Jan 31, 2012

Simple Silver Studs

I kinda get a kick out of it when people claim something is made out of "recycled" gold or silver.  That sort of implies that other, less eco-aware people would just go ahead and toss their unused precious metals out with the kitchen garbage!  But hey, not me.  I made these recycled silver stud earrings out of commercial jewelry findings I had on hand, but knew I'd never use (because they're mass produced and are ugly and I'm slightly embarrassed that they're even in my studio).  

As much as I love to make big, dramatic, dangling earrings with lots of parts, I can't really wear them most of the time.  I'm way too active, and they just get in the way.  So I'm working on a few simple stud earring designs to add to my Etsy shop.

Too see exactly how I made these earrings, follow the link below.

Jan 30, 2012

Calla Lily Inspired Earrings


This weird and wonderful warm weather has me convinced that it's spring in the Hudson Valley.  Not true...but I still felt like making something flowery.

Follow the See More link to see exactly how I made these Cally lily inspired earrings.  

Jan 27, 2012

Brass Box Earrings

The first pair of earrings I made with patterned sheet brass were pretty lame (see them here), but I've kept at it and am starting to get somewhere - just in time for me to lose interest in the materials.  That's how it goes.  I may come back to this at a later date, but I've got a thousand other ideas I'd like to start exploring. 

Follow the See More link to see exactly how I made the earrings above.  

Jan 26, 2012

Choc-Full-O-Seeds: Making a No Knead Seeded Whole Grain Bread

This is the first cooking video I made with an SLR camera (a canon rebel T2i).  I made it about two months ago and published it on my youtube channel.  Didn't even think to put in on my blog, which was fairly defunct at the time.  

Jan 25, 2012

Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits on the Down Low

God I love biscuits.  My usual baking soda recipe is very quick and easy, but sadly, I can't really eat crap like all-white flour and a ton of butter like I used to.  Maybe when I become a real farmer I'll need this level of carbs and calories, but for the foreseeable future, I'll only bake biscuits a few times a year.  And since they'll be special occasion biscuits, I won't be using my old recipe - I'll use my brother Andy's super awesome buttermilk biscuit recipe.  He developed his recipe with a special step that makes all the difference.  I took a basket of these biscuits to a farm dinner last year, and they were such a big hit that I decided to make a video giving away my brother's genius technique.  

People keep telling me that they want to see more of me in my cooking videos.  I'm not sure exactly how to insinuate myself into an instructional video that really doesn't require showing my mug.  I went a little overboard with this one, but I'll eventually figure it out.  

Jan 19, 2012

Makin' Pies Pretty

I'm not sure I conveyed how to do this with the photos in my previous post, so I made a short video!  (You might notice that I put some egg wash on the edge of the crust before closing - totally unnecessary with this type of edge.)

Making Mincemeat with Elk

I'd never had real mincemeat, or even a jarred simile of mincemeat, before.  I think it's one of those specialties that sounds really gross to a kid, and really interesting to an adult foodie.  Especially a British period piece obsessed one.  The more Mary told me about her plan to make mincemeat with her half of our elk neck, the more I imagined what it could taste like…and thusly I worked myself into a tizzy over making mincemeat.  I compared at least twenty recipes - ranging from the real deal, which uses suet (the fat from around kidneys) as a preservative, to misnomers that don't contain any meat at all.

Basically, traditional mincemeat is a mixture of meat, fat, spices, fresh and dried fruit.  All doused and co-mingling in spirits, usually brandy.  The fat, sugar, and alcohol are all types of preservatives that would keep mincemeat safe to eat for months, ready to fill pies at any moment.  These days we have refrigerators and pressure canners, so I decided to forego the suet in my recipe (mainly due to recent a recent misadventure with kidney).  


In my fantasy, mincemeat would taste like a kind of Christmas-spiced meaty marmalade.  Citrusy and bright, with the meat playing more of a supporting role as a conveyer of umami or savoriness.  And I wanted the texture to include chopped nuts.  All that, plus brandy?  Oh yeah, it could be interesting.  Or really gross. 

Jan 16, 2012

Losing Faith in Kidney

The jury is still out on kidney meat. Last year I fried up slices of pork kidney from Glynwood farm, and although I perceived a slightly metallic taste, when paired with a sweet and acidic concord grape sauce, I actually enjoyed it. Last week, I thought I'd try to make steak and kidney pie with the kidney from an elk we'd killed a couple days earlier. The elk kidney looked fresh and healthy to me, but when I started to fry it…hooey! Did it stink like crap. I mean it really smelled like feces. I gave it to the backyard birds. Now, I know that people eat kidneys. Not that you can really count on the British when it comes to cuisine, but steak and kidney pie is a classic. Of course, it's not made with an elk kidney, rather beef or lamb. I've still got a beef kidney in the deep freeze, so I'm going to give it one more chance before I jettison kidney from my kitchen altogether.

*I'm kidding about the British.  I married one, after all.  

Jan 15, 2012

Life is Fragile

It's hard to know how much to intervene in order to help a suffering animal.  Especially a domesticated one - one that we humans are responsible for, and ultimately, for bringing into this world.  Baby Red cow was born a few days ago, and seemed happy and healthy her first two days in the barn.  But on day three, she stopped suckling and became listless.  Is she blocked up?  Does she need a cow enema?  Does she have an infection?  Will a shot help?  Is the below freezing weather too much on top of whatever is ailing her?  Should we put a blanket on her?  Take her indoors for the night?  That would really stress out mama.  The farmers are keeping a close eye on her, force feeding her milk through a tube, taking her temperature every few hours, encouraging her to get up and move around…but at some point, the life may leave her little body in spite of their efforts.  And for all we know, it may be for the best.  There may be something really wrong with her, something that would make a long life difficult for her and difficult for the farmers.  A farm is not an animal sanctuary, though the animals may be well cared for and even cherished at some.  Still, I know some human hearts will break a little if baby Red doesn't pull through.  Mine included.

Jan 12, 2012

Smoked Elk Liver Paté

I've been working with elf offal while the main carcass of the cow Mary and I bought awaits butchery (we'll start this evening).  The elk's liver weighed a full five pounds before we sliced off a couple steaks for searing.  I decided to try smoking the bulk of it.  I don't know if drying it to form a pellicle was a mistake or not, but it came out with a thick, rubbery skin.  I also wonder if the temperature in my smoker was too low, because it had a slightly rubbery texture throughout.  And as you can see in the video, the flesh after smoking was a hideous pink…with green spots.  (I read that the spots are a normal result of oxidation.)  So although the flavor of the smoked elk liver was quite good, the texture and appearance were totally grody.  When I presented a hunk of it to Mary, we both agreed that I should go back to the kitchen and attempt to push it a bit further.  I'm glad I did.  I used the elk liver in my (chicken liver) paté recipe and it turned out fantastic.  I'll be happy to deliver a couple pounds of Smoked Elk Liver version 2.0 to Mary this evening.

To see my chicken liver paté recipe, go to:  frankie makes chicken liver pate on Facebook

Jan 11, 2012

Coq Au Vin (in this case, Old Hen Au Vin)

I'm trying something new today.  I put together an audio slideshow with photographs I took while making Coq Au Vin.  There are some issues with the slideshow - it moves too fast and I really need to break my habit of taking vertically oriented photos.  But I enjoyed the process, partly because it's less stressful to take still photos while cooking than it is to record video, but also because editing and adding voice over are far easier when the images are broken down into succinct quanta.  Since there are occasions when I'm not able juggle filming something while I do that something, I hope to get better at creating slideshows.  (Thanks for the suggestion, Sara Grady!)

Jan 7, 2012

On Killing and Suffering

We killed an elk.  Well, we didn't kill it - we paid a farmer for a member of his elk herd and he shot it for us.  But we were responsible for its death, and we watched it die.  It was exciting.  It was stressful.  It was heart breaking.  A large animal does not always die instantly, even when shot point blank in the head.  I know from my own experience that a gutted, headless smallmouth bass can still wiggle in the frying pan, so I shouldn't have been surprised.  But I had recently documented the killing of a lamb, and he went with nary a twitch when shot, so I had imagined the elk cow would go the same way.  She did not.  

I was emotional after the elk slaughter, and I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it.  I wondered what Kahlil Gibran would have to say on suffering.  (I thought there was a passage in The Prophet titled On Suffering - there is not.)  What I did find in the passage titled On Eating and Drinking was this:  When you kill a beast, say to him in your heart, "By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed."  And consumed I was.  Not with the guilt of having slain another living being, but with the guilt of having caused suffering in another living being.  I wondered how long and how much did the elk cow suffer between the time she was shot and when she took her last breath?  A moment?  A few minutes?  It's impossible to know, but I believe that I observed some suffering.  And what of it?  No life is without suffering, so why did it bother me so much?  Because I caused it.  I tossed a few coins on the suffering and misery side of the life-on-this-planet scales.  I am guilty.  

Jan 6, 2012

Pan Seared Elk Heart

The elk Mary and I purchased is currently hanging in the barn at Glynwood farm, waiting to be butchered.  In the meantime, I am cooking the heart, liver, kidneys and tongue - and using the opportunity to learn to use my new camera, new computer, and new editing software!  

Jan 4, 2012

Old Hen Au Vin

I used an old laying hen from Glynwood farm to make coq au vin today.  Man, it was good!  Them old hens may be small and tough, but they're incredibly flavorful.  Even as I was breaking down the whole chicken, I was surprised by how the raw meat smelled...as if I'd already made it into chicken stock.  I happened to have some smoked bacon in the freezer and a pile of wee onions from my favorite farm.  I'd been hoarding a bag of dried chanterelle mushrooms I'd picked in Oregon, waiting for something special to cook them with.  I'd say a scrawny old hen who provided hundreds of eggs over her lifetime is pretty special - as it turns out, too good for the stock pot!  This rich and succulent dish will be in heavy rotation in our household this winter.  

I intend to show you how I made it, but I want to try something new:  a slideshow with voice over instructions.  Since I'm traveling upstate tomorrow to buy, kill, and butcher  a whole elk, I probably won't get around to the Old Hen Au Vin slide show for a couple days.  In the meantime, find out if there's a farm or butcher from whom you can buy these super cheap and super tasty old birds.  

Jan 3, 2012

Crystal Trickle Earrings

I'm WAY into these earrings at the moment.  My intention was to make a simpler (as in more wearable and less expensive) version of last week's Crystal Falls design.  I think I might like these even better!  I've been watching the original Poirot series with David Suchet while I work in jewelry studio, so I'm guessing it's no coincidence these turned out sort of art deco looking.  I experimented with several shapes for the folded brass piece, but this is the one that pleased me most - just as what pleases me most about those old Poirot shows is the costuming and set design.  The show is pure silliness otherwise.  I wouldn't be able to watch t.v. and make jewelry at the same time if the program was too engrossing, so I usually put on something silly or that I've already seen a hundred times.

My enthusiasm for things I've made is very short-lived.  I may love these earrings today, but I'll be so over them in a few days, convinced that I can make something more interesting.  It feels kind of pretentious to call oneself an artist, but I am driven by an compulsion to make things.  And I love solving creative problems.  I don't know what that makes me.

To see more photos of my latest earring design, follow the Read More link below...