Saturday, October 31, 2009

apple pressin' and a comforting cider recipe

We went on a little getaway with our good friends up to Puget Sound, where we attended their traditional family cider-making party. It was such a great experience, it felt fall-ish and harvest-y and like we were taking part in the deep roots of the Pacific Northwest.

Every person had a job,
whether it was loading the apples, washing the apple, sorting the apples, cutting the apples, pressing the apples, or scooping up the cider and filling milk jugs through cheesecloth. It was a great social time, plus the potluck afterwards was one of the best that I had EVER been to. Especially the apple champagne, which someone had taken the apple juice from last year's pressing and added champagne culture, letting it ferment throughout the year. So crisp and bubbly!

Bottling the good stuff

Custom apple presses

1700 pounds of organic Washington apples

The end result

View from the cabin

The cabin - it was everything I hoped it would be!

The next Tuesday, a group of friends met up to go through the corn maze on Sauvie Island; one of our friend's sisters actually lives full time on the farm and allowed us to heat up cider on her stove after we had completed the course. Friend Josh found this recipe for mulled cider and it is seriously delicious!

6 cups apple cider
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
6 allspice berries
1 orange peel, cut into strips or slices
1 lemon peel, cut into strips or slices

Pour cider and maple syrup into a large stainless steel pan. Place the spices in the center of a clean square of cheesecloth, fold up, and tie with twine or string. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture, and heat over moderate heat for 5-10 minutes. Remove cider from heat, discard spice bundle, and serve. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Pie of those Sheep-Herding Folk.

Fall is here. I know this because when I walk outside, I can smell it. I also know this because our house is still without heat and there is a distinct chill inside. We have always kept our living spaces cold because we're cheap and usually poor, but this time is different because we don't even have the option of heat available to us.

On a different note, someday it's my dream to have a little bit of property where I can raise some sheep. They are so multi-purpose! They are really cute, their wool is warm and soft, they taste good, and I think you can make really good cheese out of their milk. Naturally, the people who raise and "herd" the sheep must be lovely people, too, right? Of course, because they are also the bless-ed folk behind one of the coziest meals on the menu.

Shepherd's Pie, from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. (With a corny twist)

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp thyme
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. flour
10 oz. (or your preference) frozen veggies. (We used frozen sweet corn and fresh mushrooms)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 cups mashed potatoes (this was 3 russet potatoes for us, boiled and smashed with butter)

1. Preheat oven to 425. Cook meat for 4-5 mins, add onion and garlic and cook until soft and onions are transparent, 4-5 mins.

2. Add thyme, ketchup and flour; stir until combined. Add about 1/2 c. water and vegetables, cook until warm and the whole liquid has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Place mixture in baking dish. Spread potatoes evenly over mixture. Bake for 10-15 mins, adding cheese on top if you'd like. We only had parmesan cheese so I just sprinkled a little over the top. Serve hot with another steamed and buttered veg, like broccoli or green beans.

*What was our corny twist? I sliced up ready-made polenta and made a bottom crust for our pie, spooning the meat mixture over the top. It was delicious.

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