Our local Farmer’s market, held at the Festhalle, has been busy this summer, purely because of the excellent produce and value, compared to jacked up super market prices And people still keep arguing that transportation costs don’t result in higher prices. Check the price of gas, because Scotty did not beam that food to Publix.
Every ingredient, save for two, came from either the Festhalle or our front yard. I’ll differentiate those in the ingredients list.
1 tablespoon Italian Olive oil
1/2 medium Onion, Chopped (Festhalle)
1 sweet Pepper (Homegrown}
4 plum Tomatoes, Chopped (Festhalle)
2 Oyster Mushrooms (Festhalle)
Saute the onions, peppers, and mushrooms in the olive oil, and when done add the tomatoes and cook for a further minute. Mix together—
3 extra large Eggs (Homegrown)
1/2 cup shredded Vermont Cheddar Cheese
Chopped Parsley (Homegrown)
Sea Salt and Pepper
Pour the egg mixture into the veg, and cook this frittata style–let the eggs begin to set, and then throw the skillet into a 400 degree F oven, until the omelette is done to your liking. Alas, poor supermarket. Only two imported items, from Italy and Vermont. Wait, the cast iron skillet is from Tennessee, another exotic foreign country.
Barbara Kingsolver, in her great book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, describes her family’s “Harvest Day,” when they would dispatch a few turkeys and chickens to meet their maker, and also to say hello to the freezer. Later, her young daughter Lily won a 4-H award for a presentation called “You Can’t Run Away on Harvest Day.” So true.
Especially if you are harvesting mushrooms. Their mycelium may run, but not so for the edible parts. We only needed a couple of these for breakfast, so I took the two largest ones from the back.
The goal was to turn these into part of an Omelette, and here is the process. This is for two people.
Oyster Mushroom Omelette
2 jumbo or 3 medium Eggs
2 large Oyster Mushrooms
1/2 large French Shallot
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Salt and Pepper
Simple enough, but not as much as it seems. The first step is to sauté the Shroom and Shallot, both of which have been chopped. However, remove the caps from the stems of the mushrooms before chopping. Even with a hybrid mushroom like these King Blue monsters, the stem is still harder and chewier than the caps. So cook them in this order.
Using your favorite omelette skillet, and naturally ours is cast iron, sauté the stems in olive oil until they begin to soften. Then and only then add the caps and shallot, and cook only briefly, as shallots are easy to burn. These just happen to be echalote traditionelle longue, straight outta France. Those were recently the subject of more than one political controversy.
In the early 2000’s some air headed US politicians banned several food imports from France, including shallots, in an attempt to score cheap political points–fortunately now they are on to similarly idiotic ideas, like banning vaccine mandates, books, and CRT. I never knew that cathode ray tubes were that bad. At least these short attention span dudes forgot about the dangers of shallots.
When the shallots and shrooms have cooked just the right length, add a mixture of eggs and cheese. Cook briefly on the stove top, and then throw the whole thing in the oven, and cook until the omelette firms up. Our oven was pre-heated, because were eating the following with this:
We served the biscuits with:
Naturally the preserves were made by yours truly. It makes a great combination, and disappeared quickly. We also still check the weather on our old Trinitron tv, which is only hooked up to an antenna. It’s CRT has withstood the years without fail.
We started off International Worker’s Day the right way, with our once every weekend Farmer’s Omelette. We had to celebrate the needs of workers to conserve every penny, so we made this partly with leftovers, although they were no ordinary leftovers. Having grown up on what we call a “dirt farm,” I know how to use a leftover.
Heaviest Skillet available
1 slice good Bacon (preferably organic)
New Taters, Precious
First, cook the slice of bacon. The real purpose of this is to render out the fat needed to fry the taters. I like to add some olive oil for extra flavor, if needed. These little gems didn’t need any. The Yukon Golds were so tender I didn’t even peel them. Naturally, I had planted them in composted chicken manure to begin with.
Fry the taters until practically done, and chop the bacon. Turn the oven on to 400 F. Time for the magic leftovers.
Grilled organic Onions
Grilled organic cherry Tomatoes
Chicken kabobs on Friday night, grilled over hardwood charcoal. It was all too good, and had those two left over. The Florida Maters were halved, and the onions diced. They just needed to be warmed, so I threw them in with the chopped bacon. Then came the money shot.
Our chickens are getting fat and happy, and we had nine eggs on two days each last month–and we only have eight hens. Currently we are feeding about five families with our eggs. The birds will without doubt be demanding overtime feed soon.
Cook the eggs over-easy style in the oven, but without turning them over. Watch this like a chicken on lookout for a hawk, and take out while the yolk is still runny. This is more than enough to feed the two of us, plus a snack for our two dogs. They especially like the taters.
Everyone has a recipe like this, but add real eggs and real ham, along with fresh herbs, and you have a real breakfast, or an anytime dish for two, for that matter. Cut directly to the chase, with two ramekins/custard cups.
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 Eggs (or more)
Diced Onion or Shallot
Toppings: Grated Cheese and Chives
Cook this in a bain-marie, a hot water bath, a method which allegedly was invented by an alchemist named Mary. How she got in all that hot water we’ll never know. I crank up the stove to 550 F. This can also be cooked on the stove top.
How much cream, ham, and onion? Fairly small quantities, but let your conscience and doctor guide you. The cheese makes this a gooey work of art. It’s done when the cream bubbles.
Tomatoes, in season, make this the best egg dish imaginable-wild cherry tomatoes are the best, cooked whole in the dish. Complaining about having your favorite fruit being out of season is as old as ancient music. Oh, snap, that’s the title to a great satirical poem by Ezra Pound.
Winter is icummen in, Lhude sing Goddamm. Raineth drop and staineth slop, And how the wind doth ramm! Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us, An ague hath my ham. Freezeth river, turneth liver, Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm, So ‘gainst the winter’s balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm. Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.
To celebrate a drought busting two inches of rain, and to challenge myself, I decided to make a Farmer’s Omelette the traditional German way, using only local ingredients. In fact, they were so local that all but one ingredient came from within a hundred feet of our front door.
The brilliance of this recipe is that it only calls for three main ingredients–bacon, potatoes, and eggs. Everything else is optional, and subject to improvisation. This is a jazz recipe, and I always follow my use what you have rule. Here is today’s version.
One slice Bacon
One skillet full of Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed
Two small Tomatoes, chopped
One sweet Banana Pepper, chopped
Garlic Chives, chopped
Salt and Pepper
The only ingredient we didn’t grow ourselves was the bacon, which came from just across the Mulberry River, from my home county of Cullman. The county happens to be named after its founder Colonel Johannes Gottfried Kullman, though he was actually a Colonel in one of the failed German state revolutions of 1848. Hence his removal to the United States.
This is also no ordinary bacon
The bacon is so large that eight slices made a pound, and I had to cut one slice into three pieces just to make it fit my omelette skillet. These slices of fresh bacon were marinated for six days in a Saumure Anglaise.
The German method of cooking this is to fry the bacon while simmering the potatoes in water for eight to ten minutes. The bacon is then removed from the skillet, and the potatoes are browned in the bacon fat. I added the peppers as well. Chop up the bacon, and mix the eggs. I put my tomatoes and garlic chives in with the eggs, and then the bacon. When the potatoes begin to brown, add the egg mixture, and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients.
I did depart from the norm, and finished the omelette in the oven at 400 degrees F. While I cooked, Melanie Jane turned on Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto. We ate while listening to one of my favorite recordings, the Bavarian State Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, conducted by the incomparable Carlos Kleiber. We also had a Bavarian flag hanging off the balcony above our dining room table, in honor of Oktoberfest. One of our semi-domesticated wolves, aka a dog, ate the leftovers.
As the salt was not mined, nor the peppercorns picked, anywhere locally, I will admit that this was only ninety nine percent local. But that is still ninety nine percent better than food that has been trucked across a continent.
Joel Salatin, aka “The world’s most famous farmer,” up there in Virginia, wrote an entire book about “the pigness of pigs.” Yesterday at the Festhalle farmer’s market I ran across one of my favorite sellers, a young woman who usually has one of her five children with her (this is Alabama). Instead, she had a big cooler full of fresh local pork that she had grown. Here was some real pigness of the best kind.
When she said she had fresh uncured bacon, I nearly had an infarction. I bought a pound, and she instructed me about how to cure it. My response was I always use a Saumure Anglaise when I cured pork like that.
Now, everyone usually looks at you like you are a snake with two heads when you use French in this part of the South, as opposed to New Orleans or Mobile, the two oldest French cities in the region. However, she looked impressed, and said I obviously knew what I was doing. I told her this wasn’t my first rodeo.
Here’s my version of this Saumure, adapted from Jane Grigson’s monumental book on French charcuterie.
Handful of Salt
Handful of Brown Sugar
One Bay Leaf
Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
Fragment of whole Nutmeg
I omitted the nitrates (pink salt) from this recipe, as this is going to be eaten in short order. Boil this combo, and then let it steep until cool. Pour it over the bacon or other fresh pork you have, and throw it into the fridge.
For how long? That depends on how brave you are. I let mine go for at least a couple of days, and thicker pieces, like fresh ham slices, for around six. Sugar and salt are decent preservatives on their own, and I’m still kicking, so there’s anecdotal evidence to prove it’s not deadly to avoid the nitrates. Just check out some of the furry Italian sausages sometimes to see if nitrates have to be used.
The bacon will not be furry, but it will be tasty. And it will be cured the natural way.
Canning season is here with a vengeance, and it’s time to get it done. This could just as easily be called preserves, but the whole lemon adds some punch to it. Jane Grigson, in her great Book of European Cookery says the word marmalade comes the Assyrian and Babylonian word for quince, which she spells as marmahu. Quince preserves were a staple of my childhood, so I will call this a marmalade. This recipe would work well with those as well, if you can find any. And no, I did not grow up in Babylon.
5-6 tart Apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 Meyer Lemon
Juice of 1 Key Lime
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Water
The five big apples I used cost a whopping two bucks at the Festhalle Farmer’s Market. Use all the lemon, except for the zest and seeds, but definitely include the pulp. The lime is optional, but I have bags of them, and they add some more zing.
Combine the sugar with the lemon and lime combo, and heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the sliced apples and water, and cook for ten to fifteen minutes. I don’t want either applesauce or baby food, so I end up on the shorter time line.
The option is to mash this or not, so I used a less aggressive potato masher on this batch. No extra fruit pectin is needed, so just put the fruit into jars and run through a hot water bath.
This concoction could be served at any meal, and I will try it on both biscuits and pork tenderloin. I may save some for filling my Linzer Augen (Linzer Cookies, though the literal translation is Linzer Eyes) at Christmas. I could even go all out, and have some cookies filled with apple, some filled with peach, and some filled with fig, preserves.
Most people in the South would call this recipe “preserves,” but the amount of lemon in it gives it some punch. I also came up with the idea of adding some lemon pulp to the mixture.
5-6 Fresh Peaches
1 Meyer Lemon
1 cup Sugar
Why Meyer Lemon? It’s something of a cross between a lemon and an orange. And check out the size.
My wife Melanie Jane grew the lemon, and the peaches came from an orchard a couple of mountains away from here. Time for some process.
Place the peaches in a colander or strainer in a sink, along with the jars, flats, and rings. Crank up the old teakettle and soak them all with scalding water. You’ve just done two steps at once.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar and lemon juice/pulp in a non-reactive pan. Lemons pulp easier if they are frozen first, and then thawed. Peel the peaches, and compost the peels (I fed mine to my chickens. They’re experts at composting.) Cut into eights, and add to the lemon sugar mixture. Let that marry-nate until the sugar dissolves.
Action time! Slowly bring the mixture up to a boil, and then turn it down to low. Sing the refrain from “Lady Marmalade” a few times–that’s the part that’s in French. When the peaches are soft, mash them into small cubes with a potato masher. Cook for another five minutes, at a higher temp, and then you have two options.
Can at this point, if you want a juicy spread. Add pectin, if you want a firmer marmalade. I use Certo, because it’s quick, and available everywhere. Pour the mixture into jars, and boil ten minutes in a water bath. Here’s the result:
Strangely enough, the diva Patti LaBelle, who recorded “Lady Marmalade,” is also an accomplished cook, and has a number of cookbooks in print. I don’t know if she has a marmalade recipe in any of them, but she is welcome to try this one.
Fig preserves are a staple of Southern breakfasts, and good figs are not easy to come by anymore. I get them whenever I can, and sure enough, a farmer at the Festhalle Farmer’s Market had some this weekend. It was time to make some preserves.
4 cups Figs, halved
1 cup Water
Organic Sugar to taste
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
That’s it. Just be prepared to simmer these things for at least a couple of hours. The amount of sugar needed depends on how ripe the figs are. These were dead ripe, so I didn’t need that much sugar.
After about an hour and a half of cooking, I resorted to my wife’s medieval looking antique potato masher, to speed things up. It’s a mashing machine.
After about two hours of total cooking, I added a package of Certo liquid pectin–not required, but it does speed things up. The three filled jars then went into a hot water bath for ten minutes, and sealed almost as soon as I took them out. Into the pantry now, and onto some English Muffins or Drop Biscuits, eventually.