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Sunday, August 21, 2011

More Getting Ready For Winter

Today was the interesting end of an interesting week.

The folks to whom we owe half the balance on a hog called earlier this week- it was already hanging at the butchers and we needed to finish paying for it and then call the butcher with our cut order.

After paying for it, I called and talked to Kathy at Four Star Meats in Eugene, Oregon.  They didn't still have the caul fat, which had already been thrown out (darn!), but I could still get a two pound piece of leaf fat for rendering.  She knew what I meant when I said I wanted a German hock, or haxe (pronounced 'hocksuh').  I wanted the cheek; she said jowl and told me how to make up a loaf of little cuts, molded into a loaf with aspic boiled up from the bones- Steve would love that.  She asked if I wanted the heart and kidneys and told me how to slice and flour them like calf's liver and fry them up.  The liver goes into pate, of course. So for my first half hog, I'm getting a fresh leg (ham and hock), the loin whole (which I'll cut into cutlets myself later), the tenderloin whole, a picnic roast, a butt roast, two pounds of slab bacon (no nitrites cure), all the aforementioned organ meats and jowl, and the rest is getting ground into ground pork.  We'll drive down to Eugene next Saturday the 27th to pick it up.

All this talk about the ham got us thinking about the beef tongue that we still have in the big freezer.  The half steer from a year ago June is nearly gone; I can't finish the remaining cuts until the weather cools down again because they are all braise cuts, and among those braises is that tongue.  As I wasn't crazy about how the first tongue turned out, we decided to try to pickle the second one, using the recipe for pickled tongue from my pickling book.  The one ingredient that we didn't have was the potassium nitrate, which we were going to need for the pickle.  Steve looked online and wasn't really thrilled about what he was finding there, but he located a fairly local outfit that sells salts called The Meadow up on Mississippi in north Portland.  But that was going to have to wait for Saturday.

This summer has been a really odd one, climatically. Most days have been in the seventies and low eighties, and it's been gently spring-like all summer. But Saturday was forecast for hitting the mid-nineties, so that meant getting up early and opening up the house to cool it off, and then closing it up fairly early to keep it cool.  This and other similar strategies are called thermal sailing, and it's something we do to keep from having to turn on the air conditioner.  We don't have a whole house AC unit, but we do have a small room AC back in Steve's office because he works from home and also that's where he stores the home brew.  So both are in the same room and both can be kept at a reasonable temperature.  But today's heat also meant no cooking in the house, so breakfast was cold cereal and berries from the backyard.
We also had the chimney swept today. Most people don't think about it, but a dirty chimney can easily lead to a flue fire, which will wreck your day when it's the least convenient.  We didn't have the chimney swept last year, and decided that we really needed to do it this year and to make sure we do it every year if we're going to continue to heat with wood. Evidently we were right to get it done, because this is what fell down the chimney after the sweep brushed it, and that was what collected even though he had the shop-vac on the whole time.

The trick to getting  good price on the service is to remember to get it done during the summer when your sweeps aren't so busy and they can give you a discount when they're not so in demand.

Mark Guy has owned his own  chimney sweep service since 1994, and he loves his job. He was really nice, was careful to cover everything and not make a mess. A very obliging bloke- he even let me shake his hand (I wasn't about to miss that opportunity).  I already have my appointment set for next year, and it's on a cute refrigerator magnet that says 'Brush Regularly!'.

Once we got the chimney appointment out of the way, it was time to go get the potassium nitrate, or Prague Powder No.1.  I've been in The Meadow before, but I've never purchased anything there.  It was a nice enough little store, but when you're salt-sensitive like I am and the purveyor is dealing in various finishing salts, there's very little chance for a transaction to occur.  However, today we came with a purpose in mind.  Steve decided to go ahead and buy the twelve ounce size of the Prague Powder No. 1, which turns out to be a pretty shade of pink.  They filled the order upstairs, and we were somewhat delighted to find that instead of pouring it into a plastic bag, as we'd expected, it was packaged in a really nice glass jar with a glass lid.  I imagine that if you had a collection of fancy finishing salts this would be a nice way to store them.  The Meadow also had the largest collection of fancy chocolate bars I've ever seen, of which the only one I'd heard of before was Valrhona, but at ninety-three degrees or so outside, today was not the day for chocolate.  I also passed on the amazing collection of bitters, even after finding a favorite, simply because I'd just purchased a bottle of Angostura bitters last weekend. I haven't even opened it, and you know how long a bottle of bitters lasts. It's probably just as well, because I priced the one I wanted on their website when I got home and the price made me cough, which is not exactly what you want your bitters to do.

Tomorrow is supposed to be almost as hot as today, but I still have gardening chores to take care of, not the least of which is to see whether or not I have potatoes.  I have my doubts.


Holly House said...

You sound like one busy bee! I am so jealous of all the shops you have near you!! There's nothing like that around here. Don't you love more vintage packaging? If I went out and bought something like that and it came in a glass jar I'd do a happy dance all the way home! How do you do thermal sailing? It sounds like a great alternative to AC.

Jennifer Montero said...

I like the update posts. I always learn something from your conversational asides. And you reminded me that I forgot to book in our chimney sweep.

We're working our way through half a pig too (we call the butt a 'hand' of pork - go figure) but the offal goes straight into the dog bowls. They are gratefully received.

Fingers crossed for a good potato harvest. Perhaps shaking that sweep's hand will give it the bit of luck it needed?

Miriam said...

You are an adventurous cook! I admire your determination to use up all the bits and pieces of the cow (steer?) and the hog.

What a lovely store The Meadow is - I can only be glad it's not in my neighbourhood, or I'd have an even harder time sticking to my food budget...