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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hard: Times, Cheese and Tack

Wow, what an incredible week!

Hard times a-comin'? 

Food prices have been steadily going up as is.  Now we're having the floods along the Mississippi, and incredibly, the Army Corps of Engineers actually blew up levees/dams to protect the city streets in one state.  The problem is, it required the flooding of farm land in another state.
Missouri officials said the incoming water would crush the region’s economy and environment by possibly covering the land under sand and silt and rendering it useless.
Oh.

Hey, no biggee.  It certainly makes more sense to purposefully flood food producing land in lieu of streets that could be cleaned up with a Shop Vac.
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Sleep well, Pennsylvania.  The FDA is on the job.
A yearlong sting operation, including aliases, a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and surreptitious purchases from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, culminated in the federal government announcing this week that it has gone to court to stop Rainbow Acres Farm from selling its contraband to willing customers in the Washington area.
The product in question: unpasteurized milk.
Whew!  Dodged a bullet there!  Imagine the death and destruction that could have ensued if these obviously ignorant people had been allowed to make the decision about the food they choose to consume.

Double-whew!  Those radical Amish now know who's boss, huh?  Damned food terrorists.  Glad we got those lactose-based WMD's off the street...
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Gold and silver took quite the shot to the chin this week, no?

Interesting set of circumstances that amazingly [sarcasm alert] came together - all at the same time - which caused this.

More on this in an upcoming post.
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Hard cheese


After my first attempt at making cheese from powdered milk, I made another batch with a bit more salt and some liquid smoke.  I also rigged up a cheese press of sorts -


That, my friends, is my handy-dandy Alton Brown measuring tube thingy.  I packed the bottom with cheese curd, balanced a couple of cans on top for weight, and placed it on a plate with a paper towel to sop up the squeezed out whey.

Here's the little puck that emerged after 5 hours or so -


As you can see, it compacted quite nicely -


I followed the "smokey" recipe I posted earlier ("Gettin' Cheesy").  Quite nice.  Very good on crackers with a cold beer.  I might mess with the recipe and produce a Parmesan cheese version.
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Hardtack

I ate one of the hardtack bricks I made a couple of weeks ago ("Hardtack").

Holy crap.

I made up a bowl of Japanese-style noodles.  I added extra water and nuked the noodles for 5 minutes.  When it was done, I threw in one of the bricks and let it sit for 5 minutes.  I wanted the hardtack to absorb the boiled water and spices mix, maybe breakdown, and be kind of line a handful of crackers smooshed up in the bowl.

LOL!

After 5 minutes, the brick had barely absorbed any liquid.  It had loosened up the very exterior, but had virtually no penetration into the brick.

So, I let it sit another 10 minutes. 

The brick actually spoke to me, and taunted me with, "Is that all you got, girlfriend?"

I was eventually able to consume the brick, noodles and broth after about a half hour.  Clearly, these things need to be baked up much more thinly - no more than 1/4 inch thick.

More tests and humiliation to come...

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10 comments:

Andrea said...

LOL! The cheese sounds great, but I think I'll forgo the hardtack...unless maybe it could be used like adobe bricks? Hmmm.

This was a horrifyingly eye-opening week for me. I know things are bad....this week just punctuated how bad. Here in Ohio, only something like 13% of grain/soy crops are planted....so the potential harvest is shriveling as we speak. Plus they flooded farmland in MO. Plus Texas is in a drought. Plus terrorists are really peeved at us. I really think this is going to be a make-it or break-it year for America.

suek said...

Have you considered making vinegar among your experiments?

I'm thinking that would be a challenge. All the commercial vinegar is "diluted to standard 5% solution"...but what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that it tests at the 5 level in acidity? If you make it through the normal fermentation process, is it normally more acid? Is 5 the ideal level, or the "safe" level?

My guess is that your hardtack should resemble Ritz crackers in thickness. But that's just a guess. That would probably mean rolling them out to an eighth of an inch or less, I think. I'd go with pie crust thickness, but then they might all break up into little pieces if handled roughly.

suek said...

You cheese experiment looks good. You mentioned that it wouldn't melt - my guess it that that's due to lack of fat.... If you wanted "melty" cheese, you might experiment with adding a bit of cream.

suek said...

Andrea - plus drought in Colorado. We have family that grows wheat there - crop this year anticipated to be practically null. _Might_ pay the cost of seed/fertilizer. No profit, for sure.

Jumbo said...

Cairo is a sh*thole of about 3000 people, most of whom are on the dole, and gets flooded every 10 years or so, vs. 130,000 acres of farmland and 300 hardworking producing farmers that 'had' a good levy system. So is it any wonder who won? Man, this country is going downhill so fast it's incredible.

mama4x said...

Can't wait to hear your take on the silver prices!

Chief Instructor said...

Andrea, it sure seems like crop after crop, in region after region is taking it on the chin. Time for some more dried beans into storage...

I've thought about doing a malt vinegar a number of times - usually when I've got my beer brewing gear out. I've got a father in law who has done it, and swears it's the best vinegar you'll ever taste.

I need to put it on my To Do list...

The 5% figure is the strength of the vinegar. It's distilled like alcohol. When cooking, make sure you've got the 5% stuff, as much discount vinegar is only 4%. It can affect the acidity levels when pickling and potentially put you at risk.

Jumbo, I just don't know how you make the decision to ruin farmland - possibly forever. As I noted in past comments on this issue in a previous post, farmers are going to start manning the levees with firearms. I'm surprised it didn't happen this time. If you're purposely destroying my livelihood, I'm not standing still for that.

Mama, I'm trying to put together a timeline of events that preceded the drop. There were some major physical sales combined with margin account increases for paper sales/buys. It all too conveniently happened at the same time.

I'm not a big believer in coincidences...

suek said...

Links I found for vinegar making (guess that's pretty obvious!) I think the third one is the best one.

http://www.vinegarman.com/VinegarMaking.shtml

http://hbd.org/cdp/vinegar/vinegar.html


http://www.food-skills-for-self-sufficiency.com/making-vinegar.html

I didn't like this one particularly, but if you scroll down, it has some really good info on testing for acidity. I'm still not so sure what the 5% actually means - I'd expect a Ph number instead of a % number. But it doesn't matter as long as it's acid enough. It does not appear that homemade at least is distilled.
http://www.naturemoms.com/homemade-vinegar.html

Adventures in Self Reliance said...

You have inspired me. I did my first batch of Beer with my new buckets setup. I did a couple batches with Mr. Beer kegs to get my toes wet and the beer turn out good and was fun to do.
I got a book written in 1859 about how to cross the west in a wagon train. From what food to take to how to fix a wagonwheel and the care of animals. It's got some great recipes for jerky, pemmican, dried fruit, hard tack and other odds and ends.
Thanks
P.S. I added you to my blog roll I hope you don't mind.

Chief Instructor said...

Adventures, careful with the beer brewing... it can become obsessive! I've been brewing since 1980, and am now to the point where I make most of my own equipment. It's a sickness!

When/if you take the next step and get into all-grain brewing, drop me an email, and I'll give you some tips. It is truly amazing how many variations you can make with hops, grain, water and yeast.

I added you to my Daily Read listing as well.