Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pork shoulder in cider brine

Way, way back in October Lakeside, the lesser of our 2.5 grocery stores, had a huge meat sale. Loving meat sales the way I do, I bought a large slab of pork loin plus other porky goodness. Rummaging around the freezer (we got a new one for free!) I unearthed the last little bit of oinky goodness. I tend to be a one trick pony when I find a recipe that works and can reasonably be done during the week between my actual job and the house job. This pork is one shining star for me.

I got the recipe from a Bon Appetite cookbook but always modify it. The only thing I really keep is the cider:salt ratio. Anyway, take 4 cups of cider, 3 T kosher salt, a few whole herbs/spices (I love clove and bay leaves) bring it to a boil, then let it cool. Just stick your pork in a non-reactive bowl and cover it with the brine. For a shoulder I let it sit for about 2 days, but 1 works for chops or something more delicate like a loin.

I then wilted some leeks and shallots in a dutch oven, seared the shoulder, and baked it at 350, covered for a couple of hours. I had to deglaze the pot with some leftover brine so that the leeks would char too terribly. I would have made gravy with the brine but since I had to clean the house in preparation for a contractor there was no gravy. It was super tender and the fat had that perfect crispness that is the only reason to eat pork.

It's not really special but it keeps me going during these long days of drudgery. Having salty-cider pork is really a highlight right now when the low lights are dealing with unhelpful people at Lowes, trying to find anybody to ship a towel dryer via USPS, and breathing drywall dust. Later this weekend...Ima bake some bread.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Broken Buttercream

I can't win for losing. I like to bake sweet things, but I don't really like to eat sweet things all that much. As a result, I sort of don't really finish things. Take cupcakes. I'll say I made them "healthy" when I don't feel like making frosting. My old man things a cupcake without frosting should not be--he'll ask why I even bother. But when I do make frosting it has at least a stick of butter in it. Then he wonders why I'm trying to kill him with all the butter.

Well, last night I made cupcakes. With frosting. But the frosting was sort of wrong. It was a brown sugar butter cream where you cook some egg whites with sugar then beat them. you then beat butter a couple of Tablespoons at a time until smooth. The frosting turned out lumpy and sort of gross. It tastes fine but the color was bleah and the texture had little butter chunks that I couldn't beat out. Anybody have a good technique for butter cream frosting? I've done the sugar plus butter and the egg white frosting, but this little stiff butter cream eludes me.

Also, piping on brown sugar butter cream is sort of interesting, if I were interested in making artificial dog crap. It is a very bad color.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Weekend fun

It seems that when I get a day off from work, it's really "a day off" from "employment." I always work much harder on my days of work than when I'm actually at work. My regular job does not include moving drywall or appliances nor does it mean touching icky things like insulation and oil-based stain.

I HATE insulation. My personal hell is installing in above my head where it can rain down awfulness all day long. Every have an insulation in your eye? It is worse than smashing your hand in a door or burning yourself on a cookie sheet or shocking yourself with a hot wire. I hate insulation so much.

Our shining beacon of a house is almost completely drywalled, just a bathroom and some closets to go. I love watching all the ugly studs and %$@# insulation disappear. Everything is clean and white. Drywall hides a lot.

upstairs living

Downstairs living

Food news! I have some. Slowly, the winter doldrums are slipping away and I can finally do something about my SAD. This weekend I made our favorite miso-marinated salmon with some braised hijiki and carrots. I also make a venison roast by marinating it over night in some carrots, onions, shallots and white wine. The marinate became the base for a sauce I served with the meat. I even went so far as to make a roux. (Not that a roux is difficult but this winter if it took longer than 3 minutes I wanted nothing to do with it.) I was very proud of myself.

Oh, and our new washer and dryer arrived yesterday. I am really getting excited about laundry now.
WHEE! My life is so fun.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A suprise on the way

I can't believe I'm actually writing this. We are hiring someone to come and do all the mud-and-taping of our drywall. We never hire anyone and are diy to the core.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A trip down memory lane

And a trainwreck of my former hairstyles. Today, my mom scanned some pictures of me related to past blerg posts. Since I don't have anything important to say today, I'll post the photos and link them to their appropriate post. Also, I know my hair is terrible in all of these. Please don't make fun of the various perms/wedges I had. I know, already.



Dirt Dirt Dirt

I am awesome at house things

I ate heart! but in 7th grade I dissected one.

There you go. (Sorry, Merissa)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another 3 day meat sale

This past weekend was spent chasing down switches, temporary lights, and figuring what in holy moses was on each 15-A circuit. It was great. I only was shocked twice. Personally, I feel getting a bit of the old 120 volt is good for the system. Keeps that biological electricity on its toes. I also got to play with my new Gardner bender wire strippers. I still haven't fixed my tool belt since my brother used it over Christmas. It pulls my pants down and somebody tried to throw pennies down my crack while I was hooking up some switches.

Such a busy weekend also means we ate badly. Like turkey burgers, western family crinkle fries, doritos, and Seamart ass-doughnuts level of bad. Since we ate exclusively at the mart by the sea, we visited their 3 day meat sale! Yes, a couple of times a year meat goes on sale here. It is very boring meat. Pork chops, some sort of beef roast, greasy chicken and bacon were all on sale. I wasn't allowed to buy any meat (besides bacon) because we have a freezer overflowing with uneaten meat. Sigh, I didn't want any meat anyway (kicks puppy).

I have such plans of cooking/baking such glorious food. Plans that get smeared into the asphalt of my life. My one flaw (yes, I only have one) is that I can't drag myself out of bed early enough to get to work at a reasonable hour which means getting home super, duper late. By the time I get home tDF is all, "ALSDKFJAWEIUR FEED ME I HUNG DRYWALL AND STUFF ALL DAY." Then I'm like, "OKOKOKOKOKOK I'LL FIGURE OUT WHAT I CAN MAKE FROM WHAT WE HAVE IN 23 MINUTES." In short, I'm blocked by my laziness.

I did manage to make toasted pecan butter cookies last week. First cookies in at least 2 months. I also have every intention of iron cupcaking this month, but Passion? I need a cupcake about passion? I wonder what Fabio would look like in cupcake form? I think it would be buttery and sort of unappetizing. Things that inspire passion in me (food realm) include salt, salty smoked meat, bitter dark chocolate, whiskey, cheese, and bread. A cupcake I would actually like to eat would not be a very pretty or sweet one.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What kind of soccer player were you?

After reading about the unsung heroes of football (offensive linemen) and thinking how I hope Peyton Manning gets sacked a WHOLE bunch this Sunday. (There is nothing I like better than a Peyton sacking. Maybe the little dance of the really huge guy who does the sacking comes close.) I never played football americain, I played actual football. Or soccer. And I miss it terribly.

I realized I was the offensive lineman of the soccer field. I was a midfielder, who spent the game running from one end of the field to the other and yelling at people to get a move on. Midfielders tend to run more than any other player distance-wise. Because of this, we tend to frown on the show-boaty strikers and the slow-moving defenders. I started life as a left, outside midfielder (we tended toward the 4-4-2 formations) because I was fast and mean enough to take on the other teams' fast right midfielders and I had a killer throw. It worked out well since I've always been scrawny and could throw elbows and hip-check and rarely get called for it. Refs never seemed to think my little self could possibly be the culprit.

When I got better, I was moved to center midfield. This pleased my mouthy self who got to yell at everybody else from my orbit, but still work dang hard. I never really scored but I got a couple of assists over the years. My world was defensive. (Oh! The one and only time I blacked out in my life was when I was playing stopper and some so and so pulled a maneuver like the one pictured above and I went-to quote my dad-ass over teakettle. Neat!)

Southeast AK is not a place for soccer. Some folks play indoors but I like the dirt and the grass. So, who are you? Did you play? My husband was a goalie, which says a lot about him. TDF could best be physically described as a solid cube and has always been so. He liked to charge the flashy strikers and pluck the ball from their feet. In little league he was the catcher so, you know, goalie is a nice fit.

Maybe I'll dust off my old Kaisers and do some liners at the football field next week. I need to get in shape for field work.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mt. Edgecumbe and other volcanoes

Several times a day I get to see the lovely Mt. Edgecumbe. I didn't take the above picture but that's pretty much what he looks like on my walks to and from work this year. (Mt. Edgecumbe is a he because volcano is un volcan in french. Masculine and all that.) Different light yields a different feeling volcano. Near. Far. Lumpy. Graceful. The gamut.

I am also working on Mt. Edgecumbe right now. Not physically, but paper-ly. I am slowly grinding through 30+ years of data to try and finish the soil map for the south end of Kruzof island. It is a very slow, occasionally rewarding process. I have classified all known pedons for the island (There are about 200 soil descriptions for the survey area in question). Googling Duric Cryaquods led me to the Japanese soil science arena where I learned the words Kurobokudo--Volcanic ash soils and Anshokudo--Dark colored soils. Do is soil in Japanese.

Those little nuggets aside, it really has been a trial of my limited organizational skills. For those of you who are not soil scientists, mapping soil and completing in inventory is like filing all the same papers in different ways until everything seems to fit. It's one of those "scientific" things that I love. Today, for example, I made a binder with all the soil pedons with lab analysis for the survey area I'm working on. This dull little binder now holds all the characterization data for the several benchmark soils out on Kruzof. Except, of course, for the stupid andisol in the alpine.

Why would an andisol be stupid? You may ask because you know that andisols are soils derived from volcanic tephra and are therefore really neat. Because there is not one described on my forest and so we will have to do A LOT of work to come up with a new soil series. There is a silver lining, though, we would get to name the soil. It will likely have some name like Edgecumbe or Kruzof. Boring and acceptable. Just for once I would like to name a soil after something other than geography. Like McGillacutty. Or SoreFoot. Possibly Cranky.

The lab data always throws me because I don't work with it too often. Trying to figure out if a pssc is medial always has me squinting at all the dang 15 bar water figures--I can't tell oven dry from field moist because all the lab test numbers are from the old version of the soil survey lab manual. It's ok, though, it's way better than production NEPA or meetings.

I love my little dirt nerd world. There is an end, of sorts, in sight because we have to meet with the dirt nerd overlords in Palmer in early March. A whole week with other soil scientists sends me into such a tizzy. Well, that and the alpine field work this summer to describe that dirty old andisol. (I personally am hoping it's an Alic Haplocryand, but that's just me. It could just as easily be a Spodic Haplocryand.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Garbage Bears move to the Bronx

Hey, remember when I talked about the bear getting into our trash with her cubs? Well! Since she died (not sure why) the cubs were taken into custody. One little one died when a Tranq dart hit his/her lung and the other 3 were shipped off to the local bear gulag called "Fortress of the Bears." They now reside at the Bronx Zoo.

Last summer was simply awful with bear/human negative relationships. There was at least 2 sows with broods terrorizing the garbage cans in town. Yes, we need to manage our garbage and we do need to behave in a responsible thumb-having manner. No attractants = no bears in theory. I get an uncomfortable feeling about this whole issue. I strongly believe that when I am in the woods (i.e. any non-urban environment including trails near town) I am in the Bear's woods. It is their space and I understand they have a pretty specific line-in-the-sand about them.

Where is my line? Am I allowed to have one? Does my driveway and house constitute my special area--it is where I cache food and all. Are we as people entitled to this? Why are we more tolerant of bears in our yards than deer or slugs? I wrestle with these questions quite often.

At Anan, they have established a pretty strong Bear vs Human space. People get this little viewing platform and the bears are discouraged from climbing on it. My Brother says it's a lot of work keeping the bears in line and out of the human area. It is persistence. (The human area does not include the outhouse, much to my glee.)

One lady I know in town hates the rescue bear thing. When a sow dies, she feels, her cubs are supposed to die too. It's just nature.

I know that these bears will help educate people about the ills of rapid development of open spaces. We all need lessons in treating the natural world with more care. Personally, I'm more worried about the loss of arable land than bears. But nobody will ever think a Mollisol is cute.