Here we are, the last afternoon before the official start of spring. The broadbeans have grown up beyond their third string and my nectarine is bursting into flower.
On the food front today, we are preparing for our regular food night with friends. The theme this time is food from our childhood.I opted for easy to make Chocolate Crackles, with some adult additions of dried blueberries and a topping of dark and white Lindt chocolate (a la the Republic Cafe, on Alinga St, but not quite as stylish).
When I thought about it I realised that this was probably the first food I ever made as a child. Of course Mum handled melting the copha and putting the mix into the patty pans, but I definitely did some stirring.If you would like to take a trip down the nostalgia road you’ll be happy to know that the recipe is still included on the packet of copha. Come to think of it did/does anyone use copha for anything but Chocolate Crackles?
I mentioned that TB was making frankfurters with some of our pork. As these red-coloured sausages were my all-time favourite party food as a child, I thought I’d devote a separate post in honour of them.
Knowing what supermarket frankfurters taste like today you may be wondering why we would bother making them – that, of course, is the answer. What we make are nothing like what is passed off as a frankfurter these days. Although I’m pretty sure that even as a child the franks’ that we ate were not made of the best quality meat and the colour came from a red dye.
TB has given me his recipe so I can share it with you. PS you will need a sausage making machine or mixer attachment; and access to a covered barbeque or smoker to make the frankfurters.
TB’s Frankfurters: 2.7 kilos of pork meat – of which approximately 20% is fat. Pork shoulder has about the right balance of fat to meat if you a using a modern commercial breed of pig, such as the white pig we used. If you are lucky enough to have access to ‘old’ breed pigs which have a higher fat to meat ratio adjust your mix accordingly. 22 grams of salt 2.4 grams of pinksalt Cure 1 Kureitkwik* 40 grams of powdered mustard 2 grams (approx.1 teaspoon) of dry oregano 6 grams of paprika 10 grams of dried celery (optional, we dry and then grind our excess celery stalks each season, they make a great flavour addition to stews and soup. Do not use celery salt as a substitute. Our dried celery has no salt, or anything else, added to it.) 30 grams of dried coriander 5 grams of white pepper 20 grams of garlic powder 80 grams of skim milk powder 200 mls of water 20 grams of sugar
Mince the meat on a coarse setting. Add the spices to the meat and mix them together. Put the meat mix into the freezer, lay it out flat, (about 2 cms thick) and chill until semi- frozen. Once the meat mix is at this stage cut it into chunks and put the mix through the mincer on a fine setting. Semi-freezing the mix makes the second mincing process easier, and helps stop the fat from liquefying while going through the mincer.
Prepare your casings. Put the casings onto the sausage attachment and pump your meat into the casings. Tie off your frankfurters.
The franks’ are now ready for smoking. Soak whatever wood you are using for your smoker. Get your fire started, heat beads are fine, and get the temperature up to 80 degrees celsius. Put your wood into the smoker. Once you’ve reached this temperature arrange your franks so that they get even access to the smoke. Depending on the size of your smoker or barbeque you may need to do this stage in several batches.
It will take two to three hours for the franks to smoke. You are looking to reach an internal temperature in the frank of 65 degrees celsius (which you can measure with a meat probe or digital thermometer). The time allowed for smoking depends largely on your own tastes. Ours were smoked for 3 hours.
If you don’t have the set up to smoke your franks you can still cook them in the oven at the same temperature for two to three hours. You will get a good flavour, minus the smokey taste and they will not turn red.
I can tell you that these franks taste better than even the ones in my childhood memories!
My friend invited me over to pick some cumquats and limes from her garden this week. Each time I picked some fruit I was showered with large drops of icy water from the morning’s rain storm. Along with the heady scent of the citrus it made for quite an ‘invigorating’ experience (new spa treatment anybody?).
I’m using the fruit to make a cumquat and lime marmalade, which I’m basing on a recipe from my regular jam-bible, Rachel Saunders, The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. I like that this recipe is made over several days because I generally find the whole chopping and cooking process a tad overwhelming in one day – not to mention getting all my teaspoons into the freezer for testing!
I prepared the juice by cutting and boiling some of the fruit and leaving it to drip into a basin overnight. Today I’ve been slicing the remaining fruit, very thinly so it will hang suspended (I hope) in the finished marmalade, having a sharp knife helped things along. While I was very patiently slicing my fruit I thought of Shirley Conran’s famous quote from her 1975 book Superwoman, “life is too short to stuff a mushroom.” All I can say is she clearly hadn’t sliced cumquats!
Sad to say that at the next step I did make a big mistake. I overestimated the amount of sugar I needed for the jam and of course added it in without considering the evidence of my own eyes. I had a sweet gluey mess that wasn’t going to be to anyone’s taste. Thankfully TB seconded my thought that the way to deal with this was to add more water. Sounds weird but if you add enough water to properly dissovle the sugar (that’s the critical bit) you can then just keep boiling the mix back down until it reaches setting point. Not to mention de-scumming the mix along the way.
In the end it all turned out OK and I made 18 jars of marmalade. And yes, the pieces floated nicely throughout the mix.
Unlike our forebears, we at least have the convenience of refrigeration to allow the process of preparing all these products over a period of days. On the downside that means you don’t get the whole community/family dropping by to help with the processing – ah the loneliness of the long-distance preserver.
The pig is always TB’s project while I cheer him on from the sidelines and give taste evaluations as necessary. He does all the important calculations for the brining and seasoning, not to mention all the hot and cold smoking.
We draw on lots of different curing traditions to preserve our pig. TB is making family favourites such as lap yuk, sometimes called Chinese bacon, and pork bones as well as some of the more common European products. Just in time for this year’s curing TB has found another book by those ‘gods’ of charcuterie Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, called Salumi: The Craft of Dry Curing (Norton 2012). I’m looking forward to my favourite frankfurters and some tasty smoked hocks for hearty winter soups.
Luckily some of these products are processed quite quickly. We have already been eating one of the small hams and last Sunday we had a streaky vs Canadian bacon taste off. The only trouble was that I was so busy tasting that I forgot to take a photo. Maybe next time.