Saturday, 30 October 2010

A leisurely day.

It was a bit of a late start this morning as 30%, TP and I had spent the previous evening with my oldest and dearest friends.

By late I mean about 10 o'clock and once again 30% woke me with an espresso. She thinks that she may have actually got up earlier than me for more than half of the week which is a Personal Best. Now we have both been on holiday this week so it has been a bit of a "freestyle" waking event. Lets see how she does next week when we move on to the more arduous 7 a.m. alarm event. That is the the gruelling one that sorts the men from the boys and she knows that I have an array of medals, awards and trophies to prove my prowess at crawling from the bed before her.

...... anyway, back to yesterday evening. I do not have many friends and, like many men, am not particularly good at keeping in touch, but James Bond and Moneypenny are my oldest friends. I first met 007 when I left primary school and then met Moneypenny a couple of years later when we all went to the same High School. Funnily enough they were not married at school - that happened a few years later - but I was there for that occasion and for their 25th Anniversary that was celebrated last month.

We do not meet up that frequently, perhaps a couple of times each year, but every time we do it is like no time at all has passed. We just sit and talk and laugh and just enjoy each other's company*. What is great is that they have really taken to 30% as has she to them, so they are truly "our friends" which makes for such a great evening.

Last night James and Moneypenny provided the venue and 30% and I provided the comestibles. We treated them to a variety of cold cuts, faggots and sausages from the expanding Badman repertoire of porcine dishes, a large quantity of profiteroles and the last of the 2009 Sloe Gin. I'll leave it to 007 to provide a commentary on the grub as he occasionally frequents these pages and has been known to make the odd comment.

TP came too but was little seen as he scurried away upstairs and plugged himself in to James Junior's X-Box 360. I assume he spent the evening teaching the young man the finer points of Halo. Moneypenny Junior treated the boys with feminine disdain and sat herself in front of the Polar Express before reluctantly retiring to her bed - Bless.

Needless to say we talked to the small hours and I didn't make it to my bed until 2 o'clock - ouch!
Moneypenny called this afternoon and she had a a request and a complaint - the former was for the faggots recipe and the latter was that we should do "it" more frequently. I heartily agreed and we loosely agreed to get something sorted before Christmas - THIS CHRISTMAS.

Other stuff, I popped over to see Dad this morning and took Marauder along for the ride. She loved meeting up with Tilly and promptly settled down in Dad's Dining Room with Tilly's bone and several pieces of biscuit that seemed to be regularly proffered by Father  - He'll spoil that bloody dog if he is given half a chance.

Later on I walked T&M round the 3 Miler and then took advantage of the fine weather and dry roads and wheeled the "other bike" out of the garage for a run. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane as my unplanned outing took me past my primary school and through the village where I was born and the surrounding areas that I knew as I grew up.

The weather was fine but cool and the views over the County and the views away to the Cotswolds were fantastic and I am pleased to say that although the passing years have not been without change much of what I saw was still recognisable from the last time I toured those lanes some 25 years ago.

This evening see's 30%'s family joining us for dinner so the kitchen is a hive of activity and I am luck to be getting away with table laying duties. Now, where are the forks ......

* actually we also tend to stuff our faces and drink quite a bit too.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Bangers and its not November 5th yet.

30% had a bit of a coup in Tesco yesterday and arrived home with 4 Pork Shoulder joints. They were "on special" and we had recently used up the last of the sausages in the freezer so today's agenda was set.

I grabbed the sausage bible and worked out the various quantities of seasoning, bread crumb and other flavourings and 30% set to to work sorting these out while I popped out for an appointment. I returned home about an hour later and joined in the prep work and set about roughly dicing the pork before the mincer was started up.

Each joint produced about 2 kilos of minced pork and we had decided to make 4 batches; pork and apple, sweet chilli, cajun and sun dried tomato. After a hour or so of mixing, kneading and squeezing followed by 40 minutes of "stuffing" and we ended up with these ....

 This is somewhere in the region of 24 lbs of sausages and should keep us going for a good while.  It was, incidentally the first time we had used natural hog casings rather than collagen skins and it was interesting to see how, when linked, the "natural sausages had a slight curl whilst the collagen skinned ones were dead straight.

The brawn had also set and was removed from the fridge sliced and sampled. We had an unbiased tester as a friend of TP's  was here for the day. He was aware of the raw ingredients but happily tucked in. It may have been 13 year old bravado but he declared it "good".  As I said yesterday, the brisket of beef really does lift it as a dish and this will be great with pickles and fresh crusty bread.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Everything but the squeal.

So ends the saying that starts "How much of a pig can you eat?"

Today I road tested this adage by making brawn. Brawn is a "potted meat" or coarse pate which is also known by the rather unappetising name of Head Cheese.

The main ingredient of the dish is half a pigs head and a couple of trotters. I happened to have both of these staples in the freezer as they came with the half pig I bought two or three weeks ago. Now I have made brawn before and I know that it may have been an appealing dish 75 years ago or more when meat was a rare treat but to today's palates it is a little on the basic side and needs a little extra to make it an appetising cold cut.

That little extra oomph is provided by a piece of brisket that accompanies the pigs head. So, where do we start. First you need one of these............

I've left the eye in - it'll see you through the week
 Half a pigs head, two trotters and a small piece of brisket. Not the most attractive set of ingredients but stick with me. These are placed in a large pan of water with a can of dry cider, a load of chopped stock vegetables, salt, ground black pepper, a few black peppercorns, some ground nutmeg, bay leaves and a good bunch of parsley and thyme.

This is then left to simmer for a good two to three hours. At the end the "meat" is removed and the stock is left to reduce to about half of its original volume. While that is happening the meat is dismantled.There is a lot of material to be discarded; fat, gristle, bones and skin. The choice cuts are removed and shredded. The main pieces of meat are the brisket and the cheek muscles from the head. The trotters do give up a few morsels but are mainly there to make the stock and give up their gelatin content.

The shredded pork and beef is placed in a bowl and some of the reduced stock is added. A weighted plate sits on top of the brawn and it will be left overnight in the fridge to set.

The end result is a superb potted pork/beef cold cut that is great sliced with salad and pickles. Some of this will be frozen to enjoy at a later date.

The left over stock has an amazing flavour that puts an oxo cube to shame. This will be frozen as well and used in soups or stews later in the year.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

After much deliberation.....

I decided that I could not make sanding the bathroom door and frame in the least bit interesting. So here is a picture of a monkey in a jumper with a gob stopper.
Don't ask ....

Monday, 25 October 2010

Today I 'ave been mostly ...

.... taking things at my own pace and it has been lovely.

30% woke before me which is rare and brought me an espresso in bed, After getting myself outside of that, I arose and met the day. It was beautiful. There had been a light frost overnight and the skies were clear and blue.

After breakfast and a quick call to get the Prius booked in for a service I took T&M out for a walk. I took along the new compact camera to see how it performed and am pleased with the first attempts. It was nice to take a walk with no need to be back at home at a specific time for a call or a meal or any of the other things that constrain my free time. This morning was mine and it was liberating to just take in the walk with no pressure to get to the end of it.

The Church from the paddock where VI keep his cow
The frost has seen off the last of the Autumn wild flowers
View across to the Ridgeway

Oaks near the Dew Pond
After the walk we had a leisurely lunch and then went out and chose a light for the recently re-fitted bathroom.

At home later I took the opportunity to clip Marauder's face and feet as she had become very ragged. She now look like a completely different dog and it it quite disconcerting. A little like when your partner comes home with a new hair do - but don't tell 30% that.

A load of logs have been ordered for delivery at the back end of the week so the Log Burner will get it's first run of the season at the weekend if the cold snap continues.

A week at home in the Autumn really is a splendid thing.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

For quite some time .....

...... I have been considering the purchase of a compact digital camera.

The reason for the procrastination was not down to cost or image quality or any of the usual things that delay such a decision it was down to the fact that I already have a Digital SLR and it just seemed a backward step to buy a compact.

The D SLR is fantastic. It is a Canon and therefore has a fantastic range of auto-focus lenses and performs brilliantly, the only problem is the weight and bulk. If I am out with T&M and have pockets filled with "pooh bags", dog biscuits etc and am wandering over fields with two energetic dogs the last thing I want clunking round my neck is the best part of a kilo of expensive Japanese electronics and optics. I wanted something that I could pop in my pocket and pull out and take a decent shot that was capable of being printed out to an 8 x 10 or more likely could be displayed on a digital photo frame.

So what finally gave me the kick to go out and buy a compact? I have been advised that I need spend a week in the US in a couple of weeks time for work. This means lugging a suitcase and a laptop bag around and the last thing I also want to be carrying is a digital SLR and ancillaries. I therefore bit the bullet and got myself a dinky little Canon Powershot SX210 IS. I have only had it a few hours and am still getting used to it but it seems to be exactly what I was after.

Here's a sample snap .....

Saturday's News

A quiet day was spent at The Pile relishing the fact that a week off means that we have nine full days of leisure in front of us and do not have to cram as much as possible in to two days.

Went to Warwick Arts Centre to see Ross Noble in the evening and have to say that it was a brilliantly random experience. If you have the opportunity see him live.

He did a full 2 and a half hours on Stage and I have to say that there was not a low point in any of it. The audience members who hadn't seen Avatar might have problems with the shaved cat in the monkey suit being painted blue and the fact that there was a disabled chap on a sun bed out the back that was controlling Ross. Personally, I was wetting myself.

Friday, 22 October 2010

A Side of Bacon

It is now 6 full days since I started to cure the full side of Tamworth Pork that arrived last Saturday.

Each day it has been removed from the fridge, massaged with more cure, and re-ordered in the box so that the top moves to the bottom and so forth. after 6 days it looks like this.

The meat has darkened in colour and the texture is much firmer as much of the liquid has been drawn from the meat by the osmotic pressure created by the salt and sugar in the cure. The only smell is that of the aromatics in the cure. There is no "off" smell which I am sure you would get if a piece of pork had been left in an open box in a fridge for 6 days.

Possibly the perfect bacon sandwich

Now the flitches of bacon are washed off and left to soak in fresh cold water for an hour or so. This final soaking removes the salt from the surface of the bacon as it can be too salty for some tastes if this is not done.

The flitches are cut in half to make them more manageable. It can be seen that the cure has affected the entire structure of the meat. There are no areas that look like raw meat as can be seen on the picture above.

They are then wrapped in muslin and left hanging in a cool dry place for a week or so. This is a necessary stage if the meat is to be smoked as a "pellicle" or surface coating needs to form on the flitch so that the smoke adheres to the bacon during that final stage.

Two of the pieces are however to be the subjects of an experiment and are to be further matured in the fridge. One has been coated in Black Treacle and the other in  Maple Syrup. I plan to leave these for a week or so and then sample.

What's Brown & Sticky ? ..... A Stick

My Dad called round today and took a look at the ham hanging in the Garage. He smiled and recounted how my Great Grandfather used to have one hanging above the table in the kitchen. Apparently it used to sit under an Oil Lamp and the heat used to cause the fat to run and drip off the ham. His Father, My Grandfather, also used to home cure and Dad remembers Grand Dad slicing a piece of bacon from a ham and cooking it over the fire on the end of a stick.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Feeling Jaded

Today has been one of those days where I have tried to make progress in a number of areas but have little to show for it really.

I suppose that I shouldn't complain as I can't hit the bulls eye every day but I am off work next week and therefore want to get as much moving or resolved this week so that I can hit the ground running on my return. It is unfortunate that people want to move meetings or are not available to talk or are focused elsewhere and this has left me feeling slightly jaded - what a great word and it describes perfectly how I feel. Slightly annoyed and frustrated.

Still, there were minor successes and I suppose I should look to those and give everything else a bloody good kicking tomorrow..... and then disappear for a week.

We don't have anything planned although I can see some* decorating that needs doing and 30% has advised that she would like to take T&M out for a day somewhere.....

... I suggested that we take them Swimming at the local pool.

No other News really. TP broke up for half term today and is staying over at a friend's house this evening.

* This is an interesting definition / use of the word "some". If you actually knew what The Pile looked like you would immediately translate to "massive amounts"

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I got bored today...

... so I did this.

Marauder's Bumper Book of Crime. Number 3 in an occasional Series

I'm sure that 30%'s watch was less fragmentary when she left it on the arm of the Sofa last night.

Pointless Activity

This morning I looked out of the window to see a Local Authority employee or, perhaps more likely, Contractor striding down the road with a leaf blower.

His mission seemed to be to blow the leaves from the pavement and he was doing a fair job of making sure that the 4 foot width of tarmac was leaf free by ushering them on to the verge and the gutter.

Now here's the thing ........... it has been found that the best way to move leaves from the pavement is to use wind. Now round here we get naturally occurring wind - I suppose you could describe it as free range or organic wind*. I'm pretty sure that we will get some of this organic wind in the next day or so and those leaves will be back where they started.

I just wonder what idiot in the Local Authority decided to specify this job and the parameters that defined it as adequately performed. 
 * The meteorologically aware will know that this effect is caused by movement of air from areas of High Pressure to areas of Low Pressure

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Did I mention.....

Walking the dogs,
Salting the bacon,
Putting the bread maker on

...cos that lot had to happen as well...

and there is going to be shutting up of chickens too

Mission Improbable

Tuesdays are a busy day ....Well there is work for a start, this week is going quite well. I have been lined up to lead a large project that will run over the next few months. Apparently I can't say a lot more than that as I had to agree to a non-disclosure clause but this week will be spend getting to grips with it's history and the few things I can get rolling before I take a week off.

 Once work ends family life kicks in.

TP gets home about 4.15 and needs to be encouraged to complete any home work that may have been assigned and then reminded - REPEATEDLY - that it is Rugby Practice and that 30% will be taking him at 6.30 precisely.....

...... at this point I might be tempted to say "synchronise watches" for mild comic effect but that would be absolutely wasted on TP as he has somewhere in the region of 5 watches but refuses to wear any of them instead relying the handy time keeping skills* of 30% and me.

Where was I, Oh Yes, Tuesday evening. TP has to complete homework, locate and attire himself in Rugby kit and eat before 6,30 pm. He also has to ensure that he has clothes to change in to after rugby as it is Dog Training at 8.30.

The way this runs is 30% takes TP to Rugby. I eat early and then gather dogs and dog training treats and tools and then meet up at the Rugby Club around 7.45. 30% then departs and heads home for her evening meal and hopefully a little R&R. Rugby training ends at 8 o'clock and TP, Tyson, Marauder and I head off for their training. TP changes in the back of the Prius and at 8.30 sharp we arrive at the Village Hall - its Showtime.

We eventually arrive home at around 9.50 and I collapse with a coffee in front of the ten o'clock news and TP heads up the wooden hill.

Dangling from wires and avoiding sweating on a Vault floor is probably a lot more relaxed than this.


* Apparently some call it "Nagging"

Monday, 18 October 2010

Missing in Action

Monday; the start of the week - I was hoping for a reasonably quiet week as I am on holiday next week and am hoping that it is a case of "there is no point in him starting this if he is not going to be round to finish it". This is highly unlikely but I can always hope.

30% and I are out to see Frankie Boyle this evening so I'm sure it will be an evening of subtle, wry comedy - or perhaps not.

The evening out meant that a concerted effort was put in to walking T&M at lunch time. I did the usual route which skirts the perimeter of the Free Range Egg Farm.  The bird sheds are about 200 yards or more away from the fields where we walk and it is very rare that the Hens ever stray anywhere near that far.

A few of them do and I'm guessing they get caught out by the sudden darkening now its Autumn and then roost in the hedges rather than wander back across dark fields. This is not a good idea as the local foxes patrol these hedges and a free ranger is an easy meal. We regularly see the remnants of these Brave Girls who go MIA.

Mind you - it's brilliant if you are T&M as the smallest fragment of chicken carcass, however "ripe" is a far better toy than a tennis ball or a stick. They found a leg today complete with foot and were hysterical; charging around the fields chasing each other and squabbling over the body part......

.............  I hope it's nothing to do with yesterday's "incident" when Marauder tried to befriend one through the fence.........

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Day of Rest - My ar.........

TP had an away match today and needed to be up on top of the Cotswolds at 10 o'clock sharp this morning. This meant that an alarm had to be set and since I have to set one on most days of the week setting one on Sunday really does go against the grain.

So, off we went and arrived at the Rugby Club. I have visited the locale several times with TP's previous team and, when the weather is bad, it is the most god forsaken, wind blown, exposed hell holes of a place on Earth. This is made worse by the fact that they are an incredibly good team and tend to walk over most opposition.

Today was different in one respect, the weather was beautiful. It is probably best that I don't say any more.....

..... back home we lunched and then I took T&M out for a walk round the "three miler" This was their usual constitutional which involves wading through as many ditches and puddles as possible and, when they are not up to their midriff in mud, they are sampling any horse shit they can find.

I got my own back when we arrived home and threw them in their bath!

On the curing front the bacon needed to be removed from the box, rubbed with more cure, rotated and replaced in the fridge. As can be seen in the following picture,an amazing amount of liquor is "pulled" from the meat by the cure.

I suppose it doesn't look that appetising but  there is no odour other than the smell of the aromatics in the cure.This liquid is poured off and the pieces of meat or flitches are re-salted.
As can be seen, the meat is already changing colour and texture as the cure takes effect and fluid is extracted from the meat. Once re-salted the piece of meat that is at the bottom is moved to the top to allow each piece equal potential to dry cure.

This will continue for the next five or six days but, don't worry, I'm not going to subject you to a daily snapshot of a piece of curing meat.

Before I finish I do have one observation. Many curing recipes call for Kosher salt - doesn't that seem a little odd?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

What do I do with 10 Kg of damp salt?

Today is day 10 of 10.

For the past week and a half a leg of pork has been sat in a box full of salt with a loosely fitting lid weighed down with a few house bricks.
Don't worry the inside is spotless.
I was quite apprehensive having never done this before and wondered what would await me under the salt. There was no smell just lots and lots of compressed, damp salt that needed to be excavated and put in a bucket. Lord knows what I can do with it although I'll be laughing if we have heavy frosts or snow and apparently it is a great weed deterrent if it is brushed in to the joints of block paving so I may give that a go.

After some careful digging I unearthed the ham.
It was then simply a matter of washing off the salt with lots of cold water and patting it dry with a paper towel. Once dry it is carefully washed in white wine vinegar and allowed to dry off. It is then double wrapped in muslin and hung in a cool drafty spot for 4 to 6 months to allow the air drying process to complete. I have hung mine out in the garage where I can keep an eye out for anything untoward.
Roll on February.
All being well it should be ready to eat some time between Valentine's day and Easter so its a case of fingers crossed and extreme patience.

Moving to something with a slightly shorter preparation time, I picked up a side of Pork today to be made in to bacon.  For the anatomically challenged I have managed to knock up a quick sketch showing the approximate location of a Side of Pork

Basically the "side" is a roughly square section of pork running from the spine to the mid line of the belly. It comprises loin from up by the spine which gives back bacon and the belly which gives us streaky. Funnily enough the meat between the belly and the loin give us "Middle Bacon". It looks like this in the flesh ....

This side weighed just over 7 Kg fresh or 15 and a half pounds in "old money". It will loose some weight during the curing process but should provide somewhere in the region of 13 to 14 lbs of bacon.

The great thing about curing a side is that the resultant rashers are very long and are back bacon at one end and run through middle to streaky at the other. So, where do we go from here ....

... The first thing to do is to cut it up in to three pieces that are more manageable to handle and obviously increase the surface area and therefore reduce the chance of the cure failing. Each piece is then thoroughly massaged with the cure mixture. This is basically 3 parts salt to one part brown sugar with added aromatics. I use black peppercorns, bay and coriander but there many other flavours that can be used.
The left end is back bacon, the right is streaky. Guess what the middle is called.
Once a few good handfuls of cure have been rubbed in the section of side is placed in a non-metallic box.
The remaining two pieces are given the same treatment and are stacked on top.
The box is covered and is placed in a refrigerator. Every day for the next five or six days the pork will be removed and any liquor poured off.  Each piece will be massaged with more cure and returned to the box.

By the end of the week I will have what is called Green Bacon which is "un-smoked" in Supermarket speak.

Friday, 15 October 2010

That was better.

The two Projects I have been assigned to, in my new role, have reached a stage where my activities cease, or at least diminish, and others take over.

A consequence of this is that this working week has had approximately 30% fewer hours and required about 50% of the mental effort of the preceding five weeks. I am therefore considerably less frazzled than I usually am on a Friday evening.

The change of pace has allowed me to assemble supper during my lunch break so its Delia's Smoked Fish Pie for 30% and me. TP has a couple of friends over for a sleep-over tonight so we will hurl a couple of pizzas and some fries in their direction and let them do a reasonable impersonation of a pack of wolves around a deer carcass before retiring to their lair for yet more electronic death and destruction courtesy of Microsoft's X-Box.

Today is day #9 of 10 which means that the ham, currently being salted in the garage, will go through the next stage of the curing process - more on that tomorrow.

Whilst in the curing vein, I also need to nip in to Stratford tomorrow and pick up a side of rare breed pork that I ordered a couple of weeks back. I took ten minutes today to make some cure mixture as I have a suspicion that it gives the bacon a better flavour if the salt and sugar has time to absorb some of the essential oils from the peppercorns and bay leaves that are ground and mixed in.

I'm guessing that tomorrow's entry will be predominantly pork based - vegetarian's  LOOK AWAY NOW!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Quote of the day

30%                   "Badman, you talk to those dogs more
                        than me!

Badman              "No I don't.......... do I Marauder?"

Marauder            "no"

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A session with Mr D

Today I had to go to the Dentist and I loathe the Dentist.

I go every six months to ensure optimum dental health, I keep them clean but I still loathe the Dentist.

I'm not particularly squeamish and I know that it is not overly painful but I still loathe the Dentist.

Maybe it is because I have an active imagination that I loathe the Dentist.

Fortunately when I joined Mr D's Practice I pointed out that I was not a fan of sitting in in a reclining chair which comes from the supplier with optional restraints. I also pointed out that I was observant enough to know that he and his compatriots attempted to conceal their instruments of torture by passing them under the jaw and so out of sight before jabbing them in to my gums and that little dental sleight of hand did nothing to endear them to me as a profession.

I pointed out to him that I would visit every six months and assist in funding the refurnishing his house and his habit of exploring the planet provided that he used massive amounts of anesthetic and didn't tell me that "this wont hurt a bit".

To be fair I must take some of the blame since the worst thing is the scale and polish and I tend to take most of my fluids in the form of black coffee and red wine and neither of these help keep my "pearly whites" pearly white so he gets out the orbital sander and T-cut every six months and I leave with a movie star smile*.

Today I also had an old filling removed and re-filled. He said that it had cracked and needed to be replaced. Here is the thing - how do I know? National Heath Dentists are as scarce as Rocking Horse shit. I can hardly nip out and get a second opinion or have a look in the bathroom mirror and see the Grand Canyon in miniature in upper right, number 6.

So I have to take Mr D's word for it and let him sit me in the chair and subject me to 30 mins of fun and frivolity as he clamps my head in a vice like grip, stabs me in the gums at regular intervals and his Dental Nurse shows her prowess at initiating a gag reflex with the bloody suction tube. For all I know his BMW is due for a major service and he had an hour free and saw it as an opportunity to cover the cost of the brake pads.

To be fair Mr D is a lovely chap who has a natural ease and knows not to patronise a dental coward like me. I just wish he would change that bloody poster that is mounted on the ceiling.

I've seen the original in the temple at Dendera and I'd much rather be there!

I'm sure Trigger counts as a Movie Star even if Mr Ed doesn't.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Lion's teeth

After yesterdays entry I kept a closer eye on the verges as I walked T&M to see what other late season flowers I could spy.

In the church car park I was rewarded with a Geranium species in full flower by the fence near where Village Idiot's cow is pastured. It is one of the Cranesbill species and a splash of colour by the road. Other Autumn flowers included a solitary Buttercup and a Bindweed flower although the latter was definitely past its best and the adjective withered is probably demanded in this sentence.

Dandelions are plentiful and give the title to today's entry. Their name comes from the French Dent de Lion or Lion's Teeth which describes the coarse serrations of the leaves. the French name for the plant is somewhat coarse as well as they know it as "pisalit" or "wet the bed" as the roots are a strong diuretic.

Whilst cogitating on the feline origins of the Dandelion's name I suddenly had a blast from the past. I don't know where it came from - perhaps it was the concept of playing with words and corruptions of them but I recalled some nonsense that Dad used to mention when I was a youngster....

........... He used to refer to a musical instrument called a Banjalorum.

Why do I remember it? Probably because I was a child and it was a silly word and the definition contained an expletive and a grotesque visual image and was therefore hysterical when you were 7 or 8 years old.

"So, what is a Banjalorum Dad?" we would cry .................

............. "Two strings across a cat's arse that are played with your teeth" came the reply - and as kids we would collapse in fits.

I don't know where it originates from and I have never heard of it outside of my immediate family, but it still makes me smile.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Against the grain

A few of my recent entries have referenced the passing of Summer and the appearance of Autumn.

Well today was lovely; cool, but lovely, and it was nice to see that there are still a few surprises in the hedgerows.

Today I saw White Dead Nettle and also Cow Parsley in bloom. The Dead Nettle  can flower late in to the Autumn but the Cow Parsley is a little out of season. It is just nice to see wild flowers when most of the walk is now dominated by Autumn hues. Indications of life when mostly all I see are signs of hunkering down until Spring returns.


On the domestic front; TP's debut got a mention in the match report from yesterday and I realised that, as a morning person I would be better off working with the Japanese than the Americans.

Basically the US kick off at about 3 o'clock which means that is the point my in-box starts to fill. They also have a tendency to expect an immediate response which can be challenging when the request doesn't arrive until just before dinner.

I am slowly adjusting to this by making time at midday to  take a walk with T&M and taking a firm approach when a request comes in at 7 o'clock in the evening.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Beginnings and Endings

Today saw TP's first match at his new rugby club.

We warned him that he was the "new kid" and could not expect to make the starting line up having only attended one training session prior to the game. He was a sub for the first half and his new team managed two tries and one conversion to the opponents solitary try.

The second half started 12:7 in TP's team favour and TP was playing at Left Wing. The opposition kicked off and the ball was heading in TP's direction. He caught it cleanly and headed out towards the half way line. A group of backs converged on TP and he went to the ground passing the ball back to hit new team mates. Nothing spectacular but no mistakes - a solid start.

He had a few good tackles including one that saw his victim leave the ground and fly through the air as TP took him off his legs. Later in the match one of the Props had to go off with a knee injury and TP showed his versatility by moving over to the forwards and played as Hooker for the rest of the match.

Unfortunately TP's team let another couple of tries and a conversion through so the final score was 19: 12. Not a bad first game though and a fair score considering the strength of the opposition.

He can't have been too bad as the head coach "high fived" him after the match - as I said - a good start.

The weather was beautiful today and greatly appreciated after yesterday's damp squib. I took advantage of it and wheeled the Vespa out of the garage for quick spin to blow away the cobwebs. The roads were dry and reasonably clear as I went out through Bidford on Avon through to Stratford and then back in a loop.

The weather has been forecast to be cool and dry this week so hopefully I can get another run or two in before the weather turns. I know that I am a fair weather biker and am not afraid to admit it. There is no fun riding on wet, greasy roads with the added perils of wet leaves, ice etc as Autumn changes to Winter.

I have had my fill of soaking rides through rain and frozen fingers in the ice and snow when a bike was my only form of transport. Mind you, those rides do stick in your mind and you do have a sense of achievement at the end of a ride through disgusting weather. That is the thing about a bike every ride is a journey.

Back home, 30% and I took T&M out for a walk and then I had a quick blast round the lawn with the mower as the grass had finally dried.

Dinner, a glass of wine and a little TV will finish the weekend off nicely.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Somewhat optimistic

Yesterday evening the Weather Forecasters were wittering on about temperatures reaching 23 Celsius in the Worcestershire area.

What the bloody hell are those idiots on and is it available without prescription!

Today it was chilly to say the least and I certainly sampled the weather on a couple of occasions.

Firstly TP has decided to change Rugby Club. After four full seasons at his previous club he has decided to move on and this has been precipitated by erratic coaching and a diminishing squad. It reached a point where, at last week's match they just managed to scrape together 15 players which is fine, until there is an injury or one player cannot make a match - basically the team is not viable and the coaches just kept on spouting incredible and optimistic numbers of players - a good proportion of which had the pitch presence of Harvey.

So TP has moved to a club much nearer home and today they had a Team Building exercise which was paintballing at a Skirmish site a few miles down the road. So sample #1 of the weather was at 8.45 this morning and I can report that I stood in a car park for a good thirty minutes and "froze my tits off". This is a technical term recognised in UK forecasting circles and the same circles have confirmed that 30 minutes was more than adequate to form an opinion of the temperature.

Traumatised by this experience I had to retire to the garage for a good couple of hours on my return to restore blood flow to my extremities. Last week I had successfully bid on a drawer unit on e-Bay. It is a robust metal unit which has 60 drawers and has easily swallowed the multitude of screw, nail and hardware packs that littered the garage shelves and other surfaces. It is now neatly filed and labelled to a degree that would make an OCD sufferer relax.

Later in the day I sampled the weather again when I walked Tyson & Marauder, was it balmy, was it F*ck! It was still bloody cold and my fleece was zipped up to my neck to keep out the Autumn chill. If Mr Osborne is going to make some Public Sector cuts he would do well to deal with the bunch of prats at the Met Office  that declared an Indian Summer this weekend.

Still, the walk was enjoyable but I noticed that the Hawthorn and Oak are now starting to turn yellow. It is only going to get colder and wetter for the next few months.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Timing is everything ...

It is rumoured that Dante's shuts down at midday on a Friday.

I know this is an exaggeration but have come across examples where people are less than visible later after lunch. There is a natural winding down on a Friday as one completes the tasks and commitments of the week and prepares to transition to home life, whatever definition you would like to apply to that term. That is not a crime and understandable if you manage your work effectively. *

Why then, has one of my colleagues decided that a 90 minute interactive web meeting would be a really good idea starting at 5.30 on Friday evening?

I'll be really looking forward to any post-meeting actions that come my way.


* mind you, going AWOL after a couple of pints at lunchtime is well outside the accepted definition of "winding down" - it does drop neatly in to "taking the piss" though.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

I didnt expect that

I started work this morning with an unusually clear schedule so I set aside an hour to complete some mandated on-line training.

On the Domestic front Andy & Steve have either demonstrated that they are the luckiest men alive or have been involved in some nefarious practices* as this is the week that they have decided to paint the rendered parts of the house and they have been rewarded with the best possible weather for the job.

Back to this morning - before settling down to listen to one of my American colleagues recorded lectures I made a coffee and a couple of teas for A&S. I took the teas out and had a quick chat.

On my way back I saw that I had a 'phone message so paused to listen; expecting to hear 30% asking about my day or reminding me about something vital ..........

........... instead I hear Village Idiot's dulcit tones - "Bad Man, I'm down in the Isle of Wight. Can you go down and get my cow back in, she's escaped"

VI's cow is an ancient Hereford x Welsh Black x God Knows what. In other words a 14 year old barren mongrel that has managed to escape the knacker and VI has Hindu like adoration for her. She is no longer "stock" and has definitely ambled in to the category of "pet".

She lives in a paddock, rented by VI,  at the foot of the Church and is well known to the village, regularly receiving treats such as fruit, cabbages and fresh lawn clippings. Until recently she had had a few Suffolk Ewes for company but they have been moved and feeling lonely she decided to demolish the fence and take a walk down the lane.

Obviously someone had called VI to alert him to this and I was his nominated stand in so by carefully positioning the Prius and a few handy bystanders and with a restrained application of a stick across her ample backside I soon had her back in the field. Then all that was required was 15 minutes to tie a couple of hurdles across the gap in the fence and back to my on-line training I went.

Which part of my day did I enjoy most?

Back to ze Cooler Englander!


* by this I mean making offerings to appease the local weather Gods

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Day 1 of 10

Bit of an odd title but all will become apparent.

I mentioned, a couple of days back, that I was going to attempt to air dry a ham - a Worcestershire Prosciutto if you like. Well the half pig arrived on Monday evening and the leg has sat in a fridge like a spare part so this evening when a two and a half hour evening call got cancelled I got my shit together and started the process.

This involved tunnel boning the leg to remove the bone without cutting the skin. With the aid of Grand Dad Fred's boning knife - CHECK

I then needed to fabricate a wooden box with internal dimensions that would allow at least an inch of space around the leg. With the aid of some half inch ply "borrowed" from Dad - CHECK

Back in to the Kitchen and the pork was removed from the fridge and the bone cavity was thoroughly salted. Then the bottom of the box was covered with a layer of salt about an inch thick - This is the first time I have ever made anything that measures the amount of salt required in kilos.

The surface of the salt is sprinkled with cracked black peppercorns and the leg is laid on the salt flesh side down. Then more salt is pored in so that there is at least an inch of salt between the pork and the sides of the box.

Once the pork is covered by a layer of salt an inch thick a loosely fitting wooden lid is placed on the surface of the salt and a few bricks are placed on the lid. These should weigh approximately twice the weight of the pork which is about 5 kilos in this case.

The pork is then left in a cool place for 3 to 4 days per kilo weight of pork. As the boned leg came in at 2.5 kilos I am looking at 10 days before I can go to the next stage......

...... watch this space.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A crafty one out the back with Mr H Robinson, or ......

........  Smoking bacon the Bad Man way.

Before we start the Cat's Brief has pointed out that I should say lots of things along the lines of "if you try this don't blame me if it goes wrong and you get ill or die".  I'd like to add that Tesco or Danepak definitely don't produce their bacon this way but the stuff Great Grandma and Grandpa used to eat certainly came from a process like this.

So where do I start; a piece of pork loin has been dry cured in a salt/sugar/spice cure for about 6 days. It has been soaked in water for about an hour then dried, wrapped and hung in the garage for a further 8 days. Here it is in its nice little muslin jacket

It is unwrapped and a hook is inserted ..........

...... and then hung from a rod in the chimney.

What part of Santa is that ?

In the hearth a small charcoal fire is lit. No coal is used as that will taint the meat. Once the charcoal has that barbecue ready look it is raked out and a good couple of handfuls of oak sawdust is thrown on top. This is the point where it gets counter intuitive. Before I started smoking I spent my life lighting fires that burn beautifully. When smoking you want a fire that smoulders; enough heat to cause the sawdust to smoke but not too much or the meat will cook not smoke.

And that is all there is to it. Tend the fire for the next three or four hours adding more fuel or sawdust as necessary or damping down with a water spray if flames appear.

Here it is after smoking. The colour change is a result of the smoking process and can be quite marked depending on how long the cut is smoked for. The one thing that I cannot convey is the smell. An amazing smoky aroma with an element of cooling bonfire.

All that is left to do now is slice it and eat it or refrigerate or freeze.

The taste is fantastic.You can pick up the sweet and saltiness of the cure accompanied by the peppercorns and bay leaves, the smoke is there too but there is still a remnant of pork flavour. It doesn't just have that commercial homogenous bacon flavour.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Quick, Hide the evidence..........

This evening saw me pop round to Cathy's to pick up half a pig. I reckon I actually got more than half or she needs to have her holding checked over with a Geiger counter because I have four trotters and a complete head. I have therefore uprated my half to about 56% rather than phone the National Enquirer about a two headed, eight legged, porcine monster that has savaged the community and been killed by a SWAT team at the end of a 12 hour rampage of blood and gore ...........

........... well, it could have happened like that.

It came to £68 and 30% estimates that it is no more that £1 per 1 lb which is a great deal provided you can store the meat. Fortunately we are a 3 freezer household and they are all full now.

The hind leg looks fantastic and I have already 'phoned Dad to borrow Grand Dad's boning knife and I have also scrounged some ply to make a box for the salting stage of the ham curing. More on that once I get started. At the moment the leg is resting in the fridge for a day or so until I find the 2 or 3 hours I need to get it all going.

Tomorrow I plan to smoke a couple of cuts of the bacon that I cured. Working from home is great as I work near the Inglenook and can keep one eye on the smoking fire to make sure it doesn't burn too hot. It is not a sophisticated process; the bacon is hung on hooks and suspended from a rod in the chimney. A very small, smokey fire is lit and kept burning for 3 or 4 hours. End result, lightly smoked bacon. More on that tomorrow.

Cathy also advised that Village Idiot has been released from Hospital as they have decided that he has not had a heart attack. He does suffer from a muscle wasting disease and apparently exertion caused an unusual heart rhythm which was mistaken for an attack.

This is obviously good news but I am having problems assembling a sentence which has "VI" and "exertion" in it. It must have been one hell of a brook trout that took his worm on Thursday evening - that's all I can say.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Making Bacon

Pork seems to have been an undercurrent to the weekend.

Saturday saw us nip in to Stratford to complete a few errands. It was the fortnightly farmers market and the Rare Breed Pork Butcher's stall was there. This stall is usually manned by Richard. He's a lovely chap who is very encouraging with regard to my Butchery/Charcutuerie efforts and was responsible for suggesting that I graduate from curing Pork Bellies to a full side.

Unfortunately Richard was not around but one of his colleagues was also very helpful and took an order for a full side of Tamworth pork and some Hog casings to be picked up in a fortnight's time.

It was quite scary the first time I cured a full side. It is a lot of meat and is daunting both in terms of the size of the cut and also the price - especially if the cure fails and you end up with about 14 lbs of very "off" pork rather than dry cured bacon.

Once home from Stratford I brought in one of the pieces of Loin that I had cured a couple of weeks back. I put it through the slicer and, if I say so myself, it looked rather professional and quite appetising.

It was road tested on Sunday and performs as well as it looks.
Saturday morning also saw an unexpected phone call from a local Small Holder. Village Idiot had called a week or so back to mention that this Small Holder was killing a pig and wanted to know if I was interested in half the carcass. The call was from Cathy; the aforementioned Small Holder to let us know that the pig will be ready to collect on Monday. She also had some less good news, apparently VI has been taken in to Hospital having had another heart attack.

This is never good news but we never know how to take this as he has had several of these attacks and recovers with amazing rapidity. We are obviously hoping that he bounces back from this one just as promptly.

Back to the impending carcass, I have been tempted to try an air dried ham for some time; a Worcestershire version of a Prosciutto. Well the half pig is the perfect opportunity so Monday or Tuesday will see that project start.