The Chicken’s New Dishwasher

New to Them

The junk pile groweth. The latest addition is a dishwasher tub, another ingenious idea from Melanie Jane-I guess she wasn’t a Phi Beta Kappa (farm girl) for no reason. Our twenty year old dishwasher blew a gasket, and the gasket wasn’t worth replacing. She said–put the main plastic part into the chicken’s junk yard. Mission Accomplished, and no chickens were harmed.

Nothing Like Junk

The birds like their junkyard as much as the digital sheep in the phenomenal British show Shaun the Sheep. Inventory reveals one mailbox, where the vast majority of our eggs come from, a red wheelbarrow, two tires, and now the dishwasher.

The bottom of the washer is leftover plywood, and the front is leftover 2×4. Some pine shavings and it’s done. Broody Bird, a Barred Rock, was the first in there. The ISA Browns like the dirt under there. I expect eggs in the dishwasher in the next week or so.

Shirley the Sheep, our favorite character from Shaun the Sheep, would be proud.

Thomas Jefferson, Mary Randolph, James Hemings, and Curly Fries

That’s right, a founding Father, a founding Mother and Father of American cooking, and the venerable curly fries. Venerable? The recipe goes back to 1824, and helps to answer the vexing question that many parents with small children face–“Mommy, Daddy, where did curly fries come from?”

As usual, there is an easy answer, and a complicated one, which is partly an exercise in probability. The easy answer is that the first printed recipe for curly fries is from Mary Randolph, and her 1824 bestseller The Virginia Housewife. From the section, “To Fry Sliced Potatos.”

Peel large potatos, slice them about a quarter inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or drippings. Take care that your fat and frying-pan are quite clean. . .

Mary Randolph

Cooked in lard over a wood fire! Possibly the best of all time. I’ll try these in the event that our high temps ever drop below ninety.

Here’s a list of probable sources–Mary Randolph herself. She was a real business woman, and nothing creates more business than novelty. Alas, she was not a chef, but an owner and a writer. Probability–moderate.

Next source–Thomas Jefferson. He is regularly given credit for introducing French Fries to America, which at the time were widely known as “pommes de terre frites à cru en petites tranches.” Translation: small potato slices fried raw. In short, exactly like Mary Randolph’s first version of fried potatoes. Alas, Jefferson was no cook. One of his servants said that the only thing Jefferson could do in the kitchen was wind the clock. Probability–low.

The next candidate–James Hemings, the man who actually did the cooking for Jefferson. He studied with two French chefs while in Paris, served as Jefferson’s chef, and undoubtedly ran across pommes frites, as the potato was making its magnificent debut in French cuisine. James taught his brother Peter French cooking, and Peter moved to Richmond, which happened to be where Mary Randolph set up business, as he, like his enslaved brother, were freed by Mr. Jefferson. Probability James or Peter introduced the curly fries–high.

Let’s head to left field and the capital of Nerdlandia. Here’s a possible method of transmission. Jefferson and Franklin both attended elaborate potato themed dinners thrown by the guru of French potato cultivation, Monsieur Parmentier, of Potage Parmentier fame, aka, Leek and Potato soup. Parmentier was like the original potato apostle, and would serve seven consecutive courses, all of which featured potatoes. Did his chef invent curly fries, or even Parmentier himself? Probability–total speculation.

I’ll leave you with Mary Randolph’s final suggestion, which is a must–when you take the curly fries out of the lard, don’t forget the salt.

Sweet Pickle Relish

Meet the Family

Canning season is here, and we are serious enough to even buy new parts for the ancient Mirro-matic canner that we were given. Here’s a skeleton Sweet Pickle Relish recipe.

Ingredients

Cucumbers

Onion, preferably Vidalia Onions

Sweet Peppers

Vinegar

Sugar

Very little Salt

No quantities? If I could see what size cucumbers you have, I could give you the quantities–define what “large” cucumbers means, please. Otherwise, add as much as you like, and for god’s sake, taste the pickles and see if you like them. Also, you can chop these by hand, or use a food processor. These batches were made both ways.

We process our pickles for fifteen minutes in a pressure cooker. Using that method, our failure rate has been zero. The two jars on both ends are technically a chutney, which includes chopped tomatoes and curry powder. I cribbed this recipe from chef Marcus Samuelson, my favorite from the current batch of celebrity chefs. He could in fact be the GOAT (greatest of all time) fusion cook.

Bear Sighting

Asiatic Black Bear, or Emma in Her Happy Place?

Word trickled down to us that a new neighbor, who is three houses down from us, had reported seeing a bear in their yard, and called the police to have it removed. Imagine their disappointment when the neighbor nearer to us told them that it was Emma the Aussie, who had wandered down to play with his dog.

The police came on patrol anyway, and found no trace of a bear that they could use as bear spray practice. They should have looked for one that has one leg shaved, which Emma has. Hereby hangs another tale.

Back at the first of the month Emma had a bad case of food poisoning, which I strongly suspect had something to do with the big piece of of squirrel fur which she barfed up right in front of me. We took her to the vet, who promptly shaved her leg and stuck an IV in it. Two days and two nights later, Emma was returned to us, and she promptly reclaimed her bear’s territory. Moral here–if squirrel is on the menu, specify that you want the non-rotten one.

Such is a dog’s life. You get sick, only to have the cops called on you when you get home. It could have been worse–she could have run into Florida Man. Just a week or two ago one prime specimen sprayed thirty people in a Miami mall with–you guessed it–bear spray. He knocked over a candle shop, and bear sprayed his way out of the crime scene, and escaped in a cab, to whereabouts unknown.

Surrounded by Florida Men, unvaccinated maskless marauders, and various other yahoos, such as the fifty percent of nursing home workers in this state who are unvaccinated, what to do? Voltaire would say, we should cultivate our garden. In my case, I am about to throw the chickens a day old biscuit, and start a chicken riot.

Blue Mushroom Summer

Sorry Elvis

We’re having a mushroom summer this year, with endless rainfall–sorry Oregon. As climate scientists quite accurately predicted, extremes have just become more extreme, as the years pass. A few years back we had the longest drought in state history, which was over two months with zero rainfall. Last month we had right at a foot of rain.

At any rate, in the space of less a hundred square feet, I found three species of Lactarius. This blue one is the most obvious, Lactarius indigo. We usually have one every couple of years, but this year there is a cluster of six. Next to these is Lacterious deliciosus. Both are said to be right tasty. The spoiler is a huge colony of Lacterius chrysorheus, which is quite poisonous. My Falcon guide to mushrooms, written by two Virginians, naturally, says it has Type 8 toxins, which sounds like next level bad.

As much as I would like to have a big plate of the first two, I have not held up my end of a deal struck with Melanie Jane, in that I not eat any wild mushrooms until I get a certificate in Mycology. Rumor has it that there is one mycologist in Birmingham. I admittedly am somewhat attached to my liver, as long as it functions.

“Leftover” Wood Spoon Rack

The Camera was Crooked

I have changed my terminology so that my vocabulary no longer contains “Scrap Pile.” My two substitutes are “Leftover Wood” and “Firewood.” Recycling small off cuts and shavings, and other odd pieces in the bread oven, and turning them into food, may be the new cycle of life.

–Which naturally brings me to the brick oven. When the trim is almost done, and the decoration begins, the end of the project is near. Anna Napoletana looked a little lonely hanging on the back of the oven by herself, so I made a very fast useful item with Leftover Wood–a Spoon Rack.

This is the end cuts of the picture frame next to it, and as soon as I saw them, I thought–spoon rack. This has four 1/2″ holes, so it will accommodate four spoons. Three cuts with the miter saw, and then assembly with finishing nails, and a couple of deck screws. It needed some of the gold glitter paint, to match Anna’s frame, and then it was attached to the oven with deck screws. It took far longer for the paint to dry than it took to build it.

Leftover wood, like left over food, can be as good as fresh.

Outdoor Kitchen, Old School, Part Four–A Shrine to Italian Flour, and Pizza Dough

“00”” in Italy Means Extra Fine

Now that the brick oven just needs just needs some trim and a little more paint to be completed, we dedicated the prep end to Italian flour, in particular the style that Naples made famous. That’s a cover of a bag of extra fine Italian flour, that I framed and painted with homemade gold glitter paint, in true shrine fashion. I just happen to come from a county that has a convent, a monastery, and a huge shrine, which has its own television and radio networks.

At any rate, this flour makes the best pizza dough, and is required by the city of Naples if you want to call your pizza authentic.

Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cup Italian “00” Flour

3/4 cup Water

2 teaspoons Yeast

Olive Oil

I always cheat by leaving a little of the water out, and dissolving the yeast in it with a touch of sugar, after I have mixed up the dough (flour, water, and olive oil) with our Kitchenaid. The dough hydrates while the yeast is rising. Let rise, and this will make two large pizzas. For large quantities, I use one cup of flour per pizza.

Just last weekend I cooked five pizzas in less that an hour for a ravenous horde of folks. They would have been more impressed if I had had a portrait of Pope Francis back there, instead of a flour bag. Maybe I should email the Vatican about that.

Canning Tomatoes

Maters Ready for Inspection, Sir!

Time for the yearly canning update. Get busy! Life is short and Tomatoes are sweet, so can ye tomatoes while ye may.

First note–last year’s crop of canning lids were mediocre, so we switched from the usual hot water bath canning method, to pressure canning. Zero failures since then. If you don’t have a pressure canner, just double the time the jars of maters swim in the hot water.

If you’re lucky, somebody gave you something like this, or you know someone you can borrow one from. Ours only comes out of hibernation a few times a year.

Old School

The Mirro-matic was designed to process enough food for an entire family, and this one did–just not for our family. A former co-worker of mine had all of his children grow up, and off to college, and he just wanted to get rid of this beast. As the only farm boy he knew, I was the obvious heir apparent.

We will probably can only quart jars tomorrow, to speed up things and conserve on the number of lids we have. US made lids are just now coming back on the market, and none are available locally. There is a good deal on Amazon for some, and an order is forthcoming. It should be just enough money to get space cadet Bezos an extra 1/4 inch into outer space.

Life in a Red State

Buried Counters

There was once a common saying in Mississippi, which was a simple “The richest land, and the poorest people.” That perfectly sums up the contradictions of living in a Red State.

Barbara Kingsolver discussed this dilemma quite perfectly in her essay of the same title, “Life in a Red State.” Naturally, she started with a discussion of how her kitchen was literally covered with tomatoes. Then she expanded from there. After today, I can definitely feel her pain.

The tomatoes and peas are only a fraction of the haul I made this morning at the Festhalle. Those two combined cost us the princely sum of $26, with the maters being the majority–$20. Preserving those this weekend will be a whole lot like work.

I once worked at a Southern public University where the faculty salaries were right at the lowest in the country, and the administrative salaries among the top ten percent. There is only one solution to a problem like that–leave. All that got us is a beautiful river front house, and tomatoes up to our necks. There’s nothing to not love about that.

Alabama Power Being Sued by Episcopal Kid’s Camp for Charging an Extra $32 a Month for Having Solar Panels

What’s more dangerous, solar panels or Taylor Swift’s politics? Really, a question that Southerners have to face daily. Not content with being last in the country in education and covid vaccination, Alabama Power Company is launching a war on kid’s camps that have solar panels.

Camp McDowell in Winston county is one of the most beautiful places in the South. Then those crafty Episcopalians decided to save the Earth by installing solar panels. AL Power– a monopoly– is having none of that. McDowell is being charged $32 a month for the crime of having ethics.

Now in Federal court for picking on children and a church, AL Power has “no comment.” Probably the smartest thing they have said in decades.