Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Pork Pies (A Passion for Pig)

Stately procession led by a vintage hearse. 
On Saturday an unusual commission for me from the 365 project; could I snatch a few pictures of the funeral of one Paddy Lavin (103), late of Ballaghaderreen and our local village, Lisacul. Not a proper invitation from the family, you understand (I knew them not), more a "you should come along to that; we're going". Well, I did it and I got some passable photo's but I felt very awkward doing it, and worried that I was intruding on the family's grief in a sensationalist, rather callous, journalistic way, sneaking around with a long-ish lens praying that I'd not get spotted, challenged or (worse still) invited in 'properly'. I would have died of embarrassment but I have been told since that that was silly, nobody would have minded and they would all have been quite proud to have been 'zapped' for the 365 project. Ah well, I guess I am not yet fully integrated into the local ways.

Pork Pie filling - shoulder pork, bacon rashers, apricots, sage,
allspice and nutmeg.
I was 'home alone' again over that weekend as Liz had headed off to Silverwood land to spend a few nights en famille and celebrating niece Em-J's 18th Birthday. They did the girl proud, it is reported and her 'special meal' of choice was "proper fish and chips like we had at Grandma Pollards (Todmorden) when we were narrow boating".

10 ml sheep-meds syringe (clean, obvs) used to inject trotter jelly
through the steam hole of the cooked pies.
That, we all remember, included, local (to Yorkshire) speciality 'dabs' - a thin but complete slice of potato covered in beer batter and deep fried, plus huge sausages for the non fish-eaters. No cooking challenge too great for Mrs S and the sous-chefs; it all looked delicious. There was also a 'grown-up' sherry trifle from Liz (no jelly, posh fruit soaked in orange juice, and custard made properly with eggs. Also a goodly quantity of cream. Bellies were groaning and many diners needed a lie-down. Liz stayed down there to recover and then, when it was time to return to these parts accepted a lift from Steak Lady and Auntie Mary who had both decided they would quite like another 'sleep-over' here.

The finished pie with a dollop of Liz's mango chutney. 
While they were all gone and I had the kitchen to myself I decided to try a recipe I had been looking at for a while, that for 'proper' Melton Mowbray style pork pies. These are made with a special "hot water crust" pastry and are injected after cooking, with that greyish jelly that aficionados of pies love to have, cold and solid in their pies. I went with a recipe from our Johnnie Mountain cookery book, "Cooking with a Passion for Pig". I had trotters in the freezer from 2015 and hauled a shoulder joint out of the freezer to thaw so that I could lop off the required 7 ounces of lean before slow-roasting the rest for that day's supper.

A lazy cop-out day on the home-alone menu - pizza and a beer. 
I was delighted with the results which not only looked great but were delicious. Unfortunately in our big muffin tin, the recipe only made 6 pies and I only got to eat 2 of them - I was so proud of them that I was inflicting them on any passers-by and drop-in visitors ("Here - you have GOT to try these!"). Liz and the sleep-over ladies used up the last of them at lunchtime on Tuesday and I have been instructed in no uncertain terms to make them again, only with 3 times the recipe so you make 18. I will need 2 more muffin tins for this. We only own one. I have also been toying with the idea of making those pies with egg up the middle (Gala pies?) so I suppose I could use one of the bigger loaf tins instead of little muffin trays.

Soft goat's cheese with an interesting
"spongy" effect, like bread but the holes
were, of course, filled with whey, not air.
I also came by another 6 litres of the goats milk from Sue and Rob, so I tried another version of the cheese, called simply "soft goat's cheese" in our (Strawbridge) book. This recipe was a piece of cake to follow - warm the milk to 30ºC, add starter and rennet, leave 12 hours at room temperature to curdle, scoop curds into cheese-cloth/colander, hang up to drain for 12 more hours. It worked well and tastes correct but when I had finished draining it and took it down to cut it open, I was curious to find it had a spongy texture and looked a bit like bread - full of spherical cavities.

I had seen these cavities when scooping my curds across (at which point they were filled with whey, of course) but assumed they would collapse as the curds drained leaving me with a professional looking, rather fudgy textured, solid-ish cheese. The recipe says nothing about cutting up the curds before scooping them, or pressing the cheese, though it does say that you can do the draining in a cheese mould which you would turn over a couple of times during the 12 hours. Both the cutting and the moulding (and certainly the pressing) might help to deflate this cheese for next time but this time I will just mash it into plastic pots or boxes before I refrigerate. We are also getting a bit over-run with cheese so I have put a chunk of this one into the freezer to see if it can realistically be frozen and thawed without damage.

The neighbour's cattle. 
Nothing else to report except that my attempts to get nice significant pictures for 365 of the Solstice sunset (20th at 22:00) and sunrise (21st at 05:00) both failed as ugly grey cloud banks obscured the sun both times and gave us no colours at all except slate grey. Also, more cheerfully, we have now secured our dozen hatching eggs of Marans chickens, which are now in the incubator, due to hatch on around the 12th July. These came from our sheep-supplier, Mayo-Liz's farrier, who is called Roy, via the lady herself. I nipped out to their place with Charlotte who wanted to see Liz again after a long gap.

Roe deer (I think) in the local deer farm.
It turns out that Mayo-Liz may be down-sizing the livestock operation including selling some of the horses and most of the sheep which means that she may be trying to find "nice homes" for a couple of elderly ladies who have been more like pet ewes than any commercial sheep. We already have sheep of 7 and 9 years old and these two may be even older but are still sound and pushing out single lambs each year even though technically retired. I am tempted. I find I love these gentle old girls and we could probably absorb 2 more without too much trouble.

I am thinking about it. Maybe I am going soft in my old age, myself.

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