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FORGOTTEN SKILLS OF COOKING by Darina Allen [Book Review & CO Radio/TV]

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Cork Graham

In 1972, I arrived in Singapore to attend the Singapore American School and soon after was introduced to a documentary film, called Future Shock, based on a book by Alvin Toffler and narrated by Orson Welles which was taking the US by storm. As a child, it totally freaked me out….perhaps one of the reasons I avoided computers until I could avoid them no longer. At that time there was also a large movement to get back to basics.

It revealed itself in the very large “Ecology” movement of the 1970s (remember the riff on the American flag, in green with the Greek letter ‘Theta’ where the stars and blue background would have been?), and publications like The Foxfire Books, a collection of stories detailing life in Southern Appalachia. I still have my father’s copies that he picked up on visits back to the States. It’s full of information on woodcraft and pre-supermarket self-reliance. They even showed how to properly scald a pig, which I used in this episode of Cork’s Outdoor TV on roasting a pig.

I’m reminded greatly of the back-to-basics movement of the 1970s, by these latest “slow food” and “green food” movements recorded by Michael Pollan and Paul Bertolli. What could be better than eating food that led to a slower and more relaxed society? But, so much information has been lost due to the increasing lack of family histories and traditions being handed down through live practice, i.e. on a farm or ranch. So many generations have moved off the land and into cities. Nowadays, most slow food information is that carried into the US by new immigrants from Asia and Latin America.

This is a pity as there was a lot of slow food information held in the family lines that came here from Northern Europe. In March of this year, I had the opportunity to complete a phone interview for Cork’s Outdoors Radio with one such food authority on her latest book on getting back to the basics (be sure to listen to the audio and watch the show below).

Darina Allen is noted as the “Julia Child of Ireland” and has been entertaining and educating on the subject of cooking in Ireland and the United Kingdom through her TV show and a collection of books. Her latest book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time Honored Ways are The Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why, is that treasure trove of not only Irish, British, and foods from other parts of the world, like Italian slow food recipes, but also articles and remedies for raising your own chickens for meat and eggs, how to properly butcher large farm animals like pigs, cattle and lambs.

It’s a gorgeous book, with photos that took all the seasons to create, evidenced by plants in bloom, and the foods in season. It’s all about being seasonal, Allen says, something clear in how she describes not only those foods that are collected on the farm, but also on a day’s walk in the woods gathering such morsels for the kitchen as nettles, mushrooms and a number of herbs, leafy greens, and berries.

Both land and water are covered, with foraging rewards, like limpets that are easily found in the Americas, and are cooked in a number of dishes that incorporate the bounty of the farm and field.

Though spending a lot of time reading through the scrumptious recipes that anyone would easily take a few years preparing all the scrumptious family meals using organic ingredients (either purchased or foraged): pies, breads, puddings, roasts and grilled fishes, I was keen on the game and fish sections.

Hare, venison, duck and goose are covered well, both as farm offerings and from the marsh, and of course the obligatory pheasant, but I’d done enough pheasant recipes lately, so I quickly focused on the basil cream rabbit recipe. It was the very cottontail taken with a .22 pellet rifle from Crosman. Who would have thought the hardest part for this recipe was to get the caul fat: Thank God for Dittmer’s in Mountain View, CA!

Watch the preparation and presentation on Cork’s Outdoors TV and return for the recipe below:

SADDLE OF RABBIT WITH CREAM, BASIL, AND CARAMELIZED SHALLOTS

reprinted with permission from the publisher, KYLE BOOKS

SERVES 6

6 saddle of rabbit (use the legs for confit)

4oz pork caul fat

salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

23 cup dry white wine

23 cup Chicken Stock

23 cup cream

2oz basil leaves

Caramelized Shallots (see below)

 Steps:

  1. Trim the flap of each saddle, if necessary (use in stock or pâté).
  2. Remove the membrane and sinews from the back of the saddles
  3. with a small knife.
  4. Wrap each saddle loosely in pork caul fat.
  5. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rabbit pieces in a stainless steel or heavy roasting pan and roast for 8–12 minutes, depending on size.
  7. Remove from the oven, cover, and allow to rest.
  8. Degrease the pan if necessary, and put the wine to reduce in the roasting pan.
  9. Reduce by half over medium heat, add the chicken stock, and continue to reduce.
  10. Add the cream.
  11. Bring to a boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and add lots of snipped basil.
  12. Serve the rabbit with the basil sauce, caramelized shallots, boiled new potatoes, and a good green salad.

 

CARAMELIZED SHALLOTS

1lb shallots, peeled

4 tablespoons butter

12 cup water

1–2 tablespoons sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper

 Steps:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan, and add the peeled shallots.
  2. Cover and cook on a gentle heat for about 10–15 minutes or until the shallots are soft and juicy.
  3. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Allow the juices to evaporate and caramelize. Be careful not to let them burn.

For more information on Darina Allen’s cooking school in Ireland, check out her school’s website: Ballymaloe Cookery School

 

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Darina Allen’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

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THE ULTIMATE SNIPER by Maj. John L. Plaster USAR (ret.) [Book Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Cork Graham

You may be asking what a review on a sniper instructional book is doing in an outdoors magazine dedicated to effective wildlife conservation practices and game and fish cooking. What you might be missing is how the path of hunter to sniper has returned to hunter in the last ten years. It’s evident in the camouflage and even the equipment being used in the hunting community.

Hunter, Sniper, Hunter

Major Plaster uses the phrase “Close to the Earth” to describe that quality about the best snipers from around the world. This refers to the fact that almost all the best snipers, certainly the most recognized, had younger years based in the country, with a solid hunting background. Whether Russian snipers who hunted wolves in Siberia, or Austrailians who shot kangaroos, or American snipers who were raised hunting elk, deer and squirrels, all the highly regarded snipers had a solid background learning woodcraft in their youth.

How does this pertain to you, the hunter, just trying to do better in field? A lot!

In the last twenty years, the hunting community has benefited greatly by the equipment that has been developed for the sniping community. Previously, it was the sniping community that benefited most from what the hunting community provided. There’s this cycle that seems to have come completely around, where techniques and equipment gained through hunting were brought to the sniper schools of past: and now, the equipment and knowledge that is used in sniping has come full circle back to hunting…and anything you can do to be that more efficient in taking your game, lessening the chances of crippling or loss, is a level of effectiveness to reach for–good wildlife management and conservation practices demand it.

One of the easiest ties to recognize are the camouflage improvements to hunting clothing, advances in the military that were picked up and improved upon in the hunting community. There are also the improvements in rifles that make it almost a foregone conclusion that if you’re purchasing a new bolt-action rifle from a reputable manufacturer, you can pretty much expect it to shoot under 1 MOA.

A review of writings by Jack O’Connor would quickly tell you that in the 1930s and before WWII a rifle that shot 1.5 MOA was pretty good. And we’re not even talking yet about shooting technique and optics, of which the improvements in binoculars and laser rangefinders has been amazing! Sometimes snipers can even make good optical equipment purchases  through the civilian hunting market because the advances have come so fast in this hunter focused market—driven by a market that wants the best and has the money to pay for it.

And let’s not forget those skills taught snipers that every hunter can benefit from knowing and practicing: attention to detail, personal and environmental awareness; and  rifle, optics, and cartridge knowledge, and finally, but never least important–marksmanship.

The Ultimate Sniper

Of all the books out there, that takes a reader from the most basic skills to the most advanced, the latest updated and expanded the 2006 release of The Ultimate Sniper rises to the top. A large book with 573 pages, everyone of them worthwhile. It was written and compiled by sniper instructor and lecturer Major John L. Plaster, USAR (ret.), whose prior experience with MACV SOG in Indochina and starting a number of highly regarded sniper schools, are well-known.

Even though the sniper’s instructional tome is directed toward military and law enforcement snipers, there is so much information that applies to your hunting improvement. Here are just  few of what  The Ultimate Sniper covers.

Basic and Advanced Marksmanship

If only these sections were taught to everyone who picks up a rifle. In the basic section, Plaster writes about sniper attitude, proper sight picture, shooting positions and breath control, and one shot sighting in. With the advent of the Caldwell Lead Sled, I’ve found this to be one of the easiest to perform.

When Plaster gets to the advanced marksmanship techniques, there’s information in there that will improve your shooting skills immensely.

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I’ve lost count of how many hunters I’ve seen miss because they just brought their rifles up and fired off-hand. How much more venison would have ended up in a hunter’s meatlocker had they used a better shooting rest?

A sniper is always aware of the best shooting position, always on the lookout for the rifle rest. This can be as simple as shucking a backpack and dropping it down the ground to lay the rifle over (one of my favorites if the ground permits) or dropping to a sitting position—many drop to a knee, when a sitting position is much more stable…

Bring shooting sticks with you. Plaster shows you how to make your own. You can make them long or short. I carry a foot-long tripod made with wooden dowels in my hunting pack, and also carry a set of Predator-styx slung across my shoulder with a thin bungee cord. At a moments notice, you’ll have a much better shooting rest than an offhand shot could ever be.

That’s not to say I won’t take a quick shot at something close in the brush, or even running from an offhand position. But, it takes a lot of practice to do what is called “snap shooting.” Major Plaster co-produced and hosted an excellent video called The Ultimate Rifleman, which was directed specifically toward the hunter, and where he taught how best to prepare for a running shot on big-game. If you happen to find an old copy, snatch it up—you can find quite a bit of that type of information in the The Ultimate Sniper DVD that Major Plaster still produces.

Excellent skills deteriorate rapidly…if you come away from these sections on marksmanship with only one thought, it should at least be: practice, practice, practice!

Breath and Squeeze

The art of marksmanship is covered in great detail and every hunter will be well-served by rereading the sections dedicated to the integrated act of shooting. Using a chart and graph, Plaster reveals major components of excellent marksmanship: breathing, and trigger control, integrated with good body position and scope picture.

Like in archery, shooting a rifle requires follow through. If we all had to hunt with flintlocks like our ancestors, the importance of follow-through would be that much more apparent to the average shooter. Keep your eye on the target, sights on the desired bullet impact point, and a solid stockweld.

Know Your Round

One of the best things you can do toward improving your shooting skills is knowing what your bullet does in flight. I do this two ways, actually going to the range and shooting at 25 yard increments out to 600 yards with my hunting loads. Also, I use my ballistic software (I have copy of the Nightforce Ballistic Program that has a collection of factory rounds cataloged and the ability to type in values from a chronograph) to get a pretty good idea of travel of my bullets in their arch. I sight most of my rifles in at 1.5 inches high at 100 yards. If I run across a really close buck and want to shoot it in the neck, I aim a bit lower…little adjustments that can make a great difference when you know what your bullet’s doing in its travel.

BLACKHAWK!®’s Pro Marksman Folding Ammo Pouch with two windows for checking your dope before your shot, along with the sliderule style Mildot Master.

Expanded Awareness

Kim’s is a game that was first described in the story Kim, written by Rudyard Kipling. It’s a game that was taught to Kim when he was being trained to spy. It’s a game in a variety of forms that’s taught to spies and snipers and anyone involved in intelligence gathering. Its purpose is to improve memory skills. Attention to detail is also covered in it, which to a hunter is very useful.

Plaster has included a sniper’s version of the Where’s Waldo visual puzzle. I suggest using the Where’s Ivan as an example and sketch a herd of deer with a small buck and medium-sized buck and monster buck scattered within the herd. Then, give time limits to you and your friends to pick out bucks, and then try remembering where exactly they are in relation to the rest of the deer in the group.

Then, when you’re out in the field, scan for deer and remember what qualities there are in deer, or whatever your prey–what makes them stand out against the landscape? During archery season, and early rifle seasons, in the West, this is easy, as the red-brown and light brown hides of deer really stand out on green grass and foliage. Against the snows of winter, or the dry brown grass, a deer’s darker winter hide really stands out.

Train your subconscious to pick out inconsistencies. One of the best sighting techniques I was taught as a teen was to look for horizontal lines. Aside from the horizon, Nature normally stretches out in vertical lines, tree trunks rising to the sun, and hillsides washing downhill. When you see horizontal lines on a hillside, like the back of a deer, cougar, pig, elk, bear, or cow, it’s very apparent when you’re looking for it!  And how many of us have looked at a group of rocks, suddenly seen one of them shapeshift into a wild boar on the hoof, before running off? Pay attention…and use your optics!

Wind and Range

One of the most confusing for many hunters is estimating for wind and range. There are so many things in the environment that because of size, position, and distance can drastically effect a hunter’s ability to estimate distance: inclines, declines, objects much larger than your target. They’re all covered in this section of the The Ultimate Sniper.

And you might be surprised how much wind can effect your bullet even at ranges under 400 yards…but I’ll leave that to the reading.

Close to the Earth

One of the most important points to take is that about how the best snipers had a connection to the earth that went way back to their childhoods. From all parts of the world that has turned out some of the most impressive snipers (Australia, Scotland, Russia and the US) most of them had a hunting and woodcraft background that started in childhood. Close to the earth has relevance in a number ways. It’s the background of snipers, like Vasili Zaitsev (hunted wolves and wild boar in Siberia), Chuck Mawhinney (hunted elk and deer back in Oregon) and Carlos Hathcock (hunted squirrels and other game for the table), all well-grounded in a youth of hunting and learning wood craft. It’s the deep inner knowledge of how we are related to the earth, how we standout, and how we can blend in with this earth.

It’s also the level of awareness that almost seems psychic in its ability to detect and enable a sniper to be two or three moves ahead of the target. It’s almost innate in someone who was introduced to firearms as a hunter, as compared to just a competition shooter. Remember that the German sniping instructor sent by Hitler to hunt down Zaitsev was better equipped, but Zaitsev relied on his “cunning” as the Germans liked to comment, and is carried in the Soviet sniper’s motto: “While invisible, I see and destroy.”

Major Plaster puts forward a hypothesis that the reason there were hardly any well-trained snipers in the Iraqi Army during what would have been a great environment for snipers, the trench warfare during the Iraq-Iran War, goes out without a blip because an Arab society that historically had a reputation for longrange shots, was by modern times devoid of them because of an enmasse move of the hinterland population into urban areas–like in so many other parts of the world. They basically lost cultural skills instilled and developed through years of pre-service experience in the country.

By improving your woodcraft as a hunter, you will increase the number of successes while hunting. Every hunter would be best aided by reading the chapter on stalking and movement. Addressing “The Wall of Green” as the author calls it, is most often hard for new and experienced hunters: much like a stream fisherman who fishes an ocean coast for the first time and doesn’t know how to read the coastline for fish. It’s overcoming this, using the scanning tactics described by Plaster, that has led me to shoot a number of deer and feral pigs in their beds. You can see an example of this, when I’m picking out a wild boar that is only 10 yards away from me in deep brush in this episode of Cork’s Outdoor TV.

If you’ve ever had failures sneaking up on those open-land antelope in Wyoming and Arizona, the section on stalking will be very helpful.

Get The Ultimate Sniper, read it, apply the techniques, read it again and see how you might improve or modify the information for your own environment…no matter your present level, I’d be surprised if your skills didn’t improve—and get out there and practice, practice, practice!

Get your copy here:


Tips and Techniques directly from the Master

Major John Plaster is well represented on two websites. As an advisor at Millet Sights, he has written a number of articles to help the shooter. He has his own http://ultimatesniper.com, where he offers his books and has a shipload of information, not the least of which are pdf scans of historical books going back to mid-1800 printings about sniping. In the following broadcast of Cork’s Outdoor Radio we talk about some of the tips. This one would be helpful to a lot of hunters by helping undersand what your bullet can and can’t do—even if you can shoot that far, depending on what cartridge you’re using, you might not want to based on the information in this brief: TERMINAL BALLISTICS

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy MAJ John L.  Plaster’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

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Julia Child’s “Ours Bourguignon” (Bear Bourguignon)

Posted on 02 August 2010 by Cork Graham

In 1943, while working for the OSS in London, Julia McWilliams was introduced, by her boss “Wild Bill” Donovan, to James Corbett, a spitfire pilot in the RCAF. It would become a longtime friendship lasting until her death in 2004. When they went out to dinner, Corbett frequently regaled her with tales of his home near Calgary, and the big elk, moose and deer that were in the woods near his home. Most of all, he recommended she come out and enjoy the wilds of Canada.

Eighteen years had passed and McWilliams finally accepted Corbett’s invitation. By this time they had both married, and McWilliams was now arriving at Calgary Airport with her husband Paul Child. For dinner that night, Corbett’s wife Michelle, a French-Canadian native of Quebec prepared a spin on her family’s favorite dish, using the black bear James Corbett had taken only a few days before. It reminded Julia Child of Boeuf Bourguignon she had just perfected while finishing the compilation of her soon to be released Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

…Ah, if only it happened like this!

Quite an adventurous lady—Julia was actually hoping to jump into WWII France with OSS agents, but instead was made a top researcher directly under “The Father of Central Intelligence” General Donovan—I’m sure Child would have much enjoyed this spin on what would become her boeuf bourguignon. There was a Colonel James “Jim” Corbett, but he was more famous for wildlife conservation and hunting man-eating tigers for the Raj and the British Colonial Government in India (his first tiger had 436 confirmed kills through his belly before Corbett got him): he also was neither a pilot, nor a Canadian, and though quite a writer in his own right (check out Man-Eaters of Kumaon) I don’t think he ever met Julia, and died just six years before the release of the book that would open a whole new career to her.

These were the just mental machinations of a writer working on his first novel, delirious under the flu (though not as badly as when I’ve had malaria and the relapses…but that’s another story), and a heartily enjoyed bowl of Ours Bourguignon. I think it blows away any bourguignon made with common beef.

This dish was instigated by my running across our family’s 1970 copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that Child co-authored with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, and my French-Basque hunting buddy Arnaud Bidondo giving me a pound of stew meat from a nice brown-phase, 6-foot black bear he got last year.

When I went through Child’s boeuf bourguignon recipe, though, I noticed she really only mentions thyme and a bay leaf as spice other than black pepper. Also, there’s only salt bacon. I wondered what would happen if you used Herbs de Provence. Standardized in the 1970s as a dried herb mixture from Provence (savory, thyme, basil, fennel) it also incorporated for American tastes, lavender. As my colleague, Hank Shaw says, brandy goes well with lavender, and after having tried it with so many other recipes, I can honestly say that just about everything goes well with lavender, especially sweet meats, of which bear can be, and especially so in California, where many bear taken by hunters without hounds are during the early part of the season, when the black bears have been fattening up on blackberries and mazanita berries.

As my friend Bidondo says, “many like to grill the bear meat, which is okay with the smaller bear, but when they are this big, much better in a stew!”

I wanted something that didn’t take as long to make as the original recipe, and would be simply amazing…So here’s my rendition of Julia Child’s Boeuf Á La Bourguignon, with ours replacing boeuf—Bon Apetit!

NOTE: Unlike venison, remember to cook all bear meat through, like pork, because of the possibility of trichinosis.

Nothing wilder than, and as robust as black bear meat!

 

Ours Bourguignon/Ours Á La Bourguignon

Ingredients :

1-2 lbs of bear stew meat

1 tbsp olive oil

1 chopped carrot

1 chopped onion

1 tbsp flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp Herbs de Provence

1 bay leaf

3 cups of red wine ( Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink: I used Francis Ford Coppola’s 2005 Claret [Cabernet Sauvignon])

1 can of Campbell’s beef consommé

1 tbsp of tomato paste

¼ lb of applewood smoked sliced bacon

18-24 small white onions

1 lb of fresh mushrooms sautéed in butter

1 tbsp chopped parsley

¼ cup of butter.

Render that bacon fat

 

Steps :

  1. Take a cassoulet or clay pot ( I prefer to use a large Vietnamese/Chinese clay pot that go for only $9 in San Francisco’s Chinatown—just before using make sure you soak it in cold water for at least 45 minutes, else it’ll crack, especially if using it for the first time).
  2. Cut the bacon strips into tiny squares, and fry them in the olive oil clay pot.
  3. Render out all the bacon fat, setting aside the brown bacon bits.
  4. Brown the bear stew meat, frying only a few pieces at a time to make sure they brown instead of cook, setting browned bear meat with the brown bacon bits.
  5. With all the bear meat browned, sprinkle the flour, salt and black pepper on top and toss the meat and bacon to make sure they’re all lightly coated.
  6. Toss the chopped onions and carrots into the claypot and sweat them until the onions are almost translucent.
  7. Pour in the 3 cups of red wine and scrape off as much of the brown goodness that has stuck the bottom of the clay pot.
  8. Add the can of beef consommé and dissolve the tbsp of tomato paste in the pot; then add the browned bear meat, bacon bits, and the spices and give a good stir.
  9. Here’s where you a lot of leeway with a claypot. You can either put it in the oven at 325-degrees Fahrenheit. NOTE: DO NOT preheat an oven for a clay pot—you’ll crack the pot! Just insert the clay pot and turn the heat on the desired degree.
  10. Or, do as I did. Put it on the stove on high heat and get the bourguignon boiling, then back off to medium heat and cover to simmer for the next 3-4 hours: until the bear meat is fork-tender.
  11. In the last 45 minutes, pour in the small white onions.
  12. During the last 15 minutes add the butter-fried mushrooms, giving a slow stir.

Clay pots are a chef’s Swiss Army knife

 

Serving suggestions:

Bear Bourguignon is really that good!


Display the clay pot at the center of the table, on a wood or cloth pot holder (never a cold stone, else the immediate temperature shift will crack the clay pot). Remove the bay leaf and throw it away.

Serve over mash potatoes,  wide, flat egg noodles, or with a side of small peeled potatoes. If you do serve with noodles, use only butter on the noodles. I tried coating the egg noodles with olive oil and it really overpowered the delicious flavor of the ours bourguignon.

Sprinkle chopped parsley lightly on the side and ours bourguignon.

Note for the Conservation Minded:

With how many more black bears there are in California than legal bucks (largely due to an overpopulation of major predators like bears and mountain lions, but more because of the counterproductive moratorium on hunting the heavily overpopulated California puma), it behooves every hunter to get a black bear tag to hunt in open areas. This is  especially so with how much opportunity there is these days, with new open areas in the Southern/Santa Barbara County section of Los Padres National Forest. Guess the millionaire residents in Santa Barbara have finally gotten fed up with black bears jumping in their mansion pools and munching on their fruit trees.

And because those bears have been getting enormous on avocados, you’ll get that much more meat for the freezer! Hopefully with this recipe you’ll learn that even a big old black bear can be just as tasty and tender as a smaller one: You just have to cook it right…

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