Saturday, August 2, 2014

Making it last



We have very high ceilings. That's the parlour floor of a townhouse for you. Cave-like and freezing in the dark winter, cool and breezy in summer (we have not had to install our window air conditioners). Excellent for suspending bunches of Interesting Things.

I've never been one for drying bunches of plants. I dislike dried flowers and flower arrangements, finding them creepy, depressing and very...well, dead. Fresh flowers, yes, any day. Herbs are different, because drying preserves their flavour, long after their fresh leaves are a memory.

The mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), far right, is now four to five feet tall in wild places, with skinny leaves and wiry stems, and thinking about making pollen. I picked these bunches in succulent spring, when their green juice stained my hands and the smell of bruised sage was thick. They are still very fragrant, months later, hanging from the 12 foot ceiling.

In the middle. Well, we'd better try it sometime: guanciale - cured pork cheek. After salting and spicing it with spicebush (Lindera benzoin), it has cured for almost three months, smells good, and is ready for slicing very thinly. The best guanciale (gwhan-cha-lay) I had was a million years ago, at supper with my friend Eric at Mario Batalli's pizza place, Otto. My thin crust had transparent pieces of quanciale draped over it as soon as it came from the hot oven, and as the plate landed on the table they were just turning translucent from its heat.

To the left is a bunch of Sassafras (Sassafras albidum); I dried it so I could see what filĂ©  is all about (the powder made from the leaves and added to Creole gumbos for thickening).

All the way over is a bunch of yesterday's marjoram flowers, from the terrace.

Curious about the wild things? 

10 comments:

  1. I envy your pork. It is a beautiful corner of the pig. Our second round of gherkins is happening today.

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    Replies
    1. Dr Van den Horst! I remember a picture of...pancetta? hanging from a ceiling in Southampton.

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    2. Guanciale as well, in the bedroom. I highly recommend it. Both bedrooms and guanciale. Also a bit of jamon, while it lasted.

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  2. Do you have ceiling fans? I'm not a big fan(no pun intended), but several friends have high ceiling and they said the fans really help push the warm air down in the winter. I don't have tall enough ceilings to hang things from them, but I do have a large skylight and so herbs and garlic get hung in the skylight well :-)

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    Replies
    1. Yep, we do. We had them on low and slow during the Ice Age of '14.

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    2. Well,let's hope you don't have the winter from the Arctic again. Does the lack of need to use air conditions offset the heat bills in the winter? Just curious as I live in a totally different climate.

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    3. It must. We don't know what aircon would run us. Would be interesting to compare. I know winter is coming again, And somehow it seems quite impossible that we could be that cold again, to the tune of that bill.

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  3. As a sincerely devoted fan, I'll cast the nay vote when you select images for your eagerly awaited 2015 calendar. The guy in the middle doesn't do it for me, plus his flankers are non-inspirational.

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    Replies
    1. Worry not, Clark. Although el Puerco tastes better than he looks.

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  4. Only you would be curing pork in your ... living room! Love it!

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