If you have a flock of chickens, you probably have a rooster. A good rooster maintains peace in the coop. While one rooster brings peace, however, more than one can lead to chaos. The best – really the only solution – is to get rid of excess roosters. Yes, you can give them away. Or, you can take the situation into your own capable hands by respectfully killing and consuming the animal you’ve raised. Knowing how to properly slaughter (and lovingly cook) a rooster is not an addendum to keeping chickens – it is an essential part of the responsibility. When executed the right way, it is a powerful, rewarding experience. Here is a guide from start to finish.
What you’ll need:
A supportive tree branch or bar
Large pot of boiling water
Large pot of ice water
Brine recipe follows
Brick wrapped in foil grilling technique follows
What you’ll do:
In preparation for slaughter, it is best to confine the rooster in a small cage for easy transport to the area where you are processing, which should be at a distance from your coop. If traces of blood are left around the coop it will attract other, potentially dangerous, animals to your chickens. Some people prefer to take the animals off feed for 24 before killing. I think this is cruel and unnecessary.
Tie a strong rope to a tree branch and make an adjustable slip knot on the other end.
Place the roosters feet through the loop and pull to tighten. The rooster should now be hanging upside down.
Hold the roosters neck with your left hand (assuming you are right handed) and pull back the feathers to expose the skin as best you can (this way your blade will not catch on feathers). You want to cut directly into the jugular vein on the right side. To do so, make a swift, even cut across the throat from ear to ear. You will be able to tell that you have made the right cut when a small, but forceful stream of blood rushes out. Keep your left hand holding the neck while the blood rushes. The blood quickly rushes to the brain and the rooster goes unconscious. This is the quickest, most humane, least painful method.
When you are sure the proper cut has been made and the bleeding has begun, place both hands firmly on the bird and keep them clasped around the wings. This keeps the bird steady. It is unpleasant and unsafe to allow the rooster to writhe. You will likely have to hold him this way for several minutes. When you are confident that the animal is fully bled, you can remove your hands. The body should remain completely still.
At this point, your water should be ready. Test the temperature to be sure. It should be between 125 and 130 degrees f. Too cool, and the feathers won’t pull out, too hot and you’ll damage the skin.
Submerge the rooster for 30-45 seconds, swishing around a few times. Make sure all feathers are exposed to the water. Remove and pluck using a picking or rubbing motion.
Work quickly while plucking. Pull the wing feathers first – they are the toughest. You will not be able to remove every single feather by hand- don’t worry about it. At the end, you can go back with needle nose pliers to get any remaining feathers.
Now that the rooster is plucked, it is time to eviscerate.
Start by cutting off the heads and feet. For the feet you can locate the joint bone and use it as a guide for where to cut.
Shock the carcass in ice water for a few seconds. This tightens the inside slightly and makes them easier to pull out in one piece.
To remove innards, pinch skin located near the vent and make a small cut. pinching the skin helps to make sure you only cut the skin and do not accidentally puncture something inside. Cut around the vent on both sides just until you can reach your hand inside. Once you feel you have a grip on the viscera, pull to remove. Everything should come out in one piece. Preserve the heart, liver and gizzards. These can be eaten. From the neck, cut out the esophagus, trachea and crop, which may be full, so be careful with your cut. You do not want to puncture the crop.
Once you are sure all viscera have been removed, rinse the rooster thoroughly in cold water and place in a freezer bag.
Roosters are not meat birds. I have found that the best way to extract the most flavor from a rooster is to brine and then grill, butterflied.
Dissolve 1 cup brown sugar and 1.5 cups kosher salt in 1 gallon of water. Chill until cold. Submerge the rooster in the solution and brine for up to 14 hours.
Remove from brine, rinse and place in a marinade (simple combination of vinegar, oil, salt, black pepper) until ready to cook.
Begin by remove the rooster’s backbone with kitchen shears.
Press the carcass flat.
Prepare a charcoal grill.
When coals are hot, place the rooster breast side down directly on the grills.
Cover with a heavy object wrapped in foil – cast iron skillet, a stone or brick works well.
Depending on the size of your bird, cook for 30 – 45 minutes total. Flip and replace the weight once or twice to get a good char on both sides.
Cut into quarters and enjoy.
Anise Hyssop or Agastache foeniculum, has the fragrance of mint and the flavor of anise. Commonly referred to simply as “licorice mint,” this perennial herb in the family Lamiaceae is praised for both its culinary and medicinal uses (though not to be confused with Hyssop, the biblical healing herb). Anise Hyssop is traditionally used to make tea – hot or cold – that aids in digestion. The velvety leaves are also good stewed with fruit, or cut fresh over green salad. They also make a superb summer ice cream. Anise Hyssop is native to North America and in the wild, will bloom from June through November. Its lavender-like flowers can be cut and added to summer bouquets, or dried for winter arrangements (the petals retain their color and shape particularly well.) Bees make a mild honey from the blossoms. Anise Hyssop can be grown from seed and the plants are easy to care for. Once established, Anise Hyssop will reseed itself naturally, popping up volunteers throughout your garden.
Anise Hyssop is an ideal garden herb – especially in the heat of summer. Source some seed – or a fresh bundle from the growers market – and start by brewing a batch of Agastache sun tea. I can’t imagine a more refreshing combination than anise and mint. Happy summer.
Anise Hyssop ice cream (adapted from the Saltie Cookbook)
3 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
1 c sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 large bunch fresh anise hyssop, including the stems, leaves and flowers, thoroughly washed and dried
4 egg yolks
rum or vanilla extract
Combine the cream, milk, and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan and then toss in the pod. Heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, just until the cream comes to a simmer. Be careful not to burn the bottom.
Remove the cream from the heat and add the anise hyssop, submerging it in the liquid. Cover the pot and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain the steeped cream into another pot, squeezing the liquid from the anise hyssop. Heat the cream over medium-low again until very hot.
Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Add the hot cream to the yolks one ladle at a time, whisking all the while to temper them. Put the custard base back in the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a flat wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens to the point where it will coat the back of the spoon. Remove the custard from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Season with a good pinch of sea salt, and add a splash of rum. Refrigerate in an airtight container overnight to let the flavor develop. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions and serve.
Summer can be divided into two parts – anticipation of tomatoes and arrival of tomatoes. Of all summer produce, Solanum lycopersicum reigns supreme. Unfortunately, tomatoes are not the easiest plants to grow – or at least to grow well. The secret to a vigorous tomato crop? Put at least 200 plants in the ground. Nobody like to hear this answer, but it is important to understand that tomatoes are prone to disease and disease spreads quickly. To complicate the situation, the tastiest tomatoes are often the most grotesque looking creatures. What may look like disease, often turns out to be perfectly normal.
My advice: Besides staking, watering and waiting this month, the best thing you can do in anticipation of the ripening fruit is know your plants and know what to look for. Here is an extremely brief guide to tomato terminology.
Determinate vs. Indeterminate – Determinate cultivars are bush tomatoes that produce a single flush all at once. (Think Roma varities.) Indeterminate tomatoes vine tall and produce again and again, slowly, until frost.
Cat facing – Although classified as a “disorder,” I rarely find that these telltale stitches and cavities along the bottom of the fruit indicate damage inside. Of course, inspect crevices for insects or mold, but closed seams are perfectly fine. Generally associated with heirloom varieties.
Tomato hornworm – These pudgy, green caterpillars will dessimate your plants. Remove immediately!
Curlytop – Strikes early – often before blossoms appear. Characterized by crinkled leaves that are rolled in on themselves. Pull the entire plant and discard. Otherwise, it will spread.
Mosaic virus – Affects leaves and fruit. If you see yellow spotting on leaves or fruit, pull and discard the plant. While Mosaic spotting does not kill the plant, it will drastically diminish the quality of the fruit and it spreads like rapid fire.
Blossom end rot – Look for sunken, black leathery patches on the bottom of fruit. I find this usually occurs during ripening or on the first few tomatoes. Unsightly, but not necessarily disastrous. Blossom end rot can be cut away and the rest of the fruit is generally fine.
Ever since I met the majestic Meredith Klein, I’ve coveted the recipe for her soothing, spicy Chai. I finally asked her for it but made sure to do so mindfully. For me, this meant understanding what it was about the Chai that made it so enlivening. Onward I went on an exploration of Pranaful, her LA-based catering company. Pranaful started from Meredith’s desire to provide nourishing, healing foods for individuals taking part in deep transformative work, such as yoga or meditation. She collaborates with retreat leaders to offer wholesome, mainly plant-based foods to support the work—both physical and inward/subtle—explored by those in the environment. She also caters parties, offers cooking classes, and works as a private chef in LA. A recent chat with Meredith made Wilder want to be filled with prana too!
Wilder Quarterly: What does it mean to be full of Prana?
Meredith Klein: The word “prana” is a Sanskrit word often used in yoga classes, as well as Ayurveda (the Indian healing system, which is a sister science to yoga), which means “vital life force energy.” Anything that is alive has prana. Applied to food, some foods have more prana than others—namely those that are in their original, unadulterated, unprocessed form—in other words, whole foods. Such foods are the basis for everything I create at Pranaful—veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains offer so many outlets for creative culinary expression! My intention is that by consuming foods of this nature, people feel more connected to the prana within their own bodies, and that it may flow more freely.
WQ: You apply the ancient healing principles of Ayurveda to your cuisine. What are a few key elements of Ayurveda that make their way into your menus and how important is their presence?
MK: I see Ayurveda as a system aligned around restoring balance within the body. From an Ayurvedic perspective, all forms of dis-ease can be traced to some imbalance of the elemental constituents in the body; for example, someone dealing with inflammation has excess heat in the body. Since our bodies are influenced by our environments, factors like weather and seasons can play a role in throwing us off balance.
For example, as we transition from winter into spring, many of us feel heaviness in the body associated in Ayurveda with the earth element—Kapha—which is actually thought of as a combination of earth and water. So in essence, we’re trying to clear out some mud-like gunk from the body that’s been accumulating during the colder months (including all the junk we are inclined to eat over the holidays). The desire to remove excess Kapha from the body is one of the reasons spring cleanses are so popular for many people. In the menus I prepare during the winter months, I include lots of vegetables from the Brassica family—cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.—as they are known to have qualities that help the body break up and clear out excess Kapha.
WQ: What does it mean to eat mindfully and what are the benefits of doing so?
MK: To eat mindfully is to bring our full awareness to the act of eating, and really engage with our food using all our senses. So many people multitask while eating, and the food is there and then it’s not, and in the interim, they miss out on enjoying the sensations of chewing, feeling, smelling and tasting. When we eat with mindfulness, we naturally slow down. In this space, we tend to be more inclined to find ourselves in a place of gratitude for the food we are receiving, and the many causes, conditions and people involved in bringing it to our plates.
When we bring all our attention to the act of eating, we cut down on the excess “stuff” that the body needs to process, and generally people feel more energized after eating, instead of finding themselves in the sluggish state that some people call a “food coma.”
WQ: Let’s get spicy. Tell us about some of your favorites.
MK: The Indian spice palette is my favorite to work with (and the one that most delights my own palate!). Spices are integrated into my food not only for flavor, but also for their healing properties. I’m particularly fond of warming spices that have bold flavors and stoke the inner digestive fire—cumin, coriander, turmeric and fennel, to name a few!
One that really stands out for me right now is fenugreek. I got the most amazingly pungent fenugreek seeds from a man in a market in Mumbai last fall, and I’ve been delighting in using them. A little fenugreek goes a long way, so I’m hoping to make my stash last as long as I can! And, I’m hoping to grow some fresh fenugreek this spring so that I can make fenugreek parathas (Indian flat breads), which were my favorite breakfast food while I was there.
WQ: Is there a recipe you’d be willing to share with us? Perhaps the recipe to your glorious Chai?
MK: Of course, I’d be delighted to share my chai recipe. The key is to boil the spices the night before, then let them sit and steep overnight for the best flavor the next morning! All quantities are approximate, and can be adjusted to your liking:
2 T. green cardamom pods
2 T. fennel seeds
1 T. whole cloves
1 T. black peppercorns
1 T. chopped dried licorice root
2 cinnamon sticks
6 pieces star anise
2” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped into thin rounds
3 T black tea in a large tea ball or 3 bags of black tea
3 c. dairy or non-dairy milk of your choice
Honey or other sweetener
Add all dry spices to a medium-sized pot, and toast them over a medium flame, stirring often to avoid burning. When spices become aromatic, add ginger and 3 cups of water, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, covered. Turn off heat, and leave spices to steep overnight in the covered pot.
The next morning, bring the spice decoction to a boil over a high flame. Remove from heat, and add tea ball/tea bags. Let tea steep for 5 minutes, then remove tea ball/bags. Return pot to stove over a low flame, and stir in milk. After 5 minutes, the chai will be ready to serve.
Sweeten individual servings with honey, or a sweetener of your choice. You can use a tea strainer when serving to avoid spices floating in the tea (or not…some people enjoy seeing the intact spices in their cup!).
Photo of Meredith with a tender, tiny asparagus courtesy of Steven Wynbrandt.
Beyond the holy herbal trinity of parsley, cilantro, and basil, there are three more herbs essential to the pared down city garden: Mint, borage, and tarragon. The first three are staples- work horses of the summer menu, bringing uplifting unique flavors to any dish. Mint, borage, and tarragon serve to impress. They’re the indulgent addition,or the finishing touch. With these six herbs at your disposal you can go anywhere, from Mexico to Italy, France to Syria, or hop across the pond for proper pims in England.
Mint is a bit of a bruiser, so if you’ve got the resources, plant it in its own pot, or else it will take over the rest of your garden. Possibly the easiest plant in the entire universe to grow, it isn’t picky about soil, food, light, or water. A nice, light, neutral potting soil will suit it perfectly. Put it anywhere and pick often! Try this recipe for a new twist on the usual spring salad. Then, of course, there are always mojitos….
Borage is just about as easy as mint. Although it’s an annual, it readily self seeds year after year, and if kept weeded, should come back the following season. Give it freely draining potting soil, and keep well watered. In a pinch, borage can do part shade, as well. Here’s a lovely new twist on the old Pimms recipe. Throw a handful of the sky-blue starry blooms on any salad for a final flourish!
One word: Fish. Butter and tarragon are excellent bed fellows, and together they are the ultimate flavoring for fish. Make sure you get french tarragon, and not any of the other sometimes-bitter look alikes. Once again, tarragon is not a picky herb. Give it neutral, freely draining soil and some shade in the afternoon during the hottest part of the day. A rough and ready perennial, it tolerates cold pretty well and will keep coming back if planted in zone 4 and higher.
Happy Friday! Now that the workweek is through, why not fix yourself a cocktail? Our friends at the Four Seasons, New York suggest their take on the New York Gin Cream, using only ingredients found within 100-mile radius of the city––part of a worldwide program to showcase local ingredients. What better way to welcome the weekend? Cheers!
New York Gin Cream
By Simon De Swaan, Food and Beverage Director, Four Seasons Hotel, New York
1½ oz Fox’s U-bet Vanilla Syrup (made in Brooklyn)
1½ oz Whole Organic Milk (local farm stand or Whole Foods)
Club Soda or Seltzer water to taste
Combine ice, syrup, gin and milk in a large martini shaker. Shake and pour drink mixture (without ice) into a tall soda fountain glass. Top with seltzer or club soda to get a frothy/bubbly finish on top of the mixture. Garnish with a black and white cookie and a straw.
The Lore of the Egg Cream:
Egg Creams have been a part of the soul of Brooklyn for years––whether chocolate or vanilla they are dear to many New Yorker’s (mostly Brooklynite’s) hearts. This sparkly-sweet drink has been around for more than a century and we’ve added our own twist using Greenhook Ginsmith’s Brooklyn Gin to make our own version called the New York Gin Cream––Four Seasons Hotel New York’s 100-mile cocktail.
There are many stories of how the Egg Cream got its name, but one story goes that it was first created by a Jewish candy-store owner, Louis Auster, who opened a legendary shop on Second Avenue and Seventh Street in the 19th century. From then on, many soda fountain jerks have recreated the coveted Egg Cream as well as laid claim to being the inventors. Regardless of origin, the Egg Cream is one traditional all New Yorkers can get behind.
A great treasure of food radio is Evan Kleinman’s program “Good Food” which airs weekly on KCRW out of Los Angeles. On it, she explores food consumption, sharing everything from the latest crop at the Santa Monica farmer’s market to the funkiest hole in the wall from the underground restaurant scene.
Evan often brings a foodie guest onto her show, further wetting our appetite as we hear about unique recipes from different cultures, important issues regarding food policy or the hottest new trend in eating. No topic is off the table. Before listening to “Good Food” I never knew there was such a thing as a beauty pageant for chickens nor did I know that butter carving was an art. I’m still digesting it all!
With summer weather in mind, Evan recently brought London based blogger Kate Perutz onto her show. Perutz pens the blog, “The Saturday Picnic Society,” where she writers about her outdoor adventures and the food she brings along. If you haven’t checked it out, you must. On “Good Food” Perutz pairs adventure choice (beach vs. mountains) with meal ideas (salad lettuce wraps vs. hearty soups). She says ditch the vintage picnic basket (Evan really had her heart set on using it too) and settle for the sporty (small) backpack.
Picnics should be filling, yet light weight especially if bringing them along with you. I was shocked to hear she’s moving away from the sandwich, which I exclusively associate with picnics. She shares tips on foraging while hiking, mainly ideas for what to bring back to the kitchen rather than snacking on your findings (my personal side note: be extra cautious when foraging and never eat something you can’t identity as non-poisonous).
Finally she shares her energy-filled recipe for trail mix which centers around her go-to marmalade granola (recipe here). She adds dark chocolate covered cranberries, crystallized ginger, yogurt covered raisins and assorted nuts. Food wise, I think we just reached the summit. Before you pack your picnic for the trails, tune in to the whole episode here.
Growing up, I was a picky eater which means I remember when I had my first strawberry. It was late Spring in Southern New Hampshire. My friend’s mom had just picked dozens and as everyone took their first bites (of the season), I sat and watched. I was one of those children who feared fruit and vegetables, thinking salads consisted of croutons, shredded cheese and ranch dressing. Taste like that didn’t get me far and it was only a matter of time before my opt-outs became full subscriptions.
As a late adopter of many foods, I have the pleasure of recalling those precious moments of first taste. Sinking my teeth into the ripe strawberry, the flavor burst in my mouth. Overcome by a voluptuous sweetness as I discarded the stem, I went back for more. I learned, then and there, the luxurious bounty of berries, the utter delight of juice-stained fingertips. I’ve been going back for more ever since.
As May descends upon us, so does the promise of strawberry picking. In anticipation of too many cartons to know what to do with, I’ve complied a list of recipes that call for the fresh ingredient:
Strawberry Panzanella – This summer salad reminds me of one of my favorite breakfast treats, strawberry jam on toast.
The River Café’s Strawberry Sorbet – A frozen, icy scoop to be eaten outside in the sunshine. Then call it a day.
Strawberry Thyme Jam – A simple guide to jamming, this recipe offers an alternative to the water bath canner and keeps for up to 3 – 4 weeks in the fridge.
Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting – Okay, I cheated because this ruby deep cake doesn’t call for actual strawberries but it does call for strawberry jam, strawberry extract and red food coloring. It’s a strawberry reincarnated as a cake.
Ever since reading this article about the transformational power of spices, I’ve been on a hunt for a new mortar and pestle (mine currently holds loose change). My search quickly led me to the ceramic wares of product designer, Chifen Cheng. Cheng’s small design studio, Designlump, offers ergonomic kitchen products such as cups, plates and, of course, the mortar and pestle (which includes a thumb dent on the pestle for ease while grinding). With a background in industrial design, Cheng is an artisan who values both utility and charm when handcrafting her tools. She told Food & Wine: “Once you touch clay, it’s hard to stop.” I’ll take her cue. Off to grind some spices!
I recently recommended using a hand hoe to clear weeds. Another great way to get rid of weeds? Eat them.
One of the most insidious and (thankfully!) tastiest weeds is Lamb’s Quarters. Also known as goosefoot – a reference to the shape of the leaves (Cheno meaning goose and podia meaning foot).
Lamb’s Quarters are in the family Chenopodiaceae, which also includes the more familiar spinach, quinoa and chia seed. Lamb’s Quarters are a staple in Mexico. There, You would encounter them under the name Huauzontle. Traditional Mexican recipes using Huauzontle can be found in the venerable Diana Kennedy’s “From My Mexican Kitchen”.
When young, Lamb’s Quarters are very tender and you will notice a powdery white film on the surface of the leaves. As the plant grows (it can get to be as tall as 6 ft high) the thick stem will take on a magenta colored striping. Either way, it is a delicious, green addition to your plate. Lamb’s Quarters are rich in calcium, fiber and iron. They are also a good source of B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Use them anywhere you would normally use spinach. Just think of it as “wild spinach.”
Spring farming is rough. Early mornings are still chilly enough for knit caps and afternoons feel like mid July. Row cover blows everywhere and your plants are still tiny. Greens and mustards have not yet matured enough to harvest – even for a modest salad. Spring farming demands patience. I find that eating tasty weeds is one of the most gratifying ways to endure this season. I rely on Lamb’s Quarters (and purslane and chickweed…) to satisfy my very impatient craving for garden food. Eat what you weed!
Basil is a cook’s friend. Not only does it add summer to any dish, but it fills the kitchen a fresh and bright aroma. Speaking of brightness, if you happen to have a windowsill nearby, now might be the time to start your basil seeds in the pot. No windowsill? No fear. Do it anyway! As long as you plant your basil indoors in a spot that gets about 4 – 6 hours of full sunlight a day (ideally South facing) you should see progress.
Although there aren’t as many varieties of basil as there are provinces in Italy, you have a few to chose from. I would suggest Genovese (for the flavor) or Mammoth (for the size). Sow the seeds thinly, about 1 – 2 inches apart and cover with a quarter inch of soil. Use either a pot (at least 18 inches in diameter) or a window box (with seeds scattered lengthwise). Basil is happiest in warm, course-textured soil that drains well (good drainage is vital when growing basil), however keep soil moist with frequent misting. Clip leaves often, right at the node taking about 1/3 of the stem. This will promote growth and further enhance the flavor.
These are just a few tips, however your local nursery might have the best suggestions for you in terms of climate, fertilization, and variety. Keep basil growing year-round in your kitchen (if possible) so that you can add the herb of summer to your food. If you’re feeling like there’s too much basil to go around, this award-winning pesto recipe is your answer.
On a recent Sunday, San Francisco showed signs of Spring. With temperatures in the high 70s, people flocked to the park wearing short sleeves and cut-offs, working on their sun tans, their hula-hoop skills, and tomorrow’s hangover. Meanwhile, I spent the late afternoon making blood orange marmalade at Gravel & Gold, a shop in the Mission District. Gravel & Gold offers items made with curiosity, beauty and utility in mind. They sell clothing, home wares, books, food and so much more. Every time I go there, I want to be making, cooking and camping all at the same time and all while looking stylish and feeling rustic.
Many of their “makers” are local artisans who are able to come to the shop and lead workshops. This is when Emmy and Jonah of Emmy’s Pickles and Jams enter the scene. Emmy’s is a food business located in Oakland, specializing in pickling and preserving organic produce. Emmy and Jonah led the workshop, teaching us to make a large batch of marmalade using the season’s crown jewel: blood orange. By the end, I wasn’t nearly finished so I followed up with Emmy’s Emmy Moore to learn more:
WQ: Wilder loves a good origin story. Can you tell us what inspired you to start you pickle and jam business?
EM: A few things in life clicked just right to inspire my partner and me to begin the business. We were working for an organic produce distributor based in SF, and in addition to learning a huge amount about the often invisible side of the food industry (transportation, storage, etc), we also were witnessing a lot of food waste. There is a certain amount of loss that occurs when fruits and vegetables are being moved from the farm to the grocery store or restaurant. We began bringing the food destined for the compost home to cook, and quickly began cooking more than we could eat, so began learning to preserve. And voila! We never stopped.
We soon started looking beyond the middleman, talking directly with farms, and learned that they too grow more than they can sell during the season. Pretty soon we had enough product to work with where we decided to try out selling some of our creations. The SF Underground Farmers Markets were happening at this time as well, so we had an outlet to take our first business baby steps.
WQ: When you began, I can imagine you experimented with many recipes with a lot of trial and error. When did you make that first perfect batch and how did you know it was the one?
EM: There was a huge amount of trial and error in the beginning. Honestly, there still is. We are constantly tweaking and trying out new things, so there is always some element of trial and error. I think the first thing I made that I thought really nailed it was the pickled Turmeric Cauliflower (it won a Good Food Award last year!). That recipe went through the most iterations, I think, but when we tried the final one it was clearly the best.
WQ: We’re very excited by companies that are eco-friendly. Can you share with us your values on re-purposing food and how you implement these values?
EM: Pickling and preserving have been implemented for centuries as a way to store food for winter months when nothing was coming out of the ground. Also as a way to make use of the bountiful harvests in late summer and fall. These legacies of preservation are central to our company’s values. We offer a useful outlet to farmers by purchasing large amounts of produce that often would otherwise become compost. By sourcing exclusively from local, organic farms, we offer the consumer a chance to enjoy locally grown produce year round. While current food systems allow us access to food from all over the world, we feel that it is important to provide a local alternative.
WQ: Time to pick favorites! What fruit and vegetable do you most enjoy working with and why?
EM: Favorites are so hard! Beets are definitely a front runner. They transform so much after every step (heating, pickling). I am always stunned that such vibrant color and sweet earthy flavor can come from underground. I think my favorite fruit to work with are apricots. They taste like sunshine to me. We work with Blenheim Apricots, which have a pretty quick season, and they always go away too fast. Stonefruit in general is pretty magical.
WQ: Speaking from experience, jamming and pickling can be intimidating. What would you tell a novice who might be ready to tackle this very handy culinary art in the kitchen?
EM: My advice to a someone new to jamming and pickling would be to begin at the farmers market. Find what’s in season. Use a simple recipe – add spices sparingly. And don’t stop after the first try. It takes some time to figure out how to make what you like.
WQ: Would you be willing to share a recipe with Wilder? Perhaps something seasonal?
EM: Rhubarb jam is one of my favorite preserves to eat. It is also super easy to make!
Rhubarb Jam from Emmy’s Pickles and Jams
Chop several stalks into one or two inch pieces. Put them in a stainless steel pot. Add a tiny bit of water to the pot – this is so the rhubarb won’t burn and stick to the bottom. You can add more if you like, but you’ll need to cook the jam for longer.
Squeeze a few lemons, about half a cup or so. Add the juice.
Keep the heat on med – low, and be sure to stir often.
Add about half the amount sugar as you have rhubarb.
The rhubarb will begin breaking down and releasing a lot of liquid.
Cook the mixture until you have a thick, jammy consistency. Add more sugar if you like. I prefer things less sweet, but rhubarb is pretty tart, so you might need a little more sweetness.
When you feel like its done, put it in a jar or bowl and into the fridge. Enjoy on yogurt or toast, or as a new sandwich spread.
Special thanks to Emmy, Jonah and the folks from Gravel & Gold for sharing your stories and keeping Wilder inspired in the kitchen!
Take advantage of the first weekend of Spring. If you work Monday through Friday (like me), weekends mean two days of freedom. Leisure time for sleeping in, reading the paper, and going for bike rides. Sunshine is a bonus. This weekend, in particular, should be exciting because we get to see all the crops the farmers bring to the table. That’s right, it’s market time.
Like writer’s block, cook’s block (not to be confused with the chopping block) is a case we all suffer from. What to cook? What ingredients are hot right now? How can I impress on a budget? Well, no need to worry, because Spring bestows many gifts, including the gift of the farmer’s market. We get to see what’s finally in season, taste as many samples as we want of ripe, fresh fruit, and chat with local farmers about what they’re loving from the field these days.
If you’re not inspired by the farmer’s market bounty, you might still be sleeping in. Time to set the alarm and make a shopping list:
- blood oranges
- fava beans
- cactus pears
Check out this handy guide to find a farmer’s market near you. Happy marketing!
Spring is a time to clean, detox, and investigate how we feel in our bodies. Ask these kinds of questions: Do I feel sluggish or energized? Is my skin clear or broken out? Am I excited about life? Indifferent? Depressed? When it comes to my mind and body, if something is feeling off I turn to nature. I’ll smell the Jasmine, walk through a Redwood grove, lay in the grass (unless, of course, my allergies are acting up). It’s not a coincidence that there are so many natural remedies. The healing is there, we just have to find it!
Feeling tired, anxious, and behind in everything, I decided to give up caffeine this Spring. I was addicted, so I slowly weaned off until cutting it out entirely. It was then than I turned to my savior: Dandelion Root. Though the flower (Taraxacum) is a pestering weed to many, I wouldn’t hack it away so fast. Health-wise it detoxes the liver, promotes healthy digestion, and aids weight loss. It is a brilliant substitute for caffeine, serving as an energy boost and a taste twin. The roasted root is toasty and bitter in flavor, emulating those comforting qualities of coffee.
You can buy prepackaged tea bags at any health food store or try a home remedy. The roots and leaves provide the most nutrients (add flowers for a flavor burst), just make sure to chose dandelions that have not been sprayed. Once you’re past the caffeine withdrawals, you won’t miss the coffee, the jitters or the sleepless nights. You’ll feel just dandy.
Fennel’s not my favorite and I was reminded of this when I brushed my teeth the other day. I borrowed some Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and it was fennel flavored. My reaction was one of distaste—similar to when I take a sip of the spirit Fernet or dabble with anything licorice flavored. With some reflection, I found myself inspired by my repulsion and eager to learn some more about this plant species, Foeniculum vulgare. After all, it makes its way into many delicious salad, soup, and pizza recipes. It’s a staple of Italian cuisine (one of my favorites) and it lines many of California’s winding roads, resembling one of my favorite flowers: Queen Anne’s Lace.
First finding: it’s a member of the parsley family. Not great news to me because I’m also not a fan of that herb (along with cilantro). I keep trucking away though—grasping for a bite. A few more findings: fennel can be used as an herbal remedy to sooth digestion, calm spasms, and clear respiratory passages. Not bad, fennel. Another pro (and possibly the deal-breaker for yours truly): the strong aromatic properties of fennel mellow exponentially the longer it cooks.
Best news yet: fennel is a multipurpose plant, perfect for gardening. The entire plant is edible. It offers fine, feathery leaves to be used as kitchen herbs, aromatic seeds for seasoning, a vegetable bulb for sauteing, braising, roasting, etc, and thick stalks to enjoy as you would celery. Although I won’t be eating fennel raw anytime soon (and it’s likely I’ll stick to mint toothpaste), I’m willing to grill it up and do as the Italians do.
Is it summer yet? I mean, March is exciting and all, but seriously…I can’t stop thinking about long days shaped by bountiful produce. For example, last summer was “the summer of peppers” because there were peppers all around me. Not only was I eating them at almost every meal, but I spent a weekend in Santa Fe where ropes of ceramic peppers hang on almost every wall-hook. Of course, my pepper of choice is the shishito. Whether foil-roasted, barbecued, or flash-fried, it was and is the perfect snack for summer.
Unlike other peppers, the shishito is typically mild in spice. In fact, eating shishito peppers is like gambling since only one in every eight peppers contains heat. Of course, when it’s hot, it’s smokin’ hot. Literally, though, the pepper is naturally overwhelmed by a rustic smoky flavor, followed by a quick splash of sweetness. Summertime in a bite, these glossy-green peppers are about 3 – 4 inches long and are best prepared with the stem on.
Now if only summer could come a bit sooner, it might quell my craving. Of course, planting season is as early as late spring, so they’re not completely irrelevant this time of year. It’s something to look forward to! There are many ways to welcome the shishito into your kitchen, however if you want your peppers fast and easy, you might stick to something simple like pan-roasting. Be patient as they char—it’s not a real summer without some blisters.
Photograph by Matthew Bookman
Whitney Ott is a food and still life photographer based out of Atlanta, GA. Growing up in the woods in rustic Georgia, she developed an appreciation for hidden details and natural lighting. Turning passion into profession, through photography, Whitney captures the subtle beauty of images.
Wilder Quarterly first discovered Whitney through her gorgeous Instagram feed, which features her food and botanical photography. In typical social media fashion, Whitney and Wilder became fast friends. We were eager to learn how she captured such luscious shots of food and, more importantly, does it taste as good as it looks? Wilder also can’t get enough of her take on flower arranging. Whitney was kind enough to chat with us about her process, even offering some insider tips on how to achieve greatness behind the camera.
Wilder Quarterly: At Wilder, we love food, flowers and photography. Your profession combines all three. Can you talk a bit about your creative process and how it came to be? Also, what kind of a camera do you use?
Whitney Ott: I feel like my creative process began when I was a 13 year old kid clumsily fooling around with my first 35mm film camera. My family home is located in the woods, so most of my time was spent exploring the great outdoors through the lens. Because I grew up surrounded by nature, I developed a keen sense and appreciation for natural light and learned to focus on the intricate details that it has to offer. All of this knowledge I have carried with me into the professional world of photography–and I’ve upgrade to a 5D Mark II. My preference is to use natural light, as much as possible–for me, it just looks the best. When I prepare for a shoot–whether it be of food, flowers, or yarn– my first thought is always about color and how I want it to read in the image. Lately, I’ve been shooting and exploring colorful pieces on dark surfaces. I get inspired by a lot of different things and there’s almost a constant stream of ideas in my head, so you never know what I may shoot next!
WQ: Your photographs are breathtaking, and it appears you are not afraid of what I refer to as “the beautiful mess” or “a wild perfection.” Is this something you chase as a photographer?
WO: I love the idea of them both. It sounds cliched to say this, but I truly believe that there is beauty in everything. Whether it is a decaying flower, a finished meal with morsels left over on the plate, a smashed piece of fruit–there’s something fascinating and attractive about it all. In a way, I try to stay “true” to the nature and form of whatever it is I am photographing.
WQ: You must be surrounded by delicious food and gorgeous flora all day long. Who makes the food and who provides the flowers?
WO: I try to keep flowers in my loft as much as possible–they are so uplifting! Sadly, my refrigerator is a different story. The flowers that I buy usually come from The Dekalb Farmer’s Market–they always have a great variety and at very good prices. A lot of the food I buy comes from the same market, but there are also a lot of great bakeries in town that I like to go to as well. Everything on my site has been styled by me and most of the food on my site has been made and baked by me–a friend of mine happens to be a wonderful baker and she has been kind enough to bake me some pies and other tasty treats to photograph.
WQ: Can you talk a bit about staging your photographs? In terms of spontaneity, is a photograph ever an afterthought to a very hungry moment?
WO: In the past, my photography came to life in one of two ways: exhaustive planning and spur of the moment. I still do a lot of shoots that are planned out, but ever since I started using Instagram it has become another way in which I think about and stage my photos. When I’ve planned a concept ahead of time, I’ve already hunted down the right background, props, and food that I want to use and I stick to it. When there is no plan, it’s because I’ve gone to the farmer’s market and picked up things that piqued my interest. When I get home, I take my time and explore the object from all angles.
WQ: Your Instagram feed is one of my favorites! What role does it play in your process?
WO: Instagram is almost like my personal mood board–or the place where my “first draft” images live. Every image on my feed is spontaneous and there are plenty of after thought images to meals on there. Lately, I’ve been going through my feed and taking notes on what I shot with my phone and what about it is interesting. Then I try to re-create similar images with my actual camera. I am also trying to force myself to bring out my real camera to start shooting when I find that I am spending more than 5 minutes on an image I’m taking with my phone.
WQ: Food photography requires those magic ingredients: lighting, angle and drool-worthy content. I imagine the perfect combination of these three qualities leads to the genre one might call “food porn.” Is there a fourth element?
WO: Composition. Everything about creating an image is deliberate even if it seems like a happy accident. You want your composition to be powerful enough that it evokes a feeling from the viewer.
WQ: These days it seems as though everyone takes photos with their phone of what they’re eating or perfectly arranged flowers. At a point, everything begins to look the same. In what ways do you attempt to distinguish yourself from everyone else?
WO: I try to stay true to myself and my creative vision. The phrase, “write the book you want to read,” carries over for me–I photograph the images I want to see. My end goal is to photograph things in interesting ways that will give someone else a new found appreciation for whatever is in the photograph. A quote that inspires me to be creative is said very plainly by Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
All images by Whitney Ott.
We all have that special ingredient in our kitchen. You know the one. You bought it for that impressive recipe you made that one time. How convenient! The recipe only called for a small portion, leaving you with more than you bargained for. Now a storage item, you have no clue how to incorporate this has-been into your daily food rotation. Question: let it rot, reminding you of how one time you were brilliant and how those days are long gone? Or, open the cupboard and release said ingredient from behind jars, letting it shine once again?
I recently encountered this conundrum with Medjool dates I had purchased for my Lumberjack Cake. Did you know that the date has been part of a healthy food diet for thousands of years? In case you’re unfamiliar, dates are the sweet, edible fruit born from the date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera). Full of vitamins and minerals, they have high levels of potassium, fiber and protein. A great source of energy, dates can often be used as a sugar substitute given their naturally sweet flavor.
The time had come for me to take my date on a second date. I’m talking about the Date Shake. This decadent yet healthful breakfast smoothie has been a favorite among foodies ever since taste-maker Heather Taylor gave it a whirl on her blog LA in Bloom. Whether it’s enjoyed first thing in the a.m. or after a strenuous work-out, one cup of this morning glory will have you revved up for hours. Another special ingredient besides dates? Cinnamon. Luckily, most of us kitchen-dwellers have already met that spice. Relationship status? Dating indefinitely.
Roses on Valentines Day. This is nothing new. Classic, romantic, fool proof. Traditionally, they come in a dozen. Preferably red. It’s a smooth, safe move to show your beloved how much you care. Want to up the ante this go around? I’m sure Saint Valentine would approve.
Nothing says love (or slam-dunk creativity in the kitchen) like candied rose petals. They’re easy to make but (cue high stakes holiday) no one needs to know that!
If you don’t have your own edible flowers in the garden, seek them out at any florist or place where flowers are sold. Naturally, chose colors that are most beautiful to you. Ideally, you’ll want organic roses that have not been sprayed with any toxic chemicals. Once your roses have been procured, pluck the petals (make sure they are dry) and lay them a baker’s rack. Beat one egg white together with one teaspoon of water (take caution when using raw eggs). With a delicate pastry brush, softly paint both sides of each petal with the egg white mixture. Swiftly sprinkle both sides with organic sugar. Leave out to dry for 2 -3 hours or overnight.
Candied rose petals don’t come in a bouquet but they are an edible, homemade alternative to the age-old tradition of giving flowers on the big day. Use them as garnish on your decadent chocolate dessert or add as a candy topping to your gelato. You will love it.
Photography by Eric Wolfinger
No one feels quite well during flu season. Whether you are fighting it off or in bed with a fever, we are all at its mercy. It’s much like a dance or, better yet, it takes two to tango. If we’re not taking care of ourselves, the flu will lift us off our feet. If we’re not careful we will fall for it, dizzily losing our footing. Another option: we, as healthful humans, can take the lead.
One culinary ingredient that might contribute to a less tail-spinning flu season is Ginger. The rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale), commonly known as ginger root, is what you will find in the produce bin. Twisty like our joints, ginger root is best when bought firm and smooth. Rich in nutritional and healing properties (it has high antioxidant levels, elevating it to the A-list status of a super-food) ginger can serve as an anti-inflammatory, a digestive aid, and a pain reliever. It can soothe nausea or an upset stomach, and helps eliminate aches caused by the swelling of joints.
A raw, but comforting, way to bring ginger into the kitchen is a simple tea concoction: thinly slice a 1 inch piece of peeled ginger, combine with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Let sit for ten minutes. Add a sweetener, or even minced garlic at the start if you’re feeling particularly stand-offish toward your symptoms. To relieve an upset stomach try homemade ginger ale. Bubbly, fresh and calming, this classically canned beverage tastes better made from scratch.
Take preemptive moves from Ginger so when the flu asks, “may I have this dance?” you’re not the one with two left feet.
Photograph of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers from the 1936 film Swing Time.
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