Thursday, November 25, 2010

Not all flower arranging and luncheon parties

In glossy country house magazines people perch on the edge of their fountains looking completely relaxed in their pricey gumboots. The photographs never show someone with gritted teeth making a third call to the pump installation man to inquire why the pump was not installed last Tuesday. Or someone riddled with PMT digging up 50 thistles in the paddock by hand.

So, lest I give the impression that developing a run-down cottage on six acres is all flower arranging and luncheon parties, it's time to talk about my project list. Here it is:
Cut and remove fallen tree in field, windbreak for orchard, new water tanks, clear and develop dam/lake, new driveway, landscape and plant front of house, remove trees from orchard area, plant orchard, remove trees in front boundary, plant front boundary, clear, landscape and plant bed behind deck, clear level two trees and plant, trim and remove trees obscuring view, prune Blue Gum, architect plans for deck and house, swales to direct water to lake, new vegetable garden, build BBQ and pizza oven, insulate house, get dock in the paddocks under control, new front fence and gates, new washing line, get creeping grass under control, new woodshed, paint house inside and out, install irrigation, weed and reshape front driveway bed, install gutter guards, install range hood in kitchen, finish herb garden, new compost bins, split pile of wood by the shed, get aerials checked, remove old tin and posts on third level, get roller door remote fixed, get scrap metal taken to recyclers, dismantle old vegetable patch, finish boundary bed.
Calming scented candles help project overload
I've posted about how overwhelmed I felt when I first bought the house. I know it's a 20 year project, but at the beginning, the sheer scale of what needed to be done swamped my brain. Each individual item on the list above is a major project in itself.  This year I instituted a three-project at a time rule and it has worked amazingly well. Instead of spreading my physical and mental effort across multiple projects, I now restrict myself to three.  Nothing new goes on the list until something comes off. Only small one-off tasks can be done outside of the list. It works I think because I make progress more quickly, which gives me more momentum to finish things.  It also limits the number of to-dos cluttering my brain.

Now that I've figured out how to do photo slideshows, I'll post about my three current projects soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Flax, roses and lanterns

Here are the flowers I did for a recent weekend lunch. Pic by Nina. More on the lunch soon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sausage making finale: la sagra della salsiccia* (4)

So, finally to the sausage making. 

Thank goodness that we had Jeanie, a trained scientist, in attendance because someone good at maths had to translate the American quantities for the recipes that we had chosen and adjust them for the amount of meat that we had.  Some of the recipes in the book called for quantities too large for us. Even though we were making only three recipes: classic Italian, pistachio, and fennel, all of our six pairs of hands were needed on deck to chop, grind and measure.

We could have ordered the pork already minced, but we wanted to try out the grinding for ourselves, so ordered it in pieces. We chopped these into smaller chunks and chilled them in the freezer for 30 minutes as per the recipe instructions.

There was great excitement at the first cranking up of the grinder. We had a rosemary-cutting ceremony, to add to the sense of occasion.  The grinding began.


And the grinding continued.  And continued. Then a little cloud settled over the room as it dawned how long it was going to take to grind our seven kilos of meat, which didn't jauntily fly through the grinder as the picture on the box implied. It was slow going and we kept having to stop to remove stringy pieces.


So my trusty food processor was pressed into service and whipped through the grinding at a much better pace. This may have had an impact on the texture of the final sausages, which were very firm. The hand grinder looks beautiful and was great for stuffing the casings but I think I'm going to invest in the meat grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aid for future sausage adventures.

Then we mixed in the ingredients and tested the flavour by cooking a little of the meat in the frying pan.  It was good. 

We weren't entirely sure how to use our saline-packed casings (our recipe book called for dry salt-packed ones), so after having soaked them in lemon water, Stuart bravely stepped in, cut off a length and rinsed it by running  tap water through. The fear of puncturing it proved unfounded, casings are much stronger than they look. We were less assiduous with our rinsing for the other batches and there was no discernible difference in the texture or taste of the final sausages.

Now. I'm not sure that there is a delicate way to broach the subject of stuffing the sausages. I'm preparing you out of love because it doesn't mention this in any of the books I've read: it is phallic.  The knot was tied in the end of the casing, the nozzle was attached to the grinder, the ground meat was churned through and as it nosed its way through the first casing a group of adults literally collapsed laughing on the floor like school children.  I blame the grappa.

Thankfully we had Lizzie to advise on the stuffing technique. She stepped in with a firm hand to make sure that the meat was being packed firmly enough.  We had one person putting the meat into the grinder and turning the handle, and one to hold the casing.

A tip if you are planning to make your own sausages: make sure you remove any stringy pieces from the initial mixture. We did with some batches and not for others and it came through as chewy bits in the final sausages.  Also make sure that you get your meat with at least 20 percent fat. Although this is what we ordered, our meat seemed a little on the lean side.

We cooked up our sausages and enjoyed them with salad, relish and roast potatoes.

We were very proud of our efforts. And stuffed.


*A sagra is an Italian festival. Salsiccia are pork sausages.
You can read the other posts in this sausage making story, here, here, and here.