Lenten Beer.

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I think wheat doppel-bocks my be my favorite variety of beer.  So light, so flavorful.  They have that banana flavor without being taken over by it, I could drink this beer for breakfast- I bet it’d be great with a chocolate doughnut.  It has all the flavors ranging from bubble gum to a pot roast but they all come together so subtly nothing kicks you in the mouth.  But why is this beer made for Lent you may ask?  Well, traditional doppelbocks were made by Bavarian Monks.  During Lent while they were fasting they would drink this beer because it was much richer in calories than a lighter lager.  Now this is a wheat version but it is still dark malty and gives you energy!    It can be easily found at a good beer store or often in a high-class bodega.  Aventinus- by Schneider Brewery- the beer for a high holiday.

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As local as it gets.

I was given a gift of cheese last week.  Jos, the local cheeseman, came by with a special homemade box of four homemade cheeses.  They were a great breakfast with some fresh bread and juice on a snowy morning.  There were some oozier bloomy rinds with a creamy fresh flavor; there was also a washed rind that wa the biggest hit.  It was kind of salty and earthy, reminiscent of the Nettle Meadow Grayson.

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Jos and the cheeses he makes are quite an inspiration.  There has been a lot of talk lately of urban homesteading, but there is only so much you can do.  It might be time to take it to the country.  The first step is making things on your own at home that most folks buy in the store, the next step is to make the things to make the things- producing raw materials via agriculture.  This is what sustainable diaries do.  Sustainable dairies are in fact quite an American venture.  Sure, they exist all over Europe, but more and more we find American farmers making something from very little.  There is no sending milk out to a cheesemaker far away, it all happens in one place.  This cheese is made from Milk from one of Jos’s neighbors upstate and lives in a cool place in Brooklyn while it ages.

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Fondo’s and Fondon’ts for the 2008/2009 Holiday Season

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This year I held a fondue party for my nearest and dearest under the alpine ledge of the JMZ train.  It was a wild success and we ate some of the best fondue I have ever tasted.  This had a lot to do with the quality of the cheeses I used, all Rolf Beeler’s of course, and the lovely new fondue pot made of red cast iron that gave an air of comfortable sophistication.  Well, that is until three magnums of wine had been consumed and someone starting ashing their cigarettes in the cornichon dish.  So here, for an easy transition into winter, are some recommendations from those of us who have already been through the cheese-pot battle.

Fondos

Bring a bottle of something to the party, anything

Help out with stirring in the kitchen

Invite everyone, no one likes to feel left out

Bring a Christmas mix to play at the party

Keep the cheese tidy by not  dripping

Sip the schnapps even if it tastes bad, it was a gift

Go smoke a cigarette outside, the cooking makes you warm

Leave at a reasonable hour

Thank your hosts, cheese is pricey

Fondon’ts

Drink an entire magnum in the corner next to the cat

Stick strange things in the fondue pot, like lettuce or raisins

Invite the guy who wrote profanities all over your patio on Labor Day

Turn up ODB so loud the landlord comes up and you have to explain the hole in the wall

Get so drunk you puke all over your ex’s sheets

Drink half a bottle of schnapps in one breath because it tastes so bad

Fall up the steps on your way back from a smoke and get a fat lip and blood everywhere

Fall down the stairs on the way out and have to be hand delivered to your front door

Break the furniture


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Cheese and Patriotism Will Rise Again

“It is no part of the policy of the Empire State, as we understand it, to increase the punishment of lawbreakers by making them eat things they detest.” The New York Times.  In the March 5th 1983 edition of the paper an anonymous reporter gives the details of the new cheese policy to be employed at New York State Prisons.  Thank heavens no one is being forced into eating the high quality lactose they were no doubt serving.  I say this first with a tone of irony then a tone of seriousness.  Further reading suggests the guards at the prison really saw some serious health benefits to cheese.  The writer discusses different cheese and even pairings at length.  In the end, however, the title, “Patriotism and Cheese” does prevail and inmates will be getting American cheese and toasted water crackers- either after dessert or with their salad, as this is yet to be decided upon.

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The culinary concerns of the New York penitentiary system at the time are decidedly sophisticated and ahead of their time perhaps.  There is a strong emphasis on local products, particularly dairy from Oneida County.  According to this author the American spaghetti is garnished with American Parmesan and digested with some American Chianti, 1893, a prison and a locavore’s dream.  It almost seems a man living hundred years ago and incarcerated my have had a healthier diet than a lot of people I know today.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A00E0DB1F3FEF33A25756C0A9659C94629ED7CF

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Leberkäse is not a cheese.

 

           Warm Leberkäse (type of meatloaf) with potato salad & pretzel (1532R-21990 / 932468)

Well it is liver cheese.  And it contains no liver- almost; only pork, beef and some onions.  Sounds delicious, I know.  Well, depending on your taste it just might.  I must admit I kind of liked it, in a small quantity that is.  I was in the southwestern part of Germany a few weeks ago, the fine city of Karlsruhe to be exact, visiting a friend.  I was facing another morning of jetlag and when my friend awoke and decided to get breakfast I didn’t have a chance to make requests.  He came back with lots of small paper bags from the bakery in order that I could try some new German foods, at the top of his list was leberkase. 

Most people, supposedly, eat leberkase sandwiches.  They are particularly popular for children’s lunches.  Some loafs have smiley faces branded onto them.  I had an idea in my mind and really, the actual experience was nothing like it.  It was like a thicker, airer mortadella.  Kind of salty, very porky and easy to eat.  It also had a crispy brown crust.  It was hot when we opened the foil so this left me wondering if it was freshly prepared or reheated.   It was fresh.  Leberkase is very easy for the butcher to prepare every morning.  He mixes the meats so thin they are practically liquids.  He can even leave some for the baker to put in a pan and bake later in the day, or on Sundays when he is closed for example.  Leberkase is made by grinding different pork and beef meats with some onions.  There are special regional purity laws regarding what can go into it.  In Bavaria, I have since learned, they have special  laws that allow them not to include any liver in the recipe while other regions have to use a little bit because of the name “leber”.  The Bavarians also have a lovly butchers school, but frankly it seems more to be a “meat arts” school.  http://www.fleischerschule-landshut.de/index.php?navId=0  Check that out.

         There are traditional ways to eat leberkase.  And most of them are similar to eating sausage.  With mustard, potatoes, bread and beer.  I only had a few bites that day as it is not a morning time food but now I have a little craving for it.  And a tall lagerbier.  I’ve heard rumors of good leberkase in Queens.  I might need to find these places tonight.

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A bit of history

I have often wondered what ancient cheeses were like.  My best guess is that they were really intense and kind of gross.  The discovery of cheese is something of a legend, somewhere between 8000 and 3000 BCE a traveller set out on a journey with a lamb’s stomach filled with fresh milk and, by evening, the milk had curdled into something like cottage-cheese.  Yum!!  I don’t know how many of you readers have ever taken a sheep’s stomach and sewed it up yourselves but I imagine the end result is somewhat rustic.  And smelly.  The last thing I would want to do is fill it with milk and drink it.  

Did you ever see the episode of Man vs. Wild where Bear skins a sheep and then sleeps in it, inside-out?  He skins the sheep by unrolling the skin from the body like he was undressing the sheep, if they sheep was wearing really tight pants.  In any case, it looks really gross and this is the sort of imagery that comes to mind when I think about that first cheese.  Let’s get back on track…

Move forward a few thousand years to ancient Rome, a sophisticated society.  The Romans built aqueducts, they invented concrete, they built the Pantheon, they made major advancements in sanitation!  They were reputed have a sophisticated gastronomic culture full of banquets and parties, they must have made delicious cheeses.  I have a fantastic book, Around the Roman Table, by Patrick Faas that explains a lot about their food culture.  Here, my images of cheesemaking are more civilized than that first sheep skin; I envision the hand woven baskets, dark cellars, and pots on open fires as described by L.I.M. Comella in Re Rustica.  However, further reading in Around the Roman Table leads me to believe that cheeses probably tasted relatively rustic then, too.  Faas says that “Romans liked old cheese, caseus senescentus.”  And why not?  I like two-year parmigiano reggiano!  But you know, Faas also says that “Romans didn’t like to throw things away when they’d ‘developed a goaty whiff’ to use Apicius’ phrase”.  Hmm. 

And then I got to this part, 

“According to Pliny, animals with two nipples – goats and sheep – made the best cheese.  Milk from animals with more than four nipples, like cats and dogs, was unsuitable.  Cheese was made from horse milk and donkey milk.  Camel cheese was also highly valued.  Milk of the hare and the deer was turned into cheese, and rabbit-milk cheese was supposed to cure diarrhoea.  The cow has four nipples; its cheese was therefore inferior but popular nevertheless, partly because the cow produced great quantities of milk.  Cow’s-milk cheese was considered nutritious but hard to digest.”

Okay, sheep cheese, goat cheese and cow cheese all get the thumbs up from me.  If the Romans really liked that camel cheese, then I don’t know if their taste for cheeses could be described as highly refined because I’ve had camel milk cheese.  I tried it by accident.  It was mixed in with other cheeses on the staff table at the cheese shop.  And oh, boy, it was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever eaten!!  It was one of the strongest cheeses I’ve ever tasted.  It was so gross, I was scraping my tongue with bread and crackers like mad.  I haven’t tried pee but, the camel cheese tasted like camel pee.  I can only imagine that without refrigeration the Romans tried to age their otherwise innocent sheep and goat milk cheeses to match the strength of camel cheese!  Yuck!  And just imagine that donkey cheese!  I would hate to accidentally taste donkey cheese!  I will happily stick to the present from now on.  (E)

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In case you are lost…

Amazing.

Amazing.

McDonald’s will find you.  After seeing this sign we got into a discussion about what would happen if you did in fact stop at each set of Golden Arches.  Maybe for the next trip up north.  And where does Micky D’s get their cheese?  They outsource to various “cheese process” plants throughout the MidWest.  Anyway, this a great map of Massachusetts and very useful for driving to Boston.

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