Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fat is Where It's At!

I promised to write about what I did with my home-rendered lard.  I still have quite a bit left, but this was the first of my yummy adventures:

 Homemade Tortillas!

The recipe is quite simple:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tbls lard
1 cup hot water

Combine dry ingredients.  Cut the lard into the dry ingredients.  Pour in hot water, and bring mixture together.  Lightly knead the dough and then let it sit to rest with a dishtowel covering the bowl for an hour.  Divide the dough into 16 equal balls.  Let the balls set a bit and then roll them out very thin and cook on a hot griddle for 20-30 seconds on each side.  

I used a lot of flour in the rolling out as my dough was a bit sticky.

Tortillas were everywhere!

I cooked them on a hot griddle, turning when the bubbles started forming.  No oil was needed in the griddle.

A lovely stack of warm, fresh tortillas!  Throughout the week, we made burritos and cheese crisps and tacos and enjoyed them all!

We also used up some frozen cranberries by making cranberry/raisin pie!  With a perfectly flaky LARD crust, of course!  Recipe can be found here.  (It's a fun blog worth reading--about homesteaders in Virginia!)


Friday, June 8, 2012

Sugarless, pectin-free strawberry jam

Okay, so this recipe isn't devoid of all sugars.  Just refined sugar.  I used honey, instead.  Which is expensive.  But if you are trying to avoid refined sugar---then maybe it is worth a try.  And if your father-in-law knows a professional beekeeper?  Well, you might also be in luck!  And since this recipe has no expensive store-bought pectin---well, the cost comes out about even!

In a large pot, cut up two large baskets of strawberries and one shredded apple--with the peel left on.

Add 1 1/2 cups of honey and the juice of one lemon.

Boil and stir.

 Stir and boil.  For 30-60 minutes, until your jam is running thick on a cold plate.  (Put a plate in the freezer, when you think your jam is thick enough, spoon a little bit on the cold plate and hold it vertical--if the jam drips slowly and seems somewhat jelled, you are done.)

Fill jars (and process like for regular jam if you want to.)  I knew we would eat this jam up this summer, so I just put my jars in the refrigerator.

This jam is very tart and has a lovely texture.  What I like best is that it required NO PECTIN.  Apples have lots of natural pectin and so allow the jam to set.  Also I love that there is no refined sugar.  


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Two Grumpy Parents Take a Hike!

Scott and I both woke up grumpy last Saturday.  I don't know why.  We just didn't want to do anything!  There were a lot of chores that needed doing around the house.  There were a lot of things we could have done.  But we were too grumpy.


So we decided to drink ourselves into oblivion.  

And by drink, I mean, drink in the beauty of nature.  Which always makes everyone feel better!  We went for a long walk.  Up Provo Canyon.

We saw the beautiful Provo River with lush green growing on either side.

We saw beautiful waterfalls!

Gorgeous mountains reaching up to the clouds!

Precious mountain wildflower blooms just emerging.

Sweet little paths through the shady trees.

Soft light trickling through to the underbrush.

Beautiful textures and colors, even in nature's death.

And one of these!  Can you see it?

Look closer....

There it is!

 A sweet little happy snake!

 And then we saw a bug.  A beautiful crawling beetle.  My favorite!

 And we felt a LOT better!  Have you taken a nature walk this week?  Maybe you should.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

SO EASY Homemade Ketchup!

Yesterday I made ketchup.  From scratch.  And boy is it YUMMY!

And it was so very easy to make!  Just put the ingredients in a bowl and stir.  I adapted the recipe from Simply Scratch who adapter her recipe from Hillbilly Housewife.  Both good websites for learning how to make things from scratch!  Here is the recipe:

2 cans of tomato paste (6 oz cans)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (I didn't have any so I put white sugar and a tsp of molasses)
1/2 tsp dry ground mustard (I didn't have this either, so I squirted a teaspoon of regular mustard)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 pinches ground cloves
2 pinches allspice
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2/3 cup of water
4 Tbls of  white vinegar

Stir all ingredients together until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Use as you would ketchup---only enjoy your food more because this is so yummy!

AND it has no high fructose corn syrup.....which makes me happy. 


Friday, June 1, 2012

I've become a lardo! ; )

I've been reading a lot of books about nutrition lately.  And alternate ways of eating and living.  One book, Real Food What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, has really captured my attention.  Also, Harvest for Hope, by Jane Goodall. (Yes, the chimpanzee woman.)

In both books and on many blogs, people are heralding the return of eating "traditional" fats over eating "industrialized" fats.  And there are numerous studies to support this change as a healthy choice.  People are enjoying butter again.  And that lovely old demonized favorite, LARD!

Lard cannot be found in the grocery stores here in Utah like it can be in North Carolina where we used to live.  But even if it could, the lard sold at the grocery stores has usually been altered (hydrogenated) in such a way as to make it not really a "traditional" fat.  And homemade lard is high in Omega 3s.  So I set out to make my own!

I looked at Mother Earth News and another blog called A little bit of Spain in Iowa to find directions on how to do it.

I thought it would be easy.  I would ask for some pig fat from the grocery store and then I would be on my way.  I asked at Costco.  They just laughed at me.  I asked at a local grocery store.  They were polite---but said their meat came in "already trimmed" of all its fat.  So I was feeling rather discouraged.  I would probably have to find some sort of old fashioned butcher that sells 1/2 cows to people who have giant freezers.


Then I walked in the discount grocery store this week and what did I see?  Giant pork roasts for sale for $1.29/lb with at least an inch of fat layer and skin still left on them!  It wouldn't be the ideal of having grass-fed happy pig fat, but it was affordable to try and I was in business!

For $7.75, I bought a big bag of pork.  

The pork roast looked fine, but what I was really interested in was that inch thick layer of FAT!

Using my sharpest knife, I had to work a bit to cut the fat away from the meat.  I wasn't perfect at it.

Once the fat was removed, I needed to cut it up into smaller pieces.  Cutting through that tough pigskin was much harder than I thought.

I placed the chunks of fat in my grandmother's "drippers."  That is what she always called her bread pans---which I've been lucky enough to inherit.  They were called drippers (at least by my ancestors) because they were also used for rendering lard or catching the drippings from roasting meat.  So I was doing something that my grandmother had done in exactly the same pans she had done it in.  (Nostalgia is a great thing!)

In the oven they went.  I started out at 225 degrees---according to a recipe online.  But when 3 hours went by without anything happening, I upped the temperature to 300.  That seemed perfect.  You don't want to fry the meat, just render the fat out of it.

I prepared a bottle to put the lard in.

I used some washed muslin (because I didn't have cheesecloth) to make a sieve to drain the fat through.

As the bits of fat melted down, a clear oily substance appeared in the bottom of the pan.  The directions said to pour it off and return the pan to the oven to render some more.  Over an hour or so, I poured more and more off until I thought there was no more to render out.

The bits of leftover pork are called "cracklins."  A special treat if you're in the mood.  I wasn't, so I put mine in the freezer to flavor a pot of beans later.

A clear lemon-yellow substance had appeared in my bottle!  And even hours later, it was still liquid at room temperature!  (I had read that home-rendered lard was NOT as saturated a fat as we had been led to believe!  And it was TRUE!)

After spending the night in the refrigerator, it was, of course, hardened up and solid white.

I opened the bottle to see if it smelled piggy at all.  Nope!  Just a slight savory smell.  

Now, what shall I make with it?!?  Delicious flaky pie crusts?  Heavenly biscuits?  I'll let you know.  : )