The Eclectic Quill

Website of Joshua McGee

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Fermented Ghost Pepper Sauce, Step One

With a small bumper crop of my ghost peppers, I wanted to try to make a fermented hot sauce.  As usual for fermented foods, Amanda Feifer's site Phickle comes to the rescue with great recipes and tips.  (I just got her new book, by the way, and it's well worth the investment.)

Amanda has a lovely post on making fermented hot sauces with detailed instructions.  I strongly recommend reading that post before following these steps.  The recipe looked promising, so I set about making (a miniscule amount of) ghost pepper sauce.

For anaerobic fermentation, you need to keep the ingredients submerged.  If they are touching the air, they can go soggy, rot, or get moldy.  So the trick is to find a way to depress the contents under brine so that the brine, not the plant matter, touches the air surface.  I was brainstorming ways to weigh them down, and it hit me: whiskey stones!

These are clean, nonreactive stones intended to chill an alcoholic beverage without diluting it.  This set by Corsicca is the kind I mean, although mine are from another manufacturer.  They're also very heavy.  And I had some sitting around.  Sounded like a perfect combination to me.

So I set about starting my ferment.  I gathered the stones and thoroughly washed the jar I wanted to use.

Whiskey stones

I thought it would be a good idea to sterilize the stones first, so I put them in (what I thought was) their unbleached linen bag and boiled them for ten minutes.

Whiskey stones boiling

Eek!  I guess it wasn't unbleached linen.  I guess it was dyed to that color, because it leached into the water.  Meh.  I'd have to use another bag.

The whiskey stone bag leached dye

So I wrapped the whiskey stones in a double layer of cheesecloth in a 3x3 grid and tied it off with twine.

Whiskey stones tied off with kitchen twine

I crushed the ghost peppers into the bottom of the container I wanted to use to pack them in tightly.

Ghost peppers packed into jar

I placed the bundle of stones in the cheesecloth into the jar.  The 3x3 grid was larger than the jar opening, so I had to fold the bundle slightly and let it expand once inside (I'm pretty sure I will be able to reverse this operation.)  I filled the jar with brine (1 Tbsp salt to 2 cups of room-temperature water) until the peppers were submerged — plus a little more, because I was worried about evaporation in our warm kitchen.

Whiskey stones atop ghost peppers

I covered the jar with a clean cloth, as directed, and secured it with a rubber band.  Yes, that's a square cut from an old pair of blue jeans.

Ghost pepper jar secured

Looking from the bottom, you can get a clearer idea of what's going on.

pepper_sauce_08_peppers_in_jar

I'm supposed to leave it at room temperature "for at least two weeks and up to 8 (or really, a year if you’d like)", which is quite a wide margin, so I set an alert to check it weekly.  To be fair, I'll probably be obsessive and check it more frequently than that.

Watch this blog for more as it progresses.  Next update in … two to fifty-two weeks, I guess.

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Marbled Yam and Acorn Squash Pie

Orange yam batter and molasses-darkened acorn squash batter are marbled in this recipe for a unique presentation and flavor. By Joshua McGee.

Marbled Yam and Acorn Squash Pie

Note:  This is a rather time- and labor-intensive recipe, but the results are worth it.  You can overlap the timing of steps to shorten the prep time (e.g., boil the yam, bake the squash, and chill the dough at the same time, and prepare the pie crusts while the batters chill.)  Still, you will likely need to set aside an entire afternoon for this, which is one of the reasons I wrote up the recipe for two pies.

Pie Crusts

  • 2 cups (260 g) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 sticks salted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 1 egg and 1 tsp water (for egg wash)

Place the cubed unsalted butter in a bowl and place in a warm spot to take the chill off.

In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour and sugar.

Sprinkled the cubes of butter over the flour. Use clean hands to squish the flour and butter together with your thumbs and fingers. Work the butter into the dough until you have what resembles a coarse meal with some chunks of butter.

Add the sour cream to the flour butter mixture. Use a fork to incorporate into the mixture.

Use your hands to gather the pastry dough together into a large ball. Use a knife to cut the ball in half. Form into disks. Sprinkle all over with a little flour. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to a day ahead.  If dough has been in the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, let it sit for 5-10 minutes at room temperature to become more malleable before rolling out.

To roll out, sprinkle a clean, flat surface with a little flour. As you roll the dough, check to make sure the bottom is not sticking. If it is, lift it up and sprinkle a little flour underneath. Roll out to 12 to 14 inches wide, to an even thickness.  Gently place each into a pie pan and mold to fill.

(The above is Chef Kathi Riley's recipe)

Yam Batter

  • 1 (1 pound) yam
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until soft throughout. Run cold water over the sweet potato and remove the skin.

Puree sweet potato in a clean food mill.  Add softened butter and mix well with a hand mixer.

Stir eggs, sugar, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla into the sweet potato mixture.  Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth.

Decant to a 4-cup measuring cup, cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator to chill.

Acorn Squash Batter

  • 2 small acorn squashes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp dark molasses
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Cut acorn squashes in half and remove seeds and strings with an ice cream scoop.  Bake halves at 350°F, cut-side down on a silicone mat in a baking pan, for 60 to 75 minutes until a fork pierces them easily.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan to a warm temperature.

Separate pulp from skin with an ice cream scoop.  Weigh out 15 oz pulp and puree in a clean food mill.  Set aside.

Beat eggs in large bowl until frothy.  Beat in brown sugar until well combined.  Stir in squash, molasses, spice, and salt.  Gradually stir in cream.

Decant to a 4-cup measuring cup, cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator to chill.

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Pour the fillings side-by-side into two uncooked pie shells.  For each pie, slowly and simultaneously pour the mixtures on opposite sides of the crust so that they meet in the middle.

Carefully swirl with the back of a spoon to form a pattern.  This video shows me making a spiral pattern, but use any pattern you like (the featured image in this post is a more abstract pattern.)

Brush exposed dough edges with an egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tsp water), if desired.  Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes.  Cover edges of crust with aluminum foil.  Lower temperature to 350°F.  Bake for an additional 50 to 60 minutes.

Cool the pie pan on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving.  Note that the pie will emerge puffed up and will deflate as it cools.

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Matcha and Ginger Sugar Cookies

This twist on a traditional sugar cookie melds the richness of matcha green tea with the piquancy of fresh ginger. By Joshua McGee.

Matcha and Ginger Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 6 inches of ginger root, peeled
  • 1 tsp matcha (Japanese green tea) powder
  • 330 grams (about 2 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 16 - 20 ginger chew candies, refrigerated

(skip ahead to instructions without photographs)

Instructions with photos

In advance, remove butter from refrigerator, place in a bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and allow to warm to room temperature (at least four hours or overnight).

Take the peeled ginger root and run through a juicer.

Preparing to juice the ginger root

Let the juice sit under the spout to catch final drips and allow solids to precipitate out.  Here I am using my Juiceman juicer, which makes short work of ginger on low speed.

Here I am using my Juiceman juicer, which makes short work of ginger on low speed.

Whisk together matcha powder, flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

Dry ingredients combined

Add the matcha to the measuring cup first

On low speed with a hand mixer, cream together the softened butter and the sugar in a large bowl.

Tip: The more integrated you can get them, the better the cookies will turn out.

Creamed butter and sugar

Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, and 1 tsp (or 2 tsp, if you like a stronger ginger flavor) of the ginger juice.  Gradually beat in the dry ingredients until fully combined. 

Your cookie dough

Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap (to prevent drying) and place in the refrigerator to chill for two hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Remove ginger chews from refrigerator, unwrap, and cut into thirds with a heavy knife.

Cutting the ginger chews

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Measure out a rounded teaspoon of dough into your palm and roll into a sphere.  That is the size of dough ball you are going to be making.  Lay the dough balls onto a cookie sheet covered with ungreased aluminum foil, evenly spaced, fifteen to a half-sheet pan (they will expand considerably while baking).

Dough balls on sheets

Into the center of each dough ball, lightly press one of the ginger chew segments.

Dough balls with ginger chews

Tip:  If you lift each dough ball and set it down again before putting it in the oven, you will reduce the chances of it sticking to the foil.

Tip: The dough will stay easy to work with if you return it to the refrigerator between batches.

Bake each tray for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden.  Remove cookies from the oven, allow to cool on the trays for three to four minutes.

Allow to cool on trays

Remove to racks with a thin spatula and allow to cool fully.

Finish cooling on racks

And you have your cookies!

Your cookies!

Equipment Pictured

Text Instructions

In advance, remove butter from refrigerator, place in a bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and allow to warm to room temperature (at least four hours or overnight).

Take the peeled ginger root and run through a juicer.  Let the juice sit under the spout to catch final drips and allow solids to precipitate out.

Whisk together matcha powder, flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

On low speed with a hand mixer, cream together the softened butter and the sugar in a large bowl.

Tip: The more integrated you can get them, the better the cookies will turn out.

Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, and 1 tsp of the ginger juice.  Gradually beat in the dry ingredients until fully combined. 

Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap (to prevent drying) and place in the refrigerator to chill for two hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Remove ginger chews from refrigerator, unwrap, and cut into thirds with a heavy knife.

Remove dough from refrigerator.  Measure out a rounded teaspoon of dough into your palm and roll into a sphere.  That is the size of dough ball you are going to be making.  Lay the dough balls onto a cookie sheet covered with ungreased aluminum foil, evenly spaced, fifteen to a half-sheet pan (they will expand considerably while baking).  Into the center of each dough ball, lightly press one of the ginger chew segments.

Tip:  If you lift each dough ball and set it down again before putting it in the oven, you will reduce the chances of it sticking to the foil.

Tip: The dough will stay easy to work with if you return it to the refrigerator between batches.

Bake each tray for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden.  Remove cookies from the oven, allow to cool on the trays for three to four minutes, then remove to racks with a thin spatula and allow to cool fully.

Makes about four dozen.

By

Curry Maple Pumpkin Soup with Chili Pepitas

What is it about cold weather that makes us crave soup so much?  What is it about a beautiful pumpkin that screams "make me into soup!"?  I'm sure there are some great explanations, but they are best pondered over a bowl of this creamy, nuanced, exotic cream soup.  Enjoy!

bowl_of_curry_maple_pumpkin_soup_with_pepitas-570

Curry Maple Pumpkin Soup with Chili Pepitas

  • 1 medium pumpkin (large enough to provide 5 cups pumpkin pulp)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley – rinsed, patted dry, and chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves – rinsed, patted dry, and chopped
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • 1½ cups half & half and 1 cup milk, combined
  • chili powder
  • sea salt
  • canola oil
  • poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Remove stem and top from pumpkin.  Cut pumpkin into halves.  Using an ice cream scoop, remove seeds and strings from pumpkin halves and set aside.  Cut halves of pumpkin into halves again, yielding four pieces total.

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with canola oil.  Place pumpkin quarters on baking sheet, skin side down.  Oil surfaces of pumpkin flesh with canola oil, and salt flesh liberally with sea salt.  Place in oven for 1 hour.  Begin to prepare Chili Pepitas (below).  Turn pumpkin quarters skin side up and bake for another 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Place Chili Pepitas in oven.

Remove pumpkin flesh from skin with an ice cream scoop.  Measure 5 cups of packed pumpkin pulp and set aside.

Melt ¼ cup of butter in the bottom of a heavy stockpot.  Add sliced shallots and sauté for five minutes.  Add garlic, parsley, and thyme and sauté for another minute.  Stir in pumpkin pulp and coat with shallot mixture.  Add chicken stock, curry powder, and bay leaf.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to barest simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaf, and transfer contents of pot to a metal bowl.  In four batches, transfer hot mixture to blender or food processor.  Purée until smooth.  Return each batch to pot.  Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Stirring constantly, slowly incorporate maple syrup, then incorporate the half & half and milk mixture, to make a smooth cream soup.  Ladle into bowls.  Top with chili pepitas and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Serve hot.

Chili Pepitas

Separate pumpkin seeds from strings.  Rinse seeds thoroughly, drain, and place on a plate covered with two layers of paper towels.  Top with two layers of paper towels and pat dry.  Toss dry pumpkin seeds in canola oil. To each cup of pumpkin seeds, add 1 tsp chili powder and ½ tsp sea salt and toss.  Place in single layer in bottom of oven-safe skillet.  Place in 375°F oven.  Toast for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes with a wooden spoon.

Worth thousands of words

Start with a medium-sized pumpkin

Start with a medium-sized pumpkin

Use a small, heavy, serrated knife to remove the stem and carve the pumpkin.

Use a small, heavy, serrated knife to remove the stem and carve the pumpkin.

This one had a sprouted seed!  It's trying to make a new pumpkin vine.  Don't use seeds like this, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

This one had a sprouted seed!  It's trying to make a new pumpkin vine.  Don't use seeds like this, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Remove the strings and seeds with an ice cream scoop.

Remove the strings and seeds with an ice cream scoop.

Your results will look like this.

Your results will look like this.

Pumpkin quarters before the oven.

Pumpkin quarters before the oven.

Pumpkin seeds.  Pat them dry!

Pumpkin seeds.  Pat them dry!

Pumpkin seeds tossed with oil and seasoning.

Pumpkin seeds tossed with oil and seasoning.

Pumpkin after baking.

Pumpkin after baking.


Pumpkin pulp!

Pumpkin pulp!

Measure out the ingredients for the soup so that you don't find yourself rushing around.

Measure out the ingredients for the soup so that you don't find yourself rushing around.

Butter melting.  Mmmmm!

Butter melting.  Mmmmm!

Ingredients in the pot.  Ready to start cooking!

Ingredients in the pot.  Ready to start cooking!

After thirty minutes, your soup should look like this.

After thirty minutes, your soup should look like this.

After your keen blender skills, the soup should look like this.

After your cool blender skills, the soup should look like this.

The cooked soup in the pot.

The cooked soup in the pot.

Liquid ingredients that we're adding. How can you go wrong with maple syrup and half & half?

Liquid ingredients that we're adding. How can you go wrong with maple syrup and half & half?

The final result.  Looks amazing and tastes even better.

The final result.  Looks amazing and tastes even better.

By

White Bean Soup with Bacon and White Ale

I've been sick and wanted to make some comfort food.  I came up with the following recipe, and it turned out really nicely.  I'm posting it here for anyone else who might be looking for a hearty, flavorful, comforting soup.

white-bean-soup-with-bacon-and-white-ale-600

White Bean Soup with Bacon and White Ale

  • 1 1/2 lbs (two 12-oz bags) dry Great Northern beans
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 2 medium shallots, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely or crushed
  • 4 tsp dried Italian herb mixture
  • 2 large ham hocks, scored
  • 1 qt chicken stock
  • 2 12-oz bottles white ale
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup diced crimini (baby Portobello) mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Sort and rinse beans.  Soak overnight in ample water.  Drain, rinse thoroughly, and set aside.

Coat bottom of heavy stockpot with vegetable oil.  Sauté bacon until almost crispy.  Remove bacon from fat and set aside to cool.  Add shallots, celery, and herbs and sauté for five minutes, being sure to deglaze pot.  Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute.  Add ham hocks, stock, ale, and water.  Chop bacon coarsely and add to pot.  Bring to a boil uncovered.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 90 minutes.

Add drained beans and simmer for an hour.  Add mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and simmer until beans are tender (about 45 minutes).  Remove ham hocks.  Ladle into bowls and serve topped with chopped parsley.