Homemade Butter

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Unsalted butter is a great treat, but rather hard to find with out “Natural Flavoring” in the list of ingredients. Seriously, check the label. It’s really hard to find an unsalted butter in supermarkets. There may be one available in the organic section, but sometimes not (or they’re out).

I decided to try to make my own cultured butter without any “natural flavoring”. My own results were… successfully interesting. I’ve made regular butter plenty of times as a kid – just shake cream until it turns to butter. But by lightly fermenting it with a starter, you can make a more flavorful cultured butter.

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I went to the Co-Op for cream from Meadow Brook Farms. $1.69 per cup. I bought 8 cups because I’m a cautious over-purchaser like that.

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You don’t need a scale, but I wanted to make sure I had my initial measurements straight. I only used 4 cups of butter.

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4 cups of cream purchased, a little over 4 c of cream yielded.

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Each cup was a little more generous than .5 lbs, so instead of 2 lbs of cream even, I wound up with almost an extra ounce of cream. So, very close to .25 oz extra per 1 cup container.

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So for cultured butter, you add something with live cultures in it. Some yogurt, or buttermilk, usually. I always have yogurt in the fridge, and picked up a Greek Gods yogurt from the Co-Op, too. It was on sale, and I think this is where my experiment may have gone a bit awry.

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The Greek Gods regular yogurt is really thick and creamy. Albany John tried a bowl and had trouble finishing it because “It’s thicker and richer than butter,”. For our household, it’s definitely not an eating yogurt, but more of a cooking yogurt. And it has pectin as a stabilizer in it, which I’m not fond of. It is so thick, the pectin is really unnecessary. And I think it bound too much with the liquids in my butter making.

Well, that’s what I get for not reading the container.

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Any way, toss a few tablespoons in (I did about 6 T of yogurt for 4 cups of cream, or 1.5T per cup), cover, and leave on your counter for about 24 hours, or until the top of the cream looks thick and maybe has a few bubbles.

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Then it’s time to whip it! I just used my electric hand mixer to turn this into butter. I was surprised at how little buttermilk it yielded.

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I figured I’d just press it out, and save the buttermilk for later iterations of cultured butter.

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Um, buttermilk. Is that all?

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Seriously? 1 tablespoon of buttermilk? That’s all I get?? Buttermilk is usually a 50-60% yield when making butter. I was expecting a pound of buttermilk. So, I am thinking this is where that pectin in the yogurt started to mess with the buttermilk retention in my butter making.

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I washed the butter a few times. Maybe I have hot hands, but I also had a hard time getting it to firm up.

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Wash, wash, wash. So much butter. Basically 2 lbs of whipped butter.

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Hello Kitty butter molds, because why not?

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The butter had a nice fluffy, whipped texture, and I enjoyed it salted and unsalted. I wrapped some up in parchment paper to make my own butter logs. But I wish more buttermilk came out…

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Rye bread as butter vehicle.

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I made some 5 minute bread and the chewy rye flour with white AP flour was a nice nutty bready excuse for slathering tons of butter on each slice.

Venison Swedish Meatballs

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When I went to go visit my mom’s side of the family downstate, my uncle gave me a ton of venison to bring home once he heard I liked venison. Or, as he put it “If you like venison, I’ll give you a little bit to take home, and if you really like it, you can have a lot more,” Wow, if this is a little bit… I’m afraid of much more! Hee hee, so much meat!

Albany John made Swedish meatballs from the venison using Alton Brown’s recipe. Love that recipe – they always come out so tender.

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This was from about 5 lbs of venison meat that Albany John chopped up on a food processor. Venison added an extra meaty flavor to the meatballs.

Coming Up: Saratoga Wine + Food Festival 2013

Wine Glasses by Tom Stock

The 2013 Saratoga Wine & Food Festival is in the near future – September 6th – 8th at SPAC.

One of the events you really want to check out is the Grand Tasting on Saturday, September 7th. It’s an entire afternoon of food and wines to sample (and usually a few liquors in there, too). Here’s what last year’s festival was like.

This year, Mo Rocca will be one of the main celebrity attractions. Fish & Game‘s Zak Pelaccio will also be there and giving a demo on butchering a whole heritage pig. Kevin Zraly will also be returning for a wine tasting seminar (I wasn’t sure what to expect from this last year, but he made it entertaining, fun, and educational, all while torrential rain storms were pouring and the tents were shaking from the wind).

Here are some highlights from SPAC’s press release:

GRAND TASTING & CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE | Saturday, Sept 7 – The centerpiece of the festival, the Grand Tasting takes place under large, elegant tents on SPAC’s lawn, and features hundreds of fine international wines, delicacies prepared by the region’s top chefs, wine seminars and extensive silent and live auctions of luxuries featuring opportunities to bid on rare wines, couture fashion, exotic travel, original artwork and more. The festival partners again with The Saratoga Automobile Museum to present a show of luxury collector cars at Saturday’s Grand Tasting including invited classes of Shelby Cobras, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Lancia, Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Fiat-Abarth and more judged by Pebble Beach marquee auto specialists.

CULINARY TENT COOKING SHOWS

  • Learning to Cook with Mo Rocca & Mamma Theresa from DZ Restaurants: Inspired by Mo Rocca’s hit Cooking Channel show, “My Grandmother’s Ravioli,” this session pairs the celebrity host with DZ Restaurant’s beloved Mamma Theresa, as she shows him how to make select family recipes and traditional Italian specialties.
  • Heritage Pig Butcher Demo Led by Chef Zak Pelaccio:  Chef Zak Pelaccio of the Hudson Valley’s hottest new restaurant, Fish & Game, demonstrates the finer points of butchering a heritage pig and innovatively utilizing the various cuts of meat.
  • Zak Pelaccio Chef’s Demo: Chef Zak Pelaccio prepares creative dishes using heritage pork and locally sourced produce from the Capital Region and Hudson Valley.
  • Big Green Egg Grill Games sponsored by the Times Union: TU food writer Steve Barnes judges the final round of competition among Capital Region amateur chefs who will each be given a basket of ingredients and asked to create a unique recipe using Big Green Egg Grills.

THE CONNOISSEUR TENT – Master Wine Connoisseur Kevin Zraly hosts this one-of-a-kind culinary and wine adventure for aficionados at Saturday’s Grand Tasting. This separate tasting experience will feature artisan food, wine and spirits including tastings of rare wines from Kevin Zraly’s private wine cellar. This event will be offered in a luxurious, lounge-style space and feature music from a jazz trio.

2013 NYS Fair

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The NYS Fair would like to give away a pair of tickets, parking pass, and a Best Bets Bargain Book to one lucky commenter here on AlbanyEats!

I attended last year, and it was a fair worthy of the drive out to Syracuse from Albany. There was plenty to see and do to last you all day, traffic went smoothly, and the parking was easy to get to from the highway while still being close to the fairgrounds. Even if you don’t win tickets, you can buy tickets for $10 at the gate, which is pretty sweet for an entire day’s worth of stuff to see and do.

The 2013 NYS Fair will be running this Thursday, August 22, through Monday, September 2. The gates open at 8 am, with exhibit booths going opening at 10 am. This year’s theme is “Sharing the Bounty  and Pride of NY”, celebrating cultural, economic, and institutional strengths with emphasis on agriculture.

Contest rules/info:
All tickets will be mailed to the winner, or you can pick up from their main office M-F, 9-5 (no Will Call/box office this year)
Include your email address so you can be contacted if you win.
Contest ends the evening of Tuesday, August 20th, so get your comments in quickly!

Wolf Rd Diner

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Went to the Wolf Rd Diner on a Sunday morning, at a rather busy time for them. It’s the diner closer to the airport on Wolf Rd (219 Wolf Rd, Albany, NY 12205). Coffee is fine for diner Coffee. Our waitress was forgetful and overall not that great. You’d think she’d try to remember our orders and get it right the first time she forgot something, but after a while we gave up trying to remind her about the stuff she forgot because she’d apologize, say she was going to get it, then get distracted with other tables and never bring us the thing she forgot.

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Any way, they use real butter on their toast (yay, not margarine) and do a pretty decent fry-up on the home fries and hash. The eggs were a properly runny over easy.

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Challah french toast with ham. Wow, that was super yellow. No maple syrup, only breakfast syrup. But plenty of butter, so that was good. If you get there before 11 AM (I think) you can do a breakfast combo where your meals also come with coffee/tea and juice. Grapefruit juice was good – not too tart or sugary.

I still prefer Bob‘s over the Wolf Road Diner, but in a pinch, this wasn’t too bad.

Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro

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I wen to the Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro for the second time in two weeks. I wrote about my first visit for All Over Albany, and you can check out all of the delicious dim sum goodies I got on my solo visit there.

My dad & My Other Mom were up for the weekend, and after an entire day of picnicking and gorging, we wound up at the Hong Kong Bakery for dinner. We got some of their tea, which is a pleasantly floral jasmine. Very high notes and refreshing crispness. I think they may charge for tea, but free refills on the pot, and what they charge is fairly nominal.

The servers have been great. They’re mostly college-aged girls who speak English and Mandarin or Cantonese fluently (some only speak Mandarin, not Cantonese, but some speak all 3). We had a different main server than last time, but the same girl who I had last time I was in recognized me as the solo diner from a few weeks earlier. I guess a solo lady dining alone and ordering $30 of food kind of stands out, heh heh.

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I was thinking of getting something light and squid-y. I was going to go for sauteed squid, but our server really recommended the salt & pepper squid with chili ($12.99). Good as far as salt & pepper squid goes, and there were fine slices of chili to add a little punch of heat.

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Beef chow fun again, hee hee hee. This wasn’t quite as amazing as the chow fun I got on my last visit from the AoA post – a little less wok hei on everything, but overall it was still a very satisfying dish and a controlled amount of oil.

Beef chow fun is one of the most common dishes my family orders at Chinese restaurants. The beef chow fun at the Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro is especially special to me because the day after my wedding, I went to the Hong Kong Bakery (when it was just a bakery on Central Ave) with Yeh-Yeh and the whole family, and he declared this beef chow fun better than most restaurants in NYC. And Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro has managed to keep this recipe consistent over the years. I love that. A little bite, a little memory.

Still better than a lot of beef chow fun from restaurants in NYC Chinatowns.

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My dad picked grouper fillets with fresh veggies ($14.99), and they were delicate, tender fillets. Chinese broccoli as the green veggie, still nice and firm with a little crunch.

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Food in progress. Salt & pepper shrimp on the left, chow fun top right, and grouper fillets bottom right.

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Baby bok choy as a veggie side. My dad wanted more greenery with dinner, and these were delicious. Lightly oiled, tender greens, and firm but pliable stalks. The garlic was intense – it was ever so lightly cooked, so I made sure Albany John had a few bulbs, too. I want to say that this was “Sauteed Seasonal Vegetable w. Garlic” for $9.99, but our server put the bill slightly closer to my dad, and he snagged the bill right up. Thanks, Dad!

My only regret is that we didn’t go for dim sum, because then I could have ordered ALL OF THE CHEUNG FAN!

Ah well, next time.

Shabbat

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Most Friday nights this one cute couple I know hosts Shabbat dinner at their house. They don’t drive, and they leave a lot of lights on, and they fill the whole house up with love (and the occasional scholarly debate). And food. Oh boy, is there ever lots of food.

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Bread is a big deal, and the Mrs. usually makes the bread from scratch. This was an Amish sourdough bread.

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It was a little on the sweet side for all of us (a good breakfast bread), but oh my gosh, that crust was shatteringly crisp and divine. Love.

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Do you see all of the goodies on my plate? I didn’t even try everything! Salad, the best kugel I’ve ever had (gobs of cream cheese, juicy raisins, and plump apricots), lentils, roasted potatoes, and brisket in wine.

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So much deliciousness. I love being part of a family tradition, even if I don’t understand a lot of what’s going on.

Workout Attire

Some gyms have rigid rules on what you can and cannot wear, others are more lax about what you can wear in. When I first started working out I wanted to be as covered as possible, and my usual go-to outfits were shorts or loose capris paired with a cotton t-shirt (usually some sort of promotional tee). While I originally thought looser fitting clothing was more comfortable in the gym, I’ve come to learn that (for me) sometimes the snugger gym clothes are actually better for performance.

Let’s talk about support first (sorry men-folk, this will probably not apply to you, so feel free to skip to the next section). I was a bit more voluptuous when I started working out, and the Goddess sports bra was a cardio game-changer for me (they size C cups and higher). I got fitted for mine originally at Madame Pirie’s, but later ordered them from Amazon because of convenience (Mme Pirie’s prices are pretty on-par with internet prices). The Goddess bra kept everything in place with almost zero movement. It’s not an all-day bra, but when you’re doing intense activities, it’s great.
When my girls got smaller, I’ve since been using compression sports bras which also keep things in place and are usually comfy to wear all day, even. I really dislike sports bras that are little more than spandex with an elastic band – no support, and too much stretch (I’m looking at you, Target sports bras).

Tops/What You Wear to Cover Your Chesticles: If you’re going to sweat, cotton is not your friend. It will retain all of that sweat to keep you hotter during your workouts and eventually be come a bit funky-smelling. Material that wicks is great for keeping you cool and letting you work out longer. I don’t know about you, but when my internal thermostat goes beyond a certain temperature I can’t exercise as intensely as I’d like to and I get all sorts of tired and crankypants.
If you don’t have any shirts that are made from a non-cotton/wicking material, consider checking out your local thrift store (because, hey, restocking your exercise wardrobe can be a bit expensive). Do you know how many races give out free t-shirts, and how many of those t-shirts never get worn and donated? Plenty. I’m sure I seem way more athletic than I am because of all of these shirts. And hey, that anthropomorphic screen-printed jogging hot dog for the 5K for Pig Sweats race at least livens up your wardrobe a bit.
Bottoms: So guys, please wear something with a bit of stretch to it if you’re seriously going to work out. My gym is incredibly lax with their dress code (it’s basically “please wear some form of clothing over your bodies”), so a lot of guys will just work out in jeans or cargo shorts. “Well Albany Jane, what is wrong with that?” you might ask. “I happen to really like my cargo shorts, thank you very much, and I like that my gym doesn’t make me change out of them,”. Trust me, you want a little stretch in your clothes if you plan on doing squats or other leg exercise that require a bit of flexibility. I was doing barbell squats one day, and a chatty fellow asked if he could also try squatting the weight I was doing. He was wearing cargo shorts, and don’t you know it – the back of his shorts split as soon as he hit 90 degrees. If you’re trying to impress someone, you probably don’t want to split your pants within 5 minutes of meeting them. Just sayin’. Also, you just ruined a perfectly good pair of cargo shorts, so that’s a bummer.
Ladies, don’t automatically discount the skintight bottoms as too showy or racy. They are also quite useful when working out. It’s funny – you don’t really notice how fabric gets in the way, but when it’s gone, it’s amazing how much easier it is to move around. I’m not saying you should break out the skin tight booty shorts, but don’t discount the skin-tight capris or bike shorts, either. Sure, they’re snug, but they’ll keep you cooler than long yoga pants will.
I’ve had decent luck shopping at Marshall’s for exercise bottoms. They’re rather durable, and usually $12-25 per pair.

Shoes: Again, if you have a lax gym, you might wear your Timbs at the gym. But dude. Good footing is key! Your feet support your whole body, so you want to make sure you take care of your tootsies. I really like Fleet Feet on Wolf Road. They’re able to help me figure out what kind of sneaker I need for the activities I do. Oh, and worry more about how they function than how they look.
If you find yourself with some knee/back pain, I’d also suggest visiting a podiatrist to see if orthotic inserts could help. Since I started using orthotic inserts, my exercise stamina has increased significantly. Before using them, I would get knee and foot pain after about 45 minutes of cardio. But now I can pretty much go, go, go.

Farmer Jon’s Peaches

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I love being friends with farmers. One of my very good friends married Farmer Jon, and one night they stopped by with peaches! Donut peaches and regular peaches. Donut peaches are my absolute favorite kind of peach, and these were so good!

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It’s a tough call – which fruit is more summery to me? Raspberries or peaches? I think peaches must be. They’re tart, sweet, and all sorts of satisfyingly sticky.

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They are also selling the peaches at local markets and at their farm stand. I keep meaning to get to the farm stand. Mainly to hang out and chat with my friend, but also to pick up some produce, hee hee.