SAVE THAT ‘OL HAM BONE

hambone

 

It’s been weeks since Easter but today I re-enjoyed the fruits of my spiral sliced Easter ham. Well, technically it was my daughters ham since she had invited me over for dinner but let’s not split hairs here on ownership. Besides, I ended up with the ham bone when I realized she was about to throw it away so I rescued it.

Upon returning home, I immediately wrapped and froze it.

Today during my hunt for some breakfast vittles I spied that ‘ol ham bone (it actually called my name from the freezer and called out, “eat me!”).

My first thought in rescuing the ham was to cut off as much usable large pieces of meat from it and save the rest for bean soup. (somewhere in my blog I’m sure I have a recipe for bean soup, if not, shame on me!) By the time I prepped everything, the ham bone was still partially frozen so I had a bit more difficulty in saving the nice spiral hunks clinging to it. Frustrated by my ineptness that early in the morning (5:30 am) I decided to just strip the bone bare as possible and grind like hamburger whatever meat I could glean from it.

That ham bone produced a whopping 2.5  pounds of incredibly delicious  ground ham! And to think it was destined for the trash bin!

Below is a pictorial of making one of the most delicious breakfast I’ve enjoyed since moving here to the desert of Arizona.

My nearly 4 pound rescued ham bone

My nearly 4 pound rescued ham bone

Chopped up and ready for the grinder

Chopped up and ready for the grinder. Notice how much smaller the bone is now.

My 30 year old KitchenAid

My 30 year old KitchenAid

I have to hand it to the KitchenAid folks, the hopper is just the right size

I have to hand it to the KitchenAid folks, the hopper is just the right size

Using the small hole plate and cutter blade, the ham quickly ground into a perfect blend of high quality ham fat and meat.

Using the small hole plate and cutter blade, the ham quickly ground into a perfect blend of high quality ham fat and meat. Opps, sorry about the blurriness, my bad.

I recovered 2.5 pounds of delicious meat and fat from that 'ol bone!

I recovered 2.5 pounds of delicious meat and fat from that ‘ol bone!

Bagged by the pound

Bagged by the pound

With the ground ham all fried up to my liking, I throw in a couple of eggs and mix it all together.

With the ground ham all fried up to my liking, I throw in a couple of eggs and mix it all together.

A couple of slices of my home made bread to toast makes for a great breakfast sandwich (the recipe for this bread is located in an earlier post in this blog).

A couple of slices of my home made bread to toast makes for a great breakfast sandwich (the recipe for this bread is located in an earlier post in this blog).

I added a slab of cheddar to it all and had a very fine breakfast... and still have enough for at least 10 more breakfast sandwiches too boot!

I added a slab of cheddar to it all and had a very fine breakfast… and still have enough for at least 10 more breakfast sandwiches too boot!

A note of caution... after grinding and washing, soak or spray all the parts in bleach water for 5 minutes before packing the grinder away. Better safe than sorry.

A note of caution… after grinding and washing, soak or spray all the parts in bleach water for 5 minutes before packing the grinder away. Better safe than sorry.

 

 

 

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Oh the humanity!

I was recently given an early Christmas gift from a friend.

As you know from reading this blog that I hold cast iron cookware way above any other type made. It is the most versatile of all cookware. No other type of cookware is generally passed down from generation to generation as cast iron cookware is. OK, in France, copperware is regarded as the chefs choice but let’s be honest here, has anything in France ever been worth passing down from generation to generation?

Let’s take a quick peek at famous French products before going back to today’s post. There is of course;

CARS: Citroen, Peugeot and Renault. Whew! Real collector items here. Don’t pass any of ’em down to me!

 AVIATION: Eurocopter. Sure we see tons of ‘em flying around here…Not!

WRITING: Bic pens. OK, if I want a cheap disposable pen I’ll buy a Bic.

PEST CONTROL: W. A. Flick. Is this where they got the term, Flick of a Bic?

COMPUTER HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE: Ingenico. I didn’t see any at Best Buy recently.

WATER: Evian, Perrier. (only because you can’t safely drink French tap water)

True, there are numerous clothing designers and toiletries made in France but I’ve yet to see good old  rugged Carhartts or Old Spice being worn by Parisians.  I think it’s too manly for Frenchmen, it gives them hives on their sensitive skin.

So, lets agree we could survive without French copper cookware too.

Now, back to today’s post…

While I tried my best on the outside to appear pleased, inside I was horrified! To me I was holding a Stradivarius violin that had been turned into an ash tray. Let me explain. Look at the Photo below.

What a quaint photo of an old time kitchen…permanently decoupaged onto the bottom!  It would have been OK with me if the photo of the old kitchen  had been decoupaged on an old place mat or even a Museum’s Claude Monet painting but on a GRISWOLD cast iron skillet? No way Jose’ !

Just look at what they ruined. A real Griswold from the early 1900’s is a rare collectors item. Definitely worth passing down. A close up of the pan shows their trademark grinding skills. It was this incredible surface grinding that eventually led to today’s non stick cookware.

After World War ll, aluminum was plentiful. It seemed everything was being made out of it. Pots and pans did not escape this transition. Cast iron cookware was out of vogue. Too heavy, black instead of shiny silver and it heated and cooled quickly.  (Aluminum is now being investigated for the increase in Alzheimer’s disease but that’s another story.)

So what could be better than an aluminum skillet coated in Teflon? Why not just cook in toxic waste?

Poor old cast iron. All it’s wondrous properties were nearly forgotten until it was discovered that Teflon coated (PTFE) cookware releases toxic fumes at as little as 395 degrees and has been proven to kill household pet birds. At 500 degrees, humans become ill. Now you know why the art of cooking at high temperatures has nearly disappeared too. When I lived in the Florida Keys, my favorite restaurant (besides my own) had an outdoor kitchen. The outdoor kitchen was used to cook up many Caribbean recipes under extreme temperatures, including Blackened Fish!

 Now pay attention here  because you’re about to get an outdoor cooking lesson.

You have to get your cast iron skillet red hot! Really, really hot! Then toss in a hunk of butter. Instantly, an immense amount smoke starts to billow up. That’s when you drop in a thick hunk of Mahi mahi (Dolphin to us Floridians) on top of the smoking butter. Count to 18. At 18 flip the fish over on the other side and count to 18 again. It’s now 100% DONE! Get it out of the frying pan and onto a plate. That is real heritage cooked Blackened fish! You can add ‘blackened seasoning’ if you wish but you won’t be needing it. Just a light sprinkle of ground Cheyenne, habanero or if you’re really nuts, a Caribbean ghost pepper will add the extra heat you like.

If you cooked this fish indoors on a Teflon non stick pan, you very well could have been rushed to the hospital. Non stick cookware is so common today that it’s the main reason most recipes produced by corporation kitchens recommend ‘medium low to medium high pan temperature that never goes beyond 440 degrees. (PTFE as stated earlier, non stick cookware can kill birds at 395 degrees because they release toxic fumes beginning at that temp ). If you have the ability to cook outdoors, try cooking some recipes that require extreme heat to cook by in your cast iron skillet. You’d be surprised just what a difference it makes.

While Griswold cast iron cookware is again being manufactured today, they do not hold a candle to the old ones of yesteryear. I will hang this pan up somewhere so my friend will see it on visiting. To me though, it’s kind of like stuffing your pet after it gives up the ghost and putting it in its bed. Creepy!

Now please excuse me, I need to begin my grieving process. I’ll start by lighting a candle in memory of all the wonderful meals this innocent pan provided to an individual who cruelly turned it into a proverbial ashtray.

 

   

Heritage no knead Dutch oven bread

Dutch oven no knead bread is a true heritage bread.

It’s been a bit since I’ve wrote about cast iron cookware, so I thought I’d continue my past post by talking about it now.

One of the best things about Heritage trail cooking is the ability to make incredibly good tasting food from scratch. It’s really a thrill to have someone comment on how surprised they are. Most folks assume outdoor cooking cannot compete with the precision of indoor cooking. For instance, take this no knead bread recipe. Most folks would assume there’d be burnt crust or soggy insides. Well, maybe the first couple times it might look pretty unusual but the taste would still come through the ugly end of it. This recipe lets you practice indoors under a controlled situation. Practice makes perfect.

My desire in teaching you all this trail cooking and such is to get you to be able to survive in case a gas or electric stove is not available. I’m not a doomsday person so much as a believer that if I was ever put in a situation (unlike those folks in NJ for instance, I’d still be puttin’ out some mighty fine dinners on what I could scrape together).

I believe every cook should have the skills to survive in any situation. My great grandfather and grandfather were honest to gosh mountain men. They trapped for the Canadian  Hudson Bay fur company in Montana and Idaho. Those skills did not die with them, they passed down a lot of their ‘living off the land’ knowledge to their kids and us grand kids. learning to survive off the land does not start with hunting or trapping. It starts with learning what to cook and how to cook it.

So, try out this recipe and when you get it down, do it for your friends, they’ll wonder what else you’re hiding from them!

The time required for the recipe is about 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising.

Ingredients:

• 3 – 3 1/2 cups of any sort of flour plus a bit more for dusting. Start with 3, add more if needed
• 1¼ teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 envelope (¼ ounce) of yeast
• 1½ cups very warm water (not hot but around 120-125 degrees)

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. If mixing by hand, use a large bowl and a strong wooden spoon to mix the dry ingredients.
    2. Turn mixer to speed 2 and mix about 1 minute or by hand until well blended.
    3. Gradually add very warm water ( 120º F works well)  and continue to mix.
    4. Stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky.
    5. Continue to mix well until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
    6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
    7. Let dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature. the dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
    8. Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice.
    9. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
    10. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.
    11. Generously coat a smooth cotton towel or bakers cloth with flour.
    12. Put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour.
    13. Cover with another similar cotton towel and let the dough rise for about 2 hours until doubled.
    14. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 500° F. (see note below for outdoor campfire cooking)
    15. Place your 6 – to 8quart  cast iron Dutch oven with its lid on into the oven.
    16. When dough is ready, carefully remove your hot Dutch oven from the oven using a pair of good oven mitts. Place lid temporarily on a trivet or the stove top.
    17. Remove your mitts and slide your hand under the towel and turn dough over into your Dutch oven, seam side up. Now put your mitts back on!
    18. Cover with lid and bake 35 minutes.
    19. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven by turning it upside down on your towel or let it cool on a rack with one of the cotton towels covering it for at least 1 hour before slicing. (The towel will slow the escaping moister, leaving your bread soft and chewy.)

Chalk another one up on your trail cooking skills!

Note for outdoor cooking. Preheat your cast iron Dutch oven on the campfire by placing the oven over a large bed of hot coals. Place a heaping amount of coals in the lids top.

You can use charcoal briquettes too. See the chart below.

When hot, remove your Dutch oven from the deep bed of hot coals using the handle and your mitts or use your lifter. Use your lid lifter to remove the lid.

Wear mitts when doing this!

Make sure you place the lid on a clean surface, (but not a picnic table or anything else that can be damaged by heat!  A log works well for this).

Place your dough in the Dutch oven as listed above. Before placing your Dutch oven over the coals, rake them a bit smoother than pre heating. Bake as above. Check after 25 minutes.

Those darn grey, mushy hash browns!

You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig!

Hash browns can test the sand of any trail cook or home chef. For years I fought with mushy, grey looking hash browns as I tried to get them to look like the greasy spoon would make down the road. It was pretty frustrating to be sure. In fact, I became so adept at trashing my hash browns that I switched to cooking only home fries!

I tried everything. I’d heard of folks pressing raw and cooked spuds through a mechanical ricer, micro waving ‘em before frying, boiling ‘em before shredding, using butter to fry in, drying them in paper towels and oven roasting ‘em before frying. I even found out my neighbor used to run down to the greasy spoon, get a herd of hash browns to go, then place them on his family’s plates alongside their eggs and sausages. He was smart, he admitted the elusive hash brown had defeated him and was now just going with the flow. None of those tricks worked for me and I bet you all found out the same thing too. No matter what I tried, I still ended up with a grey, sticky slop. Does this sound familiar to you? What was worse is that I grew up on an Idaho potato farm in Jerome so I out’a know how to cook them, right? Not necessarily, we grew the famous thick skinned, high glycerin, high starch Idaho russet potato. To make matters worse, by now I owned and was the cook in my own restaurant.

Since my restaurant did not serve breakfast, I was still ignorant of proper hash brown cooking. My break came when I stopped in at the greasy spoon up the road for breakfast one day and got into a conversation about cooking difficult recipes with its owner. I explained my hash brown problem and had to ask, “What in Sam Hill am I doing wrong? I’ve tried cooking them using every trick in the book and they are nothing like yours!”

He said it wasn’t necessarily the way I was frying them  but WHAT  I was frying that was the problem.

I responded, “But I’m frying potatoes, what should I fry instead, shredded watermelon rinds?”

“No! just change your potato, that’s all!”

He told me that what I needed instead of using a starchy russet potato, was to use a potato grown largely in the eastern half of the country. My answer to my problem he vowed was to use the waxy or thin skinned low starch potato.

“But every recipe I’ve read calls for russets and that the waxy potato is no good for frying. Now you’re telling me it is?”

“Yes, but only when it comes to pan and not deep frying. ”

I knew that choosing the right type of potato to cook dinners with can make or break a dish. For instance, making a stew and using a russet and not a waxy potato ends up being a mushy disaster. On the other hand, using a waxy potato to make mashed potatoes is useless. Why???

Potatoes fall into one of two categories — mealy or waxy.

Mealy potatoes (Some of the names you’ll see them under in the supermarket are Idaho’s, Russet,  Burbanks, Russet Arcadia, Norgold Russet, Goldrush, Norkotah and Long White.) have are thick skinned and have a high starch content, but they’re low in moisture and sugar.

Waxy potatoes (red, new) are just the opposite. They’re high in moister, high in sugar but low in starch and have a thin skin. You will find them sold as Round White, Round Red, Yellow Potato, Red skin Potato and Salad Potato).

There is a third type but I don’t use them much. These are an all purpose middle of the road potato. I choose to use the correct potato for the job and achieve great results rather than settle for an all purpose potato and achieve just, OK results. Some of these potatoes are named, Yukon Gold, Peruvian Blue, Superior and Kennebec.

An easy way to tell the difference between the two main types is; Waxy potatoes have a thin skin, Starchy or Mealy potatoes have a thick skin.

Waxy potatoes are an excellent choice for roasting, sautéing and boiling. They make great soups, casseroles, home fries and hash browns because of their tendency to hold their shape. Waxy potatoes are also used in cold potato salad and scalloped or cheddar au gratin potatoes. Their low starch content and cellular makeup helps them maintain their shape long after they’re cooked.

Mealy or starchy potatoes are best for baking and deep-frying. Because they’re low in sugar, they can be deep fried long enough to cook fully in the center without burning the outside with black streaks. They’re also the best choice for mashed potatoes because they fall apart easily when they’re boiled. Because they are a starchier potato with a loose cellular structure, they fluff up much better than a waxy potato.

So now that you have a head full of potato knowledge go ahead and make your perfect hash browns. Just remember, use the correct potato in all your recipes and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Oh, and about internet web sites on cooking hash browns. You will find almost each will start out saying “Shred a Russet potato…”  THEY’RE WRONG!!!

Here’s the recipe I now use for my hash browns. As verified by the photos, you’ll see they are no longer grey, mushy or gooey but just right!

                                         Restaurant quality hash brown potatoes are just below the photo’s

Peel your potatoes. I use red skins.

Shred them using a cheese grater

Put shredded potatoes into a large pot or bowl then fill with water

Aggressively swish potatoes around. Note the starchy water

Drain the potatoes using a colander and repeat process by changing water 3-4 times until water remains clear

After giving a final rinse (pictured above) use your hand to squash the potatoes to remove excess water

If you are adding onions ( I do) dice them up and add them to the colander of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper at this time

Verify that your oil is up to temperature. Place a shred or two near the edge where it is coolest. It should immediately and violently begin to bubble.

Carefully place a handful of shreds in the oil. Once partway cooked, you can add another pile to the other side

Flatten pile using a spatula

When crispy, your hash browns will flip, more or less, in one piece

Each pile is cooking but at different times. This allows more ‘doneness’ control over each

My herd of hash browns are done. I place them in my counter top convection toaster oven to keep warm while I continue to cook the rest of the breakfast. *

* Note on counter top convection ovens.

I purchased this Oster extra large convection toaster oven from Wal-Mart for less than $100. It uses much less electricity than my large oven. I questioned whether or not it could perform any where near as well as my Whirlpool ‘Gold series’ Accu-bake oven does. It does!

I bake prefect bread, muffins, pizza, flat breads and more in it. I rarely give a product endorsement but in this case I will. It is worth every penny I spent.

Ingredients:

3-5 medium potatoes (approximately 3 cups shredded).

1 medium sweet onion.

1/2 tsp. salt then salt further  to taste if desired when eating.

1/4 tsp. pepper then pepper further to taste if desired when eating.

Add at least 1-2 Tbsp. butter or margarine to vegetable oil. (hash browns should be cooked in oil 1/8 – 1/4  inch deep to cook completely all the way through).

Directions:

Wash and peel the waxy (not russets) potatoes.

Use a cheese grater to shred the potatoes then place the shredded potatoes into a large bowl or pot.

Fill the pot or bowl full of water, stir aggressively by hand and empty the water by pouring the potatoes into a colander. Repeat this process until the water remains clear when agitated. (three or four times) This will remove most of the starch which causes hash browns to become gummy, mushy and grey looking.

Rinse the grated potato under cool water one last time in the colander. Press down, shake and press down again to remove excess water. Fluff and repeat . (Too much water will cause to hash browns to stick onto the bottom of the frying pan).

Dice the sweet onion and add to the colander of potatoes, mixing well. Add the salt the pepper and mix again thoroughly.

Bring to temperature the butter and oil combination in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the skillet is hot, (not smoking) add the potato mixture. Once your potatoes are frying, turn the temperature down to medium. (Test your oil first by dropping a few potato sprigs into the pan. The sprigs should immediately and almost violently begin to bubble and boil).

Using a spatula, flatten  the pile of potatoes to desired thickness.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the bottom gets pretty crispy; about 10 minutes.

Flip the hash brown with the spatula, if too big, separate it into equal parts. Allow the other side to cook until very crispy; about 8-10 minutes.

Repeat this cooking process until all the shredded  potatoes are used. Potatoes that are not thoroughly cooked will hold oil, make sure the top and bottoms are nice and crispy.

Remove them from skillet, place the photo perfect potatoes on your plate and enjoy ’em!

A heritage idea that is making a big comeback… Homemade almond milk!

In my last trip to the Library in Fort Pierce (No, Google doesn’t know everything!), I ran across a story of a family that settled the area I live in. The story begins well before and continues sometime after the Civil War.Inside the book was not only a history of what settlers went through but contained such things as how to make a mosquito broom out of palm fronds, recipes and other little known tidbits.

I like scouring through old stories because they are a goldmine of Heritage Recipe information. I was fascinated reading how after the railroad arrived, ice blocks became available and how such a simple thing we take for granted today, revolutionized their lives down here (what would they have done if they had air conditioning?) . Before the coming of ice, the heat and humidity down here in Florida would render most fresh food to a state of spoilage overnight. That definitely included fresh milk!

Cattle here were called ‘Cracker Cows’ and they are the oldest of all breeds here in the United States. That and the wild boar were the meat staples for the time. The Spanish brought the cattle here in the 1500’s. Here, as they were in Spain, the breed was a gentle and social breed having a desire to stay close to humans. The only problem was, the cattle loved the taste of our Saw Palmetto and Sago Palm brush.  In order to round up the cattle, this meant rooting the cattle out from this near impenetrable vegetation. Because the cattle were so gentle, the Spanish found that by cracking their whips over the tops of the brush, the cattle would think they were being attacked and head out into the open to defend themselves. Never was the actual cow whipped. While the cattle loved eating this growth, it was also home to panthers, wild boars and bears. The cattle knew better than to try and defend itself against a predator within the confines of the brush, so out into the open they’d come.

After the Spanish left Florida due to British insistence, they left behind vast herds of Cracker Cattle. Our early settlers here soon discovered these cattle freely roaming around and found by using their whips they could control the cattle as the Spanish did . These cowboys were America’s first true cattle cowboys and acquired the name “Cracker Cowboys” from the sound of their whips. Their specially bred and trained horses became known as “Cracker Horses” and are still being bred today.

But this is not a story of Cracker Cattle but one of milk… or actually, the lack of it.

Before ice, cow and goat milk had to be drank or used in baking while it was still fresh. There was no saving it for another day. Spoiled milk not only tasted bad but was a perfect medium for bacterial and germ growth. Milk was needed in emergencies for babies and in everyday baking. So what was a mother to do?

The answer was growing in right front of their noses. Nuts…or rather, nut milk!

The South is famous for its nut trees but long before Christ was walking about, the Mideastern countries were making milk from almonds. Later, returning soldiers from the Crusades brought the concept of nut milk back to England and France with them. From there all of Europe and eventually the United States were turning almonds into a delicious drink that would still be drinkable a day later.

In my library trip, I discovered many folks down here had substituted nut milk for that of cows milk. In fact, two early Cracker recipes I ran across actually listed nut milk in their ingredients. Early Crackers lived a very frugal and sparse lifestyle. If you Google them they are a fascinating people.  Contrary to the popular belief of some writers, the Cracker is still alive and well. They still ride Cracker horses, raise Cracker cattle and have a language that is able to travel long distances through the high brush. It consist of whistles and hoots that few outsiders know about. I personally know this to be true because I lived along side of them as friends and neighbors when I lived in the Everglades just south of Lake Okeechobee.

So why am I putting a recipe for nut (Almond) milk in my Heritage and trail cooking blog? Because it more than many other recipes is a true Heritage recipe! I later learned that many of our early American settlers and pioneers made their own nut milk. With the advent of refrigeration and pasteurized milk, nut milks lost favor for that of convenience.

An added bonus is after making your milk, you are left with what is called Almond Meal. Almond Meal is Gluten free and will take the place of whole wheat flour in most any baking recipe. I’ll add a photo of it below at the end of this post.

I’m giving you a recipe that makes  over (3) three quarts. This amount last me about a week. I will also give the recipe for 1 quart below the 3 quart one.

Note; You must soak the almonds overnight in water to soften and hydrate (swell) them .

Fill to 1 inch over almonds. Change the water a couple of times. Drain completely before putting almonds into blender.

Ingredients; (for making 3 quarts)

2 cups of raw and shelled almonds (they will swell to over 3 cups after soaking)

3 cups of water for each cup soaked and swelled  almonds (makes 9 cups of milk)

2 Tablespoons of honey

1 Tablespoon of light corn syrup

1 teaspoon of vanilla

½ teaspoon of salt

Ingredients for 1 quart;

1 cup of raw shelled almonds (they will swell to almost 1 1/2 cups after soaking)

3 cups of water

½ Tablespoon of honey

1/2 Tablespoon of light corn syrup

1/4 to ½ teaspoon of vanilla

 ¼ teaspoon of salt

—————————

You will also need.

1 measuring cup

A cheesecloth or large dish towel

A colander

A large 4 quart pot

A spatula

A clean milk jug or 1 gallon pitcher with a lid

A funnel

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

I purchase a 3 pound bag from a big box store here for under $9. I get about 3 gallons to a 3 pound bag. That brings the cost down to less than a dollar a quart.

There is not a lot of ingredients needed

Directions;

Note, your almonds have swelled after soaking. For the single cup, use the entire amount, for the 3 quart amount, divide your almonds into three separate amounts.

Set up your Pot, colander and filter cloth as in the picture below.

In a blender, pour in the desired amount of soaked almonds and fill with 3 cups of water then blend on high for 2 ½ minutes.

Pour blended nuts into filter cloth. (your colander will tend to have its center holes get plugged up by the almond meal filled cloth. Place a spoon between the cloth and the colander bottom to allow drainage. )

When fairly drained, pull up the sides of the cloth without spilling any meal into the colander and twist until a ball filled with almond meal is formed. Squeeze the ball tightly until no more milk seeps from it. Save the almond meal!

Repeat this process until all almonds have been blended and turned into milk.

Remove cloth and colander.

Stir the Honey, Corn Syrup, Vanilla and salt into the pot of milk

 I pasteurize my almond milk, it’s easy and makes for a safe bacteria and germ free drink.

(Heat milk over low heat.  145 degrees for 30 minutes. Stirring often. Do not boil or heat above 145 degrees)

To pasteurize; 145 degrees for 30 minutes

Pour hot contents into a BPA free pitcher or jug and refrigerate immediately. When chilled its as good as any that’s store bought !

Remember, this is a natural product with no added  artificial homogenizing agents in it, so over time some settling will occur. Before using, stir or shake container lightly to remix its contents evenly.

Sometimes after pasteurizing almond milk, you will find it has become thick (thicker than whole milk) in its consistency. To thin it down without losing any flavor, simply add cold clean water to it in small amounts until you find your desired taste and consistency.  By pasteurizing your milk, its taste also becomes more creamy than water like. Remember, do NOT  exceed 145 degrees as it will definitely thicken! Many online recipes skip the process of pasteurization so it’s up to you whether or not to pasteurize.  I pasteurize all of mine because I live in South Florida where there is a multitude of air born bacteria, yeast and fungi due to the high heat and humidity. Try it both ways and see which suits your taste best:)

Don’t throw it away! The left over Almond meal is a great Gluten free substitute for whole wheat flour!!! I freeze mine in marked 3 cup bags.

Everything you wanted to know about Dutch ovens (but were afraid of having nightmares)

No modern alloy metal or non stick pan can hold a candle to old fashioned cast iron cookware

2nd in a series on cast iron cooking-

I guess the best place to start this blog is to describe what a Dutch oven is and what it’s used for. Since many folks have little knowledge of the Dutch oven let’s then assume you don’t own one.

If you do own one and never use it, then kick out the plant growing in it and give it a good washing. After it regains some of its original self esteem, re season it using the method I describe in an earlier post in this blog called “Cast iron cookware, the cooks holy grail.”

First, lets let’s describe what Dutch oven is.

Think of a heavy cast iron stock pot with a cast iron lid and you’re pretty close to what it looks like.

Q.  Why do some have legs, others none and some have lids with raised rims on them and others not?

A.  That’s because there are ‘indoor’ or flat surface and outdoor Dutch ovens.

Q.  How does a Dutch oven work?

A.   Think of your oven at home. It is a self contained total surround cooking area. A Dutch oven works in a similar fashion. Being able to have its bottom, sides and top radiating heat from all places at once, the food inside is cooked from all directions in an equal temperature. Thus the reason it is called an oven.

Note the legs, lid dimples, raised lid rim to hold hot coals and the handle on this outdoor Dutch oven.

Legs are handy if you’re cooking outdoors on an open fire. Hot coals can be bunched up underneath and having three stubby legs gives it a pretty solid stance on a not so level surface. Outdoor style Dutch ovens usually have a lid with a raised lip on it. That one inch lip allows you to place hot coals on its lid without the coals falling back into the fire or the insides when you lift the lid to check on the food inside.        The coals underneath and on those placed on its top is why the Dutch oven is called an oven and not a pot. It is one of the few true baking tools that don’t need an oven. (Cast iron skillets with a lid can bake but need to be placed inside an oven for even heating).

An outdoor oven should not be used indoors. The legs will prevent the bottom from being heated if you have it on top of an electric stove. On a gas stove, the burner grate will get in the way of the legs and it can tip causing spills.

Typical flat bottomed indoor Dutch oven with rounded lid. Note the handles are made to accept a hanger.

The indoor or flat surface Dutch ovens have no legs. This style can also be used as an outdoor oven if you’re careful in placing it on the coals. Many indoor and outdoor Dutch ovens have tabs on the rim so the oven can be hung over an open fire using a tripod stand as shown below. Since an indoor Dutch oven can be placed within a gas or an electric stoves oven, there is no need for a lid with a raised lid to hold hot coals. Older manufactured Dutch ovens had lids with dimples in the inside of them. This allowed for self basting. Many newer Dutch ovens no longer have these.  😥


Quality;

Before purchasing your Dutch oven, read the earlier post here on cast iron cookware.

Then, before throwing your cash or credit card at the sales clerk inspect the thing! Look for loose fitting lids, or lids that are not completely flush with the edge of the pot section.

Check for uneven wall and lid thickness. An uneven casting will not cook evenly. Most good ovens have a wire bail handle attached to the pot section and a loop handle on the lid for easy lifting. Many newer ovens no longer have these, forget it and look for another one that does. The finish should not be extremely rough, especially on the inside and free of any scaling. All the casting seams should be ground smooth without any sharp edges.

Lastly, examine the origin of the Dutch oven. Foreign imports for the most part, use a lower quality of cast iron and have more defects than domestic ones. In my post on cast iron cookware, I go into this in more detail, I recommend you read it. I highly recommend you search for all of your cast iron cookware including your Dutch oven, at antique dealers, estate sales, yard sales, rummage sales … anywhere that you have the possibility of finding older American made cast iron cookware. While visiting my daughter in AZ this summer, I stopped at a number of “old west thrift stores” and “miscellaneous vintage” roadside sales places. There I found incredible deals on some of the finest cookware American foundry’s ever produced. I Found names like Griswold, Miami, Wagner Ware, Wapak, Herters, G Barthel Norma, Lesauveur Rechaud Pigeon, Scranton Stove Works, Lodge, Western foundry and Stover. Any of these cast iron cookware implements would be a honor to own and cook with.

Accessories

OK, you now own and / or have re seasoned you your cast iron cookware. What else do you need to compliment it?

Gloves. Many folks go and buy leather work gloves. I never recommend leather for this reason alone. Once leather gets heated to a certain point, it transfers that scalding heat quickly to your skin.

I one was at a ‘Chefs cook off’ to help raise funds for a local battered women’s shelter. (Note; You western men know how a woman is to be treated so get off your high horse and start acting like it!)

But I digress. The fellow Trail cook next to me started making fun of my yellow Kevlar cooking gloves. He held up his gauntlet style thick leather welding gloves and proudly told me, “These is what a real man uses to cook with, not them sissy city thangs you got there.”

Now I am the furthest looking thing from being a sissy. 6’2”, nice western bow mustache, 270 pounds and an evil eye that at a cutting glance can punch new holes in leather belts when needed.  So naturally my ire was hefted a bit.

So I told him, “Hey my friend, let’s make a wager, Ten dollars says I can hold onto my hot frying skillet here for a longer time wearin’ my gloves that you can wearin’ yours.”

“Ten? Make that fifty an’ you got yourself a bet!”

Not two minutes later he set his down, ripped off his leather glove and wrapped his hand around a ice cold soda can from his cooler. I not only continued to hold onto my skillet but moved my hand from the handle to the actual sides of the pan and held it up to him while smiling. He got the idea, I got fifty bucks!

Another thing you need is a lid lifter. Anyone who’s ever cooked on an old wood cook stove like mama had, knows you never touch a stove tops ‘eye’ without a lid lifter. The same goes for pot lids.

A trivet is also good thing to have. It’s a cast iron circle with nubby legs on it to set your hot pots on. It prevents leaving burn marks on your counter tops.

Lastly, get a good strong pair of long handled tongs. I’d recommend getting them at a restaurant supply house or online at a supply site. Forget those ones in the grocery store, they’re too cheap.

Temperature  

How to get the right temperature to cook with.

A fellow cast iron aficionado has a web site that explains it better than I can, so I went ahead and copied his method to explain all this to you.

  “On the kitchen oven is a really cool dial. I turn it to 350 and trust that the oven will heat up to and remain at 350 degrees. I put in the food, set the timer, and go do something productive. When camp cooking in the outdoors, there’s a bit more hit-or-miss.
On my Dutch oven, there’s no dial, nothing to tell me how hot the oven is. Since cooking food at a fairly consistent and known temperature is important for success, there are 3 ways I know of for estimating temperature. Depending on your skill level and how you’ll be cooking, one of them should work for you.

Also keep in mind that there are many environmental factors that will influence your oven temperature. Wind might blow heat away; colder air temperature, higher humidity and higher elevation reduce heat generated by coals; direct sunlight makes a black oven a bit hotter. You might consider making an aluminum foil wind shield to place around your oven, but if it is that windy, I would recommend you not have an open fire.”

“Nearly all dutch oven cooking will come out ok if your Dutch oven is about 350 degrees. Some things should be cooked hotter and some cooler, but that’s the temperature for all recipes that fail to include a temperature suggestion.”

Hand test


“Use your hand to feel the heat. Of course, every person has a different sensitivity to heat but this works well for me. Just remove the lid from the Dutch oven and place your hand just above or just inside the oven. Count how many seconds you can keep your hand there before it gets too hot.

 It is about 50 degrees per second counting down from 550, so I just count – “550, and 500, and 450, and 400, and 350, and 300, …”.

Seconds Temperature

1

500+

2

500

3

450

4

400

5

350

6

300

7

250

8

200

“This is my preferred method. It is consistent and detects temperature instead of estimating the amount of fuel. You do release heat so you need to do the check as quickly as you can.”

Counting Charcoal


“Lots of dutch oven cookbooks tell you how many charcoal briquettes to put under and on top of the oven. This is the easiest way to cook since every coal is similar and consistent. If you are like me and use real wood for your outdoor camp cooking coals, it doesn’t help much. Also, different brands of charcoal give off different amounts of heat. But, let’s say you are going to use charcoal…
The normal formula is to use twice the number of briquettes as the diameter of the oven. For a 12 inch oven, you would use 24 briquettes. Depending on the type of cooking you are doing, you need to make the heat come more from the top or bottom of the oven. For example, too much heat on the bottom will burn bread.
To do this, you place more or less of the briquettes on the lid.”


Here is a simple chart:

Baking Most heat from top so bottom does not burn.
Place 3/4 coals on top and 1/4 underneath.
Roasting Heat comes equally from the top and bottom.
Place 1/2 coals on top and 1/2 underneath.
Stewing, Simmering Most heat is from bottom.
Place 1/4 coals on top and 3/4 underneath.
Frying, Boiling All heat comes from bottom.
Place all coals underneath.

Below is a beginners recipe. I recommend trying simple foods at first, especially like baking goods. You can test them out using your Dutch oven inside your kitchen oven. Set to the correct temperature your recipe calls for. Form more recipes, check some of these in this blog. Don’t forget to research more online, there are great recipes folks have posted for your to try. JW

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS*

2 Cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder plus 1/4 tsp baking soda
4 Tbsp butter or shortening
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

Instructions: Heat Dutch oven to 400 degrees with 3/4 of coals on top.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl.
Cut in small pieces of shortening or butter.
Add milk gradually, stirring until soft dough is formed.
Turn out on a lightly floured board and lightly knead for 30 seconds, enough to shape.
Roll 1/2 inch thick folding the dough over on itself at least four times and cut with open end of tomato paste can.
Place in single layer in Dutch oven.
Bake for 12-15 minutes.

* For these or any recipes, remember to  write down in a log book all your temp and time settings or changes to a recipe for future use.

There is nothing more exciting than showing off your cast iron cooking skills in front of a group of family or friends. When the lid is lifted and that wonderful smelling recipe plows into their nose like a raging bull steam rollers itself into a attention deficit disordered Spanish Matador, you can proudly yell, “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

Trail cooking for the beginner

Trail cooking. Just the sound of that short sentence conjures up visions of cast iron pots strung over a smoky campfire and an old two gallon coffee pot settled onto a bed of hot coals…  at least to me it does.

I once had a previous post on trail cooking on my now deleted Myspace account. Instead of drawing the folks I had intended it for, somehow it drew the back packers crowd. While I have nothing against back packers, it seemed they had ‘green’ issues with me regarding open fires and meat. Since I and my cooking style didn’t fit their mold of what trail cooking is, I received a number of rude and opinionated comments.  So, hopefully those reading this Heritage and trail cooking blog are more attuned to what I consider trail cooking.

First, unlike the back packing crowd, my idea of trail cooking is not cooking rehydrated pouches of pasta alfredo in micro sized aluminum pans over even smaller Swedish alcohol stoves. If yours is, then instead of acting high and mighty and scowling at you, I want to instead educate and teach you about the wonderful world of cooking full meals outdoors while on the move.

In this post, I’m going to show you some handy items for the beginner trail cook. In other post, I’ll go through other great outdoor cooking equipment, how to use them like a pro and give you cooking tips on stews, meats, veggies, biscuits breads and more.

By the time I’ve finished my different post on these subjects, you’ll have enough information to confidently step into the role as a real trail cook.

But first, let’s look at what trail cooking is and give you a beginners guide to some basic equipment.

   Trail cooking is a method of cooking ‘on the run’.

While some ranch cooks have permanent outdoor fire rings with iron pot hanger bars in place (as shown in picture above), we are going to talk about a short term set up. Trail cooking is similar to camp fire cooking except that when you trail cook, you set up your cooking process in a way that you make and store a bulk amount of ingredients for future use while on the move. I’ll explain.

If you are making cowboy beans each night, you would not start from scratch each time you made them. Instead, you would go ahead and prepare a bulk amount of soaked and boiled beans that could last 2-3 days.  Such things like vegetables and spices are not included in the bulk amount being cooked as they are added as each days meal are made.  After the bulk amount of beans are boiled up, the amount you need for future meals is then separated and stored for another days meals. The trick is to store them correctly to inhibit them from turning rancid on you. Boiled beans for instance can be drained fairly dry and stored in cloth sacks for a day or two more with no ill effect. By doing this, you no longer have to do daily overnight soaks and then boil them at each meal until they’re soft.

Sour dough biscuits and breads are another part of the meal that should be set up for multiple days meals. The sour dough starter is made in bulk and a certain amount is then drawn off and added to each batch of fresh dough.

The whole idea of trail cooking is that you can move your camp yet easily set up and quickly start cooking once stopped.

The Chuck Wagon was a portable kitchen that traveled ten to fifteen miles each day.

First things first.

 First the fires. I use two different fire set ups depending on the way I’m cooking and equipment I’m going to use. One is the teepee and the other is the log cabin or criss cross method.  Each fire starts with a center of very flammable material called tinder. This can be paper, or carbonized cloth.* around that material can be loosely placed cardboard, dried grass etc. Then covering that are loosely placed twigs from pencil to finger thickness. (Loosely placed is the prime word here.) From this point you can decide what type of fire you wish to cook on and how big you want it to be.

The first is the Teepee fire. This is a fire that concentrates the flame and heat to a single point located in the center of the fire. Placed on end with all its upper tips meeting in the center above and around the tinder fire, you again start with thinner branches or split wood. Each layer of wood becomes thicker until your pieces are 4-6 inches in diameter. Leave a small opening in the side that leads directly into the center of the tinder area. Using a twig with paper or dried grass wrapped around the end of it, light it and place it into the tinder. Add split wood or logs as needed. This is the quickest to start and hottest form of cook fire. An evening campfire is usually a teepee style.

The second is the criss cross or log cabin fire. Start again with the same tinder method as the teepee fire uses.  Similar to building a cabin with Lincoln logs, build a four square structure using pencil thin twigs,  making sure to lay each twig on the end of the twig next to it. When the height is just above that of your tinder fire place a row of “roof” twigs (pencil to finger thickness)  loosely across the top, like a roof. Place another loosely built wall of twigs and thin branches around the original cabin making sure you leave an entry way intact for lighting your tinder. Each wall of surrounding “Lincoln logs” should be thicker until they reach a 4-6 inch thickness. After lighting, this fire is meant to burn down into a hot burning coal bed. Add to the fire to increase the intensity of the hot coals by laying consecutive thin and thick pieces of firewood flat across the fire being sure not to add too many too quickly or you could smother your fire. As mentioned, by building this type of fire, a very thick, hot and long lasting bed of coals are made.

When you deem the fire is ready, just rake the coals somewhat level.  you can place your cooking equipment, and certain foods directly onto the coals. This type of fire has many uses. It provides a flatter surface for Dutch ovens, frying pans, coffee pots and other equipment that cannot be hung over the fire.

                                                                             

The basic grill.  There are again two types of grills I use. One is the above pictured stationary grill on legs and the second is a great little adjustable grill shown further down. I’ve even seen folks use old oven racks as grills as shown below.

The best way to use a flat grill without legs is to set it on top of two large opposing logs with the fire in between the two logs. This not only holds the grill level and in place but reflects the heat into the center of the fire. Rocks can also be used but never use rocks taken from the water, they can explode when water that has soaked into the rock turns into steam.

The adjustable grill. This is my favorite all purpose grill. It’s mounted on an iron rod hammered into the ground and held in place with an attached clamp. Being mounted on the rod allows the grill to be easily moved up and down and rotated away from over the fire. No more burning heat hitting your face when trying to remove your cooked food. Just rotate it 180 degrees away from the fire.

It will hold most frying pans, coffee pots or you can cook directly on top of it. Potatoes, corn on the cob and even hot dogs, burgers and steaks cook easily on it. It dismantles and can be stored in its flat box. This inexpensive trail cooking tool is a must in my book.

Finally, there are some optional pieces of equipment that are real handy if you are serving up food for a crowd but not necessary if you’re just a handful of hungry folks. I’ll go into further detail on these pieces of equipment in an upcoming Dutch Oven post. Below I’ve posted some pictures of these. They include a four legged Dutch oven cooking set, a coffee tilter and pot hanger. Other minor but handy stuff to have on hand are long handle tongs, a long handled basting brush, a iron lid lifter and gloves. I do not recommend using leather as heat transfers through leather quickly. Instead, I use Kevlar oven gloves.

With the increased interest in self sufficiency and return to heritage cooking, trail cooking is an important skill to learn. Many web sites have great recipes for this type of cooking and give great tips.  If anything,  a few tries will sharpen your outdoor cooking skills and give your ego a boost when you cook up a storm of great tasting meals for your friends.

* How to make Carbon cloth. Take a 4-6 inch flat can that has a screw on lid on it. Using a nail, punch a hole or two in the top of the lid. Place some pieces of old cloth (6″ X 6″) into the can and screw the lid back on. Place the can over a campfire. You will see smoke coming from the vent holes. When smoking stops, remove the can and let it completely cool down. Once cool, unscrew the lid and you will find pure carbon cloth. It is very flammable when struck by a match or spark and can be safely kept right in the can you baked it in.

(Some photos were blatantly stolen from Google images. What? You think that horrible picture of the hot dogs on the oven rack is me?)