Just installed Blogger on my phone - seeing if thus old luddite can figure it out.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Ever since I first moved to this farm, one of my main motivations for raising animals and putting in a garden has been to try and eat more ethically. I think this is a common concern - most of us care about the ethics of what we put in our mouths and most of us make some sort of effort to source our food with ethical concerns in mind.
For some of us, our paramount concern might be animal welfare, and our concern might lead us to vegetarianism, or to sourcing ethically raised meat. Some of us eat all organic, not just for our own health, but for the planet's health. Most of us try to avoid eating endangered species, and look for sustainably harvested seafood. Recently, many people have become concerned with the carbon footprint of their diet and look for locally produced food that isn't trucked or flown thousands of miles from the point of production.
These are ALL laudable goals, and what I am about to post is in no way meant to suggest that anybody ought to abandon their priorities for mine. We all do what we can to behave ethically - I hope - and I firmly believe it is impossible to refrain from all evil in all our actions.
That said - consider this quote:
"Since 1997, the Justice Department has prosecuted seven cases of slavery in the Florida agricultural industry — four involving tomato harvesters — freeing more than 1,000 men and women. The stories are a catalogue of horrors: abductions, pistol whippings, confinement at gunpoint, debt bondage and starvation wages."
(for the rest of the article, see here)
Did you catch that? Here in these United States, in the past couple of decades, there have been cases of SLAVERY so egregious that they have been prosecuted as such by the Justice Department. Not "Wage Theft;" not "exploitation," but SLAVERY. For those of you who won't follow the link, the article details the commonplace practices of imprisonment, of people being forced to work at gunpoint, of hostage taking and threatening the families of those who try to escape. For the each of the seven cases that were prosecuted, there were (and are) literally thousands of cases that are never documented.
Following are two more links. I especially recommend the first. It was originally published in Gourmet Magazine in 2009, and it was the first time that the problem of widespread slavery in our agricultural system got serious mainstream press. It is the article that opened my eyes to the scale of the problem.
More recently, there has been news coming out about conditions on tomato farms in Baja California in Mexico. Nearly all of our winter tomatoes in the US come from either Florida or Baja. The large plantations in Baja are not owned by US companies, but they are contracted to large US companies and those companies have moral responsibility for the conditions, which are, again, tantamount to slavery.
This past winter and spring, farmworkers on these plantations have begun to protest the practices and conditions - enforced confinement behind barbed wire and electric fencing; forcing workers to purchase all of their food and water from the company store, which charges exorbitant prices and puts the workers into debt-slavery; lack of running water or plumbing; and as retaliation for protesting, beatings and starvation.
The LA Times ran an expose on the situation, which you can read here:
Aside from labor practices (what a tame and euphemistic phrase), our current system abuses farmworkers by poisoning their bodies with pesticides which they must apply to the fields, often with inadequate or nonexistent protection. The wells from which they must drink are tainted. Their children are subject to birth defects and chronic illnesses as a result of exposure to dangerous agricultural chemicals (see: http://afop.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Annual_Publication_FINAL_English1.pdf)
In short, I have come to a decision. This decision is going to cost me a lot of time and effort. I have decided that I can no longer purchase tomatoes from Mexico or Florida. I realize that it is impossible for me to entirely wash my hands of my participation in our evil (yes, I said evil) agricultural system. Just as I cannot utterly refrain from the evils of the systems which produce my clothing, electronics, or transportation needs, I cannot keep 100% "clean" in my food choices either. It's simply not possible. But I can make a few choices that make me feel better, even if they do not do much to dismantle the systems themselves. This is one of those cases where the only effective action is collective action, yet I can only take individual action.
We eat a lot of tomatoes. After onions, I think tomatoes are probably the single most important vegetable ingredient in my pantry. They go into at least a third of the meals I cook at home. I will continue to buy tomatoes when I can verify that they were produced locally. And I will continue to accept tomatoes from the Gleaner's pantry, no matter where they come from. That is because - similarly to buying secondhand goods - my using those tomatoes does not materially benefit the producers. Exactly zero of my dollars are going to the growers if I collect the tomatoes after they have already been thrown away.
But if I want tomatoes in the months of November through March, I am going to have to preserve them myself. That means I am going to spend a large number of hot August afternoons washing, blanching, peeling, dicing, and canning tomatoes. If I can get my hands on small Roma tomatoes, I can freeze them whole, which is the easiest way of preserving tomatoes. But no matter what, my tomatoes are going to be more expensive from here on out - expensive in terms of time, certainly, and maybe money too, if if we factor in electricity and canning jars.
But what price, after all, a clean conscience? Moderately clean. at least. Moderately.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Returning from Tucson at the beginning of the week, I found that the High Harvest has definitely begun, as signaled by the traditional anonymous box of squash left on the front porch. Last night's dinner was squash fritters topped with goat cheese. Now there are only six big zucchini left to deal with (until the next influx, anyway). I will probably do what I did last year and bake a bunch of zucchini bread for the freezer. I defrosted the last of last year's zucchini loaves a few days ago, and it was in perfect condition. The trick is to wrap the loaf tightly in aluminum foil and then place in a ziploc bag. There are still a few cups of organic pecans in the cupboard leftover from a trade several weeks ago, and the zucchini bread plan will use those up as well.
Pickling cucumbers have appeared in the stores, and so I made a bunch of pickles. Four pints of bread and butter canned pickles, which are not my favorite but beloved by Paloma and my mom. I also started a big jar of lacto-fermented dills - but without any dill! I have yet to find any dill weed. I just used plenty of garlic, red pepper flakes, and a whole bunch of grape leaves to stop the pickles from getting soft. My children were aghast when I spotted an enormous grapevine growing up into the trees on the side of the road and pulled over to pick some leaves.
"Mom! You don't know who those belong to!"
"Nobody cares if I pick a handful of leaves off this vine, honey, it's gigantic. Besides, nobody can see me behind the trees."
"MOM!!! You're a THIEF!"
"Oh, relax, if anybody comes out I'll ask them nicely. It's not like I'm taking the grapes."
I also take apples and plums off of abandoned roadside trees. And the sour cherries off those branches of my neighbor's trees that hang over the fence onto my property. I'm unrepentant. Everybody knows that the fruit hanging in your airspace is fair game. As is the fruit off any tree growing in the ditch beside the road if there's no house in hailing/waving distance.
In Seattle, I had a beautiful young Bing cherry tree that I planted in the front yard, which was unfenced. I didn't mind if passersby took a small handful of cherries as they walked by - the temptation was strong - but I did draw the line when I saw people bringing bags and picking into the bag without asking. Once I actually caught a couple of young men UP IN THE BRANCHES, picking all the cherries they could and stuffing their shirtfronts. I yelled at those guys.
In apple season, I often cruise around looking for trees. I like to make apple cider and it takes a LOT of apples. As I said above, if the tree is not within sight of a house, I consider it free fruit. If it is in someone's yard or planted on the road near the driveway, I will knock and ask before taking any fruit. Oh - and obviously I only do that if I see that the apples are falling on the ground and not being picked up. If there are no apples on the ground I figure the owner is using the fruit. And if the owner says "yes, by all means, take all the fruit you like" I always offer back some cider or applesauce in return. I have some elderly neighbors who offered me all the apples I want in exchange for cleaning up the windfalls.
I truly believe I am acting well within the social norms of my region, but I'm very curious to hear what people from other parts of the country say. Am I a thief? Do you have to hike up a quarter mile driveway and knock before you take a handful of grape leaves? When is a tree abandoned? Is it open season on vacant lot trees? Can you strip them bare or is it good form to leave some fruit for the next person? Tell me in the comments.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
The last week has seen temperatures in the high 80's, near 90, every day. The skies have been bright and clear. As close as I live to the Canadian border, I often listen to Canadian Public Radio, since it comes in better than NPR. Thanks to them, I know a new term: UV index. This is a number which calculates - basically - how quickly you will burn if you are dumb enough to stand out in the glaring noonday sun without sunscreen on. I am often that dumb. I must be either a mad dog or an Englishman. This past week, the UV index has been - well, high. I can't pretend I understand (or even remember) the actual numbers, but true nice Canadian weather lady said it was very high.
Accordingly, we have spent the last couple of days at the lake, splashing about in the cool water and exposing our tender flesh to the unmitigated rays of the sun like frigging idiots. No; actually our local park is delightful and among its amenities are several mature maple trees that provide ample shade, even on these hottest days when everybody is spending time at the beach at once. The water, so far, has remained cool and clear.
But there's only so much time you can spend at the park. Alas, we still have to sleep at home. Newer houses in our area may have central air - some of them - but for the most part air conditioning is still regarded as a silly luxury in my part of the world, and certainly no 60 year old farmhouse is going to have it. We have a couple of oscillating fans from Walgreens in our bedroom, but they aren't much good.
Last night the thermostat told me that the air temperature inside my house was 82 degrees. I slept with a wet towel slung over my back. I know those of you who live in most other arts of the country are laughing at me, just as you do when I complain about the freezing 20 degree temperatures in January, but there's no need - tomorrow I am bound for the hottest hellhole in North America.
My Dad lives in Tucson (because he is CRAZY) and I have to visit him for 9 days. In July. Don't ask why - the timing is not up to me. I have TOLD my dad and TOLD my dad to please not schedule any health crises for the summer m months, but the stubborn old bastard just won't listen. The temperatures in the Tucson region hover in the mid 110's for three months straight.
My only hope is that by the time we return home, the weather will have turned here at home.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
We have a new pig. It's been years since we had a pig - I'd have to look back over the blog to see exactly how long it's been and exactly why I swore off pigs forever. I remember doing that, but not precisely why. Since I have belonged to the Gleaner's Pantry, it almost seems a sin not to have a pig, when I have access to a literally unlimited amount of fresh clean bread and produce. Also, it being high milk season, a nearly unlimited amount of whey from cheese making. The waste-stream to which I have access is abundant enough to support a half-dozen pigs - I have been partaking only minimally, but now I will have to up my participation.
There is a local farmer, a neighbor of mine, an older gentleman who has lived around here since Hector was a pup and who in his retirement still raises pigs and chickens and who imparts wisdom to all and sundry via the medium of the local Facebook Farmer's group. I'll call him the Livestock Guru, or the L.G. for short. This week, he was advertising barbecue pigs (100-150 lbs) for the fourth of July, dressed out and ready for the spit for $350. At the end of the ad he added "or you could raise them out for meat." I asked, "same price live or dressed?" and he answered that I could have a live one for only $200.
Considering that a 40-50 lb piglet goes for $125 to $140, and they usually sell out in minutes, that seemed like an extraordinarily good deal. I consulted with Homero and he agreed. He spent today fixing up the old pigpen - putting new hinges on the old broken gate and hauling the calf-hutch over from the pony's pasture. Around 6 pm, L.G. brought over a beautiful, healthy pink pig who immediately went to town on the pile of compost in his pen.
If all goes well, he ought to be ready for slaughter at about the same time as the cow - late September, when the grass is dried up. I have heard that I ought to get on the waiting list at local slaughterhouses, as it isn't always easy to get a slaughter date in those prime weeks at the end of summer.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Beautiful evening out with the goats. They are all (all four of them - the fewest number of goats I've had in years) looking fat and sassy. I'm trying to decide whether to keep the same buck for this coming year or not. Advantages - he's proven, impregnated two of my ladies last year with pretty, spotty babies, and he's healthy, and free. Disadvantages - Iris doesn't like him, didn't let him breed her last year. Also, if I don't separate him (or get rid of him) he will impregnate the does in late summer and I will have babies too early again. If I don't use him, I'll have to find another buck and pay for him.
The cherries are ripening. As usual, the birds are striking the cherries just before they are ripe enough for us. Long term, we have to figure that out. Short term, we are enjoying semi-ripe cherries and looking forward to ripe cherries with a few bird strike scars. Also the neighbors pie cherries are getting ripe, hanging over the fence, and I need to harvest those and make a quart or so of cherry-and-mint infused vodka. Just add club soda and you have what we have named a Cherry Mindy.
Earliest year on record for berries. I took the girls out to pick raspberries today. Unheard of. Strawberries are already done, everywhere. Zion holds its yearly Strawberry Social June 28th (I WILL win the quilt raffle this year, I WILL) but they will have to use frozen strawberries for the sundaes and shortcake. As I was driving around the county today I even saw blueberries ripe on the bushes. Blueberry season usually starts in August. The blackberries are still in blossom, barely. Mostly the bushes are covered with hard tiny green fruit.
Looks like it will be a decent year for pears, but for some reason the Italian Prune hasn't set a single plum. Not one. Last year was a good harvest, and it is one of those trees that usually alternates a heavy year with a light year, but NO fruit seems weird to me. Oh well, here's hoping some of my neighbors will have extra.
I'm headed out of town next week to care for my dad in Tucson. Tucson in July is a trial; it's been over 110 degrees for over a week now. At least he has a pool. By the time I get back, it will be full on harvest season, and I will be consumed with canning for a month or so. I've made a fateful decision, this year, that I can no longer buy tomatoes from Mexico (an upcoming post will detail why- for now, one word will suffice: SLAVERY) and so instead I will be seeking out a shit-ton of local tomatoes to can. I expect the Gleaner's Pantry to help me with that.
The solstice was yesterday. The longest, prettiest days of the year are here. These few short weeks are why I put up with months of mud and freezing rain. I am enjoying them to the fullest extant.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
There are still almost two weeks until solstice, but with the weather we've been having, it feels very much like summer. In fact, it feels like midsummer - late July or even early August. It is as though the calendar were turned ahead a month.
The blackberry blossoms opened two weeks ago; now they are nearing the end of bloom time and there are hard little green berries on the terminal buds. White clover is in full bloom, and a few red clover blossoms are opening here and there. Full-summer flowers like oxeye daisy, lupine, and tansy are starting to bloom.
Record breaking heat - high eighties - for several days in a row has brought on the berries early. Strawberry season is in full swing and the commercial raspberries will open for U-pick in another week or so. Lack of rain combined with high temperatures has made the berries smaller than usual, but with an unusually concentrated sweetness.
Drought is a major concern this year - the winter was much warmer than usual and snowpack in the north cascades is one-third normal or less. When I look across the valley to the north at the Canadian Cascades, I see deep blue peaks with only flecks of white here and there - which is how the mountains typically look in September. The grass is already starting to dry up, and all of the neighbors are haying. This year I saw people haying in May, which I have never seen before.
We have only bought one truckload so far - 25 bales - but I would like to buy more than usual at early-season prices because I think we will be feeding hay very early this year as the grass disappears.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Tomorrow is Homero's birthday, and we are having a party. Nothing as huge as last year's - no Mariachis, no rented canopies - just a few families coming over to eat some goat barbacoa and drink beers around a fire. Homero will butcher Bambi, our smallest goat, tomorrow and give it to our friend Carlos' wife to cook.
I was surprised and a little hurt when he told me he was having somebody else cook the goat. I had been poring over my cookbooks looking for some good recipes. However, I consoled myself that I would have plenty of cooking to do with beans, rice, three different salsas, aguas frescas, etc. I guess can I can get over the disappointment of not having to watch a giant stewpot full of goat meat all day long.
Then Homero began to fret that there wouldn't be enough food. I seriously doubt that - Bambi weighs about 85 pounds on the hoof and ought to provide a good twenty to twenty five pounds of muscle meat. Shred that up and it will make a lot of tacos. Homero, though, lives in terror that the food will run out, or that even if it doesn't, it might look like it could possibly run out and he will be nervous. He, like my mom, prefers that when a party is ended there is approximately 80% as much food on the table as there was at the beginning. So I suggested that I could cook a turkey (there's one in the freezer) and make mole.
Homero raised his eyebrow at me. He said "You want to make mole? You've never made mole before."
"I know that," I said, "but I think I can do it."
"Okay," he said skeptically, "but when my mom and sister make mole it takes two days."
"So I'll start today. If it doesn't work out, there will be plenty of time to go buy some."
Just in case anybody doesn't know what mole is, I'll do my best to explain. Mole means "sauce" and so it is.... there are many, many moles, and they vary wildly, but all of them have in common that they are a thick, smooth sauce made from a mixture of chiles, nuts, spices, and fruits. Probably there closest analog of mole in the American culinary lexicon is barbecue sauce - it's complex, savory and highly flavored, and everybody has their own secret recipe. Mole can be yellow, red, black, or even green. But what most people think of when they think of mole is Mole Poblano, the famous dark brown glossy version that contains chocolate.
I looked through my cookbooks. I looked up recipes online. I must have read through a half dozen recipes for mole poblano, and no two of them alike. Some contained tomatoes, others not. Some called for plantain; some for prunes, some for apple or raisins. All called for some kind of nut but in some cases it was peanuts, in others pecans. Other constants were sesame and chocolate, but in differing amounts. I decided I could simply use what I had and add one more variation to the theme.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Spring is a good season for trading. I have eggs, milk, and cheese, and am on the prowl for anything to make gardening easier, as I get stiffer and lazier every year. Here are a few recent trades that made me happy:
Monday, April 27, 2015
Saturday, April 18, 2015
|Polly and Iris|
This year I have one-and-a-half does in milk. Sounds weird, but it's about right. Polly (black and white, above) had twin babies born early during a snowstorm that didn't make it. She is a good milker and is now giving me about 3/4 gallon of milk a day. This isn't as much as last year - she ought to be at peak production about now and I expected closer to a gallon a day based on last year. However, with the addition of the cow, the pasture is not as abundant as it once was; maybe I am not making up the difference with quality supplemental hay. It doesn't matter much to me - she has good body condition and I don't need to squeeze every last drop of milk from her.
Flopsy had a single buckling a month later, a spectacular spotted boy. It's nice that Flopsy had a single this year, because she is more usually given to throwing triplets, and as a "half a doe" she can't raise triplets. Years and years ago, Flopsy had a serious case of mastitis and lost most of the production on one side of her udder. If this were a commercial operation, we would have had to cull her. Luckily, this is a homestead and I can make decisions that aren't ruthlessly practical. I decided that since Flopsy is fertile, healthy, a good mother and a good kidder, and still capable of raising twins on one teat, she's worth keeping. Indeed, Flopsy brought in the only cash income of the year, with the sale of her flashy buckling. Flopsy adds about three pints a day to the milk total.
Iris didn't get pregnant at all last year - a first. She is the best milker I have and also usually throws triplets. I don't know if it's her age - nine - or the fact that she clearly didn't like last year's buck. She ran away from him and wouldn't let him mount, even though she was in full, raging heat. It's okay though -together, the in-milk does are providing me a little over a gallon of milk a day, which is a lot.
I have to make cheese about three times a week to keep up. This year I have been pretty busy with a new job and so I have settled into a routine of making easy cheese that I am already very familiar with rather than trying to experiment with tricky recipes. Here are my three go-to cheeses, in ascending order of difficulty:
1) queso fresco. Just heat a gallon of milk to 180 degrees fahrenheit, add 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar, and when the curds separate, strain through a clean cotton cloth. When drained, you can place cheese in a bowl, cut or crumble into small pieces, salt, and then wrap and press (in a press or under a stack of books) for several hours until firm. If you like, add chopped herbs or red pepper flakes when you add the salt. Good for quesadillas.
2) chèvre. Heat a gallon of milk just to blood temperature, no higher. Add mesophilic starter, 1/8 teaspoon and gently stir. Cover and let sit several hours. I like to add two to three drops rennet for a slightly firmer cheese, but if you like it very soft and spreadable, omit this step. Continue to let sit undisturbed for a full 24 hours at room temperature. Then drain through a clean cotton pillowcase. I like to hang my pillowcase up on the clothesline to drip. It will take several hours or overnight to drain sufficiently. Remove cheese and salt, mixing well. Takes about 1 level tablespoon salt per gallon of milk, less if you have drained the cheese until it is very thick and dry.
3) "cheddar." This is probably not really cheddar; it's my simplified recipe that I have developed over the years. For a gallon or up to two gallons of milk. Heat to blood temperature and add 1/8 tsp mesophilic starter. Cover and let sit undisturbed about 2 hours. Add five drops rennet and gently stir. Wait until curds separate into a cake with whey floating on top - about two more hours. Check for a clean cut with a thin-bladed knife. Make three or four cuts and then wiggle the pan - the cheese should separate cleanly with sharp lines. If not, wait longer, up to 8 hours if room is cool.
When you have a clean cut, use your knife to cut curd into small cubes - about 1/2". Heat gently to about 105 - warm bath temperature but not hot. Stir. Curds will firm up and whey will get clearer. Stir continually for as long as you have available - up to 45 minutes. Curds will become rounded, shiny, and firmer. Drain through a clean cotton cloth. Salt well, using hands to turn and knead for a few minutes. Then wrap in the cloth and press under firm pressure - about 50 pounds. You will need a press for this - a 50 pound stack of books is very wobbly.
Press overnight. Turn cheese and press under even firmer pressure - 75?- for another 10 to 12 hours. Remove cheese from press and let air dry (under cheesecloth to protect from flies) for about 2 days, turning once. Then cheese may be waxed and stored at cellar temperature. My oldest "cheddar" is now about 10 weeks old, but I haven't broached it yet so I can't tell you how it turned out.
It goes without saying that all of your equipment ought to be not just clean but sterile - use only stainless steel or tempered glass, something that can withstand being washed with boiling water. I keep a small pot of water simmering on the stove for my spoons, thermometers, etc. Only the cotton cloth cannot actually be sterile - but after each time I unwrap cheese, I wash it and wring it out in very hot water and then hang it up to dry outside in the breeze. I wash it again in hot water just before use.
Two of the above recipes use unpasteurized milk - that is up to your discretion. The recipes will work equally well with pasteurized milk. Just heat milk to 160 degrees. Boom, it's pasteurized. If anyone who might eat the cheese is pregnant or has an immune deficiency disease the milk MUST be pasteurized. Not to do so is to court Listeria, Salmonella, E. Coli, and other dangerous diseases. Even healthy, well-cared-for animals harbor these bacteria in their gut. I wash my hands!
Monday, April 13, 2015
My kitchen table was a housewarming gift from my mom. It is absolutely beautiful - twelve feet of knotty pine, seats eight comfortably or ten in a pinch. Here it is covered with produce from the Gleaner's Pantry today. Aside from the boxes and bags you see here, there are also three or four boxes full of animal food in the van - trimmings and waste, wilted lettuce and yellow greens and apples with bad spots and rock-hard bagels.
Everything in the photo above is human-quality food. It just needs a little love. The grapes, for example, might have a couple of shriveled specimens hanging on that need to be plucked off and thrown away. A bell pepper might have a crack in it, or an onion could be sprouting a bit. In a five pound bag of mandarin oranges, a lone moldy orb renders the whole bag unfit for sale. For the most part, I can't even tell why the food was deemed unacceptable for the grocery store - it all looks good to me.
Today I brought home a lot of food. The flat of tomatoes on the left is, as we speak, being turned into salsa ranchera and I will can it as soon as I finish this post. Canning tomatoes in April: imagine. Several loaves of fancy crusty organic sourdough bread are slowly becoming croutons in the oven right now, bathed in olive oil, herbs, and garlic. A massive bag of chopped organic kale is in the oven, too, and will soon become crunchy kale chips, a favorite after school snack.
Three heads of Napa cabbage will be kim chee. I'm going to chop it and macerate with salt, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Nobody likes kim chee but me; but I like it a lot. Fermented food is good for the gut.
Dinner tonight is cream of celery-root soup. There were two gigantic celery roots on offer and I have leftover chicken from last night with which to make stock. Celery root makes the most wonderful silky smooth soup, you hardly even need cream. I will be enriching mine with chèvre, of which I also have an abundance this time of year.
After everyone had taken as much food as they wanted and could carry, there was still so much food leftover! A few people who raise pigs took crates of produce and leftover baked goods. But even after that, there is still good, edible food going to the landfill, simply for lack of people to take it home and eat it. It's amazing what goes to waste because of the difficulties of logistics and our "just-in-time" food system.
Friday, April 3, 2015
"My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today." - Watership Down.
Today I have a heavy heart. Our dog Ivory, who has been with us for almost fourteen years, since before my children were born, died last night. Ivory has always been a healthy dog, she has hardly been sick a day in her life. Even this year, people who met her would remark on what a beautiful dog she was, and when I said she was thirteen, they would be amazed and say how good she looked for her age.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Homero has some wonderful clients. One of them works for a local commercial fishery, and has gifted us with salmon more than once. A few months ago, this fellow gave us a side of king salmon, a gigantic side of salmon, about two feet long. It was vacuum packed, frozen, and we stored it in our chest freezer. I had been saving it for a special occasion - we would certainly need guests to help us eat that magnificent filet - but no occasion was forthcoming and there wasn't much else in the freezer, so I thawed it out the day before yesterday.
The salmon dwarfed my 9 x 13" baking dish. Not quite sure what to do, I cut it in half, crosswise, and then cut one of the pieces in half. I put those two pieces in the baking dish and rubbed them with oil and lemon juice and baked them at 325. The other piece I cut into four equal pieces and poached, thinking that I would flake it and freeze it again for use in making salmon cakes somewhere down the line.
As the salmon cooked, however, it very soon became clear that this was smoked salmon, not raw salmon. I personally have never come across an entire side of smoked king salmon, which may be why I wasn't expecting it. I didn't know such a thing was possible; I don't know anyone with a smoker capable of such a feat. The salmon was lightly smoked, still soft, rather like lox. As it baked, it turned into something more like the hard-smoked salmon I make at home. It was quite delicious, but there was a ridiculous amount of it!
It is not possible to eat smoked salmon as though it were regular baked salmon. As much as you think you love smoked salmon - as much as I love smoked salmon - it is just flat out impossible to eat more than a couple of ounces at a time. I know this because I served the salmon to my family in regular-sized portions, along with a nice quinoa-and-spinach salad. At the end of dinner, we had approximately 7/8ths as much salmon as we did when we started.
Now that the salmon had been frozen, defrosted, and cooked, I could not very well freeze it again. I'd have to figure out ways of using it up over the next week and half or so. First things first - I called up a friend who lives nearby and offered her some salmon. She took a pound or so off my hands, so that left only about four pounds of smoked salmon to deal with.
Today I made a smoked salmon dip to bring to church tomorrow - that used up a pound or so. Tonight I may make pasta in smoked-salmon cream sauce. The poached pieces lost a little salt and smoke in the process, and may be mild enough to use in salmon patties later this week. And somebody on facebook suggested smoked-salmon chowder, which is a great idea.
Smoked Salmon Dip
8-12 oz smoked salmon, flaked
1 pound homemade chèvre (cream cheese is an acceptable substitute)
1/3 c. kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives (green onions are okay)
two or three pepperocini, finely chopped, with vinegar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
spoonful whole grain mustard
fresh ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Serve with bland crackers, such as water-crackers.