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Culture, Food, Winter

Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie

March 3, 2016

Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie.

Winter brings with it thoughts of soups, stews and things bubbling on the stove all afternoon. I like to raid the pantry and freezer this time of year because it’s too cold to go shopping and it can be nice to have a shot of summer on a cold day. Canned tomatoes can go into chili and frozen vegetables can make all kinds of casseroles or stews. One of Dan’s favorite dishes growing up was his Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother’s Chicken pot pie.

Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie is not what most people think of when they think of pot pie. This pie is not encased in a pastry crust; it’s more stew like, and instead of the crust on top it has noodles throughout. You can put any vegetables you like in your pot pie, Dan likes potatoes, carrots and peas. Potatoes and carrots can sometimes be found locally this time of year as storage crops. Peas are something that can be easily frozen in the spring when they are abundant. You can trade them out for whatever you have in your freezer, green beans and corn would also be good. Instead of a pie plate this dish is made in pot. Choose one big enough to hold all of your stock and vegetables.

I started by roasting a whole chicken so I could have dark and white meat. You can use whatever you like.

This is what else you will need:

  • 2 quarts good chicken stock (it’s best if you make it yourself)
  • 4-6 potatoes cut into 1 ½ to 2 inch chunks
  • 4-6 carrots cut into 1 ½ to inch chunks
  • whatever other vegetable you have on hand
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • cornstarch or flour for thickening (instructions at the end of recipe)

For the noodles:

  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour plus some for dusting
  • ¾ stick room temperature butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

To make the noodles:

  • mix together with your hands the butter, flour and egg
  • slowly add the milk and mix until it comes together
  • roll out the dough to about ¼ inch and cut into squares

To put it together:

  • Add your potatoes and carrots to your stock and bring to a boil
  • Add your noodles a few at time, stirring gently to keep them from sticking
  • Lower to a simmer and cook for 40-45 minutes until everything is tender
  • If you are adding frozen vegetables do it now and cook for a few minutes more
  • Add your cream

Adding the noodles will help to thicken your sauce, but you may want it a little thicker. There are a couple of ways to achieve this. You could use a slurry, which is equal parts cornstarch and cold water mixed together or you could make a roux which is equal parts flour and softened butter stirred together. I used 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour. Whisk this in to your sauce and cook for a few minutes. When it is at the thickness you desire, ladle it up and enjoy this very hearty meal.

Culture, Food

Castle Valley Mill

February 18, 2016

exterior of Castle Valley Mill.

For most of us who ascribe the term locavore to our lifestyles, we usually only mean it to a certain degree. Sure, we might only buy local meat and produce, eat our asparagus and strawberries when they are in season, and employ strategies for preserving food such as freezing and canning. But what about common household items such coffee, sugar, and exotic spices? We are usually willing to grant ourselves special dispensations when it comes to these necessities. I am firmly in this camp, but last week I took flour off of the list of special allowances. From now on I will only buy my flour locally. Why? The usual reasons — I want to know where my food is coming from and I want to support local businesses. But also because it tastes great, it has better texture, and the variety of options is so much wider than what I can find in my supermarket and food co-op. It all began with a fieldtrip to Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a requirement of one of my Drexel University courses.

The course was called Wheat Lab and was taught by renowned Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri and baker Claire McWilliams. It covered the history of the history of wheat, how to use it culinary, and how commercially milled wheat differs from the fresh product. The fieldtrip was intended to demonstrate the latter.

millerThe man in the photo is Mark Fischer. Mark is the owner of Castle Valley Mill. The mill has been here since 1730 using water from the Neshaminy Creek to power it. The mill grinds grains the way it was done for hundreds of years before the Industrial Revolution. The property was in poor condition when Mark’s grandfather, Henry, acquired it in 1947. He restored the building and collected much of the milling machinery that they use today. Mark has continued to restore the machinery that his grandfather acquired and also hopes to get back to using the power of water to run his operation.

The flours that you get from this mill are nothing like you get in the supermarket. They are fresh and flavorful and all whole grain. Mark gets his grain from local farmers everything from wheat to rye to spelt. I drove up a second time to buy some more (They also ship; just contact them.) Supporting businesses like this and local farmers is an important way to keep a piece of history alive.

Next week I will share some the goodies I make with this wonderful product.

Culture, Food, Winter

Sauerkraut

January 25, 2016

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Every New Year’s Day the aroma of Pork and Sauerkraut wafts through our house. Pork and Sauerkraut is a longstanding German tradition — people around the table wish each other as much goodness and money as there are strands of cabbage in the sauerkraut — and my husband Dan, who was raised Pennsylvania Dutch, carries on that tradition.

We start in late fall, my favorite time of year. Nice nip in the air, still finding some tomatoes and late summer goodies, but also starting to get greens, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Most of the cabbage we can get goes to sauerkraut.

Making sauerkraut is a pretty simple procedure, largely slicing and pounding. We usually start with 5 pounds or so of cabbage. You can slice the cabbage into ribbons with a sharp knife, or use a mandolin or food processor. I prefer the knife because I like the rustic texture of the less than perfect slices. Once the cabbage is sliced, mix it with Kosher salt at a ratio of three tablespoons per 5 pounds of cabbage. Allow the cabbage to rest for a while after adding the salt so that the salt can draw out some of the water.

Next, you move the salted cabbage to a large container. We use earthenware crocks which you can easily purchase online, but you could also use a mason jar or other large container. On occasion, Dan has even used the plastic buckets he used for fermenting beer. (Note: if you use a plastic bucket, make sure it is food grade) Add a bit of the cabbage at a time, in layers. You will need to pound the cabbage as you go to release the liquid. On the farm where Dan grew up, they had a special pounding stick. Dan uses his fist, but a potato masher would also do nicely. The idea is to release enough moisture to cover the cabbage. Once the container is full, you will need a weight of some sort to ensure the cabbage stays submerged under the liquid. Our crocks come with a disk-shaped stone, but a dinner plate weighed down by a clean brick or stone would also work.

Put a lid on you container and wait about six weeks. You can taste it along the way, if you like, or if you are like Dan, just forget about it and let it do its thing. Don’t worry if you see a little funky stuff on top; just skim it off and keep fermenting. In Six weeks: sauerkraut!

Now that your sauerkraut is ready, how do you eat it? Here is Dan’s New Years Day recipe.

Dan’s New Years Day Pork and Sauerkraut

We do this in a crockpot, or slow cooker, set at 12 hours so that the liquid from the sauerkraut has plenty of time to braise the pork

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of fatty pork ribs (if you can’t find ribs, some fatty chops will do)
  • 2 quarts of your sauerkraut
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • ½ of a large onion
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 tablespoon of either caraway or fennel seeds (your choice)

Method:

  • Brown your pork 2-3 minutes each side
  • Dump 1 quart of your kraut in the slow cooker
  • Top with ½ of your onion, brown sugar,apple and seeds
  • Do the same with the other quart
  • Put you cooker on low for 10-12 hours and let it go

You can make a fine dish out of it as is. Dan always serves it on top of mashed potatoes.

Resources

When it comes to fermenting food, we are big fans of Sandor Katz. His book, The Art of Fermentation is a tremendous resource. Here’s a short you-tube video of his that serves as a good overview of fermentation basics.