Making sorghum candy

Every year in Union County, Georgia, they hold a Sorghum festival. For most of my early childhood, this was a centerpiece in our autumn activities. For those of you without enough Appalachia in your blood, sorghum is a sugar crop. Kind of like the South's answer to sugar cane. It was cheap, easy to grow, did well in places where sugar cane or beet didn't, and was a staple of Southern cookery for decades until refined sugars became more easily available. The Sorghum Festival is a celebration of this old-fashioned sticky treat, with suitable old-fashioned activities to keep a kid fascinated for a long, cool weekend. I don't know if they're still doing it, but in my youth this included log-sawing and greased-pig-catching competitions. Country fairs are so underrated. Of course, I didn't know any of this when I was a kid, though. I just knew that sorghum syrup kicks ass on a hot biscuit. I don't think I had thought about sorghum syrup or the festival in decades, though, until this past October, as we were quietly enjoying our own New England fall colors in the wake of my grandmother's (and the Critter's namesake's) passing. Sitting around one evening and telling the children stories of some of our adventures together, I remembered that we had once tried, unsuccessfully, to make homemade sorghum candy. We made a real botch of it, and I think ruined at least one pan completely in our attempts. Given how sticky hot boiled sugar can be, we were lucky that one or both of us didn't end up with 3rd degree burns in the process, given that I was 8, and she was well into her 60's. But I do remember having a lot of fun along the way.
The week of my grandmother's death, I ordered two small jugs of sorghum syrup (amazing what you can find on amazon), and told the kids we'd make candy like Nanny and I did when I was a kid. They sat in the pantry through the holidays, and occasionally the Critter would remind me that we were supposed to make candy. Shut up in the house with all the snow and ice outside, I finally broke out a jug this weekend.
The recipe is pretty simple. - 1 part syrup - 1 part water - a pinch or so of salt. Boil. OK, no problem. Even I can follow that kind of recipe. I used a cast iron dutch oven, but I think pretty much any stock pot would do. I figured, however, that if all went awry again, I wouldn't feel too bad about taking the steel wool or a power sander to the cast iron. My Bride would probably feel differently if I used the rather expensive le Crueset
Boil until you reach the "hard ball stage" or 260-270 degrees. Hey honey, where's your candy thermometer? You threw it out? You think you could have told me this before now? What the heck am I supposed to do now? Ah. Drop it in the cold water, and see if it forms a hard ball. Of course. How long is that supposed to take? 'You'll know it when you get there,' huh? Yeah. Thanks. Really f#@%ing helpful, lady.
There was a lot of watching and waiting. Sugar isn't something you want to heat too quickly or walk away from. And I'm pretty sure this is where my grandmother and I went wrong - she was probably tired of hearing me ask "is it ready yet", and pulled it off the heat a bit early, resulting in a gooey, stringy mess. Now that I've seen how long it really takes to get there, I can't say I blame her.
Hey look! Hardball stage! At this point, the whole house was full of the gentle, earthy sweet flavor of sorghum. It's very like molasses, but with a more buttery scent and flavor. There's simply nothing else that approaches that smell and taste. At this point, I poured the hot, bubbly mass into a buttered bowl to cool.
After a half hour or so, it was cool enough to handle. More from the recipe: "Butter your hands, and taking a smallish bit of the sorghum, work and stretch until it changes color and hardens. This works better when two people are pulling. Remember in the mountains, families were usually large" (I'm not kidding. That last part is actually part of the recipe. Any recipe that includes the phrase: "Remember, in the mountains..." is a winner in my book.)
There was plenty in the bowl for two of us (at this point, I became very glad that I made the decision to only use one of the jugs of sorghum to make candy) The Critter was mildly disturbed at the thought of having to rub butter all over her hands, but she really got into the pulling and twisting part. She wanted hers to "look like licorice" (which I think meant twisted and braided).
I looked back at the recipe to see how things were supposed to end. But that was it. "Pull until it changes color and hardens." What? And then what? Is it supposed to turn into sticks? Lollipops? What color is it supposed to turn into? Blue? I racked my memory to try and recall the end state, but of course my grandmother and I ended up throwing out our gooey mess, and never finished it off. Eventually, I decided that it was pretty much supposed to look and feel like caramels. (and no amount of google searching could disprove this theory). So we rolled the stretched candy out, and cut it into rounds to finish cooling.
Twisted into wax paper squares, and tucked in a jar, our little homemade candies bring a real smile to my face. Objectively speaking, I had just spent several hours of effort and turned half the kitchen into a sticky, buttery mess to produce the equivalent of a couple of $0.99 bags of candy. But the whole process of slowly boiling the dark, buttery sorghum for hours with my own 8 year old Eleanor was a kind of cosmic loop-closer, and another little peek for both of us into what growing up in another era, one without 7-11's and mall Ye Olde Candy Supershoppes was like. We all tried one, and decided the effort was worth it.
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A pair of soups for winter weekends.

In an attempt to embrace the winterness that has been January, 2011 (and don't bother me about the fact that it is actually February now. There are several feet of snow carpeting the ground. I can't be expected to pay attention to the little details), I made a couple of different kinds of soup this weekend.

Tom Kha Gai

This Thai soup is one of my favorite combination of flavors. It's essentially a spicy chicken soup with coconut milk (as opposed to Tom Yum Gai, which is basically the same soup without coconut milk) . And it turned out to be ridiculously easy to make.
- 2 boneless chicken breasts - 6 cups chicken broth - 1 tsp or so of crushed red pepper flakes (better yet - 1-2 fresh red thai chili peppers, but go with what you have in a pinch) - 3 cloves garlic, chopped - 1-2 tbsp ginger, grated (properly speaking, you should use galangal, if you can find it) - zest of 1 lime - juice of 1-2 limes - 1/2 lb chopped mushrooms. Whatever kind you have on hand - 4 tbsp fish sauce - 1 cup coconut milk - 2 cups baby spinach - handful of chopped cilantro Freeze the chicken breasts for about 15-20 minutes (handy later) Combine broth, ginger, garlic, pepper, lime zest, lime juice and 3 tbsp fish sauce in a pot. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms. Simmer another 3-5 minutes. Slice the chicken breasts thinly (this is why freezing it a little while helps so much). Add the chicken and the coconut milk. Simmer another 3-5 minutes until the chicken is just cooked. Stir in the spinach until it begins to wilt (about a minute) - add the cilantro and the last tbsp or so of fish sauce. Serve - enjoy! (some people like this with cellophane noodles - which you can simply prepare with a few cups of boiling water, and ladle the soup over. I prefer mine without. The soup is light and citrusy, with a mild sourness and peppery tang that the kids both love.

Chorizo & Kale soup

As I was finishing up the Tom Kha Gai soup (which is best when fresh, as the spinach stays bright and flavorful), I started prepping another soup for the next day. Most soups enrich over time, when the flavors have more of a chance to blend together, I find. This soup is another easy one, with an even shorter list of ingredients, but is a great lunch time meal almost any time of the year. But there's something especially good about the rich bittery kale that makes it perfect for a winter day.
- 1/2 pound of smoked chorizo, cut into small pieces (note: the smoked Portuguese kind. Not the loose, uncooked Mexican kind, for this recipe). - 1 large onion, chopped - a few potatoes, peeled and diced into small-ish cubes - 8 cups of water - 3/4 pounds of kale - cut out the center ribs and slice the leaves into strips - 2 tbsp smoked paprika - a healthy splash or two of red wine vinegar Toss the onion into a dutch oven (you do have a le Creuset, right? Of course you do) on medium high heat with a glug of olive oil, and cook until they start to turn golden. Toss the potatoes in as well, and stir around for 4 or 5 minutes. Add water and a bit of salt to taste, and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, toss the chorizo into a separate skillet and cook over medium heat until brown. Stir a heavy spoon a bit heartily through the potatoes and onions a little, just to smash & break them up a little bit. Stir in the chorizo, the kale, the vinegar and the paprika and let simmer for at least 15 minutes, until the kale is tender. You can (as I did) then turn this off and cover the soup, coming back to it the next day at lunch to re-heat. The melding of the flavors only makes it better. Serve it with crusty toast for dipping and a dark, hoppy beer and laugh at the bitter cold outside.
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Hug your fromagiere

So finally, after a couple of test mozzarella runs, I felt like we were ready to go to the next level of cheese-manufactory. Early last week, I shot a quick note off to my buddies Dan and Brian, and we arranged to meet up this weekend at my house for some group fromagerie. I went to a nearby Whole Foods and bought up as much promising looking milk as I could. Contrary to my former belief, you don't actually need raw milk to make cheese. You just want to buy milk that hasn't been ultra-pasteurized, a process that takes the milk up to super-high temperatures. It extends the shelf-life, but it pretty much destroys all the delicious fatty compounds you're relying on to make your cheese. (more about that here). Fortunately, as I discovered when I set about my first test runs, the whole rise of the middle-aged/affluent grungy-hippie-tree-hugging-back-to-earther works in my favor. I can get low heat pasteurized milk at a pretty good grocery store. Of course, the cashier's reaction to me plopping 12 or so gallons of milk onto the counter was a raised eyebrow. "That's a lot of milk." "I know. When I woke up this morning, I was just really thirsty." Ha! I crack me up. Confident that our first trials at a novice cheese like mozzarella would let us step up to the next level, I made preparations in the basement for the next homesteading event. Good cheese requires good cheese presses. And along with the other ingredients, I had bought the plans for a do-it-yourself cheese press
I had intended to build some additional shelving space for My Bride's canning gear anyway, so I took an afternoon and put up the cheese presses in a tucked away corner. These brackets would form the pivot point for the press arm.
Each of the hard cheeses would be placed in a basket, and pressed to drain the whey. I cut a circular press plate from poplar, and the brackets and rest of the pieces from oak. All clean, dense hardwood without as many pores as your typical pine. With the plans already drawn out, it only took a few minutes to put the whole thing together. On Monday, the guys showed up (with their lovely families) and we were soon intent on replicating the mozzarella, just to as a warm up round. Here's the first tentative steps towards self-made queso confidence.
Once we each poured our milk into the pots, there was a lot of discussion about the proper stirring technique.
Dan and Brian waxed prolific on their favorite technique. I forget which advocated clockwise, and which was counter-clockwise.
Then I explained my approach: child-labor. They both agreed my technique was superior.
Soon enough we were to the curd, stretch and mozzarella stage. The end product from Dan's effort was especially beautiful.
By now we were an hour or so into the day, and feeling pretty good about our dairy skills. It was time to up our game. We were going for cheddar. Unlike the forgiving mozzarella, cheddar is a bit more involved of a process, involving a bacteria culture, twice the amount of milk and a bit more time, both up front and in the maturing stage. But we were now in the zone. We could do this. We gave each other the "let's cook this milk" nod, and dove in. Look at Brian pour that milk with a self-confident flair.
Of course, maybe we should have read ahead in the instructions a bit further. Unlike mozzarella, cheddar involves several steps along the lines of: "add the mesophilic culture to the milk, and let it sit for 45 minutes." Hmm. Ok. Sitting.
Then we add rennet, stir, heat, and - oh, what's this? Ah. Let sit for another 45 minutes. Let's go check in with the families.
Hey, look! It's beautiful outside. Whose dumb-ass idea was it that we be stuck in a kitchen for several hours hovering over mildly warm milk?
Our guest, Christina taught me that "cheese" in Swedish is "ost". Ok. She didn't. But she could have if she wanted to. In her defense, I had asked her to help me translate while she was busy trying to groom her imaginary horse in between serious yard-circling riding. I apologized and we went back inside to check on the curd progression.
Perfect. Dan's pot is thick with curd. A quick slice of the firm, custard like curd into 0.5" cubes, and we were ready to begin heating again.
Occasionally, The Boy would come by to check on our progress. Like a master chef, he would step up to the stove, put his spoon in to test our product at its current stage and pronounce his opinion of our work-effort with a serious and contemplative nod. Apparently, so far, so good.
About this time, Dan spotted a step in the instructions I had somehow overlooked. Once we had further separated the whey from the curds, we needed to hang and let dry our curds for an hour, in final preparation for pressing. Hang? Someplace it can drip? Oh crap. Hold on... be right back.
Whew. I knew all those power tools would come in handy. I put together this simple rack with a quick trip to the barn, and we drained our curds into cheesecloth, tied off, and hung. (Note: the one on the left is a double-sized batch made together by Dan and Brian). And... again, we wait.
Ok, ok. With some forethought (and a couple more pots), we would have started the cheddar, and made the mozzarella during the lull periods (this is the 3rd "wait for a while" for those counting). Yeah, well... who knew? Soon enough, though, we were ready. The curds were relatively dry, and released from their cheesecloth bag, ready to be broken up, salted, and prepared for the form.
Once packed into the form, the proto-cheeses were taken down to the presses. The brilliance of the press was soon apparent - each press was notched at precisely measured intervals (provided by the plans) specifying how much pressure two pounds of weight at the other end would provide. The two pounds were conveniently provided by three and a half cups of water poured back into cleaned milk jugs. Blam. That's science, folks.
One thing I learned from the whole cider making experiment: if you have a desire to recreate anything later on, take copious notes and LABEL EVERYTHING. I have no idea which batch was which from the cider making, and no desire to try and re-live that particular mix up. This time, we're using at least 3 different varieties of milk (not even Whole Foods carries large quantities of a single low-heat pasteurized brand), and I really wanted to know which worked best.
15 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure, and we were ready to release the pressure, and prep for the next step. Before we made the switch, though, our quality tester came by to check up on our progress.
He gave us the green light. Ready for 20 pounds of pressure (a different notch). A quick drop out of the form, flip of the cheese to turn it upside down and we re-insert.
At this pressure, the cheese will rest for 12 full hours, draining the whey into the collection pans.
Note the cheese on the far left is at a slightly higher angle. The form was a bit fuller, with more curds. That cheese came from High Lawn Farm - milked from pure Jersey cows, and they claim their milk is both more nutritious and flavorful, with all the stuff you want in your milk. Our side-by-side comparison shows a definite 5 or so percentage difference in the cheese-making stuff, anyway (note: the other milk used in this batch was from Crescent Ridge Dairy - a perfectly awesome place for milk, and what we normally drink around our house). See? Labeling is cool.
The cheeses will be turned and pressed one more time after 12 hours, and then left to dry on a wooden board at room temperature for about 3-5 days. This will give them a slight rind as they cure, and then I'll coat each of them with a coating of cheese-grade wax, and we'll set them up in our cellar to cure for between 60 days and 6 months, depending on how long we can keep our hands off them. At the end of our afternoon, Dan, Brian and I all lovingly wrapped our mozzarella in cling film, waved goodbye to our cheeses, dripping slightly in their forms, and promised to get together sometime around the holidays to taste test the fruits of our Labor Day. As holiday weekends go: this was definitely a good 'un.
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Spring is near. And bottling

I know Mother Nature is just messing with us, but this recent spate of warm weather has gotten us all in the mood to be outside, and active, and getting things ready for the onset of green-ness that I am too busy wishing is just around the corner. But first, let's talk alcohol. Our attempt at cider making had been percolating in the cellar for long enough, keeping our hanging meat company. I had nothing but a couple of very rough guidelines from a couple of books to go on, but I figured not-quite-five-months was about the right fermentation time, and I did what any good amateur brewer would do: I brought up the buckets, lined up the bottles, and gathered the children. I honestly had no idea if we had managed to create something drinkable when we brought it up out of its resting place. The steps to create a hard (fermented) cider are pretty much to put a bunch of raw cider into a bucket, add some sulfide to kill off the bacteria, come back a day later with a bunch of sugar of one sort or another, add some yeast, and seal it up. Don't touch it for lots of months. I opened this not knowing if we had created 15 gallons of vinegar or something else equally unpalatable. Like sarin gas, maybe. Fortunately, it turned out to be remarkably... not terrible. Actually better than that. It was almost... really good. Wait, take a look again at my kids helping me bottle it all. Have you ever seen anything cuter than a 2 year old operating one end of a siphon? We created batches of 'still' cider, and batches of carbonated 'long necks'. We painstakingly crafted labels for our brew, marking the batch that was "sweet(er)" and "less sweet". [What's the difference? Well, I used two different kinds of yeast, and two different kinds of sugar - honey & brown sugar. Unfortunately, I may have forgotten to label what went into which bucket. And so it's possible that I don't have any way of knowing how to recreate our favorite (the "sweet(er)"). This oversight on my part might drive my Bride - the Scientist by training and trade - just a little bit insane. Just a little.) After a couple of weeks of additional carbonation time, we invited over a bunch of neighbors and friends for a taste test. Critics agree, it didn't suck. We all pretty much preferred it a little bit sweeter (the other tastes more 'yeasty' - a bit more like beer, actually. For the record, both ended up at right about 6% alcohol in the end). Ok. One more picture of the Critter and the finished, labeled bottles. I really just took this picture to show you her shirt. You love it, I know. (If you want one of your own, go here) We'll definitely be doing the cider thing again this fall - it's certainly not an instant gratification thing, but I'm happy as heck with the final product, all in all. Which is good, because after a day clearing a season's bracken and crap from the garden bed, I was in need of something to relax the aches. Fortunately, my pair of young bottlers were on hand to help out once again. Those kids can be shockingly useful at times.
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Holiday read - Hungry Monkey

This whimsical pick during my Amazon shopping has been on of my absolute favorite recent finds, and if you have a kid, are thinking about having a kid, or just appreciate good food, I want you to run out and pick up your own copy. I've already sent one to both my brother & his wife (about to adopt a child), and to my sister-in-law (dating a guy with kids). Now it's time for you to buy one. As a father, there's been little that has brought me more pleasure than sharing the joy & discovery of food with the kids. This morning, the Critter helped me make candied bacon to go with our oatmeal. Last night, the Boy helped me stir peas and our homemade pancetta into our risotto. From the time that they can sit upright and hold onto a spoon, they're pretty much ready to help in one way or another in the kitchen. The author of this book dedicates a whole chapter to, "You fed your child WHAT?". It goes along with what he lays out as Rule #1 - (and I believed, even before I read it here) - 'There is no such thing as baby food'. It can't be too spicy, or too raw, or too seasoned once they're over a year old. (The singular exception, which I will go along with, is honey - not because they won't love it. But it can carry a bacteria that causes infant botchulism.) Generally speaking, if you can eat it, they can eat it. Not only have I always been glad to let our kids try whatever was on my plate as a way of broadening their palate, but I can't imagine the stress of being one of those parents that specially prepares a separate meal for the kid, and packages plain white chicken cubes or ritz crackers everywhere we go, just in case. But most of all, this book rang true for me because I have found the same connection with our kids in the kitchen that the author does. No matter how irritating the small, noisy and often smelly people that live in our house are, and no matter how much pre-bedtime whining or "Holy crap, kid, would you please pick up your bedroom!?" arguing there is, there are two things that the kids & I always agree on. Reading to them at bedtime, and food. It's a whole set of traditions you'll come to love with the kids. When I pull out the meat grinder, the Critter knows it's time to make chorizo. She won't let me buy tortillas if we have time to make it ourselves. And she will always prefer home-made pizzas to the crap you get at Domino's. Don't get me wrong, she's still picky about some things (why on earth would anyone make macaroni and cheese that doesn't come out of a blue box?), and she'll never say no to Taco Bell, but she also chose sushi for her 7th birthday dinner, going right for the fatty tuna and the toro roll. The boy isn't so much a picky eater, he just rarely eats. But we found that just like when he gets to stir the risotto - he's a lot more likely to eat something he helped pick out of the garden, or helped make in the kitchen. When I grew up, I wasn't exactly a picky eater, I just was less-than-adventurous. It wasn't until I moved to California (and specifically, when I started dating the beautiful lady who later agreed to marry me in a moment of weakness) that I really started trying out new foods, and discovered the joy that comes from vegetables that aren't boiled with a piece of salt pork until they're dead (although, I still like them that way too), or the hidden culinary mysteries behind a dim sum brunch. I don't think I could have been any prouder than when my two-year-old asked for, and then ate a half dozen quail eggs for breakfast this week, or when my daughter helped me cure and hang our own hams with the same apparent enjoyment that most kids reserve for their Wii.
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Good like you read about

Holy crap was this one of the best things I've eaten in a while. And I sleep every night with a fantastic cook. Recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home (I strongly recommend you buy the book, and TiVo the show.) Hot & sour rhubarb with crispy pork Seriously. It's better than the title makes it sound. 1 kg pork belly, boned, rind removed, cut into 1-1/2" cubes salt and pepper peanut oil , or vegetable oil egg noodles - 4-6 people's worth 4 scallion, trimmed and finely sliced 1 red chili, deseeded, finely sliced 2 bunches watercress or some sort of bitter young salad greens 1 bunch cilantro, (UK=coriander) 2 limes The Marinade: 400 g rhubarb 4 tablespoons honey 4 tablespoons soy sauce 4 garlic, peeled 2 red chili, halved, deseeded 1 teaspoon five-spice, heaping teaspoon - We didn't have any five spice, because I don't really care for it. We made do with a mixture of ground cinnamon, ground cloves, white pepper and salt 1 ginger, thumb-sized piece, peeled and chopped Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Place the pork pieces in a roasting tray and put to one side. Chuck all the marinade ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you have a smooth paste, then pour this all over the pork, adding a large wineglass of water. Mix it all up, then tightly cover the tray with tinfoil and place in the preheated oven for about an hour and 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender, but not colored. Pick the pieces of pork out of the pan and put to one side. The sauce left in the pan will be deliciously tasty and pretty much perfect. However, if you feel it needs to be thickened slightly, simmer on a gentle heat for a bit until reduced to the consistency of ketchup. Season nicely to taste, add a little extra soy sauce if need be, then remove from the heat and put to one side. Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Get yourself a large pan or wok on the heat and pour in a good drizzle of groundnut (US=peanut) oil or vegetable oil. Add your pieces of the pork to the wok and fry until crisp and golden (you may need to do this in batches). At the same time, drop your noodles in the boiling water and cook for a few minutes, then drain most of the water away. Divide the noodles into warmed bowls immediately, while they are still moist. To finish, spoon over a good amount of the rhubarb sauce. Divide your crispy pork on top, and add a good sprinkling of scallions, chili, greens and cilantro. Serve with half a lime each.
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I guess there aren't too many famous Brazilian mathmaticians, to be fair

I fancy myself a corned beef gormand. I have talked about this love before, and the fact that there is good corned beef, and bad corned beef, and if you want to know what I really think about you, ask me to serve you corned beef the next time you come round my house, and see which kind I serve you. Ask yourself: Are you corned beef worthy? Well? Are you? You can understand then, why I'm always on the look out for new brands, given the lengths I go to to source the good stuff. The Brits clearly don't understand what good corned beef looks like and your markets over here typically sell something that looks and tastes like three parts reconstituted cardboard packing and one part leftover pickling juice. So on our monthly run into Manchester's Chinatown last weekend, I was excited to find a new brand - notice the label - it's Extra Chunky
When I turned it over to examine the ingredients, I discovered the secret to this extra chunky-ness. Look at how much beef they cram into each can!
Now math was always one of my strong suits, but I'm stumped. I haven't opened it yet, but I promise a full report and comparison this weekend.
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Kid tested. 'Groove approved.

I've mentioned before that Mexican food in Britain is crap. And mostly that's ok, because we've learned to make most things from scratch. (The Critter has been able to work the tortilla press since she turned 3).

One of the things I got turned on to during a pack trip in Colorado was breakfast of chorizo and eggs. You can find chorizo over here, but it's Spanish chorizo, and not Mexican style. Which is similar in the same way that Oscar Meyer resembles kielbasa. It's clearly in the same family, but it's not going to cut it with my eggs. Spanish chorizo is firmer, with less spices, and it just leave you frustrated rather than satisfied when you've really got the craving.

So I figured I'd try and make proper chorizo as well. God bless the internet - I was able to find a few different types (evey Mexican tia has her own special recipe) and settled on one that I had the ingredients stashed away for. It took a good couple of hours worth of effort (and I didn't bother casing it, as I break it apart to cook for breakfast or in burritos anyway, but the results were fantastic! Just be careful on the spices... it turned out a bit hotter than expected. I've made large batches of this a couple of times now and adjusted the recipe as necessary to taste

Chorizos toluquenos del 'Groove
- 1 kg pork (diced, not minced gives you a better consistency)
- 400g lard
(note: you can use any combination of Mexican chiles you like here, adjust according to taste)
- 100g ancho chiles
- 30g pasilla chiles
- 2g arbol chiles
- 6g smoked paprika (definitely include this one - it's a key to the traditional flavor)
- 2g Mexican cinnamon
- 1/2g cloves
- 2g cilantro seeds
- 2g Mexican oregano
- 0.5g cumin
- 3-4 cloves garlic (go on... use 4)
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 3 tsp salt

Before starting, make sure the lard and pork are very cold.

Prepare the chiles: remove seeds and stems and toast on a griddle or cast iron pan until they're dry and brittle but not burnt. If using dried chiles (I did) the weights will vary (generally be less) from the recipe and you'll need to adjust. But be careful, you can easily make the results too spicy for human consumption if you're not careful. Set aside to cool.

Once chiles are cooled, put them in a blender with remaining ingredients (except pork and lard) and grind to a lumpy paste.

Dice the pork into cubes (around .5 - .75") Toss with spice mixture. Add lard and grind or mince with food processor. You can ground it as finely as you like - it's going to end up looking like dog food, but smelling delicious. I like mine only coursely ground, but thoroughly mixed.

It's best if you keep them in the fridge for a day before cooking to give the mix time to thoroughly absorb the flavors. Cook with eggs, serve with tortillas. However you like your chorizo. You can portion out the mix and freeze for several months and still enjoy.

This is the stuff that makes mouths happy. And think of how freaking impressed your friends will be when you tell them you made it from scratch!