While it’s a cliché to talk about the weather, it matters here. We’ve had cool evenings with low humidity, and we know that there can only be a few seconds, last gasps if you will, of this Spring-like weather left before Summer rolls in. For the rest of the country, Summer IS outside time, but down here? Unless you’re in a pool or creek to cool off…notsomuch.
The sticky, humid, broiling, bug infested Summers of the South force everyone indoors, since sitting motionless in the shade, or after sundown may still cause profuse sweating. Ah, 95% humidity…I know you’re coming, and I’m not wasting time. Not. One. Single. Moment.
We installed some outdoor string lights, and it has made an enormous difference in our evenings. We can see to eat without lighting 20 candles and I don’t have to wear a headlamp to take the dog to the bathroom. It’s the little things….so here’s just a few snaps of where we’ve been spending all our free time.
Cool nights make for good treehouse sleeping……
I’d say we have eaten 70% of our meals outside this past month….and cooking them out there too.
By now, most local Nashvillians have heard of Olive & Sinclair Chocolate. They are the only bean to bar chocolate maker in the South, and they are now giving tours of their small operation on Friday afternoons. I’d been looking forward to taking the Things there since we booked it a week ago, and we were not disappointed.
It’s so wonderful to see people working at something about which they are so passionate, and these guys clearly love their job. The owner, Scott was out of town, but his 2 colleagues seemed to have it all well in hand. Please excuse my very poor phone photos…
I don’t want to give away all the fun facts from the tour for those wanting to go, but I will share a couple of tidbits. They use a coffee roaster obtained from Nashville’s own Bongo Java for their cacao beans (from both Ghana and the Dominican Republic), and there is ZERO waste. They are able to trade or donate all of their cacao shells and nib dust to local breweries like Yazoo for chocolate beers, or local farmers as mulch, etc.. Nothing is wasted and they make every effort to work with local artisans in any way possible.
These bourbon barrels from local distillery Corsair are used to flavor the new Bourbon Nib Brittle that was available for tasting…divine!
We couldn’t see the bars actually being made because only 4 people run this whole operation, so they have to shut down so they can give the tour! The video at the bottom from the O & S website does show it all, so check it out.
You know we came home with some of that goodness. The Things went safe with the 67%, I went for the nibs, and the CC likes it spicy.
When we asked if we could have a couple of cacao beans for Thing 2 to take to his share at school, they gave us a whole bag along with some samples for the kids to taste! So nice and generous. I think Thing 2 will be getting some high fives at school this week!
Not only is it the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted, but the most beautiful, hand wrapped packaging, and super nice people with a great business philosophy to boot. No, this is NOT a sponsored post, but I am a superfan…obvs.
If the weather keeps up this wacked out pattern, it will be berry season in two weeks. So, in order to prepare you for the possible early bounty of climate change, let’s make some mascarpone to go with those early season berries!
We are not experts, this is just what we did and we liked the result. It’s one of the easiest cheeses to make as long as you get the right ingredients.
1 Quart of half and half or other light cream…Pasteurized is fine, but NOT ultra-pasteurized. If it’s UP, it will say so on the bottle/carton. I found some at Fresh Market, I’m sure Whole Foods has it, and if you have a raw milk source…I’m sure that would be amazing..haven’t tried it yet. For the record, we did make a batch with half ultra-pasteurized whipping cream and half regular pasteurized milk, and it worked, but didn’t perform as well.
1/4 teaspoon of Tartaric Acid…NOT Cream of Tartar. Locally, I’ve been told All Seasons Gardening and Brewing carries it. We got ours from a cheesemaking kit we had forgotten about! Some people like to make it with lemon juice, but we decided to stick with what our cheesemaking book told us.
So don’t you like how both of the ingredients involve me getting all bossy about what NOT to get? Do you know how easy it is to typo MasCRAPone? Yeah, I thought so. Moving on…..
Get a double boiler going and heat the cream until the temperature reaches 185°. Add your Tartaric Acid, whisk, remove from the heat and pour into a sieve topped with moistened layers of fine cheesecloth or butter muslin. Let cool, and refrigerate covered for about 12 hours. Best used within a week…Enjoy!!
Yum. I added fresh mint to one batch and it was nice, but not as minty as I was expecting. The cheese overwhelmed it a bit. (Yes, I actually have mint right now..crazy). Experiment with flavors you like and have fun.
2/10/12 UPDATE: I had a batch recently that wasn’t as smooth in texture as I wanted, and by putting it in a small food processor (a stick blender might work too) the texture smoothed out and fixed it!
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving…we did, and we’ve been too tired to even THINK about gearing up for Christmas around this house. Our neighbors were putting up their Christmas Tree yesterday (Friday) and all around town I see cars with trees on top and we’re still scrubbing out the turkey fryer.
I must rally, but it just seems too soon. I know December is NEXT week…late Thanksgivings always make me think I have more time than I do….
Blurry phone pic of Turkey Day dessert….flourless chocolate cake. Onward to Christmas…..
Gloomy, rainy Sundays are made for cooking, so we decided this particular weekend, we would dive into the world of home made sausage. I will warn you now that there is some graphic content, so unless you want to have “the talk” with the wee ones, read this all by your lonely.
Because we are nerds, I got something very exciting (to me) for my birthday awhile back. A meat grinding attachment and a sausage stuffing attachment for the stand mixer. I know, some gals get excited about a pair of Louboutins for their birthday, and I get excited about meat processing. We are a high class crew over here.
Modern Thrifter sent me this apropos vid that I had forgotten about completely. Perfecto! If I can only have Kramer’s flair whilst grinding meat, I will have achieved great success in life.
I’m a Ruhlman fan, so there wasn’t any way I wanted to tackle my first snausage without his input. While we didn’t have the fancy commercial gear he has, we soldiered on. He’s got more about it here. The second book is also highly recommended and it’s pretty serious. Meat dudes in the know. The CC is suitably impressed with them and their scientific approach.
BTW, you can’t work in volume for this stuff, you’ll need to have a scale to measure ingredients by weight. Sausage making and pastry actually have more in common than you’d think.
For our first attempt, we decided on a pork and sage pesto sausage. In looking at recipe ideas, a classic pork/sage sausage and a simple garlic sausage recipe were combined by using my sage pesto which has garlic, sage, almond and salt.
Everything we’d read told us how incredibly important it is to keep the ingredients cold. We chilled the garlic and pesto and chopped the meat while a tad bit frozen, and then returned to the freezer for further chilling. The white wine stayed chilled before adding as well.
While the seasoned meat was chilling, we had our casings soaking (these were hog). Then we rinsed them through.
Then we ground the meat into a chilled bowl. Despite attempts to remove sinew while chopping, we had to stop and clean the blade about 4 times to remove the clogging sinew. Maybe there’s an art to avoiding the issue we rookies need to look into.
Then the ground meat is mixed with the paddle blade of the stand mixer and put back to chill. Once chilled, add your liquid (we used sauvingnon blanc) and chill again. Then it’s time to stuff! Beware: the following photos can be offensive.
Food Porn!! I did warn you.
My camera battery started to wane so I used the phone to finish up the process.
We sauteed one to see how it would hold up (raining out, so no grilling).
That is one. ugly. chubby.
But, a tasty one! The Things loved it too, so we cooked up some more for dinner!
While these were not perfect, we felt good about our first try. I think I could get more aggressive with the other seasonings, but the salt ratio was perfect. Our snags were a bit chubby, which is a common rookie thing, so we’ll have to get the hang of feeding through a slimmer sausage. When they are overstuffed, the skins don’t hold up to cooking so well, obvs. But the freshness and smooth texture was unlike anything we’ve ever bought. No more crumbly, dry sausage! I wonder how they will hold up to freezing. Time will tell.
I can’t wait to make all sorts of other varieties. Next up, I’ve promised the things an apple and maple breakfast sausage. We reserved some of the sausage un-stuffed to use for our Thanksgiving dressing. I’m thinking of adapting the Pioneer Woman’s dressing using our sausage in place of the Italian sausage.
Lots to cook this week for the holiday, so if I don’t make it back…Happy Thanksgiving!