Sunday, August 26, 2012

St George Spirits

A couple of weekends ago my wife and I made a trip over to Alameda Island to the St George Spirits. I had sampled a few of their products over the last couple of years, specifically their Single Malt Scotch and their excellent Teroir Gin which uses botanicals from Mt Tam

From the outside the Distillery looks like any other building left derelict when the military left the area. However the view of San Francisco from the parking lot in itself is worth the trip (phone camera didn't do it justice sorry).

You enter into the tasting room and tastings are $5 but my advice is to get the tour. The tour is probably the best tour I have ever been on, full of information delivered in a humorous fashion. You will learn about the philosophy, why they use only whole fruit in their eau de vie de,which botanicals go into their absinthe and why they can call it such, the difference between vodka and gin and how they plan to break into the Bourbon market....yes I said Bourbon

After the tour you have your tasting, you can taste before the tour but I recommend the tour first so get there close the hour mark. The tour and tasting costs $15 and well worth it for the experience.

I am not going to go into details on the tasting....why? You may ask well, I want your all to visit so you can understand the process and the passion that St George brings to the art of artisanal spirits.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Real Butter

Making your own butter is probably the simplest thing you've never done. All you need is a decent stand mixer.

Get some decent cream, organic or raw or just one those cartons in the dairy section. Dump it all into the mixer bowl, attach the whisk and whip the cream, just like if you were making a fancy desert.

Now for the clever part, when you have achieved whipped cream, keep going. In fact if you haven't done so, turn the machine onto full speed. Then get a bowl and put some ice and cold water in it. You can basically ignore the cream until you hear a sloshing noise. The contents of your bowl will now look like a horrid roiling mess. Don't be scared keep going until you see something like this.



You have achieve butter! scoop it out and place it in your ice water. Now massage it into a ball. This will squeeze the rest of the liquid out.

Now take the butter and wrap it in parchment or cling film. What you made is unsalted butter, if you want to salt it then weight your butter, measure salt to 2% of the butter weight and mix it with butter.

Now what about what is left in the mixer bowl, well that is Butter Milk. The real stuff not the artificial thick stuff you get from the supermarket.


The goods is that this is acidic and be used in baked goods. So you might want to search this blog for Soda Bread and make, or perhaps, scones or muffins. Just don't throw it away.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Simply Marmalade

Around this time of year you might find yourself with a glut of citrus fruit, perhaps you have a tree or simply just left over from an impulse buy at the supermarket over the holidays. This year mine was due to a surplus due to my weekly veg box delivery.

Marmalade is great way to preserve the citrus fruit and unlike jam it is relatively simple to make. So here is my easy general purpose Marmalading process.

  • 1Kg of Citrus (feel free to use any selection you have or a single variety)
  • 75ml Lemon Juice
  • 2Kg of sugar

Take the whole fruit and scrub well, removing the stub where the stem connected and place them whole in 2.5 Liters of cold water. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 2- 2.5 hours until the skins are soft and be easily punctured with a fork.

Strain and reserve the liquid you should have about 1.7 liters, if less top up with water, if more boil and reduce. Meanwhile cut the fruit in half (careful they are hot) and remove any seeds adding any liquid released to the pot of strained cooking liquid. Cut the fruit into thick, medium or thin shreds and return it all to the pan of strained liquid. Add the lemon juice and sugar and bring to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil rapidly until setting point (104.5C/220F) is achieved - about 10 - 15 mins

Let cool for 10 mins, then stir slowly to remove any foam on the top. Finally place into warm sterilized jars (see blog post now we're jaming below) and seal. This should keep for about 2 years.

If your feeling a bit Scottish you can add about 50ml of whiskey at the end of cooking time.

Happy New Year

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Calorie, Is it outdated?

The BBC Food Programme is an excellent show and I make time to listen to it every week. Although it is mainly based around concerns and food trends in the UK occasionally this it covers topics which relate to any region. A recent broadcast was featured on the Calorie, something I suspect many of you have been counting at some point and potentially the amount of calories in a food item has caused you to make changes in what you are choosing to eat. The premise of this broadcast is that the the Calorie as related to the consumption of food is outdated in determining how healthy something might be and even how it might affect weight gain or loss. Like most of the Food Programme shows they look at the subject from a very balanced viewpoint with both sides represented. If you are a calorie counter, or someone who is concerned  about diet and how certain foods affect your weight I suggest you give this episode a listen.

The Calorie

Mon, 24 Oct 11
28 mins

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Home made Bangers (Sausages)

This time of year as the weather gets cooler and the nights are drawing in, my mind turns to comfort food and on my list is the sausage or as they are called in the UK bangers. Unfortunately like most things what we often find in our supermarkets are highly processed tubes of meat from suspect sources full of preservatives and often over seasoned (salted). I find that a shame beacause almost every culture on the planet has its own unique combination of meats,spices and cereals stuffed into a casing and then dried or cooked fresh into a suculent savory delight.
Given that I mosly get my meats direct from the farm in whole form, what I tend to have a lot of is good ground meat. So a few years ago I bought an inexpensve sausage stuffer and delved into the art of sausage making and I have to say that I haven't looked back. In fact, for the last three years my wife and I have hosted a sausage making party where friends come over and make sausages and share both recipies and laughs. The event has been a big success and everyone enjoys not only the event but the treats they go home with.

Most sausage recipes consist of some good ground meat and seasonings (salt and pepper) and optionally spices, herbs and fillers. The latter can be a controversial item and the use of fillers is dependent on the type of sausage you are making. In general that add both softness and moisture to the end result as the soak up a lot of juices from the other ingredients, most sausages from the UK include some kind of filler. Italian sausages tend to be all meat and if cooked alone will become drying but these are often broken up into sauces to retain all the juice when cooking. Sausages to be dried would not use fillers as they would cause spoilage. When using fillers they should always be good quality either oatmeal, bread crumbs or multi-grain cereal and should be soaked and drained before use. When using fillers about 5% by weight is a good ratio, for 1Kg of meat use 50g of filler.

There are loads of recipes online which use various combinations of seasonings however all sausages need salt and probably more that you might imagine. I good rough guide is about 5-10g of salt per kilo of meat. Because cooking has an effect on the power of seasonings it is a good idea to take a little of your mix and ether fry it or poach it in order to test for seasoning as this will allow you to adjust before stuffing.

Stuffing is basically inserting your sausage mixture into a casing. This is necessary for traditional links but you can just shape your mixture into patties but links are easier to store and freeze since the casing protects them. The are a large number of choices for casing both natural and synthetic. Most recipes will provide guidance on the type of casing. Since I normally make pork sausages I go for natural hog casings (or runners) and there are various sizes depending on your own tastes and machine. I get my sausage supplies from online sources such as Amazon and Sausage Maker who provide the casings and stuffing machines. The casings need to be soaked before use as they are stored in salt.

The process of stuffing a casing is fairly simple, no matter if you use a machine, a kitchen aid or even a funnel. Basically there is a container for the meat, a tube through which the meat is pushed and some means of forcing the meat into that tube. Firstly run the soaked casing up over the tube and gather it up. Make sure the tube is loaded with sausage meat before you tie the knot at the end of the casing (prevents and air lock). Then slowly fill with meat allowing the casing to pull off the tube. The trick is to guide the casing off the end of the tube once it is filled with the meat and making sure there are no air holes. This is vital for dried sausages as air will create spoilage. Keep stuffing the casing until you come to the end and then simple knot the casing to seal the meat in the casing. Finally you can twist the links

So here are a few of my favorite recipes, they are all pork based. Ground pork can be found in good markets like Wholefoods and Genes (locally) but if not pork shoulder or a combination of shoulder and pork belly can be used and ground up. You butcher will often do this for you.

Herby Sausage 

This has become a favorite at our sausage making parties and many of our friends rate it as one of the best they have tasted.

  • 950g coarsely ground pork
  • 50g filler
  • 7g salt
  • 20 Sage leaves
  • 20 Chives
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme
  • bunch of Marjoram
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper.
Simply chop all the herbs finely and mix with the rest of the ingredients.

Gloucester Pork Sausage

This is from my home county in the UK and is a family favorite. Use Gloucester Old Spot pork if possible.

  •  950g coarsely ground pork
  • 50g filler
  • 10g salt
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tsp ground Nutmeg
  • 10 sage leaves finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of marjoram
Chop the herbs, grind the spices and mix with the rest of the ingredients

Easy Chorizo

This is for a fresh chorizo sausage and can be put in casings or simple used as is in recipes calling for chorizo.

  • 1Kg of fresh ground pork
  • 1.5 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1.25 tblsp of salt
  • 25ml of white wine
  • Small head of garlic minced, grated or finely chopped
  • 3 tblsp finely chopped oregano
Just mix together, check seasoning and stuff the casings.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Be a little subversive and Occupy your garden

Roger Doiron: A Subversive Plot - How to grow a revolution in your own back yard

I found this TED talk earlier this week and felt an extreme resonance to the point which Roger Doiron makes. I took to my garden about three years ago and although it has been a struggle to find time, and resident rodents in the neighbors redwood have reduced the crop I have to say the food is by far the best food we eat. We are no near self sufficient but every little helps plus there is the added benefit of bring outdoors and exercising. I encourage you all to watch the video and take from it the points that matter to you and be a subversive and go dig your gardens and thrive....

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Simple Scones

This has to be the simplest scone recipe I have ever found. It works really well and to be honest goes against the general theory.

I was given a baking book by Paul Hollywood which I have to say is very good and as I was thumbing through this morning I happened on his scone recipe. I am familiar with the traditional way of making scones which involves mixing flour and cold butter together to form crumbs but his technique was different I had to give it a try

  • 1lb 2oz of String White Flour
  • 2 medium eggs beaten (plus 1 more egg for an egg wash)
  • 3oz of sugar (caster or bakers sugar if you have it)
  • 1oz of baking powder
  • 3oz of butter (softened! - use microwave)
  • 8fl oz milk
  • 3.5 oz of Raisins (optional --- but why not)
So here is the procedure. 

  1. Put all the ingredients (except egg wash and raisins) and put them in a mixer with a paddle attachment. or put them in a bowl and use your hands/spoon
  2. Mix on low speed for 2 mins - 5 mins if by hand
  3. combine the raisins if using
  4. Scoop out onto lightly floured surface and pat/roll in to a rectangle about 2 inch thick. 
  5. Cut out scones (use a 2 - 3 inch cutter and cut straight down, no twisting!)
  6. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and egg wash the tops (no dripping down the sides)
  7. Place in the refrigerator for 30mins while you heat the oven to 425F.
  8. After 30 mins egg wash again and then place in oven for 15 mins.
 As you can see they turned out great. This is now my go to recipe for scones.