Smoked Salmon and Charcuterie

We often have company, and naturally you want to put out your finest food for guests.  Going to the grocery store lately, though, has been depressing with the costs of foods escalating rapidly, and package sizes shrinking.  (By the way, the Commerce Department removed the cost of food from the cost of living index.)  When I calculate the cost per pound for favorites such as smoked salmon and proscuitto, or even more dificult to find German Lachs Schinken, they range around $25.00 a pound and up.  Not an option on this household budget!

When there’s a will there’s a way as the saying goes, and usually when I am faced with “you can’t” I find a way to respond with “who says?”  This approach has led to finding affordable solutions as long as I’m willing to do the research and the work.

I am going to share with you how to make gorgeous, moist, smoked salmon and provide a little background on charcuterie in general.

Smoked Salmon done in Umai Bag

Smoked Salmon done in Umai Bag

Charcuterie is a method of curing meat to extend its shelf life.  This was extremely necessary during times without electricity and refridgerators.  The flavors and textures that develop make it worth making even with modern conveniences.  The salt used to preserve the meat dehydrates the cells of the proteins, changing its flavor and enhancing or concentrating it.  It changes the texture of the meat akin to cooking it.  Thanks to a recent invention by Umai Dry (you can purchase a kit with this link), you can replicate this process at home with your own fridge – no need for a temperature and humidity controlled room or appliance.

Originally charcutierie was a process thought limited to pork products, but all sorts of meats and fish can be preserved using these methods.  A favorite is salmon.

This recipe is inspired by one from Umai Dry’s website.

Cure Mixture – This recipe makes extra which you can store in a jar.

2 cups Kosher or sea salt

2 cups organic sugar

2 teaspons black pepper

2 teaspoons dill

2 teaspoons garlic

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 bay leaf

Combine mixture.  I save extra mixture in a quart canning jar.

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Buy an approximately 2 pound piece of salmon, wild caught is healthier, but use what is available that is very fresh.   Make sure you have its exact weight without wrapping/packaging materials.  Calculate half the weight, and weigh exactly that amount of cure mixture.

Leaving the skin on, rub the entire surface of the salmon flesh with a liberal amount of paprika.  Place the salmon in a durable plastic bag with a zip type closure, or you can do this in a flat glass dish with a good lid.  Pour the measured amount of cure mixture all over the salmon – both sides and rub it in gently.  Add a teaspoon of Liquid Smoke Seasoning.  Seal bag and place in fridge.

Each day, take bag and gently massage the salt cure around the salmon.  The salmon flesh should take on the extra red color from the paprika, and the salt cure will begin to extract fluid from the fish.  The salmon should be turned daily in this mix for seven days.  It will look like this.

Salmon in Salt Cure

Salmon in Salt Cure

On the seventh day, remove the salmon from the bag and rinse it in cold running water.  Pat it dry with paper towels.  Take an Umai Dry bag and wrinkle the top of it in order to help your vacuum sealer remove air.  Insert one of the Umai “mouses” (a white strip of plastic fabric) into the area where your vaccum will seal the bag.  Vacuum until the air has been removed and seal.  Move the bag slightly and seal a second time to insure a good seal.

Place your salmon filet on a cookie rack in your fridge.  Try to get several inches of air circulation under the cookie rack as well as above it.  I find that this rack from Wilton is ideal and does not take up much space in the fridge.

After 10-12 days in the fridge, take out of its Umai Dry bag, slice thin and enjoy!

I am presently experimenting with charcuterie methods for venison and various cuts of pork.  Stand by for progress on those cured meats!

 

 

Catching Up

Hard to believe it has been so long since my last post.  The fall has had an unprecendented amount of work, and things are just now slowing down enough that I can sit down and touch base with everyone.

Since the Shenandoah Fiber Festival we have been schooling, canning, handling our ongoing Appeal before the Commonwealth of Virginia, having to meet with local government people about bear-dog trespassing issues, tending the sheep, internet and computer problems, getting new construction under roof, and laundry, and more laundry :)  Just today, I have already: fixed breakfast, supervised childrens’ school work, walked the power line with JAFLO to let them know what trees we’d let them cut, updated company information with the State Corproation Commission, three loads of laundry, tried to fix my computer (system restore point missing), and had to restart my internet connection three times during the time I’ve worked on this article.  And it’s only 11:30.

On the positive side, we’ve also gone hunting, had visits from some wonderful friends and enjoyed our first snow-fall – at least the children did – I won’t go out in that stuff!  Chalk it up to my time in Brazil, but I am still suspicious of anything that cold!  We also have healthy, tasty food put aside in the cellar.  We even had strawberries in our garden until November 9!

Strawberry plants in October - Mara des Bois

Strawberry plants in November – Mara des Bois

Even when physically busy, my mind is always churning on what to do with fleeces.  What kinds of rovings and yarns to get from the mill – what sorts of products to focus on for next year.  And we have lambs and maple sysrup to look forward to early next year.  I look forward to updating the store with new products as they come in, and hopefully the New Year will bring many happy new products and developments.

We started decorating the house for the holidays, and will select our tree this weekend on the Feast of Saint Nicholas.  Wishing a blessed Advent to everyone!

 

We are off to Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival!

Goodness, gracious we have been busy, but we are finally packed and ready to drive to the Berryville Fairgrounds and set up our booth.  Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival this weekend in Berryville!

 

Here is the link with details and directions.  http://www.shenandoahvalleyfiberfestival.com/

 

Please make a point of coming by Meduseld’s booth to say hello!

 

Here is a teaser of some of the products we have this year :)

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Closing the Delray Post Office

Yesterday we witnessed the end of an era.  Not a big historic event affecting lots of people, but a significant event for our little community.

Post card to self, stamped on last day of business.

Post card to self, stamped on last day of business.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) decided that our darling little post office was no longer economically viable, and citing other concerns regarding the structure it was housed in, they stated it would be impossible to continue here.

Edna, the last Delray Post Master

Edna, the last Delray Post Master

We have had a box at this post office for fourteen years.  Since they would not deliver to our remote location (they still won’t) they forced us to pay annually for a box in order to receive our mail.  Instead of a P.O. box, they will be delivering to cluster boxes at the end of roads.   Similarly to the local school system, they are closing the buildings in the local communicites, and consolidating them into new (dare I say expensive) centralized buildings.  As we witness the expense of installation of the new cluster boxes throughout the area, we seriously doubt the USPS’s financial concerns.

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This adorable building that should be on post cards has been the heart of the community, the last business in a tiny town where you could have chance meetings with neighbors and catch up on each others’ lives.  Instead, we will be going at least another six miles in order to buy stamps and send packages.  USPS saves, we lose.

Sincere thanks to the wonderful people who ran the post office and were so kind, careful and helpful.  First to Debbie who ran the post office for decades.  She was followed by Edna, who was relieved on her days off by Darlene.  We are grateful to each of you :)

Side view with Portalet. The building had no running water!

Side view with Portalet. The building had no running water!

 

 

 

July Farm Life

A large pot of pasta sauce is simmering on the stove to be canned later.  Rows of jars of beans and other vegetables already line up on cellar shelves to be consumed during the winter months.   Two of the children have poison ivy – all signs of summer.

It’s only July – the middle of the summer, and we are already thinking about the cold months.  It seems strange to not stop and just enjoy the moment, but taking time to pause would be a luxury when there is so much work to do as the harvest starts pouring in!

 

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All the ingredients in the pasts sauce are from our garden – even the oregano, parsley and basil.  We use the book Putting Food By (PFB) as our reference for safe canning, but I confess I really call it the Paranoid Food Book, since its author wrote the entire book about canning while constantly talking about how dangerous it is.  Her favorite bit of advice seems to be to can a food exactly to her specifications and then throw it away…. :)

 

Indigo Cherry Tomoatoes beginning to ripen

Indigo Cherry Tomatoes beginning to ripen

As we harvest areas we replant for fall crops.   Hopefully, we will harvest beans from these plants until the weather cools.   Speaking of cooling weather, today will only be 73 degrees thanks to the second July polar vortex that is dropping cool Canadian air into our area.

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Our onion harvest has met challenges.  We laid them out on a table to dry and form their outer skin that protects them for storage.   Who knew that sheep love onions?  I didn’t, at least until I found them devouring the onions as if at a banquet.   We saved just enough for the next few batches of pasta sauce.

The garden expansion project continues.  We pulled a permit last week for the small tool shed I had proposed.  My husband has held contractor licenses in several states and has done projects in some of the most rigorous jurisdictions, including Alexandria, VA.  But, up until now he has never had to pull a permit for a tiny tool shed/agricultural building.  It is sad that Hampshire County has such excessive reach into the life of its residents.  He started the shed yesterday using a window and materials recycled from past jobs, and I look forward to sharing a picture of it when it is done.

I’m off to the kitchen.

 

How to Lay Pavers for a Patio

As part of our 2014 garden expansion, we added a pond with waterfall.  In order to enjoy the beautiful, serene koi and goldfish, we planned a small patio made with pavers so that we can sit and enjoy the surroundings.

Pond with assorted Koi and Goldfish

Pond with assorted Koi and Goldfish

We cleared an area at the lower end of the pond and have placed rocks at the edges to contain the dirt and “blue stone,” a type of crushed stone dust available at hardward stores.  Blue stone, or stone dust, can be leveled and compacted and makes a durable under-surface for pavers and stones.

Stones show future edges.  Also note tool called a tamper.

Stones show future edges. Also note tool called a tamper.

Start backfilling some dirt into the area that will be raised for the patio surface.  If you are making your patio  flush with the ground, omit this step.  If making it flush, you will have to dig down and make a level area.  Plan on about two inches of stone dust and add the thickness of your pavers or stones, and this will give the the depth to dig.  In our example above, we are building up the level to accommodate the natural slope in the garden.

Whether you have dug down or added, it is important to make sure that your surface is level.

Checking with a level.

Checking with a level.

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Now it’s time to add the blue stone or stone dust.  A small two by four can help spread the stone.

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Check again with a level.  A surface that appears level can still be off.

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Tamp your surface again firmly.

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We have now prepared a good surface to bedding the pavers.  The pavers are going to be set at a random pattern to imitate cobble stone streets in Europe.  Even the pavers are in assorted colors in order to give a more historic feel.

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If necessary, you can cut pavers with this tool, available to rent at many tool rental places.

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Once you have laid the final pavers, pour a bag of stone dust onto the surface of your pavers.  Take a stiff broom and push as much stone dust between the stones as possible.  This significantly firms up the surface and will stabilize your patio, in addition to giving it a finished look.  We do not recommend sand for this step as it will eventually wash out between the stone when it rains.

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Here is the finished patio.  Small, so that it does not take up valuable garden space, and perfect for intimate dinners and conversation over a glass of wine.

If you ‘d prefer to have one of these installed, please click on the Culver Design Build, Inc. link for more information!

Edible Weeds

I have been fortunate to meet special people, such as Eva Taylor of Ironwood farm who introduced me to permaculture.  Recently, I have gotten to know another amazing person, who has expanded my appreciation of nature and the garden, Leenie Hobbie.

Leenie and I share several mutual friends and I have often heard the statement, “you’ve got to meet Leenie Hobbie!”  She is a frequent guide for “Weed Walks” in our area, teaching people about the local flora and showing people how to identify edible plants. 

Fortunately, Leenie and I finally connected and we spent some time in my garden, which I admit is not entirely weed free.  Perhaps my German heritage makes me more fastidious about it than I need to be, but there were definitely  more than enough weed samples to be found.  I’ve always felt that their existence in my garden was a source of irritation, taking up precious space for my darling cultivated plants.  Until Leenie’s visit.

She quickly identified several edible varieties and even knew their nutrients and historic medicinal use.  She described how they could be used in cooking, and those loathsome plants suddenly turned into recipe potential!  Lambs quarters in quiche?  Sounds delicious!

Invader or Ingredient?

Invader or Ingredient?

Since her visit, we’ve gathered various types and even made “weed chips”  Collecting the leaves of a thorny vine called Greenbriar that Leenie showed me, we fried them in olive oil, producing a delightful crispy treat.  And I am willing to tolerate more weeds in my garden, and am even finding some favorite tasting ones, such as Purslane.

Leenie has a delightful and informational  blog, 3 Herb Mamas, that I encourage you to follow, and I am placing it on my list of favorite blog links.  She is also creating an Etsy store for her herb-based creams and salves, so stay posted for when that is launched!

Spring Harvest

I had a wonderful day yesterday, planting and foraging in the garden, and enjoying the first substantial harvests for the year.  Yes, we’ve picked things here and there, some salads and herbs, but we are finally seeing the fruits of all our March, April and May labors, providing a June feast! 

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You may remember our post about growing potatoes in stackable boxes…yesterday I pulled the forms and found early spring potatoes.  They are crunchier when harvested freshly and become softer and creamier when cooked.    Here they are lightly boiled and then fried in Spectrum Organics Palm Oil Shortening.

 

Red Norland Spring Potatoes

Red Norland Spring Potatoes

The children enjoyed juice from the first batch of Nanking Bush Cherries.  Since the berries are difficult to pit, we boil them in water to release their juices, add a little organic sugar and the children pour this over ice cubes for a refreshing drink.  The additional benefit of Nanking Bush Cherries is that they make a wonderful edible shrub or privacy hedge :)

Picking Nanking Bush Cherries

Picking Nanking Bush Cherries

While we’ve already been enjoying the butter head lettuce Four Seasons, yesterday I harvested our first white Radicchio and they two combined made a delightful and completely non-bitter salad.  Four Seasons is showing off with its brilliant  red accents.

White Radicchio and Lettuce of Four Seasons

White Radicchio and Lettuce of Four Seasons

The Chicken is a broiler raised here on our farm.  It spent over six hours on the smoker yesterday with fresh herbs – thyme, sage and oregano – placed under its skin and in the cavity.   It makes a tender supper and amazing chicken salad. 

Smoked Chicken with Herbs

Smoked Chicken with Herbs

I hope these will encourage those who haven’t yet given gardening at try!