No, I’m not sneezing. Just trying to be cute and catchy with the title. I may need to stop that.
I grew up in a nut-loving family. We often went out as a family to collect black walnuts and hickory nuts. Few batches of fudge were made at Christmastime with walnuts added (not my favorite, I must say). Of course, several packages of assorted nuts were purchased at the holidays. Our year-round go-to nut were peanuts–though not really a nut.
My favorite nuts were–and continue to be–cashews. I could eat them by the bucketload. Seriously. I didn’t, of course. Actually, they were a treat in our house. Though they were readily available, they were considerably more expensive than the peanut and, of course, those we could pick for free at certain times of the year. So the cashew was treated with reverence.
In researching nondairy cheeses and other products, I was pleasantly surprised how many called for cashews or listed them as an option. So considering my love for cashews, it was only natural I try them.
My first experiment was cashew cheese. There are several recipes for it and videos available online. Mine is based on Miyoki Schinner’s recipe in Artisan Vegan Cheese. Most recipes for vegan cheese, hers included, call for rejuvelac. There’s nothing complicated about it. You sprout wheat berries (others can be used) and let them sit until the water is cloudy and there is a lemony taste. So when you’re making cashew cheese, start that about 3 days ahead.
The night before (or at least 4 hours before) making cashew cheese, soak 2 cups of UNSALTED cashews in filtered water. This plumps them up and softens them for the processing stage. If you have a powerful blender (I have a Vitamix), some say you can skip this stage. I don’t.
When it’s time to make your cheese, put the well-drained nuts into your blender. Then add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of your rejuvelac. Note: if you’ve soaked your cashews, you probably will only need the lesser amount.
SCREECH to a halt.
Okay, that’s what Miyoko’s recipe says, and it was my intention to do so. I even made rejuvelac. Or at least tried to. I followed instructions to the letter, but what resulted smelled like rotting feet. And I can’t say there was much of a lemony taste. I don’t really know how to describe the taste, but let’s say I can’t imagine anyone willingly drinking it, and there are people who swear by its benefits.
But being the stubborn cuss I am, there was no way I was going to just give up on cheese. For crying out loud–we’re talking cheese, here. So I did some research. Okay, there were people who used lemon juice. Hmmm. But then I started thinking about it. The primary role of the rejuvelac, at least from what I could gather, is to act as a culturing agent. Hmm, I have cultured yogurt. With live cultures, even. So I decided to use that.
But how much? Good question. The amount of liquid you add depends on how much is needed to facilitate processing. Err on the side of less. I didn’t. I kept thinking it needed more, so I added more. I don’t recall how much I ended up with, but it was more than what I needed.
After you have the desired consistency, place in a glass bowl and cover to culture. Let sit on the counter until you like the taste. I let mine sit for about 3 days. Then I added a wee bit of salt and some turmeric and put it in a mold to harden in the fridge for a couple of days.
SCREECH to another halt.
Despite what I found online, my cheese didn’t firm up very much. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing it was because of my overzealousness with the yogurt. Regardless, it is a very tasty cheese. I used it as a spread and as a pasta sauce (save some of the pasta cooking water). I’m going to try other versions to get the firm cheese I want, but this one is definitely on my “Will make again” list.
Okay, not really, but I couldn’t think of a clever title. I’ve been editing not one but two nasty manuscripts today, and my brain is tired.
Anyway, in my never-ending quest for culinary adventures, I’ve been looking into nondairy yogurts. In my journey, I ordered a vegan yogurt starter kit from Cultures for Health. I’ve ordered several things from them and have always had good luck with one exception. I couldn’t get their rye sourdough starter to work. Although you can order just the starter, I opted for the kit since you can’t find Pomona’s pectin or a nut bag around here. And I can always use another thermometer.
The instructions suggest a variety of milks to use for your yogurt. I knew I could get almond milk at the store, but it says not to use commercial almond milk. Well, I knew I could get coconuts, and I had a can of usable coconut milk. So coconut milk it was. I began by draining the coconut water and scooping out the meat. It and some of the milk went into the Vitamix and went whirring.
Something I didn’t know before I started this adventure was that when using nondairy milk, you need to use a thickener. The kit comes with Pomona’s pectin, but the instructions provide other suggestions. I later found a recipe that uses chia seeds for thickening. If using the pectin, you add the recommended amount, whir, and see if it thickens. Mine did, so I was good to go. If it doesn’t, you simply mix up some of the calcium water, which is included with the pectin, and add it to the mixture.https://i2.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/coconutmilkyogurt.jpg?resize=1024%2C823 1024w, https://i2.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/coconutmilkyogurt.jpg?w=2000 2000w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />
Strain the mixture and then, like making most yogurts, you heat the mixture and then put it in your yogurt maker. And wait. The waiting process was a bit longer than making dairy yogurt. Instructions warn that it will not thicken until it gets cold, and it seemed to take quite a while.
Was it worth it? Yes. The taste is really good. As you may be able to tell from the photo, I used too much Pomona’s. The instructions say to play around with the amount of thickener, and that is true in my case. So next time, I’ll go with a little less. If you’re not a huge fan of coconut flavor, it seemed pretty subtle. Mine didn’t have the tang I like, but it was fine. I couldn’t help but think how good it would be frozen.
Something to keep in mind. One of the motivators to making your own yogurt is using some of the previous batch to make a new one. According to the instructions that came with the kit from Cultures for Health, that can’t be done with these starters. In doing research, I read that some people do it successfully, but it’s usually not as effective as when using traditional milk.
Go wild. Be adventurous. Try something new.
I eat a lot of peanut butter. A lot of it. I have to eat something with medication in the morning, but I’m not always really hungry or in the mood for a regular breakfast. On those mornings, I usually opt for an apple or maybe an apple with some plain yogurt (my favorite flavor). Many mornings, though, breakfast is a slice of bread (homemade, of course) with some peanut butter.
I’ve made lots of peanut butter. But then I fell into the habit of buying my peanut butter. I know, I know. But I’m guessing most of my readers buy their peanut butter rather than make their own. This post will hopefully make you change your mind and make your own.
My eyes were reopened when I started looking at the ingredients list on jars of peanut butter. Some were immediately eliminated because of things included. Even all-natural peanut butter had things I never put in mine–including salt and sweeteners. I was looking for a peanut butter that was basically a commercial version of mine. The ingredients in my peanut butter? Dry roasted peanuts. That’s it. And I even roast them myself.
I did find a peanut butter that met my requirements and tastes great: Teddie All Natural Peanut Butter. I opted for the unsalted version.
As much as I love that peanut butter, I am striving to become more self-reliant, so I’m back to making my own. And besides, it’s much less expensive.
So what do you need? Peanuts, of course. (Or any nut, really.) You need roasted peanuts, but you don’t have to buy them already roasted. I buy raw, unsalted, shelled (but still in their skins) peanuts. I have to order them to get peanuts in this form. Many grocery stores do sell unsalted, skinned, roasted peanuts in jars, though. Can you use salted roasted nuts? Of course, you can. But I look at it this way. Why let someone else tell you how much salt–if any at all–your peanut butter should have? You can add as much or as little salt, or any other flavoring, as you want.
You’ll also need something to grind the peanuts in. Some mills will do it. I watched a video of a mill with special stones to grind peanut butter. Seemed kind of messy to me. I’ve used food processors (Cuisinart and KitchenAid) but was not pleased with the consistency. I use a Vitamix. Can you use another kind of blender? Probably. I did notice that a lot of homemade peanut butter videos I watched added some peanut oil when using a food processor or a blender that might not be as powerful as a Vitamix or Blendtec. You can give it a shot, though. Just be sure to keep an ear out for signs your blender or processor may be in distress.
If you’re using raw peanuts, they must be roasted first. It’s not difficult. Preheat your oven to 325. Place the shelled peanuts in a thin layer on a cookie sheet, and bake for 10-20 minutes, stirring them frequently to keep from burning. Bake just until you can smell the roasting peanuts–in a good way.
Now, if you’re like me and sometimes get distracted, there may be a time when your peanuts get a bit–shall we say–over-roasted. Don’t despair. My last batch did just that. If they’re really burnt, there’s not much you can do about it. But if they’re not charred, their somewhat smokiness can add a nice depth of flavor.
Then there’s the skin thing. To remove, put the cooled peanuts in a towel and rub. The skins will come off. To be completely honest, though, I don’t stress over it. If some of the peanuts still have their skins on when they go into the Vitamix, I don’t mind.
When the peanuts are ready, place in your appliance of choice. I begin with about a cup at a time. I pulse and then switch to low. Once they are finely chopped, I add more peanuts and do the same. When I have peanut powder, I switch to high. Using my plunger thingy, I push all the powder down so it gets processed into creamy, smooth goodness.
Obviously your peanut butter will go through different stages of “smoothiness.” The first time or so the tendency may be to stop early in the process. If you do, you may be disappointed. The resultant peanut butter may be grainy. Keep going until it is really smooth. Sample! That’s part of the fun of making your own. Store in an airtight container.
Should you refrigerate it? I don’t. The jar of Teddie’s also doesn’t require refrigeration. Oh, and another difference I’ve noticed is that with mine, I don’t get a significant separation of oil if any at all. I do with Teddie’s. Just stir it up if you do.
Prefer chunky? Before processing your peanuts into peanut butter, process a few to the chunkiness you like. Pour into a container and set aside. Once your peanut butter is made, stir in the pieces.
I hope you’ll give homemade peanut butter a try. If you don’t want to roast your own, buy the unsalted ones in your store. Once you make your own, you may find yourself crossing off “peanut butter” on your grocery list.
Apparently one of the hardest things for people looking to become vegetarian or vegan is to give up cheese. I can relate to that. In fact, I’d probably become an ova-lacto vegetarian. But I know many people do give up cheese and become vegans.
Well, let me say they give up the traditional definition of “cheese.” Some don’t have a problem with that. Others–including me–do and would. I can’t imagine a world without cheese. So I started out on my journey of finding a vegan cheese. Oh to be honest, there’s still a dream I’m hoping to fulfill (you might remember–the shop that sells homemade cheeses, breads, jams and jellies, pickles and relishes, and maybe sausages).
First, a word about the word “cheese.” Many people flat-out get angry when someone uses “cheese” to describe a product that does not include dairy. And by dairy, they mean milk from an animal. I’m not going to get into that argument here. But I do tend to call my cheeses “cheese-ish,” but that’s more for an attempt at comic relief.
As with most projects, I started with a Google search for vegan cheese. In case you have any doubts about whether people are interested in it, have no fear. There are lots of recipes. Most call for nut milk, which I didn’t have and wasn’t inclined to change out of my jammies to go get some. So I searched a little further and found one that called for no soy and no nuts. And I had all the ingredients.
So what’s in it? Water, oatmeal (regular, not the instant), roasted sweet potato, roasted red bell pepper, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, sea salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon juice, and dried chives. In case you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s supposed to provide a cheesy taste.
All of those things I was familiar with and had used. But then there’s the thing that makes the cheese solidify–agar-agar. Agar-agar comes from algae. You may be able to find it in your store, but I had to order. You work with it in a similar way you use gelatin, such as Knox. Bring water to a boil, stir in the agar-agar, and keep stirring until it thickens. Then quickly add to the other ingredients and blend to combine. Chill for at least a couple of hours and then enjoy.
Oh, speaking of blending. When it comes to making vegan cheese, almost every recipe I found noted you need a powerful blender. I can understand the need if using nuts, but I’m not sure why for a cheese like this. Of course, if you have one, you might get a better emulsion. I have a Vitamix, and it worked great. I’ve read that Blendtec also does a great job.
You can mold the cheese in whatever you’d like. Of course, the more flexible, the easier the cheese is to remove. In the photo above, the large wheel (relatively speaking) was molded in a 5-inch, nonstick, springform pan. The smaller ones I molded in a silicone mold.
So the results. https://i1.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/no-nut-no-dairy-cheese.jpg?resize=1024%2C782 1024w, https://i1.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/no-nut-no-dairy-cheese.jpg?w=2000 2000w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />
As it cooled, I noticed there was a slight almost oily feel to it. So I left it out of the fridge for a while to dry it a bit. That took care of the feeling. I’ve been trying to think of how to explain the texture and mouth feel, and I’ve not quite come up with a description that some might find off-putting. The closest I can come is Velveeta, but not quite as firm. Don’t get me wrong. This cheese holds up when sliced; it’s just a more gelatinous feel (see what I mean about off-putting?). Now that could be my noviness with agar-agar coming out. However, it’s not stopped me from eating it!
Now for the two most important issues. Does it melt? Kind of. I found it softens more that actually melts. It didn’t seem to matter how thinly I sliced it. Does it taste good? Oh, yeh. Play with the amount of smoked paprika you use. I love the stuff, but the first time I made the cheese-ish, I went a bit overboard with the paprika. Next time, I’m adding hot pepper flakes.
So, I’ll make it again? Sure. In perhaps a slightly different combination. Here’s the recipe.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I confess it’s been longer than I thought. I’ll not bore you with all the details. Suffice to say I had a cat bite on my hand that led to cellulitis. After a few days of outpatient IV antibiotics, I was sent to the hospital, where I had surgery. During the course of treatment, it was discovered I had diabetes. According to a couple of the doctors, I was a few weeks away from a major complication. Now, having said that, know all is well. With medication and diet, the diabetes is under control. In fact, my blood sugar levels are now pretty consistently on the low side.
To be honest, my last thoughts were about the blog. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing it, and I love the feedback. But there were other things on my mind. Plus, I wasn’t sure how my eating habits would have to change. I remember from my childhood that people with diabetes had to eat only certain foods, and well, I wasn’t sure I could blog about that. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there really isn’t a “diabetes diet” anymore. I basically just watch my carb intake.
Another change I’m in the process of making has nothing to do with a diabetes diagnosis. It’s been there in the back of my mind for a long time. I’m incorporating more plant-based foods into my diet. As a result, you’ll likely find more vegetarian/vegan posts in my blog. But I will not be preaching a lifestyle (well, except for making as much of what you eat as possible).
Thanks for coming back. And I’ll have a new post up in a few days.
“Excuse me, could you tell me where the tofu is?”
The somewhat blank stare didn’t give me much hope, but after spending who knows how long looking for it, there was nothing I could do but ask or give up. And I was not about to give up.
“Uh,” he said.
I was beginning to wonder if he knew what tofu is.
“Uh, in the cheese department?”
I thanked him and walked off. I’d already checked that department multiple times. And the meat department. And any other department I could think of. It was obvious they didn’t carry it.
I’ve been looking into making my own tofu for quite a while. And now that I’m working on improving my Asian cooking skills, I tend to use it more often. While I can get it at another store, further away, I didn’t want to have to take a road trip to get it. So it was obvious. I was being told it was time to get off my hiney and make some tofu.
Google, of course, has several recipes available. Most are pretty much the same. You start with soy milk. Well you all know me by now. If I’m going to make something, make as many parts of it as I can. Of course I had to order soybeans. I ordered Laura non-GMO soybeans from Amazon. (They are currently unavailable, but they have other size packages available.)
I’ve posted before that I often buy kits when making something for the first time. There were kits available, but I’m not sure anyone really needs one. The one thing that attracted me was a mold, but then I have cheese molds that would work. In the end I used neither, but more on that later.
Another thing you need is something to coagulate soy milk into curds. If you make cheese, that sounds very familiar. I used Epsom salt because I usually have it on hand. You can also use lemon juice. But if you’re a pickle maker and have Pickle Crisp, you’re ready to go.
You’ll need 2 pots–1 pretty big, a colander, cheesecloth, and a strainer.
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The first step is to soak the soybeans (3 cups) in filtered water overnight in the fridge. I got busy, and mine soaked 2 days. They seemed fine. When ready to proceed, drain the beans and pick out any that are discolored–just like when you make a pot of soup beans. Blend the beans a little at a time in a blender (and oh how glad I am to have a Vitamix) with just enough water to cover.
When processed, pour into your largest pot and add 12 cups of water; tapwater is okay. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often—you might even say constantly. Word of warning, here. Everything I read, as well as suggestions I got from friends, heavy foaming is likely and it can go from being just fine to foaming over in seconds. Maybe it was the size of my pot, but I didn’t have a problem with foaming. Be careful though that it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot. I had a heavy-bottom one, and I had to stir constantly.
Now it’s time to strain the milk through your strainer and into your clean pot. Go slowly, or you could make a mess. You’re now separating the soy milk and the okara. Save the okara. It can be put in the freezer until you’re ready for it.
The soy milk goes back onto the stove. Bring to 180 degrees, stirring often. In the meantime, prepare your Epsom Salt by dissolving 2 tablespoons in 1 1/2 cups of warm—not hot—water. When the milk is ready, remove from heat and gently stir in the coagulant. Curds will form in about 10 minutes.
You can use a mold or even your colander to form and press your tofu. I used the colander. Line your mold of choice with the cheesecloth. When the curds have formed, spoon into the mold/colander. Cover with the ends of the cheese cloth and add a weight. I used as a late and a couple cans of tomatoes.
The firmness of your tofu depends on how long it presses. At a minimum, press for 20 minutes. I wanted firm, so I pressed for about an hour. Okay, it was probably ready before then, but I got busy. I cut my finished tofu into cubes and stored in a container of water in the fridge. Oh it’s good. And I have soybeans to make many more containers of tofu.
We’ve celebrated the Fifth International Bake Bread Weekend. Each year more people send me messages, saying they’re going to participate and then send me pictures of what they’ve made. I hope it continues to grow.
I’ve known for a few months what I was going to make for this year’s weekend. My experience with biscuits has been up and down, but I knew that’s what I was going to make. I found a recipe and video of someone’s mother making what she called “dough bowl biscuits.” Yes, she made them in an old dough bowl. I printed it, and then promptly forgot where I put it. After a computer issue, if I had it stored on my computer, it was no longer there. I searched using almost every key word I could think of, but no luck. Finally I found one that would do. But then I gave it one last shot, and eureka! I found the recipe I originally wanted to make. The recipe for Mama’s Buttermilk Biscuits that I used can be found here. They’re also called cat’s eye biscuits.
Of course I couldn’t find White Lily Flour, and it was too late to order any. Now if you’ve been following this blog, this shouldn’t have been an issue because I make my own self-rising flour. And this is true. But I’ve been reading about flour, and it seems self-rising flour is usually made with soft wheat. I don’t have soft wheat berries, so I opted to buy self-rising flour. Since I couldn’t get White Lily, I went with King Arthur brand. Why? It was the only self-rising flour the store had. But even more, I love the brand and use many of their products.
The recipe also calls for lard. If you look back at recipes our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used, lard is a common ingredient for frying and pastry. And biscuits. So I used lard.
Since these are buttermilk biscuits, I used buttermilk. For this I had planned ahead, so there was homemade cultured buttermilk on hand.
Besides the tradition behind these biscuits, I think I was attracted to recipe because of the technique. There’s no excessive kneading and no rolling and no cutting out. It’s very tactile. Like most biscuit recipes, you combine the lard and flour. But instead of using a pastry cutter or two forks, you use your fingers. You incorporate the flour much like you do when making pasta. Then fold it over a time or two, and you’re ready to make the biscuit.
I confess I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t know when it was time to make the biscuit. Most of my breads are no-knead, so I don’t have to worry much about kneading. Not overworking seems to be a major factor in getting a tender biscuit. Oddly enough, my concerns were unwarranted. The dough will tell you if you listen to it.
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Once the dough is ready, you pull of a piece and roll it in the palms of your hands. Then back into the flour and another very quick shaping before going on to the prepared cookie sheet. A quick bake, a butter bath, and a few minutes under a clean towel, and you have a tasty biscuit.
I placed my biscuit dough so it touched, which means the edges weren’t crunchy. But I also read that doing so helps the biscuits to rise. Since I’ve not made these biscuits another way, I can’t tell you what the difference is. But I can tell you these are very tasty.
Served with butter and homemade jam made them even better. But I think my favorite way might be as a sausage and egg biscuit. I made homemade turkey breakfast sausage a couple of days ahead in preparation for these biscuits.
https://i0.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/EnablingEggandSausage.jpg?resize=1012%2C1024 1012w, https://i0.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/EnablingEggandSausage.jpg?w=1485 1485w" sizes="(max-width: 297px) 100vw, 297px" />
So my breakfast sandwich had homemade biscuits made with homemade cultured buttermilk and homemade sausage. Talk about a sense of satisfaction . . .
Mark you calendars: the Sixth International Bake Bread Weekend is February 11-12, 2017. I hope you’ll join us.
I’m not sure how I feel about this video. It’s interesting to see how bread is mass produced in this bakery. I remember enjoying a trip to a local bakery when I was in elementary school. The smell of that freshly baked bread may have been the basis of my love for bread.
It certainly wasn’t the beginning of my love for baking bread. I’d like to say that began the first time I combined flour, water, yeast, and salt and let it rise. But that’s not true either. As a kid, homemade bread were those frozen loaves of bread dough we got at the store. Somehow, though, that evolved to making my own bread, sometimes with commercial yeast and sometimes with natural yeast.
Back to the video. To me, it’s kind of sad to think this is the only bread some people will ever know. Lack of human involvement is both disturbing and so unnecessary. I know bread-making seems like a great mystery to many. But it’s not. It’s a basic food and requires at a minimum only basic ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast (commercial or natural). That’s it. And you can make it for a lot less money than you spend to buy it at the store. If you do a no-knead loaf, hands-on time is a mere matter of minutes. Then there’s the bread machine option. I’ve no problem with using a bread machine or any other machine as long as you make your bread.
This weekend–February 13 and 14–is International Bake Bread Weekend as designated by The Enabling Cook five years ago. If you’ve never made bread before, give it a try. It can be any type of bread product using any method. It could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
So far, working toward my 2016 goals has been a breeze. I’m making a lot of Asian food (thanks in part to a wonderful wok I received as a gift from a friend). I’m eating more vegetables, but it’s a bit difficult trying to eat new ones each week. Well, truth be told, it’s difficult finding much variety at all this time of year. The easiest one, perhaps, has been trying to expand my bread-making ability. Oh, I still fall back on my g0-to recipe, but I’ve also been making more sourdough and even started a new starter–Alice Morgan.
I’ve also been branching out into other forms of bread. For example, biscuits. I’ve made them before, of course, but honestly, I’ve thought about making them more often than I’ve actually made them. I’ve never been able to get the truly flaky biscuit bakers strive for. But lack of success isn’t about to stop me from trying.
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I set about looking for a recipe for a biscuit that I could use to make a breakfast sandwich and would also work for chicken and biscuits. As I searched, I found multiple references to a 2-ingredient biscuits. Now that’s my kind of recipe. I checked it out and learned they are also called cream biscuits. The 2-ingredient version calls for self-rising flour and heavy cream. The heavy cream I had; the self-rising (SR) flour I didn’t. I seldom make anything calling for SR flour, so it’s not something I keep on hand. I thought about buying a small bag, but the store didn’t have any SR flour–of any size. So I fell back on the old SR hack: for every cup of AP flour add 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
The procedure is incredibly easy. Mix the dry ingredients and then slowly add the cream to make a sticky dough. Place it out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Pat or roll until about 1/2 inch thickness. I usually prefer to pat out the dough, but this one was a bit too stiff. I had a hard time patting it out evenly and to the desired thickness. So I used a rolling pin. After you cut out your biscuits, gather the scraps and roll out again. For best results, only re-roll a couple of times. Your biscuits get increasingly tough each time you roll out the dough. Brush with melted butter and bake.
The result? Well they’re not light and flaky, but they taste good. I made a breakfast sandwich with one this morning, and it did taste good. I’ll definitely be making them again. But I’ll still be looking for light and flaky.
You can find the recipe for Cream Biscuits here. You know, I’m thinking these would be good warm with maple syrup.
Those five words can make a huge difference in someone’s food budget. There are caveats, of course. Sometimes the word “free” is misleading. For example, let’s say there’s such an offer on a bag of 5 pounds of potatoes. This means you’re getting 10 pounds of potatoes for the price of 1 bag. That’s great–on the surface. If a store charges $5 for a 5-pound bag, you have to make sure another store doesn’t sell a comparable item for less than that. If you can get a bag for less at another store, the “free” isn’t so free after all.
Then there’s the question of how quickly you’ll use the items. If they’re perishable, will you be able to use them or preserve them before they go bad? If you’re cooking for a large family, that’s not likely to be much of a problem. It it’s a staple, say butter, for example (though I seldom see such offers on butter), there’s usually room in the freezer for a 1 pound package. But what about potatoes, onions, and similar products? And what if you’re cooking for one person? Do you have to bypass such money-saving opportunities? Of course not.
I seem to be overly attracted to the “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” signs when it comes to potatoes. I love potatoes. That is no exaggeration. Still, I managed to accumulate about 20 pounds of potatoes thanks to buy 1. It’s cold in here, so they do last longer. But I needed to do something with them.
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Freezer space is at a premium. I thought about canning them. Because they are a low acid food, they have to be pressure canned, and I didn’t have time for that. So I opted for dehydrating them. I’ve dehydrated potatoes before but only for chips, not long-term storage. So that necessitated a Google search. As with most things, there are myriad ways to dehydrate potatoes. After reading pros and cons of various methods, I decided to use the techniques that seem to be used most often.
A word about dehydrators. I’ve mentioned several times that I have the Nesco/American Harvestor Jerky and Snackmaker. It’s relatively inexpensive (I think mine was about $70 when I got it, and it’s gone down in price.) and has worked well for many years. Many people use an Excalibur and swear by it. It’s considerably more expensive, and several who have one feel it is well worth the price. Before buying, be honest with yourself about how often you’ll use it. If results are similar, you may not want to spend a great deal of money on something you’ll seldom use. As for features, I spoke with Jerri of Homesteader’s Supply. She feels a temperature control is most important. I couldn’t agree more. I know some people are adamant that a dehydrator has a timer. However, because dehydrating involves so many variables, a timer’s use might not be worth the extra cost. But you do need temperature control. Not everything is dehydrated at the same temperature.
Peel the potatoes, making sure to cut away any dark spots or eyes. Most sources say potatoes need to be parboiled prior to dehydrating. Some, however, say to cook them fully; some bake them until a knife can be inserted. If you don’t cook them, they tend to get dark–even black–in the center when dehydrated. I decided to parboil, since it seemed to be the most prevalent advice. In some instructions, the potatoes are cut into the desired form prior to cooking. I did the first couple of times. The other times I cooked first and then put them through the chopper.
If you’re good with the knife skills, you can cut them by hand. I’m not that good, so I use my Genius chopper/slicer. I did slices first. I sliced them very thin. They only took about 6 hours to dehydrate. My original thought was to grind them and use them as instant mashed potatoes. I may leave them sliced and make some au gratin potatoes. They may be a bit too thin for that, though.
My next potatoes were cubed. Because they were considerably thicker, it took longer to dehydrate them. In total, I think it took closer to 12 hours. I generally don’t need to rotate trays during the dehydrating process, but I found it necessary with these. potatoes.
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I planned these potatoes for soups, stews, and perhaps potato salad. I’d been having a craving for potato soup, so I used some of them to make a nice bowl on a cold day. I rehydrated the cubes by soaking in hot water just to cover for about an hour. The residual water can be added into the pot with the potatoes.
When it comes to storage, I used my FoodSaver to vacuum seal them in jars. And that’s where I hit a snag. A lot of us have problems using the jar sealer. I couldn’t get the wide mouth one to work at all. Even after reading all the solutions people found for the problem. I took their suggestions for using the regular mouth jars, and they worked. At least I thought so. I tested them, and the lights were tight. A couple days later, I checked them again. All open; the seal had come undone. So I put them in FoodSaver bags and vacuum sealed them. So if you’re using the jar sealer, be sure to check your lids.
I’ve worked through about half of the potatoes I had stocked up. I’m so glad to be able to preserve some before they go bad.