Hogswatch Night?

We are celebrating the season’s holiday early this year — not on the 21st or 22nd as usual.  We need to accommodate the work schedules of my two sons.  We decided this was the year to tell consumerism to take a leap off a steep cliff!  So this evening we will watch “The Hogfather” and “quaff” beer and/or mead and enjoy lights and holiday sweets.  Tomorrow, Monday morning, they will rise to fresh baked rolls and a platter of cold meats and cheese to nibble upon.  We will open presents — each of us will have one gift total.

In early afternoon, I will return to the kitchen and bake dinner’s main course — a proper pork pie that would do Sir Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld Hogswatch Night proud!


Esme’s Hogswatch Pork Pie


*If you choose to make this in a springform pan to get more the British tall unsupported side crust appearance?  Increase amounts by 1/3 more to make sufficient pastry and add an egg yolk in lieu of part of the water to make a stronger, richer crust.

2 c. organic white wheat flour  and

2/3 c whole wheat flour

(If gluten is an issue, you may use gluten free flours, but most of those make SUCH a soft disintegrating pastry — I recommend trying spelt flour instead for ALL the flour)

1 T. sugar

1 tsp salt (use less if using salted butter)

1/4 – 1/3 icy water, 1 T of which is lemon juice

3/4 c butter (absolutely NO margarine!)

Mix the flours, salt, and sugar.  Now cut the slightly softened butter into the flour with a pastry blender until it resembles a mess of sandy crumbs.  Stir in the cold water and lemon juice, mixing very well with a sturdy fork.  When the dough is well mixed enough to form a firm ball, divide it in two —one side slightly larger.

I roll the larger piece out in a large round, I do it between layers of wax paper to save my sanity and make transfer to pie dish easy!    I use a large glass pie pan —about 10″ across; once the pie crust is nestled in and the edges curled in ready to meet the top crust, set it aside.  Roll out the top crust and leave it resting ‘twixt the wax paper until you need it.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Now, the Filling:

*for extra special pie – use wild boar (bribe a hunter or engage yourself?!)

1/3 pound of (pepper encrusted?) bacon, cut into tiny pieces

1 lb good ham, diced into 1/2″ cubes, with most fat removed

1 lb ground lean pork (I use pork loin or sirloin and grind my own)

1 lb good pork sausage, chopped

1 medium sweet onion, finely minced

(1/2 ounce dried mixed mushrooms, reduced to a powder in the blender or spice grinder – optional)

2 T mixed herbs: parsley, thyme, rosemary, and safe (equal amounts of each)

1 tsp of Scappi’s Sweet (a spice blend I duplicate from a medieval recipe) OR 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger — not the same, but quite sufficient

1 1/4 – 2  c beef broth

1 egg white and 1/2 an egg yolk…slightly beaten (Or 2 -3 Tbsp flour)

1/2 egg yolk mixed with 1 T cold water

First of all, get a large, preferably iron, skillet and fry the bacon morsels till done, but not crispy.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Immediately put the onion to cook in the bacon fat.  (Guard the bacon against kitchen thieves, drawn by the already delectible smell!)  When the onion is tender and beginning to brown, put it into a blender with the broth and completely liquify the onion.

Brown the ground pork in the remnants of bacon fat in the pan after removing the cooked onion, stir in the ham cubes and put the bacon back in the skillet.  Stir in the herbs and the spices.  Turn off the heat of the stove.  Add the liquified onion in broth and stir well, stir in the powdered dried mushrooms.  Mix well to blend all flavors!  Now very rapidly stir in the egg white and half yolk mixture, fast enough that it does not cook atop the still warm meat!  This is to thicken the broth, if you prefer, stir in a couple tablespoons of flour into the ground pork and chopped sausage before you add the broth.  Then you have a more usual flour thickened gravy

Spoon the filling into the bottom pie crust, cover with the top crust sealing the edges together and crimping them decoratively together!  Cut slits in the top for steam escape.

Use a kitchen brush to cover the top with the yolk-water eggwash, this will make the pie attractively shiny and brown.

Place in 400 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes.   Lower the oven temperature to 375 and bake about 30- 40 minutes more until crust is done and pie is steaming hot! Serve warm (or just at room temp) with beer and a favorite vegetable!

*the picture is from last year.  This year I am doing the taller sided springform for a more “British” looking pie.

Birthday Month – Dismayed

img_3442Continuing my official “old broad” month…now doubtless proving I am a bossy old broad at that.

I began my grocery shopping today.  Just a few quick pick-ups to make sure the menus on the calendar can be made from now till I get to Costco and the military commissary.  Fresh produce and some canned goods for Mexican cuisine, mostly.  I was watching the very young couple with a tiny baby in the check out line ahead of us.  Their cart was a study in advertising success.

The entire cart was filled with plastic bags at the end; but from what I observed on the counter, there was scarcely a meal in the entire mess!  It was composed mostly of snack foods — crackers, sweet cereals, microwave popcorn and other such things.  I was dismayed at the lack of real nutrition in that cart – mostly relatively empty carbohydrates expensively processed and advertised.

I have talked to many young women and young men, and they don’t know how to cook.  I taught all three of my children to cook and to use some basic nutritional rules.  The modern “food pyramid” is practically unworkable and way too loaded with cereals.  I taught my kids the old four food groups.  This is what I’ve learned — just because something is changed, doesn’t mean it is progress or even better!

greenrussianHome economics used to be a school course with teeth!  You had to know what the vitamin content of common foods was, what was a protein food and what was a fat.  We DID divide plates into 1/4 for meat or protein, 1/4 for carbs like rice, pasta, or bread, and half for vegetables.  A high school grad in 1970, who spent 2 to 4 years in “Home-Ec” knew how to balance a grocery budget and the nutrition over three meals in a day!  And dessert was not an everyday thing.

Seeing the younger shoppers makes me realize the health issues and weight problems are because nobody knows how to COOK any more.  I have an old cookbook from 1939.  It actually should be called a “recipe book” because it is full of recipes; it assumes the person opening the book KNOWS how to cook.   Almost no instructions — brief things like “Mix properly and cook, correct seasonings and serve.”  I also have one more modern cookbook that calls for jars of sauce or cans of soup.  It produces a main course dish in 30 minutes or less, with little cooking knowledge required.

FullSizeRender 2I bake my own bread about 65% of the time.  I make all my own jams and preserves.  I bake all desserts from scratch. Most meals are from scratch, too.  We make our own yogurt.  I buy organic products about 50% of the time.  It saddens me that while Home Ec is now open to boys and girls — nothing of value is taught there.  My own daughter came home laughing after one semester, declaring it a waste of time in the 1990s.  I thought she was exaggrating!  But looking at the shopping carts, I now sadly wonder if we have forgotten how to feed ourselves!

And I’m not just talking about birthday cake!

Grateful for Green Russian! August 28th

I am grateful for a productive day over all. I picked 4 lbs of little green apples and cooked them to make apple pectin. Then I used the pulp, the pomace, of that cooking and made 6 jars of apple butter.

greenrussianBut the best? I made a simple cool vegetarian dinner – a salad I call “Green Russian.” I am grateful for that! It was delicious!

Cook 3/4 c of kashi — toast it briefly in dry pan, then add 1 1/2 c boiling water and cook for 10 minutes, gently simmer/steaming the grain.  Chop 1 1/2 c Italian parsley and put it in a strainer — tuck it under lid over steaming kashi for last five minutes to blanch the parsley. — set it aside to cool.

While this all cools?  Thinly slice 2 green onions, one fennel bulb (also cut some of the lacy greenery) and 1/2 a pound fresh mushrooms.

In a blender, put cooled parsley, 1/2 c olive oil, 2 T balsamic vinegar, and 1 T lemon juice and one garlic clove (I used garlic comfit — soft and mellow)  Blend all this till it is emerald green and smooth.

Mix cooled kashi, sliced vegetables and emerald green dressing.  Serve with boiled eggs on the side or some other protein of your choice.  Delicious with broiled salmon, for instance!

Gratitude 7 August

A good use for something otherwise wasted makes me grateful!

We store the cereal the T-Rex and V-Raptor eat in big plastic boxes; by the end of the month I have several cups of busted-to-crumbs Rice Chex and the like and am grumbling about throwing it away.

I was pruning cookbooks this weekend and ran across something in a verrry British “tea time” recipe book, called a “slice”.  It is an often unbaked treat and one recipe called for corn flakes!  I never buy cornflakes, but cereal is cereal, right?  So I messed about and made some alterations, and Behold!


Smoked Salt Crumb Slice

4 c. crunched cereal crumbs — Chex, Oat Square, etc

( I left out the 1/4 c of sugar original called for)

1/3 – 1/2 c honey or corn syrup

1/3 c peanut butter

1/2 c butter

8 – 12 oz chocolate

1/2 tsp. smoked salt

Melt butter and peanut butter and honey on the stove, or in the microwave until it boils.

Mix well into the cereal remnants.

Press this sticky mass into a well buttered pan – I used one about 7″ x 11″, if you want the “slices” thinner, use a bigger pan.

Now, the chocolate in original recipe called for milk chocolate.  Ewwww!  I used 6 oz of Trader Joe’s big block of dark chocolate that is about 72% and 2 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate.  I melted it in the microwave and mixed it up well and smoothed it over the pressed cereal block.

Then I added my own touch!  I sprinkled a 1/2 tsp. of dark smoked salt over the chocolate and put it into the fridge to cool and solidify!  Slice into thin squares — a bit like candy bars?  Serve with delight in non-hot kitchen with a glass of milk!

What is more delectably worthy of gratitude than a nutty sweet chocolaty treat that doesn’t even require an oven in summertime?


And Prose – Twenty Three

The moon is in the phase we celebrate as “full” tonight. We link household routines to the timing of the moon because it is easier to recall to do them.  So tonight, the kitchen’s butcher block counter tops will be cleared; any marring by heat or water will be gently sanded away and the entire counter given a penetrating coat of oil.  They will gleam brightly and tomorrow the kitchen will be restored in the early dawn hours and all day, we will look into the cherry deepness of the kitchen with smiles on our faces.

It is a bi-monthly ritual of restoration.  It is a sacrament of our humanistic pagan life.  The caring for the place where we nourish ourselves.  A cake will be baked for the full moon, and doused in an orange syrup to moisten and sweeten it.  Bread of a gold hue, imparted by pureed pumpkin, is baking now.  Mead is in the keg — product of earlier work.  Fresh organic butter has been softened and whipped with olive oil and poured into little glass containers to provide soft, spreadable-from-the-fridge butter for bread and toast all month.  Freshly made ghee is solidifying, while still scenting the house with a buttery richness — it will cook eggs, pancakes, and other things from now till next full moon.

A rich deep red sauce is cooling before being frozen in small containers.  It will embellish soups, coat pasta and pizza for several months to come; it has no tomato in it this “fauxmato” sauce because I am nightshade allergic.  It is a satisfying, and yes, “sacred” thing I do when I make it.  It makes nourishing myself without endangering my health easier and more likely.

My world is NOT dualistic.  There is here and now.  If there is a noumenal world aside from this phenomenal one?  I can only speculate idly about it.  I determine my life by the here and now and acknowledge the sacred nature of things that nourish and continue my life in this world.  I care for my bit of this world, I spent over four hours in my yard yesterday fostering soil production by weeding and feeding compost areas.  I’ve seeded my gardens.  The world is my gem of any possible creation; I don’t need a savior or a “heaven” — I make my own heaven here.  Bliss is fresh bread in my mouth instead of hunger.  Joy is health and strength in spite of age and injury.  Ecstasy can live in my bed, with no hint of guilt or recrimination — as it always has been for me.

We recently planted a failing young sequoia tree in what had been the family fire pit.  So there, I feel a loss of something primal and warm.  Our overhanging trees were getting so close we scarce dared light fires there any more.  Before the year is finished at Samhain this year, there will be a new place for fire.  For now, Beltane will come and go without fire — we will have a studied place of quiet in the dark for a season or two.  But the kitchen will be the hearth of smells and flavors, and the fire there never dies!