It’s that time of year where the temperatures have plunged to the sub-zero range and taken us hostage indoors. There is not a lot going on around the farm and not a lot to write about either. I have wandered outside a few times with my camera looking for something interesting to take photos of, only to feel disappointed by the drab colors and lack of life everywhere I look. It exists in such contrast to spring and summer when this place is bursting with life and the possibilities seem endless.
Yesterday, I was standing at the kitchen sink after arriving home from driving my daughter to orchestra when I glanced up and noticed this pileated woodpecker out in the crabapple tree.
Ah! A sign of life!
I fumbled through my camera bag to get my new telephoto lens to snap some close-up pictures.
By the time I got the telephoto lens on the camera, I only had time for a few shots before he flew away back into the woods. I am disappointed that the pictures did not turn out very sharp. It was a good reminder to slow down, get the settings and focus right, and not rushing just to snap a picture.
Even though the pictures did not turn out that great, I was nonetheless thrilled to see this unique bird up close. They really are large birds, about the same size as a crow. I think they have a prehistoric look to them, maybe a bit like a pterodactyl.
And while I have trudged around outdoors recently in search of something interesting to photograph, it turns out that the remaining fruit on the crabapple tree right outside my kitchen window is providing some of the best winter subjects. Even better is that in the dead of winter, there are signs of life around here. You just have to be paying attention.
Hope it is warmer where you are.
Time has gotten away from me and I have not posted anything for a while. I had started this post shortly after my last post on the cold-smoked pork chops and am finally getting around to finishing it up.
So, anyhow, along with those garlic sage pork chops that we smoked a few weeks ago, we also threw some almonds and a block of sharp cheddar cheese in the smokehouse. We have tried smoking both in the past, but were disappointed with the overpowering smoke flavor.
This time around we smoked the cheese for about 1.5 hours and the almonds for about 2.5 hours. Once again, the cheese was still too smokey and overwhelming for my taste. I think we will cut back to an hour next time and see if that does the trick.
The almonds, however, turned out just perfect! Unlike commercially “smoked” nuts that are commonly flavored with liquid smoke, the smokey flavor of these almonds was fresh and subtle. You can see in the picture that we put them in a wire strainer basket to allow the smoke to circulate around the almonds.
After cold-smoking, we followed the recipe below to finish the flavoring process.
Spicy Smoked Almonds
- 1 pound unblanched raw smoked almonds
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 t. garlic powder
- 1 T. kosher salt finely ground (coarse salt doesn’t stick to the almonds very well)
- 2 t. chili powder
- 1 t. fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 deg F.
Combine the olive oil and seasonings, then mix in the almonds until they are well coated. Spread them evenly on a cookie sheet (one with sides works best).
Bake the coated almonds for 15 minutes stirring them a couple of times to roast them evenly. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheet.
When cool they should look dry and coated with the seasonings, and they are ready to serve with no chemical smoke flavoring!
We enjoyed snacking on them while sipping a robust red wine. Give them a try some time and enjoy!