christmas cheez-its

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Instead of cookies, I made Christmas cheez-its, powered by Crossroads Farm’s pasilla, esplette, and Hungarian cherry pepper powders.  They were a hit.  I may never bake cookies again.  Especially good served with smoked whitefish dip.  So my present to you is the recipe. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cheese Crackers

Yield: 2-3 dozen, depending on how thick

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into slices when cold
  • 2 cups white wheat flour or wheat/rye combo
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar, or a cheddar/stronger cheese mix like aged gouda
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Smoked paprika or esplette or pasilla powder and sesame seeds for topping

Cut butter into pieces and let sit on counter to soften.  Grate cheese. Add an ice cube to a bowl of water to chill.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor bowl; pulse to combine. Add the butter and cheese and pulse until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add 2 tablespoons water and pulse until the dough falls away from the sides of the bowl and can be formed into a crumbly ball, adding a little more water if necessary.

Divide the dough in two, forming it into a disk if you plan to roll it out, or a log if you’re lazy like me and just want to slice it.  Chill for 1 hour to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Either roll the dough out or slice your log into pieces 1/8-inch thick (no more!).  You may need to let it warm up first on the counter a bit if you chilled overnight for easier rolling. You are aiming for thin, crisp crackers, so take care to make thickness even and consistent.

For Cheez-It-like bits, cut into 3/4-inch-wide squares and poke a hole in the center of each square with a skewer.

Place crackers on parchment-lined baking sheets and brush with egg white, then dust with paprika or the like and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake until the dough is not shiny/raw and barely golden on the bottom, about 20-22 minutes. Store completely cooled crackers in an airtight container.

*Note: I forgot to brush with egg white, so the toppings slid off for the photo.  Follow me at your peril!

 

 

mfp fall preservation classes!

Hear ye, hear ye!  We’ve set the schedule for an exciting slate of fall OSU Extension-Lane County Master Food Preserver classes.  There are two series: one a continuation of our popular Friday night short, cheap, lecture/demo-style classes; the other a smaller, more exclusive, hands-on class.

I’m particularly excited by the very special Pacific Northwest cheese tasting class led by Mary Lou Shuler of Newman’s Fish Market on Friday, Sept. 30.  Don’t wait to make your reservation for this one!

For registrations, call 541-344-4885 or download a Saturday class form or a Friday class schedule to mail in with your check. (These forms are both in .pdf format and can be printed out from your computer.)

Saturday Hands-On Classes

All classes will be held at the Community Church of Christ located at 1485 Gilham Road, Eugene. You will receive intensive training at these two “hands-on” classes, then take home the items that you learned to make! Classes Start at 9:30 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. Classes are limited to 8 participants, so register early to save your place. Registration Fee is $50.00 for each class.

  • October 22nd—Cheese Making.  Learn to make 4 to 5 different cheeses; take them home to enjoy! You will learn the techniques and receive the recipes. Lunch is included (with cheese, of course). If you have always wanted to learn how to make cheese, here is your chance. Register early as this class will fill up fast!
  • November 5th—Fermented Foods. We’ll start with sauerkraut and move to kimchi, bake some sourdough bread, make a little sour cream and crème fraîche, kefir too! You will also learn how to make vinegars! This class will send you home with wonderful products you made yourself to enjoy with family and friends. Lunch with fermented goodies, including chocolate (we bet you didn’t know)! Lunch is included.

Friday Short Classes

All classes will be held at the Community Church of Christ located at 1485 Gilham Road, Eugene. Classes Start at 6:00 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m.  These fun classes are in a lecture/demo format, and accommodate more people than the Saturday classes.

  • SPECIAL!!  September 30th—Cheese Tasting. The Master Food Preservers present an evening of cheese tasting, featuring cheeses made in the Pacific Northwest. Hosted by local cheese specialist, Mary Lou Shuler of Newman’s Fish Market. Lots to learn and lots to taste. Join us for an evening of cheese delight. Registration Fee is $20.00 per person.
  • October 14th—Apples and Pears. Learn to cook and preserve a variety of these delicious seasonal favorites. You will receive information on varieties; how to store the fruit throughout the season; and when the fruits are available. Come and join us. Taste lots of samples! Registration Fee is $15.00 per person.
  • November 11th—The Turkey Show. Varieties and how to choose them; frozen vs. fresh; safe storage and handling; smoking; brining; stuffing; roasting; gravy; what to do with leftovers. Just in time for Thanksgiving. Take away knowledge that will enhance your dinner and promote food safety. Lots of samples! Registration Fee is $15.00 per person.
  • December 9th—Sweet Breads & Fancy Shaped Breads. Simple bread dough recipes plus How-to-Help with Making Holiday Gift Baskets. Purchase items at our Holiday Gift Bazar on December 3rd, then learn how to arrange your freshly made goodies in a Holiday gift basket. Registration Fee is $15.00 plus $5.00 for materials.

And last but not least, Oregon State University Extension Service is celebrating its 100th Birthday on September 22. You are invited to join in the festivities and check out our temporary home.

  • OSU Extension Centennial Celebration Open House, September 22, 2011, 2:30 – 6:00 p.m., Extension Office – 783 Grant Street, Eugene. Light refreshments will be provided.

more food events, now with beer

I’ll be the first to admit that travel is not friendly to blog posting, especially with so many Eugene food events that occur in July.  So don’t miss these Oregon Craft Beer Month-related events.  God, we’re so lucky.

1) Cheese Wars II, July 19, 5:30 or 8 p.m., Supreme Bean, $20.

The Supreme Bean (29th & Willamette) will host 16 Tons and Oakshire Brewing for CHEESE WARS II. Cheese Wars is a food-pairing showdown between two ancient beverages. We will feature 5 courses of cheese carefully selected by Oakshire’s cheese enthusiast extraordinaire Eriel Hoffmeier. Each cheese course will be paired with a beer and a wine. Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk will choose and present the beers; Isaac Silva of Estelle and OBM will choose and present the wines. Which pairings work best — only you can decide. Cheese Wars is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the processes of making beer, wine, and cheese. Tickets are limited. Purchase tickets at 16 Tons or online at BrownPaperTickets.com.

Should be fab.  Read more here!

2)  Carts and A Cold One, July 31, 5-8 p.m., Ninkasi Brewery, $15 advance/18 at door.

Slow Food Eugene and Ninkasi Brewery present “Carts and A Cool One.”  This is a cook-off between cart vendors from all over the area, with pairings of beer for each sample. Visitors vote for their favorite cart. Proceeds of the event go towards the School Garden Project, the Farm to Table Program, and sending local delegates to Terra Madre.  TICKETS:  $15 packet–in advance from Brown Paper Tickets.  $18 packet at the door.  $4 for individual tastes (only available at the door).

Support your local food carts, The Nosh Pit, Devour, Red Wagon Creamery, Rolling Stone Pizza Company, Betty Rocker’s Street Kitchen, and PartyCart, with carrot hot dog above.  Read more here!

 

it doesn’t get more cheesy than this

My charcuterer friend Del has started making farmstead cheese for Paul and his crew at Laughing Stock Farm in the rolling hills south of Eugene.  It’s only for their consumption, alas, because of regulations about raw milk and related issues relative to cheese making.  But the dairy production by the farm and neighbors, plus the commercial grade equipment and facilities that Paul already has in place from many years of goat cheese making provides awesome materials to play with for culinary mad geniuses like Del.

We started the day with over a hundred pounds of fresh cow milk from a neighboring farm and freshly distilled rennet.  Sheep gamboled among apple blossoms.  Curious barn cats eyed our wares.  Pigs squealed in the barns, eager for whey.  A herd of goats came passing by our trailer, fresh from milking.  Chickens laid eggs ’til it hurt.  A neighbor came by to discuss gathering herbs for herbal tonic, the dregs of a pilsner batch, and canning tuna.  A venerable basset hound kept court over the entire proceedings.  In short, it was just another day at the farm.

Making cheese is fascinating, and I hope to have many opportunities to hone my own skills this summer, if Del will have me back.  I’ve taken a few cheesemaking classes with the Extension Master Food Preservers, and even taught cheese demos (reminding one of the old professor joke: read it? I haven’t even taught it!) but my knowledge is very limited and largely text-based.  So why not test it out with a giant stockpot filled to the rim with milk in an ingenious hot water bath that uses a pump and immersible heating element to keep the milk at temperature?  Gouda enough for me.

Once the curds and whey were separated and the curds condensed into those squeaky little nuggets that are so fun to eat, Del set to pressing the curds into molds with an industrial strength metal press.  It’s an amazing device made out of stainless steel bars and a clamp.  I had seen smaller versions, much smaller versions, but this was for the big boys.

Before, the stuff of Miss Muffet’s dreams.

After the first press.  The cheese is flipped over and returned to the mold, where it is pressed again, then salted and cured in Del’s lovely cheese and sausage cave.

Can’t wait to taste the results!

pickled cheese? czech.

I finally found a preparation for those anemic supermarket Camemberts, thanks to Czech bar food, which takes no prisoners. Nakládaný Hermelin is a garlicky Czech specialty I wish I had found in Prague last summer, but saw it on the internet instead.  Hermelin is a bloomy rind cheese similar to brie, and it is pickled in big ol’ jars of spiced oil made heady by garlic, peppers, and onion.

Of course, if you wanted to use an imported Camembert, my assistant and I wouldn’t say no.  Nakládaný Hermelin hails from the same class of bar snacks as utopenci (“Drowned Men”): fine-grained miniature sausages, pickled in vinegar.  See?  Take no prisoners.

Preparing Nakládaný Hermelin is quite easy: just take a wheel of Camembert, slice it in half horizontally through the middle, press slivers of garlic and dust each half liberally with top quality paprika and pepper, then put the two halves back together.  Slice in wedges so it will fit in your sterilized jar, then layer with onions, bay leaf, and pickled peppers, and cover in oil.

I’ve adapted the recipe adapted from a blog called Northern Table and variations on this Czech food message board.  I’d warn against any of the versions that suggest leaving the cheese on the counter to ripen at room temperature for several days or longer, however, or reusing the oil.  You can get pretty sick by eating soft cheese left on the counter under any circumstances, and Camembert doesn’t quite have the acid one needs to stave off botulism in anaerobic (i.e., under oil) environments.

What you’re losing is the ripening and oozifying of the cheese.  By using pickled peppers you’d be lowering the pH even more, so, um, maybe…but I really don’t trust those garlic slivers in the center of the cheese.  It’s just not worth the risk.  And it’s still pretty darn good, all garlicky and spicy, after being refrigerated for a week.

I wouldn’t waste your best, raw milk Camembert on this preparation either.  Use pasteurized cheese, both for safety and budget.  The garlic and oil will kill any subtle nuances of a good cheese, believe me.

Rawr!!

Before serving, I’d suggest taking out the wedges you’d like to eat and letting them sit at room temperature for a while (and I’ll let you decide how many hours is “a while,” with the food safety proviso that 2 hours max is the limit for prepared foods).

As for the size of the jar, well, that’s up to you.  A quart canning jar for two small rounds of cheese seems ideal to me.  I managed to squeeze a small wheel into a pint jar, just barely, for my first try, and had a hard time getting the oil to fill all the air pockets (also important for food safety reasons).

Be sure you sterilize the jar by washing it well, then letting it go through the heat cycle of your dishwasher or boiling the jar for 10 minutes.

Dobrou chut!

Nakládaný Camembert

This recipe is easy to scale up or down, and Czechs experiment with the spices to their own taste, so you can’t go wrong.  The proportions here are estimated, since I made mine in a pint jar.  I’d advise using more paprika than less, and less garlic than more.  I’m not sure that I’m happy with using vegetable oil, since it didn’t add anything to the flavor of the cheese, but that’s what they use.  You might experiment with olive oils.  Other suggested spices are mustard seed, whole coriander, fresh rosemary (make sure it is completely dry), or dried hot peppers.  You could also just add 2 tablespoons of pickling spices for a slightly different taste.

  • 1 jar, quart-sized
  • 2 small rounds of pasteurized Camembert (about 8-10 oz. each), not too ripe
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, slivered as thinly as you can
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly in rounds
  • 2 cups pickled peppers (try a mix of pickled jalapeño rings and pickled roasted red pepper strips if you don’t have your own canned)
  • 2 tablespoons good quality sweet paprika (smoked would also be good)
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice
  • black pepper
  • 3-4 fresh bay leaves (if you wash them, be sure to dry them completely, since moisture in anaerobic preparations encourages clostridium botulinum growth)
  • 1-2 cups vegetable or a light olive oil (you’ll need enough to cover the cheese completely)

Prepare a clean, sterilized quart jar (see notes above) and a lid/ring combo or a plastic cap.  Refrigerate the cheese so it is as stiff as possible.

Slice the onion thinly into rings, and slice the garlic thinly, then cut it into slivers.  Thoroughly dry your bay leaves.  If you have a mortar and pestle, crack the whole spices to release the oils.

Prepare the chilled Camembert by slicing each wheel in half lengthwise, so you expose the inside of the wheel. Work fast and with a confident hand, because it is sticky and may fall apart if you mess around with the cut too much.  Press the garlic into one of the exposed halves for each cheese.  Sprinkle both halves of the interior with the paprika and lots of fresh black pepper.

Rejoin the two halves of the cheeses, then slice into wedges that will fit neatly into the jar in layers.

Layer the ingredients in the jar.  Place several onion rings and some spices at the bottom of the jar.  Use onions, pickled peppers, and bay leaves (and dried chiles if using) to separate the wedges, filling the gaps with more pickled peppers. Press the cheese down so it is firmly packed, but don’t pack too tightly.

When you are about half full, add some oil and more spices.  Press lightly with a spoon to release air bubbles.

Keep adding cheese and other items until the jar is about 3/4 full, then top off with oil, again pressing down and checking for air bubbles.  Add the rest of the spices.  Make sure the cheese is fully submerged in the oil.  Close with a canning lid/ring or plastic cap.

Refrigerate for 1-2 weeks, checking after the first few days that the cheese is still submerged.  When you’re ready, enjoy thin slices with traditional rye bread or a baguette, and some Czech lager.  The cheese should taste very garlicky and cheesy — if any off flavors or odd colors or mold are present, don’t eat.

in which i dream of tess of the d’urbervilles

I’m preparing for an advanced cheesemaking class tomorrow in Douglas County by drooling over pictures of our recent tour of Three Rings Farm, a goat dairy and the makers of River’s Edge chèvre.

In my fantasies, I see myself slinging curds and whey like a pro on a little goat farm, a latter-day Tess of the D’Urbervilles.  I will live in the rolling hills west of Portland, a stone’s throw from the coast, and I will sleep al fresco in a flowery meadow, and I will be nudged awake in the morning by my goats.

Heidi, my milking machine and all around Girl Friday, will wake at the break of dawn to take care of their udderly needs.

My cheese will come out as beautifully as these ash-coated, bloomy rind cheeses:

Above: Humbug Mountain and Sunset Bay.  Below:  I’m not sure, but they sure look good.

And there will be no Angel Clare or Alec or any Victorian labor practices or degeneration or class discrimination or murder, and we will live happily ever after, eating cheese.

Stay tuned.

once in a blue moon

Happy 2010!

We ushered in the new year at the opera, a thoroughly pleasant rendition of The Marriage of Figaro, with a bunch of old people in glitter, Eugene patricians, and disheveled graduate students.  We fit somewhat awkwardly among them, jostling.  Wasn’t a big fan of the hollering of “GO DUCKS!” or the redundant supertitle with the same sentiment, since I’m a jerk like that.  But the evening was really lovely otherwise.  Could this be because we started off with a round of Blue Moon cocktails?  Indeed, I think it was.

I saw her standing alone…unwrapping some golden Rembrandt cheese…and couldn’t resist the photo!  (I love my friends for being so patient as I take pictures before anyone eats or drinks anything, and then cutting off their heads or feet.  Thanks, guys.)

Married…with Dinner, one of my favorite food blogs, revisits the history of the Blue Moon, a lovely vintage cocktail now blasphemed with sugary, cheap blue curaçao.  I was on the prowl for lunar recipes for my pre-opera cocktail hour when I came across her post.  I knew immediately it wouldn’t contain a single drop of blue curaçao or similar villainy.  I rushed down to the liquor store to buy Rothman Crème de Violette, thinking the few bottles we might have in town would be already snapped up by the few cocktail enthusiasts we have in town, but I got lucky.  Thanks to “some bar” that had abandoned its stash, I scored a hidden bottle in the store archives.

And with luck like that, I knew the evening was off to a good start for our casual, pre-opera nibbles.  Of many good things, I’d like to note that Oregon’s award-winning Rogue Creamery’s Brutal Blue cheese, a new offering for the creamery, is fantastic: smooth and full-bodied with a sweet finish.  I couldn’t stop eating it.  There doesn’t seem to be any information on the internets about it, but it’s available in town at Market of Choice on 29th.

Blue Moon Cocktail Menu

  • Caviar spread with good sour rye, sour cream, minced red onion, and hardboiled egg
  • Puff Pastry Full Moons stuffed with Rogue Creamery Brutal Blue cheese, brandied cherries, and chesnuts
  • Anellini (little rings) with homegrown rocket, pine nuts, and golden raisins
  • Pickled fig lunar landers
  • Golden and blue cheeses
  • Spiced pecans

If last night was any omen, the year is going to be a great one.  Hope you ushered it in with the same kind of vibe.

(And oh yeah, GO DUCKS!)