Traditional Farmer’s Omelette with All Local Ingredients

Bauernomlett

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.

Ingredients

One slice Bacon

One skillet full of Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed

Four Eggs

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

Marinated Fresh 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.

Uncured Bacon in a Saumure Anglaise

That’s an English Pickle, for the Francophobes

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.

Ingredients

Water

Handful of Salt

Handful of Brown Sugar

One Bay Leaf

Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

Peppercorns

Four Cloves

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.

Apple Lemon Marmalade

Gather Ye Rosebuds while Ye May. Or Apples

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.

Ingredients

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.

Technology that Works

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.

Peach Marmalade

Peaches Marry-nating before the Magic Happens

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.

Ingredients

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.

Lemon v. Peach

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

First Figs of the Year

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.

Ingredients

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.

Three Eight Ounce Jars of Preserves, Brought to You by this Masher

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.

Soft Scrambled Eggs

A DIY Scrambled Egg Kit

Seriously, a post about how to scramble eggs? I would have thought the same thing a few years ago, before the great English food writer Elizabeth David caught my eye. Jane Grigson, an equally talented writer, gave me my first account of David, in what has become one of my all time favorite books, published under various titles, but now sold as Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery. There, Grigson discusses several of David’s recipes from her book French Country Cooking. I immediately bought a three books in one collection of her work, published by the appropriately named Biscuit Books. I now own four of her books, each better than the last.

David hated overly complex and pretentious food, and instead focused on the real thing, such as perfectly scrambled eggs. Her method is superb, taken from a French country cook. The secret is to cook the eggs at the lowest temperature possible, which is something of an antithesis to the more common get your stove as hot as a flamethrower approach. Here’s my paraphrase. This is a two person version.

Ingredients

2 Eggs, Beaten

Salt and Pepper

Heat up a skillet coated with olive oil–I like these Lodge carbon steel ones. Turn the stove down to minimum temp, and let the skillet cool off for a bit. Then pour in the seasoned eggs, and do nothing. Wait until the egg begins to set, and s-l-o-w-l-y stir the eggs with a fork. I always prefer wood utensils, so I made my own.

The eggs should cook slowly, so it is much simpler to serve it at the soft, creamy stage that is the goal of using this method. After a couple of tries, cooking this way will become second nature. It doesn’t hurt any to begin with quality pasture raised eggs, either.