Stretching Your Food Dollars – Virtually Free Stock

stockGood food is expensive. If you grow it and/or raise it yourself you know how much hard work it takes to put food on your table. A little part of me dies inside when I toss out the bits and pieces of unusable food – even if it is going into the compost or out to the chickens. But I’ve learned that I no longer have to waste anything. I can make stock from all the leftovers. I love homemade stock, but again, I’m not a fan of using perfectly good food – and a lot of it – to make a big batch of it. This is the perfect meeting of the two – no waste of food leftovers and no need to use the good parts.

The parts that you wouldn’t eat anyways get used to make more food which makes this virtually free to make. Onion and garlic skins and trimmings, the outer leaves of cabbage and the cores, carrot ends, leafy ends of celery, winter squash skin, corn cobs, pepper tops and cores, the tough, woody stems from herbs like rosemary and thyme  are just some of the vegetative parts you can add. We also like to throw in carcasses and bones from roasted chickens, turkeys, and rabbits and old stewing hens can go in whole (pull the meat off  after cooking and use it for later meals). You can just do vegetables if you want, or you can add other types of meat and bone, such as beef or pork. You can even mix the types of animals you use if you want.

There are some things you don’t want to add, however, to your stock. Avoid really starchy foods like potatoes and sweet potatoes. Don’t use toxic or fatty vegetable parts either – like avocado skins and pits or tomato tops (but feel free to add tomato skins or cores).

As you cook normally you will collect all the trimmings and put them in a bag and freeze them. This allows you to collect a large amount of scraps to make a big batch of stock. You can also do smaller amounts and make just enough stock for a pot of soup but since time is at a premium for some us it works better to do big batches and then pressure can the stock for later use. You can also freeze the stock if you have plenty of freezer space, which unfortunately is also at a premium for us. 1 gallon freezer bags work great for this. You can also use some types of mason jars to freeze the stock in but it takes longer to defrost them. With gallon freezer bags all you need to do is heat the outside enough so that it slips out of the bag into a large pot. The other benefit of freezing the stock rather than pressure canning it is that you can skip the step of refrigerating it so you can skim the fat off. Just cool it down first before putting it into containers (don’t want to melt the bag or stress the glass more than necessary).


Once you have enough scraps put them in a large stock pot and add just enough water that the scraps are nearly covered. We use a big 7 gallon stock pot so we wait until we have a LOT of scraps. You can choose to add salt now, later, or not at all. I like to wait until it’s almost done so I can taste it. The amount of salt will depend on your personal preference and how much stock you make at once. It isn’t necessary though if you are concerned about your salt intake.

A good stock is going to take several hours to make. Turn the heat on high and get it up to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer on the stove for several hours – usually about 8 hours. Occasionally add more water as needed. You will know it’s done when the carcasses completely fall apart and the stock has a good flavor. Taste it occasionally and when you like the flavor it’s done. Allow it to cool and then with some large tongs start pulling out the larger pieces of scraps to discard. If you use whole animals you can start putting the meat from them in another bowl. Once all the large scraps are out, line a colander with cheese cloth and strain the remaining broth to get out all the small bits and pieces you couldn’t remove with the tongs.

Once strained you can freeze or pressure can it. If you pressure can, put the stock in the fridge for at least 24 hours. You want the fats in it to solidify so you can skim them off. You can skip this step if you are only doing vegetable stock.

Since I’ve started making my own stock I’ve found that I no longer have to buy it because the scraps we produce are enough to make stock regularly. Bonus is that it’s healthier because there isn’t any MSG (or MSG by another name) and you can control the sodium.

The Best Freaking Turkey you will EVER taste!

It’s November and we know what that means! Thanksgiving will be here any day now so I’m reposting this recipe because it IS that good. The last few years we’ve been making this with our homegrown turkeys and it’s even more amazing! Super moist and flavorful, this turkey is sure to please your guests.



I have finally perfected our Turkey Recipe! It takes some preparation, but in the end it was more than worth the effort!

This recipe will work for a 16-25lb turkey. Make sure the bird is completely thawed the day before you plan to cook it because brining it requires at least 12 hours.


For Brine:
1 gallon unsweetened apple juice
3/4 cup salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6-8 slices of ginger
2 Tbs peppercorns
2 Tbs allspice berries
2 Tbs whole cloves
2 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Stir in salt and sugar. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes and then allow to cool completely.

We use a large orange “water cooler” that we have designated just for brining similar to this one:
Unwrap the thawed turkey, remove the giblets and place neck end down into clean cooler. Pour cooled brine over the bird. Add water until the bird is completely submerged. Add a bunch of ice on top to keep cool. Put lid on cooler and leave undisturbed for at least 12 hours (do 24 hours for heritage birds).

For Roasting:

1/4 lb butter (1 stick) cut into pats
2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbs chopped fresh Thyme
2 Tbs chopped fresh Oregano
2 cups chicken broth
Olive Oil

1. Remove bird from brine and let brine drain out of cavity. Don’t rinse bird.
2. Coat roasting pan with olive oil and place bird breast side up in it.
3. Using your hands separate skin from breast and legs. Rub the chopped herbs onto the meat.
4. Place the cut pats of butter under the skin in various locations, including the legs. Pour chicken broth over bird.
5. Truss bird and then cover it with lid of pan or foil and place in a preheated oven at 350 deg.
6. Roast for two hours. Remove foil and allow bird to brown.
7. Continue to roast bird until interior temp reaches 165 deg. Can range from 1-2 additional hours depending on whether the bird is stuffed. Make sure when taking the temp that the thermometer is through the thickest part of the breast and is not touching bone.

This recipe will give you an incredibly moist flavorful bird that is amazingly tender.

Tom’s Spicy Tomato Sauce

Tom and I’s first date he made me dinner at his apartment. It was a simple yet tasty dinner but I was most impressed that not only that he could cook but also that he enjoyed it. One of his best dishes was spaghetti sauce from scratch. Everyone who ever tries it raves about it.

Over time his recipe has improved. Fresh herbs and homemade sauce from our garden replaced the commercial sauce and dried herbs. The season really depends on all that we put in it. During the winter we don’t have peppers, zucchini, or eggplant available. So instead we just add more onions and mushrooms.

The secret ingredients in this sauce are the hot sauce and the sugar. Tom didn’t really want me to share, but then why would you make this recipe if it was just so-so?  The hot sauce adds some heat along with some extra acid. We generally like to use Tapatio. I think Tabasco would be too vinegary for this sauce though.

  • 4 c tomato sauce
  • 1 c tomato paste
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 1 c water
  • 1lb sausage, removed from casings or ground meat
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, cut in half and sliced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small eggplant roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs Hot Sauce
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh Thyme
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh Oregano
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In a hot dutch oven over medium high heat add oil and then sausage. Break up sausage while it cooks. Add garlic, herbs and hot sauce and continue cooking until sausage is browned.
2. Deglaze with the red wine.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetable are tender and the sauce has thickened.
4. Serve over fresh pasta or add to a lasagna (I’ve been known to eat it on it’s own).

Mmmmm….Crockpot Chili

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a non-canning recipe so I figured I was overdue.

With this cold weather it’s nice to sit with a bowl of comfort food. I love chili but I really don’t make it enough. We have a ton of dry beans that we’ve grown so there really is no excuse for not making it. Yes, I put beans in my chili, which I know some of you would consider blasphemous. I’ve done it this way since I learned how to cook. My mom has done it this was for as long as I can remember. And I will probably always add beans to my chili.

I don’t like to heavily rely on meat to make my chili, well, meaty, so beans are added. Of course, it does take some planning ahead because you’ll need to soak the beans overnight. You could skip the soaking, but it will have to be cooked on the stovetop at a higher temperature for quite awhile.

As for the meat, we’ve got a freezer of goat and it seemed like some goat ribs would be a fantastic addition to this chili. Goat can be difficult to find so feel free to substitute it with lamb.

The night before in a large bowl cover 2 cups of dry beans with water. Add enough water so that there is at least an inch of water over the beans.

The next morning in your crockpot combine:

2 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups tomato sauce
1 Tbs cumin
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp salt
12 oz roasted green chilies, chopped
1 lb goat ribs

Turn your crockpot on high and leave it until dinner. The meat should be falling apart. Most chili powders are mild so it won’t really be a spicy chili. If you want it to have some kick add some hot sauce. Serve with fresh chopped onion and sour cream.

Monday’s Guests – Rabbit Liver Pate

Today’s post comes from Kitty over at Havenscourt Homestead. She graciously gave us some of this delicious pate this weekend to try out. I’m a fan of liver in general sauteed up with some garlic – yum! But if you don’t like eating liver you may still like pate. 
Rabbit Liver Pate
Mention liver to most people and you’re bound to get one oftwo answers:  YUMor ICK!  In my experience, liver has had moreof an ick factor.  I’m not sure why.  I think it’s just a texture thing along witha very strong flavor.  Or maybe it’s becauseI grew up with a father that loved to coat liver with flour and cook it withonions, then expect us children to eat that awful smelly stuff.  What can I say?  I was a kid. I didn’t like broccoli either.
Enter adulthood and I discovered pate.  Mmmmm… Rich, smooth, creamy, deliciouspate.  I immediately loved it.  Little did I know it was basically my fathersliver and onions pureed and served cold with crackers.  But pate is expensive in the store, so Ididn’t eat it too often. 
Fast forward to my homestead.  Now that I raise the bulk of my own meat, Ihave lots of liver.  Putting it in thestock pot with the bones and such just seemed to be a waste.  So I decided it was time to try my hand athomemade pate.  Liver is verynutritious.  It’s a good source ofThiamin, Zinc and Manganese, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin A,Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, PantothenicAcid, Iron, Phosphorus, Copper and Selenium. 
After searching the internet for recipes, I settled on onefrom Hoyt Archery.  It seemed simple andcontained herbs that I like and had on hand. I especially liked that it called for soaking the liver in milk.  I had heard that this made the liver muchbetter tasting.  And I just happened tohave fresh raw goat milk in the refrigerator. Of course I also had 2-1/2 lbs of fresh rabbit liver, much more than therecipe called for.  So I multiplied allthe ingredients by 2-1/2 and got down to it. 
1pound liver
1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup brandy
Place the liver and milk into a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.  I actually let mine soak overnight.  When you are ready to start cooking, put theliver in a colander and drain well.
In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat melt fourtablespoons of butter with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onions and cook, stirring often,until they are soft and pale.  You don’twant to brown them.  Once the onions aresoft, add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.  Again, do not brown it.  You just want the wonderful aroma.  This should only take a minute or two.
Carefully add the liver to the onions.  Then add in your spices.  This recipe uses thyme and bay leaves.  But you could use just about any spice youlike.  I tend to cut the salt in halfwhen I cook.  I find that most recipesdon’t need as much as they call for.  IfI feel something needs more salt when I’m done, it’s easy enough to season itafterwards.
Gently stir and sauté until the liver is browned on theoutside, but still slightly pink in the inside. I test this by simply slicing a bit of the liver using the slotted spoonI’m cooking with.  At this point, Ithought it smelled wonderful.  I wasready to grab a fork.  I honestly don’tknow why I didn’t enjoy this aroma when I was a kid.
Once browned, remove the skillet from the heat.  Pour on the brandy.  Don’t forget to have a nip for yourself!  Return the skillet to the heat and light thebrandy.  *POOF* Flambé!  What can I say?  I’m a pyromaniac.  I love to flambé!  Besides, the flames only last for a minute orso until the alcohol is burned off.  Butif you have guests that have never seen it, they’ll be most impressed.
Continue to cook until most of the liquid hasevaporated.  The liver should be cookedthrough, but it should still be tender. Again, test it by slicing into it to make sure it’s brownthroughout.  Remove the skillet from theheat and allow the liver and onions to cool slightly.  Remove the bay leaves.
Carefully spoon the liver and onions into a foodprocessor.  Depending upon the size, youmay have to do this in batches.  Pureethe mixture until smooth.  Cut theremaining butter into small pieces and add them to the pate.  Pulse to blend.  Don’t worry about over processing at thispoint.  You want everything to be smoothand blended together.
Taste your creation. If you need to adjust any of the seasonings, now is the time to doit.  Just be sure to pulse the mixture tomake sure any additions are thoroughly blended in.
Before packing your pate into a mold or other container, oilthe mold with a little olive oil.  Thishelps to prevent it from sticking.  Youcan also use plastic wrap.  Since I had avery large batch, I used a 9” loaf pan. I lined it with plastic wrap and then used a paper towel to wipe theinside with olive oil.  Next, cover thepate with plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the surface to eliminate as muchair as possible.  Air will cause thesurface to discolor.   This doesn’t hurtthe flavor or freshness of the pate.  Itjust doesn’t look as nice.  Pop it intothe refrigerator until it is firm, at least 6 hours.
One great thing about pate is that it freezes well.  So if you’ve made a large batch like I did,simply slice it up, seal it, and freeze it. I have a vacuum sealer.  If youare freezing any meats, I highly recommend buying one.  It sucks all the air out of the package andseals it up perfectly for freezing.  Imade each package about 4-5 ounces which is a good serving size forentertaining.
To serve, simply unmold it onto a plate and addgarnish.  Pate is great with crackers,flat bread, or toast.  Serve it with yourfavorite cheese and a glass of wine. Once you realize how quick and simple it is to make, you’ll never takepotato salad to a potluck again!

Not-So-Green Chili Stew

Remember the Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce? Here’s what you do with it.

So I promised this recipe when I posted the Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce recipe and I just kept forgetting to post it. Well, here it is finally.

My mom taught me how to make the first version of this back when I was in college. It became a staple for me because it was tasty and easy to make. It was originally made with canned enchilada sauce, canned green chilies, pork, onions and potatoes.

Over time the recipe obviously evolved substantially.  It made it’s largest change when we wanted to make it one day and didn’t have any enchilada sauce but plenty of tomatillos – which we simply threw in the food processor. For that recipe you just replace the sauce with 2 1/2 lbs of tomatillos, 4 tsp chili powder and 4 tsp cumin.

Even though we’ve eliminated all of the commercially canned ingredients, this is still a surprisingly easy recipe to make.

Not-So-Green Chili Stew
1 quart of Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
1/2 lb pork loin, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 c nixtamel or hominy
1/2 lb roasted green chilis, remove skins and seeds and chop
1 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 c chicken broth
2 Tbs oil
Hot sauce to taste
Sour cream and/or cheddar cheese

1. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add oil and then pork and garlic. Cook until pork is browned.
2. Deglaze dutch oven with chicken broth.
3. Add remaining ingredients except sour cream/cheese and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender.
4. Serve topped with sour cream and/or cheese.

Making Rabbit Sausage

Mmmmm, rabbit

 We’ve got so much rabbit and so very little freezer space right now, with more rabbits on the way. We needed to do something with all this rabbit and let’s face it, I’m getting a little tired of just braising it.

Rabbit’s a very lean meat and can be quite tough if it’s not cooked right, which usually means either cooked very quickly or cooked for a very long time at a low heat. Since Tom is rather squeamish about rare or even medium rare meat, we have to go with the long cook time.

Grinding is a great way to deal with tough meats

However, there is another way you can prepare tough meat. Tough cuts from any animal whether it’s beef, pork or rabbit lend themselves very well to grinding.

Not really wanting to make rabbit burgers and being that the current Charcutepalooza challenge is stuffed sausages I decided that rabbit would be the meat of choice for this challenge.

Pork fatback

But of course it wouldn’t just be rabbit. Because sausage needs 25-30% fat I needed to add pork fatback. But I didn’t stop there. My goal was a very flavorful sausage so it had to have asiago cheese and porcini mushrooms. But wait! It needed something more! Garlic! Yes garlic.

Unfortunately, Tom proclaimed that it smelled like a foot. He said the cheese smelled like a foot. The mushrooms smelled like a foot and now the fridge smells like a foot. Tom does NOT like stinky cheese, which, in my opinion, is quite a shame. I’m hoping this recipe works for him.

Unfortunately we’re out of fresh garlic, but we have some really good dried garlic. So here’s my recipe:

Rabbit Sausage with Porcinis, Asiago and Garlic

2 Whole Rabbits (3-3 1/2 lbs each), deboned and cut into 1/2″ chunks
1 1/4 lb pork fatback, cut into chunks
1/2 lb Asiago cheese, cut into chunks
1.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms
3 Tbs dried minced garlic
3 Tbs Kosher salt
10+ feet of pork casings (optional)

1. Rehydrate mushrooms in 2 cups hot (not boiling) water. Put mushrooms in water into fridge overnight to chill.

2. Drain mushrooms reserving 1 cup of liquid. Return liquid to fridge.

3. Combine everything but the liquid in a large bowl and put in freezer until very cold, just short of freezing solid. Also freeze the detachable parts of meat grinder that will be coming into contact with the meat.

4. Reassemble meat grinder and run meat mixture through and into a bowl set in ice (I use the bowl to our stand mixer). I use the smallest die that came with the grinder.

5. Using my stand mixer (mine is the smaller Kitchen Aid mixer so I have to do this in batches), I quickly mix half of the ground meat adding 1/2 fo the reserved mushroom liquid to evenly distribute the spices. I repeat with the second half and then combine it all in one large bowl. Don’t overmix or you’ll end up with an emulsified sausage – mix just enough to distribute everything evenly.

6. Cook a small patty to check and adjust seasonings as needed. Return to the freezer to chill again.

7. You can choose to stop here and use it to make breakfast sausage or you can stuff it into casings.

I have to admit, or more like my husband has to admit, smelling like a foot can sometimes be a very good thing. The porcinis I feel are a bit overpowered by the garlic and asiago though, so I think next time I’ll save my money and omit them.

So what did we do with the sausages? We’ve added them to spaghetti sauce and lasagna. We’ve eaten them on homemade rolls with homemade sauerkraut and eaten them as snacks when out and about. I even add them to soup. Sometimes you don’t need a special recipe to use them because they are the special recipe.

Pasta a la Carbonara with Leeks and Arugula

Sometimes you don’t know you’re looking for something until you find it.
Sometimes you’re just minding your own (or everybody else’s) business mindlessly surfing through facebook when a friend of yours posts a recipe to another friend of yours saying “we need to make this” and you can’t not look, because hey, it’s food and both of those friends know good food when they see it (or read about it) and all of a sudden your dinner plans have DRASTICALLY CHANGED. And also you feel a little like you just stuck your nose in something that was not for your nose. But still. Sometimes these things happen.
And sometimes that’s awesome.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted this recipe, and I was immediately smitten. The flavors reminded me a lot of an eggs en cocotte recipe (served over sauteed asparagus, leeks and bacon) that I have always loved, and the method (similar to a pasta a la carbonara) was something I had been meaning to try for a while.
So this weekend I picked up leeks at the farmer’s market. And, because I have a massive aversion to parsley in most dishes (mostly, everything but these), I picked up some arugula. I figured heck, why not? The recipe called for a lot of cracked pepper, so maybe the green tanginess and spiciness of arugula would be just the thing to kick up the mild softness of the leeks and garlic.

When I’m right, I’m right.
…also, usually kind of smug. But it’s OK to be smug about good food choices.
The pasta was PERFECT with this sauce. The sweet, mellow flavor of the long-cooked leeks and garlic blended with the salty crispness of the bacon and the crunch of the raw arugula and the rich heartiness of the egg to make something greater than I could have imagined.
This one’s going in the recipe box, for sure. You know, after I post it on facebook.
Pasta a la Carbonara with Leeks and Arugula
(adapted from the New York Times)
8 oz of any dry pasta (I like linguini/fetuccini for this)
4 thick strips of smoky bacon, cut into pieces
3-4 medium/large leeks, sliced into thin rounds and thoroughly washed/drained
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 c fresh baby arugula
1 very large (or 2 small) eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large skillet, brown the bacon bits until they are just starting to crisp. Remove them with a slotted spoon and toss the leeks and garlic into the pan drippings (add more bacon grease or olive oil if they start to stick). Cook the leeks slowly over low-to-medium heat until they are very soft and golden (about 30 minutes).
In another pot, bring a large amount of lightly-salted water to a boil and start your pasta cooking. You want it to be al dente right when the sauce is pureed and ready to go back in the pan.
NOTE: it is very important that the pasta be hot when the sauce is added, as the heat of the pasta and reserved cooking liquid are what cooks the eggs and makes this a safe dish to serve. Even with our fresh backyard eggs, I am very careful to thoroughly wash the shells before cracking them, and to being them to a safe temperature before eating them.

Transfer the softened leeks into a blender or a food processor (my blender does a better job of pureeing than my cuisinart) along with most of the arugula (save a little bit to chop for garnish) and the raw egg. Blend until the sauce is thick and a bit foamy. Add a tiny bit of water if the arugula won’t blend down on its own.
Transfer this puree back into the large skillet (off the heat) with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, and the (drained but not dry) pasta. Toss to combine, making sure the sauce thickens and the strands of pasta don’t stick together too much.

Serve this pasta on a large serving plate (or individual bowls) with a sprinkle of chopped arugula, some bacon bits, and fresh cracked pepper and salt.

Boston Style Baked Beans

This week I am continuing my quest to eradicate all processed food from the house with a simple-yet-hearty recipe for Boston-style baked beans.

I have been searching for recipes that are easy and healthy. I need to be able to make them in bulk and store them. I don’t want to sacrifice the meals and flavors that I love just because my standards for food have changed.
This recipe is very simple and can be made without a lot of supervision, meaning I can get it started and then go work in the garden, or do a load of laundry, or clean out the chicken coop. Multitasking is the only way things get done around here, and anything that I can accomplish while also doing something else immediately gets bonus points in my book.
This recipe also gets bonus points for being BETTER than its rival, the can of baked beans.
I will admit there are certain processed foods that for some reason or another (owing largely, I think, to having grown up eating them) just taste comforting. They taste “right”. All attempts to recreate those tastes, while potentially delicious, just never seem to live up to that standard. If anyone can give me a ranch dressing recipe that is better than bottled Hidden Valley, I will love you forever. No kidding.

I had thought that home-made baked beans were going to be like this for me too. Tasty, sure, but not quite what I’m craving to serve on toast with fried eggs and bacon. Because of this, I’ve been holding out. Until now.
My recent success with making my own refried beans gave me the confidence I needed to try this other bean-based pantry staple, and I have to say I will never again look at a tin of beans as though it has something I haven’t got.
Because I’ve got it.
And now you do too!

Boston-Style Baked Beans
(adapted from this recipe)

about 3 cups dry beans (I used pinto, because they’re what I had on hand)

  • 1/2 lb smoky bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup (homemade!)
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (not homemade, sadly – anyone have a recipe?)


Soak the beans in water overnight to begin softening them. If you are like me and don’t have that kind of glorious forethought (read: OMGIWANTBAKEDBEANSNOW), you can cook them on the stove straight from dry and add a bit of baking soda to the water part of the way through the cooking process to aid in the softening of the beans – works like a charm (and is fun fizzy cooking)! If you’ve soaked them (you planner, you!), finish the cooking in a large pan on the stovetop.

Basically, however you want to make ’em soft, do that. They should be tender, but not to the point of falling apart. If they are a tiny bit al dente, that’s OK – they will cook more in the next step. Remove the beans from the cooking water, but don’t toss out the bean juice – you might still need it (I did, when I made it).

While the beans are cooking, heat the rest of the ingredients (ketchup, molasses, sugar, mustard powder, salt, pepper, Worcestershire) together in a pan on the stove until they are simmering, then remove the sauce from the stove.

In a large casserole dish (I used my cast iron dutch oven, which was PERFECT), layer about 1-2 inches of cooked beans, and sprinkle them with half of the onion and half of the chopped bacon. Cover this with the remaining beans, and repeat the onion and bacon. Drizzle the sauce over the beans/onions/bacon. Use the bean-cooking juice to bring the liquid level to just about even with the beans.

Bake this with the lid on for about 2 hours, or until the bacon is cooked through and the onions are tender and translucent. If the beans are swimming in too much liquid, remove the lid and cook UNcovered for another 20 minutes or so, until the sauce is the consistency you like (remember it will thicken slightly as it cools).

Serve these baked beans on toast as part of a perfect greasy hangover breakfast – I served them with a roasted tomato, fried eggs, and homemade 12 grain rolls. Delicious!!

They’re also a perfect snack on the go, or a great side dish for any kind of meat. Basically, eat them however you want. I’m not here to tell you HOW to eat them. I am, however, here to tell you to MAKE them. Right now. Go.

Trust me – try this recipe. It’s a keeper.

These baked beans can be frozen for up to 6 months in a freezer-safe zip-top bag or other appropriate airtight container. Just be sure to thaw them to room temperature before heating so they don’t turn to mush!


Get-Well Turkey and Vegetable Soup

It is turkey season again!

Rick’s already been out once, bringing home a gorgeous 27 lb tom (cleaned and plucked, it was about 17 lbs of edible bits). We cleaned and froze the breasts, wings, and drumsticks for later meals, and made Hank Shaw’s Wild Turkey Marsala with the scrap bits from the breaking-down process. The carcass and any wiggly-bits (fat, cartilage, etc) went into a stock pot and were simmered down to a rich, hearty broth that we condensed for future risottos, soups, and gravies (it’s sort of like boullion, but liquid – we freeze it in ice cube trays for easy use).
Aside from being turkey season, it is also very much SPRING here in the city. The garden is starting to thrive; sending out new shoots of green everywhere, and forming visions of salads, soups, and stir-fries in my mind every time I walk out the back door. Our winter-planted broccoli is heading, the carrots are finally bulking up, the fennel is producing lovely bulbs, and there are greens, greens, greens for days, days, days. Mustard and kale and beet and chard and collard, as well as spinach, lettuce, arugula, and cabbage.

I got an email the other day from my band mate and cooking buddy, Alanna, who said her boy was feeling under the weather. It’s hard enough to be sick when it’s grey and hazy outside, but feeling awful when it is finally sunny and beautiful out…well, that’s just not OK. I was heading over to their house later that evening for practice, so I thought I’d see what I could do about a get-well soup.
I started out with a basic recipe in mind: a spicy and sweet beet/garlic/veggie soup I used to make all the time when I was in high school. I was a singer then, too, and needed a good throat-soothing hot broth and LOTS of vitamins for the (inevitable) malaise that always seemed to strike the day before a big competition. And hey – I’m not a vegetarian anymore, so why not throw in some of that delicious wild turkey?
A trip out to the garden supplied some early green garlic, a bulb of fennel, some broccoli tips, a giant golden beet (with greens), a few carrots, some ribs of new celery, and a giant bouquet of kale. Sounds like soup to me!
In retrospect, I should have made about ten times as much, as it was well-received by both poor sick Jay AND all us healthy folks who were eating it proactively. Hey, who says you have to be sick to eat healthy soup? I will certainly be making this again soon!
(note: this is a very fast-and-loose recipe. You can make it with veggie broth if you’re not into the whole meat-thing. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. The only things I’d make SURE to include are the beets, garlic, soy sauce, and the spice: either hot pepper flakes or a sauce like Tiger Sauce…even Tapatio will do just fine in a pinch. If you’re not sure on how to make your own chicken/turkey stock, Michael Ruhlman’s method is simple and pretty fail-proof. You should also read his hilarious article on roasting a chicken, which is linked on that page.)

Get-Well Turkey and Garden Vegetable Soup
about 8-10 c broth (I used 1/2 wild turkey broth and 1/2 veggie broth that I’d made with kitchen scraps the week prior)
1 young (not headed yet) green garlic, cleaned and chopped
3 cloves (regular) garlic, sliced or crushed
1 bulb fennel, cleaned and sliced thin
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced into thin half-rings or diced
1 large head broccoli, or about 1 1/2 c of florets, cut into manageable pieces
2 ribs of celery, cleaned and sliced
3 large carrots, sliced into rounds (about 3/4 to 1 c)
1 very large (or a few small) beets, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks. I like golden beets here, because they don’t turn the soup BRIGHT PINK. Save the greens to add in with the kale at the end.
1 c sliced mushrooms (I used buttons, but crimini are ideal, texturally)
1 bunch kale, cleaned and cut into pieces/strips. Something manageable.
3 Tbsp (ish) soy sauce, more if you like it salty
1 dash hot sauce (I like Tiger Sauce best for soups)
1/4 c white wine, if you have it on hand
1 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf
If you’ve made your own stock, strain out any bones or cooked vegetables, and return any remaining meat on the bones to the pan with the broth. If you don’t have 10 cups, add some water. Again, this is an anything-goes kind of recipe. Make it to fit the size pot you want to cook in. Don’t sweat it. This soup is supposed to make people HEALTHY – not stressed out.
Bring the soup to heat, but do not boil it.
Prep all the vegetables, and add them into the mix according to cooking time, and how soft you like them to be: First, put in the beets, onions/clove garlic, and any other roots or tough/stringy ingredients. Let this cook for a bit, and then add the carrots, celery, and fennel. Finally, put in the broccoli and the green garlic. Also add in the sage and bay leaf, as well as the soy sauce/hot sauce/wine. Let this cook until the beets and carrots are cooked to your liking (about 45 minutes?), and then remove the soup from the heat.
Don’t forget to fish out the bay leaf!
Finally, shock the kale and beet greens into the soup. You want them soft and cooked through, but not falling apart – the residual heat from the soup is plenty to accomplish this, and will leave them a vibrant, healthy-looking green.
Give the soup a final taste, and adjust for acidity/salt/spice with more soy, hot pepper flakes, or a dash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice as you like.

Serve this on its own, or with a hunk of crusty bread (preferably smeared with some tasty brie).