Pork and Pickles

These are a few of my favorite things

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I Have Found My Mojo!

It was a rough late winter and spring here. I sort of ran into a wall with regard to food – I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to make it, much less write about it. Something’s kicked me into gear the last few days (I have some theories as to what it could be…) and FOOD IS GETTING MADE around here.

I received a gorgeous handmade deep dish pie pan for my birthday, as well as some absolutely ridiculous 3D printed cookie cutters – both of those gifts will more than likely be getting used today. I’ve got my standard whole wheat buttermilk bread rising now.

I made Smitten Kitchen’s Rhubarb Snacking Cake on Friday and it was, as are all of her recipes, FANTASTIC. Somehow there are still a couple pieces of it left, but not for long.

Last night I made rhubarb ginger syrup (with rhubarb from my yard! YAY!), based on this recipe, though we decided at the end that it needed about 1/2 cup more sugar to balance the astringency of the rhubarb. It was pretty much awesome mixed with some Pimm’s and I *think* gin (mixology is not my department) and some soda water.

OH. And last week there was pickled asparagus made. I haven’t cracked into it yet, but it looks tasty! Recipe here.



Here’s hoping I’ll be able to maintain this enthusiasm and get more fun stuff done!



Whole Wheat Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Who doesn’t love pumpkin chocolate chip muffins? Nobody in my family, that’s for sure. And for a family where only half the members like winter squash, this is impressive. I’ve been using this recipe from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking for a few years now and it’s always given me good results, unlike some of the other recipes in that book. I prefer to eat baked goods that are made with whole grains, but some things really are better with white flour (birthday cake, I’m looking at YOU).

But pumpkin and whole wheat? Match made in heaven. Add chocolate chips and well, how can it be anything but amazing? Don’t answer that. I know how.

The cast of characters

The cast of characters: whole wheat flour, leaveners, spices, salt, sugars, butter, eggs, vanilla, pureed winter squash (probably butternut, but who knows)

These muffins come together in just a few minutes, provided your butter is at room temperature. I’ve never made them with melted butter or another liquid fat, but I have substituted coconut oil (solid at room temperature) for the butter a few times. It adds a lovely coconut fragrance to the finished product, but right now the coconut oil’s just too much of a pain to dig out of the jar. And besides, I had butter out. This recipe uses a typical muffin mixing method – cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated before adding the next, add pumpkin, add dry ingredients, add chocolate chips. Portion, bake, eat.

All portioned out and ready to bake!

All portioned out and ready to bake!

An important technique note with any muffin, cake, or quick bread is to avoid overmixing. However, it’s not a big risk with whole wheat flour, since the bran and germ fragments tend to slice through the gluten strands and therefore you don’t get a whole lot of gluten development. Or at least that’s how I remember it working – it’s been a while since I read about that.

A word about portioning the batter: I like to use portion scoops for this job. Mostly because it’s easy and keeps my hands clean, but also because it helps me make sure that the muffins are all about the same size and therefore bake at the same rate. You can purchase portion scoops online or from your local restaurant supply store. You can get them in cookware shops too, but they’re generally going to be much more expensive there. Each one will have a number stamped on the sweep or handle, which tells you how many scoops of that size it’ll take to reach a quart (32 fluid ounces). I use a #40 for muffins (two scoops per muffin), a #60 or #70 for cookies, and a #90 for… well, I forget why I have that one. It was something interesting, I’m sure.


Ready to eat!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

Makes 16-18 muffins

  • 2 cups (8oz) whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (7.5 oz) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (9.5 oz) pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
  • 3/4 cup (4.5 oz) chocolate chips (or dried fruit if you prefer)
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz) chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375° and grease muffin tins or line with muffin papers

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In mixer bowl, cream butter with both brown and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating one before adding the next. Scrape down bowl and beater between egg additions. Add pumpkin and mix to combine. Add dry ingredients and stir until mostly incorporated, then stir in chocolate chips.

Portion into muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. A #40 portion scoop works well for this – two scoops fill the muffin cup to the right level. Bake 22-24 minutes and let cool for a few minutes before removing from pan. Store covered at room temperature.

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Boozy Cupcakes

I’ve been slacking something fierce, foodwise, lately. Partly thanks to my 9yo’s broken elbow (she’s fine but will be in a cast until the end of the year), partly thanks to the fact that I lose track of pretty much everything at this time of year. We’ve been eating a lot of quesadillas and leftovers, with the kids going through embarrassing amounts of boxed macaroni and cheese. I’ll get my cooking mojo back eventually.

Chocolate-whiskey cupcakes, aka car bomb cupcakes

Chocolate-whiskey cupcakes, aka car bomb cupcakes

But in the meantime, we have cupcakes. We’re going to a house concert by one of our favorite musicians, Jeremy Messersmith, and he’s had the brilliant (if rather intimidating) idea to make it a dinner party sort of thing where everybody brings potluck-type foods. Most of my favorite savory dishes don’t lend themselves to potlucks, so I elected to go with the cupcakes that have sort of become my signature potluck item. Turns out that the recipe was originally posted over at Smitten Kitchen in 2009 – I didn’t think I’d been making them that long, but I guess I have.

The idea of boozy cupcakes, as I tend to call them, is a lot of fun – there’s stout in the cupcakes themselves, then irish whiskey in the ganache that’s plopped into the center, then Bailey’s in the frosting. I love the flavors and textures of this, with the smooth rich bomb of whiskey-laced ganache in the middle of the cupcake. I generally don’t call them “Car Bomb Cupcakes” although that’s the drink they’re modeled on, because I’ve heard that the term can be offensive. “Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Ganache Filling and Irish Cream Frosting” is too much of a mouthful, so I just say “Boozy Cupcakes” and everyone’s happy.

I make the recipe as written, except that I add extra cream and whiskey to the ganache and more Bailey’s to the frosting. And I scoop out the cupcake centers with a melon baller, because that cookie cutter thing she suggests just didn’t work for me. Oh, and the centers of the cupcakes are sunken every time I make them, no matter what I do. I think it’s something to do with the recipe but it’s just not enough of a problem for me to rewrite the thing – the centers get scooped out anyhow, so it doesn’t really matter if they’re sunken.

I ended up doubling the frosting today since I must have applied more per cupcake than usual, and they’re topped with edible ball bearings because I’m one of those people who makes random Doctor Who references now.


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Bison Pasties

That’s “pasty” with a short a like in “happy”, not with a long a like the nipple covers that an exotic dancer might wear.

The women’s group in the church I attended as a child made the most amazing pasties a couple times each year. Ever since I moved away from home I’ve had an eye out for pasties, but I’ve never found any that stack up to the Ashland UMW’s recipe (though Potter’s Pasties comes closer than anything I’ve ever had). I really ought to just sweet talk someone into getting the church ladies’ recipe for me, but in the meantime I’ve started developing my own.

My first attempt was based on the recipe in this Heavy Table article. The dough came out *extremely* dry, to the point where I had to add another 1/4-1/3 cup of water to make it workable. And even then, it was really difficult to work with. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my pie dough skillz are lacking, but usually I’m not quite this terrible at it.

Serious failure. This was before I added more water, but the after wasn’t much prettier.

Once I got the dough to a point where I didn’t want to pitch it in the trashcan, I wrapped it in plastic and put it in the fridge for a timeout and got on to the part I felt MUCH more confident about – the filling. We went in on a quarter of bison with a friend last year and still have some of the ground meat in the freezer, but ground beef or lamb would also work quite well in this. I browned the bison in some lard, since bison is quite lean. And also because I love lard – have you met me?

Mmmmmmmeat…. *Homer drool*

Once the meat had lost most of the red color but before it was anywhere near done, I took it out of the pan and threw in the vegetables: a diced onion, several cloves of garlic, a diced rutabaga, 2 small potatoes, peeled and diced, and 3 shredded carrots.

Rutabaga, aka Swede, aka yellow turnip

A word about rutabaga: this one’s in the same category as celeriac for a lot of folks, and for the rest of us it’s in the category of things we only ever ate at Grandma’s house. I have had mixed luck cooking these things, to be honest. They’re good boiled and mashed with potatoes (mostly rutabaga with one or two potatoes thrown in). I’ve tried roasting them but they end up tasting like farts (hello sulfur compounds!) – clearly I’m doing something wrong there, because I have friends who rave about roasted rutabagas. Anyhow. They have a fairly thick skin and they’re an extremely hard vegetable – be very careful when cutting them up and make sure your knife is very sharp. A dull knife is way more likely to slip and cut you than a sharp one. This I know from personal experience.

All of the veggies went into the pan with some more fat and some salt and pepper and cooked until things had started to soften, which took quite some time since I got carried away and overfilled the pan. You’ll want to use less of everything or split your ingredients over two pans.

Just about done.

Once the veggies were done to my satisfaction, I dumped the meat and accumulated juices back into the pan and added about a cup of red wine, then let it cook for a few minutes to get rid of the boozy taste. Next time I think I’ll add some stock as well, to make this more saucy. And maybe a bit of flour to help things hold together a little bit more…

At this point I took the pan off the heat and just left it to hang out while I fought with the dough. After a failed attempt to roll the entire piece of dough out, I divided it into six equal pieces and rolled them out individually. I was shooting for circles but, well, they bore more than a passing resemblance to amoebas instead.

In an attempt to make this easier, I rolled out the dough between two sheets of parchment. It was not easier.

Yes, I could have trimmed these into circles, but sometimes I just get stupid when I’m cooking. Don’t judge. I think I got about 10″ rounds here, but may have forgotten to measure. I may also have been partaking in some of that red wine.

Fill and seal!

I put about a cup of filling onto the dough rounds, brushed half of the edge with beaten egg, and sealed them. I just now realized that this isn’t the way the church ladies closed them, but I’ll just have to do it the right way next time.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and pop into a 375° oven for 30-45 minutes, until they’re GBD (golden brown and delicious). If you want to freeze some (and you do, because pasties make THE BEST freezer meals), par-bake them until the crust is set, maybe 25 minutes or so, and then let them cool to room temperature. Freeze them, then wrap tightly and try not to eat them all in the first week.

For the ones you’re eating today, serve them with some ketchup – homemade if you’ve got it, and pickles. I happened to have pickled radishes on hand, and they were nice with the pasty. But I don’t recommend taking a bite of rutabaga and pickled radish together – they’re both rather sulfurous, if you catch my drift. Save the pickles to pair with the crust and you’ll be happier.

Om nom nom nom nom

I apologize for the lack of a recipe here – I’m not completely satisfied with my end product and don’t want to give you a recipe that will disappoint. The dough in the Heavy Table recipe is a great start, but I need to try again. For science!



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Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies With Cream Cheese Brown Sugar Frosting

The title’s a mouthful, I know, but luckily it’ll be hard to talk while you’ve got your mouth full of these amazing cookies.

Fall is, after all, the season where we put pumpkin in everything – beer, coffee (which I do NOT endorse), ravioli, pie – you name it! Why not put it in cookies and then, to take it completely over the top, make them into sandwiches with some complementarily-flavored frosting?

I’d been thinking about pumpkin cookies for a couple weeks before I stumbled across this recipe – I’d left my bike at my cousin’s house and when I went to retrieve it his wife sent me off with a bag of these fantastic cookies she’d made. They had pumpkin in them, naturally, and there were pecans and a nice glaze that may have had brown sugar in it. I was as amazed as anyone else when there were still cookies left after my ride home! She sent me the recipe but I was put off by the fact that it called for a whole *pound* of butter. In the end, it turned out that fantastic pumpkin cookies are worth an entire pound of butter, but one could halve the recipe and still have a gigantic amount of cookies. Scroll down to TL;DR for the recipe.

One whole pound of butter?? Worth it!

I switched up the mixing method a little bit from the recipe I was using – they added the spices, salt, and leaveners before adding the liquid ingredients, and sometimes I can be pretty firmly set in my ways when it comes to mixing. Plus I may have not been reading the instructions. So I put this together using the creaming method: beat softened butter until fluffy, then add sugar and beat until it’s even more nice and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time and don’t add the next until the first one’s been worked into the butter/sugar mixture. Add vanilla, add pumpkin, beat until everything’s combined. Scrape down the sides of your bowl frequently to make sure everything gets mixed in evenly! While your mixer’s working away, combine the dry ingredients – flour (I used half all purpose and half whole wheat because I prefer that texture), spices, leaveners, salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until combined. I feel like you can mix these cookies a little bit more than you would with other recipes, because the pumpkin seems to tenderize them quite a bit. Plus they need a little more structure to hold up with the dense, wet pumpkin in there. But too much and they’ll turn out bready – you don’t want that!

Oh, I forgot! This is about 2/3 cup of chopped up crystallized ginger. I mixed it in with the dry ingredients – the flour helps keep the pieces from sticking to each other and ensures that they’re evenly distributed through the dough.

By this point, your oven should be turned on to preheat. Ideally you’d have started it before you started creaming the butter, but if you’re like me that part is easily forgotten. While the oven’s heating up, grab some sheet pans and either grease them thoroughly or line with parchment paper. Scoop tablespoon-sized blobs of dough on to your sheet pans, leaving about 2″ between them. I used a #70 scoop, which I highly recommend – this is a sticky dough and a scoop/disher will give you nicely-portioned dough and keep your hands pretty clean. Not that you aren’t sneaking tastes of the dough should you happen to get it on your fingers. No, of course you aren’t – raw eggs and all that. Pffft.

Blobs of tasty, tasty cookie dough, all ready for the oven.

In my oven, these little puppies needed 11 minutes at 350° to attain perfect doneness. I let them sit in the pan for 10 minutes or so and then transferred them to a cooling rack with a metal spatula. They’re pretty fragile immediately after baking, so use caution when moving them. Meanwhile, keep scooping and baking until you can’t stand it anymore, and then scoop the rest of the dough onto a lined baking sheet and freeze it. Once the dough blobs are frozen solid, transfer them to a ziploc bag and save them for your next cookie emergency.

Yep, they smell pretty incredible.

Once the cookies are cool and you’ve taste tested them (gotta make sure they’re edible, right?), mix up the frosting for the sandwich filling. I forgot to take pictures – sorry! But you can do it without pictures – it’s super simple! Beat softened butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and a little salt until it’s all combined and fluffy, then add in powdered sugar until it’s stiff. Add a tablespoon or so of milk (or half and half, because that’s what I had in the fridge) to loosen it up, then add the rest of the powdered sugar. Adjust the consistency with more milk or more powdered sugar – you want something that’s easy to spread but stiff enough that it’ll stand up to the cookies. At this point, turn half your cookies upside down and transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a plain tip (or use a ziploc bag, from which you’ll trim a corner for piping). Poot a generous amount of frosting onto each of your upturned cookies, and if you have extra at the end either distribute it wherever it’ll fit or put it on any extra cookies (since you may have ended up with an odd number due to snacking, like I did). Or, you know, just give it to the kids on spoons and let them think you’re the best parent ever. (Substitute partner/friend/parent/neighbor as needed there)

I have mad piping skillz, yo!

Once you’re out of frosting, take all the naked cookies and match them up with frosted cookies, then shove them in your mouth. Heavenly, no? The noise that came out of my mouth when I bit into one was pretty much obscene.

Oh yes. Yes yes yes.


Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes ~5 dozen. Can (and maybe should) be halved

  • 1 lb butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (or one 15 oz can)
  • 4 cups all purpose flour (substitute whole wheat flour for half or more if you like)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if at all possible)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped (substitute toasted pecans, if you like!) – optional 


Preheat oven to 350°

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla and pumpkin, beating until combined. Meanwhile, mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then stir in crystallized ginger or nuts, if using. Scoop by the tablespoon onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheet pans and bake for 9-11 minutes, until set and very lightly browned around edges. Allow to cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 TB brown sugar (use dark brown sugar if you have it – the flavor really comes through!)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 TB milk


Beat butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla until fluffy. Add 2c of powdered sugar and beat until incorporated. Beat in milk until frosting is fairly loose, then beat in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until you’ve got a satisfactory texture. Adjust as needed with more milk or sugar – you want this stiff but not too stiff to pipe. Transfer to piping bag or ziploc bag and apply to flat side of cookies. Top with naked cookies. Eat.