I have all manner of projects that I work on. Caramel making, cheese making, dyeing/spinning/crocheting wool, I’ll get focused on regional cuisine… just stuff that I do. There’s a subset of these projects that is special to me. I call them my ‘beginning-to-end’ projects, these are the projects where I try to have my hand in as many steps as possible. I can crochet something with yarn, or I can crochet something with yarn I dyed or I can crochet something with yarn that I spun and dyed myself. In the future I will crochet something using yarn that came from an animal I raised and I will process the fleece and dye and spin it up and I can even use a pattern of my own making. I have a few crochet projects in the dye/spin/crochet bin and I will probably post those later.

I set a beginning to end cooking goal for myself a couple years ago. I decided that one day I would make a pizza with a homemade crust, homemade sauce, homemade sausage and homemade mozzarella. I did it! I finally made my super pizza!

Will start off with a few criticisms because if there is anything one thing I am good at it’s criticizing my own self. We’d wanted to use a different pizza crust recipe. The one that I normally use is okay but it’s a bit puffy, we wanted something thinner. Tried a different crust recipe this time and it was just no good, dense and hard and overly chewy and difficult to handle in dough form.

Not awesome dough

It just did not want to roll out nicely and was too stiff to manipulate. Next time we will try a new dough recipe. Also, I should have par-baked it longer.

On the other hand, the sauce was tasty. I was not able to use fresh tomatoes as it is entirely impossible to find fresh paste tomatoes. All they have at the store are the red styro-bombs that are useless for cooking. In the future I will make the sauce from tomatoes I processed and canned but for now I started with canned crushed tomatoes.



Yes, I do stick shredded carrots in my tomato sauces, it helps cut the acid edge and also yay carrots.

My sausage was tasty good. I’ve been making it for a number of years now and I don’t have the recipe written down so it varies from batch to batch but is always pretty good.

Sausage, 8oz Italian

Only good babies get sassages

Dough, sausage, dried tomatoes

Up in the front there are the dried tomatoes. I buy the little grape tomatoes and dry them all the time. They are excellent to have on hand for…everything. Also, very good for just stuffing in your face when you are hungry.

And the cheese! I followed this video, it’s a great step-by-step guide. PLEASE NOTE: he says 1 and a half tablespoons of citric acid but he means 1 and a half TEASPOONS. Instead of rennet tablets I use liquid rennet from New England Cheesemaking Supply, I used a quarter teaspoon of liquid rennet. The cheese was fantastic. It needed more salt and a little more kneading/stretching but, dammit, I made mozzarella and it was tasty as all hell.


I did try to make ricotta from the leftover whey. This was my second attempt at ricotta and my second failure. I don’t know if I am doing something wrong or if there are factors I don’t know about. Either way, I will try one more time and if it doesn’t work out then I will know that ricotta is just not a thing.


Pizza! I should have used more cheese. After we ate our first pieces David went in and fried up some more cheese and laid it on top and it was even more delicious. It’s not pretty at all but it was everything I wanted to do and it is something I am very proud of. I will keep working on ways to be more involved in the different ingredients and steps and I will make more pizza.


Pizza with arugula because pizza needs arugula.

For those of you chewing along at home…

Latest food whiz.
Made more stock and pressure canned it. Five quarts of chicken stock and 7 quarts of beef stock. I know the pressure canning is weird, it’s easier to freeze it. But, like I said, my freezer is tiny and I need the pressure canning practice. Also, popping open a quart jar of beef stock is pretty amazing, the great beefy smell that comes out of there. It’s straight up beef stock right off the stove smell, you want to chug it. BEEF CHUG! I imagine it is my own bias, but I swear the resultant textures of the stews and soups made from it are phenomenal, way better than my frozen stocks. Yeah, probably bias and also tweaking the proportions to load it up with more collagen than before. Still, though, I’m going to believe it is because of the pressure canning versus just freezing it.
In making my chicken stock I have had to switch from chicken wings to chicken thighs. I liked the chicken wings, I thought the flavor and the extra connective tissue really made for a better result. I know a lot of people use whole carcasses and leftovers for their stock, but we almost never eat chicken in any form. I have no leftovers to save and use. Chicken wings have gotten stupidly expensive lately and thighs are a good second option. And the dogs love the thighs because it is easier for us to get the meat off the bones for them.
Had another sausage and burger making weekend and the results were… disappointing.
I made a common, yet foolish mistake. Instead of making sausage because the stuff I needed was available all cheap or whatever, I decided that the weekend would be the time of sausage making and I would just go find whatever is available and use it. Dumb. The meat counter across the way had no pork shoulder or butt, just trimmed pork loin. They also didn’t have any shoulder/chuck/blade cuts of beef so I went with round bottom. The regular grocery had pork shoulder at insane prices and the beef wasn’t much better. I basically came home with a bunch of meat trimmed of all fat with no connective tissue or flavor.
I made my standard hot italian sausage. Dry but basically good, it’s hard to screw that up. Wrapped up five 8 ounce packages and one 12 ounce pack.
Last time I made breakfast sausage I also added ground bacon because who wants to have to choose between bacon or sausage! Have both! It was good but any subtlety the bacon might have added was overwhelmed by the sausage seasoning, so mostly the bacon just added salt. This time I did it without bacon and it’s definitely a better result. Bacon is good, but you really need to hold bacon’s hand in order to appreciate it. Six 6 ounce packs of breakfast sausage.
But the bacon wasn’t lost. I made up more bacon burgers. 1 part ground pork, 2 parts ground beef and a goodly toss of ground bacon. This is where the dryness of the meat and its lack of character really show. It’s just meh. Five packs of two 6 ounce patties, we’re eating through them but mostly as an afterthought, something to eat when we don’t feel like anything in particular.
Also made burgers with chopped oven dried grape tomatoes and mashed up slow roasted garlic. These are good, dry but definitely good. The bland meat canvas is definitely improved on by the flavors and textures of the tomatoes and garlic. I imagine they will be even better the next time around when I use better meats. I got 3 packs of two 6 ounce patties out of that.
Then I had a bit of a muddled experiment. Using the pork I wanted to make a dried apple and sage sort of sausage patty. Something to eat like a burger, but with pork and apples and sage. As I was putting it together I had an idea! Hooray for ideas! I quickly heated up a bit oil, tossed in mustard seed, cumin seed and fenugreek and shook it around until it got toasty and a bit poptastic and swished it into the meat mixture. It definitely removes any original idea I had about these patties, they aren’t apple and sage anymore (though they have dried apple and sage in them). It’s an Indian flavor which is good, but not necessary. Apple and sage and some red pepper flakes would have been perfect. I might make more with the cumin/mustard/fenugreek seeds and some other, more focused flavors. For this I got 3 packs with two 6 ounce patties, one pack with one 6 ounce patty. The dried apples are pretty good in there, you should try it.
Lesson learned about scheduling these things. You process and put up food while it is cheap and abundant so that you will have it around when things are scarcer. I just really wanted to make sausage and I didn’t want to wait. Not my best work, but we are chewing through it all and the other day they meat counter had pork should for cheap and now I have one in my freezer ready for next time.

Lady Blerghese and the Milk Floats

There it was, summer of 1987, I was 14 years old and drinking a glass of milk. As I was drinking it I thought, “you know what? This is NOT a tasty beverage. It does not taste good, I do not want to drink it.” and mostly I stopped drinking milk.
I’m not a picky eater at all, I will try most things. I’ve eaten jellyfish, chicken feet, tripe in both chinese and mexican preparations, tongue, fish maw, bubble tea, though I have not been able to bring myself to eat fish eye when it’s been offered (sorry fish eye). Of course there are the things I despise and will not eat, mushrooms, olives, raw onions (and some cooked onions, I have onion problems). It makes me seem like a picky eater because these are things the majority of people like.
GAAAAAAAH! I hate mushrooms. Hate them. The texture, the flavor, all of it. Being forced to eat them, getting the occasional, completely disingenuous, “just try it, if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it,” which almost always devolved into, “there’s nothing wrong with mushrooms… blah blah kids in china. You ate them before!!” Yeah, I ate them before! You forced me to eat them, you ass. Pizza time was fraught with danger. If we were lucky we got just regular style meat covered pizza. If not, we got the supreme pizza with everything on it. I would take a bite and very carefully with my tongue, remove all the offending mushrooms, olives, onions and bell peppers and swallow them whole and then continue with the chewing. A tuna sandwich is completely ruined by chopped onions. The olive bar at the grocery has to be given wide berth because they smell so bad (David had never noticed the stink of the olive bar, but he is 14 inches taller and I think the heavy stench of olive does not waft that high).
Luckily, by the time I reached junior high and high school I was allowed more control over what I ate and I did not have to eat mushrooms or drink milk anymore.
I hate milk but I am cool with most other dairy products, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, chocolate milk. It’s not so much that I hate milk, but that I hate the flavor of milk. I don’t want that flavor in my mouth, it’s nasty. In the last few years, however, people have been suggesting that I try raw milk. They tell me the flavor is different. I am skeptical of such a statement. It is still milk in milk form with no added chocolate flavor or cheese culture. Skeptical.
We move to Vermont and we work on changing our relationship with food. Doing things like getting to know the pigs we might eat later, buying eggs and tomatoes from people’s front yards and supporting local agriculture. There’s a dairy up the road that sells raw milk. We decide to try it out. It’s $7 a gallon which means that we will have to prioritize the budget a bit. $7 milk means not buying Marshmallow Mateys anymore, I’m okay with that. We get our milk and bring it home and it is a delightful wonder to behold. Jersey cows mean higher butterfat content and the cream at the top is amazing. We mix it up and pour a little bit to try. I am still skeptical but open. It tastes like milk. That’s all, milk. The flavor in my mouth is the flavor of milk and it’s still as gross as it was 25 years ago.
But! BUT! All is not lost. I do use milk in my coffee, on my oatmeal and in other things. Even better, I have started making cheese and yogurt with the milk and it they are so painfully delicious. The cheese is a fromage blanc, described as a ‘cream cheese’ which is a bit of a disservice, it is nothing like the gummy Philly cheese. It’s got the texture of a good chevre, a bit crumbly but not too dry, and the flavor is amazing. Because the milk is not homogenized the cream still rises to the top while the cheese is setting up. You get this beautiful, thick layer of full fat cheese. In the quiet celebration of another perfect batch of cheese you stand in the kitchen and spread a bit on a piece of bread and savor it before you mix the layer back in with the rest of the batch.
And the cheese is so satisfying to eat. Mix in some oven dried tomatoes and roasted garlic, a bit of salt and pepper. Or add powdered sugar and vanilla and serve it with crepes and homemade clementine marmalade. It’s amazing on a pizza along with homemade italian sausage and no mushrooms.
The other day I made my first batch of yogurt. It’s a bit bland at first but it just sucks up the deliciousness of maple syrup and you could fall into a pit of sugar and high butterfat bliss.
My favorite, though, is accidentally not shaking the cream back in “well enough” and making hot chocolate. It’s like a heart attack in a mug. A delicious, delicious heart attack that does not taste like milk.

On the business of pork part 2

Part 1 here
Part 1 was how the pigs became pork. And then I used pork (but NOT the pork from the pigs at the harvest, this is all pork purchased at the meat counter across the street).
Last night I made sausage, delicious sausage. To make this I had a beef round bottom roast, trimmed pork loin, untrimmed pork shoulder and a lot of thick cut bacon.
For the seasoning I use some premixed sausage seasoning from Penzeys but always augment it with more herbs and spices for super deliciousness. I work roughly 1 tablespoon total of my spices to 1 pound of meat.

MMMM toasty fennel
For approximately forever I was missing the worm screw for my stand mixer grinder attachment. I finally bought the damned thing. I love that grinder, it chews up even the toughest sinew. Love it! I grind everything on the coarse grinder, I prefer that to the finer grind.
Ground round bottom
Ground pork loin
Pork loin
Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of the pork shoulder or ground bacon, but you get the idea, pink and nubbly.
I made my regular spicy italian sausage and got about 4.5 pounds of that. I portioned that out to 8 ounce packages and froze it. That was just a thing. I make italian sausage regularly.
Then I wondered about my breakfast sausage. What is delicious for breakfast? Sausage is delicious, but so is bacon. Sometimes seems unfair to have to choose only one. Now you don’t have to choose! Made up 3.5 pounds of breakfast sausage and of that, a pound of it is ground bacon. Bacon sausage!! Broke those down to 6 ounce portions and wrapped and froze them.
And I mixed up delicious hamburger patty magic! I did 2/3 ground round to 1/3 ground pork loin and also about 8 ounces of ground bacon. Mixed all of them together with no seasoning and worked them into (roughly) 6 ounce patties. Got a total of 13 patties out of that. I made some up for dinner and wrapped and froze the rest to be easily thawed and cooked when we are feeling lazy.
I made up a really rich egg bread dough to be used for the hamburgers, a super decadent and delicious hamburger bun. And… I forgot to add the yeast. Solid pucks. I’ll be cutting and drying them and using them as dog treats.
My freezer is packed full of sausage and burger. It was a big production, all of my mixing bowls were dirty. I had to very carefully wipe down every surface afterward to make sure there were no jibbly-ickies left behind. There is something so satisfying about using something you made, whether it is my own sausage or a scarf made from wool that I dyed and spun and crocheted or cheese tart made with cheese I made. This is really what moving to Vermont means to me. I hope at some point to be able to participate in the pig cooperative and then make food with a pig I helped raise and slaughter. And then also eggs from my own chickens, chicken dinner from my own chickens, fruits and vegetables from my own garden, and trading jam for milk or something, I am glad we are here.

On the business of pork part 1

Pork is good, lets talk about it and lets start at the beginning.
We have a homesteading mentor. She has a little goat farm up in Bethel and that farm is clustered with a few other farms. All of the people in the cluster work together and help each other out. In this case, one person raised 5 pigs for 4 of the surrounding farms. There is no sense in everybody raising a pig and duplicating all this effort. The pigs stayed in the pasture of one farm and everybody pitched in with the feeding and care.
And everybody pitched in and helped with the slaughter.
The pigs live in an open pasture with a pen in there, a pig pen as it were. They have a lot of room to run around and do piggy things. They are fat and happy and calm. It was very very important the the pigs not be stressed or scared or otherwise upset. The ‘harvest’ took place right there in the pasture. You would think that would be upsetting to them but it absolutely was not. There was no chasing, no herding, no panicking at all. Just pigs wandering around being all pig like
We went up to watch and maybe help. I did not commit to any help because I did not know how much I could handle.
When we got there they had one pig down and had just started the skinning process. I was okay with that. It was meat in a pig suit. I know where meat comes from, it comes from there. Fine.
He went to do the next pig. The pigs were calm
He walked up to the group of pigs, put a .22 rifle with short rounds between the eyes of a pig and shot it. The gun was very quiet, the other pigs jumped away but didn’t run or panic or get upset. The shot pig fell to the ground and started seizing and then he reached down and slit the neck.
There is nothing poetic about a pig dieing, nothing beautiful about it. It is visually a bit brutal but you remember that the pig is not in pain, there is no more mind in there to register and react to things.
I forced myself to watch the whole thing. And that was okay, tough but okay. They grabbed the pig with the hooks and brought it over to where they were skinning the pigs. A pig suit meat pig was okay, a pig dieing was okay. Transitioning that pig from dead to meat what what got me. Those first few cuts, the occasional twitch, I couldn’t do it. I quietly left and walked back up to the farm.
David stayed to help and got to inspect all the organs and everything. I’m a bit envious about that, I would have liked to have seen that. But not on that day.
The next time they do this I will try again.
Once the pigs are skinned, emptied of organs and split in half they get sent to a butcher who breaks them down into the various wanted and then sent back to the people.
Part 2