Sunday, October 31, 2010

Putting Up Beverages!

Isn't the Anisette a festive color?
Happy Halloween!

So while the garden is quiet, I’ve managed to cast about for new projects on the domestic front, don’t worry Martha, I’m not gunning for you at all.

To that end, I finally managed to take a few moments to make Paul Prudhomme’s non-alcoholic Anisette as my offering for an upcoming Southern/Creole/Cajun exchange.

I know there won’t be too many things I can have because everyone knows they even put pork in the sweet tea in the south.

So I decided I would do my darndest to impress this northern bunch, I think one’s from Florida, but that doesn’t necessarily count as the south to my mind, and one-up those coming with offerings of corn bread, read beans & rice, gumbo, and sweet potato pie.

No run-of-the-mill, albeit beloved, sweet tea would I bring. So I rummaged through one of two lone Southern cookbooks and found this ruby-colored gem in the Prudhomme book. The recipe itself is a simple boiling of sugar and water then adding anise oil***, vanilla, and red food coloring. But it actually requires a “curing” in that once made and stored in canning jars (at least it doesn’t require processing) it can’t be consumed for at least two weeks. It is good for 6 months. Drawback: It must be cured in your fridge.

I’ll admit, I’m not a lover of licorice, but uncured this tastes mildly of Robitussin cough syrup. It actually has my mind spinning because it was rather refreshing. Even DH after tasting it uncured and responding with “blech!” then a few moments later said, "yeah, that could be quite good on ice."

I think Anisette is one of those drinks that you have to think about before you give it a thumbs up.  It's simple ingredients really pack some complexity into a beverage.  I’m already looking for more space in the refrigerator to put up some more of this for Thanksgiving. I also think it makes a lovely offering as, “not- another- jar- of- jam” or holiday cookie offering (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
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*** Anise Oil can mar plastic, so you should use wood, metal, or glass when working with this drink

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teaching kids to grow food + bureaucratic regulations= can't eat food grown (Bass Ackward)

These tomatoes are huddling for warmth and a desire to ripen on the vine, despite the cool nights

I can admit that urban kids growing food sounds like a major step to improved health for Americans.

This news story breaks my heart:

It's harvest time in Chicago Public School gardens full of chubby tomatoes, heavy squash and fragrant basil.
These urban oases, carefully tended by teachers, students and volunteers, range from several square feet to several acres of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, and some schools even grow plants year-round in school greenhouses.
But one thing the more than 40 gardens have in common is that none of the produce ever finds its way into CPS lunchrooms. Instead, because of rules set by the district and its meal provider, the food is sold or given away.
The policies are in place despite the high obesity rate among Illinois children and experts' concerns that young people are eating few fresh vegetables. Meanwhile, a studies [sic] suggest children eat and accept vegetables much more readily when they have helped grow them.

  Our children are at a significant risk of having a shorter life expectancy than we do because of obesity and the myriad of diseases associated with it. 

Chronic Diseases are the Leading Causes of Death and Disability in the U.S.
  • 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer and stroke account for more than 50% of all deaths each year.1
  • In 2005, 133 million Americans – almost 1 out of every 2 adults – had at least one chronic illness.2
  • Obesity has become a major health concern. 1 in every 3 adults is obese3 and almost 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese (BMI ≥ 95th percentile of the CDC growth chart).4
  • About one-fourth of people with chronic conditions have one or more daily activity limitations.
  • Arthritis is the most common cause of disability, with nearly 19 million Americans reporting activity limitations.6
  •  Diabetes continues to be the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower-extremity amputations, and blindness among adults, aged 20-74.7
Aerial view of a cucumber defying gravity

When will we cut through some of the red tape, I know it was meant to protect us, and just use some common sense?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Foraging in the Gold Coast

The weather has reached the point where it was time to put on one of those smart fleece jackets even while running around outside.

Highbush Cranberries

Today, we had a walking tour of an array of foliage.

The questions the group were asked at the start included: "Why did you attend?", and "We are in Chicago, so what on earth are we foraging for?".

There were three groups that the leader asked us to consider assigning ourselves to:

  • We forage because we are interested in connecting to our environs, even if they are urban.
  • We forage because the Rapture, um Apocalypse, means we need to know what the heck we can count on.
  • We forage purely for the taste of it, and it had better be good.

The overwhelming majority fell into the PC group of foraging to be connected to our environs.

Yep.  I placed myself there.  My husband, erroneously,  thought I would place myself in the “taste good” camp.

We laughed a lot, he and I, like two school kids who were passing notes in class.

The group was too large, but we stayed with it and our guide.

We smelled sumac (nope, it wasn’t poisonous).  It smelled herbaceous and citrusy.  As if you would want to snip some as a chiffonade over a light broth or pasta.

A kindler & gentler sumac

We tasted hawthorns.  They were like tarter teeny, tiny crabapples.
These were really, really tart

We heard about the medicinal weeds associated with dandelion and the ubiquitous yellow flower.  Move over aloe, there are the cooling properties of plantain.  Then the cure-all for wounds found in yarrow, it grows like a weed and doesn’t intend to be contained.

There was one winner.  The kind of thing you could see Achatz putting on the menu at Alinea.  It was a berry that didn’t look edible; a hackberry. Tiny and brown and hard, more like a coffee bean than a berry is how I would describe it.
The hackberry is a sweet & pleasant surprise

The group re-convened to freshly pressed pear cider, dried pear, and fresh pears.  All of the pears were foraged (with permission from the owner) in Chicago.

It was a lovely day in the Gold Coast.