Sunday, January 6, 2008

Weekend Wrap Up

We had another great week at the farm. There is so much to do and so much to invent that I'm bristling with excitement. I'm not sure if I've made this clear in earlier posts, but I'm not there just to make sausage and salume-although this is a major part of what I do- I am wrestling with creating a cuisine for the farm from almost scratch.

Prior to my climbing on board as "chef de cuisine" or chef of everything that is not made by Trent or Rachel Hendricks (Which is a lot when you consider the many thousands of pounds of milk, cheese and soaps they produce.) there had not been much in the way of prepared food coming out of the kitchen. (They, ahem, did not even have a proper stove or oven in there.)
Their sausage and bacon was made off premises by others (the bacon still is), they made some soup and other ready to eat products but there wasn't a lot.

But all of that is changing. We are looking at everything we sell or might sell and asking "how can we produce this on the farm?" If we cannot make it ourselves is it worth having? I'm thinking a lot about what I can add to round out the cuisine so that it is comprehensive and contains all the elements of an anesthetically and nutritionally well-rounded diet but...

Me, most of the time I'm like, just let me cook. Cooking is not an intellectual activity for me, it's a reflex.

Just get me the stuff I need to satisfy what my hands want to make and let me make it. In addition to charcuterie products I've been cranking out pastry, soups, saucers, pork and beans, poached pears, baked apples, none of it is enough, all of it is much better than I expect it to be and never is any of it good enough. Most of the time that I'm at work, I don't stop working until it's time to leave unless I'm sick or need to use the WC. I've always worked like that when I'm doing what I'm meant to do (cook/teach/build stone walls) but it's been a while since I felt that way in the kitchen and it feels good to back.

I did not have much time or will to shoot photos this week. But I did want you to see something that i think is pretty cool. It's a few photos of some fermented sausage I made last week that show, among other things, how quickly they change as the bacteria and cure do their work.

Okay, I'm going swimming! (I try to swim 3-5 miles a week. Lately it's been closer to 3.5 and well, we cannot afford to get lazy as we grow old now can we?)

22 comments:

maya said...

It must be really gratifying to make food from scratch. I'm looking forward to Jamie Oliver's new FN show although I'm sure there will be critics.

I read recently that some people in NYC managed to grow tomatoes on some barge. Hey, if they can do that I must be able to grow some on my side porch LOL! Too cold for an outdoor garden right now.

I think I was born in the wrong century, I'd love to be one of those folks who makes and grows their own food, clothing, etc. I bet your homemade cuisine is far better than store bought! ;)

boberica said...

If I was living on that coast, I'd beg for an internship in your farm kitchen. I hope that someone is lucky enough to be learning first hand your charcuterie techniques. Although, it's not like you don't do enuff teaching.

Sean said...

Having just finished Ruhlman's "Soul of a Chef" and "Reach of a Chef," I sense you have the same sort of drive that animates Thomas Keller and our country's other great chefs. Keller's strive for perfection as a modus operandi for living and cooking rather than a definite end was one of the more significant messages I took from both books. I'm always inspired to read about people who treat their vocations with such integrity. I hope your work on the farm continues to go well.

redman said...

Bob, once again a source of inspiration. happy new year!

ntsc said...

maya

When I lived in NYC, Park Slope Brooklyn actually, one year we grew 100 lbs of tomatoes on the roof, as well as peppers and various vine stuff. Container gardening and drip hoses.

We are on a lot bigger piece of property, but my wife still does container lettuce, tomatoes and such on the deck. Simply step outside the back kitchen door and pick your salad.

Bob del Grosso said...

Maya
Welcome back my friend! Are you on break from school?

Tomatoes on a barge, eh? That is a compelling image if ever there was one. Years back, when I had both feet in my environmental science studies I used to fantasize about planting a forest on a really big boat and sailing it around to provoke a discussion about the nature of life on earth.

This toamto barge idea brings me back.

boberica

Funny you should mention internships. I spoke to a guy yesterday who wants to work with us in the charcuterie. Dude has a good job in IT, but wants to learn everything he can about scratch cooking. He'll start on Thursday.

I'm looking forward to it.

I've got great aspirations for the program at Hendricks Farms. I want to build an oven, start a dining series, do a book (s), podcasts...

But first things first, the foundation must be built and a cuisine must be established. Everything else will sit on top of that!

Sean

Thanks for the well wishes! And I hope all good things for you too.
I'm not sure I have the drive that Keller has -I know I do not have his talent- but I'm sure that whatever it is I have that drives me is, by now, not mutable.

redman
Props back.

ntsc
welcome!

Scotty said...

I just like to trail you for a bit, and absorb. As I start working at making cured, air dried meats and refining my skills at other charcuterie you are an inspiration.

BTW, I finally have a post up on the New Year's galantine. You get a mention ;-)

ntsc said...

I'm sitting in my home office, watching 4 white tailed dear checking out the smoker.

If they only knew.

Ruhlman and CIA got me into charcutire. I plan on a pepperone and either a sopressata or a Mexican chorizo next weekend. Then they hang in my basement next to the 18lb formerly fresh ham.

lectric lady said...

Where is this place?

As soon as I get my house sold and gotten rid of all of my stuff I am going to move in there.

boberica said...

I could use advice with my belly! It's part of a 6 month old Mangalitsa half hog that I plan to pick up in Seattle on the 19th. I've been putting together plans for the rest of the "parts", but I've been told that the belly will probably be a bit too fatty for curing. I'm thinking that means it's also too fatty for braising.
I have a fairly decent charcuterie library, but am unable to point myself in any direction. rillettes? belly lardo? I'd hate to grind it. Thanks for any help that you can provide!

Bob del Grosso said...

boberica

If it is really fatty it might have to be pressed while it cures.

If it's like 80 percent fat you could cure it while pressing it under 10 or so pounds of weight per 5 pounds belly. That will tighten it up so it is firm enough to use after air drying or smoking or whatever.
If you want to make belly confit with it, just cook it at a very low temp for a long time. Cook it in an oven at at 165-175 degrees until the muscle is tender. Don't grind it and forget rillettes, that belly sounds too fatty for that.

You could add some of it to a batch of rillettes, but it would not be good on its own I think.

IdahoRocks said...

Welcome to farm life, Bob. It's busy, hectic, seasonal, and oh so gratifying! I haven't even done half of what my garden could provide, and I just can't bring myself to kill the deer that sleep just outside my kitchen window....

That being said, I look forward, indeed, to all that you make and do at Hendricks Farm. I've always wanted to build an outdoor wood oven and you may push me to it. I do plan on sharing so many of the activities that I do year in and year out with my garden on my new blog, inlindaskitchen.

I wish you were closer and I'd beg for an internship. If I were really smart, I'd just ask my neighbor, Mary Cay, to show me how to do it all. After all, her family only eats beef at restaurants. The rest of their protein is out of the forest: deer, elk, moose, goose, duck and grouse.

I know it's difficult to find the hours to write when working on the farm, especially with a family that also wants your attention, but I look forward to it all.

fiat lux said...

Seriously, Bob, reading posts like this one makes me wish I lived on the East Coast. Your enthusiasm for your new venture just jumps off the page, and I wish there was something I could do to help make the business a success! Marketing, cost analysis, hell, even working behind the counter selling the stuff. Starting a new business is a powerful, fascinating, exhausting, exhilarating experience and there's nothing quite like it.

But from here in CA, I can't. I can't even be a customer. :(

Cathelou said...

Bob, those photos of the sausage remind me of a beautiful moldy Italian sausage I bought in a tiny town in the Alps and stupidly, stupidly tried to bring back through customs and was idiotic enough to declare. My heart broke when the customs agent callously flung it into the trash.

Congratulations on the farm, too. Years ago I had a fantasy of running a restaurant on our family's farm, where we'd serve only foods we'd grown ourselves. But the reality is quite another thing--you seem to have what it takes. Look forward to hearing how it works out.

Idahorocks, I'm glad you're letting the deer live . . . . though I eat meat, I remember how hard it was to see our calves go to the butcher.

Christian from NJ said...

All,

I can't tell you how great of a person bob is in the flesh, as is Trent Hendricks who runs the farm.

The banter between the two of them is worth the trip alone.

I am the "IT Guy" that Bob refers to and I couldn't be more excited. I will do my best to take some photos as well, and post to a blog I have no time to write :).

I am truly lucky and humble to have this opportunity, so I can't wait.

boberica said...

sound like I can still hang belly then. Thanks for the great news. I reckon I'll have to be creative. If it's really a high percent fat(80 or 90 percent) , I think I'll try a rolled lardo. I think that I'm actually more excited about the fat with this hog than the meat. I always appreciate the advice and experience you offer up. Thanks again bob

Maya said...

Hey Bob!

Here is a news link about it:

http://www.news.com/New-York-barges-into-sustainable-urban-farming/2100-11395_3-6181583.html

A floating greenhouse - I like the idea! We could really use some creative advocacy these days! I'm actually dying to grow my own food and learn to cook but alas our side porch would have to do in the below zero weather here (unless it stays 60 F.....confusing!)

Yes I am on winter break, they gave us the usual first semester boot camp although our stats professor went a bit overboard with our take home final....60 plus hours of work...

One frantic perfectionist student began locking herself in the GIS lab and hid from the janitors so she could stay all night at the school and work on the exam. It was real chaos.

Anyway good to be back, I'm determined to have at least a few minutes of downtime each week so I can visit!

Maryann said...

Your salumi look fantastic!

Don Luis said...

I would also work in your kitchen for free. I would love to learn how to cook properly. I have a small repertoire of meals I cook really well, but it's rote learning, I don't really know what I'm doing; just the benefit of being second-generation Italian American.

I wonder if I can make sausage here (Puerto Rico). The humidity always hoovers around 80% and the temperature often exceeds 80F. My wife's cousin lives a half a mile up the mountain from us, and he raises pigs. We had half of one for the holidays, and it's the best I've ever had, but salumi is not big here.

I rely on another of my wife's cousins (she has several thousand) for my annual salumi fix; he's a Puerto Rican who runs and Italian deli in Connecticut.

I must say, you are an inspiration to me. I want to cook when I read your stuff.

Bob del Grosso said...

Don Luis
Thanks for the kind words. You could make fresh sausage in the tropics or subtropics without much trouble. But air dried salumi is tough. You'd have to do it in an air conditioned room otherwise you may as well go into the business of growing mold.

But make some sausage, that's not any harder there than it is here.

Fiat Lux
You are too kind. If we ever get a cry-o-vac machine, I'll send you something.

Don Luis said...

I do make fresh sausage; we have enough pork here to make your head spin.

I use collagen casings though, the real stuff is too hard to get.

We don't use mechanical heating or cooling, so I guess salumi is out of the question for me.

ntsc said...

For casings try www.sausagemaker.com
they ship and the casings will keep for at least a year in a fridge.

www.butcher-packer.com is another good source