That’s what you do with geeks who are low on the totem pole. Those of us who worked back in the day for a very, very large, and very, very well known ISP but managed to escape know this well.
Know what else you keep in the dark and feed (pasteurized, inoculated) crap? That’s right.
One of my gifts for the holiday. The instructions there say not to open the kit prior to the date on the box. That was the 25th, as is happened, the very day it was given to me. Handy.
Not much to look at, is it? I’d always thought it would be cool to grow our own mushrooms. We probably go through more of them than the average family, and being able to harvest them when we want or as we need always seemed rather nifty.
This is the base, which was moist and looked a bit like what you’d find in the bottom of a rabbit cage. But my friends, it smelled rich and loamy, the way I dream the soil outside for my gardening areas would smell were it something other than what mostly resembles beach sand.
On top of the base, in a separate package, was a bag of dry peat. The instructions said to pour a specific amount of water into this, mix it, and let it sit. So I did, for once, follow the instructions.
After allowing it to sit, then mixing it up well by hand, I had another batch of moist, rich material. Finally, the instructions said to spread this new moist material on the base, and then give it a little raking with a fork.
The raking roughs up the surface so the mushrooms can take hold – akin to the way a patch of ground needs to be prepared for grass seed, really.
After doing all this, the box, as is, goes into a cool, dark place. After a week or so, the mushrooms are supposed to begin germinating, and after a few weeks, they should be large mature enough to harvest. Do we have any germinating mushrooms in my closet, ready to burst out and consume the populations of small towns?
For a long time now, I’ve wanted to cure my own bacon. A lot of that desire came well before I lost the ability to consume bacon in amounts approaching a regular person’s consumption of it, but I can still gnaw on a small piece or two while everyone is chowing down like there is no tomorrow on a plate of fried porky goodness.
Finally, in the spirit of the new year and getting things done, here we go. The first thing we need is a decent sized piece of pork belly, skin on.
Next, the cure – and not the Robert Smith kind. Basic: salt, pink salt, brown sugar, and maple syrup.
Is this not going to make some kickass bacon? Just look at it. You can tell its potential by a single glance, where this belly longs to be made into something even more glorious it is right now.
Rub your belly well with the cure.
Bundle it up, and into the fridge it goes, turning every other day.
In about a week, it should be ready to go on the smoker.
When I ordered the belly, I also ordered some back fat.
Why, you ask, would anyone willingly order pork fat like this?
I had big, big plans for the two acorn squash I had picked up at the store: Baked, stuffed with a wild rice mix, and served as a side to a couple of seared balsamic-glazed, bone-in pork chops.
Sometimes things just don’t work out that way. The menu I’m saving for another day. The squash, though, had to be dealt with before they melted into goo on the countertop. That would have taken awhile, but better to address that sooner (when the squash would still be tasty) rather than later (when there would be a rather icky cleanup duty involved).
First things first: gather the ingredients. I decided a honey-soy glaze would work.
Cut into rings and remove the seeds. Since we are the composting types, the innards were saved for that.
Off they go to a baking sheet, awaiting their fate. Since they look like gears, it was amusing to play with the rings on the sheet, interlocking them.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Into the oven they go. Every so often, I brushed them with a mixture of honey, soy, ginger, salt, pepper, and lime juice. I also stepped outside to watch the approach of the first cold front that was to bring the deeper cold front a day or so later.
What a good dog, staying in the doorway as he was told! He’s a handsome devil, too.
The squash is tender and ready for anyone who wants it. I did. Delicious.
I am a huge fan of pizza, even though I rarely eat more than a bite or two these days. What true geek doesn’t like pizza and a nice caffeinated beverage to go with it? Pizzas are the staple of long support sessions, NOC cleanup/realignment nights, and gaming sessions. The fam loves pizza, and generally we do have homemade pizzas every ten days or so. We used to do that with pizza crusts bought from the store. Not now: homemade pizza dough, socked away in the freezer, stretched on a peel, and topped with all our favorite things is now the way.
Our newly revised forecast for tonight and the next couple of days.
Eighteen. Eighteen? That’s a little extreme. Our little kumquat tree, which has valiantly put out a couple of handfuls of fruit, will definitely need to be bundled up against this. Luckily, it’s just under four feet and won’t pose a problem.
Working backwards a bit: mom loves peach ice cream. Her favorite. Unfortunately, it isn’t peach season (and last year’s peach season wasn’t all that terrific). The solution? Frozen peaches. Not the best, but an acceptable substitute.
While we do a huge Thanksgiving meal, for Christmas it’s more of a buffet type of thing. People come and go, and eat if they want (or not, although that’s rare). This dinner was no different.
We have ham, roasted turkey, smoked turkey, potato salad, rice, fresh rolls, stuffing, cranberry compote, and gravy on the table. There was not a lot left at the end of the night, so yours truly did not get to nosh on leftovers for days on end.
It is a tradition here in the South to eat black eyed peas and greens on News Year’s Day, as a way of ensuring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. We hedge our bets and eat black eyed peas, rice (with some onion – also known as Hoppin’ John) and cornbread on the side on New Year’s Eve, with leftovers on the day itself, usually while watching one or more bowl games.
Cornbread – good cornbread – can’t be beat as a side. The best cornbread is made in a well seasoned cast iron skillet. Swirl some oil in the bottom of the skillet and toss it into the preheated oven for about five minutes or so. Remove it, pour off any excess oil, and in goes your batter. The trick is not to have too much oil in the skillet, or have the skillet be much too hot. This will lead to either a skin of oil on what will be the top of the cornbread (and a mushy top) or to burned cornbread. Neither of those is appetizing. Twenty minutes or so later, we have this.
When it comes out, we like to slather it with butter, top and bottom, before cutting into it.
And yet more butter on the slice you’ve taken.
And then: the rest.
My mom takes this a step further: she mixes up everything, chunks the cornbread into pieces on top of it, then eats it in one glorious mess o’ good luck.
To be more accurate, that should be three nights of freeze, but it comes down to the same thing: we will be dipping down into hard freeze temperatures for more than a few hours come the first few nights of the new year.
Altogether, that isn’t terrible, and certainly nothing compared to the tales that could be told by people in other parts of the country or world. But I don’t live there, I live here, and after almost a week of temps in the 70s (over 80 one day), the crazy nature of Florida weather once again rears its head for a reminder that there are actual seasons, even if we don’t see them all that much.
It’s that crazy nature that has the milder temp things popping up all over the place in my frames. Last year’s garlic was wiped out by the nonstop rains of a tropical storm, but this year’s garlic is motoring along with nothing more than an initial watering after planting and the occasional rain we’ve had – including the strong line of storms that moved through late last night as a precursor to the coming cold snap.
The strawberries are a bit off their schedule, too, with multiple plants flowering and putting out berries. They are everbearing plants, but this isn’t exactly the sort of thing we’d expected from them. And yesterday, we pulled the first pod from the snow pea trellis.
Mom judged the first one quite sweet, but alas, it didn’t taste like much of anything to me other than green. The smell, though, was fabulous: there is nothing quite like the fresh, earthy smell of something you’ve just pulled from the vine.
Tomorrow will be a test for me, to determine how best to cover the entire fenced area for the overnight hours. Some of the plants would survive a nuclear attack – thyme, I’m talking to you – but overall, I’d like to give all of the plants every opportunity to make it through the cold stretch and back into the more normal mild weather we usually enjoy down here.
There are few things in life for which I will get out of bed at 5:30 in the morning after going to bed around 3 or so. Since I’d not done a lot of the things I had wanted to do earlier in the week, there was quite a lot of prep and cooking to be done on the big day. I hauled myself out of bed and got my thoughts together.
One of the benefits of getting up before the sun is watching the sun come up over the barn and trees. On this particular morning, the colors were even more striking, as we were expecting rain and this lent an extra vivid start to the day.
The colors faded rapidly as the clouds moved in, and that was my hint to get started on what would be the real show of the day: the food.
Our family gatherings for Thanksgiving tend to be huge. Between family, friends, and assorted guests, in the past we’ve had up to 80 people at any one meal. This year, we were expecting to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 people. Between moves, sudden other engagements, scheduling conflicts, and miscellaneous issues like flat tires, we wound up with a much smaller, much more intimate gathering: 12 people, four animals.
This, when you think about it, can be a good thing, really. At times when there are dozens and dozens of people wandering around, sometimes it’s difficult to really touch base with some people you might not see very often. Now that we’re living further out in the country, it makes it doubly so.
The amount of food I’d planned did not change. That is, after all, one of the joys of a holiday like Thanksgiving: leftovers. Fewer people equals bigger doggie bags.
As I was spending most of my time cooking, one of my sisters wound up with the camera for much of the evening, so many of the photos here were ones she took throughout the festivities.
Mom had the right idea to start the day: coffee first, before anything.
Through the window, we could see the rain beginning to fall. Since we weren’t really planning anything outside, this was not weighing too heavily on our minds.
Fat Man was up first. Like Little Boy, he had spent a luxurious evening soaking in the brine. After a shower…
he was ready to meet his match: aromatics.
I like to keep it simple, and I don’t like to stuff my bird with stuffing (dressing, to those of us down here). Aromatics only, please, along with a good dose of this
under the skin. Finish with a nice rub of various spices, and the big guy is ready to go.
Except that we discovered a 20 pound bird will not fit into our standard roasting pans. A little improv, maestro, if you please: a giant steam tray, with racks in the bottom, made for a nice bed for the bird. And then, another problem: no twine. No problem.
Some judicious use of cheesecloth to tie the legs, a little tuck of the wings underneath, and we were okay to go.
Low and slow: the bird went in for his marathon cooking at 8 AM.
After some hours, his tan was shaping up nicely.
Not to mention creating some great drippings for gravy later.
Little Boy went on the smoker about half an hour after the big guy went into the oven for roasting. But the day is not just all about turkey, of course. There were also rolls to be made.
Fresh, day-of-event, pull-apart rolls.
Seriously, though, it’s the people. What would happen to all the food if they weren’t around?
Susi and Samir took a stroll about the grounds.
Gabrielle stayed inside and kept us company.
While Ricky and Mom also took a stroll outside and then came back in…
Gabs showed us how she was enjoying the mushroom turnovers.
Then she showed us all how to be quietly beautiful.
Ricky was very serious, or just looked like he was about to go into a coma, probably because he and Gabs had been at his mom’s earlier for an early dinner.
Barb arrived, alone, a few hours after her own early dinner with her group.
Frank arrived, either a bit out of focus, or the recipient of my sister dashing around snapping pictures right in everyone’s face. Probably the latter.
Angie looked fabulous, as usual.
All, right, I hear you: enough with the people. Where’s the food?
Tarragon pickled mushrooms and onions, crabcakes, mushroom turnovers.
These didn’t last long.
Or even those.
We also had assorted other stuff: sweet potato casserole, shrimp, stuffing (with and without sausage), mashed potatoes,apricot glazed carrots…
broccoli gratin , cranberry compote, brussels sprouts, those aforementioned rolls, crabcakes, and pickles. Everything was labeled.
Because you have to know what you’re eating. The ham is hiding over there on the right. The butternut squash soup is in the crock on the left.
There was also focaccia, which disappeared before a good picture could be taken, a hawaiian dessert that mom made that likewise disappeared, cinnamon raisin bread…
assorted cookies, fudge, pie.
After stuffing ourselves and watching more football, things finally broke up and everyone went home, no doubt to sleep and then get up in the middle of the night to tear off a piece of turkey as a midnight snack.
Overall, a highly successful evening. From this dinner, and for the next four days, I ate turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry compote, and gravy. Over and over, for each meal. Not a bad way to get some food into yourself.
I decided, rather on the spur of the moment, to convert the blog to WordPress. The thought has been brewing in my head for a bit now, even before the conversion to Movable Type 4. After dealing with the back end of MT in the latest version and trying to find certain options that should be readily apparent (but aren’t), and after converting someone else’s blog this evening from MT to WP, I decided to go ahead and – as the ads say – just do it.
This is not to say that everything is exactly the way I want it. There is still some tweaking to be done. But it certainly is easier to manage this, and there is no rebuilding after doing one little thing, only to find that you’ve screwed up and need to redo something, then having to rebuild yet again. There are a few things I like about MT, but the aggravation factor with WP is less, os it wins. I get enough aggravation from dealing with work.
I promise you this: Monday will bring about a post on Thanksgiving. With pictures.