For the April Chronogram, I wrote a piece about making one’s own maple syrup and the many other wonderful things that can be done with maple sap.
Paneer is one of the easiest cheeses to make at home, and it’s superbly rewarding because A) there’s almost no waiting and B) if you live, say, in an area that has no good South Asian restaurants, you can make yourself a steaming bowl of saag paneer whenever the urge strikes. And you can make a lot of it, because as we all know Indian food is even better the next morning for breakfast.
Espelette peppers, named for the town in Basque France that made them famous, are a unique food. Dried and ground, they have a particular aromatic quality: earthy and yet bright at the same time, with a fairly gentle but insistent heat that represents (in general, based on my own anecdotal experience) the upper limit of most French palates’ tolerance for spiciness. The great hams of Bayonne are cured with copious pepper, and it gives them a gorgeous flavor and tint. It’s not really a cooking spice, but rather a finishing one, especially given how much money a small jar commands. A pinch sprinkled on top of fish, chicken, or potatoes (or a hundred other things) adds an irresistible trebly zing and a not insignificant coloristic bump.
For the last entry in this here contest, I received a bag of clams (already cooked and eaten here) and some ground lamb. Half the ground lamb became the kofta from a few posts ago, and the rest was the basis for this extremely gratifying dinner: 100% homemade gyros.
As regular readers know, I’m a fan of from-scratch standards (often sandwiches, for some reason) as an ideal format for drilling down into the essence of food while following it up the supply chain as far as possible. It helps me understand cooking better. More often than not it also tastes really fucking good, so there’s also that. In this instance, to celebrate the ninth anniversary of our fun summer wedding (we had the legal one the previous December while my Mother was still alive), I prepared what was by any measure a simple meal. But it technically took seven months to make it.
We were in Vermont for a few days over Spring Break, during which time we visited Taylor Farm, as we always do when we’re up there. In addition to their excellent Gouda–their aged is my favorite–they also sell raw milk, and sometimes cream. For whatever reason, Milo got it into his head that he was going to make butter, so he did. I guided him through the process, but the work was all his doing. I’m all about better living though child labor.
So for this month’s pâté and terrine project, I vacillated back and forth between a few ideas and then decided to make all of them. I had invited over a bunch of food writer/blogger types, so I figured quantity and variety would both be desirable. I emailed Northwind Farm and placed an order for a duck, a rabbit, and a pork butt, and picked them up at the weekly market here in town. Over the course of a couple of days, I turned the three things into three different pâtés, using a couple of tricks I’ve learned in my couple of years of terrine making, and which really do improve the results dramatically.
A quick update for anybody who was interested in my spruce post: I left a bunch of the intact tips in a bowl, figuring that they’d dry out on their own and then I’d grind them to powder. But after months, they still retained a springy resistance to breaking up into fine dust, even under the stern ministrations of the surikogi. So recently, since I had some things going in the sous vide machine, which I normally cap with a cookie sheet for heat retention, I stripped the needles off the stems and sprinkled them on the hot metal as I had done with the first batch that ground up nice and fine. Within an hour or so, these too had become brittle and powdered easily, so I dumped them all in the suribachi and Milo and I took turns turning them into powder for the spice jar.
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.
In this month’s Chronogram, I explore the issues surrounding home processing in New York. (Every state has different laws governing the legal sale of home-produced foods). As more consumers become aware of the importance and quality of local food, markets are opening up for homemade products, enabling savvy canners and bakers to increase their household income.
Photo by Roy Gumpel
Also, the law prohibiting home processors from using the Internet in any form for promoting their products does not prevent me from telling you that Julia of Half Pint Preserves has . . . → Read More: Can Do