Old-fashioned Cooking: Real Poached Eggs

Share

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In this modern-day-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and shove-it-in-the-microwave world, we often lose sight of what real food tastes like. Not too surprising, when you look at the ingredient lists on most prepared foods. I figure if you can’t even pronounce half the ingredients, you shouldn’t rely on it as a major food source. Many so-called foods have more chemicals than food ingredients. Just think about beef stew or chili simmering slowly through the day, ready to warm the cockles of your heart – not to mention your cold hands – come dinner time. Or home-made breakfast burritos or Cornish pasties, stored in the freezer for those mornings when you can barely find the kitchen, let alone think up a menu.

I grew up in a family where poached eggs meant store-bought, anemic ovoids dropped into rapidly boiling water with a little salt. Not until I married did I learn about real poached eggs, as made by my husband, a recipe handed down by his mother. Her poached eggs are comfort food at its best. Although you can achieve a reasonable facsimile with store-bought ingredients, really wonderful gastronomic excellence is the result of fresh eggs from your own chickens, raw milk (I’ll back Maybelle the milk cow against all contenders), bacon from the pigs you raised yourself, homemade bread and butter… I’m sure you get the picture. On a day when there’s a couple of inches of snow on the ground and more falling every minute, with a temperature of 28 degrees, this is a breakfast of champions.

Real Poached Eggs

A package of diced bacon ends (the trimmings from bacon, pieces that are too small to be regular slices); if you only have sliced bacon use 3 or 4 slices, finely diced.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About ½ cup diced onion; can be yellow, green or white. Red onions turn the dish pink, although otherwise they’re fine, too

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About 1 ½ cups milk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2 or 3 eggs per person

Optional ingredients: pureed garlic, finely chopped tomatoes, raw green onions, celery or parsley leaves (my husband turns up his nose at these embellishments)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well-buttered toasted bread, 1 or 2 slices per person

Cook the bacon and onion in a heavy cast iron skillet on medium-high heat until the bacon is crisp and the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Pour in the milk and heat just to the boiling point. While the milk is heating, crack the eggs into a bowl or measuring cup. When the milk just begins to boil, pour in eggs and turn heat down to low. Cover and cook about 5-7 minutes — the longer time for more servings. Start toasting and buttering bread about 1 minute before the eggs should be done. Place toast in a shallow bowl, spoon in eggs plus milk/bacon/onions and sprinkle with chopped celery leaves or parsley. If you want to add garlic, sprinkle it into the pan about the time you start the toast (for real poached egg with garlic aficionados, you can sprinkle the garlic over the toast and pour the eggs on top). You can add as many as a dozen eggs to this recipe without increasing the milk. After that, add about ½ cup milk per 3 eggs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Share
Posted in Farms, Food, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boar Taint, Part II

Share
Pork chops in the making.

Pork chops in the making.

A while back I posted about the issue of boar taint. We got our meat back from the butcher last week and have had chance to try some of the meat from the old boar (relatively – he was about four years old). I’m pleased to tell you that there was no evidence of boar taint in the meat. In fact the flavor is excellent, and very different from supermarket pork — richer and more “porky” is the only way I can describe it. However, it is a bit tough, which is not too surprising, given Bacon’s age. It’s no big deal for the roasts, as I can use the “low-and-slow” method to cook them, or put them in the crockpot. And it’s not a problem for the ground pork, obviously (boy, does it make good fresh sausage!). But the pork chops are decidedly chewy. It’s easy to overcook pork, which also tends to make it tough, so I thought I would share the solution to chewy pork chops.

Smothered Pork Chops (modified from the Cooks’ Illustrated recipe)
3 ounces bacon (about 3 slices), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour or rice flour
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or, if you have the butcher save pork neck bones as I do, you can use actual pork broth, made just the way you do chicken or beef stock)
Lard or coconut oil
4 bone-in, rib-end pork chops, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
Ground black pepper
2 medium yellow onions, halved pole-to-pole and sliced thin (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons water
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves, or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Fry bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate, leaving fat in saucepan (you should have 2 tablespoons bacon fat; if not, supplement with lard or coconut oil). Reduce heat to medium-low and gradually whisk flour into fat until smooth. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is light brown, about 5 minutes. Whisk in broth in slow, steady stream; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, stirring occasionally; cover and set aside off heat. Heat lard or coconut oil in cast iron skillet over high heat until smoking, about 3 minutes. Dry pork chops with paper towels and brown chops in single layer until deep golden on first side, about 3 minutes. Flip chops and cook until browned on second side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer chops to large plate and set aside. Reduce heat to medium. Add one tablespoon lard or coconut oil, onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and water to now-empty skillet. Using wooden spoon, scrape browned bits on pan bottom and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Return chops to skillet in single layer, covering chops with onions. Pour in warm sauce and any juices collected from pork. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until pork is tender and paring knife inserted into chops meets very little resistance, about 30 minutes. Transfer chops to warmed serving platter and tent with foil. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer sauce rapidly, stirring frequently, until thickened to gravy-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Cover chops with sauce, sprinkle with reserved bacon, and serve immediately.

You can make a variation of this with apples (tart apples like Granny Smiths taste best) and apple cider instead of onions and broth, or you can mix apples and onions with broth and cider in varying proportions. This gravy really goes well with mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.

 

Share
Posted in Farms, Food, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surviving Armageddon

Share

Picture Credit: http://www.paperdroids.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/apoclaypse-3.jpg

I just finished reading “Knowledge,” by Lewis Darnell. Darnell lives in the UK, and the point of his book was to describe in (very) encapsulated form the basics people would need to eventually “reboot” society after an Armageddon-type calamity. In some ways it’s an interesting read, but I don’t think he really understands that unless a LOT more people know how to feed themselves, the knowledge he describes isn’t going to be much help.

Darnell seems to think that supermarkets will still be available to the few survivors of something like a massive, extremely high-mortality flu epidemic. Not that the markets will be functioning, mind you, just that they’ll be sitting there with lots of food on the shelves, just as gas stations will be sitting around with lots of fuel for SUVs — it will just need to be siphoned out. So survivors — according to Darnell — will need to drive out and scavenge what they need, but they’ll be able to find enough to keep going for a long time.

In practically the same breath, he notes that cities will very quickly become major fire hazard areas because no one will be cleaning up fuel — such as paper, leaves and other flammables — and that the cities will experience firestorms because of lightning strikes and electrical shorts and people knocking over the candle that was the only source of light. The fires will be devastating because of exploding propane lines, gas lines and the aforementioned gas station tanks; Darnell says they will burn for days. And of course, there isn’t likely to be a crew of firefighters readily available to put out the blaze. Not to mention that there may be no water pressure because no one will be maintaining the pumps at the city reservoir.

Darnell also comments about the risk of gangs taking over and violence in the cities but sees that the good guys will be able to forage for food, medical supplies, etc. I don’t know how applicable his thoughts are to the U.S. If the survivors live in the suburbs, they’re going to have to travel on foot — or maybe by bike — to those supermarkets and clinics. They’ll need some sort of cart to load up with all their finds. He doesn’t seem to be considering that the gangs in the cities will be heavily armed and more than willing to do violence, while the average town-based or suburban citizen probably won’t have much more than a pocketknife or a paring knife filched from the kitchen.

The whole point of writing the book, according to Darnell, was to give people the very bare bones basics of techniques such as chemistry, printing, medicine and other technologically-dependent goodies. He notes, sort of as an aside, that OF COURSE, humans will have to have adequate agricultural skills to raise sufficient extra food so that scientists and engineers and such can focus on recreating civilization without having to worry about where their next meal is coming from. He waxes eloquent about the wonderful Norway seed bank, where seeds can be found to jump-start this agricultural Renaissance. What I don’t think he understands is that for thousands of years, growing your own food was not easy, you were not guaranteed a crop, and people went hungry in bad years. Not to mention, that was when most people actually knew how to grow their own food. And frankly, I don’t think a seed bank in Norway is going to do my California garden much good…

It’s worth reading, if for no other reason than to critique his theories, because it helps you think about what REALLY is likely to happen. IMHO, the survivors aren’t going to be in the cities, especially if Armageddon is a virulent flu — those are exactly the places where lots of deaths will occur due to crowded conditions. Nor will the supermarket shelves remain well-stocked, as people will immediately start stripping them once it becomes clear the world is in the grip of a major epidemic. Witness what happens when weather is predicted to get nasty in an area — the shelves are bare within hours. In addition, the supply chain will break down very quickly in a virulent pandemic, and those shelves won’t get stocked in the first place.

I could go on, but I think it’s much more likely that the survivors will be country folk who already know how to raise, harvest and store their own food, are used to making do and coming up with creative solutions to problems related to day-to-day survival.

Let’s hope we never have to find out.

Share
Posted in Farms, Food, Health | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment