Celebrating Family and Fútbol!

A new episode of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast is coming later this month. In the meantime, please enjoy these favorites that focus on family, in good times, and in difficult times. Subscribe on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Or listen right here. Just click the play buttons:

We are staying close to home this summer and enjoying lots of family time. And I hope it reminds our young adult children that home is where the heart is and where you can always get something nourishing and comforting for the stomach and the soul. Part of this summer’s family time is spent celebrating, with food, naturally! Birthdays, graduations, weddings, the World Cup…

In the spirit of the FIFA World Cup Championships, and those 10:00 a.m. matches in the later rounds, breakfast with the World Cup seemed a natural pairing. In the quarterfinal round, it was crepes with ricotta cheese and berry compote filling, as France battled Uruguay. I admit, my dish was not authentically French, but it was authentically “me,” as I used ingredients I had on hand to create something delicious to help us cheer Les Bleus on to victory.

For England v. Sweden, it was scones with our morning coffee, which should tell you who I was backing in that match. And once again, whether my scones are authentically English doesn’t really matter. The difference between a “scone” and what we Americans call a “biscuit” is not vast. In my reading, scones differ from biscuits primarily in the richness of the dough. Scones include eggs and cream in the mix, and biscuits do not. The texture differs as well, with scones being crumbly and biscuits, ideally, flaky.

Scones can feature additions to the dough, such as berries, herbs, chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, etc. For my basic scone, it’s raisins. The recipe, with pictures, is below. I include some explanation of technique, because it is important and might take a bit of practice. For a dough like this “less is more.” The less mixing and handling of the dough, the better. You do not knead this dough. Simply gather it together into a loose ball, and then gently shape it into a rectangle. Many scone recipes instruct you to flatten the ball into a circle, and then cut out pinwheel-wedges. I personally prefer the chunky triangles shown here.

My Best Ever Scones (makes 1 dozen)

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins
  • 1 egg
  • About 3/4 cup half & half
  • Turbinado (“raw”) sugar

Pre-heat oven to 425º.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Use a wire whisk to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients. (You want the baking powder, salt, and sugar evenly distributed.) Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Toss in the raisins and lightly stir. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and set aside.

In a glass measuring cup, break the egg and beat it with a fork. Add about 3/4 cup of half & half, so your total liquid amount (egg plus cream) equals 1 cup. Mix thoroughly with a fork. 

Pour about 3/4 of the liquid into the well of the dry ingredients. Using a fork, with as few strokes as possible, gently stir until just moistened. The dough will be rough and rather stiff. If it is too dry add a tiny bit more liquid.  Do not over-mix. 

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle dough with a bit of extra flour if it is too sticky to handle. Gently shape dough into a ball, and then gently begin to flatten and elongate into a narrow rectangle, about 2.5 inches by 15.5 inches. It should be about 1.5 inches thick. You do not need a rolling pin, only your hands.

Cut scones in triangle shapes. (A bench scrapper works well, or a straight-bladed knife, cutting straight down. Do not saw! Coat the blade or scrapper with flour if it sticks to dough.) Place scones on a parchment covered baking sheet. Brush tops with remaining liquid. (If you have no remaining liquid, just use more half & half.) Sprinkle with turbinado sugar, and bake in pre-heated 425º oven for 10-12 minutes, until tops and edges have just browned. Cool on a rack and store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag. 

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Mix until just moistened. A few flecks of flour are ok.
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Turn dough onto floured surface, and sprinkle lightly on top with extra flour.
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Shape gently into a ball.
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Gently into a rectangle.
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Cutting scones. (I got a baker’s dozen.)
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Brush with egg/cream and sprinkle with sugar.
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A beautiful bake!

Indiana Artisans

Indiana Artisan is a non-profit organization whose mission is to identify and showcase the state’s highest quality art and food. The Indiana Artisan Marketplace was held recently at the State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, and I spoke with several of the artisans for the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. Listen here:

The Indiana Artisan program was established through a resolution the state General Assembly passed in 2010. Since then the organization has approved, through a juried process, about 200 artists and food makers across the state to carry the “Indiana Artisan” brand. Two retail shops in the state are now devoted to selling Indiana Artisan products–one at the French Lick Resort, and a new location in downtown Carmel. The full story of the Indiana Artisan program is at it’s website.

While the bulk of the participants in the Indiana Artisan program are artists, there are many food makers among the group. These are folks who have taken a family recipe and turned it into a commercial success, or others who are highly skilled and have a passion for candy making, bread baking, wine making, etc. As one of the entrepreneurs told me, Indiana Artisan is not an organization you can pay ten dollars to join. Artisans submit an application and samples of their work, and are adjudicated by expert panels as to their worthiness in meeting the standards of the program. This rigorous application and jury process takes place only once each year, and only about twenty percent of applicants make the grade.

Of those who have succeeded, I spoke with five at the Indiana Artisan Marketplace, held in early April at the State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. That’s the subject of the latest Indiana Home Cooks podcast (press the orange play button above to hear it). Here is a rundown of who you will hear on the podcast, and links to their own websites:

David VanWye, Amazing Hazel’s Gourmet Chili Sauce.

Jay Noel, owner of Abbott’s Candies, based in Hagerstown.

Nick Murdick, creator and owner of Presto Kombucha fermented teas.

Connie Molenaar, of Connie’s Creations Long Leaf Pine Needle Baskets.

Dan Adams, owner and winemaker, Winzerwald Winery in Perry County.

All the above vendors are on Facebook and/or other social media. Look them up and let them know you heard about them on the Indiana Home Cooks podcast!

A Look Back–Part One

The Indiana Home Cooks Podcast keeps moving forward with plans for more shows to listen to and posts to read here on the IHC blog. Sharing the stories of people who cook, eat, and drink in the Hoosier State is my mission, and coming soon are shows featuring Indiana food artisans. First, a sound montage from the recent Artisans Marketplace in Indianapolis, and later, a more in-depth conversation with an artisan candy maker in Lafayette. Watch for those episodes coming soon to Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. Simply click the links on the right side of this page, or go to those apps on your phone and search for “Indiana Home Cooks.”

So far nineteen podcast episodes have been produced. I’m highlighting a few of my favorites in this and subsequent posts to give readers and listeners an idea of what the show is all about.  It’s about friends spending time together and sharing a few laughs, memories and recipes…

I hope you give these shows a listen if you haven’t already heard them. Please share them with your friends or family, and give them a rating if you have a moment. That will help others find the show too.

I am deeply grateful for the support of family and friends who have encouraged me to pursue this venture, and have been willing accomplices by letting me interview them on tape! It’s been a blast and I’m looking forward to finding and sharing more stories of cooking, eating, and drinking in the Hoosier State. I hope you will join me.

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The week after Easter, I interviewed Susie Butler, owner of Butler Winery in Bloomington. More on that here.  I couldn’t leave without a bottle, or two, of her wine. I also met Richelle Peterson, owner and operator of Richelle In A Handbasket candy and gift shop in Lafayette, when I walked into her shop and she handed me a piece of chocolate. That’s her English Toffee in the picture below. I’ll interview her soon for the podcast. Another day that week I met a fellow podcaster in Lafayette, Craig Martin, host of Art Tap. Craig is an artist and his podcast explores the vast arts scene in the Lafayette area. Check it out on his blog or on Apple Podcasts and iTunes.

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Goods For Cooks

It’s a comfort knowing that some things will always be there when we need them. Be it family, a friend, a house, a vacation spot, your hometown, a favorite food lovingly prepared for you. Life can take us in many directions and many miles from where we started, but when we come home we feel comfort in the familiar.

Those who cook and eat in Bloomington, Indiana, have a place like that–Goods For Cooks, the shop on the square that has supplied cooking and kitchen wares for over four decades. A handful of owners have minded the store, each giving it their own personal touch during their tenure. The newest owner, Sam Eibling, took over last fall and is busy putting her own stamp on Goods.

On the latest episode of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast (LISTEN at the link above, or on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, or Stitcher), I visited Goods For Cooks and talked with Sam about this new venture that she and her brother as co-owner have embarked upon. While Sam is excited to update and add new products to the assortment at Goods For Cooks, she is also committed to maintaining the familiar selection and the reliable service Goods has always been known for. She considers her ownership of the store as stewardship–maintaining and strengthening a Bloomington institution to thrive for decades to come.

Learn more about Goods For Cooks at goodsforcooks.com. They’re also on Facebook and Instagram. The store is located on the square in downtown Bloomington, 115 North College Avenue.

Maple Syrup Time

We can sense winter giving way to spring, as the days grow longer, the sunshine feels warmer, and we enter a period of almost daily freezing and thawing of the air and the soil. People involved in producing maple syrup might consider this the fifth season of the year–maple sugaring season. It’s celebrated throughout Indiana at festivals and demonstrations, including the recent Parke County Maple Syrup Festival, the subject of the new episode of the Indiana Home Cooks here:

(Subscribe or follow on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or SoundCloud.)

The freezing and thawing this time of year, with temperatures below 32° at night, and above 40 during the day, cause the sugar maple tree to draw moisture up through its roots and to its entire height. For centuries we’ve understood that tapping into that sugar water does nothing to harm the tree and provides us with the raw product that becomes maple syrup.

The sugar water, or sap, once collected, is delivered to the sugar house where it’s boiled for hours until it becomes the golden sweet maple syrup most of us are familiar with. Don’t confuse real maple syrup with the commercial brands of “pancake syrup” that line the grocery store shelves. Those are basically corn syrup with maple flavoring added. And there is nothing wrong with pancake syrup. It is significantly cheaper than pure maple syrup. Find one you like and go for it. But now and then, it’s nice to splurge a little on the real thing.

That got me thinking, though. When I was grocery shopping for a family of four, and perusing the pancake syrups in their various iterations–“original,” “lite,” “sugar free,” store brands, national name brands–I remember thinking how expensive this one item seemed be. My typical purchase was a 24-ounce bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s Lite, which everyone in the house seemed to like. I don’t remember exactly what I paid for Mrs. B’s years ago, but a recent search of the item at my local Pay-Less (Kroger) Store found it for $3.89. A quick calculation converts that to 16 cents per ounce. And that was not the most expensive syrup on the shelf. Aunt Jemima’s Original Lite Syrup, 24 oz., rings up at $4.89 (20 cents/oz.). Standing in the aisle, you think to yourself, “Almost $5 for a bottle of syrup?!?!?”

When I at last signed up for a membership at Sam’s Club, I quit buying pancake syrup at the grocery store and bought it only at Sam’s. That was the best deal going–a 2-pack of 64-ounce jugs of Mrs. Butterworth’s Original (not “lite”) for $6.82. That’s only 5 cents per ounce. (Now, since the two kids have been in college, and out of the house, I still have one of those 64-oz. jugs, un-opened in the pantry, for going on two years…..)

As a shopper, the cost of pancake syrup is one of those rather maddening things, because of the wide variation in price across brands and stores. So out of curiosity I checked several brands and sizes across several stores to get an idea of the cost difference between pure maple syrup and “pancake syrup.”  Here is what I found–Syrup Comparison

Of course, maple syrup is more expensive, making it a once-in-awhile treat. And locally made maple syrup is really up there in price. Sam’s Club Member’s Mark Maple Syrup costs 31 cents per ounce. The local stuff I bought in Parke County was three times that price.

But I was paying for more than syrup. It’s also the experience, right?  It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to going again next year. Observing fresh maple syrup being made and seeing right where it comes from are worth something. And I certainly want the producers to keep tapping, boiling, and bottling!

Top: the big cooker, boiling the maple sugar water into syrup at Williams & Teague Sugar Camp. Left: David Worth settling down the foam that builds up as the syrup boils. A drop of vegetable oil is all it takes. Middle: The Sweetwater Sugar Camp. Right: Getting closer to becoming maple syrup.

The Indiana Maple Syrup Association has more information about syrup producers and events in the state. The American Maple Museum, in Croghan, NY, has a fun slide show about the history of maple syrup in America here.

700 going on 1,000

Since launching the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast five months ago, I’ve had over 700 “listens,” and I thank each and every one of you for taking some time to check out my little show. Seeing it surpass the 700 mark, I’ve been wondering, how soon till we reach 1,000? So I’m putting together a push to reach 1,000 “listens” for the podcast.

If you’ve not tuned in yet, it’s very simple. Click here for Apple Podcasts, or here for Stitcher, whichever podcast player you prefer. There you will see the complete list of shows and you can listen to them all, or just the ones that interest you. If you subscribe to the podcast, you’ll get the latest episodes as they are posted. Right now that’s about every 10 days, give or take. There is no cost to subscribe.

If you like what you hear, share it with your friends, on your Facebook page, or on other social media. This blog has sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Feel free to share it  with someone who might like Indiana Home Cooks.

Finally, if you have suggestions or ideas for future shows, let me know. You can reply on my Facebook page, Twitter, or send me an email: susanmintert@gmail.com.

Thank you again for your support of Indiana Home Cooks. I hope to hear from you with your feedback, and I’ll keep looking for new stories of food and drink in the Hoosier State to share with you.

The Farm at Prophetstown State Park

The Farm at Prophetstown State Park, outside Battle Ground, Indiana, offers a glimpse into what life was like on an Indiana farm in the 1920’s–from the garden to the barnyard to the wood-burning cookstove in the kitchen. On “The Farm” episode of Indiana Home Cooks, Lauren Reed, the education and events coordinator at The Farm, tells us all about her labor of love. (Here is the episode on Stitcher.)

The time period featured at The Farm, the 1920’s, was a period of transition for farming and for homemaking. The era of mechanization was just beginning–tractors replacing horses, washing machines replacing the washboard, to name a couple examples. The historic Gibson House at The Farm still features a wood burning cookstove in the kitchen. On the icy morning I met Lauren, the stove was not cooperating with her efforts to start a fire to take the chill out of the air. One reminder that life a hundred years ago had its challenges!

In addition to her educational duties, Lauren is also a professional chef who creates special dinners at The Farm using ingredients grown on site. Her experience in the restaurant business goes back to her college days at Indiana State.  She keeps her chef skills honed working special VIP events (as in, the Super Bowl!) with a large event catering business. She talks about her experience at this year’s Super Bowl. She also shared some pictures from the VIP tailgate party she cooked….

In the upper left image, Lauren is on the right. Guy Fieri is keeping a low profile in camo. What an experience for a girl from Rossville, Indiana! Thanks, Lauren, for giving us a peek.