for the mill
As I write, it’s one of those changeable days: cloudy dawn, then sun among clouds broken by blue sky, then some graying, a fine mist falling, sky opening again to blue, then grey clouds again, soon a cloudburst, now a deluge. It’s a day, late fall, where the weather brings the best of everything. Anything is possible.
It seems we’ve been having several anything-is-possible times around food lately. It was like that when we went up to Manton for Alger Vineyards’ release of their first batch of zinfandel. John and Linda Alger had sent out word of the party to all their wine club members and, in this post-respond-if-you-please world, had no idea how many people to expect. When we got there, full up. We squeezed to move among the guests in the tasting room, the cooks kept refilling the buffet, a fellow on the acoustic guitar smiled and played behind the din, and John and his new helper, Becka, kept pouring.
A second anything is possible event occurred when we made ricotta and mozzarella with some friends. Sean had already made ricotta, many times, so that part was easy and miraculous: as soon as the lemon juice went into the hot milk, presto, instant ricotta curds. It was everyone’s first time, though, making mozzarella. I had read that mozzarella is great to make with kids. It takes about the same length of time as it takes to make a batch of cookies, and it’s way more fun, because you pull it like taffy to stretch it into mozzarella’s signature smoothness. Now, when I was a kid, my mom sometimes threw my December birthday parties as taffy pulls, all us kids around the kitchen table stretching those sweet pliant ropes the whole length of the table until they cooled and hardened to the chewy stuff, so I was good to go on the mozzarella.
Well, it wasn’t quite like pulling taffy. It’s more like working with a soft wet clay. And the pulling is more like folding and stretching bread dough in on itself than like pulling the length of the table. We “pulled” and we “pulled,” and we consulted a second set of instructions, and we pulled some more. Then we consulted some more. Encouraged by one expert’s promise that the cheese consistency miraculously changes just as he’s about to give up, we pulled some more. We seemed to miss the point where the cheese suddenly feels right, because we stopped when the clock indicated he couldn’t possibly have meant to pull any longer.
Yet it had, as they say, great mouthfeel and a wonderful milkiness. And there couldn’t have been a more fit carrier for our afternoon’s work than Sean’s cannelloni.
There’s always a debate about our winter issue: is it Winter 2009 or Winter 2010? We make it Winter 2010. It’s our solstice: the candlelight reminder that days now begin to lengthen. It’s the same message of all December/January celebrations: the promise, the light. Anything is possible. Edible Shasta-Butte is possible because of our subscribers and advertisers—please do patronize and thank them; without their support, you wouldn’t be reading this—and it is possible because of you, dear reader. Please enjoy our winter offerings.
Candace Byrne, Editor
Edible Shasta-Butte is the guide to local food, dining, and gardening in Northern California’s central valley from Butte County north to the Oregon border.