Working Hands

Pretty hands don’t exist in the kitchen. There are no manicures. No pampered skin, nor painted nails. Instead there are calluses and burns. A half-moon- shaped cut that slices through the nail-bed to the quick requiring a trip to the Emergency Room and three stitches put in with strong black thread. Jergens would be appalled.

Kitchen hands bear the marks of the trade. They know their way around a knife, move from left to right down the board and down the line. They reach into hot pans and hot ovens, retrieving baguettes without fireproof protection, prodding cuts of meat to test for doneness. A medium rare steak should feel like the web of muscle between the thumb and forefinger. Or like your plump lower lip. Full and filled with appeal.

The Gathering Together Farm kitchen crew has hands that speak of their lives. JC’s ring shines on his left hand as he preps onions for filling, dices veg for roasting, takes apart a pig for charcuterie. Ricky’s hands tell of late night music gigs, endless hours holding a guitar, a banjo, a spatula. Ana’s are feminine, but strong. They bear the pinch marks of the Hobart mixer, and the burns from hot oil that she uses to cook fresh potato donuts. Ben’s are made to make pasta: deft fingers creating classic shapes to impart texture from the old countries.

Here, hands shape, and are shaped by, work.

January’s Pig – 2012

 

salame nostrano
surface culture

We have survived the inundation and are heading strong into the new year at Gathering Together Farm. As you recall in an earlier post, Aimee chronicled the breakdown of the Mosaic Farm pig. Here is one of the projects begun on that day.

I ground muscle portions from the ham and the shoulder and  tossed with red wine, garlic, salt, a fermenting culture and finally large diced fatback. This sticky brat was stuffed into beef middles, tied, weighed and labeled. From there the young salamis go into a fermenting chamber where the fermenting culture becomes active and lactic acid is produced in large enough amounts to discourage any other bacterial growth. Once the pH has dropped sufficiently, the salamis head for the drying chamber. A drying chamber is temperature and humidity controlled to allow for a slow water loss from drying meats/salamis. At a 35% water loss the salami reaches another benchmark for safety…there is not enough water available for bacterial growth. We are technically there but will need more time to develop depth and complexity of  flavor. Coming soon to a salumi platter near you!

Checking the salame nostrano for moisture loss.

High Waters 2012

As the long-awaited rains come, the level of the Mary’s river has surprised us all.  Grange Hall Road is as closed as a submarine door.

On the one hand, the overflowing river has given us a fertile soil. On the other hand…the river is overflowing.