Teacher gifts. Every single year I fret to the very last minute about pulling these homemade gifts together, never knowing if my random bits of homemade nonsense will really pan out into some sort of thing resembling a unified gift. This year, at least visually, it came together at the eleventh hour.
Gosh darn it, I lost the link to this chai recipe I found on pinterest. From a woman who went to India and learned how to make it there herself. Anyway it’s divine! 2T. black tea + 2 1/2 T. sugar + 1 t. each: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, whole peppercorns, whole cloves. Boil on and off for a handful of minutes in 1-1/2 c. milk + 1-1/2 c. water. Then strain into a mug and enjoy! Really. So good!
I’m picky about my fudge. There tends to be a gritty texture in a lot of the fudge world and I don’t much like it. This recipe I learned as a wee adolescent from my mom and it’s perfect. And super simple. (3/4 bag each: semi sweet + milk chocolate chips melted slowly with one can of sweetened condensed milk. Take off heat and add 1/2t. salt and 1t. vanilla. Spread into 8″ pan lined with parchment. Take out and cut with a pizza cutter. Store at room temperature.)
I’m go forward with reassurance that I’m not the only one making a mess of the kitchen this week! Happy Baking!
The past couple of weeks, this is a common sight. The red wing blackbird chatter is almost deafening. Then it goes silent.
And a few take off….
…then a bunch more….
…then they all fly off, over the house to the surrounding trees where they land and the bird chatter begins once again. Until a dog barks or a truck passes and it’s off to flight once more.
A few weeks ago we got an email from a farming friend of ours. Her fellow farming husband had raised some pigs that were ready for harvest and would we like a whole or half? Why YES! We could only commit to half a pig now because our freezer was still full from this summer’s beef order. While we are far from perfect in our eating habits, we do try our hardest to ‘vote with our dollars’ by buying as much of our food as locally as possible. There are a thousand and one reasons why it’s beneficial to eat locally and I’m sure you know most of them yourselves. But lately for us it’s been mostly about the health and safety of our food (too many recalls and ‘outbreaks’ lately!) and supporting local people in their business and agricultural enterprises. In our small community there are many entrepreneurs and it only makes sense that we buy from each other, we’re all in this life together after all. Buying pork raised about a mile away from people we trust fell right into that line of thinking.
As soon as we hit ‘send’ on that email Scott started researching. He had a flurry of lists spread all around him, cookbooks open, websites up, youtube videos running of all things pork. He used to be a chef, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, so to get a project like half a pig on his hands was like Christmas morning. Our first meal was of ribs, then homemade sausage for the Thanksgiving stuffing, and then pork chops. All preparations were delicious. So much more flavorful and juicy than any store bought pork we’ve ever bought. We brought home about 140 lbs. of pork from the butcher and one of the biggest packages was of the pork belly. Our first big project was, oh yes, bacon!
It was quite a process. First Scott rubbed the pork belly with generous seasoning and put it into a brine (he used this bacon recipe) for three days.
Then it was onto cookie racks to dry in front of a fan for an hour. This apparently makes something called pellicle develop on the skin which makes the smoke better adhere to the surface.
While this was happening Scott was busy out back trying to get his homemade smoking contraption rigged. He has a little smoker but that produces hot smoke and what you need for bacon is cold smoke. Growing up he spent his summers at his family’s cattle ranch deep up in the Sierra foothills. There they had a smoke house and over the years I’ve heard many a story about the smoked sausages that were produced there. He was all too eager to set up his frugal smoking get up using bricks we found around the property, a $10 dryer vent pipe, an old grill and an old piece of tin from the bottom of an old barbeque we once had.
Despite the extreme wind that day, he got a good fire going and once we could see that the tunnel of smoke was working, in went the pork belly. Over the course of six hours, he kept the fire going with a combination of fruit wood trimmings, charcoal and soaked hickory wood chips. That evening we took the bacon out and sliced it up and cooked it.
This recipe has a fair amount of sugar so it cooks up dark, but boy is it good! This recipe is more sweet than salty, but it’s delicious and what a great thing to eat bacon that Scott cured and smoked from a pig that was raised and tended to a mile away from good people we know! I’m sure there will be more pig stories to come. Next up on the project list, three kinds of linked sausages!