What is in the Air?


I have been publically writing for over  three years now and have yet to share an actual recipe. I have more unfinished blog posts in my documents folder than I have actual shared ones. The reasoning is that I feel there are so many awesome Chefs out there sharing their recipes, you don’t really need another one flooding your facebook page with unwanted recipes and food tips. (Do you?) I would much rather hint at the possibility of one of my quasi-interested readers to actually ask me a question regarding food. This technique has yet to reveal any sign of results so I guess I am acquiescing. So here it goes…

It should be known that my style of cuisine is old-world in foundation built up by just the right amount of “modernist” influence. I am definitely not a slave to trends and it of course is no hidden fact that my disgust for  the watered down industry that I am apart of can be directly linked to the exploitation of cool/sexy Chefs. Now this of course takes nothing away from the accomplishments of my peers and I wish them all the success that is due to them. It however is a known fact that while food TV is one of the most watched networks and cookbooks are the number one type of book being sold right now, for some reason, we are cooking less than ever before. Well, that “some reason” is this; as we watch our favorite Chef prepare the most awesome meal, the processed food companies pay trillions (not a fact, just hyperbole) for their commercial slots to get you to buy their goods. It’s a slick little hustle that sees no sign of slowing down. Besides, TV sucks, and cooking is far more fun!

So why not do what some say has been done for over 10,000 years! Trap the single cell organism we know as yeast, along with other yummy edible microbes, and make some bread. The air is equipped with all the yeast you will ever need to make the perfect loaf of bread every time! The cool thing is that the sour dough bread you make will differ from locale to locale giving a sour dough in Vermont a different taste than one in Cali due to the varying air composition. First we have to make a productive starter:

Grab:

2 cups of flour

2 cups of good old warm  H2O   and  combine in a glass bowl

And that’s it! No need to buy a sour dough starter online because that’s what you just made… sort of.

My starter keeping a watchful eye on my house grown pea shoots and micro greens. Did you know that chefs pay up to 25 bucks for half a pound? and gues who pays for it...

Now you have to collect the yeast and feed it. So leave it in a warm place to ferment, 4 to 8 days.  Depending on temperature and humidity of kitchen, times may vary. Place on cookie sheet in case of overflow. Check on occasionally. When mixture is bubbly and has a pleasant sour smell, it is ready to use.

Notice the bubbles in the dough. This is what your looking for after about 4 days. You do not refrigerate it during this 4 day period. That way you can collect the yeast from the air.

If your mixture has a pink, orange, or any other strange color tinge to it, THROW IT OUT! and start over. At my restaurant we make bread every day from our starter and never have to throw any away and it never goes in the fridge. But if you are only making bread once a week like most home bakers do when they possess a starter, throw it in the fridge. And if you are making bread once in a blue moon, you can still keep the yeast alive and kicking! you will have to feed it once a week by discarding about 1 cup of the starter and adding 1 cup flour and one cup of warm H2O. leave it out for a day and return it to the fridge! A lot of people refer to their starters as pets, But I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND TAKING YOUR “PET” THROUGH THE TSA CHECKPOINTS!… “May I please ask you what is that funked out gooey substance in your carry on”? Sure to be confiscated! If this happens, no worries, start another one. Just remember that sourdough starters improve with age, so you might want to hang on to it for a while and pass it along to those interested in yummy things. This actualy a trdition for some and it prevents you from having to waist it by throwing it in the trash.

This is a mature starter, which you can tell by the crusty border. (Time for a bowl change)

So how does it work? You can collect yeast for two things that I know of. one is for bread making and the other is for the production of alcohol.  And just as your bread will differ in taste according to what air you are breathing, so will your brew. Now I of course don’t drink, but I will go into the production of homemade alcohol for the sole reason of making your very own vinegar! NO this does not mean two recipes in one post. This is me jockeying for some interested readers (one will do) to ask me; how to make vinegar? Now, anyone can go to the brew shop and get a vinegar mother (you see this hazy strand  sometimes floating in your organic vinegar), drop it into an unadulterated bottled of alcohol: beer for malt, white/red for wine and of course champagne for, well champagne vinegar. But if you want to get your own strain of vinegar mother, a unique one just like our yeast we collected for our starter, hit me up!

Here is the skinny: yeast eats sugar and its waste is alcohol then acid bactar comes in and eats the alcohol and guess what its waste is. VINEGAR!

The bread recipe:

1 pound of starter

14 oz of water

2 T. honey

5 C bread flour (plus more for kneading)

¾ C Wheat flour

1 C soaked kamut (or other wheat berry or steel-cut oats)

3 t salt

Sour dough without the wheat berries

How To:

Combine starter, H2O, honey, the two flours and kamut, cover and let rest for at least 4 hours. The longer the better.  Don’t mix at this point. Just dump everything in, give one quick stir and cover with plastic wrap. Four hours later; when ready, sprinkle salt on top. Stir with wooden spoon and dump on heavily floured surface. And knead until you get one tight ball of dough. You can do this in your kitchen aide if you want to as well. Let it rest for 30 minutes. shape two loaves and score with a razor blade. Bake  at  375 for 45 minutes, rotating half way through.

Hope you enjoyed my thoughts and I hope you try the recipe!

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Me. My Town. And Irene. A summer for the ages.


http://www.wilmingtonvtfloodrelief.com/

http://drvhumanweb.org/  TO DONATE OR FOR EMERGENCY FUNDING CLICK HERE!

I decided to not put pictures of the flood damage on the blog. I’m sure you have scene enough.

The summer draws to a close. and it took a disaster to get me back at the computer screen squinting through my duct taped, faded Ralph Lauren frames to peck away at a measly 15 wpm (tops) in an attempt to regain my self-proclaimed title as a blogger. The disaster of the tropical storm Irene will be forever etched into my memory. There was very little wind, just hours and hours of steady rain. The devastation is immense and will take its actualized toll in the forth coming months. for more information on the floods of Irene or to help the residents and businesses,  Please Click here! I have friends who were affected and I pray things in the town of Wilmington and all over Vermont, get back to a sense of normalcy.

Wait. Dd I just say Wilmington? Last most of you heard I was at the helm of the Putney Inn. Working and gleaning from the bounty of the farms of Wyndham County. I apologize For my lack of updates on my to-ing and fro-ing. I guess I have some filling in to do.

This was to be the year that I made a solid reputation in New England as a respectable Chef providing high quality, world-class grub to locals and travelers alike. I established a wonderful network of farmers to drive my cuisine and the rep was starting. My departure had ABSOLUELY nothing to do with the owners or the property. I was given free rein to develop and create menus according to my whims and  palate. But the property was a large one. Banquets out the wazoo! And busses of tourists flocking to peep out the colorful canvas of de-naturing leaves is totally not my speed. The restaurant is still a great place to grab a bite of yummy food in southern VT and is the perfect spot to hop off of rt 91 at exit 4. www.putneyinn.com. that being said I prefer an ecosystem that caters to the expectations of dinners who are looking for THE SPOT.  So, after three offers, trails, (trying out in the kitchen) mystery baskets and negotiations, I accepted the job at what I see as being THE SPOT for me. Is it a Relais Chateau, on lake Champlain, brand spanking new with shiny never before used appliances and small wares? Absolutely not.  Is it 100 percent committed to the sustainable, farm to table, nose to tail ideology? Yessssss! (Very Important) The Wilmington Inn is in so many ways is a dream come true. The lack of the brand spanking new stuff gives it a few dings in my book but all in all, pretty close to perfect. Since we have been closed off from the rest of the world due to poor roads and mass construction vehicles, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my decision. This reflection has a reoccurring theme; community and farmonomics. Click here for more info on farmonomics. This view of the owners (along with many others) and  their commitment  mirrors my outlook super eerily. The fact that John kicked the shiny silver truck off the property with the purchase of the Inn and wants to ink the menu with “SYSCO free since 2010” is pretty slick.

These times of crisis it is important to realize our role in our communities and how we spend our money seriously affects our neighbors. In Vermont the slinging around of terminology like “buy local” is for the most part not a marketing ploy, it’s the real deal. (I can name some posers in a private convo off the record if you like) When we put a face to the producer of our product and put a face to the consumer it is more than just a business transaction, we now have a connection. When we know that Westminster Organics is Paul Harlow and family and they stand to lose a nice amount of coin in crops (250,000 in crop damage) we should  do all that we can to help.  That amount does not include property damage, loss of jobs to employees, and the fact that they have to wait four months before planting again. Buying local is the least we can doand it directly effects helps the Harlow family and all of their employees. What about Jonathan Wright of Taylor farms? in Londonderry? It is a baig chain grocer  or sysco telling you that they are discontinuing an item and you keep shopping blindly. It is painful to know that after baling hay for his grass-fed cows the flood washes a huge chunk of food for his livestock. This is the reality. when we buy Taylor Farms Gouda from the store, we are helping Jonathan Wright.

I am stoked to hear about all of the people helping get the Brattleboro farmers market up and running within a week! After first the first reports said a new location may be necessary? AMAZING! I wish I were there this saturday to see the swarm of like-minded community based folks (some a little weird) helping support the ever so needed local economy. I was helping along with a host of other residents (and non) rebuild the tourist economy based center of Wilmington which was decimated by the flood. It is a site to see. People working together is a beautiful site. There are many things going on in the valley to assist the businesses affected. I even here murmurs of a star-studded benefit concert for those without flood insurance being in the works. The Wilmington Inn is putting up five bucks from every entre to the flood relief, Chris and Steve of Apres Vous are looking to open next week and open for breakfast and lunch to give some of the folks of DOTs Dinner (a darn near monument) employment. It is nice to see a community at work.

The craziness of starting a new job has kept me away from my blog. The craziness of this storm has just revealed to me how relaxing and a release it is to share my thoughts. My unplanned time of reflection has totally fortified my ideology and commitment to the support of the small farms and producers and has given me more incentive to work at my craft and offer some of the best cuisine in Vermont. I must admit, I was not too fond of the touristy feel of the town of when I first arrived. However, the spirit of  community is in the air and I welcome all of you to Wilmington!

Next up is my garden, my foraging and some new farm visits!