Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Indoor container gardening

I’ve never seriously tried container gardening, but it is high thyme. Actually, herbs are the easiest to grow in a container. Of course cherry tomatoes do well too, except in the winter.
 This fall, I brought in the lemon balm from my raised garden, it grows like a weed, so it should do well on the south-facing window sill, next to The Oakland Press plant, that I rescued. Offices aren’t conducive to good plant growth, unless placed by windows and assigned waterers.
  I’m thinking about buying a basil plant at the grocery store, because the crop I planted, never came up, probably because I didn’t water it enough the first few days after planting. Ever since I tried the recipe, “Thai Basil Eggplant with peppers,” I have been hooked on basil. 

Indoor container gardening
Among the requirements, you definitely need a container. It needs to have holes in the bottom or a layer of rocks to permit excess water drainage. Use a five gallon container for large vegetables such as tomatoes.
For best results, use a peat-based mix of soil with vermiculite. If you really get serious, add one part compost to two parts peat mix.
As the plants mature, the roots expand requiring increased water. Check the moisture level every few days.
Lettuce, herbs, carrots and radishes are fairly easy and low maintenance. Lettuce seeds sprout quickly. I’m going to start a flower pot of lettuce.
A common problem to watch for are spindly plants which fail to flower. This is caused by inadequate light. 
Even though the plants are indoors, they are still subject to pests. Pepper and tomato plants can be attacked by whiteflies and aphids. Watch for damage and treat if needed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Recipes for deer after they eat your garden

Venison preparation and cooking

There are many hunters out there trying to shoot a deer, many with the humble hope of being able to provide food for their families.
Keeping the heritage of hunting alive is important to many families. Using the meat that is harvested is good and gives purpose to the hunt.
Venison can be delicious if handled properly. From the start, deer should be field-dressed. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources offers a guide, “How to field dress a deer,” at www.michigandnr.com.
Then the deer should be hung head down for several days, at a temperature between 38 F and 42 F.
“Without proper aging, the venison will likely be strong tasting and tough,” said certified master chef Milos Cihelka.
Cihelka was the partner and executive chef of the former Golden Mushroom restaurant in Southfield, which had a national reputation for upscale wild game and wild mushroom dishes.
Cihelka and Jerry Chiappetta (formerly of Michigan Outdoors TV), created a DVD titled, “Wild Game: Field Care and Cooking,” which shows the steps of deer preparation, from field to dinner table. To order, call 301-210-0414 or visit www.wildharvestvideos.com/upland.html.
In addition to proper aging, how the deer is butchered is important. Just like beef, there are choice cuts such as back strap, chops, inside loins, flank steak, and select roasts. Deer doesn’t have much fat. In Cihelka’s article “Wild Game: Field Care & Cooking” at theoaklandpress.com, Cihelka says, “Peel the silver skin (layer of fat) off all tender parts before roasting or grilling. Leave all silver skin and even heavier sinews on meat that will be cooked slowly and moist, such as stews and pot roasts. These sinews are made of collagen, which is a protein that turns into a gelatinous matter during slow moist cooking and makes the meat very succulent.”
When freezing venison, wrapping the meat in freezer paper works better than plastic bags for preserving the quality. If you have a vacuum sealer, then plastic bags work well, too. When meat gets freezer burned, it’s easy to detect because it has an odd odor that doesn’t smell good.
“Large pieces of meat suffer less freezer damage (loss of moisture, burn) than small pieces. For this reason it is not advisable to cut the meat into stew before freezing. Sausages are best made from fresh meat. Same for stews or jerky. As a rule I make a large batch of stew when I am done butchering the deer. After it cools, my wife packages the stew in handy portions in zip lock bags and then freezes them,” Cihelka said.
“When freezing the different muscle cuts, only remove all visible fat, large sinews and cap meat. Leaving the silver skin on, it helps protects the meat. Always freeze the meat in the amounts you will be using at one time and label each according to how they will be cooked. Never refreeze meat,” Cihelka said.

Cooking venison can be delicious, especially if the onion soup mix is removed from the cupboard and thrown out with the trash. Onions are great with venison, but the popular soup mix adds way too much salt and covers up the delicate flavor of the venison.
Mushrooms are also good with venison. A few fresh mushrooms taste better than a can of cream of mushroom soup and it’s a healthier meal. Two spices that go really well with venison are rosemary and thyme.
It is important to not overcook wild game. “The tender muscles of the hind legs and the back straps should only be cooked to medium rare, either as steaks or roast,” Cihelka said.
Deer can be substituted for beef in many recipes. Ground venison is a good replacement for hamburger in chili, meatloaf, hamburger soup and burritos. On the other hand, spaghetti and other Italian dishes are not so great.

Here are some recipes from Cihelka that make use of venison:

Wild game spice
1 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup ground thyme
2 tablespoons allspice 
2 tablespoons ground bay leaves
1/4 cup ground juniper berries
1/4 cup ground coriander

Mix ingredients and keep in sealed container. Sprinkle liberally on game birds, steaks and roasts. It can be used in game pates also.

Here is a quick, simple dish to prepare in a hunting camp using fresh tenderloins:

Stir-fry tenderloins
(4 servings)
4 cups trimmed tenderloins, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices
3 tablespoons vegetable oil ­— peanut or olive are best
2 cups sliced onions
2 cups sliced red and green peppers
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons dry red wine or sherry mixed with 1 round tablespoon of corn starch
Pepper to taste

Have all ingredients at hand. Preheat a large skillet to smoking hot. Add oil and spread meat over the bottom in one layer without crowding. You may have to do this in two or more batches, if necessary, making sure you clean and reheat the pan every time before adding meat.
Sear the meat over high heat on one side, turn over and brown the other side. This should not take more than 20 seconds and the meat must remain rare.
Remove meat from pan. Add more oil if necessary, then add the vegetables, mushrooms and garlic in the pan and sauté only to heated through. Season with pepper, soy sauce and wine. Return meat to skillet, stir up and serve immediately accompanied by rice, noodles or bread.

These recipes come from Kathy Blake: 
Lazy venison pot roast
4 pound venison roast
2 teaspoons rosemary, or 1 teaspoon ground
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2-3 carrots, quartered
4 medium potatoes, quartered

Trim fat from roast, coat with pepper, rosemary and thyme. In a slow cooker, place the onions first, then the meat on top with the carrots and potatoes. Cook at medium heat for 4-6 hours.

Fried venison chops with mushrooms
Light olive oil
1 pound of venison steaks or chops
Flour, salt and pepper
8 ounces of fresh mushrooms, sliced (or dried mushrooms soaked in red wine)
Crushed garlic
Chopped green onions, optional
Milk or cream

Dredge venison in flour, salt and pepper mixture and fry in hot olive oil in skillet. Brown on both sides, then remove from pan and keep warm. Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic in butter in the same pan, then thicken with flour and milk or thicken with cream.
This recipe goes very well with garlic mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Deer burger soup
1 pound ground venison
1 cup potatoes cubed
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup green pepper, diced
28 ounces canned tomatoes
Beef soup base (optional)

Fry burger in a stock pan in olive oil until brown. Then add the rest of ingredients except potatoes. Add 3 cups water, or more. Add beef soup base, if desired. Cook on medium for half an hour, then add potatoes and cook another half hour.

Chef Milos methods for venison jerky
Jerky can be dried using various methods including the use of a smoker, fruit dehydrator, oven, attic or in dry climates, the sun and wind. Smoking jerky is not necessary, but a light smoke will add to its flavor.
It is not necessary to use tender cuts, but the meat should be trimmed of all fat, sinews and gristle. To facilitate slicing, you may partially freeze it first. Then slice the meat across the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices and cut each slice into 1-inch wide strips. Another method, one in which you can utilize even small scraps of meat, is grinding it. Here are methods for both:

Venison Jerky
For each 3 pounds of venison strips, mix together:
1 tablespoon salt (pickling or kosher are best)
1 tablespoon dextrose or granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cure No. 1
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sprinkle this mixture over the meat and mix together. Add:
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Mix again. Place seasoned meat in a ceramic, plastic or stainless dish, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning it over once or twice during that time.

Ground version: 
Use the same recipe. Grind the venison on 1/4-inch plate, mix thoroughly with the ingredients. Line a square cake pan with plastic wrap, pack the meat in, pressing down to eliminate air pockets. Cover it and place in freezer over night. Next day, unwrap the slab and using a waverly edged sharp bread knife, slice it into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Coat wire racks or screen with oil or nonstick spray. Spread the meat slices flat on them, not crowded. The pilot of a gas oven may give off sufficient heat. Keep oven door slightly open to allow vapor to escape. If using a smoker, keep the vent wide open, the temperature below 100 F.
The jerky will dry in about 3-4 days and it should never be dried so much that it crumbles, but only to a rubbery consistency.

The jerky may be stored in a jar or a plastic container, covered only with cloth. Tightly closed containers will encourage the growth of mold. Refrigeration is not necessary, however, for longer periods of storage it is best to freeze the jerky in an air-tight wrapping.

Here's a link to The Oakland Press website article by Chef Cihelka:

Wild Game: Field Care and Cooking