Meringue Cookies

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If you remember our post about homemade ice cream, you may recall that we had to use eight egg yolks for the recipe. That means we were stuck with eight egg whites when we were done, and we weren't going to throw them away. So the search began for something to do with them.

Sure, I could have made a lemon meringue pie, but I looked a bit further and discovered something I had never tried-Meringue Cookies. I found a recipe in the River Cottage Family Cookbook that Jesse got for his birthday last year and decided to try it out.

The cookies aren't the goopy, sticky meringue that you're used to on a pie, but are slowly baked at a low temperature until they're thoroughly dried. You're left with a truly unique cookie that Jesse says feels a little like styrofoam. That doesn't sound too appetizing, but once you taste them, with their hint of sweetness, you'll be a convert.

The recipe can be found in great detail here and is quite simple. Summed up, you take 2 egg whites and whip until peaks form. Then add 1/4 cup of sugar and whip until you've got firm peaks. Fold in another 1/4 cup of sugar, and then drop them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for two hours in a 200 degree F oven.  The recipe makes about 12-14 good size cookies.

They are so simple and so delicious like a light and airy toffee with a cotton candy flavour.

If you're making ice cream, don't feel like you have to make meringues right away. You can always freeze the whites and thaw when you're ready.

The Butcher

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hocks, spareribs, and chops

Remember our pig? Well, we finally got the call. It was to let us know that it had just arrived at the butcher shop and was to be slaughtered the next day. Harry, who raised the pigs on his family's farm told me to call the butcher and book a time for us to go in and have it broken down.

I was a little overwhelmed because we're really busy these days. I didn't feel like I had enough time to think through what we wanted from this pig. I rewatched butchering videos and frantically asked everyone I knew about what cuts to get.

For all the worry of making the wrong decision with such a beast, there was a simple answer-a good, experienced butcher. When I arrived at Townsend Butchers, I met Dave Miedema, who has been breaking down animals for longer than I've been alive. He asked me a few questions, and we were soon on our way through our 220lb pig.

The back fat being separated and saved for rendering down into lard

First, I of course saved all the fat-back fat and leaf lard. We've been told leaf lard makes pie crust fit for a king, so we're excited to actually try it without any hydrogenation. The rest of the back fat will be used as a general cooking fat.

Three quarters of the belly went to be cured and smoked for bacon and the other quarter was kept fresh. I kept one of the jowls, or cheeks (much bigger than I imagined!) to be cured as guanciale, which is like a fattier (if that's possible) bacon. Both hams were cut in half and smoked.

We decided to not stress ourselves out with this pig. As much as I wanted to, we didn't make our own bacon, smoke our own hams, or cure pounds of charcuterie. We're in the middle of renovations and it wouldn't have been the smartest thing. So we decided to pick one thing-sausage. The butcher shop took care of the bacon and hams, and we left with thirty pounds of fresh ground pork.

So far, the little pork we've eaten from our pig is great. Being a Berkshire, it's a little fattier than what we're used to, but this only makes the meat taste better. Visiting the butcher and sorting all of this out was a bit of a meat overload, but we now have a freezer filled with organic, pastured, locally-raised pork to take us through the year.