The day before Spring

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.

Braodbeans and nectarines, 31 August 2013
Broadbeans and nectarines, 31 August 2013

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).

Chocolate Crackles for adults.
Chocolate Crackles for adults.

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?

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Frankly my dear …

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

sheep intestines or hog casings*

*TB gets his sausage making supplies from Misty Gully Smokehouse

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.

The meat mix going through the fine mincing stage.
The meat mix going through the fine mincing stage.

Prepare your casings. Put the casings onto the sausage attachment and pump your meat into the casings. Tie off your frankfurters.

The pumped frankfurters ready for smoking.
The pumped frankfurters ready for smoking.

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.

The frankfurters in the smoker. The larger sausage in the foreground is a biiger version of the same sausage that will be used for sandwich meat.
The frankfurters in the smoker. The larger sausage in the foreground is a bigger version of the same sausage that we will use for sandwich meat.

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.

The finished product. Th red colour comes from the smoking process, no dyes were used.
The finished product. The red colour comes from the smoking process, no dyes were used.

I can tell you that these franks taste better than even the ones in my childhood memories!

Bonus Birds

Late yesterday afternoon I was sitting in the lounge room when I spotted two King Parrots in our Old Man Saltbush. It appeared that they were having a nibble of the buds at the top of the branchlets.

Two King Parrots enjoying a feed in the Old Man Saltbush.
Two King Parrots enjoying a feed in the Old Man Saltbush. The bird on the right looks like a female (the red feathers only go halfway up her breast) , the other may be a juvenile male.

As the light was failing it was difficult to get a good shot. I managed to get close enough to get a photo of this bird just after the other had flown.

Probably a juvenile male King Parrot, the red feathers are growing in over its whole chest.
Probably a juvenile male King Parrot, the red feathers are growing in over its whole chest.

A quantity of cumquats

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?).

A bowl of freshly picked cumquats and limes.
A bowl of freshly picked cumquats and limes.

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.

Skimming the scum off the top of the marmalade.
Skimming the scum off the top of the marmalade.

 In the end it all turned out OK and I made 18 jars of marmalade. And yes, the pieces floated nicely throughout the mix.

The finished cumquat and lime marmalade with an even distribution of fruit.
The finished cumquat and lime marmalade with an even distribution of fruit.

Of course the proof is in the eating.

Breakfast with cumquat and lime marmalade on TB's wholemeal sourdough bread.
Breakfast with cumquat and lime marmalade on TB’s wholemeal sourdough bread.

(Almost) the whole hog

(almost) the whole hog
(almost) the whole hog – no head and no front trotters

For the second year in a row we have bought a whole pig to make cured meat products, such as prosciutto, ham and bacon. This free range white pig is 60 kilos worth of porky delight.

Brined hams (top shelf) and bacon, streaky on the left and Canadian on the right (bottom shelf), drying out in the fridge before being smoked.
Brined hams (top shelf) and bacon, streaky on the left and Canadian on the right (bottom shelf), drying out in the fridge before being smoked.

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.

Rolled loins and rib roasts will be frozen for later use.
Rolled loins and rib roasts will be frozen for later use.

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.

Bacon, hams and other bits I can't identify going into the smoker.
Bacon, hams and other bits I can’t identify going into the smoker. Our smoker is a converted clothes drying cabinet.

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.

smoked pork hocks ready for adding into soups
smoked pork hocks ready for adding into 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.

One of the small hams, already undergoing the taste test - verdict? delicious.
One of the small hams, already undergoing the taste test – verdict? delicious.

 

Morning Patrol

You never know what you will find when you go on ‘morning patrol’ around the garden.

It seems that our broadbeans, under the influence of lengthening daylight hours, have suddenly put on 20 cms of growth.

We will have to start putting the string around the broadbeans to stop them from blowing over as they grow taller.

But the biggest thrill was to see the first asparagus spears of the season.

Two asparagus spears, the first of the season.
Two asparagus spears, the first of the season.