Friday, July 30, 2010

First Pickles of the Year!!

This is a week of Firsts... first homemade booze post, and now first pickle post.    I've been growing beets, carrots, peppers, squash and beans for about 3 years now and last year was the first year I successfully pickled them, and they turned out great.

Here are a few pics from the garden.. Choggia ( bullyeye ) beets, bulls blood beets, dragon carrots, pattypan squash, persian (striped) squash, 8 ball squash, cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers, long yellow beans, and purple beans ( that turn green when you cook them ).  The garden's doing well, even though the crappy spring weather put us about a month behind.

If any of you ever happen to get pickled beets from me, I just want you to know how much work goes into them.

From the first pic you see above, I had to prep the soil, grow the freaking things and harvest.  Then wash off, clean and trim them.   Then they go into boiling water, then into an ice water bath, and then I individually peel off the skins.  At that point ( as seen in the pic ) they're ready to be placed in the jar and pickled.

I use a pretty simple recipe base for almost all my pickles

1 part vinegar ( use whatever type you want.. mostly I use white, but sometimes cider )
3 parts water
1 cup kosher salt
black peppercorns
garlic cloves

For beets, I use the following additional spices
star anise

Use whatever amount suits you.   I add all of the above to the brine, which I then heat to almost boiling. 

When the jars are full, and the brine is ready ( see pic ) I fill em up to within 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the top ( that's called headspace )

don't forget to put a grape leaf or two in the bottom of every jar... the tannis will give you a crunchy pickle.
I also usually  add a few peppercorns, garlic cloves, and jalapeno to each jar... trust me, it's good.

For standard pickles ( cukes, zukes, etc ) I then process in a hot water bath for 10-20 minutes.   Carrots go for 30, as do beets.

when I'm done I wipe them off and let them sit out and cool down.  

How do you know if they're safe? listen for the telltale "pop" which happens when the vaccum seal forms.. you can also tell because the little "button" on top of the lid will be sucked down and concave.

If it doesn't seal properly, put it in the fridge and eat them within a month or two.

Here's what you get for all those hours of work.

Now you guys know why I'd rather give our housesitter cash than pickles :-)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nocino - Italian Walnut Liqueur

This post is a bit different than all my previous, in that it doesn't deal with meat.   However, the mission of my blog is to "explore the fascinating world of cured meats, pickles,wine, and life in general on SE 20th in Portland, Oregon.. and guess what?  Nocino is now an embedded and much loved part of that life.

I learned how to make Nocino from my friend, Ann Hubatch of Helioterra Wines.

My first batch was last year and tasted fantastic.   I learned from the pros and now have a few different types going.    

A few things you need:   Walnuts ( see photo )

To make 1/2 gallon or so of Nocino:

30 green walnuts ( about the size of small limes )
Chop them up ( halved or quartered.. your preference.. I think quartering extracts more "walnut essence, but I could be full of crap )

Then place them in your 1 gallon container.

FYI... try and use a wide mouth container.   If you use a narrow mouthed container, like my friend Vincent, from Vincent Wine Company, you're going to have a hell of a time cleaning the walnuts out of the container in the fall, ( see his effort here - scroll down to botom . I suggest you sign up to follow his blog and see how he cleans those jars out in November :))

After you've chopped up and placed your nuts in the jar ( save the jokes.. I've already made them ), pour in one liter of vodka and/or everclear.   I personally use vodka, as the ones I've tasted with everclear can be a bit harsh, and Nocino is the sort of thing you drink when you've already drunk a few other things.. so if I can lessen the impact a bit, so be it.
After the hard stuff, add in one liter of white wine ( or red, rose, or a mix... it's YOUR nocino.. get creative )
I just happened to use whatever was at the top of the pile in the manfridge.. seufert woven white, leitner GV, and my fav summer white Aranciano Grillo.. a sardinian white ).

Now here's where you can get really creative.

standard recipe calls for 2.2lbs ( 1 Kilo ) of sugar,3-5 cinnamon sticks, and 40 cloves to be added.   After tasting all of the awesome Nocino's at Casa Hubatch this July, I decided to get crazy.  One common theme is less sugar this year.   All of the nocino's I tried that used the full kilo ( including mine ) were a bit too sweet, so I used less.

Batch 1.
30 Walnuts
1l vodka,  1l white wine
1lb sugar( white )
3 cinnamon sticks
40 ( or so... i'm not really counting them out ) cloves
1/3lb stumptown 'hairbender' whole coffee beans
5 whole cardamom seeds
10 whole allspice seeds
1 orange including peel (squeezed juice and used orange peel only )

Batch 2
30 walnuts
1l vodka,  1l white wine
1lb sugar
5 cinnamon sticks
40 cloves
1/3lb stumptown 'hairbender' whole beans
5 cardamom seeds

Batch 3
30 walnuts
1L vodka, 1L white wine
No sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
40 cloves
10 allspice seeds

Batch 4
30 walnuts
1l vodka,  1lwhite wine.
Nothing else added

So there you go.    Now the hard part.   Leave alone except for a light shake every week or two. 

Come back at the end of Oct, Middle November and bottle.

I'm secretly rooting for Batch #4, as one of the best ones I had last year was just "naked" nocino.. no spices.. and that one had all the taste of clove and cinnamon..

Stay tuned... This is going to be good.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Meat is coming home to roost- finished basturma and T&T Coppa

so here it is.. what started as a 6.85lb hunk of beautifultails and trotters coppa is now a 5lb hunk of beautiful man meat!!   This is spicy cured goodness, and I'm looking forward to cutting into it.
I've also attached a pic of a basturma that I started a little after the Coppa.  Nothing special here, just a nice 3lb hunk of eye of round, cured and ready to eat.
Since I have a lardo ready to go as well, I think I'm going to be hosting a "tasting party" at my house in the near future, and will be inviting local wine and charcuterie fans to come over and eat my meat ( and pickles ).

Stay tuned... this is going to be good.

Tails & Trotters Lardo - Into the Curing Chamber ( and the pup)

Back from Sunriver feeling very refreshed and ready to jump back into work and making the world a little better one piece of meat at a time.

The lardo served it's time in the cure ( not unlike the time I served in the Corps, Marine Corps that is :))  and is ready for a good soak to bring down the salt level.

After the soak it's looking good.

This is my second T&T lardo ( the first one being almost ready to eat ), and I decided that I wanted to really spice it up, so I took a quick stroll out in my garden ( and Pence's yard ) to find some suitable herbs.  As you can see, I found some beautiful thyme ( with flowers.. love it ), fennel fronds, and rosemary.

I gave this all a very good chop and mixed them up and crusted the lardo with them, really pushing the herbs into the lardo.  As you can see, this is really going to impart an herbal flavor to the dish.

So, off into the curing chamber for 3-6 months.. I'm thinking paper thin slices of lardo on warm Grand Central baguette this Thanksgiving.... mmm.. cured backfat!!

ps.. that damn dog has tripled her size in 3 weeks!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tails and Trotters Bacon- Finished

This will be a quick post, as I'm up to my ears in TPS reports, Time sheets, monthly status reports, and assorted whatnots of corporate management life.

As you saw in my previous post, I took a 6.85lb Tails and Trotters belly, covered it in my "base cure" ( see previous posts for recipe ), and put it in the Man Fridge for 3 days, flipping at the halfway point.

I took it out of the cure Thurs morning, gave it a really good rinse, and left it uncovered in the Man Fridge for about 8 hours.   I then put it in the trusty Little Chief and smoked it with apple wood chips for another 8 hours, and you can see the results here.

  This is going to be freaking awesome... we're heading to Sunriver for a week, so after I torture myself with my morning run, I'll nurture myself with sweet bacon and coffee.

PS.. .our chocolate lab, Rainy, has now doubled her size in the two weeks she's been with us.  Ella won't be able to carry her around like her baby for much longer, although i'm sure she'll figure out a way to get the ballerina dress on her for quite some time.