Tag Archives: meals at Meduseld

Smoked Salmon and Charcuterie

We often have company, and naturally you want to put out your finest food for guests.  Going to the grocery store lately, though, has been depressing with the costs of foods escalating rapidly, and package sizes shrinking.  (By the way, the Commerce Department removed the cost of food from the cost of living index.)  When I calculate the cost per pound for favorites such as smoked salmon and proscuitto, or even more dificult to find German Lachs Schinken, they range around $25.00 a pound and up.  Not an option on this household budget!

When there’s a will there’s a way as the saying goes, and usually when I am faced with “you can’t” I find a way to respond with “who says?”  This approach has led to finding affordable solutions as long as I’m willing to do the research and the work.

I am going to share with you how to make gorgeous, moist, smoked salmon and provide a little background on charcuterie in general.

Smoked Salmon done in Umai Bag

Smoked Salmon done in Umai Bag

Charcuterie is a method of curing meat to extend its shelf life.  This was extremely necessary during times without electricity and refridgerators.  The flavors and textures that develop make it worth making even with modern conveniences.  The salt used to preserve the meat dehydrates the cells of the proteins, changing its flavor and enhancing or concentrating it.  It changes the texture of the meat akin to cooking it.  Thanks to a recent invention by Umai Dry (you can purchase a kit with this link), you can replicate this process at home with your own fridge – no need for a temperature and humidity controlled room or appliance.

Originally charcutierie was a process thought limited to pork products, but all sorts of meats and fish can be preserved using these methods.  A favorite is salmon.

This recipe is inspired by one from Umai Dry’s website.

Cure Mixture – This recipe makes extra which you can store in a jar.

2 cups Kosher or sea salt

2 cups organic sugar

2 teaspons black pepper

2 teaspoons dill

2 teaspoons garlic

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 bay leaf

Combine mixture.  I save extra mixture in a quart canning jar.


Buy an approximately 2 pound piece of salmon, wild caught is healthier, but use what is available that is very fresh.   Make sure you have its exact weight without wrapping/packaging materials.  Calculate half the weight, and weigh exactly that amount of cure mixture.

Leaving the skin on, rub the entire surface of the salmon flesh with a liberal amount of paprika.  Place the salmon in a durable plastic bag with a zip type closure, or you can do this in a flat glass dish with a good lid.  Pour the measured amount of cure mixture all over the salmon – both sides and rub it in gently.  Add a teaspoon of Liquid Smoke Seasoning.  Seal bag and place in fridge.

Each day, take bag and gently massage the salt cure around the salmon.  The salmon flesh should take on the extra red color from the paprika, and the salt cure will begin to extract fluid from the fish.  The salmon should be turned daily in this mix for seven days.  It will look like this.

Salmon in Salt Cure

Salmon in Salt Cure

On the seventh day, remove the salmon from the bag and rinse it in cold running water.  Pat it dry with paper towels.  Take an Umai Dry bag and wrinkle the top of it in order to help your vacuum sealer remove air.  Insert one of the Umai “mouses” (a white strip of plastic fabric) into the area where your vaccum will seal the bag.  Vacuum until the air has been removed and seal.  Move the bag slightly and seal a second time to insure a good seal.

Place your salmon filet on a cookie rack in your fridge.  Try to get several inches of air circulation under the cookie rack as well as above it.  I find that this rack from Wilton is ideal and does not take up much space in the fridge.

After 10-12 days in the fridge, take out of its Umai Dry bag, slice thin and enjoy!

I am presently experimenting with charcuterie methods for venison and various cuts of pork.  Stand by for progress on those cured meats!



Spring Harvest

I had a wonderful day yesterday, planting and foraging in the garden, and enjoying the first substantial harvests for the year.  Yes, we’ve picked things here and there, some salads and herbs, but we are finally seeing the fruits of all our March, April and May labors, providing a June feast! 


You may remember our post about growing potatoes in stackable boxes…yesterday I pulled the forms and found early spring potatoes.  They are crunchier when harvested freshly and become softer and creamier when cooked.    Here they are lightly boiled and then fried in Spectrum Organics Palm Oil Shortening.


Red Norland Spring Potatoes

Red Norland Spring Potatoes

The children enjoyed juice from the first batch of Nanking Bush Cherries.  Since the berries are difficult to pit, we boil them in water to release their juices, add a little organic sugar and the children pour this over ice cubes for a refreshing drink.  The additional benefit of Nanking Bush Cherries is that they make a wonderful edible shrub or privacy hedge :)

Picking Nanking Bush Cherries

Picking Nanking Bush Cherries

While we’ve already been enjoying the butter head lettuce Four Seasons, yesterday I harvested our first white Radicchio and they two combined made a delightful and completely non-bitter salad.  Four Seasons is showing off with its brilliant  red accents.

White Radicchio and Lettuce of Four Seasons

White Radicchio and Lettuce of Four Seasons

The Chicken is a broiler raised here on our farm.  It spent over six hours on the smoker yesterday with fresh herbs – thyme, sage and oregano – placed under its skin and in the cavity.   It makes a tender supper and amazing chicken salad. 

Smoked Chicken with Herbs

Smoked Chicken with Herbs

I hope these will encourage those who haven’t yet given gardening at try! 



Meals at Meduseld – Rotisserie Chicken Recipe

This is a recipe for a very easy and flavorful chicken.


The first step is to make a marinade.  Blend:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 heaping tablespoon Herbes de Provence

Opinion differs on the exact ingredients in an Herbes de Provence mix, but the one I use contains marjoram/oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme and tarragon.

Place this mix in a large bowl, and marinate a large broiler chicken for several hours, turning and basting periodically so that all sides receive the marinade.

Truss the chicken with cotton string.  It is important to tie the wings and legs close to the body so that they do not move around on the rotisserie, causing it to go out of balance as it turns.

Place the chicken in the rotisserie and cook for 2-3 hours (depending on the size of your bird) at 400 degrees until done. 

I have a very basic West Bend model.  It does a superb job and even handles our large 6-7 lb chickens.


Meals at Meduseld – Easy Mayonnaise

Thick, creamy mayonnaise

Thick, creamy mayonnaise

Making mayonnaise from scratch can be daunting.  The oil has to be incorporated very gradually into the eggs or it will separate.  I’ve avoided making it in the past because of the mess it would make with my blender.  Oil and eggs would spray all over the kitchen as I poured oil into the running blender.  What a mess!  It seemed to take more time to clean than to make the mayonnaise!

Recently, I decided I had to commit to making mayonnaise from scratch again.  The list of ingredients on the store brands, not to mention the exorbitant price, was enough to convince me to find a better way to make this delicious treat.  And did I ever find one!    A hand blender!

I have  an inexpensive Hamilton Beach hand blender (in Meduseld’s Amazon store) that I use for making Smokey Pumpkin Soup (recipe for that soon).  Using this nifty tool, you can make your mayonnaise in a wide mouth quart jar that can go straight in the refrigerator.  The only thing to clean is the hand blender attachment. 


First, the list of ingredients for a very basic, thick and creamy mayonnaise.  Then I’ll provide some variations.

In the bottom of the jar, place:

4 egg yolks (try to get local free-range eggs for freshness)

scant teaspoon salt

Blend these together briefly.

With the blender running, very slowly pour a trickle of one cup oil into the jar.  Oil options are: olive, sunflower, grape seed, and blends of these and other oils.  I do not recommend using soy since it can increase estrogen levels (http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/whole-soy-story).   This is very serious for men!

As you pour in the oil, you will notice that the mix will start to get thicker.  When you have added all the oil, you should have a thick mayonnaise.  Now, add two tablespoons apple cider vinegar and blend.  Voila!  It’s that easy!


That is a very basic version, not unlike the brand Dukes.  It you want to add some flavor, you can mix one teaspoon mustard in with the eggs.  You can add seasonings such as herbs and garlic.  Or you can substitute half a freshly squeezed lemon for the vinegar.

Meals at Meduseld – Poppy Seed Cake

Europe, especially eastern Europe, has a rich tradition of baked goods with poppy seeds.   This is one of my favorites.

Poppy Seed Cake

Poppy Seed Cake

Delicious,  rich, and very easy to make.   This was inspired by Rick Rodgers’, Kaffeehaus cookbook, but I have made some changes to it.


2 cups King Arthur self rising flour, divided

1 cup butter

4 large eggs

1 cup sugar

Rum flavoring,  vanilla flavoring

1 cup ground poppy seeds

2/3 cup milk

Set your eggs and butter out so they are room temperature.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

With a blender, combine butter and sugar until creamy.  Add one egg at a time, blending each in completely before adding the next.  Add a teaspoon of each of the flavorings.  Add one cup flour, blend, add milk and blend, and add second cup of flour.  Stir in one cup of poppy seeds that have been run through a coffee grinder in order to get them to release their flavor (this also makes them more pleasant to chew in the cake).

Pour the cake batter into a buttered and floured cake pan – a bundt pan turns out nicely.  Bake for 45 – 55 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

In honor of the real Santa, happy Saint Nicholas Day!

Weckmann with Candies and Advent Wreath

Weckmann with Candies and Advent Wreath

We made Weckmann, or Nikolaus, for the occasion.  These are soft bread “men” made in the shape of ginger bread men.  I will share my own version below.

It has been tradition for the children to place their house shoes or slippers outside their bedroom doors for St. Nicholas to fill with Weckmann, oranges and candies.  Since we have a puppy in the house who could enjoy them before the children do, we decorate the table and place the Weckmann on plates.

Weckmann Dough

1 1/2 cups water or milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups King Arthur Bread Flour

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Combine all ingredients in bowl or in bread machine on dough cycle.  Let it rise until doubled.  Knead dough and divide into four equal parts.  Form each of these into “men” shapes by forming a ball head, and cutting arms and legs.  Place on greased baking sheets to rise.  When nearly doubled, brush on an egg wash and decorate. The egg wash will help to hold your decorations and will make the Weckmann shiny.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15  minutes or until golden brown.


Meals at Meduseld – Escoffier

With the passing of the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic last year, we did a lot of research about that incredible ship, searching movies, documentaries, and buying books.  One of the best books I found about the Titanic’s only voyage led me to another personal discovery, Auguste Escoffier.


The book is called Last Dinner on the Titanic, by Rick Archbold and Dane McCauley.  The book has copies of actual menus of the last meals on the Titanic and first-hand accounts of what was served and how the food was served.  It is an engaging account of that cruise, quite unlike any I have ever read, and since I enjoy cooking, it was that much more engrossing.

We dined last night in the Ritz restaurant.  It was the last word in luxury.  The tables were gay with pink roses and white daisies, the women in their beautiful shimmering gowns of satin and silk, the men immaculate and well-groomed, the stringed orchestra playing music from Puccini and Tchaikovsky.  The food was superb:  caviar, lobster, quail from Egypt, plover’s eggs, and hothouse grapes and fresh peaches.  The night was cold and clear, the sea like glass.”  First-class passenger Mrs. Walter Douglas

The authors describe the influences to the menus onboard and that is where Escoffier comes in. 

Escoffier was born in 1846 and started his culinary career working at his uncle’s restaurant in Nice, France.  During his life he was chef in the Savoy and Carlton restaurants in London, as well as in the Ritz in Paris.  He composed eight cook books including  the Guide Culinaire, which held a staggering 5000 recipes.  He streamlined recipes and laid rules for cooking and serving that persevered well into the 1900’s.  His Guide Culinaire is still in print and influences chefs all over the world.   He stood out for being kind to his staff, which seems to imply that was not very common then.   Escoffier improved sanitation in his restaurants.  He was often called the “king of chefs and the chef of kings” and is arguably the Father of “haute cuisine.”  His fame did not prevent him from having a generous heart – at the end of every day all left over food went to the poor, and he paid for its transport.

Escoffier perfected fine, rich, creamy sauces.  He could turn any vegetable into a refined soup and he emphasized the importance of pairing foods properly and using fresh ingredients.  While his recipes and rules may seem complicated, most are actually rather easy.  For example, his hors d’oeuvres Concombres a’ la Danoise has only four ingredients – cucumbers, smoked salmon, smoked herring, and hard-boiled eggs. 

Escoffier designed the kitchens for trans-Atlantic cruise ships and was still alive during  the Titanic’s trip.  Chef Proctor, the Titanic’s head chef, created his recipes and menus based on Escoffier’s menus at the Ritz.  Proctor served the meals in courses, which is a method we take for granted these days but was an innovation made by Escoffier.  Proctor’s menu for the Titanic’s first-class eleven-course dinner is included in the Last Dinner book.   The first-class diners enjoyed items directly from Escoffier’s own cookbook such as Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Chicken Lyonnaise and roasted Squab. 

The book also provides copies of the  menus for second and third class.  The second class menu  features three courses which in modern-day would equal many first class restaurants.  The third class, or steerage, menu was called a “Bill of Fare” and was hardly anything to turn down either.  For example, Saturday’s dinner included soup, roast beef with gravy,  green beans, boiled potatoes, cabin biscuits, fresh bread, and for dessert, prunes and rice.  This is more than is served in many homes these days.

That they could serve so much food was an amazing achievement.  The team of 60 chefs served 6000 meals a day.  The kitchens were modern by 1912 standards, and included electrical appliances.

For years I have been studying French cuisine and collecting cookbooks and DVDs from Julia Child and Le Cordon Bleu; I considered these sources the beginning and end of French cooking.  I have the Cordon Bleu’s  book of French Classic Cuisine which includes stunning photographs of their creations that make your mouth water.  But in my Julia Child/Cordon Bleu centered culinary universe, I did not know that their work was based on a greater genius, one to whom they actually make no mention in their Classics book!

Modern chefs emmulate Escoffier, especially his zeal for excellent ingredients and working with the growers in much the same way as the modern farm-to-table movements. 

I have placed  the book The Last Dinner on the Titantic in my Amazon store, along with two other cookbooks with recipes by Escoffier.  One is The Illustrated Escoffier with an introduction by his grandson, and the other it Escoffier’s Guide.  I am also including a link to the BBC’s brief video on Escoffier at the London Ritz.  Bon Appetit!

BBC Video on Escoffier