Thursday, October 17, 2013

Apple Butter v2.0

A coworker gave me a bunch of delicious apples from his tree, and those along with a bag that my neighbor, Patti gave me, I made some apple butter.  Apple butter takes a really long time but it's a labor well worth.  This batch turned out really good and I think a lot of it had to do with the apples I used this time.

Out of the seven pounds of apple puree, this batch only yielded seven half-pints and seven quarter-pints.  I made this the same way in a crock-pot that I made the last batch a few years ago, but this time it was all apples and no pears.

I doled what I had out to relatives and friends and Patti had asked me for a recipe.  So, here it is.  It's more of a method than a recipe but I hope she can get the same great results as I did!  I didn't take any pictures this time, but I'll try to explain the method in as much detail as I can.  So, Patti, if there's anything you don't understand, just ask.  You know where I live!

One could probably half this recipe, but it takes so much time and effort that it's better to make as much as you can!

Awesome Apple Butter

(a little over two and a half quarts finished)

7 lbs. fresh apple puree; I used nice tart apples and I'm not sure what they were but they were not Granny Smith (I'm not sure how many apples this really was, but I peeled, cored, cut, and put them through my trusty food processor and weighed the end results; the plastic grocery bag was really full plus the smaller bag of the other apples)

2 cups brown sugar, tightly packed (I had some dark and some light brown sugar and you can adjust with more or less sugar depending on how tart you like your apple butter; give it a taste, it's good!)

1 Tbl. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbl. pure vanilla extract (add this towards the end of cooking)

Mix apples and all spices in a large crock-pot (I estimated that I had about a gallon of apple puree) and cook all day (or night) over low heat for at least 10 hours.  Stir on occasion if you aren't sleeping.  Your house will smell divine!  The mix will be very dark and smooth and you can add more brown sugar during this cooking time if you find your mixture is too tart.  After the initial 10 hours is finished, uncover and add the vanilla and let cook for two more hours in the crock-pot uncovered.  Use an immersion blender or put it back through your food processor once the cooking is done.  Be careful because it's hot.  Your butter should be hot if not very warm when you can it in the jars. 

Your apple butter should be very thick but here is an added step that I do because I like my apple butter to have a paste-like consistency.  I reduce the apple butter in small batches in a non-stick pan until it's very thick and you can run a spatula through it and it holds it's shape or you can dollop some on a plate and it holds it's shape.  I know that this is extra time added on, but it's well worth it because it seems to concentrate the flavor more that you just can't seem to get without cooking it in your crock-pot for another several hours.

Towards the end of the cooking, I prepared all of my canning jars and then jarred all of the apple butter and processed them for about 10 minutes.  Here in Washington the elevation is very low so it didn't take long to get my jars to seal.  There was a small amount left that I just put in a container and put in the fridge for us.  I think the acid in the apples keeps it well since it's been in our fridge for nearly a month now.  You could freeze your apple butter in small containers if you didn't want to jar it. 

Well, that's it.  I'd like to say it's quick and easy, but apple butter is easy but never quick.  Oh, but when we had some on our bagels this morning my taste buds reminded me that it was all worth it.  Now I just have to remember not to give it all away!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Nostalgic for Crazy Cake

The phrase "piece of cake" surely fits this long time family favorite we called Crazy Cake.  It's so simple and most of the ingredients are what you may have in your pantry already.  There are no eggs, no dairy, and my dear (and much missed) Grandma Bahls told me one time as she was mixing this up, that this was a cake that many women sent overseas to Soldiers fighting at war.  It was perfect because not only being delicious, it stayed moist, and the ingredients traveled well during the long mail flight or boat trip over to our boys.

I was talking about this cake with one of the lieutenants in our office today.  It's tried and true and pretty much fail proof.  You mix it all in one pan, bake for a short time and all you need is a tub of Cool Whip and you've got yourself a delicious treat!

Crazy Cake

Makes one 9"x13" Cake and makes 12 servings

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda (be sure this is not too old)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt

2 Tbls. white vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I like canola)
2 tsp. vanilla extract (growing up we always used imitation, but use real)
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a 9"x13" pan add all of the dry ingredients and mix well with a fork.

Add to the dry mixture the oil, vanilla extract and white vinegar, and then pour the water over all and mix well.  DO NOT BEAT.  The batter will start to get slightly foamy.  Be sure to mix in all of the edges and incorporate all of the dry ingredients.  There will be lumps, but don't worry as these will bake out.

Slip pan into the hot oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Let cake cool thoroughly and cut and serve with whipped topping and enjoy!

Smelling this cake bake really brings back a lot of good memories.  We were always dessert people, enjoying cake or cookies or pudding or whatnot, and this cake really is comfort food to me.

I plan on taking this cake in to work along with some whipped topping and a recipe card to share.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My New Favorite Dessert: Buttermilk Pie

There is a place that Dale and I loved to eat at in Colorado Springs and it's called Rudy's.  It's a place that does great BBQ'd meats (no sauce which I like), and they had these tiny individually wrapped pecan and buttermilk pies.  I used to love to get them to take home after we gorged ourselves on the brisket and pork ribs.

I am proud to say that my pie-making skills are getting better as I'm making more pies.  This was a little over half of the batch of crust that I made the "cookies" with in my previous post.  I wanted plenty of crust to make a nice thick layer with a good healthy edge to work a beautiful crimp.  I'm getting pretty good at it!

Buttermilk Pie

Serves 8

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
pinch salt
3 Tbl flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 deep dish pie shell (pre-baked )

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Beat the butter and sugar together until light.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat.  Sift dry ingredients together and add to the batter alternately with the buttermilk and beat until smooth.  Pour into the deep dish pie dish (that has been placed on a sheet pan) and carefully put into the oven.  Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 50-60 minutes.  Once a  golden brown color has been achieved, cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning or burning.  The pie is done when an knife is inserted into the center and it comes out clean.

Cool and serve.  This pie will keep on your counter for a few days, if it lasts that long!  We gobbled this pie up!!

I am thinking about entering this into the Ruston bake competition.  Dale won second place last year!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Just Like Mom Used to Make

Whenever my mom would bake a homemade pie with lard in the crust, she would take the crust trimmings from the pie and lay them out on a cookie sheet and sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon and bake them with the pie.  We loved them!  They were so crisp and light.

So, when today proved to be a cooler day (after a week of sunny weather in the 80's) I decided to make pies.  I made a strawberry rhubarb pie, but that has a top and bottom.  Then I decided to make a pie that I liked and could eat and I picked buttermilk pie.  This has a bottom crust only so that left me with half of my pie crust recipe.

I made a pie crust (recipe on the strawberry rhubarb post) and added one tablespoon of cinnamon.  After the fact I couldn't really taste the cinnamon so next time I will just sprinkle it on the top with the sugar before baking. 

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or golden brown and delicious!

Easy as Pie - REVISTED!

It's a cooler day today and I have the day off from work, but Dale doesn't.  So I decided to make pie again for him with the frozen fruit I saved from the last time I made pie.  I would make the pie with fresh fruit though because the lovely "dome" top isn't as dramatic when you use thawed fruit.  Although this pie did turn out quite attractive if I do say so myself since I did a better job at fluting the edges.  

This pie was so beautiful the last time I made it but it was very runny.  So I've added an alternate filling prep.  I heard this clever way on "The Splendid Table" which is one of my favorite shows on NPR.

I also adjusted the pie crust recipe and swapped the vinegar with vodka.  The crust turned out so much nicer and very soft and smooth.  The last crust was a bit dry.   All new changes to the previous recipe I posted have been marked **.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie v2.0

(Serves 8)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (for ceramic or glass pie plate)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus up to 1/4 cup additional as needed
1/2 cup cake flour (Softasilk is the brand suggested and what I used)
1 T powdered sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening (Crisco is what I used and they come in handy sticks that are easy to measure and cut)
1/4 cup salted butter
1 egg
**1 T vodka, very cold
1/4 cup ice cold water, more if needed

Pinto bean pie weights
Sift all dry ingredients together and cut in shortening and butter until you have a crumb consistency and the fat is approximately the size of small peas.  Whisk together the wet ingredients and pour over the cut dry mixture and blend until you have a soft dough that comes together easily; add a little more ice cold water if needed.  Your dough should not be sticky and do not over-work it.  Dust with flour and wrap in plastic wrap or put in a plastic bag and chill in the fridge if you can.

Divide dough into half and roll out bottom crust and place in your pie pan that has not been greased.  Chill in refrigerator while you roll out the top crust and keep this cool if possible while you make the filling.

You can also pre-baked the bottom crust at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes using parchment paper and pinto beans as pie weights.

2 1/2 cups chopped red rhubarb, fresh
2 1/2 cups de-stemmed; washed and cut fresh strawberries (large pieces)
**3/4 cup sugar (you can adjust up to 1 1/2  [1 1/4 at high altitude] cup if you like a sweeter pie)
**3 T Minute Tapioca (less if you like a runnier pie)
1 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp lemon zest, fresh (you can use a fine shredder but I have a micro-plane and it works like a charm)
1/2 tsp lemon juice, fresh
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

3 T butter, cubed small for dotting

Crust Assembly & Topping:
1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp of water
Large granular sugar if you have it or regular works too

Mix all filling ingredients together and  fill your crust with the mixture (OR I highly recommend that you use the alternate preparation below if you have the time to reduce having a runny pie ; dot the top with the butter cubes.  Brush the crust edge with the egg white mixture and put the top crust on and pinch and flute the edges with your fingers or a fork.  Cut decorative slits in the top to allow the steam to release and brush the top and edges of the crust with more egg white mixture and sprinkle liberally with the large granular sugar; loosely collar your pie edge with foil or leave off if you don't mind over-browned edges.  Place pie on a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any spills.

Bake for 15 minutes and then decrease temperature to 350 degrees F and bake an additional 45-50 minutes.  I removed the foil collar at this time and the whole top browned nice and evenly.

Drained Juice Reduction
Draining Fruit
**Alternate filling preparation to reduce : Do all of this well before you bake your pie, or while your crusts are chilling in the fridge.  Mix all filling ingredients minus the butter for dotting.  Let the filling sit for about half an hour to allow all of the juices to collect.  Then drain the fruit in a fine sieve and collect the juices in a bowl for about another half hour.  Set the fruit aside and bring the collected juice to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until a nice syrup is forming and the liquid had reduced by half.  Let this syrup cool a bit and right before you are ready to fill the pie, mix it with the drained fruit mix and fill your pie. 

Once the top is golden brown and delicious and you see the juices bubbling remove your pie.  Let it cool completely before slicing and serving. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chillin' & Grillin'

Finally!  The nice weather has come to Ruston!  I thought the winter here would never end, but the skies cleared, the rain has stopped (for now), and the temperatures have risen.  Nice weather compels us to spend time on the front porch, have a few (or several) brews and other tasty libations, perhaps smoke a cigar, and fire up the grill for a fantastic meal.

Green Tea Beer is delicious!
Last weekend we enjoyed a growler of Tieton Cider Works Apricot Cider and a growler of Port Townsend Yoda's Green Tea Golden Ale from our new favorite beer and hotdog place, The Red Hot (TRH) in Tacoma.

First of all I must say that I am absolutely in love with this cider and have been very sad that it has not come back to TRH.  However, I am crossing my fingers and would gladly fill all four of our growlers with it when it does come back.  It's so light and fruity and crisp and very refreshing.  The thought of apricot kind of threw me off, but Dale had a pint at TRH and I gave it a try.  Delicious!

Dale, enjoying a stogie
I had the green tea beer and I must admit that the flavor kind of had me on the edge of liking it and not liking it.  Dale liked it so we filled up and took some home.  It sat in the fridge for a bit and we were told that the tap had blown when they filled our growler which left a small bit of head-space in the neck.  Whatever happened, when we cracked that baby open, poured, and sipped...what a nice beer this was!  Surprisingly, after drinking 128oz. of brew together (that's a half gallon each), neither Dale or I complained of any type of alcohol aftereffects that strong brew can bring on, and we were feeling preeety fine if you know what I mean.  We've decided unanimously that it must have been the green tea in the beer that protected us from the evils of hangovers! We'll be taking home more of this when it come back to TRH! ;)

I've always taken pride in my cooking skills and I have to admit that I may be better while I'm sporting a strong buzz!  Grilling is simple but not everyone possesses the knack of doing it really well.  I learned my grill skills from my days of working as a night cook at a little supper club in Minnesota when I was 19 years old.  Unless you like chewing on over-done, dry, and (heaven forbid) even burnt meat, you have to understand the "feel and timing" to get that perfectly cooked steak.  Be it bloody, rare, medium rare, medium, medium well-done, well-done, or shoe leather (my brother, Dean insists on this) nearly anyone can grill to anyone's preference.

Diane's Steak Grilling Method 

My method is using a gas grill and cooking steaks to medium rare; a pretty pink nearly all the way through and just a titch cool in temperature.  This is the only way I'll eat steak, but I could post how to do other doneness, but then I would have to eat over-done meat and that makes me sad.  I'll feed it to Dale!

No less than 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick (up to 2 inches if you like, usually a fillet minon cut can be this thick) of your favorite quality cut of beef; any weight you desire as the thickness is really the key; my preference is rib-eye and Dale likes NY stripe; my steak weighed in at nearly 2lbs! 
Coarse salt (I always use Kosher) 
Fresh ground black pepper

First of all, and I think this is key, take out your steaks to reach room temperature (or at least warm up if you have the phobia of getting sick from meat sitting out on your counter).  I keep them wrapped and put them out for about an hour.  Usually this is the time when I'm prepping all of the other stuff for the grill feast like grilled corn on the cob and prosciutto wrapped asparagus spears.  This also puts a spotlight on the importance of prepping each item of your meal.  You don't want your steaks sitting on the grill "keeping warm" while you are trying to throw the other stuff together.  Letting your steak warm up will give you more control of the cooking than using one straight from the cold.

When we use our gas grill (we have a double grill, but a nice large single grill is nice for a meal like this) I preheat the grill on high (and preheated the other for the asparagus).  Not only does this burn of any old stuff (come on, who really keeps their grill sparkling clean after each use??) but it gets the grates rocket hot, and you want that!  So preheat the grill for about 15 minutes or so.  I threw the corn on at this time and went out and turned it every so often, then I took it off the grate and put it on the higher grate to keep it warm but away from the fire.

Fancy grill marks aren't just for eating out!
Be sure your steaks are dry and if they aren't, take some paper towel and give them a good pat down on both sides.  Excess moisture on the outside can impede achieving a good sear and that restaurant quality look of cross-cross grill marks if you should choose.  I always choose to mark my meat 'cuz it makes it just a wee bit more tastier in my brain.

Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the steak to taste.  That's it for me.  No fancy marinade, rubs, season mixes, etc.  I just like plain salt and pepper, but I also don't use any sauce.  If it's a tasty cut of meat, who needs all of that stuff to mask the flavor?

With the grill on high, slap them babies onto the grill!  I love this part because it's quite dramatic and I enjoy the sizzle and flare ups! I let my steaks in the picture sear for about a minute or so but you can take a peek underneath to see if the searing is nice and brown. Using tongs, lift up and rotate the steak 45 degrees or so and set back down onto the grill.  Turn your heat down to medium and shut the lid at this time.
I cooked these steaks for about 3 to 4 minutes more and then I turned them over.  You can put grill marks on the other side, but you don't have to unless you serve the thing balancing on it's edge.  Wouldn't that be something?  Any hoo, cook the other side for about 3-5 minutes.  Really, it's hard to put time to this because combined with time, I cook steaks by the feel of the steak as well.  What I mean by feel is that I will use my tongs to press down (now you're not smashing your steak like I see so many do and they squeeze all the juice out!!  Shame on you!!) to get a feel of the "give" of the meat.  Check out this clever method using your hand to get a very general idea for the feel of each doneness. 

Medium rare was perfect for this thick-cut rib-eye
Once I've felt satisfied with the doneness (I will turn over if I feel the need to test the doneness as well, and you can just take a peek inside by cutting in to see, but do this on the side without your awesome pro-grill-marks!) I pull off the steaks and put them on a plate and then loosely cover (tent) with foil and then let sit for about 5 minutes.

Letting your steak rest is very important and I never skip this step.  You can cook the steak just slightly less if it's a thinner cut and during the resting period it will continue to cook.  This is the time I throw on the asparagus which take about 5 minutes on the other high heat grill.  Keep reading for my corn on the cob and asparagus on the grill methods.

Diane's Corn-on-the-cob Grilling Method 

Fresh cobs of sweet corn, husked and all the silk removed
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground black pepper
Can of non-stick, non flavored cooking spray
Heavy aluminum foil

I have cooked corn in the husks before, but I prefer cooking them in foil. Also, I don't usually eat butter on my ears of sweet corn so I prepare them using a non-stick cooking spray like Pam, but you can use butter in lieu.  Or, use butter-flavored cooking spray if you'd like.

Spray each cob with the cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or you can use your favorite seasoning salt or Cajun seasoning is what I like too.  Tightly wrap each sprayed and seasoned cob with foil and place on the grill.  I usually cook the corn when I'm preheating the grill on high, turning them every 5 minutes or so and taking them off after about 10-15 minutes.  Just be careful not to burn your corn.  I love slightly charred corn, so I cook mine longer.

You can remove your cooked corn, but keep it wrapped and it will stay piping hot.  I just put mine on the upper rack of the grill away from the flames.  When you are ready to eat, just unwrap and enjoy! 

Diane's Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus Grilling Method

A lovely bunch of fresh asparagus
1 package of quality Prosciutto (usually found in the specialty food area of most grocery stores; you know, near the fancy cheeses like the brie or goat cheese)

Clean and prepare the asparagus.  I usually just snap the bottom off where it breaks the easiest.  I don't like the woody ends, but if you like the whole thing you don't have to do this.  Take three or four spears and wrap a piece of Prosciutto tightly around the middle; securing your spears into a neat bundle.  Repeat until all Prosciutto and asparagus is used.  You can season with black pepper but don't use salt.  Prosciutto is a very salty cured type of ham.

I have this clever "pan" that I picked up a few years ago.  It's made for the grill but it's non-stick and has small holes to keep food from falling and perishing in flames below.  I put this pan on the grill during preheat and when I was ready to cook the asparagus while the steaks were resting, this pan was searing hot.  Use a non-stick cooking spray and carefully spray the whole surface of the pan.  Remember that you're spraying aerosol near an open flame so try not to blow yourself up! ;)

Place the bundles on the pan and turn occasionally.  The Prosciutto will start to brown and the asparagus will turn bright green.  I don't like over cooked asparagus so I removed it when the ham was well browned. Serve immediately.

Dale gave no complaints about his meal!
Of course because my steak was so ginormous, I couldn't eat it all, but I love leftovers nearly as I love the actual meal!  Dale finished his steak like the good boy he is, and we gobbled up all of the corn and all of the green stuff.  It was sooooo delicious that I'm getting hungry by just writing about it! 

So, with this wonderful weather, or even if you don't have wonderful weather, don't be afraid to fire up your gas grill and cook up your perfect steaks today!

It doesn't get any better than this!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Grand Growlers

Dale and I were invited by our neighbors, Patti and Lyle to the Tacoma Narrows Rotary Club charity auction dinner the other night, and we were able to invite my friend, Erin to come with too!  It was great fun and for a great cause!  The theme was the Roaring 20's and Dale and I dressed in costume.  I love fancy dress parties!

I wanted to win something at the silent auction so I chose the basket full of beer and just bid the "guaranteed price."  Nice! Instant winner!  There were ten types of beers (most were IPAs), and an empty growler (Pint Defiance), and two gift cards (one to Pint Defiance and one to The Red Hot) to fill the growler.  Calling Colorado Springs home, I was not unfamiliar with the growler concept, but never partook in this tasty and Eco-friendly way of trying local brews until now.

Erin saw that one of the gift cards was from The Red Hot (TRH) and told us it was a great place to eat.  So, today we went to sample the food (and beers) and fill the growler.

After woofing down a Heidelberg sausage with kraut, I felt that my meat fix hadn't been sated and ordered a Red Hot to top that one off and washed it down with a pint of Old Tacoma Lager.  Then I enjoyed a pint of the Port Townsend Yodas Green Tea Gold brew. Strangely the green tea flavor was quite dominate but good.  Dale enjoyed a Ninkasi Sterling Pilsner and then a delicious Tieton Cider Works Apricot Cider.  I was skeptical about the cider but found that it was light, crisp and very refreshing.  Our server also gave us a taste of the Everybody's Brewing King Common as well, but we went with filling our prize growler with cider and then we purchased a TRH house growler and topped that one off with the Green Tea.  I can't wait to enjoy these as home.  Bonus: since it was Monday they were running a special and gave us six wooden nickles (three for each growler) for $3 off each growler at our next refill! 

Woo hoo!!  Gotta love that deal!

If you're local to the Tacoma area I highly recommend that you get out to 6th Ave. in Tacoma, Washington and give this place a try.  Or if you aren't local but luck enough to live near micro-breweries, definitely take advantage of the growlers!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The "Mother" in My Cupboard

I love my NPR (that's National Public Radio for you mainstream folks out there) and I listen to the Podcast of "The Splendid Table" to and from my commute to work.  Well, several listeners have called Lynn (the host of the show) asking advice on what to do with leftover red wine that's gone stale.  I've had this same quandary myself.  Since Dale is not a huge red wine drinker and we decide to have some libation some evening, and I choose wine...I can't (or shouldn't) drink a whole .75L bottle myself.  I can usually go back to a bottle the next day and drink from it after I've stopped the top, but I don't really enjoy that as much.  I haven't cooked much since we've been here in Washington state (deployments, Army, yadda, yadda, yadda...) but using really old opened wine that you think can save for cooking later isn't a good idea.  It turns bad.  So, of course if you put bad wine in your food it's going to make it taste bitter.

Well, back to my first train of thought.  So, Lynn always suggests making your own red wine vinegar.  Hmmmm...I've always been fascinated about it and would love to try it.  So I did.  It's a long process but once you start and it's successful, I'm told that I could be filling my crock for years to come by starting my initial batch with a "mother." Gotta love that alien creepiness about that.  A giant glass jar or ceramic crock.  Preferably one with a spigot like the lovely one I have here purchased from (yes, my favorite go-to-online-shopping-for-everything".

I was explaining this to my friend, Erin and as she's obviously disgusted (her only comments are "Ewwwww!" but I know she's intrigued.  As we are like a lot of what-seems-disgusting but yet we can not NOT look at it.

Here's how I did it:

Homemade Red Wine Vinegar

One, 8 fluid ounce jar (or 1 cup)  of "Mother of Vinegar - Red Wine" (which I just found online from a home-brew website...what the hell, I'm game to give them a shout-out.  I also bought white wine but that's coming later.)

Not-less-than 1 GAL size glass or ceramic jar (PLASTIC spigot is good for extracting your delicious vinegar)  Basic science here...vinegar is acid and acid and metal don't go together...need I say more?  My jug is a 2 1/2 GAL ceramic style with plastic spigot and came with a plastic ring for the top to nest water bottle atop.

Cheese cloth (thanks again

2 cups tasty (or was previously tasty at initial opening) red wine (you can buy nice tasting and inexpensive wine just for this purpose, but why??  Use some leftover or save some up until you have at least enough to start with

1 cup water (you can use bottled if you like, but our tap water is good where we live; a suggestion if your water is chlorinated, let the water sit several hours or overnight to ensure the chlorine has evaporated)

So, give your new crock or jar a good rinse and add the following ingredients in.  No need to stir.  Cut or fold layered cheesecloth into a square large enough to cover top and secure with cotton kitchen string, a large rubber band, or do what I did and put the ring on top of the cloth to keep it down. 
Your vinegar will need to breath but you don't want anything falling into your concoction.  Place your creation in a dark and preferably warmish area.

The idea temperature that the "mother" works her magic at is 80 degrees, but that's pretty hot to me.  I think cooler temperatures just slows down the process, so you don't have to increase your heating bill to keep your "mother" happy.  Just don't let her starve!  When she starts doing her magic, don't be freaked out.  She'll start to form a sort of...leathery scum and sink to the bottom over time.  If this isn't happening...then your "mother" is probably dead.  Sniff.  But if your "mother" is looking pretty're on the right path.  You can then fish out some of the old sloughs of "mother" and put them in a jar with some liquid and give it to friends or anyone else willing to venture out.

Wait one week and start feeding your "mother" a cup of red wine on the first day of the initial waiting period, then another cup the third and fifth day.  I guess that's it.  In about three months this will develop into some delicious red wine vinegar.  You can keep feeding your jar over time and keep the red wine vinegar production going.  I've heard that there will be differences in the flavor of the mature vinegar as time passes and what you put into it.  You should just stick to red wine though, but I guess there are people that throw in white as well.  I have read that you never want to put wine in your jug that has any trace of cork.  Pee-Ew...who likes cork in their wine anyway?  Plus someone may need to to wine bottle opening 101!  Ha!

I guess this will be trial and error and I truthfully, I can't wait until the magic starts to happen!  I'm keeping a log of my "mother's" progress on the side of the crock with a Sharpie.  So, I started out cheap with some Two-Buck-Chuck (I likie) and have a pricier wine to add on Monday. 

Perhaps I should just make a Two-Buck-Chuck Red Wine Vinegar and try to sell it back to Trader Joes!  Ha!  That's would be a hoot!

I will keep everyone up to date on the progress of My "Mother" in My Cupboard!!

Now I have to go drink some red wine...poor me.