Tuesday, January 4, 2011


As some of our faithful readers may recall, our Frenchie farm chores began with apples. Lots... and lots... and lots of apples. We spent many days gathering huge bags of them, and we're not talking your average "afternoon apple-picking in the pretty little orchard." With the hundreds (maybe even close to a thousand) of apples, we sorted them into three piles: the gnarliest ones for the pigs, the prettiest ones for us in the winter (feel free to refer back to our apple butter & tarte tatin posts), and the middle of the road apples were perfect for... schnapps!

Owen demonstrates grinding all the apples into mooshy appley chunks.

This is what they looked like after grinding & fermenting - mmmm, appetizing. We filled about 4 barrels full of the chunks, Gabriel added roughly 5 pounds of sugar per barrel, and then they sat in the sealed barrels for 5 months.

After 5 months, we had to go into town to officially rent the gold metal piece seen below. By "checking out" this piece as you would a library card, you must return it by a certain time. This way, the goverment can keep an eye out for people abusing the system to sell (or drink) too much booze illegally.

This is the distiller. The yellow hose ran all the way back to the barn for running water.

On the left is the copper still used to cook the apples, attached to the distiller. The copper pipe that attaches the two captures the steam & alcohol coming off of the fermented apples. You can see the spout at the bottom of the distiller where the alcohol would drip out.

Michel cleans out the copper still in preparation for the fermented apples.

Now, the real work happens! Gabriel stirs the pot while Michel feeds the furnace below with old grapevines from his vineyard.

Gabriel is showing us this copper piece that is inserted directly down into the distiller. The distiller is filled with cold water, which quickly cools the alcoholic steam as it drips down coil by coil. This helps to concentrate the alcohol.

Michel uses this instrument to gage the alcohol content of the schnapps. The process is continued until its alcohol content reaches 45% (a.k.a. 90proof).
The drip of sweet, sweet schnappy nectar.

Back inside, Michel is making the final adjustments to the schnapps...

... a.k.a. adding a little more water because it was too alcoholic.

And we all get to try the finished product! Sante!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Frogs Legs & Fromage de TĂȘte

As spring approached and the ice and snow melted, we found a couple of new faces lurking around our little pond. A random truck would arrive and two men would trek to the pond, nets and buckets in hand. We found out that we were letting them go "fishing" for frogs - they got to keep the big ones to sell (under the table, of course), and gave us a couple of bags-full of the little guys for our own munching.
The first step was letting them rinse thoroughly. As you can see here, the frog-poachers just gave us the frogs from the waist-down.
We spread out the legs on a tray and lightly coated them with flour, salt, & pepper.

Next, a quick fry in some oil (I think vegetable oil was what we had on hand):

And voila! Top with a little freshly-squeezed lemon juicy and you've got yourself some tasty little crunchy finger foods. It proved to be a lot of hard work to pick off such a small amount of meat, but it's not every day that you get to eat fresh frogs' legs for lunch!

Around that same time, we slaughtered a couple more pigs to sell. Owen decided to give a try making head cheese out of the leftover head. Some people may think this post is gross, but we think it's downright delicious. Head cheese is simply a terrine or mold made out of the meat from the pig's head, picked off, set with gelatin.

Perfectly planned prep: leeks, carrots, garlic, onions, bay leaf & peppercorns:

The head! Gross. Not really. Well, kind of. Split in half, along with the feet, and cooked in water until tender.

Looks like a Top Chef Relay:

Skimming the Skum:

Here is the head, fully cooked. Can you find the teeth? Yum! We decided to leave the teeth out of the head cheese.

Owen picks off the meat:
Cutting up all the meat - the tougher pieces get more finely chopped, and the larger pieces are the tender ones.
Reducing the water that we cooked the head in forms a natural gelatin. We mixed together this liquid with all of the above ingredients and separated into these bowls - made a lot of head cheese! Traditionally, you would use a terrine mold, but we didn't have one, so this worked well. Put in the fridge to set!
The finished product (flipped upside down out of the bowl). Spread on some bread with a little whole grain mustard and you're in pig heaven!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mittelbergheim, Shmittelbergheim!

A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to tag along to a street fair of sorts in Mittelbergheim, a small Alsatian town on the wine route. Very old, lots of history, lots of wine. Our friend Michel lives there in a house that was built in in the 17th century, and has been in his family since that time. For the festival, various business and homes opened their doors for tours and the selling of various crafts and food/beverage. We set up shop in Michel's outdoor garage, along with friends and a few horses. The weather was quite cold and dreary, but we had a great time exploring the town. Here are some pictures from our day!

Friends arrive via horseback:

Emmanuelle gets served lunch - a traditional Alsatian dish called Baeckeoffe - a baked stew with a variety of meats (mostly pork) and vegetables like carrots & potatoes. Add a nonstop flow of wine (Michel owns his own vineyard, as many home-owners do in this area), and you've got yourself a helluva lunch!

Gabriel and Melina chow down while listening to an intriguing conversation... at least, I think it was intriguing. Our small knowledge of French was practically useless here - most folks were speaking German or traditional Alsatian (a German-French hybrid).

Some photos Owen took after lunch while we walked around the town...

This horse was getting a manicure.A very large and very old grape press.
An "American Country Line Dancing" group! Complete with horrid country music!

Above, people transformed their caves into displays for local artists. Below, a family demonstrates making ceramic sculptures.

In Michel's hundreds-of-years-old garage/attic. I did not want my picture taken. Plus, it was scary up there.

Above - my new buddy. Below - a totally sweet ride.
If you look closely, you'll see the inscription above the door with the year the house was built.

I know we have seriously fallen behind in our blog-posting, but we are still experiencing some difficulty making sure that our older posts that have been modified for confidentiality get updated in various search engines' cache archives. Wow, that was a lot of technical mumbo jumbo! Regardless, I'll be posting shortly with Owen's attempts (and successes!) at making frog's legs (from our very own pond) and fromage de tete (from our very own pig). The Schnapps- and cheese-making posts *might* have to wait until our return. Keep your eyes peeled... and we'll see many of you very soon - just two more weeks until our triumphant return to the States!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fist Pumping in Strasbourg

Wow! Hard to believe that it has been 5 weeks since we've been off the farm. But our new friends Line (who used to work on the farm) and her boyfriend, Sebastian, invited us to stay a night at their flat in Strasbourg. They live right across the river from the Cathedral, and directly above the delicious restaurant we dined that evening, "Gavroche." It turned out to be, thus far, our favorite meal in France! Side Note: We definitely owe our adoring fans some more blog posts - about making Schnapps and cheese - but we are currently waiting for the search engines online to update their caches. In order to protect the confidentiality of the farm, we have removed the name from all of our entries. Unfortunately, the interwebs aren't as up-to-date as one might believe, and the blog still appears when "google"-ing the name of the farm. If anyone has any suggestions as to how to fix this, please let us know! Otherwise, we just have to wait for who-knows-how-long before we can post the juicy stuff publicly.

Warm potato bread, creamy butter.

Complimentary amuse bouche (from the left to the right): "baked potato soup"! - hot potato veloute with creme fraiche, scallion, and bacon; fois gras brulee with caramel crisp (HEAVENLY, I could have eaten 12 of these little plates); crispy choucroute (fried light & fluffy dough with saurkraut inside)

**At this point in the meal, we had meant to split a plate of seared fois gras with bacon and poppyseeds. The chef is friends with Line and Seb, and sent us EACH a plate of the livery glory. We ate it too fast for me to take a picture. Owen thought the flavors reminded him of a Whopper. I think that's degrading.**

O & I ordered the same appetizer: seared sea scallops with bresaola (kind of like proscuitto, but leaner) and chorizo sauce/broth/foam/whatever is the coolest thing to call it these days.

Line & Seb also ordered the same appetizer - big 'ole grilled prawns with some finely chopped veggies and a lemongrass froth.

Dinner - this is what Line & Seb ordered: Roasted lamb (saddle & loin) with fried polenta and artichokes barigoule. Looked amazing, but I'm still happy with our choice...

Bunny rabbit (it is near Easter, we just wanted to be sure to be seasonal)! Abso.eff-ing.lutely delicious. It was stuffed with mushrooms and something else. Potatoes, brussel sprouts (I could've popped a million of those little guys in my mouth, yum!)... the skin was crispy and the meat was succulent. And the sauce! The chef came out to speak with us a few times, and Owen (whose French is far surpassing mine - he really held his own in conversation! I'm so proud of that handsome man of mine) told him that the sign of a great chef is the sauce - and this truly was a magnificent sauce. Bravo!

So, how about a little cheese for dessert? How about TWELVE different kinds! The left row are goat/sheep cheeses (the top left was my fave of the whole plate, the one below it was O's). The middle and right row are all cow cheese, to be eaten in a certain order (which Owen did not follow because he's a cheater) - start on the bottom right, go up, turn left and go down and end with the bleu. All were quite delicious. I've never seen such a spread on a cheese plate.

**Another missed photo - Owen and I also split a chocolatey dessert that was, obviously, quite good as we devoured it before taking a picture.**

Here is a picture of Line & Seb's dessert - passion fruit panna cotta (in the tall skinny class), chocolate passion fruit cake, a slice of passion fruit, and a passion fruit milk shake. Excellent decision.

Now, what better way to end an evening full of gastronomical bliss than to head to the clubs, take some jagerbombs, and dance to some pretty terrible euro techno music?!
I have successfully taught Line the fist pump:

Order a bottle of vodka and a few red bulls? Obviously, one must set off fireworks to commemorate the occasion.

A store-front full of creepy brightly-colored gnomes that are giving us the middle finger. Owen reacts.

Good morning! These are traditional little cakes in the shape of lambs made for Easter. A delicious breakfast spread ensued.

After filling up on espresso and pastries, we hopped in the car for a "lovely" drive through the "wine route" of Alsace, to the town of Obernai. The weather wasn't the most beautiful we've seen, but it didn't rain! And Obernai is such a pretty spot!

We headed to the Robert Blanck winery for a quick tour and a few tastings. Alsatian Muscat is our new favorite.
This family has been making wine since 1732, and they have barrels that are that old still in use! Also, I made a new best friend:

Many thanks to Line & Sebastian for hosting us for an evening - we had a wonderful time! The four of us are trying to plan a trip to Baden-Baden, Germany before we leave, known for their hot springs (and perhaps a Casino?). More soon, we promise, and we'll see a lot of you quite soon!