Archive for Recipes

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

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

March is the Time for Making Maple Syrup

Posted in Dining with Pat, Lifestyle with tags , , , on March 7, 2012 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.

Equipment Necessary

Maple 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:

  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

To 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 to 4 feet above the ground in an area that appears to contain sound wood.  At this point, drill a hole approximately 2 to 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

Sap 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

When 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.

If 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 on March 17, 2012 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!

E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at: 3325 Franklin Rd, Bloomfield Hills, MI Phone: (248) 341-6485.  Website: http://naturecenter.bloomfield.org/

Meet at the Visitor Center for a guided tour.  Tours are conducted on March 17, 2012 and are scheduled every 20 minutes and last approximately one hour. Pre-registration is suggested to reserve a specific time. Tours start at Noon and run to 4:00 pm.

The Gingerbread House

Posted in Around Your Home, Dining with Pat with tags , , on December 14, 2011 by Pat Hansen

The tradition of baking the sweetly decorated houses began in Nuremburg,Germany, after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800’s.  Among the tales was the story of Hansel and Gretel, children left to starve in the forest who came upon a house made of bread and sugar decorations.  The hungry children feasted on its sweet shingles.  After the fairy tale was published, German bakers, inspired by the fairy tale, began baking houses of lebkuchen, a spicy dough often containing ginger. The houses were called “hexenhaeusle” (witches houses). The bakers employed artists and craftsmen to decorate them.

The popularity of gingerbread houses and cookies spread to colonial America. Recipes varied from region to region, according to the national origin of the immigrants who had settled there.  Most recipes had fewer spices than in European recipes, and often settlers included local ingredients.  Maple syrup molasses was included in many recipes in northern areas of the country, while sorghum molasses was used in the South.  Gingerbread houses were more popular in America than in England.  The American hard style gingerbread more closely resembled traditional German recipes than the softer English gingerbread.

Children, and adults alike, delight in the gingerbread house creation. There is an excellent Gingerbread House recipe by Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallse restaurant, on TODAY.com recipes. It not only includes a recipe, but also helpful tips for preparation, assembly and decoration. There are templates to make the project easier, especially for novices. They can be found online, at craft stores or traced from an architecture book. Nothing says holiday spirit like the aroma of gingerbread baking in the oven.

The Secret to a Juicy Turkey

Posted in Dining with Pat, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle with tags , on November 14, 2011 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.

The 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 and 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.

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