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Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Okay, so if this photo is looking familiar to you…congratulations!  You don’t have short-term memory loss!  The end.

I kid (well, not really about the memory loss thing, so if you got a little self-esteem boost from that, I’m letting you keep it).  If this photo looks familiar to you, it’s because I posted it last Friday, for Friday Food Porn.

The Boy eats this stuff with a spoon in front of the TV…you know, ’cause he’s hardcore.  I’m almost as hardcore…as I mentioned last week, I occasionally put out a jar of this stuff with a bag of tortilla chips and a blender of margaritas and call it dinner.

Which is totally acceptable, by the way, because Kate said so.  See?:

“Well, ummmm, sometimes you just need a Tortilla Chip and Margarita dinner. Here is an enabling moment – make some lacto fermented salsa and then you can feel downright righteous about them!

Kate just gets me, people.  Virtual pair of projectile fishnets slingshotted in Kate’s direction.  Which is what I do for people I like.  I throw my intimate apparel at them.  Naturally.

But there was another interesting comment in the mix.  Misfit jamaica-momma said:

“looks DIVINE!!!
recipe please??? & is there a way to veganize it?”

You know you cute lil’ misfits get anything you want out of me.  I CAN’T say no.

Truth is, you don’t need starter culture (whey) at all to make lacto-fermented pickles.  You can just add a little extra salt to speed things along, and then let lactic acid fermentation and healthy bacteria take their natural course.  It will take longer to pickle your food without the head start, but it works just the same.  A second option is using a vegetable starter culture instead of whey.  You can buy that here.

So what have we learned here today?  The BMG likes to put some spice in your life.  Also, I throw my underthings at people.  Oh, AS IF you’re surprised.

Lacto-Fermented Escabeche
Makes 3 quarts

Go Get:

6 jalapeno peppers, cut into thick slices (dial this number down if you don’t like spicy–as is, the recipe makes a medium-to-hot escabeche)
6 Tablespoons whey from drained yogurt (if you’re vegan or prefer not to use a dairy culture, try this vegetable starter culture. If you omit starter cultures entirely, up the salt and fermentation time.)
5 1/3 cups bite-size cauliflower florets
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt (if you’re not using whey or starter culture, increase this to 2 1/2 Tablespoons)
1 1/2 Tablespoons black peppercorns
2 heaping teaspoons dried oregano
1 large white onion, sliced thinly
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 large carrots, sliced into wheels

Go Do:

Toss all ingredients (except whey) together in a large bowl.  Allow everything to sit and “sweat” for a few minutes.  Now pack the veggies tightly into the jars and pour in 2 Tablespoons of whey per jar.  Top up the mixture with filtered water to cover.  Now place open Ziploc bags over the jars (open side up), and fill them with enough water to weigh the veggies down and keep them submerged.  When you have that right, seal the bags, cover the jars loosely with a towel, and let sit in a dark, room-temperature location.  Check the escabeche for sourness and texture daily–the carrots should still be snappy.  My escabeche is usually perfect after about 1 week, but your results will differ based on temperature and environment–if you’re not using any whey or starter culture at all, it will take longer.  Once it’s perfect, refrigerate the batch to slow fermentation and enjoy!  It’ll keep for about a year, and usually longer.

Note: If a little mold develops on top, don’t worry–this is normal.  Just skim it off, rinse and replace the bag, and keep fermenting.

Another note: When I want the flexibility of varying heat levels, I put varying amounts of jalapeno slices in each jar.  Then I label them accordingly: “Mild,” “Medium,” and “Oh Dear GOD.”

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Some misfits think they need a super-productive garden to make canning possible or worthwhile.  Not so, my spicy little dumplings, not so!  At least, not with pepper jelly.  Just a few cups of chopped peppers is enough to make a baker’s dozen of pepper jelly half-pints.

Now these half-pints are different from the half-pints that your Bad Mama Genny normally enjoys around here because they will not get you drunk and they do not possess bubbles.  If you’re doing it right, that is.  (Pepper jelly that gets you drunk is probably dangerous.  And a lot of fun.  But dangerous.  But, you know, still fun.)  But in any case, pepper jelly half-pints are still joyful half-pints indeed.

In fact, they got me so excited that I had to go play with those little fake baby bottles for dolls that you turn upside down and the orange juice and milk disappear and make it look like Baby drank it.

They’re very soothing.

So how would a misfit use pepper jelly?

I’m glad you asked!

Eat it with cream cheese or goat cheese and crackers, stir it into a sweet and spicy stir fry, baste grilled meats and sausages with it, make a totally different kind of PB & J or grilled cheese with it, melt it down and use it as the base for a KAH-razy cocktail, put it on a cheese plate alongside these pickled grapes, stir some into deviled egg filling, put it in tuna or chicken salad, load it into your kids’ water guns for playtime with higher stakes, bring it to parties, give it as gifts, mail it to other misfits…

BUT NO SEX PLAY.

Y’all hear me?  Pepper jelly is not for sex pla–

NO!  Bad misfits!  BAD!

No sex play.

A public service announcement from Bad Mama Genny.

Movin’ on.

(No sex play.)

Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly (No sex play)
Makes 13 half-pints (if it’s too annoying to buy an extra 12-pack for a thirteenth jar you may not need, just plan on putting the extra in a cup or bowl for eating right away)

Go Get:
2 1/2 total cups minced sweet and hot peppers (for medium heat, I used 6 large jalapenos, no seeds or membranes, and the rest sweet peppers) (The mincing is best done in a food processor, once you’ve done the bare minimum at chopping and de-seeding them while wearing gloves or little plastic baggies on your hands)
12 cups sugar
3 cups white vinegar
1 cup liquid pectin, somewhere around 2 and a half pouches
6 drops green food coloring, optional

Go Do:
Get your jars heating and sterilizing–the dishwasher is ideal for this.  And start your boiling hot water bath in a large canning pot on the stove.

Okay, now:

Mix the peppers, sugar, and vinegar in a large pot (Dutch Oven size is just right).

Turn the heat to high and stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a full boil and sugar is dissolved.  Don’t breathe in the vinegar/pepper vapors if you can help it.  They are a perfect storm of pain and suffering.
Remove it from the heat, give it another stir, and add the pectin.  Now is when you’ll add the food coloring, if you’re using it.  You totally don’t have to.  I considered not, but the jam was a sickly yellowish color that, frankly, made me think of plasma in a jar.  In went the food coloring.

Now ladle it into those hot and ready jars (what?) and leave about half an inch of headspace.  Tap the jars onto the table to bring any air bubbles to the surface, where you can pop them with a wooden chopstick or something.

Put on the lids, screw the rings on just a wittle tight, and process them in the canner for 10 minutes (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your canner).  Let ’em sit for a day before putting them in your pantry, and I’d say give ’em two weeks before eating to let the pepper flavor really permeate.  But NO SEX PLAY!

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So do y’all remember the BMG’s cabbage patch?

Oh, come on, sure you do!

Precious!

Anyway, well, most of those got harvested, and while a few made their way into dinner, the vast majority were turned into homemade, naturally vegan, lacto-fermented kraut.

<Homer Simpson drooling sound>

Yes, that’s right–we’re up to no good with live cultures yet again in a new series I’m calling “FERMENTING IS FUN!”

Not really.  That makes it sound like one of those puberty videos you have to watch in your fifth grade science classes.

“Getting Down with Gonads!”

“Engorgin’ Sex Organs!”

“Chillaxin’ With Childbirth!”

“Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Menses.”

“A Peculiar Thunder Down Under.”

“Congratulations! As if Your Status as a Female Didn’t Already Disadvantage You Enough, You’re Now Both Fertile and Alluring and That Is About As Good for Your Future as Mixing Valium With Everclear Okay Have Fun Bye Bye!”

Right.  Back to fermentation.

This requires no vinegar, injects you with sexy, sexy probiotics, and tastes phenomenal.  The Boy and I like it as an appetizer with a little sharp cheddar, homemade sourdough, and homebrew.  But really, now, you misfits are creative.  You could do a whole host of things with it!

Said Whole Host of Things, if A Metric Whole Host Equals Ten

1. Grilled Cheese and Kraut

2. Pork Chops, Kraut, and Pink Applesauce

3. Hot Dogs and Kraut

4. Put it on your cat.

5. Make sauerkraut pierogi!

6. Best. Corned Beef Sandwich. Ever.

7. Put it on your mom.

7. Serve an unconventional pickle plate: pumpernickel, fermented kraut, smoked salmon, yogurt cheese, briny olives, pickled mushrooms

8. Bring a jar of it to a high school reunion.  Insist on introducing it to people and following up with vaguely German slurs and raucous laughter.  Bonus points if you never even went to that high school.

9. Kraut plus Shredded Swiss Cheese plus Potato Chips = Nommiful Nachos

10. Put it on your archenemy.

So really, you get the idea–eat it, enjoy it, or just put it on the stuff and/or people in your life.  Mmm…tangy!

Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut
Makes 1 half-gallon crock/jar of tightly-packed kraut

Go Get:
2 small to medium cabbages
1 large white onion (optional: carrots and beets are fun additions, too)
1/4 cup whole Dutch caraway seeds (optional)
1/2 cup whey extracted from yogurt (instructions here) (wanna do this the vegan/dairy-free way?  See this post.)
2 Tablespoons sea salt

Go Do:
Shred the cabbage, either with a food processor or a sharp knife and cutting board.  Put it into a large bowl, then finely chop the onion and add it to the bowl.  Add in the caraway seeds, salt, and whey, and toss everything to combine.

Let mixture sit for 20 minutes, then start pounding it with a potato masher.  Pound until you get tired, then set it aside to rest for a few minutes.  Alternately pound and rest until the mixture is much reduced in volume and is yielding a lot of water.

It’s ready when you can pack the kraut down with the masher or a wooden spoon and liquid comes up to cover it, usually an hour.  When it’s ready, pile it into a half-gallon crock or jar, packing tightly as you go.

Press the top down.  If there’s enough liquid to submerge the vegetables, you’re golden.  If not, add some filtered water until they’re covered.  Now place an open Ziploc bag over the jar (open side up), and fill with enough water to weight the kraut down and keep it submerged.  When you have that right, seal the bag, cover the whole thing loosely with a towel, and let sit in a dark, room-temperature location.  Check the kraut for sourness each day.  Mine is usually at optimal sourness in 1-2 weeks, but your results will differ based on temperature and environment.  Once it’s perfect, refrigerate the batch to slow fermentation.  It’ll keep for about a year, and usually longer.

Note: If a little mold develops on top, you misfits shouldn’t worry about it–this is normal.  Just skim it off, rinse and replace the bag, and keep fermenting.

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I know what you’re thinking–mushrooms can be neither fine nor sexy.  But oh.

Oh!

OH!

They can.  And they are.  In this recipe in particular.  Now, these are pretty boss straight out the jar or with a sandwich or on a hamburger, but your Bad Mama Genny likes to push the envelope.  Put a few in a martini and watch people gasp at your fearlessness in the face of fungi!  Better yet, offer a whole bottle as a gift alongside a bottle of nice gin or vodka. (Or perhaps some cheap vodka that you’ve turned into gin, using my instructions.  Or hell, you could just buy a bottle of gin named after me.)

Because nothing says “Happy Birthday” like good old-fashioned enabling.

Now, the other nice thing about this recipe is that you trim the mushrooms before pickling, so you end up with lots of little mushroom bits and bobs.  And what a coincidence, I LOVE little mushroom bits and bobs!

Aww, look at all those misfit mushroom pieces just waiting to make you feel like the lady you aren’t.

They’re perfect for frying up in pan drippings with a little wine for a burger topping.  Or throw them into a veggie burger mix.  How about soup?  A vegetable stir fry?  See, I just KNEW you’d come around to little mushroom bits and bobs!

(Psst, remember when we talked about growing your own mushrooms?  Oh, right, here.  And here.  And here.  And here, too.  Surely it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’ll pass those chilly winter nights without a homesteading project!  What’s that?…you’re planning on drinking?  Well, gosh…that’s a solid plan.  Carry on!)

Fine and Sexy Pickled Mushrooms
Makes 6 pints

Go Get:
5 1/2 lbs.small, white button mushrooms
1 head garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
6 bay leaves
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons pickling/canning salt
4 cups white wine vinegar
6 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs rosemary
3 teaspoons black peppercorns

Go Do:
Start with sterilized canning jars and lids and get a boiling water bath canner going.  Now divide the peppercorns, herb sprigs, bay leaves, and smashed garlic cloves evenly amongst the jars.

Thoroughly wash the mushrooms and trim the stems super short.  Save the trimmings for another use.

Slice large mushrooms in halves or quarters to maintain some kind of size uniformity.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, stir in the lemon juice, and add the mushrooms.  Cook until they’re tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Now.  Embrace the slotted spoon.  The slotted spoon is your friend.  Transfer the mushrooms from the pot to two tea towel-lined cookie sheets to drain.  Take care not to ignite your favorite new tea towel while doing this.

Not that I’d know.

Or anything.

Then divide the mushrooms evenly among the jars.

In a pot, combine the vinegar with 1 cup water and the salt, and bring it to a boil over high heat.  Cook until salt is dissolved, then use a canning funnel to pour the brine in each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Wipe the jar rims, position the lids and rings, screw them on only a wittle bit tight, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Line a cookie sheet with a towel and use a canning jar lifter to transfer the jars from the bath onto the cookie sheet.  Let them sit by themselves (aww, poor mushrooms) for a day, at which point you can check the seals.

Note: Jars didn’t seal?  Don’t feel like canning?  No problem–just move unsealed jars into the fridge, where they’ll last for several months.

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Folks, I’m going to be brutally honest with you.  Your Bad Mama Genny just hasn’t had the time or the inclination to impress anyone lately.

Firstly because I’ve been really busy, what with deadlines and watering the jungle and attending the National Homebrewer’s Conference with The Boy.  But also because impressing people can be problematic.  It can raise expectations.  It can set the bar too high.

It can result in people expecting you to be decent.

And who wants that?  Then when you decide to be indecent, people are all shocked and all offended and all put your pants back on and oh think of the children and whatnot.

See what I mean?  Totally not cool.

That’s why you need a good Antipasti Platter like this one in your arsenal.  Because if you’re anything like me, which for your sake I hope you’re not but let’s pretend, you’ve already been invited to at least fifty barbecues this summer and half of them fall on the same weekend.

That’s not good.  That’s not good for anyone.

Least of all people of the pale persuasion, like myself.  But the point is, you’re usually expected to bring something to said barbecue, and not having enough time to make something from scratch can render one sad, depressed, listless, and prone to alternating crying jags and fits of mania.

This just in: The Boy has informed me that neither fits of mania nor crying jags are verifiable symptoms of being invited to barbecues.  Thanks, The Boy.  I so appreciate your contribution to this blog post.  I hope that knowledge gives you peace as you sleep on the couch tonight.

Anyway, Antipasti platters, in case you haven’t noticed, are gorgeous.  They can also theoretically be constructed from all store-bought ingredients.  Granted, I threw a loaf of from-scratch baked artisan bread in with mine, but bread-baking is like breathing to me now, and WHAT NOW YOU DON’T WANT ME TO BREATHE I DO SO MUCH FOR YOU AND SLAVE AWAY AT THIS KEYBOARD AND NOW YOU CRITICIZE MY BREAD-BAKING ADDICTION HOW ABOUT I CRITICIZE YOUR ADDICTIONS HUH HOW ABOUT I MENTION THE LITTLE DEBBIES HIDDEN IN YOUR JUNK DRAWER OH WHAT’S THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO CRITICIZE ME ANYMORE THAT’S NICE I THOUGHT SO.

What in the hell was I saying?

Oh, yeah.  So you could throw in a loaf of fancy schmancy bread and some dipping oil with this here Antipasti Platter, but some nice skinny breadsticks from the grocery store would do just as well.  I also included some homemade arugula pesto butter, fresh apricot preserves, and some homemade ricotta, which is always inexplicably appearing at the back of my refrigerator (I said, INEXPLICABLY, and I meant, INEXPLICABLY).

But let’s get down to business, shall we?  Here are my suggestions for an appetizer that will have everyone stuffing their faces while simultaneously not raising their expectations of you.  Wanna send them over the moon?  Bring a nice, juicy, full-bodied red wine to serve with this.

But they might start expecting things.  I’m just warning you.

Antipasti Platter

Go Get:
Pepperoncini
Fresh Mozzarella Balls (either marinated or not, up to you)
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Marinated and quartered artichoke hearts
Roasted red peppers, marinated or not
Mixed marinated olives (I like to use kalamatas and stuffed green Spanish olives, but you feel free to go nuts)
Thinly sliced salami
Cubed provolone
Other options not pictured here:
Additional hams and sausages such as serrano, chorizo, etc.
Pickled cornichons
Sundried tomatoes
Infused olive oils
Roasted and mashed garlic cloves
Some nice pesto
Those apricot preserves I talked about
That fresh, homemade ricotta cheese I mentioned
Those delicious breadsticks, or that crusty home-baked artisan bread I noted
Some thin shavings of aged parmesan
Small cubes of a sweet melon, such as cantaloupe
Your firstborn child (Just kidding.  Mostly.)

Go Do:
Arrange this bad boy however you like.  As you can see, I used a decorative 13 x 9 dish with the ingredients arranged in rows, but a large, round serving platter with ingredients lined up in concentric circles or pie wedges would be striking as well.  Butters, oils, and soft cheeses can take up residence in ramekins that you smush onto the plate.  Breadsticks look striking in a tall glass, and a fresh loaf of bread would be just dandy in a kitchen towel set in a basket.

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