Tag Archives: turkey

Panic, Sprouts and Parsnips

I toyed with the idea of not posting today, but it’s a difficult habit to break. The only drawback to posting on Christmas Day is that people might think I’m a miserable, anti-social misanthrope with no friends, but if you’ve read the blog before you’ll know that’s a fair description.

We’ve had a reasonable Christmas. There was a minor panic yesterday when I realised that I had mis-calculated the cooking times. We have had a fresh turkey crown for so many years that, having bought a frozen one this year, I’d completely forgotten about thawing times. Buying a frozen crown made it easier to buy everything in advance but it did mean I should have started thawing the crown several hours before I actually thought of it.

I dropped Julia off at the shops and the way to work and she rang soon after to tell me that she had been able to buy a fresh turkey crown.

Panic averted.

Today, after a late start and a bacon sandwich, we opened presents, ate chocolate and watched TV before I started on the lunch.

This was turkey, stuffing, redcurrant jelly, pigs in blankets, Hasselback potatoes (done with goose fat), roast potatoes (ditto), roast carrots and parsnips (with cumin), stir-fried sprouts with chestnuts, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. The potatoes, when cooked with goose fat, were better than with olive oil, and made a good centre-piece for the meal.

After a number of successful quizzes on the net we are now watching TV again and eating Turkish Delight. It’s one of the things that defines Christmas, the only time we have Turkish Delight.

Tomorrow we will have another of those defining moments – the only time of the year we have turkey sandwiches.

Our casual Christmas was slightly disturbed by Number Two Son ringing to wish us a Happy Christmas. He is currently the facilities supervisor in a budget Toronto hotel, and spent the night dealing with rambling junkies before returning home to microwave a leftover McMuffin. Travel, as they say, certainly broadens the mind.

Finally, the report on last night’s Brussels Sprouts in batter. After a pleasant interlude consuming the nutty-tasting knobby greens, I can confirm that nothing untoward happened and I remained socially acceptable at all times. Apart from the fact that they are breeding less sulphrous sprouts these days, it appears that their famous capacity for inducing wind occurs mostly when they are over-boiled.

Recycled photos again I’m afraid – I didn’t think of photos until I was looking at an empty gravy-stained plate…

 

Mission Accomplished

I went shopping this afternoon, with the outline of a plan in mind.

We now have a turkey crown in the freezer which claims to serve 6-8. It should do for three plus sandwiches. The pigs in blankets are next to it.

The gammon and smoked salmon are in the fridge with sufficient shelf life to last until Christmas.

We have stollen, we have nuts and we have seaweed crackers.

I already, as reported, have the cheese footballs.

That is it.

Christmas is in the bag. There are a few things left, but the essentials are in place and we are ready to go. I’m beyond worrying about the quality of the turkey – all I want is a stress-free Christmas and now we have the essentials there is no stress. It won’t be the best turkey we’ve ever had, but it’s in the freezer and Christmas dinner is guaranteed. It might be badly cooked, or burned, but it will be a traditional turkey disaster, and I will have done my job.

At one time I used to shop for a siege, but the shops will be open on Boxing Day so there really is no need to stock up. I may put some bread in the freezer, but that’s the limit of my extra buying.

Cards are delivered or in the post and a few small gifts for my co-workers are in place.

It is now 9.00 and Julia has just come back from seeing a neighbour. I am going to serve the evening meal now and bask in the smug satisfaction of knowing that if Christmas were to be moved forward, I am ready.

And as I write that I realise I haven’t bought the cheese…

The pictures are minisheets of stamps – an extra way of making collectors buy more. They are buses, the Royal Family, Industrial Archaeology and Edward Lear. If we have room we just stick them on envelopes complete. Yesterdays’s collection is today’s postage, just as yesterday’s news is today’s chip wrapper.

Today’s poem is a cheery number that repeats that thought, though more elegantly, and with much more Latin than is usual in one of my posts.

Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam

Ernest Dowson

 

The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long. –Horace

 

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

The Difficult Second Potato

After several abortive attempts at writing today’s post I decided it wasn’t depression or politics, or even the crush of ideas and bitterness that was preventing me writing – it was trying to use the netbook on my knee while I sat by the fire.

Just after 10.30 I stepped through to the dining room with the intention of sitting down and sorting myself out.

It didn’t happen -there were comments to read and reply to and sandwiches to make for tomorrow. Finally there was washing up. Yes, washing up seemed preferable to sitting down and blogging.

I now have around 20 minutes to post and keep to my target of daily posting. I’m now limited by the time, and by the fact that I am slowly getting colder. Eventually, based on past experience, I will get so cold that I stop thinking. This is’t a bad thing because since the election I’ve mainly been thinking that everything is a complete mess. I have had to discard several posts because they were a bit too serious, and probably a bit too libellous. It’s one thing saying something to Julia, or shouting it at the TV, but once you write it down you have to prove it.

We had Hasselback potatoes again today. I was a little more relaxed with the cutting, and it did not go as well as the first lot. This is often the way with the second in a series. I tried the stir fried sprouts again too, this time with added chestnuts. I’m intending to have it at Christmas. We have settled on turkey for Christmas this year (as we have done for about the last fifteen years). We will also have roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, stuffing, bread sauce, redcurrant jelly and Yorkshire puddings.

I just noticed it’s gone midnight…

I know Yorkshire puddings aren’t traditional but Julia likes them so they are traditional for us. Personally, I’d rather have beef, pork or gammon. If anyone had suggested a nut roast I’d probably have gone for that. Even a goose. They are greasy but traditional.

It was the kids who got us back onto turkey – we’d been having beef or pork for years but they started to ask for turkey because all their friends had turkey. Now it’s become a habit. It’s not so bad now that you can buy a small crown roast – enough for a meal and a few sandwiches. Much better than the days of turkey curry, turkey stir fry and, finally, turkey soup.

I’ve started the Christmas shopping list and tomorrow I start the shopping. I’ll probably also start moaning about Christmas tomorrow.

Strictly speaking, our Christmas starts when I buy the cheese footballs. This is normally when they first appear in the Shops in Autumn, as it can be touch and go nearer to the day. I’m surprised, on looking for links, that I only seem to have mentioned them twice over the years as they are an important part of Christmas.

First the cheese footballs, then the ancient Santa card I bought Julia for our first Christmas. (I’ve also bought her one every year since, in case you are wondering), then the shopping.

The two pictures from the archives sum up the full horror of the forced jollity of Christmas, and the silent fury of a man who, having realised that he has wasted his life on trivia, will never break the bank at Monte Carlo, win a Nobel prize or, in all probability, look down and see his feet again.

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Time, I think, in my tour of British poets, to turn to Dylan Thomas. I’m sure you know the one I’m thinking of. I am, after all, a man of habit and small learning.

 

The day I nearly got political

On Wednesday I was out and about when I spotted a distant turkey in a cage. This struck me as symbolic. An American icon and a cage, I thought. Then I thought: It’s a good thing I’m not political or I might ruffle a few feathers with some comments on symbols and cages.

Well, to be honest I only just thought the feathers thing but it makes me look more witty if I pretend I thought of it at the time.

Of course, now that the children have been released from their cages, it’s no longer symbolic.

I’m hoping that their release from cages will be easier than the experience of Ezra Pound after he was kept in a cage for six weeks.

I cannot, however, help wondering about an alternative history where the Native Americans didn’t share their food with the undocumented aliens also known as Pilgrims.

 

We will never know.

Another Lesson

It’s just taken me five hours to start the computer after many false starts and a variety of labyrinthine attempts.

At times like this it is, according to Julia, useless to threaten the machine or use language “like that”.

The lesson I learnt was simple. If you learn a lesson once, profit from it.

Do not, as I did, put it off until tomorrow.

I’m off to cook now.

While I am cooking I will reflect on my capacity for stupidity.

And my declining appetite for turkey sandwiches.

Tomorrow we will be having turkey and ham pie. The picture is of a previous attempt.

Tired of Life

I’ve been browsing WordPress today, when I haven’t been shopping (twice) or visiting or engaging in discussions about my shortcomings as an organiser of Christmas Cheer. We are having two turkey crowns, one for Christmas Dinner and one for sandwiches when we have visitors on Boxing Day. This is not a sign that I like turkey, more an example of being beaten down by tradition and losing interest.

Talking of which, here are the remains of a very early Christmas dinner.

We used to plan Christmas seriously, and over the years we had all sorts of meat, but as the kids got older they wanted turkey. I think that’s when my interest in Christmas Dinner died. For a few years I did the sprouts with chestnuts or almonds or bacon, or combinations thereof, but even that died away.

We are having Bronze turkey as a nod to quality (having decided against Narragansett turkey). The latter is more expensive, less well known and, above all, harder to spell. In fact I’d never heard of it before last night.

Turkey, plain boiled sprouts and gravy made with gravy granules. Then I can get on with the rest of my life.

Next year I may try alpaca. There are places that supply exotic meat. It’s something I’m going to look at next year, as I’ve rather taken my eye off the ball this year.

Geese

This is the 50th post on the blog and I’m typing it under the handicap of having cut my finger. It isn’t a big cut but it’s right on the tip of the middle finger of my right hand and it’s painful to keep hitting the keyboard with it. I say painful but I suppose in terms of childbirth it doesn’t hurt much. However, it is irritating.

I would not have said, until this morning, that I used it for typing much. I’m still convinced that I use my index fingers for most of my typing, but once you put a plaster on the middle finger it seems to become dominant. Maybe I’m actually a three-fingered typist and have only just realised.

Anyway, apart from moaning about my cut finger and making tea the first job of the day was goose herding. They stay in the barn overnight and we bring them across the yard to their pen for the day. I’m not sure they are always grateful but it was a nice bright day today so it didn’t trouble my conscience. As you can see, it’s a team effort.

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Before the days of lorries this used to be the way that all large poultry were moved.

Traditionally geese are ready for market by Michaelmas (29th September), which marked the end of harvest and the start of the new farming year. People who could afford it would have a goose for Michaelmas. and it was the traditional Christmas fowl.  Approximately 20,000 geese a year were driven to Nottingham from Lincolnshire, entering the town through Goose Gate and ending up at the Goose Fair in the market place. In those days they used to apply tar to the feet of the geese to help them complete the long walk. Ours only have to walk a few yards so we don’t need to bother with tar.

This sounds impressive but set it against the estimated 250,000 turkeys that walked from Norfolk to London in 1720 it seems quite small. There were so many turkeys walking to London by the 19th Century that there were actually traffic jams of turkey flocks.

If only I’d known this before Christmas while it was still topical!

 

 

 

Soup and Santa Claus

Warning: Several animals were killed in the making of this post – sorry if it upsets you but farmers don’t keep pets, as we tell all our visitors.

It was an eventful end to the week, with 35 wanting soup and a variety of other things taking place, including a double-booking that slipped through the system and another college visit.

I’m going to concentrate on the soup, because the rest aren’t so easy to photograph.

Here’s picture number one, consisting of a mass of bones in a pot with a few veg (known as mirepoix when making stock). We had the bones of several pigs available after sending some off for slaughter last week and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. First we roasted the bones for the additional flavour, then set the whole mixture to bubble away for hours. How long? Well, from when it was ready till it was time to go home. Sorry, I really will start to do proper recipes soon.

With three pots of bones steaming away the place was, to be honest,  starting to look like Jeffrey Dahmer’s hobby room. I’m not sure if the addition of the vegetables made it look better or worse.

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                                                                                                                                                The “before” and “after” of the stock

Three pots of bones produced nine pints of stock. It lost a bit of flavour as I had to dilute it to make 20 pints of soup. First add barley to the liquid and cook for 15 minutes to half an hour – recipe suggestions varied so I just cooked it till it tasted half cooked. Then I softened onions and celery and added them plus 24 diced potatoes, a packet of frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, cauliflower, brocolli, onion) more diced carrot and swede. A bit later I added the cut up turkey left over from the turkey tasting event at the weekend then right at the end of cooking I added chopped kale.  If you’re going to reheat it leave things with a little bite to them so they don’t get overly soft. This isn’t a great picture because it shows the soup before it was properly re-heated so there’s a bit of fat on top. That’s something else that needs improving before I start doing more recipes.

I’m not particularly proud of the packet of frozen veg or the ready to use carrot and swede but I had plenty to do without spending all morning chopping veg. In my defence I would like to point out that I used our own free-range pork and turkey and picked the rosemary, thyme and bay leaves from the garden.

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You may spot a small red dot on top of the soup. That’s because I’ve had complaints about seasoning in the past. Each of the three pots got two tsp of sea salt, two of ground black pepper, a six inch sprig of rosemary, four big springs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves, a finely diced red chilli with a few seeds left in and a piece of fresh ginger about the size of the top joint of my thumb.

It had a good rich taste of stock and herbs and a bit of an afterburn. I’d say it was a satisfactory warm soup for use after a morning disturbing game birds.

Two of the pots contain enough for ten portions or so and the bigger one should do a bit more. In the end there were fewer than 35 wanting soup, but we still got through 27 portions with no complaint.

Meanwhile, to ensure the contents of the blog match the title, here’s a picture of me trying out my costume for the Christmas Event at the weekend.

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I’m not big on the concept of jollity but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Saturday

Some results are in from last night – including that we sold two wreaths and two Christmas trees so that’s a boost for Quercus funds.

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It’s nice to know that things went well because a lot of effort goes into organising events. Strictly speaking the turkey event is nothing to do with us but what’s good for the farm has to be good for the groups that use the farm. Ultimately we are a community and what is good for the yoga, Shipshape Arts, Quercus or the bread group should be good for all of us.

There’s an ulterior motive in all this, as there always is. As I helped with a bit of bread group tidying on Thursday I had home-baked cookies forced on me. Positively forced! I think the correct term for this working together is synergy, but I’m happy to think of it as “biscuits”.

Meanwhile, I was out and about on family business today, including my mother’s 85th birthday. Travelling along the A 52 to Grantham I saw three buzzards perching on lamp posts in the final stretch. Two of them appeared to be preening so I don’t know what was going on. Normally it’s a good week if you see three buzzards perching anywhere, let alone three in a couple of miles. Even then they mainly just sit there looking for food.

When I was a young bird watcher you had to travel to Devon, Wales or the Lakes to see buzzards. The eastward resurgence has been a welcome event of the last few years, unless you are a partridge. Even then, I’m not sure how many partridge deaths can be blamed on birds of prey.

I can’t say the same for magpies. It was good to see them to start with but can it be coincidence  that their arrival in my garden marked the start of a much decreased garden bird population? You can’t blame cats for it all.

 

Party Time!

It’s the first party of the season tonight, the turkey tasting event. It’s not a Quercus event but we’re involved because we are trying to sell some our merchandise. We also ended up involved in some of the preparation because we’re naturally helpful! Or because we like to know what’s going on.

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On the left is a selection of table decorations made with foliage from the local hedges and flowers from the garden. On the right is a wreath made from strips of cloth: if you look closely you can see the remnants of one of my old shirts. Behind the table decorations is the rammed earth wall that serves as a heat sink – read more about it on the Ecocentre page.

Not sure what will happen tonight, but it will be brightly decorated