Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mr. Dave's Aged Holiday Boozenut Cake.

What is with me and making all of these "aged" holiday recipes? I don't know.... These sorts of flavors just seem to go with the season. So here we have an aged nut cake that I've come up with for this year's holiday season.

Usually, to get my boozey aged cake fix I go with a pre-made fruitcake that I soak in rum and leave to mature for a month or two. Last year I used a Genesee Abbey fruitcake. But this year I decided to start from the ground up. I researched and heavily adapted a couple of fruitcake recipes to come up with something that I think is going to be pretty good.

First thing was to lose the candied fruit. Strangely enough, I have never really been too keen on the actual fruit in fruitcake... I am a much bigger fan of nuts so I used all nuts in my version. I took about a cup and a half of a pecan/hazelnut/walnut mix and soaked it in a cup of bourbon and a 1/2 cup of brown sugar. I let the mixture out overnight to macerate the nuts a bit.

For the cake part I creamed a stick of butter with 1/3 cup brown and 1/3 cup white sugar, beat in 1 egg, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a 1/4 cup of molasses. For the dry ingredients we had -- 1 cup of flour, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. salt. I added the dry ingredients into the mixer a little at a time alternating with 2 tablespoons of cream. Then I dumped in the whole nut/sugar/bourbon (I used Evan Williams) mess into the batter and continued to mix until incorporated. My batter looked a little loose at this point so I added approx. 1/4 cup additional flour to stiffen it up a bit.

To bake, I put a greasy piece of brown paper in the bottom of a loaf pan, poured in the batter, and threw in a 325 degree oven for an hour and 15 minutes.

After the cake cooled somewhat I removed it from the pan and gingerly cut off the top crusty bit. This helps with bourbon absorption and improves the final appearance me thinks. I tasted a bit of the trimmings and found it, at this point, to be delicious.

A lot of booze cakes call for elaborate and repeated alcohol spritzing regimens but I can't be bothered with all of that hooey. I used a more unorthodox method of introducing additional booze to the cake. I simply splashed on about 1/2 cup of additional bourbon and vacuum sealed the whole mess.

This keeps the booze in contact with the cake and helps achieve the compact texture one should look for in a boozey nut cake. I put the bagged cake into a quiet corner of my fridge where I will leave it to mature for the next couple months. I will probably break it out around the same time I break out my eggnog. So that is going to be a pretty good week. I will gorge on bourbon cake and bourbon nog until either my wife stops me or until such time that I am laid low by the gout.

Anyhow, there you have it -- Mr. Dave's Aged Holiday Boozenut Cake. I will let you know how gloriously improved the cake is by the aging process come the end of December.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Aged Eggnoglets: v3.0 "Stewart"

Aged Eggnoglets: v1.0 "The Cooking Bourbon"
Aged Eggnoglets: v2.0 "Ronny/Batt"

I kind of forgot an update on the third and final installment of this year's small batches of Aged Egg Nog. You can read about the first two iterations (and all sorts of other informative nog oriented information) in the above linked posts.

For this quart o' nog I decided to try a simple experiment. I took some store-bought Stewart's egg nog (that post is 5 years old now!) and added a pinch of salt along with 8 ounces of Evan Williams bourbon... Don't know how the the bourbon/aging process will interact with all of the stabilizers and such in the Stewart's nog, but hopefully it will turn out good. At the very least it will be interesting to see how it stands up to the other two versions.

Anyhow, that is the end of my nog agin' for this holiday season. I will do a side by side comparison come December I suppose. Until then, I look forward to Meadow Brook Farms Dairy nog hitting the shelves at the Delmar Market so I can have a taste of some solid virgin nog to whet my appetite. I will probably hold myself over until then with a refresher sized bottle of Stewart's nog (or two)...

In any event, blessed are we to be entering the nog season. It is one of this bleak life's small pleasures.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Deer Sausage. I Have Been Making Too Much Sausage.

10 pounds of ground venison...

Plus 5 or so pounds of pork belly/trim....

Equals a metric butt-ton of venison sausage. 6 kinds! Clockwise from top left - Spicy red pepper, roasted garlic and bourbon, summer, Trail bologna, "Cajun," and kielbasa. Now all I need to do is smoke all of it on Sunday.

Well, maybe someday I will post about something besides making sausage or eggnog... But fall is sort of the season for sausage and nog around my household, so there is not really much else of note going on... And really, I can't think of more interesting topics than nog and sausage right now...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kentucky Country Ham Jagdwurst (Redneck Jagdwurst? Nah, That's Too Much of A "Guy Fieri-esque" Name for Ol' Mr. Dave...)

I had some of my home smoked back bacon and some Col. Newsom's Aged Kentucky Ham Chunks lying around so and idea occurred to me. Have you ever had Jagdwurst? Jagdwurst is a mild German sausage with chunks of ham distributed throughout. It is generally served either as a cold cut or breaded and sautéed (my favorite application).

The ham component of the jagdwurst is your standard boiled ham but I thought a nice twist would be to use some of the country ham instead. I used this recipe (with some of additions and subtractions) scaled down for a 2.5 lb. chub. I used 1 lb. of pork loin, 1/2 lb. fat back, 1/2 lb. homemade back bacon, and 1/2 lb. ham chunks.

I cut the ham chunks into smallish bits and soaked them overnight in some cold water to alleviate a margin of saltiness and to soften the texture. 

You basically use whatever emulsified sausage technique you would use for hot dogs or bologna (I use a mixer) and then fold in the bits of ham. I like to let the raw sausage rest in the fridge for a couple of days, but that is just me. 

I held the chub in my smoker at 100 degrees for an hour and applied 1/2 hour of hickory smoke. I raised the smoker temp. to 165 degrees and brought the internal temp. of the meat up to 155. Then a quick water bath and into the fridge overnight. 

Look at that! It came out great. Nice color and a juicy texture. The country ham added a nice toothsome texture and a nice funky undertone to the mild bologna-esque flavor. I am thoroughly satisfied with this project. I will be frying the majority of this stuff next to eggs in the manner of pork-roll (Pac-Man bacon) or fried bologna. I am looking forward to this.

Also, I remembered something while writing this. Almost exactly 5 years ago I posted about a celebratory meal of jagdwurst, cheese, beer, and bread to celebrate landing my current job (didn't say it in the post, but that was why). I appreciate these sorts of neat coincidences. But the fact that I have been hack-blogging as well as working at my present daily toil for 5 years makes me sit back and lament the quick passage of time. My darling Giblet (4.10 year old bundle of joy and happiness) was still in the Mrs. Dave's belly and Mr. Dave Jr. was naught but a twinkle in my mind's eye... Sigh.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Aged Eggnoglets: v2.0 "Ronny/Batt"

If you will remember, this year I have decided to do several smaller batches of my annual aged egg nog. I started out with v1.0 made with Stewart's dairy products and some Johnny Drum bourbon. Last night I put v2.0 to agin'.

For the dairy products in this batch I am using Ronnybrook Creamline milk and some Battenkill cream. Both of these venerable Upstate NY dairies turn out extremely high quality products, except somewhat inexplicably -- nog. I was disappointed with both of their nog offerings and you can read all about that here.  

I am using Stewart's eggs (from Thomas' poultry farm) again for this nog. Thomas' eggs are pretty reliably fresh and tasty. I am going with Evan Williams bourbon for the booze. I was going to use Makers Mark but I decided to save that for sippin' and use a decent but inexpensive bourbon. Freshly grated nutmeg and the guts of a vanilla been also went into this batch (for recipe info. and proportions you can go to the original Aged Nog post).

I used one of my Formaticum cheese labels to keep track of all these mini-batches. I have dubbed this batch "Ronny/Batt." It is resting comfortably next to "The Cooking Bourbon" batch in my fridge till around Christmastide.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Back Bacon: The Best of Both Bacons

The other day I smoked a nice big hunk of back bacon that I'd had a-brinin'. I used some of my Center Square hardwood smoked salt in the brine (along with some Lloyd Spear honey, brown sugar, pepper, and bourbon) and likewise smoked the bacon over that very same wood. I think the pork turned out quite well.

"Back bacon" is a style of bacon that is somewhat more popular in the other nations of the Anglosphere besides the US. I don't know why we Americans limit ourselves to primarily belly/side bacon (streaky bacon) and "Canadian" bacon when there is a whole world of other bacon cuts to explore.

Back bacon has the best of both worlds. You have a nice piece of loin along with a bit of a belly (that little tail piece). You can have the ham-y goodness of "Canadian" bacon (which is just a cured piece of lean loin) right along with the crispy goodness of belly bacon. All in the very same rasher to boot. What's not to like?

I like to take my back bacon in butty form. You need a couple sturdy slices of sandwich bread (I used some Heidelberg pumpernickel most recently) and some good butter. I don't bother with sauce or ketchup. Just some fried bacon and buttery bread...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Aged Eggnoglets: v1.0 "The Cooking Bourbon"

So, I usually make one triumphant gallon of my aged egg nog per holiday season. This year I decided on a couple things -- firstly to only use bourbon in my nog and secondly to make several small batches (for variety). 

I thought 1 quart batches might be sufficient... and what better vessel to contain the noggy goodness then a good ol' Ball jar? For my first iteration of holiday aged nog I am going for a "low-test," down n' dirty nog. I am using Stewart's milk, cream, and eggs (sourced from Thomas' Poultry Farm if you don't know).

For the bourbon component I am using what I like to refer to as a "cooking bourbon." Johnny Drum is a thoroughly drinkable bourbon and affordable at that... Is it the smoothest, most bestest bourbon in the world? No, probably not. But it is inexpensive and I keep a bottle around mostly for when bourbon is called for in a recipe. 

I used approx. 1 pint whole milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/3 plus a bit more of sugar, 4 eggs, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp. of freshly ground nutmeg, and about 8 ounces or so of bourbon. 

To the back of the fridge went this quart o' nog to age till about Xmas-time. I am planning 2 more quarts of aged nog. One with Makers Mark, and one with a bourbon to be determined at a later date... I will probably mix up the dairy/egg selections as well. 

It is shaping up to be a nog soaked holiday season and I am OK with that.

Friday, October 11, 2013

As Always -- I Herald the Arrival of NOG SEASON! The Nog Cometh! Gird Your Loins and Prepare Your Gullets!

At this point I like to believe that all the folks who read the garbage I post on this hackiest of hack-blogs are old friends who are familiar with my diverse interests. So I won't bother to link to all of the many, many posts I have dedicated to the subject of the holy Nog (they are conglomerated here).

I can't lie about how excited I get when the nog comes back to the shelves of Stewart's. Our ancestors used the positions of the stars to judge when the festive high days were coming, I use the appearance of eggnog on our indigenous convenient mart's shelves.

Anyhow, I can't wait to get some Stewart's carton-nog in me. It really is one of the best bang for your buck nogs going locally. Don't get tempted by some of the other local bally-hooed nogs as they are sub-par (except for Meadow Brook's, which is really very good). That is all.

Nog. Nog. Nog.

Nog be with you.

P.S. It may be time to put up your Aged Nog for agin' if that is something you are interested in...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mary Loves -- Chips, Chips, and Mountain Brew

I don't have a lot of time right now but I wanted to get this right out there. Just watch. It is a commercial for Stewart's Shops' house brew -- Mountain Brew Ice (and MB Light). It is the best thing that I have ever seen.

Monday, October 7, 2013


Not so long ago I made some cider from Indian Ladder Farms apples that the family and I picked. Afterwards, I pitched a bit of yeast into it and let her ferment for some weeks. Today I gave the stuff a looksy and it appeared still and had clarified quite a bit. So I decided to bottle it. 

I had an old Tuthilltown Spirits "Heart of the Hudson Vodka" bottle lying around, so I sterilized it. I thought it would make the perfect vessel for a bit of apple-wine.

I decided to draw off the top of my half gallon as a still, apple-wine sort of thing. The other half I primed and bottled as per usual with bubbly hard cider. But that stuff seems a bit less interesting...

Look how clear and purty the still stuff turned out. I took a sniff and it is pure apples.

I put the bottle in a dark corner of my basement next to all my other myriad pickles and preserves. I think I will leave her for a couple more months to mature.

I have high hopes. I think this is going to be some good stuff and I am leaning towards moving into larger scale seasonal production. But that is another story...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

File This Under Only Mildly Interesting... Center Square Hardwood Smoked Salt and Sausage (Stump Table and Apple Crusher Project Too!)

Some time back a friend of mine who resides in the Center Square neighborhood of Albany informed me that a portion of a large tree (I think it was a maple, should have looked at the leaves at the time) had fallen in his yard. He had had it chopped up and was simply going to dispose of it! Heavens no, I said. I hate to see good, mature hardwood go to waste... So I hopped in the truck and headed into the heart of the city in which I was born and bred and grabbed me up some native Albany hardwood.

After curing the two large pieces of wood for some time I decided on a couple of courses of action for using it. The first thing I made was a little stump table. I removed the bark, sanded the wood extensively, and then used a couple different stains and some poly. Now it is in the corner of my foyer by the window and we use it as a stand for vases of flowers and such. Even my wife who was initially aghast at the thought of stump furniture in the house came around to liking it...

I had some nice big chunks of the wood left over from leveling off one of the stumps so I immediately thought it might be neat to do some smoking with it. The concept of sausage smoked with indigenous Albany/Center Square hardwood just appealed to me as sort of a neat idear... So I did just that. I took two chubs of all-beef Göteborg style summer sausage and some coarse sea salt and smoked them up.

Everything came out great.

From the scent of the smoke and the final flavor I am almost certain it was maple wood (can't check as the rest of the tree has expired and my buddy doesn't remember). By the way, I have sort of hacked my Bradley smoker rig. I have found that I can just put large-ish chunks of soaked hardwood on the heating element and I can avoid buying their proprietary hockey puck thingies. Works great for cold smoking with the cold smoke box I have for it.

I have been up to no end of wood-projects lately. Look at this one-

This will eventually become the grinding wheel of an apple crusher I am constructing for the purpose of making apple cider. That wheel of wood is part of the great big maple from my backyard.

OK, I am done now... Just what you wanted to do, eh? Read me prattling on about wood and trees... I can be frightfully droll sometimes. It is part of my charm.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

French Fry Burger: A Call Back

If you will recall I recently inflicted the Burger King "French Fry Burger" upon myself. You can read the post if you want... But to sum it up -- the thing was an insult to burgers, fries, and France. I don't know why the thing ticked me off so much. The words "French Fry Burger" should conjure up happy thoughts and not thoughts of the limp, soggy, mayo-ridden piece of trash that the King of the Burgers is peddling.

So when the other night my small munchkins were demanding an order of fries from "The French Fry Store" (that is what they call Five Guys, they don't do burgers) an idea was born... Five Guys fries are one of their favorite treats and when they get it in their heads that they need their French fry fix they are fairly merciless in their demands.

I am not a huge Five Guys fan. I will pick at the kid's order of fries and very occasionally I will have one of their "little burgers." But I will admit that if you are going to eat a "fast food" hamburger or fries, then Five Guys is probably one of your best options.

Something occurred to me while I was in line waiting to order fries... I could wash my mind clean of the memory of BK's "French Fry Burger" by creating a right and proper "French Fry Burger" by utilizing some Five Guys product. I could ritually cleanse my palate of BK's mayo-y travesty with my very own creation.

I got a bacon cheese burger with jalapenos and fried onions and slapped on a reasonable handful of fresh fries. Now that folks, was a decent French Fry Burger... I think I probably have some sort of strange culinary OCD. I was honestly bothered by how bad the BK version was. I simply could not rest until I had a decent version of the concept.

Now my thirst for "French Fry Burger" is likely quenched forever as I feel no urge for one in the future.

Oh yeah, by the way. I am still planning to execute my scheme for "Guerilla Poutine" using Five Guys fries... I have taken a break from my cheese making but I will soon be back at it. I am almost to the point where I can make a decent batch of curds.
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