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Of Yule, Marzipan Acorns, and Boar's Heads

So – Yule.

Hey, I’m only running a few weeks behind.  All things considered, that’s pretty good.

Yule went well!  Bergental and BBM’s traditions actually mesh very nicely and made for a really lovely evening.  I say “evening,” because I wasn’t really cognizant of what was happening during the day.  We got there, dropped off the stuff we were responsible for, got changed, I nursed Charlotte, and then I sat down to take a shift at gate (wherein I actually did nothing useful.)  For the rest of the afternoon I pretty much just hung around gate pestering vynehorn , nursed the baby, and fretted about the timeframe.  You see, feast wasn’t served until 7:00, and all of us who are Simplefare veterans spent several hours twitching because we should be shutting things down for feast RIGHT NOW.  We are so over-trained it’s not funny.  There was heavy list, there was an A&S thing, there was a performance by I Sebastiani, there was a royal court... I hung out at gate.  I was tired, and just not up for being social.  Charlotte was by far and away the star of the show wherever I was.  As expected, it is obvious that for the next few year I am merely a vehicle for taking my daughter places – she’s the one people are interested in.</lj>

Of course, she’s much cuter than I am, so I’m not surprised.

Oh – and she’s also getting heavy.  I need to master the art of the sling before my arm falls off.

For dinner, we had a table with my husband and I, vynehorn , hugh_mannity , our friend Quinton, and a lovely lady that I know but whose name has yet to make it into long-term memory.  The food was all excellent.  Some of it wasn’t to my personal taste, but everything was very well done.  Our server on the other hand, appeared to be a few fries short of a happy meal.  Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t volunteer to do it myself, because I was minding Charlotte.  But she was really, really bad.  Really bad.  A level of badness that was pretty unacceptable.  I’ve got standards, even for the school of “send one person from each table” serving, and she did not reach them.  Not even that could spoil a nice dinner with friends, though.</lj></lj>

Like I said, the traditions of the baronies are very complimentary to each other.  The only issue that I had was that I think we really needed a hall steward.  Not a master of ceremonies – Ernst did a wonderful job with that.  I mean someone to be in charge of what happens when, in what order, and who will keep things from bumping into or over each other, and someone that the people who are “performing” can touch base with on issues of timing, space in the hall, etc.  Things went very well without, but there were some rough edges.  Probably no one noticed but me.  If we do the joint event again next year I may volunteer to do that.  Or maybe not – we’ll see what Charlotte at one is like.

 

But what I really want to talk about is subtleties.  The acorns were done in time.  All 120 of them.   See?  Acorns!



That was about four hours a night every night all week, and they got done only because Bob pulled up a chair and helped knead the color into them.  I probably would have gotten them done regardless, but it would have been a lot uglier.  It’s going to be a while before I can face marzipan again – and I don’t even like the stuff!  I learned a few things:

*  You can make a credible acorn brown with food coloring with twelve drops of yellow, five drops of red and one drop of green.

*  You will have food coloring staining your cuticles for at least two to three weeks afterwards.

*  I should have let the shaped marzipan dry for more that twenty four hours.  It was still really, really sticky.

*  Putting too many of the shaped pieces into one ziplock bag is false economy.  They smush.

*  I need to think about presentation ahead of time.  It didn’t occur to me until Wednesday or Thursday that I had these great little sculptures, and nothing pretty to present them on.

*  I need to have it announced that the rings are sterling.  People were surprised by that, and I’d figured that it went without saying.

Then, of course, there was the boar’s head.  This year his name was Johann in honor of His Majesty’s attendance.  Johann was my finest work yet.  His shape was really good this year.  While I was on maternity leave, I watched a lot of “No Reservations” on the travel channel, and Tony ate a lot of pig’s heads.  So the shape was much nicer looking.  I also made a few refinements.  This year I baked the apple actually in his mouth.  That was a qualified success – it cooked down more than I’d hoped.  I also added pupils to his eyes – a whole clove inserted into each radish, and that was wildly successful.  I tried a new ear design, which was a catastrophic failure.  I’m not sure if the problem was insufficient support because I ran out of aluminum foil, or if it was just not meant to work.  I found it within the first ten minutes of baking, so I was able to graft on new ears with the egg wash, and kind of crumble off the failed ones.  “Bedecked with bay and rosemary” covers a multitude of sins.  He looked good, and he tasted good too.  One of my biggest accomplishments this year was finally getting the amounts down for how much filling to make, so there wasn’t too much left over once the sculpting was done.  Bless Sir Kai – after Johann was presented he went from table to table and served him.  This is wonderful, because my last words before they started up the aisle were “Make sure they cut into it – do NOT make me take five pounds of pork pie home.”  I didn’t take home so much as a scrap.

Even better, I photo-documented the entire process.  So if anyone is interested, I can give illustrated instructions on how to make a meat pie in animal form.  Here he is all finished and pretty:



Assuming that I get to provide the boar’s head for Yule next year, there are a few more improvements I’d like to make. 

*  I need to experiment with how baking affects parsnips.  If they keep their consistency and appearance for as long as it needs to be in the oven, I want to set them in place before it bakes.  That way I can get better shaping of the “skin” around them and have less to disguise with the greenery.

*  I’m going to try to set the eyes on a cross-piece.  Currently, they sink down away from the crust a little as it bakes, and I wonder if holding them rigidly in place will help to keep them up under the “lids.”  Possibly they’ll just be dragged down uniformly, but that’s why I need to do a test piece.

*  I need to come up with something else to hold the void under the top jaw, so that I can set the apple in place after the baking.  Perhaps a wad of aluminum foil that I can carefully cut out and replace with the fruit.  The other option is to replace the apple with something that could be dyed to appear apple-like – a turnip for example.

*  I am definitely going to start sealing all seams with egg instead of water.  Much superior.  I should have done that years ago. 

I’m ridiculously happy with how he turned out.  Next year will be even better!


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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
hugh_mannity
Dec. 24th, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)
The boar's head was most excellent! And very tasty.

Parsnips bake quite well. Especially the older woodier ones. I roast them regularly and if I don't parboil them first they stay quite tough. So if you were going to just bake them raw and unpeeled, they'd probably stand up quite nicely.
kls_eloise
Dec. 24th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you - I'm still quite pleased with myself about him, and Grandpa Longton's torte de noel recipe is always well received (at least by people who eat pork!)

That's encouraging about the parsnips. They'll be raw, but peeled because I want to carve them into a more tusk-like shape. But it sounds like if I get large ones and carve them down they should hold up nicely. The whole contraption is only in the oven long enough to bake the crust - there's no way I could bake it long enough to get the center up to temperature, so all the filling is fully cooked in a pot before I start sculpting.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )