Smothered Cabbage

May 06, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Overwintered cabbage, refusing to be contained it its square-foot home

Overwintered cabbage, refusing to be contained in its square-foot home

Last weekend, when looking for a recipe to smother an unruly head of overwintered cabbage into delectable submission, I came across these can-do words in Mary Randolph’s book The Virginia Housewife Or, Methodical Cook:

 

It will much ameliorate the flavor of strong old cabbages, to boil them in two waters, i.e., when they are half done, to take them out, and put them into another sauce pan of boiling water.

 

Boy have I got one of those, I thought to myself.

 

The specimen I had in mind to test Randolph’s method was eight months old, and had been growing in my garden plot since last summer when I direct sowed some Early Flat Dutch cabbage seeds, hoping for a late fall harvest. I misjudged timing and gave the poor dears too late of a start to reach their cabbage potential before the first frost came—even though in Richmond, Virginia, that can be as late as late October. When it was time to prep the plot for winter, they were just one-tenth of their cabbage selves, but I didn’t have the heart to

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Overwintered Mustard Greens

April 16, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Mustard greens in garden and in bowl copy

 

Overwintered mustard greens. Lovely sounding, isn’t it? I love what those three words evoke: a food with a stand-up-and-take-notice personality and a patina of flavor possible only after enduring hardship—the freezing depths of winter.

 

Right about now, you might find OMGs featured on the menu of some season-driven, farm-to-table restaurant in some food-lively town, along with other locally grown or foraged foods described with equally telling adjectives that marshal a world of artisanal food production: hand-pressed, pickled, preserved, house-cured, tree-ripened, aged, fermented, cellared.

 

But that’s not where I spotted my over-wintered mustard greens. I found them in my community garden plot early last month, after a premature burst of overly warm weather spun me into a frenzied gardening mode.

 

After a spate of seventy-degree days, off my husband and I went to our plot to prepare it for spring planting. That was when I discovered the mustard greens that I’d left in the ground last fall as an experiment had made through the winter admirably well. That was in mid-March.

 

Since then we’ve had two hard frosts, which had me scurrying back to the garden to throw plastic over the small seedlings that had begun to emerge, like tadpoles, around the year-old mustard greens.

 

“So now you give me a nice warm blanket,” the mustard greens said. “Where were you this January when it was fricking 17 degrees?” I ignored this comment.

 

Naturally, the stories-high leafy mustard greens, with their knobby trunks and roots that must go very deep, were unfazed by this spring’s fickle behavior.

 

It’s now mid-April, and I’ve already harvested overwintered mustard greens twice, and will soon harvest another batch. I suggest you get yourself some mustard greens, overwintered or not, and prepare them in a pot with bacon, as follows. The deliciously peppery and pungent flavor of mustard greens is all their own, and is one that is waiting for you to enjoy.

 

Braised Mustard Greens

This is the same basic method I use to cook all greens, but mustard greens are especially good this way (they are even good cold or at room temperature).

 

Get yourself some thick bacon, dice it up, and cook it over moderate heat in a large sauté pan until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan and leave a good portion of the fat in the pan—you want to have a solid sheen of fat on the bottom. If you enjoy a layered fat flavor experience, pour off more of the bacon fat and make up the difference with one or two or three other fats or oil, such as extra-virgin olive oil, duck fat, lard, ghee, mild-flavored coconut oil (use only a very small amount of the last to avoid a coconut flavor).

 

Add some finely chopped onion to the pan, season it with salt, and cook it over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Then add some minced garlic to the pan and cook for another minute or so to soften it as well. Season with black pepper and add some chili pepper, in the amount and form that you prefer, to the pan. (For example, a pinch or two of red pepper flakes;   a minced fresh chili pepper, seeded or not; or my recent favorite, a minced fermented chili pepper.)

 

Begin to add stemmed and chopped mustard greens to the pan, a few handfuls at a time, seasoning each addition of greens with a couple pinches of salt right after you put the greens in the pan. Once salted, use a pair of tongs to toss the greens in the fat until all the greens are shiny and begin to wilt slightly. Repeat with the rest of the greens. When the greens all have been added, salted, and tossed in the fat, add some chicken broth (enough to create steam and keep some liquid in the bottom of the pan, about ½ inch), reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the greens are army green and soft but not mushy. Return the bacon to the pan, toss to combine, and taste for seasoning. Be sure to drink the pot liquor.

 

Notes: About the recipe: Exact amounts of ingredients depend how much many greens you’re cooking; a ballpark ratio is about 5 slices of bacon, 1 medium onion, 1 or 2 garlic cloves,  a couple or three pinches of red pepper flakes or 1 chili pepper, and about a ½ cup of broth for a medium-sized bowl of chopped mustard greens.

 

About the mustard greens: The variety of mustard greens that I planted in our community garden plot, and that over-wintered well in Richmond, Virginia, is the Southern Giant Curled Mustard. I purchased them Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

 

Overwintered mustard greens in mid-April

Overwintered mustard greens in mid-April

On the Verge with Salted Herbs

March 15, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Salted Herbs (photo by Sonia Lacasse)

Salted Herbs (photo by Sonia Lacasse)

 

There is comfort in stasis, in trees that are barren, and fields that are resting.

 

In those frozen, darker times, time is generous. You can make it your own and, with inexpensive switch-button illumination, it’s easy for everyone to make more of it.

 

Then comes the notion of soft rains falling—not yet falling, but soon, way too soon.

 

A frantic anticipation of springtime deadlines sets in: seeds must be ordered, seedlings started, ground prepared, planting schedules established. Time is no longer your own.

 

Fall harvest is the other time Mother Nature snaps a whip. Sometimes she offers extensions, but not always, and not any that you can count on.

 

Once the food from the garden is harvested, most of the work shifts to the kitchen, my first home. Cleaned and prepped, then blanched and frozen, dried, canned, or fermented, there’s a lot of work to be done, but the payoff is greater.

 

During the unpressured off-season months, all that you need to do to enjoy your hard work is

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Leap Year Black Walnut Parsley Pesto

February 25, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Black Walnut Parsley Pesto

 

Usually, black walnuts are folded into fudge, cakes, pies, ice cream, and other sweets, where their wonderfully pungent and earthy flavor off-sets cloying sweetness, and where sweeteners round out some the nut’s sharper notes.

 

But, when eaten out of hand, the flavor of black walnuts, America’s own native nut, can be something to get used to, especially to the unschooled palate. In comparison, the familiar flavor of the reserved English walnut is facile; black walnuts require a training regimen. Black walnuts make you earn their respect.

 

Make this pesto part of your training regimen. Though it’s easy to fall in love with black walnuts when your introduction to them is in a lovingly prepared dessert, this savory treatment is just as irresistible, especially when paired with mushrooms and soba.

 

If you’re developing a taste for black walnuts, you might start with

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Black Walnuts—A Story of Love Lost and Regained

February 14, 2016
By Holly Jennings

A mature Black Walnut with full summer foliage (Photographed by Jean-Pol Grandmont, 2007)

A mature Black Walnut with full summer foliage (Photographed by Jean-Pol Grandmont, 2007)

Some new experiences are best undertaken with a guide: sky diving, rock climbing, foraging for wild mushrooms. Acquiring a taste for the Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is another. Don’t go it alone.

 

The English at Jamestown were blessed to have the Powhatans as culinary guides in a new land, and it is they who likely introduced the colonists to the native black walnut, a nut with more protein than any other tree nut as well as high levels of healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids and oleic acid), selenium, manganese, and vitamin A. To a starving settler, the extra effort required to hull and shell this unfamiliar nut would have been worth it, to get at the nutritional riches inside.

Black walnuts on the tree (Photo courtesy of Hammons)

Black walnuts on the tree in their hulls (Photo courtesy of Hammons)

Today the nutritional value of black walnuts is lost on most of us because most of us consume them in sweets—from ice cream and cakes to fudge, brownies, and pies. If you grew up eating black walnuts, you might think nothing of snacking on them, but you are the rare bird; for many, the assertive flavor black walnut is too strong for nibbling out of hand, regardless of their health benefits.

 

The first lure that hooked me was black walnut ice cream. I order this flavor whenever I come across it, which is seldom, and the last time I encountered it was probably four or five years ago. Still, no matter how much time would pass between scoops, the memory of

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The Art of Bread, and a New Year’s Resolution

December 31, 2015
By Holly Jennings

I hate to waste food. Even bad food.

 

That’s how a loaf of bread made with more ingredients that I can count on both hands worked its way into the two photographs below, illustrating quotes that get at, with more folk wit and elan than I could wring from a slice of milk-soaked bread, why you should avoid processed, or “white,” bread.

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.” —Folk saying, dating from the mid-1920s* Bread #1, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Pigment print by Joseph Sudek entitled The Cemetery of Mala Strana, 1940–1950 (reprinted in Josef Sudek [1896–1976]: Sixty Pigment Prints from the Artist’s Estate [New York: Salander-O’Reilly Galleries]). *At the time this saying was coined, ultra-refined, ultra-white, and less-nutritious flour, possible with the invention of the roller mill and bleach, had become common. Not until the 1940s did American milling operations start to enrich flour with thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and iron in an attempt to compensate for the loss of nutritional value in flour milled using modern milling techniques.

“The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead.”
—Folk saying, dating from the mid-1920s*
Bread #1, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America
Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Pigment print by Joseph Sudek entitled The Cemetery of Mala Strana, 1940–1950 (reprinted in Josef Sudek [1896–1976]: Sixty Pigment Prints from the Artist’s Estate [New York: Salander-O’Reilly Galleries]).
*At the time this saying was coined, ultra-refined, ultra-white, and less-nutritious flour, possible with the invention of the roller mill and bleach, had become common. Not until the 1940s did American milling operations start to enrich flour with thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and iron in an attempt to compensate for the loss of nutritional value in flour milled using modern milling techniques.

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.” —Diana Vreeland, Empress of Fashion Bread #2, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Silver gelatin photograph by Marcia Due entitled Columbia County, New York, 1993 (reprinted in Design Quarterly 164 [Spring 1995]).

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.”
—Diana Vreeland, Empress of Fashion
Bread #2, 8 November 2015, Holly Jennings, America
Mixed Media: Premium Potato Bread (Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Potato Flour, Soybean Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Corn Flour, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem, Calcium Propionate (Preservative), Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Grain Vinegar, Spice & Coloring, Soy Lecithin, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Soy Flour.), 18 October 2015; Silver gelatin photograph by Marcia Due entitled Columbia County, New York, 1993 (reprinted in Design Quarterly 164 [Spring 1995]).

The mixed media, faux egg-colored (or it the color meant to conjure butter?) loaf of bread that I sacrificed to art came into my possession this October, during a weekend get-a-way with my husband. Destination: My family’s

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A Christmas Story from Burt and I

December 24, 2015
By Holly Jennings

The Pet TurkeyThe Pet Turkey

(Click on the link above to hear the story.)
“The Pet Turkey”
by Marshall Dodge, Robert Bryan
Originally published in an album titled Bert and I Stem Inflation (1976)

Steve Kim—Creator of KimKim Sauce (the Most Flavorful and Fiery Stocking Stuffer)

December 14, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Christmas and KimKim Sauce

 

Forget about candy canes. Try KimKim Sauce. It’s the perfect stocking stuffer. The colors are right—from the rich deep red color of the sauce itself to the splash of green color on the label that sets off Korean characters—and the price is right. At at suggested retail price of $6.99 a bottle, you can spice up a loved one’s or work colleague’s life with an affordable gift that keeps giving. (Sixteen fluid ounces of moderate heat packaged in an easy-to-use squeeze bottle will brighten many many meals.)

 

I didn’t come up with this gifting idea on my own. I heard it first-hand from the inventor of KimKim Sauce, Steve Kim, who, during a phone interview, told me how KimKim Sauce got its start. Prudently, Kim sought to get his trial production run as small as possible. He began with a small batch of 150 cases of the sauce requiring an outlay of a few thousand dollars. To limit risk, Kim had done market research before committing to the initial run; yet, even after doing diligent research, it can be

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The Not Pardoned Turkey

November 15, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Red Bourbon and Broad Breasted Whites_2

 

Last Friday the 13th, on a mild, blue-skied mid-November afternoon, I took a drive out to Keenbell Farm. Fridays are the Farm Store day at the farm, and are a good time to catch C.J. Isbell. The purpose of my trip was to run a couple of embryonic story ideas past C.J. and to check up on my pardoned turkey, a Bourbon Red hen who will remain nameless. Of course she is not “my” turkey, but upon hearing her story, I was immediately taken with this feisty broad who managed to escape the dinner table fate of her colleagues. Somehow I felt invested in telling her story for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I was curious to know how she was getting on.

 

C.J., co-owner of Keenbell Farm with his father, Eddie, had relayed the story to me in late August during a farmyard walkabout. (I was there to interview him about Keenbell Farm for a story published in the Nov/Dec issue of Edible Richmond Magazine.) During the tour C.J. introduced me to some of the farm’s outliers: Mimi, a fainting goat; Charley and Ritzy; two riding horses; and an escapee Bourbon Red turkey who moved so quickly I could hardly catch sight of her. Undoubtedly lonely but glad to be alive, she was the sole survivor from

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Bloody Butcher Cornbread—The Official Bread of Halloween

October 30, 2015
By Holly Jennings

Official Bread of Halloween copy

 

Owing to its phenomenal flavor, striking blood-red color, suitably macabre name, and Old Dominion pedigree, I name Bloody Butcher Cornbread the official 2015 Virginia State Bread of Halloween.

 

Even though not as commonly associated with Virginia as, say peanuts or ham, Bloody Butcher corn traces its roots directly to the state, where the first reference to the variety, a style of dent corn ideal for flour, cornmeal, and grits, was made in 1845.

 

When Bloody Butcher was named, referencing, as the story goes, the bloodied apron of a butcher, slasher films hadn’t yet been invented.

 

Back then, I imagine the colorful words connoted something of the ordinary facts of life, rather than the horrifying, especially for farmers, who would have had intimate knowledge of processing meat.

 

Until the recent whole-animal butchery renaissance, the sight of a bloodied butcher apron

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