be old, but it sure does a quick job of sending pumpkin through.

It is very easy to scoop out a baked pumpkin.

Mine almost entirely goes into pumpkin pie.  Which should be another post perhaps.  Equally as easy, but oh so tasty!  My favorite pie.  I actually had it be my “wedding cake” when I married.  I love it that much.

Do you bake your own pumpkin?  What is your favorite variety for it?

Ready for the freezer!

Holy Cow

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Holy cow, it has been a very eventful summer.  My apologies to you for a prolonged absence.

We have had twin grandaughters and a grandson born.

We have also learned of another grandchild on the way, and were saddened by the loss of a grandbaby-in-womb.

Our garden has been prolific lately, but as a result of much tending and watering due to the extreme high temps this summer and drought.

Our bed & breakfast, Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast, in here in Montague, Michigan  www.amandasbequest.com  has been busy.  Certainly for its opening year!  We operate as a farmstay and guests are immersed in a real working farm-stle home.  They collect eggs and can help churn butter or gather food from the gardens for breakfast if they wish.  We have enjoyed many wonderful and diverse guests from all over the world now!!  (How cool is that?!)  One guest, who was a world traveler, rated us as top two B&B’s in all his travels.  Turns out I’m I’m an ok cook.  He couldn’t decide who was better, a B&B in Scotland, or us.  I have to tell you, I was so dumb-struck at the remark.  After all…we are just..us.

Also busy for us has been our Bygone Basics culinary experiences.  www.bygonebasics.com  People are really wanting to know how to go back to the healthy nutritious foods that were on our predescessor’s tables.  I teach them how to use what tools they already have to get that heritage “kitchen is the heart and soul of the home” healthy foods back into their lives and in their “today” lifestyle.

We have had kitchen guests from 7 countries and 44 USA States now.

To top it all off, I’m now a licensed kitchen and am baking and selling heritage recipe and artisan foods.  All made to order and by hand from natural foods and basic ingredients (nothing you can’t spell or say!).

We have grown our little flock of hens from 6 to 12…plus a duck…but don’t tell Daisy, she thinks she’s a chicken.

My loving husband has been amazing as our journey has brought us to this kind of activity.  He just smiles and builds what I need.  🙂  I wish this kind of a husband on all of our daughters.

Anyway….

My niece Jade is now “apprenticing.”  Leaving me with a few hours at the end of the week to blog and do other things that I’ve been too swamped to do.  I taught her how to hoe the other day.  I told her she was going to be a great hoe-er someday.  She laughed.  I realized what I said.  Too funny.  She’s been learning to bake, make pies, artisan breads, hoe, can, make soap…she’s been a treasure of help to me too!

I will “talk” with you soon.  Just needed to catch you up on my busy-bee “holy cow, what changes!” summer.

Yours,

Valerie Hanson

NEATO!

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How neato is this?  kalamitykelli nominated me (icanatbygonebasics) for the Versatile Blog Award.  It sure added a thrill to my day as I was over focused and drenched in paint doing a project (hand-painting a sign for our B&B).

Thank you kalamitykelli.  🙂   (http://kellisretrokitchenarts.wordpress.com/)

As a VBA recipient, I should tell you 7 things about myself:

  1.  I have 8 children (6 daughters and 2 sons), 2 grandsons, 1 baby grand son due in August, and TWIN baby grandgirls expected next month!
  2. I can move my eyes independent of each other (makes me look rather loopy!)
  3. I just opened a heritage farm-stay Bed & Breakfast (www.amandasbequest.com)
  4. I garden every open square inch possible….vertical and horizontal (I have peppers and tomatoes stuck everywhere in the summer)

    This is what I've been doing. Hand painting a sign for our Bed & Breakfast. I covered in paint and am told by my husband that I must roll in paint like a horse in sand. http://www.amandasbequest.com

  5. I am a crazy chicken lady (love my free range “girls”) and they follow me about like ducklings
  6. I teach heritage culinary and farm kitchen skills (soap making, pressure canning, gardening, baking breads and pies old-style…etc) in a 140 year old kitchen (www.bygonebasics.com)
  7. I have a novel pacing across my brain and back, rattling its cage, wanting to get out….

Here are 15 versatile blogs I enjoy (no particular order):

1.  The Soulsby Farm (http://soulsbyfarm.wordpress.com/) who believe in the same lifestyle I do of self- sustainable living and are random bloggers so you get a wonderful view of their lives.

2.  Jen Maan in Amman (http://jenmaaninamman.com/) an ex-patriot from Southern California who is currently in Amman with her husband.  Her blogs are humourous and cultural diverse…and have some interesting recipes too!

3.  Kath Usitalo (http://kathusitalo.com/) has a couple of blogs and a great writing style…and she’s continuously visiting interesting places and sharing them in her blog with great photography too.  You never know what she’s going to share next.

4.  In Toads Garden (http://toads.wordpress.com/) is a wonderful gardener in Denmark with a very natural earthy style that I enjoy.

5.  Yes You Can (http://yes-you-can-can.com/) is a wonderful country girl’s guide and covers sewing, cooking, gardening…lots of basic “how to’s”

6.  thesolitarycook (http://thesolitarycook.wordpress.com/) is all about FOOD!  She knows her stuff and clearly loves the enormous variety of foods she writes about.

7.  wallopingteaspoon (http://wallopingteaspoon.wordpress.com/) is also culinary pro in my book.  Her blogs are thorough and well written.  She blogs about food from tuxedo cupcakes to a good “sammich” to Red Snapper

8.  Rosey Dow Blog (http://roseydow.wordpress.com/) I like her old house blogs and feel an affinity.

9.  hippie itch (http://hippieitch.wordpress.com/) covers a lot of topics from healthy lifestyles to food to animals.  I love her passion for animals.

10.  The Domestically Impaired Guide to Retro Kitchen Arts (http://kellisretrokitchenarts.wordpress.com/) is a great blog on home canning…a KINDRED SPIRIT.

11.  Aquaponic Family (http://aquaponicfamily.wordpress.com/) is a fun blog about aquaponic gardening.  I live vicariously through them as I would like to do what they are….

12.  Farm Country Crafts (http://farmcountrycrafts.wordpress.com/) Pretty well described in the title but goes much further!  A fun blog and you’ll love her Five Reasons to Do Yard Work in the Shade.

13.  domesticateddilettante (http://domesticateddilettante.wordpress.com/ is a well-written and well-rounded blog about family, food, gardening… I love that she is determined to garden.

14.  The Cosy Creative (http://thecosycreative.wordpress.com/) is about a lot of things.  I really like her motto “feel happy, make something”

15.  Linda Stone (http://lindastone.net/) is a thinker and able to transmit those thoughts with good clear writing.  What can I say, I like thinkers!

Keep up the great posts!  And thank you for sharing parts of your lives with me.

Valerie Hanson

Is Valerie Crazy?

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I thought I might have your attention.  <chuckling>  Anyone who knows me may have actually asked themselves that very question.

You may not know that I went from business executive to helping others learn about a more simple life, one that includes hands-on messy work…(compost comes to mind).  Why not just keep doing what I was doing so I could just BUY anything I thought I needed or wanted?

It took me a bit, but I learned what others already knew.  One cannot buy the best things in life.  Love.  Happiness.  Health.  Those things come from a bank of a different sort.  And you have to work for them.

But…I digress…Is Valerie Crazy?

Yep.  Just crazy enough to open two businesses, in MICHIGAN, in this poor economy..and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  It is quite an adventure too!  Crazy enough to trust the relationship my husband, John, and I have.  Although, maybe he’s crazy-er for smiling and helping to make all this happen!  A very good friend, Gordon, reminds me once in a while that “John didn’t sign up for that.” when I get a bit ahead of our plans.  (John says I do everything fast.)

Bygone Basics is nicely established and picking up steam.  I am thrilled with the uniqueness each guest brings to an experience.  I feel truly blessed by them.

Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast is just now opening.  (click the name to check out the website) John and I look forward to every guest.  I’m all excited too…MORE PEOPLE TO COOK FOR!  (I can’t help it, I grew up on a rural country farm in a big family….food was a very important part of life…and you fed people as a means of letting them know they are welcome)

Here is the perfect example of why I do what I do:

Bygone Basics' guests sitting down for a hearty farm lunch.

This family planned a vacation in March 2012 around their Experience with Bygone Basics.  They drove through two states plus part of Michigan to get here.  They were a brother, sister, husband, mother.  And oh did they know how to enjoy each other’s company (I can only imagine that road trip)!  They make a point out of celebrating holidays with a unique theme every time so noone takes any holiday for granted.  Isn’t that a great idea?  It might sound odd, but think how memorable a “Mexican” Easter would be.  As each is different, it isn’t as likely that these special family times will fade from memory.  They learned how to can at Bygone Basics, both pressure canning and water bath canning.  I feel certain they will take that knowledge home and have much quality, happy, family times, canning produce from someone’s garden together.

Canning CAN be fun!

People of the past always knew, but we’ve begun to forget.  Many hands make light work and lighter hearts.  Think barn raisings and Amish summer kitchens.  It’s not much work when you are enjoying the company of others while using the time industriously.  Some might even call it a vacation.  Is that crazy or what?

Light is the task where many share the toil. – Homer

On a completely different note:  Here is a link to the March “I Can at Bygone Basics” Newsletter.  Try the dried apples recipe.  They are easy, healthy, and delicious.

Cheery Query

Cheery Query

I have a question to pose readers this week.

I make  a living (or rather am working hard at building a living) from my recipes both food and home art.  Creation of good to eat victuals and healthy home products from heritage and/or natural ingredients are a passion for me.  It is so thrilling when someone asks for a recipe or how to make a specific soap.  What is the saying?

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” (FYI:  Charles Caleb Colton originated this in early 1800’s)

Some of my kitchen tools.

But truthfully, it is conflicting.  When it is a recipe printed in a cookbook I have, originated in recent times, it seems right to share it.  The requester could likely look it up (on the ‘net usually) and by sharing, I enjoy helping that person.   Is it right to share out of a cookbook?  Is it a disservice to the author of the cookbook?

Here’s were it gets personal.  When it is a recipe I have invested a lot of time and resources (failed attempts, come to mind 😉 …my apologies to husband John who has to eat the …umm…less than stellar results).  It is a unique recipe  and customers are willing to purchase the product I have developed, how should I respond?  Is it constructive or detrimental?

After all, I love to be helpful and see the many wonderful people in my days happy.

So I query you.  Out of curiosity.  Out of a desire to learn and grow.

What is the appropriate response?  Many of you are incredible chefs and cookbook authors.  I’m just … me.

Your comments are most welcome!!