Pour hard cider, in a glass and into stew pot

recipe-cider

Nowadays, hard cider, an alcoholic beverage, shows up on menus everywhere. Made from the fermented juice of tart apples (and/or other fruit), this pleasingly acidic, slightly bubbly beverage pairs beautifully with food and proves easy sipping. This fall, I’m incorporating hard cider into my cocktail hour and my cooking.

Reportedly cider sales have grown by 60 percent in the past five years, but I’m not trying to be trendy. I drank my first glass of hard cider decades ago in a pub while backpacking though the UK. A charming bartender talked me into a glass. Served barely chilled, it was dry, delicious and less filling than beer. I’ve enjoyed cider ever since when traveling in England, France and parts of Spain where it’s been a popular beverage for centuries.

As it once was on this side of the Atlantic. Cider, historians tell us, was the drink of choice for Pilgrims because it was safer than bacteria-laden water. After Prohibition, finding hard cider in this country proved tricky; it seems we preferred beer.

Slowly, cider has been regaining recognition in this country. In 1981, cookbook author and television host Jacques Pepin, shared his method for making cider in a November issue of the Chicago Tribune’s food section. I was happy to learn the method but never made my own. When I wanted apple flavor in a dish, I splashed in a bit of Calvados or applejack.

Today, the choice of ciders at my local store impresses. I can select various sweetness levels and flavor variations. I seek out imported ciders or small-batch artisanal ciders, made from local apples, such as Virtue Cider, for drinking. For cooking, a moderately priced, dry cider, such as Stella Artois Cidre, Strongbow Gold Apple Hard Cider or Crispin Hard Cider, infuse food with acidity and a pleasant apple flavor and aroma.

Braising browned lamb or pork shoulder in cider renders the meat tender with just a touch of sweetness. I add crisp apples, such as Honeycrisp, Granny Smith and Braeburns here, sweet red peppers and aromatic rosemary plus white beans for a creamy texture. After a couple of hours in the oven, the combination yields a creamy, golden-hued fall stew.

Lamb stew, cut from the leg or shoulder yields a fuller-flavored, less rich stew than pork. If using lamb, you’ll likely need to order it in advance from most supermarkets. Pork shoulder proves a less pricey option that pairs beautifully with the cider and apples.

For braising stews, I prefer the gentle cooking and pan juice concentration that happens with a tightly covered heavy pan or Dutch oven in a moderately hot oven. For convenience, you can make the recipe in a slow-cooker set to low. Because there is little to no evaporation in the slow-cooker, the stew may be quite liquidy; simply spoon the stew liquid into a pan set over high heat and boil hard to reduce it into a thicker consistency.

Serve the stew in warmed shallow bowls with a side of mashed potatoes seasoned with sour cream, apples and garlic. Pass bottles of cold, crisp cider, and make a toast: Everything old is new again.

CIDER-BRAISED STEW WITH RED PEPPER AND WHITE BEANS

Makes: 8 to 10 servings

Stews always taste even better the next day, so I routinely make a large batch. If desired, this recipe can be cut in half; be sure to use a smaller Dutch oven so the liquid covers the meat during the cooking.

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or lamb stew (from shoulder or leg), cut into 1 inch pieces

⅓ cup flour

Salt, freshly ground pepper

3 to 5 tablespoons safflower or expeller-pressed canola oil

1 large sweet onion, cut into ½-inch dice (about 2 cups)

1 large red bell pepper, cored, cut into 1-inch dice (about 1 ½ cups)

2 ribs celery, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

2 large crisp-tart apples (total 12 ounces), peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 ½ cups

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 bottle (12 ounces) dry sparkling cider

3 to 4 sprigs each: fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano (or ½ teaspoon each dried)

½ cup chicken broth

2 cans (14.5 ounces each) white cannellini beans, drained

Chopped fresh parsley and chives for garnish

Sour cream and apple mashed potatoes, see recipe

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pat pork or lamb pieces dry. Mix flour, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in a zip-close food bag. Add a few pieces of the meat at a time; shake to coat well. Transfer to a plate while you coat the rest of the pieces.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy-bottomed 6-quart Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add about one third of the flour-coated meat to the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Cook, turning occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat to brown all the meat, adding oil as needed.

3. Stir onion, red bell pepper and celery into pan drippings. Cook and stir, 3 minutes. Stir in apples, garlic and cider, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil gently to reduce the liquid slightly, about 5 minutes.

4. Return the browned meat to the pot. Stir in the herbs and chicken broth. Heat to a boil. Cover the pan tightly, and place it in the oven. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ hours.

5. Remove herb sprigs. Stir in beans. Heat to a simmer over medium heat. Taste for salt, adding more as needed (usually ½ teaspoon).

6. Serve sprinkled with fresh herbs and accompanied by the potatoes.

Per serving (for 10): 393 calories, 19 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 83 mg cholesterol, 27 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar, 27 g protein, 638 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

Slow-cooker variation: Prepare the recipe through step 3. Put apple mixture, browned meat, herbs and chicken broth into a slow-cooker. Set the slow-cooker to low and cook covered until meat is nearly tender, 4 to 6 hours. If pan juices are too thin, pour them off into a saucepan and boil hard to reduce them to the consistency of cream soup. Then finish the recipe as directed in step 5.

SOUR CREAM AND APPLE MASHED POTATOES

Makes: 8 servings

If working in advance, cover the finished, hot mashed potatoes with plastic wrap set directly on the surface and then top with the lid of the pan. The potatoes will hold like this, off the heat, for about 30 minutes until serving time.

2½ pounds golden yellow potatoes, scrubbed clean, cut into eighths

2 medium tart green apples (total 9 ounces), peeled, cored, chopped

4 cloves garlic, sliced

Salt

½ cup milk

4 to 6 tablespoons sour cream or mascarpone

4 tablespoons butter

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put potatoes, apple and garlic into a large pot. Add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Heat to a boil, then simmer gently with lid slightly askew. Cook, checking potatoes occasionally with a knife, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well.

2. Return the drained potato mixture to the pot. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and pour the milk into the center. Set the heat to medium under the pot. When the milk starts to boil, reduce the heat to low, and start mashing vigorously using a potato masher. Mash in the sour cream and butter until the mixture is fairly smooth. Season to taste, usually about ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Remove from heat. Serve.

Per serving: 193 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 3 g protein, 164 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

Try pumpkin pancakes to get into the fall spirit

If you’re going to eat pumpkin pancakes, this is your window to do it. Of course, you could eat these flapjacks spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg anytime, but there’s no better time than these few weeks before Halloween when we start to gear up our palates for a whole season of festive eating.

Malika Ameen, whose new book “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking” (Roost Books, $30) was recently released, offers dozens of dishes that will entertain your tongue year-round. Her holiday offerings, like these pancakes, are particularly good.

As always, don’t overmix the pancake batter. Leave those small lumps — they’ll cook out of the pancakes on the hot griddle. Vietnamese cinnamon has a particular warmth that Ameen likes for these pancakes, but any cinnamon will do.


Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes pumpkin6

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground Vietnamese cinnamon

¾ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cloves

¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

¼ tsp. kosher salt

1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature, divided

2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

4 Tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup pure canned pumpkin

Heat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the buttermilk and the eggs, butter and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until barely combined.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and the remaining ¼ cup of buttermilk. Gently fold the pumpkin mixture into the batter.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly grease the skillet and cook the pancakes in batches. Spoon about ¼ cup of the batter onto the pan per pancake. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and slightly dry looking and bubbly on the top.

Use a spatula to flip each pancake and cook on the second side until cooked through. Transfer from the skillet to a baking tray, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm in the oven while you cook more. Serves 4.

Drink in a bountiful fall harvest

A rainbow appears above the vineyard at Coyote Moon Winery, Clayton.

A rainbow appears above the vineyard at Coyote Moon Winery, Clayton.

Northern New York wineries share ‘labor of love’ with communities

[Read more…]

Spring 2016: Food

Plan grad party menus wisely

Boo Wells

Boo Wells

Grab-and-go foods best for fast-moving revelers

Despite the apparent confusion at Mother Nature’s Weather Headquarters, spring has begun and summer is reputed to be right around the corner. If you have children in grade school you have been repeatedly updated on how many days there are left until summer vacation. Those people in the back seat of the Mom-mobile have their iPhones counting down the days until they can begin parental torture with loud proclamations of boredom.

If you have a high school senior you definitely know the number of days until the end of the semester and the start of the graduation festivities. The clock is ticking down on the school year, the memories have been made, friendships have been forged, term papers and finals completed, college acceptance letters received, plans made for the future. Yet, despite all the joy and celebration there will also be loss and heartache. Most of us can look back at our school years and remember hearing about a tragedy that struck another community. If you were not impacted directly, chances are you were not really affected.

Flash forward to today and social media has made the world a much smaller place as it has brought us all closer together. One community’s misfortune is no longer contained and, as a result, we are all touched and we all grieve.

Social media has brought us closer together during times of tragedy, but it also teaches us how we can, and do, impact one another, for better or for worse. Learning the consequences of our actions may help us to be more compassionate and open minded. From the outside looking in, the youth of today seem to be a kinder and more tolerant group than when I was a child. As I eavesdrop on the conversations in the backseat I learn about kids who are different from their peers and in my heart I feel for them. But, as the back-seater’s dialogue continues, I hear more accepting comments that would not have been spoken in my school years. I cannot resist interjecting, my curiosity is too much to contain. I play the devil’s advocate, I try to bait the back seaters in hopes of comprehending their way of thinking.

Me: “That kid is (pick your adjective)?”

“Gross, why did he do that to his hair?”

“What’s up with that fashion statement?”

”I bet they are just trying to get attention”

“Do other kids tease him or her?”

The back-seaters always respond with a vengeance. They cannot believe my ignorance. How could I be so closed minded, so judgemental and so wrong.

The back-seaters: “Mom! What is wrong with you?”

“Who cares that they are (same adjective as above)!”

“So? What is the big deal?”

“Nobody cares about that! “

“Gosh, Mom!”

So I go back to being the silent chauffeur, stung by the back-seater’s reprimand and awestruck by their willingness to accept, even embrace those who are different. Their lack of tolerance for intolerance hangs heavy in the air. I am so proud of their empathy both locally and globally.

They are so much more aware of what is going on in the world around them than I was at their age, or maybe even now. They embrace diversity, they are kind to each other, they support and nurture even the most unlikely members of their community and they include everyone.

What, you wonder, does this have to do with food? As graduation draws near and the celebratory party plans come together, remember that their eyes are wide open, their arms outstretched ready to embrace and their hearts a large. They welcome everyone to the table. Be ready; the guests will be numerous, joyful and hungry.

Graduation parties will be well attended, even if the attendees are hoping from one party to another. Plan your menu wisely. I suggest focusing on foods that kids can eat while they are chatting or heading to the next shindig. Food that they can grab and go are especially helpful to “drive-by” revelers with lots of parties to attend. Fruit on skewers or grilled vegetables on kabobs, a taco station with loads of toppings or a barbecue pulled pork sandwich station with different types of cole slaw, barbecue sauces and rolls.

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Barbecue sandwich

Pulled pork & homemmade BBQ sauce

(Yield: 8 cups sauce; 12 to 15 8-ounce servings of pork)

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter
2 cup finely diced onion
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cup cider vinegar
2 cup Worcester sauce
4 cups ketchup
4 Tablespoons dry mustard
8 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons paprika
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (add more if you dare)
10 pound pork shoulder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Melt the butter in a large stainless steel pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Keep the heat low and avoid caramelizing the onion and garlic mixture. Stir in the vinegar, Worcester sauce, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, paprika, Kosher salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temperature. If you are not going to use the sauce right away, refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. The sauce will be even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to mellow. This recipe will make enough sauce for 45 pounds of meat. If you like to have more sauce for serving, double this recipe and you will have some leftover sauce for another time. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Liberally salt and pepper the pork shoulder. Place the meat in the roasting pan fat side up. Roast in a 250 degrees oven for 10 to 12 hours. The meat will be tender and falling off of the bone. Let the meat cool slightly and shred with two forks or roughly chop with a sharp chef knife. Discard the bone. Combine the meat and barbecue sauce and serve with crusty rolls and coleslaw.

Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarm housekitchen@gmail.com or visit www.thefarmhousekitchen.com.

Winter 2016 Feature Story: CSA Farming

Invest in fresh with a CSA share

Joyce M. Kent weighs tomatoes while working at her son’s produce booth, Kent Family Growers, at the Canton Farmer’s Market. At left is her husband David J. Kent. The Lisbon farm offers year-round CSA shares. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Living.

Joyce M. Kent weighs tomatoes while working at her son’s produce booth, Kent Family Growers, at the Canton Farmer’s Market. At left is her husband David J. Kent. The Lisbon farm offers year-round CSA shares. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Living.

By Karee Magee, NNY Living

The grocery store has long been dominated by soldier-like rows of foods while the freshest and healthiest sections on the perimeter have grown ever smaller.

As those sections have decreased, the products, especially produce, become more expensive and less fresh.

“It’s an important public health issue,” said Gloria McAdam, executive director of GardenShare, a nonprofit that helps low-income families afford locally produced food. “The lower a family’s income the more likely they’ll buy the cheapest food they can instead of the healthiest.

Options might seem slim, but a growing number of Community Supported Agriculture farms are bringing local, fresh produce back to the north country.

“It will absolutely be fresher,” Ms. McAdam said. “The average eggs from the grocery store are 45 days old.”

If shoppers buy eggs from a CSA, though, they would last longer without having to be refrigerated if they haven’t traveled far, she said.

A CSA is a partnership between a farmer and local consumers where everyone shares the risks and benefits of farming, Ms. McAdam said.

Consumers pay up front at the beginning of the growing season, usually in June, and receive weekly deliveries or pickups of produce and other items.

Dan Kent, of Kent Family Growers, a CSA in Lisbon, said being a partner isn’t as risky as it seems.

“There is really no risk,” he said. “We produce more than enough.”
Ms. McAdam said that consumers usually end up with more produce than what the payment is worth.

Each CSA offers different items with the staples mainly produce, but farms also offer cheese, eggs, beef, chicken and niche products.

“We try to give people the largest portion of each share the staples, but we offer some special items like strawberries and cantaloupe to keep it interesting,” Mr. Kent said.

The produce available changes depending on the season though. Strawberries and blueberries are available in the late spring, but items like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and squash are available later.

Certain CSA’s, including Kent Family Growers also have a winter season running from November to March.

Mr. Kent’s farm has a high tunnel similar to a greenhouse, but passively heated, to grow winter vegetables including beets, carrots, onions and cabbage. They also freeze fresh produce like broccoli and cauliflower for the winter season.

Mr. Kent’s family produces pickles, pesto and strawberry jam as niche items for the winter season. He said his customers appreciate the CSA because it “forces them to eat vegetables.”

“I might say we’re encouraging them,” Mr. Kent said. “People are afraid of throwing away local produce. You’re going to make the extra effort to put it to use.”

GardenShare offers a program to help low-income families in St. Lawrence County to afford the CSA payment called CSA Bonus Bucks. The program pays $100 of the cost of a CSA membership.

“Every farm is different,” McAdam said. “Find the farm that is right for you and then come back to us for CSA Bucks.”

GardenShare maintains a list of CSA’s and Farmers’ Markets in St. Lawrence County on its website gardenshare.org. To find CSA’s in the Lewis and Jefferson counties check the Cornell Cooperative Extensions website at cce.cornell.edu.

Karee Magee is a magazine associate for NNY Magazines. Contact her at 661-2381 or kmagee@wdt.net.

Winter 2016: Food

Meal prep made fast and easy

 

Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Keep a few staple ingredients on hand to impress

Life moves so quickly. When my boys were babies, random
strangers would constantly approach us while we were out for a walk or at the grocery store, “Thing One” and “Thing Two” in a stroller or shopping cart, “Thing Three” in a snuggle cryovaced to my chest, and they would ooh and ahh, complimenting me on how darling the boys were (really, I’m not biased). What I remember most was the number of times they would warn “time moves quickly, enjoy every moment,” and “Your boys will grow up in a blink of an eye,” or “Enjoy them now, because before you know it, they will be grown and gone.” It was one of those things that I heard so often it began to sound like the adult voices on a Peanut’s cartoon “Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.” [Read more…]

Holiday 2015: Food

Give the gift of food this season

Boo Wells

Roasted vegetable minestrone a holiday staple

I have never had food poisoning. I realize that is a is a strange proclamation but given my mother’s unusual food safety habits or lack thereof, it is actually a miracle. As I have mentioned in previous columns, my parents entertained often. It seems like these days people don’t entertain like they did when I was growing up. My parents had dinner parties several times a month and, as a result, were asked out multiple nights a week (read: babysitters in Connecticut make bank because of social obligations). According to proper etiquette, when you were invited to a dinner or cocktail party you are then expected to reciprocate with an invitation to your next party. [Read more…]

Summer 2015: Food

Savor the sweet taste of a north country summer

Columnist Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Treat your palette to the bold freshness of spring

Summer is one of the greatest reasons for living in the north country. It is Mother Nature’s reward for surviving yet another monster of a winter. It has only been a few short months since we were surrounded by an overcast and gloomy, monochromatic world, nature’s own version of “50 Shades of Grey.” The snow just kept falling as the plow guys and shovel-strong women and men struggled to keep up. On the days that the sun actually peaked out from behind the clouds, the thermometer rarely recorded a number above zero.

Hardly a cause for celebration, we survived and it feels like winter has been over for ages. Mother Nature has some pretty clever ways of making us forget the terrible by blessing us with the awe-inspiring, just look at childbirth. If babies were not cooing bundles of adorable, nobody would go through childbirth more than once. We forget the labor pains and exhaustion, the freezing temperatures and dreary days. The alternative to this selective amnesia would be a world of only children living in Florida. Enough reminiscing about mountains of snow that were taller than your second-story window or the 10-mile walk to school — uphill both ways. Just look outside your window. Spring has spring and, at this writing, summer is hot in its heels. As memories of last winter fade they are slowly replaced with the glories of spring: digging wild ramps, planting beets and lettuce seeds, the strange way your pee smells after eating asparagus, picking rhubarb and garlic scapes and, of course, cooking freshly picked food for friends and family.

During winter, I never want to leave my house. I give homebody a whole new definition. Come spring, I never want to be in my house. If I could, I’d stay out in the garden from sun-up to sundown. I would be a very happy camper. As I putter about with my trowel and pruning shears, the reality of what to serve for dinner lurks in the recesses of my brain. I tug a weed here and there and pinch back an overzealous basil plant, keeping low to the ground, hoping not to be spotted by a hungry teenager, avoiding being dragged back to reality. When I attempt to enlist their help with gardening chores I can usually buy myself another half hour of peace in my sanctuary.

Hunger is suddenly forgotten and the need to practice an exceptionally dusty instrument becomes urgent. What to make for dinner? Something quick, something easy, something that uses some of the incredible bounty that spring has brought. I try to camouflage myself among the climbing vines and asparagus spears as the teenagers begin to circle.

“Will it ever stop snowing?” has been replaced with “Where is Mom? What’s for dinner?”

Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Living.

Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Living.

Taste of summer rice salad

Ingredients

2 cups Arborio rice
1 pound fresh asparagus, tough ends snapped off, and cut at an angle into ¼-inch pieces
2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
1½ cups frozen Edamame beans, thawed
¼ cups finely diced celery
2 shallots, finely diced
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice more as needed
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped chives
¼ cup roughly chopped mint
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add the rice and boil until the grains are just cooked —they should be slightly al dente — about 15 minutes. Drain well and then spread the rice on a baking sheet to cool.
Bring a separate large pot of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for 12 minutes. Have a large bowl of ice water ready, immediately submerge the asparagus in the ice bath until chilled, about 1 minute.
Remove the asparagus from the ice bath, drain well, and transfer to a bowl. Add the peas, Edamame, diced celery and all of the chopped herbs to the bowl and toss to combine.
To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Combine the rice and the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and a few twists of black pepper. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the rice and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarmhousekitchen@gmail.com or visit www.thefarmhousekitchen.com.

Spring 2015: Food

Try a plant-based diet and enjoy many new surprises

Columnist Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Eat a little less meat and lots more fruits and vegetables

I have recently rejoined the real world after an eight-day visit to my past life in Breckenridge, Colo. The town where the little darlings were born and I had my very first food venture, Off the Beaten Path — A Dessert Company. [Read more…]

Winter 2015: Food

A taste of Jamaica comes home with vegetable curry

By Boo Wells

Columnist Boo Wells

Hearty family tradition continues in the north country

When I was younger, my parents and I would spend several weeks a year visiting my grandmother in the West Indies. My grandmother and step-grandfather became enamored with the English-ruled island of Jamaica after they honeymooned in the tropical paradise. [Read more…]