Oh, Fudge!

What do you have on the door of your fridge? Ketchup? Sriracha? Maybe (blech) mustard? May I suggest adding a jar of this hot fudge? There’s nothing more impressive when friends show up with ice cream for dessert and you can say, “Hold on, let me get out the hot fudge.”

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That has happened in our house three separate times this summer. The fudge also came in handy on National Ice Cream Sundae Day and, of course, on National Hot Fudge Day. When Lilli got terrible stage fright at her Ballet Camp recital, hot fudge worked wonders at soothing a delicate ballerina’s soul.

When I told Rich I was going to put a hot fudge recipe on the blog, he thought it was blasphemy, since we live in Northampton, home of Herrell’s and their famous hot fudge. But since I made our own, I haven’t heard much complaining.

This hot fudge is what the Editors of Food & Wine have determined to be a “Master Recipe.” It’s just one part of their ice cream sundae section, which also includes Butterscotch Sauce, Strawberry Sauce, Fresh Pineapple Sauce and Mixed Nuts. This is all in the Level 1 section of the book, which means the editors have determined that, for starters, people should all know how to make a good ice cream sundae, along with other easy basics like a roux and macaroni and cheese. I approve of this editorial decision.

Food & Wine has been my favorite food magazine for years. When we moved from Boston last year I came across recipes I’d clipped from the magazine back when I lived in Harlem 15 years ago. I still renew my subscription annually, and am genuinely curious as to what is going to happen next as their test kitchens move south. The magazine has never disappointed me, and neither does this book.

There are 4 Levels to the book. Level 2 tackles Pho, Yogurt, and Popovers, while Level 3 has you kneading out dough for Challah and making Vermouth. And I look forward to making Tofu from Level 4. Rich does not seem as enthusiastic.

The recipe does call for light corn syrup, which I do keep on hand for brittles and certain frostings. I don’t often offer you recipes with the ingredient, and am only doing so because this is a great recipe, one we’ve really enjoyed this summer.

It’s worth noting that while I was making the fudge I really couldn’t tell if it was ready or not, but only after I’d stepped away from the stove for bath and bed time and then returned that the sauce had really come into its own.

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I’ve kept it in the fridge in a leftover salsa jar. I warm it up straight in the jar at 30 second intervals in the microwave. You’ll notice in the photo we had ours with Graeter’s Ice Cream, whose makers wanted me to let you know it’s now available at Wegman’s. As it happened, I bought their Black Raspberry Chip, only to have guests bring the same flavor over from a different company the next night. The difference of quality was easy to see, even before we tasted it.

Hot Fudge Sauce from Master Recipes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Cooking Like a Pro By the Editors of Food & Wine

Ingredients

5 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used chocolate chips)

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

6 Tbsps. unsalted butter

1 cup plus 2 Tbsps. light corn syrup

¾ cup sugar

¾ tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine both chocolates with the butter. Set the bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and blended. Remove the bowl and set aside. Pour off the water.

In the same saucepan, combine the corn syrup, sugar, salt and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and whisk in the melted chocolate. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and shiny, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Use immediately or let cool completely and refrigerate. Rewarm in a microwave before serving.

 

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Belt and Suspenders

“Do you cook?,” the seller’s agent asked me. “You are just going to love having two stoves, especially if you do any preserving.” She really didn’t need to sell me on the kitchen in our now-house; it’s huge and filled with the light. Yes, it was a little odd to have an electric stove top at one end of the counters and an entire electric stove and oven on the other end, but I just went with it.

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(Rich would like to assure everyone that we replaced the electric stove and oven with an electric induction unit. It was pricey but about equal to getting a gas line and a mid-range gas stove. Induction uses electromagnetic fields to heat up the pot itself instead of the cooktop. Your pots need to have some magnetic material in them, but we made sure almost all ours would work before we pulled the trigger. It really is magical – safer than regular electric, with the heat control of gas. And it boils a whole pot of water in like 3 minutes.)

In the past year I have used both stove tops exactly twice. First it was to fry piles of latkes at Chanukah, when it really did cut down on time to have four frying pans going at once. The second time was at Pesach, where there are never enough burners or countertop space for all the cooking that needs to get done. Now it’s summer time, so prime pickling and preserving season. And just as the realtor foresaw, the two stove tops really have come in handy.

I did pause for a moment considering if I should be sharing pickling recipes with you, because chances are you don’t have a second stove top to set an enormous pot of water on to boil and continue making dinner on another stove top. But I saw a very old, very dear friend on Sunday who is preserving nonstop right now in a not-huge New York kitchen. Perhaps some of you feel the same, or would with a little nudge.

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The driving force behind all the pickling and preserving is the book Ball Canning Back to Basics: A Foolproof Guide to Canning, James, Jellies, Pickles & More, an absolutely terrific book that breaks the recipes down into clear, step-by-step directions. Honestly, the recipes are so clearly written and easy to follow that I’m constantly opening the book up to search for something new to make. It’s become rather addictive. As the cover touts, “If you can boil water, you can make your own delectable jams and jellies, try your hand at fresh-pack pickling, and jar savory sauces.”

Now, I must admit it helps if you have a little hardware at your disposal, including jars, a massive stock pot to process the jars, heat proof gloves, and a canning set. But you buy those things once and then you have them for years.

First thing I pickled were the pickling cukes from the CSA, but those took a little work. I had to brine the gherkins overnight, then make the pickling brine, sterilize jars, add the pickles, dill, brine and process. It took some doing, I’m not going to lie. But the pickles were great, and I highly recommend the recipe.

What I am going to share with you is the pickled hot peppers, or pepperoncini, because it’s prime hot pepper season. I love having a jar of there on the door of the fridge. I add them to sandwiches for a little kick, or chop them into a salad with roasted beets, chickpeas, feta, cucumber and sunflower seeds. Or I just pop one into my mouth as I walk by the fridge.

 

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The directions are to make 5 (1-pint) jars, but if you only want to make 1 or 2 jars you have my permission to do so. You can buy several gallons of white vinegar for about $3, so don’t worry about saving leftover brine and not enough peppers.

To prep the jars, wash them in very hot soapy water. Do not dry the washed bottles or jars, but put them upright on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and put in the oven. Turn on the heat to 350F and once the oven has reached this temperature, leave the bottles or jars in the oven for 20 minutes to ensure they are completely sterilized. Wear protective oven mitts when handling hot bottles and jars.

Pepperoncini – Pickled Hot Peppers from Ball Canning Back to Basics

Ingredients

3 pounds hot peppers (such as banana, jalapeno, or serrano peppers)

1 quart plus 2 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)

2 cups water

3 garlic cloves, crushed

Ball Pickle Crisp Granules (optional – I just used kosher salt I had in the house)

Directions

Rinse the hot peppers under cold running water; drain. Remove the stems and blossom ends from the peppers. Cut the peppers into 1-inch pieces. Place the peppers in a large bowl.

Combine the vinegar, water, and garlic in a large stainless-steel or enameled saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove heat to a simmer; simmer 5 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic.

Pack the hot peppers into a hot jar, leaving ½-inch headspace. Ladle the hot liquid over the peppers, leaving ½-inch headspace. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt to jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the jar rim. Center the lid on the jar. Apply the band, and adjust to finger-tip tight. Place the jar in the boiling water. Repeat until all the jars are filled.

Process the jars 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat; remove the lid, and let the jars stand 5 minutes. Remove the jars and cool.

From the Test Kitchen

We’re a PBS household around here. The worst part of moving from Boston was losing our DVR, and with it the Paul McCartney: Live in Performance at the White House, which had been on there since I think 2011. Some afternoons Rich will turn on WGBY to have the cooking shows on in the background, including the OCD tandem of cooking shows: America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country. It’s like The Odd Couple, but they’re both Felixes. I find most of their takes overly complicated, but I do like their taste tests of common products and ingredients.

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That may have been where I got the idea for my own taste test. This summer I received two separate chocolate hazelnut spreads to sample. I jumped at the offer, as Beatrix is a Nutella fiend. (I know, mother of the year.) So we held our own blind taste test with Lilli, Beatrix and a pal of Lilli’s. And yes, I double checked with the mom before serving him three different types of chocolate hazelnut spread.

 

The spreads were served on challah from Tart Baking Company, which has become our go-to for challah. It’s got a hint of sourdough while still managing that slight cakey texture.

 

The spread of spreads comprised: Nutella, the gold standard, the control group; Nutiva, a dark organic hazelnut spread made with palm oil, touted to have 40% less sugar, 450mg of omega-3 per serving and certified gluten-free and vegan; and Nocciolata, organic, non-GMO, vegan, palm oil-free, gluten-free, and certified kosher.

The clear winner was the Nocciolata, which, according to the promotional materials, takes “36 hours of artisanal preparation to develop its rich and complex flavor and easy-to-spread texture.” Honestly, it was like Nutella, but, well, richer and more complex. And the Nutiva? It was remarkably not good. We couldn’t really taste the chocolate or hazelnut, and it was quite bitter from the lack of sugar.

With the children sufficiently sugared, we set out for the side yard, with its new picket fence and hand-me-down swing set. It’s nice to be able to host playdates for Lilli and Bea’s friends. And now we know what kind of fancy hazelnut spread to offer our guests.

 

Home on the Range

According to the Internet and her book jacket, Shannon Stonger and her husband have five children, various farm animals and live off the grid on their five-acre homestead in Texas. I want that to sink in for just a second. This woman has five children and somehow managed to write a cookbook. A good one, I might add.

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I have two little girls and live very much on the grid, and I can barely get up three paragraphs once a week on this blog. How she found the time to sit and write a book is blowing my mind right now.

When her book Traditionally Fermented Foods arrived in the mail in late May, I honed in on the kimchi, or, as she puts it, “Homestead ‘Chi”. Most everything I needed for it was in the CSA: cabbage, turnips, and green onions. All that was left to add was garlic, spice, and time, and I’d eventually have kimchi.

And, oh, how I tended to my kimchi. For the first week I had to “burp” the built-up gases nightly, by quickly opening and shutting the cap. It gave the most satisfying little exhale. Of course, this was pre-snake, back when I would go down to the basement.

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The ‘chi rested for about a month and a half in two large jars at the bottom of the stairs. I’d fashioned the fermentation weights with stones I found outside and wrapped in cheesecloth. I know they sell special weights in kitchen stores, but I encourage you to improvise as well.

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And while your kimchi ferments, there’s much, much more in the book to try.  A sourdough section, kombucha, and a dairy section with kefir and sour cream.

We’ve stirred our kimchi into leftover brown rice and topped it with a scallion salad and fried egg for a meal.  I tucked some of it into a grilled cheese sandwich on Sunday night and it was PHENOMENAL. It’s become a go-to condiment in our house, right next to the ketchup, mustard and sriracha.

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To prep the jars, wash them in very hot soapy water. Do not dry the washed bottles or jars, but put them upright on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and put in the oven. Turn on the heat to 350F and once the oven has reached this temperature, leave the bottles or jars in the oven for 20 minutes to ensure they are completely sterilized. Wear protective oven mitts when handling hot bottles and jars.

Homestead ‘Chi from Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stonger

Ingredients

2 medium heads green cabbage

2 large (softball-size) turnips, grated

12 green onions, chopped roughly

8 large garlic cloves, minced

3-4 tbsp (45-60 g) salt (4 tbsp [60g] only if temperatures exceed 80F (27C])

3 tbsp (22g) ground sweet paprika

1-2 tbsp (2-4g) red pepper flakes or 1/4 -1/2 cup (43-85) diced hot peppers

Directions

Shred the cabbage thinly using a knife and cutting board or mandolin. Add the cabbage and all remaining ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Mix well with hands to combine. Pound the cabbage with a mallet or potato masher to release the juices. Alternatively, allow to sit, covered for 1 hour to allow the juices to be released.

Pack kimchi tightly in a half-gallon (2-L)-size jar or 2 quart (1-L)-size jars, leaving at least 2 inches (50mm) of headspace. Add the fermentation weight of your choosing. Check that the brine is above the level of the fermentation weight. If not, mix 1 cup (236ml) of water with 1 ½ teaspoons (8g) of salt and pour this brine into the jar until the fermentation weight is completely covered.

Place at cool room temperature (60 to 80F [16 to 27C], optimally) and allow to ferment for at least three weeks. If you haven’t used an airlock, then during this period, especially during the first 5 to 7 days, you will need to burp the jars by quickly opening them to release the built-up gases that result from the fermentation. To do so, carefully and quickly open the jar, listen for the release of gas and close jar back up with just a bit of the gases still remaining inside.

This ferment pairs wonderfully with eggs, beans and salads, and makes a delicious spread when mixed with soft cheese.