Sunday, December 23, 2012
Homemade Clotted Cream... Yummy!
Over the years whenever my lovely wife has made scones (she has a wide assortment of them in her recipe box), we've usually enjoyed them with butter and jam.
However, a few weeks ago a British friend clued me into the fact that a proper English Cream Tea must have, at a minimum, scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. Butter, it seems, is strictly déclassé.
Since scones were already a staple in our home, and strawberry jam an easily obtainable commodity, I was left to ponder the not-so-yummy sounding 'clotted cream'.
Internet searches provided a little confusion since 'Clotted Cream' and 'Devon Cream' seem to be used both synonymously and as distinct product names.
I frequent an online forum that has a fairly large UK contingent, so I availed myself of their cultural familiarity to ask what I should be enjoying with my scones.
It turns out that a very un-scientific samplingof Brits agree that 'Clotted Cream' and 'Devon Cream' are essentially the same thing, but that, strictly speaking, Devon Cream should really come from Devon (or at least from cream provided by that region's hardy cows).
Once that was settled, I set about trying to find a local source for clotted cream. Yeah right!
It seems that the stuff is consumed in great quantities throughout the UK, but since it has a very short shelf life, it is hard to find abroad.
Any of you who have seen my annual homemade eggnog posts know where this is headed. Obviously, I had to find a recipe to make my own clotted cream at home.
I figured worst case scenario, I waste a couple of cups of cream... it doesn't clot, and I use whatever hasn't evaporated in my morning coffee. And the best case scenario meant I'd have clotted cream to put on my wife's yummy scones.
And yes, we have strawberry jam... to keep it old school.
It turns out, making clotted cream at home couldn't possibly be easier:
First, pick up a pint or two of unsweetened heavy whipping cream (38% fat content). The best is unpasteurized, but since that is almost impossible to find these days, the best you can do in most places is to buy pasteurized (but not ultra-pasteurized).
Pour the cream into a casserole dish, cover and place in the oven at 185 degrees F for 12 hours (many ovens shut off at 12 hours, so you can't really do much damage if you forget about it).
I put mine in the oven after dinner, and by the time I wake up, the oven has shut off and the cream has started to cool.
At this point you will notice a thick coating floating on top of the cream (kind of like the skin that forms on top of homemade puddings). That is the start of your clotted cream. Carefully place the covered dish containing the cream in the refrigerator and leave it for at least 6-8 hours.
At this point, uncover the dish and use a large spoon or spatula to carefuly remove the thick surface substance which is your clotted cream. Place in an empty condiment jar and keep refrigerated until ready for use.
The rest of the cream left in the dish which didn't clot can be poured into a container for you to enjoy with your coffee or tea (by this point it is probably no more than 10 - 15 %).
Here's how my first batch turned out:
If you can get past the name, clotted cream is really a treat. It is sweeter and creamier than butter, has complex caramel notes in the aftertaste, and when enjoyed on a fresh scone, with a dollop of strawberry jam on top... heaven!
Don't thank me... I'm a giver! :-)
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Will we answer silence with silence?
One of the things which begs explanation, if not outrage, is the near total silence from the so-called moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian 'street' in the face of Arab incitement and terror attacks.
I've often said that if anyone could point out a viable Palestinian 'Peace Camp' that was shown to be loudly and consistenatly condemning terror & incitement, and working to build bridges with Israel, I'd join the Israeli peace camp (of which there are several, actually) and work tirelessly to convince Israeli leaders to sit down and engage them.
Needless to say, nobody has been able to show me this mythical Palestinian 'Peace Camp', or any semblance of a strong, stable peace partner with whom we could safely negotiate peace.
But that doesn't mean that Israel can exempt itself from self-criticism and outrage at the behavior of extremists on our side of the fence.
So-called 'Price-Tag' attacks - acts of vandalism and terror allegedly carried out by Jewish settlers - have been a staple of the news here for the past few years. No doubt, there are Jewish extremists, and some have certainly been acting exactly as the media alleges. But so far, few if any have actually been caught red handed.
Additionally, many of the 'Price-Tag' attacks have been proven to be the work of Palestinians and their international supporters; designed to vilify Israel in general, and settlers in particular. Many videos have been captured of Palestinians and their supporters deliberately cutting down / uprooting their own olive trees in order to blame Jews, so I have to believe that with the easy availability of spray paint and gasoline, a portion of the vandalism and arson attributed to Jews is being carried out by others.
However, it is being reported today that three Israelis have been arrested for carrying out 'Price-Tag' attacks, and at least according to the news and police reports, the evidence seems quite compelling:
"The men – Aaron Sadigurky (21), Yehiel Lex (22) and Nathanael Kellerman (19) were arrested some two weeks ago for allegedly setting fire to a car in the village of Dhahiriya near Hebron and spraying graffiti on a mosque.
Not long after the wall of a mosque was desecrated, an IDF unit identified the perpetrators Subaru in a nearby village. The police then started trailing the vehicle, consequently linking it to the crime in Dhahiriya, where a cab was set on fire and a graffiti referencing to a rightwing activist – arrested for a different act of vandalism – was sprayed.
According to details revealed in the arraignment, Sadigurky, Lex and Kellerman were the subjects of a lengthy police investigation, as the car with which they were systematically vandalizing property was known to the police. The car, a red Subaru, had given the case the nickname "The Red Japanese," and is now key evidence in the case.
When intelligence information pertaining to the suspects' intention to harm Palestinians reached police forces in early December, a Central Control Unit force was sent after them and arrested them near Samua.
The force found flammable substances in the suspects' car, along with cans of spray-paint and fake weapons, apparently used for deterrence in case of need." [source]
Some of you may have read a news item last week about a 17 year old Palestinian being shot to death when he approached a Border Patrol post and brandished a weapon very similar to what was found in the car of the three suspects above. I consider that dead 17 year old Palestinian a terrorist and have no doubt that his own actions were to blame for his death.
By the same token, I consider these three Israelis to be terror suspects, and if proven guilty, I feel strongly that they should be sentenced as terrorists.
Incitement and terror carried out by extremists is a lopsided equation, to be sure, with Israel/Israelis being the victim in the vast majority of reported cases. But it is not a one-sided equation.
There are misguided, self-deluded people on the Jewish side, and it is up to everyone to show that, unlike the Palestinians, we Israelis are willing to shun, shame and condemn bad actors in our midst, and will not be silent in the face of something that threatens to extinguish any spark of hope for quiet... if not peace.
Monday, December 17, 2012
A note to a few high school friends
(You know who you are)
We went to school in Trumbull… twenty minutes from Newtown, Connecticut, during a more innocent time (although our parents might raise an eyebrow at that statement).
Fights were rare, and when they happened, they were fought with words, and sometimes fists. If any of us had touched a gun it was likely a BB gun or a .22 rifle for 'plinking' cans and bottles in the woods.
We used to drive up to Newtown in the summertime to swim, camp and occasionally water ski at Lake Lillinonah. We'd sometimes stop on the way up at a little shack called 'Ray's Liquor Locker' to get a cold sixpack or two… or we'd go to a quiet little towny bar near the town hall there where they didn't 'card' high school kids who wanted to share a pitcher of beer on a hot evening… so long as we minded our manners.
Now, my friends, we're all over 50, and have mostly forgotten about those summer trips up to Newtown.
At least until this past Friday, that is.
When I think back on Newtown of the late '70s, I think of quiet; of old trees and older houses… and a flagpole planted right in the middle of Main Street, letting all who visited know that patriotism is central to the town's self-identity.
Nearly every time I take my family back to the US for a visit, I make time to take a quiet ride by myself up to Newtown. I tell my wife (and myself) that it's to browse the consignment and antique shops (which, in part it is).
But I also like to drive alone through the leafy town and surrounding countryside because it is a rare chance to revisit an unspoiled setting of my youth that hasn't been paved over or developed into sprawling malls.
And it is a reminder of what small town New England is… or was.
It's funny, you know. We thought we understood everything back then; and that the grown-ups understood nothing.
It turns out we were right.
Because I'm a grown-up now… and I don't understand anything.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
A Work of Fiction
Despite what the opening sentence, below, may suggest, the following is a work of fiction... a fabrication... a flight of fancy... made up out of whole cloth. And the events described in this made-up story take place far in the past (i.e. 'Once upon a time...').
I offer this odd preamble to this post because, if this story were actually true, the events described in it would be actionable on several, not-so-pleasant levels. Clear enough? Good.
I killed a dog this morning.
No, I didn't hit it. But somebody sure did.
At around 6:15 I was riding my Vespa through an empty stretch of rolling desert landscape on my way to work when I came upon a big yellow dog writhing in agony near the center line of the road. As a life-long dog owner who was raised by a family of dog lovers, I guess I know a thing or two about dogs... and this one was in impossible agony.
The dog was either feral, or had been a stray for so long that it didn't have any sign of having ever been groomed or otherwise cared for. It was rail skinny, and had healed scars all over its nose and head.
But the real horror was its back end. Something big had run the dog over, crushing its hind quarters and dragging it a few yards... partially eviscerating the poor animal in the process. It had apparently happened during the night since the trail of blood that reached the shoulder was already starting to dry.
I couldn't imagine why this dog hadn't succumbed to its injuries or been finished off by another vehicle in the dark. There isn't much traffic at night, but even if nobody else had come along to issue a vehicular coup de grâce, there are enough predators and scavengers in the area (other feral dogs, jackals, foxes, etc.), that this animal should have been out of its misery hours ago.
Yet there was this horribly wounded dog... scrabbling on the pavement with its front paws and craning its head, and trying futilely to reach its mutilated hind quarters.
I parked my scooter on the shoulder and called the nearest big town's police department to ask about sending an animal control officer, but a recorded voice said nobody would be in until 8 AM. A call to the nearest army base put me in touch with a sympathetic female soldier, but she gently explained that this was completely outside the IDF's area of responsibility.
I made one last attempt by calling our vet in Jerusalem (I have his cell phone number for emergencies), and told him where I was and what I was looking at. He explained that nobody was going to take responsibility for an injured feral dog out in the middle of nowhere. He was clearly upset by my description, but said that even if he got in his car right away, chances are the dog would be dead before he arrived.
He suggested I put the dog down myself by running over its head. I explained that I wasn't in my car... I had taken my scooter to work.
About 15 seconds of silence passed on the phone line during which I'm sure he could clearly hear the dog's whining and occasional yelps. Finally, he said... do whatever you have to do. You have to stop its suffering. You know what to do.
And I did. I put the phone back in my pocket... looked in all directions to make sure nobody was coming...took out my pistol ... and put a single round into the dog's head. The silence after the loud report had died away was complete. The poor animal was finally out of its misery.
As I rode to work, I couldn't figure out why I was so upset. Was it because this kind of senseless suffering is apparently so commonplace in the world... or because I've lived my entire life blissfully unaware of it?
I was hoping that by writing this down I'd gain some clarity... but I still don't know.
Afterthought: Some of you reading this might be asking yourselves (in theory, of course... this is all fiction, right???!!!), why shooting the dog wasn't my first thought / course of action. The answer is simple. In my country (as in most, I'm sure), there are laws and ordinances restricting the discharging of firearms in all but an extremely narrow set of clearly defined circumstances.
In a well organized society, there are people and organizations such as police, vets, animal control officers, etc., who are authorized to deal with such problems (although woe to an animal that comes to grief in the gray areas between the jurisdictions of those people and organizations).
And in the civilized parts of our world, one doesn't simply take out a gun and put 'old yeller' down. In fact, feeling free to do so is about the surest way to tell if you are outside the boundaries of organized society.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
A Little Current Events Quiz
Don't worry… just one question (and 'multiple choice', to boot!).
Question: Which of the following was cause for the offending country's diplomats to be summoned and scolded in Capitals around the world:
A) Iran's continued work towards the development of nuclear weapons.
B) Syria's continued slaughter of its civilian population (20,000 by conservative estimates), and recent movement / preparation of its chemical weapons stores for use.
C) The Palestinian Authority's violation of the terms of the Oslo Accords in taking unilateral steps towards international recognition while refusing to negotiate with Israel.
D) Pakistan's tacit approval of murders carried out by Sunni extremists (more than 100 in the past year) against other Islamic sects' members, and the government's continued sheltering of terror organizations such as Al Qaeda.
E) Myanmar's violent crackdown on Buddhist monks and villagers protesting the expansion of Government copper mines.
F) North Korea's announced intentions to test launch yet another long range missile, even though it is currently being paid handsomely by members of the international community to abandon its offensive weapons programs.
G) Russia's announced intention to cancel a two decades old nuclear disarmament program.
H) The Colombian military's killing of 20 FARC rebels while peace talks were ongoing.
I) Israel's announcement of its intention to move ahead with construction of civilian housing units in areas under its control.
Please show your work.
I hope everyone knows where their gas masks are!
We're almost there.
The news over the last 24 hours has been full of reports that Syria has not only begin moving their stores of chemical weapons ingredients, but has actually begun combining chemicals in order to create weaponized Sarin (nerve) gas.
The US is wagging a stern finger, and has declared that the use of chemical weapons would 'cross a red line'. I'm sure that has shaken the resolve of the Syrian regime. [not!]
Me thinks that Israel's 'red line' trigger for initiating a pre-emptive strike to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles is considerably shorter. Like 'now' shorter.
I hope everyone knows where their gas masks are.
Sunday, December 02, 2012
Woo Hoo - It's Eggnog Season!
From Thanksgiving to Hannukah is "eggnog season" here at chez treppenwitz.
We've gotten off to a late start this year, but hopefully we'll make up for the tardiness in both quality and quantity!
For those don't have access to store-bought 'nog (or if you just want to take it to the next level), here's a foolproof recipe from a certified fool:
1 cup sugar (I'm using Splenda this year)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups milk
3/4 cup brandy, rum or bourbon (optional but highly recommended)
All liquids should be very cold. Refrigerate in advance.
Beat the eggs for 2 or 3 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed until very frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Turn the mixer off and stir in the cold booze, whipping cream and milk.
Chill some more before serving (if you can wait... I never can). Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg.
Makes a little over 2 quarts (after taking several 'samples' for quality control purposes)
What are you still doing here looking at the screen?! The kitchen is that way!
Note: If for some strange reason you end up with leftover eggnog (something that almost never happens here), you can add a splash to your morning coffee and/or make french toast with it.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver! :-)