Salt Creek

In honor of Doc Watson’s 80th birthday on March 3 and the Charcutepalooza March brine challenge, I thought I’d share an old time fiddle tune with three mighty fine guitar pickers. Here’s Doc, Tony Rice and Norman Blake playing Salt Creek. Like a friend of mine says, “That’s a lot of notes!” Enjoy.

Have you ever thought about all of the words that rhyme with brine? Like wine, stein, KINE and SWINE? Fine, now lets get moving with this project. I pretty much brined everything I could get my hands on this month. We’ve been brining chickens and turkeys for ages so I wanted to expand my brining repertoire and I think I was pretty successful. I started with the official corned beef challenge and actually had a head start because, at the request of a friend who kindly supplied the brisket, I had started one a couple of days before the challenge was posted. Nothing like being in the groove!

Kine fresh out of the brine

Cabbage browned in bacon fat with a few carrots to keep it company

Fait accompli

So now what? Brined spiced pecans, you say? Really? I’ve never heard of such a thing! But AntoniaJames over at Food 52 has and, let me tell you, she’s on to something. These lasted about a nanosecond at our house and I was so impressed that I got the book she referred to, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. That was a good call also. There is a mind-boggling amount of information about challenging the “diet dictocrats”.

Next? Feta cheese is brined; let’s make feta. Until a few days ago, I didn’t have access to fresh goat milk and, since I’m pretty new to cheese making, I wasn’t sure if frozen raw goat milk would cheese so I subbed cow’s milk and just added some lipase to give it an extra little bit of tang.

Cuttin’ da cheese! I know- juvenile, but hey!

Curds and whey

Hanging out in the kitchen for a few hours

Ready to go in the brine

And then, like I needed any more brilliant ideas, Michael Ruhlman had to post that gorgeous Canadian bacon of his. Since I happened to have a whole pork loin in the freezer, I figured it was kismet! A whole loin of Canadian bacon seemed a little excessive, even for me, so I sliced off some nice thick chops and let them wallow around in the same brining solution that the Canadian bacon was going in (but before I added the pink salt). It was a really nice change of pace for a weeknight dinner from my usual dry rubs. The flavor of the garlic and sage really came through and I liked the touch of sugar – more than I thought I would.  Next time I think I’ll try the thyme (like his picture) instead of the sage (like his recipe). My original fun with Canadian bacon was…fun; but why stop at brunch? What’s for lunner?

That would be PIZZA! It’s always great to have a hunk of whole wheat pizza dough in the freezer to take care of those sudden pizza cravings and 30 minute mozzarella from Ricki- the cheese queen takes, well, 30 minutes. Pull a little fresh tomato sauce out of the freezer, slice up some more of that Canadian bacon, some peppers, a little onion and we’re ready to go.

Up close and personal before hitting the oven

MMmmmm – let’s eat!

And last, but not least: the most adventurous thing I did was sauerkraut!! It’s crazy easy and a little crazy all at once. Until you do it. Then it’s just crazy easy. Thinly sliced cabbage, salt, water, some friendly yeasty beasties and about three weeks of doing it’s thing in the basement. All I had to do was make sure it was completely submerged then skim it every few days. No fuss, no muss and dinner last night was pretty amazing. The scariest part was dumping the cabbage into a colander. I was afraid that there was really some bizarre, slimy, stinky thing happening down there. Nope! It smelled a little sweet and a little sauerkraut-y. It tasted the same way but was pretty salty so I gave it a bit of a rinse. While the kraut was draining I fried a couple of slices of diced bacon then sautéed an onion and a grated apple in the bacon yummies.  Throw in a few juniper berries and a couple of bay leaves. Add the sauerkraut and about a cup of chicken stock. Stir it all together, cover and simmer while you cook the sausage. Grill your sausage of choice then slice diagonally in 2 inch pieces or slice and pan fry and add to the pot with the kraut.

Apples, onions and kraut

The final product