Or, how I spent my Easter weekend…
First, the chocolate. (Because chocolate is so much more fun than cows!)
You may recall that awhile back, I made myself some low-sugar chocolate. Well, predictably, Jamie hoovered up most of the low-sugar chocolate, and after it ran out, asked me to make more. So I ordered another 6 kg of Valrhona’s Alpaco (my favorite flavor of their line), 3 kg of unsweetened and 3 kg of their 66% cacao solids. Over the weekend, I mixed 1 kg of each, tempered it, and made some 83% Alpaco chocolate. It’s very intensely chocolate, and low-sugar enough that I can eat it in small doses without feeling too bad about it (my blood sugar is, fortunately, very well-controlled). And, mixed with nuts and dried fruit, it’s even tastier!
Here’s what I made. First, plain chocolate bars. Here they are in the molds:
These are the heavy-duty, rigid polycarbonate molds used by professional chocolatiers. I’ve tried the thin, flimsy plastic molds sold to home cooks and I don’t know how anyone can succeed with them – they drive me crazy. So when I got rid of all my other molds I kept these four back, just in case I wanted to make bars again someday. I’m glad I did!
And here are the bars, unmolded:
They’re not absolutely perfect – they have a slightly matte finish instead of a high sheen – but that may be partly because of the high cocoa content, as the unsweetened chocolate doesn’t have as much cocoa butter as a couverture does. I’m not entirely sure about that. Doesn’t matter; they look quite good and will taste even better!
Here’s the peanut gianduja (aka: peanut butter mixed with chocolate, like the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, only much much better). Technically it’s not a gianduja as it contains no powdered sugar, but don’t tell anyone!
The front part contains “regular” (unsulfured) raisins, the middle golden (sulfured) raisins. The back part is plain peanut gianduja, and very tasty it is.
And here is the cherry almond chocolate:
This is still in what I consider the most glorious stage of chocolate: when it hasn’t quite fully set, and is a little matte in sheen. I don’t know why I find this moment in chocolatiering so beautiful – perhaps because it is so transitory. It lasts only a minute or two. The chocolate goes from a liquid, translucent shine to the hard, waxy sheen you see in chocolate bars. But in between is this soft, matte glow that I just love. It says, “The chocolate is tempered perfectly, and will come out great.”
For those who have dyed with indigo, it’s like that magical transformation from the yellow-green of antifreeze through beautiful shades of aqua to pure indigo blue, after you take the fiber out of the dyebath and the pigment oxidizes. It’s wonderful to see.
Meanwhile, about the cows…Um, yes, the cows. Actually, only about a quarter of a cow. I hope, anyway.
I’ve wanted a chest freezer for quite a few years. I like making big batches of food because it’s more efficient, but of course the freezer is only big enough to hold 1-2 two-gallon batches of soup or chili. A bigger freezer would allow me to do a bigger variety of foods, so I can still cook efficiently without having to eat chili for two weeks straight.
But for a variety of reasons, we never quite got around to getting a chest freezer.
Then the coronavirus hit. And the idea picked up some urgency.
I will admit to being both a gourmet and a pessimist. I buy my meat at the farmer’s market, and what with social distancing and the throngs that usually populate the farmer’s market, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before they either shut down the farmer’s market or shopping at the farmer’s market becomes completely untenable due to long lines etc.
Plus, supply chain issues may become a problem. There have already been reports of meat packing plants having problems with workers getting sick. My guy doesn’t get his meat processed at a big meat packing plant, but there’s nothing to prevent the workers at his place getting sick either. And while I’m sure I could live without meat if I needed to, I happen to like grass-fed beef, it’s better for the environment than corn-fed beef, and I REALLY don’t want to support factory farming.
So…a chest freezer and a bulk meat purchase seemed like a good idea. I called him up, and it turns out that I can get a quarter cow for $5.50/lb hanging weight. Hanging weight is the weight of the steer when they hang up the carcass for dry aging, right after it’s been slaughtered. In this case, I asked for the smallest steer they had, which turned out to be 600 pounds. So that was 150 pounds of meat.
That’s still a LOT of meat for two people, but it turns out that you lose about 40% of the weight during the dry aging and butchering process, so it will work out to about 90 lbs of actual meat. I’m asking for bones + offal (all the stuff they’ll give me, anyway) so I might get a bunch more – we’ll see.
Anyway, we have a 7 cubic foot chest freezer (I had to exercise my Google-Fu and then call all over town to get it – apparently everyone and their kid sister wants one right now too, for the same reasons I want one!), and the quarter-cow will take up about half of it. I’d make a crack about the dead bodies taking up the other half, but since I quit my job as a project manager, I don’t need to dispose of dead bodies any more! 🙂
Now, of course, if you have a quarter-cow in the freezer, plus a quarter-freezer’s worth of cat treats that must not get stale (because priorities!), you have to organize it all. Dumping a hundred packages of beef into a freezer at random is a recipe for chaos. My tentative plan is to file the quarter-cow neatly into canvas tote bags, classified into steaks, roasts, ground beef, and so on. Using tote bags will make it easier to haul stuff in and out since tote bags (unlike cardboard boxes) come with handles. Wire baskets might be better, but I don’t have wire baskets to fit the chest freezer and am wary of scratching up the interior.
Of course, you then have the problem of differentiating a sea of identical canvas tote bags.
I bet you can guess where this is going…
Yep! I spent part of yesterday tie-dyeing canvas tote bags so I could differentiate frozen cow body parts:
The colors aren’t the most brilliant, but I was dyeing with the colors I was using for the dye samples for the double weave cape, and I was dyeing on an off-white canvas base. But I’m happy with the results anyway – I will certainly be able to tell them apart in the freezer!
And, with that, I’m off to other things. I’ll update you on the latest set of yarn samples once they’re dry.