Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where I've Been and What I've Been Doing

Needless to say, last week was really, really insanely busy! I am sure you noticed this since I made no postings last week. I have been running around doing all sorts of fun things and having more food adventures with Annie. I am going to give out a warning to the squeamish now, this posting contains pictures of sausage making. If you are meat adverse, now is the time to consider if you want to keep reading this posting. The last picture before the meat ones will be of the balcony garden seedlings, so know that is your cue to exit if you don't want to be subjected to the meat photos.

Last week was mostly centered around Wednesday night's Student Salon performance. I decided on Sunday night that my coin bra was suddenly not up to par. I had the lofty goal of taking it all apart and redoing it in time for the Wednesday night performance. Needless to say, I got the old bra taken apart, new materials purchased, but no new bra in time for the salon. As we speak, the buckram lined bra is uncovered, with only the shoulder straps in place and all the adornments are zipped away into plastic bags. I am hoping to pick this back up tonight with my chronic Olympic coverage habit. I did get a picture or two of myself after the show. I am going to part with tradition, and post a picture of myself on the blog. Please ignore the red eye as I am not able to edit it out well enough for it to not look weird.

It was my first time in a Fat Chance headdress. I was so excited to get to wear it, and while hot and a bit itchy, it was a very neat piece of costuming. I think that perhaps I will have to wear one sometime at Belegarth. I do have to admit that it changes your dancing slightly as your center of gravity is a bit off from where you are used to having it due to the extra weight at the top of the body. It also helped to drive the point home about air space around your head, neck, and shoulders and reinforced the need for gentle arm curves in all moves.

Other things were busy this week too, mainly all the plants are springing to life.I am wondering if I started them a tad too early as they have really taken off fast! The Aerogarden was an overall success. The seeds have all germinated except for the chives. I find this to be no real loss as the chives in the window box seem to still be clipping along. I think that they are going to get stripped out of that box and placed into their own pot that I can bring indoors during the winter. The dill has taken the lead, but the mint is not too far behind. The basil is just starting to peek out, but I am sure it will spring up fast soon. The roots are already showing out of the sponge medium. The window box greenhouse has been very successful. Most things have sprouted and are already ready for transplanting. The tomatoes can use more time in the indoors and then into temporary pots inside, but the peas, cucumbers, and zucchini are already rather large. I am wondering if I started them a bit too early! only two of the beans have germinated, and I hope that at least four others sprout soon. I would like to get them into the trellis as well. I am wondering if I should take the zucchini and cucumbers into their permanent pots and trellis now and then baby them through the nights by bringing their pot indoors after sundown for a while. The herbs are also started, and this time I am determined to keep my Mediterranean herb plants happy. I bought some vermiculite to try to dry out the soil faster so they do not get so water logged again. I am also adding packaging peanuts into the bottoms of the pots this year to promote better drainage. The peanuts are lighter, so the weight of gravel or something along those lines will not be a factor on the balcony. It is also a nice way to recycle something that otherwise will take up landfill room. I hope that I can scrounge up some more soon as the planting is going to really take off soon, and I need to get the drainage systems set up.

Ok...... Now on to the Sausage! If you are not a meat person, now is the time to sign off, and I will see you again soon! If you are a meat eater, read on to Annie and Amy's adventure in sausage making!

Annie's beau works on one of our many watersheds, and they have many invasive species that must be eliminated from the habitats. One such creature are the wild pigs that roam around rooting up the soil and disturbing earthen dams and the like. This rooting also destroys habitats and plants, so they have a person who comes in to remove these pigs. We happened to have one such pig be offered to Annie and Ian, and my logical conclusion was to make sausage out of it. Annie found a great recipe for wild boar sausage, and while we had a sow, we figured it would work just as well. We had 15 pounds of meat and jowl fat to grind together and then place into casings. Annie pressed the KitchenAid grinder into service.... literally. While not a great grinder, it did at least get the job done after a long time. Thankfully Ian helped as I was not there for this tedious process. She mixed the meat and fat with red wine, whole fennel seeds, toasted fennel, local sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. Our taste portion was amazing. It smelled so good, and I had visions of this sausage on pizza with caramelized onions dancing in my head!

After a night soaking up all the flavors, Annie made the tip out to Oakland to stuff the sausages into their natural casings. You truly do not realize how much meat fifteen pounds is until it is staring you in the face. We then opened up the casings we had bought two weeks before starting the project. They smelled rather rank and awful. We were not sure if they were still good. I had read out on the web that they would smell, but this seemed unreasonable. So, we went on a trip back to the butcher to make sure we were not going to kill ourselves and loved ones with bad casings for the sausage. Needless to say, we were giggled at and informed that, yes, they do really smell that way. It was fine to use them. So, we returned back to the house and began the set up. The KitchenAid had the food grinder attachment placed back on, and the sausage stuffer placed on the front. The casings were then slipped onto the front, we tied it off and started stuffing. After a while we got the hang of it and things went really fast.

A few words on the KitchenAid attachment for stuffing the sausage. We had a few problems in the middle of the stuffing process. One of these problems is that the attachment does not house into the machine very well. Once we were getting the hang of things I was pushing into the attachment too hard, and it ended up slipping off the machine twice. If you are getting a hang of the stuffing process, don't push harder to make things go faster, just take the machine up to level 4. It goes just as well as two but faster, and you can keep using the same amount of pressure as before. Also, it is really important to not put too much meat into the hopper at a time. One inch balls of meat worked beautifully, and it never seemed to clog up or anything for us as happens to other people. The other thing I would also say is to not over stuff your sausage. Yes immature jokes can abound here.... I know we made a lot when discussing this project! While I have not tried mine yet as I am trying to adhere to the curing process, Annie has cracked into some of hers. She had problems with the cooking time as there was just too much sausage to cook, and being a wild pig, we need to make sure that the meat is thoroughly cooked due to all the nasty illnesses it could be carrying. Overall, this is a project I would do again, especially if we get free meat like we did this time. I am also not sure if my opinion of this project would change if I had to grind all that meat and fat together. I think Annie would have to give a better opinion on that side of the project. We ended up with a lot of sausage though, and if you are going to tackle something like this, I say make a big batch! I will update you all on what they turned out like after the curing is over, and we eat some of them.

I hope this really long posting helps to makeup for the silence last week. Look for finished bag pictures tomorrow and more garden pictures as that gets set up.

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