WHAT to gift THE COOK/BAKER/FOODIE in the family this Christmas
My mother never had a set of measuring spoons or cups in her cupboard. She cut pastry with two knives her whole life. When she measured she used her hand or a tea cup. Teaspoons were weighed with the cover on the bottle or scooped out of a Schilling spice can with a table spoon.
There were not special pans, blenders, food processors, nothing but your ordinary table settings and a few nice bowls.
So do your foodies a favor this Christmas and get them some of these reasonable stocking stuffers.
Some small items that every kitchenista needs from under $25 can be found at local stores. BE SURE AND BUY A GOOD QUALITY tool – not utensils from the grocery store.
Reasonably good places to shop are:
Kohl’s (has the Food Network line of tools.)
Bed Bath and Beyond
And, don't forget to support your local cooking stores.
For the baker in your life.
There are also many “pretty” measuring spoons and cups shaped like animals, etc. I have a nesting doll measuring set, I just don't want to use them for everyday cause I don't want to break them. YES, I admit I am a wild worker in the kitchen. My little girls are allowed to play with them and have had many hours of fun without ever breaking them.
If you wanna go big for your kitchen god or goddess buy them a heavy duty mixer.
Kitchen-aid mixer with attachments.
Mixer – 5 qt around $250 (Watch for sales)
Or Pro model for around $600.
There are all these wonderful attachments that save you from purchasing a multitude of kitchen gadgets that eat up space.
Good Food Processor – Cuisinart is a good brand for about $100-200. Get one large enough to handle pie crust, making sauerkraut, etc.
Clay Bread Bakers -- $35-$100.
TOP PICK for the baker or cook that has everything. Be sure and consider a CSA subscription so your foodie would receive a box or bag of veggies every week from 12-17 weeks for about $400-$750. That’s a gift for anyone who loves fresh veggies and doesn’t have a garden.
Merry Christmas and don't forget to shop local first...
This is a cookbook published in 1975 by my church in Gackle. You can find a reproduction (think Christmas gift) at https://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/cookbooks/cookbooklist.html.. You can find another recipe at the bottom of this post. Please ask any questions in the comment area of this blog. And, listen to the Main Street Eats episode airing today at 3 p.m. on Prairie Public Broadcasting. You can download the podcast at a later date by clicking the link on the home page of this website, or visiting theirs.
A Prairie Legacy memory
(brought to you in part by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance)
It was not a rabbit. It was
Pfeffernusse: – a German Russian Tradition.
Pfeffernuesse are traditionally a firm cookie that nearly always showed up on the Christmas goodie table at my house. They are classified a "dunker" by most people. A cookie made just for that cup of coffee after a big meal. The spices in Pfeffernuesse are quite complimentary to an after-dinner aperitif maybe only if you are a dedicated German from Russia.
These are a cookie like a fine wine -- they get better with age. Sometimes our batch lasts until Easter time when they are at their peak flavor. The flavors include ginger, cloves, cinnamon, maybe mace; blended, of course, with dark, cold coffee and honey.
The two standout flavors are pepper and anise. Hence the name "PepperNut" or Pfeffernusse.
Round and small, Pfeffernuesse look like tiny snowballs with a fresh coat of powdered sugar. They are of Dutch or German origin. Recipes can be found all over the internet, but the vintage cookbooks and recipe cards from my childhood require a strong German-Russian hand as they incorporate up to 10 pounds of flour in a single batch.
"What," you may ask could I do with that many cookies? Oh, like fine wine, Pfefernuesse age with time. If they become too hard for your palate, place the heel of your bread in the container, it will soften them. You may need to re-sugar them before serving, but they will soften up quite nicely even if you don't have them stored in the freezer.
Baking flavorful Pfeffernuesse cookies requires fresh spice and a specific type of anise. Anise the spice is not star anise that you may find in Chinese Five Spice Powder.
Our anise is a seed.
Spice is part of a plant, other than leaves when dried can become a flavoring ingredient in cooking. Spices can be produced from seeds (anise, cumin, coriander, mustard, and many others), bark (cinnamon), fruit (peppercorns, vanilla), roots (horseradish), or flower buds (cloves). If you are fortunate enough to find whole cinnamon and nutmeg, you can grind or pulverize in a mortar and pestle you very own very fresh spices.
The anise that makes the best cookies is an essential oil. You can find anise ground, whole or as an extract. But, I prefer the oil for cookies, since the flavor is more intense and stays with the cookie.
Olive Nation, King Arthur, and Amazon are just a few places to source anise oil. Be sure and purchase from a baking supply company to make sure you are receiving food grade oil.
If you are unfamiliar with anise, it is akin to the flavor of black licorice; which is the only true licorice there is. Perhaps Pfeffernuesse are an acquired taste, one that stems from Christmas on the prairie in German-Russian country. But, we will save more on GR Christmases for future posts.
Accept no substitute for the homemade variety of this traditional cookie. SO, here is my recipe and a second smaller one for you to bake this weekend. Don't forget to allow the cookies to age until Christmas; unless you drop one on the floor - those are always fair game.
No, I don't recall my grandmother ever serving cranberries. My mother, of course, slid them from a can. As children, we loved those wiggly slices of semi-sweet fruit called cranberry.
'Tis the season of cranberry and harvest time ends in November. Most cranberries grow in the bogs of Cape Cod (Massachusetts), New Jersey, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. After harvest cranberries are bagged, juiced, or as aforementioned cooked with sugar and stuffed into a can.
Oh yeah, those little tart berries, like our North Dakota's chokecherries, need to have sugar added to make them palatable. Of course, the native population used them in combo with dried venison and fat to ma,e pemmican. The Pequot Indians of Cape Cod called them ibimi, meaning bitter berry.
Cranberries were wild until about 1816 when the pilgrims and the rest of us began grooming them as a crop. Cranberries were used to prevent scurvy (remember scurvy from history class?) and have since been proclaimed a superfood with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant compounds.
Sure, your children might enjoy them more from a can, but you can make your version of superfood cranberry sauce by following the directions on the back of the bag.
Basic sauce merely is sugar and water and cranberries and a wee bit of time. You can add to your "relish" with other in-season fruit like oranges, lemons or apples. Here is another simple recipe.
Cranberry orange relish
1 pound cranberries
2 small unpeeled oranges, quartered and seeds removed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Triple Sec or other orange-flavored liqueur (this is optional, as I do not have a stocked liquor cabinet.)
Yield: Makes about 5 cups
Southern Living's website had not one, but 19 recipes for cranberries including this one making use of dried cranberries, or as we call them craisins.
6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 small lemon, sliced and seeded
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
NOTE: Dried cranberries can be sourced year-round; a great addition to any salad or cookie or scone recipe you might be cooking up in your kitchen. Be sure and grab a few bags to throw in your freezer to brighten up your entire year with those tasty red berries.
To hear the rest of the story. CLICK here, and you will find the link to the PPB Main Street podcast on the topic of cranberries.
How do I know this? Well, I have been receiving seed catalogs in the mail and that means it's time to start planning the garden. When I see the snow covered garden beds as I gaze across the lawn towards the river, I visualize the cloves of garlic under a blanket of snow. I remember planting them in October on a cold and snowy day, just before the ground permanently froze.
O lovely seed catalogs. Remember the Sears wish book of long ago. Today it has been replaced by online shopping. How we waited and waited for that catalog to come in the mail. How we poured over pages of toys we never received. But the anticipation of it all was so much more rewarding than ownership.
These days that wish book has been replaced by seed catalogs. Totally Tomatoes won out this year as being the first in my mail box. I took advantage of Prairie Road Organics Small Business Saturday offer and ordered my first batch (of many, I'm sure) seeds.
Oh, yeah, I have limited garden space, but always unlimited imagination when it comes to growing heirloom and unusual varieties of seed. I'm really trying to keep it down to what sells well at the farmers market.
It's been so gray the past few weeks, I wonder what phase the moon has entered. This is the time of year it creeps across our quilts at night and disappears into the trees to the west. Once the clouds clear, it may also bring the cold of deep winter. So just for fun:
Here's a poem I memorized when I was in the memorization stage of my life...
"I heard a bird sing in the deep of December,
A beautiful thing
And sweet to remember
We're closer to spring
than we were in September
Sang a beautiful bird
in the deep of December."
That's probably not entirely correct, but it's close.
And, hey, if you need seed advice, just leave me some questions in the comments section. I would be happy to influence your purchasing decisions.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.