Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mushroom Gravy, Creme of Mushroom Soup, and Saurkraut

Gravy, Creme of Mushroom Soup, Saurkraut.

Today we are all about recipes and let's talk about gravy.

First, always make extra gravy.  You can use it as a sauce for a casserole the next day, or as part of your left-overs-from-dinner-lunch the next day.

Next, for a nice mushroom gravy, start with about 1/8 pound of fresh mushrooms.  I personally am partial to shitake, but ordinary button mushrooms will do fine. If the Coop producers are out of stock, and you need mushrooms, and are in the OKC area, check Matt Burch and April Harrington's store Earth to Urban at 1235 SW 2nd (across from the Old Farmers Market building). I got some there today which I used for my mushroom gravy tonight.

Slice the mushrooms, and saute them in some nice butter that you bought directly from the dairy which has a pastured herd. You can add a little chopped onion and hot peppers, if you like a more savory gravy. Once the mushrooms are done, add some flour.  How much, you ask? Well, that depends on how much gravy you want.  The basic rule of thumb is two tablespoons flour and two tablespoons oil per cup of gravy. So if you want two cups of gravy, add 4 tablespoons of oil to the pan to saute the mushrooms, and then add four tablespoons of flour.  Stir the flour until it browns a bit.  Don't walk away and think you can do something else while the flour browns. That's a good way to burn the flour and waste the mushrooms.  When it is nicely browned, add some stock -- beef, chicken, pork, whatever you have on hand. Plan ahead and cook a chicken in the oven a day or two previously, and you will have some nice stock leftover from that. The secret to a good gravy like this is an excellent stock and it is worth your time and effort to make your own.  How to do that? Well I will review that tomorrow.

Add the stock all at once and stir vigorously until the gravy thickens.  Voila, mushroom gravy.  If you made two cups, you can use that for your own home-made Green Bean Casserole, about which I will write tomorrow.

Now let's talk about Creme of Mushroom Soup.  You can also use this as the sauce for Green Bean Casserole (or any other casserole) or you can just eat it as a soup.  I think the kids would say, "it's the bomb!" 

This recipe makes 6 quarts, and can be frozen, thawed and reheated. You can make less, but I have never made this outside of a crockpot, so I don't know how it would go for example if you tried to make only 1 or 2 quarts in a sauce pan on top of the stove. If you try it, let me know how it works and I can incorporate that info the next time I write about this recipe. If you plan on using this in casseroles, in place of canned crème of mushroom soup, package it in two cup containers.

4 cups cream
4 cups chicken stock (beef stock would be fine)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
6 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped, cooked bacon
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp thyme
1 onion, chopped in small bits
2 Tbsp bacon fat (butter would work, but bacon fat is better)
4 cloves garlic

Cook the garlic and onion in the bacon fat or the butter for about a minute. Remove from the heat. Add the butter/onion/garlic and all of the other ingredients to a large crock pot. Cook on low for four to six hours, until the soup is thick and a bit frothy. It will continue to get thicker as it cools. Don't cook too fast or too long 

There is Napa Cabbage available this month on the coop, and Napa cabbage makes great saurkraut.  Here is a recipe for naturally fermenting saurkraut that was given to me by a master fermenter, Lynnet Bannion, with whom I studied permaculture.  Note that as with all such preservation methods, scrupulous cleanliness of everything is mandatory. Sterilize the jar with boiling water, make sure the knives, cutting boards, mandolins, stampers/thumpers that you are using -- and also your HANDS -- are clean.

Ursula’s Sauerkraut
For a half-gallon jar, you need 3.5 pounds cabbage, 1 teaspoon caraway seed, 1 tablespoon sea salt. You can add optional ingredients from the following list: peeled sliced garlic; washed, cored and sliced apples; peeled onions cut into eighths; dill seed; juniper berries; or other spices.
Wash cabbage and cut into thin shreds, with a kraut cutter, mandoline, food processor, or by hand with a knife. Mix cabbage shreds with the salt in a large bowl or small plastic bucket, and let stand for 15 minutes. Then press the cabbage with your fist or a wooden stamper until the juice is flowing well. It is important to crush the vegetables enough to create the juice. 

Pack the juicy shreds into your jar in layers, interspersing the caraway and any other ingredients you are using. Pack tightly enough that all the air is pressed out. If you don’t have enough juice to come to the neck of the jar, you can add a little brine: 2 tsp salt to one quart water. Cover loosely, put the jar on a plate or pie tin, and keep in a dark corner of your kitchen for one week. Then cap and
keep in a cold place for another four weeks to mellow. Sauerkraut keeps many months under proper storage conditions (provided you keep out of it that long).

Bob's note: It's important that all of the cabbage be submerged in the brine. If it keeps coming up above the brine/cabbage juices, then put a cup of water in a ziplock back and put that in the neck of the jar to keep the shreds under the surface of the water. The fermentation process is carried on by lactobacillus bacteria. Use organic or all natural cabbage, trim off any spots or blemishes. If you mix up some brine to add, do not use chlorinated water. Don't use iodized salt, use pickling salt or sea salt without any additives. Don't reduce the amount of salt. This is a preservation process, the salt is necessary to the process. Check it often during the fermentation week, if some scum develops, carefully spoon it off. The volume of the cabbage will reduce, as the process develops, so you may need to add brine.

Tomorrow: Green Bean Casserole, Sean's Should Be Famous Fried Onion Ring Method, Stock Part the First

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