GO READ THIS NOW!

•January 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So, I just updated (i.e. began) the Homer Shakespearean Society’s blog…go there and read it!

http://homershakespearean.wordpress.com/

Show the support…

Bacon.

•August 28, 2008 • 1 Comment

As a recent Facebook “Piece of Flair” notes: Bacon – The candy of meats.

I must say I agree, wholeheartedly. Well, if you’ve read my last entry (which was quite lengthy and I will understand if you did not), you’ll know that I have a book of charcuterie and, being the food nerd I am, I’ll be exploring all the wonders of preserved meats. Well, that day has arrived and I have begun my journey, beginning with (as astute readers will have already surmised) bacon.

I am lucky. Not in the gambling sense (I’m too miserly for that), but in the “blessed” sense. No, that sounds too churchy. What the hell is the term? I don’t know, so I guess lucky will have to fit. Anyway, there is a locally owned/operated business called “The Piggery” (www.thepiggery.net) that raises and butchers fantastic hogs (any pig over 160 pounds is considered mature and, therefore, a hog). All their hogs are pasture-raised and organic, which means they are allowed to forage for much of their own food and live a happily organic existence (seriously, check out The Piggery’s website). Well, I spoke with the owners and ordered a four pound slab of pork belly, to be picked up at their booth at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market on this Sunday past. When Heather pulled the slab out of the cooler, it was beautiful…truly, it was a nice piece of meat.

The next day, I began the curing process for my fresh bacon. I dredged the beast in the basic cure (kosher salt, dextrose (which is corn sugar…a bit finer than granulated), and a small amount of pink salt – sodium nitrite…to prevent botulism) and popped it in the fridge, where it will live for the next week or so. It’s a pretty low-maintenance process, requiring a flip every couple of days until the meat firms up to a uniform density at which point, it’s off to the smoker. Yes, I have a smoker which is technically a “hot smoker” meaning that the temperature in the smoking chamber will be above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Later, when I tackle more involved meat-curing, I will have to figure out some sort of cold-smoking apparatus (no worries, I have an idea or two), which requires that the meat be smoked is in a chamber that stays below 100 degrees (preferably WELL below), allowing the meat to smoke much longer, without cooking it. The bacon will cook and smoke until it hits an internal temperature of 150 degrees. And then…well, the sky is the limit…

Thus far, I have flipped my meat once, happy with the progress of the cure pulling liquid from the meat and creating its own brine…all looks well. I have some photos of the meat-in-progress which I will post, eventually – probably in a montage of the whole process. In a week(ish), we’re looking forward to having some BLTs that are entirely home-made – lettuce and tomatoes from our garden, my bacon, and some of Louise’s magnificent bread……….drool.

Hmmm….what else? My trip to Buffalo to hang out with Mulligan and the Hoff was great. We made one foray to the Anchor Bar to try their wings (good, but not the most amazing things ever), then went back to his house to drink homebrew and talk “all night” (or until about midnight…we’re such old farts).

On the cheese front, I’m currently making some yogurt cheese. What is yogurt cheese, you ask? It’s easy and tasty. Take a large container of plain yogurt and put it into some cheesecloth, tie the corners and hang the package to drain. How long? However long you want – the longer it hangs, the firmer the texture. I let mine go for four or five hours at a time. After that, you can eat it as is, or what I do it drop it in a bowl and add some salt and herbs – it makes and awesome soft, even spreadable, cheese. Or, you could add a touch of sugar and some dried fruits for a tasty sweet spread.

More to come soon.

Shamed…

•August 8, 2008 • 1 Comment

Alright, so I am horrible about writing on my own blog with any sort of regularity – this much I admit. I am no Sara May, nor a Dave Hoffmann (if that’s a reference that doesn’t register on your social sphere, they blog a lot), but I do try to stay on top of most things. My blog has not been among “most things” recently. I have been blogging for the Ithaca & Tompkins County Conventions & Visitors Bureau recently (visitithaca.wordpress.com – if you need a quick fix), but the summer has been chock-a-bock full of this, that, and the other thing, so blogging has fallen by the wayside.

So, let me try to catch you up on my life. I have made no cheese recently, as the thought of trying to keep milk at a constant temperature for upwards of an hour and a half has not been the most appealing, so I have been avoiding. No worries, though – I shall be starting up again soon, I assure you. I’ve brewed two batches of beer – one is tentatively being called “Liberty Lager” as it was brewed around the 4th of July and is a honey-ginger lager. I tasted it on my birthday (August 2, for those of you keeping track) and it was still awfully harsh (as it had only bottle-aged for a scant four days….and generally you want it in there for at least ten days). Also in the works is a Steam Beer, which hopefully turns out as well as the one I brewed for my friend’s birthday a few months back (and it was my best beer to date….well, I like my wicked dark beers, but they’re not for every palate).

For my birthday, my lovin’ wife purchased me a book. Woo-hoo, I’m sure you’re all thinking, but this book is a special kind of book, which will help me become an even more eccentric foodie – it’s a book of charcuterie. CharWHAT? Charcuterie is a French term (I know, you can almost hear my nose start to rise further into the air) that basically boils down to the process of preserving meats through salting, curing, smoking, etc. Yes, folks, that’s right…I’m going to start making sausage and jerky and other awesome nosh. I’m sure it’ll go great with Weas’s bread and my cheese, washed down with wicked good beer.

I’m quickly becoming strongly enamored of the “locavore” movement and its related movements (Slow Food, etc.), as it really is a lot of fun to grow and prepare your own food, or at the least buy it from somewhere near your house. The quality of the food is amazing, especially when compared with the produce at some of the supermarkets; granted, many larger supermarkets are offering locally-grown (and often organic) produce, which helps the local economy and provides us, the consumers, with much higher-quality goods. It’s a win-win! I don’t want to toot my own horn (at least not too often – that leads to chafing), but I wrote quite a bit about this subject on my visitithaca blog (which is referenced above)…so I won’t spend much time or space here…

So, in a completely non sequitur turn, I’d like to thank the general populace of Cortland County for bringing rudeness back and elevating it to the point of being an art form. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve experienced as much rudeness, both in number of rude behaviors and the depth of rudeness contained thereing, as I have in the past month or so in Cortland. I won’t bore you with the details, as I’m sure everyone in the world has their fair share of stories about this a-hole or that one, but I must share one of the most frequent occurrences in my life. The scene is, more often than not, a parking lot of a large store such as Tops or Wal-Mart (yes, despite my somewhat “crunchy” life view, I still go to Wal-mart). I pride myself on being a good, steady driver; yes, I get angry; yes, I make mistakes; yes, I understand that everyone does and that even the best driver have bad days. However, my issue happens so frequently that it’s beyond a mere bad day – it’s reaching epidemic. What’s so under my skin? People who drive across parking spaces. “That’s it?” you may inquire? Yes, that’s it. Let me explain why: First, it’s not that much farther to proceed to the end of the row you’re in and make a ninety degree turn toward the exit. Second, generally speaking, the people cutting across the lots are going upwards of twenty miles an hour, which is just plain ridiculous in a parking lot (I know for a fact that you didn’t buy a freshly-removed heart and are on your way to an important surgery…at least that you did not buy a heart there…). And finally, and most importantly, many of the a-holes of which I speak have the audacity to look at me incredulously (“How DARE you follow the rules of the parking lot!?!?”) and/or gesture (rudely) and/or make horribly pissed-off faces at me. My favorite drivers are those that slam on the brakes, coming to a screeching halt right next to my car in order to “teach me a lesson”….for all of them, I just smile and say “Fuck you” in my head…and off I go to find my space.

Do I honestly think that my blog is going to change the driving habits of the general populace of Cortland? No. Mainly because I’m fairly certain that those to whom my comments are directed cannot read, or if they can they probably wouldn’t bother to read something as long as this blog entry – they’ve obviously got someplace to be.

On a lighter note, my birthday party was a success – it rained, it thundered, there was sun, gardens were toured, meat was charred, dishes were passed, good friends were all around and I could not, really, have asked for much more (though the charcuterie book was a nice topper on the day). The next big thing on my agenda is a four-day weekend coming up next week, during which time my wife and I will be doing some “agri-tourism” and taking part in the area’s Farm Trail weekend, which allows you to visit local farms and sample some of their offerings (we’re geeks, okay, it’s cool). The weekend after, my wife and I go our separate ways for a few days – she is off to Philadelphia with an old friend, for cheese steaks, beads and good times, whereas I am off to Buffalo with a couple of friends to visit Dave (also previously referenced above) and to enjoy some quality homebrews (as he also has a couple of batches in the works).

It seems like July lingered quickly this year, or slowly sped by…not sure which is more appropriate. But here is is, the second week of August, and I’m already staring down the barrel of another busy school year (and yes, they’re all busy). I’m hoping to keep up with my blog this year, and share my experiences with you, my favorite people.

Did that last bit sound like shameless flattery? Good.

Well, shit.

•June 18, 2008 • 1 Comment

So, it’s been awhile since I wrote anything on my blog, and to my faithful readers I must apologize. I have let you down. Or, I have relieved you of the duty of reading whatever tripe I spew forth for a few months. Well, now it’s the beginning of a more free time for me (i.e. classes are over) and I shall be once again populating the cyberweb with all sorts of crap.

Now, it is with a heavy heart that I must say that this entry has not the rosy demeanor you’ve come to expect from me – oh no, it is filled with anguish and loathing, for I must have a root canal. Wait, strike that, make that two root canals. Yes, apparently not going to a dentist for several years is not the best thing for your dental health and an infected abscess is just the remedy. When suddenly it feels like all the pain in the whole world resides in your face and that someone may have just hit you across the jaw with a 2×8, you know something’s wrong and it’s time for professional help. So, I went today and found that over the next two months, starting on June 25th, I will be the lucky recipient of: 2 rounds of endodontic therapy (root canals), 2 crowns, 2 new fillings and a 2-step gingivitis treatment (upon which subject they were less-than-forthcoming, thereby filling me with the old familiar dentist-dread). Yay.

In happier news, our garden looks fan-fucking-tastic. I cannot be more proud than I am of how well our efforts are being rewarded with the wee to not-so-wee shoots of green that have SHOT up in our yard. I hope to document in pictures the p’tite ferme in coming entries…you know, a little photojournalism piece. We do have a furry little visitor to the farm, though, who goes by the street name of “Pedro Conejo” and has been seen in the wee hours of the morning, skulking about our bean shoots. Needless to say, we’ve put a small bounty on the little bastard’s head. And by “put a bounty on the little bastard’s head”, I mean I reinforced the fence around the garden today. Though I do love the taste of rabbit, I doubt I could ever kill one myself, let alone strip it of its skin and all that nastihood.

I’ve had no time recently for beer nor cheese…but soon, my friends. Soon.

Ciao.

greenstar…a nice, weird place.

•March 22, 2008 • 2 Comments

It being Good Friday and us with some extra time on our hands made for the perfect opportunity to go the Greenstar, the fantabulous Coop in Ithaca. Though we wandered around a bit inside, it was primarily for goat’s milk that we made the foray into the weird, wild world of the Coop (that’s cooperative, not a pen for chickens). What a busy, crazy, intense place. There is pretty much everything in the world for sale in there, especially things that are otherwise hard to get in upstate New York, such as goat’s milk. Needless to say, I found my goat’s milk and have already started a batch of Chèvre (French for goat, American for tasty French-sounding cheese made with goat’s milk). Also while in Greenstar, we perused their spice selection and noticed that I can buy bulk hops – no idea what variety, but it’s about $2.00/ounce (not TOO bad). While in spice-land, I heard someone say my name, turned and saw my former French Literature professor, Tim Gerhard. After introducing him to my wife, as they have each heard tell of the other, we had a short chat. During said chat, he told me he really enjoyed reading my final exam essays….which were incredibly long and hand-written (i.e. PAINFUL) and almost everyone who took them had that look of “well, I guess I’ll see you at the re-takes in June”. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had passed them all (as component re-testing is a possibility) and in one case, actually received a very high mark – all good things. But, to find out that my professor had enjoyed reading mine was a nice little bonus.

And, if my faithful readers had not figured it out or heard it directly, it is official: I have completed my Master’s Degree in Secondary Foreign Language Education – French. I have my diploma. Here. In my house. And I am done. Finally. Whew.

And, just as a quick addendum, I have ordered supplies for a couple more batches of beer – an Anchor Steamer clone for Eric (the long-awaited birthday brew) and a funky Ginger-Honey Lager that sounds incredibly good to me…more to come!

rhizomes

•March 14, 2008 • 1 Comment

SO!  With the incredible increase in the price of hops, due to the fires that claimed a large portion of our nation’s hop crop, I’ve decided to grow my own.  I went through my brewing books and researched them on the cyberweb, and selected four types of hops that I will plant and grow this season.  I selected Cascade, Fuggle, Northern Brewer and Willamette and I ordered live rhizomes from http://www.freshops.com.  I purchased two jumbo rhizomes and two single rhizomes.  The jumbo will grow to full size in the first year as well as producing a full crop in teh first year, as they were harvested from a large and well-established plant.  The smaller rhizomes will grow quite a bit in the first year, and will produce a crop, but will not be strongly established and “flourish” until next year.

Hops plants can grow up to (and occasionally beyond) 25 feet in a single season, before dying back down to the ground for winter, only to come back strong the next year.  So, obviously, it would be hard to have a big-ass hop plant, let alone four, in the back yard in the middle of Homer; due to this fact, I’ve inlisted the help of my father, who owns several acres next to his house in a more countryfied setting.  I plan to build a nice little pergola up on a hill, in a field, overlooking his house.  I will plant one type of hops at each corner and train the vine to climb the corner post and spread out across the roof of the pergola.  I think if it comes to play out as I hope, it should look pretty damn nice.

So, yeah…that’s about it.  More to come.

As the good book says, “Relax!  Have a homebrew!”

Snippets

•February 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Here are a bunch of song lyrics and shit that I find particularly profound, touching, funny, enigmatic, and other words, too.

“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of a fight.
You gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” ~Barenaked Ladies

“Home. Home again. I like to be here when I can.” ~Pink Floyd

“As life gets longer, awful feels softer
and it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
well I feel pretty blissfully.
And if life’s not beautiful without a little pain,
well I’d just rather never ever even see beauty again.” ~Modest Mouse

“We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.”  ~Willy Wonka