Archive | July, 2007

Salami making

21 Jul

When I got the pigs I was all, “Yeah, I’ll be making proscuitto and salami.” But do I know how to make those items? Er, no.
Thank the dumpster gods, then, when William and I were knee deep in the Eccolo restaurant’s dumpster (the best d-ster in the East Bay because it’s such high quality) and one of the cooks came out to talk to us.
“Yeah, I got these two hungry pigs,” I told him, stuffing plate scraps into a bucket.
“You should really talk to Chris Lee,” he said.
“Is he the main chef?” I asked.
“Yeah, and the owner.”
A few weeks later I had to go to Sur la Table (meat grinder), and I stopped in at Eccolo and asked to talk to Chris.
A tall man with big eyes and a lovely soft-spoken manner came out to chat with me, the Insane Lady.
I told him about the pig project and confessed to dumpster diving, and could he help me learn about making salami?
Incredibly, his answer was yes.
This past week I began my salami tutorial with Chris. So far I’ve observed how to make a variety of pork-cured products: coppa, pancetta, salami, sausage, and proscuitto. Chris is a great teacher, he studied with Italian salami-makers and butchers. He’s one of the only chefs in the area who makes his own cured meat products.
Yesterday I stopped by to watch the salami get painted with penicillin and then Chris “opened up” a proscuitto. The big legs have been hanging in the breezeway for nearly two years! After Chris cut away the fat rind layer, underneath was a lovely deep red meat with streaks of fat. On a meat cutter, Chris shaved the meat into some fine ribbons. I had a momentary dilemma: I’m on the 100-yard diet. Can I really eat some of this meat?
In the end, the fact that this was just a taste, and Chris had worked on it for two years! Two years! I couldn’t refuse. It tasted nutty and rich on the top of the mouth, hearty and earthy.
Next time you’re at Eccolo, order the salumi plate. Ok?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go eat some fried vegetables or some crap.

Day 19

19 Jul

Jeez, time’s flying. Only 12 days before I can have a proper cup of tea. And some toast with butter….
Update on the huge blow-out $8 spending spree:
Headed to the Berkeley Farmer’s market on Tuesday. I don’t usually love the farmers market so much–too many people, shopping in general is lame–but as soon as I got off my bike, I felt delirious. So many options! So many well-fed people! My friend Jon! After my first pass, it was clear what I would be buying: wheat products. From Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm, I purchased two, 2-pound bags of flour (they mill it on the farm!), 1 pound bag of wheat groats. That took out $6. Which seems ridiculously cheap. I only had $2 left, so I bartered with the cheese lady (can’t remember their name, it’s not very good cheese) and she sold me a tub of cheese curds for two smackers. Suddenly I felt very rich. My eating future seemed brighter. On the ride home, I went limp when I realized I COULD MAKE BREAD! At home I started the process to make my own wild yeast starter. Should be ready in a few more days.

Day 15–Mid-point

15 Jul

I’ve really gotten used to this 100-yard diet. Another breakthrough yesterday: young squash. Though I hate to poach my growing Blue Hubbards, there are so many on the vines, I cut one. It was about football size, and I immediately went up to the kitchen, grated it, then pan fried it in duck fat with some coriander seeds. Heaven! With a little stewed plums on the side, it was the perfect sweet/savory combo. I didn’t have to eat all day.
The other big news is I sold one of the baby rabbits! A family with three girls came by to check out the chicks through a backyard gardening program Willow runs, and they spotted the rabbits. They have two at home and want more. I think the dad is secretly going to raise them to eat. Anyway, now I have $8 that I earned from the farm (it was me, after all, who bred them and made sure the mama took care of the youngins, and fed them lovely greens from the Chinatown dumpsters), so what shall I spend the money on? Obviously, I want to buy food. But only food directly from a farmer. And it’s going to be cheese, I think. Any suggestions?

Day 12

13 Jul

The Camellia sinensis arrived yesterday! In an act of pure caffeine-induced desparation a week ago, I ordered three of these tea plants over the phone from a nursery called Camellia Forest (www.camforest.com). Got the large leaf, small leaf and the assamica varieties. The plants arrived through UPS, and I promptly planted them in my front yard. Then I dashed upstairs and made some tea. According to the directions from Camellia Forest, to make green tea, you pick the leaves, let them hang for a few hours until they are limp. Next you steam or sautee them to prevent oxidation. The final step is to put the leaves in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. Did I get my buzz on? Kinda.
Other things learned from the 100-yard diet in the last few days:
-dried fava beans with preserved lemons, garlic, shallots, and some olive oil makes a good spread for lightly blanched cabbage leaves.
-best salad: roasted beets, apple chunks, hard-boiled egg, onions, lettuce, and olives.
-blackberries drizzled with honey: go there.
-stewed apricots are kind of weird.
-little ducklings don’t have much meat, but they do have some good fat.
In other news, the New York Times came to the farm yesterday and took photos of me and the pigs, me and the ducks, me and the chickens, me and the rabbits. I’m sure he thought I was insane. Look for the article at the end of the month.

Day 10 (almost)

10 Jul

Necessity is the mother of invention, and this 100-yard challenge has spawned some serious necessity. These days when I’m hit with a craving for something unobtainable, say, a big plate of pasta, I pick some squash blossoms, dip them in egg batter, fry them until golden and eat them with a sprinkle of preserved lemon juice. Or, for breakfast I handmill the corn kernels down (thank god I saved those cobs from last year), pour a little boiling water over the grain, then add a handful of shredded beets and an egg–and viola! beet cornmeal pancakes. I eat them with stewed plums and honey. It’s really brilliant. There are rough spots though, like a totally gross (almost) inedible fava bean stew. The horror. I wonder if the original reason recipes were written down and followed was not so much for taste, but to ensure food wasn’t wasted. I’m seriously thinking about all those survival books I read as a kid–My Island Summer, Little House on the Prarie, Call of the Wild, Julie of the Wolves, Sacajawea. I’ve been fascinated with the idea of living off your own inventions and skills.
Not that I’m not using modern technology. The other day I microwaved my peppermint/verbena tea. And a duck caught a chill (I’ve relocated them in a grassy area in the lot) from a long swim in the galvanized tub (he couldn’t get out) so I rushed him upstairs and used a blow dryer (it’s Bill’s, I swear) to dry him off and stop the shivering. He loved it! He moved his head around so the warm breeze would ruffle the feathers on top of his head. His down feathers had gotten wet, so he could’v died! Later, I spotted him from the window, puffed up, positively whiter than the others, and for the first time in my life, I thanked the person who invented the blow dryer.

Day 5

5 Jul

Oh lord. It feels like day 17. You know when that yoga lady tells you that you should give up coffee because it’s poisoning your temple, etc? And you want to tell her she should maybe saw off her legs? Well. After day five of the 100 yard farm feast, the searing headache and weird body aches, induced from caffeine withdrawals–have mostly cleared up. Yesterday, I felt kind of floaty and healthy. I’ve been eating a lot of apples, kale, potatoes, chicken, and salad. Still, I feel like there’s something lacking. And that is: butter. And pizza. And flour. Okay, I’ll stop.

Day 2

2 Jul


July 1 was all rabbit rabbit and excitement about the beginning of my month-long farm eating experiment. The rules are, I only get to eat things that I’ve grown, raised, or made myself. So that includes everything growing the garden, the garlic drying in the pantry, the preserved lemons and jam and olives I made many months ago. And of course the almost ready ducklings and rabbits. It’s a way to prove that one person can live off a little piece of land, and a way to really get connected to my garden. Instead of viewing the garden as a supplement, it’s now lifeblood. Of course this is only for a month and it seemed like it would be fun and challenging. Then I got the caffeine headaches.
It’s hard to get excited about picking salad and greens for lunch when your head is pounding. I thawed out a chicken I killed a few months ago, and baked it last night, but had such a bad headache I just went to bed instead. So I had breakfast roast chicken: Oh my god, it’s so good. Juicy and crispy on the outside. I’ll be eating it again tonight for dinner with some stewed Santa Rosa plums that are so tasty–bright and saucy, my mouth waters just thinking about them.