Monday, December 29, 2008

Cast Iron (Wo)man

I have a serious love/hate relationship with my cast iron skillet. I love its evenness of temperature, ability to sear a steak like nobody's business, that it is non-toxic, non-stick, super inexpensive ($14) and it will probably last my lifetime with proper care.

The care constitutes all of the hate part. Proper seasoning of the skillet prevents the steel from rusting and keeps food from interacting with the metal (which could affect flavor, iron content, and corrode the metal if the food is really acidic, e.g., tomatoes). But its a multi-step process involving elbow grease, grease and hot water. And I'm still not sure if its safe to use butter (since it can go rancid).

Now if you are still using Teflon-coated cookware, please consider switching over. A NY Times article about unusual pets led me to dig deeper when it mentioned that fumes from a Teflon-coated pan can kill a bird. Pans can also cause flu-like symptoms in humans when heated at high temperatures (Wonder if my old roommate Tom is still frying meats in my old Teflon-coated wok that he pretty much ruined to flakes).

DuPont maintains that Teflon is completely safe and agreed in September 2004 to a $107.6 million settlement with residents of the communities around Parkersburg that is funding two major studies of C8's health impacts., DuPont could also be due for another $235 million payout for medical testing costs if a link to illness is proven. DuPont also installed treatment systems to get the chemical out of local water.

C8, a chemical used in the production of its cookware has been linked with severe birth defects
DuPont has a history of flouting safety regulations. Most recently "allegedly failing to provide information to the EPA about the health effects of a pollutant one of its plants spilled into drinking water." Nice job, guys, of course I trust your health claims!

I bought my skillet at my favorite local cookshop, the Brooklyn Kitchen. But really, you can find them at most well-stocked purveyors of kitchen goods.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Turn sour milk into delicious yogurt in just 8 hours!

I'm not sure where I picked it up, but as a child, I remember hearing that you could cook with sour milk. Once I got to cooking age, that no longer seemed to apply, and friends would be unsympathetic when I would tell them about drinking milk past its expiration date because it didn't taste sour—but was definitely past its prime as evidenced by my discomfort.

Well, finally, I get to say I told you so. Turns out sour milk is perfectly drinkable, albeit in its raw, unpasteurized form. (And it should go without saying, from a healthy pastured animal.)

In fact, leaving milk out to sour was a common way to preserve the milk before pasteurization became the order of the day. Soured raw milk actually tastes sour because of the increased amounts of acid—not an unpleasant taste, especially if you're accustomed to and enjoy the tanginess in sour cream, yogurt or goat's milk. But unlike pasteurized milk, where the sterility opens the floodgates for any number of harmful bacterias to proliferate, raw milk never spoils. It sours, then curdles and separates, but even then, it contains many beneficial nutrients and bacteria.

Which meant my week-old souring milk was just ripe for making yogurt.

Recipe for raw milk yogurt.
  1. Heat the milk just before the point it's too hot to touch (you should be able to swirl your finger in it without discomfort), which is around 100˚ Fahrenheit.
  2. Pour into a clean mason jar.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of yogurt (I used Hawthorne Valley).
  4. Cover and set it in the oven with the oven light (and pilot light) on. It needs to be maintained at about 95˚ for 8 hours. Or put it in a cooler with some hot water bottles.
  5. Cool it in the refrigerator.
  6. Mix in some fruit and honey for a delicious breakfast treat or enjoy plain.

And yes, raw milk is illegal to sell in New York. But you can join in a cow-share, or buy direct from a farm. Find more info at

Trial and Error
I think I overheated the milk slightly and it came out a little chewy...more like a cottage cheese. But it's still pleasantly tangy and yummy.