Sunday, March 21, 2010

Going Medieval

There are so many exciting things afoot! Mostly thanks to the wonderful leads I have had from fellow food bloggers recently. Kathleen, I think, told me about a site that sells distillation equipment for rosewater and the like. So arriving imminently is a copper still, so I can begin my second career as an alchemist. Dr. Steeven's Water awaits.

Then Deana tells me of a place to buy ambergris in New Zealand. I am on it! 80 bucks for a couple of ounces??? All in the name of research. Bartolomeo Stefani calls.

Someone else - oh it was Hugh Plat!! 17th century, tells me about gum tragacanth. It was partly seeing Ivan Day's lovely sugar sculpture at the MET, but I had to have it. And I will try to throw it on the wheel. Why not?? Real edible sugar plates. Or molded if the wheel doesn't work.

But most importantly, is a movie, shot last week by Don Christobal, featuring me making sausages all by hand with no equipment. I'll give you a link here when it's edited, right now an hour's work boiled down to 20 minutes of documentary, but I think it needs to be more like 15 or 12.

In the meantime, here is today's diversion, as Eddie would say, my going all medieval. Meaning rampant excess with spicerei. Eminemently fitting as I happened to be talking about it in history of medicine class on Friday and in Tudor and Stuart England. Both now in the mid 16th century by chance. So here you see coriander, cardamom (green and brown), long pepper, star anise (which I don't think is authentic but I'm out of aniseed) mustard seed, grains of paradise, nutmeg (still in the shell with the mace) juniper and cinnamon. I had a very hard time resisting the chili peppers - but definitely not appropriate.







Spices were toasted, coarsely crushed and then set aside. Then a mix of salt I smoked over oak (this is a completely random experiment) (3 tbs) with pink curing salt (1 tsp) some muscovado sugar (2tbs) all rubbed on a 4 pound piece of really fatty brisket. Then the riot of spices. All in a big plastic bag, which would can see here. Weighted and thrown in the fridge. Though really I should put it in a barrel in the basement. Well, in about a month, I'll take a look at it. YES, preserved, not just flavored. I'll take it out and steam it for several hours. Maybe it will be a really agressively spiced pastrami with the smoking step skipped, but not using liquid smoke or anything like that. We'll see.




11 comments:

Heather said...

I just came up with a trick (read: I didn't bother looking around the internet to find out if anyone else has come up with it) for pressure-cooking a modest amount meat in a 23-qt cooker intended for canning. I put the pound or so of meat into its lovely cooking liquid into a modest-sized pot and immersed the entire pot in the cooker, added water to about 2" below the rim of the smaller pot, and away we go. Worked great! In an hour it was falling apart-tender.

I guess you need no such trickery when you're cooking a whole slab of something. Just thought you'd be the person to share this with.

Michele said...

Ambergris? I want in - all in the name of research, like you said . . .

Ken Albala said...

Heather, You have a 23 quart canner?! And are messing with meat in it? You never cease to amaze me.

And Michelle, Sure! Where are you? You know what it is right? Whale barf, formed around a lodged irritant, floating in the ocean for many years until it washes up in New Zealand!

Michele said...

Of course I know what it is! I have read countless romance novels. (They are very informative!)

無尾熊可愛 said...

原來這世上能跟你共同領略一個笑話的人竟如此難得........................................

Kristine said...

Kenny, what is that language and do you know who this is who keeps writing above me here?

Ken Albala said...

Oh, That's just my friend Ling in Taipei. Don't you read Chinese?

Juana Isabella/Donna said...

Hi Ken,

Oh please tell me the source of the whale barf ... real ambergris would be such a cool thing to play with.

Have fun with the sugar paste ... this article may be useful for you http://home.netcom.com/~alysk/articles/CooksPlayDough.htm

Ken Albala said...

http://www.ambergris.co.nz/

Hey Donna, Here's the site. As I said quite expensive, but they asked me exactly what shade/strength of nubbin I wanted. They don't seem to know much about food usage though. Mostly for perfume.

cbdebris said...

So you've read "Sallets, Humbles and Shrewsbury Cakes" by Ruth Anne Beebe, and studied your Tusser assiduously?

Nah.

Kat said...

Hey, I know her! http://home.netcom.com/~alysk/articles/CooksPlayDough.htm
She is a great teacher about medieval confectionary work and an awesome lady.