Sunday, March 22, 2009

Salami…Ken’s favorite breakfast sausage

After a week of virtually no cooking while supporting my friend Viv at OHSU hospital in Portland, Oregon, it was time to get back to my passion. Where to start? A look in the fridge and freezer revealed my husband, Ken, was almost out of salami. Horror of horrors!

I first started making salami as a test of whether I could do it. A lot of our favorite recipes start that way. I’ll try something just to see if I can do it, and if I can is it worth doing? I’m a big believer in being self-sufficient and reducing my reliance on stores. Part of this started when I was a kid when we didn’t have all the processed foods we have now, part was also because my mother was a pretty lousy cook. But two other reasons are living in Alaska and cruising on our sailboat! I lived in Alaska for a total of 23 years, and Ken and I sailed on our sailboat from San Diego, California, to and through the Panama Canal. Both of these lifestyles required us to be self-reliant.

In Haines, Alaska, I learned mostly by self-teaching and a few books, how to preserve foods. My former husband, Jim and I used to hunt and fish as well. I raised a garden that was 33 ft by 55 feet. I also hunted and fished. When Jim and I were out bear hunting one day he shot two bears. After he skinned them and gave me the meat, I rendered up the bear fat, canned the bear ribs and processed the haunches like hams. I caught and smoked salmon and Dolly Varden trout. OK, before I hear from Jim, I will ‘fess up that I also burned my smokehouse down when I left it unattended, while dispatching for the Haines fire department. LOL.

While cruising with Ken, we caught many fish, bought fresh produce and fruit, as well as chickens and meats from the local farmers markets all down the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America. We traded tee-shirts for fish with local fishermen, traded zucchini and banana bread for wonderful big fresh coconuts.

These days I no longer hunt, instead I buy chickens and meats from local stores. Fishing is something I just haven’t delved into here in Pennsylvania. Frankly, if I want good fish, I wait until Sam’s or Costco brings in fresh salmon and halibut from Alaska or the Pacific Northwest, but I do buy lots of frozen wild cod, haddock and flounder. In Baltimore I will always order fresh fish when eating out.

I began making salami when I found a salami making “kit” at one of the local hunting stores, Gander Mountain I think. I bought a man-made casing for the first batch, but found them too difficult to fill and handle. Now I just use parchment paper to wrap the salami logs in. After about the sixth batch of salami I stopped buying the boxed ingredients and started mixing my own spices, bought curing salt in the two-pound bag at Wal-Mart, and developed a great recipe. Interestingly enough, my neighbor Wanetta shared her mother’s Salami recipe from the “back on the farm days” and it was almost exactly the same recipe.

Now that I have this recipe down to a fine science, I don’t mess with it, because Ken loves it so much. But I have tried other variations that I make for me. I’ve also shared this recipe with several friends and they’ve had great success with their own versions of it. I will say this right up front…we don’t eat pork, so I have only made the recipe with ground beef, usually 90% lean. So here goes…

Salami

Prep time is about 15 minutes; cooking time is 1 hour, the day after you mix the ingredients.

Ingredients:
2 ½ pounds ground beef (90% lean)
¾ tsp dried 6-pepper flakes (I often make my own by saving seeds from jalapenos and other chilies)
½ tsp yellow mustard seeds (no mustard seeds in the house? Try some gourmet mustard)
½ tsp peppercorns
1 tsp dehydrated minced garlic (or garlic powder)
3 Tblsp curing salt
1 Tblsp sugar (or honey, maple syrup, etc)
Optional:
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp dried minced onion

Have ready 4 pieces of parchment paper about 14 inches long.

Grind the pepper flakes, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and minced garlic using a mortar and pestle. Don’t be worried about leaving one or two mustard seeds or peppercorns whole. Set aside.

Put the ground beef in a mixing bowl, dump the spices on top with the curing salt and sugar (and other options) and mix until thoroughly blended. I do this with my kitchen aid, but you can do it by hand also.




Lay out 4 pieces of parchment paper. Wet your hands and gather about ¾ pound of the ground beef and spices mixture. Form into a log while in your hands, squeezing out all air holes. Lay on a piece of parchment paper.




Pull one end up and over and roll up as you would when making refrigerator cookies into a log. Twist both ends and set into a 9 inch by 12 inch pan. Continue with the next log, until all the ground beef mixture is formed into logs.




Put in the refrigerator over night.




The next morning, preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Have out a broiler pan, or an oven safe cooling rack (like you use for cooling cookies). I spray mine with Pam first. Unwrap each log and place on the cooling rack or broiler pan, leaving air space between each log. Put the pan in the oven and cook for an hour.

After the hour is up remove the pan from the oven and let set to cool. If you have one log that is bigger than the others, you may want to put it back in the oven and cook it for another 5-10 minutes.

I love to taste the salami about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven. It’s still hot and fresh and has a wonderful spicy aroma, a great mouth-feel, and the meat and spices blend very well on the tongue!




Once thoroughly cooled I wrap each log individually in paper towel and then put several at a time into a vacuum seal bag, seal them and put them in the freezer. We take one out at a time, put in the cold cuts drawer of the refrigerator and slice off what we need, as we need it. Wrapping it in the paper towel allows it dry out as you use it and gives it a delicious texture, but its wonderful fresh as well.

Salami after it has dried out when wrapped in paper towel.

If you have any questions, let me know. Also please let me know how your version comes out, and what variations you do.

Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington

Portland to Seattle and back again....hospital stays and fun times!

Today’s blog starts with waiting in a hospital waiting room in Portland, Oregon. Nope, not me this time…my friend Viv is in having a procedure. Viv is from Alaska, long time AK resident as a matter of fact. She moved there in the 1970s with her husband Rod. Last year Rod passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Then Viv had to have 2 surgeries done in December and now January, and now another unrelated surgery. It was time to come to her side to give her laughter support.

And we do laugh! Yesterday we took a “mini” road trip to Seattle, WA. I hadn’t been able to see my adopted mom Rita for about 5 years. Plus there were several other friends we wanted to see. I lived in Seattle from 1994 through 1997, but had been going back and forth between Anchorage and Seattle for years before that. My time in Seattle gave me time to develop many great long-lasting friendships.

Viv was one of my most frequent visitors. She became as attached to my Seattle gestalt as I was/am. This trip was to be a very fast one; we only had 3 hours time in Seattle, because it’s a 6 hour round-trip from Portland to Seattle. Because of the short timeframe, I called a two few close-by friends and said we’d meet them at my Rita’s apartment.

For those of you who have not had the enjoyment of meeting these folks, I will take a minute here for introductions. I’ve already given you a few facts about Viv. But I didn’t cover what a great person she is, how she’s loved by so many of us for positive outlook, her energy, and ability to share her life and experiences. She’s also a fabulous fund-raiser.

Rita is next in line. She’s a true gem, and I call her my adopted mom, or my Seattle mom. I first met Rita and her husband Harry (now passed on) back in 1991 or ’92. I was down in Seattle on one of my quarterly trips for a Hadassah board meeting, and ended up participating in a Shabbas learning session at Rita and Harry’s apartment. It was a great time and I just really enjoyed the afternoon. That started a great relationship.

When I moved down to Seattle, I loved giving and going to Shabbat dinners and Rita and Harry were always on my guest list, and I was on theirs. Because I was single at the time, there would often be more women than men at the table. And at times Harry would be the ONLY man. I would have anywhere from 6-13 guests total. One Shabbas in particular stands out. We had a full table (13), and Harry was the only man joining us that night. About 11 pm, Rita prompted him that it was time to go home. He refused to go, because he loved hearing us gals discussing Torah and Talmud in relation to current events!

When Harry passed on, I flew down and the family honored me by allowing me to help with sitting shiva for him. So over the years Rita and I have formed a close bond. Rita is a young 87, full of wisdom, a woman who loves to kvetch at me for a variety of my exploits. I love her for the concern and love.

Lael is another friend I met in Seattle, and I actually met her before Rita. Lael was the mother-in-law of the rabbi of my favorite synagogue in the Northwest area. When I would fly down from Alaska, I would try to get to services at Congregation Beth Shalom. One time I called the rabbi and asked for a recommendation for a bed and breakfast close by, and he suggested I call Lael. She and I struck up a fast friendship and we have shared many adventures over the years. Lael is retired and rides the Seattle busses like a well-seasoned traveler so I knew she could easily find her way to Rita’s.

Our final contact was Davida who lives not too far from Lael, and works downtown. I met Davida when I was living in Seattle, just a few blocks from her. We met at the bus stop one morning and became bus-buddies and then real friends. She’s got wonderful stories of living in Woodinville (a bedroom community of Seattle) and raising chickens. Her stories about banty roosters, and chickens roosting in the trees in her yard had us laughing with tears streaming down our cheeks.
The day of our visit, Viv and I arrived 30 minutes late due to traffic, but it timed out perfectly with Lael’s and Davida’s arrival. We chattered and wandered into Rita’s apartment, stopping for a tearful reunion when Rita met us in the hallway.

Because it was lunch time we went downstairs to the little cafĂ© and met up with the chef Jose, a delightful man. Rita lives in a Jewish retirement building with both independent and assisted living facilities. The place serves only kosher food, a big plus for Rita’s peace of mind.

From left to right: Rita, Viv, me, Lael & Davida

We had a great meal and Jose’s cream of mushroom soup was fabulous! I’m lactose intolerant so many times have to pass up cream soups. But he makes his recipe with soy milk instead of cow’s milk so I lapped it up gratefully! The spinach tortilla veggie wrap I ordered was huge and delicious and I took half of it back with us.



But as good as the food was, the company was the shining star. Since we have all known each other for at least 15 years we had many laughs to share and new adventures to relate. Rita sat there beaming the whole time. The time was way too short, but a great way for Viv to spend the day before serious surgery.



Shoes, I must mention shoes. On the way back, Viv insisted (though she will try to blame me) we had to stop at the Centralia outlet stores, in particular the shoe stores! Hmmm. Methinks you don’t believe that…ok, I’ll fess up…it was a mutual decision. We both are hard to fit when it comes to shoes, so when we come in close contact with a shoe store that might, even remotely, carry our size we have to stop for “15 minutes”. The outlet mall in Centralia was a perfect choice for us. Of course 15 minutes actually equaled an hour and a half! But we both came away with shoes! A real bonus!

After that fast day it was time to put Viv in the hospital for her operation. Her daughter Kylie very kindly had me stay at her apartment in downtown Portland. Kylie’s boyfriend, Brandon (aka Blue) was always there also. Once we had Viv in her pre-surgery room Brandon serenaded her with a song he had written from the perspective of her kidney that had to leave. It was so fun to watch and listen to as the doctors hung back waiting to talk to Viv before she was taken in to surgery! I’ve included a clip from that concert.

Viv’s positive attitude and love of life, along with the support of family and friends had her sailing through two operations with class and style. She was housed in the newest wing of OHSU with brand new and state of the art equipment. She did have a few nurses and doctors concerned as she would go “AWOL”, but she was only down the hall or in the next building holding court with all of her well-wishing visitors. That’s our Viv; no one can keep that woman down!

I am still trying to figure out how to load a video from my phone!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Scupper

This is the story about Scupper, our Westie/Shih-Tzu "designer" dog. I put the word designer in quotes because it used to be that a mix like this was called a mutt...and people gave them away free...now they are called designer dogs and get big $$ for them. We got Scupper on sale though and he's a womderful member of our pack. He THINKS he's the leader, until I come home from work. Then he goes...uh oh, alpha is here! LOL.

This picture best illustrates how tiny he was when he came onboard, 2 pounds! He's in my apron pocket in this photo.

Since the first weekend he joined us he has been with us in our travels and adventures. Yes, that is Scupper sitting on Ken's kayak.
Most of the time he rides with me as I paddle. He loves to sit on the front of the kayak and will walk out to the bow, look down at the water, and then walk back. He'll fall in occassionally. But I keep him tethered and he has a life vest on. I grab him by the handle on the back of his vest and up he comes. When I put him back on the kayak, he then has to shake himself all out. So, of course, I end up with as much water on me as he has on him!

We've had him out sailing, as well. From the beginning he's been very sure-footed on boats. There was only one time that had me worried. He wouldn't stay in the cockpit once he was big enough to get up on the cushions and jump onto the deck. One time he was watching a big stinkpot (power boat) go by that left a huge wake...all of a sudden Scupper was sliding all over the deck! He scrambled back up on his feet and hightailed it back to the cockpit with this look on his face like "oh @#$%! Did you see what that idiot did?" He stayed close to me the rest of the day on that sail!

When Scupper first joined us we had to get him used to being in a crate on occassion. It was difficult. He would bark, whine and cry so much that his chin would be all wet when we got back 30 minutes later. My friend Kelly offered to help us teach him to be in crate. For about a week I would take him over on my way to work to drop him and his crate off, then pick him up each night on my way home.

She had 2 dogs at the time, Odie and Joe. Odie, the giant black schnauzer, in the picture to the left, became his best friend. Scupper would hang on his beard, crawl all over his back, chew his ears...and Odie would just let him. He loves Joe also, the minature grey Schnauzer. They would have such a good time together. All three would be crated for a couple of hours a day and within a week Scupper was pretty good about being crated. He still has his crate but we don't even lock it anymore. We just say cushion and in he goes. Sometimes he retreat to it just to be alone and take a nap.

Since then Odie and Joe have been joined by another minature Schnauzer named Shelby. She's grown to be a bit smaller than Scupper's 14 pounds. She takes nothing from Scupper and gives back all that he gives her! They romp and play all over the house.

There was one thing we were concerned about with Scupper and that was how he would take to the water when he actually fell in...we wanted to be sure he could swim. Even with a doggie lifevest on, dogs need to know how to swim to get to shore or get back to the boat.

Well as you can see from the video below...swimming is no problem. Here he is wading into a stream last summer. Once the water is up to his belly he just starts paddling along. We worked to get him to this point...as soon as he was big enough we got him into the smallest doggie lifevest we could find and started taking him to the beach, the lake, and into streams. I have him on a leash in the video because he gets very distracted by rabbits and tends to take off after them if he gets one in his sight!
video

Well, there's a problem with teaching him to enjoy the water though...at the marina one day, he was playing with a black labradoodle...of course that dog loved the water...so he headed on down to the muddy bank under the dock and in he goes. Naturally Scupper follows him. Keep in mind the labradoodle is black and Scupper is white! So the other human and I try to catch the dogs and they lead us on a merry chase, in and out of the low tide mud. Scupper thought what a wonderful game that was and at one point just plops down in the black oozing slimy gunk! He looks up at me with a big grin, tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth as if to say "this is the most fun I've had all summer!" Then just as I get close enough to catch him, up he bounds and he's off again! He's pulled this routine a number of times and it always has bystanders laughing like crazy...which only encourages him more. He doesn't however, like the cleaning up that results in such antics!

He's such a wonderful dog, and does an excellent job of making sure that Ken gets out for a walk each day at 2:30 p.m. Scupper has learned through the 2 years he's been with us when Ken is on the phone he has to be quiet, no barking, no whining. (Ken works from home) But once Ken is off the phone he will very gently put a paw on Ken's leg as if to say "OK, it's time for me now!"

Scupper's opinion about my cooking is always positive, he loves challah, and insists on his portion during Kiddush on Shabbas. He waits patiently for a little nibble when we are done eating, and when he gives two paws up I know the dinner has been as much a hit with him as it is with us!