Archive for the ‘giving back’ Category

I wanted to provide a great recommendation to my readers.  Caufield Clay Works,, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, provides some beautiful ceramics.  They have also been kind enough to donate several ceramic dishes and plates to Alice the Cook’s kitchen.

As a note, all of the food photographed on this website is shot on Caufield Clay Works plates.  If you are looking for some beautiful stoneware, or other items, please consider visiting his online studio at


So Many Gifts

   Posted by: anj68 Tags: , ,

Last weekend for High Seas weekend, we demonstrated several techniques used in preserving food.  These techniques included smoking meats and salts.  We also demonstrated how to make flavored extracts, oils, salts and sugars.  All of these things can be used to create lovely handmade gifts for the holidays.

Smoked Pork Shoulder

Smoking Meats and Salts:
Buy wood chips (found in the same location as the charcoal briquettes) and soak them overnight in water.  Once done, place the soaked wood chips in the bottom of the pot or tray.  Now, I strongly recommend that this is not done indoors, as it will create a lot of smoke, but on an outdoor grill or bonfire.  If on a grill, use a double rack system and place the tray with the wood chips on the lower rack and the meat or salt on the upper rack and close the lid.  If using a bonfire, place the chips at the bottom of the cast iron pot and place the meat on top of the chips or the salt in a tray on top of the chips and place the lid on the pot. The heat will cause the chips to smoke and will smoke the meat or salt.  The meat should cook this way for 2-3 hours and the salt will take 6-8 hours.  Make sure that you break up the salt every two hours so that they are evenly flavored.

Flavored Salts and Sugars:
This is a fairly easy process.  You will need a ceramic dish, we used ramekins.  Place a layer of salt or sugar at the bottom of the dish.  Sweet things should be applied to the sugar (nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, clove, citrus zest, or cinnamon) and savory things would be applied to the salt (garlic, rosemary, chilies, etc.)  Place the chosen flavor on top of the bottom layer of salt or sugar and begin layering.  Place the dish in a low heat area so the flavor infuses with the salt or sugar.  Salt requires a higher heat (200 degrees) for an hour and sugar requires a lower heat (100 – 150 degrees) for two hours.  Place in an airtight container and serve as needed.

Orange and Vanilla Extract

Like the sugars, extracts are easy to make.  Finding a sweet spice (nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, clove, citrus zest, or cinnamon) and placing it into a clean bottle that can be sealed.  Add a strong flavorless liquor such as Everclear or Vodka and seal shut.  The longer it sits with occasional shaking, the stronger the extract will become. 

Flavored Oils & Vinegars
Follows the same principles as the extracts, but vinegar or olive oil is used with savory herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme, or peppers; I recommend heating the vinegar or oil and adding fresh herbs to the mix, simmering it, and then bottling it.  The acids will keep longer than the oils.  Keep the oils in the refrigerator for use.   


Wide array of items




Roasted Leg of Lamb

   Posted by: anj68 Tags: ,

One of my favorite meats is lamb.  I specifically look for grass-fed, free-range lamb to buy.  Luckily I am well connected with various ranchers who can supply me appropriately.  Below  is a traditional (European) version of cooking lamb. It is quite tasty and perfect for special occasions  and company.

Traditional Roasted Mutton
One leg of lamb (mutton), preferably boneless
2 TB olive oil
4 sprigs of rosemary
6 cloves of garlic, minced
Kosher or sea salt
Black pepper

Coat the leg of lamb generously with oil.  This will allow the herbs to stick without damaging the meat.  Remove rosemary from branches and coat the leg of lamb with a mixture of the rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.  Place lamb in pot on the stovetop with olive oil and brown the outside on medium to high heat.  This process will help keep the lamb moist on the inside.

Cover the lamb and place it  in the oven and cook it at 350 degrees. Depending on the size of the leg, this can be between an hour (half a leg) to 2 hours (large, full leg).  Internal temp should be 160 – 165 degrees (medium), please check in half hour increments.  Before serving, let the lamb sit for 5 minutes.  This will help keep the meat moist when serving.


Keeping it Local

   Posted by: anj68 Tags: ,

When cooking at home or at a show, I pride myself in using local ingredients when ever possible.  Locavore, is a movement best described as people who are interested in eating food that is locally produced through family gardens, farmer’s markets, CSAs, etc. 

I’ve previously written about Farm Girl at Large, a farm owned by a friend of

Lamb from Funky Little Farm

mine, but today I wanted to let you know of another local food provider – Funky Little Farm.  I’ve had the pleasure of acquiring beef, lamb, chicken and duck eggs, fresh herbs, and a chicken or two from this farm located in Winthrop, Minnesota.  The owner, Barb Everson describes her farm, “Most of the work on this farm is done  by hand and by one person.  We own very little machinery.  We raise heritage breeds of poultry and sheep and lean heavily toward heirloom vegetables, antique fruits and herbs, and a wide variety of soay sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and guinea fowl.”

What makes Funky Little Farm unique from other farms is the fact that the own, Barb, used to be a cook historian (like me).  She understands that by using quality ingredients can provide a higher quality product.  I like utilizing local ingredients from Funky Little Farm and Farm Girl at Large as I know they take great care with their animals; they know how they lived, what they ate, and were treated well. 

As a meat eater/omnivore, I feel a little better knowing that the animals I eat were not penned up and enjoyed a life in the sunshine, eating sweetgrass, and doing what animals do.

Some of my readers are vegetarian, vegan, while others are not, but I ask you do you buy your groceries from a large supermarket which requires more fuel from the trucks that deliver the stock from out of state and, in some cases, out of the country, or do you buy your ingredients locally, reduce your carbon footprint, and help the economy in your community?

The products I get from these local, independent farms, have a higher quality than those I find at a local supermarket.  The vegetables and fruits are fresher and the ingredients as a whole are tastier.  If you haven’t already, check out Funky Little Farm at of Farm Girl at Large – and taste the difference.


At the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, I perform various cooking demonstrations with my assistants.  In past years, we’ve created a lot of food that needed to fill empty bellies, but we didn’t have the means to do so.  A couple of years ago, we developed a way of performing the cooking demonstrations and feeding the cast.  Last year, we dubbed the concept as The Family Table.

There, cast members could get some hand crafted meals, water, and a place for the community to connect.  We prepared a meat and vegan dish each day.  On a couple of the list serves, that I belong to, I posted some facts about the family kitchen.

  • Each day of the 2010 run of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, The Family Table served between 85-125 people.
  • On Saturday, October 2, 2010, we broke a record by serving 122 cast members in 40 minutes (shortest time for service).  We believe it was due to the cold weather.  On Sunday, October 3, 2010, we prepared for the day and fed 185 cast members.
  • MRF provides a stipend for a food budget, but following it would allow us to feed the cast through 5th weekend.  The cast’s tips and donations help us stretch the budget to feed the cast throughout the entire season.
  • Each week, Cub, Rainbow, Kowalski’s, Lunds, Sam’s Club, and Costco are all shopped to get the best prices
  • Every bowl is washed and bleached so that they remain food safe.  At the end of the run, every bowl, cast iron pot, and wooden utensil is oiled and prepped for storage over the winter.
  • All of the equipment for The Family Kitchen weighs 1750 lbs and includes two tables, tent, fly, cast iron pots, travel stove, shelving, period kitchen, shelving, coolers, etc.
  • I kept a running tally through the season.  We went through a lot of food (roughly):
    Black Beans    14 lbs
    Chickpeas        22 lbs
    Lentils 8 lbs
    Zucchini           100 lbs
    Rice    100 lbs
    Bread     65 lbs
    pumpkins    23 lbs
    leeks    30 lbs
    onions    15 lbs
    potatoes    117 lbs
    carrots    130 lbs
    chicken    140 lbs
    beef    150 lbs
    pork    72 lbs
    meatballs    27 lbs
    kielbasa    30 lbs
    turkey    60 lbs
    mushrooms    16 lbs

    I hope that The Family Table can become a not-for-profit entity for next year.  I am looking for a lawyer who specializes in filing for not-for-profit status in Minnesota and is willing to work pro-bono.  If you have any referrals, please let me know.

%d bloggers like this: