Monday, February 27, 2012

Pepper Vinegar

Pepper vinegar is a staple of southern cuisine.  It goes well with vegetables and is very easy to make.  It's simply small, hot peppers steeped in vinegar.  You will need:

1-2 cups small peppers such as thai bird pepper, tabasco peppers, or similar (fresh is best)
Pinch of salt
Apple cider vinegar to cover.
Appropriate container (see below)

Fill your container with hot water and set it aside for a minute.  Wash the peppers and remove any loose stems.  Pat dry.  Put 1-2 cups of apple cider vinegar in a microwave safe bowl (I use a pyrex measuring cup) and microwave 3-4 minutes until hot but not boiling.  Add a small pinch of salt to the container (optional).  Push the whole peppers into the container until almost full - I usually fill the body of the bottle but leave the neck empty. Slowly pour the vinegar into the container until it is nearly full, cap, and store in fridge.  Ready to use in a week, the flavor improves the longer you keep it.  I generally refill with warm vinegar once the container gets below the 1/2 full mark.  You can reuse the peppers until the flavor is gone.

What's the appropriate container?  A clear glass bottle or cruet with a neck opening large enough to admit your peppers.  I have used store-bought cruets but the best container I've found is re-purposed soy sauce or pepper sauce bottles, the kind with a removeable plastic shaker insert.  Remove the insert, clean the bottle, lid, and insert well, and once you've added the peppers and vinegar put the plastic plug back in, cap, and enjoy!  I've also purchased ready-made vinegar (usually made with white vingear, I prefer cider) and topped the bottle off with cider vinegar as I used it.

This stuff is great on greens, beans, and other vegetables.  I add a dash to vegetable soups to brighten the flavor as well.

Simple Beans and Greens recipe.

To kick off the freshly recycled blog, here's a recipe I've had success with.  It's a simple dish of greens and beans that makes a hearty, satisfying meal without a lot of work.  Recipe might be too strong a word, to be honest.  Inspiration, then!

Beans and Greens

2-3 handfuls dried white beans (I use cannelini)
4 cloves garlic
handful of sage
2-3 bay leaves
1 strip bacon (or other salted/smoked pork savory), diced (optional)
1-2 double handfuls hearty greens (kale is good, for example)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (or other salad oil)

Soak beans overnight in water to cover to a depth of 2 inches.  Drain, rinse, and put in pot large enough to hold beans plus a couple of inches of water.  Add a handful of fresh sage leaves (preferably) and 2-3 dried bay leaves plus the diced bacon (optional, but provides a nice smoky flavor to the dish).  Whack the garlic with the flat of a knife, peel, and add the cloves to the pot.  Cook at a low simmer until the beans are tender and not grainy, 45-90 minutes depending on your beans.  Taste a few to make sure they're done.

Once beans are nearly done, place the greens in a pot of salted boiling water and let cook until blanched.  Cooking time will vary based on which greens you use but generally 2-3 minutes.  Drain and put the greens in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process and to set the color.  When cool enough to handle remove from bowl, squeeze dry, and slice into ribbons (if you squeeze the greens into a large bowl, cut it in half, then slice each half it is easy to get nice ribbons of greens).

Once the beans are done, drain them and put them back in the pot.  Remove the sage and bay leaves, discard.  Add a good drizzle of quality oil (I use olive oil, any mild salad type oil will work), salt and pepper to taste.  Add the greens.  Lightly toss until greens are distributed and all is lightly coated with oil.  I usually add a splash of pepper vinegar or lemon juice as well.  Serve warm in a bowl with fresh bread.  Goes well with a simple chopped tomato salad or as a side dish to pork or chicken.

That's it.  Like I said, more of an inspiration than a real recipe, but it makes a satisfying simple complete meal on its own or a nice side dish.  It's even good cold.  An additional bonus - with the exception of the oil, salt, and pepper everything in it can be grown in your own garden or purchased at your local farmers market!

Repurposing the blog (keeping those bits green)

I had originally conceived this blog as a sort of combination travelogue and helpful hints blog for people living out of their suitcases most of the year...and on a tight budget.  It's a common situation in my chosen career.  I suspect there will still be some of that, however, as my own working conditions and personal focus has changed I'll be changing the blog as well.

I've recently become interested in what is called downsizing in the UK, sort of a new rebirth of the venerable "back to the land/back to earth" tradition that has been around since the first cities were formed.  Basically it is moving to a more self sufficient, sustainable lifestyle but without a lot of the "End Of The World As We Know It (EOTWAWKI)/Sh*t Hits the Fan (SHtF)" survivalist component you see in the U.S. so much these days.  More to do with knowing where your food comes from and being able to produce much of it than any sort of radical escapism.  At least, that's how I'm choosing to interpret it.  The River Cottage series of TV shows in the UK seems to have been pretty influential, and there's a downsizing website that has a wealth of information.

My own interpretation of this has been moving to using more locally grown produce and meat, moving away from processed food (mostly for health reasons, when I eat less processed food I feel better, as simple as that), and as a way to mentally move myself from a passive consumer into an active producer, even if on a tiny scale. That mental shift is, frankly, likely to be the major keystone of his concept for me.  Consumerism implies a passiveness that I no longer enjoy.  It is great to live in a world in which we have the luxury of being passive, of simply consuming.  However, like any indulgence too much of it can damage one's physical and mental health.  Moving to a productive frame of mind should help burn off the mental flab associated with consuming ready made entertainment along with ready made food and hard goods.

My goal for the year is to establish a small garden.  Either container grown or in one of the local community gardens.  Unfortunately apartment living means I don't have a yard in which I can establish a large garden of my own.  In addition I will be endeavoring to buy more of my produce and other food stuffs from local producers and learn traditional methods of preserving food.  It's a challenge I am looking forward to.  I've made some small steps - I have a small slab of pork belly curing in a basic salt cure at the moment and a bag of lemons awaiting the acquisition of a suitable container in order to be turned into lemon confit.

I'm going to begin sharing reviews of books and websites that have been useful, recipes I've found or developed, and other information through this blog.  It should be an exciting new adventure, and working out how to maintain this interest and a job that requires significant amount of time away from home will definitely make for a challenge!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A new start, again.

Life is a funny old thing.  When I wrote the first post for this blog I thought I’d shortly be back to work, travelling, and generally living a semi-nomadic lifestyle.  I was wrong.  Fast forward a few months and IT HAS BEGUN! 

I was inspired by Tales from Technomadia, but (for a variety of reasons) can’t make the jump to a full time nomadic life.  And that’s OK – my goal is not to travel 24/7.  My goal is to balance my love of wandering and the realities of my job and career.  Fortunately I am in a career that involves a significant amount of travel and I often stay in new places for a span of time from a week to a few months, returning to my “home base” on weekends or (sometimes) weeks off.  Thus the genesis of the name of this blog – Semi-Nomadic. 

What is a Semi-Nomadic lifestyle? Semi-Nomadic is a label generally applied to cultural groups which are largely nomadic but plant crops and stay in an area to tend them.  I’ve adapted this term to encompass the sort of life I’m currently living, where I have a “home base” where I am able to enjoy the benefits of settled life (planting a garden, working on large projects, storage space, etc) while still being able to spend a significant amount of time travelling.  There are trade offs, I am not as free in my travels as the folks over at Technomadia – my work drives my travel destinations.  I can’t decide to just take time off and shuffle projects.  I can travel lighter than a dedicated nomad – I don’t have to worry about an RV.  I do have the option of bringing along an RV though.  More on that later. 

I’ve worked as a shovelbum in the past and my job loosely falls in that category at the present.  It’s a job that is ideally suited for semi-nomadism.  Any job/career/way-of-life that requires lots of travel but leaves some time for personal (non-job-related) exploration can be a great candidate.  It’s also possible to balance a job that can be done from a mobile office and maintaining a home base as a step towards a full time nomadic existence. 

In this blog I’ll be posting about places I’ve visited,  reviews of gadgets that help on the road (for example, I’m starting the search for a new laptop), techno-projects that strike my interest, travel tips, and anything else that falls under the loose umbrella of “Semi-Nomadic”. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kicking things off.

As the cliche goes, life can be a funny old thing sometimes. I'd originally started this blog with the intention of recording my adventures as a shovelbum, a companion blog to CemeterySpace. The travelling will begin soon, so stay tuned!