Fall Foods! Apples, acorn squash, and kale

I haven’t posted much on food and foodways recently, but I have been definitely been making the most of the autumn season in the kitchen. Since Thanksgiving is this week, I thought I’d share a little about the recipes I’ve been cooking and the stories behind the dishes. As it turns out, the stories about why I cooked these foods are part of what makes cooking them meaningful.

Apple Hill Apple Butter

This fall marks my first visit to Apple Hill—an area  just past Placerville with a large association of growers who attract tons of visitors to their ranches. Besides tasting the apple cider and apple cider donuts (which were as amazing as described!) my priority was to find a great U-Pick apple place and try a bunch of heirloom apple varieties.

I was not disappointed. The four of us who carpooled up there together had an awesome day filled with apple picking.

This was our haul—that’s my bucket with the scarf on the right. That night when we got home, two of us got together and made apple butter. Thus this recipe will forever remind me of Apple Hill Day.

Apple butter recipe*

Ingredients:

5  1/2 pounds tart apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 cups sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:

Prepare the apples and put them in the slow cooker. Add other ingredients and mix. Cook on high setting for 1 hour. Reduce temperature to low and cook for 9 or 10 hours. Towards the end of this time, check on the apple butter and use a potato masher or a whisk to make the mixture smoother. Place in glass jars and refrigerate.

*This recipe is a variation on the All Day Apple Butter recipe from allrecipes.com. The main difference is that I use about half the sugar and no cloves. I find that two cups of sugar is plenty sweet! It was also all I had in the house at the time. You can also omit the sugar completely—we did this with a second batch and it also turned out well:

This batch was made with much sweeter apples. One thing we noticed with this variation was that it cooked down much quicker—it’s possible that was just due to the crock pot used, but keep an eye on it if you try this version.

bonus apple recipe: apple rings!

I still had a bunch of apples after making apple butter, so I also made apple rings.

Ingredients:

Apples

Instructions:

Core and thinly slice apples. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 200 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until apples appear dry.

I pretty much winged it with this one—I took a look at a couple of recipes online to figure out the gist and then I went for it. If, like me, you don’t have a mandolin or a corer, I suggest slicing the apple whole until you get to the seeds, then core it, and then slice the rest. This worked the best for me. I used a bunch of different apple varieties and found that each takes a different time to cook, so some of my rings were crispy, some were chewy, and the rest were in between. I have no idea how long there would keep, because they were all gone within 24 hours.

 

Acorn Squash Election Night Soup (aka Ba-roth Obama Soup)

I have made this soup many times, but it gets its name from the time I made it on Election Night in 2008. Me and my roommate at the time were both home that night, watching the election returns. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I think it came up that she had pronounced broth (as in the broth I bought to make soup) as “ba-roth” as if it had two syllables. Somehow this turned into a pun on Barak Obama’s name, and before I knew it, my soup had a new moniker:  Ba-roth Obama soup.

[sorry, I don’t have any before photos of acorn squash, except for the little bit you can see in the apple butter photo. Enjoy this alternate squash photo instead.]

Acorn Squash Soup recipe

Ingredients:
2 medium acorn squash
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (er, ba-roth)
1 small lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
smoked paprika (OR sazon goya con azafran, if you can find it!), to taste

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut acorn squashes in half with a good sharp knife. Scoop out and save the seeds for later. Set the halves face up on a baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil on them and bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Put seeds on a separate sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stick them in for the last 10-15 minutes. When the squash start looking brown they are most definitely done. When the seeds start making popping sounds, they are also done.

Remove squash from oven and wait for them to cool down enough to touch. (I tend to rush this step and I usually regret it). Scoop the flesh from the skin and place into a blender with the broth. Blend.

Pour the mixture into a pot and heat it on the stove as you add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Serve with parmesan cheese and/or roasted seeds on top.

I made this soup again on Election Night 2012 two weeks ago, and it was just as delicious. I’m pretty sure that I have started a new tradition. You can use other squash of course, but I really like the flavor of the acorn. I have no idea what originally inspired this recipe. I know that I first made it with sazon goya con azafran seasoning, which is amazing and which you should totally try. I haven’t had any luck finding it in a local grocery store though, so smoked paprika is my substitute. Still delicious!

Super Bowl Kale Chips

Store bought kale chips seem to be everywhere now (ok at least at Trader Joes and Whole Foods), but I distinctly remember the first time I tried one, it was homemade and delicious. It was at a Super Bowl party this year, and it was one of the tastier things among a sea of typical game day food. Do I remember who was playing in the game? No. Do I remember the kale chips? Yes. Because they tasted way better than I thought kale could taste. I will probably make them myself come January.

Bottom: uncooked kale  Top: cooked kale chips

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

Kale

olive oil

salt and pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 175 degrees F (or 200 if you oven will not go lower than that). Wash and dry kale and remove center stalks. Cut into pieces and place on baking sheet. Drizzle all over with olive oil and turn pieces to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the pieces over with tongs. Cook an additional 10-15 minutes until pieces are crispy.

Ok with this recipe the temperature and the timing are actually pretty important. Basically, you want kale to cook at a low temp for a long time. A high temp with burn the thinest parts before the thick parts cook. Keep that in mind and you can’t go wrong!

 

Knitting for Victory! (free knitting patterns included!)

knitting and history

[UPDATE: I posted even more patterns from this historic knitting book here in 2013!]

Today is Veterans Day and it is also the 1 year anniversary of when I started this blog. So this post will combine two things I love: history and knitting. With free historic knitting patterns, no less!

As I wrote about in my very first post, what we in the United States call Veterans Day is known to Europe, Canada and most of the world as Remembrance Day. This year we’ll observe the holiday on Monday, but the actual date is the eleventh because Nov. 11 1918 was Armistice day—the day that World War I ended. The United States lost maybe about 100,000 or so soldiers in the Great War. European countries lost millions.

The  Great War, as it was then known, started in 1914, but the U.S. did not join until 1917. During the years the U.S. was at war, the government and other support organizations asked Americans to help the war effort. One of the ways they were asked to contribute? Knitting!

Socks were important in bad weather and trench warfare situations. Sweaters, wristlets, scarves and hats were also in demand. This website does a pretty good job of explaining some of the history about the wartime knitting effort if you want to know the details. I noticed that the article on the website cites a book called No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting, if you want to know even more about knitting history.

Even though I knew about the knitting aspect of WWI, I never really thought much of it. That is, until I came across this book for $2 at my local thrift store:

I knew it was old when I first picked it up, but I was shocked when I discovered that it was from 1918!  What a find! The very first section of the book is all patterns to knit for soldiers. The rest of the book includes a bunch of crocheting and knitting patterns. Some of the patterns will probably never be fashionable again, but many of them are still rather stylish by today’s standards. And from what I can tell, they’re no longer in copyright. So without further ado, I present to you my favorite knitting patterns from 1918!

1918 knitting patterns

First off, of course, is “service wear,” or knitting patterns for soliders. Most of these are so basic as to barely need a pattern (like the garter stitch scarf). But a few caught my attention.

Helmet

First of all—look at those illustrations behind the model! As for the pattern itself, this looks thoroughly practical—it covers your head and a lot of your face, and has the scarf like parts to keep the rest of you warm. Also, it goes well with a hat.

Service Sweater Type ‘C’

Once again, the illustration really catches my eye. But I also like this design—a cardigan with three pockets, which I feel like I haven’t really seen before. This pattern also has this paragraph underneath it which begins with the sentence “Since 1914 The Fleisher Yarns have been in active service on the battlefields of Europe.”

Meta and Dexter caps

Ok, I know what your thinking—the names of these hats have certain pop culture associations now that they certainly never intended! Nevertheless, I think these hats could be conceived as fashionable today, though maybe minus the crazy huge bow on “meta.” Pretty much all of the hats in the book are crocheted, and these are no exception.

Marcelona Jacket

I was surprised at just how many crochet patterns I actually liked in this book. Normally I don’t care as much for its appearance and thickness, but I think it works with this jacket. I also like the wrap around effect.

Rivoli Sweater

This is probably my favorite of all the knit sweater patterns. It’s a fairly simple pattern but I love the overall effect. I’m not sure why this pattern has a separate page for the construction and dimensions of the sweater, because few of the patterns have this diagram. But it looks helpful.

Pensacola sweater

This is my other favorite sweater pattern. I really like the fit and the way the buttons are placed. I also like the idea of the cuffs, even though I’m not sure if I would use angora for them. I’m also not exactly sure how the snaps are incorporated.

EDIT: You can now see what this sweater looks like when made by a modern day knitter! Check out this post at knitthehellout. For more knitting details, see Cassy’s ravelry project page for Pensacola.

I really hope that I will have the chance to attempt one of these patterns someday! More than that, I hope that others out there can use these patterns to make something. Reading through the directions, I realize that there are some hurdles to actually re-creating these garments for yourself. The first is that there is only one size given for each pattern, and there’s not a lot of info on the finished dimensions (except on the rivoli sweater). The second is trying to figure out needle sizes and yarn types and amounts. There is a kind of visual knitting gauge in the book that I’m posting below because it seems helpful, and there is a list of the kinds of yarns and some descriptions that is less helpful:

One thing the patterns do provide? Gauge. I think that if you used the gauge, figured out a relatively similar yarn type by comparing it to the list, and then overestimated the yardage it would take, I think it would be possible. If anyone wants to try these patterns, I’d love to hear how they turn out!