Indiana Maple Syrup

The sugar maple trees in Indiana have come to life and are producing the sweet sap that becomes our beloved maple syrup. Check the earlier blogpost here for all the info.

Listen to the podcast episode “Parke County Maple Syrup Festival,” here or on your favorite podcast player. Visit the festival the last weekend of February and first weekend of March.

Time for Indiana Wines

For the latest episode of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast, Time for Indiana Wines, I visited the Horticulture Congress put on by Purdue University recently in Indianapolis. I was specifically interested in the program for Indiana wine makers and grape growers. The Purdue Wine Grape Team organizes the sessions, offering technical instruction as well as marketing and management information for attendees. Listen to the episode HERE

In the episode, I talk with Kris Kane, wine maker and owner of 21 Brix Winery in Portland, New York. He was a guest speaker at the Hort Congress, sharing his story of building a successful winery within a multi-generational diversified farm, like many in Indiana. I also spoke with Indiana wine maker Shane Christ, of Satek Winery in Fremont, Indiana, and Katie Barnett of the Purdue Wine Grape Team. The team is rolling out a year-long marketing push for Traminette wine, made from Indiana’s signature grape. For more details on Traminette and upcoming wine events in the state, visit indianawines.org.

For nearly three decades, the Purdue Wine Grape Team has worked with wine makers and grape growers in the state to develop and grow the industry and improve production methods. In that time, the number of wineries in the state has increased from around ten to one hundred, producing over a million gallons (five million bottles) of wine each year. Acreage of wine grapes is small, but gradually increasing throughout the state. The industry is home-grown and self-supported, getting a boost from the Indiana Wine Grape Council, established by the Indiana General Assembly in 1989. The work of the Council and the Wine Grape Team is funded through a five cent per gallon tax on every gallon of wine sold in the state.

Indiana wineries are everywhere in the state. Check the Indiana Wines website to find wineries near you and seek them out. They are happy to share their knowledge and passion for wine, and offer tastings and special events to spread awareness, understanding, and the fun of Indiana wines.

The wines pictured at the top of this post are from these Indiana wineries (left to right): Huber Winery, Hartland Winery, Satek Winery, Oliver Winery, and Two EE’s Winery.

Your host with Kris Kane, Shane Christ (top), and Katie Barnett.

Where to Hear “Indiana Home Cooks”

I’d like to take a few minutes to update my readers and listeners on where you can tune in and listen to the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. I am in the process of making some adjustments to my podcast feed and doing more promotion to grow awareness and listenership of the show.

The new audio home (my podcast hosting site) is now Podbean.  You can listen there from your computer or on the Podbean app for mobile devices. If you listen on Podbean, it would help me in the quest for more listeners if you would click the “Follow” button right below the IHC picture logo on the Podbean site or app.

Perhaps the easiest way to hear Indiana Home Cooks episodes is to simply subscribe to the podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Google Play Music. Virtually every computer, smartphone and smart device has one of those apps already installed. You can click the links I’ve provided in this paragraph and go right to the Indiana Home Cooks podcast page, or you can type “Indiana Home Cooks” into the search bar when you open either iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Google Play Music, and you’ll go straight to the page that way. When you get there, please click “Subscribe.” It’s free to subscribe, you’ll not miss an episode, and it will help me build awareness of the show.

The IHC podcast is available on other apps as well, like Spotify and Stitcher, so if you listen to podcasts elsewhere, look for Indiana Home Cooks and subscribe.

No matter where you listen, please SHARE the podcast with your friends and family. Just click the “Share” button wherever you happen to listen. And please “follow” and “share” this blog.  It’s the place for added information and stories from the show, plus recipes and pictures.

A programming note for listeners and readers in the Bloomington, Indiana, area–I’m sharing some of my cooking demos with “Earth Eats,” a program featuring news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture, on Indiana Public Radio WFIU. Earth Eats airs on WFUI2, 101.9FM, Friday evenings at 7:30, and on WFIU, 103.7FM, Saturday mornings at 7:30. Earth Eats is also a podcast from Indiana Public Media, so you can listen even if you are outside WFIU’s coverage area. My demos appear occasionally on Earth Eats, including one this weekend. Let me know if you hear it!

Finally, you can follow and “friend” Indiana Home Cooks on Instagram and Facebook. Between podcast episodes and blogposts, I stay in touch through social media, sharing  what I’m cooking or baking and seeing what others are up to as well. Leave a comment or direct message on either Insta or FB, or contact me with the “Contact” link here on the blog. I hope to hear from you soon!

The Chef on the Farm

The Lafayette Journal & Courier of Sunday, December 2, 2018, features a front page story on Lauren Reed, events coordinator and chef at The Farm at Prophetstown State Park, near Battle Ground, Indiana. Several months ago, she was featured in Lafayette Magazine. But even before that, Lauren Reed was my guest on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. Hear it by clicking the “play” arrow above. Or listen on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. The title of the episode is “The Farm at Prophetstown.” Lauren not only creates farm-to-table cuisine at The Farm, but she also cooks for the VIP tailgates for the Indianapolis Colts and at the Super Bowl! There is more on Lauren and The Farm on the Indiana Home Cooks blog right here.

If you haven’t done so, please subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, etc., and you can be notified when a new episode is available. Find the podcast by typing “Indiana Home Cooks” into the search bar. You can stream episodes or download them to your smart phone or tablet for listening later. The great thing about downloading is you can listen off-line without using any of your mobile data. And it’s the perfect way to take your podcasts with you and listen while traveling.

Coming this week on the podcast–my visit with an Indiana master brewer who has turned his passion for home-brewed craft beer into a successful career in manufacturing equipment for home brewers world-wide.

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Chef Lauren Reed lighting the antique cooking stove at The Farm.

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Small Business Friends

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has become known as “Small Business Saturday,” to remind consumers to shop at local small businesses during the holiday season. I have always liked the idea. Of course, it’s not limited to this one Saturday of the year! Anytime during the holiday season, and the rest of the year, our small local businesses are ready and waiting to provide personal and expert service to one and all.

On the Indiana Home Cooks podcast, I’ve had the pleasure and honor to meet a few of these entrepreneurs around the state. Those involved in food service, craft beer and wine making, retail, and other artisans, namely: Eddie Joe’s Icehouse in West Point, Richelle in a Handbasket in Lafayette, Goods for Cooks in Bloomington, Peoples Brewing Company and Thieme & Wagner Brewing in Lafayette, Honeysuckle Hill Bee-Stro in Brazil, Smittybread in Lafayette, Butler Winery in Bloomington.

Here are a few of those podcast episodes. Click the arrow to listen:

Find all the episodes of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. (Links are also to the right and at the top of this page.) Please subscribe on one of those apps so you don’t miss an episode. And when you subscribe, you can leave a rating or review of the show. I would love to hear what you think about what you hear!

Thank you for giving Indiana Home Cooks a listen, and I look forward to bringing you more stories of the people who cook, eat, and drink in the Hoosier State.

BONUS Track–Fluffy Yeast Rolls for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are well prepared for the holiday feast, whether you are  hosting the meal, bringing a dish to someone else’s home, traveling many miles to celebrate with family, or keeping it low key with a small group. I’m putting up a BONUS TRACK of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast with a cooking demo featuring my mom, Barbara Mercer. She and I teamed up last Thanksgiving and stirred together our family’s traditional Fluffy Yeast Rolls. Have a listen to find out just how easily the dough comes together–no kneading required! And the recipe is below. Happy baking, and here’s wishing you and yours abundant Thanksgiving blessings.

Stay in touch here on the website, or on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to the Indiana Home Cooks podcast at iTunes or Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify.

See more pictures and information on the Fluffy Yeast Roll recipe 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.

 

Italian Sausage & Lentil Soup

After a full day working on the podcast recently, I looked up and saw it was 5:00, and I hadn’t done the first thing to get dinner on. All day I had in the back of my mind I would grill salmon, so I knew I should get a couple of filets out of the freezer to thaw. But I never even got that far. And in the meantime, the weather turned breezy and rainy, so grilling was not an attractive option.

My husband and I were hosting a gathering of about dozen people the following night and my plan was to bake homemade pizzas for that group. I had a pound of Italian sausage in the refrigerator, a portion of which I would use for pizza. So why not kill two birds with one stone and cook the entire pound, reserve some for pizza night, and use the rest in…something….for dinner this night. But what would that something be?

Since the weather outside had turned from grill-friendly to chilly-damp, I thought soup would be just the thing. The first soup of the fall! With Italian sausage as the base, I began thinking of what else I needed to make soup. Onions, celery, and carrots, of course. I had plenty of onions on hand, and just enough of the other two. There was half a carton of beef broth in the fridge that I needed to either use or freeze, so I grabbed that. Canned diced tomatoes–check. And something to bulk up the soup and make it more substantial and filling. I remembered the half pound of dry lentils in the cupboard and thought that would do the trick and not take too long to cook.

You can hear the rest on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast BONUS track, and see the recipe, and step-by-step pictures, below.

The idea is, this is soup, and soup can be a template for whatever meat, vegetables, beans/pasta/noodles, broth, and seasonings you like. If you don’t have Italian sausage on hand, but there’s a pound of ground beef in your freezer, use that, and bump up the seasonings. The great thing about Italian sausage it is highly seasoned and makes for a nice shortcut in soup. Ground beef or chicken as a base will require more imagination on seasonings, but go with what you like. Experiment and taste as you go. You can always add more herbs and seasonings but you can’t take them out!

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Italian Sausage & Lentil Soup 

Makes 6 servings

 

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage (sweet or hot)*
  • 2 cups diced vegetables (equal parts onion, celery, and carrots)
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound dry lentils OR 2 cans of beans—kidney, cannellini, red, or black (If using canned beans, rinse and drain before adding to soup)
  • Broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

If sausage is in links, slice through the casings and remove sausage to crumble and brown (medium to med-low heat) in a large soup pot. Once browned, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave fat rendered from sausage in the pot and return to med-low heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrots, stir and let them begin cooking. After about a minute, put the lid on the pot and allow vegetables to sweat about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping up any bits of meat from the bottom of the pan. The sweating process will help loosen the stuck-on bits. You can also add a bit of the broth at this point if you need more liquid to do the job. 

After vegetables have cooked about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes, lentils or canned beans, and the cooked sausage. Pour in enough broth to cover all ingredients by an inch or so. If you need to add water to bring up the level of liquid, that’s fine. Add the sage, stir gently, cover and cook on med-low until soup comes up to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low, TASTE, and add salt and pepper as desired. Allow to simmer about an hour. The lentils should cook through and even begin to break down a bit. Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread or corn bread. 

*NOTE: Most Italian sausage comes in links. If you want larger chunks of sausage in the soup, cook the links, intact, and then slice them before returning to pot. And if you prefer a meatier soup, then by all means, use up to 1 pound of sausage. 

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A potato masher helps crumble the sausage.
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Lots of flavor stuck in the pot after browning the meat.
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Equal portions of celery, carrots, onions.
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After sweating the veggies, the stuck on bits have loosened.
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A little broth and light scraping gets all that meat flavor into the soup.
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Everything else in the pot. Cover with broth and cook!