Friday, October 21, 2011

Saving the best for last

Mystery Blue

  Well, after a rather long blogging hiatus that I will most certainly explain to you in coming days, let's talk about cheese! After a very long work day while host to a cold, driving home in rush-hour traffic and pouring rain, then coming home to a dark and empty house....what would you long for? If you were me, it would be a little white box sitting on your fence post that read "Perishable" and a hard to find winter warmer beer.
  My little white box contained the latest and last installment of the "Birth of a Cheese" series by Point Reyes Dairy and Culture Magazine. A lovely "mystery" blue that I was chomping at the bit to pair with the Founders Backwoods Bastard ale I had securely in my possession. The last blue Point Reyes sent me was very lovely, but admittedly not my favorite. This blue was a world apart.
  At first glance the appearance was similar to "mystery #1", with a pale yellow creamy look, gorgeous even blue veining, and a straw colored rind. The smell was slightly stronger. Spicy and sweet, like fresh hay. But the first bite was a revelation, so much more than batch one. The texture was incredibly luscious and dense, almost chewy. It was everything I hope for in a blue. The flavors from center to rind varied from brown sugar and young hay to damp earth and roasted nuts. The rind was subtle and totally edible.
  After first bite, I immediately grabbed up my Founders, a whopping 10.2% alcohol ale aged in Bourbon barrels. The sweet caramel and vanilla tones practically made love to the earthy grassy flavors of the blue. I couldn't think of a better beverage to pair with it, except for possibly a sweet hard cider.
  The following day I used some of the blue on a crusty baguette with romaine lettuce, mayonnaise, mustard, and rare roast beef for hot melty sandwiches. Then for a snack I paired a small wedge with rosy colored and sugary sweet muscadine preserves. Worked equally as well for cooking as did a table cheese. This will be a cheese I will for sure be eagerly waiting for at my cheese counter.

Blue & Jelly

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tomme Sweet Tomme

Point Reyes Tomme

  This past weekend I spent some time in Chattanooga, TN. Along with drinking multiple Yazoo beers and stuffing my face with delicious Urban Stack burgers, I also made my way over to Sequatchie Cove Creamery to meet the fine folks who craft such gems as Cumberland tomme. Later, I would come home to discover an entirely different tomme waiting for me.

Sequatchie Valley, TN
Sequatchie Valley, TN

  Lucky me received another package from Point Reyes Dairy. While this one was not part of the official tasting, it was (I say was because it it quickly vanished into my mouth) very special in the sense that it is not available to the rest of the public.
  Having recently had the Cumberland, it was a fun comparison trying the Point Reyes tomme. While tomme is a style, the individual cheeses can all vary wildly. The Point Reyes was just as fantastic as Sequatchie Cove's example, but totally different. While the Cumberland is earthy, smooth, and somewhat soft, the Point Reyes was rather hard and crumbly. The paste was golden with large "crunchies" (amino acid clusters), and the nose was sweet, grassy, and tropical. The taste was surprising and fun; bright, sweet, salty, and bursting with lemon and grapefruit flavors. I made it a point to sample a piece with Yazoo's latest Hop Project. The tropical notes of the cheese danced around with the floral hoppiness of the beer, making a great pairing.
  The beauty in handcrafted cheeses like these is the individual uniqueness of the styles. These cheeses aren't mass manufactured, and that should be celebrated. My weekend of tomme made for a very sweet homecoming indeed. Tomme sweet tomme. Oh, I just couldn't help myself.

Cheese in the Music City

  I have always been madly in love with cheese. I am also quite head over heels in love with the city of Nashville. You can probably imagine my reaction upon finding out that the first annual Southern Artisan Cheese Festival will be held in Music City this year. #$@!&*%!!!! I MUST GO!!!!
  The South has so much more to offer the culinary world than mayonnaise laden "salads" and sweet tea, and this is the perfect opportunity to come see for yourself. If you happen to be in the area on September 30th, make it a point to come check out what Southern cheese makers are crafting. Dairies such as Sequatchie Cove Creamery, Locust Grove Farm, and Looking Glass Creamery will be there, just to name a few. And what goes better with artisan cheese than honey from Savannah Bee Company, Lusty Monk Mustard, or Olli Salumeria meats? Plenty of specialty food vendors will be there, along with craft beers and wines to wash it all down.
  The whole shebang is being put on by Nashville's own Kathleen Cotter, who runs The Bloomy Rind, an American artisan cheese stand. The event will be on September 30th from 6pm to 9pm at the Nashville Farmers' Market on Rosa Parks Blvd. Come support the people that are creating true Southern Originals and putting the South on the culinary map!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sweet Victory

Glowing Melon
An almost glowing Amish Moon & Stars Watermelon

One of two survivors of the Great Watermelon Massacre of '11, courtesy of the laying flock.

Summer Watermelon

Sweet Victory.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You say Tomato, I say Mozzarella

Freshly made Mozzarella

  This time of year is the pinnacle of tomato season. And with an overabundance of those acidic red orbs, comes a plethora of dishes that include basil and mozzarella. Now, while I admit that this trio has been overused much in the same way prosciutto and cantaloupe/asparagus has (and oh how it has...), there is a very good reason for it. It's tasty. You may be thinking Caprese salad, I am thinking pizza, but I am always thinking pizza. I like all sorts of bizarre wonderful toppings, but a classic Margherita is tough to beat.
  You could always spring for the stuff packed in water that's $9 a container, or you could make your own. Now, there are a few specialty ingredients needed to make fresh mozzarella, and you will probably need to order them off of the Internet. But most will last you for a long time, aren't terribly pricey, and can be used to make countless other cheeses. The New England Cheese Making Supply Co. is my personal favorite for such business.
  I would like to share with you how to make crazy delicious mozzarella at home, but first, I want to answer a few burning questions I know you have always had about the ingredients to come.

Q. What is rennet? Why the &*@! is it in my cheese?

A. Rennet is a mixture of enzymes that are traditionally derived from the stomach of a calf (or kid, or lamb) that aid in the coagulation of cheese, causing the milk to separate into curds (milk solids/future cheese) and whey (leftover liquid). It is usually the byproduct of the veal industry. Rennet can be bought as either a liquid, powder, or tablet. There is also vegetable rennet, microbial rennet, and Chymosin (or genetically engineered rennet). Vegetable rennet can be made from a number of things such as thistle and nettle, but is most commonly mold based for commercial rennet. Microbial rennet is also mold based, and can be very difficult to use in aged cheeses due to it's bitter taste. Chymosin is a rennet who's origins start as cow genes that are then spliced into bacteria to create a genetically modified rennet that can be considered suitable for vegetarians. Junket rennet tablets are a very weak form of rennet that will not work for aged cheeses. Besides, it has Junk in the name.

Q. What is Calcium Chloride?

A. Calcium Chloride is a salt solution that is used to restore the balance of calcium that is lost to heat treatment in milk. It helps to speed up the coagulation process when rennet is used.

Q. What is cheese salt? Sounds delicious...

A. Cheese salt is simply an noniodized coarse salt that is used to flavor the cheese. It is not cheese flavored salt. Kosher salt can also be used, as long as it is iodine free. Iodine inhibits lactic bacteria and slows down the aging process.

Fresh Mozzarella


1 1/2 teaspoons calcium chloride dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
1 gallon pasteurized whole milk (if using raw milk, skip calcium chloride)
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool, nonchlorinated water
1 teaspoon cheese salt

Special Equipment

large stainless steel pot
stainless steel slotted spoon
heavy duty latex or rubber gloves

Pour milk into pot over medium/low heat.
When milk reaches 55 degrees, stir in calcium chloride mixture.
Heat milk to 90 degrees (milk will start to curdle).
Slowly stir in rennet mixture in an up and down motion while heating milk to 100 degrees.
Turn off heat.
When the curds get larger, start to pull away from the pot, and the whey is fairly clear, they are ready (3-5 minutes).
Using the slotted spoon, scoop out curds into a microwave safe bowl.
Press the curds to expel as much of the whey as possible.
Microwave the curds for 1 minute.
Put on gloves (trust me) and drain off whey, then knead curds as you would dough. Very, very hot dough.
Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each, kneading after each time.
Add salt after last heating and knead until curds stretch like taffy.
Roll curds into balls or squeeze in between the hole of your index finger and thumb as if you were making a cheese balloon, then pinch with thumb.
Eat right away while still warm and gooey, or store in water in refrigerator for up to a week.

Fresh Mozzarella
Just add face

Monday, July 25, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Look Ma! No cans!

  As you may have gathered from my previous post, peaches are a favorite summertime staple of mine. But one of my other true loves? Cherries. Cherries, cherries, cherries. When the season is right, I can't get enough. It is terribly ironic of course that cherries are one of the few things that don't grow well in Georgia, our winters are just not cold enough. So when available and perfectly ripe, I am perpetually broke.
  It was around this time last year that I started to wonder, "Why don't people make fresh cherry pies?". This kind of thinking has gotten me into trouble before. But it just didn't seem to make sense. The only cherry pie I had ever been acquainted with came out of a can and was a bizarre neon red color. Not good eats. After that epiphany, I was hell bent on making one. And I did. And it was amazing! I made another one this year, equally amazing! No more canned goopy red stuff!

Fresh Cherry Pie


For Filling:
7 cups fresh beautiful red cherries, pitted*
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar ( this depends on how sweet your cherries are. Really sweet? Go with less. )
2 Tablespoons cornstarch or 4 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of clove
pinch of ground ginger
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

Combine all ingredients and set aside.

For Pie Crust:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon sugar
2 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice cold water
Egg wash ( 1 egg + 1 Tablespoon water beaten together ) and sugar for topping crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry knife, fork, or food processor until mixture is coarse and butter resembles small peas.
Add ice water, a Tablespoon at a time, until dough just starts to form.
Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Roll dough on floured surface into 14" rounds.
Line bottom of pie plate with dough, fill with cherry mixture, and top with remaining dough.
Trim edges of dough with kitchen shears and crimp with fingers or fork.
Cut several holes into top of pie, brush with egg wash, and generously sprinkle with sugar.
Feel free to garnish with leftover dough scraps formed into adorable shapes ( like cherries! )
Place pie dish onto baking sheet and place on lower 3rd of oven.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 1 1/2 hours or until fruit bubbles and crust is golden brown.

*Pitting cherries sounds like a complete pain in the ass, but it's actually quite fun if you have a good pitter (Beware: Just don't wear your favorite shirt, when all is said and done, you will look like the perpetrator of a gun shot homicide ). Invest in one that isn't total crap and it will serve you for years to come. Can be used for olives too!

Cherry Pie
*No cans were harmed in the making of this pie*

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Georgia Summer

Beautiful Pasture

  Ah summer. There really is no other season quite like it. Amongst the endless complaints of southern heat ( and believe you me, Georgia is hot ) and "skeeters", there is so much to love about summer. No other time of the year can you find so many wonderful things wrapped up into one fair package: warm nights, glowing fireflies, nightly grilling, fireworks, and an endless bounty of fresh produce. Tomatoes, squash, corn, watermelon, okra, field peas, cucumbers, and blueberries. These are all great things, but the best by far are peaches! It is not officially summertime until you have had a warm peach eaten out of hand over the sink, juices running down your chin and arm.
  So when the brand new Grant Park Farmers Market hosted a peach cobbler contest, how could I resist it? Now I admit that I didn't win any awards for my cobbler, but for it being my first one ever, I was pleased as cobbler. I have had much practice with blackberry cobblers thanks to the rambling patch in my front yard, but had never tried it before with peaches. I suppose I love them so much on their own that I don't think too often about transforming them into a dessert.
  For this recipe, I wanted to try something that was both classic and unusual. So naturally, I topped the cobbler with a biscuit crust, only it was flavored with lemon, rosemary, and cornmeal. I also served a vanilla custard sauce on the side that too incorporated rosemary.

Cornmeal Biscuit Topped Peach Cobbler with Rosemary Infused Vanilla Sauce


For Cobbler: 7 peaches, peeled and sliced
                      1/4 cup sugar
                      1 teaspoon cornstarch
                      1 Tablespoon lemon juice
                      pinch of salt
                      pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss peaches with sugar and let stand for 30 minutes to expel juices.
Drain off juices, reserving 1/4 cup of liquid.
Combine cornstarch, lemon juice, salt, and cinnamon with juice and toss with peaches.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 10 minutes.

meanwhile, make the biscuit topping

For Biscuit Topping: 3/4 cup flour
                                  1/4 cup cornmeal
                                  3 Tablespoons brown sugar
                                  1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
                                  1/4 teaspoon salt
                                  1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, minced
                                  1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
                                  3 Tablespoon cold butter
                                  1/2 cup cold buttermilk
                                  heavy cream and sugar for topping biscuits

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, zest, and rosemary.
Cut in cold butter using pastry knife, fork, or food processor until mixture is coarse and butter resembles small peas.
Add buttermilk and mix just until dough comes together.
Take hot peaches out of oven and top with spoonfuls of biscuit mix.
Brush biscuits with heavy cream and generously sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 25-30, or until peaches are bubbling and biscuits are golden brown.

For the Sauce: 1 cup whole milk
                         1 sprig fresh rosemary
                         3 egg yolks
                         7 Tablespoons sugar
                         1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

Add milk and rosemary to small saucepan and bring to a low simmer, stirring often.
Remove rosemary.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, vanilla, and sugar together until a ribbon forms when the whisk is lifted from the mixture.
Whisking constantly, slowly pour a small amount of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture.
Pour egg yolk mixture into saucepan with remaining milk.
With a wooden spoon, stir constantly over low heat until mixture thickens.
The sauce is finished when you can dip a spoon into it, then draw your finger over the back of the spoon and have a track remain that is almost free of sauce.
Serve warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

Peach Cobbler
GA Peach Cobbler


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dre meets the Mystery Blue


  I can safely say that receiving cheese in the mail is just about one of the coolest things that can happen to a cheese geek like me. Why did FedEx send me a chunk of cheese you ask? Well, after reading this, submitting an application and an essay, then waiting patiently, I was chosen to be part of a cheese tasting panel for Culture Magazine to help develop a new cheese for the world famous Point Reyes Dairy in California. I spend most waking moments surrounded by cheese, whether it be cheese monger by day or cheese maker by night in my messy and cluttered kitchen, so I'm sure you can imagine my ridiculous amount of excitement. To have the opportunity to try a brand new cheese that is unavailable to the general public is nothing short of thrilling.
  Upon returning from work one day, I was greeted by a small white box at my door step. Dropping everything, I opened my coveted package, and inside was an unassuming silver foil wrapped wedge of blue cheese. Not wanting to rush tastiness, I let it sit out for about an hour to come to room temperature. After long moments of pacing and intense staring, it was ready for unveiling.

Mystery Blue

  First, I took note of the aroma. It was not overpowering at all as some blues can be. Lovely earthiness, wet leaves, and damp cellar. Next, I studied it's appearance. It looked very smooth, dense, and creamy, my favorite style of blue. The blue veining was beautiful, bright, and even, and the natural rind was pale and wrinkled. All good signs.
  Trying my best not to shovel half of the wedge into my mouth at once, I took a small piece and examined the texture, then the taste. I was actually quite surprised by the texture as it was not what I had expected. The paste was very light and springy and not as dense as I had hoped for. As it got closer to the rind, the texture did get closer to what I was wanting. It was also very granular, but did crumble well. The taste was complex and varied, from milky and almost bread dough in the center, to sweet, nutty, and very earthy towards the rind. Even the rind itself was chewy and pleasant.
  Overall I would say that Mystery Blue is an excellent cheese that I could easily see being paired with a rich Oatmeal Stout or Barley Wine. After my "official" tasting, I enjoyed a slice of raisin bread and toasted walnuts with the rest. If I were to cook with it (which I did not as it was consumed far too quickly) I would most certainly melt it over a grilled steak, or crumble it into a wheat berry salad.
  I am eagerly awaiting the next assignment.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Southern Spotlight: Sequatchie Cove Cumberland

Sequachie Cove logo

  A new cheese has come onto the southern scene lately that I think you need to know about. Sequatchie Cove is a farm located in Sequatchie Cove, Tennessee, which rests just above Chattanooga. Of the two cheeses they make currently, the one pictured here is Cumberland, a glorious example of a French-style Tomme.
  While Cheddar is a style everyone can easily grasp, Tommes are a little more difficult to get a handle on. Generally, their texture is light to semi soft and most posses a weathered rustic rind that gives the cheese an earthy aroma and taste. Tommes are fantastic on a cheese plate, and equally good when used in the kitchen. Potatoes are a natural partner.


  Sequatchie's take on Tomme is one of the best examples I have tasted. While the flavors are subtle, it is anything but boring. Their dairy herd includes the rare heritage breed Milking Devon, which is the pretty red cow featured on the label. Heritage animals impart a unique old fashioned flavor that modern Holsteins just can't achieve.
  The Cumberland is both rich and light, with a springy creamy texture. Nuttiness, fresh grass, milkiness, and damp cellar (which can be a good thing) are the boldest flavors that shine through. And the rind is one of the prettiest and most colorful natural rinds I've seen. I could easily see it being paired with pecans, green pears, a dry Riesling, or a Saison. I imagine this cheese would also be wonderful melted, but it never lasts long enough to find out.
  For cheese geeks like me, it is a very exciting time in American cheese culture (pun intended). Not only have we caught up to the European's quality, I think in some ways we are surpassing it. More exciting is when world class cheese dairies pop up near home. Sequatchie Cove's Cumberland is a fine example of a true Southern original.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Easy Cheese

Fresh Ricotta

  With all of this meat curing that has been going lately, I admit I have strayed from my first true love. Just like with curing, cheese making can also be incredibly intimidating. There is so much involved: sanitation, science, a bit of alchemy, sensitive raw ingredients, crappy electric stove tops. But as with any new skill, it's best to start out with the basics and work (or rework) your way up. And so with making cheese, ricotta is about as basic and simple as one can get.
  Traditionally, ricotta was made from the leftover whey of cheeses such as Pecorino Romano. Reheating the whey after a make created a small fine curd that was used fresh, and often times derived from sheep's milk. Unfortunately, I don't have any sheep's milk hanging around in the refrigerator (yet) so common cow's milk will have to suffice. While ricotta can be made using leftover whey, it can be made from whole milk as well, which also increases the yield. All you need to form soft curds is a little heat and acidity. I use lemon juice, but a good quailty vinegar could be used also.

Ricotta in the Works
Cheese at Work


Fresh Ricotta (yields 2 cups)


2 quarts whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
3 T lemon juice

Line a colander with cheese cloth or butter muslin and set inside a large bowl.
Very slowly heat the milk, cream, and salt in a heavy bottom pot, stirring occasionally. (Do not walk away from milk on the stove to go check your email! No, not even if it will take "just a second"! It will boil over! Yes, I do it everytime)
When the milk comes to a slow rolling boil, add the lemon juice and stir until curds form, about 2 min.
Pour curds into lined colander. You may need to suspend the cheese if your bowl is not deep enough, as I have done here with twist ties and rubber bands. Sophisticated, I know.

Draining Ricotta

Let the cheese drain for 1 hour. 
Remove the cheese and mix in a little heavy cream or milk for a smoother consistency if you like.
Save the whey for pancakes, biscuits, or smoothies.
Save your cheese cloth and wash it, it is reusable.
You can keep your lovely handmade cheese in the refrigerator for 2 days, but I can't imagine why it would stick around for that long. So good in pasta, in eggs, in pastries, I'm sure you can find plenty of uses for it.

  Since summertime in Georgia doesn't exactly scream lasagna weather, I adorned a simple pizza with mine. Piled high with fresh cheese, a hundred different vegetables from the garden/CSA, and served with a glass of cheap wine, it's nearly the perfect meal. Now, if I could only find time to make the damn crust...

Veggie Pizza
Summertime and the living's cheesy easy

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Calling all tattooed folk! I want your food tattoos!!

Garlic Plant Tattoo
All mine!

  And farm tattoos, and drink too! Before you break out your razor blades and rubbing alcohol, what I mean to say is, I want pictures of them. As you can see, I have recently added my first food related tattoo to my collection of bodily art. You have also hopefully had the pleasure of viewing my man's latest as well.

Chad's tattoo
Looks a little something like this

  But now I want to see yours! I think it's only fair really. I will even throw in a neat Whiskey Chicken sticker for all of your efforts. All you have to do is shoot me an email ( in my profile ) with your name, an attached photo of your lovely ink, and an address you would like your sticker sent to. I will then be showing them off in a future post for all to see! So get to it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

3 of the best things in life...Combined

  It has occurred to me that making charcuterie may just be slowly evolving from interest to obsession. I often find myself fantasizing about grinding pork and smoking large quantities of meat, and scheduling days off not for socializing or relaxing but for experimenting with lard and hog casings in the kitchen. The more I dabble in the homemade, the more addicting it becomes. The only things I need now are a few pigs to raise and a bigger meat grinder.
  Lately, everything has been about sausage. The combinations and flavors one can make are endless. While bacon is a divine creation, it is not nearly so varied in styles. So what happens when a beer drinking cheese monger starts crafting sausages? Well, you get a Cheddar Beer Sausage. A power trio of superior foods. I refrained from adding any bacon (the 4th super food) to the mix for fear I might marry it.

The makings of a very good night

   This sausage is a bulk fresh sausage like the others I have made so far, but half is destined to become links after this weekend. I kept the seasonings fairly simple so the cheese and beer could shine through, just a hint of caraway and red pepper. I used an English farmhouse cheddar and an awesome smoked Marzen as the main ingredients. And just so I wouldn't feel completely ridiculous about having sausage and beer for dinner, I threw in a little spinach and spring onions as a green bed for the tender patties to rest on.

Cheddar Beer Sausage

  I can think of a certain Mr. Dean who can take a hike.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

CharcutePalooza: The Grinding

Sausage's partner in crime
Good Morning

  Oh the shame! It has been nearly one month since my last post! While I could say that my distractions have consisted of only work and chores, I did manage to sneak in a tiny bit of downtime. A short weekend in the North Georgia mountains can do wonders for the soul. Just look at those wonderful fresh eggs! Those on some crisp toast, a cold beer, and a babbling brook equal the perfect morning ( don't drink beer in the morning?).
  Yet one cannot live on beer eggs alone, at least I can't. So, I figured this would be as good a time as any to debut some homemade sausage. Before this challenge, I had never once attempted something as seemingly complicated as ground sausage. The funny things is, once you try it, you feel like a fool for thinking it would ever be hard. I can see how that way of thinking could hold anyone back from handmade cooking. But I can honestly say I have not had that much fun making food in the kitchen at midnight by myself before.
  I decided to take up both challenges and make breakfast sausage and Chorizo. I am very glad I did. I was also surprised to find that fresh sausage was easier than some of the previous tasks of this Year of Meat. It simply consisted of a fresh pork shoulder beautifully marbled with fat, diced and seasoned, thoroughly chilled, and then ground. For the breakfast sausage I added sage, lots of fresh garlic, and dried blueberries. The Chorizo included many different dried chilies, garlic, oregano, and tequila.

Soon to be Sausage
Ready for grinding

  The diced meat was then chilled very well, and ground using my new and magical Kitchenaid grinding attachment. It ground quickly and efficiently. So efficiently in fact, that I barely had time to snap a photo. And that was all there was too it. To make links, I could have stuffed the fresh sausage into casings, but this was strictly to test the water, nothing more. I made both sausages the night before leaving for the camping trip.


After a night of rum and allergies, nothing was more satisfying than blueberry sausage, toast, and eggs. The Chorizo was reserved for a late night concoction of sausage, onions, garlic, celery, tomatoes, and rice stewed together into a rich improv gruel.

Blueberry Breakfast Sausage
Cure for the common hangover

Chorizo and veggies
Meal prior to common hangover

  Before now, I had not given much thought nor appreciation to sausage, as I have always been a bacon freak. But having experienced the joy in making it, as well as the comfort in consuming it, sausage has certainly been elevated to new heights in my book, and I cannot wait to construct my next grind.

campfire cooking

Monday, April 25, 2011

A budding garden

Dinner from the garden

  Slowly but surely the garden is coming into fruition. While it is small by my standards, it is packed with food. I had an amazing dinner tonight, 90% of which came from this garden. There really isn't much that can compare to that of eating food you sprouted from a tiny seed, tended to, weeded, watered, fended chickens away from, and watched over until ready to harvest.

The Garden

  So, what's in the garden? Well, at the moment there is a varied lot of greens, arugula, spinach, onions, carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, radishes, kohlrabi, fennel, peas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, Swiss chard, kale, and tomatoes. Phew. There are tomato, eggplant, cucumber, and pepper seeds germinating now. I have more seeds than I care to list here that are ready to make it into the ground in the next few weeks. A small orchard of peaches, plums, figs, pears, and apples are reaching toward the sky.

baby peaches
Skyward young peaches!

  There are hardy kiwi vines wrapping around my fence. Raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are  rambling alongside it. French varieties of strawberries hang in bags from it.

Future strawberry

  While I am far from being able to host a full scale CSA, I am on my way.

Monday, April 18, 2011

CharcutePalooza: The Tasso of the Ham

Tasso Hams
Tasso Hams

  Well, I'm a little late getting to this, but nevertheless I finally got around to making tasso ham. Now I feel real embarrassed admitting this, being one who spends every day of my life around cheese and charcuterie, but I didn't know what tasso ham was. But that is the beauty of this challenge, to learn about new ingredients, new cooking methods, and new skills.
  So then tasso ham is not really even ham, but pork shoulder that has been cured, rubbed in a spicy aromatic blend of white pepper, marjoram (although I actually used oregano), allspice, and cayenne, then smoked. It isn't meant to be eaten as a main dish (or so they say), but instead used as a seasoning for just about anything you can think of. It is most commonly used in Cajun cooking for jambalaya and gumbo. It is also ridiculously easy to make. It cured in less than 4 hours, and was done smoking in less time than that. By far the easiest of the challenges as of yet.
  Ok, ham lesson over. Since I haven't really had the time lately to use this meaty condiment for things like gumbo or beans or any dish that takes hours to prepare, I turned to my ever trusty standby. Breakfast, it's the most tasty important meal of the day.
  I did nothing more than crisp up a little bit of the ham with a handful of lovely greens from the garden and a couple of eggs from the coop. In cooking, simple is rarely boring.

Homegrown Greens
Spinach, Arugula, & Beet Greens

  Sauteed Greens with Tasso Ham & Fried Eggs


  2 ounces Tasso Ham, cubed
  1 garlic clove, minced
  1 large handful greens (I used spinach, arugula, and red beet greens, but you can use whatever you want)
  2 eggs
  salt & pepper


Tasso Ham
cubed & ready for action

  Add ham to pan and crisp, about 5 minutes.
  Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds.
  Throw in greens, season, and cook until wilted, set aside.
  Lightly butter pan, add eggs, and season with salt and pepper. Cook to whatever doneness you like.
  Top greens with eggs, serve.

Breakfast is served

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Day in the Life of: Whiskey Chickens


  •    Breakfast: The most important meal of the day...

The morning bounty
By your's truly

  •    A morning bath...

dust bathing beauties
With dust, please

  •    A little singin'...

Ear Pierce in C Minor
Mi Mi Mi La La La

  •    A little dancin'...

The Real Chicken Dance
-wattle wattle-

  •    Always take time to strike a pose...

The Rooster
Striking a Pose

  •    Followed by an evening stroll...

taking a stroll

   = A perfect day: Completed.