The Nourished Kitchen, Farm to Table recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle, by Jennifer McGruther (Ten Speed Press: Berkley) 2014.
I haven’t found a cookbook so useful and engaging since Nourishing Traditions taught me how to ferment beet kvass and bottle kombucha. Jennifer McGruther brought together all the things that I love in a cookbook: interesting stories, inspiring photography, and creative recipes that use fresh, real food that I already have in my pantry. You won`t have to run to the grocery store and stock up on mixes before you start cooking from this book. I love that every recipe is made from scratch.
The tone of The Nourished Kitchen is conversational and every recipe is prefaced with a story, a personal experience, or information that gives the reader the “why” of different cooking techniques. McGruther focuses on traditional cooking techniques using traditional food that you’d find on the farm or in the forests – raw milk yoghurt, sourdough crumpets, wild mushroom soup, sauerkraut, garden blossom honey, and the one that jumped out at me from its succulent picture, “coriander-crusted elk backstrap with spiced plum sauce.” What’s backstrap? Is it some kind of molasses?
McGruther explains, “The backstrap is the long, tender cut of meat removed from the outside of the backbone. Like the tenderloin, which sits on the inside of the animal’s rib cage, the backstrap lacks fat and can be too easily overcooked. Prepared with a quick sear, elk backstrap retains its succulence and its flavour.” (p. 221)
While we have wild elk grazing in our area, I don’t have one in my freezer right now, but this recipe would be just as nice with beef, venison, or lamb, tweaking the portions for the size of the roast.
What I loved:
What I especially love about The Nourished Kitchen are the sections on fermentation. I’m having trouble with organic lemons. Of course, I can’t grow them in my zone 3 climate, and they come all the way from California. They are pricey. I buy a 3 # bag and they are about $2 per lb here, year round. That is, I buy them if they look ok. More often than not they are already going brown in my grocery store. If I can find nice ones and I buy them, within 2 days of getting them home, 3 out of 10 will be moldy and what I can’t eat, is moldy within the next 3 days. It’s discouraging. I tried preserving the lemons by fermentation, in brine, last winter, in an attempt to get them to last longer. But my fermentation jar got mold on the top, so I had to abandon the experiment.
On the front of Nourished Kitchen is a crock of fermented lemons. I was excited. Finally, I can learn how to do this trick properly, and actually get my lemons to last longer than just a few days. On page 279, McGruthers shares how to make preserved lemons with a crock, salt, and patience. Obviously my technique was incorrect. I was using the lemons whole, and McGruthers slices into the lemons and salts them on the inside. Then presses them down like sauerkraut. The entire process takes 8 weeks before the lemons are properly preserved in briney lemon juice. I am definitely going to try this again using McGruther’s instructions, but I’ll wait till early spring, when lemons come back into season again.
One drawback of the book is that there are no cookie recipes. Not a single one. There are desserts – dairy desserts, and fruit desserts, but not a single cookie, or square, or even a tart. I confess that with it being National Cookie Month, the first thing I did when I picked up the cookbook at the post office was flip to the index and look for cookie recipes. I was so surprised when I didn’t find a single one, that I flipped through the whole book from beginning to end to see if it was called something else. No cookie recipes. There’s also no chocolate recipes. What no chocolate? Chocolate is a fermented food. So there’s obviously room for a sequel – “The nourished cookie tin” has a ring to it, doesn’t it. Please don’t tell me cookies aren`t nourishing, leave me in my fantasy.
While I wait for the sequel, I’ll be using this cookbook to find recipes for seasonal vegetable dishes, game meats, cheese making, and sourdough bread. There`s an especially interesting bread recipe that I`m tempted to try next on p.181, “barley and poppyseed kefir bread.” McCruthers had me at the introduction to this recipe. Her story of her child chanting “A poppy`s red in its barley bed” from Christina Rosetti`s poem, “Pink” enchanted me. I may just sit with a cup of tea at the kitchen table, by the warm wood oven, waiting for my bread to rise, and read the other stories in this cookbook.
Get your own copy of Nourished Kitchen from Amazon.
Disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, as always, this review represents my honest opinion of the book.”