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Help Sould Food Farm – buy some chicken!

September 28th, 2009 Comments off

Soul Food Farm in Vaccaville recently had a devastating fire that destroyed several structures and killed some 1000 chicks. They need all the help they can get to rebuild and keep going at what they’re doing, pasture raised poultry and eggs.

There are several events in the planning, from an auction to fancy dinners, all to benefit the farm and the rebuilding process. Check out their blog for more information about the events or just drive out there to help or buy some chicken and eggs! The quality is outstanding, to wet your appetite I’ll post a couple pictures of one chicken we made on the BBQ recently, meaty, juicy and very tasty:

Categories: Cooking, General Tags:

Making Bavarian style Ham Sülze

September 28th, 2009 2 comments

I love Sülze, here better known as head cheese or something in aspic. Every butcher in Bavaria has different kinds of Sülze, typically using cuts and bits and pieces that come from the head or other parts, things that can’t be sold as is and are maybe too good to put in a sausage. These dishes more or less resemble a tasty use of what ever is left over after a pig has been butchered. Thus the name head cheese, as it’s mostly made of the meaty parts one finds on the head of the pig.

Since returning from our Germany trip (see prior posts) I had a craving for some kind of Sülze, and as I had bought a couple books about sausage making that also contain recipes for Sülze I decided to have a go at it.

Sliced zucchini, carrot, diced peppers and a peek at the still packaged ham on the upper right

Sliced zucchini, carrot, diced peppers and a peek at the still packaged ham on the upper right

I had found a small pre-sliced boneless ham at Safeway that seemed just like the right thing to use for this experiment. I also had some peppers, yellow zucchini, and carrots that I had to use up. The zucchini were sliced with my little OXO hand slicer, a handy tool if I don’t want to set up the mandoline. Some of the carrots were also sliced thinly, the rest and the peppers were diced. I poached the vegetables briefly to soften them up a bit w/o loosing the crunch. The ham was cut into little strips, having a presliced ham made this a quick and easy task.

The most authentic way to make these kinds of terrines is to use fresh gelatine made from bones, feet, sometimes the ears etc. Simmered like a stock for a long time, it makes a very tasty gelatine, though it will not be clear. As I had none of those ingredients and this was just a test run I used Knox Gelatine from a box, using 3 packages made according to the package instructions but also adding some vinegar to give it a little taste.

The forms ready to be filled with the ham mix

The forms ready to be filled with the ham mix

To make the terrines I first lined the insides of two glass dishes with clear plastic wrap, this helps in later removing the Sülze from the form (though it also leaves imprints of the folds and creases and I might skip this next time).
The forms where then lined with the thin sliced raw zucchini and carrots to make a pretty pattern on the outside once everything had set and was turned over for serving.

I mixed the ham, peppers and some sliced green onion with vinegar, salt and pepper, basically making a sort of sausage or ham salad. Once I was happy with the taste I filled the baking dishes with my ham mix, and poured the gelatine mix over it to cover. An other go with the pepper mill and it was ready to be covered with more plastic wrap, making sure it covered everything tightly, then off to the fridge to set over night.

The finished Sülze cut in half

The finished Sülze cut in half

Everything set up nicely and we had a couple slices for lunch the next day. I served it with freshly sliced onion, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. While not quite as good as what I had in Germany, it turned out great for a first try! I definitely have to crank up the spices, as this is eaten cold. I will also add more vinegar to the sausage mixture next time, maybe some fresh herbs. A fun project that can turn out very pretty food with not too much work, though it has to be made several hours or better a day in advance. One can also add hardboiled eggs or just about anything else that works as a cold dish and is strong enough to hold it’s shape.

I’m not sure I’d do the decorative pattern again, it had a somewhat dated 1950es or 60es look to it. Of course one can come up with all kinds of decorations and layerings here, fun to play with. I will also make this with other meats, chicken works great, as well as with only vegetables. Some butchers sell this in thick slices, some sliced very thin. I prefer the later, but you pretty much need a meat slicer for that as things tend to break loose when cutting even with a very sharp knife. Serve with some great crunchy bread and a cold beer!

Plated with fresh sliced onions as garnish

Plated with fresh sliced onions as garnish

The whole sülze, removed from the form and inverted

The whole sülze, removed from the form and inverted

A close up look at the Sülze before it was removed from the form

A close up look at the Sülze before it was removed from the form

Categories: Cooking Tags:

BBQ Pork Chops

September 28th, 2009 2 comments

Earlier this year I was part of a group of 7 that got together to buy a Berkshire pig from Wind Dancer Ranch in California. They raise these pigs free range or pastured on their family farm, along with turkeys, sheep, rabbits and more. Very friendly people and I hope to visit the ranch some day.

2 inch pork chops read to go

2 inch pork chops ready to go

I finally got around to thawing and cooking some of this excellent pork Sunday night. Among the parts I received were some enormous pork chops, each 2 inches thick! To get a real taste of the meat I simply brushed them with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I scored the fat layer – sadly the skin was removed since they don’t have the facility (yet) to scald and de-hair the pigs.

I fired up the trusty weber and got a good hot fire going, then seared them all over on hight heat before moving them to the cool side and closing the lid. I had them standing on a side with the fat on top, so as to allow the rendered juices to baste the chops while they cooked, turning them occasionally. I also added one chunk of hickory to give a bit of a smoke. I did not want to get it too smoky so as not to overpower the meat.
For various reasons we did not make it to the farmer’s market on Sunday and I had to make do with what I had in the fridge. Some great little carrots were roasted in butter and olive oil with a good glug of maple syrup. First on the stove top, then in a 300 degree oven until tender. I left the oven on in case I needed to finish the meat off the bbq, which was pretty hot but worked out just fine. I also had an English cucumber and some cherry tomatoes and some baby daikon which I used for salads.

Daikon is quite popular in Bavaria where you can often buy it spiraled or sliced with a good helping of salt to make it “bleed” and relax some of it’s hotness. It’s called “Radi” and can be found in many beer gardens and at the many beer festivals. The cucumber and tomato salad had a simple red wine vinaigrette and the daikon just salt and a dash or two of seasoned rice vinegar.

on the grill

On the grill

The meat took a while to get up to temperature, I took it off the grill when it reached about 145 degree and let it rest for a couple minutes. It had developed beautiful color and some of the fat had actually turned a bit crunchy, even without the skin. No real crackling, but certainly very good. I de-boned the chops and cut them into pieces, served with the salads and carrots, a nice glass of Sierra Nevada Kellerweis. Very tasty meat, tender and sweet, I’m very pleased with the quality. And while you can often buy good quality pork at Costco or in the supermarket, it’s nice to know that this one had a happy life with lots of sunshine and roaming around outside!

We finished all the meat (two adults, a 6 and a 2 year old) and salads. I had expected left over meat, as I’ve never seen such gigantic chops, but it was just too good! A great quick dinner with little work.

I have two more of these monsters in the freezer, I think next time I’ll try an oven roast on a bed of onions, serve some Knödel (Bavarian potato dumplings) with them and a green salad.

Some more images:

carrots sizzling away in some butter and olive oil with maple syrup

Carrots sizzling away in some butter and olive oil with maple syrup

hot off the grill, resting and waiting for the knife

Hot off the grill, resting and waiting for the knife

sliced and ready to be plated

Sliced and ready to be plated

dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

Categories: Cooking Tags: