Monday, November 14, 2011

The Buckle Heard Round the World

AKA The Buckle of the Century.

This is a long overdue post. But what other kind would you expect from me anymore? I closed out Buckle Season, formerly and commonly designated "summer" in some backwoods regions, with a buckle to end all buckles. A peach and 2 berry sweet cornbread buckle. Wowie. That one was good. I did 1 cup corn meal (blue and gold mixed) with 1 cup wheat flour, and threw in 1/8 cup of  "Bob's Mill" 8 Grain Cereal Mix (wheatless) too, as I do in much of my baking for some texture. Used the last of the season's peaches- end of October in Utah this year if you believe it, along with raspberries and blackberries. Half stick butter and a mere scant 1/8 cup brown sugar for the whole double buckle recipe. Which makes 2 standard pie trays. I do not personally even notice the absence of sugar, as I keep reducing it in all my baking.  I then compensate with vanilla and cinammon. Usually some nutmeg and allspice too. Works in apple crisps, oat bars, you name it. No one else has complained to me either. Buckles turned out to be the only bread/pie I baked all summer. My favorite combos are pear/blueberry, peach/blackberry, and plum/raspberry. But any 2 or three fruits will make for good eating. 

I quickly transitioned into fall mode. Stocked up on winter melons as they were once called; spaghetti squash, acorn squash, pumpkins, and butternut squashes. And I whipped up one more apple crisp with honeycrisps and asian pears. I will miss apples, and will probably cheat and buy some "fresh" ones before next summer. Apples and potatoes are just too much a part of our lives. Though I did stock on spuds too. I love fall as well. I spent 2 weeks hiking through the best colors I have ever seen thanks to the late and heavy snowfall, and bought jugs of tangy tart cider, and lamented my lack of a food dehydrator. Would like to make preserves next fall. Really store up for winter like in the old days I never knew existed except in fiction until I was grown up.

Last week I cut into the first of my three huge eating pumpkins: note to the prospective buyer of pumpkin flesh- measure your oven first. I don't know quite how I will manage the last one. I cleaned off the seeds and got them roasting in a toaster oven while I roasted the hollowed out gourd in the big oven, with the rack sagging under the weight. Due to the size and thickness of my pumpkin and my own unusual lack of any economy of movement, I baked the pumpkin empty, then moved it to the top of the range before filling it and using it like a slow cooker. Secured the lid tight and walked away for 2 hours. When I came back the whole was still hot and everything inside was baked and blended. So what did I make? A "turkey" mole (moh-lay- I do not have the spanish tilda on my keyboard to go over the e), which must be put into quotations as my sophisticated palet can assure you that: turkey does not taste like turkey anymore, turkey has an odd spongey texture rather than the rough and dry texture turkey should have, and turkey is mostly flavored with sodium and chicken stock. Also turkeys are raised so fat their own legs break and they are miserable. Probably. But I am going to avoid turkey even more thourougly than I was already after this due to the poor quality of the general turkey flesh. More on flesh later. For now, let us say the turkey mole was good. This mole was seasoned with achiote, chiles, pepper, cocoa, cinammon, and other spices. I poured in 6 cans of butter beans, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, and great northern beans, plus diced anaheim peppers, corn, peas, tomatoes, wild rice, and of course, the sides of the pumpkin scraped and shredded. Quite good, spicey and sweet and aromatic, aside from the disappointing calibre of the bird.

Okay, so, I have tested organic chicken, beef, 3 varieties of buffalo meat, milk, and yogurt, and I will now give you the rundown. Organic chicken tastes like chicken. I do not believe I could pick one out from the other blindfolded, despite my honed and attuned taste buds, and the "air chilled difference"- this organic chicken is not stored in vats of shit-filled water that spreads disease and inflates the weight of the poultry so you get less for your money- though I do appreciate the air chilling on principle. Organic beef on the other hand is spectacular. Great smell, taste, obvious flavor difference. You can recognize it too by differences in cooking: the ground patties I formed cooked more quickly and evenly, the fat clung to the pan less as it cooled and was easier to clean. On the whole, I am an organic beef man from here out. No doubt. It still though does not have as much flavor as bison, my meat of choice forever more. I have tried 2 brands of ground buffalo and one of hot dogs. The hot dogs are superior to standard dogs, smell wonderful, but on the whole, are still just ground up testicles and junk meat. High Plains Bison burgers come individually wrapped and pre-formed. I don't like them much. If you are into convenience and don't mind producing a lot of trash, go for them. The flavor though is very pepper and whatever they preserve these with, dulls the taste. Go instead if a connoisseur in hopes, for Great Range Bison, distributed by Rocky Mountain Natural Foods. My very special recipe is included later. Organic milk is magnificent. Shockingly good if you are not a super taster. I remember loving milk once, and now mainly drink it from habit. Its white water, full of protein. But organic is full of sweet, rolling gentle flavor. Teresa made a face and said it tastes like cheese. She was not a fan. But I am won over. You can taste the happy, and the omega 3s animals pick up when their feed is green (as in grass). It is healthier by far and tastier too. Watch for a sale or a clearance as it is about to expire. All of this leads me to believe birds are called "bird-brained" for a reason. They may not be happy, but even happy, how happy is a chicken exactly? You can't notice its misery in the meat. Now cows, they must be a bit clever. I can tell you from a burger if the animal led a good life or not. Pigs, which I do not mention are natural jerks. They would definitely eat you if they had the chance, and they are known to torture smaller live animals by eating them slowly and leaving them half eaten then coming back for more. I do not care if my pork is happy, though I would buy humane pork if I find it. But the guilt is not there. Cows don't hurt anyone, except with methane- and by the way, the next time someone of a Republican nature says to you that global warming is not man made because all the cow farts still account for more greenhouse gases than all our cars put together, counter by saying that the cow is really one of man's first machines; the feral cattle is not an animal that is social, docile, or which could be packed tightly. Steers were territorial brutes. Much tougher and stronger than even modern bulls. They fought like tigers and males did not meet often and both live after. So there would be few cows in the world to fart had they not happened to taste darn good. In fact much of the evil in history has taken place for beef, and wilderness areas are being mauled by livestock rights. Don't believe me? I can send pictures of a herd of cows that surprised the hell out of me by being in the middle of a mountain valley in August, and which nearly felt the need to stampede me. Didn't know they really did that. I can also send you pics of a herd of cows that stampeded for fear of me in another mountain range that is supposed to be "wild" in Utah's desert. Not eating beef would possibly do more good for the world than many hours volunteering for garbage organizations like United Way and Habitat for Humanity, of which I have insider experience and little faith. And to end my soapbox speech for now: giving money to charity is for chumps. Know your neighbors, and your community. Don't send $50 to Georgia, or Malaysia. Find someone who could use it near you. Give it to them. A kid, a mother, whatever. A loan or a present. You do more good in this world by loving a single person well than by getting involved with these giant organizations that get so big they lose sight of what they are doing and just become machines like every other corporation. Big is bad. (And just how do Republicans say big government is evil but shop at Walmart? If you allow big business, you need big government, otherwise the biggest business, is for all intents and purposes, the government. When I see Walmart as a third party, I will worry. Don't give them the idea. They'll get it on their own soon enough.)

Buffalo Burgers:
1 lb ground buffalo
1/4 cup italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 cup raisins
ginger, garlic, salt, paprika, (or ideally "Mongolian Ginger Barbecue" seasoning mix sold at World Market Stores and under the brand name "Urban Accents")

Also you could try lamb burgers, another animal that is not eaten in large enough numbers for it to have lost all flavor yet:

1 lb ground lamb
4 dry mint leaves ground
1/8 cup craisins or raspberries
garlic and other desired seasonings

I prefer buffalo by a lot. Lamb just makes me want stew. Lamb owns stew. Although beef stew is pretty good too.