Nutcracker v. Nutcrackers

Nutcracking Season is Here

Here are two classic nutcrackers. One dances every Christmas, and fights the Mouse King. The other one only cracks nuts, and doesn’t dance at all.

The military looking fellow did come from the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) in Deutschland, but he is mainly decoration, who could crack some hazelnuts, maybe, but not much more. That hundred year old fellow is another story. Archimedes himself would have loved this design. “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” Or crack some nuts.

A Pecan was Harmed AND Eaten

I put the old fellow on a nice piece of oak, and made a spot for the pickers, as pecans are bad about sticking in the shells. And then there is the thing to bust open the pecan’s relative, the notorious hickory nut.

Hammer Down

Yes, that is a California made Vaughn 23 ounce framing hammer, and be ready to swing it to bust open a hickory nut, or a black walnut. Cooking can be a lot like work. Just don’t break hickory nuts on a nice countertop.

Mildewed Eggs and Other Hoya about Chickens

Eggs not molding

I have been amazed by the number of stories about mildewed eggs on the interwebs, about eggs that have mildewed both on the inside and outside of the shell. While I am certain that could happen if you left the eggs out for six months or a year or so, I have this to say about that–Hoya!

As a teen, I gathered upwards of a thousand eggs, literally ever day, as we had ten thousand chickens who laid hatching eggs. We were forbidden from washing the eggs by our corporate masters, as that would have affected the hatching rate. We never had a single egg with mildew, and I am guessing that I personally gathered tens of thousands of eggs.

Now that I have downsized to a flock of six happy chicks, I read a quote from a chicken prof who said that eggs taken out of a fridge and then stored in the kitchen, would mildew. Hoya! Anything will mildew if you leave it out long enough.

Just eat the eggs, the fresher the better.

Traditional Farmer’s Omelette with All Local Ingredients

Bauernomlett

To celebrate a drought busting two inches of rain, and to challenge myself, I decided to make a Farmer’s Omelette the traditional German way, using only local ingredients. In fact, they were so local that all but one ingredient came from within a hundred feet of our front door.

The brilliance of this recipe is that it only calls for three main ingredients–bacon, potatoes, and eggs. Everything else is optional, and subject to improvisation. This is a jazz recipe, and I always follow my use what you have rule. Here is today’s version.

Ingredients

One slice Bacon

One skillet full of Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed

Four Eggs

Two small Tomatoes, chopped

One sweet Banana Pepper, chopped

Garlic Chives, chopped

Salt and Pepper

The only ingredient we didn’t grow ourselves was the bacon, which came from just across the Mulberry River, from my home county of Cullman. The county happens to be named after its founder Colonel Johannes Gottfried Kullman, though he was actually a Colonel in one of the failed German state revolutions of 1848. Hence his removal to the United States.

This is also no ordinary bacon

Marinated Fresh Bacon

The bacon is so large that eight slices made a pound, and I had to cut one slice into three pieces just to make it fit my omelette skillet. These slices of fresh bacon were marinated for six days in a Saumure Anglaise.

The German method of cooking this is to fry the bacon while simmering the potatoes in water for eight to ten minutes. The bacon is then removed from the skillet, and the potatoes are browned in the bacon fat. I added the peppers as well. Chop up the bacon, and mix the eggs. I put my tomatoes and garlic chives in with the eggs, and then the bacon. When the potatoes begin to brown, add the egg mixture, and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients.

I did depart from the norm, and finished the omelette in the oven at 400 degrees F. While I cooked, Melanie Jane turned on Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto. We ate while listening to one of my favorite recordings, the Bavarian State Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, conducted by the incomparable Carlos Kleiber. We also had a Bavarian flag hanging off the balcony above our dining room table, in honor of Oktoberfest. One of our semi-domesticated wolves, aka a dog, ate the leftovers.

As the salt was not mined, nor the peppercorns picked, anywhere locally, I will admit that this was only ninety nine percent local. But that is still ninety nine percent better than food that has been trucked across a continent.

Cullman Oktoberfest 2019

Courtesy of the Cullman Oktoberfest Facebook page, here is the schedule for this year’s Oktoberfest. The primary locations are the Cullman County Museum, and the Cullman Festhalle, said to be the largest timber framed structure in the Southeast. Prost!

Monday, September 30, 2019

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:30 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM St. John’s Church Oktoberfest Dinner

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

7:00 AM – 2:00 PM Farmers Market at the Festhalle

8:30 AM – 2:00 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

8:30 AM – 2:00 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Sacred Heart German Dinner

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Carriage Rides

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Opening Ceremonies at the Festhalle

6:00 PM – 10:00 PM Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM Paper Airplane Contest at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM – 10:00 PM Terry Cavanagh & the Alpine Express at the Festhalle

7:30 PM Pickle Eating Contest (Ages 14 & Under)

8:00 PM Best German Costume Contest & Longest Beard and Braid Contests

9:00 PM Stein Hoisting Contest

Thursday, October 3, 2019

7:00 AM – 2:00 PM Farmers Market at the Festhalle

8:30 AM – 2:00 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM Terry Cavanagh & the Alpine Express at the Festhalle

10:00 AM – 2:00 PM Senior Day at the Festhalle

10:00 AM – 2:00 PM Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten at Senior Day

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Carriage Rides

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten

6:00 PM – 6:45 PM Cullman Community Band at the Festhalle

6:00 PM – 10:00 PM Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM Paper Airplane Contest at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM Candlelight Walking Tour (Beginning at the Cullman Depot)

7:00 PM – 10:00 PM Terry Cavanagh & the Alpine Express at the Festhalle

7:30 PM Pickle Eating Contest (Ages 14 & Under)

8:00 PM Best German Costume Contest & Longest Beard and Braid Contests

9:00 PM Stein Hoisting Contest

Friday, October 4, 2019

8:30 AM – 2:00 PM Wolfgang Moritz at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM School Tours at the Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

10:00 AM – 8:00 PM Arts & Crafts Show at Depot Park

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

3:30 PM – 12:00 AM (overnight) Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten

4:00 PM – 10:00 PM Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Wine Tasting at the Biergarten

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Christ Lutheran Oktoberfest Dinner

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Avenue G at the Festhalle

5:00 PM – 10:00 PM Cullman Oktoberfest Classic Car Show

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Living History Cemetery Tour (Every 30 Minutes; Departing from Festhalle)

7:00 PM Paper Airplane Contest at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM The Overtones at the Festhalle

7:30 PM Pickle Eating Contest (Ages 14 & Under)

8:00 PM Best German Costume Contest & Longest Beard and Braid Contests

9:00 PM Stein Hoisting Contest9:00 PM – 12:00 AM (overnight)My One & Only at the Festhalle

Saturday, October 5, 2019

7:00 AM – 9:00 PM Farmers Market at the Festhalle

8:00 AM Oktoberfest 5K & 10K Run

8:00 AM – 8:00 PM Arts & Crafts Show at Depot Park

8:00 AM – 10:00 PM Children’s Activities at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

8:30 AM – 9:00 AM East & West Elementary Singers at the Festhalle

9:00 AM K9s-4-A-Kause at Depot Park

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Cullman Middle & Cullman High School Singers at the Festhalle

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Nimble Thimble Quilt Guild Display at Cullman County Museum

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Oktoberfest Junior Sidewalk Art Show

9:00 AM – 10:00 PM Carriage Rides

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Wallace State Singers at the Festhalle

10:00 AM – 11:59 AM Cullman Oktoberfest Biergarten

10:00 AM – 7:00 PM Bingo at Sacred Heart Church (Concessions Sold)

10:30 AM – 2:00 PM Freddie Day Catering at the Festhalle

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Wallace State Jazz Band at the Festhalle

12:00 PM Lions Club Bed Races at Depot Park

12:30 PM Bratwurst Eating Contest at the Festhalle

2:00 PM Round 2 at the Festhalle

2:45 PM Paper Airplane Finals at the Cullman County Museum Parking Lot

4:00 PM – 7:00 PM Corn Hole Tournament at Goat Island Brewery Sponsored by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church & School

5:00 PM Busy Bee Café German Menu

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Wine Tasting at the Biergarten

6:00 PM Blind the Sky at the Festhalle

8:00 PM Best German Costume Contest & Longest Beard and Braid Contests

10:00 PM Stein Hoisting Contest

There’s still time to practice your chicken dance, so go ahead and shake those tail feathers.

Pear Honey

Great Pear

As far as is known, the Roman writer Pliny the Elder published the first pear recipe, where he stated that they should be stewed with honey. Modern pear honey recipes omit the honey, but I’m going old school all the way back to the Roman Empire. I’m bringing back the honey.

Ingredients

6 Bartlett Pears, peeled, cored, and sliced

1 Meyer Lemon

1/4 cup Honey

2 cups Sugar

My six pears cost a whopping two bucks at the Festhalle Farmer’s market, and the honey was local as well. My wife Melanie Jane grew that enormous Meyer lemon, and the sugar came from Sugarland, Texas: old school and down home.

I began with cooking the honey, sliced pears, and the complete interior of the Meyer lemon, minus the seeds. Hint: if you freeze the lemon first, and then cut it in half, the peel comes off all in one piece. Add the sugar, and get ready to go do something else.

A Saucier full of Pears

Cooking Time

2 1/2 Days (Correction: 2 1/2 Hours)

This would be an excellent time to go and write some on that novel that you have been putting off, which is something of a shameless plug, as I am half way through writing a novel that deals with food and mental therapy. To me, good food is the best therapy around.

Don’t forget to stir this occasionally, especially toward the end of the cooking, as it turns into pear syrup. After two and a half hours I brought out our most medieval potato masher, and turned this into the consistency of a really thick honey. All that was left was three half pints, processed in a hot water bath.

The Color You should Look for

It appears those Romans were pretty smart after all.

Southern Vegetable Soup

Southern Vegetable Soup, Just getting Started

Here’s an old family recipe, created out of the necessity of eating only vegetables. As it so happens, it turns out to be, and I am actually understating this here, unbelievably good. Our vegetables play well together.

I have Died, and Gone to Vegetable Heaven

Create your own version out of whatever you have, but this is ours. Using what you got is the secret to good food. Quantities are based on how much you have.

Ingredients

Chicken Stock

1 Vidalia Onion, diced

Butter Beans

Field Peas

Tomatoes

Okra. sliced

Sweet Corn, cut from the cob

Salt and Pepper

Except for the seasoning, ingredients are cooked in that order. This is truly a dish of high summer, when all these things are in season at once. I now mill my tomatoes in a food mill, so the okra seeds get to be the star. The kicker is when all this is cooked, add:

Wide Egg Noodles

The extra starch does some magical something or other, and adds a little who knows what. Wait, that’s called flavor. Ideally, serve with a hot piece of:

Corn Bread

We’re talking a real melting pot here, Southern Cucina Povera. We freeze some for the winter, and days when you think it will never be warm again. Freeze it without the noodles, and add those only when you cook it. This soup is the boss, the mac daddy, and the kiss my butt on twentieth street shut your mouth cheap talk at the table stopper. That last one is something of a Birmingham thing.

Creole Shrimp Boil

Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

This is something of an empty out the spice cabinet dish, and a boil can have everything from crayfish, shrimp and sausage, to artichokes and corn. Since this was for two, we stuck with the basics of shrimp, sweet corn, and new potatoes.

Shrimp Boil

Ingredients

For the Boil:

Water to cover the Ingredients (2 Quarts here)

1 teaspoon Thyme

1 teaspoon Oregano

Cayenne Pepper Flakes to taste

2 tablespoons Salt

6 Cloves

6 Allspice

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon Dill Seed

1 teaspoon Fennel Seed

And anything else you like. Cover, and bring this mixture to a rolling boil. Turn it off, and let it steep for awhile. If you have a cold, stick your face down in the vapor. If it’s well seasoned, it will clear your head out.

For the Edibles:

4 new Potatoes (we have 2 Red and 2 Yukon Gold)

2 ears Sweet Corn (these are Silver Queen)

1/2 pound+ Shrimp, deveined (we usually use Gulf shrimp, but these are Florida Keys shrimp)

Boil the potatoes for 30-35 minutes, then add the corn. Cook for 8 more, and add the shrimp. In about a minute or two, the shrimp will curl up and turn opaque, which means they are done. Strain in a colander, and serve in a bowl with a rustic paper towel lining.

Have beaucoup amounts of butter for the corn and potatoes. Our favorite condiments are cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and Chinese hot mustard. If the boil didn’t clear out your sinuses, a combination of hot mustard and cayenne flakes surely will.