Welcome to Indiana Home Cooks

Hello friends of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. Susan Mintert here, creator and host of the podcast, and author of this blog. This is where you can find more information on what you hear on Indiana Home Cooks. If we talk about recipes, or demonstrate a dish on the show, you can look for it here. I’ll also have additional insights, pictures, and other background right here for specific shows.

So how did I get started on this podcast venture, anyway? The short answer is I have a background in radio (most of it in public radio) and a great interest in food and love of cooking. I enjoy talking to people who do the real work of putting food and drink on the table, all the way from the grower, to the processor, to the home cook or professional, to the person sitting down and eating or drinking it. I guess that’s the very definition of “farm to fork,” or “farm to glass” in the case of beer and wine.

Oh, and I should mention the other part of it. I am a Hoosier, in both senses of the word. I was born and raised on a farm in Clay County, and am a graduate of Indiana University. So the formative years were spent in Clay County and Bloomington, and now I’m based in West Lafayette. Yes, that West Lafayette, home of the Purdue Boilermakers. A crucial twenty years was spent in Kansas, but more about that later. For now, suffice to say I do have divided loyalties and am okay with that!

But back to the podcast….I hope you will enjoy hearing stories of family traditions, Hoosier customs, food and history, craft beer brewing, wine making, bread baking….in short, how food is more than what feeds our bodies. On Indiana Home Cooks we explore how food feeds the soul and how preparing a meal or a dish to share with others is an act of love.

We talk to food entrepreneurs who have turned a passion into a business. And we visit festivals that focus on food and drink, and events and sites that honor Indiana history and culture through food.

We also have fun and a few laughs along the way, especially when we get in the kitchen and create dishes right before your very ears! We’re cooking, baking, and “dishing” with a Hoosier sensibility. Check it out on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And let me know what you think.

Boiler Gold

Below are a few pictures to go with the “Boiler Gold” episode of Indiana Home Cooks. Thanks to Brian Farkas, head of the Department of Food Sciences at Purdue, and Jean Jensen, manager of the Hops and Brewing Analysis Lab at Purdue University, for providing me with background on the development of the Boiler Gold beer. They were very generous with their time, talking about the work going on in Food Sciences and the lab, and showing me around the facilities.

And did you know you can listen, and subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks podcast, at Apple Podcasts.  You can also find the show on Stitcher. Use whichever platform is most convenient. Please subscribe (it’s free) and leave a review. It helps others find the Indiana Home Cooks podcast.  Thanks!

This is what a hop cone looks like.

 

Hops that have been pelletized. They are used in brewing in this form, or as intact cones.

 

This says it all. Find where your favorite beers stack up in the Periodic Table.

 

I’m not a very good blogger. Christine and I had nearly finished our beers before I remembered to take a picture. Boiler Gold on the left, Thieme & Wagner Bock on right. Both were delicious!

People’s Brewing Company

People’s Brewing Company Taproom

“How’s your beer?” It’s a question that takes a little thought before answering. In the last twenty or so years there has been a proliferation in the number of beers to consider, both in the US, and in the state of Indiana. According to the Brewers of Indiana Guild, over 150 craft breweries are in operation in the state. That averages out to a bit more than 1.5 breweries per county. They are not dispersed evenly across the counties of course, but small, local craft breweries, brewpubs, and tap rooms are pretty well distributed from north to south. (Hear the People’s Brewing Company story on the IHC podcast here.)

And more are coming online each year. In the “Greater Lafayette” area, where I live, 2017 ended with three craft breweries going full steam, and one more just beginning operations. A fifth is in the works, projected to start brewing later this year, and it seems there is no end in sight. That’s great news for Hoosiers who enjoy beer and trying new brews! And it seems to be the trend nationwide. According to the Brewers Association for Small & Independent Craft Brewers, overall beer sales in the U.S. stayed level from 2015 to 2016. But for the small and independent brews, sales increased by 6.2 percent. Small and independent craft breweries make up almost 22 percent of the overall beer market in the US, as of the end of 2016, the latest year for which numbers are available.

Downtown Lafayette is home to the second-oldest operating brewery in the state, the Lafayette Brewing Company, established in 1993. LBC is a brewpub, featuring a full menu with family friendly dining in addition to the bar with many LBC beers in tap. People’s Brewing Company, also a Lafayette fixture, is newer on the scene, opening in 2009, as a production brewery. It’s beers are available all around the state in package stores and other retailers, at pubs, bars, and restaurants, as well as the People’s taproom at the brewery, 2006 North 9th Street, Lafayette. People’s opened the Revel Room a couple years ago in Lebanon, Indiana, as a taproom featuring People’s beers and family-friendly dining. A brewery will be added to the People’s Revel Room soon.

You can track the Indiana craft beer scene at the Brewers of Indiana Guild. The group’s 10th Annual Winterfest takes place Saturday, February 3, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds West Pavilion. Over 100 Hoosier breweries and food vendors will be on hand to help you taste the newest brews and old favorites. I’ll be there. Hope to see you there too!

So, “how’s your beer?” How about…Hoosier beer?

…or Boiler Beer!

Chex Mix–My way

Is there an American anywhere not familiar with Chex “Party Mix?” It is arguably the highest and best use of Chex cereal. And for me, Chex Mix is the ultimate comfort snack. I grew up eating the stuff. My mom made it not only for parties and family get-togethers, but sometimes just for fun because we loved it. I learned early on that she did not follow the recipe exactly, and adjusted the ingredients to her liking–extra Worcestershire sauce, trading out some of the seasoned salt for celery salt, no Wheat Chex, etc.

When I started making it for my family, I had already altered the traditional recipe considerably, and it’s continued to evolve over the years.  Can you really improve on a classic? I’ll bet most of us who make Chex Mix change it up to suit our own preferences, and for me, that starts with the Wheat Chex. I would rather eat Wheat Chex straight out of the box than in my party mix. Some might argue Wheat Chex taste like the box, but I wouldn’t go that far. They just don’t belong in my mix. Leave them out and increase the Corn and Rice Chex, to 9 cups total.

Mixed nuts? Does anyone really eat all the nuts in that weird assortment? I never have, and therefore they do not make the cut for my party mix. Nix the mixed nuts, and go for PEANUTS ONLY. And not a cup, like the original recipe. Just put in half the can. That might be about a cup anyway, and it’s about the right amount of peanuts only!

Then we come to pretzels. Everybody loves pretzels. A sorry one cup of pretzels I will not abide. Half a bag does the trick for me. And that’s it for the components of Chex Party Mix. No bagel chips, Cheez-It crackers, Cheerios or other add-ins. Just Rice & Corn Chex, peanuts, and pretzels.

The seasonings of course need tweaking. The original recipe in my file calls for six tablespoons of butter. Six tablespoons. It’s much easier and more streamlined to use one stick of butter. That’s eight tablespoons. Big deal.

The original two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce are doubled in my version. And it’s a sloppy four tablespoons at that. Probably closer to five. The remaining seasonings, you can see for yourself here:

These seasonings reflect my personal taste preferences and go above and beyond the original (ho hum) seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. If you would like hold fast to the original, it’s printed on every box of Chex cereal on the grocery store shelf. It’s also here.
So if you’ve never made Chex Party Mix, here’s how it goes:
In a large baking pan (I use a roasting pan), melt the butter and stir in the w’shire sauce and all remaining seasonings. Stir the Chex cereal, peanuts, and pretzels into the seasoning mixture to coat everything. Put in a 250 degree oven, for one hour. Every 15 minutes, give the mix a stir. Otherwise it will brown on the bottom. You don’t want a lot of browning, but rather a nice even toasting of everything. When done, let it cool and enjoy. If you can wait that long.
No matter how you make your Chex Party Mix, I’m sure we can all agree that once you starting eating it, it’s hard to stop.

Memories of Home

The first Indiana Home Cooks podcast of 2018 features reminiscences of my mom, Barbara Mercer. She sat down with me some months ago to record the first interview for a podcast venture that was still in the “concept” phase. In the intervening months I couldn’t find a good spot for it on the podcast. But with the winter winds blowing, snow falling, and the thermometer making its home in the single digits above and below zero, I thought it was the perfect time for the warm comforts of home.

In the episode, Memories of Home, Mom reminisces about “butchering day” on the farm when she was a young girl in Clay County. As I listened to her descriptions, I couldn’t help thinking about the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  These were some of my very favorite books when I was a girl, and the charming illustrations by Garth Williams brought them even more to life than the vivid prose. I pulled out my copy of Little House in the Big Woods, and sure enough, in chapter one, there it was–Wilder’s account of butchering day when she was a little girl. And not much had changed from 1870’s frontier Wisconsin to mid-20th century Indiana when it came to butchering a hog.

In a wrap up of the holidays, this episode also includes the step-by-step preparation of our Fluffy Yeast Rolls. These rolls have been a staple of family dinners all my life. Special occasions, mind you, not everyday meals. It’s not that the rolls are difficult or time consuming, but they do require a little advance planning, and they are pretty rich for everyday consumption. We make them at least once a year, at Thanksgiving, and sometimes at Christmas or Easter. The recipe (with photos) is included below.

Katy Eberle and I discussed bread baking also, since I was on a little bread baking jag. I brought her a baguette I had made the day before. One of my favorite homemade bread recipes is Crusty Italian Bread from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. Here is the recipe from my King Arthur book…

If you prefer a copy without spilled coffee stains, notes, and other jottings, check it out online here.

Fluffy Yeast Rolls
From the kitchen of Barbara Mercer, from Margaret Balder
Makes 18 rolls

Dissolve 1 pkg. active dry yeast in 3 T. lukewarm water in a small bowl or measuring cup. While that is dissolving, whisk together the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:

1/2 C. (one stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. salt
1 C. lukewarm water
1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature

Add yeast mixture and whisk again. To this mixture, add 3 C. all-purpose flour. Mix with electric mixer until fairly smooth. Stir in 1 C. flour by hand. (Total of 4 cups of flour) Dough will be sticky. DO NOT KNEAD. Leave dough in bowl, cover with a plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Three hours before baking:
Remove dough from refrigerator. It should’ve doubled overnight. Grease muffin pans for 18 rolls. Melt 1/4 C. butter.

Punch down dough and pull off pieces of dough roughly the size of large walnuts and shape into balls (2 dough balls for each roll). Dip each ball into melted butter before placing in pan. Cover rolls with tea towels and let rise until double. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.* After baking, while still hot and in the pans, brush tops with more melted butter. Serve warm.

*If using dark baking pans, reduce oven temp to 425 degrees.

 

 

 

Soup’s On! With Katy

We are talking soup on this edition of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. Please check it out and hear how much fun Katy and I had in the kitchen! She showed me her family’s favorite Italian Sausage Minestrone. It’s from the Taste of Home website. Remember, substitute your favorite beans if you don’t like the white beans called for. Katy uses dark red kidney beans. They look much prettier, in our opinion!

Katy’s Italian Sausage Minestrone

Many years ago, I subscribed to the Taste of Home magazine. My recipe file has several recipes clipped from that publication. I no longer subscribe to any food magazines, although I have considered signing up for Bon Appetit or Food & Wine. For now, my food magazine browsing is confined to the waiting room at the doctor or dentist office. If I see something that looks good, I whip out my phone and take a picture of it.

It really steams me when someone rips out the recipe!

Here is the process for my chicken stock, using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. First I browned the thighs for a few minutes in a little oil in a heated stockpot. Here they are after browning:

Here is the bottom of the pot after browning the thighs, before and after de-glazing. That is, deglaze the pan by adding a little water, allow to cook a few minutes while scrapping up the bits from the bottom of the pot. :

 

That is the beginning of your chicken stock. Add everything else back to the pot–onion, celery, and half a lemon (if you have one), an extra chicken breast, salt & pepper, oh, and there’s a bay leaf in there! Cover this with more water and bring to a simmer:

After about an hour of simmering, turn off the heat, remove the meat to a cutting board and let it cool until you can handle it. Remove all the meat, throw away the bones & skin, drain the broth and use for soup, gravy, sauce, or freeze it for later. By browning the thighs first, you give your broth extra flavor and a little extra richness. Enjoy!

Smittybread

Thank you to David Smith, baker and owner of Smittybread, for spending some time with me the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Although the bakery was closed that day, he and his staff were hard at work mixing doughs, shaping loaves and rolls, baking cookies and pressing out croissant dough. The bakery is open Wednesday through Saturday each week, and even with those limited days, it’s hard to imagine just how many loaves and pastries have to be prepared each week keep up with demand, and the hours necessary to do it.

My favorites so far are the baguettes and croissants. I’ll be back to try more breads in the future!