Post #804 Irish Brown Bread

June 20, 2021 at 5:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What a surprise. I made bread again. We love bread in our house. There have been a couple of loaves that I’ve been disappointed in, but overall every piece of bread we’ve made has been so much better than the stuff in the stores. Even at bakeries. Part of that is because there’s a great sense of accomplishment when the loaf comes out looking like the picture. Another part of that is because the aroma of baking bread wafting through the house sort of primes the taste buds so anything will taste good. I can’t count the number of types of bread I’ve written about in the blog, but I do know they pretty much all tasted good.

Yesterday was the first day on a weekend we did errands without worrying about the FiL. We did worry about the dog because it was a hot day so we left him at home, by himself, for an extended length of time (nearly four hours), unattended, by himself. We figured we were going to spend the first hour after we returned just cleaning stuff up.

The day was pretty busy, but we started it by having lunch in a restaurant maskless. We both a little nervous, but the steak place we went to was still observing distancing, and it wasn’t too busy. We sat at the bar and had some wine and then ordered steak and salad and fries. The bartender was a young lady who was handling the bar, take outs, and a section of the restaurant. She stayed and talked with us several times, and we tipped her big. She deserved it. From there, the main thing we did was ship 8 boxes to the FiL in Arizona. And we stopped at one of our favorite whole foods store to get salad stuff for dinner. And I got a natural lemon/lime soda that was to die for!! It was so good. Of course, when I read the ingredients, it started with sparkling pure water, sequed to cane sugar, and finished with “natural herbs and spices.” No mention of lemon or lime. So now I want to know what was giving it those flavors.

We sat out with the neighbors during the evening chatting and laughing until it was way past our bedtimes. They gave Bear a new soft squeaky toy and now there’s orange fluff all over the livinging room.

Today, we started the day by stopping for breakfast at our favorite diner, then took Bear (who glutted himself on two rashers of bacon left from my breakfast, acting like he hadn’t eaten in four days) to a nearby nature center where we walked through wild cut meadows, river beaches, and he learned to walk into the water without any hesitation. On the drive home, Partner/Spouse and I talked about baking some bread today, and I suggested another loaf of rye. We threw ideas back and forth, and settled on an Irish bread.

The last time we were at King Arthur stocking up, we picked up a bag of “Irish Style Flour”, and not knowing what it was, we bought it.

We decided to make bread with it, assuming it was going to be Irish Soda Bread, which we like a lot. But the recipe on the back of the package was for Irish Brown Bread. I’ve heard about it, read about it, possibly even eaten it as some point, but I know I’ve never made it. This is what the flour looks like:

It’s a rustic flour, not as processed as white flour. It has much of the bran left in it, and is not a white color. Once it’s mixed, it has a deep brown nutty color, hence the name of the bread. The coarser grind of the flour was made for the “peasants” and was a staple of their diet, along with potatoes.

The recipe is simplicity itself.

  • 4 cups of Irish Style Flour
  • 2-3 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

Preheat oven to 400. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well and add buttermilk and oil/butter. Mix until combined, there may be lumps but this is fine. Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes using a bench scraper until the dough comes together. Form into a ball and place on a baking sheet treated either with a light spray of vegetable oil or a layer of corn meal. Cut deep slashes horizontal and vertical. Place in oven and bake 40 minutes. Remove and test by thumping and listening for a hollow sound. Cool on a rack until room temp or slightly above. Cut and serve with butter.

Don’t worry too much if bread is darker than usual. It will rise in crazy shapes sometimes, so don’t worry to much if it doesn’t look like this one.

I also made some modifications, cuz, well, I’m me. We don’t keep buttermilk in the house, and they don’t sell it in two cup quantities around here. So I used a buttermilk substitute that works quite well. You mix it in the flour, and use water instead of milk. I also used the higher quantity of sugar since I didn’t know how the recipe would taste. It gave it a wonderful slightly sweet flavor. It’s a little more crumbly than I expected, but that could be my fault. I added an extra cup of flour during the kneading process because the dough was extremely loose and sticky. The extra flour may have resulted in the crumbly texture.

So there’s the new bread, although it’s an old bread recipe.

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“Karen” and I were talking recently and she mentioned how much she loves cheese omelets. I laughingly said that omelets were the easiest things in the world to make, and she replied that hers always burned. We got onto another subject and I never discussed it with her. So Karen, here’s the steps for a foolproof omelet. First, prep your ingredients ahead of time. Grate the cheese, beat the eggs, season them. Use a small round pan and a spatula that fits the pan easily. Place a pat of butter in the pan and set it on medium-low heat. Let the butter melt completely and start to bubble/sizzle. When it reaches that stage, turn the pan to coat it with butter, then slide the eggs into the pan. Spread the cheese evenly over the entire mass of eggs. Shake the pan occassionally to keep the omelet loose. When the eggs have set completely, use the spatula to flip the omelet over on itself to create a half-moon shape. Allow the omelet to cook a minute more, then slide onto a plate. Sprinkle a little more cheese on top allowing the heat of the eggs to melt the cheese. Then eat heartily.

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So, I hope everyone has had a pleasant weekend. We’re about to go out and start the grill to make carne asada for tacos. And it’s not even Tuesday!

Holler at me if there’s any questions you have or want to discuss. And feel free to share this post far and wide.

In the meantime,

Post #803 A Wonderful Weekend!

June 13, 2021 at 3:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You may remember from my last post that we were experiencing the second of a hellacious temperature spike. The first one was in the low to mid nineties and we barely survived that one due to the cool nights. Our house is quirky and retains the overnight coolness well into the afternoon. The converse is true, too, and it retains the daytime warmth well into the evening making sleeping a challenge. We got through it and revelled in the cooling trend that dipped well into the sixties, at one point. But all good things come to an end and the five or six days before the FiL left, we experienced another heat wave. This one spiked at 97 degrees the day before his flight. By this time, we had pulled out and set up all the air conditioners so the only really warm room in the house was the kitchen. Just my luck. However, since that day, the temps have fallen and we now have the weather that Vermont is famous for.

The day the FiL left, since we’d been up at 2:30am, we spent the day lounging and cat napping. Since then, we’ve been busy with work and life. But we determined we were taking the weekend off. Of course, Bear had his own plans which involved maiming me. He pulled, I went down with a rolled ankle, and to spend half of Thursday and a good part of Friday with my right foot elevated. It’s still a little sore, but usable. Saturday, though, was an ambitious agenda starting with a drive to a southern town, breakfast in a unique diner, an hour at a great bookstore, and another couple of hours exploring the town. Then home to relax for a little while before pulling out the grill to cook up two thick cut pork chops (my new favorite thing in the world, better than steak even), and then a fire in the fire pit during the evening.

We woke up at our regular time because the dog has to do his business on schedule, so at six am we were up and at ’em. However, a monkey wrench got thrown into the agenda in the form of allergies. I went my whole life never being bothered by allergies until this year. And suddenly, the pollen from the tiny white wildflowers that are blooming ubiquitously here and getting to me and the dog and the neighbor’s dog and Partner/Spouse. I watered the outdoor plants, sat inside, and tried not to sneeze and cough. We immediately decided a long car ride was out of the question. And breakfast at a diner was not going to happen either.

By midmorning, we were all feeling much better and we decided to modify our plans. We all got in the car and drove south by a different route and spent an hour and a half viewing the springtime impact on our state. People were out in droves, on bikes, motorcycles, cars, on foot (running), and we even saw one dedicated skier who was cross country skiing on the road with modified skis which had large skating wheels on them.

That’s not the guy we saw, but you get the idea.

We went through a very quaint village that was off the beaten path, but jammed with people enjoying the weather. Cuz Saturday was the most temperate day we’d had in weeks! We talked, listened to music, enjoyed the cool breezes and warm sunshine. We looked at farmer’s markets, stores that were open again, book sales at high schools. Our goal, though we didn’t realize it at the time, was a waterfall we’d visited about a year ago. It’s a cascade more than a waterfall, and it’s about ten feet from the road. It’s a very popular spot for people to swim and explore. When we pulled into the parking lot, there were still many spots open. When we left about fifteen minutes later, they were full. Timing is everything. Bear loved walking in the woods, but the stream confused him, and he was far too stimulated to even try to poop, but he did pee, so partial victory. Of course, the path he took me on stressed my ankle and set it to aching, but small price to pay.

There were vague plans to stop for lunch somewhere, but the day had warmed up to about 82 degrees and since we had the dog with us, we decided not to leave him in the car while we ate. We went straight home and ordered pizza! We had rather a late lunch, so we decided to skip grilled animal flesh and move straight to the fire pit later on. However, the back yard neighbors texted for a playdate for the dogs, so I poured a glass of wine and went out with the dog. Then I came back to pour another glass of wine in a different container since the dog jerking on the leash made me spill most of it. I told them we were planning a fire pit that evening if they wanted to come over. They were going out to dinner, but said they’d drop by if it wasn’t too late. We also dug up some lillies that she hated from her garden and I took one huge bundle to put in pots in the front yard, and we took another huge bundle to another neighbor who I hadn’t met yet, apart from sporadic greetings and waves.

Once the sun had set behind the hill, but the day was still bright, we got everything together. I poured another glass of wine, leashed the dog, went outside, set the dog with Partner/Spouse, then went to get more wine since the dog jerking on the leash made me spill most of my wine. This is the fire, and what the dog did for most of the night as he waited for his girlfriend:

They did arrive later on, and we spent a couple hours chatting and enjoying the cool evening. We all went in around ten, but the dogs had spend two hours in their yard running non-stop. So Bear was unconscious almost before he got inside. So, it was a great Saturday.

Today, I straightened up the back yard, and repotted the lillies. They look pretty bedraggled at the moment, but a few days in the pot, the sun, and the watered soil, and they’ll perk right up. I’m told they’re impossible to kill to I’m counting on that. We’ve been cleaning the house top to bottom. It’s still Spring for another week or so, so our Spring Cleaning isn’t late yet. But today’s plan for me is making Rye Bread for Partner/Spouse. We had stocked up on our flours last time we were at King Arthur’s so I pulled the recipe from the bag of rye flour.

Rye Sandwich Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups Rye Flour
  • 1 3/4 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses or honey (I used Treacle, a British molasses)
  • 2 tsp Active Dry Yeast or Instant Yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tablespoons carraway seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon minced dried onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix together all the ingredients and knead by any method until a smooth and slightly sticky dough is made. I put all the dry ingredients together then added the water, treacle, and butter. I used a stand mixer to knead for six minutes, then kneaded by hand on a floured surfaced until it was ready. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to cover all surfaces of the dough. Cover and place in a warm dry place until the dough doubles in size, 1-2 hours. Do not use the dough until it doubles. Once the dough has risen properly, remove from bowl and shape into one long oval loaf. Place on a baking sheet cover with corn meal, or parchment, or lightly greased. Cover and allow to rise until its increased by a third, about an hour. While it’s rising, heat the oven to 350. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes, or until the internal temp is 205. Remove the bread and allow to cool slightly. While it’s in this initial cooling stage, you can brush with melted butter to create soft and satiny crust. Move to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting.

I noticed during the kneading process that the dough has a strong aroma of onion which I found pleasant. I’m still in the first rise, so I don’t know how this tastes yet. But it looks like it’s supposed to so I’m hopeful.

So, in a few hours, the grill will be started and thick pork chops will be cooking. We’ll have a salad and fresh rye bread with it. In the meantime, I will probably sit on the porch, read, drink a glass of chilled wine, and enjoy the fresh cool breezes. And I hear the ice cream truck a few streets over, so I might enjoy some ice cream, too. It’s a summer thing.

I hope your weekends were as soul satisfying as ours. If you’d like to share, please do. And feel free to share the post as you choose.

As always,

Post #802 More Kitchen Hacks

June 10, 2021 at 1:08 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I offered a list of kitchen hacks so I thought I would do that now. Also, at the end of the post is an update on the FiL with some big changes to our home life. Hacks, as I’ve told you before, are either short cuts or new processes that are simpler to what was established norms. Sometimes, they’re “lost knowledge” in that they’re the way grandma used to do it, and other times, they’re new tech based on existing knowledge such as microwaves and air poppers for popcorn. The usual way a hack is known is by the phrase “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Hack #1 – A New Broom Sweeps Best. I don’t know about you, but I still sweep the kitchen floor periodically, and not nearly as often as I should. We’re lucky in that we have always had dogs who know the kitchen floor is a bonanza for snacks and treats anytime they choose to use their noses. Broom technology has changed often, but it’s still a long stick with bristles at the bottom that put dirt and dust into a pile. The types of bristles have changed from natural fibers to synthetic. I’ve even seen some that are anti-static to help pick up dust better. However, there’s a trick my mom told me about once that works wonders. We lived in the desert where there’s just no getting away from dust. You could literally sweep at 8am and need to do it again by noon. Even a hermetically sealed house will have dust in it in the desert. What she would do is put a cotton (usually flannel) pillow case over the bristles and tie the end up on the handle. Then she’d spray the pillow case with Endust, or plain water. The broom would provide support to the pillow case which would grab every speck of dust it encountered. Once the dust was gathered up and put int the trash can, she’d take the pillow case off by turning it inside out as she pulled it down, and toss it into the washing machine during a load of cottons. I say “she”, but of course I mean me. Once she showed me how, it was mine to do every day when I got home from school. So, I can attest that it works.

Hack #2 – Roasted Gravy. Here’s a trick I ran into a long time ago, when I was first learning to cook. I was still in my mom’s school of cookery so we had a lot of roasts of beef, or chicken, or pork or turkey, etc. Since mom was Irish, potatoes were a feature of nearly every meal, and so was gravy. There are many ways to make gravy, and if you’re not careful, it will be lumpy. One trick is to flour the bottom of the roasting pan before cooking. This works best with a metal pan and a rack. Dust the flour over the entire bottom of the pan and roast the meat normally. The flour will absorb the meat juices and cooking will turn it brown. Once the roast is done, take the pan out and place it on the stove top. Stir two more tablespoons of flour in the pan drippings while gently heating the pan on the stove top. Keep stirring and when the flour and drippings reaches the consistency of heavy cream, start adding hot water, salt, pepper, and any herbs you want. A whisk will help keep lumps away. Add enough water to bring the gravy to your desired consistency, and once the gravy has thickened, allow it bubble vigorously for a minute or two before serving. You can subustitute milk, stock, or whatever other liquid you like. Don’t forget to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan for the extra flavor they have.

Hack #3 – Boiled Potatoes Less the Water. Sounds odd, right? Basically, what we’re talking about here is keeping boiled potatoes perfectly cooked while waiting for the rest of the meal to finish off. Cut the potatoes as you would normally, and cook them as you would normally. Drain the potatoes remembering they are very tender at this point. Return them to the hot pot (it should not be over direct heat, but still hot from the boiling process.) Immediately cover the pot with layered dish towels. The towels will absorb any steam still being released and the potatoes will stay tender and mealy. Just before serving, melt some butter and drizzle over the potatoes, but do not shake the potatoes or they’ll break down.

Hack #4 – Sparkling Glasses. These days, I wash dishes by hand. The kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher, and there’s no room to install one without a major renovation. Since we don’t own the house, that’s not going to happen. But it’s not really a problem because we don’t really generate that many dirty dishes. A sinkful of hot soapy water takes care of us most days. However, I like my wineglasses to sparkle so I can enjoy the look and color of the wine as I’m drinking it. So I take a page from the book of old wives’ tales, and occassionally soak the glasses in white vinegar and hot water. Once I rinse them off in hot water, I use paper towels to dry them thoroughly. They look brand new after that. When we had a dishwasher, I used white vinegar instead of the “spotless” solution they always said to put into the holder. Worked great, you should try it.

Hack #5 – Baking Soda What? I heard a comedienne once talking about baking soda’s split personality, and asked, “Is it Sybil?” Baking soda can do anything, it seems. I haven’t tried this trick yet, but I’m doing to either tonight or tomorrow. We’re having tacos tonight (yay, tacos!) so we’ll have some greasy messy plates and pans to clean. I read recently that adding a few tablespoons of soda to a sinkful of hot soapy water will help cut the grease tremendously. It makes sense since it can everything else. But it also makes sense because the basis of soap of any kind is lye. Just make certain you rinse the dishes thoroughly.

Hack #6 – Sanitizing A Used Sponge. This is a trick my brother in law showed me. I use the sponges with the layer of nylon scrubber on one side. Because I’m a cheap SOB, I use those things up. By the time I throw a sponge away, it’s usually got swathes cut out of from the knives I’ve washed, and the nylong scrubber is so worn, it’s actually pilled and doesn’t scrub anything. And they may tend to be odiferous. I counteract that with a squeeze of lemon and keep on scrubbing. My brother in law puts his sponges in the microwave to sanitize them and keep odors away. He puts them directly on the glass plate sopping wet. He nukes them for three minutes. He uses tongs to remove them cuz they’re going to be hot. Then he uses the steam generated by the process and some paper towels to clean out the microwave. No wasted effort there.

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So, I promised an update on the FiL. We saw his oncologist two weeks ago who said that because of his overall good health, stamina, and good heart, they wanted to get him on a course of radiation treatment. The aggressiveness of the tumor was worrisome, and while they believed they got it all, the placement of the tumor was such that it was difficult to be certain. They want him on an every other day schedule for several weeks. Once that was completed, they would then assess whether or not chemo was needed.

We had already planned to turn him into what we term a “snowbird.” In Arizona and SoCal, every winter retired people from the northern states would descend on us to avoid the snow and ice and enjoy what they considered “summer weather.” Once the temps in the desert started to rise to uncomfortable levels, around March and April, they would return north and enjoy summer weather again. It dumps a lot of cash into the area, but also a lot of attitude so it’s a mixed blessing. The FiL was going to avoid Vermont’s winter, and Arizona’s summer. A snowbird. And he was excited.

When we had all the info, though, we knew once the treatments started, the snowbird plan wasn’t going to work. Given his age, radiation was going to take too much out of him. He wouldn’t be getting to Arizona again until his 90s, if at all. We discussed it at length, and decided to send him back to Arizona for his treatments, and to stay. His heart wasn’t in Vermont, and Home was Arizona. His oldest son who is also in the medical field (not as advanced as Partner/Spouse), his grandkids, his brother, and his neice are all in the Phoenix area. My family who all love him dearly are only an hour and a half away. Partner/Spouse and I got him recovered from the issues that brought him here in the first place, so all in all, it’s a good move, and a positive step for him. We’re both firm believers that our health is influenced by our attitudes and a happy patient will do better than one who’s just okay. So, it was quick, but yesterday he arrived in Phoenix after an uneventful flight. We’re packing his stuff up and shipping it to him. He’s in the heat instead of the cold, and he’s happy. So, it’s another adjustment in our house, but all will be well.

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So, how’s everything with all of you? Holler back, if you want to, and let us all know.

As always,

Post #801 A Kind of Bush and A Drink

June 6, 2021 at 12:06 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Any guesses? Here’s a couple of clues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They’ve got the same name, but as you can see, they are completely different animals. They’re both called Shrubs. And you can conceivably use one to make the other. Since this is a food blog, guess which one we’ll be learning about today?

A Shrub used to make a drink is a syrup made from fruits and herbs, sugar, and vinegar. It’s added to various liquids to make either a refreshing summer drink, or a cocktail. I first heard of shrubs from my mom. She was always curious about how things worked in “the olden days”, and I sort of inherited the same curiosity from her. She was constantly collecting the little booklets that described how to make home made rootbeer, and to make soap, and how to get sheets sparkling white without the modern conveniences. She had dozens of them. They were fun, nostalgic, and quick to read.

It wasn’t that she wanted to practice the process because who truly wants to work that hard? But she wanted to know. Once in a while, we’d try one of the recipes. We’d have fun while we were figuring it out; we’d enjoy the results; but we seldom ever did it twice. Usually it wasn’t convenient. When she died, I grabbed all those booklets and read them again. I wish I still had them all. In one of them, or one of her “back to the old ways of doing things” books, I stumbled on a recipe to make a drink called a shrub. It intrigued me because it was a way to preserve the harvest, but it was healthy, too.

Basically, you cooked berries, sugar, and vinegar together into a syrup. While it was still hot, you put it into a clean jar and sealed it. As it cooked, it would create its own airtight seal. Then you just put it in a cool place, and when you were ready, you added a tablespoon or so to cool water and you had a drink very much like lemonade, but with the flavor of whatever berry you made. It was sweet from the sugar, but tangy from the vinegar. It quenched your thirst faster than water did, and helped you digest your meals quicker because the vinegar aided your digestion.

The first one I made was blueberry because, well, it was blueberries! Cherries and blueberries are two of my favorites. I cut the recipe in half, and still had a ton. I’m an idiot sometimes, and I’d cleaned out a two litre plastic Pepsi bottle for my shrub. I fitted a nice funnel onto, set it in the sink to catch an spills, and started pouring. Then I watched as that bottle collapsed in on itself as the heat from the syrup caused it to not just melt, but shrink, keeping its shape until the very end when it starting twisting and wrinkling. It was kind of cool to watch, but I wasn’t using any of that syrup. Luckily, I’d stopped pouring as soon as I saw what was happening.

So, leaving the pan on the stove with its cover on, I made a quick trip to the store to get some Bell jars for canning. Three medium sized jars did the trick. I labelled the tops, put them in the fridge, and waited for them to cool completely. That’s always the hardest part for me. Eventually, it was ready, and I chose the jar that wasn’t filled entirely. The syrup was thick, and smelled wonderful. My ex wanted to have pancakes to put it on. I filled a glass with water and stirred the syrup into it and watched it melt effortlessly, turning the water a brilliant blueberry color. I tested it until I had the tastiest amount, then added ice. We both took a large swallow, and my mind expanded with all the things I could do with this.

I went crazy after that. At one point, we couldn’t use the second shelf of the fridge due to all the bottles of home made shrub. Eventually, the novelty wore off, I gifted several people with jars, use up what was left, and stopped making it. During the height of the shrub making, I was using it for dressing, marinade, cakes, pies, syrup for pancakes and waffles, even on top of ice cream. Mostly though, it’s supposed to be a drink. We put it in plain water for quick juice flavored drink. We put it in plain seltzer for a berry soda. We put it in wine and soda for a wine cooler. We mixed it in sangria. We mixed it with rum for rum punch.

At one point, I went to the library (the internet was in its infancy then, so there wasn’t an abundance of free information) and found a book dedicated to shrubs, and in the cooking section! I’ve tried to find it since but since I don’t recall the name or the author, I’m flying blind. But the book had page after page of recipes for various flavors, and also had a history for the drink which has actually been recorded in one form or another for hundreds of years. I won’t bore you with those details (which I find fascinating), but since water wasn’t safe to drink for so many years, and wine and spirits were fairly dear for the common folk, shrubs would help make the worst of the alcohol available to the populace into a palatable drink, and even one to be sought after and proud of. Sadly, the shrub started its decline once reliable good drinking water became available, and when bottled drinks arrived, shrubs were largely forgotten.

So, how do you make a shrub? There are two ways, only one of which I have used. The first way, and the way I’m most familiar with is the hot, or cooked, method. The second, which I haven’t tried, but I’m about to, is the cold method. In either case, the ratios of fruit to sugar to vinegar is the same – 2:1:1.

With the hot method, use a non-reactive pan. You don’t want the acids in either the fruits or the vinegars to leach out any contaminants from the metals of the pan. At best, it will discolor the shrub. At worst, it could be harmful if drunk. Use one cup of mashed fruit with the juice, and dissolve half a cup of sugar over low heat. When the sugar is fully dissolved, raise the heat to medium and continue cooking until a syrup is formed. Timing will vary depending on the fruit and its sugar content. Don’t be tempted to add more sugar to thicken it quicker unless you like a fairly sweet drink. Once the syrup is ready, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool completely. If the fruit has left behind seeds and skins, run the syrup through a seive into a bowl, unless you want them in the drink. I think it addes character, but you might not. Add a half cup of cider vinegar (never use distilled vinegar, more on vinegars in a moment) and stir to incorporate it thoroughly. Pour the syrup into a tightly sealable jar and put it in the fridge to chill completely. Label the jar with the date and the flavors. This will keep up to a year, I’ve heard, but mine seldom lasted longer than a couple of months before we used it all.

The cold method is preferred by some people because it retains more vibrant flavors and all the nutrients. You combine one cup of crushed fruit with half a cup of sugar in a bowl and leave it alone for a couple of days. The juice and sugar will combine to create the syrup. You might need to leave it for three days, but check it at two. Once the syrup is ready, seive out the solids and leave the juice in a clean bowl. Add the half cup of cider vinegar, and pour into jars. Seal, label, and chill, then use. I imagine the flavors would be amazing.

I want to talk about flavor combos now. Till now I’ve discussed using primarily fruits, but you can use vegetables, too. Any natural flavor enhancer can also be used, but I’d steer away from artifical ones and extracts. And remember, everything you add to a shrub is a flavor and will alter the end product’s flavor. Distilled white vinegar is basically pure acid and doesn’t add any flavor, but does add a harshness to the drink. If you want to try it, please feel free to do so. You may life the flavor, most people won’t. Flavored vinegars will add their own depth to the product as well. Cider vinegar tastes different from rice vinegar and both taste different from balsamic vinegar. Pear vinegar is simply cider vinegar with pear juices added which can give the shrub a good flavor or not based on what flavor profile you’re hoping for. So, it’s really an experiment, and taking good notes will help you replicate a batch you like.

You’re limited only by your imagination. Strawberry and rhubarb makes a great pie, so the flavor combo could make a great shrub. Apples and cinnamon are a match made in heaven, and could be in a shrub. I’d use cinnamon sticks at first, until you taste it. You may not want a gritty drink. Cucumber and lime sounds like a light and refreshing drink on a hot day. Blueberry and lemon, too. Tomato and celery, or tomato and jalapeno sound good too, maybe with a shot of vodka? Up to now, I’ve been talking about cool drinks, but there’s nothing to stop you from make a hot shrub, something with warm milk and warm spices? Hot chocolate with a cherry shrub? The point is, if you’ve eaten it and liked the flavor, try to replicate it in a shrub. They’re easy to make, and in the quantities in this post, you’re not out anything but time.

So, I hope you like the sound of this drink mix. Let me know what you think. Feel free to share the post far and wide.

As always,

Post #800 (!) Vintage Banana Bread

June 2, 2021 at 12:16 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

One of my favorite things to do when I have some spare time (yeah, right) is to peruse very old cookbooks and cooking magazines. I love learning the recipes from generations gone by to see how they’ve changed in the intervening years. I find it relaxing, enjoyable, and it heals my soul. I get chuckles from how brief the recipes can be based on the assumtion that every cook knows how. Sometimes the recipe is simply a list of ingredient with the method entirely up to the cook’s experience and imagination. It’s almost a game to make sure it comes out right.

Recently, a friend I’ve known since high school (so close to half a century) and I were chatting on FB and she was talking about a banana bread recipe that her mom used to make. It was a hand-written recipe and over time had been misplaced and disappeared. She couldn’t remember very much about it except it was delicious, it was old, and all the banana breads she herself had made since then disappointed her. So she asked me for a couple of my favorite recipes.

I decided to do some detective work. Based on the sketchy clues, my guess was that it came from a magazine or community cookbook from the 50s or 60s. It was possible it was earlier than that since it was hand written, so it might have come from her grandmother, or something along that line. Turning to the trusty internet, and using the search engine Bing (prefer it to Google), I searched on vintage banana bread recipes. I went to images because I wanted to find hand written recipes. Here’s a dozen I found and got a kick out of:

This one is one of the brief recipes. A list of ingredients, sparse instructions, assumed experience, it’s all there. The recipe is a basic one with nothing unusual or untoward. No surprises so a good all-round reliable recipe. Plus, I like the noodle recipes.

This is another no surprise basic recipe. It came from a community cookbook, but is more detailed. This one is unique in that it doesn’t have any add-ins. No nuts, no fruit (other than banana), no chips. So it’s a good plain quick bread to use as a base for most other desserts.

This one is old, well-used, and came from a magazine or bound cookbook, as witnessed by the torn right side of the page. This recipe is newer as shown by the additions of newer ingredients, ie, canola oil, vanilla extract, etc; and the newer instructions, most notably the freezing instructions. My favorite part of this is the hand written modifications based on the user’s personal tastes.

This one came from a magazine. It’s an advertisement for Kellog’s All-Bran cereal. When All-Bran came out, it was immediately substituted for whole bran in most recipes. I prefer whole bran, but whatever floats your boat. It’s a good and easy recipe to add to your collection if you like that kind of thing. Bananas and bran seem like overkill to me.

A hand-written note card tucked into a box somewhere. I’d kill for the whole box full of cards. This one was written for the cook and no one else. I’ve had many pleasant moments trying to ferret out the full recipe in order based on the highlights, cross outs, and arrows. Also, for some reason, this one calls for raisins, which Partner/Spouse loathes so wouldn’t go into any recipe I was making.

This one is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it uses oil to help moisten and bind the ingredient instead of shortening or butter as most recipes call for. Second, it used Wheat Chex cereal instead of All-Bran cereal. Apart from a snack mix, I’ve never seen Chex cereal of any kind used in baking. Other than that, it’s a standard recipe.

I found this one intriguing because of the burnt left edge, and the water damage. Did they find this after a fire? Or was it a beloved page that caught the edge on fire and was put out quickly with a glass of water? Other than that, it’s a basic recipe that will give a standard loaf.

Who can guess why I included this one? Yup, that’s why. Chocolate! I add chocolate chips to my banana bread every time, but I’ve never used cocoa to flavor the entire bread. The variation also adds two fruits that my family wouldn’t eat.

I added this one because something about it told me that the user loved this recipe. Plus, we know who the user is.

This one is newer, and uses a little trick to give it a buttermilk lift. They add lemon juice to the milk to sour it and make it acidic to activate the soda and give the bread some lift. Plus, I can’t ignore the note in the upper left corner: Good!

When I read old, hand-written recipes, I’m always intrigued by the notes cooks left themselves. This one even told the user which mixer speed to use. Plus, I want to try anything billed at the Best. And the addition of “nutmeats” tells me it’s either older, or from someone from a different culture than mine.

This is the last one and I couldn’t resist that it’s the cover for a stand mixer with the ingredient list on it. I’d love to know if the instructions are on the side we can’t see.

So, my friend asked for a couple of my favorite recipes. I’ve blogged about them before, but they bear repeating. I’m an “all in” baker when it come to banana bread. I make it dense, sweet, full of flavor, full of protein, and, by all the comments, delicious. Here’s the first:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/3 cupsĀ overripe bananas
  • any combination of nuts, fruit, candy you want adding to 3/4 of a cup
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

And here’s the second, this one is muffins, but basically hand-held banana breads:

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • 1. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, mash the bananas. Add egg, oil and vanilla; mix well. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full.
  • 2. Bake at 375Ā° for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 1 dozen.

I like quick breads, and banana bread most of all. I add things to it that help raise the nutrition level. I always throw in some roughly chopped nuts to add to the protein. I nearly always add shredded coconut (unsweetened if I have it, sweetened otherwise) because I like the flavor and it adds protein, too. I throw in a mix of frozen berries, but mostly blueberries. These add antioxidents, and vitamins. And, because I like ’em, I always put in some chocolate chips. Why not? At the end of the baking time, I always insert a wooden skewer to check for doneness. A few small moist crumbs are fine, but if it’s still batter, keep it baking. Check at ten minute intervals until done. If the crust is turning too brown, cover it lightly with foil. I usually don’t because the “too brown” mostly comes from the sugars in the recipe.

So, what are your favorite vintage recipes? How about favorite banana bread recipes? I’m sure we’d all love to know. Share with us, and share the post if you feel like.

As always,

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