Monthly Archives: August 2012

Environmentally Friendly Vodka Pie Crust

I decided to try a new pie crust recipe.  This new recipe calls for vodka, so I knew it would be marvelous.

Full of enthusiasm to try something new, I headed out to our orchard to get some apples.  The tree was literally hanging with ripe fruit, and being the food hoarder that I am, it bothered me to see apples that were starting to fall to the ground below.  The timing of apple picking and new pie crust recipe was perfect.

My husband and son came out to help with the picking, or at least I thought they were there to give me a hand.  After picking for approximately 10 minutes, I could hear my ‘help’ deteriorating into conversations that sounded like this…. “Hey Dad do you think I can hit you in the head from here?”…. “OK move back farther that was too easy”…. “Oh jeez, do you think I broke the window?” … “Mom, there’s a big spider on your shoulder” … “Just kidding, relax mom, I’m kidding.”

In spite of the wonderful help available, we were able to pick approximately ten thousand pounds of apples from one tree in 20 minutes. Maybe ten thousand pounds isn’t accurate, but it was a lot of apples.  It might have been twenty thousand pounds. 

Just a few of the apples we picked.

So begins the annual fall preserving season.  I really enjoy preserving food that we grow ourselves.  There’s nothing quite like pulling an apple pie out of the oven in January, made with fruit from your own trees.  Especially an apple pie with vodka crust!

The theory behind adding vodka to your pie pastry is that when you use vodka in place of some of the water, the vodka will evaporate in the oven during baking, leaving your pastry light and flaky.  I’m not sure if there’s any truth to this theory, but it sounded like something worth trying.

Here’s the recipe for vodka pastry:

5 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp salt

1 lb lard (I use the Tenderflake brand)

1 tbsp vinegar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup cold water

1/3 cup vodka

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.  Cut in the lard with either a butter knife or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse oatmeal.

This is how the flour and lard mixture should look before you add the wet ingredients.

In a measuring cup, combine the vinegar and egg.  Mix together well, then add 1/3 cup of vodka.  Try very hard not to drink the vodka….or at least set aside 1/3 cup before you start baking.  It’s sad when you are in the middle of a recipe and suddenly you realize there’s an ingredient missing.  It seems even sadder after you’ve been drinking vodka.

The vodka, egg, vinegar mixture. I only had lime vodka but it worked just fine. No lime flavor at all.

Mix together the egg, vinegar, vodka mixture and add 1/3 cup of cold water.  Gradually stir the liquid ingredients into the flour/lard mixture.  It’s not necessary to add all of the liquid to the dough.  If it is clinging together well after only some of the liquid has been added, don’t add any more.  If it seems a bit dry after adding all of the liquid, add a little more vodka…or water…but adding vodka seems better.

Form the dough into six small balls, wrap and refrigerate them until you are ready to use them.  If they are wrapped well, you can also freeze them until you have time to bake later.

Vodka pie crust

There was no need to refrigerate our dough; it was made directly into apple pies.  I measured 5 cups of sliced apples, and added 1 cup of granulated sugar, 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour and ½ tsp of cinnamon to the bowl of apple slices.  Pour this apple mixture into a prepared vodka crust pastry, and cover with another.  Seal the pastry by pressing it around the edge with a fork and cut some vent holes in the top of the pie.

Pies ready to go into the oven.

Bake at 350F on the bottom rack in your oven for approximately 45 minutes and you will have a beautiful apple pie with vodka crust.

My helpers were back when the pie came out of the oven.  They were gracious enough to taste test, and quickly reported that the crust was very flaky with no vodka taste whatsoever.  I’m not sure if it is any flakier than other pie crusts have been, but it was a fun experiment to try. 

MMMMM….flaky!

You might be wondering why this crust is considered environmentally friendly.  I refer to it being environmentally friendly because it uses less water.  In our efforts to conserve our most basic environmental resource, it feels good knowing that we are doing our part.  So what we have learned today is that vodka is a good replacement for water.  I wouldn’t recommend replacing water with vodka when preparing cereal for a baby, but I might try it in my porridge tomorrow morning.  Who knew it would be so versatile! 

Happy baking my friends!!

“A pie without cheese is like a hug without a squeeze” – Auntie Zena

<Terra>

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Young, old, big, small

 

So often these days we are divided into groups based on similarities. But, yesterday we attended an event where that was not the case at all.  At the East/West Combined Driving Club Fun Day there were all kinds, young, old, big, small and fast and not so fast. Of course there is a strong connection of a love of horses and driving them. Participants competed in a pleasure marathon race, a blind obstacle course, a scurry race and the ball toss. But it was not a heated competition but more one of support, encouragement and even fun. A great time was had by all.

 

 

 

-Kelly

The wagon rests in winter, the sleigh in summer, the horse never. – Yiddish proverb

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit….

Lots of grass this summer! This picture was taken 5 weeks after grazing this paddock.

 With all of our beautiful warm sunny days followed by rain in the evenings, we have had some great growing conditions for the crops and the pastures.

Our garden is no different.  It has been super productive this year, growing chickweed and thistle…and also quite a few veggies!

 

Photo credit to our daughter. I can’t make a pea look this good.

I decided to spend half an hour in the garden to pick all of the beans yesterday.  Two hours later, here’s what I had –

Green beans win for productivity.

 

– All from 2 little rows!  And there’s more out there!  Not sure if you can tell by all the exclamation marks, but it’s a little overwhelming!!

So, it would appear that we will be getting some fibre in our diets for the next few days.  I was trying to think of creative new ways to serve beans so that I could avoid the ‘beans again?!?’ looks and stares. 

 

There are some old standbys that work well for our family, but a big favorite are “Diane’s Mustard Beans”.  Diane makes the best mustard bean pickles.  I know that this is true because even using the recipe she gave me, mine aren’t quite the same.

Luckily, she was around the farm this year when we got our first beans picked, and she agreed to come over and put on a small tutorial on mustard bean making.  As you can probably tell in the picture below, she was very excited to have her picture featured on our blog.  In the end, she agreed to allow her picture to be shown…I think.

This is Diane. She’s enthusiastically showing me how to stir beans…or maybe she’s telling me not to take her picture…

Here’s the recipe:

Diane’s Mustard Beans

3 cups white vinegar

½ cup flour

1 tbsp turmeric

½ cup dry mustard

3 cups granulated sugar

1 tbsp pickling spice

Cheese cloth

4 quarts (one ice-cream pail) of yellow beans

            Boil the beans in lightly salted water until just tender.  Don’t cook them.  This takes about 5 minutes. Drain them and make your dressing by mixing the mustard and flour, turmeric and mustard in a gravy shaker with about 1 cup of the vinegar.  Shake it up so it won’t be lumpy. 

Preparing the dressing in a gravy shaker.

Heat up the other 2 cups of vinegar in a large pot.  Add the sugar and stir it in until it dissolves.  Slowly pour the dressing into the warm vinegar, whisking so that you won’t have lumps.  Tie the pickling spice into a square of cheese cloth and let it float in the dressing. 

This is what the spices look like when they are tied into cheese cloth. Should have taken the picture before we dropped them in – this looks a bit gross.

Keep heating up the mixture until it thickens.  Pour the beans into the dressing and bring back to a boil.  Seal in jars.

Yum!

 

 

 “Beans are neither fruit nor musical”  – Nancy Cartwright

 <Terra>

Pizza in a wood fired outdoor oven

Not something you get every day but what a treat! We are so lucky to have friends who are great chefs and have an outdoor pizza oven. It is an involved process as the fire has to be started a couple of hours ahead of time to allow it to burn down to the correct amount of coals. The coals are then pushed back and the surface scrubbed, while continually checking the temperature. Meanwhile dough is being prepared along with a myriad of delectable toppings; genoa salami, italian sausage, tomatoes, cheese, pesto, shrimp, feta, fried mushrooms and onions, quail eggs, bacon and potato. The pizza is then cooked in the stone oven. This oven was also hand-built. The results are mouth-watering.

The oven

The fire

The toppings

Checking the temperature

The finished pizza

Oh, we so enjoyed it.

-Kelly