I got a piece of frozen meat from my mom. She rents out the hunting rights on her property every year and therefore receives a lot of meat.
“Perhaps you can do something with it,” she said doubtfully. When I had thawed and inspected it, I understood why.
It consisted mostly of bones.
I suspect that it was a piece of the ribs, probably from a moose, that nobody wanted. But throwing it away was out of the question ( remember that I’m a fundamentalist about avoiding food waste).
I cut off as much meat as possible from the bones. It was not that bad. If I made a stew, it was at least enough for a meal for the whole family.
I was about to throw away the bones when I realized that I had a small treasure in my hands. I mean, why not add the bones to the pot and let them boil together with all the other ingredients. You can make stock from bones, so whats the difference. I might not have to add any stock at all. This was something I just had to try. So I invented my own easy stew recipe.
I started by browning the meat in batches in a skillet. After that, it was time for the onion. Finally, I put the bones in the skillet. I remember that I have read that you should always sear the bones before you boil them when making stock.
Mushrooms are a must in a stew like this, and I always fry them quickly on high heat to get that nice dark, almost burnt color on the edges.
I put everything into a pot together with some red wine, sour cream, juniper berries, thyme, and soy sauce. Finally, I added some blackcurrant jelly. Replace it with Worcestershire sauce if you prefer that.
Now, this is important. The trick with a top-notch stew is to let it boil on low heat for a looooong time. My stew simmered for almost 3 hours until the meat was tender. But meat from moose can be quite tough sometimes. If you choose beef instead, you can probably reduce the cooking time.
But it’s not just about getting the meat tender. The ingredients need time to release all their flavors so they can infuse the meat and the sauce into a mouthwatering delicious mix in the pot.
Did I have to add any stock you may wonder? Yes, a little. The taste was quite good, but I felt it needed an extra oomph. So I added half a tablespoon of liquid meat extract. That was enough.
This stew is very rewarding to cook. The workload is low, and the result is just mouthwatering great.
And you don’t need to use meat moose like me. Beef will do just fine.
Just make sure you try to find some meat on the bone. And that goes for all kind of meat. Most of the times it’s more inexpensive, and it tastes more. I mean, which are the best parts of the chicken. Legs and drumsticks, of course.
Easy stew recipe with moose meat
This stew is very easy to make. All you need is some patience while it cooks slowly. It will make the meat tender and flavors will be released into a wonderful sauce with a deep taste of red wine, juniper, thyme, and mushrooms.
1 1/5lbbeefanything with bone. I used short ribs from moose.
Remove the meat from the bones and cut it into 1"/ 2.5 cm chunks and brown them in batches in a skillet with butter. Transfer them to a pot.
Saute the onion for a minute and transfer to the pot.
Cut the mushrooms into thick slices and sear them with butter on high heat until they have got a nice brown color. Transfer to the pot.
Sear small bones in the skillet for a couple of minutes. If you have bigger bones you can roast them in the oven for 30 minutes. Transfer to the pot.
Crush the juniper berries and add them to the pot.
Add all remaining ingredients and bring to boil. reduce the heat and let it simmer for at least 1 1/2 hour, or until the meat is tender. Add some beef stock if necessary. All ingredients should be almost covered with liquid.
Thicken the sauce with wheat flour if you prefer it more like a gravy sauce.
It’s easy to make sourdough bread if you know what you are doing. Most things are easy, or at least less hard when you know what you are doing.
I remember the first time I read about how to make a sourdough starter. It seemed to be a piece of cake. You just had to mix flour and water, place it somewhere warm and wait.
Of course, you had to feed the starter now and then, and perhaps shake the jar sometimes. But in a couple of days, you should have a bubbling starter without much effort.
I mixed my first starter the same day.
A few weeks later I swore I would kill that ψ&#¤¥√¤ author if I met him/her on the street. There was no sign of life whatsoever in my starter.
All I could see was some ridiculously small bubbles on the surface. A result of my frenzied shaking of the jar, I suppose.
Today I seldom have any problems getting a lively bubbling starter.
I learned. By reading books, posts like this and collecting information from different forums. But most of all I learned by trial and error. I know that’s not what most beginners want to hear. Nevertheless, I think it’s true.
You can get tons of invaluable information on the internet, but in the end, there’s only one thing that will make you the best baker in the neighborhood. Getting your hands into the dough bowl and start baking.
And that’s great because it’s fun and rewarding to bake sourdough bread, even if you fail. Remember that even the best bakers fail sometimes. They just don’t show them on Facebook or Instagram.
But you will realize that even your “failures” sometimes tastes far better than the junk you buy in the grocery store.
Look at the picture below, and you will see one of my “failures”. I over proofed the dough, and when it was time to shuffle it into the oven it deflated completely.
“Are you making flatbread?” one of my family members asked in a slightly sarcastic tone.
I baked it anyhow, and it turned out to be just great. A bit flat and quite ugly, but that didn’t matter. It had all the delicious tastes and superior texture that only a real sourdough bread can offer.
“Call it a ciabatta and claim it supposed to look that way!” someone suggested on Facebook. Not a bad idea at all.
In this post, we will start where everything begins. With the sourdough starter. Every sourdough bread needs a lively and mature starter, and this is where the first problems arise for most beginners.
But if you prepare yourself carefully you can avoid most of them.
Choose your flour.
A regular sourdough starter consists of two things. Flour and water.
The quality of the flour is very important. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to be alive. If your flour is sterilized (dead), you won’t see much activity in your starter. At least not for a very long time. Some claim that a starter can collect wild yeast from the air, but I’m a bit skeptical about that.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite easy to know which flour is the best.
Many claims that organic flour it superior, but I have to disagree, which is sad. I fully embrace the idea of organic food, but it’s not always the best choice when it comes to baking bread. If you can find an organic flour that works, you should, of course, use it. But be prepared that it may not turn out to be your best option.*
It can be a good idea to buy flour of two or three different brands, mix a starter with each variety, and see which one works best. As said before, the most expensive one doesn’t have to be the best but try to avoid the cheapest varieties. Bleached flour is not very common here in Sweden where I live, so I don’t have any experience with it. But I understand that it has been treated with chemicals for aesthetic reasons, and that would be enough for me to avoid it.
Make sure your sourdough starter is warm.
Your starter wants a warm environment. 80°F to 85°F (26°C to 29°C) is ideal. That can be a problem during winter time if you live in the northern hemisphere. If you can’t find a place that is warm enough, you can place your starter in the oven with the lamp lit. Add a thermometer to the starter just in case. It can be a bit too hot.
Don’t give up too quickly.
It may take a while before something happens in your starter. Don’t presume it’s dead just because nothing has happened after a couple of days. Continue feeding it for at least a week. A sourdough starter is a complex living environment that needs some time to stabilize.
ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP PLAN.
OK, so you have made all the necessary preparations, mixed your starter, placed it somewhere warm, and fed for a week o two. Still, nothing happens. All you see is some tiny bubbles at the surface. Perhaps there is some activity but not much. And it doesn’t help how much you feed it.
Then what to do?
Boost your wheat starter with rye.
If you mix one starter with wheat flour and one with rye, it’s most likely that you will see activity in the rye starter first. Rye flour is packed with microorganisms that will kickstart the fermenting process.
That’s why you should mix a rye starter even if you’re not pretending to use it. If your wheat starter is grumpy and tired, you just have to add a dollop of your rye starter that probably is trying to break out from the jar you’re keeping it in.
If you don’t want to mix a rye starter, you can add rye flour only. That will probably wake up your sleepy starter. If you want a “pure” wheat starter, you can try with whole wheat flour.
Personally, I always add a small amount of rye when I’m feeding my wheat starter. It almost never fails. You can also try to add some grated apple. I have never tried that myself, but some bakers claim that it can give some energy to a lazy starter.
Check the water quality.
If nothing helps, it may be a good idea to control the water. Most people use tap water, and in most cases that’s OK. But if your tap water consists high levels of chlorine or chloramine you may have to do something about it.
There’s a reason why chlorine is added to tap water, and that is to kill all those nasty bacteria that can’t wait to run havoc in your stomach. The problem is that some of the good bacteria in your starter may be killed as well.
There are three ways to solve this problem.Leave some water in an open container, exposed to air for 24 hours. Most of the chlorine will evaporate.
If you’re in a hurry, you can boil the water for 15 minutes. That will, however, remove most of the oxygen in the water as well. Yeast needs oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, so you have to restore it.
You can oxygenate the water by shaking it in a half-filled PET bottle for a minute.
However, if the tap water contains high levels of chloramine, the problem is more serious. Chloramine is more stable than Chlorine and therefore much harder to remove. The most practical solution, in this case, is to use bottled water.
There you have it. My best advice how to troubleshoot your sourdough starter. I will soon be back with some valuable information about what you should think about when baking your first sourdough bread. Meanwhile, it’s time for you to mix your own sourdough starter. Or wake up the grumpy one you already feeding and transform it into a bubbling inferno that will break out of the jar and make a complete mess in your kitchen.
And you will know that you have become a real sourdough nerd because all you can feel watching that mess is pure happiness.