Summer Class Spotlight – HGS Home Chef

I’ve taken a slightly different approach to my teaching schedule this summer than I have in past years. Instead of saying yes to everything and hustling to fill every moment of the canning season, my strategy is to teach fewer workshops in the hopes that I won’t feel entirely broken by the time the weather turns chilly.

So instead of having long lists of events appear here on the blog each week, I’m going to shine a spotlight on individual classes. First up is a pair of workshops at Hillsdale General Store Home Chef that I’m teaching on Sunday, June 11. This lovely cooking school is located on the main street of Hillsdale, NY, across the street from the General Store location. They carry cookware, cutlery, homewares, cookbooks, and offer a robust schedule of cooking classes.

I taught a single class at HGS Home Chef last summer and was delighted by the community that they attract. This year, I’m teaching two classes. From 11 am to 1:30 pm, I’m teaching a water bath-focused class in which we’ll make traditional strawberry preserves and sweet and savory strawberry chutney.

Then, from 2:30-4:30 pm, I’m teaching a pressure canning workshop. I’ll demonstrate how to make a tasty onion and rosemary jam as well as how to safely preserve it (and other low acid foods) in a pressure canner.

Participants will leave these classes with knowledge, useful handouts, and sample jars of the preserves made in the workshops (I’ve also heard rumors about peanut butter and jam sandwiches). For those of you within spitting distance of Hillsdale, I’d love to have you join me!

Hillsdale General Store Home Chef
2635 Route 23
Hillsdale NY 12529

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Cookbooks: Green Plate Special by Christine Burns Rudalevige

The first time I met Christine Burns Rudalevige was at a potluck held in honor of the release of the New York Times Cookbook. Christine had driven in from Carlisle, PA to join the party and fit right into our crew of giddy, early career food writers, all bursting with excitement over the fact that we were there to meet Amanda Hesser.

Since then, Christine has moved from Pennsylvania to Maine. Thanks to the wonders of social media, we’ve stayed in touch and I’ve followed her progress as she began writing a weekly column on sustainable home cooking. More recently, she published her very first cookbook, which is what I’m here to share with you today.

Called Green Plate Special (and published by Islandport Press), this lovely book is built on the foundation of Christine’s columns and is dedicated to helping all of us making our home cooking and eating just a little bit greener. Instead of my regular tour through a cookbook, I’ve got a short Q&A with Christine to share with you all.

FIJ: Could you tell us a little about Green Plate Special?

CBR: The book, a spinoff of the weekly column I’ve been writing for three years in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram’s Source, a section dedicated to living and eating sustainably, helps home cooks navigate the mountains of information available regarding eating sustainably in the modern age and then apply that information in a practical way in their own kitchens.

Many people want to eat in a way that ensures there will be good, healthy food for future generations, but have limited time, money and energy to put toward that goal. My book breaks down dozens of sustainable tenets regarding sourcing, cooking and not wasting food, explains them in a down-to-earth fashion, and demonstrates each point with a great recipe.

FIJ: What does sustainability mean to you?

CBR: It means shopping, cooking and eating in such a way that I am not harming the environment or taking more than my fair share of natural resources. And, the critical point of my book, taking on these measures as habit at a rate you can sustain over time. You don’t have to be homesteading to be part of the sustainable food movement.

FIJ: How did your time living in Europe impact your food philosophy?

CBR: When we lived in England, where the price of food is almost twice as much as it is here in the United States, I really honed my skills for not wasting a morsel of food while still making interesting meals.

When we spent a semester in France, where meat products are most often pasture-raised and the prices reflect a fair price for the farmer, I found myself “right-sizing” my omnivore family’s meat portions to reflect both the higher price and the stronger flavor. There, we learned we needed less meat to be satisfied if it was sustainably raised.

FIJ: I first met you when you were living in Pennsylvania. Did your family’s move to Maine change how you cooked at all?

CBR: Living in Central Pennsylvania was a just a fully on feast because the vegetable and fruit farmers kept me in gorgeous produce year-round. In Maine, we’ve got a shorter growing season, and to my dismay, very few stone fruit trees. But our state’s 400-miles of coastline give us access to fantastic seafood.

It’s been a learning curve to understand which fishes make the greenest dishes, but I’ve had a delicious time working that all out. People know Maine for lobsters, but there are certainly a whole lot more fish in the swimming in the sea at sustainable levels.

It’s important to know that if the seafood in the fishmonger’s case in Maine or in Pennsylvania was caught in American waters, it was done so within the confines of very strict fishery management plans. Eaters should buy more seafood and feel good eating it because they are supporting the rock star fishermen who are reeling it in according to the rules.

FIJ: What’s one easy change that people can make to help them make their culinary lives a bit more sustainable?

CBR: Be flexible. If you’ve gone to the farmer’s market looking for spinach, but the farmer only has chard left, understand that it’s a great substitute, one that supports your farmer. Don’t go to the fish market fixed on buying cod, but keep an open mind, knowing that any white flaky fish will work just fine. And if you have a hectic day that ends with a meal less green than you’d like, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.

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Submit your May Mastery Challenge Projects!

We’re well past the midway point of May, which means it’s time to get serious about completing this month’s cold pack preservation challenge! If you’ve already finished up your project for this month’s Mastery Challenge, please use the form below to record your information and be counted in the final tally. If the embedded form isn’t working for you, click here.

If you’ve not yet tackled the cold pack skill, consider whipping up a batch of spicy pickled green beans, pickled rhubarb, or some pickled okra. If you need to see the skill exercised in person, head over to Facebook and watch my recent livestream on the topic (toward the end, you’ll even see how I keep my cool when a jar breaks in the canner).

To be counted in the final tally, please submit your projects no later than Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day).

Oh, and if you do post to social media, make sure to use the #fijchallenge tag to help spread the word of our preserving activities!

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Small Batch Pickled Okra Recipe

Earlier tonight, I did a live pickle making demonstration over on the Food in Jars Facebook page (you can watch it any time you want right here). In it, I made a small batch of one of my favorite pickles – pickled okra.

Now, before you wrinkle your nose and announce that you don’t like okra, know that pickling it reduces its slime factor quite radically. I find that people who normally dislike okra find much to appreciate about the pickled version. Even my mother, who is disinterested in okra on a good day, can really dig into a jar of the pickled version. I highly recommend that you try it.

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Facebook Livestream Summer Schedule

For that few months, I’ve done a series of Facebook Live broadcasts in something of a haphazard fashion. I’ve been promising that I would get more organized with these and release a schedule. And look! Here it is. I’ll be doing livestreaming demonstrations and question & answer sessions on the following days from 9-10 pm eastern time on the Food in Jars Facebook page.

The bulk of these dates are Monday nights (any later in the week, and 9 pm seems impossibly late). If you can’t watch live, you can always tune in after the fact and watch the saved broadcast. And if you’ve got a burning question that you want me to answer but can’t join in live, just shoot me an email and I’ll make sure to get to it.

Finally, you may notice that the first of these scheduled live broadcasts is tomorrow night. I’ll be making cold packed pickled okra and answering questions. Join in then!

May 22
June 5
June 19
July 3
July 17
August 7
August 21
September 5 (note that this is a Tuesday rather than a Monday)
September 18

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Sprouted Wheat Berries in Excalibur 5-Tray Dehydrator

Some months back now, my friend Audra spread the word that she was ordering bulk grains and other dry goods from her favorite organic suppler. Her hope was to spread the word about this very good way to get high quality food and to get the total weight of the order high enough to qualify for discounted shipping.

I took her up on the call and ordered 25 pounds of hard winter wheat berries. My goal was to improve my bread baking habit with the addition of sprouted and freshly ground flour. Of course, when I committed to 25 pounds of wheat berries, I’d never sprouted or ground my own flour before. But I had enthusiasm, a vast array of cookbooks, and all the internet at my disposal. What could go wrong?

The truthful answer is that actually, there’s not a whole lot that can go wrong, but as is the case with many new things, I did have a few missteps. The first time I tried to sprout a batch of wheat berries, I left them in the soaking water too long and they developed a funky smell, akin to stinky feet.

And I’ve also learned that I really need to get a few of these non-stick sheets to prevent the wheat berries from falling off the dehydrator trays as they dry and shrink a little. Both are relatively low prices to pay in pursuit of greater knowledge and understanding!

I’ve been using my new, fancy 5-tray Excalibur to dehydrate the berries once they’ve been soaked and sprouted and that part couldn’t be easier. I love that I can set both the time and temperature so precisely. I run it at 112F to preserve the enzymatic activity of the wheat (a useful thing if you’re working with a sourdough starter), so appreciate how easy it is to dial in that exact temperature.

Now, you might be wondering why I’d take the time to soak, sprout, and dehydrate my wheat before grinding it into flour. The primary reason is that it helps make it easier to digest. Secondarily, I find that it grinds more readily (which is good, since I’m using the KitchenAid Grain Mill, and the unsprouted grain made the motor work really hard).

If you find yourself intrigued by the idea of homemade sprouted wheat flour, here’s how you do it.

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