Sunday, August 30, 2009
As if yesterdays picture was not gory enough, I bring you this Lord of the Flies homage (digitally altered to protect my identity). A lot of people have been getting upset over my documentation of the pig slaughter. To me it seems that if you are going to eat meat, you should be intimately acquainted with where it comes from. An old and oft spoken idea, but a valid one.
If you read the above linked post you will know that I prepared and roasted a 57 pound pig on Saturday. I was planning on roasting a 30 pound suckling-esque pig, but ended up with the 57 pounder. To make the pork fit the roasting setup that I constructed, I cut off the limbs and the head.
For flavor and juiciness I brined the pig pieces over night in 5 gallons of water, 2 cups salt, 1 1/2 cups sugar, a few dried chiles, peppercorns, and about a heads worth of garlic. This all sat in a garbage bag lined rubber made tub overnight with a few bags of ice. Here is me fishing pieces out to begin cooking the next day.
I had constructed two rack things out of some rebar and fencing material. As I said before, I was planning on much less pork. I had to play a little meat tetris to get it all to fit.
Here is the roasting setup in action. I dug a hole about a foot deep, around 24 by 36 inches. I started by letting about 20 pounds of charcoal burn for around 30 minutes. Using various bricks and cinder blocks I perched the pig about 3 feet above the coals. The meat got covered with some aluminum foil.
I simply basted with a mixture of vegetable oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt. I didn't really want to cover up the pork flavor with a whole lot of fancy spices or sauces. I let the sow cook, skin side up, for about 2 1/2 hours and then flipped and cooked for another couple hours.
While this was going I enjoyed some lovely ol' oat soda out of this wonderful chalice.
I let the charcoal burn a little hot so I got some charring which kind of sucked, but there was still a fair amount of nicely brown and crisped skin to munch on. The meat was actually very tender and moist, especially the shoulders.
Regrettably, I did not get any pictures of the prepared meat or people eating it. I was so absorbed with getting the pig cut up and ready to go that I really kind of forgot. People seemed to enjoy the roasted swine, so I was pretty happy. The only major faux pas was the somewhat charred skin. I feel like this was a good first go at pig roastin'. Now I am armed with the skills to do a much better job next time. I am hoping that Pig Roast, Part Deux involves a little more roastin' and a little less of the slaughterin'.
Friday, August 28, 2009
So, my friend is having a house warming pig roast tomorrow night. Needless to say, a denizen of the meaty arts like myself could not but step up and do pig duty. As it is not an over huge gathering, I decided a pig of about 30 pounds would be sufficient. This size is not quite a tiny suckling jobber, but also not hogzilla. Pursuant to this, I built a roasting rig (more on this later in the weekend) that would accommodate the modestly sized pig I was expecting. However, does anything in this life ever actually go according to plan? Of course not.
When the gentlemen farmer from whom we ordered the pig arrived, it was with not a 30 pounder but nigh a 60 pound sow! Some sort of mix up I guess. That is still not the hugest pig around but way bigger than what I had planned, and too big for the roasting apparati that I had constructed. As much as I hated to do it, I had to slaughter the hog down into component parts to make it manageable for cooking. At a pig roast one wants to a see a whole pig being roasted, there is a certain psychological impact of seeing a whole creature all crispy brown and delicious. Having to cut it up like this lessens the fun a little, but oh well.
Anyhow, above is an action shot of me cuttin' off a ham. Surely more to follow on this.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I love this picture. The Wonder brand sign against the backdrop of a cemetery, it is somehow fitting. As if the sign is lording over its victims. Multitudes of people, arteries clogged with Twinkie filling, are shaking their bony fists from their graves at the sign's primary colored cheeriness. I can hear their ghostly muttering.
This particular Watervliet Wonder Bakery Thriftshop is located on the Troy Schenectady Road. Me and the wife were tooling around when we passed the establishment and we had to make a stop and sightsee.
I spied Captain Cupcake and Twinkie the Kid through the plate glass.
The store is frankly, surreal.
It is colors, oh so many colors. I can taste them.
In Soviet Watervliet, Wonder Bread eats you! I don't really know what to say about this place. Me and the wife and child wandered around this wonderland of artificial flavors, corn syrup, and processed wheat with bemused horror. I almost felt the need to pick up me wee 'un and hold her close. I have spoken about my survivalist tendencies before, but for some reason, that tickle at the base of my spine which urges me to grab the guns, ammunition, and knowledge of old timey methods of food preservation and head for the hills kicked in in this place. The wrongness of what we have done to ourselves by industrializing food production made the blood throb in my temples. Images of wavering fields of genetically modified corn and wheat under clear blue skies shot through my head. Miserable herds of zombie cows in Texas danced across my brain.
I don't often wax political or waste much effort on food activism, but one thing kept occurring to me. The stuff peddled at this location is seriously, shockingly cheap. If my nose was against the grindstone and I had hungry children to feed, would I be able to resist shopping here? If I was not brought up in a pseudo-foody household with hundreds of cookbooks would I even have the knowledge or inclination not to accept Wonder/Hostess products as normal? Fresh meat and produce is expensive, and preparation is time consuming and requires knowledge and equipment. I am not bringing up any new concepts here, but it is not often that the high fallutin' food philosophy that my economic status allows me to maintain is shaken to its core. So much for a nice Sunday drive through the river towns, I was left thoroughly depressed after leaving this joint.
Banquet meals kind of remind me of childhood. We always had a few of these bad boys stashed in the coffin freezer in the basement of my parent's house. They have cost around a buck each for pretty much as long as I can remember. Go look at Dave's Cupboard, as I recall, he does some good reviews on the various Banquet meal offerings. I saw this new entry the other day at the market and one of its components intrigued me. Pictured above is the "Mexican Style Enchilada and Tamale Beef Combo." I am a tamale fanatic (see here for more on this), so I wanted to give Banquet's a whirl. Here is the meal cooked up in the microwave.
Probably the ugliest meal I have sat down to in a while, but it smelled kind of good. I immediately scarfed the tamale. It was very small, only about the length of my pinky, and seemingly of the corn roll variety. Pretty similar to some canned versions that I have sampled. But I will say, the meal taken as a whole, for costing only a dollar, is really not that bad. That is what is funny about Banquet meals. People make fun of them, but a dollars worth of packaged frozen food is a bargain if it is of even marginal edibility. Banquet usually delivers a kind of mediocre goodness.
While we are on the subject, this past Saturday I had an exponentially better tamale experience at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market . At Magdalena's Kitchen (I think this is what it was called) in the little row of food tents right as you walk in I got the below pictured chicken tamale.
This was so good that after I consumed one I immediately circled back for a second. The masa was rich and tender (plenty of good ol' lard I think) and there was plenty of juicy chicken in the center. This was served with some thin guacamole (the way I like it) and some sour cream. They had out some salsas, both green and red, as well as some pickled jalapenos. This was the highlight of the day at the market for me. If you see this place this weekend, buy one.
As a final note, writing the above made me think of something. What is the urge in America to make things "chunky." I have lived down near the Mexican border and authentic salsas and guacamoles down there tend to be a lot thinner and smoother than the American stuff. I appreciate salsa cruda, it is great in tacos, but I like a thinner salsa roja for chips. A lot of American style "salsa" seems to be some sort of bastard child of salsa cruda and salsa roja. Also, nothing skeves me more than nasty, chunky, stinky guacamole you see in a lot of restaurants (the kind usually served with an ice cream scoop). I like it to be a homogeneous and creamy mixture, don't know why, that is just me. Opinions?
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Instead of the usual wonders of the culinary sort, today I bring you Cinema! and Literature! You must watch the video above. Wait for the sharks, trust me.
Next we have what I am hoping is going to be the finest work of fiction in centuries.
Billed on Amazon as- "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!" Supposedly involves ninja armies fightin' zombies. Needless to say I have high hopes for this one. I will let you know.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
In the grand tradition of people on the internet carting random inanimate objects around (garden gnomes, can of black beans, etc...) and photographing them, I have decided to do the same with my jar of sausage. Apparently, the jar escaped my custody and was photographed by K8 down carousing in Center Square last night. Wily sausages.
This morning I decided to take sausage jar for a nice walk along the mighty Hudson in Troy, NY before shopping around at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market. Sausage jar seemed to have a good time, but I think he was a little hungover.
So, I have been seeing recipes for Brat Tubs, or Brat Hot Tubs, for quite a while. Basically, it seems that these recipes started as a way to kind of keep the Bratwursts in a "holding tank" of poaching liquid on the grill. When someone was ready for a brat you would fish one out and finish it off over the charcoal. At its simplest the Brat Tub recipe calls for beer and onions, that is pretty much it. The beer and onions are discarded after use which seems to me to be kind of a waste of some flavorful liquid. I came across a recipe that involved reducing the beer with some other additions into a gloopy onion based condiment.
I started with six superbly high quality bratwursts from Rolf's Pork Store on Lexington in Albany (please click link to read about how I adore this porky oasis in the ghetto).
Here is further Wurst porn.
These guys are going to get poached in some beer. In the champagne of beers.
That is right folks, Miller High Life. The good stuff. Two should do. I am starting this recipe off on my stove top, not on the grill, as I was going to be bringing it over to a friends house and did not want to be messing about too much there.
My tip for poaching fresh wurst is to put them into the liquid when it is cold and slowly bring them up to temperature, never boiling. The barest possible simmer is best, more of a bath than a boil. If you were to throw them straight into a rolling boil you would have a mess of burst skins. About 20 minutes should do in 190 degree water, you want the brats to be around 150-160 internally.
When the brats are done take them out and reserve. Throw 3-4 onions cut into rings into the beers. Also, throw in a wad of butter, 1/2 cup of your favorite ketchup, 1/4 cup mustard of choice, and as much of your favorite hot sauce as you like. I used about a tablespoon of my favorite, the indomitable Tiger Sauce. This is a sweet/hot sauce with a tamarind flavor to it.
Reduce everything for about 30-40 minutes. It should be thick and gloopy and be kind of gross looking. Don't worry, it tastes awesome.
As always, I got distracted at the actual barbecue and forgot to take any pictures of the grilling process. You pretty much just want to grill the poached bratwursts until good and brown and then dunk them back in the simmering sauce for a while. Serve each brat on a crusty roll with plenty of the onions and sauce. I also grilled up a few Anaheim peppers for a little extra spice and flavor. I did manage to get a shot of a half eaten end product.
People seemed to enjoy this concoction, I think I could jazz it up a little bit next time and end up with something a little more refined. The onions needed a little something, I think an acid of some type would have been good in there. A little vinegar or some pickled jalapenos might have been the way to go. But I really like the whole concept of the Brat Tub, it is kind of fun. Plus, those Rolf's Bratwursts are so good I like any excuse to go get a few.
It occurred to me the other day that I have never in my life eaten a McDonald's Big Mac. I just found it sort of strange that something as iconic as the Big Mac has escaped my ravenous jaws. I guess as a child (unfortuneatly, this is when the lion's share of my fast food consumption occurred) I had problems with pickles, lettuce, and anything even vaguely resembling mayonnaise. These finicky child's phobias kept me on a pretty standard regimen of McNuggets. So yesterday I called up goodwife Mrs. Dave and said, "Honey, grab me up a Big Mac on your way home." Saying this made me feel a little dirty. A short while later my prize arrived.
I ain't gonna' lie. It looked kind of good. I was surprised at the height of the thing and a tart aroma of pickles and beef assaulted my nostrils. Upon picking up the Mac, I was surprised at how weightless it felt. The visual size seemed to imply a weightier burger. I took an absolutely giant bite, chewed, and ruminated. The first thing that struck me was how salty it was. I am afraid to look at the nutritional information on the Big Mac, but I am sure there is some ungodly amount of sodium in the thing. The other dominate flavor I tasted was the pickles, which is good, I like pickles. I only got a hint of the Thousand Island dressing-esque flavor of the Big Mac sauce. The beef was almost a non factor in my estimation. It was kind of like eating a giant, bready, pickle, cheese and lettuce sandwich.
For all the fuss our American culture makes about the storied Big Mac, I had expected some sort of near religious experience (not really, I kind of figured it would suck). But really, I would take a standard MacDonald's cheeseburger over the Mac. I find their classic cheeseburger to be well balanced, with a perfect meat to bun to pickles to onions to ketchup to mustard (included in my neck of the woods) ratio. It is kind of like meat candy, a treat to be savored on occasion. I am happy that now I don't have to be curious anymore and am fairly confident that I won't suffer from any future Big Mac attacks.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Ever been to an Aldi Market? Well I hadn't until the other day. I was traveling along Route 26 up around West Carthage when I spied a location. I have heard about Aldis before and was always a bit curious. The story on Aldi is that it is a German chain that goes to almost an extreme to keep prices low. There is minimal advertising, no decoration in the stores, no shelves in the store, pretty much only one kind of everything, you pay for your bags, etc... You even have to use a quarter to release a shopping cart (you get it back when you return it).
The inside of the store is pretty spare.
Here is another view.
All of the cost cutting measures allows Aldi to offer very, very cheap prices for a lot of stuff. Don't expect much variety or anything "gourmet" so to speak, but for the basics, you can't beat their prices with a stick. Not that I would ever eat these, but here are 24 hot dogs for a little over 3 bucks.
I was hoping to find some weird German products at Aldi, but it was all standard American fare. A little disappointing, but at least I am not curious anymore. They did have a towering display of ready made bacon.
The only thing I bought were these surreal looking appetizers called "crispy noodle shrimp."
I am thinking of cooking these as an offering to the FSM (bless his noodely appendages).
Thursday, August 13, 2009
OK, so I went over to the new Asian Market over on Central and McNutt this morning to mosey around a little. In the meat case I spied these mysterious items named "Beef Pizzies." I like to play imaginary scenarios for how things happened inside my tiny mind. This is what I came up with for how these got named.
The Asian Market's butcher, who does not have a complete grasp of the English language, is printing out the labels for the days meat selection. Not knowing the English word for this particularly unmentionable part of the bovine anatomy, he inquires (in delicate as possible terms) of his 8 year old daughter (who has been raised in the US of A) as to what the proper terminology is. Blushing, the young lass mutters "pizzies, Daddy," conjuring up the current playground parlance of her elementary school. Onto the label it goes and into the meat case.
It is entirely possible that "pizzies" are not the naughty bits that I am supposing them to be, it could be some other odd bit or end of beef. But it certainly appears that some unhappy bulls out there are missing their "special purposes."
New information has been received thanks to most excellent commentators. The word is Pizzles. They really are wieners.
I know what you are thinking, two posts from Mr. Dave? in one day? This is too good to be true! I have been out on the road for a couple weeks making the world safe for democracy so I have somewhat of a backlog of posts. The above picture is of a treasure that I brought home from my travels. That right there is a big ol' jar of "8 Real German Sausages" care of the Meica sausage making company. I saw this priced at 7.95$ at the commissary and could not resist purchasing it.
I don't think the picture does justice to the size of the sausages. Lest you get the impression that these are mere cocktail sausages for snacking, the jar is probably about 10 inches tall! The sausages are probably close to an inch in diameter. Their "Net Drained Weight" is 25.4 OZ. That is a lot of meat right there. Here is a back view.
The directions for serving state with Prussian brevity, "To eat cold, drain and serve." I don't think I have the stones to bite into one of these things cold. I think I am going to grill them up tomorrow and eat them hot dog style.
Here is a bottom view that I find vaguely obscene.
Don't know why I am getting such a kick out of giant sausages in a jar. It just strikes me as neat for some reason. My mom says I loved those little sausages for infants when I was wee, so maybe I have repressed jar-sausage joy. By the way, I keep walking by the baby sausage in the grocery store and telling young Giblet (Mr. Dave's 6 month old daughter, exemplifier of beautiousness) that soon, very soon, she will be able to gobble them at will. Mrs. Dave threatens to beat me around the head and neck if I give them to her. Alas, this is an argument for another day.