Boeuf Maison

Winter in the Southern Appalachians

Though the Appalachians extend all the way up to the northern sections of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. and actually into the French territory of St. Pierre, off the Canadian coast, we are already seeing signs of spring down here on the distant southern end. High temperatures are in the sixties and seventies, and the wild blueberries are blooming along our riverfront. It’s time for some outdoor cooking.

Perhaps in honor of the French end of our mountains, I gave this dish the somewhat ridiculous name of Boeuf Maison, which is best translated as “Home Cooked Beef.” It is better when cooked outdoors. It is also ludicrously simple, which is why I gave it a fancy French name, to make it sound difficult.

Ingredients

Lard

Beef Roast (I always get local grass fed, when available), marinated in Salt and red Wine

Onion, chopped

28 ounces of whole canned Tomatoes (If I don’t have home canned, I use Cento Tomatoes from Italia)

Seasoning–Salt, Thyme, Oregano

That’s it. Here’s a perfect example of when the quality of ingredients and the cooking method make all the difference. It helps to have a really heavy Lodge camp dutch oven as well. The first step is probably the most important. PETA members, stop reading at this point. If you want to find some people who make PETA look rational, check out the website of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). They liberate things like pet bunnies.

Roasting Hot

The sear is the most important thing for me. I have a hot fire of hardwood and hardwood charcoal, and put the dutch oven directly above it. Add some home rendered lard, and sear away. Be brave with the brown of the sear.

Now We’re Cooking

Sear both sides of the roast nicely, and add the rough chopped onions. Rough chopped is fine, as this sauce will be strained after the dish is finished. When the onions begin to soften, add the marinade, and the tomatoes, and then the seasoning. Time for it to cook low and slow, for two or three hours.

Anticipation

Move the pot to a cooler spot in the fire, if cooking outdoors, or the lowest heat on a stove top. When the meat is completely tender, strain the sauce and nosh away. Mashed potatoes are the perfect sauce soaker.

On a serious note, and I am rarely serious, this fire pit survived the super tornado outbreak of 2011, though it was mashed completely down into the ground by a giant pine tree that fell and smashed into it. A larger pine tree was blown onto our house, and I cut it off using a German crosscut log saw. I lost a half of one roof shingle; 238 people in Alabama died, most in Tuscaloosa, the home of one of my Alma Maters.

Enterprise #34 Juicer

One Honking Big Piece of Cast Iron

Coming into the ring at over 10 pounds, this Enterprise Juicer can seriously crush some fruit or vegetable. It would probably also work as the world’s heaviest food mill, but it is something of a pain to clean. I have used it mostly to juice excess blueberries to make some pretty tasty blueberry wine. I have also juiced some key limes with it, like the one in the foreground (a Meyer lemon is behind it). I bottled and then pasteurized the juice.

Technically, the Enterprise Company called the #34 a “Combination Fruit Press.” I found this in the booklet they printed called The Enterprising Housekeeper, which I downloaded for free from one of my favorite websites, Project Gutenberg. Check it out, and download some Jane Austen novels as well, while you are there.

The screw at the pointy end is the adjustment for how fine you want the fruit pulp to be, which also determines how thoroughly crushed the fruit will be. That also determines how much juice will come from whatever you are running through this beast.

Now it is time to wander off into the weeds of food history, as these juicers were also used to produce “meat juice.” This came right along with the worldwide craze for a product known as Valentines Meat Juice, which was a huge seller from 1871 onwards, and naturally, it was a Southern product from Richmond, Virginia. Four pounds of heated (not cooked) raw beef produced just two ounces of meat juice, which is more accurately called myoglobin.

The Enterprise company especially recommended giving meat juice to invalids. Nothing like giving the remnants of raw squeezed beef to invalids. Food crazes never fail to entertain. I hope the Paleo crowd doesn’t find out about this.

Steamed Sponge Cake with Fresh Berries and Cream

That’s a Spring Dessert

We have wild blueberries in the woods, and fresh strawberries at the Festhalle, our local farmer’s market. How about a spring dessert?

Just cut up the strawberries, and add some sugar. The blueberries don’t need anything but their own fine selves. Whip up some heavy cream and steam a sponge cake.

Ingredients for the Sponge Cake

2 organic Eggs

1/2 cup organic Sugar

Vanilla

Meyer Lemon Juice

1/2 cup Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Separate the eggs, and turn the whites into a meringue with the sugar. I used our thirty year old Kitchen Aid, but a whisk will do as well. Add the yolks, vanilla, and lemon juice, beat for a minute or so, and then slowly fold in the flour and baking powder. Butter a baking dish, and get to steaming.

San Fran Wok with a Homemade Lid

I bought a USA made wok from the Wok Shop in San Fran, but made my own lid out of an old mixing bowl. The knob is dogwood that I turned on my lathe. The lid is exactly the right size. It accommodates a steaming rack and a cake pan.

Cake passing the Toothpick Test

The steamed cake has a wonderful texture and taste. It better, as it has all that juice to soak up. The last bite, which is nothing but cake mush and berry juice, is the best.

Wild Blueberries

The Caviar of Berries

The first wild blueberries are ripe here, which is the cause for some serious noshing (see the next post). These tiny buckshot sized berries have a mind blowing sharpness of taste.

Every other year I will spend an hour or so picking enough of these little devils to make one of my favorite sauces. Here it is: Wild Blueberry Sauce. Serve it on crepes or any pastry.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Butter

1 cup of Wild Blueberries

2 tablespoons of Honey

Juice of 1 Key Lime

2 drinks of Brandy (One for the dish, one for the cook)

Cook the blueberries in the butter, and then add the other ingredients. More or less honey may be needed depending on the tartness of the berries. Lemon juice can be substituted for the limes, but I always use what I have (my wife grows Key Limes and Meyer Lemons). A crepe is really just a thin pancake, but once again, everything sounds better in French. You could use cognac instead of brandy, but they’re just different priced versions of the same thing.

Honey Blueberry Glazed Ham

Easter Ham, which will be around a while

Thanks to our corporate overlord, Jeff Bezos, and his minions at Whole Foods, we actually had a decent ham for Easter. Still staring at a freezer full of blueberries, we decided to make a new and different glaze for the spiral sliced ham (pre-cooked. Thanks, Mr. Bezos).

The Glaze

Honey to taste

1 tablespoon Sorghum Molasses

The Juice of four cups of Blueberries

Juice of one Lemon

Mix these together, and boil until the glaze thickens slightly. Stud the ham with cloves, glaze, and cook until the ham is warmed through, and the glaze is shiny.

Don’t have a couple of cups of blueberry juice handy? Then whip out your Enterprise #34 cast iron juicer.

Juicer, Old School

Weighing in at a mere 14 pounds, this thing has never met a berry it couldn’t juice. These are readily available on eBay. A food processor and a strainer will work as well, but don’t really make a statement like this beast does.