Vacuum Sealing

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During the Master Food Preserver training, we learned about vacuum sealing. I did not own a vacuum sealer but was intrigued by the idea. When I checked out the Food Saver machines, I decided that they were too pricey for the amount I thought I would use one so I let that idea go. Food Saver had a little rechargeable unit that you could use with their own brand of zip top bags. I liked that idea better as you could wash out and reuse the bags. So, I bought the little handheld pump and some of their bags. What a waste of money – the one way valve on the freezer bags came off the bags in the freezer and so the bags lost their air tight seal. Then the handheld pump refused to hold a charge. Bummer.

Then, I came across a Ziploc vacuum sealer at the store. A simple hand pumped device and better bags (they actually hold the seal in the freezer) for about $4. Then, this little pump got a whole other life when I purchased some cleverly designed tapes from Pump-n-Seal also sells a hand pump but I already had the Ziploc one and so I did not order theirs. Now I can seal Mason jars. I punch a hole in the lid of a canning jar with a pushpin and cover it with a piece of the tape. Fill the jar, place on the lid, screw on the ring, and pump! An airtight jar that is so sealed that I often cannot get the lid off unless I loosen the tape.

We now use this system all of the time. Pantry items are well-sealed. Dehydrated items stay fresher. Freshly roasted coffee can de-gas with this small one way valve. I also have use this system when fermenting because the gasses that are emitted during fermentation can escape and then the little tape seals back down and acts as an airlock.

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A Post about Picking Peas

The weather has been HOT this week! We hit 99° and had lots of wind. The poor garden looked a bit wilted at times during the day – especially the newer plantings. The peas, however, seemed unaffected by the conditions which is strange as I thought peas were a cooler weather crop. I managed to pick almost a pound. Some of the peas never made it to the scale as I seem to eat as I pick and then I also shared a few with the chickens. There are lots more peas on the vines so fresh peas will be part of our meals for a little while longer.

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My First Ham

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Last November I attended a class on Pig Butchery where we learned how to seam butcher an entire side using just a knife. I came home with an entire back leg (the ham) but knew that I would not be able to cure and smoke such a large piece of meat. Chef Paul Buchanan told me I could follow the natural muscle lines and separate the ham into smaller sections. I did that the next day and froze the meat.

IMG_2443Last week, I decided it was time to do some curing. I defrosted one ham, made a brine, and cured the ham in the refrigerator for three days. After the curing time, the ham was removed from the brine and put on a rack in the refrigerator and allowed to form a pellicle. The pellicle is the dried outside of a piece of meat that allows the smoke to adhere.
This morning I put the ham in my stovetop smoker for a little over an hour. It needed to get to an internal temperature of at least 140°. It came out beautifully and tastes great – now if only the pan looked good!

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Milling and Baking

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It started with a No Knead Bread Baking class lead by Eric Knutzen at the the Ecology Center and quickly moved to heirloom flours and stone bread ovens!

I am really enjoying learning more about bread and flours and milling and baking. On March 9, 2014, I attended a Community Pop Up Event at Grist and Toll in Pasadena. Grist and Toll is a new mill that opened in November 2013 with an emphasis on milling heirloom, as local as possible grains, for baking. Check their website for current grains that are available.

Michael O’Malley, a sculptor, has made M.O.M.O. or Michael O’Malley’s Mobile Oven. He builds a fire in the oven as you do with traditional stone ovens and then rakes the fire out and gets ready to bake. At the end of the day on Sunday, the oven was still at 600°!

Bakers were invited to bring their own loaves to bake, tour the mill, and shop from the Pop Up market. It was a fantastic day in spite of the 88° day outside! Clicking on the pictures below will open up the gallery so you can see larger pictures.

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A New Cheese and a New Pizza

Thanks to Annette at the South Bay School of Cooking for teaching me to make goat cheese. It wasn’t too hard once I had the supplies and tips from Annette.
I gathered all of the items needed. Heated the milk and followed the recipe – adding culture, calcium, and rennet at the appropriate time. Then waited. And waited. Waiting is the hardest part. Finally, I could see that the liquid had separated from the curds.
I tipped the pan to show the whey that had accumulated. I then carefully spooned the curds into the molds.
I purchased a Cambro food container with a rack in the bottom (I saw Annette using one at South Bay School of Cooking) and placed the molds in it to drain.
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After a period of draining, I removed the cheese from the mold and put them directly on the rack to drain more if needed. I then stored the cheese in the refrigerator. We have been sampling the cheese since in came out of the molds but the pizza shown above really let it shine.
I marinated halved grapes in olive oil and fresh rosemary and used them with some prosciutto and the goat cheese to make the pizza. I topped the pizza with arugula when it came out of the oven. It was the first pizza to disappear from the table that night. I had leftovers of the others but not the goat cheese grape pizza!

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