Saturday, January 25, 2014

Homemade Squirty Cheese

You may rightfully ask what could possess me to assay squirty cheese (aka easy cheese) at home, when the whole point is obviously convenience. I think it was the challenge. The Gods willed me to do it: a bag of sodium citrate arrived in the mail and I found a whipped cream dispenser replete with gas cartridges - I have no idea where it came from!

Here's how to. Heat a bottle of beer in a pot - a light beer, not too hoppy or it will overwhelm the cheese. Add a scant tablespoon of sodium citrate, a teaspoon of mustard powder, a teaspoon of raw sugar and 1/2 pound of finely grated cheese. I used good aged gouda. (That's why you should make it at home!) Let it melt, stirring all the time until smooth. Then pour this into two 8 ounce jars and keep shaking to keep emulsified. Chill in a bowl of ice water.

Then put one jarful into a whipped cream machine, and chill thoroughly. Keep testing until the cheese mixture is just the right consistency. Gently depress the nozzle on the canister or you will have cheese sprayed all over the kitchen, as I did. Eventually it will be just right, and squirty. I think a light white wine would probably work even better than beer. A touch of kirschwasser too. OK, next time it's Gruyere!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ned Ludd His Oven

I was truly warming up to modern kitchen technology, about to embrace the newfangled. And then my oven stopped working a few weeks ago. I have had a love-hate relationship with it since day one. I bought the oven because it fit the space in the counter and because there is no hood, it had to be a downdraft, which means Jennair. The stove top is actually quite good, serious flames, broad burners with decent control. As long as you don't turn the downdraft vent on, it works. The oven beneath, which I will readily admit I rode very hard, even abused, is less respectable. But it too did well, fitted with baking stones, even putting up with my chucking ice inside to make steam. Though the oven light did crack as a result. Still, it did an OK job baking. It even got hotter than the 550 degree limit.

It's the stupid little control panel, basically a clock radio, that is total crap. After maybe a year it would beep erratically, telling me to remove the meat probe. Trust me, I have never inserted my meat probe anywhere near it. I never did learn to program it, mostly because I don't want timers or bells and whistles. Actually the best oven I've ever owned, "flameboy" was discarded on the sidewalk by a friend and I took it home. It had nothing more than dials. Who needs to program an oven?? I should have kept flameboy when we moved about 15 years ago.

Anyway, this oven actually replaced the one that was already in the house, so it's only 5 or 6 years old. Then, out of nowhere, the computer panel stops working. The Sears repair man arrived, and he looked like something out of Mad Max with cyber attachments on his body. He diagnosed it and tells me that to replace the clock radio will cost 600 bucks. Might as well buy a whole new oven, for the same price. Even though everything else on it works fine. All I need it a knob! I hate this disposable culture of ours.

Then suddenly it starts working again. Wonder of Wonders! I used it all day on New Year's Eve. Baking pizzas, various hors d'oeuvres. I thought, ok, just another little touchy spell but everything's back in order.

No such luck. Yesterday the beast started not just beeping erratically, but wildly, maniacally. Trying to start itself on its own volition. BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP. Danger Will Robinson! Open the pod door Hal. The thing was truly possessed. I tried pulling it out and unplugging it. Impossible. Tried cajoling it. Tried necromancy. The beeping was driving me mad! Only one thing remained to be done. And let me tell you it was among the most satisfying of two seconds, taking the blunt end of a huge axe right to the little goddamned clock radio face and bashing it in with one swing. Beeping stopped instantly. The oven is dead. Long Live Ned Ludd!

So for the moment I shall be either using the toaster oven or will have to fire up the wood oven outside. Does anyone have any recommendations for a replacement? I'm seriously thinking of getting a vintage stove with nothing more than knobs. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Aged Eggnog

One of the most common questions I am asked about extreme food preservation is "aren't you afraid of being poisoned?" I shrug it off. You know if something has gone bad, and sometimes it does. Throw it out.

But I will admit, sometimes I do scare myself. Case in point: this eggnog I put up around Thanksgiving over a year ago. It's basically just rum, raw eggs, cream, nutmeg, sugar. Left on the shelf. Many others have tried doing this but they always put it in the fridge. Why? Doesn't that defeat the point of a historic recipe experiment?

Then again, maybe people in the past understood something I haven't noticed. Agh. My usual tactic for overcoming that fear? Get really soused at a party and have daring people who will eat anything. That happened at a New Year's Party. Maybe 5 or 6 people willingly tried a spoonful. The verdict. Very boozy, but quite tasty. More like a pudding. I think a bit of milk would make it a drinkable nog, and less potent. But I like it just as is. And chalk one up for trusting old preservation techniques. Now to figure out exactly what I added!