Monday, October 29, 2012

Time Lapse Huskies

Miss Bula at 7 weeks:

Szia about the same age:

 All growed up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Secret recipe for terrible homemade jerky

Want to make jerky at home? Sure you do.

Feel like trying a little different approach when preparing your jerky meat? Why not.

I heard from a chef that some marinades use Sprite, the carbonated beverage. Something about the sugars helping break down the meat to make it more tender.

I had some not-so-choice cuts of venison I wanted to make into jerky, so thought I'd give it a whirl. Whipped up different batches of marinade, with a normal version and two variations on the soda additive.

I don't really like Sprite, so I used 7-Up for one recipe and heard Coca-Cola can also be used, so I tried that too.

The use of a meat tenderizer mallet or whatever they're called was also suggested. I don't have one of those, but I am the proud owner of a framing hammer with a waffle head, and can vouch for its tenderizing capabilities from smashing my finger in the past. So I banged away on the strips of venison with that.

Here's maybe where I went wrong. I let the stuff marinate overnight and now suspect that may have been too long, because the the normal batch came out great. Loved it. Kind of spicy, little smoky. Just right.

The 7-Up and Coke versions, on the other hand, tasted like . . . what's the word? . . . shit.

They had the definite flavor of old, flat, crappy-tasting soda. Exactly what it soaked in. I'm not sure if there's a connection there.

I spit one out, gave the rest to Bula the Wonder Dog and she wasn't thrilled about it either.

I even re-marinated the stuff to try and wash that flat gross taste away. No go. Flat soda taste still clung to it like the residue on your floormats after spilling a carbonated beverage in your car months ago.

In related news, I'm now selling dog treats for owners who want to train their dogs to not beg for treats.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nine-finger typing technique

And Furthermore column, Wallowa County Chieftain, October 2012

I’ve learned to not be surprised when I make bad decisions, but this last one was really kind of impressive. I had half a deer to finish cutting up to get in the freezer, not much time to do it and lots more to do before a Hells Canyon raft trip leaving early the next morning. But I took the time to really sharpen two special knives.

I inherited these and a honing steel from my grandpa, who used them in his butcher shop. The big knife looks like something a pirate would use to board another vessel. The other is small and handy. Perfect for butcher work.

I put an edge on both that made easy ribbons of the freezer paper I was using to test. Happy with the meticulous sharpening, I remembered this was a rush job so I got busy and in no time at all trimmed the very tip off my ring finger.

I had some time to reflect while waiting for the bleeding to stop. Butcher skills are not hereditary, apparently. Professional meatcutters are vital members of society. A chainmail glove from a shark suit might be a wise investment. I’m an idiot. And that thing sure is bleeding a lot. Those were the highlights of my thought process.

Some of the finished product.
Typing is no fun without the end of one finger. I can tell you that. I was just glad I didn’t have a piano recital or any fingertip pushups scheduled for that day. But I did need to row a gearboat and set up camps in Hells Canyon, which involves lots of contact between a finger and things that make you want to scream.

This trip was a joint production with local outfitter Winding Waters River Expeditions in Joseph and Plate & Pitchfork from Portland, run by Erika Polmar who organizes dinners at farms, orchards, ranches and so forth. You go see where your food comes from, meet the folks growing it, then a hotshot chef whips up a blowout meal right there with fancy tablecloths and all. Craig Nichols of 6 Ranch, just outside Enterprise, is also a river guide, so the guests saw Corriente cattle before and after a professional butcher had processed the meat while keeping their hand out of the way of the blade.

We ate well. Real well. Guest chefs were Leather Storrs and Joseph Hickey from the restaurant Noble Rot in Portland. I had a few questions for them about names. Noble Rot has something to do with wine grapes and Leather is on his birth certificate as his actual middle name. John is his first name and he figured there were plenty of Johns, not many Leathers, so he went that route. I’d probably do the same, except my given name is Jonathan Polyester Rombach.

One of the guests on the trip was Rick Steves, as in Rick Steves the travel guy who steers more visitors around Europe than all the cab drivers and train conductors combined, through his guide books, TV and radio programs.

Interview with Steves. Note the bandaged ring finger.
Paul and Penny Arentsen, owners of Winding Waters, met Steves in Europe a while ago and invited him and his girlfriend Trish out here to Wallowa County for this combo trip with primo food on a rafting adventure. It was a great trip and a perfect finish to the rafting season. Although I’m having trouble adjusting back to my own cooking after meals prepared by professional chefs. And I’ve completely lost my appetite for venison finger steaks.

Here’s a couple fun facts – Leather Storrs, the chef, is the son of the architect who designed the World Forestry Center building in Portland. I’m headed to that very place this week, where my dad, Jim Rombach, will be inducted into the Forestry Leadership Hall of Fame. I’m awful proud of him. Dad’s buddy, Bob Tokarczyk, is also becoming a Hall of Famer. I didn’t realize there was a Hall of Fame for forestry before this, but I’ve always wanted a baseball signed by a Hall of Famer and now it looks like I’ll get two autographs. Nice work you guys.

 Jon Rombach, a local columnist for the Chieftain, can type with nine fingers if he has to.