Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hedonists' Dream

I’ve been wanting to do a post about food. Maybe it started with the soup I made a good while ago now. I’d pressure cooked a salted pork roast of ours and had that good broth, and as soon as I opened up that pot and took that roast out and saw and smelled that broth, I knew the soup I would make. Not that I’d ever made it before. I knew that broth wanted those Chinese ear mushrooms so I reduced the broth some more and saved it in the fridge until we went to town and could pick some of those up. I also put a block of tofu, cubed, in it. And I think I grated a carrot. Not much else. Garlic, of course, goes in everything and a stalk of green garlic went in this. But the broth itself was so rich I don’t think I used many herbs. And it was a rather thin, spare soup. Wonderful.

For us, food it like that. It talks to us, tells us what to make, what it wants to be.

Just like the pig we are growing now talks to us. When I scratch his ribs, he lays down so I can scratch his belly. He’s so much fun. He will be so delicious. And the wether goats we have are in terrific shape now and soon it will be time for a goat picking.

We recently laid in what is probably a several year supply of wheat. Six hundred pounds. Twelve sacks. Two hundred dollars. What a bargain. And it is fun because with that much wheat I got to play with different kinds of wheat. A lot of people seem to favor the white wheat, and I agree, it is great. It has a great rise and produces a good crumb. But truly, the redder wheats taste better, fuller, richer. So I got some of the bronze and another hard red which is harder and redder. I also tried one sack of a soft white wheat. And it is really soft -- so soft you can crunch it, as it is, in your teeth. When we grind it, it is so fluffy we have to grind only about half as much at a time (it fills the mill’s reservoir). The acid test for was biscuits -- can I make 100% whole wheat biscuits out of it? The answer is unequivocally yes, wonderful 100% whole wheat biscuits. I’ve also made 100% whole wheat banana bread and chocolate cake with it. The end products are a little less fluffy but I think with some experimentation, I can fix that. And they sure were good. And with them being whole grains, well, desert takes on a whole new decadence, a decadence that is good for you. A whole grain chocolate cake with butter cream icing made with my butter and cream, well, it qualifies as this hedonist’s dream. So, since the soft white wheat has proven its usefulness, I need to put in my order for about two hundred more pounds of it. I need to order some bulk rice anyway.

And shoyu. One day we’ll make shoyu, but not yet.

I recently started my new batch of vanilla extract. Just buy a vanilla bean (or two), a fifth of 100 proof vodka, cut the bean longways, put in the vodka, let set, then use. Better. Cheaper. Purer.

And today I made two loaves of bread, a pound and a half of basil mozzarella, a pound of butter, a quart of yogurt, a pint of sour cream, a half gallon of ice cream. It is some time commitment to do that, but not so much. The dishes needed to be washed anyway, and if we have bread and cheese, we always have a meal. And the kids ground the wheat and churned the butter, and husband gathered the basil from the garden and chopped and salted it ready for me to use. And the whey is the pig’s breakfast in the morning. And that’s lots of food that no one in our family has to work in order to buy it. And it is better food than could be bought at any price anyway.

Now, if I were a good blogger, I would have composed very nice photos of the different colors of wheat, the fluffy loaves of bread, the bowl full of fluffy brown biscuits, the butter still in the churn, last year’s and this year’s bottles of vanilla. Instead what I have is a photo from a few weeks ago, harvesting the concords. And these aren’t even ours but the neighbors’. We made jam (slip the skins, puree the skins, juice and seed the pulp, add back together, proceed with cooked jam recipe -- for a treat, use some of the skin puree to flavor fresh yogurt -- it is graper than grape!) and “juice” (really drink, a recipe from the Nearing’s, using a cup and a half of grapes, a scant ¾ cup sugar, and fill the rest of the quart with boiling water, seal, wait, voila! wonderful stuff), and wine.

2006 Concord Harvest
Originally uploaded by Contrary Goddess.

Next week we hit a nearby abandoned (taken over by National Forest) homestead to see what apples we can gather and fish a different pond.


javaseeker said...

ohhh man. memories. we had a little concord vineyard growing up. my mother canned the juice, and I snuck several out to a friend's shed to make "wine". I was in the 7th grade and sold the stuff for $7 a pint. my first business start-up...

patsy said...

the concord grape is the best. do you make jelly? the post about tam was moving.

Joe Tornatore said...

"he will be delicious." I mused and I am just ribbing you.

Madcap said...

I envy your sacks of grain. I've been trying for almost a year now to find a bulk supply of brown rice, but the biggest I can get is 20lbs, and it's not appreciably less expensive than the 5 lb bags. Might be forced to move south yet!

the Contrary Goddess said...

The wheat would cost you almost nothing -- the shipping here costs as much as the wheat (from Montana). The rice usually comes out of Arkansas. I actually am not sure how much money the rice saves, but it is better rice and we always have it on hand bulk -- although we've usually been buying only 25# at a time. Look at and see if you want to head up a food buying club where you are (that is one of our sources).

Madcap said...

You're right the wheat would cost me almost nothing - I'm surrounded! It's the gluten-free grains I'm having trouble locating in any quantity, though I did recently find someone local who's growing some millet, but I'm not sure in what kind of quantity.

I contacted your link and we'll see what we see. That would be great. Thanks.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Well, mcm, here there are any number of "coops" one can participate in (UNFI delivers every four weeks, something better every 8, and I know folks who order from breadbeckers but I never have), and then there are the Mennonite stores (2) and the health food stores (3) and the bulk food stores (2, but I've only ordered bulk from one) to order through. I buy gluten (gasp) in 5# containers, yeast by the pound, sometimes things like dried dates or coconut, some bulk herbs by the pound (can't grow curry), I don't know what all else. Lots of stuff though.

Madcap said...

Different worlds, really. I've been phoning all over the place trying to find a food co-op for healthy food. Tried the Mennonites, they've never heard of such a thing (?!), tried the Mormons, but all they've got is these ghastly dried rations made of stuff we've never set a tooth into, tried the Mountain Equipment store which advertises itself as being a catalyst for community and environmentalism, but they've never been involved in bulk food, nor the Enviro Store in Edmonton, though they told me I could buy bulk baking soda from them.

I was hoping not to have to invent the wheel myself, but I guess if I must, I must. There's that old auction mart on our property, maybe it's a sign.... We know two families out there that might be interested in bulk food purchases, so I'll use your ideas for a jumping off point, and see who's willing to venture into the hinterlands.

Ren said...

There are some folks down in P'cola that I used to buy my grains from. They made the BEST bread from grains they ground right in their little store while you waited. They had some secrets for getting that whole wheat nice and fluffy. Lovely stuff.

I could put you in touch with them if you want to get their recipes or ideas for perfect loaves from whole ground wheats.:)