When you think of head cheese, do you think of a slice of meat, like a cold cut, that resembles a mosaic – assorted bits and pieces of cooked meat held in place by a lovely clear aspic.
That’s what we always thought of, too. So when we set out to make head cheese for the first time, that was the goal – something we could slice and serve on crackers or in hearty sandwiches on crusty bread.
Well, things didn’t turn out exactly as planned. But that’s the thing about learning something new – sometimes you get more out of the experience than you ever anticipated.
*** The following post eventually contains pictures that may be off-putting to some of you. If you are squeamish, you may want to have a less squeamish person read this post aloud to you. Although, in my opinion, if you eat it, you should know what it looked like before it was processed, prettified, and plastic-wrapped. But that’s just me. ***
A few weeks ago my niece, Natalie, texted me and asked when we could cook together again.
If you’ve been reading here a while, you’ve probably seen some of my other baking/cooking with Natalie posts…we’ve made Chocolate Pound Cake, Fresh Mozzarella, Dorie Greenspan's Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrownies, and also Dorie Greenspan's Chipster Topped Brownies. (Can you see the chocolate theme that flows, river-like, through out baking adventures?) Bill and I also went down to my sister’s house and taught Natalie (and my sister) to make Chiang Mai Soup, which features Thai red curry paste. Natalie’s very adventurous in the kitchen – I’m sure she inherited that from me diagonally across the genetic pool. Or something like that.
Anyway, I figured the school break in February would be most convenient for everyone involved, and asked what she wanted to do.
Last Friday night Bill and I went Out. We don’t get Out very often, and this night Out was much anticipated, not only because it was, as I already indicated, a rare night Out, but because it was to be a night Out at Chez Pascal.
Many thanks to our dear friends John and Phoebe for the gift certificate AND for watching Alex and Julia that night.
Truly one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had.
Today, after simmering the skull for another bunch of hours yesterday, I will be picking the last of the meat off it and finally making the head cheese and the scrapple. I’m also cooking the broth down a bit more to concentrate the gelatin.
I found out a bit more about the pig we are processing. I thought, when Bill referred to the skull as “Boris” the other day that he’d just come up with a fairly appropriate-sounding name for a large pig with trimmed tusks and slightly rodent-like front teeth. Turns out the name was more than appropriate, it was the pig’s real name.
After running a bunch of errands this morning, I’m right this very minute finishing up a bialy and psyching myself up for the next step on the road to headcheese.
There’s a pig’s head in our fridge.
And a lot of bones, and assorted portions of the rest of the pig. The organic, well-fed, no hormones or other yucky stuff in it, pig.
Yeah. We start processing later today, and I’ll be sharing as much of it as I can.
And a little intimidating.
But mostly exciting.
A bit of what I’ve been up to today. These are the good ones. I’ll be putting them in my etsy store later today or tomorrow, once I’ve cropped the individual pictures.
I’ve also got a bunch of sub-par rings that I’ll cut up so I can salvage the beads. Except one that I sort of like and might just keep for myself, as I don’t mind the flaws it has.
Here are some individual shots….
I’m so glad to be baking with the whole Tuesdays with Dorie group again! After finishing Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, From My Home to Yours in 2011, they decided to keep baking, and what better book to tackle next than the fabulous Dorie Greenspan/Julia Child collaboration, Baking with Julia.
I don’t remember if I’d ever mentioned that Alex is learning to play the violin at school.
We’ve decided that it’s about time Julia, who is learning classical guitar here at home, should quit slacking and learn another instrument, too.
~~~ I’m so glad I’m not a politician or a football player. I would hate having things I say taken out of context, and I would hate being blamed for losing the Super Bowl.
~~~ I see families that go out to eat in restaurants, and the parents just let their kids totally trash the table, the floor, and then they leave. Yes, it’s nice to go out to eat and let someone else cook and do the dishes, but it’s hideously rude to create a huge, gross mess for someone else to clean up, just because you can. Do the people that let their children open all the sugar packets and dump the sugar (or artificial sweeteners) in a pile on the table allow this same behavior at home? Or do they save that for special occasions?
~~~ Sometimes trying to be vigilant about only buying organic, and only buying meat from animals that were raised humanely and only fed good stuff, and not buying anything genetically modified, or anything with fake stuff in it…sometimes it gets exhausting. But it’s worth the battle. And I’m teaching my kids to be vigilant as well. It’s hard, because sometimes the bad stuff tastes so yummy. But I am talking to Alex about how to read ingredient labels, and how, if you can’t pronounce it, it probably isn’t something you need to eat. I’m just glad the kids like most vegetables and fruits. And that they’re open to trying new things. And that they know where food comes from. I think I’m giving them a good start.
~~~ It’s February (really?) and do you know what that means? No, not Groundhog Day. No, not Valentine’s Day. It’s Time To Plant!! We’ll be starting onions and leeks this week – perhaps even today! YAY!!! It’s SPRING!!! Well, in my world it is.
~~~ Julia likes to demonstrate her maturity by remembering to put her cereal bowl and spoon in the dishwasher without being asked. I like it. I like it a lot.
~~~ Alex is saving his money. He wants to buy a cell phone. I’m on the fence about him having one at this age. He says some of his friends have them. Anyone out there care to weigh in on this? Pros and cons? If I did put him on our plan, it would be very limited. But do I really need to or want to at this point in time? I really try (or WE, Bill and I, really try) to limit the amount of “plugged in” time for our kids. I’d rather they run around outside and rip new holes in their jeans playing football or kickball than get carpel tunnel syndrome before they’re teens because they play too many DS games. In fact, my kids don’t own those hand-held games. The closest they can come is playing Frogger on my husband’s cell phone, which they haven’t done since I don’t remember when. We have a Wii, and they play with that, but not constantly. We don’t have any angry birds in our home. (Just outside, when the squirrels eat all the food.) Instead, I tell them to read a book. Or practice guitar. And, in Alex’s case, violin. Or draw. Or play with the zillions of toys they have. (Zillions may be too high a number, now that we’re planning a yard sale when the warm weather arrives.) Julia asked for a DS for Christmas, but Santa chose not to grant that request. And really, Julia wasn’t the least bit upset about it. She got really cool boots, after all!
~~~ I’m going to make another batch of frozen yogurt today. Strawberry. Maybe Alex will like this one – I used 2% milk instead of whole. So maybe it won’t taste as “yogurty” to him. Whatever that means. I’m just bound and determined to create a yogurt or frozen yogurt that he’ll like. I don’t know why. I’m just…stubborn. Or stupid. Take your pick.
~~~ That’s it for now. Have a fascinating day!
That’s right – the word “homemade” is in there twice. That’s because I made the frozen yogurt with yogurt I made a few days ago.
I’ve only made my own yogurt a few times so far, and you certainly can use store-bought yogurt to make the frozen recipe….but it’s kind of extra cool to doubly home-make something.
And besides, it’s so easy to make yogurt.
We’ll start there.
The first time I tried making yogurt, I followed a recipe a friend of my sister’s had given her. My sister had been making her own yogurt for a while, and I felt like I should be making my own yogurt, so I gave the recipe a try.
You heat the milk to 180 F, then let it cool down to 116 F, add in some good quality plain yogurt, let it sit, warm, overnight or at least 6 hours, and – ta da! Yogurt.
So I did that. I wrapped the pot in a towel and kept it in a warmed (but off) oven overnight. And I really expected success, just because I’ve been able to make various cheeses with similar procedures.
But it didn’t work. Way too thin…basically just milk with yogurt stirred in. I figure the mixture didn’t stay warm enough for the cultures in the yogurt to do their thing.
I wanted to try again, but I didn’t want to end up with thick milk again. I know they sell those yogurt maker things, but I don’t need one more THING cluttering up my counters or pantry or cupboards or floor or anywhere else. And if you can make yogurt in a pot, then I figured there has to be another relatively inexpensive, low-tech way.
Maybe a crock pot? I figured that the key was to keep the milk sufficiently warm the whole time. Bacteria – good and bad – need warmth to multiply. Don’t we all? But I digress.
Anyway, I went looking around on the internet briefly, and there are plenty of sites that tell you how to go about it.
The one I chose came from a website I already visit on a daily basis (and probably should have checked out first, duh). It’s Chickens in the Road, and I admit it – I live vicariously on a farm in West Virginia through the magical words and pictures of author Suzanne McMinn. She makes cheese (with milk from her own cow, sigh…) and so of course she would have made yogurt at some point, right? Right. You can see her recipe – which I followed to the letter – right here.
I heated my milk to 180 F, which, in my crock pot, on high, took about 2 hours and twenty minutes, maybe a smidge longer. Then I dropped the temp to 116, mixed in the yogurt, covered the pot back up again, wrapped it in a towel, and left it overnight.
In the morning, it looked like this:
I mixed in Chobani 2% plain yogurt, by the way. One cup.
Next, I strained it briefly, just to get rid of the excess liquid. If you strain it for several hours, you can make yogurt cheese. But I wasn’t looking to do that.
Anyway, the yogurt tasted really good, and it went very quickly. So I made more.
And I’d been thinking that once I got the hang of yogurt making I could make my own flavored yogurts to send with the kids to school.
(Going off on a tangent now, but just a brief one.)
Julia loves yogurt, but Alex is pickier about it, and I really want him to have yogurt, so I’ve been (gulp) buying those yogurts in a tube. Sigh. And I don’t like doing it. But I was figuring the probiotic benefits outweighed the added fake crap risks. But even when I told myself this, I didn’t buy it. But I still kept buying the tube things anyway, because Alex would eat them.
And then I got tired of myself caving to pressure from a 9-year-old and stopped buying them.
But I thought…for whatever reason, yogurt in a tube is appealing. So maybe, with my homemade version, I could find a way to make that work…and I tried to think of something I could use as a tube, since I haven’t learned to manufacture BPA-free plastic yet.
All this was going through my mind over the past several months, which, as you may or may not know, is also the time frame of much of our sausage-making.
Can you see the leap my silly brain made? Yeah. I admit it. For a fraction of a second, I thought, “what if I cooked the hog casings……..”
Don’t worry, I didn’t follow through on that. I’m giving up the whole stupid tube idea anyway. Sure, it allows you to eat the yogurt on the go…but really, how often does anyone need to dash around and eat a yogurt without a spoon? It’s not like my kids sit in class and slurp. No, the food I send to school is eaten at lunch time, in the lunch room. They can use spoons.
So I bought a bag of Wyman’s frozen blueberries (they’re the tiny little wild blueberries – my favorites) and figured I’d get some blueberry yogurt made soon.
Until I decided to make FROZEN blueberry yogurt.
My path to that decision was a bit convoluted as well (as all my paths seem to be), but that’s not relevant at the moment, and I’ve rambled on enough for one day.
So I looked around online again for frozen blueberry yogurt recipes, and after reading a couple, I made up my own. I cleaned off my ice cream maker, stuck the insert in the freezer, and yesterday (after a good 36 hours for the insert in the freezer), I got to work.
First, I needed yogurt. I used 3 cups.
Then I mixed together blueberries (about a cup and a half or 8 ounces), sugar (I used a cup, but I plan to reduce that next time and keep reducing it with subsequent recipes until I find the minimum amount I need.), lime juice (acidity brightens the flavor), maple syrup (think blueberry pancakes – it works, right?) and warmed them in a pot on the stove until the sugar dissolved. I smashed the blueberries somewhat, too. Then I let the mixture cool for about ten minutes in the fridge.
Next, I combined the blueberry mixture with the yogurt. Now, at this point, I could just put everything in the fridge and we could eat it as is. It’s yummy.
If you don’t believe me, believe Julia – she was “helping” me.
And practicing her moves.
But we kept going. I set up the ice cream maker and poured/scraped the blueberry yogurt in. I let Julia have the spatula and the bowl.
About twenty minutes later….
Frozen yogurt! Yay!
Julia and I had to taste it a couple of times, just to be sure the flavor was consistent with every bite.
Then I portioned out the rest of the yogurt into these freezer jam containers that I have and never use any more. Perfect use! I’m rather pleased with myself about that idea.
I gave a full one to Julia, one to Alex, and gave Bill a spoonful because he was too full from dinner to eat any more than that. Alex didn’t finish his, so I ate the rest.
I’m SO excited to make more, and to portion everything into these little freezer jam containers.
I’ve got a new batch of milk in my crock pot. I should have yogurt by tonight, and I’ll be able to make a new flavor tomorrow.
It will involve chocolate.
For now, here’s my recipe for the blueberry version….
Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
1 1/2 cups wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar (or less. I’m dropping it to 3/4 of a cup next time.)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons lime juice
pinch of salt
3 cups Greek style yogurt, preferably made from whole milk, but that’s up to you
What to do:
1. Combine blueberries, sugar, maple syrup, lime juice and salt in a small pot over low heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Mash the blueberries. Remove from heat and cool in a bowl in the fridge for about twenty minutes.
2. Combine yogurt with blueberry mixture. If you don’t want any whole berries in your frozen yogurt, puree everything in your food processor or in a blender or with an immersion blender. Pour your blueberry yogurt mixture (smooth or chunky version) into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It should take about 20-25 minutes to churn.
3. You can either eat it now or freeze it if you’d prefer a firmer dessert.
I should have been born second.
In all the books I read, it was always the second sister who looked up to and admired her fabulous, amazing older sister. Of course, some of the time these older sisters were horrible and shallow, but I didn't pay attention to that. I just wondered what I was doing wrong. I didn't see anything fabulous about me, and I wished I was more like my younger sister.
That doesn't seem to have ended.
The other day I was talking to her on the phone and she said she needed to buy a mandrel because she'd been making rings - wire-wrapped rings - and was having a hard time getting the sizes right.
Wire wrapped rings?
I wanted to make rings, too!