Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
Rain or shine (I put on my muckers), I was excited to see how Great Kids Farm, Catonsville, MD had spread their good food word since I had spent so much time there “in the beginning”-2 years ago. The ‘Open House and Gourmet Lunch’ invite came to me announcing the launch of Friends of Great Kids Farm-a newly formed non-profit to raise $$ for the teaching farm free of the Baltimore public school system maze.
The 200 (or so) of us who attended were rewarded with extraordinary food plucked directly from the farm-or nearby. What a team when Spike Gjerde (Woodberry Kitchen), Ned Atwater (Atwater’s Ploughboy Soups) and Brice/Sandlin paired with select groups from Baltimore City schools.
The dining stations were ’round and about the farm so we could catch the produce in the growing stages. The team of Ned Atwater and Forest Park High School + Edmondson High School was assembled in the first greenhouse serving Creamy Sorrel Soup, Savory Rhubarb Strawberry Soup and a Consomme with special dumplings. Crackly bread, spelt pecan bread and a selection of other fine breads were offered with the soups.
Next on to the Greens, Eggs and Ham station concocted by Spike Gjerde, George Marsh-chef de Cuisine at Woodberry Kitchen (DO check out their new website-way fun!) two other restaurant staff + Mergenthaler High School. So in greenhouse 2 this team actually made the Dr. Seuss -green eggs and ham shine-big time. Whoah, there was restaurant butchered local pork; brined and aged to a ham along with eggs-poached a la moment topping those famous microgreens from Great Kids Farm.
For dessert The Brice/Sandlin + Carver High School team served deluxe Pizelle Goat Ice Cream/Strawberry Sorbet Sandwiches. All components were rich, extremely fresh, luxurious! Just for a bit of theater, the strawberry sorbet demo exuded billowy clouds of steam as the liquid nitrogen was poured into the mixture for the purpose of freezing.
Because I always give a recipe in this blog, I’m going to pass along the fun idea of the fresh strawberry sorbet brought to the freeze with liquid nitrogen. When reading about some techno hipsters going camping they talked up the idea of using the liquid nitrogen to make ice cream on the hot spot. Very fun-but do pay attention and make it with care!
Cooking-ez.com is a website I discovered which gives a lot of explanation behind each recipe or technique. The sorbet technique and then freezing it with liquid nitrogen is explained fully. The instructions are from the website with a little bit of conversion as it is metric system.
Liquid Nitrogen Strawberry Sorbet
Sorbet recipes are very simple: you need 50% sugar syrup and 50% fruit purée (this may vary according to type of fruit).
Simple to prepare because all the quality comes from the quality of fruit used: the better the fruit is, the better your sorbet will be. In others words, if you use tasteless fruits, you will have a tasteless sorbet. But if you use quality full-flavored fruit (organic if possible) you will produce a delicious sorbet. An example: if you make a strawberry sorbet using well-flavoured strawberries in season, your sorbet will be far better than if you use strawberries bought in February or March in a supermarket.
To make a very fresh strawberry sorbet, you will need to make a thick sugar syrup which is comprised of equal parts sugar to water. Clean strawberries and pat very dry, remove stalk and blend until reduced to a purée.
Add the same volume of sugar syrup. It’s ready to go into the ice-cream maker or with the liquid nitrogen, as follows. It’s also possible to make savoury sorbets, like tomato sorbet for example. The trick is to add an egg white to replace the syrup.
Liquid nitrogen is very strange stuff: it’s a boiling liquid of gaseous nitrogen (the neutral gas that makes up 3/4 of our air) liquified and at -196°C.
Clearly this is not something that can be handled like water, and certain strict rules must be observed (gloves and goggles as a minimum precaution), as touching the nitrogen or getting it on the skin can lead to serious burns. I suggest you read the following on the subject: Liquid Nitrogen Safety (Oxford University). Warning: the author of this page can in no way be held responsible for problems or injuries resulting from the use of this substance. It is not easy for private individuals to obtain, and you will need to find local suppliers via the yellow pages or search engines.
Once appropriate safety precautions are in place, let’s see what use this can be for making ice-cream. Well, it’s simply a matter of speed, ice-cream which freezes almost instantaneously. About an equal quantity of liquid nitrogen is poured into the mixture while beating energetically, which causes the ice-cream to freeze in a few seconds in spectacular billows of fog.
How is it done?
First prepare the mixture for your ice-cream or sorbet as usual; then transfer it to a metal bowl.
Then pour the liquid nitrogen a little at a time while beating the mixture. This will give off lots of “ice-fog”, which means that you won’t see much of what you’re doing, but keep beating, and here’s a tip: blow on the bowl to disperse the “fog” a little. In a few seconds you will feel the mixture begin to set and thicken. You will be amazed how smooth it is.