Saturday, December 21, 2013

Modern Maple with Dara Moscowitz Grumdahl

I had the pleasure of being an in-studio guest on Dara Moscowitz Grumdahl's “Off the Menu” program on WCCO radio this morning (available as a podcast on WCCO radio's website. Click on the December 21 show; my segment is about halfway through... and yes, that is me, even though they have my name listed as Tessa!). We chatted about maple syrup, including how it's made, how to cook with it and how syrup was made by the Native Americans who were the first inhabitants of this area. I also shared a batch of Maple Crispy Bars with Dara; the recipe, from my book, Modern Maple, is below. As a bonus, I'll also include instructions for making Candied Bacon, which was included in the cooking class I presented on Wednesday, December 18, at Byerly's Cooking School in St. Louis Park.

Modern Maple includes 75 recipes, as well as information about the fascinating history of maple syrup. It also has easy instructions on how to tap the maples in your yard, using inexpensive supplies available from any hardware store. Maple season generally begins anywhere from the end of February through mid-March in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. You don't need acres of trees to make your own maple syrup; even if you've got only one or two maples, you should give it a try next spring!

Maple Crispy Bars
18 servings

When I decided to try using maple syrup in the traditional rice crispy bar recipe, I looked online for ideas, figuring that there would all kinds of maple versions out there. Surprisingly, there weren’t; the few I found that use maple syrup also included chocolate chips, white chocolate, brown sugar and other add-ins, which I didn’t want to try. So I decided to simply cook the maple syrup and butter together to caramelize it a bit before adding the marshmallows. The mellow caramel flavor is a nice addition to the traditional treats.

6 cups crisp rice cereal
1/3 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter
4 cups mini marshmallows

Coat the inside of a very large mixing bowl and a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add the rice cereal to the mixing bowl. In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, combine syrup and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until butter melts and mixture turns bubbly. Continue to cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and stir for about 30 seconds longer, then add the marshmallows and cook, stirring constantly, until the marshmallows melt and the mixture is smooth. Immediately scrape into the mixing bowl with the cereal and stir to mix thoroughly. 

Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread out as best you can, then use a sheet of waxed paper to press the mixture evenly and firmly into the pan (or coat your hands with cooking spray and use them instead of the waxed paper). Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into 18 pieces—3 the long way and 6 across. Let cool completely in baking dish before transferring individual pieces to a serving plate. These bars are best the day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container for a day or two; they can also be frozen in an airtight container with wax paper between the layers.

Candied Bacon
4 servings (pictured at right with Cranberry-Maples Scones, also from Modern Maple)

Candied bacon is a fairly recent “blogosphere phenomenon” that is usually made with brown sugar. Maple syrup is even better, and takes this decadent but simple preparation to another level. The recipe is written for ½ pound of bacon, but it’s easy to change the amount since the preparation is so simple. You might want to make extra and use the cooled, crumbled candied bacon to top ice cream, stir into muffin batter, add to sandwiches or burgers, mix in with cookie dough (especially chocolate chip cookies), or sprinkle over salad or thick soup.

1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon (8–9 slices)
1/3 cup maple syrup

Position oven rack in center of oven, and heat to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil, bringing it up at the sides to form a lip, then place a wire cooling rack on the lined sheet. Arrange bacon in a single layer on the rack, keeping slices separate. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and use tongs to turn bacon over. Use a pastry brush to dab maple syrup liberally over the bacon, using about one-third of the syrup. Bake for 7 minutes, then remove from oven. Use tongs to turn the bacon; brush the bacon with half of the remaining syrup. Return to oven and bake for 7 minutes, then remove, turn the bacon and brush with remaining syrup. Return to oven and bake for 4 to 7 minutes longer, or until edges are crisp and bacon looks glazed. Remove from oven and let stand for about 3 minutes to allow the glaze to set, then transfer bacon to a serving plate. (If you don’t remove the bacon after a few minutes, it will stick to the rack—and don’t even think about lining the serving plate with paper towels!) Serve immediately; refrigerate leftovers.

Recipes copyright (c) Teresa Marrone, 2013; from Modern Maple (Minnesota Historical Society Press)

Other recipes in Modern Maple use maple syrup in ways both traditional and unexpected. Here is a list of a few, including breakfast, breads, salads, main courses, desserts and beverages, that work well this time of year.

  • English Muffin and Berry “Hash”
  • Northland Sweet Sausage Gravy and Biscuits
  • No-Knead Oatmeal-Sunflower Focaccia (pictured at right)
  • Cardamom-Maple Swirl Bread
  • Beet, Fennel and Winter Fruit Salad
  • Watercress and Grilled Pear Salad with Serrano Ham and Gorgonzola (photo below)
  • Pizza with Brie, Caramelized Onions, Basil and Maple (photo here)
  • Baby Back Ribs with Maple Glaze (see the recipe in an earlier blog entry)
  • Apple-Pear Pandowdy with Cranberries
  • Profiteroles (Mini Cream Puffs) with Maple Cream
  • Bacon-Infused Bourbon with Maple
  • Mulled Apple-Maple Cider
Modern Maple is available at your local independent bookstore (I saw a pile of them at Magers & Quinn in Uptown the other day, but others should have it also), from the Minnesota Historical Society Press website, and through the major online retailers such as and Barnes & Noble.

If you've found my blog because you're looking for recipes and cookbooks, you may also be interested in some morel recipes I posted in May: Pan-Fried Fish with Morels, and Morels and Oyster Mushrooms with Dumplings. A list of other my books is here. This year, I completed work on a field ID guide, Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest (co-authored with Kathy Yerich); the book will be out in March. Right now I'm also finishing review of the proofs for The Beginner's Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods, to be published in 2014 by Storey Publications.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Cabin part 6: Buttoning up for winter

We accomplished an amazing amount in the period between Labor Day and October 15 (the photo above shows what the land looked like in June). We got our building permit the Thursday before Labor Day, which gave us the green light to start clearing the land for our 16x20 hand-scribed log cabin, which we had purchased in June from the Great Lakes School of Log Building in Isabella, MN. In that six-and-a-half-week period, here's what we did. Full posts of each part, with lots more photos and descriptions, can be found in the list at right (in October posts).

  • Part 1, August 30-31: cleared 15 trailer loads of brush and small to medium trees and hauled it to the local brush pit (Teresa and Bruce)
  • September 1-4: supervised the excavation of the building site (done by Gale Quistad, an excavator who lives on Birch Lake); we assisted in clearing the material down to bedrock, then Bruce gave the bedrock a good power washing until it was totally clean  
  • Part 2, September 9-11: we had finally located a masonry company (Elias Masonry, based in Cloquet, MN) that we were able to wheedle into doing our project--we'd been talking to masons for months and everyone was too busy or we couldn't commit to them because we did not have our permit secured--and in mid-September we watched as they built our stepped foundation and two ICF walls. Bruce stayed on for a few days afterwards and did cleanup and additional clearing around the foundation.
  • Part 3, September 20-23: installed drain tile around the foundation and put pebble board over the ICF walls to protect them from damage and the pressure of backfilling (Teresa and Bruce, assisted at times by Don Wendel, a wonderful neighbor), then assisted in the backfill process
  • Part 4, September 30-October 3, and ongoing: arranged for a construction contractor (Nace Hagemann Construction, right down the road from our Birch Lake lot) to put up two stick-frame walls, two floor systems, and a stairway to connect the lower and upper levels
  • Part 5, October 11-12: watched in awe as Greg Tibbetts Trucking from Finland, MN disassembled the cabin in Isabella, and re-assembled it on our site with the assistance of six able helpers
The photos below were taken from roughly the same position... I missed a few steps!

To have the cabin in its final home, after a summer's worth of wrangling with permits and contractors, was almost more than we could believe. The siting is perfect; the log level will be accessed directly from a door (yet to be cut) from our upper parking area, and the lower level is a walkout to the sloped, tree-filled area below.

Below is a photo looking south towards Birch Lake, peeking through what will be the door from the log level to the upper-level deck. We've got a fabulous view of Birch Lake, nearly from treetop level. We'll remove a few more trees in the spring, to improve the view but also for fire safety; too many trees that are close to the structure are a fire hazard, particularly when they're balsam fir (which the locals call "kerosene trees" because they ignite so readily during a forest fire).

At left is a photo looking from the lower level out into what will be our outdoor living space. We'll do some terracing and landscaping to make a nice walkout patio from this door; the patio will connect to the nicely forested area on the west side of the lower level. The two framed-in areas in the photo will be windows that look out towards the patio and will also have a view of the lake.
We tried to find a contractor to put a roof on the cabin before winter, but just ran out of luck. So on October 26 and 27, we put a temporary covering over the roof trusses and closed in the open rafter ends, ably assisted by our wonderful neighbors Oscar and Deb Meyer, and Bob and Kirsten Berkemer. We could not have done this without their help; thanks, friends!

It was about 15 degrees when we got up in the morning, and quite gray; it "warmed" to about 25 during the day, and we had periods of sun mixed with snow flurries. Kirsten brought us homemade hot chocolate, and Deb fixed a wonderful hot stew for lunch (and also ran the chop saw to cut boards for the crew in the rafters). When the tarp was all secured, we had a nice bonfire.

Over the next two days, Bruce and I closed up the door and window openings to prevent snow from drifting in, and also put treads on the interior stairs so we can easily move between the two levels; the carpenters also came back and put some finishing touches on the deck and also wrapped the lower level with Tyvek. So now we are just waiting to see if we can get a contractor to do the roof this winter; unbelievably, even though temps are likely to be below zero and there is the probability of a lot of snow, contractors do work up there during winter--even on roofs. If we can't get someone to agree to this scheme, we'll have to wait until spring--and hope that our tarp holds up! In the mean time, we'll be dreaming and scheming about the work that faces us next spring, and how to approach it. Lots to do! But we know our little home in the woods will be waiting for us.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cabin part 5: Moving day!

Finally, here is the post and photos everyone has wanted to see. After about 5 weeks of frantic preparation, excavation, foundation work, and building of the lower level, we were ready to move the cabin to its final home on Birch Lake. Click on any photo to see a larger version of it.

We met Greg Tibbetts, the wizard in charge of the move, at the Great Lakes School of Log Building in Isabella, MN on October 11, at about 2:30 in the afternoon. He brought his 50-foot-long logging truck, which has a huge log claw in the center. Here's what the scene looked like when he started taking it apart. Note the colored tags on each log; these tell him where each log belongs to make it easier to put it back together the next day!

Bruce is inside the cabin (in the red shirt), drilling 1-1/4 inch holes through each log before it is removed. These are wiring channels, so we can run electrical wires up through the logs so they are invisible.

It took less than 2 hours to disassemble the cabin and pack it neatly onto his logging truck.  He promised to be up at Birch Lake, about 160 miles away, at about 8:30 the next morning ... and he was, along with a crew of 6 able helpers. His huge logging truck barely fit into our driveway; its rear wheels were hanging over the edge of the hill next to the cabin.

It was a real panic to get everyone functioning as a team, and there were lots of questions that Bruce and I had to answer. So I didn't even get the camera out until after the first few courses were laid down.

Each log has a carved, U-shaped channel underneath that had to be filled with insulation. So Greg would pick one up and carefully lay it down on the cabin floor (or resting atop the other logs, once there were a few of them in position) with the underside facing up, so the insulation could be added. We used an eco-friendly insulation made primarily out of ground up blue jeans (true!) that had to be cut or torn into strips. We used spray-mount to adhere the strips to the log undersides, then Greg sort of nudged each log over so it was right-side up, picked it up, and placed it into position. The helpers jostled them into final position as needed, sometimes aided by Greg who had to use the side of the huge claw to nudge the logs into place with a tap. Individual logs weighed as much as 500 or 600 pounds, so it was no small feat for the crew to get them into position.

I'm just going to let the next few photos below speak for themselves. As you can see, it was a pretty wild process. (That's me in a few photos, wearing an orange bandanna.)

I served lunch at about noon... a huge crockpot of homemade chili, and sandwich fixings with chips, pickles, cookies and beverages. They inhaled it all. After that, Greg moved the big equipment around so they could use the huge Cat excavator he had brought; for some things, it had better reach than his logging truck, and was used to finish the top of the structure. Rather than a claw, the Cat had log tongs that had to be pounded into the logs to pick them up.

Here she is at the end of the day, along with some of the guys who put it together. (Greg is the guy in the brown shirt on the far right, by the way.)

Now we need to get some sort of roof on it, to protect it against the winter snows (which have already started). The rest of the work will wait until spring, so I'll post more then. Thanks for looking at my photos.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cabin part 4: Stick frame lower level


Here's a pretty shot to start out this segment. This was taken shortly after sunrise, a week after we'd done the drain tile and backfilling work and the day that the carpentry started. In between, Gale had added more backfill so the carpenters could walk up to the corner of the building to get materials down into the lower level to begin construction. Here's what the structure looked like just before the carpenters arrived.

Hooray! Here come the carpenters... Nace Hagemann Construction and his crew. The Power Trio of Nace, Matt and Mark did an outstanding job for us over the course of the next few days.

At left, Matt and Mark are putting up the joists for the floor of the lower level. These are 2x12s, which are really heavy. They also added blocking between the studs for additional stability. By the end of the day, they had the flooring structure completed.

Bruce and I took a break underneath the floor joists that evening, sitting on the bedrock. We also saw some lovely clouds above the ICF walls shortly afterward.

The next day, the crew wasted no time in getting the floor over the joists and erecting the eastern wall. Mark said that usually a margarita party, with dancing, would be held on a newly installed floor, but it was only 9:00 in the morning so we didn't follow that tradition.

Construction continued for the next two days, and by the end we had some very sturdy walls. The log cabin is a lot heavier than a standard stick-frame structure; some logs weigh up to 600 pounds, from what we've been told. So the stick-frame construction may seem overbuilt, but we all felt that we were better off over-building than under-building.

Construction details continued after we left; the weather had turned nasty so the pace slowed down. Nace put the finishing structural touches on the deck on Friday, October 11, one day before the cabin was moved to its new home (post following).