Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge October: Mace

When I first graduated from college, I befriended an engineer named Irene who worked on my floor.  Looking back on it now, I can see how in her day she must certainly have been a trailblazer in her time - being an African American woman in a man's field and all - but by the time I met her, she was "coasting toward retirement" as we call it.   Not interested in getting ahead, she'd only did the work she thought was necessary, she'd come and go as she pleased, and she would call it like she saw it.   I can distinctly remember Irene asking me if I was going to a woman engineer's conference, and I told her I'd have to ask my supervisor.  She told me "Girl, you don't ask him if you can go. You TELL him YOU ARE GOING!"  It was Irene that made me realize how important it was to mentor young women engineers.   She invited us all out to her house in Bloomfield Hills with it's beautiful built-in pool for an end of summer pool party.   She served us peach pie that was out of this world - when I asked for the recipe, she told me it was just "any old peach pie recipe" but her trick was to add a pinch of mace to the fruit.    I lost touch of Irene over the years - she may have moved back down south after she retired, she might have passed away....if she is alive, she would be well into her 80s by now.    Every time I see mace on the spice rack, I think if her.  It is a spice I really like, but seldom use. Even though mace is part of the nutmeg plant, I think it tastes distinctly different.

I admit it, when I picked mace for the challenge this month, it was because I wanted to try it out in something else besides peach pie.   I found this recipe online a while ago.  The poster was having trouble with it because it always fell.   The key is to make it in a 10" inch fluted pan - don't use a Bundt pan or loaf pan because it is so rich it will collapse under it's own weight.   It is a unique tasting pound cake - I loved it, because I adore the taste of mace, but not everyone did.  My family liked it, but my neighbors weren't so fond of it's mace-y taste. To each their own!  It would be even better served with a hard sauce or caramel sauce ladled on top.

Madeira Pound Cake
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons mace
1 cup butter or margarine
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Madeira
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix flour with sugar, salt, soda, and mace in a bowl and set aside. In large mixer bowl beat butter until softened. Add eggs, sour cream, Madeira, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix at low speed until blended. Beat at medium speed 3 minutes. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan. Bake at 325° F. for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Scene from my house

Found this on Facebook....had to share....

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Make your own sauerkraut

The other day I was listening to my favorite channel on Sirius, which is Martha Stewart Living, when a discussion about Farmhouse Culture's kraut came on.  Disclaimer....there are shows on MSL that I really don't like, including Whatever with Jennifer Hutt and Home Design with Kevin Sharkey, but I just change the channel when they are on to the 60s or 70s channel or maybe the Loft or Coffeehouse, or one of the quote unquote "alternative" stations.  In Northern California, Farmhouse Culture is pretty much the same kind of business as Ann Arbor's Brinery, which makes all sorts of fermented treats.   However, they both charge about $8 for a 16 oz. jar of kraut, and it is so ridiculously cheap and easy to make at home, I recommended you do that instead. 

Yesterday, at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, I bought 2 whopper cabbages (about 9 lb each) for a grand total of $5 total.  That will about 7 quarts of kraut....let's do the math....7 quarts = 224 oz.  Time to do some "guzzintas", as Jethro Bodine used to say, ....that's 14 (16 oz.) jars of kraut,  now do some "cipherin" and "fetchin' the naught" and that works out to be about 35 cents a jar, not including the canning salt, which cost are negligible.  See what I mean?  You can do this - and no special equipment is required, despite what you may have heard.   For example, the Germans make so much kraut they have special tools to do the job.    Enter the krauthobel....which is a like a giant mandoline:

It's really not required if you have a knife.  I am going to use my food processor to make the job quicker.   Then, there's the people that believe you have to beat up the cabbage first....enter the kraut pounder....

The flawed theory is that you need to pound the cabbage to help it make juice...but you don't need to, it will do fine on it's own.   Then there's the pickling crock....

Being the child of Polish pickle making people, I have 3 of them, but you don't need a crock to make kraut.  You can make a small batch in a canning jar, or for a bigger batch, use the ceramic insert from your crockpot, or any food safe bucket.  In Ann Arbor, Kilwin's Ice Cream Shop will sell you their empty 5 gallon ice cream tubs for 3/$1.00 which would make a fine container for pickling

There is much folklore about making kraut, including:

  1. In Appalachian folk medicine, menstruating women are warned not to make kraut of pickles when they are menstruating because the product will spoil. 
  2. Make the kraut in the dark of the moon.  The moon sign has to be right - going down, or waning or in the "Dark Days" Otherwise the kraut would swell and run over.  
  3. Never make kraut when the moon is full.
  4. Don’t make the kraut when the signs are in the bowels or feet or dog days. The astrological chart has a Zodiac man with his body divided into 12 signs. Each sign is associated with a different part of the body such as the head, neck, shoulders, sexual organs, bowels, legs and feet. It seems that the best sign for kraut-making is in the head and neck. By all means, it must be in a sign above the waist. If you go below the waist, the kraut will either smell bad, rot or make to much water and overflow your crock.
  5. If the moon is “waxing, full, waning, going down or new,” it is good to go ahead with the kraut.
So much to consider....let's see how I am doing here on Oct. 9, 2011. 

  1. Without sharing TMI, let's just rate this as "no worries here" and move on
  2. Moon is at waxing gibbous, 94% full.  Uh oh....
  3. I'm good, the moon won't be full until Tuesday
  4. Per the Farmer's Almanac, the moon is is Pisces, a foot sign.  Another uh oh....
  5. Wait a minute, I thought the moon had to be waning per folklore rule #2, but now it appears it's okay to be waxing, too.   But then again, isn't this the same rule as #3?
I'm going to take my chances on today, I guess....

So here's how to make kraut...the ratio is need 5 lbs cabbage to 3 tablespoons pickling salt.   Slice the cabbage thinly....about the thickness of a quarter.  Mix the salt and the cabbage thoroughly and pack it tightly in your pickling vessel.   The cabbage needs to be weighted down to keep it from floating.   You can use a Ziploc bag filled with brine in case it springs a leak (1 1/2 T. pickling salt per quart of water) but for my crocks, I use a kitchen plate weighted down by canning jars filled with water.  Since I keep my crocks in the laundry room, I cover them with old pillowcases (a trick I learned at Greenfield Village's Firestone Farm) to keep lint out of them, but they don't need to be covered.   Pickling needs air!  Within 24 hours, the cabbage should be submerged in it's own juice.   If it isn't, add some brine (use the ratio shown above for the plastic bags)  I've never had to do this, my decision to not consult the moon signs not withstanding.   Every day or two, skim the scum off the top of the kraut.   Start tasting the kraut after 2 weeks....the kraut will be fully fermented in 2-4 weeks at 70 F and in 5-6 weeks at 60 F.  It will be pale in color and tart in flavor.  When fermentation is complete, bubbles will have stopped rising to the surface.  

When it's done, you can store it in a very cool place (38F) or your fridge.  It freezes well, too.  Canning will destroy the vitamin C and probiotic health benefits of live fermentation, so I don't bother with it.  I just keep it in my garage in canning jars over the winter, where it stays cold enough.

Here's a recipe I can't wait to try that the Farmhouse Culture people talked about on the MSL radio program.   It's for a kraut salad that's supposed to be a popular side dish served in Poland.

Polish Kraut Salad

Serves 6
16 oz. kraut
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 to 2/3 cup good quality olive oil
Toss all ingredients together and serve as a side salad.

Give kraut a try and tell me how it turns out!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge Mustard Roundup

Try to remember the kind of September, when life was slow and oh, so mellow.....

My problem is I can't remember this kind of September, because it's never, ever been mellow for me.  It's when the year kicks back into high gear.  There's been no time for cooking or's all football practice and marching band and scouts and homework.   Evidentially that's true for everyone, because we had a very small turnout this month. 

jonski blogski

Tricia was very much mustard inspired....she tried out many recipes but the spicy corn with sesame seeds and tomatoes was her favorite and I wish corn season would last a little longer so I could try it.

prospect: the pantry

Beautiful colors are showcased in this delicious coconut chicken curry and Indian-style green beans with mustard seed

thinking out loud

Spicy horseradish mustard will deliver some warmth on a cold day


My old standby - deviled eggs.  They're great for potlucks....everyone loves them.

To catch us back up, I am going to announce the October challenge right's mace.   Mace is a spice made from the waxy red covering which covers nutmeg seeds. The flavor is similar to that of nutmeg, with a hint of pepper and a more subtle note.  It has a wide range of uses from desserts to roast meats.  Now that we're settled in to fall, I look forward to your posts from October 23-30.   Please help me by putting "Spice Rack Challenge: Mace" in your subject line.