Friday, February 27, 2015

Fete du Cochon!

Pig Party!

Warning: this post may cause a craving for dried pig ears...or bacon...
Rames, France--A hamlet in the midi-Pyrenees.  Just breath taking really.  Pure country and mountains; all you hear is the soft rushing of spring water and the low "dong-da-dong" from bells worn by all the sheep and cattle in the valley. 
The valley is dotted with these hand built rock barns.  The hills are so steep, they put several of these small barns on one property so hay does not need to be lugged too far.  This barn housed two pigs that met their fate one snowy February day.  I wanted to take a photo of walking them from this barn down a steep path about 1000' away to the truck, but I did not want to spook them and be the cause of a "pig chase" rather than a "pig party"!
Raymond, friend and butcher, killed the pigs and chopped them into "smaller" bits.  Here, at the butcher, over the wood fire in the back corner, we also made blood pudding--stuffing the intestines with the pigs' blood, carrots and spices.  It sounds grotesque, but it was quite good actually.  It's rich, so you can't eat too much, but it's worth a try from a good pig.
Next, all the remaining pig parts were loaded in the van and brought back to Rames.  We then carried the raw pork, bit by bit back up hill to the kitchen.

In the kitchen, we separated fat, from meat, skin from lard and put them in separate tubs.  Each part of the pig was used differently, some ground into sausage, some into salami, some cured, some canned, some left as roasts...but not a bit was wasted, from snout to tail.
These jars contain peppered and salted pork ribs.
The jars were then boiled in a hot water bath for 3 hours.  They can be eaten for up to a year.  I had some from last year's pig and Oh Man, they were incredible!
Next the bacon and the hams were peppered, salted...

...wrapped in clean cloth...

...and hung in the attic to cure.  The hams (shown here) will take 1 year to cure and can be consumed for up to three years.  The pepper cures the meat and the salt draws out the moisture.  Both spices are scraped off the surface of the meat before eating, so actually they are not peppery or salty in the end, just perfect.  I should have taken a picture of the finished product.  We were eating off of last year's ham.  Sliced thin, eaten raw with fresh bread and cheese...delectable!
Americans are pretty freaked out about how the French, Spanish, their meat.  Much of it is cured and eaten raw, hung from rafters and left out of the fridge.  It's an ancient way of preserving food, without chemicals and electricity.  They take precautions, I mean we washed and boiled all the jars, tubs, knives we used.  But it is cautious without fear...very refreshing...
Zach and I will try out a bit of cured ham and canned ribs...we'll keep you posted! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February: Salut!

Salut! Vermouth!
(Vermouth, a German word meaning wormwood, is originally from Italy--the fellows Martini & Rossi--but was adopted and perfected by Spain.  It must consist of white wine, wormwood and sage to be called Vermouth.  Served cold, it has a wonderful herby flavor...way better than the cheap stuff mixed in a martini).
France and Spain were both AMAZING.  A tour full of beautiful scenery, exquisite architecture and fabulous bread, cheese, wine and cured ham!  I haven't driven for 5 weeks.  Public transport and my feet took me from the foothills of the Pyrenees all the way down to the Mediterranean coast. 
I will take you on a short food tour from Nice to Barcelona.  Be sure to check out facebook in the next few days for more!
CSA baskets in Nice filled with oranges, lemons, hakurei and celeriac

Pierre, farm owner and Axcel, an employee prepping lettuce and cauliflower for market

Street in Nice...electric car plug in on an orange tree lined street

Cumquats! Such a treat.  I had never had them before.  They are oval and about 1.5 inches long.  You just pop the whole thing in your mouth, skin and all (your choice on swallowing or spitting out the few seeds).  They are tart and sweet, so yummy.  I gave myself a stomach ache eating so many of these while I was harvesting : )

Lemons! Oh my, fresh from the tree, they are like sugar.

Meme (Pierre's mom) helping us to clean leeks for market.
Typical lunch...a plate full of cheese and dried pork with bread.  Sarah Spring, of Spring Day creamery, lived in France and learned her cheese making craft there.  If you haven't tried her cheese yet, please do!  She is award winning and it really is a taste of France!

Flower Market in Old Nice on Cours Saleya

Farmer's Market in Old Nice.  There are fish markets, flower markets, veggie markets almost every day in every town in France and people go to them daily to get their food fresh.

Indoor market in Barcelona.  You could barely see the butchers behind the counter there was so much meat!  The French and Spanish prepare their meat so differently than us.  You might find a small roast or a few steaks, but no bacon, pork chops, hamburger.... most of it is cured and made into sausage or salami and every part of the animal is used.
...and I mean everything.  This case holds cow feet, stomach, tongue, liver, ears...
I know it sounds gross, but I think its great, more respectful of the animal and a good source of calories from a product that took a lot of energy to produce.

A bottle of sherry, a classic from Spain, and an afternoon at one of the many city parks.

Lunch on our balcony in Barceloneta (one of the 5 districts of Barcelona, this one is the old fishing village.  The town itself is smaller and a little rougher around the edges, since it is historically fisherman living there, but the water is gorgeous!)  No, it was not warm enough to swim, but we did spend a morning on the beach collecting the most magnificent sea glass and soaking in a few warm rays.
What a magical experience it was.  Europe brings me back to the simplicity of living....everything is smaller: cars, streets, houses, refrigerators, washing machines...  Food is celebrated and appreciated in a way I can't describe.  The buildings are old and the streets are cobbled.  There are uneven steps and cracks, but no one forces them to rebuild things to code.  (Those uneven streets surely don't stop the ladies in their stiletto heels.)  It's a place were I feel people are more connected to the basics of life.  I just love it. 
I apologize that there wont be citrus in your farm share this month or ever for that matter, but I hope you appreciate the fruits of Maine just the same.  Cheers!