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.

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.

Florida Man is Back!

When you allegedly get high on Meth, drive your Ford F-150 into the door of a liquor store in Alabama, and shoot the person who tries to help you, you must be a Florida Man. Such is life in the modern South.

Details, details, details. According to the Calhoun County, Alabama police, at 6.49 AM yesterday morning, a man from Panama City, Florida, ran his pickup into the Liquor King store on Alabama Highway 21. The manager of an Econo Lodge Motel next door came over to help him, and was rewarded for his good Samaritan behavior by getting shot in the leg by Florida Man. A woman who was also trying to help ran like hell to get away from the lunatic, and quite rightly so.

Florida Man was just getting started. He got out of the truck, and walked down the road shooting randomly, until he ran out of bullets. He then passed out in the middle of the highway, and stayed there until an off-duty cop came and arrested him. Florida Man was then taken to the local hospital for observation, hopefully in a different room from the person he shot.

Since liquor is a plant product, and meth is a cooked product (at least according to Walter White in Breaking Bad), I felt compelled to tell this story. That, and I get to quote the Sheriff of Calhoun County, who made the understatement of the century: “It’s a scary world that we live in.”

Peter Hemings, Y’all

As this is Juneteenth, we should celebrate someone who was freed from slavery–Peter Hemings, head chef at Monticello. He learned to cook from his famous older brother James, and was such a master that President Thomas Jefferson would write from the White House for his recipes. Despite being enslaved, he was the half-brother of Jefferson’s wife. History is complicated.

Not satisfied with just that, Peter taught himself brewing, and became the head brewer at Monticello. He was so good at that that he was recommended to be an instructor for the brewer for President James Madison. Jefferson wrote Madison that Peter was “uncommonly intelligent and capable of teaching.” Apparently he could make great beer as well.

After he finally gained his freedom, Peter took up yet another trade–being a tailor in Richmond. It appears that the people of Virginia were both well fed and well clothed, because of people like Peter. My guess is he was the source of many of Mary Randolph’s recipes, from the famous 1824 cookbook The Virginia Housewife.

Fifteen Tomatoes

Ripe in May!

It’s been almost a hundreds years since scientists discovered that ethylene gas could artificially ripen fruit. That’s the reason why most supermarket tomatoes taste like yuk. They’re green tomatoes, turned fake red, and sold as “vine ripened.” There are very limited penalties for lying, especially in the food industry.

That’s why I am officially declaring war on Big Tomato. ( I have previously declared war on Big Chicken.) In the spirit of ’76, I now have 76 tomato plants, with more seedlings probably coming. I have fifteen varieties, which I will list below.

Maters, Precious

Plants in the ground–We found a great seller only about four miles away. These are all new varieties to us.

Bella Rosa–A hybrid that already has a tomato on it, and is blooming like crazy

Atkinson–Developed at Aw-burn U, the bitter rival of my Crimson Tide

Roma III–Had to buy three of these hybrid Romas, because it is Roma III

Juliet–“It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.” A mini San Marzano! I was going to buy a couple more of these,but I actually bought three more

Roma-the heirloom variety, not the hybrid. Bought at the Festhalle, as were the rest of these. We’ve grown this before, and all of the below

Wild Cherry-the real wild mater.

Brandywine-the classic heirloom, with great tasting maters

Cherokee Purple-Perhaps the classic heirloom Southern variety

Seeds in the ground–Some are our saved seeds, including a couple of chance hybrids. We have grown all of these before also. All these have now germinated

Purple Calabash–The cabernet wine of tomatoes. Ugly and exquisite

Rio Grande–Why an Italian tomato is named Rio Grande, I have no clue

Creole–From LSU, and this is one Ragin’ Cajun, for hot weather. LSU has the craziest fans in college football. They came to T-town one year, their team beat the hide off the Tide, and then one sorority stole most of the furniture out of their sorority sisters’ house on sorority row, and carried it all back to Louisiana. They eventually returned it.

Black Truffle–We love dark colored tomatoes

Amish Paste–Same with the paste tomatoes

Red Cherry–Saved seed, probably Matt’s Wild Cherry, which grows wild in Texas and Mexico.

Hard Round Red Tomato-More than likely a chance hybrid, this plant has some seriously tasty tomatoes

Peppers, Dude

I only have forty something pepper seedlings, so I have a truce with Big Pepper. I do have three more pots of seeds that have yet to germinate. The cease fire could be temporary, and I do eat a bottle of hot jalapenos every month. Everyone has a weakness.

Native Rhododendrons, Part IV–Rhododendron chapmanii

Chapman’s Rhododendron

When people think of Florida, it’s either about beaches, or the trailer parks where Florida Man and Florida Woman live, although I also think about possums who drink cognac. They certainly don’t think of evergreen Rhododendrons. However, right there in the panhandle is the rarest of the rare, Rhododendron chapmanii.

Endemic to just around six counties in Florida, this plant is still sometimes listed as a variety of Rhododendron minus, the other deep South rhody. I have both, but the resemblance between the two is slight. Chapmanii is both state and federally endangered, and unfortunately lives exclusively on private timber comany property. In short, the long term survival of the species is in no way assured.

Fortunately, I was able to purchase two nursery propagated plants for my ark of a garden, and these guys are tough. My first plant is about to cross twenty years of growing out in the woodlands of Oak and Hickory. It has also made it through two of the worst droughts in memory.

The Survivor

Once again, for those in other hardiness zones, this species blooms at the same time as Vernal Iris (Iris verna). This one happens to be between my two plants.

Iris

Like the Ark of Taste, we need an Ark of Plants as well. Your local friendly bees will thank you with pollination.

Vidalia Onions are Here!

No Onion will be Left Behind

The calendar may say it is still winter, but when Vidalia onions hit the shelves in the South, you know it is really spring, or Früling, or printemps, depending on your language. These things are delicious no matter how you pronounce it.

The Real Thing

These can legally only be grown in a few counties in Georgia, where the low sulphur soil is ideal for producing perfectly sweet onions. They are eevn protected by the “Vidalia Onion Act of 1986,”which was passed by the Georgia legislature. This is a rare example of a Southern legislature doing something useful.

Use the whole plant, including the green leaves, as it is all superb. These are great raw in a salad, or sliced onto a pizza. Or any other way you want to use them.

There should be more food designations like this in the U.S. Otherwise, we will all end up eating the generic fast food “Fish Sandwich.” What fish that is on the sandwich, we probably don’t want to know.

Enterprise #34 Juicer

One Honking Big Piece of Cast Iron

Coming into the ring at over 10 pounds, this Enterprise Juicer can seriously crush some fruit or vegetable. It would probably also work as the world’s heaviest food mill, but it is something of a pain to clean. I have used it mostly to juice excess blueberries to make some pretty tasty blueberry wine. I have also juiced some key limes with it, like the one in the foreground (a Meyer lemon is behind it). I bottled and then pasteurized the juice.

Technically, the Enterprise Company called the #34 a “Combination Fruit Press.” I found this in the booklet they printed called The Enterprising Housekeeper, which I downloaded for free from one of my favorite websites, Project Gutenberg. Check it out, and download some Jane Austen novels as well, while you are there.

The screw at the pointy end is the adjustment for how fine you want the fruit pulp to be, which also determines how thoroughly crushed the fruit will be. That also determines how much juice will come from whatever you are running through this beast.

Now it is time to wander off into the weeds of food history, as these juicers were also used to produce “meat juice.” This came right along with the worldwide craze for a product known as Valentines Meat Juice, which was a huge seller from 1871 onwards, and naturally, it was a Southern product from Richmond, Virginia. Four pounds of heated (not cooked) raw beef produced just two ounces of meat juice, which is more accurately called myoglobin.

The Enterprise company especially recommended giving meat juice to invalids. Nothing like giving the remnants of raw squeezed beef to invalids. Food crazes never fail to entertain. I hope the Paleo crowd doesn’t find out about this.

Lodge Commemorative and Wildlife Pieces

More Cast Iron

A trip to the Lodge Factory Store in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, is a dangerous thing, if you have more cast iron cookware than every other kind combined. My wife Melanie Jane and I went there in December with the purpose of buying Christmas presents for her family, and we came back with seven pieces of cookware, and only four of those were presents.

Pictured is a commemorative skillet for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s the most biodiverse park in the country, and the most biodiverse temperate area on the planet. It’s also surrounded by some of the worst tourist traps in the world.

We bought as presents some of the Wildlife Series skillets, which had Mallards on the back of them, some real cast iron ducks at that. The link will take you to a complete set of the most useful pieces.

I once ran into the top Lodge marketers, at of all places, Salt Lake City in Utah, at an outdoor trade show. In amongst all the ultra light weight camping equipment was a display of cast iron which probably came in at about a ton. I had to check out the Dutch ovens and skillets, which made up most of the display.

I identified myself as being a fellow Southerner, and asked them what the hell they were doing with all this cast iron at a high tech outdoor show. They laughed, and waited until every Western looking person was gone, and one of them said very quietly, “Half the people out here still think they’re cowboys, and have to have our skillets and Dutch ovens. It’s one of our biggest markets.” The new Lodge cast iron care brochure is in nine languages, by the way.

What did I buy in December? My fourth Dutch oven, and I have only had to chase cows on foot.

Great Southern Cookbooks, Part Two–Real Cajun, by Donald Link (2009)

Real Food for Real People

There is only one thing to not like about this book, and that is I wish it was ten times longer. When you keep going back to the same cookbook over and over, you know it’s good. The “home cooking” part is the key here–these are recipes to use everyday.

Link has won a James Beard award, so home cooking may sound like an odd subject for such an accomplished chef. However, that is his strong suit, in that he cooks real authentic Louisiana food. He grew up in the region where people are comically referred to as “Coonasses,” as he notes in the book, which is a regional term for Cajuns.

The recipes? My favorites are the Chicken and Rice Soup, the Hush Puppies, the Hot Pepper Jelly, and the classic Cajun sausage, the Boudin. Cajun Boudin is mostly rice with liver and pork, but it is incredibly tasty. A Cajun seven course meal is said to consist of a Boudin, and a six pack of beer.

Strangely enough, Link is not of mainly French descent, but from German and regular Southern folks. That there are Cajuns of German descent is a surprise to many people from outside the South. And yes, those are the classic Cajun spices of Paprika and Cayenne pepper in the picture.