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17 May 2010 @ 03:18 pm
A Food-filled Quest  
It is so good to be home! Quest was a blast, but it was an exhausting jaunt out West and I was very glad to be in my own bed last night!

Last Wednesday we drove out to Sioux Falls and stayed overnight with zarhooie. We chattered for a bit, but after work, packing, and the drive out, we crashed pretty early. In the morning we ran some errands, including getting some weird foodstuffs from Troika (an Eastern European grocery type place) and eating lunch at Sushi Masa with Baxter before hitting the road again. We made pretty good time and got out to site around 7ish, even with stops in Rapid City at the grocery store (for dairy and meat products), Walgreens (for a replacement EpiPen for the one I stoopidly forgot in Wisconsin), and the local quick oil change place (since my car had begun to cry about the oil quality). The Fit is an awesome car, but since it requests oil changes based on oil quality rather than time since the last change or mileage, the little warning light sometimes pops up somewhat unexpectedly. Between Madison and Rapid City it had gone from the "15% - Change me sometime soon, you know, when you get a chance" to the "<5% - Hey! Lady! What's your problem? I need an oil change!" indicators.

We were cabin-camping this year, which was nice because then we did not need to bring a tent or massive amounts of bedding. However, we still mostly filled the car, since I brought a LOT of cooking gear. It was worth it, though, since cooking was my primary activity for the weekend. I think I'll smell like smoke for a week and a half and I'm not sure my legs will forgive me any time soon, but it was fun. (Photos courtesy of Shava - my camera never left the cabin again. I so need to better document this stuff...)

Friday did not start out well. I had a devil of a time getting the fire lit and then it just smoldered sullenly, refusing to bloom into a full-fledged fire. The wood from site was all damp and half-frozen, since there had been a substantial amount of snow on the ground as late as Thursday morning. Most of it was gone, but there was a little bank in the shade of the cabin next to where I was cooking that I used as a convenient "refrigerator" most of the weekend. After messing with it for some time, I finally decided to let the fire just smolder and hopefully dry out some logs while I worked on churning my butter as the first order of business. Oh, FAIL. The butter churn leaked like crazy until the cream started to stiffen up but then the dasher broke against the resistance of the thickened cream. Doh! I ended up whipping it by hand with a slotted spatula for practically forever... Gabrielle and Jurgen helped and apparently it took a boy's touch, since it stiffened into butter within seconds of Jurgen touching it. It didn't "crack" into butter and whey like it usually does - either because of superhigh fat content or the cold or who knows what - instead it just seized up solid all at once. It was still clearly butter and it was so OMG delicious in its fluffy whipped butter state that I didn't wash or salt it. I caught at least one person just eating it off a spoon straight out of the churn...

Happily, while I was working on rescuing the leaking butter disaster, a nice young man appeared with honest-to-god dry wood and he diligently set to work making my fire a real fire, bless his heart. By the time the butter was done, I actually had a cooking fire. The rest of the day I puttered with making different little cakes, bacon, pease porridge, and skyr. I made the bacon first since I wanted to use the grease to lubricate the griddle for the cakes. I had gotten a slab of Hungarian bacon from which I cut thick, fabulous slices. Om nom nom. Crazy good bacon! And lotsa bacon grease for my other projects... I had decided it would be a recipe-less weekend, so I just went by feel with the bread, making a couple different combinations - spelt-barley. oat-barley, just spelt, all of the above with toasted spelt berries on top. I think the barley-oat were the best and, when served along with fresh butter and cloudberry jam to fighters on a water break, the whole platterful disappeared right quick. The pease porridge was green peas, yellow peas, bacon, onions, seasonings, and spelt berries. (It should be noted that I was feeding HRM, so nothing included garlic, but I provided a jar of minced garlic so any of the recipes could have some garlic added if the diners wished.) It was good, if not particularly exciting, but my plan was to use it as my "scrap bucket" for the weekend and see what it was like by the end of the event. I love split pea soup, so I enjoyed it, even if certain heretics think that peas are icky.I have not had a lot of luck making skyr at home, but I wanted to give it another go, so I tossed some together, without any real hope of success. I had forgotten to get skim milk, so I just used the whole I had picked up for cheese plus the skyr starter from home and some vegetable rennet. The pot just sat at the side of the fire all afternoon and in the ashes as the fire was going out for the night - no real temperature controls or anything, but it actually separated really nicely and, once allowed to sit overnight and drain well, it was a perfect skyr! I'm not sure why it worked when I did pretty much everything wrong, but - hey - I'm not going to complain about half-assed but tasty products!

Friday afternoon/night passed quickly, with a Library Petting Zoo featuring my best books from the NYC trip, a sub-standard fish fry at the restaurant (horrid service and fish that ended up making me sick), and a lot of sitting around or wandering and talking before turning in relatively early.

Saturday was the main cooking day. I got up early for the Laurel meeting, then returned to the cabin to make breakfast. I cooked breakfast on the stove since it was getting late and I didn't know how long it would take to get my fire started. Breakfast was hot oat porridge with heavy cream, apples and ham and served with currants and raw honey. I also tried to make a renneted cheese, but had massive fail and probably wasted entirely too much rennet trying to force it. I then moved outside for the main event of the day. I got the fire started more easily this time - in part because I had dried wood around the fire the day before and then stored it covered and off the ground overnight and also because I "traded" an unburnt log for a smoldering log from someone else's fire. WIN. Soon I had marrow-bone soup with turnips, parsnips, radishes, carrots, salt, marrow bones, cracked mustard, parsley, and maybe some other stuff. I meant to add leeks, but there was no room in the pot Tasty, salty, fatty goodness! The whole pot, besides the bones and about a pint of broth disappeared pretty easily. More puttering with griddle cakes and leavened spelt buns ensued, again with general success. I tried to make some millet cakes, but while the barley-millet cakes were marginally palatable, they were still very grainy and sort of icky. I suspected they would be yucky, since millet has just never been something that turned out tasty, so I was pleased this was one of the worst failures of the weekend. I also made some sorrel-flavored spelt cakes. I had tasted the sorrel and it seemed to be a sharper-than-spinach taste, so I didn't have great hopes, but in the nutty cakes, the flavor mellowed well and became quite good. On the other hand, cheese take 2 was also an absolute failure. :/ I just could not get a curd to form for love or money.

For dinner, I made a sour beef with currants. I boiled large cuts of beef in water, salt, vinegar, and rehydrated dried currants. Once the beef was cooked through, I allowed about half of the fluid to cook off. I had planned on cutting the roasts, but when I cut samples from the roasts, they just fell apart and I ended up shredding them instead. OMG yum. Best experiment of the weekend! The beef was served with a sampler of cakes which could be topped with skyr, raw honey, fresh butter, or cloudberry jam, as well as blackberries and a apple-cherry-black currant wine compote. Mmmmm... Happy tastiness. Even competing with Ia's meat-a-palooza (she brought something like 40 pounds of sausage) I only took home one small container of beef, which I will happily eat for lunch tomorrow.

(Hungry yet? I'll be doing some period cooking in the Authentic Encampment at Border Skirmish - come on by and sample!)

Late in the evening, I spoke with Elk, and mentioned my cheesey failures and he, to my relief, told me that he had never been able to get anything but raw milk to turn into cheese out there - they pasteurize it at just too high a temperature. I was sorry I'd ruined two gallons of milk, but happy that it had not been some sort of personal cheesey failure - that would have been just sad.

I had brought my Norse Child exhibit for the A&S just as a display item, but I didn't really look too closely at the rest. I had said I would help judge and figured I could inspect at that time, but Julianna didn't come get me mid afternoon and before I knew it, it was court time. I didn't hear most of court since I was still cooking in the back, but the procession in on the horsies was cool, as always. Clean up seemed to take forever and the pile of dishes was truly monumnetal. Brother Giles was a saint and washed a sinkful or two for me so I could zone for a bit, for which I happily provided a cider to keep the dishwasher happy. The washing of dishclothes and straining clothes and aprons and such will have to happen today and that will be another huge pile to deal with... Shockingly, I didn't really go carousing on Saturday night. I had a cider and a shower and then hit the hay. Sunday was the long drive home, which went reasonably quickly and uneventfully.

I am so bloody sore from the weekend's cooking fun, but it was worth it! :D
Current Mood: tiredtired
Cat Dancerpixel39 on May 17th, 2010 08:38 pm (UTC)
The only way I have ever been able to get millet to be edible is to toast it first, but I haven't found anything that even hints at documentation for that.

Oh, forgot to ask you--from whence did you obtain the ceramic/stoneware casserole?

Edited at 2010-05-17 08:39 pm (UTC)
eithni: Pictisheithni on May 17th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
World Market, of all places. Constanza found them on crazy clearance and obtained one for me. I wish I'd gotten more, it's faboo.
carrot_khan on May 17th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
....so hungry....
birdkillerladybirdkiller on May 17th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
I'm drooling over here. I wish i was going to BS but we have too much travel this summer. =(
raventhourne on May 17th, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC)
I usually get my milk for cheese at trader joe's type places since I can get the non-high pasteurized milk. Also, if you are stuck with the high stuff but can get non-high past cream, add it to the milk and there is usually enough enzymes to get it to go.
eithnieithni on May 17th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... Good tip, thanks!

Cheese attempt #1 was just grocery store milk, but cheese attempt #2 was the best milk I could get - organic from Bread traders or something like that - and still no dice.
raventhourne on May 17th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
was it liquid or tablet rennet?

I know I keep both in my fridge. Also, did you warm the milk before you added stuff? If the temp is too high it affects it as well.

I highly recommend and I'm sure you probably have, Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carroll...she's awesome and very friendly over email.
eithni: Pictisheithni on May 17th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
I got desperate and tried both. And beer. :P

The milk was pre-warmed, but not too hot. I've got a good sense for that, even over the fire.

I actually don't have that, but I think my apprentice does. She's the real cheesemaker, I just dabble.
raventhourne on May 17th, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
Vinegar is my favorite thing to turn milk into cheese.

Beer has to be 1) not pasteurized and 2) not have any hops in it...thus an ale. And ale doesn't work very well at all. You get a pittance of cheese.
eithni: Pictisheithni on May 17th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)
The vinegar was already slated for the beef and the beer was a last ditch effort. :P I figured I couldn't hurt it at that point...
Amanda Marksdottir: Breadragnvaeig on May 17th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
There are stands at our farmer's market for farms where you can get raw milk. I would suspect, being from your part of the world, that there could possibly be a dairy near you.

All that food sounds fantastic, even the failures. And where ever did you find cloudberry jam?
eithni: Pictisheithni on May 17th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC)
Sadly, raw milk is illegal in Wisconsin. It's sort of like pot, not *too* hard to find, but you need to have a referral from a current client or the dealer won't talk to you. :P There's a law under consideration that would decriminalize it, but it was still pending, the last time I checked.

Oddly enough, IKEA sells cloudberry jam! It's made with sugar and some other additives but, hell, it's cloudberry! It runs about $3.50/jar and is worth every penny.
Amanda Marksdottir: Breadragnvaeig on May 17th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
Illegal? O.o But...but... I imagine sputtering would be preaching to the choir.

Ooh, I knew they sold lingonberry jam but next time I drive to Baltimore I'll have to look for the cloudberry kind, too, to go with my rhubarb compote.
eithni: WTFeithni on May 17th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
I KNOW. It's sick and wrong. And hopefully soon remedied.
Denisilaifire on May 18th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
whymcwhymc on May 17th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
I... may need to purchase a butter churn...
eithni: greeneithni on May 17th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
Going to Border Skirmish? It's not far... and I'll have butter...
whymcwhymc on May 18th, 2010 12:43 am (UTC)
Hrm... I hadn't even thought about Border Skirmish... I think I've promised to put Alicia up one of the nights of that weekend, but I might be able to day trip - I'll look into that... you know how I love butter... it is my delicious creamy kryptonite...
eithni: CHEESE Gromit!eithni on May 18th, 2010 12:44 am (UTC)
Ok, lemme know!
ego_id_non_feciego_id_non_feci on May 17th, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
Every once in a while, I suddenly and inexplicably worry about what I would do should the techno-apocalypse collapse onto our world.

And then I remember that you're my friend, therefore I would still get butter, albeit through trading my labor for a portion of the final product, and I kind of sigh and smile a little.

Posts like this work better than a security blanket. :)

You are amazing!!
eithni: CHEESE Gromit!eithni on May 17th, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
Of course you would get butter... we'd probably enslave your monsters to make a butter-making factory. :)
alinorealinore on May 18th, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
Can I come and play foodie with you at BS?
eithni: CHEESE Gromit!eithni on May 18th, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
robstoutrobstout on May 18th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, this all sounds so good. Makes me want to try cooking over a fire.

What is in the beer that helps with cheesemaking? is it the yeasties?
eithni: yipes!eithni on May 19th, 2010 03:20 am (UTC)
I think it's actually the pH of the beer, but I'm not exactly certain. I'd just remembered that it works sometimes and was desperate. :p
relativelylucidrelativelylucid on May 19th, 2010 12:04 am (UTC)
sounds like awesome amounts of fun!
Spookyspookyevilone on May 23rd, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
I've never been able to make anything but "cottage cheese" from homog'd milk either. I only use homog'd when I want to make a cheese spread or a fake ricotta, and I don't bother with anything but the vinegar for separation. For real cheese, which in my world is usually mozz since I have the patience of a hummingbird on speed, I have had good luck with ... I can't remember the name of the brand, but it's in a glass bottle in the milk aisle and is pasteurized but not homog'd.

I am a little appalled that in WI, dairyland central, raw milk is illegal. Seriously, what?
eithni: greeneithni on May 24th, 2010 04:48 am (UTC)
I know - it's appalling. We were so close, but still, no dice...

I have gotten some decent cheeses from homogenized milk - my apprentice has gotten really amazing ones - from both vinegar and rennet processes.