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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sausages, Sap and Beer!

     Busy day yesterday. As I promised when I began this Blog I intend to write about moving through the seasons and the food of those seasons. Though it's not over yet, we are beginning to move out of maple sugar season now and into spring, albeit, slowly.
     Maple season moves us toward Easter. One of my favorite meals is the Easter family dinner. As part of our Easter tradition we usually take a trip out to Shamokin, PA where we drive by our late grandparents' old house, late aunts’ houses and finish the day by stopping into Shaw’s Meat and Deli Market. We buy kielbasa there - about twenty pounds, enough to last us for Easter dinner and the rest of the year. We would also buy City Chicken there. This is chunks of veal and pork on a skewer that you bring home, then bread and fry like chicken. We’d also buy Soupis - a hard Italian salami. This was our eastern European meat for the year, some of which we gobbled up right away, some for special dinners and some for freezing and to save for later.
     The floods of 2011 hit Shamokin, PA and the rest of central Pennsylvania pretty hard. Bad news! Shaw’s couldn’t recover their losses and closed down. Bummer! Now - where to get good kielbasa?
     I decided I would try my hand at making our own. So yesterday I went out to the Kramer Flea Market in search of a hand meat grinder with a sausage tube attachment. One of the dealers there had about a dozen hanging on the wall but when I asked the prices he started in with a song and dance about how this was hog butchering time and everybody wanted one (I doubted that because I was the only one looking at them for a good hour although the market was very busy)  When I asked him the prices on a few, he started in with another song and dance about how they were "antiques and collectable."  Since I don't necessarily want to collect meat grinders, I just want one that works, I thanked him nicely and went down to the Firehouse Flea Market in Selinsgrove. I got a decent one for $15.00, the first in my 'collection.'     Mrs. Stolfus, who takes the money at the flea market, said if I go out to Stauffer’s Meat Market (out in the hills) they’d have casings and that Hilscher’s Ace Hardware Store (deals with the farmers and Amish, etc) would have proper sausage tube attachments and anything else I needed to make sausage - kielbasa!         
     Stauffer’s makes really good cracklings and if you’re lucky and get there early on a Tuesday when they render the lard, you can get a decent sized block for $2.00. So I will, probably next week.
     So now I have a meat grinder that needs to be cleaned sitting on the kitchen table. James, our son, is home this week from NYC and I took advantage of his good and helpful nature to help me get some beer started. We make out own beer on account of James having taken up the hobby while he was in college at the school right down the road. Once you start making your own beer you get spoiled. Store bought just never quite cuts it when you can tweak a recipe to your own individual taste buds.
     A family favorite is the Shakemantle Ginger Ale recipe from BEER CAPTURED a book by Tess and Mark Szamatulski. It takes about seven weeks start to finish to make beer. We’ve done this many times now and if we get the ginger beer started now, it will be ready for just about the time to start mowing the lawn again.
     So beer boiled on the stove for a good part of the afternoon, till it was time to pour it - all five gallons - yes, you heard me right - all five gallons! into the primary fermenter. Then I went down to the creek to collect the maple sap.
     The day’s take was low, about a gallon, but that boiled down and added into the previous days’ take gave us about a pint. Today, however, was great! A good three gallons of sap. Last night went to below freezing and today up to 60F. Excellent sap drip weather. I think next week will be the end of it here for us, but so far I have just shy of a gallon of maple syrup in the refrigerator.
     I’m hoping to make the sausages using some of the venison from the deer I got in the fall. For James’ birthday dinner we had a fine, rolled rump roast of venison, marinated for several days in Merlot wine, garlic and herbs. I would tell about how I got that buck in this post, but spring is not the time to tell about how you got your buck. But as I think, just over the horizon of maple sugar season, and Easter kielbasa season, and ginger beer season is Spring Gobbler season. Let’s hope I have story to tell about that!

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Comments on this blog are welcome. Ask questions, post your own experiences about the subject, post recipes, helpful tips, stories. Thanks! ~Bev