Sunday, June 24, 2012

Popcorn Love

Normally I'm pretty appalled by the egregious use of corn in the USA. Thanks to corn syrup and other bi-products, it's in everything. I mean, a nicely grilled ear of corn on the cob is one thing. Maybe I can get used to it in various starchy products like cereal and tortillas. But corn in my cookies? And ketchup? And even orange juice? Seriously people? There is really only one ingredient that should be involved in orange juice. I'll give you a hint: it starts with "O" and ends in "RANGE".

Nonetheless, when it comes to corn, popcorn is my Achilles heel (much to the chagrin of my dad who likens eating popcorn to stuffing your face with styrofoam). I love it served traditionally with just a little butter and salt. I adore freshly made kettle corn. There's just no going wrong with popcorn.

So I propose an exchange: here I will post our most reliable popcorn making technique and you all should leave a comment with your favorite variety of popcorn for us to try. I know there are a ton out there - I've seen them on pinterest! But, I want opinions from real people. What's the best? If you can't decide (I relate, I'm a libra), then just list all the ones you love! Feel free to leave the comments on facebook if that's easier for you. For now, I'll uphold my end of the bargain.

Perfect Traditional Popcorn

3 tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
2-3 tbsp butter, clarified*
sea salt to taste

In a large pot that has a lid (I use a non-stick light weight dutch oven) heat the oil. Put about 3 kernels of popcorn in while it heats. Make sure the lid is on. (I like my dutch oven because it has a clear lid and I don't have to guess based on sounds).

Once the three kernels have popped, move the pot off the  heat (though not too far away) and add the rest of the kernels. Let them sit in the hot oil for about 30 seconds.

Move the pot back over the heat. Try to situate the lid so that there is room for air to escape, but not popcorn kernels.

Once the popcorn starts popping again, gently shake the pot back and forth over the heat to avoid any kernels getting burnt. I prefer to wear oven mitts while doing this because the steam gets really hot!

The popping will start to slow down. When you can just about count to 3 between pops take the pot off the heat and immediately transfer the popcorn to a bowl.  (Beware, a few kernels may try to keep popping on you!)

Top the popcorn with your clarified butter and sea salt. Serve immediately! (Tastes best while watching a movie with loved ones and/or friends)

*If you don't know how to clarify butter, that's okay. Just melt the same amount and it'll be fine. Clarifying it just takes it to the next level.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Here's a quick hit on a tasty soup. It's out of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Leeks and potatoes are a couple of things we do pretty well up here in cloudy western Washington and I look forward to making this soup every spring. Interesting tidbit, Vichyssoise was actually invented in the US. It was adapted from the French Potato and Leek soup.

3 cups of peeled and sliced potato
3 cups of sliced white leek
1.5 quarts of chicken stock or broth
Salt to taste

Some prep pictures

Simmer all of these things together, partially covered, for 40-50 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
OR use a pressure cooker; cook under 15 pounds of pressure for 5 minutes, release pressure, and simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes.

Apply heat

Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork or pass the soup through a food mill.

0.5 to 1 cups of whipping cream
Salt and Pepper

Stir in the cream. Season to taste, oversalting very slightly as salt loses savor in a cold dish.
Chill the soup.

2 to 3 Tb of minced chives or chive flowers

Serve soup in chilled soup cups and decorate with chives.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Chrissie and I finally took the plunge and attended a canning class. We had been skirting around the edges of canning for the past year or so. For one reason or another, we just never got around to it, but then Chrissie found a groupon for a canning class and signed us up. No more excuses. Really, it's one of the first things I should have picked up on because I love pickled everything so much. If you give me anything that's been brined or pickled, you win me over.

Canning pickled things is super easy. All you need are vinegar, salt, water, spices, and the food you want to pickle. You need some equipment, the bare essentials being jars, a stock pot, canning lids, and a device to remove the cans from the boiling water, like tongs.

From there, you grab a recipe and make your pickles. There is a great resource from the University of Georgia in conjunction with the Dept. of Agriculture (or maybe is the USDA) that has detailed information about every step of the process. Here's the link. The best part, it's all free. It's like, for the betterment of mankind or something. ;)

I think part of the reason I never picked up canning was because we never grew anything in a large enough quantity to justify it, and I couldn't bring myself to buy produce just to stick it in a jar. Going to the class helped turn me around though. When fruits and vegetables are out of season, the quality goes down and the price goes up. Buying produce in season and preserving them is a nice way to work around that. What's more, I found out that some local farm operations sell "canning boxes," which is produce that can't be sold on the shelf (because of bruising or whatever) but are perfect for going into a can. These canning boxes get sold a big discount. Not everyone does though, so do the rounds at your local farmer's market.

So, without further adieu, here are some pictures of our first canning adventure: pickled asparagus.

I cut off the woodier stalks and then halved the shoots to fit in a can.

Our stock pot. Note: water boils faster if the lid is on!

The asparagus was accompanied by 3 cloves of garlic and 1/4 of a jalapeno.
The finished product cooling down.
Here's the recipe:

1 pound of raw asparagus
4(ish) quart size jars
Vinegar - 5% acidity
"Seasoning" per jar
 - 1/2 teaspoon salt of pickling salt (kosher salt is an acceptable substitute, but double the amount)
 - 3 cloves of garlic
 - 1/4 of a jalapeno

1. Wash the asparagus. The cut it and fill the jars with as many as will fit. Leave 1 inch of space at the top of the jar for air.
2. Add the seasoning.
3. Fill the jar halfway up with vinegar and the rest of the way with water. Remember to leave 1 inch of air at the top.
4. Put on your lid and tighten it moderately - not too loose or too tight.
5. Fill a stock pot with cool water and load it with jars. Bring it to a hard boil. Boil jars for 15 minutes. This time will differ depending on your altitude. Non-Sea-Level people, you know who you are.
6. Remove jars from pot and let them cool at room temperature for 12-18 hours. Let them cool on a surface that will not be affected by intense heat. Naked countertops not recommended!
7. Once everything is cooled, make sure you take off the rings and just leave the lid in place. This will prevent the rings and lids from rusting around the edges.
8. Let the cans sit for at least a week and then enjoy. Store them in a cool, dark place. These will keep for a long time. My rule of thumb is to use them within 1-2 years.

I hope this helps you all and happy canning!