Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

I wasn't really anticipating that great a weekend. There was work to be done, but most of it got done on Saturday. So a 3 day project turned into a 1 day project followed by several little projects with some fun mixed in for good measure. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I really enjoyed the weekend.

The big project was digging out a basement door, putting in a drainage pipe, putting lots of stone in and then leveling everything off again. Now, I don't know if you know anyone with a tractor, but I highly recommend making friends with someone that has one if you are going to be digging a 7 foot deep trench. They really help.

Against my better judgment, I was actually down in that hole. The excavation and the stone placement and back filling took up most of Saturday. Thankfully, the kids pretty much occupied themselves during the construction. But digging this hole meant removing a lot of roots to be dealt with on Sunday.

Two very exciting buckets of these roots. Exciting roots = Fresh horseradish. A quick scrub...

A lot of peeling...

Another rinse and some drying...

Then shredding and grinding...

Quick little not on the the food processor: if you were withing 3 feet of that thing when the lid came off, your sinuses were instantly cleaned and occasionally temporary blindness was experienced.  It's one of those "hurts so good" things. A lot of the ground horseradish was packed in bottles, topped with distilled vinegar and frozen. A bunch got sealed into vacuum bags too. I kept some unfrozen to go into a mustard when I get a chance.

After the horseradish, brakes got put on my sister-in-law's car. Now my brother-in-law and I put brakes on one of my cars last weekend. Under the watchful eye of someone that actually knows what they are doing, of course. Now having successfully put on those brakes, we were actually looking forward to putting on these brakes. Same year, similar model. Piece of cake. We were on the case. I didn't actually get to participate (I did lunch for all the kids), but our automotive expertise was no match for this car. The rotors were totally rusted on. I would have had no idea what to do. And the clips were different, everything was different. I am still not a mechanic. Just some guy that knows how to get himself into trouble with cars. We spent some time at the lake in the afternoon. Had steak for dinner (a porterhouse, 2 rib eyes, and a sirloin). I like a steak dinner like that - it compares a bunch of cuts side-by-side.

On Monday morning, we helped put in a large part of my father-in-law's garden. I forgot to get a picture of it. There are a bunch of tomatoes, a few kinds of peppers, the fence for the cukes to climb on and a few rows of corn so far. Then, we were off to the lake.  We brought down all the stuff that stays out for the summer. Felt good to set it up. It means that summer is just around the corner.

There's that grill I love and the lake front pit on the left. The last project of the weekend was fixing a board on the dock. Once that was fixed, the dock got wheeled into the lake. Once again, the tractor came in handy. The water is still pretty high so the first 10 feet or so of water was a little cloudy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Just got back from being on the road this week. One hotel I was in had a free breakfast buffet. Most of the offerings were standard free breakfast items. Bagels, muffins, cereals, yogurt, bananas...that kind of stuff. But they also had a bizzaro pancake machine.

You press that big yellow button next to the screen and about a minute later, pancakes come out the side and drop onto a plate. Even kind of flips them so the prettier side is up.

Granted, these were not fantastic pancakes. But I wonder if they could be if a decent batter was used. Neat machine. Think I could teach the kids to use it and sleep in on Sundays?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Project #5

The Grind

This month's challenge was to pay attention to the grind. I kind of took the easier path and made some bulk breakfast and sweet Italian sausage. It was actually kind of nice to take a break from putting sausage into a casing. But really I mean it was nice to take a break from cleaning the stuffer at midnight since I start these projects after everyone has gone to bed because there is something wrong with me.

I happened to be in the Schenectady/Rotterdam area and I stopped in at Sal's. I hadn't been in awhile. I used to live nearby about 10 years ago. Very old school take a number Italian meat market. I picked up a 5 pound butt with the plan being 3 pounds for breakfast sausage and two pounds for sweet Italian sausage.

Here it is proportioned  in two bowls. On the left, the pork has been seasoned with salt, pepper and fennel. The bowl on the right got seasoned with sage, Herbes de Provence, parley, fresh thyme leave salt and pepper. I followed Mrs. Wheelbarrow's recipe.

Both bowls went into the fridge until after dinner. I ground the sweet Italian first while the breakfast sausage got colder in the freezer. Everything was pretty cold so I skipped the bowl of ice water around the bowl catching the ground sausage. As the weather gets hotter, I don't think I'll be able to keep skipping that step. I knew I should have gotten a fridge with an ice maker...

I cooked up a little piece, liked the seasoning and split the sausage into two bags for the freezer.

The sweet Italian sausage will most like get used in a cavatelli with broccoli and sausage. Fairly quick, decent mid week meal. And for some reason the kids don't fight about broccoli. Next up, breakfast sausage.

I also cooked up a small piece of the breakfast sausage. The Herbes de Provence really came through and added a lot of delicious flavor. My first impression of this sausage was that it was screaming for a runny egg yolk. Almost as if the recipe was designed to be accompanied by a runny egg. I thought it might need a little more salt, but decided I could always add a little when cooking it. The breakfast sausage got split into 4 bags.

But wait....that's not all. There was much more grinding this weekend. The steers that were slaughtered two weeks ago were butchered this weekend. Here's a shot of the pork and beef aging in the meat locker.

To borrow a scene from Crocodile Dundee:

That's not a grinder.
That's a grinder.

It has it's own fuse box. Once the beef goes through the grinder twice, it gets placed into a very large sausage stuffer.

No cranks on this bad boy. Everything is motorized and it can hold 55 pounds of meat. It is operated by a hip-switch. Lean into it, and meat gets pushed out. It has been outfitted with a custom tube for filling plastic storage casings.

The butcher can fill these faster than we can close them and label them.

 Here's my case of ground beef.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In a rut...

Not too much going on lately. Kind of unmotivated lately.  "The MAN" took away my online poker. It was getting really fun too. I was meeting up with my brothers and the three of us were playing at the same table. We hardly ever get to see each other, but we could meet up at a virtual poker table, play cards and harass each other. Going "all in" and losing to your older brother is slightly humbling. On the flip side, taking all your brother's chips is really fun.

I haven't even been following wood oven builds lately. That isn't like me. Maybe it is the stress of beginning Battle 2011: me versus the lawn. Spring is full of optimism and I've got a shot at a decent organic lawn. By mid June, the dream is usually crushed and I have to be satisfied with mostly green in front of the house. I did, however, start following a wood oven related blog. Peter Reinhart's Pizza Quest. It is part of the Forno Bravo site I visit for wood oven dreams.They have some nice web-isodes visiting different pizza places.

This month's Charcutepalooza Challenge is working on the grind. I haven't really started anything for it. I should decide and get going on that soon. The steers are dry aging now. I was not around for the slaughter, we went to Connecticut for a family thing. The butchering will be on May 13 and 14.

But the thing that got me off my duff to write a blog post was Mother's Day cards. I was in a CVS earlier tonight looking for a card. This year's crop of Mother's Day cards is not very good. Mixed in with a bunch of "trying to be funny but not quite getting there" cards were a few  that had a gift card already attached. So, here is the "Happy Mother's Day, Ma. We're eatin' good in the neighborhood" card:

And my favorite-"It's your day. Eat Fresh, Ma."

I wonder if there is a local market for this type of card. Maybe a local salon and card shop could get together. Or local restaurant. Something better.

And just for a smile, Scotty found this a while ago. Every time I see it, I can't help but smile. Thank you to whoever forgot the commas.