Tuesday, January 04, 2011

doin’ that crazy hambone

recently decanted cherry heering

Yawn. Oh, hi. Yup, I know, welcome to 2011, a whole new bright untarnished year rolling out in front of us, ready to be marred, patterned, designed, pleated, planted, cooked, harvested and, finally, composted..

But wouldn’t it make more sense for New Year’s to be celebrated on Winter Solstice, or on Spring’s, for that matter? The beginning of lengthening light or the beginning of the planting season? A localvore would never have chosen January 1 as the New Year. It’s arbitrary. A simple matter of paper. Just because January is when the Gregorian calendar makes the months begin anew. So it is literally if not intuitively the New Year. Oh well – gave us a chance to fill the still-dark season with yet more mindless and desperate gaiety. To be gay! ‘Tis devoutly to be wisht! And, truth be told, we do feel the beginning of something after the holidays, if only the need to sort out the detritus of the last twelve months and begin organizing for the next dozen.

Bah. It's enough to drive you to drink!

In the meantime, if you are like me, you are feeling a little tender, having been dumped into these new days that are not noticeably lighter longer. We’re in need of some quiet and simple kitchen time, and there IS that hambone.  Hambone, hambone, where have  you been? I sing as I dig that juicy thing out of the fridge.

Been all around the world and back again, it says to me in a gristly voice.

Well, that was surprising! My eyes flicker from side to side: hope no one heard. From the timbre of that voice looks like it’d rather be swimming with some collard greens and beans, but I intend to turn it into split pea soup. With dumplings.

But first have a cherry. Because this afternoon I decanted the Cherry Heering* that I started steeping last July with those sour cherries from Champlain Orchards. I’d decided to take the cherries to a party tonight as a snack, and I couldn’t resist trying them. Let’s have another one while we get busy on that soup. They’re so small they can’t do much harm, can they?

Okay then. Big pan, hambone in it, cover with water, about 2 1/2 quarts, drop a bay leaf into it, cover atilt, over high heat until it begins to spatter, then turn it to a low medium and let it simmer away for an hour or so.

Once you’ve got the hambone over the heat, chop up a fairly large onion and a clove of garlic. Cut the onion in half and then slice each half thinly, sprinkle the slices with some coarse salt and chop them fine.

We’re singing now: Hambone, Hambone where did you go?/ I hopped up to Miss Lucy's door. Where. Is this coming from? In any case, add the onions to the simmering hambone and have another cherry.

Then , measure out 3 cups of split peas, rinse them a couple of times and leave them to soak in water to cover. Sing: I asked Miss Lucy would she marry me? Make her say back, Well I don't care if Papa don't care! Roll your eyes like you were young Miss Lucy. Hambone. Hambone.

When the hambone has simmered for an hour to an hour and a half, and the meat separates easily from the bone, lift it out of the broth with some tongs and put it on a plate to cool. Drain the split peas and add them to the broth. And GIT your hands out of those cherries. Keep those peas and broth simmering.

Now. Scrape or scrub a large carrot and a medium-sized potato and make very small squares out of them. We will call them a brunoise. Now do the same with a stalk of celery and be sure to include the leaves. Very small squares, like quarter inch squares.

When you’re making squares out of oblong things like potatoes and carrots, take a thin slice off of one long side to give you a level resting edge; cut in quarter inch slices, then stack the slices and cut them into quarter inch logs, then stack the logs and cut them crosswise into quarter inch squares.

Those of you who already know how to cut a brunoise? Please bear with me. Here, make yourself comfortable. Have another cherry. Oh, what’d I do with them. Mm, I put ‘em away. Here, the dangerous part’s done. Have another.

Check the peas and broth. Add water if it’s too thick. Take the meat from the hambone, chop it up and put it back into the soup.

When the peas begin to lose their shape, after about 45 minutes, and when you taste one it’s al dente or just chewy in the center, drain the brunoise and add it to the pot. And while you tasted, did it need more salt? Add it, and some ground pepper, too. Want a little curry in there? Now’s the time. I’ll add a teaspoon of 5-Spice powder. Doin’ that Crazy Hambone.

Now for the dumplings. Break an egg into a small bowl, shmear it up with a fork, and sprinkle in some flour and stir it in with the fork. Add more and stir and more and stir, until you have a thick paste as for pasta. When the dough won’t incorporate any more flour, then take this up in your hands and knead it, dipping your hands in flour to ward off the stickiness, and when you have a smooth, non-sticky ball of dough flatten it out on a board or counter until it’s about, oh, a third of an inch thick reaching towards a half.  Cut into small squares. These little pillows will probably still be clinging to each other, so take up a hambone, er, ah, a handful, and pinch them into the bubbling soup. They’ll take 15 to 20 minutes to cook and then you can serve it up.
Pass me those cherries, would you? What? They’re all gone? Well, that’s okay. I don’t give diddley...Bo Diddley, of course... Let me just pour us a little bit of this Cherry Heering now.

Hambone, Hambone, where you been? ’Round the world and goin’ again!

Here’s to a jazzy Year!

*Cherry Heering -- cover 2 quarts of pitted sour cherries (save the pits) with 1 cup of sugar and a couple quarts of rum. Or vodka. Put the pits in some cheesecloth and put them to steep with the cherries. Cover and put aside until winter. Be careful!

No comments: