Cold Overnight Salad: Remedy for a Hot Day

Dear toasted, roasted, baked and burned, 

It’s Throwback Thursday!  Time to share another hot post from the historic bloghouse. When I originally shared this family favorite on May 10, 2012 (I’m starting to drool just writing this, and literally changed my dinner plans for tomorrow so I can make this recipe), the post shocked and startled me by blasting to the top slot on the blog in just a few days, overriding popular posts that had been up for months of repins and shares!  The anecdote makes the recipe even more precious to me … 

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Dear gardeners and market-scouters,

As the CSA season for Virginia gears up, and the farmer’s markets are all beginning to carry bounties of fresh produce – it is time to start looking at some of my favorite salads!

Nothing beats a cold, crisp salad on a hot evening.  Served with some iced lemonade, and maybe a loaf of sourdough bread – what could be better?

My uncle, a renowned doctor in the allergy world, loves to create and serve fabulous meals for family gatherings.  It is always a joy to attend meals at his home.  As a scientist, he intimately understands the chemistry and interactions of food on a molecular level and his cooking is enhanced by this knowledge.  The following recipe is a very simple one that he gave to me, handwritten on a sheet of paper, after I begged for it one Christmas Eve.  When I asked him for it, he shrugged and said, “It’s just a salad, you know.”  But I had to recreate the experience for myself … and I have never been disappointed!

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Cold Overnight Salad

Download the Overnight Salad recipe here

When Dr Uncle serves this at family gatherings, I head straight for it and eat about four servings … This salad also makes a phenomenal meal if you serve it on top of a steaming, broken-open baked potato.   

1 medium head lettuce – washed and chilled
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Optional: 1/2 bell pepper, seeded & sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 package frozen peas
3/4 lb bacon, cooked crisp & drained
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 tomatoes
Mix together: 
2 cups mayonnaise, preferably homemade (or, 1-1/2 c mayo and 2/3 c sour cream)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Chop lettuce into bottom of 4-quart dish.  Layer: green onions, then water chestnuts, then green peppers and celery, then still-frozen peas.  Spread the top of this strata with the mayonnaise mixture.  Top with the bacon and eggs.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or for several hours (or you can eat it right away if you are as impatient as I).  Top with tomatoes, coarsely chopped.

Serve as a stand-alone dish, or on top of a large baked potato, split open and fluffed with a fork.

Download the Overnight Salad recipe here

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Layers of goodness, 

Mrs H
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Laundry and Cloth Diaper Detergent – a success story

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.
That’s how I earn my blogging income, so thanks for clicking through!  

Dear historic, not to be confused with histrionic,

It’s Throwback Thursday, time to reblog one of your favorite posts from the old blogstead!  This post originally went up June 19th, 2012 – unbeknownst to me, just three days before our son would make his very welcome arrival into our home!  It’s been one of our most popular posts ever since it first launched, so much so that I had to write a follow-up. The following post has been modified from it’s original version; it has been formatted to fit your screen. 

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Dear frugal readers or earth-conscious types,

And those who write to-do lists,

I’m getting to the tail-end of my “to-do before baby” list, which is good since I’m also getting to the tail-end of my “how long it usually takes to build a baby” calendar.

One of the things on my to-do list was to make some cloth diaper detergent.

Why homemade?

Bona-fide bottled store-bought cloth diaper detergent – which can’t contain certain fragrances, whiteners, and other ingredients that adhere to cloth and diminish the absorbency of the diaper – can be expensive, especially if you’re trying to find something that’s not too harsh on the body.  I also feel bad going through lots of plastic bottles, since plastic doesn’t really deteriorate once you throw it out.  Homemade just seemed like a natural choice.

I started my recipe hunt, and stumbled across Elisa’s beautiful blog.  She shared several detergent recipes, including a cloth diaper recipe that was ultra-minimal to avoid causing any rash or problem with her child’s sensitive skin.

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This recipe became my choice for our diapers so far.  I like leaving out as many chemicals as possible, but I also like clean diapers.  I am grateful to Elisa for sharing this recipe!

Here, she explains the ins and outs of the recipe – as well as another recipe for your everyday laundry, if you need one!  (She also posted a recipe for dishwasher detergent!) We’ve chosen to use the following simple cloth-diaper-safe detergent for all of our laundry needs; when my husband comes home with fuel or grease soaked uniforms, I throw in some extra detergent, or even beef it up with Borax (I definitely keep the baby clothes separate from his uniforms!).

Elisa’s Three-Ingredient Cloth Diaper Detergent

Download the detergent recipe here

When you’re looking for an oxygen cleaner, if you aren’t sure exactly what it is just check the ingredients on the container – there should only be two.  The oxygen cleaner and washing soda would be in the laundry aisle, and regular baking soda will be in the baking aisle.  You can bring the cost of the detergent down even more if you can find these items in bulk at a big-box store or wholesale supplier!  

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Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Oxygen Cleaner (sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate) Try Bio Kleen or Seventh Generation
Washing Soda (sodium carbonate)

Mix equal parts of each ingredient.  Use one tablespoon for a small load, two tablespoons for a medium load, and … you can extrapolate for the large load! For extra stains, throw in additional baking soda.

Download the detergent recipe here

I put the jars on the laundry-room shelf, and posted instructions for mixing more and how to use, in case family members ever volunteered to run a load.  Why only two tablespoons for an average load, you may ask?  Homemade detergents will always be more concentrated than store-bought detergents because we don’t bother to add extra fillers and junk to make it look like we have more than we do.  Using a one-cup scoop for laundry detergent feels pretty pointless now, doesn’t it?

I didn’t add any fragrances to this batch, but you could try adding essential oils if you wanted a little something more.

We’ve been using this laundry detergent for over two years now, and we’ve loved it continuously!  My husband has taken it on deployment, we’ve traveled with it and use it for all our towels, linens, laundry, dish cloths, diapers and the whole nine yards [of fabric].  Our diapers are remarkably stain-free, and our clothes are light and without a filmy residue of chemicals.  I borrowed a pair of jeans from a friend and was shocked that I immediately felt the residue of chemicals and fragrances all over the clothes – it took me a moment to realize what was “wrong” with them!  

Yours in laundry,

Mrs H
We’ll never hang you out to dry, so stay in touch on our Facebook page
There aren’t any fillers in our detergent or on our Instagram feed

Home-Cured Bacon, Merguez Sausage, Cured Egg Yolks: Charcuterie and more

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.
That’s how I earn my blogging income, so thanks for clicking through!

Dear cured but never ailing,

In our Food Lab Charcuterie Level One class, we got to play with a lot of really delicious, really wonderful pastured pork from Autumn Olive Farms. Their heritage pork is pastured, well-nourished and consciously raised. Read all the way down to find recipes for bacon, sausage, cured egg yolks and a special pork-belly dish!

Photo by Autumn Olive Farms; Berkshires in a cornfield.

Photo by Autumn Olive Farms; Berkshires in a cornfield.

The talented chef de cuisine Kevin Dubel, from Terrapin Virginia Beach, led an engrossed class through the steps of curing bacon, egg yolks, and grinding sausage at home. (Locals recognized the name of Terrapin instantly, but for our distant readers – it is the most elite and organic, sustainable and delicious fine-dining restaurant in all of Virginia Beach!) Students each prepared their own unique slab of bacon to take home and salt-cure in their fridge, and the self-selected flavors I saw flying across the table ranged from such traditional seasonings as black peppercorns and sage to more exotic choices like dried ghost pepper powder or kombucha. Everybody enjoyed a fresh charcuterie board, finished out with fresh cheese from Sullivan’s Pond Farm, and decanters of our famous farmhouse kombucha flowed!

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Students loved the chance to dig in and grind meat, add seasonings and experiement. We were blessed to have the expertise of Chef in our Food Lab; the pork for Terrapin is custom-raised, delivered from Waynesboro, VA, and chef breaks it down in his kitchen.  The salumi and charcuterie in the restaurant is house-cured and delectable – flavors are intense, fresh and undeniably delicious!  We loved the chance to meet with our readers and farm supporters, culinary enthusiasts and professionals as well as city-dwellers interested in eating better and living closer to their food.

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Home-Cured Bacon

Download home-cured bacon recipe here

10 pounds pork belly

450g salt, kosher (no iodine or anti-caking agents)

225 g sugar

50 g pink salt #1*

Optional: herbs, seasonings, peppers or other flavorings

1. In a shallow, wide bowl or pan, combine salt, sugar and pink salt, and add any additional flavors desired.

2. Use salt box method: roll pork belly in the salt and seasonings to thoroughly coat, and shake off excess.

3. Place in non-reactive bag or pan and set in a refrigerator. If in a bag, massage daily for seven days. If in a pan, flip every other day for seven days.

4. After seven days, remove and pat the pork belly dry. Smoke to an internal temperature of 150°F.  Alternately to smoking, place in 200°F oven until internal temperature reads 150°F.

5. Slice and enjoy!

*Manufacturers started adding pink color to their curing salts so chefs would not mistake it for regular salt. It is also called TCM (Tinted Cure Mix).  Pink Salt #1 or TCM is made up of salt and sodium nitrite; it is used for curing bacon, sausage, hams and other cured products that will be cooked. It is different from Pink Salt #2 which is salt, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, which is used for long dry cures such as salami or prosciutto. If you are concerned about sodium nitrites and nitrates used for preserving, remember there are more nitrites in a bowl of spinach than are used to cure an entire salame, and any cured meat that claims to be “nitrate and nitrite free” simply used a celery juice or other vegetable base, loaded with nitrites, to avoid using the sodium nitrite label. There is no nitrite-free cured meat.

Download home-cure bacon recipe here

More downloadable recipes from Food Lab Charcuterie: Level One

Charcuterie Level One Syllabus

Home-Cured Bacon

Merguez Unstuffed Sausage

Cured Egg Yolks

Download all of Level One in a single document!

For those interested in going further, the books recommended by chef are from Michael Ruhlman, the US authority on charcuterie and salumi and Chef Dubel’s mentor and teacher in the trade.

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing (Revised and Updated) | Considered by chef to be the “bible” of the home curing world, this book has everything you need to carry off a successful venture in curing, smoking and salting your own foods at home. It’s a less intimidating world than you might think, once you delve in!

Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing | The techniques discussed in this book will be covered in our more advanced Food Lab charcuterie classes, but you can start researching now!

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Don’t strap your spurs on yet, there’s more!! The leftover slab of pork belly made a delicious staff lunch the next day, braised and slow-cooked in kombucha. Ready to try it out?

Staff Lunch Pork Belly

Download Pork Belly recipe here

One slab pork belly

Handful banana, carmen and green peppers, sliced into rounds

A few whole shishito peppers for good measure

A few whole beets, well-scrubbed

Kombucha

Salt, whole tellicherry peppers

Honey or maple syrup

Fresh herbs on the stem: oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary

1. Set a heavy Dutch-oven style pot over high heat. Gently sear the fatty side of pork belly.

2. While fatty side is searing, sprinkle meaty side with a two-finger pinch of salt, a scattering of tellicherry peppers, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

3. Flip pork over, with fatty side on top. Turn heat down to medium. Again sprinkle with salt, tellicherry peppers, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Pile with herbs, then heap in vegetables – peppers, beets, and potatoes if you wish.

4. Pour over pork one to two cups of kombucha, original or the flavoring of your choice. Cover pot and let cook slowly for one to two hours depending on size, or until tender and internal temperature reads 145F. Check occasionally and add more water or kombucha as necessary.

5. Let rest three to five minutes before slicing or shredding, and serve immediately to happy farm hands.

Download Pork Belly recipe here

Thanks for journeying through our Food Lab class with us!  What flavors do you think you’ll use for your bacon?  Any suggestions for our future classes?

Mrs H
Everything on our Facebook is fresh as a new-laid egg, but less poopy
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This post was shared on The Homestead Barn Hop

Fruit Scrap Vinegar, and a few chicken pictures, too

The pretty pictures are by Sami Roy Photography!
Thanks, lady! 

Dear frugal,

On the farm, we try not to waste food. I say try, because sometimes, despite our best efforts of selling all day and canning all night, a bin of peppers goes soft and is hauled out to the chickens. 

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Not a total loss, but still.

Any time we work with fruit, it’s an automatic assumption that the scraps will be made in to vinegar. It feels prudent, it makes a delicious vinegar for pennies, and it wastes not!  Keep your shelves stocked with creative blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, mixed apple or peach vinegar – not flavored, but actually made from the fruit!

Besides looking fancy, there are purported health benefits to vinegar, too. Without stretching beyond the limitations of proven effects, we know that vinegar helps with mineral and calcium absorption – so it makes a natural, and great addition, to salad dressings!  All that calcium in your kale and greens, might as well make the most of it.

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Vinegar is a solution of acetic acid (made by acetobacter aceti), and when you buy it at the store it has been watered down to the desired pH, usually about 2.4 – 3.4. As you’ll see in the following recipe, vinegar is a two-step fermentation process.

In the first step, sugar is converted to alcohol by good old-fashioned ethanol fermentation. You can use the sugars in fruit, grains (like barley), juice or cider, cane sugar, molasses, coconut sugar, honey, or any other source of sugar you can think of. The primary alcoholic liquid is where the finished vinegar usually gets its name, i.e. apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, malt vinegar. This can be done anaerobically, with an airlock or a tightly sealed container, or with just a cloth cover. 

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The second step converts the alcohol into vinegar: introducing live acetobacter to the liquid, as well as giving it oxygen – I cover it tightly with a cloth and it takes a few weeks, but commercial operations use bubblers and fans to make vinegar in a matter of days or even hours. Some fabulous vinegars sit in this stage for months or even years, like the beautiful balsamic vinegars that come from Italy. The acetic acid gives vinegar that familiar, distinctive sour note. You can use a live mother, which is a thin SCOBY (not a kombucha SCOBY, which is lactobacillus, but an acetobacter aceti SCOBY) that floats in, on or at the bottom of the liquid.  If you don’t have a live mother, you can use a splash of live vinegar, such as Bragg’s Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar 

As you can see on a bottle of, say, white vinegar from the store, finished vinegar is watered down to about 4 – 5% acetic acid. Commercial operations make their acetic acid solution extremely strong – it would peel your skin off! – and dilute it for sale. I imagine this saves a lot of room in their vinegar-making rooms! 

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Fruit Scrap Vinegar from the Food Lab

Download the recipe to your computer

1. Coarsely chop organic strawberries and leaves, or use tops from hulling. Or use any fruit scraps, peels and bits. 

2. Place in a glass container and cover with approximately twice the volume of sugar water, using a ratio of 1/4 cup organic white sugar to 1 quart lukewarm water.

3. Cover with a tight cloth (fruit flies love this more than anything), and stir daily to avoid mold growth.

4. Keep at room temperature – about 70F/21C. In a week or two (up to a month if it is very cold out), the scraps will have a heady, boozy aroma. This is the product of yeast and sugar fermentation, combined with the addition of oxygen.

5. Strain the boozy strawberry scraps out and discard. Transfer the liquid into clean glass container and add some Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother – about 1/4 to 1/2 cup is more than sufficient, even a few tablespoons will suffice. This introduces live acetobacter to the strawberry alcohol.

6. Cover the container with a cloth and let it rest for a few more weeks – two weeks or up to a month. After one month, the acidity of my vinegar had reached 3.3pH.  Store-bought vinegars usually have an acidity of 2.4 – 3.4.

7. Strain the finished vinegar and remove to a clean bottle, and use the thin, filmy skin or “mother” (and you may have multiple layers depending on how long you left it), to start the next batch without the use of Braggs!  If you leave your vinegar on the counter, it will produce another filmy skin (this is just fine!).  I store mine at room temperature.

Variations: You can use any fruit scrap to follow this process – bruised fruit, pineapple skin, apple cores, peach peels, coconut flesh or coconut water – just don’t use moldy fruit.

Notes from the Food Lab: You can also make the boozy fruit in a closed container.  I tried that for about four weeks in winter and it worked quite well; the ambient temperature in the room was about 40 – 55F.

Download the recipe to your computer

What else should we try to make into vinegar?  I am always eager to try something weird. What have you tried making into vinegar, or what is something you have an abundance that you want to try?  Has anybody done a banana vinegar? 

Pucker up! 

Mrs H 
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