Thursday, October 1, 2009

A bear.. eating berries in the front yard.

So, Barbie the dog was barking and growling this morning. A quick look outside and this little guy (Black bear) was spotted across the street eating berries from a low hanging bush. He was tagged, I think you can see, by a yellow DEP tag in his right ear.

Here it is hanging out in the bushes. It ate a lot of berries, which are located just to the left of the bear in this picture...

Here, it's just dropped a poop on the lawn right there and has turned around to check out it's handiwork..

..and here it goes, up the driveway.

Eventually, it moved across three more neighbors lawns and wet up the hill to the west. See ya!

In cheese news, this here is a pic of the slabs of an English Derby style cheese I made yesterday, as they're draining on the board. The idea was that I cut them into slabs like this, turning them every 15 minutes and keeping them covered with a warm towel for about an hour. Later on, I broke them up into small pieces and packed them into the 2lb mold and they're in the press as I type this. It'll get unpacked tonight when I get home from work and dry for a couple days before I do the wrapping for aging time.

Derby cheese is supposed to have a hint of tangy, sharp flavor, sorta like Cheddar, without the drawn out process of the Cheddaring process itself. It should be more flavorful than my Jack cheese, and would have been similar to my Cheddar.. except that one should be plenty flavorful stuffed full of Jalapeno's as it currently is..

I was originally planning to stick with the American styles for a while and go around the bend with each of those for a while, but the call of the English cheese was to great, and I wanted to try out this old-fangled funky "bandaging" and oiling method that is traditionally English. It's similar to waxing, in that it's a protective coating for the cheese, but doesn't use wax. It's just muslin cloth and oil or lard slathered around the outside of that. It will supposedly mold up quite a bit, but won't get under the muslin to get into the cheese. Funky, I know.. should be disgusting and cool to see it happen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pretzels. No, really?

And yep, I'm makin' some pretzels now. Great American Beer Fest (GABF) and a side trip to The Cheeky Monk, a Belgian Beer bar in town, got me all screwed up on big, soft, chewy pretzels and good mustard. And cheese, too.. but it's already too late for me and cheese. We knew that. More on GABF and that adventure when I have some more time and some of the digital pics get sent my way from my compatriots for the trip.

So, with that said, I'm doing this recipe I stole from Alton Brown:


  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry stuff..
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

And here's what I came up with:

First the quick boil..

Then onto the baking rack on parchment paper. Very helpful stuff for pretzels.. not so much for bagels.

Then out of the oven after 11 minutes, and...

..finally, onto a plate and into my belly!

Some cheap mustard was the best I had at the time, but the stout was fine.

I'll be baking some more up tomorrow, as I make my new raw milk cheese wheel, and I'll be adding some more Kosher salt and trying to remember to put the egg wash on before the salt topping. I'll also be trying to make the strands longer before tying them up as well. They're a bit fat as they turned out. Really delicious, though!