October 25, 2010
Nothing means more to me than quality... and I mean *truly* quality time with friends and family. Click here to view the whole gallery.
The head count of the 2nd annual smash grew tremendously and along with many new families, we saw most of the Muddy Portage crew in attendance. It was great to see faces we haven't seen in a while as well as several new friends we've met over the summer.
There were enough people who pitched in to make the process go. As you can see, there are parts to fill with such an operation and without diligent help, it can go slow. Those apples didn't stand a chance.
I had mentioned we try to put together a video so that we can look back at how our families grow over the years. People took the "dressing for the part" quite seriously so I think we'll have some good you-tube fodder real soon. I have to say that my hat looked rather dumb compared to all the straw and cowboy hats correctly sported by others.
The apples "smashed" more difficult than last year. They were pulpy and it took more effort to extract all the juice. We have a rough estimate of about 28 gallons compared to the 47 gallons last year. While we're sure the dry weather had an effect, I felt the apples were a little too ripe (along with the fact that we had only a Gala, Winesap and Winter Banana mix - Not completely ideal for cider) Still, everyone had cider to take home and Glenn and I had plenty left over to make sure our other loves ones got some.
Thanks so much to Glenn and Mary Burris for not only providing a great venue, but going above and beyond to make this look like an event coordinated by a committee. The hay rides were an exceptionally nice touch and the kids loved it. A little background... the smash wasn't going to happen this year just due to how busy everyone has been. Glenn and Mary stepped up and said they were planning a fall party of some sort anyway and this was just the thing.
The apple smash means a lot to me because as a kid, I attended a number of these with my dad, along with steam-engine shows, berry picks, you get the picture. My dad refurbished this press and made all the wood parts, painted it and got it all ready to use. But, he never got to use it before a stroke in 2001. So, last year was its maiden smash... and this year was its second run. I hope to keep this going so that our kids can remember such things. I truly believe that by instilling the spirit of our fathers in them will make them remember, and even aspire to push it further... ultimately to become better contributors to society. I can still see and remember my first apple smash, and my dad heading it up, all to only be sure there was enough cider for everyone to take home. So, my heartfelt thanks go to Glenn and Mary for making this happen.
We'll be shooting for the first or second week of October next year. If you liked it, you might mark your calendar. The food this year was stellar. Thanks to all who brought something. That really made the food easy! We'll be thinking of ideas to completely eliminate the monetary apple overhead for the next time. It might be nice to get everyone to bring a sack or two of apples so that the apple purchase doesn't lie on one or two people. Bring apples, take cider! We're open to ideas. I hope you enjoy these pictures and watch for the video soon.
Love Susan, Jason and family
October 04, 2009
Here's my collection before seasoning. Notice the grey finish? As cast iron becomes seasoned, it turns black and the surface becomes smooth like glass. That's the sign of a natural non-stick surface.
I have all kinds of cast iron. Today, I decided it was time to clean and re-season all of it. There are a few key pieces that sit on my stove top and I've decided that it was time to break out some additional pieces. Particularly, a nice sauce pan with a lid and a double dutch oven (for lack of a better term). In all, there were two No. 8 skillets, a No 14 skillet (yeah, the big daddy) two waffle irons, two regular dutch ovens, the double dutch oven, an egg poacher, a cornbread pan, a muffin pan, and a star-shaped muffin pan. There was a sauce pan and lids for about each of them! I really needed another oven, or two, for the task. My oven was working at 250 degrees all day.
Anyone who cooks with cast-iron can never turn back. I'm ready to ditch everything else I have and commit to cast-iron cooking! Having your cookware properly seasoned and maintained only increases the performance of cast-iron. Here's how I did it:
Seasoning your cast iron
1. Clean your cookware real good. It's OK to use a mild soap as you scrape off any junk. I used a wire brush and scouring pad to get it as clean as possible. A wire brush is good for rust (also a clue that your pan is not properly seasoned.)
2. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.
3. Dry everything off real good. You don't want any water on it before the rub-down with oil.
4. Rub it down using a paper towel. You can use canola oil, but I used Crisco vegetable shortening this time. I have used bacon grease in the past. People have used lard, bacon grease or ham fat or any other saturated fat. Saturated fat will stay in your pan much longer so while it may seem weird, think of it as cooking breakfast in it. Each time you cook, your surface becomes more seasoned. Go crazy... season it with bacon grease, we're talking cast-iron!
5. Let it cook in the oven for 2 hours. After two hours, turn off the oven and leave the pans in it to cool in the oven. Now if you have to do multiple oven loads like me, that may not be an option.
When the pans come out, grab your hot mitt and give them another rub down with a cotton wash cloth or something that you can work fast with. Just shine it up and that's it folks. Repeat this process as often as you like. Even better, cook with it... a lot! Bacon and anything greasy or fatty adds to an awesome seasoned surface. Eventually, with proper cleaning, your pan will achieve a natural non-stick, smooth-as-glass surface.
Cleaning your cast iron
When you clean your cast iron, be sure not to use high detergent soaps. Some will argue it's OK to use a mild soap, but I do not. If you need some scouring action, throw a little kosher salt into the pan under your faucet and get a scrubby or something to grind up the junk. Soaps will de-season your cookware. It will take off the black and you will begin to see the silver of the cast-iron again. You want your cookware to maintain a nice, even black shine.
When done washing, give a quick towel dry and then put it on your stove burner to completely dry it out. Don't over cook the pan here! A minute or two should do it. Leave it on just long enough to dry out.
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February 20, 2009
On Saturday, we ate, drink and were merry with good friends. Over the last 2 years, I have really been digging the red wines. To me, reds *are* more complex animals and hard to figure out both in the tasting and making. But I drink what I like and it spans from sweet to dry. I look at the craft in the style of wine in reds more so than whites. It seems there’s more tinkering done in the cellar with red wines… and rightly so.
These are NOT all the wines that were available. They were this years, “featured selections.” My idea is to feature a diverse group of wines from sweet to dry and cheap to expensive, both red and white. People liked some, but not all. Seems my homemade peach wasn't so hot. In fact, it tasted soapy :( - But, I plan to play with it some more. You watch, I may just bring it around. My Plum wine however, was something to gett jiggy to.
Here was the official line up, but it didn't include many wines that were brought... and additional wines that were pulled from the cellar.
2007 Menage A Trios (a blend) - Folie A Deux
2007 Chianti – Ruffino
2005 Syrah Petite - Stags Leap
2005 Syrah - Columbia Winery
2004 Syrah - Red Bicyclette
2007 Voignier - Stags Leap
2007 Moscato - Sutter Home
2007 Gewurtztraminer - Chateau St. Michelle
2006 Savignon Blanc - Bogle
2007 Chardonnay - Bogle
2005 Champagne - Valley Vineyards
2007 - Concord
2008 - Peach
2008 - Plum
2008 - Strawberry
2007 - Niagra Ice Wine (juice from a kit… real deal stuff)
Thankfully, my wife shares the passion enough to where we’ve sinfully set up a budget for wine-buying. The goal was to put some good stuff in the cellar, but it’s so hard to keep our hands off it! So the cycle repeats. We find ourselves being wine junkies to the extent of grabbing a quick bottle of the shelf to try something new. It’s cool when you find a good $5-10 bottle that you really like. The point of my featured selections is not to wow or woo. It’s to expose everyone to a variety of wines… and particularly, ones I’ve been drinking lately. Around here, we “drink what we like.” If you like it, and it happens to be priced right, remember who introduced you to it :)
Wine is fun and finding people who appreciate it the same is a blast. Thanks to all those who contributed something to the wine and food. What a great experience. So, see you at the next taste. Check out the pics from this years event.
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