TERRACOTTA TANDOORI OVEN

When people settle down out of forager lifestyles and into Neolithic lives, they always invent pottery technology to help it.  This enables them to store surplus food, and it also enables them to take ovens out of the ground, and one step closer to those we are more familiar with today.

 

One of these ancient ovens, the Indian Tandoori or just Tandoor, is still popular today.  It’s simple design and somewhat more portable form make it pretty similar to many similar ovens of the era.  And today, we’re going to make our own for less than $100 (If you already own the tools)

Look, this is not at all how an ancient person would have made one of these.  If you have any masonry or pottery skills, as Neolithic peoples did, you can shape and fire your own vessel with an open top out of clay and pure artisanship.

But I’m a cook. Not a potter. I’m going to use power tools. Hey, Neolithic people exploited every resource available to them.  If they had power drills, they would have used them!

Here’s everything you need:

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Fastest Fresh Goat Cheese

1 qt milk (goat or cow works too)
4 tbsp. vinegar
2 tsp. salt

-Put the milk on a large pot and heat over medium high heat to 180 fahrenheit (simmering but not quite boiling), stirring constantly to prevent scalding. Switch to a spoon and stir in the vinegar. When you’ve stirred enough to fully mix the vinegar, add the salt and turn off the heat .
-Let stand for 15 minutes, or until curds have separated and whey is almost clear.  Place two layers of cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, and ladle in the curds. —Gently lift the ends of the cheese cloth and the lump of curds. Tie it to your faucet, or two a spoon hanging over a bowl. Let hang for 1 hour, unwrap and turn out into a bowl. 

You knew this was coming. After butter and yogurt, here is Anthrochef’s first of many future cheese recipes.

It’s also the simplest, easiest, and quickest way to practice this ancient phenomena of separating moisture from milk fat. Half an hour of work and an hour of waiting time and you can have homemade goat cheese. This is not Chevre. This is a mild and crumbly cheese, comparable to Indian Paneer, making it very versatile in application but not with a lot of personality of its own. Salt is very important to not end up with a bland product.

The only ingredients are milk, vinegar, and salt. And look! I found some fresh, unpasteurized goat’s milk!

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Easy Homemade Yogurt

Half gallon  fresh, or at least non homogenized milk
4 tbsp. Yogurt with culture or sour cream
2 tbsp. Buttermilk

1- In a pot, heat your milk to 100-110 Fahrenheit, stirring constantly. Set aside 10-20 minutes or until 95 degrees.
2- Meanwhile, whisk together Yogurt and buttermilk until combined and thinner.
3- Ladle cooled milk into culture mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly.
4-Transfer to a new container, covered and wrapped in towels, set in a warmish, dark place for 24-48 hours, depending on desired sourness flavor.

Did you know that most references we have in ancient texts to “milk” were probably referring to fermented milk.  The hot climate of the Near East meant that fresh milk would be spoiled quickly unless converted into a more stable dairy product. So, when you hear about the lands of milk and honey, that’s really the lands of yogurt and honey.

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Yogurt was first developed by newly lactose tolerant herders in the mountains of Central and West Asia. They stored their fresh milk in bags made from animal stomachs, which just happen to contain the bacteria cultures necessary to ferment milk. A little time in the warm climate, and the herder would have opened their milk bag to find it had curdled into possibly cheese, but more likely at first: Yogurt!

That’s because Yogurt is so simple to make.  You truly just need milk, cultures, and time. Continue reading “Easy Homemade Yogurt”

HOF Episode 2: Gardeners of the Neolithic

The second episode of our History of Food concerns the greatest turning point in human history since the taming of fire. The New Stone Age, when farming was invented and our species forever changed.  What were our lives like, what were we eating, and how those two questions are interconnected.

 

Theme music by the incredible Michael Levy of Ancient Lyre. This rendition of the Hurian Hymn, the oldest known piece of sheet music, and the whole album “An Ancient Lyre” and much more is available from all major digital music stores and streaming sites.

AVAILABLE ON SOUNDCLOUD AND ITUNES.
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HOMEMADE BUTTER (the primitive way)

-1 pint heavy cream
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-Quart sized sealable jar

Pour cream into jar, not more than halfway full, and seal.  Shake vigorously for 10-15 minutes (or whip in a stand mixer) until the fat separates and butter is former. Remove butter, pressing out excess buttermilk and rinsing with ice water. Fold in salt, form into shape, and serve immediately (or later if you can stand the wait)

 

Next week, Episode 2 of the Anthrochef podcast, Gardeners of the Neolithic, will be released.  To learn more about the first villagers and settlers who planted the seeds of modern civilization, you will have to tune in on October 9.

But what I can tell you for now is that this is the era where we see the birth of domestic farm animals, and the beginning of human’s love affair with dairy.  Lactose tolerance is one of very few ways we are NOT identical to ancient humans.  Like most animals, humans used to drink breast milk as babies, then lost the ability to digest dairy as they get older.

But as people began putting pens around wild goats and cattle, and the first herding societies took off around 10,000 years ago, that all began to change.  Genes mutated, human evolution continued, and soon enough, many Neolithic people could drink milk into adulthood, and things would never be the same.

Soon enough, we will be taking on fermented milk (yogurt) and cheese, but today we’re going to keep things more basic, with a simple recipe for milk-fat, aka butter!

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Butter is just the solid fat of milk separated out.  It was very useful to ancient people because it could be stored long term, a great way to extend the life of very perishable milk. All you need to make it is a jar with a lid, ten minutes, and some muscles.

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ROASTED MARROW BONES

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Beef Femur bone (kept whole and split length wise, or cut in “rings” as shown here)
2-3  large garlic cloves
Olive oil and salt
Salad or Bread to eat with it (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Lay out marrow bones on foiled baking sheet, coating with olive oil and salt to taste. Peel and smash garlic cloves, rubbing them onto marrow and leaving in place for roasting.
Cook in the oven for 15-20 mins, until the marrow is bubbly not so long that it liquefies and falls out of the bone. Let cool 5 minutes, then scoop out and enjoy with bread or salad.

Today we’re talking bone marrow, our last pre-Neolithic inspired recipe for a while before we dive into bread, beer, cheese, and settled life.

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If you listened to the first episode of the Anthrochef podcast, you know that eating meat played a big role in growing the brains of our earliest ancestors.  Remember though, that we did not start out as hunters, but rather as scavengers.  DNA evidence shows that the earliest humans ate with the dogs and picked clean carcasses some other predator had already killed.

But most of the good meat was already gone by the time these upright apes could get to it. What was left besides a few meager scraps?

Bone marrow, the spongy, flexible interior of most animal bones.   Continue reading “ROASTED MARROW BONES”

STONE AGE STEAK TARTARE

6 oz. beef filet, diced very small
1 egg
2 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tbsp. walnuts
1/2 bunch scallion whites or wild onions
sprig of sage
2 tbsp. water

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Imagine you are someone else. Someone entirely different.  It’s the mid Pleistocene era, almost two million years ago, which means you are not even a homo sapien.  You are homo erectus, an upright, fairly intelligent human ancestor.  You are not the first in the hominid line to eat meat.  Homo Habilis, Homo Ergaster, and even earlier hominids before you were picking already dead carcasses something else had hunted clean and smashing bones to suck out the delicious marrow.

But you, homo erectus, are what we call the first persistent carnivore. You have stepped up your hunting game, and no longer need to scavenge off of bigger predators, meaning you can obtain enough meat to call it a regular part of your diet.

It’s possible you knew how to cook this meat. Anthropologists don’t agree if homo erectus were the first cooks or not.  Either way, you my friend, have been born too early to know the secrets of fire.  You are stuck with raw meat.

All your family and friends are good with just smashing and scarfing, but you feel unsatisfied.  There is something stirring inside you, a desire for flavor, and something novel to eat.  You don’t know this, but you have the inner being of the first chef!

We’re also missing a lot of ingredients to make a “classic”, modern version of steak tartare, namely pickles. But you are an ancient chef.  You are going to make something delicious out of this.  Let’s see what you can gather.

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