Saturday, November 28, 2009

Recently Sheep

Last week Trent Hendricks and I bought 25 sheep to add to the stock of the farm. They will be raised for meat, although I cannot rule out the possibility that some will be shorn for wool by an ambitious knitting witted slow-fabric fanatic. Goodness knows the woods and meadows are crawling with them :-)!

If you are in the mood for some gigot d' angenau aux lentilles  or don't know what to do with the quart of mint jelly gathering dust in your basement, I'll be butchering lamb all day today.





Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paula is Hog Nosed

I will not embed this video in my site because I don't want this miserable spokesperson for slovenly cooking and gluttony taking up that much space. However, I thought you might enjoy this charming story about how she was hit on the nose with a ham.

Video - Breaking News Videos from CNN.com

Monday, November 23, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miserable

I really liked this Op-Ed piece by Gary Steiner in Saturday's New York Times. Steiner does a great job of pointing out the fundamental moral contradiction found  in many of  the arguments of people who claim to care about the welfare of animals and who attempt to satisfy their concern by, for example, buying only free range meat. What does it matter, he asks, how well the animal lived if it is going to be murdered, cut up and cooked? Doesn't the shock that the animal experiences when it's skull staved in by a captive bolt gun negate the comforts that were provided it as it was being raised?

Steiner, a vegan,  also points out some of the flaws in the reasoning that meat eaters use to explain why it's okay to kill animals and not okay to do the same to humans. A couple of examples 

"human beings but not animals are made in God’s image and hence stand in much closer proximity to the divine than any non-human animal; according to this line of thought, animals were made expressly for the sake of humans and may be used without scruple to satisfy their needs and desires"
 "the human capacity for abstract thought makes us capable of suffering that both qualitatively and quantitatively exceeds the suffering of any non-human animal.''
In concise language he demolishes the illogic of these and makes it glaringly apparent that one cannot assume that humans have a right to kill animals for food or any reason other than, I assume, self defense.

Having been a morally motivated vegetarian for about seven years from 1974-1981, none of what Steiner wrote was new to me, nor could I find anything to disagree with. I know that eating meat involves causing animals to suffer. I knew that when I made the conscious decision to start eating meat again and I have never doubted it and I accept it as a consequence of my appetite and my craft.

Like Steiner, I have little patience for those who refuse to acknowledge that no matter how well you treat it while it is alive, the act of killing an animal causes it to suffer and may be immoral. However, unlike him I'm willing to live with the fact that my actions cause suffering and may be immoral.






Op-Ed Contributor - Animal, Vegetable, Miserable - NYTimes.com

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's what's for dinner v.2: Mangalitsa Guanciale

Tonight I decided to take down the guanciale I made from the Mangalitsa hog jowl that I bought from the Mosefund Farm back in October. I'd already decided on making spaghetti with cauliflower, onions and lemon zest but was feeling ambivalent about what fat to use (Butter or olive oil?) when I remembered the cheesecloth wrapped jowl hanging from the pot rack above my stove.
After deciding that it was worth checking to see if the jowl was mature enough to consider using to add lubricity and savoriness to my intended Spaghetti con caviofiore, I took the sucker down and tasted it. It is marvelous. It is salty, cream, firm, not a hint of bitterness. Like the best butter you ever had, but it is not butter, it's pork. Nice job Michael Clampffer and friends at Mosefund! And a tip of the hat to the fellow who brought the Mangalitsa to North America Mr. Heath Putnam of Wooly Pigs; damned fine job!

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It's whats for dinner

I don't often question my eating preferences because I like to think that they are so broad and comprehensive that I don't need to worry if my biases are keeping me from gustatory experiences that might enrich my understanding of human culture. However, there are moments when what is on the plate cause me to wonder if I'm really as broad minded as I like to think I am. This is one of those moments...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Unforgivable

This video of piglets being tossed around like footballs and caged and injured pigs with open wounds makes me spitting mad. There is no way to justify this sort of treatment.

And check out this statement by the president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, Dr. Butch Baker,

“They [Mercy For Animals -the maker of the video.] would like to put all those people (farmers) out of business and out of work," Baker told Fox News. "I have no patience for anyone who abuses animals or no tolerance and I don’t think anyone should, but these films ... really are an attack on the rural lifestyle of America."


While it is undoubtedly true that Mercy For Animals wants to put the meat business out of business, that does not mean they are wrong in pointing out infuriatingly cruel animal husbandry practices. Put another way, if what we see in this video is typical of what goes on at big farms like this -and I believe it is- then these people should be out of business.

Click here to see the video

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sauerkraut



Yesterday was a day of starts. I started batches of salami, salt pork, pancetta, bresaola and sauerkraut. The batch of sauerkraut I began was a small one, made from eight humongous heads of cabbage from the garden of the parents of Trent Hendricks. In a few weeks when the cabbage at the farm is ready, it's going to be pedal to the metal shredding.

The hardest part of making sauerkraut is cleaning (which in the case of this no-pesticide stuff means picking out worms and slugs) and shredding the cabbage. The rest is easy:

Salt it at a rate of 0.02 (or 2g salt per 100g cabbage or 2oz salt per 100 oz cabbage etc.); place the cabbage in a non-reactive vessel; put a weighted non-reactive plate on top so that the cabbage gets pressed under the juice that is released via osmosis (It is important for the cabbage to be submerged to assure an anaerobic environment for fermentation; put the vessel in a cool place (like any where that I am baby) and wait.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Study finds that Pigs are Smart

I'm not going to jump on the "Why does science waste time and money attempting to prove/disprove common knowledge?" bandwagon. However, it is obvious to anyone who has ever raised one that the beasts are very clever.


Basics - In Pig Cognition Studies, Reflections on Parallels With Humans - NYTimes.com

Friday, November 6, 2009

Baconian Science

This past week I butchered a hog in what felt like record time (about 2 hours) and it didn't even hurt. At first I thought the reason it went so quickly was the combined result of a good night's sleep, sharp knives, a new saw blade and, well, rock star butchers don't dawdle for god's sake. However, I later realized that part of what made the work go so fast was the relatively huge amount of soft intramuscular and extramuscular fat. The fat was so soft that the knife just whizzed through like striped bass fry through a school of bluefish.

Too bad soft pork fat makes the meat no good for aging more than a couple of months. The unsaturated fatty acids that make up the bulk of the fat molecules in soft fat oxidize and become rancid more rapidly than saturated fatty acids. So none of the hog that I cut last week is going into anything that needs to age for a long time and most of it became chops, roasts and fresh sausage.

Here is a slide show of me taking off some of the bacon.




This group of pictures shows pork bellies being prepared for hanging in the aging room.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction, Again.

Pancakes in a can! And they are organic!




Batter Blaster Organic Pancake and Waffle Batter - The best home videos are here

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Anniversary Mousquetaire



When my friend Lily Hodge wrote me asking if I could write a few words in honor of the 25th Anniversary of D'Artagnan for whom she works as director of public relations, I thought something on the order of Sheesh, has it only been 25 years since there was virtually no fresh foie gras or magret to be had in the United States?

In 1981 when I was beginning my career as a professional cook I knew a few things for sure: I wanted to cook something like the classical French cooking that my paternal grandfather cooked when he was working at The Hotel Pierre and I wanted to specialize in charcuterie.

I also knew that cooking was going to be hard work but I never imagined how difficult it was going to be to find the ingredients required to reproduce the dishes that my grandfather described and that populated the pages of the books that chose for my crash course in the haute cuisine (You know, the usual suspects Escoffier, Pellaprat, Larousse Gastronomique et al.)

There was plenty of things like high quality imported foie gras and dried and canned wild mushrooms that could be ordered from now defunct companies like Amazon de Choix and and S.S. Pierce. High end Manhattan based meat suppliers like Debragga and Spitler had beautiful veal and lamb but there was no fresh foie gras, quail, squab, venison, rabbit were all difficult to find in the urban and suburban markets.

Then around 1983 it all began to change. Farmed salmon started coming in from Norway. There hadn't been decent wild salmon in the markets for years- it was a god send. Vacuum packed foie gras d'oie from Israel was a great improvement over the canned stuff but proved to be useless for cooking because it had been pasteurized and became gritty when heated for too long. When D'Artagnan showed up on the scene in 1985 with quail and rabbit and fresh foie gras and magret it felt like things had really changed and that we were finally going to be able to cook like the chefs we had been trying to emulate so badly, for so many years.


Happy Birthday D'Artagnan and thanks!


Please note: I have not been writng much lately in part because my computer has been acting funny by choosing to occasionally ignore different key strokes on dfferent days. Today it s ignore the letter "i." Yesterday it was "m," the day before "f." So, wrtng s very tedious indeed!