Archive for the Dining with Pat Category

March is the Time for Making Maple Syrup

Posted in Dining with Pat, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , on March 12, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Making maple syrup is a traditional right of spring, signaling the end of winter. Several species of maple trees grow in Michigan. Although all produce sap suitable for the production of maple syrup; two species, sugar maple and black maple are the source of sap for most commercial maple syrup production. Sap suitable for conversion into syrup may also be obtained from red and silver maples, although such sap usually has a lower sugar content.

**NOTE: The E. L. Johnson Nature Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
is hosting “A Day in the Sugarbush Maple Tapping
this Saturday, March 15, 2014.
Details are noted at the end of this article**

Necessary Equipment

Collection-PailMaple syrup can be produced with a minimum of equipment, but a few standard items increase the efficiency of the operation and the quality of the product, including:

  1. A drill with a 7/16 or 1/2 inch bit for drilling tap-holes in trees.
  2. A metal or plastic collection spout for each tap-hole.
  3. A collection container (bucket or plastic bag) or tubing line for each tap-hole.
  4. A large pan and a heat source for boiling down the sap. The size needed will depend on how much sap you intend to handle.
  5. A large-scale thermometer, calibrated at least 15 degrees above the boiling point of water.
  6. Wool, Orlon or other filters for filtering finished syrup while hot.
  7. Storage containers for the finished syrup.

Tapping the Tree

TapTo obtain the earliest runs of sap, tapping should be completed by the first week in March in Michigan. Minimal trunk diameter for trees suitable for tapping is 10 inches at 4 feet above the ground.

To tap a tree, select a spot on the trunk of the tree 2-4 feet above the ground in an area that appears to contain sound wood. At this point, drill a hole approximately 2-2.5 inches deep into the wood. Then insert a collection spout and tap lightly into the tree and attach a bucket or plastic bag or a tubing line to the spout. Open buckets used for sap collection should be covered to keep out rainwater, debris, insects and other foreign materials.

Collecting the Sap

Collecting-SapSap flow in maple trees will not occur every day throughout the tapping season. It occurs when a rapid warming trend in early morning follows a cool (below freezing) night.

To collect the sap from the tree, simply hang a bucket on the tap and watch the first few drips fall into the bucket. This should happen quickly, though there will be little drips that won’t amount to much at first. Place a lid over the bucket and let the sap continue to drip.

After a day or two, you can check to see just how far your sap collection has come. If you are satisfied with the progress, you can drain this bucket into a larger vat to take inside to start the syrup making process. Do not store the sap as it can spoil.

Turning Sap into Syrup

Syrup-KettleWhen you have a large quantity of sap, it’s time to cook it up to make the syrup. This is done by boiling the sap in a large pan on the stove as long as you have a vent fan and a dehumidifier on hand. When you boil sap, it can produce considerable moisture in the air. Professionals prefer to use outdoor gas ranges with large metal pans in order to avoid the moisture build up in their homes. There is also a hobby-sized evaporator available.

Boil the sap until it becomes thicker as the water boils off. You will need to continue to add sap to the pan, never letting the level get below 1-1/2 inches from the bottom of the pan.

As the sap is boiling, you need to skim off any foam that might be on the top. Using a candy thermometer, boil the sap until it is 7 degrees above the boiling temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you have reached this level, let the syrup completely cool. The sugar sand and other matter will settle to the bottom, allowing you to pour off the good syrup into a glass bottle. Let it cool and you are ready to serve homemade maple syrup.

If you plan to can the syrup, make sure to can the syrup at 180 degrees Fahrenheit and pour into sterilized glass containers to prevent spoilage and contamination by bacteria.

Sugar-ShackIf you feel that making your own maple syrup is a task too daunting to undertake, you can visit the Bloomfield Hills’ E. L. Johnson Nature Center this Saturday, March 15, 2014 and participate in tapping the trees, collecting the sap and visiting the sugar shack to watch the boiling process that produces pure maple syrup. Then, you can visit the log home for a taste of nature’s sweetener!

For a guided tour, meet at the Visitor Center:

  • Tours are from noon to 4:00 pm.
  • Tours are scheduled every 20 minutes and last approximately one hour.
  • Pre-registration is suggested to reserve a specific time: click here for details

E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI; phone: 248-341-6485; website: http://naturecenter.bloomfield.org/

The Secret to a Juicy Turkey

Posted in Dining with Pat, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, Worth Repeating with tags , , , on November 25, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Brining . . . Professional chefs and food experts alike will recommend brining a turkey. Brining makes it moist. Why are brined turkeys so juicy? Salt causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings. It also breaks down the proteins, resulting in a tender turkey. Despite the moisture loss during roasting and the long cooking time, you end up with a juicy bird.

Making the brine . . . The real trick with brining is finding a container that is large enough to submerge the turkey, yet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try a stock pot or a large roasting pan. If you use a shallow roasting pan, you need to turn the bird periodically so that each side rests in the brine. Place the container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator so spills won’t reach foods below.

Alternatively, pick up a 5 gallon pail with lid from your local home improvement center. Put the brine and turkey in your basement or garage if your refrigerator is too small. A third idea would be to use a cooler.

Brine IngredientsThe basic ratio for turkey brine is one cup of kosher salt to two gallons of water. Some recipes include sweeteners (1/2 cup brown sugar) or acidic ingredients to balance the saltiness. For extra flavor add the following aromatics: 1 onion, 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery, all rough chopped.

  • Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add salt, aromatics and brown sugar (if using). Let cool for about an hour. Add remaining water (1 gallon plus 5 cups) in the form of ice cubes. This will cool the brine quickly.
  • Remove giblets and neck from turkey.
  • Immerse turkey in brine and refrigerate for at least eight hours, but no longer than 24 hours. Add ice as needed to keep the temperature cool if you are not putting your turkey/brine in the refrigerator. Make sure you keep the brine temperature below 40° F.

Cooking the turkey

  • When you are ready to roast, pour off the brine. Rinse the turkey well with cool tap water, and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Tuck the wing tips behind the back and place the bird, breast side up, on a roasting rack.
  • Proceed with your preferred recipe, but remember that the turkey has already absorbed a certain amount of salt and any drippings that you use for gravy will already be salty, and no salt should be added to butter or spice rubs.
  • If you are stuffing your turkey, rinse the cavity well. Some pros recommend cooking the dressing or stuffing separately; others say, leave out the salt when preparing the dressing. I added cranberries to the dressing before stuffing the bird and it was fine.

The extra time and effort it takes to brine the bird is well-worth it . . . the result is a delicious, juicy bird.

Now Is The Time To Order That Fresh Turkey

Posted in Dining with Pat, Holidays, Local News, Worth Repeating with tags , , on November 13, 2013 by Pat Hansen

If you are thinking about a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, now is the time to order. Roperti’s Turkey Farm is one of a few turkey farms still operating. It has been family owned and operated for over 40 years. Currently, the 2nd and 3rd generations are operating their farm in Livonia, Michigan. Unlike Amish farmers who sell their turkeys to stores, Ropertis only sells the turkeys at their farm.

Turkey (Scott Bauer | ars.usda.gov)

Large white turkey
(Photo credit: Scott Bauer | ars.usda.gov)

The five acre farm operates much as it did 40 years ago with the exception of growing its own corn, wheat and oats. Today, the family purchases the grain it feeds its large Wilford White turkeys. Wilford turkeys are a large breed of turkeys that are very breasty and meaty. They get the turkeys from their grower in Zeeland when they are 8 to 9 weeks old and weigh about 2 pounds. The turkeys are picked up around the last week in August and are available for sale from October 1st through December 23rd.

The secret to good tasting turkeys is the right diet. In fact, the company motto distributed in neighborhoods in Oakland and Wayne counties, tells customers the importance of what a turkey is fed. “Remember, fresh is not the secret. The secret is what they’ve been fed.” Their turkeys are fed corn, wheat and oats, mixed with a high-protein mash, from the time they arrive until the last two weeks before they are killed, when they are fed nothing but corn.

But there is something else . . . they are uncaged and free to roam the 5 acres, enjoying the sunflowers that are grown for natural shade. They aren’t under stress from crowding or caging. Today, we call it “free range” and “organic” but that was how all responsible farmers cared for their livestock 50 years ago.

More about Roperti turkeys:

  • They cook faster than regular processed turkeys because there are no preservatives or chemicals in their system.
  • They are fresh dressed, just 24 hours before you pick them up.
  • Guaranteed to be juicy and tasty – first time customers always tell the Ropertis that they never knew turkey could be so good.

The busiest time of the year for the Ropertis is the four-day period immediately before Thanksgiving, when about 4,000 of the turkeys are killed and dressed by the family and a seasonal staff of 35 employees who set up a production line.

Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving Feast

Besides getting turkey ready for the roaster or deep fryer, the family also sells turkey, smoked for 12 hours, right on the premises, using apple and cherry wood with a little wet hickory thrown on top.

Ironically, when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner the Roperti family takes a pass on turkey. As Christine Roperti, the owner says, “My family has seen too many turkeys at that point and would hang me up like a dead turkey if I put a turkey on the table.” “For Thanksgiving, we have filet mignon, lobster and stone crabs and key lime pie my niece sends up here every year from Florida. She sends us the stone crabs and key lime pie in exchange for a turkey, of course.”

Location:  34700 Five Mile Road, Livonia, MI; 734-464-6546
Between Farmington & Levan, on the north side of Five Mile Road

Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., daily and weekends

Price: $3.39/per lb for Tom or Hen

The Taste of Clarkston Is Back

Posted in Dining with Pat, Local News with tags , , , , on September 11, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Save the date → Sunday, September 15, 2013 for the 16th Annual Taste of Clarkston that is the signature event put on by the Clarkston Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Independence Township Parks and Recreation and the Village of Clarkston. The event is structured to be family friendly, providing a safe and fun environment for a community block party celebration.

Hours: Noon to 6:00 p.m.
Shuttle buses start running at 11:30 a.m.

Free shuttle parking is available from Clarkston Elementary, Clarkston Junior High and Clarkston High School parking lots.

Village of Clarkston Clock

Village of Clarkston Clock

Main Street will be closed—from Waldon Road on the south, to Clarkston Road on the north—for this event to accommodate the restaurant booths and pedestrians coming to the event.  For the “Detour Map”, click here.

Tickets are available in $1.00 increments; food items are priced at $1 to $10.  They suggest you purchase a pack of $10.00 or $20.00 to get started. Taste Tickets are available on-site at three (3) ticket booth locations.

38 Restaurant booths will be set up on Main Street serving taste samples and/or meal portions of their specialties. For a list of restaurant participants and prices, click here. There is sure to be something tantalizing for everyone—from soup to sliders, BBQ pork to chicken chili and sweet endings from cheesecake to frozen custard. Every year the offerings are more enticing.

The Clarkston Union Oktoberfest tent will be set up and operating throughout the Taste of Clarkston, along with the Rotary Wine Tent and Wine Garden in Morgan’s Parking Lot.

OktoberfestThe Gazebo in Depot Park will be the site of entertainment starting at 11:45 a.m. until closing.

The “Heart of Clarkston” will be set up throughout the event where you can give your support to non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Habitat Women’s Build, Blessings in a Backpack, Friends of Ryan Kennedy, Easter Seals and more.

In Depot Park, there will be children’s carnival games, blow-up bounce houses and a ticket booth.

Bridgewood Church will have an archery area, children’s crafts, balloon animals and face painting.

For car buffs, the Clarkston News parking lot and Washington Street will feature a Classic Car Show coordinated through Bowman Chevrolet.

According to marketing studies, Taste of Clarkston is attended by 70% of Clarkston area residents and friends and relatives of Clarkston residents. Merchants and volunteers work hard to promote their businesses and take great pride in promoting their historic village.

Explore the Paint Creek Trail

Posted in Dining with Pat, Holidays, Local News with tags , , on May 22, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Paint Creek Trail (Cjunker1 at English Wikipedia | wikipedia.org)

Photo Credit: Cjunker1 at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you are looking for an outing this up-coming Memorial Day weekend, consider walking or biking on the Paint Creek Trail. The Paint Creek Trail connects the communities of Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, Orion Township and the Village of Lake Orion in Oakland County, Michigan. It is an 8.9 mile linear park and was the first Rail-to-Trail in the State of Michigan. It was converted to a trail from the former Penn Central Railroad.

The non-motorized trail is 8 feet wide and has an all-weather surface of crushed limestone which was chosen because it is an environmentally friendly surface for the trail’s close proximity to Paint Creek. If you like to hike, jog, bike, ride a horse, cross-country ski, fish or just watch nature, the Paint Creek Trail is for you.

The Paint Creek Cider Mill, a favorite stop along the Paint Creek Trail, is now open year-round, 7 days a week from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/PaintCreekCiderMill for more information.

Paint Creek Cider Mill (AcrylicArtist | morgueFile.com)

Photo Credit: AcrylicArtist | morgueFile.com

Bike Fixit Station: The Friends of the Pint Creek Trail donated their first gift to the trail – a bike fixit station located at the Paint Creek Cider Mill. Cyclists can inflate their tires and make adjustments or repairs utilizing the tools attached to the station. In addition, with an iPhone or Smartphone bar code scanner app, cyclists can scan a QR code and read repair instructions onsite.

Trail Hours: 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily

Parking: The Paint Creek trail offers 8 parking locations:

Rochester: Visitors may park at the Rochester Municipal Park, located off Pine Street north of University, and west of Main Street (Rochester Road).

Rochester Hills: A 12-space lot is located on the north side of Tienken Road just west of the Paint Creek Trail between Livernois and Rochester Road. A portable restroom is also located at this site from May-October.

Oakland Township: Four parking lots are available:

Dutton Road: The first is located on the north side of Dutton, west of the Trail, between Livernois and Orion Rd. This lot is the smallest of the parking lots as it only fits 5 vehicles.

Silver Bell Road: This lot is located on the south side of Silver Bell, west of Orion Road, approximately one mile north of Dutton on the Trail.

Gallagher Road: This lot is located on the north side of Gallagher, just west of Orion Road, approximately 0.6 miles north of Silver Bell on the Trail.

Paint Creek Trail Office: This lot is very close to the Gallagher parking lot. It is located at 4480 Orion Road in Rochester and is at the corner of Orion and Gallagher; this is a public parking lot that can hold up to 80 vehicles.

Orion Township: Parking is available at the intersection of the Paint Creek Trail and Clarkston & Kern Roads. There are two parking areas at this intersection. The parking area south of Clarkston and west of Kern is suitable for horse trailer staging. A restroom is also located at this site.

Village of Lake Orion: The Trailways Commission owns a 12-space paved parking lot located behind the Atwater Commons Plaza. The Plaza is located at the corner of M-24 and Atwater. The parking area is located behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken, near Converse Court and is marked with signage.

Now Is The Time To Order That Fresh Turkey

Posted in Dining with Pat, Holidays, Local News with tags , , on November 14, 2012 by Pat Hansen

If you are thinking about a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, now is the time to order. Roperti’s Turkey Farm is one of a few turkey farms still operating. It has been family owned and operated for over 40 years. Currently, the 2nd and 3rd generations are operating their farm in Livonia, MI. Unlike Amish farmers who sell their turkeys to stores, Ropertis only sells the turkeys at their farm.

The five acre farm operates much as it did 40 years ago with the exception of growing its own corn, wheat and oats. Today, the family purchases the grain it feeds its large Wilford White turkeys. Wilford turkeys are a large breed of turkeys that are very breasty and meaty. They get the turkeys from their grower in Zeeland when they are 8 to 9 weeks old and weigh about 2 pounds. The turkeys are picked up around the last week in August and are available for sale from Oct 1 through Dec 23.

Turkey

White turkey

The secret to good tasting turkeys is the right diet. In fact, the company motto distributed in neighborhoods in Oakland and Wayne counties, tells customers the importance of what a turkey is fed. “Remember, fresh is not the secret. The secret is what they’ve been fed.” Their turkeys are fed corn, wheat and oats, mixed with a high-protein mash, from the time they arrive until the last two weeks before they are killed, when they are fed nothing but corn.

But there is something else . . . they are uncaged and free to roam the 5 acres, enjoying the sunflowers that are grown for natural shade. They aren’t under stress from crowding or caging. Today, we call it “free range” and “organic” but that was how all responsible farmers cared for their livestock 50 years ago.

More about Roperti turkeys:

  • They cook faster than regular processed turkeys because there are no preservatives or chemicals in their system.
  • They are fresh dressed, just 24 hours before you pick them up.
  • Guaranteed to be juicy and tasty – first time customers always tell the Ropertis that they never knew turkey could be so good.

The busiest time of the year for the Ropertis is the four-day period immediately before Thanksgiving, when about 4,000 of the turkeys are killed and dressed by the family and a seasonal staff of 35 employees who set up a production line.

Besides getting turkey ready for the roaster or deep fryer, the family also sells turkey, smoked for 12 hours, right on the premises, using apple and cherry wood with a little wet hickory thrown on top.

Ironically, when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner the Roperti family takes a pass on turkey. As Christine Roperti, the owner says, “My family has seen too many turkeys at that point and would hang me up like a dead turkey if I put a turkey on the table.” “For Thanksgiving, we have filet mignon, lobster and stone crabs and key lime pie my niece sends up here every year from Florida. She sends us the stone crabs and key lime pie in exchange for a turkey, of course.”

Location: 34700 Five Mile Rd., Livonia, MI; 734-464-6546. Between Farmington & Levan, on the north side of Five Mile Rd.

Hours: 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, daily and weekends

Price: $3.39/per lb for Tom or Hen

Oktoberfest ala Frankenmuth

Posted in Dining with Pat, Lifestyle, Local News with tags , , on September 14, 2012 by Pat Hansen

In 1990, in honor of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Frankenmuth initiated an Oktoberfest.

In 1996, Lord Mayor Christian Ude of Germany officially sanctioned the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest celebration, making it the only city outside Munich to receive such an honor.  In homage, Munich-based brewer Hofbrauhaus became the festival’s official sponsor, making this the first city in the U.S. to import this German beer.

Dubbed Michigan’s Little Bavaria, the city is as head-to-toe German as an American city can get, from its cuckoo-clock store to the Harvey Kern Community Pavilion, a scaled-down version of an authentic German beer hall. The German band performs annually and authentic German fare is served daily.

A German dinner buffet is offered for $11.00 per person. It features typical German fare such as Black Forest Ham, Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, Jaeger Meatballs, German Potato Salad, Buttered Spatzle and Sweet and Sour Cabbage.

American Fare is also available with Chicken Tenders, Pizza, Hotdogs and French Fires for the kids

This year, the Oktoberfest runs from Thursday, September 20th, through Saturday, September 23rd.

Daily Admission: Thursday, September 20th through Saturday, September 21st is $8.00.  Sunday is Free; Kids (12 & under) Free

Gates Open:        Thursday 3 pm – 10 pm

                 Friday & Saturday 12 pm – Midnight

                 Sunday 12 pm – 6 pm

Free parking for the Oktoberfest is located on the festival grounds as you arrive at Heritage Park.  Heritage Park is located on the banks of the Cass River, behind the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth. This tourist driven town is the perfect compliment to the festival – offering an array of activities to occupy your time before and after the festival. You will enjoy more than two miles of hands-on demonstrations, unique shops, wonderful food and hospitality you won’t find anywhere else.

Directions from the Detroit area:

Take I-75 North to exit 136 for Frankenmuth/Birch Run

Turn right onto M-54 S/M-83 (N Birch Run Rd)

Turn left onto M-83 (N Gera Rd) and continue north until you enter Frankenmuth

Turn right onto E Jefferson St and then take the 2nd left onto Weiss St

Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest is located at 601 Weiss St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734

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