Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Month: October 2012

What’s for dinner? Pumpkin everything!

**Good news! My home-made sauerkraut is flippin’ awesome.**
Two evenings ago, I baked one of the three pumpkins I brought back from Ontario. As the fastest way to process a pumpkin is by baking it, I just cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and pulp, and put it in the oven with a little water. But the baking takes an hour and a half, and The Most Important Rule For Cooking that I learned as a child – which it floors me that more people don’t know – is… well, it’s first, don’t use the oven in summertime, but…When You Use The Oven, Cook More Than One Thing. Cook three, in fact:
  • Roast, scalloped potatoes, custard
  • Squash, casserole, cake
  • Pizza, … well, that takes only 20 minutes, so you can get away with only the pizza…
  • Chicken, baked potatoes, pie! 

I’m a vegetarian so I don’t cook meat anymore. I make other stuff. This time, I cooked pumpkin, eggplant parmagiana, cranberry-apple crisp with walnuts, and the pumpkin seeds.

The cran-apple crisp, you can wing on your own. I used less butter than was called for, but it was organic butter. It goes in for about half an hour. The oven was at 375ºF.

Eggplant parmagiana is two slices of eggplant, salted to draw the water out, then rinsed, dipped in egg and flour, and fried in a cast iron skillet. Then add the tomato sauce and mozzarella and bake it for maybe half an hour, not even. Serve with spaghetti or linguini.

And the seeds – oh how I love pumpkin seeds! – are first boiled in salty water, strained and picked of the pulp, and dumped into an oiled skillet and put in the oven. They went in for about 45 minutes, forgotten, but not burned. Far from it. They were just slightly less oily than I usually like them, so I can warm them up again in the smaller skillet in the toaster oven.

The next day, having left the pumpkin in the oven overnight, I had to clean up where the juice seeped out of the pumpkin and out onto the floor. Then I mashed the pumpkin in the skins and scooped it out, keeping the extra juice by using a colander and bowl in the process. I froze half of it, another quarter was transformed into a beautiful soup, and the last quarter was reduced and slightly caramelized in butter, in the cast iron skillet, in preparation for making pie.

Pumpkin Soup: 
Butter to sauté
1/2 onion
Large slice of ginger root
Two rings of red pepper
*if you have it: fresh fennel.* If you don’t, add fennel seeds.

After sautéeing, add:
1/4 of a pumpkin, mashed
2 small potatoes, quartered
Add the pumpkin juice from mashing
Salt and pepper, and sage if you like
Clap the lid on the pot and let boil. The pumpkin has a lot of water in it, enough to cook everything if you keep the lid on. Add a bit more water if you’re worried it might dry out.

20 minutes later:
Mash the pot contents, remove (if you want) the ginger slice, and then purée the whole with either a blender or a Braun handimixer. If you remove the ginger slice, you can further slice or dice it and add it back in. It’s nice to have a little chunky kick. Add more salt and pepper at this stage.
To cream the soup, stir in a 1/4 cup of real cream, whole milk, or coconut milk.


Eastern Ontario Autumn colours

These two photos are worth sharing, from my trip to Eastern Ontario over Thanksgiving weekend.

Homemade sauerkraut

Early last week I finally chopped up that head of cabbage and salted it in this pickle crock to make sauerkraut. I used the instructions from Boing Boing, who’s (god I’m a such a miscreant) whose creator sounds like the kind of guy I’d get along with. He wrote a book about making everything. You can read all about it when you get to the bottom of the “how to make sauerkraut” instructions.  
In my iteration, I have no 9-3/4″ wooden disk to cover the contents of the crock, but I phoned my Dad to ask him to cut me one, “and not out of plywood.” The old man actually sounded happy to have something to do, which is surprising because it was a favour for me and usually he’s like “screw you, I’ve enough to do, make it yourself.” But in this case, I can’t. It requires a band saw or at least a jig saw, and a belt sander to smooth the edges.
I tried to cover the cabbage with a plastic bag filled with water, but the bag leaked. So, I have more watery contents in the crock pot, but that’s OK because I added more salt, and it helps keep the environment anaerobic. The plate keeps most stuff from floating. I have no “bloom” on my stuff yet, and I hope that’s a good sign. One week later, my sauerkraut-in-the-making still looks like this: