How To Get A Good Cup Of Coffee From Your Keurig "My-K-Cup"

Today I landed by mistake on an amazon.ca page for something called "Disposable Filters for Use in Keurig Brewers" and my first thought was "Somebody has stolen my idea!"

I chose the Cuisinart Keurig system single brewer because it came with its separate "MyK-Cup" assembly to allow one to avoid paying some outrageous price for a cup of coffee made at home. At the time I was very happy with the quality of the coffees I was using, at a reasonable 10 cents per cup.

However, before long I realized that the system is really meant for use with their prefabricated little pods, and my reaction was similar to these very eloquent customer reviews on the amazon disposable filters page:
"… hated the coffee sludge..." 
"No need to bang filter basket to get grounds out…"  
"…now I just pick up the paper filter and throw it all in the compost bin…" 
"...not getting sludge in my mouth…" 
"I hate how it leaves a grainy soot at the bottom of the cup..."
Not only that, the oils in the coffee soon blocked the tiny openings of the small permanent basket, and the quality of my cuppa declined by the day. Before long, I was on the phone to the Keurig customer service, who advised me that the so-called "permanent" filter had to be replaced every three months!

It was by taking apart one of the samples that had been supplied with the machine that I realized that what was missing was thin layer of paper.

So, if you'd like to improve your own My K-Cup brew, and make your filter last forever, you can now buy tiny paper filters, but they will cost you anywhere from 3 to 5 cents each.

Or you can follow these instructions, and make your own for a little over a penny.

And if you drink as much coffee as I do (about 6 cups a day but they're only 6 ounces), you will save up to $87 a year. (In my case, that pays for 870 cups of coffee!

Here's how I do it:

1. Buy the small 4-cup paper filters from the dollar store.

Cost in Canada: $1.25 for 100, a little over a penny each.

2. Assemble your materials:

- paper filter
- filter basket
-an old film can

3. Center the paper over the basket, then push with the film can to fit it inside the basket.

The film can is the exact size to get a perfect fit with a perfectly flat bottom.

4. Cut all around the basket with the scissors, hugging the basket loosely as you do so.

Alternatively, you can weigh your coffee first, then place the basket inside the K-Cup base, then trim.

5. I weigh my coffee -- I like 10 grams for 6 ounces of water -- that way I always get the strength I prefer.

6. Drop the basket into the base, screw the lid on and brew your coffee.

7. I also measure my cream: 1 TB is exactly right for me!

Hopefully, with these instructions you will get a better cup of coffee and a fatter wallet!


Teaching An Old Dog New Bread Tricks

I've been making bread for 40 years, but it wasn't until this month that I dared to venture into sourdough territory.

Wow! Am I ever glad I did.

Here is a photo of a couple of ficelles I made this morning:

A ficelle is a skinny baguette. These are about 2 inches across. It's my favourite format for sandwiches. Ham and swiss cheese with sweet butter and dijon mustard. Or prosciutto or serrano ham with or without swiss cheese, and sweet butter, hold the mustard. Salami, when I can find a good one.

The Recipe?

Last week, I made a sourdough starter using this recipe:

Then I made a couple of loaves of "Norwich Sourdough Bread" using this recipe from the Wild Yeast Blog.

I halved the recipe, but otherwise I followed it to the letter and - what a surprise! - this was the best bread I have ever made! I should say "the best non-multigrain bread", because as a daily bread I am extremely fond of the multigrain sandwich loaves that I have been making for several years now. Once a month, I bake four of them and freeze them. Each loaf lasts me one week.

This Norwich Sourdough Bread has all the qualities I was looking for: it's not so wet that you can't handle it, it bakes up light, with some nice holes,

Cross-section of ficelle I made today.

the crust is crunchy but not too thick, and the aroma… ah the aroma! And the flavour… just sour enough… divine!

Another advantage of this recipe is that if you have some sourdough starter ready to use, you can start the bread in the morning and eat it for lunch - about six hours later. I have found very few breads able to develop that kind of flavour and texture without a cold fermentation, but this one did.

Still, sometimes I want to start my bread in the evening, and so yesterday I did all the steps up to and including the two folds, then I slipped the bowl into a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.

This morning, the dough had risen somewhat, and in fact it looked just like it did last week at the same stage.

I left it on the kitchen counter for an hour, and then I proceeded with the recipe.

Success! the resulting flavour and texture were the same as last week.

So if you've been putting off trying sourdough, don't wait 40 years! Try these recipes today.

P.S. If you have been subscribing to this blog, this may be the last post you ever receive! Google has been reminding me that I have to renew the domain on November 26, but the instructions they are sending me for doing so are not working. I am hoping that they will rectify the situation, but if not, I want to thank you for your interest. I have registered a new domain: www.cookscornerblog.com (very similar, but without all the hyphens) and may start posting at that URL if necessary.


A Sweet Cheese To Make At Home: Ricotta

When I lived on my ranchito in Mexico, if I had to go to town (Dolores Hidalgo) I would try to get there early enough to find the ricotta man on his corner, selling his fresh ricotta of the day. It was so delicious, and so cheap! Considering that traditional Italian ricotta (which means "twice cooked") is made from the whey leftover from making other cheeses I can't believe how expensive it is at the supermarket. And the stuff they sell in this village is quite disgusting.

This old man's ricotta tasted just like the stuff I used to buy in Montreal, which has a large Italian community.

Many Mexicans make their own queso fresco -- the fresh white cheese they crumble over many dishes, and a few people make their own Oaxaca cheese too -- a stringy mozzarella-like cheese that melts beautifully. But not everyone makes ricotta with the whey. Maybe my ricotta man had Italian blood!

I threw an ice cream party last week, and had a quart of whole milk leftover, plus about half a cup of rich soy milk that I had extracted for making silken tofu, and I happened to have some citric acid in the pantry, so I decided to make ricotta cheese using the recipe in Ricki Carroll's Home Cheesemaking. (Actually, the recipe she gives here is a better one, and I will follow it next time. And by the way that's what's wrong with the book: I think it was published before they had all the recipes tested thoroughly, and I keep finding totally revised versions of them on their website.)

Ricotta is a very pleasant, sweet, small-curd cheese, and the homemade kind is better than most brands you can find at the supermarket, though not as good as the bulk ricotta found at real Italian stores.

After heating the milk and watching the curds form, the latter are ladled into a double layer of butter cloth (or several layers of cheesecloth), and hung up to drain.

This is the same contraption that I use for making jelly, no need for special equipment, just a stick and a way of suspending the ball of curds.

Here is the finished cheese, with 3 cups of whey which I will freeze to use in my next batch of bread.

The yield from one quart of milk was exactly half a pound (227 grams), which brings the cost to about $6 a lb, cheaper and a heck of a lot healthier than the supposedly healthy gourmet PC Blue Menu "Ricotta Whey Cheese" whose list of ingredients is quite a bit longer.

If I can resist the temptation of eating it as dessert, I plan to put it in some lasagna or use it for stuffing ravioli, some time this week. 

On the other hand, it's so quick and easy to make -- less than one hour from start to finish -- I should start stocking whole milk just so I can make the occasional batch, as an additional menu option.

In addition to lasagna and ravioli, ricotta is the cheese of choice for all sorts of Italian specialties. I remember very fondly a ricotta pie that we used to serve in my first restaurant, way back when. It was topped with pine nuts. Here's a very similar recipe, from Lidia's Italy.


"Tourtière" -- The Meat Pie From Quebec

Where I come from, each family has its own tourtière recipe, but my mother never passed her recipe on so I've had to experiment to find the one that corresponded to both my memories and my grown-up tastes.

At one point, I tried the Galloping Gourmet's* recipe. He substituted mashed potatoes for the breadcrumbs. Sounded like a good idea but you had to pick really starchy potatoes or you'd get a watery pie.

Finally, I adapted Jehane Benoit's recipe from her little-known The Canadiana Cookbook. It was published in 1970 and I opened my first restaurant in London, Ontario -- Auberge du Petit Prince -- in June 1972 and tourtière was an instant success there.

Fifteen years later, I opened a French restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and my tourtière was a hit there too. I attribute this to the fact that Mexicans love pork and that my recipe includes cinnamon, which is a favourite spice in Mexico, though as far as I know they don't use it in savoury dishes. On the other hand, maybe they just like good food!

The Pork Filling

For each pie:
1 lb ground pork (I buy shoulder and grind it myself)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, with leaves if possible, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp summer savoury
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Egg wash (1 egg, beaten with a teaspoon of water or milk)

Place all ingredients except the breadcrumbs in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, over medium heat.
Remove from heat and add a few spoonfuls of breadcrumbs.
Let stand for 10 minutes. If the fat is sufficiently absorbed by the breadcrumbs, do not add more. If not, continue adding breadcrumbs.
Cool and pour into a pastry-lined pan. Cover with top crust that has vent holes to allow steam to escape
Brush with egg wash.
Bake at 400 F (200 C) until golden brown. Serve hot, with red or green tomato chow chow (recipe below).

Cooked tourtières can be frozen 4-5 months, and reheated without thawing.

The Special Dough

For the crust, I remember being fascinated by the Galloping Gourmet's hot water pie crust, and I found the recipe in The Canadiana Cookbook too.

How could this weird recipe work when we are constantly reminded to handle the dough as little as possible? The secret is the combination of baking powder, vinegar and egg, which creates the flakiest, tenderest pie crust imaginable. It uses pork lard as a fat, and that is essential.

That became my crust of choice for all savoury pies.

4-1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour (increase by 1/2 cup if using cake and pastry flour)
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 lb pure lard
1 cup hot water
4 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
1 egg, well beaten

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Measure 1-1/3 cups of the lard and cut into the flour until mealy.
Dissolve the remaining lard completely in the hot water.
Add the lemon juice or vinegar and the egg.
Mix these liquids into the flour mixture until dough leaves the sides of the bowl.
Turn on lightly floured board and knead about 1 minute or until all the flour is blended. (Really, you need to do this!)
Divide into 4 to 6 balls, flatten them and wrap them in plastic film, then refrigerate at least one hour, and up to 12 hours.

You will find this dough incredibly easy to roll.

The Chow Chow

For a long time I used my mother's recipe for a quick fruit ketchup. It contained 1 can of peaches, 1 can of pears, and probably 1 can of tomatoes. To this you added onions, celery, vinegar, sugar and pickling spice. The advantage was you could make it all year, unlike our grandmothers who would preserve dozens of bottles of the stuff in season, to last all year.

Now I just buy it at the store and it's pretty good (look for the Habitant brand) but here is my recipe for the real thing, translated from Les Conserves, by Soeur Berthe (Editions de l'Homme, 1974):


18 ripe tomatoes
6 apples
5 peaches
5 pears
2 large onions
3 stalks celery
2 tsp coarse salt
2 TB pickling spice
1 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar

Peel tomatoes and peaches by blanching them in hot water and cooling them quickly in cold water, then chop them - not too fine.
Peel apples and pears and cut into cubes.
Slice onions thinly.
Chop the celery.
Put all the above into a large, non-reactive pot.
Add vinegar, salt and spices (wrapped in cheesecloth).
Bring to the boil and simmer one hour.
Add the sugar and continue cooking until sugar is dissolved and right consistency has been reached.
Remove the spices and pour into sterilized jars, following your preferred canning method.


Here is the recipe that appears in The Canadiana Cookbook, in the chapter on New Brunswick. I have not tested it:

1/2 peck green tomatoes
6 large onions
6 medium cucumbers
1 head celery
4 sour apples
2 red peppers
3 lbs brown sugar
3 TB pickling spices tied in a bag
Cider vinegar

Cut tomatoes fine. 
Add 1/2 cup salt and leave overnight. 
Next morning, drain and add other ingredients. 
Nearly cover with vinegar (about one quart). 
Boil gently 1 to 1-1/2 hours. 
Pour in sterilized jars and seal.

* Graham Kerr used that name for his TV cooking show in the 60s.


Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I've been making these spring rolls lately, and these are the best instructions I have found.

I add julienned carrots and some of my homemade mung bean sprouts, for extra flavour and crunch.
Sometimes I use chicken or marinated tofu instead of the pork.
 The peanut sauce is delicious, I'm sure, but it's too fattening for me, so instead I make this other vietnamese sauce:


1/4 up fish sauce
1/4 cup hot wter
2 TB sugar
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp red chili paste (I use Chinese hot chili/black bean paste?
2 TB grated carrots (optional)
2 TB grated daikon radish (if available - I omit them)
Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake.
Keeps in the fridge for a long time.


Of Radishes And Sprouts

QUESTION: Is there anything more delicious than a handful of freshly picked radishes?

Like these:

ANSWER: Yes, if you grew them yourself.

Like this:

I love the way French* radishes peek out of the ground, as if to say "Eat me, I'm ready!"

Round radishes don't do that. You have to poke around to check on their size.


The first experiment is over. This is what the mung bean sprouts looked like this morning (day 5):

Not quite what I had in mind: they're skinnier than I'd like, and the leaves are overly developed.

They taste fine, though, and I'm having chow mein for lunch.

Now the goal is to get them fatter and straighter. There's also a way to grow them without those long thready roots.

Back to square 1.

* They may be French (this variety is "French Breakfast"), but the seeds are by McKenzie Seeds, from Manitoba.

** Radishes also make the best sprouts, but you have to buy special sprouting seeds. (Or let a few your own plants go to seed.)



The distributor of a popular sprouter started a rumour about mung bean sprouts requiring industrial tricks in order to get them to look like the ones you buy at the store, and that myth is being spread -- and believed -- all over the internet.

The myth goes like this:
Most commercial Mung Beans are grown with chemicals and gasses in huge 500 gallon machines.
You will likely never get your home grown sprouts to look like those [...]
After following his instructions for sprouting mung beans, I believed it too. My sprouts were puny.

Why Grow My Own Sprouts?

Lately, I have been making and eating Vietnamese spring rolls. They are perfect for this super-hot weather we've been having. Plus they're great for the waistline. On a good day, mine look like this:

Photo borrowed from http://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood

I like them no matter what I put in them, but I like them best with bean sprouts as part of the filling. I even started growing mint, basil and cilantro in the garden, mostly for my spring rolls. I searched, and found, a Chinese grocer in town, who stocks all the other ingredients I can't get here.

The problem is neither of the supermarkets in this village sells bean sprouts. I have to drive to town -- an hour and a half away -- to get them, and I can't stock up because they keep very poorly.

What spurred me to dig for a way to make nice big sprouts was my last visit to the Chinese grocery store. They carry bean sprouts all right, but when I asked for them I was brought a big plastic bag full of them and given a small bag, and told to help myself. With my hands? I asked. Yes.

Wondering how many other folks had had their hands in there, I grabbed about half a pound. They ended up in the compost.

How To Grow Mung Bean Sprouts

That's when I went to YouTube, and, surprise! I found lots of videos, but one particular one from Asia somewhere (Thailand?). It was a long, unedited video, showing a semi-industrial way of making sprouts, from beginning to end. No 500-gallon machine, no gas, just a stack of Rubbermaid storage containers like you'd find anywhere, some cotton squares, beans and water. Lots of explanations, but in a foreign language. No translation. However, it seemed awfully clear to me that there is nothing mysterious about getting sprouts to grow to a nice size and length. Nothing beyond the following:

  • Darkness
  • Moisture
  • Warmth (or rather, lack of cold)
  • Time
I'm trying to reproduce those conditions by using a stainless steel pasta pot with a perforated insert, and it's looking very promising! 

First I washed the beans, then I soaked them overnight. Then I placed them on top of a piece of cotton cloth and covered them with another cloth. I covered the pot with the lid, and left it on the kitchen counter.

I water my sprouts twice a day, just like any other kind. I change the water in the bottom pot once a day.

Today is Day 4 and this is what my sprouts look like:

Day 4

They are nice and fat and crunchy. According to another video I saw, it can take up to seven days to get the size I want, but for most purposes they are ready to eat now.

I started another, very small batch, in an insulated coffee goblet, following another video. They are looking just as good.

I'll keep you posted.