ORANGE Tabasco Pepper

Peppers Galore. The View from our Deck. Sage in the background

Everyone who has used the Southern classic Tabasco Sauce knows that it is dark red. Imagine my surprise when I went to our local vegetable plant seller in the spring, and found that he was selling orange Tabasco pepper plants. I can never resist growing strange new crops–I also have a row of red broom corn, which is actually a plant from the sorghum family.

This was the result.

Future Pepper Flakes

That little reddish orange pepper is the first ripe Tabasco. It’s probably as hot as that whole Serrano that is right below it. I don’t know how this will work, but my goal is to dry all these, and make multi-colored pepper flakes with them. Then I can make some psychedelic sausages.

Seed Grinder and Mill

From Central Europe to You–The Grinder, not the Flour

I am down to my last two cast iron grinders to write about, and MJ has banned me from buying more. Even with that, I have my eye on a couple of them on Fleabay. Gearheads have no limits.

This Porkert mill is from the Czech Republic, and is the only one I have purchased new. It excels at grinding mustard seed for making fresh mustard. It will also produce a really good medium grain cornmeal. If you are Hulk Hogan, you could even attempt to grind wheat into flour with this. I have had the most success with spelt wheat, which is very soft.

I purchased this from Lehman’s in Ohio, as they have great service and great products. However, hereby hangs a tale, as I was once acquianted with the US Ambassador to the Czech Republic. He was even a customer of mine, back when I was in the Outdoor Retail business.

George W. appointed his favorite henchman from Alabama to be the Ambassador to the Czechs. The Czechs are famous for their metal casting, and I immediately suspected some industrial espionage, as Birmingham wasn’t just a steel town, but also a cast iron foundry town. Some of the finest cast iron cookware came from there. I’ll finish with a story about that.

At any rate, he was a good customer, as he had boat loads of taxpayer money to spend. I asked him about the Czech Republic when he came home for the holidays once. I asked him if he had seen the Faust House in Prague (by the way, Faust probably never lived there). His answer was as follows:

Ambassador: Who?

Me: Faust, the guy who sold his soul to the devil

Ambassador: Never heard of him

Me: You know, the Faust that Goethe wrote about

Ambassador: Never heard of him, either

So our educational system produces such products, and they become our Ambassadors to foreign lands. I should stop there, but I have a great cast iron story.

One of his friends, who was much more intelligent, was a retired Gent who worked with us one day a week. He was an expert fly fisherman, had been in the steel business, and knew every mill and foundry in town. His wife wanted some really fancy iron posts for their gate to their new house, and had him custom order some from a cookware foundry nearby. He went to pick them up on a Friday afternoon.

He said all the muscle bound foundry workers were there, lined up to collect their pay checks. He went up to the foreman of the plant, and stated that he wanted to pick up his cast iron posts. The foreman did this. He turned around and yelled:

Foreman: Hey, the guy is here to pick up his Mule dicks!

Everyone laughed but him. He said he just wanted to sink into the concrete, but he had mule dicks to deliver to his house. The fence did look nice.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Three-Combination Planes

Yes! American Ingenuity! Brought to You by a German Immigrant!

Justus Traut was one more inventor for the Stanley Tool Company. At one time he was known as the king of the patent, as his production of designs was so prolific. None, however, are as famous as his series of combination planes, two models of which are pictured here. The small one is a Stanley 50, and the two larger ones are the famous Stanley 45, though two versions made in different decades. Alright Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my closeup.

1903 Patent Date

The smallest of Traut’s planes is the Stanley 50, which is the perfect size to throw in a tool box, and carry around. It was alternately marketed as a beading plane or a plow plane, though it will do both. The great thing about this old version is that it is simple to make new cutters for it. Just slice up an old plane blade, and grind out any profile you need.

Here’s the classic

Moving Parts

This is essentially the final form of this plane, and it has more bells and whistles than a steam engine. (The early one in the middle of the top picture has a patent date of 1894). This design helped to kill off the wooden plane industry in the US, as it will replace a cabinet full of various other planes, with only one.

The Business Side

I have to admit that I paid a whopping fifteen dollars for that plane, as I bought it at a Flea Market in Scottsboro, Alabama, from an ignorant seller. He wanted eighteen dollars for it it, but I offered fifteen. He took it, and MJ just stared at me like I was a criminal. As I am not exactly a Kapitalistenschwein, a capitalist pig, I brushed it off. I saved us three bucks.

The problem with these jokers is there are any number of parts. Here’s my box, and that is a bare minimum. The long fence in there is a bead stop, used to replace the rosewood lined fence when making tongue and grove bead board.

Pieces Parts

Those parts are for both the 45 and another Traut design, the Stanley 66 Hand Beader. While not technically a plane (it’s actually a “scratch stoch,” in that it scrapes instead of cuts), it does have multiple cutters, and I happen to have all of them. The cutter that is in the picture cuts reeds, which are multiple beads.

Scrape On

I also am about to have a complete set of the beading cutters for the 45, as I just purchased the missing link on fleabay. The complete set of these cutters will be about six times more valuable than what I paid for the actual plane.

Pouch instead of

I made this leather pouch to keep these difficult to sharpen cutters from getting damaged in my box of parts. It also looks cool hanging on the wall of my shop.

These planes will all come in handy for my Christmas presents project list, parts of which are already finished. I am certain there are more that will pop up between now and then.

The Cookies that Made Me Want to Get Married

Make at Your Own Peril Do not confuse with the Weed Hybrids Known as Cookies

I first met Melanie Jane when she was in the third grade, and I was thirty-five. Oh, snap, a really bad Alabama politician joke (Southerners will get that one). Actually, I was in the sixth grade, so I qualified as a much older kid. We were in line at what we called our lunchroom, and I saw her. I told her she resembled her sister my age, and her response was to stick her tongue out at me. Thus our relationship began.

I finally asked her out right before I graduated from High School, and headed off to UA. We became inseparable in no time. After a few dates, she asked me if I would like her mother to bake me some cookies. It was impossible to refuse.

With and Without Raisins

After about five cookies from the mountain that her mother made, I had an epiphany: There were many things I could do with my life that were worse than eating food like this for years. In short, I was a goner. It didn’t hurt any that there was a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman sitting next to me, while I swined away (she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from college).

At any rate, here’s the recipe, updated a bit.

Ingredients

1/2 cup Sugar (Honey would be a good substitute)

1/4 cup Butter

1 Egg

3/4 cup Oats

A pinch of Salt

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

3/4 cup AP Flour

1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 cup Milk

1/2 cup Raisins

1/2 cup Pecans

Cream together the butter, sugar, and egg. Then add the dry ingredients, and finally the milk. Bake 12-15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. Then get ready to pig out. This makes about 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

A few weeks ago we received as a gift the original recipe, engraved on a bamboo cutting board, in the handwriting of MJ’s late mother, Agnes Olga, who baked the original mountain of cookies. It came from the very sister whose comparison caused MJ to stick her tongue out at me. I’m sure I wouldn’t mind having my legacy being great food.

Cheeseballs!

I wish this was as funny as the Mel Brook’s classic movie, Spaceballs, but it is just sad, pitiful, and an amazing display of ignorance instead. It does say something about people who buy processed food like cheeseballs.

It ain’t easy getting banned from Wal-Mart, but these two doofuses from Minnesota did it with ease. They decided to wear face masks with swastikas on them, to protest the mask requirement there. As MJ and I are both of German extraction, we take some serious affront to anyone who thinks a protest should include a swastika.

As they were getting kicked out with their toilet paper and giant container of cheeseballs, the female part of the duo said this gem: “If you vote for Biden, you’re going to be living in Nazi Germany.”

She says this while wearing a swastika. Irony now is officially dead.

Hoya! Don’t use Sawdust in a Chicken Coop

Once again, the chicken experts on the interwebs have struck Hoya! I have now been told that sawdust is deadly to chickens. Tell that to the more than 100,000 chickens that we had while I was growing up. Admittedly, they all now are dead, but blame that on the soup company they were sent to, to be beheaded.

I shoveled untold truck loads of sawdust for our nest boxes, and the birds didn’t have a problem with it, as they turned out far more than a million hatching eggs. I personally filled up the nesting boxes, and gathered most of the eggs.

For those who are not familiar with Hoya!, it’s the stuff you don’t want to step in when you’re in the horse’s stable. The interwebs is et up with Hoya.

Michaux’s Lily

Blooming Now in a Forest Nearby

André Michaux was one more botanist, gardener, and traveler. He was the Royal Botanist to French King Louis XVI, (that is, before the King misplaced his head), and botanized all over Eastern America, Canada, Persia, and parts of the Indian Ocean. Among his friends were Ben Franklin, William Bartram, and Thomas Jefferson. This Southern lily is among the many things he discovered.

We have been fortunate enough to have owned two properties where these were native. That’s a good thing, as these are practically impossible to transplant. I got that info from Ben Pace of Callaway Gardens in Georgia, where he said they killed about twenty of these before they finally gave up on them.

This, however, is the first yellow one I have seen. The more common color is orange. If this makes seed, I will try and plant more. Deer and rabbit love to eat these things, so I will just have to play wait and see on the seed angle. (Note: I just noticed that it has been eaten. Correction! MJ found it for me, as it was hiding in the maples, and it has a seed pod on it!)

While I’m on the subject of Michaux, here’s another plant he discovered–Big Leaved Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla). It has the largest leaves and flowers of any plant in North America.

Shade for the Outdoor Kitchen

There is even a legendary yellow flowered version that is found in Alabama. I have seen one of the trees said to have yellow flowers but not while it was in bloom. It’s location is a deep dark secret.

Now that’s a Leaf

Easy to grow, but hard to find, these are too big for even a deer to eat.

Box of Maters, Precious

Get Out the Canner

We hit the quinella today at the Festhalle market, as we got this box of maters for $25, and a basket of pink eye purple hull peas for $8. Now we have to either can or freeze the surplus, which will be just about all of it.

The result will be this–pints of maters.

An Army of Maters

We have thirteen pints already, and we will easily double that, and then some. I will undertake canning four quarts as well, which will mean I will have to drag our massive old pressure cooker out of the basement. It’s more than worth the trouble.

The basic method that MJ taught me is to pour boiling water on the tomatoes, peel the skins off, sterilize the jars also with said water, and then put the packed jars into a boiling water bath. We have determined that a longer hot water bath is much preferable to a shorter one.

That’s a lot of Peeling

So another Sunday is to be spent in the kitchen. I forgot that I also have corn to boil and freeze. At least we won’t go hungry this winter, or buy produce from who knows where.

Summer’s First Vegetable Soup

Let’s Eat!

We jumped ahead of schedule, or maybe just jumped the shark, making this soup, as we had to work with a bunch of non-ordinary ingredient sources. In about a couple of more weeks, we will be able to make this with all fresh local ingredients. But sometimes you just can’t wait.

Ingredients

Chicken Stock

Crowder Peas

3 Ears of Fresh Corn

A small Onion

Butter Beans

Large can of Tomatoes

Salt and Pepper

Half of our ingredients were local, but the rest were scrounged for. We did have stock made from a locally grown chicken, which is unusual. The corn was fresh from the Festhalle, and the butter beans were from there as well, but they were hiding in the dim reaches of our freezer. The okra was really excellent and fresh, again from the Festhalle market. Here’s where we go worldwide.

Crowder peas are not yet in season, and hard to find fresh anyway, so we used dried peas from the famous Camellia brand from New Orleans. New Orleans folks consume as many Fagioli (beans) as Tuscany, and this brand controlled 95% of the market. They are that good. Cook these first.

The onion was an organic onion from California, and the big can of tomatoes was organic as well, but they were San Marzanos from Italy. I just happened to have some cans of them in my pantry.

MJ and I enjoyed this with some fresh corn muffins, made with McEwen cornmeal.The leftover soup will be frozen for the winter. The left over muffins were devoured by our chickens.

Food Safe Wood Finishes

Make it Shine

Instead of using toxic chemicals, I use finishes on wooden cooking utensils made from plants and bugs. This is great, as long as you don’t mind eating bug juice. Here are the four best, from right to left, Chinese style.

  1. Linseed Oil. Flaxseed oil, which is usually heat treated to decrease drying time. (That’s an old Elijah Craig bourbon bottle, by the way.) I use the brand Tried and True, who makes a great “Danish Oil,” which dries quickly. That big Walnut scoop turned that color with just one coat.
  2. Shellac. Essentially bug secretions which are dissolved in denatured alcohol. Comes in a variety of shades, and is easily homemade. Those two mason jars in the middle are dark amber and blonde, and made by yours truly. It leaves a very shiny finish.
  3. Wax Finishes. The most durable is Carnauba wax, which is what that Liberon turner’s wax is made from. The carver’s mallet on the end is covered in that wax, which gives it a good bit of shine. Beeswax polish is made from beeswax and a combination of either an oil and/or turpentine. Terps can be a little sketchy on cooking utensils, so I go with linseed oil.
  4. Nothing. My favorite finish, which is on most of my personal utensils. As woodworkers like to say, it’s free, and available everywhere. If you really cook, your wood will soak up a nice finish in no time.

As the great food writer Michael Pollan says, don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. The same goes for food safe wood finishes. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t put that finish on your spatula.