Sunday 27 December 2015

"The Most Gorgeous Moist Meat Imaginable"

Our own 6kg ham 'glazed' (more like 'pasted') with a mix of
mustard powder and brown sugar. 
Well, we have all done and dusted our own Christmasses and Facebook has been a blizzard of pictures of our friends and relatives table spreads, food, children, toys, Santa pictures and all that jazz. It has been lovely to see  and I do not think I would add anything by a load of similar pics from here but I would like to just sneak in a couple of bits from our own, small holder, angle. For just the pair of us we probably went way too mad on quantities, certainly of meat, but for our first year we suddenly had our own turkey available and our own ham joint.

A 17 lb turkey at this end of the table, a 14 lb ham at the other.
We had done pigs in 2014 but had only salt-cured the bellies for bacon rashers so this year it was a bit of an adventure when we decided to brine a whole ham and to dry-cure and air-dry a whole leg for "Parma" ham. The ham joint was brined in a solution of just table salt, sugar and spices, rather than the "curing salt" used by some of the commercial boys. Curing salt includes sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite as well as the nitrates.

The Christmas tree lights up the Living Room window .
It is the nitrites which give supermarket hams their bright, artificial pink colour (as well as the fact that the brine is injected deep into the muscle blocks so that the meat can be so full of water that the cooked joint still weighs 20% more than the freshly slaughtered version!). Nitrites have also, I believe, been linked to carcinogen (nitrosamine) chemistry. We decided to leave out the nitrites and go for a pale, more pork-like joint and we were very pleased with the result. We will definitely do it this way again.

Pies and Quiches made of left overs. 
As to the HUGE turkey (17 lbs), we knew when we killed this one it would be way too big for the two of us but we are nothing if not GOOD at left overs. Not for us this widely bandied around statistic that "we" waste on average 30% of our bought food by letting it go out of code or scraping our "eyes bigger than bellies" portions into the compost bucket after the meal. Our plates contain, if you are lucky, a few bones picked so clean that they could appear as dried, sun-bleached skeletons in a cowboy film and any over-production tends to come back and back and back again as cold meat, stews, risottos, curries, pies, quiches, rice or cous-cous salads, or portions frozen for future use.

A pink gin and a new "Irish Larder" apron. The tools of
a genius chef?
Having spent much of my working life as a Stock Control Manager, I am probably OCD on stock rotation, so very little goes out of code. We knew that this bad-boy would have a few slices of breast carved off him for the day and some leg meat but that he would then enjoy a long and happy career in the left overs dept.

Regular readers will also know that this turkey was a 'bronze' old fashion 'heritage' variety. We only acquired our first turkeys (Tom and Barbara) this Spring and when these birds started cranking out eggs we decided to hatch a few (and gave some to friends for hatching) and see how we got on. They were a revelation - the growth rates blew us away and if you have read the recent posts you'll know that we were killing them at only 5-6 months old at 6+ kg for the hen and 8+ kg for the 'stags', oven ready weight. Way too big for a two-some on the 25th but Liz just fancied cooking a whole bird for the table, so we did.

A heated clothes airer. A GENIUS present for
two hard-pressed Roscommon smallholders who
have not seen a washing-line drying day for
months! Thank you, Santa; you know who
 you are (!)
Bro-in-Law 'Sparks' had cooked one of ours on the 11th and reported back favourably on the taste and the succulence. He cooked his in his fancy new deep-bath American fast-fryer, in 50 minutes or there abouts and told us that the succulence was not grease/fat from the fryer, but genuine meat juices flowing out of the meat as it relaxed. That fact  everyone knows about poultry is that you test for done-ness by stabbing it and making sure the juice runs clear but I had not seen in all my growing up with mass-produced (intensively reared) turkeys any great quantities of this juice.

Turkey Jelly.
Commercial birds these days are all white-feathered, double muscled highly bred birds. The 'stags' (males) are so big that they cannot mate with the hens, so all 'sex' is by artificial insemination. Apparently that well known entity, the 'public' preferred the white birds because there was no dark, unsightly 'stubble' from the plucking and the farmers love the double-muscled format for the huge weight gain +/- growth promoting chemicals - those 26 lb birds you see advertised.

Christmas Eve full moon.
We carved our birdy on our posh carving board with its stippled 'hedgehog' central area which grips the meat and its various channels which take the juices and guide them into quite a big well. We were amazed to see, after lunch, that this well was full of juices. These juices set into a jelly like the one you used to get under the 'dripping'. Liz (who has spent a bit of time in France) tells me that this 'gellée' would be highly prized in France and would be dolloped on top of your hot buttered toast and paté at breakfast time. So that was our breakfast on St Stephen's Day (Boxing Day) and very nice it was too.

The chooks have now chosen a new
place to stash eggs - out in the car port
twixt wall, pallets, bike and 2CV.
Meanwhile, I know that our friends in Kent, Miles and Paul had bought and grown the same variety of turkeys as we did and after their Christmas dinner they reported the turkey as being "The Most Gorgeous Moist Meat Imaginable", so there is back-up proof if ever you needed it.

We should also confess to a small amount of smugness that a lot of the other ingredients of the table were from our own 'farm', all be it a couple were last year's. Only the sprouts failed us this year - it was a bad year here for the brassica family. Our carrots were there and parsnips, our onion in the gravy, our red cabbage (from 2014) in the spiced cabbage, our parsley in the sauce, our spuds as the roasties, our eggs in the 'real custard' Liz made for the pud. Even the pud was home made (last year - we made too many!) though not from our ingredients.

I will leave you, hopefully as well fed as we were, with this pic of the tree, which is suffering a bit from abuse by the new cat, Soldier. I guess the cats are entitled to 'enjoy' Christmas as much as we are.

1 comment:

deeps said...

happy new year to you