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Sourdough in Simple Baking:  The Ultimate in Living Local


Keeping sourdough starter and experimenting with it in everyday baking is a great way to Live Local.  Why?  Because a sourdough starter—a simple mixture of flour and water—is a byproduct of wild yeasts and bacteria in the local environment.  So, a Martha’s Vineyard sourdough starter is unlike a culture grown anywhere else in the world.


Because sourdough cultures differ by geography, their behavior and taste are not uniform.  Some rise more rapidly than others, and each will vary in terms of its sour taste, yeasty aroma, and flavoring complexities.


Health Benefits of Sourdough.

Using sourdough in baking contributes taste and texture, and it extends the shelf life of baked goods.   The acids in a sourdough culture not only add complex flavorings and leavening power, but  they also slow the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed into the blood stream, helping to prevent insulin resistance and diabetes.


Sourdough also lowers the phytic acid content of whole grains, which enables the body to absorb its vital minerals, especially potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.  And, sourdough fermentation, like yogurt fermentation, creates new nutrients like vitamin B12, while yeasts boost lysine (the limiting amino acid in grains) to help make sourdough bread a nearly complete protein.


Sourdough can also alleviate digestive issues related to gluten intolerance by reducing gliadin and avenin, two factors that elicit at least a slight immune response in all people.  And, sourdough supports gut health and immunity by slowing the fermentation of fiber; generating polysaccharides which contribute prebiotics; and feeding micro-flora in the intestinal wall.


[For details, see:, NewslettersReviving Culture, November/December 2012 and Living with and Experimenting with Sourdough, September/October 2013.]



Growing and Keeping a Sourdough Culture

Sourdough starter can be grown in any glass or ceramic container a day or two before you plan to bake (a Ball-type wide-mouth canning jar works well).  As a pre-ferment added to ingredients on the day of baking, sourdough starter will provide extra flavor, nutrition, texture and a moist crumb to your favorite baked goods.  By adding generous amounts of starter to quick breads, I find that I can eliminate the refined vegetable oils called for in a recipe (these oils are inflammatory and undermine health).


Materials that you will need to grow and keep a sourdough culture:


  • A wide-mouth one- or two-quart Ball-type jar with a lid;
  • Starter, ¼ or ½ cup, depending upon the quantity that you need (see below);
  • King Arthur First Clear or other white all-purpose flour.  First Clear has a high-ash (mineral) content which promotes fermentation and the building of flavor by controlling pH levels;
  • Water that is free of chlorine.


Once you have the materials, the first question to ask is what do you plan to bake and how much starter will you need?  Unless you plan to bake something that requires several cups of sourdough starter, you probably want to use a 1-quart jar and ¼ cup of starter, which you will then feed with flour and water in increasing amounts with each feeding.  Begin with 1/4  cup starter in a 1-quart jar and a first feeding of 1/8 cup each flour and water, mixed in with a vigorous stir (first example, below).  After each feeding, as you increase the amount of flour and water, stir well, cover loosely with the lid, and allow the starter to sit on the countertop to double in volume.


Feeding a small amount of flour and letting the starter grow before feeding flour in greater volumes helps maintain the stable balance of healthy yeast and bacteria in the culture.  Too much flour too soon can overwhelm the culture and encourage foreign bacteria to invade and upset this delicate balance.


¼ cup starter in a 1- or 2-quart jar; yield ~ 2 cups:  1 cup for baking + ~ 1 cup in reserve for later1st feeding:  1/8 cup all-purpose (or First Clear) white flour and 1/8 cup water; let double in volume2nd feeding:  ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup water; let double in volume.3rd feeding:  ½ cup flour and water; let double in volume; refrigerate overnight; use the next day. 

Note:  Pour off any excess starter before you begin a new feeding cycle; refrigerate it as a “safety.”



½ cup starter in a 2-quart jaryield ~3 cups:  2 cups for bread + ~1 cup left over in reserve


1st feeding:  ¼ cup all-purpose (or First Clear) white flour and ¼ cup water; let double in volume.

2nd feeding:  ½ cup flour and ½ cup water; let double in volume.

3rd feeding:  1 cup flour and 1 cup water; let double in volume; refrigerate overnight; use next day.


Note:  Pour off any excess starter before you begin a new feeding cycle; refrigerate it as a “safety.”



Feed and Use Starter Frequently:   To keep a starter vibrant and active, feed it often.  After a week in the refrigerator, the yeast and bacteria run low on food and some die.  I like to nurture my starter by feeding and using it at least once a week.  Starter can be kept for up to three weeks in the refrigerator, but it may require several feedings to restore it to full life.


Hooch:  After a starter sits for a while without oxygen in the refrigerator, it develops a layer of brownish liquid on the surface, “hooch,” composed of alcohol and bacteria flavoring compounds.  Stir it back in, or pour it off if you seek a milder flavored culture.


Using and Substituting Starter in Your Favorite Recipes

To use sourdough starter for extra flavor and texture, simply add ¼ cup (or more, depending upon your taste) to a recipe.  You can add sourdough to the ingredients of just about any baked good.  If you choose to combine the wet and dry ingredients and add sourdough to ferment overnight, you will need the following adaptation:   When mixing, leave out any baking soda that is called for in the recipe; then, add the baking soda just before baking.  In contrast, baking powder can be included with the ingredients in an overnight soak.   Soaking ingredients overnight will reduce phytic acid that blocks mineral absorption and also lowers the blood sugar impact.


Sourdough Recipes

Experimenting with sourdough is an adventure.  I have fun adding generous amounts to recipes because I like to capture its many health benefits and because I like the moist texture, body, and “staying power” that it gives to baked goods.  I also like the way it satisfies hunger, and I enjoy its sour flavor, probably more than most people.


The recipes that follow are all “tried and true” from people well-known in the world of culinary arts.  The first recipe for cornbread, to which I added sourdough, is a creation of Deborah Madison.  Because sourdough provides a moist texture, it is especially welcome when partnered with cornbread, which can otherwise be dry and a little flat.  Sourdough also particularly enhances recipes that include maple, banana, and chocolate.


The remaining recipes are from Sara Pitzer’s Baking with Sourdough.  This is a concise book on sourdough that includes recipes with varying amounts of sourdough.  Hopefully these recipes will give you a sense of how much sourdough to use when you try adding it to favorites of your own.



Buttermilk Skillet Cornbread

4 tablespoons organic butter

2 cups stone ground corn meal or 1 cup each corn meal and all-purpose flour or corn flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 local eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons sugar or 3 tablespoons honey

2 cups organic buttermilk

¼ cup sourdough starter


Preheat the oven to 375’ F.  Put a 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven while it’s heating with the butter while you get everything else together.  Stir the dry ingredients together in one bowl, and mix the eggs, honey, and buttermilk in another.  Remove the pan from the oven, brush the sides with the butter then pour the rest into the wet ingredients.  Combine the wet and the dry ingredients and stir just long enough to make a smooth batter.  Pour the batter right into the hot pan and bake until lightly browned and springy to the touch, 25-30 minutes.


Sourdough Banana Bread

1 ½ cups sourdough starter

1 cup sugar

1 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

1/3 cup butter

1 beaten egg

1 cup unbleached flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)

1 cup very ripe banana

½ cup chopped nuts


Bring the starter to room temperature in a large bowl.  When it has begun to bubble, add the sugar, soda and salt to it.  Melt and cool the butter and add it, along with the egg, flour and banana, stirring in each ingredient in the order given.  When everything is well mixed, stir in the nuts.  Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan large enough so that it is no more than two-thirds full.  Allow to stand in a warm place for about 20 minutes, then bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for at least an hour, or until the loaf tests done when poked with a toothpick.    You may lay a piece of brown paper or aluminum foil loosely over the top of the loaf if it is getting too brown.  Do not under bake; it will be quite most even when fully done.  Allow it to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before taking it out.  Then allow the loaf to cool completely before slicing.  This banana bread will be even better the second day if you have stored it wrapped in foil or plastic wrap.


Sourdough Skillet Biscuits

2 cups sourdough starter

2 cups all-purpose unbleached white flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)

1 t. sugar

1 T. baking powder

½ t. salt


Let the starter come to room temperature in a large bowl.  It won’t hurt the starter to stand for a couple hours.  About an hour before you want to serve the biscuits, sift the dry ingredients together into the starter bowl and mix to make a firm dough.  Pinch off pieces of the dough and gently shape into balls about the size of large walnuts or small eggs.  Arrange them in a well-greased 12-inch iron skillet and place in a warm place for 15-20 minutes, or long enough for the biscuits to show signs of rising.  Because the baking powder reacts quickly with the sourdough starter, this happens fast.  Bake in a preheated 400 F degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until well browned and crusty.  Serve hot.


Sourdough Brown Biscuits

2 cups sourdough starter

1 T. honey

½ t. salt

2 T. oil

2 t. baking powder

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour


Put the 2 cups of starter into a large bowl, cover loosely and allow to sit for at least 10 hours in a warm place.  When ready to bake, mix honey, salt and oil into the starter.  Sift in the baking powder and whole wheat flour.  For finest texture, discard any bran which remains in the sifter, but for a heartier biscuit dump the bran right into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients.  Mix everything well, but do not over beat.


Knead the dough gently until it holds together, then roll it out to a thickness of ½ to 1 inch, depending on whether you want think crusty biscuits or high, lighter ones.  Cut the biscuits out with a cutter or a small can from which both ends have been removed.  On a greased cookie sheet, place them close together for soft biscuits or leave them farther apart for more crust.


Cover the biscuits with a dry, lightweight cloth and put them in a warm place for about half an hour, or until you see definite signs of rising.  Then bake in a preheated 400 F degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Break open one biscuit to be sure they are cooked through.   They are ideal served with creamed chipped beef.


Sourdough Pancakes/Waffles

½ cup sourdough starter

1 cup undiluted evaporated milk

1 ¾ cups unbleached white flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)

1 cup water

2 eggs

2 T. sugar

½ t. salt

1 t. baking soda


Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl, cover loosely and allow to rest in a warm place overnight, or for at least 8 hours.  Beat together the eggs, sugar, salt, and soda, and stir into the starter combination with a wooden spoon.  At this point, don’t beat.  Bake the pancakes on a lightly greased griddle, turning when bubbles appear.  These pancakes are quite fat and fluffy and very tender because of the reaction of the soda with the sourdough.  If you want them to be thinner, stir in a little more water as you are adding the egg mixture.


To make sourdough waffles, stir in 2-3 tablespoons of melted butter or cooking oil after all the other ingredients have been added.  Bake on a lightly greased waffle iron.  The fat added to the batter should help prevent the waffles from sticking provided the iron has been well seasoned.


Sourdough Buckwheat Pancakes

½ cup sourdough starter

1 cup unbleached white flour

1 cup buckwheat flour

2 cups warm water

2 eggs, beaten

2 T. sugar

½ t. salt

½ t. baking powder

3 T. melted butter

½ t. baking soda dissolved in 1 T. water


Mix together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Beat well.  Cover loosely and allow to stand overnight or for at least 8 hours in a warm place.  When ready to bake the pancakes, stir in the beaten eggs, sugar, salt, baking powder and melted butter.  Finally, stir in the baking soda dissolved in water.  Do not stir again after adding the soda.  Bake on a moderately hot griddle, taking care not to let the buckwheat burn.  For darker pancakes with a truly old-time taste, allow the batter to age longer than 8 hours and substitute molasses for the 2 tablespoons of sugar.


Blueberry Breakfast Bread

1 cup sourdough starter

¼ cup soft shortening

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

½ cup milk

1 cup unbleached white flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ t. Salt

1 cup blueberries


Bring the starter to room temperature in a large bowl.  In another bowl, cream the shortening and sugar together and then beat in the egg and milk.  Turn this mixture into the bowl with the sourdough starter and sift in the flour, salt and soda.  Mix very well.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Pour the batter into a well-greased 8-inch square pan and allow to sit in a warmer place for at least 20 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 375 F degree preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.   Do not under bake.  Allow to cool completely so that it is not too sticky and gummy.


Molasses-Date Bars

1 cup sourdough starter

1 beaten egg

½ cup butter

¼ cup brown sugar

¾ cup dark molasses

½ t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

¼ t. baking soda

1 1/3 cups unbleached white flour

½ cup chopped dates

2 T. flour


In a large bowl allow the starter to warm up and become active.  It should stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.  Then add the beaten egg, softened butter, brown sugar and molasses. Beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Next, put in the salt, cinnamon and soda.  Sift in the flour.  Beat the butter until it is lump-free.


Roll the chopped dates in the 2 T. flour or mix them with the flour in a bowl so that they do not stick together.  Gently stir them into the batter.  Pour the batter into a well-greased 9-inch pan and bake into a preheated 375 F degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the batter tests done when poked with a toothpick.


Allow to cool slightly before cutting into bars, then finish cooling on wire racks and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.  Like most sourdough products, these taste much better cold than they do while still warm from the oven.


Reading Resources:

Karel Kulp and Klaus Lorenz, Handbook of Dough Fermentations.

Sara Pitzer, Baking with Sourdough

Lisa Rayner, Wild Bread

Daniel Wing and Alan Scott, The Bread Builders:  Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens

Ed and Jean Wood, Classic Sourdoughs:  A Home Baker’s Handbook



Copyright 2013


Cooking with Bones

Life is a gift of nature; but beautiful living is the gift of wisdom
…Greek Adage


Cooking with bones can be an emotionally satisfying experience by connecting us to the structure and essence of the animal whose life was sacrificed for our own well-being. Using bones fosters an age-old tradition of conservation and gratitude. Bones relinquish, through long slow cooking, their collagen/gelatin and mineral essence, enriching any dish and making it easier to assimilate. So, cooking with bones can be enriching, both physically1 and spiritually.


Bones and Beans. Bones, with their minerals and fat, add nutrition, nuance, and taste to any dish made with beans or legumes. Ham hocks, for example, add a smoky richness and satisfying depth to split peas and are the perfect complement to any dried bean or legume. Lamb shanks—with their flavor, collagen, marrow and fat—transform baby limas or white beans (such as navy or great northern) into a velvety-smooth, mouth-watering delicacy. Meat bones with a high bone/collagen-to-meat ratio—such as knuckles, hocks, neck bones, and shanks—add flavor and nutrition to beans and legumes and can lift an ordinary meal, making it a sublime experience. Veal meat bones, because they have a higher bone/collagen-to-meat ratio relative to beef, are an especially good choice.


Bones and Meat. Bones belong to meat as much as meat belongs to bones. Like fat, bones slow the cooking process, ensuring that meat does not cook too quickly. Fat is able to do this because it conducts heat less readily than does lean muscle. Bones do this too because their porous construction acts as an insulator that slows the transfer of heat.2 This is why cooked meat is more succulent and juicy the closer it is to the bone, giving rise to the expression, “The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat.”


Cooking with Bones.
Cooking with bones is open to your own whimsy. You need few rules, and you can hardly go wrong. Just check what you have on hand, and see what looks good when you shop. Boney parts are economical, rich in collagen and have one of the highest bone-to-meat ratios of any cut, so the meat is succulent and delicious.
Use your imagination. See what ingredients you have already–beans, legumes, grains, or vegetables—that might be enriched by adding a soup bone or two. Then, when you shop, have fun following your whims.
The cold, short days of winter is a perfect time to cook with soup bones. With little effort and a slow cooker at your side, you can fill the house with wonderful welcoming aromas. Conventional recipes with multiple ingredients are listed later. But first, since I often cut corners, I have included several minimalist ideas below, as well as some original recipes from Fanny Farmer. I hope this variety provides ideas for making substitutions and creating your own innovations.


Lamb Shanks
2-6 lamb shanks
Garlic cloves, to taste
Fresh sprigs of rosemary, to taste
Wash the lamb shanks. Place in slow cooker to fit along with garlic and rosemary. Add just enough boiling water to cover. Turn cooker to High, then to Low after the water comes to a good simmer. Simmer for about five hours, depending on the size of the shanks, until the meat begins to pull away from the bone. To try the marrow, serve with a chop stick, a knife, and a toasted slice of rustic bread. [You may note that I do not brown the lamb shanks before I put them in the slow cooker. They come out just fine without this step, though the stock may be less rich.]


Split Peas with Smoked Ham Hocks
1 pound split peas, washed and picked over
2 onions, diced
3 carrots, roll-cut or sliced
1 smoked ham hock
3-6 bay leaves
Wash the ham hock and put into a slow cooker. Cover with boiling water. Turn the cooker to High and then to Low once it reaches a slow simmer. Allow to cook 5-6 hours. Pour off the stock and cool quickly. Start another “batch” with the hock and boiling water. A hock will render several rounds of stock. Use the extra stock for other recipes. Stocks freeze well (see February 2010).
Once the first “batch” of stock has thoroughly cooled in the refrigerator, skim off the fat. It should be very gelatinous, the consistency of Jello “jigglers.”
To make the soup, you can follow you own favorite split pea soup recipe, using the hock stock in place of water. Or you can follow the simple recipe above: sauté the onions in butter until soft. Add the peas, carrots, bay leaves and enough stock to cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and allow to simmer, partly covered, until peas and carrots are very tender, about 1-2 hours. Remove the bay leaves. The soup will have a wonderful richness and smoky flavor. When chilled, because the stock is so gelatinous, the soup will hold the shape of any mold and can be sliced and eaten cold, or heated again to be eaten as a soup. Gelatin is the most forgiving of all thickeners, it can be heated and cooled numerous times, jelling and re-jelling again and again.

Recipes from Fanny Farmer and the Boston Cooking School, 1896.

Fanny Farmer was a visionary, an artist, a food conservationist, and a scientist of the culinary arts. Her cookbook, published more than a century ago, was the first comprehensive cookbook to use rigor, both in defining cooking terms (e.g. , “ parboiling”) and standards of measure (e.g., “one level cupful”). Fanny Farmer was also interested in nutrition and saw her 1896 cookbook to be a way to help Americans improve their health through wholesome, home cooking:


“I certainly feel that the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one’s education. Then mankind will eat to live, will be able to do better mental and physical work, and disease will be less frequent.” …Fanny M. Farmer, 1896


Of course, in 1896, Ms. Farmer could not have predicted the American shift during the 100 years to follow away from home cooking toward processed/manufactured foods and fast foods. Nor could she have foreseen our modern “foods” based so much upon refined sugar and flour, refined vegetable oils, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup…nor the widespread incidence of chronic disease.


But, nothing lasts forever, of course. Your response to my February newsletter on bone stocks makes me feel that we truly long for a return to a more traditional way of cooking—and the deep satisfaction on both a physical and spiritual level that it can bring. Just look at the revival in sales of the Julia Child Cookbook in response to the movie Julie and Julia. After years of low-fat eating, a return to boeuf bourguignon and to using butter may feel not only good but also “just right.”


Scotch Broth, Fanny Farmer [For a modern version using leg of lamb, see below]
3 pounds lamb (shanks, fore-quarter, etc.)
½ cup barley, soaked in cold water 12 hours
4 T. butter
¼ cup each diced carrot, celery, onion, and turnip
2 T. flour; salt and pepper
½ T. finely chopped parsley


Cut lean meat in 1” cubes, put in kettle, cover with 3 pints cold water, bring quickly to boiling point, skim, add barley. Simmer 1 ½ hours or until meat is tender. Put bones in second kettle, cover with cold water, heat slowly to boiling point, skim, and simmer 1½ hours. Strain water from bones and add to meat. Fry vegetables in 2 T. butter 5 minutes, add to soup with salt and pepper to taste and cook until vegetables are soft. Thicken with remaining butter and flour cooked together. Add parsley just before serving. Rice may be used in place of barley.


Ox-Tail Soup, Fanny Farmer
1 ½ pounds oxtail, in 2” pieces
2 T. flour
2 T. butter
4 cups brown stock or bouillon
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ cup diced turnip
1 medium onion, diced
1 T. lemon juice
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground pepper


Dust the oxtail pieces with flour. Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the oxtail, and brown slowly on all sides. Drain the oil from the pot, remove the meat, and slowly add the stock and 4 cups of water, scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze it. Return the meat to the pot, partially cover, and simmer for 2 ½ hours or until the meat is tender, adding more water to replace any that evaporates. Strain the soup and allow the meat and bones to cook enough to be handled. Remove the meat from the bones and return it to the soup. Add the carrots, celery, turnip, and onion to the soup and simmer for another 30 minutes or until tender. Stir in the lemon juice, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper to taste; serve very hot.


Braised Lamb Shanks, Fanny Farmer

4 lamb shanks
2 fat cloves of garlic, each in 8 slivers
2 T. flour
3 T. shortening
1 bay leaf
1 T. grated lemon rind
1/3 cup lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
4 carrots, in ½” pieces
8 small onions, peeled


Cut four slits in the flesh of each lamb shank; insert a sliver of garlic in each slit. Lightly dust the shanks with flour. Heat the shortening in a Dutch oven or a heavy pot with a lid. Put the shanks in and brown on all sides. Remove all but 1 Tablespoon fat. Add the bay leaf, lemon rind, lemon juice, and ¼ cup water, and sprinkle salt and pepper over all. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1½-2 hours, depending on the tenderness of the shanks. Add the carrots and onions for the last 40 minutes of cooking. Remove shanks and vegetables to a platter and keep warm. Serve with the pot juices or make a gravy.

Note: The remaining recipes are more contemporary in nature. If you are interested in additional Fanny Farmer recipes and commentary, the full text of the 1918 edition is available through

Lamb Shank Soup
1 pound dried baby Lima beans
1 ½ lbs. lamb shanks
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups filtered water
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup minced onion
1 cup minced celery
2 T. butter or ghee
Soak beans overnight in water, to cover by several inches. In a heavy sauce pan, brown lamb shanks in butter in. Pour off fat and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 hours. Remove lamb shanks, take meat off the bone, cube it, and return it to the soup. [This soup can be simmered, after the browning stage, in a slow cooker.]
Adapted from

Split Pea Soup with Lamb Shanks

2 large lamb shanks [or a meaty ham bone]
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 medium baking potato, peeled and diced; or 1 package instant oatmeal
2 T. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 t. thyme
3 bay leaves
2 cups split peas, rinsed and drained
6 cups chicken broth
½ cup dry white wine [sherry instead of wine if using a ham bone]
3 cups water


Brown lamb shanks in an 8-quart stock pot in 2 T. butter. [Skip browning step if using a ham bone.] Remove; and add 2 T. butter to pot and sauté onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and potatoes until limp. Add lamb shanks back to the pot with remaining ingredients. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until lamb shanks are tender. Remove shanks from soup, pull meat from bones and return meat to soup, simmering about 30 minutes longer. Remove bay leaves and serve.
Adapted from


Chicken and Chickpeas with Spinach

1 t. turmeric
Butter or ghee for browning
4 pounds chicken pieces, skin on breasts, skinned legs and thighs
3 minced onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. cumin seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
12 oz. chicken broth
1 T. grated lemon zest
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed or 1 cup dried, cooked and drained
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed thoroughly by immersing and rinsing well in plenty of water.


In a heavy skillet, brown chicken in batches in the butter. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Add more butter to the skillet and then the onions, cooking until softened. Add garlic, cumin seeds, turmeric, salt and pepper and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, lemon zest and juice and chickpeas and bring to a boil.
Pour mixture over the chicken, cover, and cook on Low for 5-6 hours, or on High for 2 ½-3 hours, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork. Add spinach and combine by stirring. Cover and cook on High for 20 minutes until spinach is cooked through. Adapted from Judith Finlayson


Lamb Shanks Braised in Guinness
¼ cup flour
1 t. salt and ½ t. cracked pepper
4 pounds lamb shanks
2 T. butter
4 onions, minced
6 gloves garlic, minced
1 T. dried thyme
2 T. tomato paste
1 ½ cups Guinness or other dark beer
½ cup condensed beef broth, undiluted


On a plate, combine flour with salt and pepper and lightly coat shanks, shaking off excess.
In a skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat; brown lamb in batches; transfer each to a slow cooker.
Reduce heat and add onions to the skillet, stirring until softened. Add garlic, thyme, and reserved flour mixture, and cook, stirring 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste, beer and broth and cook, stirring, until mixture thickens. Pour over shanks, cover, and cook on Low for 10-12 hours, or on High for 5-6 hours until meat falls off the bone. Adapted from Judith Finlayson


Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
2 T. butter
40 cloves garlic (about 4 heads)
4 pounds chicken pieces, breasts with skin, legs and thighs with skin removed
2 onions, minced
4 stalks celery, peeled and diced
1 t. dried tarragon leaves [or 1 t. dried thyme]
1 t. salt; ½ t. cracked pepper; ¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup dry white wine or vermouth


In a skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat and add garlic, stirring often until it turns golden. With a slotted spoon, transfer garlic to a slow cooker. Turn up heat to medium. Add chicken in batches, and brown. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Add onions and celery to the pan and cook, stirring until softened. Add tarragon, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add vermouth or wine and bring to a boil.
Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on Low for 5-6 hours or on High for 2 1/2 -3 hours, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork. Source: Judith Finlayson


Roasted Marrow Bones…For the Adventurous!
8 to 12 center-cut beef or veal marrow bones, 3” long, 3-4 pounds, total
1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 t. capers
1 ½ T. extra virgin olive oil
2 t. fresh lemon juice
Coarse sea salt to taste
At least 4 ½ inch-thick slices of rustic bread, toasted


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put bones, cut side up on a foil-lined roasting pan or baking sheet. Cook until marrow is soft and has begun to separate from the bone, about 15 minutes (stop before marrow begins to drizzle out.
Meanwhile, combine parsley, shallots and capers in a small bowl. Just before bones are ready, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle dressing over parsley mixture until leaves are just roasted. Put roasted bones, parsley salad, salt and toast on large plates. To serve, scoop out marrow, spread on toast, sprinkle with salt and top with parsley salad.
Source: Mark Bittman, adapted from Fergus Henderson


White Bean Soup
1 pound dried white beans
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 leeks,washed, chopped (1 ½ cups)
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large carrots,chopped (1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped (2/3 cup)
1 ½ pound smoked ham shank,
1 quart chicken broth
Filtered water, to add as needed
1 t. dried sage
3 bay leaves
Chopped parsley, garnish


Remove excess fat from ham shank. Soak beans overnight to generously cover. Drain beans. Put in a large pot. Add remaining ingredients except parsley. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until beans are tender, about 2 hours.
Discard bay leaf. Remove ham hocks; cut off meat into small pieces, put back into soup.
Place 4 cups of bean mixture, in 2 batches, in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Stir back into soup. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired. Adapted from
Scotch Broth,


Leg of Lamb

A leg of lamb, cracked, with meat on it
2 or 3 medium onions, whole
6 stalks of celery, diced
6 carrots, diced
1 garlic clove
½ cup pearl barley
Freshly ground pepper
Some celery leaves


Wash barley and soak overnight. Put in kettle and add other ingredients. Cover with water. Cook slowly at least four hours. Soup should cook down until quite thick. Refrigerate for at least four hours. [You can skim fat.] Add water when reheating to serve. Correct seasoning at that time and remove meat bone and celery leaves before serving. Source: Epicurious. Com


Reading Resources:
Jennifer McLagan, Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore (2005).
This is an inspiring commentary on bones, complete with recipes and guides to cuts of meat by animal type . Since most recipes are time-consuming and complex and since my purpose is to make cooking with bones simple and effortless, I did not use any of them here. Nevertheless, Bones is a fine, specialized addition to any book shelf.


Shopping Resources: for grass-fed animal products by state for poultry raised by traditional methods, on green grass and traditional grains, by state a source for fresh and cured premium pork and nitrite-free bacon to find organic, sustainably-grown food sources close to where you live.


Copyright 2010

  1. See January10 Newsletter for discussion []
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, 153. []