Starting with Chickens

Right Profile–My Best Side

Despite the fact that we have every vermin imaginable around here, from raccoons to rednecks, we are venturing into the chicken growing hobby. The birds live inside a coop inside a bigger coop and another enclosure. They will eventually have some free range time, if the foxes and hawks don’t get them first. We have an entire population of light phase red tail hawks, and assorted accipters as well.

So it isn’t easy being a chicken. These five week olds are Barred Rocks, and we plan on adding a couple of Rhode Island Reds. These are for egg laying, though if it comes down to it, in the words of young Lily Kingsolver, founder of Lily’s Lovely Layers, “We’ll only kill the mean ones.” Enough said.

First Spring Salad

Some Mizuna Mustard, a Brassica, and a Scallion

We scored some local beef Chuck Eye Steaks yesterday, and decided it was steak and salad time. Our token veg was Crowder peas, unfortunately made from dried ones, as we have eaten our way almost completely though our freezer. Good thing the official opening of the Festhalle Farmer’s Market is next weekend.

But we had homegrown fresh greens for the salad. As Neil Young rightly said. “Homegrown is the way it should be.” We topped the salad with my Half A Remoulade sauce, a go to around here. Half A means half a**ed.

Ingredients

Mayonnaise

Ketchup

Lemon Juice (we use Meyer Lemon Juice)

Salt

Dill Pickle, finely chopped

Capers, finely chopped

1 Scallion

Tabasco Sauce

We use this on everything from Salads to Po-Boys. Add some extra hot sauce for the Po-boys. Proportions for this sauce are between you and your conscience.

And now for some gratuitous spring blooming shrub pictures.

Halesia diptera magniflora
Rhododendron canascens

Rustic Cabinet

Another Rustico Original

This cabinet is attached to the back of my brick oven, as there is never enough room to store the gear that accumulates over the years. It’s actually only an old greenhouse bench which I clad in old PT boards into which I cut tongue and groove joints. I also made the paint, which I will discuss later, as some people actually cook this paint, and the top is–drumroll–fireproof! That’s cement board topped with un-gauged slate. The next project is a “Tuscan” grill to be built next to it.

The Red Death (Drink Recipe)–Weird Southern, Part One

The early period of Southern writing gave us Thomas Jefferson, Mary Randolph, and Edgar Allan Poe, as strange a trio as befits the region. (And that’s just Virginia, where one of my ancestors landed in 1611, nine years before the Mayflower made it to Plymouth.) Poe’s brilliant short story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” inspired this traditional drink of The Mallet Assembly at the University of Alabama, which at the time I lived there, was officially the men’s honors dorm (It’s co-ed now, as girls are allowed to go to school currently. That’s a joke, in case you didn’t get it). Here’s what honors dorm guys make for a party.

Ingredients

Cherry Kool-Aid

Water (some idiots say this is optional)

Grain Alcohol (such as Everclear)

That’s it. Consume with extreme, and I mean extreme, caution. There’s a cautionary tale to go with this recipe, as told in the style of Ben Franklin.

“As an undergraduate in college, I did not partake of intoxicating beverages, as I only drank water and tea, and the tea had to be without sweetening. Due to this strict regime, I became something of a Scholar concerning Intoxication. Many of my fellow students fell victim to this vice of drinking alcohol, and I witnessed their eventual downfall.

“Alas, one young gentleman drank more than his fair share at one of our celebrations, in the typical red Solo cup that graced such receptions. He became so inebriated he collapsed head first in the hallway afterward. His reward was a broken nose, which bled profusely.”

Enough of that. Said undergrad was taken to the infirmary by a couple of guys, but not until some jackanape had chalk lined the shape of his body where he fell. He was fine, but we left all the blood on the floor to dry, as a reminder.

Everyone on campus was talking next week about “that party where that guy died.” This is how legends are born.

Spring Vegetables

Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas and Purple Mizuna

I grew up on a farm where we had 10,000 chickens a year, and plots of fifteen acres of pink eye purple hull peas. No more of that. Here’s a typical spring garden now.

Neviusia

That’s Alabama Snow Wreath, Neviusia alabamensis, standing guard over my scallions, radishes, and peas. It’s an incredibly rare shrub. We’re already eating the scallions, and the mizuna will be next. Then comes the spring favorite: PEAS.

Green Arrow Peas, and more Mizuna

This is my first year growing Green Arrow english peas. So far the weather has been perfect, and I’ll hopefully have a recipe with fresh peas to share in a month or so.

Svea 123–The Ultimate Outdoor Stove

A Stove with Drama. Swedish and Proud of It

No one needs a 30,000 BTU kerosene burner all the time, so my go to outdoor stove is the venerable SVEA 123, based on a design which is well over a hundred years old. It’s so complex my version, the 123R, has TWO moving parts. In two decades, it has never needed a single repair.

Then there’s the drama. It burns white gas, aka petrol, coleman fuel, benzine, etc, so it needs to be primed in order to light. Pour a little fuel over the burner, light a match, throw it in the direction of the stove, and RUN AWAY. This stove is not recommended for use on oak tables.

Will it cook?

A Fast Boil

After the starter flame burns out, the stove is easily lit, and then comes the famous sound–a jet engine, or a rocket taking off. Mine sounds like a locomotive trying to get up a mountain-chug chug, chug chug. This is my favorite outdoor stove.

Buy one of the old solid brass Swedish made ones from eBay, and if you’re incredibly lucky, you can get one with the Sigg Tourist cook set. I admitted to my wife that I have a fetish for camping stoves–I have six–but I could live with just this one.

All the Parts

Swedish Butter Knife

Where are the Biscuits?

This is really the far south of Sweden, as the design is Swedish, but the maple came out of my yard here in Alabama. I decorated the handle with some homemade red stain made of iron oxide and food grade linseed oil–very Swedish. It actually gets used more as a jam and preserves spreader than as a butter knife.

Apple Wine Marinated Rabbit with Dumplings

Now this speaks Southern

After a decade of having red beans and rice for my birthday dinner every year, I decided to go full on native this year with Rabbit and Dumplings. So why not start with a nice marinade?

Marinade for Rabbit

Wine (I have loads of Apple Wine)

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

Black Peppercorns

You only need enough wine to cover the bunny. Marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight, and then simmer the rabbit for about forty five minutes. Add water to the marinade for the simmering. Let the cooked rabbit cool, and then make the dumplings.

Dumplings Cooking

Dumplings

These are rolled dumplings, not the drop kind.

2 cups Flour

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

3 tablespoons Butter

2 Eggs

A little Milk

Mix these as with any dough. Keep plenty of flour handy, as they do tend to get very sticky. Roll out thin, cut into small rectangles, and cook in the rabbit cooking broth, along with:

2 cups Chicken Stock

1 Onion, chopped and cooked in Butter

Dumplings take some time to cook, so shred up the rabbit meat, and have a glass (or two) of wine. You’ll know when the dumplings are done, as they will no longer taste like raw dumplings. Finally, add the shredded rabbit meat, and heat through thoroughly.

Go to work the next day, and tell your co-workers that you ate pink-nosed bunny for your birthday, and see how they react.

Asparagus Quiche

Spargelzeit!

Pi Day is gone, but Pie Days are here. One of the best meals I have ever eaten was at the French House at the University of Alabama, where we students of French were offered four different kinds of quiche–not surprisingly, I ate some of each one. My favorite was Asparagus Quiche. Here’s one with an all butter Creole Pie Crust.

Ingredients

1 Creole Pie Crust

8 ounces Swiss Cheese, cubed

6 large Asparagus Stalks

4 organic Eggs

Heavy Cream (Enough to fill the crust)

Salt and Pepper

Nutmeg

Crank your oven up to 400 degrees F, as this pie crust goes in uncooked. Break the asparagus at the point where it becomes tough (just try this once, and you’ll get the hang of it). Peel the lower half and cut into half inch pieces. Add the chopped pieces with the cheese into the uncooked pie shell. Mix the cream and egg mixture together, and season. Pour that over the filling in the pie shell, season with nutmeg, and arrange the asparagus spears into whatever Leonardo-esque shape you prefer.

Strange but Edible

Ok. so there’s some chopped up cooked bacon in there as well. What’s a meal without bacon? Bake at 400 degrees F for at least forty five minutes, until the quiche filling browns. Let the cooked pie rest, and then it’s time to chow down on some springtime.