A fifteen minute walk through a small-town Wisconsin farmer’s market yielded some of the finest variety meats I have had in some time for prices so low I could not fathom how there was so much to buy. In a state where offal is less flashily portrayed and truly ends up on your grandma’s dinner table rather than on a contrived dish using her as a prop, I was surprised to see offal from seemingly pristinely raised animals being ignored. Even so, there was an old man in traditional Amish garb selling what appeared to be some great lamb. I asked about offal and he brought out what he had. For a couple dollars (literally), I bought every last lamb heart the guy had with him. Then some ground lamb as well to make it worth his while. Continue reading
A friend’s family has what I understand to be a long-standing annual sausage making appointment on their calendar. While our family has its own traditions I love and appreciate, I can barely help but be jealous of the family sausage party. Making sausage is a process which has not changed much over time and continuing to do it the same way year-in and year-out would seemingly be a great way to connect with older relatives. When he smoked some of the excess Mexican chorizo they made, I was curious why Spanish chorizo was traditionally smoked while smoked Mexican chorizo was completely new to me, so I made some for myself (and the family). Continue reading
After the shio koji finished fermenting, I had a few ideas on how to use it. The initial idea was sausages. I was going around and around trying to find a way to make a sausage with enough simplicity to taste the shio koji which still being interesting enough to want to eat. After filtering through ideas, this sausage was based in the skewered chicken eaten while in Japan. Continue reading
Ramp season is upon us and with it comes the sometime over-the-top ramp fervor and almost always over the top ramp prices. Luckily I accidentally ran into a ramp patch. I mean, I literally ran into a patch of ramps by accident while trail running. This pushed me to go running later that week carrying a hand shovel and backpack and also led me to bringing home a little over a pound of ramps. Continue reading
The final chapter of the “venison scrap transformation” story proved to include a bit of a plot twist. I wanted to make a fresh sausage with jerk spices and wanted to mimic the flavors of oxtail stew in a sausage. My flaw here was in the conception phase as it may not be possible to get the flavors developed by stewing a cut rich in collagen for hours in stock, aromatics and chili into sausages cooked for mere minutes. On the flip side, what sprung from this attempt was a sausage which was both unique and delicious. It was not an encased form of the Caribbean dish, but it proved to provide insights on the benefits of tasty mistakes. Continue reading
In round two of turning venison scrap from my father into something more edible, I made a dangerous choice – a sausage of great familiarity. Summer Sausage. It is easy to cook without context when the only question is “Does it taste good?” I guess easy is relative, because it seems easy in comparison to when you are cooking something familiar and add “Does it taste right?” to “Does it taste good?” Venison summer sausage is, when combined with Ritz crackers and cheese, the most popular pre-dinner, post-lunch food in Wisconsin. When given venison scrap, how could i have ignored the opportunity to stock the pre-dinner, post-lunch larder for the year, or more likely, the remainder of April?
Every now and again I get venison from my father. He is generous with the venison he hunts with his cousins and while the hunting aspects have never taken with me, I have become comfortable cooking venison. As I have grown more comfortable preparing venison in different ways, I have tried to repay his generosity with giving some of the venison back, in the form of sausage, ham, etc. After cleaning out his freezer, he found nearly eight pounds of venison scrap and asked if I could do something new with it that he might like. Continue reading
Sometimes having zero context gives freedom, but there is a fine line between having the freedom to use your own style and messing up what others hold very close. Food, on top of being nourishment, is such a sentimental thing. People talking about food go on about grandmothers. Cooks with amazing training and mind-boggling skills devote hours recreating junk food from their childhood. It goes even further when things get cultural. It goes back far further than grandma in cases like these and my instincts, as I found in this case, are often wrong. Continue reading
We host a dinner party periodically which is actually just a book club to which my wife belongs. Typically those types of groups are simply drinking clubs, but this one adds food and actual books. About a week before book club, I realized my original plan of serving cassoulet had been done before. By me. Last winter. It seems as when the weather grows cold, I cook beans – large pots of beans with sausages and off cuts.
Actually I should have never been surprised. Beans and meats are fantastic and this weather has forced my hand. Only, I am not a repeater. Knowing fabada is a not-so-distant cousin to cassoulet, I figured there must be more cousins. I just needed to look. Continue reading