New Cooking Skills are My Goal for the New Year
I am an avid cook. I suppose it’s because I believe that without some basic cooking skills, it is difficult to be healthy in this world of processed and colored foods, overabundance of corn and soybeans, and difficult-to-understand labeling. Jay and I both work from home, so it isn’t uncommon for us to be preparing two or three meals at home most days. Now, that is some washing, slicing, dicing, and cleaning. Our meals are loaded with the vegetables we grow, eggs, meats and dairy from grass-fed animals, and plenty of butter, coconut oil, and olive oil. I even recently found a source for lard from pasture raised hogs. Where I think I am lacking is in the world of fermented foods, homemade dairy products, and homemade sauces to make our meals even yummier. These are the real-food kitchen skills I want to improve on this year. Here is the plan:
I want to include some fermented foods in our meals. After reading the book “Nutrition and Degenerative Diseases” by Weston Price, I am convinced this is an important part of good nutrition. I have been to several classes on the topic, including a whole afternoon workshop at the Organic Grower’s School in Asheville, NC. The problem is that I may have taken one too many microbiology classes. Last year, I made some homemade sauerkraut. It had a little bit of off-color on the top of the crock, that I just removed. Sadly, I couldn’t eat it due to some type of primal visceral response. So, I risked my family’s life and fed it to my husband and son, who loved it! I really have to get past this mental block. I plan to try again with sauerkraut. I learned how my grandparents made it, and have some on the counter now. So far, so good.
I also want to make some kvass which is a fermented beet drink. It is made by roughly chopping up beets and putting them in a Mason jar with a little salt and filling it up with water and a bit of whey. Then you put the top on and let it ferment for 2-3 days. The result should be a sweet, sour, fizzy and refreshing drink. I made my first batch last week and it was not bad. It wasn’t very fizzy but it was sweet and sour. I put a shot in with my morning green juice and it was pretty good! My “guinea pig”, good sport of a husband, also liked it.
The next thing I want to focus on is making some of my own milk products, such as kefir, yogurt, and farm cheeses. I am planning my first effort this week. I ordered some kefir starter granules from Amazon, as well as a plastic strainer. I am planning a drive to South Carolina tomorrow, to get some fresh milk from the dairy for the project. This is really all you need for kefir! I think I can do it. If it works, I’ll update the recipe page. I also bought a book on making cheeses called “Home Cheese Making”. It doesn’t look too hard to make a basic farm cheese, which is normally soft and fresh. The recipe I am looking at simply takes homemade kefir at room temperature and strains it through muslin. Then add cheese salt and your favorite herbs. The result is a fresh tasting spreadable soft cheese. Sounds easy and tasty to me! These milk products are also naturally fermented, so they also fit in with my goal of including more fermented foods in my cooking.
The third new thing I want to work on in the kitchen is some new and interesting sauces. My cooking skills are pretty limited, so we often end up eating roasted or grilled meats with fresh vegetables. I know this sounds ok, but after years of this, we need a little refresher. My plan is to master a couple of sauces. The two I have in mind are a port wine reduction for beef, and a Dijon cream sauce for chicken. I’m planning on trying out the port wine idea tonight, while my brother is in town for a visit. The basic idea is to sauté some shallots in butter, then add a whole bottle of port wine and reduce it down to a nice sauce. Then add a touch of real butter and seasoning (thyme, salt, pepper). I might also add some mushrooms to this. Sounds easy enough to me. My idea for the Dijon sauce also sounds pretty easy. I am going to take the pan drippings from a roasted chicken and add some really good Dijon, butter, salt, maybe a touch of white wine, and some real cream. Simmer and stir until it makes a nice sauce. This sounds like a fancy version of how my grandma made gravy, only I plan to simmer it until it thickens, instead of adding flour. It might never be as thick as her sauce, but I don’t think it has to be.
I am often trying new cooking ideas, and this year will be no exception. I do not want my family to get bored with our basic meat and veggie eating. Boredom may lead to a slip-back into some of the unhealthy eating habits we had in the past. It is worth it to keep working on new and creative ways to cook healthy.
Eat your veggies (maybe fermented or with a sauce!),