Wild Duck Prosciutto

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Well, the great duck charcuterie experiment begins. After many versions of smoked wild duck, each tilting more and more toward a prosciutto-type texture and flavor, I decided to get serious and do it right. And I was inspired by the homemade duck prosciutto my friend YC served when I was visiting a couple weeks ago. It was mind blowing. In the picture above, the duck is about to be buried in kosher salt for a 24-hour dry brine.

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Today, we rinsed the salt off and, wanting to add a bit of smoky flavor, I hit the duck with about 45 minutes of cold alder smoke. Then Skyla and I wrapped and tied each little package (they already smell awesome), then weighed them so we can measure the moisture loss as they dry. From what I understand, we’re looking for 30% to 40% weight loss.

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Here’s the whole pile, all ready to air cure. After much internal debate, I decided to hang the duck in the shop–the slab floor keeps the temperature relatively stable at around 50 degrees this time of year, and there’s a little more humidity than the bone-dry fridge. Still seems a little weird to just hang meat in an unrefrigerated room, but we’re going for it. Will update as the process continues.


Oyster Girl

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This time of year, I start craving oysters. I’m not sure if it’s some latent seasonal foraging instinct, or simply a long time since we’ve had ’em, but I have oysters on the brain. Saturday, I finished up some farm chores, jumped off the tractor by early afternoon, rounded up the kids and hit the beach.

With the Skyla (above, counting out her harvest) and Weston gathering, and me shucking, we finished our limits quickly then got to work making mini-aquariums out of tupperware bowls. Rock pricklebacks, limpets, shore crabs and the prize of the day, a baby sunflower star, filled the bowls and made it hard to leave the beach. The kids have been doing this since they were tiny, and yet, watching small seashore critters continues to draw a powerful interest from both of them. And, I admit, me, too. But we were getting hungry, so we released our captives, and headed home.

Back in the kitchen, Skyla helped accelerate the breading process (flour, egg wash, panko) and kept us ahead of the game on turning each oyster in the pan as it turned golden brown. What a meal. A little brown and wild rice, some fresh asparagus spears, and big piles of crispy, briny oysters. Skyla ate nine, Weston gave her a run for her money with seven, Stacy ate a dozen, and well, I don’t even want to say how many I ate, other than that it was at least double anyone else’s count. And now I’m ready for more.

For anyone not keen on oysters, Weston has a tip: “You just have to not look at the insides after you take a bite. Then they taste great.”


Still Chugging Along

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I’ve heard from several people who’ve read Closer to the Ground, wanting to know if my beloved, now-22-year-old Montero is still alive and well. So this is proof: Still running, still hauling the boat, firewood, kids and mountains of kid gear. A little battered and worn, rough running on cold mornings, beyond dirty and growing moss around the window sills, but still, by far, the best car I’ve ever owned. I hope to keep it going strong for as long as possible.

Sure, I wish it got better mileage, but I rationalize that as a non-commuter, I use it less than someone else would if I sold it. At 22 years and with several hundred thousand miles on the odometer (not to mention the moss garden), there’s really no monetary value left in it anyway. But to me, the value is in the use, and I suppose, a bit of sentimental attachment as well.

So, if you asked, there’s the answer. And even if you didn’t, special bonus points for anyone who can guess what the license plate means.


Sprung

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For some, it’s daffodils or tulips. For others, it’s green beer and corned beef. But for me, spring starts when the first raspberry shoots push up through the ground, alders drop their pollen pods, and a chorus of frogs fills the woods at night. In which case, even though the calendar doesn’t agree quite yet, spring has arrived.

This picture shows the raspberries and alder pods in one shot. It’s always amazing to me that these little shoots will somehow grow seven feet, mature and produce fruit all in the next few months. The alder is my bane, causing itchy eyes and sneezing, but I know it won’t last long. And the miracle of modern allergy medication makes it tolerable.

Now, if the Columbia spring chinook will start running–they’re late this year–and I can find time to get after them, we’ll really be able to celebrate the season in style. My mouth waters just thinking about springers. I better get back to work now, so if and when the fish show up, I’m good to go.


Tropical Foraging

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I guess I should say “foraging,” with quotation marks, because we “foraged” this rambutan up at the farmer’s market in Lihue, Kauai. Actually, Weston spotted them, and we got a whole bag for about five bucks. This is him going in for his first taste, which he enjoyed, although I think a lot of it had to do with the fruit’s outer skin, which looks like something from a science fiction movie.

To me, the white, translucent fruit tastes a lot like a lychee nut–tropical and slightly floral, but relatively mild. Not bad, but not yet something I crave. At least not like smoky kalua pork stewed with cabbage. Or spam musubi. Or fried rice and eggs. Or any of the other delicious Hawaiian treats I know and love. Did I mention I gained 12 pounds in 12 days?

And that’s the last of the tropical posts for this go around. We’ll now return you to your regularly scheduled, Pacific Northwest programming. Aloha!