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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Charcutepalooza: Bloggers' Meat-Cure Challenge Ups the Stakes

Posted By on Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 5:31 PM

DIY pancetta from Charcutepalooza co-creator Cathy Barrow. - MRSWHEELBARROW.COM

What happens when you combine meat, salt, and time? Evidently, a cultural phenomenon.

Late last year, bloggers Cathy Barrow of Mrs Wheelbarrow's Kitchen and Kim Foster of The Yummy Mummy got talking on the subject of cured meat. They wanted to take on specific projects each month of 2011; Foster dubbed it "Charcutepalooza." Turns out, plenty of other people wanted to do the same. And so, what started as a friendly challenge between two bloggers exploded into a major blog event on a global scale. To date, there are more than 180 blogs that have expressed interest in participating.

Get ready for that number to take a major spike. Today, Barrow announced a major update to the challenge's grand prize. Once Charcutepalooza is over, one blog will be selected, and that winner will receive an all-expenses paid trip to France (from New York, but still). While there, they'll receive three nights' accommodation in Paris, then high-speed rail fare to Gascony, where they'll take a week-long butchery and charcuterie class at the Kitchen at Camont.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Farming on the Kitchen Counter

Posted By on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Vanessa Barrington.
  • Vanessa Barrington.

Microfarming for Winter Health

Where: BioFuel Oasis, 1526 Fairview (at Sacramento), Berkeley, 510-665-5509

When: Sun., Jan. 23, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Cost: $30

The rundown: There's a small seasonal window in Northern California when there isn't much you can do with your outdoor garden. Welcome to those 15 minutes. On the upside, this Sunday you can take a workshop in Berkeley on how to turn your winter kitchen into a cauldron of life. At a class co-taught by do-it-yourself apostle Vanessa Barrington , you'll learn how to refine the tiny art of sprouting, as well as gaining mastery over live dairy cultures (crème fraîche, anyone?) As a bonus, she'll teach you how to make your own sourdough starter, one of the nine basic steps towards gaining your DIY black belt.

Register at the BioFuel Oasis site.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's Winter ― Beet It

Posted By on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Beets are a year-round presence at local markets. - SEAN TIMBERLAKE
  • Sean Timberlake
  • Beets are a year-round presence at local markets.

Beets. People either love 'em or hate 'em. Personally, I love them, and think that most people who claim to hate them have only had flabby, flavorless slabs from a tin can. Fresh beets are sweet and have a complex, earthy flavor and satisfying, almost waxy texture.

They're one of a handful of vegetables available all year 'round here, but since so many other things are out of season at the moment, perhaps they've caught your eye. Now's a good time to buy a bunch or 10 and put some up for later.

You could just can them straight up. But note that, like most vegetables, beets are a low-acid food, and so cannot be canned by the water-bath method without acidification. So if it's just beets you want, make sure you've got a pressure canner.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Backyard Chickens for Beginners

Posted By on Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 1:15 PM

  • Urban Kitchen SF

Mission Hen Party

When: Thu., Feb. 10, 6-8 p.m.

Where: Women's Building, Audre Lorde Room, 3543 18th St. (at Valencia)

Cost: $41; sliding-scale pricing available - e-mail for details

The rundown: First installment of a two-part Urban Kitchen SF class led by Nicole Kramer of FARMcurious. You'll meet a real, live urban chicken, sample backyard vs. supermarket eggs, and get acquainted with the equipment you'll need to get started. You'll walk away with your very own ceramic egg tray, too. Then on Sun., Feb 13, class members are invited to take a free walk-through of Kramer's coop in Oakland.

Tickets: Purchase via Eventbrite

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Friday, December 24, 2010

The Year in Food: DIY Revolution

Posted By on Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 8:10 AM

Pickles from Happy Girl Kitchen Co. at the Eat Real Fest, which drew 110,000 to Oakland for street food and urban homesteading demos. - JOSEPH SCHELL
  • Joseph Schell
  • Pickles from Happy Girl Kitchen Co. at the Eat Real Fest, which drew 110,000 to Oakland for street food and urban homesteading demos.

Twelve months, ten storylines: It's SFoodie's annual look back at the year in food.

At the far end of the spectrum from street food and fine dining, another trend exploded in the Bay Area in 2010: DIY food and urban homesteading.

One of the biggest evidences of the DIY food movement played out in blogs on a global scale: Tigress' Can Jam encouraged food bloggers everywhere to can a different ingredient every month, and hundreds took the bait, including San Franciscans Cam and Anita at Married ...with Dinner, Paige of Canning with Kids in the South Bay, and Marin-based award-winning jam maker Shae of Hitchhiking to Heaven.

FARMcurious sprang up to outfit DIY enthusiasts.
  • FARMcurious sprang up to outfit DIY enthusiasts.

Inspired by the likes of Oakland's Novella Carpenter (whose book, Farm City, came out in paperback in May 2010), scads of Bay Area residents took up animal husbandry in their homes. Chickens became all the rage; I can personally think of several friends who added coops to their backyards, including Gudrun of Kitchen Girl Cooks.

Of course this newfound interest created its own little economic bubble, and cottage industries popped up all around the bay. Nicole Kramer launched FARMcurious, a one-stop shop for all things homesteady, and Her Majesty's Secret Beekeeper briefly brought beekeeping supplies to the heart of the Mission. Classes in everything from chutney to cheese making became abundant, at venues like 18 Reasons, Urban Kitchen SF, the Institute of Urban Homesteading, BioFuel Oasis, and Happy Girl Kitchen. There was a bumper crop of books from Bay Area writers: Rachel Saunders of Blue Chair Fruit released a hefty tome of jams and preserves; Vanessa Barrington taught us how to make everything D.I.Y. Delicious; and Karen Solomon got picked up for a sequel to her 2008 book Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, due out in early 2011. Oh, and I launched Punk Domestics in July, with an aim to build a curated space for DIY-driven self-publishers everywhere.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

DIY for the Holidays: Fruit Butters

Posted By on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Load apples in your slow cooker today, pack up jars of apple butter tomorrow. - JEFFREYW/FLICKR
  • jeffreyw/Flickr
  • Load apples in your slow cooker today, pack up jars of apple butter tomorrow.

The final installment of SFoodie's guide to food-crafting gifts for the holidays.

No, seriously! It's not too late to make food gifts. Our last installment of DIY gifts is all about one of the easiest and yet most satisfying: Fruit butters.

Quite simply, fruit butters are fruit that has been puréed and cooked down to a thick, dense consistency. They are easy because they require minimal processing of the fruit, and you don't have to worry about things like pectin. Best of all? You can make them in the slow cooker. So you could buy some fruit right now, get it into the slow cooker this evening, and have gifts at the ready tomorrow, while barely lifting a finger.

Apple butter is the classic, and you can do it in a classic Amish style, or kick it up with sweet spices, ancho chiles, or apple brandy.

Pears work beautifully as well. Some basic spices bring out the wintry flavors, or go more exotic with white wine and fennel or salted caramel.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

DIY for the Holidays: Marmalade

Posted By on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 at 4:51 PM

Who wouldn't like the gift of sunshine in a jar? - AMANDABHSLATER/FLICKR
  • amandabhslater/Flickr
  • Who wouldn't like the gift of sunshine in a jar?

SFoodie's weekly guide to food-crafting gifts for the holidays.

If there's one thing we do well in California, it's citrus. Practically every kind of lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit, clementine, and kumquat can be found here, and they're in full fruit right now. So what better gift to give, especially to those in less sunny climes, than sunshine in a jar?

Marmalades as a category are fruit preserves using citrus, rind and all. The rind is full of pectin, which gives a good set, but also makes for a bitter, astringent note. This is typically offset with mountains of sugar. Diet food it's not, but delicious it is.

Orange marmalade is the classic, made with extra-bitter Seville oranges ― but these are perhaps the only kind not in abundance here. So, grab an orange of choice and mix it up with some quince and cardamom, why not? Or how about blood oranges and port?

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

DIY for the Holidays: Chutneys!

Posted By on Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 4:19 PM

Chutneys ― like this spicy apple and quince version ― make colorful and flavorful holiday gifts. - SHAE IRVING/HITCHHIKING TO HEAVEN
  • Shae Irving/Hitchhiking to Heaven
  • Chutneys ― like this spicy apple and quince version ― make colorful and flavorful holiday gifts.

SFoodie's weekly guide to food-crafting gifts for the holidays.

Chances are, unless you have a cultural connection to the Indian subcontinent or U.K., chutney means that jar of Major Grey's you dipped into once when making an experimental Indian meal and then let fester in the fridge door. But chutneys are an extremely diverse family of condiments, used on a daily basis to accent dishes in any Desi household.

Chutneys lend themselves to many winter fruits, so they can make colorful and flavorful seasonal gifts. And just because they're South Asian in origin doesn't mean they won't play well at the holiday table. Their zippy spice and zingy acidity make great foils to all manner of food, especially meats. Take that, Christmas goose!

(Shameless plug: I will be teaching a chutney class at 18 Reasons on Dec. 15 with the lovely Alison McQuade of McQuade's Celtic Chutneys, a true chutney maven if ever there was one.)

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Friday, December 3, 2010

DIY for the Holidays: Homemade Liqueurs

Posted By on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Infused spirits are among the easiest gifts to make and some of the nicest to get. - SEAN TIMBERLAKE
  • Sean Timberlake
  • Infused spirits are among the easiest gifts to make and some of the nicest to get.

The first of SFoodie's weekly guides to food-crafting gifts you can make.

Giving booze for the holidays always reminds me of my grandfather. It's not that he was a big drinker, quite the contrary, but like most people of his generation, he liked to keep a stocked bar for entertaining. Social gatherings would kick off with a cordial; we kids would get a small taste of something sweet, like amaretto, Frangelico, or the inevitable creme de menthe with its radioactive green tint.

Nowadays cocktailing has gotten a lot more sophisticated. There's scads of trendy liqueurs on the market, with trend-driven prices to match. But with a little effort, you can make your own liqueurs to give as gifts this season. Tip: The Container Store has adorable flip-top flasks to cute up your home-hewn gift.

Generally speaking, liqueurs are infused liquors that are then combined with sugar for sweetening and thickening. The amount of time your liqueur needs to spend infusing will determine the readiness as a holiday gift.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jam It! DIY Gift Swap at 18 Reasons

Posted By on Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Karen Solomon. - FINECOOKING.COM
  • Karen Solomon.

Remember that janky cookie swap? You showed up with a double tin of painted spritz cookies it took you days to finish, and were left with somebody's greasy Toll House. Not fair.

Thursday's Jam It! salon and gift exchange at 18 Reasons promises to be more thrilling than that. Hosted by Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It author Karen Solomon, the food-crafting community klatch encourages you to come and show off a little. From the event description:

If you've ever made your own condiments, crafted your own candies, brewed your own beverages, boiled your own bagels, or fermented your own anything, come show off the splendor you've created. Meet other like-minded home crafters, share tips, resources, techniques, and help inspire the community looking to think outside the mass-produced confines of aisle six.
Show up with one box, jar, or tin of something to taste out and another to swap. There'll be baguettes and pieces of vegetables for shmearing and dipping, courtesy of 18 Reasons. Now that's something we can affix an exclamation point to!

Jam it! Salon and Gift Exchange with Karen Solomon

When: Thu., Dec. 2, 7-9 p.m. Drop-In

Where: 18 Reasons, 593 Guerrero (at 18th St.)

Cost: Free if you bring something to share and swap; $5 if you show up to taste

RSVP with what you'll be bringing to

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