Sunday, August 21, 2011

Public Service Announcement (kinda) and pictures!

Macy's has recalled its Martha Stewart enameled dutch ovens. If you have one (Mom, I'm talking to you), go return it, and they'll give you your money back.

Annoyingly, I have one and use it everyday. It is a major staple in my kitchen and I'm pretty upset to have to give it up. As a replacement, we've just ordered a Staub 5qt round cocotte in pesto. While I've always been an admirer of Le Creuset, last time we were at Sur La Table in Pittsburgh though, I found myself drawn towards Staub pieces, another brand of enameled cast iron cookware made is Alsace France. Its interior is black enamel instead on neutral, and its porous, so it develops a seasoning over time like normal cast iron making it non stick. Also, it comes in really sexy colors.

Now lets hope we can get a decent refund amount for the Martha Stewart one. The recall website says 'full refund", and the sticker price on mine is $109.00, but we all know how that works. My mom got $40 back for hers in store credit, but Chris says that he'll be removed by security before he takes store credit. Theres not a Macy's for 60 miles in any direction of where we live. How the heck are we going to use it?

In more interesting news, pictures of the apartment and pictures Chris took at Ligonier Country Market are going up tonight and I might take some pictures berry picking today. Its been so beautiful out for the past few days. Its almost breathtaking.

Here are some shots I've taken in the last couple of days:

These are from when Ryan Mance and I went to a farmers market in this little town called Vandergrift. That bull was not happy that I hopped out of the car to take its picture.

These are just from my travels. I love bridges like that so I snapped a picture of it with my phone while we were driving under it. I am an artiste. That Ammo shop is essentially across the street from my house. I know. Creepy. Welcome to Pennsylvania.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Preserving Summers Bounty

I am seriously excited.

If you know me, you know that I have gone on a serious canning bender this summer.

Seriously, its what you're all getting for Christmas.

Well, today I went out to get the mail, and my copy of Marilyn Kluger's "Preserving Summer's Bounty" had arrived! I first read about this classic cookbook on Chowhound, and it's recipes were described as "the jam our Grandmothers made". Well, neither of my Grandmothers make jam, but being that I am a huge fan of "Fine Preserving" (M.F.K Fisher's Annotated Edition Catherine Plagemann's Cookbook) and other cookbooks of that era, so I decided to go for "Preserving Summers Bounty", especially since it was $3.95 from Better World Books on Abebooks.

It's been out of print for at least 20 years, and my 1979 version is from a west Texas library. That somehow makes it more exciting.

Expect a review when I finish reading it/make a few of her recipes. :)


Anyone who is friends with me on facebook knows about the lard. Here's what made a lifetime vegetarian render five pounds of hog fat in her dutch oven:

The other day I was at Yarnicks, the farm market that I love, picking up a few things for dinner. They raise their own hogs and cattle, so on a whim, I picked up a pork shoulder. I didn't know what I was going to do with said piece of meat, but it came home with the candy onions, and red bell peppers, and cantaloupe, and corn. I put it in the freezer and didn't think about it for a few days until I ran across a thread on the Chowhound forums about carnitas. Chris likes carnitas. Whenever we go to Chipotle he orders a carnitas burrito, so I figured that I would earn some major points if I could make them myself. The recipes all seemed to call for lard, pork shoulder, orange slices and not too much else, so I figured it would be easy. After all, I had the pork, and Giant Eagle sells oranges.

Lard was an issue. They sell lard at Walmart. I know this. It is made by Armour in that green and white box that is always either by the Crisco or Velveeta. Never being a person interested in buying lard, I didn't know much about it,but quickly learned that it's very processed, and partially hydrogenated so that it doesn't need to be refrigerated. Also, it's rendered from factory farmed hogs who were pumped full of God knows what. Its also pretty common knowledge that the majority of toxins and impurities an animal ingests are stored in their fat.

Do you want to eat that? I don't.

I had to find another option. I'm one of those people who believe food is love, and love and hydrogenated white bricks of hog fat should never go together as far as I'm concerned. My first thought was that maybe the butcher shop sold lard. Not to far up Rt 422, we have a great butcher shop called Cunninghams that sells bacon and sausage that Chris loves. Being the kind of butcher shop that actually breaks down whole animals, you can get all kinds of nasty things like heads, and kidneys, and hearts and, most importantly in my case, fat.

So, Chris and I went to Cunninghams. I soon found out that they didn't render their own lard, but being a resilient girl, I quickly accepted that fact and asked the girl behind the counter if I could please have five pounds of hog fat.

"Hog fat?" She raised her eyebrow.

"Yes. Five pounds please." I stuttered a little bit.

She disappeared into the back cooler and a man emerged carrying a giant slab of fat. I was tingly with excitement. He weighed it, bagged it, and we were on our way.

When I was moving, my Grandmother gave me a box of kitchen equipment that was my Grandpa's and that she didn't use, amoung them, an old very sharp french Sabatier meat cleaver that I joked I would never use. It took me about an hour to trim the meat off and then turn a five pound slab into half inch cubes, and I was darn grateful that I had that big knife. I threw it all in the dutch oven with a cup of water and put in on the oven on low heat. We went out to get milkshakes.

Some people will describe the scent of lard as its rendering as intense. Like pork roast. Or maybe like 1000 pork roasts in one kitchen.

I guess that's one way to put it.

It made me sick. As in I got a terrible headache and fell asleep on the couch. That's why there are no pictures of the cooking/straining part of this experiment. Chris did all that while I was curled up asleep.

He's a good sport.

The next morning, I opened up the fridge and there was a mason jar full of snow white lard. I am pretty impressed every time I open the fridge door.

The carnitas part is less interesting. Melt lard, cube pork shoulder, zest orange, slice orange, and put in dutch oven. I cooked it low and slow for about 2 1/2 hours and then shredded it. Chris seemed to like it as tacos with cheese in corn tortillas. We're going to start focusing on more vegetarian food though, so that lard might be sitting in the fridge a while.

It was an interesting learning experience if nothing else. I like the idea of being self reliant and knowing how to do things that most people take for granted - like canning and making bread, and this is another thing I can add to the list of things I know how to do.

Now lets all hope I never have to do it again.

Its is almost kind of pretty...

Monday, August 8, 2011


So if you're reading this post, chances are we already know each other (we're probably related actually), which means we're off to a good start. Also, I probably miss you a lot.

However, in effort to cover all of my bases, I feel like I should introduce myself.

My name is Liz, I live in the lovely town of Indiana Pennsylvania which is nestled deep in the hills of western PA and home to Indiana University of Pennsylvania where I attend school. You should visit some time. I live with my wonderful fiance Chris. We're sort of dragging our feet in the getting married department, so don't ask about the date. We have a small apartment (that you will see pictures of soon) above a garage on a little alley that we are slowly but surely transforming into a lovely home.

We've been living here about six weeks, and I've already had one ridiculous waitressing job (that I quit after working about 90 hours in two weeks) and finished a writing intensive summer class (Creative Writing). I have a job lined up for the fall, so my plan is to spend the next few weeks in domestic bliss, cooking, knitting, and most importantly canning. I've made canned roma tomatoes, sundried tomato and roasted pepper spread, roasted crushed tomatoes strawberry jam, spiced blue berry jam, szechuan string beans, and red onions in wine vinegar and thats just the beginning!

So keep reading, As I have more things to talk about, I promise things will get more interesting :)