Category: SFH Food Talk & Recipes

Blondie’s Biscuits – Yes!

All is well with the world! My beautiful and highly skilled spouse has made all things right – she made biscuits for breakfast. No, they still weren’t quite up to par with her Mom’s, but she’s getting closer. She has sworn to keep that goal in sight. There is no doubt that breakfasts at Serendipity Farmhouse will become even more enjoyable as time goes by. Continue reading “Blondie’s Biscuits – Yes!”

Blondie’s Biscuits?

Hi! Mr. Monte here.

Let me set the scene for you. Old Fuzz Face is in hiding. He’s afraid he might be caught laughing. Blondie is gnashing her teeth. And I, Mr. Monte, am trying to get this post out before she catches me at the keyboard.

What happened? Well, it all started last night with Blondie’s post Biscuits and Mom’s Birthday. Blondie had said that she was going to make some of her mom’s biscuits for breakfast. Fuzz Face was delighted with the prospect. And I, a true lover of buttered biscuits, ran into the bedroom and moved the alarm clock a full hour ahead. The entirety of Serendipity Farmhouse was poised and ready for biscuits in the morning. Continue reading “Blondie’s Biscuits?”

Biscuits and Mom’s Birthday

When we were young, my big sister and I would hang around the kitchen watching howMom-biscuits (2) Mom would do what she would do. Many mornings our eyes were fixed on a ritual that seemed so simple and so certain. Virtually no words were said. We knew that too many questions in the kitchen would only lengthen the wait for breakfast. But, we watched – we watched every measurement and every move. Our thinking was, “Someday, someday in the far, far away, we would be able to make biscuits just like Mom’s. Continue reading “Biscuits and Mom’s Birthday”

SFH Journal: 2019-02-08 through 16

Highlight: Without a doubt, the highlight for this period was Valentine’s Day. Our own soon to be world famous Chef Monte prepared a Valentine Cherry Pie for us that was, shall we say, the “cat’s meow”. (See How to make Valentine Pie, by Mr. Monte) Continue reading “SFH Journal: 2019-02-08 through 16”

Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne – SFH Style

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This post is dedicated to my “Sweet Babboo” on Valentine’s day – she is “… the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life.”

The pleasant years in Idaho were made even brighter in our memories by our frequent trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We “three” would make the trip together during the slow periods between winter skiing and summer tourist seasons. Fine hotel rooms, equipped with kitchens, were readily available at reasonable rates.

I say “we three” and you may ask, “Who was the third?” Since you couldn’t see from the title or from our previous posts, the answer is – Julia Child and her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Continue reading “Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne – SFH Style”

How to make Valentine Pie, by Mr. Monte

Hi, Mr. Monte here.

Old Fuzz Face and Blondie were totally obnoxious today. Their behavior was quite unspeakable. They started out with numerous public displays of affection (PDA). They were constantly looking into each others eyes and making unbelievably and sickeningly sweet remarks about each other. I’ve noted this behavior is regularly recurring, usually during the middle of February. Continue reading “How to make Valentine Pie, by Mr. Monte”

SFH Journal: 2019-01-26 through 31 – Gourmet Recipes for the Wood Stove

Highlight: The title for this post might be just a little misleading. Upon first reading, one might think that the staff of the soon to be world famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen have been laboring over the wood stove, concocting amazingly delicious culinary masterpieces, pioneer style, using the most simple cast iron utensils and an assortment of basic, home grown herbs and spices. Perhaps someday we should do that.

But, no, that’s not what we’ve been up too. Rather we have instead been laboring intensely trying to keep the wood stove working during a vicious polar vortex using a substandard load of “bottom wood”. Refer back to our post My Big Cats Got it Done! In that post, I noted, “Granddaughter #1 found fascinating fungus and mushroom growths on the wood. Avoiding spiders and centipedes, she found other critters in the midst of the wood pile that aroused great interest and awe.”

Well folks, that was the first clue that, due to the unusually wet year, the two cords of wood we received were overly damp and would take a long time to dry out and season properly. Although I didn’t mention it at the time, much of the wood was covered with mud, indicating that it had come from the bottom of the stack; ergo, it was “bottom wood”.

Fast forward to this last week when a large part of the nation, including our beloved Rappahannock County, was in the grips of a bitterly cold polar vortex. Yes, here at SFH, when temperatures were dipping to 1.2 °F, this would be the week we ran out of last year’s good wood and had to begin feeding the wood stove the new “bottom wood”.

Fires were hard to start and difficult to keep burning. There was an increased amount of smoke while burning and, every time I inserted a new log, that smoke would escape, filling the house with an acrid stench. On two occasions, the smoke was so voluminous that it activated the smoke detector in the kitchen.

The bottom line and last straw for yours truly, was that beautiful and almost always patient wife lost her patience. She lost her patience with me. She lost her patience with the wood stove. She almost lost her patience with our beloved Serendipity Farmhouse. – – – Needless to say in a situation like this, Mr. Monte took her side and blamed the loss of calm and tranquility in SFH entirely and completely on me.

I won’t bore you with tedious details of all my experiments to improve the situation. Suffice it to say, I worked with the wood stove. I talked to it. I read the manual. I put myself into the mindset of a wood stove that had suddenly had its diet changed from well seasoned wood to miserable, damp “bottom wood”.

Then I came upon the solution. While in deep conversation with the wood stove, I introduced the notion that I wasn’t depriving it of it’s favorite food. Oh no, not at all. What I was doing was merely treating the wood stove to a series of wonderful “gourmet delights”. Where else would a wood stove be able to get the exotic mushrooms and flavorful fungus that I was offering? The wood stove began to “warm” to the notion.

Then, in keeping with current dietary trends, I explained to the wood stove. That all of the “bottom wood” was gluten free. And, although I couldn’t claim that it was also  “low carb”, I could assert emphatically, that all the wood had been seasoned in a new process that was similar to cheese being aged in caves.

And, by golly, it worked! Soon, the wood stove and I had found just the right way to set vent and flue settings so that the new dietary delights were not just palatable, but were eagerly accepted. I had discovered how to make gourmet treats for my wood stove!

The polar vortex came and brought its stinging chill, but Serendipity Farmhouse was warm inside thanks to another astounding success by the SFH Test Kitchen.

SFH WX Station Report: Because I’ve already described the arrival of the polar vortex, let me just give you the weekly and monthly weather summaries. For more details and graphics click here and play with the settings where it says “Weather History for Fletcher Mill, VA [KVAFLETC4]”.

Weekly Summary
January 24, 2019 – January 31, 2019

High Low Average
Temperature 57.2 °F 1.2 °F 28.9 °F
Dew Point 56.1 °F -14.1 °F 17.4 °F
Humidity 99% 23% 66.5%
Precipitation 0.59 in
High Low Average
Wind Speed 11.6 mph 0.7 mph
Wind Gust 18.3 mph
Wind Direction SSW
Pressure 30.36 in 29.35 in

Monthly Summary
January 1, 2019 – January 31, 2019

High Low Average
Temperature 62.2 °F 1.2 °F 32.4 °F
Dew Point 56.1 °F -14.1 °F 22.5 °F
Humidity 99% 23% 71.7%
Precipitation 2.64 in
High Low Average
Wind Speed 16.6 mph 1 mph
Wind Gust 25.1 mph
Wind Direction SW
Pressure 30.61 in 29.24 in

 

 

Boeuf Bourguignon – A Noble Quest

We at the soon to be world famous SFH Test Kitchen learn from our ?infrequent? mistakes and failures. If you recall, in November last year we had a simply devastating experience with a sad excuse for a boeuf bourguignon recipe. In the course of executing that recipe perfectly in every detail, we wasted a bottle of excellent wine, destroyed a world-class piece of beef, and went to bed with severe hunger pangs and bruised egos. As I noted in Highlight 1 of our post SFH Journal: 2018-11-04 through 07:

Let me merely say that three absolutely essential ingredients were absent from the recipe: butter, bacon, and garlic. Butter starts my day, bacon lifts my spirits, and garlic makes life worth living! That wretched recipe has left me traumatized.

We are slowly and incrementally working our way to a “grand challenge” – perfect execution of Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. Along the way, we hope to learn why she chose certain ingredient options over others. Our plan is to attempt various recipes, each requiring greater skill and lengthier (more intricate and demanding) preparation steps. Continue reading “Boeuf Bourguignon – A Noble Quest”

How to Make Japanese Gyoza

新年おめでとうございます。

Happy New Year!

What dish did you have on New Year’s Eve that might be special to you and your family? For us, it was a simple choice – an all time family favorite – Japanese Gyoza (餃子).

Why?

Japan, the land of the rising sun, was also the land of our rising family. Beautiful (wife) and I were married in Japan and we spent nearly a decade together there. Our children hold on to memories of Japanese festivals and customs. Perhaps our fondest memory of Japan is our dear friend Reiko. She shared with us the mysteries and magic of Japanese cuisine.

I would be at work. Beautiful wife would call. “Reiko’s here. She’s making gyoza.” Five minutes flat – I was home. Children gathered round. Grace was prayed. Chopsticks (お箸) would dart to the gyoza-filled plate. Five minutes flat – 40 gyoza gone. “Reiko, are there any more?” – – Yes, we loved this treat.

Skilled and wondrous wife watched Reiko prepare the gyoza. She made mental notes. She practiced. In time, the understudy mastered the art. Then, she passed the skill on to her daughters.

Now, every New Year’s Eve, and on special days in between, Japanese gyoza makes its way to the dining table at Serendipity Farmhouse and to tables in the homes of Daughters #1 and #2.

In case you might ask, yes, and even I your humble chronicler of SFH customs and lore, have learned:

How to make Japanese Gyoza

Continue reading “How to Make Japanese Gyoza”

Comparing Apples to Apple Butter

“Once upon a time, Apples were a premier crop of Rappahannock County. Even before the creation of the county, apples were grown as a staple for families and as a cash crop.”


 

That is how the presentation Apples and Rappahannock County, researched and prepared by the Rappahannock Historical Society, begins its study of the history of  apples in our county.

Serendipity Farmhouse sits proudly at the center of the county’s historic apple growing and processing landmarks. When you look at the pictures in the presentation, many times you will see the very same views we have from our office window. The pictures allow us to look back in time and see that SFH was at the heart of what was a thriving county industry.

Although the county’s economy has changed and the days of the large prosperous orchards are long past, some excellent orchards remain to remind us of what used to be. One thing has not changed, though – an apple from Rappahannock County is apple worth eating. Yes, even those five old, poorly maintained Stayman apple trees here at SFH, when conditions are right, produce apples of unforgettable flavor and enjoyment.

So, in a quest to capture history and good flavor, members of the soon to be famous SFH Test Kitchen (SFH-TK) set out to find some of the fabled, quality apples of Rappahannock. Our research this year pointed us to Roy’s Orchard & Fruit Market , which is literally within walking distance of SFH.

It was a damp rainy day, with Autumn colors subdued by overcast skies. Up the long drive through the orchards we went and eventually found not just a single building selling apples. No Roy’s Orchard is a complex of several buildings with an array of products for sale, ranging from fresh apples and apple products to a large selection of local fruit and honey products.

Knowing that the objective of the SFH-TK was to make a uniquely Rappahannock apple butter, we looked through the apple bins, selecting the very best of each variety. When the selection was completed, we found ourselves holding a half bushel bag containing five different varieties of apples.

Upon returning to SFH, the SFH-TK staff conducted taste testing and evaluation of the primary ingredient for our new preserving effort. Each variety had it’s own signature flavor – sweet, tart, mild, lingering, aromatic, etc. It was an experience akin to partaking in a tasting at one our county’s fine wineries. There were not enough words to describe the flavors.

1115181557c (2)Our job was to combine these many flavors in a single product – G&G’s Apple Butter.* We had to consider each of the individual flavors to determine the proportions and balance of the several varieties. Some of this process was science and some of it was guesswork. In the end, however, the result was pure “serendipity”. This year’s batch of G&G’s Apple Butter was like no other.

The days since the preserving have been highlighted by apple butter on toast, apple butter on English muffins, and if Mr. Monte gets his way, it will be apple butter on ice cream. We can truly say the staff of the SFH-TK is satisfied with their work.

This year, we used an old recipe from our archives. It is no longer available at the Waywardseed.com website, but, through the marvels of the Wayback Machine, you can find the recipe here: Waywardseed.com – Apple Butter Recipe. Please note the important  SFH-TK modifications to the original recipe

Ingredients:

4 pounds apples ///SFH-TK uses 5 pounds///
4 cups sugar (based on sweetness of apples) ///SFH-TK uses 3 cups sugar///
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves

Directions: Chop apples into small chunks. Add apples and 2 cups of water to pan. Simmer until apples are soft. Press the mixture through a sieve or food mill. ///SFH-TK uses a blender because it’s faster and requires less cleanup///

1105181550a (2)Combine apple mixture and spices in a large sauce pot. Cook slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon. Ladle into prepared jars and process for 10 minutes in hot water bath. ///SFH-TK processes for 15 minutes///

Yield: 5 pints ///SFH-TK uses 10 half pint jars///

* Note: G&G stands for Granny & Grandad’s