It's been a funny old week!

Dad on a ramble

What with being 'up to the neck' in pig earlier this week, getting a dog yesterday, and my dad's birthday today; it's been a funny sort of week.

To clear up any possible misunderstandings, the photo is of dad not either of the others! It's his best side!

I got up this morning with the intention of making a chocolate fudge cake but, on opening the fridge, found that we were about out of butter. He'll have to have an 'official' birthday, like the Queen, when we have been shopping!.

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Dickinson & Morris win food award

Dickinson & Morris have once again proved that commercially produced food can still be quality food by winning the award for best 'pie or pastry' at the Quality Food Awards 2007.

What with winning a '1 star Gold' at the Great Taste Awards 2007' earlier in the year, to add to the one they won in 2006; their trophy cabinet must be bursting at the seams!

Dickinson and Morris is owned by Samworth Brothers who also have a number of other brands within the company including Ginsters and Walkers Pork Pies. Visit the Dickinson & Morris web-site at www.porkpie.co.uk.


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Dry Curing Bacon

To make your own bacon see my Dry Cured Bacon - Tutorial.

There are many ways to preserve bacon but for good British Bacon you can't beat dry curing.

No white sludge in the pan – fried not poached – crispy if you like it – juicy if you don't – what could be finer?

There are two ways of dry curing. The first, where you make a cure and put the meat in it for a given length of time for the correct saltiness, and the way which I use, where you calculate the amount of salt and curing agent to use so that, within reason, it doesn't matter if you cure it for too long as there are only sufficient ingredients to give an correctly cured bacon.

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The 'Every Day' Pork Sausage

Every Day Sausage

This is the every day Pork Sausage that I make for . She prefers thin sausage in sheeps' casings. Sheeps' casings are harder to use than hogs' as they split more easily, but the extra care needed is worth it as the delicate casings makes for great eating.

Sausage Seasoning Mix
60g Salt
10g Pepper White
8g Pepper Black
2g Nutmeg
1g Mace
2g Ginger

Mix together well

For 1kg of sausage
770g Locally Produced Pork Shoulder (about 20% visible fat)
80g Rusk
130g Water
20g Seasoning Mix

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Not Lincolnshire Sausage

Lincolnshire Sausage

This sausage formulation was posted on the sausagemaking.org forum with slight adaption of the method by me. It has been developed from a recipe that I believe was originally supplied by Phil Groth to forum member Parson Snows with some adaption by another forum member, Oddley.

I have since been informed that the only herbs and spices in a 'true' Lincolnshire sausage are sage, salt and pepper. This is supported by The Lincolnshire Sausage Association's application for EU PGI status. So, this recipe is 'technically' not a true Lincolnshire; it is however, a great recipe and a Lincolnshire sausage in spirit!

Firstly, Make the following sausage seasoning:

50g Salt 50%
5g White Pepper 5%
5g Black Pepper 5%
5g Grated Nutmeg 5%
2g Ground Mace 2%
3g Ground Ginger 3%
1g Ground Allspice 1%
15g Dried sage 15%
14g Corn flour 14%

Mix above together until even in colour.

For the sausage

1kg Locally Produced Pork Shoulder 50%
500g Locally Produced Pork Belly 25%
270g Water (Chilled) 13.5% or 225gm if using breadcrumbs
180g Rusk 9% or 225gm breadcrumbs
50g Sausage Seasoning (above) 2.5%

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Rusk for Sausage

Most British sausage contains some form of binder. Prior to WWII this was usually in the form of breadcrumbs but, following the introduction of modern bread baking methods, most producers changed to using rusk. Good breadcrumbs from properly cooked home-made bread can still, of course, be used, or rusk can be bought online from suppliers such as Sausagemaking.org, Scobies or Weschenfelder.

Alternatively you can make your own using this recipe which was posted on the Sausagemaking.org Forum:

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Pigging Out

Sausage from Heath Farm Pork

I was too busy to post yesterday as we collected half a pig from Roger at Heath Farm Bungalow. It's always a pleasure to visit, particularly when Alf, who does their butchery, is there. He is generous enough to share his vast knowledge of meat, curing and sausage making. I should have taken my camera to get pictures but forgot.

We have frozen some meat as joints and made bacon, ham and suasage. The offal has been frozen to make pâté and faggots at a later date. The fat was put on to render in a little water, but it was on to high a heat and burnt – I think I'll render it in a low oven next time.

I was organised this time and had made my herb mixes and rusk for the sausage, dry cure for the bacon, and brine cure for the ham, on Monday.

I'll post the details of the various procedures, recipes etc in separate posts over the next couple of days.



National Chilli Week - Sweet Chilli Sauce

Chilli Sauce

Apparently, it's National Chilli Week from 26th November to 3 December 2007.

It's a bit of a coincidence really, 'cos on Saturday I experimented with making my own Sweet Chilli Sauce

I put about ½ cup sugar in a pan with ¼ cup water and ¼ cup vinegar. Added a finely chopped chilli and boiled for about 5 mins or so. This gave me a light dipping sauce with the chilli floating on top. I wanted the chilli mixed in the sauce, and slightly more heat, so thickened it with arrowroot and added, in the absence of another fresh chilli, a bit of chilli powder. I also added some paprika (about ¼ teaspoon) for colour.

The sauce is better than I expected – It's just like the stuff you buy.


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Drop in Beer Sales, Good News?

Roger Protz in today's Guardian reports on 'plummeting pint sales' for the major brewers. Given reports of local pubs closing at the rate of one a week, you'd think this was bad news.

However, as Roger points out, it is the sales of 'mass-marketed beers' that are falling. Sales of real ale, particularly those from the smaller 'micro' breweries, are on the increase.

Leicestershire is well served by smaller breweries including, among others:

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Faggots. No 'Brains' Needed

An article in the Farmers' Guardian titled 'Offal renaissance to boost livestock industry' reminded me that I had a bag of pig's 'bits' in the freezer, ready for making faggots.

I used this recipe by Antony Worrall Thompson that, unlike many others, doesn't boil the meat before mincing. I amended the recipe slightly adding more sage, and parsley instead of chives. The gravy was made using stock, tomato puree and soy sauce for colour, thickened with a roux - my wife cannot have anything with wine in.

I'm pleased with the end result and Emma, my younger daughter' loves them - better than Brains dad! Not that that would be difficult! They are very much the 'faggot and gravy' type rather than the firmer faggots many local butchers prepare – I like that type sliced and fried.

Next time I'd add even more sage and cover them in the later stages of cooking, but all in all, I'm very satisfied.

Plated Faggots


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GM Food Loophole

New Consumer News reports that The Soil Association has revealed that you may be buying GM foods without realising it due to a loophole in the laws on labelling.

According to The Soil Association nearly all the milk, dairy products and pork in UK supermarkets are being produced from animals fed on GM crops.

Even more reason to buy locally produced organic dairy products such as Lubcloud milk.



News Round Up

This weeks main topic of news, in the food/farming press, has been yet another major blow to the farming industry with an outbreak of avian flu in Suffolk. The BBC report that about 22,000 turkeys, at four premises, are being culled in an effort to restrict the outbreak.

The newspapers in typical style are reporting on the '£100 turkey' because of the outbreak.

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Store Cupboard Starters

The Starters

Food for four and two more arrive wanting food?

It happens to us all sooner or later. Today was my turn.

Only thing for it is to conjure up a starter. Today, faced with this problem, I made two store cupboard pâtés/dips:

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Give to Charity - For Free!

Free Rice Banner

Over the past few weeks I have come across a couple of web-sites that guarantee a gift to charity just by using them.

Free Rice at freerice.com give 10 grains of rice for every correct answer to a simple word quiz. It's easy and fun; you can soon accumulate a couple of thousand grains!

The other site, www.thebreastcancersite.com, gives five daily opportunities to help good causes. Just click a button and their sponsors will donate to charity. You can give to charities who fund programs to provide food to the hungry, free mammograms, healthcare for children, books to improve literacy, the protection of endangered habitats, and for animal charities. You can of course support them all.

It's great to think that someone gets help just by me clicking a button online



Organic milk reduces eczema in children

Lubcloud Organic Milk

On 15th October I posted on the claimed benefits of drinking unpasturised milk. Today, New Consumer reports that organic milk helps reduce eczema in children.

In a separate report the organic sector of the milk market is shown to be the one creating most growth - ahead by 11.5% year-on-year.

This is great news for local organic dairy farmer Lubcloud, whose milk and cream is available at many of the local food shops in the County.

The picture shows their modern logo, but I can't help but prefer the image on the farm-gate sign. Less professional maybe, but brilliant all the same.



Lousy Cold

Roast Veg and Chicken

I've not posted for the last couple of days 'cos I've had 'man flu'. I still feel lousy now but thought I'd better put pen to paper, so to speak.

There's no end I need to do; sausage, bacon, ham etc. Also, my hot smoker is now functional so I want to make some Polish sausage. What with Christmas fast approaching and farm-shops to visit as well; it's going to be a busy time

The photo has nothing to do with this post really - I just though it would 'pretty it up' a bit. It's the all in one meal we had yesterday. Now, if I was Jamie Oliver I'd make half a programme or a chapter of a book about it, but you just shove a load of veg, garlic, herbs and olive oil in a tin, put a chicken on top and cook it! It's not rocket science.

I'd like to tell you that the chicken was a free-range one from Tomlinson's but due to the circumstances it isn't. Some great news on the chicken front though, The Farmer's Guardian reports that battery cages are to be banned by 2012.



Bournemouth

I've not posted anything for the last couple of days because we've been in Bournemouth for my eldest daughter's graduation.

She's still down there as it's the graduation ball tomorrow and she won't let me post a picture until she has vetted all the photos! My post bragging about my clever daughter will have to wait!

It's always a bit difficult going away when you're in a wheelchair and require fully adapted facilities – the hotel wasn't perfect in that department – but we managed OK. Eating out also presents a problem. Digestive problems mean that I need to dine where there are toilet facilities for wheelchair users, so my choice is limited. We ended up at a 'Harvester'. I've never been to one of these places before, and I guess, unless I'm desperate, I won't go again.

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I'm not a Pheasant Plucker!

Pheasants ready for preparation

The tongue twister continues:

I'm not a pheasant plucker,
I'm a pheasant plucker's son.
I am only plucking pheasants
till the pheasant plucker comes.

Longer versions exist but enough of all that. Why am I ranting on about a tongue twister? Well, its my way of trying to start this post so that its actually a little bit interesting

You see, I saw my mate and his family in the pub on Friday night and he asked if I wanted a brace of Pheasants. A colleague of his, who shoots regularly, had given him 3 brace.

Now, I'm the only one in our house that eats the stuff and, given my policy of only cooking 1 main course per meal, pheasant tends to dwell at the bottom of the freezer for ages.

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Good news for Lamb Producers

Picture of spring lambs

Two items of good news this week for producers of British lamb.

On Thursday, Speciality Food Magazine reported that sales of English Lamb are up by 9%. This was followed, on Friday, by The Farmer's Guardian reporting that Morrisons has made a commitment to sell 100 per cent British fresh lamb throughout the year in its stores.

Let's hope the other supermarkets follow their lead.


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Let's Ban Everything

Home-made bread

It seems this week that if it's not just bad for us someone wants to add something to it to make it good for us!

The latter refers to fortifying flour with folic acid to cut birth defects. A move that was approved earlier this year by the Food Standards Agency. Apparently, it could reduce the possibility of things such as spina bifida. All very well and good, you may say, but scientists say it may lead to a range of health problems.

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Halloween Waste

Carved Pumpkin

Four days ago I wrote about a report that about a third of all food bought in theis country is wasted. I read today, in Speciality Food Magazine that Halloween is now the most lucrative trading period after Christmas and Easter.

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'You Tube' For Cooks

I came across a web-site today that's a sort of 'You Tube' for cooks.

'Im Cooked' – tagline, 'Cook it, Film it Share it' has hundreds of video guides to cooking.

Just the thing to watch as you eat your Pot Noodle!



Tapas Croquetas

The Croquetas

An article called 'Leftovers are a cheaper, greener option' at the Daily Telegraph reminded me of a snack/starter I haven't made for some time. Croquetas – croquettes or croquets in English, are a tasty way of using up small amounts of leftovers.

The Telegraph's recipe differs slightly from my own in that it adds egg and butter to the base sauce.

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