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Kitchen Adventures

We’re getting a new fridge.

Simple, Black, and Sexy, with a freezer on top and way more cubic feetĀ  (and better designed for todays products) than my beloved 1947 Kelvinator.

 

Now, before anyone accuses me of anything silly, don’t fret. The Kelvinator is not going away. It WORKS great, and it’s going to go live in the mini-barn where it will be used for the aging of meats, and probably be outfitted with a new gasket this summer.

 

In case anyone is not aware of the current weather though, it’s WET here. Rain and snow mix, and my back yard is a puddle. This doesn’t make the chickens very happy, believe me, and it makes stomping around back there trying to deal with the maple tree rather unpleasant. This also makes the prospect of moving a VERY heavy Kelvinator across a VERY wet and mucky yard a rather daunting one. I’ll need to get some wood scraps to roll the fridge across or I and whoever I have helping me are going to get hernias.

 

The addition of a fridge with a freezer on it has an added benefit: It looks like I’ll be able to turn the small chest freezer into a lagering chest and kegerator.

I admit it. I’m a geek. I’m your more classic kind of geek, OpenBSD server in a hand made rack mount hanging in the top of my utility closet, as well as your food and sustainability geek.

These things do in fact collide more often than one might think.

Case in point: I just made the dinner menu for game night. Game night means a Dungeons and Dragons style game, though for this particular campaign, we’re playing Pathfinder from Paizo Publishing, using my own game world. The dinner below isn’t a one off. This kind of thing is rather common.

Pre-dinner cocktail: Manhattans (Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Lillet Blonde, and American Spoon Balatons Cherries)

Main course: Venison stew

Side dish: Batate All’Abbamelle (baked Sweet potatoes with a sardinian honey and pollen reduction)

Dessert: Pannacotta kin Abbathu (Custard with abbamele and berries)

Wine pairing: Riverside Red from Purple Feet Winery

Beer pairing: Black Velvet (my own hard cider, with Faircy Irish Stout from Arbor Brewing Company)

I bake. Not quite as often as I’d like to or should, but I bake, and one thing that most baking requires is sugar. Living as I do in the Land o’ Sugarbeets, it’s usually far cheaper to get white refined beet sugar than cane sugar. But sugar takes many forms, and throughout the world and history, we’ve found ways of getting it.

It used to be that you couldn’t go anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest USA in February and March and NOT see buckets hung on the side of trees, collecting sap to be boiled down into syrup. Tapping ones own trees has fallen away from common knowledge though, and it makes me a little sad to look out my window, across the snowy yard, and count the GALLONS of maple syrup that could be derived from just the trees of this little subdivision.

Contrary to what many believe, you don’t need a Sugar Maple tree to make syrup. Sugar Maples are prized because they have the highest percentage of sugar in their sap, thus producing more syrup with less boiling, but ANY maple tree can be tapped. Around here, you’d be hard pressed to find a sugar type, but Silver Maples are everywhere.

Last year, I decided to try it myself, and tapped the massive maple tree in the backyard, as well as a couple at my grandmothers house. This is the tree in my yard, which I tapped last week in the warm weather. For perspective, that’s a 5 gallon bucket I’ve hung on the tap.

image

Last year, from the 4 taps I ended up with about 3/4 of a gallon of syrup, but I was only taking sap for a week. I could have started sooner, and gone later, as I am this year. This cold snap has stopped the sap flow, but as soon as this tap starts again, I’ll tap the other trees, and put another into this one.

Chickens in a yard eating

Chickens, are not a source of sugar. The breeds shown here are: A Black Australorp (Bad Mama Jamma), Golden Polish (David and Bowie), White Cubalayas (no names yet), and Exchequer Leghorns (Alcatraz, Sing Sing, and one un-named).

These are the Apocalypse Chickens. When civilisation crumbles, and the yuppies are milling about unable to feed their families, I’ll have eggs each morning. Before that point I will need to make sure I have suitable roosters (The one Golden Polish in profile above is a cock, but GP are an ornamental breed). I’d like to increase the flock a bit to 8 hens or so, a mix of Australorp, Exchequer Leghorns, and some Chantecler. I’d REALLY like some Scots Dumpy Chickens, but I seriously doubt I could find any reasonably in the USA. It’s not one of the breeds available from Sandhill Preservation where I got these birds last year.

 

But snow is about to fly here. I enjoy winter, but I’m anxious for the maple to flow, and my chickens to enjoy the outdoors and be able to forage again.

Ginger Duck: The Splendid Table Recipe Box
Adapted from Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover’s Courtship, with Recipes. Copyright 2003 by Amanda Hesser, (W. W. Norton & Company, 2003).

I heard about this recipe on The Splendid Table, which is a NPR show broadcast on Sundays all about food and cooking. Some of it can be a bit up-nosed for me, but I love good food, and I’ve gotten some awesome ideas from it.
We had Brooke, Sean, and Lisa over, I made the duck, salad, french onion soup, and home made whipped cream to go in the Fillo shells with berries. All in all, a remarkable dinner.
I’m planning another dinner in late April/early May.

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