Friday, July 29, 2016

Philadelphia Water Ice: or, You'd never guess those grapes had turned to mush

Do you have fruit in your refrigerator that looks like this?

If you're like us at A Book of Cookrye, you may tell yourself you will eat them and avoid waste right until mold finally takes them. For some reason, we've had a lot of fruit in our refrigerator get to this stage- where a close inspection will prove nothing is growing on it, yet no one will eat them. We could have thrown all of it out, but we feel like this about wasting perfectly good food:

Indeed, we are so adamant about preventing food waste we will even purchase new appliances just to keep semi-rotten produce out of the trash can. That's right we at A Book of Cookrye got an ice cream maker. Which leads us to... water ice!
We refer not to ice cubes but to something you can get anywhere in Philadelphia, but only in hoity-toity boutique places with pseudo-foreign names that probably end in "-erie" elsewhere in the country. What is water ice? Imagine if you will a Slurpee, but you scoop it like ice cream instead of drinking it.
Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, Miss Leslie, 1848

That is a lot of instruction, isn't it? Fortunately, we live in a time when we don't need to skim scum out of our sugar, nor do we need to hand-churn ice cream.

Philadelphia Water Ice
4 c easily juiced fruit (grapes, berries, oranges, watermelons, etc)
⅓ c sugar
⅔ c water

Put the fruit in a blender. Wet a rag and squeeze all the juice out from the pulp. Pour the juice through a strainer to catch out any pulp or seeds that fell in.
Boil the sugar and water until dissolved. Add to the juice. Put in an ice cream freezer and freeze until done. When it's done, pack it down again in ice and salt for a few hours to harden it (you can use your kitchen freezer instead unless it's unreliable).
This makes a small quantity, but easily scales up.

Note: Obviously, you could definitely skip a lot of bother by buying fruit juice and stirring the syrup into it. If you can splurge and get the not-from-concentrate stuff, it will be so much better. If you don't feel like paying the ungodly prices most stores charge for it, we recommend buying concentrate instead of bottles of juice made from concentrate and using a lot less water when making it up.

Addendum: Blackberry ice is particularly delicious.

Adapted from Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, Miss Leslie, 1848

While this recipe comes from a Philadelphia writer (who, judging by the fact that she had "of Philadelphia" put under her name on most of her cookbook title pages, really wanted us to know it) and is for a food still very common in the Philadelphia area, it bears little resemblance to the water ice one will typically find today. These days, it's a lot more likely to be artificially flavored than to involve actual fruit.
However, we at A Book of Cookrye brought out this recipe because there's a lot of fruit that hid in the back of the refrigerator until it looked like this.

As you can see, they're mushy and not all that great, but there's not a spot of mold or anything else on them. Therefore, we cannot bring ourselves to throw them away.
Now you can't tell if they were squishy or still fresh.

Ever wondered what grape juice actually looks like?

There were also some subprime cherries oozing fluid into the bag they came in. No one was eating them, even though they were still perfectly good if a bit squishy.

It kind of looks like cranberry sauce, doesn't it?

Lastly, we had strawberries. These actually hadn't even started to expire yet. But as we all know, one night your strawberries are perfect, the next morning they have grown a thick fuzzy coat of mold. And so, taking advantage of their last moments of being fit for human consumption, the strawberries got blenderized too.
We then had a lot of straining to do.

Here we will give a quick note on wringing juice out through rags: choose your cloth carefully. It may seem like you want something thin to better let the juice seep through, but you're going to be squeezing it pretty hard. Thin cloth will tear and squirt out pulp through the hole. You want something sturdier. Like we noted when we made our own tomato ketchup, this is a good way to use those T-shirts you never liked. Also, if you're one of those people who distinguishes between "the good dishcloths" and the ones you actually wipe up muck with, do keep in mind that they will likely be stained.
Hooray, 100% all-natural fruit juice!

However, as delighted as we are to finally make our own water ice, we must disclose that all that blenderizing and juice-squeezing made the kitchen look like this.

The messier a recipe gets, the pickier I get about it. If it just takes some light cleanup, I don't care if it's disappoints. But if I have to clear and wipe the counters and the cabinets and the floor, it better be worth the bother. It doesn't matter that I had nothing else to do while waiting for the ice cream maker to finish.
And so, in the fullness of time, we had... this!

And yes, it's delicious. It is amazing. It's just as good as when I lived in Philly, though eating it out of bowls rather than disposable cups did feel... odd.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Seawater Spaghetti: or, A Book of Cookrye Dream Realized

We at A Book of Cookrye, despite how much we should be worried about blood pressure (you know, living on a steady diet of American foods and all), love salt a lot. We long have had a dream which all of our friends know about: to go to the sea, take our pot into the water, and boil spaghetti in it. Many people have pointed out that it would probably taste foul. To this we have always responded that we want to do it anyway.
Earlier, it looked like we might realize this dream when a family seaside vacation was announced (What, me? Afford my own accommodations?). However, we instead took a long break from sporadic employment to actually land some work! (Hey, I can't help it if a job comes up when least expected.)
However, what should Our Father of Cookrye bring back but this?

Yes indeed, while out on a boat, he filled the above-photographed with seawater! We thought it was bottled water until opening it. Did you know how pungent seawater smells when you're not at the shore and therefore used to it?
I know it looks like ordinary boiling water, but it's so much better.

And so, we at A Book of Cookrye have finally eaten spaghetti cooked in seawater!
What, you thought I was going to get out a bowl which I'd have to wash?

And it is salty. So, so salty. Since I love salt (I may or may not have furtively licked those new age salt lamps when I was younger), it was perfect. Surprisingly, it didn't have any fishy taste (even though the salt-fish smell took over the kitchen while it boiled), so it was surprisingly normal spaghetti (or, salt with some spaghetti that fell in the pot by accident). This is astonishingly delicious (unless you're low- or moderate-sodium). If you happen to live by the sea and haven't done this, why haven't you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hump-Day Quickie: Chopped Beef Sandwiches, or We're not throwing the meat away

Did you overcook that meat you brought home? Is it a miserable, stringy mess which you can barely eat? Did you have to floss right after you ate even though you usually only floss when you have an unusually attractive date? Do you hate wasting food so much you still can't let yourself throw the meat out? We at A Book of Cookrye are here to help!

Like many cookrye-related frustrations, the solution involves a meat grinder.

We are going to take those miserable shreds of overtanned leather masquerading as steak and transform them into something so delicious people order it on purpose. Don't worry that it looks like dog food, it will get better.

And so, not 10 seconds after we finished grinding, this all starts to make sense. You know how a lot of people use mayonnaise to glue together their tuna or their chicken salad? We're going to do the same thing but instead use BARBECUE SAUCE.
You may be worried that whatever you seasoned the meat with when you set out to cook it will taste odd or unfortunate when you do this. You are wrong. Even if you used (for example) ungodly amounts of curry powder, these will still be good.

And so, those stringy, nearly-inedible beef slabs have turned into a staple of barbecue shacks everywhere. Seriously, people pay money for this. In high school, the local creepy Jesus people tried to lure people to their for-profit megachurch by filling coolers with these and bringing them in at lunch. We and our friends used to regularly visit ourselves upon the place by where our parents then lived because they had a 5-for-$5 deal on these sandwiches (you could also get just the meat at $6 per pint). Don't throw out your miserable husks of burnt meat when you can make these.
I put cooking spray on a hot griddle and dropped the buns on it while I was fixing everything else. Turns out forgetting you had the buns on the stove makes them perfect.

We at A Book of Cookrye jest not, this will turn even the stringiest, toughest meat into something delicious. You might even deliberately buy the cheap cuts of meat for the express purpose of making them. Though when you put away the leftovers, you will quickly realize how most barbecue places can sell chopped beef by the pint.
It may take very close examination to realize it's not refried beans.

Chopped Beef Sandwiches
Whatever tough, probably overcooked meat lurks in your refrigerator*
Barbecue sauce
Hamburger buns
Sliced or chopped onions (optional)

Grind or finely chop the meat. The tougher it is, the finer you should grind it. If it's not too bad, the sandwiches will be better if you don't grind it quite so thoroughly.
Mix it with barbecue sauce to taste. Some people like barely enough to hold it together. Others like to add so much that their sandwiches resemble sloppy joes.
If you feel like going all-out, lightly coat a hot griddle with cooking spray and toast the insides of the buns on it until the edges are very dark, possibly even completely black. This is traditionally done by spreading heavy amounts of butter on the buns instead a short spray on the pan, but it's surprisingly hard to tell the difference once you've made the sandwiches. If you are either saving time, trying not to heat the house by running the stove (or toaster), or just feel lazy, skip this and just put the meat on the bun.
Heat the meat and put about a hamburger patty's worth on each sandwich. Add chopped onions if you like them and if your region's religious views on barbecue permit such an action.
The meat keeps well in the refrigerator.

*Obviously, if you use something other than beef, they won't be chopped beef sandwiches. But they'll be good anyway.