20 October 2010


In a little forgotten village in northern Michigan, there is a secret place - a magical place!  It is the Amish store of damaged groceries, where food is practically free (and usually expired).  The A-man will put weeks of food on your table for a mere $20.  He will also relabel things like m&ms and try to pass them off as his own home-made "candy coated chocolate bits."  But nonetheless, this grand little group of Amish is near and dear to my heart because of the one food I could not live without:


From some mystical source, the Amish get deli-style logs of cheese (6-7 lbs) and resells them for $15 - a relative steal compared to grocery store cheeses.  If you want the cheddar, you have to be there on Friday or you might get stuck with a bland colby or colby jack.  Alas, I was only fortunate enough to find a colby during my last visit to the backwoods of Michigan.

After shipping my precious cheese back to NC, I set about preserving it in a way that would not take up a quarter of the already-full fridge.  That's right, friends, I waxed it.

Now, since I've already blogged about this I'm not going to repeat myself.  But I will tell you about some problems I encountered with the colby that cheddar did not present.  For one thing, the cheddar was rectangular block, whereas the colby was cylindrical.  When I cut my little serving-size cubes, they didn't fit in my tin can so I had to cut them a little more squarely as shown in the photo.

The second problem was that I was reusing the wax that I'd used on the cheddar.  That in itself is a common practice (the wax peels cleanly off the cheese), but under normal circumstances one is supposed to melt the wax and strain it through some cheesecloth to ensure cleanliness.  I didn't do that, and I should have.  That still worked out.  The bigger problem was that I had less wax, and so I didn't give the colby as many coats as I should have.  I still gave it three coats of wax but I would have preferred one more.

And lastly, the colby was full of air bubbles.  So the wax didn't stick as well on the first coat.  Then later when I peeled one open, the combination of trapped steam and these little air bubbles in the cheese made the exterior of the blocks a little bit spongy.   Still completely edible, but not the prettiest to look at.

So that's waxed cheese.  It doesn't need refrigeration, and after it is waxed it continues to age.  Store in a cool, dry place and turn the blocks every couple of weeks because cheese wax is slightly softer than paraffin and may start to "flow" if left in the same position, especially in a warmer area.

11 October 2010

I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food...

I seem to have neglected to inform my favored readers of my acquisitions from the trip to Michigan.  While up north, I decided I wanted to go salmon fishing.  Sadly, the salmon didn't start running until a week or two after I returned to NC.  Happily, a good friend let me go "fishing" in his freezer for some of last year's catch.

After getting up at 4am on Saturday to open locker rooms for small children who were playing hockey at an ungodly hour, I came home and slept.  But when I woke up, I was ready for some gourmet fishes - something simple, like a nice lemon pepper recipe.  Here is how I find recipes:  I decide about what I want (in this case, "lemon pepper baked salmon") and then I do a Google image search and pick out the tastiest looking photos.  Then I read the recipes and choose the one that I like the best.  There is nothing scientific about it, if the picture is pretty then it has a good chance.

This recipe came from lifesambrosia:

Baked Salmon with White Wine Dill Sauce

  • 2 (5 ounce) salmon fillets, bones removed
  • fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  1. Preheat your oven to 450.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  3. Place salmon fillets on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle fillets with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Place 2 lemon slices on top of each fillet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and tent with aluminum foil for 10 more minutes. Fish will continue to cook during this time. It will flake easily when done.
  4. While salmon is baking, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add minced garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in wine. Cook for 5 minutes or until sauce reduces by 1/3. Stir in fresh dill and remove from heat.
  5. Remove lemon slices from the top of the salmon and discard. Gently slide a turner or serving spatula between the skin and the flesh of the fillet to remove the skin, it should separate very easily. Transfer to a serving platter and spoon white wine dill sauce over the top.

I was a little confused about the tent but Kyle handled that one.  The result was by far one of the best fish recipes I have ever tasted. I love dill.  Kyle and I agreed that the mix of flavors was perfect - we could taste each ingredient, and nothing was overpoweringly flavorful.  Being the good Food Network fan that I am, any time I use lemons or lime I use the zest as well.  Adding the lemon zest and dill to the wine-butter sauce was fragrant and fabulous.  I cannot recommend this recipe enough.

Today I still had some dill left over to use, so I fried up a couple potatoes with mushrooms (and cumin, my all-time favorite spice) and then sprinkled them with dill and asiago.  I have to say, dill is a top contender for my favorite herb.  I have fond memories of spending my summers in the garden, where dill grew like a weed.  I would crush the leaves in my hand just to smell them.  Asiago is also one of my favorite cheeses.  I think it's pretty clear that lunch today was delicious.

In other news, if anyone wants a liveaboard chef, I'd be willing to try my hand at it.  Oh, also, I'm expecting visitors from Michigan this week - my mom and my cousin will be stopping here on their way south for a wedding.  AND my favorite boaters are gathering in Oriental, so it ought to be a nice social week.

01 October 2010

Nicole, the Tropical Storm that Wasn't

Nicole was officially named as a tropical storm in the Caribbean, and fizzled out soon after.  So much more harmless than a Category 4 Hurricane Earl, right?  Wrong.  The fundamental difference between the storms was that Earl caused northern winds, which drove our water out.  Nicole cause south winds on top of four days straight of rain.  Water has been in places this week where water has never been seen before.

Nothing illustrates this better than photos, and lucky for you, there is nothing I love more than taking photos.  The first thing to go was the community dock.  It was underwater before the water made it near any other dock that I saw.
The wind was blowing all the pine needles in by our dock early Thursday morning.
Right before I left for work I noticed that a present had blown in from the main canal.  A log about half the size of a telephone pole.
Southern Cross was loving it.  Compare the Nicole photo to the Earl photo.  Look at the difference in water level!  

Then I had to leave for work.  I had a school bus testing the waters for me for a while.  The road I work on was about 2' under water when I left at 11pm (I found an alternate route).

The water was highest while I was at work, but I had my camera with me.  Kyle took some photos from last night, I'll see if I can get my hands on them.  It was still a scene this morning.  It's weird seeing the boat reflection above the dock.

Right now the sun is out, so I'm crossing my fingers that the drive to work won't involve crossing too many rivers.  The water has already gone down a few inches since this morning.  I can almost see the very tops of the posts on the community dock.  Hope everyone else is faring well!  Friends of ours have water in their garage and I saw a house that had turned into an island.  Also, Virginia Beach underpasses get pretty deep in rain like this - a semi ran right into one yesterday.  We're expecting a north wind this weekend that ought to bring our water levels back to normal.