Tuesday, May 31, 2016

POTAGE AUX QUENELLES: Soup With Dumplings


{These French recipies are from a French cookbook called La Cuisine:  Guide Practique de la Ménagère by Chef R. Blondeau.  This book was passed down to me from my great-grandmother, who was from Alsace, a North-eastern region on the Rhine river plain in France.  It was published in 1930 as a guide for cooks hired to cook for a family.

 I am translating the recipes from French, testing them out with home-grown or raised food, and re-writing them in a modern format, with notes about what worked for me in the kitchen} 



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This recipe caught my eye as I was translating the soups section, because it sounded so unusual.  Last week I made a large pot of rich beef broth, and had broth and marrow from the bones on hand - a perfect opportunity to try it out.

Of course I wasn't sure at all what it would be like, or if anyone in my family would eat it for dinner, so I made it as a start to an already larger meal just in case it wasn't popular.

It was simple, easy to prepare, and was useful in that it requires somewhat stale bread to crumble - something else we had on hand.

And it turned out not only to be popular, but everyone was fighting over the dumplings!

You can find good-quality grassfed marrow bones locally from Full Circle Farm.

POTAGE AUX QUENELLES

 Crumble stale bread (grate it), until you have an amount equal in size to a medium orange.

Beat up an egg yolk with a pinch of fine salt, add the bread crumbs, and mix until you have a dense dough.

Melt about 60 grams of beef bone marrow, and incorporate into the dough.  Pinch off small pieces and roll them between your fingers to give them a cylindrical shape.

Cook the dumplings in a cup of broth until they plump up - about 12 minutes; then add enough broth to make the soup, and serve.




 Soup With Dumplings

1 /12 - 2 cups of stale bread crumbs (how much bread makes this depends on the bread and the shape and size of the loaf - I doubled this recipe for my large family, and it used about half a loaf of the bread we had on hand)

1 egg

a pinch of fine salt

1 quart of broth, warmed

About 4 tablespoons of beef bone marrow

1.  Use a grater to grate the stale bread into bread crumbs.  Put the bread crumbs into a bowl.

2.   Separate the egg, and beat the yolk with a pinch of fine salt.  Mix into the bread crumbs, until it becomes a very stiff dough.  Press the dough down into a flat shape in the bottom of the bowl.

3.  In a small sauce pan, melt the bone marrow, and pour over the flattened dough.  Knead to incorporate the bone marrow.  Divide the dough into small pieces, and roll them to give them a cylindrical shape.

4.  In another small sauce pan, boil about a cup of the broth.  Add the dumplings when the broth is boiling and cook until they look plump (about 12 minutes).  Then add the rest of the broth (or more if you want a more brothy soup).  Taste and adjust the saltiness if necessary.

Notes:  I also used some sliced green onion and a sprinkle of black pepper for serving.




Monday, May 30, 2016

Florida Folk Festival 2016



We spent Saturday and Sunday at the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs.  It turned out to be a beautiful weekend, and one of the best festivals we've attended in all these years.

Ethan first attended the FFF when he was about seven weeks old, and our children have been there every year except last year, when we were travelling.  It was nice to be back.  Everyone had a great time at Willy TheLosen's living history area, learning to play instruments, or talking with Trapper Robert about black powder guns and hide tanning.  There was a little chihuahua named Mr. Bear that Clothilde fell in love with.  Mirin and Ethan helped split wooden shingles and hew a pine beam with axes.

We later wandered around the festival, looking at some of the traditional crafts, and found an incredible performance by Ben Prestage. After seeing his performance, we didn't even bother going to see Arlo Guthrie on Saturday night.  We've already seen him at the Folk Festival twice over the years, and his performance is never very good or interesting.  Sort of ho-hum, really, and he didn't go on until 10 o'clock.  The next day we were listening to old recordings of the Folk Festival in the car, and one of them had Cousin Thelma Boltin saying in 1970-something, "You don't find stars at a folk festival, just a lot of people you like to listen to."

It was kind of sad to reflect on that - especially having walked past Arlo's big, fancy bus and all the security around it just the day before.  The Saturday night performance used to be a showcase of all the best musicians that year, and in years previous.  They were all true folk musicians who played in the campground every evening and spent the night in a tent, not musicians who go around in a fancy bus with a security entourage.  When the funding changed for the festival several years ago, they started to bring in a big name every year, have a lot more rules, have a lot fewer interesting musicians, and try to make money off of it.


Both afternoons we spent some time splashing around in the Suwannee river.  The river was very low this year, which was perfect for Clothilde.  Alligators lurk in the deeper parts, but the river was low enough that she could walk all the way across it with Ethan.  My friend from Canada joined us, and she was kind of put off by the black water - I explained that it was from all the tannins in the leaves of the trees on the banks, but she didn't seem to quite believe me.  Mirin dredged up some interesting pieces of wood from the bottom of the river - one of them looked like a dragon.


Sunday evening we went to the contra dance.  It was the first time I was able to dance since Mirin was born, having since then either had a small child clinging to me, or been pregnant and not up for it with the heat.  I used to dance all weekend long, as long as there was dancing.  Now I'm old and out of shape and had to rest out several dances.  Mirin and Rose also joined in, which made me happy beyond words to see my children enjoying something that I had also loved when I was young.

We thought we would only stay for a few dances, but it was so fun we ended up staying until the stage was closed at 11!  We are regretting it today - everyone except Clothilde has gone around groaning about how tired and creaky they are.  At the festival, Ethan was scoffing at a pair of old folkies who were unloading a "his" and "hers" motorized mobility scooters.  This morning, we were wishing we had them to go get Matilda for milking!

Friday, May 27, 2016

A "Real" Milk Cow

Geranium waiting to charge in and be milked (note the crazy gleam in her eye)

We are always talking about whether or not Geranium is a "real" milk cow.  Our Jersey, Matilda, usually walks in demurely, swishing her tail in an easy-going, coy way, and starts eating.  She is easy to milk and makes it easy for you.  Geranium, on the other hand, usually charges snorting into the milking area with head tossing and heels flying like a rodeo bull (this must be the reason they use bulls and not cows?).  While Matilda is being milked (first, because she is the Queen, and makes a big fuss if she isn't), Geranium lurks by the gate with a crazed gleam in her eyes.....waiting, waiting, breathing heavily.  I open the gate for her and stand back.  Ethan says we are trying to re-create the Aurochs - if not in size, at least in temperament.

She isn't mean, she is actually a very nice cow, she is just SO excited to come in and be milked, to the point that she doesn't act like a cow you want to milk.

Even though she kicks up her heels, Mirin has trained her to let him ride on her back.  Because she is  so stubborn on going back after being milked, Ethan started leaning heavily on one side to get her going.  Mirin helped by jumping up on her back.  The result is that she is now used to being ridden on, although it usually looks like a water buffalo race.  Mirin has been trying to suggest we rent her out for little kids birthday parties - for his amusement rather than anyone else's.

Mirin's friend Nicholas came out to visit a few weeks ago, and of course Mirin convinced him that Geranium was tame:




video





Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Almost

Silver-spangled Seminole Pumpkin Leaves
A fiery orange Cosmo blossom



A ripe ground cherry (shhhh....no one else has noticed them yet)

Calendula blooming

Little cucumbers!

I wish that I had more time to write today, but I just don't.  There's too much else going on, so this will be short - and the pictures are worth 5,000 words anyway.

Perhaps the late frosts, or maybe the lack of rain, but the summer garden has seemed slow to grow this year.  Or maybe it's because I always feel anxious and mother hen-ish over the tender little vegetable sprouts.  There's so much that's almost ready.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

POMMES DE TERRE AU LAIT OU A LA CREME: Potatoes With Milk Or Cream



{These French recipies are from a French cookbook called La Cuisine:  Guide Practique de la Ménagère by Chef R. Blondeau.  This book was passed down to me from my great-grandmother, who was from Alsace, a North-eastern region on the Rhine river plain in France.  It was published in 1930 as a guide for cooks hired to cook for upper-middle class families.

As a fun project, I am translating the recipes from French, testing them out with home-grown or raised food, and re-writing them in a modern format, with notes about what worked for me in the kitchen} 


*     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

We have dug most of the potatoes in the garden, but every now and again someone gleaning through the old potato beds finds another one.  Unlike the cassava, the potatoes don't keep very well in the ground, and they spoil quickly once dug.

This recipe is very simple and made a good accompaniment to a more complex, saucy main dish I had made that same evening.  The mild seasonings bring out the earthy flavor of the potatoes rather than cover it up.  The potatoes are first boiled with their skins on - or as R. Blondeau puts it - they are cooked "en robe de chambre", or in their dressing gown.  The skins then peel off easily, and there is much less waste than if peeling raw potatoes.

POMMES DE TERRE AU LAIT OU A LA CREME

 Cook potatoes with their skins on in water, peel them, cut into rounds, and reheat them in 60 grams of melted butter, mix with half a cup of cream (or milk) with salt and pepper.

Don't allow it to boil.




Potatoes With Milk Or Cream

3 lbs of potatoes, the firmer, waxy kind rather than the baking kind

4 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup milk or cream

Salt and pepper

1.  Boil the potatoes in water, with their skins on until they are tender when you poke them with a sharp knife.

2.  Drain and allow to cool enough to handle.  Slip the skins off and cut them into rounds.

3.  In a large-enough pan, melt the butter.  Add the potatoes and cook for a few minutes, until the potatoes are thoroughly warmed.

4.  Add the milk or cream, and season with salt and pepper.  Leave on the fire just long enough to warm the milk or cream, but don't let it boil.


Notes:  I used milk when I prepared this dish, as I had forgotten to save some cream back, and I had already churned butter for the day.  Milk was ok - but it would have been even better with cream.

Monday, May 23, 2016

POTAGE AUX ORTIES: Nettle Soup


{Note:  this recipe is my own, and not one translated from La Cuisine}

This IS a recipe, but I have a story to tell first:

The summers between 5th grade and 7th grade I stayed with my great-aunt and great uncle in France.  They lived in Nice, in the same tiny apartment that my grandmother grew up in.  On the weekends we went and stayed at their chalet in the Alps that my uncle built himself.  It was small, but beautiful and sturdy.  The door was a huge, solid piece of wood hand-carved with beautiful designs.  We went on hikes, picked wild mushrooms and strawberries, sometimes we would come upon stray goats or sheep, their bells tinkling.  I spent hours playing and dreaming in the beautiful flowers of the alpine meadows,and made elaborate flower braids and crowns to amuse myself.

I had always been a very picky eater.  My family, like so many modern American families, always had snacks around.  At Gaby's house, there was only food at mealtimes, and often it was mostly a large pot of soup, and bread and cheese.  I suddenly became a very good, not-picky eater.  The mountain air, the exercise, and the sunshine changed me.  Both summers I spent there, I grew so much I couldn't fit in my clothes at the end!  I had always been shorter than my best friend, but I came home an inch taller than her at the end of the first summer.

 One of my very favorite things to eat at the chalet was a soup made out of some mysterious greens - my grandmother told me it was spinach, but it didn't taste like spinach.  I assumed it was some special kind of French spinach, and didn't ask questions - I just ate (a lot of it).  But once I saw my grandmother and aunt harvesting the greens for soup.  They had gloves on, and it appeared that they were picking the nettles.  My grandmother denied this.  She insisted it was spinach.

It wasn't until I was pregnant with my son that I started drinking nettle tea.  At the first sip, I had a surprise - the taste!  My favorite soup ever!  It was nettles!

When we went to France last year, we visited my cousin Aurore.  She lives way up in the Alps near Switzerland.  I mentioned how much I loved Gaby's nettle soup, and she verified that it was actually nettles.  She said there is also a wild spinach (so perhaps this was what my grandmother was talking about - I had assumed she thought maybe I wouldn't like it if I thought it was nettles).  She took us on a walk and we found nettles and wild spinach, and she made a delicious nettle soup for dinner.

A few days later, we were staying in the hay loft a a sheep farmer in St. Croix-aux-mines, in Alsace.  It is a very small town a short distance away from St. Marie-aux-mines, where my great-grandmother was from.  I was supposed to cook lunch for the farmer, his three teenage daughters, my family and my dad.  The farmer had on hand a sack of potatoes, some onions, a large lettuce, half a dozen eggs, and some bread.  We brought a quantity of butter with us, but it still wasn't very promising to make a lunch for that many people with so few provisions.

However, quite a lot of nettles were growing outside, so I went out to pick.  Aurore had shown me the trick of gently pulling the young, tender leaves from the base of the leaf toward the tip as you pick them, so they won't sting you.  I made a large pot of green soup that the farmer's three daughters eyed suspiciously.  You could tell they had totally been burned by WWOOF-er cooked lunches before.

After a taste, everyone realized it was actually really good, and it was finished off with enthusiasm.  Their father was pleased to tell them it was made with nettles, and see their surprise/horror, but they still admitted that they had really liked it.

While European nettles are an established and annoying weed up North, they don't really grow here in Florida.  We have a "nettle" that is not the same species, and in the winter and spring pellatory and fire nettle grow abundantly.  But they are quite different.  So imagine my surprise and delight this winter, when a nettle plant - a real European nettle, grew in my garden!  (can you believe I've been carefully tending it and watering it?)

And now with the potatoes ready, and the nettle all covered with tops, we were ready for our own, home-grown nettle soup!



POTAGE AUX ORTIES:  Nettle Soup

About 1 cup or more of nettle leaves, from the tops of the plants (older leaves will be too tough)
1 1/2 cups water

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 onion, sliced

A spoonful of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup broth or more water

cream or crème fraiche for serving

1.  Put the nettles in a pot with the water, and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

2.  In another pot, melt the butter and fry the onion for just a minute.  Add the peeled, diced potatoes and cook for about 3-5 minutes.  

3.  Pour over the nettles and their cooking water.  Add the broth or extra water, salt and pepper and cook until the potatoes are tender.

4.  Blend the soup, and taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve with the cream, with a sprinkling of pepper on top.




Thursday, May 19, 2016

Homeschooling At The End


It's the end of the school year - and the end of our homeschool year.  Some families homeschool all year round, but we usually take a break during the summer, for several reasons.  First of all, it gives me a break, and a chance to do some planning and research for next year.  Second of all, it is wonderful to take things easy during the summer.  We usually go to lots of parks, hang out at the library, go to the springs, and do fun art projects we didn't get around to during the school year.  Lastly, it is very difficult to get my children to focus on learning (even if it is a very fun game or activity) when the neighborhood kids are on summer break and having a blast with water balloons across the street.

The end of the school year is always the hardest for us.  Everyone is tired of structure, and the demands of getting the garden in, milking, and all the spring work usually mean we have taken some extra breaks, and those extra breaks are hard to come off of.

This year things have been easier.  I think I've finally learned how to manage the end of the year homeschool.  We are avoiding a lot of book-work, and doing a math block with time, money, and measurement.  It's very informal, but at the same time I have been careful to have clear goals in mind for what we are studying.  Last week we worked with money.  The goals for us were for Rose to be able to identify the values of all the coins, know how many of each were in a dollar, and do some arithmetic around making change and adding.

The first day we talked about how much each coin was worth.  I pointed out that nickels were larger, but less valuable than the dimes because of the different metals the coins are made from.  Then we counted all the money in Rose's piggy bank, which turned out to be much more than either of us thought it would be.

The second day we reviewed how much each coin was worth, and counted out a dollar's worth of each one.  Then we practised making values in different ways with different coins (for example - finding all the different ways to make 25 cents).

The third day I would set out some coins and ask Rose to tell me how much there was, and how much we needed to make a certain amount.  The fourth day we set up a pretend bakery and Rose was the cashier and had to make change (this was, of course, the best lesson!).  We met all of our goals, it took only about an hour a day, and Rose was happy with the lesson and was able to focus and learn without getting distracted (except for when Clothilde tried to eat the money - but siblings doing weird things during lessons is just part of homeschool for us).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wolves



This weekend we got some much-needed work done of re-locating Ethan's junk pile (for the third, and hopefully, last time).  We came across these interesting creatures.

The top one is a Rosy Wolf Snail - a predatory snail that eats other snails.  It was the largest snail I've seen in Florida - although nothing special compared to some of the snails and slugs I've come across in the Alps.  Clothilde took to carrying it around with an unfortunate woolly bear caterpillar that she had found earlier.  At some point, she dropped the snail into the oak leaf litter all around, and it never turned up again.  It blended in perfectly.  This was very distressing (for Clothilde - I'm sure the snail felt otherwise), and she kept bursting into tears and wondering what had happened to "her snail" until I told her a story about the snail having to go to a party with some friends.

The spider in the second picture is a Wolf Spider.  It was taking it's ease on a 6-inch plastic bin in the barn - which means it has a leg-span of nearly 5 inches.  It looks as if it subsists on small birds or something.  Hopefully that's as large as it can get, or it might start eating Chicago.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

POMMES DE TERRE AU LARD: Potatoes With Bacon



{These French recipies are from a French cookbook called La Cuisine:  Guide Practique de la Ménagère by Chef R. Blondeau.  This book was passed down to me from my great-grandmother, who was from Alsace, a North-eastern region on the Rhine river plain in France.  It was published in 1930 as a guide for cooks hired to cook for upper-middle class families.

As a fun project, I am translating the recipes from French, testing them out with home-grown or raised food, and re-writing them in a modern format, with notes about what worked for me in the kitchen} 

*     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Lard actually means bacon in French, rather than the rendered pig fat that the word means in English.  This can be confusing sometimes.  The word for lard in French is saindoux.  With all the potatoes in the garden, and the bacon curing process finally finished, I decided to give this recipe a try.

When I read the title of the recipe, I assumed it would be potatoes fried with bacon, similar to the last recipe of POMMES DE TERRE A LA MAITRE D'HOTEL, in which the potatoes are parboiled, and then fried until crisp in melted butter. But this recipe turns out to be potatoes cooked in a rich gravy.

Mashed potatoes and gravy was my favorite food when I was a child, so I found potatoes cooked in gravy just delightful.  However, there was some disappointment among the children when it was discovered that we were actually NOT having fried potatoes for dinner.  Afterwards, when pressed for an opinion, the general vote was that it turned out to be "good," which can be considered a high compliment when coming from these three of particular taste and exacting standards. And, unfortunately, this dish had to be removed from Ethan last night before he made himself ill with a fourth helping.







 POMMES DE TERRE AU LARD (Potatoes with Bacon)

Cut 125 grams of bacon into pieces, and sautée with 30 grams of fresh butter.  Sprinkle with a spoonful of flour, stir and allow to brown, wet with two cups of broth, salt, pepper, and add your potatoes which are washed, wiped dry, and cut into quarters, a bouquet of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, cover and let cook over a low fire for an hour.



Potatoes With Bacon - A Modern Version

1/2 cup chopped bacon
1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon flour

2 cups of broth

salt and pepper to taste

About 3 lbs of potatoes, washed, wiped dry, and cut into quarters

fresh parsley and thyme

1 bay leaf

1.  In either a frying pan with good sides, or a medium pot with a wide bottom, put the bacon on to fry with the tablespoon of butter.  When some of the fat has melted out of the bacon, sprinkle the tablespoon of flour over.

2.  Cook the flour, butter, and bacon together, stirring here and there, as the flour and bacon get slightly toasty.

3.  Add the two cups of broth, and stir to avoid lumps.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  It should thicken into a gravy.  Add the quartered potatoes, and tuck the herbs and the bay leaf in.

4.  Cover and cook on low heat for about an hour.

Notes: Our bacon is quite salty enough, so I did not add any extra salt.  Also, the potatoes from the garden were small and tender, and it only took about 25-30 minutes for them to be fully cooked.  I would also suggest stirring every so often, as they tended to want to stick a bit on the bottom towards the end of cooking.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Bacon





The bacon is finally finished curing and air-drying.  It turned out quite good this time, and we got almost 20lbs of bacon from one pig, after curing.  This means it was probably originally 25 or so pounds fresh.
 
When bacon is cured traditionally, salt and a small amount of sugar, spices and seasonings are rubbed on the outside of the meat.  The salt pulls moisture out of the meat, and preserves it to an extent.  The bacon can then be smoked (someday we will have a cold-smoker!).

This is exactly opposite of store bacon, which is injected with a preserving solution and actually gains weight from the extra water and chemicals.  The extra moisture also helps out the very lean nature of modern bacon when it is cooked, and keeps it from being dry and tough, as lean meat tends to be.


Our piggies, so fond as they are of skimmed milk, do not have any problem with lean bacon.  We have taken Jane Grigson's advice in Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery:  "...try to get meat from what is called 'overweight pig', most pork on sale nowadays is from very young pigs bred for tender, lean, and rather tasteless meat..."

Good bacon doesn't need injections of flavor chemicals!  I think that can be said of good food in general.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Chameleon Butter


Almost as soon as Explorer came back to us from the farm where he was breeding more cows, the grass was ready to graze for the first time.  Several cold fronts had showered us with rain, and the warm weather that came afterwards made the grass wake up, shake itself, and start to grow.

We knew we had to be very careful with the first spring graze.  If you pressure the grass too much when it is first waking up, it will be stunted for the rest of the season.  The cows were ready for it - every day Geranium would trumpet-moo emphatically at us as she followed the other cows trudging back to the hay bale in resignation.  They would stand around the hay and stare sourly at Sappho grazing across the fence line.  She is the big, obnoxious yearling who just won't stay in the fences (I have a feeling that if she doesn't figure it out soon, she might go in the freezer this fall.  She also encourages the goats to jump out).

On the first day when Ethan opened up the fences and called the well-known and beloved phrase, "Come on, cows!", they were ready.  Waiting in line - Matilda the Queen and Explorer the King in front, with everyone trailing behind according to status, Flora waiting patiently behind Geranium and Chestnut, with the yearlings edging along at the back.  They had seen Ethan walking around with fence posts, and knew what to expect.

As soon as they reached the other side, they put their heads to the grass and ripped and ripped.  It took them forever to move just to the first grazing line.  Necks outstretched, their heads move from side to side, their tongues lick out and wrap around the grass - step forward and repeat, like slow scythe strokes.  Everyone was silent, focused, only the ripping of grass and the occasional splat of a cow pie, as they slowly grazed their way along.

The butter up until then, had been very pale, with only the slightest hint of yellow.  That is very typical of winter butter - and is why Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother colored her winter butter with grated carrot juice.  It is still very good butter, just not as good as the summer butter.

As soon as the cows were on grass, the butter changed.  Within only a few days, it turned out of the mixer golden yellow, swimming in white buttermilk.

Monday, May 9, 2016

POMMES DE TERRE A LA MAITRE D'HOTEL


{These French recipies are from a French cookbook called La Cuisine:  Guide Practique de la Ménagère by Chef R. Blondeau.  This book was passed down to me from my great-grandmother, who was from Alsace, a North-eastern region on the Rhine river plain in France.  It was published in 1930 as a guide for cooks hired to cook for upper-middle class families.

As a fun project, I am translating the recipes from French, testing them out with home-grown or raised food, and re-writing them in a modern format, with notes about what worked for me in the kitchen} 

 *     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

 In the garden, the potato plants have keeled over and turned brown, a sign that they are not going to grow much larger, and are ready to dig.  They are not as large as they have been in other years, perhaps because it has been very dry and I haven't irrigated them.  But they taste, somehow, more potato-y than usual potatoes.

This potato recipe is very simple - and indeed, most of the nineteen potato recipes given in La Cuisine are quite simple.  With parsley still going in the garden, but looking inclined to bolt, I thought I'd better try this one first.  But there are still two and a half large beds left to dig, so look forward to more potato recipes in future!

To begin the section on potatoes (in French "Les Pommes de Terre," or Earth Apples), Chef R. Blondeau offers some counsel on potato varieties.  The white, round, crumbly type of potato is used in purees and soups, but the firmer, longer potato types are used for a dish like this one, as they stay together and don't crumble with cooking.  I am not familiar with the varieties listed that make good "pan" potatoes rather than soup potatoes - Hollande, Vitelottes, or Saucisse. These were (I think) Red Pontiac potatoes.

 POMMES DE TERRE A LA MAITRE D'HOTEL (The Butler's Potatoes)

Wash your potatoes, cook them in salted water, drain them, peel off the skin, cut them into thin slices (across), and brown them in 60 grams of butter with chopped parsley, salt and pepper.  Serve.

 




 Butler's Potatoes - a modern version

Potatoes (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs for a family of four)

Salt

Water for boiling

3 Tablespoons butter

Fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper to season

1.  Put the washed potatoes in a large-enough pot and cover with water.  Add a pinch of salt and cook until just tender.

2.  Drain them, and peel off the skins.  Slice the cooled potatoes into thin slices across.

3.  In a pan, melt the butter and brown the potato slices.  Season with chopped parsley, salt, and pepper.

Notes:  My potatoes were so new and fresh, the skins were very tender and I did not remove them after cooking.  Be careful not to overcook the potatoes during the boiling, or they might crumble too much when you try to slice them.  Red Pontiac potatoes ended up working very well for this recipe.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Chicharrones and Pork Pie












The Chicharrones (or, as they are called here in the South, Pork Rinds) are just the pork skin sliced and baked for awhile.  In general, we scald and scrape our pigs, not only because cured hams must have the skin-on, but also so we can save the skin for these delightful, crunchy treats.  A sprinkling of salt, smoked paprika, garlic, and a tiny bit of cayenne make them taste like BBQ-flavored potato chips.

The brawn has been cooking all week.  It is also called headcheese, but I like to use the British word, "brawn", as I think modern people cringe when they hear "headcheese."  They have certainly not tasted it before, because it is really very good - shreds of tender meat in rich broth.  Technically, brawn also includes the trotters, and I did not, as I want to save them to make court-bouillon when it is time to boil the brined hams.

The head spent several days simmering with herbs and vegetables until the meat was falling off the bones.  It then cooled for awhile, and the broth was strained off.  I separated the meat and minced it while the broth boiled down and reduced by half into a thick, gelatin-rich aspic.

The brawn is usually finished by laying the minced meat and chopped vegetables from the stock in a pan and pouring the stock over top. The stock cools to become aspic (meat jelly), and a layer of creamy white fat forms on top.  It is usually sliced to be served, and it is very tasty, especially on a toasted slice of good bread.

I also like to serve it hot.  It goes very well over rice or mashed potatoes, and this time I decided to try it in a pie.  I made good pastry with flour, butter, salt and cold cream.  The trick is to have the butter at a good temperature - not too soft or too cold, and to mix it in with a fork and not your hands.  It should be mixed until there are still some larger chunks and some fine crumbs before the cold cream or ice water is poured in to make the dough.  The larger chunks make the crust flaky, and the smaller crumbs make it tender.  You can change how flaky or tender the crust is by varying the ratio of large and small crumbs.

I rolled out the pastry and arranged the minced meat inside.  I poured the stock over to fill the pie, and baked it until the pastry was golden and flaky.  The leftovers were also good cold for breakfast.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Scrapple








 
Spleen


Kidneys


The lungs, or as they were known in times past, the "lights"
 Scrapple is a perfect breakfast food - it is meaty, savory, and sticks to your ribs.  It is delicious and nourishing, and a perfect way to start off the day.

I like it because it is a delicious way to use some of the odd organs that my children would otherwise turn their noses up at.  It uses kidney, heart, and lungs, or as they used to be called, the "lights".  I think this is because the lungs are very light-weight because of the pockets of air in them.  It also has broth, cornmeal, and herbs.

The kidneys, heart and lungs are put to boil in a large pot of water.  When they are cooked, they are taken off the heat to cool in the broth.  Once cool, they are ground and mixed with ground pork, salt, sliced onions, and seasonings.  The mixture is cooked.  Then cornmeal is stirred in until it is cooked and thickened, and it is poured into a pan to set.  Once set, it can be sliced and fried.  We slice it up and store it in the freezer.  It is easy to take it out the night before to defrost, and cook it up for a quick and healthy breakfast the next morning.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sausage


Sausage seasonings being mixed - we only use pure organic herbs and spices and sea salt.

 
Sausage being mixed
 
The results

 
Black Sausage Ingredients

 
Liverwurst getting ready to be made
There has been some confusion about the pig classes we are offering.  I think in being overly flexible about what we can do, it is confusing. Basically, we are offering our skills, pigs, and space for making all kinds of delicious traditional foods from a whole pig.  The particulars are all up to what someone wants.

A few years ago we started doing ALL of the butchering for our pigs, rather than field-dressing and bringing it to a butcher.  I liked having the whole process in our hands.  The meat tasted cleaner, we had a larger variation in types of sausage we could make, and we were able to be thriftier and more efficient with what we used.  It was empowering, and fun.  Friends gathered with us, and we all worked together, and laughed together, and we had so much great food afterwards.

Last year we decided we wanted to share this experience.  We tried to do a class having people come out and butcher a pig with us.  It went wrong in so many ways, and one of them was that the people who came to the class did not actually participate very much.  It was not how we had wanted it to be.  We wanted to be offering this food, this experience for people who do not have the opportunity to raise pig or process their own meat by hand to have the experience of community coming together purposefully, the gratitude of using all the parts of the animal, the pride of learning a skill that peasants around the world have made good use of for ages - to create fine foods out of raw nourishment.

We did not intend for it to be that we were just watched by an aloof crowd while we struggled under the work load.

We also realized we wanted to share more with the community.  We want to share how simple it is to make delicious and nourishing foods for yourself.

We were all standing around snacking on liverwurst and Pâté the other evening, and remarking on how incredibly lucky we are to eat so well.  "How much would something like this cost to buy at a store or restaurant?"  we wondered.  A lot.  More than we could afford, especially if it doesn't have any preservatives, MSG, or nasty ingredients, and the pork is raised right.  It's priceless.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pâté Progression












I thought it would be interesting to show what goes into the various tasty things we made over the weekend.  Naturally, I am starting with the most photogenic end - the result.  Most Americans, I think, would be a bit squeamish when it comes to looking at a picture of raw liver.  They are totally fine eating pink slime in some disgusting taco hash with toxic flavor chemicals, but raw liver - yuck!

Personally, I always admire the beauty and colors of the fresh organs.  In school I watched while my classmates dissected dead cats soaked in formaldehyde for Biology.  It was gross, and all the organs and dyed blood vessels looked unnatural and plastic.

The first time I saw fresh organs was when my friend Karen invited me over to help butcher a pig for her family.  Back then, I was only a couple years away from having been a vegetarian, and I wasn't sure what it would be like.  Would I be horrified and have to leave?

The experience was intense, and when the pig was finally scalded and cut open, I found myself being amazed at the beautiful colors and the delicate forms of the organs.  It changed the way I saw myself as a living being.

The most popular kind of Pâté here in the States is usually the creamy chicken liver Pâtés imported from France.  I did not even know other kinds of Pâté existed until I began studying French pork cookery.  This is a French country-style Pâté that is almost like a dense meatloaf...but way better, of course.  It has (as you can see) liver, diced pork fat, ground pork, onion, bread crumbs, wine, brandy, cracked peppercorns, pistachios, eggs, and my own version of a spice blend known as Quatre-Épices.  The result is a rich Pâté that is beautiful when sliced open, and has a complex, spicy flavor.