Archive | April, 2011

Pastrami or Corned Beef? Either way, it’s delicious!

28 Apr

We’d purchased a half cow and as I unloaded the packets of meat into our freezer from my giant ice chest (beer cooler is the proper nomenclature hereabout) I came across the brisket.  While providing cutting instructions to the butcher, I mentioned that I was especially interested in a nice center cut brisket because I wanted to make pastrami.  She thought that was interesting and I ended up with a nice, fatty, well-marbled hunk of beef, perfect for pastrami.

I’d already brined, simmered and roasted corned beef and was so impressed with the results that I had to try pastrami and learn more about these two methods of preserving the same cut of meat.  What’s the difference?

Well, using recipes from the Charcuterie book the brines are a bit different, the pastrami brine contains more ingredients, it sits in brine for less time and is hot-smoked (best if done for a long time slowly getting up to temp) versus simmered on the stove as is the corned beef.  Along with the hot smoke, the pastrami is covered in a coriander/pepper crust and prior to eating, it should be slow roasted in the oven at low heat over a water bath to reheat and re-hydrate it.

Heck yeah, we made Reuben’s!

Recipe for Reuben Sandwiches:

Rye bread
Russian Dressing (see recipe below)
Thinly sliced pastrami
Swiss cheese

We slathered the sliced bread on one side with butter placing it face down on a preheated pan.  Stack the cheese, pastrami, sauerkraut as thickly as you’d like and put a nice dollop of dressing on top.  I added another slice of Swiss cheese to melt into everything and hold it all together.  Top with another slice of bread, buttered on the outside.  Grill sandwiches to a light brown (mine were too dark but still very edible).

A neighbor of mine has perfected homemade caraway rye bread and also ferments cabbage to make his own sauerkraut.  I might be able to talk him into making some Swiss cheese too.  I hope to visit him and write a post about all of the wonderful food he creates…  This guy is an expert Breadmaker and Cheesemonger.  Maybe if I make some more Pastrami he’d be willing to trade for some bread and cheese… This is the beauty of eating locally and getting to know all of your neighbors!

Russian Dressing adapted from this recipe:

1 Cup Mayo
¼ Cup Crystal Louisiana Pure Hot Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
½ small red onion minced
2 Tablespoons sweet relish
¼ Cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish
A couple of shakes of Worcestershire sauce
A squeeze of lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

The ability to source quality meats (humanely raised) allows the freedom to make all kinds of amazing preserved food that prior to joining the Charcuterie Challenge I may never have tried.  The rewards are hugely empowering and the flavor is hands-down amazing.

Once you try the recipe, it’s easy to play with the spices and flavors to your own taste.  I never thought I could make pastrami or bacon and now that I have the know-how it has opened up all kinds of possibilities in my kitchen – no longer am I dependent on the deli…  And as they say, if you start with the best ingredients you will end up with the best food.  To that end, learning to make my own pickling spice is next, I have a feeling I’ll be using a lot of it this summer.

Heritage piglets, heirloom seeds. Happy Easter!

24 Apr

Though we have not slept in for eleven years (kids) our morning started more gradually than it should have. Mr. Pink Guitar ran a hay/mulch errand, meeting up with Farmer Joe, one of our kindest farmer friends who offered to give us rotten hay rolls for the garden. Free mulch, what’s not to love about that?

Mr. Pink Guitar indicated that he would do chores when he got back, so the rest of us drifted around sleepily making breakfast, reading and starting seeds. Mr. Pink Guitar must have spent a lot of time shooting the breeze with Joe (who is a wonderful conversationalist and oozes wisdom) because it seemed like hours before he got back. We’d finally decided to start chores just as the big ranch truck rumbled up the drive, trailer laden with hay in various states of decomposition.

Sophie left the house and wandered off to the barn right after the truck pulled up. Soon after I heard her scream, when I looked out the window she was running, arms flailing towards the truck. I got my muck boots on quickly, mentally prepared to face something terrible.

Roselle had farrowed, but what should have been a joyous occasion became somber as the situation revealed itself. Roselle was not showing interest in her piglets and had crushed two. Two more had not made it through the birthing process. We counted six tiny piglets skinny and shivering huddled in the corner, ignored. We tried to put a heat lamp on them and Roselle freaked. Well, at least she was being protective.

There were a lot of hushed comments about letting nature take its course and leaving the new mom alone. Because it was Roselle’s maiden voyage into motherhood, we needed to give her a break, and the birthing conditions were not ideal. We had wanted her to farrow out in the woods separated, but comfortably close to her herd the best way for a gilt/sow to farrow in our humble opinion.

But Roselle had become Houdini and would be held in by NO pen, maybe she wanted to range with the chickens, but with babies on the way, we didn’t want her nesting in the woods somewhere – way out there. We put her in the barn (well, actually she walked right in because that’s where she was hanging around) two weeks ago, in a horse stall, ousting our calf; and with fasteners, clips, hog panels, power tools and stall mats, we were able to keep her contained.

The critical time for piglets or any newborn is the first 24 hours, the piglets needed colostrum and warmth and if they made it three days we figured we could announce with confidence the arrival of 6 purebred heritage Red Wattle piglets.

Update: Roselle has calmed down and is taking wonderful care of her babies, they are all fat and sassy. She just needed some time to figure things out and get used to the idea that it is not all about her right now. She does still like her “me” time a little more than the other sows seemed to. However, all is well in piglet world with 5 females and 1 sturdy male, who nurses at first position.

One piglet had an injured foot, so we had to do a little doctoring, which gave us an opportunity to cuddle (!) with her. This piglet is a runt and her name is Zinnia.

Heirloom seeds are one of the greatest gifts on the planet, at least to me. Great things come in small packages and I love seed packets. I collect them like a pre-pubescent baseball card junkie of olden days hoarding them in boxes and containers; I even turned my wine fridge into a seed vault.

So when we got an Easter care-package in the mail from our wonderful friends Bob and Kathy a few days ago we carefully cut the tape and opened the box with rapt anticipation. Care-packages are always exciting. Among the goodies, plastic Easter eggs filled with treats and treasure as well as several thought provoking books “Harvest for Hope, A Guide to Mindful Eating” by Jane Goodall and “The Good Good Pig, the extraordinary life of Christopher Hogwood” by Sy Montgomery. Both authors are vegetarian, one – Vegan.

Interesting how I had just come across this article and was pondering the debate about humanely raising animals for food versus the Vegan perspective – all this after watching Food, Inc.

I find it’s important to look at all sides of an issue with an open mind. Research and contemplation of an issue so close to home is a much better alternative than ignorance.

So what else was in the box? Some nice Easter cards and news clippings with great information about farming and food, mentoring us further along this journey, and last but far from least, was a small innocuous looking bag from the gift shop at the venerable Monticello Estate. I carefully unfolded the small sack to reveal the most marvelous selections of Heirloom seeds!

A cache of 12 historic plant varieties! Cardoon, Prudens Purple tomato, Bloody Butcher corn, Lemon Balm, Early Curled Siberian Kale, Purple Calabash tomato, Fish Pepper, Brown Dutch Lettuce, Sesame, Red Calico Lima Bean, Cow’s Horn Okra, Balsam Apple. WOW! Hey, what’s Balsam Apple?

From Packet: “Jefferson planted this tender annual vine along the winding walk flower border on Monticello’s West Lawn in the spring of 1812. The Balsam Apple’s glossy, delicate foliage, small yellow flowers, and bursting orangish red fruit are a curious and unusual addition to the summer flower border. Plant the seed after the last spring frost and provide support with a fence of trellis. The vines will twine to ten feet in a sunny, fertile site”.

This year will be the year for cardoons and artichokes, multiple varieties of purple tomatoes, herbs and pink corn, unique peppers, amazing lettuces, beans of all shapes and sizes, several types of okra and Balsam Apple! What am I forgetting? Oh, I need more land…

What a wonderful Easter Sunday: heritage piglets and heirloom seeds, it doesn’t get any better than this. We also planted a mini-orchard with 10 fruit trees (orchard now totals 50), moved the chicken coop so our 27 new chicks could be closer to the house and to make room for our 7 Bantams and 6 Pekin ducklings.

Reflecting back two years ago exactly, the enormity of our move away from friends and family was sinking in. We had just lost a favorite uncle with no opportunity to say good-bye. We were alone on the holiday and phone calls to loved-ones made the distance more painfully clear. We did the only thing we knew to do, face the future and embrace it, and plant an apple tree in honor of Uncle Wayne.

Pinkguitarfarm is in its infant stages. We keep on keeping on against various odds because we have cherished friends who have lent us huge amounts of emotional support, not to mention gifts, seeds, rotten hay, fencing, green house supplies, free pig and bull-calf castrations, community endorsements, wagon rides, songs and music, wisdom, social invitations, articles, links, books, mentoring, care packages, a skype camera, visits, wine and late night conversations. We have farmers market customers that try our vegetables and recipes even though the vegetables and recipes might seem weird, and those that buy our fabulous pork. Thank you for being a part of this crazy adventure!

There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.
~Thomas Jefferson~

big picture – our pale blue dot

20 Apr

Charcuterie Challenge #4 Tasso Ham: CA/TN Roll, yes, Sushi

15 Apr

Our family has always, always, always loved Sushi, well, Sashimi, if you want to get technical about it. We love raw fish. Moving to Tennessee brought about several dramatic changes in our lives. 1. A very limited budget and, 2. A desire to eat local. So Sushi really should have been pushed beyond the back burner, or completely forgotten altogether, but in reality, ashamedly, we guiltily lurked around Japanese restaurants and when we went out to eat at these “forbidden” places, we pretended that it was always “our last time” with the knowledge that we  couldn’t afford it. Sad, but true.  Sushi addicts, yes we were.

Our lurking around Japanese restaurants has diminished significantly however, we continue to purchase Nori (dried sheets of seaweed -Sushi wraps), and make creative versions of Sushi around the house, especially on Friday nights.  That’s what we call family time.

The kids take cooked meat/or/vegetarian Sushi rolls to school packed for lunch occasionally. At one point the lunch monitor, quite concerned, made sure nothing raw presided in those rolls.  At this tiny rural school it was probably one of the last things she expected to see in a kids lunch, leave it to those crazy California transplants…

Our kids love their new life here, but really miss raw fish… So do we. Here’s an alternative, something we call our  CA/TN Roll thanks to our new-found knowledge in how to cure and smoke Tasso ham. The spicy Tasso seems to go with the seaweed and the vegetables, add the creamy mayo catfish and you’ve got something!

Tasso, pre-smoke

2 Cups sushi rice
2 Cups water
1/3 Cup Rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Sugar
a pinch of salt

1 Cup baked catfish flaked* you could also use fried chopped catfish if you so desire…
½ Cup diced Tasso ham (or more!)
1/3 Cup Mayonnaise (we know mayo isn’t traditionally Japanese – bear with us, this is a take-off on a California roll)
2 carrots cut into long matchsticks
1 cucumber (peeled) cut into long thin strips
1 big bunch spinach**
1 bunch red mustard**

8 sheets of Nori

Wash rice several times until water runs clear. Add rice and water to a pot with a tight lid or use a rice cooker. Bring rice and water to a simmer and cover. Turn the heat down to low and let sit for about ½ an hour.

Combine sugar salt and vinegar in a jar and shake well. Make sure the sugar is dissolved. Add the sugar salt and vinegar mixture to the cooked rice in a separate bowl and mix well. Set aside to let cool covered with a towel.

In another bowl, combine the catfish, Tasso ham and mayonnaise.

Set up your food preparation area and ingredients for the rolls prior to making them. Set out the rice, catfish/Tasso mixture, carrot, cucumber, spinach and mustard greens in separate or combined bowls.

Lay out a bamboo mat and cover with plastic wrap (we use a 1 gallon zip-lock bag). Place Nori on top of wrap and press rice mixture onto 2/3 of the sheet. In the center, lay a 1″ section of the catfish and Tasso mixture in a horizontal line on the Nori and rice. Lay carrots, spinach, cucumber and mustard along the catfish/Tasso mixture. Roll the Nori tightly with the bamboo mat and squeeze to get everything to stick together.

Release the roll and slice it into sections with a sharp knife. Eat the rolls the way you normally eat sushi. We like soy sauce mixed with wasabi, but in this case the red mustard is spicy enough to cover the kick we’d be looking for with the wasabi.


We don’t think that deep frying these rolls in a (tempura) batter would enhance health, but might be a tasty nod to the South and Tennessee, just sayin’.

* Bake the catfish until it flakes, about 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Sprinkle with salt and pepper prior to baking.

** Grown without chemicals at Pinkguitarfarm

Todd Bolton – Copperhead Road

10 Apr

The best way to see Middle Tennessee…

3 Apr

It was a busy Sunday morning at the farm. We’d finished morning chores and then hit the local home-building supply store for greenhouse infrastructure materials. No sooner had we finished lunch than the dogs started barking. In Middle Tennessee, when someone drives up your driveway they typically honk a few times. We didn’t hear any honking so we figured the dogs were barking because of Brad (it’s spring, Brad has been showing off and gobbling A LOT).

A quick peek out the window and this is what we saw.

It was Bob and Ann and they were out for a drive. Bob is a friend of ours; he’s our go-to guy when it comes to the hogs. He makes all flavors of fruit wine, a true vintner. He knows fine poultry when he sees it and negotiated a trade with me, bartering gave me two bottles of wine in admiration of my chickens – I was so thrilled by his gift, I gave him two hens. I got a bottle of blackberry and a bottle of strawberry, they are so pretty, I don’t want to open them!

Lucky for us, Bob and Ann asked us if we wanted to go for a ride!

We drove over into Hickman County and took in the beauty of the back roads, the creeks, the hills and the hollows.

Then we stopped to let the mules drink and the kids play in the creek. Though we traveled a mere 3 miles per hour, this wasn’t about ponderous plodding, oh, no! You should have seen the white knuckles on the wagon rails going down into the creek and later, back up to the road!

Though we had hours of work to do at home, this was much better for the mind and spirit.

Then we came across a horse and mule team with a lovely carriage driven by locals Sam and Michelle.

So we joined up with them and drove together. We got to meet new neighbors and see parts of the country we’d never seen before.

What a wonderfully relaxing Sunday! Of course, the work will still be there to do next weekend…

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