Sunday, October 30, 2011

Time to carve the pumpkins

I don't know why I like carving pumpkins, but I do. Traditionally each year I carve a face called "Boofus" into a pumpkin. Between school field trips, travel for work, and my general cheapness (had some opportunities to buy convenient but over priced pumpkins and cheaped out) there will be no Boofus this year. But the kids picked pumpkins and tonight they each came up with their design. First up was Casey's pumpkin. She went with what she called "scary."

The pumpkin she picked out of a patch in Burnt Hills was the hardest pumpkin I have ever carved. This thing was solid. I could not open it with a knife. I ended up using a hacksaw. I had trouble with the hack saw. This thing was an orange rock. The beastly pumpkin broke two carving saws and several times I thought I was going to be in the market for a new paring knife. It became personal. It was me against the pumpkin. In the end, the pumpkin lost.


That freakin rock of a pumpkin took well over an hour to carve. Next up was Allison. She did not go the scary route.

I feared having to carve another pumpkin from hell. These came out of the same patch, not too far from each other. Luck was on my side and this pumpkin carved like a non-evil pumpkin. She hasn't seen it yet, I spent so much time on the first pumpkin that bedtime came before I could finish. I think I captured her vision and hope she'll be happy with it.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First snowfall of the season

and I did what everyone should do during the first snow fall of the season...lit a chimney full of coals and grilled dinner. The view when I got home:

Thawed some of our ground beef and made burgers.

Put them on the grill with a few hot dogs that were leftover in the freezer.

Dinner was good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Upcoming Charcutepalooza Challenge

This month the challenge is to cure something. I'm going to go back to one of the first things I cured and try to improve it a little. The recipe is a formulation by Chef Bob del Grosso and the only time I made it, I loved it. I shared some of the finished prodect, but I ate a lot of it myself. I am hoping lightening strikes twice.

Since I can't just make it again, there will be two changes. First, I'm using a different wine. This one was recommended by a staff member at Empire earlier today. For the second change, I'm going to try and use that "good mold" starter culture again. If I didn't already have it in the freezer, I'd probably skip it.

I just put the pork but in the fridge to start thawing. I picked it up at the Sweet Tree Farm stand at the Troy Farmer's Market a few weeks ago. I asked the gentleman running the stand if the pork had been frozen for more than three weeks. He got a little bit of an unhappy look on his face. I think he thought I wouldn't buy it if it had been frozen longer than three weeks. I explained that I was planing to cure the pork and that's why I wanted to know. He looked relieved to have his sale back and told me the meat had been frozen for a little over two months. He then added, "You don't have to worry about trichinosis with this meat. I don't feed them crap."

I have been curing meat off and on for a few years. Probably more off than on, but I have purchased frozen pork 6 or 7 times and asked about freezer time. This was the first time the person I asked knew why I was asking. An impressive surprise.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Project #10

Duck Confit

For this project, I made duck confit. I've never had it but have been curious about it for awhile. The only problem of making it at home without any prior experience with confit is judging the outcome. I have nothing to compare it with. Plus, this past month has been crazy - school is in full swing, the girls are in a handful outside school activities, open houses, two trips to Buffalo, curling season is starting, the list goes on...And that is why this project just came out of the oven about two and a half hours before the deadline.

It all started with buying a duck yesterday. I got out of a big truck that I just drove back from Buffalo, got in my car and headed to the Asian Market on Central. It was the only place I could think of that would have a thawed duck ready to go. I didn't realize it until I got it out of the package, but the head was still on. Being so used to American headless chickens, the head kind of caught me off guard.

Although that experience with chickens paid off and I was able to break down the duck pretty quickly. There are three main piles on the cutting board. In the upper left corner of the board are the wing tips, feet and neck. Just below them on the left are the wings - each cut into two pieced. The two breast are centered up top. Just below them are the leg/thigh pieces. An the carcass is all the way to the right. The breasts got frozen for another time, the wing pieces and leg/thighs are going into the confit. The wing tips, feet are carcass are going to be made into duck stock as soon as I get to the store for some celery.

Following Melissa Clark's recipe (From the New York Times) I coated the duck meat with salt, pepper, thyme and a bay leaf. Then it went into the fridge for a little under 24 hours.

Earlier tonight, I put the duck in a skillet and started to render the fat. I added a little olive oil so that there was about a quarter inch depth of oil/duck in the pan. This was a misstep and I should have seen it coming. I started the duck in a cold pan without any oil because I was expect a lot of pat to come out of the legs. I should have preheated the pan, then added a little oil, then added the duck. The skin stuck to the pan. Oops. I just carried on and pretended it didn't happen.

At this point, the house smelled really good. The pan got covered with foil and put in a 375 degree oven. A few hours later, I took it out and this is what I had.

Luckily, 4 out of 5 dieticians recommend inhaling a few pieces of duck braised in fat as an after dinner snack. I've already eaten all of the wing pieces. Damn, they are good. The skin is really, really good. This is a technique that is definitely worth exploring. I have a few other duck confit recipes that I will have to try. I'm going to save the leg/thigh pieces but I don't think they are going to be around on Monday. And all done with a hour and 45 minutes to spare...piece of cake.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stay Classy, Troy.

Saw this sign in Troy...

Monday, October 10, 2011


We went up to my inlaw's house this weekend to get ready for the arrival of some new steers. We had spent the summer cattle-free.  Moved some stuff around the barn, set up a bunch of gates and did a handful of odds and ends. The larger project was rebuilding a broken hay bale feeder. Ours is essentially some circular pieces of steel held apart by smaller pieces of steel. It keeps the hay bunched up. Versions larger than the one we built are actually for sale. But what is truly unique about this hay bale feeder is that I actually made two thirds of the welds on the frame. I should probably see if it lasts through the month before I start bragging or quit my day job. However, it should be noted that welding is super cool.

 And her she is with a bottom plate ready to go next to the corral.

Later that afternoon, two calves were delivered from a nearby farm. Apparently, these calves were being pastures in Schoharie during Irene. One got swept away by rising waters and turned out to be a pretty good swimmer. Welcome to the farm, guys.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Apple Pie

Apple pie fresh from the oven. The apples were picked at Indian Ladder. A bunch of apples got peeled and frozen to be used for applesauce at Thanksgiving. The house smells good.