Home Made Marinara Sauce


Since getting the new refrigerator, revamping the larder cupboard, getting the vacuum sealer and experimenting with canning, bottling and picking – we’ve been stocking up even more intensely. Well – now that we have the space, or the re-vamped space, and the technology – why not? Indeed, thanks to a fortunately-timed stop at the marked-down shelf at the local HEB a couple of weeks ago, I can report that our requirements for exotic vinegars, balsamic and otherwise, have been fulfilled for the foreseeable future. And one of our projects over last weekend was to clear out the deep-freezer in the garage. Yes, indeed – it is possible to lose track of what is on the rearmost shelves; we found a package of frozen chicken with a best if by date of 2008 on it, as well as some other stuff that was so old we didn’t even recognize it at all. Hence – our current insistence on labeling and dating items before consigning them to frozen storage.

This weekend I had a new project – that of making an enormous batch of marinara sauce. The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, has a very simple and serviceable one on her website, but I went for broke and doubled it, with an eye towards adding different things when the basic sauce is eventually used. We do have a liking for meatballs in marinara over spaghetti, a dipping sauce with calzones, as a basis for eggplant parmagiana, and sometimes in desperation, for pizza. If I make it, we will use it, one way or another.

Slosh a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a fairly large pot, and gently sauté six or seven cloves of slivered garlic and two medium—sized chopped onions. When the onions are limp and the garlic aromatic, deglaze the pan with one cup of chicken or beef broth, and simmer until the liquid reduces by half.

Pour in a whole number-10 sized can of crushed tomatoes. A number-10 sized can will contain about three quarts of tomatoes; this is why I used the big pot to cook this up in. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme and a pinch of sugar.

I left this to simmer over low heat for nearly an hour. Toward the end of that time I added half a bunch or ½ cup chopped fresh parsley and about a quarter of a cup of chopped fresh basil.

I had a number of pasta sauce jars given to me by a neighbor who thought they were the sort which could be re-used in home canning – they can’t, of course, but they were a good size, and the batch of sauce filled up four of them. I put the lids on very loosely, so that the sauce would have space to expand as it froze and not break the jars. They do sell special containers for freezer condiments, or I could have parceled it out in vacuum-seal bags, but the recycled pasta sauce jars are what I had on hand, and they didn’t need labels.

When it comes to using the sauce, it can be used plain, or punched up with the addition of half a cup of sliced mushrooms, or chopped olives, pureed roasted red pepper, or some browned Italian sausage to every two cups of sauce. And that was

MERRY CHRISTMAS and Christmas Cookies Too

Once More, Decking the Halls with Feeling

by Celia Hayes

With one thing and another, my daughter and I haven’t really felt all Christmassy the last couple of years. Well, we went though the motions, but without much enthusiasm; the wholly sudden and unexpected death of my father the day after Christmas 2010 put a pall over the holiday generally, and being close to broke as a joke usually didn’t help. One year we had all the Christmas presents boxed and ready to go – but couldn’t afford to mail them until the following year. But this year, we’re doing OK – and felt like we should uphold the honor of our street in Spring Creek Forest by putting out the strings of icicle lights on the house and a bit of the expected seasonal jazz. No, we didn’t do the Full Griswald – just a modest string of white icicle lights across the front and side … but we did get adventurous enough to decorate the bay tree.

The bay-laurel tree is a 25-foot tall, classically-shaped-like-a-Christmas-tree and evergreen specimen that I originally bought (IIRC) as a small sapling in a 4-inch pot at the San Antonio Herb Fair. It went into an increasingly larger series of pots until I finally put it into the ground at the front of my property as part of my ‘Greek Garden’ – that is, plantings that reminded me of Greece. The bay tree flourished after a year or two – ensuring that I have never actually had to purchase dried bay leaves in the supermarket, and neither have any of my neighbors who know what it is. (And I have actually had people come to my door and ask if they can take cuttings from it.) So, we strung it around with garlands, and hung it with outsized ornaments…Although the top third of it is relatively undecorated; the ground underneath the tree is uneven, and our ladder is only an 8-foot one. I did have an idea for an invention to help in moving the strings of lights and garlands up higher – a tall pole with a Y-shaped bracket on the end. I’d have a shallower bracket on the other end, to place the strings of Christmas lights around the house eaves. Some years ago we installed cup-hooks every three or four feet along the fascia board; all we needed to do to hang lights was to un-reel them and thread the string of lights through the cup-hooks. Having my pole-and-bracket invention would let us put up the lights without the need of a ladder – much safer that way.

This year we circled around to doing cookies for those friends and neighbors. Tins from the Dollar Tree, lined with waxed paper and one of our old family favorites from the 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking – Pecan Angel Slices

Pecan Angel Slices

  • Cream together until well-blended: ½ cup butter and ¼ cup sugar
  • Beat in well: 1 egg and ½ teasp vanilla
  • Combine and add to the above: 1 ¼ cup sifted flour and 1/8 teasp salt
  • Pat dough evenly into a greased 9×12 inch pan
  • Bake at 350° for fifteen minutes
  • Remove from oven.

Combine: 2 beaten eggs, 1 ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup flaked cocoanut, 1 cup chopped pecans, 2 Tbsp. flour, ½ teasp double acting baking powder, ½ teasp salt and 1 teasp vanilla. Pour over cookie layer and return to oven for 25 minutes

Combine 1 ½ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar with sufficient lemon juice to make a smooth, runny glaze. Pour over warm cookie/pecan/coconut layer and allow to set.

When cool, cut into bars or squares. Bon appetite – and Merry Christmas!

A Vegetable Medley



by Celia Hayes

Alack and alas, the squashes which I planted in the spring, which came up, leafed out and flowered bountifully never actually produced any squash plants before they gracefully sank to the ground, withered and gave up the ghost. This has been to my complete mystification – they were provided plenty of sun, water and fertilizer, and I did not see that any of the plants were afflicted with vine borers. Well, next spring is another chance for a San Antonio home backyard garden; meanwhile I have pulled up the dead plants and harvested the small crop of red potatoes … which did thrive, although most of the resulting potatoes were the size of marbles and radishes. We have already eaten the largest of them – and tasty indeed they were, although I mourn they are not zucchini and patty-pan squash … I would have made ratatouille from the zucchini, the eggplant and the garden tomatoes. And no – ratatouille does not normally involve rats. This is a recipe that my mother loved, from Sunset’s French Cookbook 1976 edition. Just think of it as a vegetable medley – sometimes I have made it with fresh tomatoes, too.

Combine in an 3-quart ovenproof casserole:

3 TBsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove minced garlic
1 1-lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1-inch slices
1 1-lb can whole tomatoes and their juice, chopping tomatoes roughly with a spoon
1 tsp basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt

Cover and bake in a 400 deg. oven for about two hours, or cover and simmer gently on the stove-top, until vegetables are very soft, uncovering and stirring once or twice. Garnish with parsley and serve.

The tomatoes didn’t do well this year, either. Again, I am not certain why – except that perhaps my personal tomato curse has returned, or that it was, like previous years, just too darned hot for them by mid-spring.

However, and on the bright side – we had beans, lots of lovely green beans, and now that the first planting has given up the ghost, I have planted another round. Eggplants we have – not very many, but it’s not one of my absolute faves as a vegetable, either. But as for peppers … cayenne and bell peppers and jalapenos – all of those plants are thriving, many of them on their second or third year. Very likely I can grind up my own chili powder or cayenne pepper from that I have.

Another vegetable delight that I hope someday to make from home-grown vegetables is vegetable chili – this from Nava Atlas’s Vegeteriana

Sautee in 2 Tbsp olive oil: 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped bell pepper until the onion is limp. Then add 1 zucchini, sliced, 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, 1 14-oz can whole tomatoes with their liquid, 1 6-oz tomato paste, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp chili powder (more or less to taste), 1 teasp ground cumin, ½ teasp each ground coriander and oregano, ¼ teasp dried thyme, dash cayenne pepper, and 2 ½ cups cooked or canned kidney beans. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are done, about fifteen to twenty minutes. Serve garnished with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, pickled green chilis and warm tortillas on the side; food of the gods, vegetarian division.


Korean Food Can Be Spicy

Korean Delights

by Celia Hayes

So, many of the headlines this week concern themselves with Korea, a country which I have some slight connection to; that is where my father was serving a tour when I was born. And a good few decades later, I did a year-long tour there myself. About the very first thing that I realized was that Korea in the 1990s looked nothing like the TV series MASH … and only very little like what my father remembered. Dad and his platoon with their mobile radar set-up lived in several different tent encampments near the DMZ. I spent the year living at Yongsan Garrison, in the heart of a bustling and very cosmopolitan Seoul. The garrison was itself a fairly un-crowded green island in the middle of a very built-up city – rather as if there were a substantial military base set up in half of New York City’s Central Park.

I very much enjoyed the year in Seoul, by the way – and I very much liked the Koreans that I met and worked with; tough, jolly, and rather outgoing. Someone once described Koreans as the Irish of Asia, which I don’t think was too far off. Being that San Antonio is a military-oriented town, and a lot of military – especially Army – have been rotating in and out of Korea for the last sixty years, there is a nice little Korean presence here in San Antonio. I know of no less than three different Korean church congregations in my immediate neck of the woods. Then there is the little ‘TigerPop’ fast food place that my daughter and I sampled a year or so ago. And when I first came to San Antonio, someone told me that the first and best Korean restaurants were all scattered along Harry Wurzbach, Austin Highway and Rittiman Road, in proximity to Fort Sam Houston – because those first restaurants were all started by the Korean wives of retired Army NCOs. Don’t know if it is true or not; but it looks like some the most assuming places with excellent food are along those streets.

Be warned, though – Korean food can be very, very spicy, even to Texas tastes. (Not as spicy as Thai food, though.) The dish that most of us have heard of is kimchee; basically pickled Napa cabbage, but with a kick – or as one of my military friends used to call it, “sauerkraut” with an attitude.” Very closely related to Japanese sushi is the Korean kimbab; cooked rice, and other things, rolled in a sheet of seaweed nori. The difference is that in the Korean version, the contents are most often cooked. And sometimes, they are made with a sliver of Spam. No, really – Spam is enormously popular in Korea; something that I had heard, but never quite believed until I saw assortments of Spam for sale in fancy baskets in Korean specialty groceries. The other very popular Korean snack food among my friends was yakimandu – pan-friend dumplings, which were as much like Chinese pot-stickers as to have no difference at all. Many of these delights were sold from street stalls, to the horror of the military health authorities, but to the best of my knowledge, I never heard of anyone getting sick from eating them, mostly because they came right from the burner to your plate. And against the red peppers and other hot spices, disease-causing organisms never had a chance.

And now I’m hungry for yakimandu … guess a trip down to Koreana on Harry Wurzbach is in order…


IH 35 Road Trip Part 2

IH 35 Road Trip – Part 2

by Celia Hayes

The road was long, and went on and on in the dark. I thought that we’d see the sunrise about the time that we passed Round Rock, but no – thanks to daylight savings time, we didn’t see it even begin to get light until we passed through Waco. At that juncture, something moved us to want to take a break. Well, actually three things moved us: we were getting hungry again, my daughter wanted to top up the gas tank, and we both needed to use the bathroom facilities. And there was a billboard advertising the Czech Stop Bakery, and not a truck plaza or another Buc’ees in sight, in a little hiccup of a town called West. So, pull off the highway onto the access road, looking for the Czech Stop – easily found, by the way. If the giant lighted sign isn’t a clue, the packed parking lot in front of it ought to be.

I bought two plain kolaches, which they obligingly heated for me, and I wish, I wish, I so wish that I had bought a box of sweet pastries to carry on to Fort Worth with me, for the kolaches were magnificent; savory and flavorful lengths of kielbasa-like sausage, enveloped in a yeasty pillow of bread dough. I looked around the bakery – even at that hour, there was a line in front of the counter. After the fact, I discover that the Czech Stop is famed far and wide. Some commenters on foodie websites even swear that it’s worth the drive all the way from San Antonio for the sweet and savory pastries. I don’t know as I’d drive that far, gas being what it is, but if it is along your way, the Czech Stop is most definitely worth it.

On and on we went, making the interesting discovery that winter still held sway. It was actually darned chilly, and I was particularly grateful for the sweaters and jackets that my daughter had left in her car. I left my San Antonio home in shirtsleeves – and four hours later, there was white stuff caked in the grass along the side of the road, where the pavement met dirt. It had been so long since I had actually seen it, it took a few moments to recognize the remnants of snow. Yes, indeedy – Palm Sunday weekend, and snow along IH-35 coming into Fort Worth – while it’s shirtsleeve warm in San Antonio, with the wisteria and roses are all in bloom.

The next attractive bit of roadside business managed to enchant us thoroughly, even at a passing speed of 70 MPH – and that was the Rustic Creek Ranch, which hove into sight as we were approaching the outlaying fringes of Fort Worth. An extensive waterpark-playground feature, an RV park, grounds landscaped so extensively as to make your average KOA look like a dump … and the rental cottages on-site! Oh, my – I looked them up online as soon as we got home that evening, after an incredibly, horribly, very long day. The Rustic Creek features luxury cottages, with bells on. Oh, did we wish that we could have rented a cottage there, instead of the long drive back and forth. I would have so loved to sink into a double bed, piled high with quilts … Well, I did – I just had to wait until I got home.

And that was our spring road trip. When we make it back in the fall, for an evening author event, we are scheming how to fit in a short stay at the Rustic Creek Ranch. It all depends on how my books sell!


Home Canning

Adventures in Home Canning

by Celia Hayes

This latest adventure in home food preparation was my daughter’s notion, upon noting that the aisle in our local HEB set aside for housewares and appliances had a new section for home canning supplies; including a sort of starter kit for novices; a large light-weight enamel lidded kettle, with a rack and some implements to shift around the jars … of which there were also a nice assortment in various sizes. I was certain that we had a huge canning kettle in the garage – a gift from a military friend who was moving to another state – but we couldn’t readily find it, as the garage is stuffed with items that my daughter has bought for that residence of her own which she hopes to have one day. But we might have sold the darned thing at the big clearing-out-of-useless-possessions yard sale that we had last year, anyway.

So, following her last big payday, she purchased the kit, a Ball recipe book and some flats of jars, and ever since, we have been experimenting with certain of the fruit and vegetable recipes. We are anticipating a bounty from our garden, in any case – already some of the cucumbers are monstrous in size, and if all the green tomatoes on the plants that we have come ripe at the same time … send the search party to look for us buried underneath a couple of bushels of tomatoes.

Her part-time job for Edible Arrangements is a source of certain kinds of fruit or fruit scraps … waste not, want not, you know. Anyway I’ve always loved the descriptions in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books of how our pioneer ancestors went through a frenzy of canning, smoking, curing, and otherwise preserving the bounty of their scratched-out gardens, to last through winter and other hard times. I am an epicure when it comes to food, but I am also a tight-wad. I have elevated tastes, but a need to pinch the pennies until a booger comes out from Lincoln’s nose. I think the historical person himself would sympathize. After all, he grew up relatively impoverished and in a milieu where people did for themselves…

Anyway, it was a natural progression from home brewing, to home cheese-making, to home canning – although I don’t think we’ll go as far as getting a high-pressure canning thingy. But if high-end gourmet ready-prepared food items get any more expensive relative to the raw materials for them remaining relatively inexpensive, we might be tempted… even if I am not any more enthused about the joys of botulism than a normally intelligent human being would be…

This is a recipe for a pepper and corn relish which I copied out of a Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet Magazine, lo these many years ago. This relish which can be eaten fresh, or processed in the canning kettle for fifteen minutes. It makes about 5 pint jars.

Combine and simmer for half an hour: 5 ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, 1 finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 finely chopped green bell pepper, one medium onion, 2 carrots, also finely chopped, 1 ½ cup sugar, 1 teasp dry mustard, ½ teasp celery, ¼ teasp turmeric and 1 ½ cup vinegar.

Next weekend, we may be going to Buda for the Annual Wiener Dog Races … and we’re starting another garden project; a raised bed in a relatively unused corner of the yard. Enjoy!

Time for Golf?
Call The Randy Watson Team of Mission Realty at 210-319-4960

Excellent Wurst Meal All Prepared in One Pan

One-Pan Wurst Supper

by Celia Hayes

One of my oldest and most favorite cookbooks – and the tattered and spotted condition of my copy certainly proves the age and status – is Barbara Swain’s Cookery for 1 or 2. I may have bought it before I moved out of the women’s barracks as a young Air Force sergeant. I was always cooking my own meals then, since the hours I worked were not compatible with the dining hall, and the barracks did have a primitive but functional kitchen. I definitely possessed this copy by the time I settled into a teeny studio apartment, as I clearly recall cooking many of the entrees and brunch dishes on the propane gas stove there. The marvelous thing about this particular cookbook is that every recipe in it was scaled for exactly one or two servings. The pound-cake recipe made a tiny 3 x 7 inch loaf of butter cake; the carrot cake recipe made exactly half a dozen cupcakes. Everything was perfectly scaled, simply prepared and made from fresh ingredients … and I am fairly sure that when I bought my now-battered copy, it was one of just a few ‘cooking for one or two’ cookbooks on the market. Now it looks as if it is out of print, although Amazon lists a number of used copies available.

Since we been getting involved in so many ethnic German activities throughout the Texas Hill Country, we have begun to have a deep appreciation for excellent sausages, like those from Granzin’s Meat Market in Gruene… and for the many delightful ways to cook cabbage. My English Granny Dodie prepared it by lightly steaming chopped cabbage until it was just barely cooked, then tossing it with melted butter, cracked pepper and bits of crumbled bacon. I don’t know from here she picked up this delicious heresy; the traditional English way of cooking cabbage is to boil it to death for many hours.

But the traditional German way is to make sauerkraut out of it; basically, salted and pickled – the way to make a green vegetable last through the dark months of a northern winter – and so I have come to explore the many faces of red and green cabbage. In Cookery for 1 of 2 there is one recipe for a one-pan wurst and sauerkraut dinner, which I adapted a little, by adding two quartered red potatoes, which essentially cooks your complete dinner in a single covered pan.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil, bacon drippings, or render one thin slice of salt-pork cut in small dice, in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (or the salt-pork rendered) add ¼ cup minced onion and sauté until tender. Add 1 8-oz. can or 1 cup of well-drained sauerkraut, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1/3 cup of dry white wine, beer, water – or (my addition) homemade chicken or vegetable broth, 1/8 teaspoon salt, ¼ caraway seeds and a twist of fresh-ground black pepper. The original recipe says to cover and simmer for half an hour, then add 4 wieners or 2 knackwursts and simmer for another fifteen minutes. For my version, I add two or four smoked brats – it depends on the size of the brats and if they have been frozen – and two red potatoes, cut in quarters, cover and simmer the whole shebang for half and hour to forty minutes. The potatoes should be done, the sausages cooked through and the broth reduced and absorbed into the vegetables. Serve with a bit of whole-grain mustard on the side, and a salad of fresh garden greens. Total Teutonic bliss achieved … and only one cooking pot to wash.

Yep, it doesn’t get much better than this, in my San Antonio home. Until I start to make home-made sauerkraut…

Chili and Cornbread Recipes for Texas

Cold-Weather Supper – Chili and Cornbread

On those few days in South Texas when the weather is cold, dank and rainy, our thoughts for what to have for supper turn to something solid and warming: chili, which goes with cornbread like chocolate and peanut butter, like popcorn with the movies, and like salsa and corn chips. Over the years, we’ve experimented with various chili recipes – there was one from the Sunset Favorite Recipe books which called for angostura bitters and beer, another rather good but strictly vegetarian one which featured kidney beans, fresh corn and zucchini squash – but the absolute best chili recipe we have discovered was taken from Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman, which was showcased on the Food Network a few weeks ago, and which we experimented with by adding some of the alternate ingredients. It makes a good, meaty and flavorful chili, without much fuss.

Basic Winter Evening Chili

Brown in a large skillet or Dutch oven: 1-2 lbs ground lean beef and 2 cloves chopped garlic. When the meat is done, drain off any excess fat, and add: 1 tsp dried or ground oregano, 1 Tbsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, and 1-2 Tbsp chili powder, and an 8 or 14 oz can tomato sauce. Stir together, cover the pot and simmer for an hour or so. If the mixture gets too dry, add ½ cup water – but we used beer instead. While the meat mixture summers, mix in a separate bowl ¼ cup masa (corn flour) with ½ cup water. At the end of the hour, add the masa/water mixture to the chili, along with two cans drained red kidney beans, and a medium-sized can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies. Simmer together for ten or fifteen minutes, and serve with grated cheddar cheese and chopped green onions and cornmeal muffins on the side.

Cornmeal Muffins

This recipe comes from my ever-faithful Joy of Cooking 1975 edition, and we used real butter and Lamb’s Stone Ground Yellow Cornmeal, (which is manufactured locally, just up the road in Converse) and baked it in a cast-iron muffin pan.

Pre-heat oven to 425, and lightly brush muffin pan surfaces with oil or melted butter. Put pan into the oven to heat also.

Combine together: 1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ tsp baking soda, 1 ½ baking powder, 1 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp sugar. Yes, I know that hard-core Southerners consider sugar in cornbread to be an apostasy

In another small bowl or glass measuring cup: 1 ½ cups buttermilk or ¾ each cup water and yoghurt, 1 egg, and 3-4 Tbsp melted butter. Combine, and pour into pre-heated, sizzling-hot pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Made with Lamb’s Cornmeal, the muffins came out with a crispy crust and a very tender center, and hardly needed anything else spread on them. The only cornmeal that made better was some stuff that I bought at Wimberley Market Days from a vendor who had a little portable grist-mill and ground corn and wheat flour on the spot – but hasn’t been seen there for a year or so. HEB stores have Lamb’s Corn Meal now; it costs a bit more than the usual, but it’s worth it. Bon Appetite!

Plain Sandwich Loaf Recipe for a Bread Machine

A Simple Bread Recipe for a Bread Machine

Written by Randy Watson

It is not really winter here in San Antonio, yet. We have not really had any days that have stayed below 50 yet for the whole day. Yea, we did have some really cold days the other day when it got down to 31 overnight. It is 51 degrees at 4:00 this cloudy Sunday afternoon. It was less than a month ago, we were still hitting the century mark on the thermometer, so no, my blood has not thickened up yet.

Although, we are not always known for arctic cold winter snaps in South Texas, sometimes we do get into the twenties or rarely into the teens overnight. Anyway, ever since I was a kid, one of the things my mom started us doing to keep us out of trouble was bake bread when we could not go outdoors to play. I have been baking bread ever since. I have tried baking many different styles and flavors of breads.

Nowadays, most of the breads I make are just the typical sandwich loaf or dinner bread. But, I have experimented with French and Italian rolls, cinnamon and raisin breads and even some gluten free breads. I have made breads with mesquite flour, rice flour, bean flour, wheat flour and even regular bleached white flour. You name any kind of bread, I have probably tried to make it. At home I usually bake a loaf or 2 every week. I may have given up on the cinnamon swirl, buns. rolls and croissant breads. But I still make a pretty darn good plain sandwich loaf, once or twice a week.

Over the years, I have learned what works for me and what does not when it comes to baking bread. Sometimes, I am lazier than other times, so for the lazy times, I use a bread machine. I can mix up a dough batch and have it in the bread machine in less than 5 minutes. (Here is a hint. If you want a loaf of bread in the summer and you are not already using the oven, just use the bread machine. It will help keep the kitchen cooler in the summer time.)

For my bread machine, I use a really simple recipe that works and does not fail me too often. The recipe is just a plain and simple white or white/whole wheat loaf. When baking bread I usually use bread flour, instead of general purpose flour. Bread flour has more gluten in it to keep the dough from collapsing. The bread flour will also cause the bread to look a little bit yellower than if you use just the general purpose flour.

My bread machine makes a 2lb loaf. Adjust to 3 cups of flour if you have a 1 ½ lb loaf bread machine.

Here is my bread machine recipe:

  • 1 ½ cups of room temp to warm water (75-100 degrees)
  • 4 generous cups of bread flour (may use 3 cups white bread flour and 1 cup of red wheat flour)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of dry yeast (do not proof yeast)

Pour the water in first, then flour, sprinkle in the salt and dry yeast. Set the machine for a plain white loaf or wheat loaf. (Wheat flour takes longer to rise.) I like to set my crust to dark, turn it on and let it run. Check the machine after about 5 minutes. If the dough is too watery, add a tablespoon of flour, if too dry, add a tablespoon of water and start the machine again. Once the consistency balls up and is not soggy or gooey, close the lid and let it do its thing. In about 1 ½ hours the house will be smelling really good. In about 3 hours, (3 hrs 40 min for a wheat loaf) you will have a hot loaf of bread.



Homemade Cheese Waxing

Waxing the Cheese

by Celia Hayes

That is something which sounds vaguely like something which only ought to be done by consenting adults, in private and behind closed doors, but . . . well, it’s really rather prosaic, in the process of making cheese. It’s the final thing done, before stashing the wheel of cheese in the lower shelf of the refrigerator to age for the required number of months. Well, to all but the parmesan; that variety ages, dries and hardens bare and un-waxed for a year, before getting a slathering of olive oil. It will be another ten months before we can even sample it and know if it is any good, but it already is looking dry and waxy, rather like the less expensive supermarket parmesans.

This months’ cheese-making expeditions have been enlivened, as we are trying to make a half-dozen or so small wheels of farmhouse cheddar. These are about the size of a tuna can, and we intend to give them as Christmas presents to San Antonio neighbors. Two gallons of milk produces three small cheeses; and farmhouse cheddar must age for at least a month. Our neighbors are all nice people, and we like them very much, but after fifteen years of alternating butter cookies and fruitcakes, it’s probably time to up our game, and I am almost sure everyone has forgotten about the ginger-molasses drop cookies which came out looking like they had come from the back end of the dog, and tasting like ginger-flavored flour. No, I do not often make mistakes in the kitchen, but when I do . . .

We even ventured into the purchase of some small, lidded pottery crocks for soft cheese, although the only kind of soft cheese we have accomplished this far has been by accident. My daughter has made gouda, smoked gouda, cheddar, fennel-flavored cheddar, and a couple of the other more complicated varieties . . . but just cannot get the hang of what is supposed to be the easiest: mozzarella. Aside from the very first batch, which she did from a kit – every other batch has come out disastrously. Once, it emerged from the hot whey bath as a hard waxy yellow baseball-sized bolus; every other time, it’s come out as . . . well ricotta. Something goes wrong, even though the curds form and separate very satisfactorily.

She’s tried the method of heating the curds on the stovetop as she folds them together: they are supposed to go all elastic, and pliable, rather like taffy. No luck. Not even the ‘nuke in the microwave for ten seconds and knead them like bread dough’ has the desired effect. Invariably, the curds granulate and just sit there, sullenly defiant. This has sent my daughter spare with frustration, not being able to conquer what is supposed to be the easiest cheese of all. Every time – it turns into ricotta. Sometimes rather nice ricotta, especially when fresh herbs are added – and of course, we can use, for lasagna, and to fill manicotti and pasta shells, but there is a limit.

I did suggest one day that she follow the recipe for ricotta and maybe it would spontaneously turn into mozzarella.

She so did not learn those words in Catholic school.