Modernizing Markham Now Available as a Book!

There has been a bit of radio silence on the blog for a few months, but with very good reason: I’ve just published Modernizing Markham as a book! For those who aren’t familiar with that project, MM is my food and book history blog, where I try to recreate early modern English recipes using modern ingredients and equipment. I also discuss the history of the cookbook I work from (The English Housewife), along with the history of the different foods I create, to try to help contextualize my work. It’s a lot of fun, and eventually it’s going to be a part of a series of books that deal with different types of recipes or different aspects of history!

All the recipes from the original blog are included, along with the historical discussions and some additional goodies that aren’t on the blog. As an added bonus, I’m donating a portion of my profits to the Center for the Book, which gave me tons of support and guidance as I worked on the project.

To order a copy, you can share the ISBN (available on the Candle Light Press website) with your favorite local bookseller, or you can order it online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  I’m also having a release party on December 14th at the Spaceport Bar (in the back of Waterworks), so if you’re in the Tallahassee area, stop by and get your copy signed if you would like!

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Preserves Galore

I’ve had all sorts of exciting things going on lately (new research projects, travel, what have you) so I’ve been grossly neglecting my food blog. I’m planning on posting some new goodies soon, but until then, here are two of the recipes I’ve been using this month as I’ve been preserving my excess produce. I just put the rest of my garden in a few weeks ago (it takes up half the yard!), I’m getting ready to plant horseradish crowns (which should be shipping soon), and my fruit trees all seem to be producing, so I should have plenty of preserving to do as the summer progresses!

Ginger beer: This stuff is so good. I drink it with or without rum, but I’ll go through the giant batch I made in about a week or two.

Sauerkraut in a jar: I love this because I can play with the batch size depending on what size jars and cabbage heads I get, and because it doesn’t make my whole kitchen smell. I might be doing a cooking demo at an Occupy event this month, and if I do, I’m planning on sharing this recipe! Remember to take the cabbage leaf off before you gift it or can it, or you might get some doubtful stares from the recipients.

There are some other things I’ve been making that I don’t use recipes for. Fresh cheese, for example. Just heat milk, add acid (I live in Florida, so the most fresh tasting option is lemon juice), stir, and strain. I’ve been experimenting with rennet-based cheeses too (that’s been hit or miss, but I’ll get there).
Bread is another thing I don’t often use recipes for. If I’m trying a new technique I might look at one, but for the most part I know how I want my dough to feel.

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of blogging again, but until then, I’ll try to post recipes from elsewhere on the web that inspire me!

Goodies from the Sidebar

I’ve been a little behind on blogging lately thanks to school and other fun stuff. Here are the things from my side bar from last month!

Added to the Pantry: February

6 pints sauerkraut
1 pint buttermilk
1/2 c butter
1 c garlic and shallot scape pesto
6 herbed burger buns
4 beet veggie burgers
3 pints preserved tangerines

Independence Days Challenge: February

Plant Something: 3 kinds of tomatoes, Montpelier green beans, assorted peppers, cucumber, pumpkin, okra, potatoes, Jacob’s cattle beans, asparagus, artichoke, basil, watermelon, Landreth stringless beans, lots of herbs and flowers.

Harvest Something: 1 lb garlic and shallot scapes, 3 lbs braising greens, 1 lb lettuce, 2 lbs baby rainbow chard, 1 lb radishes.

Preserve something: Grated frozen hash browns, chicken stock, 6 jars sauerkraut, 3 jars preserved tangerines.

Waste Not: Using scraps to make stocks, sauces, and juice; composting unusable scraps, repurposed metal scrap from behind the house to make a trellis.

Want Not: Bought bulk goods, purchased some milk and meat direct from local farmers, prepared yogurt, butter, and buttermilk from local milk.

Eat the Food: Using only a hand basket at the grocery store to avoid over-buying; trying at least one new veggie-based recipe a week. Buying only local, bone-in meat to use bones for stock, buying fish that’s lower on the food chain and mostly from the Gulf Coast (about an hour or two away).

Build Community Food Systems: Sharing extra veggies with friends and neighbors, and eventually with local food banks/Occupy, or selling to local farm stands. Sharing preserved goods with neighbors.

Skill Up: Garden layout! I drew inspiration from Shaker gardening techniques and dug trenches between every two rows of veggies to keep things organized and keep my feet from compacting the soil. Also learning about how to prevent tomato blight organically using baking soda, milk, etc.

Independence Days Challenge

Thanks to my friend Anisa, I just learned about the Independence Days Challenge–the goal of which is to record the steps we take to reduce our dependence on supermarket food. I’ll let you read the categories on your own, but each highlights a different way we might approach independence. I think most people who are participating will be blogging about it weekly, but I plan on taking the approach Anisa is and adding text in the sidebar of my blog that is easier to read and track (and quick to update). I hope you’ll consider participating too so we can all keep track of the awesome local foodways we are building!

Exciting Happenings in the Kindle Store

Hello readers!
Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve published the e-book from the Modernizing Markham project in the Kindle Store. It has all the recipes, plus lots of suggested readings, information on book and culinary history, and some insights about what I learned from blogging and tweeting about historic materials.
The book will also be available as a print on demand book, in the iBookstore, and in the Nook bookstore in the coming weeks and months as things get finalized through Lulu.

Also, this blog is now available as a Kindle subscription.

Happy reading!

Itchin’ to go Foraging

When I lived in Iowa, there were a few plants I knew I could rely on to grow everywhere and that would provide a plethora of tasty treats. Now that I’ve moved, I’ve been really wanting to go forage, but I’m not very familiar with the area and the forage-able foods. Even more surprising, I’m having some trouble finding local foraging enthusiasts or Tallahassee-centered foraging information. I have a friend visiting next month, and I’m hoping to take her on a foraging trip to one of our fine local parks. In an attempt to prepare, I’ve gathered what I have been able to find in one place in the hopes that I can make a foraging guide that those in the Tally area can use.*
The goal is not only to make a foraging guide, but to ask (beg?) my dear readers to share foraging tips for this part of the country. Favorite foods? Good spots? Abundant treats that are easy to identify? Cooking suggestions? As always, remember foraging etiquette (to which I would add ‘please don’t pick threatened species’) in addition to foraging safety (which mainly centers on not eating things that you haven’t triple-checked to identify, and once you’ve identified them make sure you’re cooking them right. More on that later). So without further ado, here is what I’ve found for resources thus far–feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

Camphor: The word on the street (or at least on my street) is that crushing camphor leaves in your hands releases their camphor-y smell, which is an insect repellent. I like to boil the leaves down when I’m feeling stuffy–the vapors help clear my congestion and make my house smell delightfully like vapo-rub. Good stuff.

Edible Plant Project: These folks are in Gainesville, and their project looks really cool. I definitely look forward to learning more about the great work they’re doing.

ForagePorage: Good site with lots of foraging info, lists of helpful resources, and lots of information on Autumn Olives, which sound delightful.

Green Food Tallahassee: Haven’t seen anything forage-specific on this site, but still has good info about eating locally.

Hunger and Thirst For Life: Nifty blog–this post has ideas for using edible sumac. I have a giant bag of sumac in my kitchen from making Lebanese food so until I go out foraging for more goodies, hopefully I can put it to good use!

Native Nurseries: OK, this is a nursery, but I swear it’s on topic. As the name implies, they specialize in native plants, and the folks who run it are incredibly kind and helpful. Their plants are beautiful and well-loved, and it’s a great place to learn a little more about the plants that grow wild in our area and to pick some of them up.

Slow Food Tallahassee: This post is about foraging for chanterelle mushrooms (nom nom nom). Next autumn, I’ll be keeping an eye out for these guys.

Taro: This stuff grows all over my house. Seriously. I pull it, and it comes back, and I pull it again. There were giant taro plants taller than me when I moved into this fine place, and I pulled them out after the Taro Incident of 2011 so I could plant things that I can put in my mouth without hurting myself. Now, taro is edible–people in a variety of cultures eat the stuff, but the trick is you have to cook it for a looong time before you can eat it. The reason is that it’s poisonous! If I recall my reading up on taro and the unpleasant sensations I experienced eating undercooked taro correctly, the compound in the plant that is poisonous is an irritant that effects mucus membranes (throats, mouths, things like that). Too much of it can be really bad news, but even a little is not awesome. However, when cooked thoroughly, this compound is rendered inert. The Taro Incident of 2011 was basically a case of thorough cooking that was not quite thorough enough. When I went to take a bite of it, I felt my mouth tingle and immediately spat it out. Long story short(ish), it caused my throat and mouth to hurt and itch all at once, and the pain and swelling in my mouth was there for a week. Not attractive or pleasant. So my advice to anyone who wants to eat this incredibly abundant plant is to have someone who knows how to cook it (and has successfully cooked it and eaten it themselves many times) show you what to do. Your mucus membranes will thank you.

Wildcrafting: You can do a state-by-state search here. A lot of the plants don’t have member-generated information, but there is enough that you can at least Google the plant names and find out what they look like. If you click on the map within each entry it will tell you where in the state each plant grows. Pretty neat!

Wild Food Plants: Looks like a site that has some good resources–unfortunately the one website for a Tally-based place had a 404 error. Le sigh.

*Obvious disclaimer: If you go foraging for things in these links, be very careful about correctly identifying! I’m not responsible for any negative physical reactions, bad tasting foods, etc. associated with your foraging adventures. That being said, if you feel like sharing such experiences they might be helpful for myself and others who are hunting for edibles.

Pickled Muscadine Grapes


Scuppernongs and Muscadines
are native to the Southeastern US, meaning that around here you can buy them at the farmer’s market on any given weekend. I’ve heard people say that you can forage for them, but haven’t seen any growing wild myself. Since I’m new to the area and don’t know where to go pick them (yet!) I bought this batch from the farmer’s market. Scuppernongs are slightly sweet and tart, while muscadines have a very rich, deep sweeter grape flavor. Both are big and juicy and burst in your mouth when you bite into them, and their delicious flavor lingers after you’ve finished eating. I couldn’t resist them when I saw them at my first Florida farmer’s market, although I quickly learned that they have big seeds and bitter skins, which can make them challenging to eat by the handful. Inspired by a recipe I found on Auburn Meadow Farm’s site, I decided to get to work pickling my grapes!
This trip to the market, they had muscadines (the red grapes, as opposed to scuppernongs, which are green) so this recipe worked perfectly. Thanks to my busy schedule this week, I didn’t have time to go to the store to pick up mustard seeds and white wine vinegar (which are in the original recipe) but that gave me the chance to experiment with other ingredients I did have. It definitely changed the flavor from the original recipe, but I think it turned out very well–the grapes have a perfect pickle-y bite and the warm spices help deepen their flavor. Next time I have all the ingredients I plan on making this as per the original recipe to compare–these grapes are so tasty it’s definitely worth making time and again!

1 pound muscadine grapes
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick (2 1/2 inches)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp sea salt

-Rinse and dry grapes, halve them, and remove the seeds. Place grapes in a bowl.
-Place coriander, peppercorns, and cinnamon in a saucepan and toast them until they are fragrant.
-Add vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, and salt and bring to a boil.
-Immediately pour the mixture over the grapes, and set aside to cool.
-Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (you can also pour the grapes and brine into jars before popping them in the fridge).

You can also find this recipe on Punk Domestics!

Pickled Muscadine Grapes on Punk Domestics

What’s Been Inspiring Me Lately

I have found so many great blogs lately, and there are a slew of great posts that have been inspiring me to create tasty autumn recipes. Here are some of my favorites I’ve turned to in recent weeks:

Cola Magic: This. Recipe. You really have to try it–it’s tasty and complex, and it tastes like you’re consuming real, identifiable food items. Truly a treat. I’m pretty much in love with this blog all around, so I recommend perusing some other posts too.

Chai Syrup: As you may have guessed, autumn is a time when I make many, many syrups and other goodies that I can add to my beverages to spice them up or that I can use to soothe a sore throat (less of an issue here than in Iowa, it seems.) This one is *incredible.* So flavorful, and her suggestion to toast the spices is one I’ve been singing the praises of for quite some time. A couple things I’ll add: for this (and the cola syrup above) you can make it stronger tasting by bringing it to a boil, turning the eye off, covering it, and letting it sit for quite a while (hours) before adding the sugar and boiling. Both are incredible without doing that, so that’s just if you want to be punched in the face with extra flavor. Also, if you have trouble fitting the dried spices into a tea ball for making tea without the syrup, you can blitz them in a coffee grinder for a couple seconds (make sure to use one that’s separate from your coffee, or it will all taste like coffee.)

How to Catch and Care for Wild Sourdough: I tried this and it works very well. Mine is in hibernation in my fridge since I don’t have time to bake as much as I’d like. It works really well, although a word of caution: follow someone else’s recommendations for how much yeast you use until you have a sense for how your wild yeast works. The first time I made sourdough I added *way* too much and it was pretty pungent! For those of you who have some hops lying around, this is a great way to use them up: soft hops yeast makes tasty, nourishing bread.

Nutella ice cream: I’m pretty sure the title speaks for itself.

Cultured Butter: I love cultured butter and I love cooking with buttermilk, so this is a win-win.

A New Way with Sauerkraut: It ferments in the jar–looks extra easy! I’m trying it right now, but I’m expecting some positive results. Yum!

Preserved Lemons: I became interested in these when I wanted to start adding more Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods to my repertiore, but buying a big jar at the store seemed like a rip off. For mere pennies on the dollar, I can prepare my own versus buying them. As with most things, the act of making a food you take for granted or one that you have never made before really helps you understand that food in ways you didn’t before. Preserved lemons are a new favorite because they impart a very complex lemon flavor to dishes. Make sure you don’t throw out the liquid–I use it in salad dressings and sauces!

Corn Meal Recipes from 1837: Anyone who’s followed the Modernizing Markham project knows I have an obsession with historic foods. So when this came up, I got excited (especially because I live in the South now). I love good cornbread, and eating foods based on recipes from the past makes me feel connected with the people who lived in those times and gives me a special way to try to understand their lives.

Baked Brie with Apple & Fennel: My awesome friend Katie organized an ‘autumnal exchange,’ where a group of us ladies shared recipes, music, and other goodies that inspire us as the seasons change. It was particularly special to me because I have been missing the changing leaves and even the snow! One of the things I shared was this brie recipe, which Jess, another one of the exchange folks, made and tied into a beautiful blog post. I was honored that she liked the recipe so much, so I wanted to share her great blog here!

Raw Alfredo Sauce: For my vegan and raw food enthusiast friends, I always recommend this recipe. I love to make it and put it on everything–a personal favorite is grilled portabello mushrooms. The suggestion for raw veggie noodles is a great one too–I love blanching thin strands of veggies and putting sauce on them!