If I really think back, I am pretty sure I can confidently claim that the prep for tomorrow night’s dinner party began round ’bout October of last year. It was then that Grant and I put the spinach seeds in the ground and prayed they overwintered in our new hoop house.
Tomorrow, I am making creamed spinach from that spinach, because it did not only survive but thrived, with ramps I picked yesterday at my secret ramp patch. Today, I am making goat cheese for the goat cheese ice cream.
Lately, it seems a lot of the meals I make start with recipes that begin, “make vinegar,” or “collect eggs,” or “churn some butter.” For this coming dinner party, specifically, the prep really began with the instructions, “find a good butcher and butcher a whole pig.”
Tomorrow is The Bessie Dinner. A dinner to celebrate the pig that is Bessie, who I butchered with Rob Levitt of The Butcher & Larder, with help from Paul Fehribach who, depending on your particular experience, is either known as the chef of Big Jones or He of the Gigantic Whoopie Pies.
I’m excited, even if it means I have to clean the house, because that day was a special one to me, even though it was really seven solid days. I struggled, for certain, for an awful long time, cooking, cleaning, processing the various pig bits.
My grand plans for that pig wasn’t just in the eating. It was in putting all the various instructions in this blog so others could learn from my mistakes and experience, is still a work in progress. There are important things to know, like “buy 16 boxes of Morton’s Kosher salt!” and “Ammonia is the best grease cleaner known to beast and there will be a lot of grease so make sure you are prepared!” and, of course, “Weigh the leg before you salt it, for the love of all things holy.”
And I’ve enjoyed sharing my housemade and garage-cured salamis with people like Herb Eckhouse (his review: I didn’t die!) and Greg Hall (his review: it was awesome, my dog licked up the grease that dripped off it) and of course, Rob Levitt, my butcher-mentor, who is reminding me every so often that I need to get to scheduling the lamb butchery.
Which won’t happen until the wood-burning oven is completely set up so I can wood roast the leg.
It was a few years back that I decided to try and grow and craft all my own food from scratch. Since then, I’ve hung salamis and hams in the garage, tackled hard cider and root beer, and experimented with breads of all kinds. There’s raw milk cheddar curing in the basement and a Serrano Ham hanging from the rafters of my garage. A copper still is on the way.
I never seem to get to the writing part. Mostly, I am too exhausted after a dinner that includes shaking up a jar of cream for what seems like forever just to leave it out on the counter overnight to sour. But, I’ll keep trying to find the time.
And some day I’ll get to that wonderful Pig Page I envision, the one where I include all the recipes for all the prep for all the parts of Bessie.
Until then, I need to get back to this dinner. It’s time to make the goat cheese so I can turn it into ice cream tomorrow.
The Bessie Dinner
Bessie Rilettes on Toast with Bitter Spring Salad (added, Pickled Jupiter Grapes, Hot Bessie Bacon Dressing)
Green Garlic Soup (if I can coax the garlic to grow more between now and Sunday. If not, no soup!) (changed: Ramp Soup with Crème Fraîche served)
Joint of Bessie on a Platter with Pere Jacques Vinegar Sauce
City Yard Farm Creamed Spinach with Ramps (added: garnish of quick-pickled ramps)
A few platter salads to make sure everyone eats their vegetables, origins unknown ((changed: Thomas Keller’s fantastically delicious carrots from Ad Hoc at Home, Shaved Fennel, Parsley and Pickled Rhubarb Salad, Leeks Vinaigrette with Moutarde d’Albany Dressing)
Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Pig Candy (added, Rhubarb Sauce)
(Post Script: I’ll admit to feeling a bit freaked out about serving the same ingredient in various courses. This is part of my attempt to be more easy going in my dinner parties.)