BBQ pork ribs

BBQ ribs served over rice and proud presidents.

BBQ is a big deal.  Like most foods people war over the how tos, the origins and the superstitions.

There are dry rubs, blackenings, thick sweet sauces and thin firey ones.  My favorites are all of them.
Most BBQ is made with vinegar.  This is "the spice" acid on protein will always make food tastier.  You don't need it to make a good sauce, it is simply a no brainer.  Adding it is always easy and if you feel your food is unsavable - vinegar and a pinch of sugar is a good way to rescue food that is bound for the trashcan.  But to rely on vinegar or long hours of boiling is kind of a cheat.  When it really isn't doing as much as all your lovely spices will.  They add the complexity and depth.

I like complex rubs like Jamaican jerk spices.  You can go Asian with 5 spice.  Smear them in pepper pastes.

I cut my ribs into managable pieces 2 or 3 bones.  If you have a good cleaver then I recommend cutting the rib bone lengths into half.  They are easier to eat this way, but they also collect a lot more rub/sauce and herbs.  If you are entertaining and serving this I recommend splitting up eat rib to be really kind to your guests.  And if you are a sadist leave as many whole as possible.

This is raw, they have been browned in a pan then coated thoroughly in spices ready for the oven. (This batch has turmeric)

My recipe for this one was:

Brown the ribs in some pork fat, olive oil or a dry pan.  (sometimes the ribs have an excess of fat, this can be rendered and saved... you can also use a little to brown the ribs in - then no one person gets the bulk of the fatty bits)

Move to your oven pan coated lightly in olive oil.
Cover liberally with:
Sea salt
1 heaping TBSP Dry mustard (the powder made from mustard seed, this is really amazing stuff and a lovely full warmth)
Whatever hot peppers you like (I did dried thai and misc hot peppers plus their seeds) - mind the heat for guests.
Black pepper (or white)
lavender buds
Fresh Thyme sprigs
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Sage  (This will impart a sausage-like taste that I really like so if you wouldn't then skip it)

Place into a 350 Degree oven and watch each 20 minutes to turn/coat or cover with foil as needed.  This can take an hour or more. The smaller the breakdown you may have done with the ribs, the faster they'll cook.  Mine were done AT one hour.  I like my meat to be JUST cooked and not really a hair over.  So use your discretion.

The herbs will get crispy... especially the sage which I leave whole and if it is nicely coated with pan drippings it is a powerhouse of delicious when served along side the ribs.

After cooking, everything glistens.

I really wing it on each bbq sauce.  I like sweet and hot and with oodles of color.
I used some home canned tomatoes, a large onion minced teeny tiny (major bbq flavor bringer), a handful of crushed garlic, dry mustard (yes more dry mustard - geez this stuff is heaven), 4 TBSP of aronia berry preserves (you can use any preserves you wish - raspberry and cherry are stars!), salt, pepper, more hot pepper flakes and seeds and simmered.  Taste throughout cooking your sauce!  No blind spice adding, and you can't go wrong.

With ribs I like the method of the dry spice rub/covering cooking and then the addition of the saucy bbq.  This isn't required, but it will double your efforts in keeping that lovely flavor sticking to every rib.

If you are achy try adding some turmeric it helps with inflammation as do hot peppers.  So load it up!



Smoked beef jerky

Beef jerky is something that is a life-saver if you're a heavy camper, hiker, survivalist.  It, along with pemmican kept the American Indians fueled between foraging.  They'd dry berries, deer, turkey, bison, fish - knowing the journey could be rough.

All you need for good jerky is air flow, a fire (heat) and smoke (if outside, this keep flies and other pesky things at bay).

Slice your meat very thinly, use a sharp knife and sharp wits.

For large cuts of meat American Indian women would cut the thinnest butterfly you can imagine of the meat so it was near lace and then hang it over the fire, keeping it well above the flames but not well covered in the smoke.

  • For my jerky I used sirloin (I recommend grass fed and grass finished - cows eat grass, everything else we make them eat to falsely {grains allow the cows to unnaturally throw on the saturated pounds} fatten them)- cut it thinly.
  • On a baking sheet I laid it all out and sprinkled it with coarse sea salt and CRUSHED juniper berries (they don't release all their aroma until you crush them).

Let the meat and salt sit and the salt will draw water from the meat.  Pour off any water.  You can let it sit for 4-8 hours or overnight for this.  The meat will feel firmer to the touch - that means the salt did it's job.  I then rinsed the meat well and reserved plenty of juniper berries crushed and ready for mixing back into the meat.  You can cut up the crushed berries to really get them all over.

I smoked the meat for 5 hours shifting them around.  The heat wasn't quite high so usually I would think it could be done in 3 in a grill smoking situation.
You also don't HAVE to smoke it, it is just more flavor punchy!  You also can control the kind of overtones the meat will have with the kind of wood you use.  You can buy (or chop) the chips you like.  This time I used cherry.

Woods for smoking:
Hickory - Has a very distinct wood flavor.  Good for BBQ meats. May need very little to get the job done otherwise it can overpower.
Mesquite - Has a very distinct wood flavor.  Good for BBQ meats. May need very little to get the job done otherwise it can overpower.
Alder - makes AMAZING smoked salt, also good for all meats, but best on fish (Salmon!).  A clean lovely round wood smoke.
Apple - beautiful for fish (Salmon!), good for all meat.
Cherry - pretty straight smoke even though many call it sweet or fruity, I found it to not be as destinct or as powerful as Mesquite ad Hickory.
Maple - Sweet smoke, good on birds and ham.
Oak - Used for larger cuts of meat that need long smoking times.  Strong smoke flavor.
Pecan - "Colder" smoking wood, good for larger cuts of meat - partly since the smoke alone wont cook the meat.

I'd just make sure what kind of wood you end up with and be careful since wood from some conifers can be resinous and make your meat inedible and other the resinous quality is pleasant and will be subtle.  Other woods are bad for you, so look them up!  Know what you're using.

Craigslist sometimes has orchard prunings for free.  I've gone and picked up a truck load of applewood.  Of course we then had to painfully chip chip chip all of it down into smokable chunks.

After the meat is smoked I move it to a 250-275 degree oven with the door cracked (this is important! you want air).  You simply check your meat and turn it over.  At this point it is like cooking bacon.  If you like flimsy bacon, you may like your jerky this way.  If you plan on a long shelf life then you want it pretty dry.

After it is done I move it to a surface to cool and then double baggie a few servings worth (enough for Jason and I - be generous to the family members!) and place into the freezer.  As long as you've packaged them well they'll keep a good long while. 6-8 months

When you go fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, climbing, driving, biking, walking - grab a baggie and put it into your pack.  This will keep for three days at least so you can feed yourself over the weekend or long car trip.  Granola is a great accompaniment.


Small Successes

So I had been on the lookout for an exciting job in a professional kitchen for a long while now.  It was only recently that I found an ad that seemed like people that actually love food were looking for other people that love food.  I figured "Why the hell not?" and applied with a tender cover letter and a few potlicker photos... I didn't know who would be seeing the application and I figured it wasn't standard procedure to send images of food along with my resume' but again - Why the hell not?

I sort of figured either I had sent food pictures to the wrong email, technology gave me the bump or they looked at my lack of professional experienced and printed my info so they could then shred it, burn it and urinate on my resume and photos ashes.  Or something like that.  A week or two later I got a call.  I got an interview with the Executive Chef and Sous Chef.  By the end of the hour they disappeared to collect another fellow who they introduced me to as Prep Chef he would potentially be my most direct boss.  My go-to-overseer.  He was the friendliest of the three and beamed with the most openness (none of the three being unfriendly at all - just this fellow seemed far more cheerful, he revealed he had a newborn at home so perhaps some of his cheer can be chocked up to weeks of sleeplessness that is turning his insanity into euphoria as a coping mechanism)... it seemed like they were at least interested.  After spending this much time with me and they also seemed like serious people - serious people aren't into wasting time - so then were they interested?  I had a lot of strikes against me.  The only thing I had going for me was kitchen comfort, eagerness and the willingness to apply.  As S Chef mentioned ...a downside was that they couldn't ask me to make 6 qts of hollandaise and leave me to it.  They'd have to show me.  I told him, yes... yes they would.  I don't understand things like that in my current world. 

So two days I had to wait after leaving the interview and I tried to focus on other duties... like the ducklings in the incubator.  Is this a blob?  Is this a dead duckling?  Or is this a healthy red-squishy-soon-to-hatch duckling?  There was plenty to worry about without worrying over the job.  I wanted it so badly... I wanted their secrets... and there are three of them!  Three trained chefs to greedily soak up everything they are willing to let go of.  I managed to fit in plenty of time to worry I wouldn't get it.

The pay was not anything grand.  It was my usual cruddy pay except I wouldn't have the usual opportunity to work like a fiend and get tips, which in the past really made up the difference between paying rent and paying rent and eating.  So my pay will pay rent.  Just the rent.  It wont pay for the rent and my bus fair.  I ... uhm, can do this - right?  I have to.  They'll call me, at least to say thank you and be friendly.

So late in the day I've finally managed to forget that they were supposed to call and then Brrrriing!
They offered me the job.  I was syched and accepted and it all kind of rushed forward.  Now I am going to have to be spry and surrounded by people again.  I had sort of forgotten what a comfort I'd made of being a recluse.

As it turns out, Kitchen pants are not so different from the pants that Sinbad wears.

Well, here we go!

Still, I can't help but think I was at all their best possible choice for the job.

I will put little journal entries here about my days, things I learn, and anything else not top secret.
I'm going to have to hit the ground running.  So this could be at least a little entertaining.


The many gifts of the ocean

Pier's End in Garibaldi, courtesy of Panoramio (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/36025836)
The ocean has been called the world's oldest restaurant, and it really is.  The ocean's capability to feed you is astounding, even as it struggles with our impositions of progress, depleted fisheries and endless waves of waste.  Despite the bruises and black eyes we give it, the endless blue brine and rocky headlands never fail to deliver the most amazing and easily harvested delicacies.

Being in Oregon, we are gifted with an incredible wild coastline. From the northernmost jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River to the southern redwood-flanked basalt formations, the shore is littered with a vast variety of crustaceans, mollusks, fish and plants.  The bays are full of sand shrimp and clams at low tide.  The rocky shores are littered with tide pool teeming with life: urchins, anemones, crabs, fish, chitons, mussels, limpets, starfish and so much more.  Docks and jetties are perfect places to drop a crab pot and hoist up the most delectable Dungeness  and Red Rock crabs, as well as throw a line in the water for sea bass and other shore fish.  And, licenses for shellfish collecting are very reasonably priced at $7 for residents and $20.50 for nonresidents. 

So it was that we set out to the coast to take part in the bounty of the sea.  First, we did a lot of research on the rules, etiquette and technique of collecting shells, shrimp and crabs.  There is a great deal of information on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website, but we found the best general information on Washington's website. You absolutely MUST check to make sure harvesting is allowed before you collect shellfish, as there are regularly harmful algae blooms, red tides and other environmental factors that can make them toxic.  State websites are usually up to date with this information, but shellfish hotlines are reportedly more accurate.  In Oregon, the number is (503) 986-4728, and in Washington State it's (800) 562-5632.

The next step was to go to the outdoor store and get some supplies.  We got a shrimp gun, a clam tube and a couple of crab snares that attach to your fishing pole, and our shellfish licenses.   Then it was off to the coast!

We started out at the southern end of the mouth of the Necanicum River at low tide in search of razor clams.  In our first 10 minutes we finally spotted a promising hole and dug out a lovely fat clam.  Unfortunately our luck was not so good from that point on due to the prior day's heavy surf that sent the clams in a deep retreat.   We searched beach after beach with no real luck.

Finally, we headed south to the sleepy and wonderful port town of Garibaldi and the aptly-named Crab Harbor.  The 12th street pier juts out into the harbor to the old Pier's End Coast Guard station, an amazingly beautiful old building that a local told us had been there "forever."  While we were crabbing there a few days later, a well-dressed woman walked hurriedly up the pier sizing it up.  We made small talk, curious about her seemingly incongruous appearance on the pier and she mentioned she was the safety coordinator for a temporary agency and they were contracted to help with the pending demolition and dismantling of the building.  So much for history!

On our first trip, we managed to snare a few nice big crabs, but they kept falling off as they reached the surface of the water.  After that disappointment, we went into Tillamook and bought a crab ring which yielded a really nice big crab, just as the light was fading.  We caught several females and a couple undersize males as well which we put back in the water.   It was intoxicating waiting for the baskets to emerge every time.

A few days later, we made it back and managed to get a couple nice crabs, and we foraged for shellfish around the rocks of Barview Jetty.  We found a great supply of mussels, and some winkles and snails which we gleefully put in our mesh bag.  The mussels were particularly beautiful.

A crab ring is definitely the right tool for the job!

At the end of the day, it felt like we had a feast in the making.  And, we did, as you will see below.

Seafood Pasta

We put all of this over tagliatelle and had a side of bread with it.  It was amazing!  Recipes for those will be forthcoming.  For now, it's all about the sea bounty.

Preparing the shellfish:
I'll go into what we did with our shellfish, but your process may vary depending on your catch.  We had mussels, winkles and a few turban snails.  For mussels, you simply scrub the outsides of the shells.  You can remove the barnacles with a dull knife if they bother you, but they can cut you and they wont hurt anything if you leave them on.  You also want to remove the "beard" from each mussel by pulling it out.  It comes from the inside of the shell and is not exactly easy to get without a vigorous effort.  It's worth the effort though, because the beard is no fun to eat.  For clams, just scrub them clean and make sure they're not open.  If they are hanging open prior to any cooking, they are expired and need to be discarded.  This is only if they remain open.  They should, with a little probing, close up to "hide" from you if they are well.  If they do not open during cooking this is your second warning that this little guy is expired!

Winkles and Turban snails!

For snail and like critters, you should use a scrub brush and clean the outsides of the shells.  Next, soak them in salted tap water for 30 minutes prior to cooking them, making sure to change the water if it starts looking murky or cloudy -- and don't forget to re-salt it if you do.  Once they're looking good they're ready to be plonked into some boiling salted water.  For around 6 minutes.  Make sure you see a pink or white foot inside the shell and not a little claw.  It's easy to accidentally grab a hermit crab by accident!

Crabs, mussels, snail and a lonely razor clam

For crab, you need to "field clean" it.  I highly recommend this process for dispatching them.  If you clean your crab where you are crabbing it should be near time to cook them as game wardens check crab catches for females (which are illegal) and males and cleaning them can look like you're trying to obscure the gender of the animal. This is illegal in many places to have prepped crabs because of this.  So wait until you're all done before venturing into the cleaning. Once separated, you can wash the crab thoroughly in cool water, making sure all of the various inner bits and gills are gone.  Don't be startled if the crab legs continue to move for some time after the fact.  If he is in half and cleaned he is NOT alive.

I am salivating just writing this caption

Cooking the shellfish (clams/mussels):

In a cast iron frying pan (or your favorite skillet), add one finely minced medium sized sweet yellow onion and enough olive oil to coat the bits.   Turn up the heat to a medium simmer so the onions begin to cook.  Next, add a dash of freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of coarse sea salt.  At the ready, you'll want a selection of freshly-chopped herbs.  We used garlic fronds and chives, but you could use any savory herb you wish.  Once the onions are clear, toss in the shellfish!  Next, add a 1/2 Cup of dry cooking sherry or vermouth slowly over the whole collection.  Shells should be starting to open at this point.  Cover the pan with a lid so they can steam, shaking it periodically so the shells get evenly cooked.  After most (hopefully all) the shells are opened, it's done.  It takes no longer than 4 minutes for them to open.  Any shells that stay closed after cooking should be discarded, as they were already headed to Davy Jones' Locker and not your stomach. 

Cooking the crab:

Crab is pretty straight forward, and the variations are infinite.  In the most basic sense, you want to boil it in salty water.  Since you're doing pieces in this version, the cook time is around 6 minutes.  But basically, you wait a full minute past when the crab carapace turns bright orange.  You definitely don't want to overcook it.  The brine can have everything from herbs to beer in it.  It's also great with nothing but sea salt, which is how we did it.

Winkles look amazing if you can get them out of their shell.  Note the custom tool to remove them.

Cooking Snails & Stuff:
Little shell mollusks like snails, limpets and winkles can be cooked much the same way as crab.   I do recommend a little seasoning in the water, as they can have a widely varying taste.  Some of the little guys tasted amazing, while others were... well, gamey.  Each part of the mollusk has a different taste, and I suggest a sampling of each part to decide which you like.  I will say that these creatures are not necessarily for the faint of heart, and removing them from the shell takes the construction of a special hook shape made from a large safety pin.  Unless you're really, really, really hungry, these may not be worth the trouble.

Last step is to throw all this goodness on top of your noodles and have a feast!  And, be sure and thank the ocean for all of the gifts it gives us.

The bounty!



Potlicker will be changing its surface, but its content will still be focused on learning by doing, and simple forgotten tasks that were once part of daily life or new things that I've found that may hold my interests and have a future with me.


Ginger pears (vegan)

For this I used mostly d'anjou and some red scarlet pears.

 As promised I am going to let you know what I choose to put up and when so you can see what goes into my pantry/larder.

I think that ginger is one of those things that rings freshness through the nose.  You FEEL it's flavor.  Like hot peppers, it is a bit of a physically undeniable experience that extends the tasting to a perfume.
I feel Ginger harkens excitement, awakening and makes things happier.  I once hated it and now am confused at how I could have possibly.

I am a big pear fan.  I feel like if I had a friend I'd want them to be an apple - a little more durable and robust, but a pear is a lover.  It takes a little more finesse and you must treat them nicer.  So isn't it lovely that pears have a very long season (variety to variety).  This means that they can get nabbed locally (for me) for a lot of months.  This makes me feel contented until their prices go up... then less so.  So preserving them is a good thing while they are cheap.  Cheap, FRESH, seasonal and local.

I looked through the giant catalog styled books of canning and found not a jot interesting enough to try out on the pears (other than pear butters, which require a lot more pears than I was willing to sacrifice).  So feeling a bit like Imelda Marcos needing a pair of sturdy hiking boots I went all internet on it and still came up short.  In which case the result is *&@% it, add cardamom and ginger - bang. Done.

I use Jelly jars for this recipe because it is potent and I can't imagine eating a lot in one sitting.  If you have a big family then Quarts may be the way to go.

You will need approximately 1 pear for every half pint (the little jelly jars) you use.  The yield depends on how packed you can get the jars with pear pieces.  It averages 10 half pints per this recipe of liquid it you jam them babies up well (making sure to leave just enough room to have the lids seat properly).  I got 20 jars from 18 pears and did the recipe below twice for that same amount.

5 - 6 Cups water
2 1/2 Cups vegan sugar - this is considered a "light syrup" I feel "light" is by old standards and seems really sweet to me.
8-10 cardamom pods
2 -3 twigs of cinnamon (I used real cinnamon not cassia bark... Ceylon/real cinnamon is lovely, delicate and smooth,  cassia is potent so you can use a lot less of it for this.  1 twig or 1 heaping tsp of cassia cinnamon.  If you don't know if your powder is cassia and you are in the US, chances are it is, if it says Ceylon then you know it isn't.  If it doesn't state this implicitly then it is cassia.)
3/4 inch knuckle of ginger root grated (This is plenty to bring the feeling and taste of ginger without a lot of nose heat, if you'd like more do it up.)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 lemon's zest

Bring water to a simmer - light boil, add sugar and whisk gently to blend into dissolving. Once dissolved add spices, zest and ginger. While liquid simmers and steeps peel and core fruit and slice into chunks and coat with a touch of lemon juice to keep them from browning.
In your clean jars add a 1 tsp lemon juice this will insure your fruit has enough acidity to preserve.
pack well with pear pieces.
Strain your very hot liquid through a sieve and fill jars with syrup leaving 1/4-1/2 inch room.
Lid and finger tighten then place into water bath's boil water.

I pre-warm my oven to 150-200
I have the jars rumble boil in the bath for at least 12 minutes then move the hot jars to a lightly warm oven 150-200 for 5 minutes... then move the jars to room temp until they cool.  This will help them cool down SLOWLY.  You'll hear the jars doing "things" and making sounds for the next hour and that is the jars sealing themselves into that vacuum to keep things tasty and pure for you.

Process your water bath as you normally do.  If you don't normally do this then I recommend you grab a book on the subject to fully understand it as food preservation is pretty crucial to get correct.  The rule is that you hear a "voop" sound when you open the jar to eat.  It not... that jar of stuff can make you dead sick, or just dead.

Pack your jars well so when the jar is sealed and the fruit floats there isn't a lot of room that is just syrup.

Serve these as a dessert alone or over ice cream, whipped cream, vanilla breads of a variety of sorts or a rich deep almost bitter chocolate thing.

I'm blowing your mind, I know.


Salt Crusted fish

The gorgeous blue shimmering pattern of mackerel.

An old preparation for a new lot.  That lot is my family and hopefully soon yours!  In the 1990's Clarissa Dickson Wright (The blonde of the Two Fat Ladies) with all her ancient recipe collecting knowledge brought to the forefront some amazing recipes.  This is a favorite.  This is up there with smoked fish (cold and hot smoked) for me.

Clarissa uses her favorite fish and other fillings.  Sea Trout and I think dill fronds. So, go nuts.  The only thing that I don't recommend is making the outer crust any more difficult.  I've gone through some "fancy" rehashes of Clarissa prep and it is a lot more fuss for a not-better result.  Try it with Snapper and hot chilis if you wish, just keep the exterior simple in the name of kitchen sanity and anti-wastefulness.

I used quite possibly the most sustainable of all Ocean fish that has a horrible reputation for being "fishy" - that fish is Mackerel.  It is abused by being canned and used as a feeder fish for all sorts of animal foods and the impoverished.  I would like to clear this fish's good name because this fish has a few things going for it 1.) its numbers are VERY high and doing well.  This can't be said for many fish on the market. 2.) This fish is cheap because very few folks understand how incredible it is 3.)  This fish tastes smoked and buttery. 4.) This is a "fatty" fish meaning no saturated fats and high in Omega 3 fatty acid, good for your hair, skin, heart, blood circulation, especially the brain and a load of other things including anti-cancer properties. This fish must be eaten the day of catch or immediately cured or frozen.  It is highly recommended by another favorite chef of mine, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (of River Cottage fame) for smoking, drying, curing.  He does all this with it and even cooks it directly on the beach.   I figured this fish would really shine with this old-styled prep Clarissa gave me since Hugh uses it in simple applications.  What I didn't know is that this fish would have a smoked flavor BY ITSELF!  I was astonished at how buttery rich and smokey this fish turned out.  Thank God this is an unpopular fish because it was 5.99 a lb.  Making my monster mackerel a whopping 8.50 and could have easily fed 4 very hungry souls. More with sides and what have yous.

For this magic you'll need:

1 to 1 1/2 Cups Coarse Sea Salt
Your choice of fish (preferably an oily or fatty fish like trout or salmon if you don't have mackerel)
1/4 - 1/2 Cup of whatever herbs you wish to use

I cut the head off behind the gill and tossed it in a pot with 1/2 Cup water for the puppy.
I then gut the fish and removed the tail (you can leave the head and tail on for dinner parties as it does a fancy fine job of making you look nifty) and rinsed the stomach cavity with cool water.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In my pan I placed about a 1/4 -1/2 inch "fish shaped" pile of coarse sea salt. Lay the fish on the salt bed you prepped.

I removed the tiny forefins for ease of eating later.
 Fill the cavity with whatever flavorful herbs, or onions you like.  I used chopped leek and parsley.

Cover the top of the fish in another 1/4 - 1/2 inch of coarse sea salt.

Using very wet fingers sprinkle the salted top with water this will keep the salt from sliding off the top of the fish while it cooks.  It will create a crust which when you remove it will pull the skin with it and unveil the loveliest baked fish you've ever had the pleasure of dining on.

Place in the oven and leave for at least 40 minutes.  You can stab through your salt crust into the fish with a knife to test it and if the tip of the knife is hot then your fish is cooked.  If not put in for another 10 minutes.

The time depends mostly on the size of the fish, but any caramelizing you witness will tell you your fish is done.  This is also a tough recipe to overcook since the goodness is rather sealed in until you crack the crust.

Crack this baby open in front of guests and watch their faces glow like Christmas morning.  (Or of course your holiday what-have-yous) The interior will be soft enough to spoon or spatulate from the skeleton.  Simply remove the spine once visible and be mindful of remaining bones.

I served this with chimichurri (minced parsley with olive oil)  over rice and an over easy egg to spill it's yolky goodness all over my fish and rice.  It was heavenly.  It isn't pictured because we had to smell this amazing food and couldn't handle it any longer.


Table Bread (Vegan)


A good around the house food.

It is simple and requires just a couple of resting periods where you can go and do something else for awhile and come back to it.

This bread is a good sandwich bread which I have been making regularly in lieu of my fridge fermentation breads.  I just like to mix it up and sometimes I forget to put up the fermenting dough and this becomes a more instant bread.

The active time is maybe 20 minutes. Less once you get the hang of it.  Inactive time depends on how warm your bread environment is. Averages around 1-2 hours.

For this bread you'll need:

Yield is two loaves  (They go quickly!)
  • 5 Cups of flour ( I do usually 3 1/2 Cups white unbleached and 1 and 1/2 Cups whole wheat)
  • 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 Cup vegan sugar (yeast LOVES sugar,  this will help fluff your bread without the fermentation process, it wont make a sweet bread necessarily.  It does take the edge off of the whole wheat which is sometimes bitter)
  • 2 Cups tepid water
  • 1 heaping tsp yeast

Have oven at a low temp to help warm your kitchen if it is a little frosty.

Mix tepid water and yeast, set aside to froth.

Mix dry ingredients.
Once yeast water is frothy add to the dry mix and stir until combined.  If there are some dry patches then while still in the bowl use your hands to fold and push together.  Turn out on a lightly floured surface.  Knead.  Half the dough.
Knead individually.  Let rest on newly floured surface giving plenty of room for growth.  Cover with a towel.
Let these rest for 30 minutes to an hour until they double in size.

Take two loaf pans and grease with butter, olive oil or fat all the way up the sides and the bottom.

Once the first rise is done punch out the dough and knead again folding inward and shaping the dough vaguely like that of the loaf pan.  Put any seams the dough may have at the bottom and they'll mend during baking.

Bottom seams mended from baking.

Once these are in the pan and ready for the second rise turn the oven to 500 degrees. (480 at the least!)

You will need two pieces of foil to cover the bread gently AFTER the initial browning.  The first heat of the bread is the most important.  It forms the crust and helps the bread retain its shape.
Check after 7-10 minutes once the top is as golden as you'd like then cover with foil lightly curling the edges, it need not be form fitting.  The bread will need another 7-10 minutes to cook fully through.

Take out and ditch from loaf pans.  Place on wire racks to keep the crust firm and from having any soggy bottomed bread.  Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting.  Your bread will still be cooking during this time and it vital for fluffy insides!

If you cut the bread and don't want it to dry out simply place cut side down flat against the bread board or a cutting board. 

I don't package my bread at all.  I leave it out and if it gets too crusty through and through I make toast, crostini, croutons or breadcrumbs.  Num.


Stocking up wisely -- eating where you are


Some industrious women who kept their progeny healthy.

Planning for disruptions in the food supply chain is something earlier generations were all too familiar with.  Our modern day shipment system has lulled us into a false and dangerous sense of complacency since we're not actually more insulated from shortages than earlier generations -- we're less.  This is due to two major factors.  First and foremost, food stores and stores in general operate on a "Just In Time" delivery system.  This means there's not some secret warehouse out back with supplies when the shelves run out.  When a product is sold out, more must be on its way already.  This system breaks down catastrophically during periods of unexpected turmoil -- when healthy supplies are needed most.  The second reason why we're not better of is due to the fact that most people do not have a real pantry to speak of.  Here at Potlicker HQ, we wrote about this early on.  But that entry was not inclusive, and since that time, I have organized my thoughts on how best to organize your efforts.

A WWII leaflet that helped people make do and thrive on less.

Before starting into what we should stock up on, it's important to know why we should stock up on it in the first place.  A pantry filled with bottles of jam may be tasty, but if you had to live our of your pantry for say, 2 months, you'd literally starve.   So, what DO we need to have to be healthy?   Well, we need to mind two different factors: energy balance and nutrient balance:

  • Proteins - essential to growth and repair of muscle and other body tissues
  • Fats - one source of energy and important in relation to fat soluble vitamins
  • Carbohydrates - our main source of energy
  • Minerals - those inorganic elements occurring in the body and which are critical to its normal functions
  • Vitamins - water and fat soluble vitamins play important roles in many chemical processes in the body
  • Water - essential to normal body function - as a vehicle for carrying other nutrients and because 60% of the human body is water
  • Roughage - the fibrous indigestible portion of our diet essential to health of the digestive system

And then the energy part, which is different for every person depending on things like age, size, activity levels and so on.  We all have a base metabolic rate, which is our baseline for minimum energy.  If we fall below intake of this, our body has to take it from our reserves or slow metabolism down, and that is not a good thing.

To do it right, we need a reliable balance or blend of energy forms in our diet that "burn" the right way -- just like any machine the fuel has to be right for the engine to function optimally.

Ideally that blend looks something like this:
  • 57% Carbohydrates (sugar, sweets, bread, cakes)
  • 30% Fats (dairy products, oil)
  • 13% Protein (eggs, milk, meat, poultry, fish)
So, this handy chart helps you know what to stock up and in what ratios.  But let's not stop there.  Fat is something that has a very bad rap in our society -- and undeservedly so.  Our brains require it to function, and it helps us store energy reserves for leaner times.  When we don't get enough of it, we lose our minds and starve to death.  No kidding.   In nature it can be one of the hardest things to obtain because it is such a complex structure.  And, to make matters more difficult, there are different kinds of fat as well.

All fats contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids but are usually described as 'saturated' or 'unsaturated' according to the proportion of fatty acids present. Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and tend to be animal fats. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are usually vegetable fats - there are exceptions e.g. palm oil, a vegetable oil that contains a high percentage of saturated fatty acids.

And, carbohydrates have different forms as well;  starchy (aka complex) carbohydrates and simple sugars.    Honey is a great example of a simple sugar source, where potatoes are a classic starchy carb.  Both of these provide essential energy to muscles in the form of glycogen.  The starchy carbohydrates are the ones that have all the vitamins and minerals in them as well as protein. They are also low in fat.  The downside of them is their bulkiness may inhibit your ability to get enough energy from them.   Simple sugars on the other hand are fast-burning, high energy fuel.

Your digestive system converts the carbohydrates in food into glucose, a form of sugar carried in the blood and transported to cells for energy. The glucose, in turn, is broken down into carbon dioxide and water. Any glucose not used by the cells is converted into glycogen - another form of carbohydrate that is stored in the muscles and liver. However, the body's glycogen capacity is limited to about 350 grams; once this maximum has been reached, any excess glucose is quickly converted into fat. Ok, so this is all pretty technical, but here's where it translates into your pantry.

First, there are a few different what I call "vectors" to keep track of:
  • cost
  • locality (i.e. distance from your home base)
  • availability & seasonality
  • substitutes (your first choice should be natural/healthy, affordable, storable, and ideally local with a long shelf life)
  • importance and composition of the ratio above
 These variables will make up your own personal equation for stocking up.

First, let's talk about locality (distance).  In a short term crisis, this is not as essential because you're expecting the supply chain to be restored after some expected period.  In a long-term crisis, however, this variable is king.   I'll get into that more in a moment.  This will help you gauge your radius.

Availability and seasonality has to do with time of year and your particular location.  In some places you can't grow certain things.  This seems pretty obvious to some, but you'd be amazed how many people think a tomato in Winter is perfectly natural.  Thankfully, there are lot of different charts available about what is in season and when.

Substitutes are a way of determining first, second and third choice for your stock up goods.  For example, in the fats area it might go:  olive oil, pork fat, sunflower oil  in starchy carbs it might be: sweet potato, sunchoke, russet potato

Selecting your primary choices for stocking up is it's own entry, but use the vectors to help you decide.  So, healthy, natural, low cost, local, easily storable, long shelf life is best.

Victorian larder full of pickled sauces, preserves and spices.

Victorian cold storage with potted meats.
So, we need to create a chart that allows us to examine the various vectors in order of importance:


Then columns for each vector:

In the availability column, we want to have a Y/N answer, meaning:  "could I or someone with land within 100 miles grow this here?"   Distance is simply how far away the thing is, regardless if you can grow it locally or not.  Cost is your own scheme, but I use High, Medium, and Low.  Also, be mindful of what would cost significantly more during a time of disruption.  Water is a great example of this.  It's cheap and plentiful until it's not, and then it is impossible to get and super expensive.

Next we plug in our favored sources of nutrition and energy into the fields like so:


 sweet potato

And so on...

Next, you look at the storage space you have and stock up in order that it appears in your list!  And, don't forget the all important salt, water and spices.  It's virtually impossible to have too much of that.  And, having a few luxury items around like coffee and chocolate might not be a bad thing either.

Lastly, you need to determine what type of disruption you are planning for.  Is it 2 weeks?  2 months?  a year?  forever?  In the last case, your pantry could tide you over until you can get food crops growing and animals raised.  And, when planning for self sufficiency, all of these ratios still apply!  Plan your own operations so you have multiple sources of each staple with the highest number of the most important thing.  It's how people have survived on potatoes and lard for generations.

We will keep you posted on what we choose to stock, why and how.
Things that I have on hand in a fairly large number at any time is :
  • Organic flours
  • Olive Oil
  • Home Canned Tomatoes
  • Sea Salt
  • Vinegar (easy to make after you acquire the mother)
  • Honey
  • Spices
  • Herbs
  • Dry beans (lentils of a variety as well)
  • Rice
  • Dried meat (yes, I'm serious)
  • Preserves (a variety)

Freezers are a luxury that should not be relied upon.  When the power goes out, so does your food.
If you want to really save freezer food I recommend the chest freezers as they keep colder longer by not letting all the cold air escape when you open them.  This is a big plus when the power is out and you need to get something out.


Treadle Machine

A Ram's head drawer pull.

Like a lot of folks that are probably my age or older than me, I grew up in a home with a treadle machine.  I don't know the history of it; like how my mother came to own one, or if it was just picked up on a whim or if it was passed to her through a family member.  She used it consistently throughout my childhood.  Never making a fuss with it, but relying on it solely to repair anything or make something we otherwise could not afford.  It simply was a fixture, a tool that prettied up an otherwise unsightly space (our homes were a bit dismal).

Hers was a Singer 27/127 Memphis with the Sphinx decal.  I don't know the year but it is likely it was between 1906-1930.

I had some impatient lessons on it and never could get the damn thing to go in the same direction for any length of time.  The treadle rocks gently back and forth while the wheel (ideally) cranks in one direction (some odd ones roll towards you, most roll away).   Goodnight! My sister and I couldn't keep our mitts off the thing.  We were always screwing with it and got beat hard a couple times for doing who knows what to it.  I'm sure a thousand tangles had to be cut out of the threads and the tension was probably always a bit off because of our playing.  If was the most alluring of all the forbidden things in the house.

So since I've been thinking through a life and could be a world (You don't have to be right or left to see the system is botched) without electricity is completely likely.  Likely, at first by my own design.  So I went on the list making of all the things I would either miss or need should I not have electricity to make my life simpler.

Some resources for the new treadler and other treadle-lovers:

Donna Kohler  Taught by her grandmother the simple act of a close family activity gave birth to a teacher of what is now thankfully once again a growing population of people that don't just collect treadles, but also use them.  She sells a book for maintaining and rehabilitating your treadle through her site.
Dick Wightman - http://www.treadleon.net/ 
Treadleon is a community of treadlers that share with each other experiences of using, acquiring, maintenance, and basic love for the foot powered machines.
On his site is an excellent guide to getting the treadle suited to you.
A LOT, about an easy to acquire sewing machine. The Singer 27/127 
A blogger who uses treadles to make her things.  Huge diversity,  I'm loving the Indian Orange Peel arcs.

There are not many resources available but these few are enough to get you going and on your way to becoming an expert. 

I love the provenance, it has pretty much zero significance for anyone other than the immediate family members who know specifically each person named.

What I have and why I have this particular one.

1906 Minnesota A or a Minnie A.  The cabinet has 7 drawers (6 with flippin' ram's heads for the knobs!) and it came with all the attachments and a million (just shy of...) needles.  Which for this machine is a particular find since the needles can be tricky in getting.  The Minnie A has a longer needle than most machines. Who wants to order and wait for the right needle? boo. The price was a little high for ME.  At 100 bucks.  But I am in the most ridiculously expensive part of the nation and it still was more than a few excellent options.  The average great deal was between 50 dollars to 100 dollars all smoothly operable machines just in need of people that will love and use them.  Antique stores almost always call things rare that aren't and have prices on them that reflect their statements and not often the machine's worth. Silly enough the more expensive I found, the less operable they were.  I have no clue what gives with that.  I suppose folks who are trying to pay the mortgage with outmoded objects?  I didn't need a boat anchor.

I got mine from Craigslist from a more than reasonable person!  Your treadle should not cost you more than 120 bucks.  The market from most reasonable folks' standpoint is plain and simple.  A trumped up ponzi-scheme.  The housing market which made credit and the credit life seem like everything would grow in value forever has imploded.  You can't have infinite growth in a finite space.  So collecting isn't of much use when people are losing their shirts.  Just get a good machine that requires only your sweat and maintenance and you'll at least be able to sew shirts for yourself.  Folks who say it is worth "blah blah blah" are usually blowing smoke for the most part because it shouldn't be a shelf for a big bowl of fobs.  It should be your sewing machine!  And worth to a person who is using rather than collecting has a much different perspective.  Everything is worth precisely to the penny what someone is willing to pay for it.

I CRINGE when I see sewing machine cabinet drawers for sale, or worse just the treadle iron with a slap of wood over the top. This obsession with shabby chic has made everyone into Fred Sandford.  DO NOT BUY A MACHINE WITHOUT A CABINET!!! It simply isn't worth the headache. Often these are folks who've come into the machine head have either obtained it without the cabinet or worse... sold the cabinet as a friggin' table.  Wagon wheels look best ON WAGONS sure they mark a lot of driveways but it would be best that the working wheels weren't tossed on the end of every driveway.  Like there aren't enough tables in the world?  Perhaps that is just me?  The sewing machines that are easier to get cabinets for are mainly Singers.  But it is better to start with a whole machine and go from there otherwise you have to make it fit the table and that is often near impossible.  And second would be to have a singer cabinet and then a singer head.  You can forgo all this mess by getting a handcrank machine!  Handcranks are awesome for teaching children to be people powered!

The handcrank machines are far fewer and the prices are even more wild... anywhere from 50 - 1000 bucks.  phew!  I know less about them other than their ease of use versus learning the finesse of the footwork required on the treadle machines.  I believe you can convert treadles to handcrank and to electric models (misses the point of sewing without power then). 

Make it happen!  Whatever IT is.