Mama’s Carnitas

We have started planning a single meat dish each week that provides a basis for many sub-meals throughout the week, and provides a single source for all meat eaten each week. Last week it was carnitas, using a recipe provided by mom. While overseas, many holiday meals were celebrated with Mexican fare rather than American, and carnitas was usually on the table.

This particular dish ends up providing the base for 6 other meals which either use the meat, the broth, or both. Here is how it usually works:

  • Carnitas:
    • Quesadillas (using the meat with black beans and salsa)
    • Tortilla soup (using the meat and the broth, with black beans, tomatoes, yogurt, and tortilla chips)
    • Black beans and rice (using the meat and the broth with rice, salsa, tomatoes, and cheese)
      • Burritos (using the meat, the black beans and rice, and condiments)
      • Chipotle rice soup (using the broth, the meat, and the black beans and rice)
    • Tacos/Burritos (using the meat)

The recipe:

Mama’a Carnitas

1 bone-in pork shoulder (about 7 lb.)
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 large onion, quartered
1 Tablespoon coriander seed (whole)
1 Tablespoon cumin seed (whole)
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 canned chipotle chilies in sauce or 4 whole dried chipotles
2 bay leaves

To a 7-8 quart pan, add all ingredients. Add enough water to cover the pork. Cover and bring to a boil on high heat, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until meat pulls off easily with a fork (5-6 hours).

Remove meat from pot and shred into a casserole dish. Bake pork uncovered in a 450 F oven until lightly browned and sizzling, about 20 minutes.

I neglected to take pictures this time, but I promise to take some next time.

Remarkable milestone

We have reached a point where we have a new coffee drinker in the house. She has arrived at this point according to the rites and traditions of the family.

I remember my graduation to coffee drinker in Butuan (yes, at 12!) when I began dumping nescafe, sugar and powdered milk into hot water. I now shudder at the thought, and know that my daughter will know good coffee before she even starts heading for Starbuck’s when she has her own car.

Rosemary’s sourdough

I have not baked bread before. I think I have “made” bread in the bread maker, but I have never actually made bread by hand from start to finish. Last week I started working on a sourdough starter that uses kefir to provide the flora. On Thursday B used the starter to make some white French baguettes that were quite tasty. She used the starter only, no added yeast. This is what I was hoping for; a sourdough that is strong enough to work on it’s own. So I started throwing ingredients together yesterday. Some whole wheat flour, some white. Honey, olive oil, and rosemary and it was ready to rise.

Rosemary's baby sourdough

I left it overnight, and it just about doubled. When I tipped it onto the baking sheet it deflated, so I let it rise some more. I was feeling a little impatient, so I put it into the warm (100F) oven for a while. It rose again, but it was obvious that it would overflow the baking sheet, and the surface was drying out. I decided to punch it down, and split it. The dry parts and the caked flour added a whole lot of character. After about 30 minutes at 450F in the oven they were done, and smelled great. The rosemary was really coming out!

Only a mother could love...

I did not use a specific recipe or follow any directions, but I did what we usually do in our house when we are thinking about cooking something new: I browsed through several sourdough recipes, looked at a few forums, and then just went at it. i could probably write it all down, but I am not sure I would call it a success, maybe just a non-failure.

It is what is inside that counts...

I will tell you how I made my starter. After encouraging stories from Peter and his kefir sourdough success, I looked around on the Internet to see how others were making their kefir starter. There seem to be many variations, so I just did what i thought would work. I mixed some flour and water together to make a watery paste, and then added kefir. I added enough flour to make a batter and then left it on the counter. The next day I fed it some more flour and a little more water. It had started bubbling by that time, and looked like pancake batter. I did the same thing that night, and the next morning. By the end of the second full day, it smelled and tasted quite sour, and had begun to foam around the edges. B used 4/5 of it, and I used what was left to start over. Pretty easy, if you have kefir handy, and it does not take the week or so that traditional sourdough starter takes to get going (so I hear).

Tasty rosemary

Some beans are better than others, some beans mothers are better…

…than other beans mothers. I gave the supposedly mighty-morphin’ Malawi a few more tries. I roasted lighter (City), and it tasted under roasted. I roasted it darker (Full City+) and it tasted too bright, and to much like “normal” coffee. I also roasted some Ethiopian Lekempti and some Burundi. Both ended up “Ethiopian” roast, which is just out of first crack, but before any beans are dark (City-?). I let them rest for about 4 days and they began to bloom. The Lekempti smells like honey to B, and to me it smells like muffins. Quite nice. The Burundi is more fruity, and does have a distinct sweetness like apricots. They are great on their own (if a little thin) and make excellent additions to any mild base.

Tonight Peter and I made Vietnamese coffee with the Vietnamese espresso makers that Nathan and Carol gave us several years back. Started with sweetened condensed milk, added coffee and then more milk. I have not had sweet coffee in years. It was very good. It might be a staple during the warm summer months…

I am thinking of trying the cold soak method one of these days (1 lb. coarse ground coffee + 9 cups cold water + 12 hours = 6 cups of 3x strength coffee). It produces a concentrated, but more mild and less acidic brew. Might be nice for iced drinks and afternoon delight…

Mighty rearranging

B is at it again, and we are working on changing the layout of our house. We are not used to being in the same house for so long, and we usually wait for a move to do a thorough cleaning and furniture reconfig. Since we have not moved, we have to work up the potential energy to do it anyway. The sun is out, it is a little cold outside, Christmas is coming, and the new rug arrived (I will wait for B to tell about that one). That was enough potential to get the ball rolling…

I have a roast event today, so the garage is all set up. The 40 lbs. of green coffee that have been sitting in the studio should get distributed today. I will also roast samples to see what they are like. I have already roasted some of the Daterra (from Brazil) and it is the base for my Christmas blend. The other two are both Ethiopian, Lekempti and Yirgacheffe. These are both varieties that I have not had before, but they both have good reviews. The Yirg is supposed to have a bit of apricot in it…

Anyway, that is the news from Round Lake.

Eating cautiously

Well, after Nathan lived after eating mushrooms from his yard, I was a little envious. I had recently digested some shrooms, and then had a little scare and even went out and bought activated charcoal for a little home treatment. It turns out that I would have had to consume over a bottle and a half of caplets for a single dose, and they usually treat with a dose every hour for 4 to 12 hours. At $10 a bottle, it seemed a little steep, but hey, my liver is worth more than that. That particular incident was a convergence of several possible gastrointestinal hazzards, so it was hard to know exactly what it was. There was the flu that was going around at work… I had eaten quite a bit of roasted chicken, which I am some what allergic to when it is cooked with the skin on… We had just had large salads made from organic spinach, only a week after the spinich e. coli scare… I ate some mushrooms that I was pretty sure were *Lepista nuda* or Wood Blewitts, which are poisonous if uncooked, but I cooked them, but then they sat in the fridge for a week or so. Anyway, it did make me think a little harder about putting fungus in my mouth.

So then when I was picking A up from school on Wednesday I noticed several Shaggy mane (*Coprinus comatus*) on the grass between the parking lots. I started picking them as I waited and chatted with B on the phone. I found 5 good ones, and as we were driving out of the parking lot we noticed that there was a whole field more. We stopped and made several trips, returning with handfuls. In the end I had a nice pile in the passenger seat.

Seat of potential poison

When we arrived home I threw out a few that were already showing signs of turning to ink (ie. they were showing shades of grey on the gills). I took the rest in and washed them and cut off any parts that looked bad.

toxic torpedoes?

They really looked pretty good, and seemed like they would make good eating. The ones that I prepared were all still young, and in the button stage, meaning that the cap had not pulled away from the stem much yet. They were white throughout, and had a ring on the stem where the cap connected. The outside of the cap was shaggy, and shed some of it’s scales when handled.


I sliced them into quarters lengthwise and sautéd them in butter. They had a lot of water content, and made a wonderful sauce. I did add just a little garlic and then put them in a container in the freezer after trying a bite.

Is that squid?

Yesterday I found more Shaggy mane in the park, and cooked them up too. But rather than putting off the inevitable, I added them to my stir fry. They were very tasty. At one point though, my hands and legs felt a little tingly, and the ringing in my ears stopped. I felt suddenly clear headed, and generally good. I think it may have been my sinuses emptying out after the chili-black-bean sauce I added to the meal. Anyway, it seemed to be a success.

I may try the Blewitts again soon; there is another batch growing under the blue spruce…

Eating dangerously

After Brother Nathan’s recent mushroom movie, the first touches of fall-like weather, and frequent rain, I decided to go in search of edible mushrooms. Last year we saw many types growing in the yard, and in the park nearby. I really like mushrooms, both to eat, and just the odd apeal of an otherworldly shape, smell, and general biology.

Promising beauty

We had a nice rain today, which brought rainbows, and when it was done, I headed out in search of fungus, specifically puffballs. In the fungus world, everything is strange. There are slimes, hard shelf fungus, the destroying angel and death-cap, both of which will destroy your liver, ultimately killing you, and then there is the giant puffball, which can grow to be a meter wide. That is OVER THREE FEET of white fungus flesh! And that is all flesh that can be cooked and eaten, if you can find one that is still young. Well, I did. It was not as big as some, but it was still an awful lot of fungus.

Edible softball

I know of a few places to look, and the first pile of rotting vegitation was host to this nice growth.

My slice

I cut it in half, and it sliced with a feel of rubber butter.

Sliced moon

And then I sliced some more.

Fried fungus!

It was after dinner, so I was not actually hungry for a large portion, but I cooked some in an olive oil and wine sauce, and the rest I dipped in egg, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried. The flavor was slightly sweet, and although it still tasted like mushroom, it was very mild. It has a light fennel or licorice scent and flavor, but it was not at all unpleasant.

I did save half to cook with the kids tomorrow, but I wanted to eat some ahead of time, in case it brought on some discomfort, or worse. So far so good! I am looking forward to hunting for more with Brother Peter, now that I know they are safe, and tasty.


Recently a unidentified fresh smell was noticed in the general shore area. I quick perusal of a Field Guide to Edible Plants from Nathan, indicated that there was a wild mint variety called water mint that, believe it or not, grows near or in the water. So I looked closely at the plant. And then I looked online. It did not quite match. Water mint is supposed to be a more course, and quite hairy. Ok, maybe it was some other variety, so I kept looking. The variety in our yard is growing in water, has purplish stems, rather smooth leaves, and few, if any hairs. The flavor is also very minty, without much of the usual odd flavors you get with garden mints. Based on descriptions, it looked like my variety may be peppermint, or “chocolate” mint. The problem is that peppermint is a (usually sterile) hybrid between spearmint and watermint. It could have drifted to our shores, I suppose, or it could just be the chocolate variety.

In any case, I did a final harvest of the spearmint in the garden that I did not care much for, and installed a cutting from the wild variety, placing it in a pot in the ground to ensure it does not acquire world domination. The old mint is now drying in the kitchen, awaiting it’s final destination at the bottom of a teacup.


Today we observed the Sabbath (I know, that was yesterday), by going hiking at the Waterloo Recreation Area, and then having a little mini feast of flavors for dinner. I packed a bag with the makings for PB&J + water and some handy snack stuffs. I made sandwiches in the car, and B brought her own salad, since she is not a PB fan. Half-way in, B went back to the car to take a nap, while the kids and I visited The Bog, and went on another side hike. The Bog is an interesting place. We could see the obvious change from deciduous woods and swamp to acidic sphagnum peat bog in a matter of steps. The wood cover opened, and the ground was covered in fuzzy moss, pitcher plants, and shrubs. We also noticed orchids, which I have never seen growing naturally in North America before.

Pitcher Plant

Smiley & Cute

Lush swamp

Kids resting and waiting for photo-dad

The kids loved it all, and were pretty worn out. B had a nice nap, and it was a leasurely afternoon. When we arrived home I set about digging up something for dinner. I did not feel like cooking anything, but we had some baby portabellas, and a variety of cheeses and toppings. I marinated the mushrooms in a burgandy sauce, and then sauted them in the same with rosemary and whole cloves of garlic. I prepared a dish of tasties, consisting of gorgonzola, feta, and asiago cheeses, capers, marinated olives, and smoked ham, and brought out the toppings of hummus, mixed olive bruschetta, and what was left of our roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade. With the 7 grain crackers for yum-holders, and some organic oranges for dessert, we were ready for our mini-feast.

Mini feast

Today I was amazed by the sheer variety of pleasures available to us through nature. Our needs are met, and even our desires for space, flavor, and recreation are satisfied. I am blessed, and I know it.

Beans and photosnaps.

I took a break from roasting during a particularly unfriendly spell of very cold weather. I am not sure if the beans would have even roasted with ambient temperatures around 5°. I admit, just before the temperature dropped, it was up in the 50s, and ideal for winter roasting. B even reminded me that it was a sort of last chance to roast for a while, but I declined. So lately we have been drinking some of TJ’s Ethiopian. I kinda like it, but B does not.

Last night I got back at it, and roasted up a batch of a blend I am working on. It is a sweet base of El Salvador Santa Rita, with some distinctiveness from small amounts of Yemen Mocha and Sumatra Mandheling. The first batch was a little heavy on the distinctiveness, so last night I added more Santa Rita. I am looking for a mellow and sweet blend with some chocolate and musky interest.

As I roasted I recalled a recent conversation with Nathan about the difficulty of photographing roasted coffee beans. They are always dark, and if you put them on a light background, the contrast throws the light metering and white balance off. So I thought it an interesting challenge for Max. The best results were achieved using a flash, with a darker background.

I was also trying to see how all the automatic settings fared in a low-light florescent environment.

Not too bad, I think.