Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cured Salmon - Charcutepalooza Challenge 2

The second challenge in the Charcutepalooza competition was a further exploration of the salt cure.  I had my heart set on a pancetta and guanciale from the Ossabaw Island Hog that I have ready to go.  Fortunately for Sauage (the Pig) and unfortunately for Mrs. Wheelbarrow, the hog was given a stay of execution due to extensive business travel on my part.

Freddy & Daphne (That's right - Scooby Doo)
Of course this isn't a picture of Sausage, rather Daphne, who is one of our breeders for the Ossabaws.  (Sausage didn't care for a photo in January).  So after a long day at work I stopped and purchased a package of Steelhead Salmon for dinner and reserved a fillet for curing (OMG - Farmer John actually bought animal protein- no no no).  This leads us to the Salmon masterpiece for the Charcutepalooza challenge.  

Salmon & cure mixture
One of the tips I picked up from Charcuterie was adjusting the proportion of salt and sugar.  I've made Gravalox several times in the past where I've used a 50/50 mix of salt and sugar, but Michael & Brian have a much higher sugar content in their salmon cure.  The result is that more of the salmon flavor comes out in the final product.  I'm also terribly allergic to brandy, which is traditionally used and a light whiskey is a reasonable substitute.  Here's the final recipe that I used:

6 oz Kosher Salt
7 oz Table Sugar (Sucrose)
6 oz Brown Sugar
2 TBS Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
1 TBS Fennel Seed
1 TBS Dill Weed 
1/2 cup Canadian Club Whiskey
2 to 4 pound Salmon Filet

Salmon with Curing Mix
Rinse the Salmon with water and pat dry.  Mix the other ingredients in bowl with fork until pasty.  Slather all surfaces of Salmon with cure mix & cover with Saran Wrap.  Add weight on top of salmon and refrigerate for five to seven days, turning salmon every one to two days.  After curing, rinse with water, pat dry and slice thin for serving.  Can be stored in refrigerator for several weeks.

Weight on Salmon

After weighting, the salmon will release liquid into the cure mix, which is part of the osmosis process involved in curing and the compression from the added weight.  The net result is that liquid is added to the pan, which can spill over.  That's why the whole contraption is placed on a cookie sheet.

After curing, the salmon can be cut into thin slices and served with crackers, bagels, and of course displayed in mouth watering shots like the one below.

Mouth watering display of cured salmon and goose prosciutto
Did I mention that the salmon is mouth watering - and yummy to boot?

Cured Salmon - Charcutepalooza Challenge 2 on Punk Domestics

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brewing Update

The first keg has been tapped from our monster brewing session over the holidays.  This is the "Light" beer we created from the second portion of the Parti Gyle run.  It tastes like a combination of a pub style English Bitter and a light stout.  A touch of Chocolate malt is what gives it the black color without overpowering.  The bittering hops are pretty strong and it has just a touch of hop aroma.  I'm really pleased to see the head development on this one - a nice silky foam that you usually find in an authentic pub drawn beer.  I think I'll call this one Black & Bitter.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Getting the Garden in Gear

The first peppers are sprouting!  This is my (new) early warning system to get moving on the rest of the garden plans.  Peppers are one of the most frustrating plants to start from seed.  The garden shops make it seem easy when you pick up a six pack of young plants (like they just jump out of the potting soil), but there are few things as dull as waiting the six to eight weeks to watch a pepper plant sprout.  I usually wait a little too long in the season to get the seed flats started and then get overexcited and plant a whole bunch of vegetables at once, and of course everything takes off except the peppers.  By the time they are ready to harden outside the sun scorches them to nothing.

Early JalapeƱos
This year I got the jump and started them on New Year's weekend.  I figured it would be mid to late March by the time they were nice and leafy.  The row covers (and maybe hoop-house) should provide the freeze protection for the plants at that stage.  Now I just need to get the orders in for the covers and the rest of the seeds, start the rest of the early plants, rotate the pigs to till the garden, etc......

72 Pepper Plants?

Now what would I need with 72 pepper plants and 12 varieties?  What not is the better question.  They make you smile, drool, wince, cry, burn, sweat, and scream.  The hot ones are also good for bug control aside from awesome Salsa (check out my natural bug spray recipe).  They're going to be beautiful with the 72 tomato plants that I'll be starting in the next couple weeks.

Take note of my new labeling system.  It's from plastic pipe hanger.  I had a 100' roll lying around that cost a couple bucks - a whole lot cheaper than the arrow planter labels that cost a couple buck / dozen and always seem to disappear.  So far the sharpie ink is holding up well and I haven't noticed any fading.  Now I need an inexpensive outside labeling system that can hold up to sun bleaching.  Ideas appreciated.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

First Piglets

Our first piglets born on the farm were delivered this week.  Our adult Ossabaw Island Sow (Daphne) had four healthy piglets on Wednesday and they are all doing fantastic.  There are two color variations with the Ossabaws - Black and varied color.  We got three black and one multicolored piglet this time.

Four is a pretty small litter for pigs, but the Ossabaws throw pretty small numbers compared to the refined breeds that can easily produce over ten piglets in a litter.  This is due to the fact that the Ossabaw Island breed has been genetically isolated for 500 years and adapted to some pretty harsh conditions on the island.  I'm hoping to get slightly better numbers in warmer weather, however.

The Ossabaws are very hearty and don't need a lot of extra shelter.  The shed in the background was crushed in the blizzard last year, but the pigs aren't very picky on aesthetics.  Some dry hay and a little tarp covering and they are good to go.