Archive for the 'Preserving' Category

What We Used to Eat

This entry is cross-posted at http://yourhealthisonyourplate.com .

 I spent most of the day yesterday on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Not literally.  I was reading Jane Ziegelman’s new book, 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement.  I wanted to know what they ate in the days before Crisco, Cool Whip, corn syrup, and Cocoa Puffs. 

Make Cheese Not War

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Avi Rubel is the North American Director of Masa Israel Journey, the umbrella organization for immersion programs in Israel for young adults (18-30). When not sending people to Israel, Avi can be found making cheese, bread, kombucha or fermenting or pickling all kinds of goodies in his Brooklyn apartment and recording his adventures on his food blog, Make Cheese Not War. In the weeks after the Hazon Food Conference, he shared some of his thoughts about his experience with Hazon in California.

Click below to read his posts:

Yid. Dish: Apple Butter

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My family are not big jam eaters. We’ve got assorted jars of various home-made kumquat and quince jams that friends have given us over the past year or so in the back of the fridge. Still, when the fruit on our little old apple tree is showing the first blush of red – before it turns mealy and gets attacked by bugs – I can’t resist cooking up a batch of apple butter and handing it out. Just the smell of simmering apples and spices sends me back to my early childhood in Minnesota and the giant apple tree in our backyard that had seven different varieties grafted on to it. My Mom would spend hours each fall stirring big pots of applesauce and apple butter to put up for the winter.

Adventures in Pickled Ramps

(cross-posted from The Wet Sprocket)

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Until a friend recently told me about his foraging experience last week somewhere in a Bronx “forest,” I had never before heard of ramps. Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a springtime treat on the East Coast. Ramps cannot be cultivated; they need to be foraged. That’s why they’re so expensive, so valued among New York City gourmands. My foraging friend harvested so many that he bartered a portion of his harvest for a meal at a nice restaurant, which featured the foraged treats.

Two days after hearing this story I began selling ramps at the farm stand in Brooklyn where I work. I talked them up all day long to those who hadn’t heard of them (before I even tasted them), but lots of folks were actually waiting all year long for them and ran up to the stand, usually exclaiming, “finally, you have them.”

One of the perks of operating a farm stand is that at the end of the day you get to take some extra stuff home.

Apples: Eating, Drinking, Picking & Growing

While reading Eli Margulies’ recent recipe for poached pears using apple juice, I was reminded of my favourite apple juices. For our readers in England, this is a reminder of two delicious products they may already know about. And for our other readers, here is something you’ve probably never heard of, let alone even tasted. These juices are something I always look forward to drinking whenever I visit the UK. Even if they were exported (and I’m not sure they are: the food miles would be fearsome and the quality might suffer significantly!) there’s something about English apples that always makes me delighted to come back to the UK. So first, here are some thoughts on apples in general, in the US and the UK; for the juice recommendations, you’ll have to read to the end.

Breaking Pesach Like a True Hazon-Nik

our post-Pesach feast

Marking the end of Pesach with pizza and beer has become such a part of the holiday for me, that it almost has religious importance at this point. Of course it doesn’t really, but just as so many Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas, one could argue that keeping such rituals still are an important part of our Jewish identity.

While my family seder didn’t vary much from it has years past, my breaking of Pesach did. While the usual tradition has been to go out a neighborhood pizza joint, this year we did things differently. Having been gone for a week, we had lots of CSA veggies in the house I was wanting to use up. We also had sourdough starter, still alive from the Hazon Food Conference (yes, we are the push-the-chametz-to-the-back-of-the-fridge type of Jews, not the get-the-chametz-out-of-the-house kind. Not to mention that my husband, who has lovingly tended to that starter like it’s a living thing since the conference, was not about to see it be tossed away).

A Passover Tale

Judith came in from the fields where it appeared as though the whole community was out harvesting the new grain crop. The rains had ceased and the ground had dried enough to enable them to walk through the plants and collect the ripened sheaves. The stone house still felt damp from the winter and she helped her mother empty the storage urns of the remainder of the previous year’s grains.

Why Wine?

At Pesach we drink a lot of wine. Why is it called the symbol of our joy?

In an arid environment, wine can be seen a method of preservation. If you do not live or work near a well or a spring or some other source of fresh water you need to have something else to drink during the day.

  • Milk does not last without refrigeration; actually we can think of cheese as a form of dried milk (that is a form of preserving milk).
  • Crushing olives obtains oil, which while highly useful, does not quench thirst.
  • Squashing pomegranates produces a very tart juice, but it doesn’t last long at room temperature.
  • Squeezing dates creates a very sweet paste our ancestors called “dvash“.
  • And figs don’t produce much in the manner of a drinkable juice either.

The Grape

But, that other fruit mentioned among the seven species, the grape, undergoes an amazing transformation when it is crushed, squashed and squeezed. With just the right amount of exposure to oxygen it becomes a drink that, like a good person, becomes more distinguished as it ages.

The 2009 Kosher Food and Wine Experience

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On Monday I was in attendance at the 3rd  annual Royal Wines gala event, “The Kosher Food & Wine Experience”. This year’s event was in the NY Metropolitan Pavilion, located on 125 West 18th Street between 6th and 7th Ave in Manhattan.

The event attracts people from all walks of life and all branches of Judaism are represented. The cost of entry is $100.00, but many industry people get complimentary tickets, including me. There were kosher wines from all over the world. I was especially struck by the quality of the wines from Spain.

Dairy Down Low: Across State Lines and in my Kitchen

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It’s been a crazy few weeks for milk in the US. Earlier this month, dairy prices officially tanked, collapsing over $5 between last February and this one. It’s the worst drop in prices since the Great Depression, when the government asked dairy farmers to pour off millions of gallons of milk. The drastic losses have prompted 35 senators to send  a letter to Vilsack and the new administration asking the government to support the dairy industry.

In somewhat more unconventional milk news, the first pharmaceutical goats were approved by the FDA (big surprise there) as was the drug that they produce in their milk. The goats produce ATryn,  a drug approved to prevent blood clots.  ATryn is a human protein, and the gene for its production is implanted in the goat embryo, while the protein itself is extracted from the milk.

Yid.Dish: Eli and Blair’s Dill Pickles

ADAMAH pickle demonstration

Legend would have it, two years ago the ADAMAH, Jewish Environmental Fellowship at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, had an overabundance of cucumbers.  One of the Fellows, Zelig Golden (also the co-chair of this conference) was unhappy with simply composting the unused vegetables and began making pickles from the extra veggies.  Pickling is really about preserving – extending the harvest and gaining additional nutritional value of eating fermented food (lactobacillus is good for you).  Today ADAMAH Fellows sell their preserved products such as kimchi, sauerkraut and of course their pickles in local grocery stores and at the local CSA.  (More about ADAMAH here)

Feeling the Crunch: NYC Picklefest ‘08

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New Yorkers crammed into the street at today’s eighth annual NYC International Pickle Day like so many Kirby cukes in a barrel. Pickle-makers from Essex Street to South Korea came to sample and sell their wares to an eager audience of thousands.

Where was I last year on pickle day? you might be wondering, but in fact, you were probably here, on Orchard Street, biting into one of Guss’ famous three-quarter sours with it’s crisp, salty bite that’s more refreshing than a gulp of Gatorade. According to the folks at Guss’, the festival has been packed every year since the New York Food Museum began sponsoring it in 2001.

Beer-kay Avot?

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Counting the Homer

Last year, I posted about the connection between beer, civilization and the Jewish people’s journey from Egypt to Sinai during the period of the omer.

This year, just as the counting of the omer began, I came across this article, which is a survey of contemporary authors concerning which beers they would pair with their novels! Some authors picked beers that matched the characteristics of their writing (“dark, with biting overtones,” etc.). Others chose more figuratively. For example, Michael Chabon responded, “The proper pairing with The Yiddish Policemen’s Union would of course be a nice cold bottle of Bruner Adler lager, brewed right in the Federal District of Sitka by Shoymer Brewing, Inc.”

Yid.Dish: Sourdough Focaccia

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I’ve been working on a few bread projects lately: sourdough starter, and the no-knead focaccia-style bread recipe from the NY Times last year. Today, I completed a successful merger and the result? Only half a loaf left, after my parents & I were through with it at dinner.

The no-knead recipe goes something like this: wet dough + long time to rise = big air bubbles. Home-bakers tend to be more familiar with the opposite kind of bread, that is, a very elastic, kneadable dough, that rises for 2-3 hours, and gives a dense, fine-crumb loaf. You could come home from work at 4 and still have challah for shabbos at 8 kind of thing. But the air bubbles intrigued me — who doesn’t love french bread! and so I’ve been experimenting.