Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Recipe: Pickled Garlic (and other mixed local vegetables)

This year was a good year for garlic, and all other kinds of vegetable that can handle dry (and hot!) conditions. Here is my preferred recipe for conserving these goodies for winter time:

Take about 20 bulbs of garlic
Red hot peppers (home-grown), as may as you have jars, or depending on size, some more.
3-4 mid size zucchini (from your own garden, or a friend’s garden) – remove soft inner part, cut into cube size about 3/4″
Onions, about 8 pieces, cut into irregular shapes

The jars, provide enough mid-size jars which need to be perfectly clean (best clean in dishwasher before use, even if they were cleaned before), and sterilize in boiling water (both the jars and the lids) for several minutes. Hint: add some distilled vinegar to the water to avoid formation of deposits.

For the liquid
Take 1 Liter of water, 200 mL of 25% acid white distilled vinegar, 160 g sugar, 30 g salt – bring to a boil.

Add the vegetables.

Add quantity of black pepper seeds.

Make sure that all vegetables are fully covered with the liquid, otherwise, add more liquid, or less vegetables.

Boil vigorously for at least 8 minutes.

Transfer to the jars, fill the to the top, put on the lid immediately and turn upside down (lid side down). All this must be done with boiling hot liquid and vegetables, so take care. Ensure that all jars have at least one pepper, and somewhat even balance of vegetables.

Let cool down slowly, label and store for several weeks before eating.

It is a pretty strong liquid, and it is very suitable for preserving other strong vegetables like, onion, garlic, chili, etc., and these preserve will keep several years no problem – if want to preserve light vegetables like pure zucchini, pumpkin, gherkins, etc. – lower acid concentration is advisable.

Recipe: German Küchle

One of the traditional baked goods in the Southern part of Germany: so-called Kuechle.

Recipe:
500 g wheat flour, 50 g sugar, 60 g butter, 2 eggs, 220-250 mL milk, small quantity of salt, yeast.

Prepare a yeast dough, knead it thoroughly, let it rise, knead again, and finally form small round pieces, about 15 pieces. Let rise again for 15 minutes.

For baking, heat oil (better: clarified butter) to 175-185 degrees C (ideally, use a thermometer). Then, with fingers covered with some oil or butter, pull the kuechle into shape and bake floating on the oil, turn around once the color of the 1st side is right, bake the 2nd side, then take out and put on some kitchen paper to soak-off the residual oil. Cover with some powdered sugar. Eat fresh, or freeze.

Pizza and Baguette Oven: From China, to Japan

One project for my new Japanese residence – a deck oven, to prepare pizza, baguette, and other baked goods, not only for myself, but also for friends, colleagues, etc.

Surprisingly, ovens, even regular household ovens, are virtually unknown in Japan. All is centered around microwaves and rice cookers, or fish grills, but nobody seems to need anything more than a small toaster oven. Well, for me, a well-working oven is absolutely essential for survival, to bake bread, pizza, and lasagne.

A deck oven, in contrast to a convection oven, transfers heat by contact and radiation more then by moving hot air around. There is a lot of science behind this, but we can leave the detail explanation to baking experts, anyway, if you want to bake a good baguette, bread, or pizza, you need a deck oven (which can have metal or stone floor – this one has metal, which is quite good for fast heat up and easy cleaning).

How to get a deck oven in Japan – it’s not easy, unless you want to pay thousands of dollars for a top brand professional imported German deck oven, or some high end Japanese equipment. Fortunately, China is close-by, and after some weeks of waiting, customs formality (You really want to import food processing equipment for use in Japan??? How come???), the big box arrived, about 100 kgs of metal and insulation. It is well build, some small shipment damage, but nothing that can’t be fixed, and it is recommended to inspect such equipment anyway, before you use it. It is from the Honglian company. YXY-10 gas deck oven, which can fit one large tray 50×60 cm easily, or three pizzas.
It has full electronic control of the heaters, digital display, high voltage pulse ignition, separate regulation of bottom and top temperature. All heavy duty. You can use steel or aluminum trays, or bake directly on a pizza mesh on the floor of the oven.

A lot of parts for little money!

Clean out the dirt and residues from manufacturing before using it. Anyway, it is a good idea to run it for a while at high temperature to get rid of all the oils and chemical residues.

Still some more work to do before firing up, electric supply installed (oven designed for 220 Volts – I also want to operate it in Germany later, but Japan has 100 Volts only), but the gas supply system (LPG) still needs some work, stay tuned!

AB Arboga U2508: adding a “z-axis” digital indicator

The U2508 quill only has a rather coarse indicator, merely, a printed scale (which I had to replace with a new scale, because the old one was completely worn). Still, the quill can be adjusted quite precisely by using the handwheel that will allow a rather precise adjustment, with 2 mm pitch per turn.

The machine has not enough space for a glass scale, and this would be an overkill anyway. Looking around, I found this Wabeco model 11371 digital caliper, 0.01 mm resolution, and usually accurate to within 0.08 mm – most are better than that. The price is quite reasonably, found one set for EUR 38.99, delivered.

For such price, don’t expect too much precision – the mounting holes were quite off-position, and Wabeco confirmed that this is quite common for these units… well, you have to machine the bracket to the caliper’s mounting dimensions, but we aren’t going to produce these brackets in series anyway.

To connect the indicator to the quill rod, a quite sophisticated piece was machined from a scrap piece of high-tensile aluminum alloy.

A few holes drilled and tapped, and – it’s working quite fine.

Another view…

For the mounting of the readout unit, a simple strip of brass was found to be good enough, mounted with two M3 screws to the U2508 – so it can be easily removed, in case the future owner of the U2508, if any, doesn’t like the addition.

Some tests were done, and within 20-30 mm of travel, I could not find any measurable deviation. Don’t have any long gage blocks here but may check it later in case I need super accuracy for some special work.

Chuck tender/Bug Filet: Just let it soften in the oven

The chuck tender, also called “bug filet” or “fake filet” in German, is ideally suited for slow cooking. Here my favorite recipe (most just to remember myself, but you may give it a try as well!).

Bug filet marked in red:

Step (1): prepare/wash/dry the meet, about 3-3.5 pounds are ideal.

Step (2): roast all around in hot oil, in a large pot. When almost finished, add about 4 onions, cut into mid-size pieces, and roast further

Step (3): put the meat into a roaster, or other container that is fire-proof and has a lid.

Step (4): add a mixture of about 200 mL of water, 50 mL balsamic vinegar to the onions in the pot, stir thoroughly to remove and dissolve all residue from the pot, and add the liquid to the roaster. You may add some other root vegetables, carrots etc.

Step (5): cover the meat with a mixture of mustard, salt and pepper. Cover.

Step (6): put into the preheated oven, at about 130~140°C. Let cook for about 4 hours. Usually no need to touch, open, etc. – provided the roaster is tightly closed. You can also cook it at 120°C for 5 hours. Under no circumstances use a temperature above 140°C, or any type of short cooking with this meat – it will be tough, and can’t develop the flavor.

Step (7): take the meet from the roaster (check core temperature if you wish, should be about 80°C). Let it rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime, bring the liquids in the roaster to a boil, add some salt, as needed, and add a bit a mixture of starch and water (while boiling and stirring) to give the sauce some texture.

Step (8): cut the meet into rather this slices. Serve with some mashed potatoes.

This dish can be easily stored in the freezer, and re-heated any time. The meet even improves in tenderness and taste.

Steamed dumplings: Dampfnudeln (original Swabian German type and recipe)

These are really delicious. In case you want to try, here is the recipe.

Recipe:

70 mL milk
60 g sugar
1 pck active dry yeast (or 1/2 cube of yeast)
300 g wheat flour
2 eggs
60 g butter

Prepare a soft dough, let rise for about 1 hour or double size.

Then, knead properly and form 7 pieces, and let rise for about 15 minutes.

In a deep (or medium-deep) pan heat a mixture of 100 mL milk, 30 g sugar, and 20 g butter.

Put the 7 pieces into the pan, and immediately close with a tight-closing lid (never open until done!!). Bring to a strong boil, for just a moment, and then regulate down the heat to mid-head (best done on induction or electric stove, may be hard to avoid burning the crust on a gas stove). For my local stove, I use setting 4 of 8 (max).

After about 20~25 minutes, the dumpling will fill the pan, and are done.

Best served with vanilla sauce, strawberry sauce, or similar.

Chair Repair: build in 1991, refurbished in 2017

My good old office chair has seen better days, with permanent use sind 1991, during all my study and overseas activities. At least, it is not a cheap imported chair, but a good old German made and top quality office chair, purchased for about 300 Deutschmarks in 1991. A very generous gift of my parents, who took care of my back even at those early days.
But now, all the fabric is work, and even holes showing up, and threads loose.

Sure, there are many professional repair shops that can do a full overhaul of such chairs, but what about the do-it-yourself spirit? So I decided to fix it myself, using simple tools, like, a nail gun (see below), a razorblade, some fabric (corduroy, available from a local shop at low cost), and a fleece (non-woven, anti-slip impregnated) fabric (about 100 g/m2 weight).

This is the nail gun I use, a Ferm ATM1042. It’s quite sturdy, and a great deal for the price!

The nails used are 5.8×13 mm, quite easy to worth with, using an air-pressure operated gun.

The fleece serves an important purpose, it covers the old fabric (nothing removed from the chair), and gives it some new firm touch. And, because of its anti-friction properties, it will not slip between the old and new fabric. And, it is available locally, at low cost. I used a single layer for the back rest, and two layers for the seat, cut to size.

Here you can see progress on the back-rest. Make sure the fabric is aligned property, then first fix two opposite sides with the needle gun. Then, continue with the perpendicular sides, then diagonally, and so on. Always apply an even “pull” to make sure the fabric looks nicely stretched around the corners. Avoid any wrinkles by pulling the fabric straight, and by applying more nails from the gun. After all, don’t safe on nails!

For the seating surface – the same procedure.

Voila, all done, and ready for at least 10 more years of service!

Xmas Cookies: Heidesand

It’s never to early to prepare for Xmas, and certainly not too early to bake some cookies anyway.

These cookies are a specialty of our family, called “Heidesand”, but it is a modified recipe, and a bit different compared to the Northern German original.

For the dough, thoroughly mix and knead:

250 g butter (soft)
100 g finely powdered sugar
100 g marzipan paste
300 g wheat flour type 405

The dough will be rather soft after some kneading, but don’t worry!

Form to rods of about 1″ diameter, wrap in aluminum foil and let cool/solidify in the fridge overnight.

Cover with some egg jog, and roll in sugar to fully cover the outside with crystals.

Immediately cut in slices, about 3/8 of an inch thick. Put on non-stick paper with a good distance between the slices. Don’t let the rolls warm up! For best results, only cover one roll with the sugar coating at a time, and cut it into slices, before proceeding with the next roll.

Bake at 175°C, circulating air oven, for about 11 minutes (perimeter of the cookies must be brown, inside only lightly colored).

Everything done right – the cookies will look like this, and taste even better:

Cast Aluminium Wok with Gas Burner: a 10.5 kW cooking arrangement

With frequent trips to Asia (almost half-time living there at the moment), I don’t really get sick of Asian food. Even more so, if we can all it European style food, cooked in a wok. All fresh vegetables, some meet, some fried rice, cooking limited to a few minutes, and not a lot of dishes to wash up afterwards.

This is the arrangement. The wok, from Thailand, is cast aluminium, and very good for all kinds of wok cooking styles, including stir fry, fried rice, deep fry, steam cooking, and so on.

wok arrangement

The real key to wok cooking is not so much the wok itself, which comes in various types of materials (never take anything that is coated, either black steel, cast iron, or aluminium give the best result). The real key is the burner, and its power. Unless, if you have a really strong custom build induction coil heater… more about his later.

The burner, it is propane fired, and comes in an easy to assemble set of parts, for about EUR 40, delivered. Great value.

wok burner

See the data. The power is pretty good, and can be regulated down a bit if needed. But most times, I use this thing full power, along with a 5 kg propane bottle, which seems to last for a while.

wok burner1

Before you use a new wok, be sure to clean it properly, and then burn-in by using some vegetable oil (heat resistant, don’t use olive oil). With some paper towel, and a wooden stick, wipe the wok inner surface, while it is really hot, and until some brown layer is forming. This should all be done on outside, and only use a small amount of oil, and never hold your head anywhere close to the wok, because the fumes may catch fire any time. At my end, everything worked out nicely and quietly, but not without the smell or burning hot vegetable oil.

wok burn in

After cool down, time for some first dish. This is not a cooking block, sure you will find your own recipes.

work 1st dish

Cleaning is easily accomplished with hot water and a very minor amount of a mild cleaning agent. If at all possible, just wipe out and clean with water, no cleaning agent, and use daily, to preserve the anti-stick properties of the surface.

Really Hot: Brick Oven Pizza at Home

To prepare a brick oven pizza, no doubt, the most suitable apparatus would be a brick oven, wood fired. However, it is hard to come by at your home, and not quite viable to heat up such massive equipment just for one or two pizzas.
Time to try out a present received for xmas, a brick, which fits my oven very well. The material is Schamotte, a Mullite-type Si-Al-Oxide material. Make sure to get a food grade stone, because many refractory bricks intended for industrial use contain heavy metals, and this is not what we want for the pizza.

pizza schamotte stein

For the dough, there are a few things to consider. It can’t be too soft, otherwise, it will be difficult to handle. Some good recipes:

Basic Recipe

500 g wheat flour (unbleached, German type 405)
–> can be substituted by a mixture of 150 g of whole wheat flour, and 350 g of wheat flour.
15 g of salt
3 spoons of vegetable oil
1 spoon of sugar
270 ml warm water
10 g of yeast, or sufficient active dry yeast

To prepare the dough, dissolve yeast and sugar in water, and add salt, oil, and about 3/4 of the flour. Mix thoroughly, add remaining flour, mix, and knead with your hands until the dough is nice and firm.
Let rise for 1-2 hours, or longer, depending on temperature.

Form into round pieces, about 100 g each for small size pizza, and let these pieces rest for about 35-45 minutes.

pizza dough

Above, this is what it should look like.

Then, roll out the pieces, without any further kneading, and use some flour and semolina as an anti-stick agent.

Make sure the stone is pre-heated at full power, 250°C temperature.

pizza before

Put the pizza on a wooden panel of appropriate size to move it around, and slide it on the stone. Don’t add too much sauce, otherwise, the pizza might get stuck to the stone.

pizza after

MMMMMMHHhhhh delicious!

pizza breads

Needless to say, there are many uses for the pizza stone, like, baking bread rolls, onion breads, or flat breads. A great opportunity for some experimentation!