Wednesday, March 7:
Today was a baking day and since the weather was balmy we lit a fire in the cob oven and baked outside. It has been a couple of months since a baking day was warm enough for us to be willing to tend a fire for as long as it takes to bake outside. Baking outside almost always means pizza for dinner, and a long, busy day. Usually we finish cleaning up just before it’s time to go to bed.
Today we’re finished a little early. It is only seven, and the dishes are almost done. The baking was a little small today – five dozen buns and six loaves – but we made eight pizzas and they were beyond ambrosia. There is some left for lunch tomorrow, which is a good thing because we will be setting up for the butchering tomorrow afternoon, and hanging two hogs tomorrow night. When we have four hogs to butcher we generally hang two on Thursday, cut them on Friday, and hang the second pair on Friday night. Pork, unlike beef, is not aged before it is cut, and only requires a cool night to chill and firm the meat before it is cut and wraped.
The amount of money we save by butchering our own meat is considerable, especially in the case of hogs; this is because of the expense of the processing involved in the making of bacon, ham, and sausage. It can and usually does add a dollar a pound to the price of pork to have it butchered at an abbatoir (butcher, for those of us who don’t speak French). Add that to the dollar and a quarter per pound you may spend on young pigs and feed, and you have to remind yourself of the greatly superior quality of your home-raised pork – only to be compared to the best high-quality organic available — before you can tell you saved money by raising your own.
There is a fresh Gouda on the counter drying. This is our first attempt with that cheese since we got control, more or less, of our cheese-making process. In the beginning, for whatever reason, the alchemy was just not right in our kitchen, and cheesemaking was something of a carnival ride, with some heights, but a lot of dips in it. Now that the beast is at least partly tamed, we turn out reliable, if somewhat uneven, Appalachia (our cheddar), Paisano (Colby-type), and Belle (parmesan), as well as our fresh cheeses, which are easier to master. (NOTE: it is the privilege of the cheesemaker to name his or her cheeses, giving them thereby the chance of being judged on their own merits and not compared to some factory cheese by the American tastebuds for which predictability is a necessary virtue.)
We now omit the lipase which our original cheese-making instruction called for because we are beginning to more than suspect that adding lipase to cheese is a crutch for avoiding blandness. If we can’t avoid blandness by making a good cheese, we want to know it, not disguise it. Beth is of the opinion that lipase may cause cheese to become too sharp in the aging, but she is only guessing. We could of course research this question to find an answer, but we are of that rather feckless breed that generally learns by doing. Mistakes are sometimes easier to remember than instructions.
There are too many animals on the hill pasture! We are looking forward to moving the young steers onto spring pasture in Cadiz, just as soon as there is anything for them to browse.