By Darla Cabe
For Rural Life Today
This beautiful spring in Ohio has most of us outside planting crops and gardens. Sometimes we get transplanted ourselves and end up leaving our rural roots, but still long for the country life. For now, Jacob Freisthler is living in the city, but he still loves cooking fresh with foods grown in his own garden and with a little touch of honey.
Jacob Freisthler grew up in the small town of Anna, Ohio. He currently is living the big city life in Columbus, but hasn’t forgotten where he came from. “I do love calling home to touch base and connect with my roots,” he says. “Good ol’ Shelby County is refreshing and returning home for me is always a way to return to a bit of childhood.”
His childhood in Anna was spent in a large house with big yard… an “accommodating yard” as he calls it. “It was probably just my youthful ignorance, but it felt like you could do anything there. We had a garden and an apple tree and I loved getting my hands dirty and there was always a mess to be found!” Those years in the dirt led Jacob to many things. He loves gardening and he loves making foods from the things he grows. “I started cooking in high school, going to the Joint Vocational School in Piqua (now called Upper Valley Career Center). I loved how the school treated you like an actual person/adult. From there I decided to continue on to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. That really was my formal training, but you can learn just as much from working in kitchens where chefs are kind and make it a point to help nurture you. (Those hot tempered TV chefs really are only good for themselves.) Heck, I also learned so much just from watching people cook in my family” he adds, “whether it was my parents or my Grandma.”
Jacob learned a lot about cooking in his family’s kitchen and a lot about life from sitting around the dinner table together. He grew up the younger of two boys and appreciated his hard-working parents. “We always cherished mealtimes and made it a time to be together even on busy nights.” He has figured out that is where his love of food stems from and enjoys how meals bring people together and have an important impact on your day, whether it’s just starting or ending. He went to Columbus to work his childhood dream of developing ice cream flavors for the famous Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and did that for four years. Now, he is the chef at a high- end garden center and spends his time doing his two favorite things. He cooks and he gardens. “Three years ago, a group of dear friends and I started a non-profit to help battle food insecurity. It’s called Sprouting Spoons. Through that initiative, we manage a community garden and teach free cooking classes to anyone interested in healthy based, affordable meals.
Being interested in natural, whole foods, Jacob uses honey quite frequently in his cooking and baking. “There is diversity in honey,” he says. “And season to season it can be as different as the flowers used to produce it. I love how honey does not expire and can add a bit of nostalgia to your food.” And speaking of nostalgia, Jacob remembers the very first cake he made. “It was going to be a surprise for my mom, with all of her favorites: raspberries, white chocolate frosting. I had looked up recipes and read all about how to do it, and by golly I was going to make the perfectly iced magazine ready cake. The measuring was easy and the cake itself turned out fine. Icing it however was apparently above my skill level, I hadn’t let the cake cool long enough and when I went to frost it all of the icing melted and fell off. The jam on the inside oozed out and calling it a mess would have been too kind. At that point I had already told her there was a present for her at home, so there was no backing out. When she finally saw it, she did what any good mom would do and acted touched and shocked (maybe more so because I had done the dishes). To top off my embarrassment at the time, I had no idea what “from scratch” meant so I had no idea how to answer when she asked me how much of it was from scratch. To this day she will still ask me that but this time with a clever smirk following it.”
Basil Smashed Grape Cocktail
• 24 white grapes
• 12 basil leaves
• ¼ cup Honey
• ¼ cup lemon juice
• ¼ cup water
• 2 Tablespoons sugar
• 4 cups soda water
• shot gin or vodka to-taste (optional)
Place 20 grapes in the bottom of a shaker and smash up with a cocktail muddle. Pour contents through a sieve and reserve juice.
Rinse shaker and place basil in the bottom. Lightly muddle to release oils. Top with water and sugar, grape juice and lemon juice and stir. Add ice, honey and half the alcohol if using and shake.
Cut two grapes in half and place 2 halves in each glass. Pour shaker contents in glasses and top with soda water. Serve.
• 1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough; thawed by package instructions
• 1 lb unsalted butter, melted
• 3/4 lb (about 3 cups) walnuts, finely chopped
• ¼ lb (about 1 cup) pistachios, finely chopped
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp rosewater
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• ¼ cup lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
• ¾ cup water
• 1 Tablespoon vanilla
• ½ cup honey
Thaw phyllo dough by package instructions. (This is best done overnight in the fridge, then place it on the counter for 1 hr before starting your recipe to bring it to room temperature).
Trim phyllo dough to fit your baking dish, it is important to keep the dough covered with a damp, but not wet, towel.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 non-stick baking pan.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice, water, vanilla and honey. Bring to a boil over med/high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then reduce heat to med/low and boil additional 4 min without stirring. Remove from heat and let syrup cool while preparing baklava.
Preheat oven to 350.
Pulse nuts in a food processor until coarsely ground/ finely chopped. In a medium bowl, stir together the nuts and cinnamon.
Place 5 phyllo sheets into baking pan one at a time, brushing each sheet with butter once it’s in the pan before adding the next (i.e. place phyllo sheet into pan, brush the top with butter, place next phyllo sheet in pan, butter the top, etc. etc.)
Spread about 1/4 of nut mixture (about ¾ cup) over phyllo dough.
Add 2 buttered sheets of phyllo, then another layer of nuts. Repeat x 3. Finish off with 5-10 layers of buttered phyllo sheets. Brush the very top with butter.
Cut pastry into 1½” wide strips, then cut diagonally to form diamond shapes
Bake for 1 hour and 15 min or until tops and inner layers are golden brown. (a pale white inside will tasty floury)
Remove from oven and immediately spoon cooled syrup evenly over the hot baklava (you’ll hear it sizzle). This will ensure that it stays crisp rather than soggy. Let baklava cool completely, uncovered and at room temp.
Peach and Hot-Honey Caprese
• 2 perfectly ripe peaches, thinly sliced
• 1 large ball of mozzarella, sliced
• 2 Tablespoon champagne vinegar or balsamic vinegar
• 1 Tablespoon olive oil
• 2 Tablespoon Honey
• 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
• 2 Tablespoons chopped pistachios
• 1 Tablespoon finely sliced mint
• flaky sea salt, such as maldon, to taste
Arrange the slices of mozzarella on a platter.
Top with thinly sliced peaches.
Drizzle as needed with vinegar, and olive oil.
Sprinkle on the chopped pistachios and mint.
Warm honey slightly and mix with cayenne
Drizzle honey, over platter and sprinkle with sea salt to finish.