Leaves Of Ass

The chorizo from last month is finally ready for eating as is. I’ve used a couple for cooking while they were still soft in the middle, but now they’re firm all the way through. I celebrated by making the sort of lunch that I would happily eat every day, and which neatly encapsulates my motivation for spending all the time that I do making all this food from scratch: pleasure.

A few weeks ago, I took two small Camemberts and wrapped them in grape leaves instead of cheese wrap. There’s a cheese from my old neighborhood in France called Banon that I adore; it’s pungent and complex and very seductive. I don’t have any chestnut leaves handy, so the grapes presented themselves as a logical alternative since they’re all over the place. I misted the cheeses with a little local apple brandy, and wrapped them in leaves with twine.

They aged for three weeks. Yesterday I made a batch of white/whole wheat bread dough, and once risen I shaped it into a ficelle and a baguette, though both were shorter than normal so they’d fit on my peel. I sprinkled the baguette with sesame seeds before scoring it.

And then I went and fetched a cheese and some chorizo from the wine fridge where everything ages now that it’s hot outside.

The chorizo is bright and spicy, with a chewy texture and a lingering smokiness from the paprika. The cheese is funky as holy hell, with a lovely fruity overtone from the brandy and grape leaves. The two together on the crusty sourdough were fantastic: each flavor asserts itself enough to not be overwhelmed by the other, and they harmonize in all sorts of complicated ways. I should have taken this outside to eat it, sitting on the grass under a tree, with nothing but a pocket knife and a glass of rosé, but that will have to wait. Even indoors, the satisfaction of having made this archetypal peasant lunch from scratch, by hand, and with almost entirely local ingredients (everything but the spices) was profound. Food like this contains enormous flavor; it’s dense with information and nutrition and the living organisms that made it turn out that way. A little bit, savored lovingly, makes a meal.

It’s funny how excited I get at having made something so basic, and how “basic” is actually infinitely complex. Making food like this has changed my relationship with time a little; since it all requires weeks or months to mature, I try to always have something aging, drying, fermenting, or curing at any given time. That way, even though the combinations change, there’s always meat and cheese to be had and shared on short notice, with a pickle or two to accompany them. These weekly rituals are delayed gratification at first, but when the cheese is ripe and the salami is dry the incentive to continue becomes impossible to ignore. It will be November before I get to try my first cheddar, but by then I should have a dozen waxed wheels in the fridge, with another ready to eat every two weeks or so. And tomorrow I’m going out to pick, blanch, and salt a whole bunch of grape leaves.

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  1. July 7

    Isn’t it all great? It’s like sex on a plate.

    Even though your endstage assembly took next to nearly no prep (unlike of course your 700-odd previous posts) it is telling how much time really does go into this slow food. Try growing the grapes from cuttings, or waiting for your pregnant animal to put out so you can milk her, and dang, those pigs do take a while to fatten, that wheat time to grow. You’ve got it right, though: about the time your cheese wheels will finish, you’ll have gotten it all done…while starting again too.

  2. July 7

    Oh delish!! I’m still in the instant gratification category. I made dilly beans today and I can hardly stop myself from crackinga jar open and eating them even though they need to sit a while to really be good. I’m really trying to get out of this mentality, but I have yet to set up a good place to cure things and I think it’ll be hard till I have a good cycle going like you have. Likely that will have to wait till the fall at which point I can just use my basement anyhow…Not sure how to keep the critters from getting into stuff, though. I love the cheese wrapped in grape leaves. I need to steal some of my neighbor’s grape leaves and get some stuff made with them! I hope that bread recipe is coming soon…

  3. Beautiful meal. I’m not sure I could ever be patient enough to make my own chorizo. I’d be wanting to eat the stuff every day!

    It’s funny. I think of myself as someone who likes to cook from scratch, but when I read your blog, all of my perceptions go out the window. I am always amazed and humbled at the efforts you make to truly get the basics on your table almost totally by your own efforts.

  4. July 8

    My favorite lunch.
    If we all learned to do this no one would be fat and we would all remember the government and cable TV doesn’t really have anything to do with our lives.

  5. Peter
    July 8

    El: A lot of time, yes, but not so much effort. It’s so good.

    Mo: You can age things in large containers or build a cage out of screen and hardware cloth.

    Rachel: But it’s not that much effort. I carve out a few hours once or twice a week to make cheese, and the baking takes mere minutes.

    Marisa: I’m having it again today, but with salad I think.

    • July 8

      Hmmm, I’ll have to try the hardwire cloth. We have so many sinkin bugs and critters here. A giant rat shot out of our compost the other day, right at my husband as he was turning it, it was pretty awesome. And my cat leaves me rodent guts on a daily basis. Always have to look where I’m stepping!

      PS FIGS!!!!!!!! FIGS!!!!! They were at the farmer’s mkt today and my sister’s monster fig tree is loaded. I have some dehydrating (well, I’m attempting at least) in the oven. If only I had some duck prosciutto to go with it (my sister and I did make some a few weeks ago and it was awesome).

  6. July 8

    That is so freaking cool, and you know it.

    • July 8

      Your response: Well, duh!
      (just got back from the beach, think I have sun poisoning. I probably shouldn’t be allowed to post comments…)

  7. July 8

    Very inspiring. I won’t have a garden where we’re living (now we’re moving to NYC!) but maybe I could try making my own cheese at least! I’ve always done bread, but it’s also time for a new starter, now that we’ll be setting down roots for a few years! Can’t wait!!

  8. Peter
    July 8

    Julia: Just admit that you’re drunk.

    Nicole: Well, that’s good news. We’ll be neighbors. NYC is the Rome of the tri-state area.

  9. Could it be the perfect bite? Your chorizo & cheese both look great!

    It’s hard for me to wait for cheeses to age – I’m always dying to crack into them to see what they look like inside, lol.

    What type of milk are you using?

  10. Peter
    July 11

    Raw cow’s milk from a nearby farm. The key to aging is to always have something ready to eat. That’s why I try to make cheese once a week.

  11. July 14

    damn impressive is all i have to say… i mean these life skills that you’re gathering will be perfect for when the bulk of the human race gets shaken off the earth and it’s just us left in the hudson valley. boy will i be glad that i knew you when…

  12. Awesome… didn’t mean any snobby milk judgement by asking BTW, just genuinely curious.

    I really enjoy your blog AND the handmade plates from your Etsy store are on my list of coveted items…

  13. Peter
    July 14

    Claudia: Yes, I’m rehearsing for the robot apocalypse.

    Jackie: I didn’t think you were being snobby at all. I just wish my source for goat milk didn’t move away. I’m hoping to add more plates to the Etsy thing soon. Thanks for coveting them.

  14. Dani
    July 20

    Amazing post! I simply must make this as soon as possible.

    Wondered if you could post the recipes for the cheese and the chorizo? Maybe I am blind but I can’t seem to find them anywhere.

    Thanks so much!


  15. thos
    November 4

    Still have no clue how to use the web. But you are too fast to catch. I just realized some sort of guru exists in the realm of “real” food… life. Can you tell me, how grape leaves are used to wrap a wheel of hard cheese for preserving with a beeswax coating and is it difficult to get a hard (cheddar type) from goat’s milk? Thank you

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