Maybe somewhere around the time I was 10 my grandfather told me that he used to eat black radishes with butter. “Black radishes as big as your head.” There were a number of things that I didn’t like or found disturbing about my grandfather (I mean, he was a loving person and everything but difficult in many ways) but the idea of giant black radishes was just way out of my comfort zone and eating them was out of the question. He had failed to mention that the inside was white like any other radish so I’d imagined giant black I-don’t-even-know-what slathered with butter.
Now, as an adult who will eat almost anything, and one who likes radishes, I have embraced the idea if not the practice. Until 2 weeks ago when I, to my surprise, found them at the Milwaukee Winter Market. They were not as big as my head and I wasn’t going to try them with butter (although I would). I bought one thinking I’d get more later if I liked them and then I pickled it. I sliced it very thin with a mandoline and used my regular pickling brine. Two days later I tasted them. OMG. So good. In fact, so good that I ate the entire jar in less than 5 days and rushed back last weekend to load up only to discover the black radish guy was not there.
My father was Irish. My mother is German and Slovakian. There are no real German or Slovakian fun holidays. St Boniface is the patron saint of Germany and Our Lady of Sorrows, as I have mentioned before in this blog, is the patron of Slovakia. So, you know, not a lot of fun there. I made rueben sandwiches on St Patrick’s day which are really not at all Irish but corned beef is, at least it is in America, so Irish by proxy or something.
I got this corned beef at Kettle Range where they make their own and it was spectacular. I braised it in Guinness, just to add, you know, more Irishness, and then refrigerated it overnight so it would slice nicely without falling apart. I used my German grandfather’s supremely dangerous slicing contraption that I am sure will one day take off a finger tip or three. (My first boyfriend’s father was a butcher and lost the palm of his hand on one of these. Seriously. They sewed it back on but he was never the same.) I tried not to think about that when I was doing it and I got it all sliced without incident. Also I was wearing the uncuttable glove that my friend Wendy gave me after a mishap with my mandoline. I haven’t had any mishaps with the mandoline since I got it and I wore it while I was slicing this but I think this wicked thing would cut through steel.
But I like to think that my German grandfather would be happy I was using it. My Irish grandmother, on the other hand, would not. She was not a fan of the Germans, including my mother.
When I was a kid The Infant of Prague was a thing. I don’t know what kind of thing but it was. I imagine that most people didn’t have a nutbar grandfather who was holier than the pope, I did. My grandfather had an Infant of Prague statue on his television. Right next to the antenna that if The Infant had been doing its job, grandpa wouldn’t have needed to put aluminum foil balls on the damn thing.
If you are imagining that The infant would be above such mundane miracles the Nazis assassinated a priest because a chalice moved across the altar during mass which caused a sensation (and him to get killed obviously). In Ireland the Virgin of Nock is visited by 100s of believers on a daily basis because she appears to sway slightly. I mean, they do deal in the mundane. We could have gotten better reception during Ed Sullivan, there’s a real miracle.
Anyway I find myself in Prague and while I have a stronger than average (OK, bordering on nutbar) interest in things religious, I am not holier than the pope. I do not have an Infant of Prague statue on my tv. (Full disclosure, I do have my grandfather’s St Anthony of Padua statue on my bookshelf near my tv….hm, maybe that’s why my reception is so good) and I decided to visit the Infant which happens to be right down the block.
I am not sure what I was expecting but it was not this. It’s a freaking doll. I don’t think it’s 15 inches high. It’s A FREAKING DOLL that they dress in these silly outfits depending on the liturgical calendar. Nuns come out take him down and with utmost devotion change these costumes. Currently he’s in green. I couldn’t take a picture. Photography’s not allowed. Thank god for the internet. Now, that’s miraculous.
So if freshly made ricotta tastes this good, imagine if I made my own cheese! How great would that taste? I stopped buying pre-shredded cheese a while ago. It’s true I hate hate hate using the box grater (or worse the clean-up nightmare of the food processor) but if it’s good enough for Martha Stewart I suppose I can deal with it. Grating your own cheese simply tastes better. As an added plus you don’t have the non-recyclable plastic it comes in, nor do you ingest whatever they put on it to stop it from molding.
So after Karen gave me her house-made ricotta and I had spared no expense or effort (that damn box grater) to match the quality of her cheese I had a realization. I thought, hey, if ricotta is this delicious and makes this much difference, and as an added plus (I like the additional added plusses) it’s this easy to make, why not make my own . . . I don’t know. . . Stilton?
Just what I need, another hobby. And one that would make my condo smell like butt. The smell of cheese making is not always fragrant as one might imagine.
I recall that when I was in college I gave my grandfather a cheese making kit for Christmas. I have no idea what I was thinking. He, not being the most gracious person on Earth, asked me why in the world would I think he wanted to make cheese? Like I said, I don’t know what I was thinking. In any event, about a month later I received, in the mail at school in Madison, a plastic bag of something that appeared similar in consistency, but not color, to cottage cheese.
I threw it away.
I’m going to stick with being the recipient of Karen’s largess.