Open sesame! You will soon enter a land where normal, everyday things turn into objects of wonder and delight! We are moving into a land of both shadow and substance…the Fermentation Zone!
OK, it’s really just a farm. But what a farm! Laughing Stock farm, just south of Eugene, to be exact. They’ve supplied pork to some of the best restaurants on the West Coast for dozens of years, including Chez Panisse and Paley’s Place. I had the most welcome opportunity to visit not only the piggies and chickchicks and remarkable line of almost a hundred myriad espaliered apple trees, but also the fermentation facilities that are being developed by owner Paul Atkinson and charcuterie force majeure Del Del Guercio.
The massive metal door at the top of my post is the cold smoker Del developed. The picture above is the business end of the cold smoker. One puts a couple of handfuls of wood chips in this little container, and the smoke that results is enough to fill the chamber. I sampled some of the honey bacon trial this week, and even though Del feels it’s too smoky yet, I was deeply, immediately smitten. In fact, I’m thinking about it now and how sad I am that I gobbled the rest of it down with eggs this morning.
This beauty is a work in progress. It’s an old shipping container that will, when finished, be mostly buried in the hill to the left. Inside the container, the walls are lined with fragrant cedar wood, and the humidity will keep curing meat at an even 70 degrees. This, my friends, when you consider the quality of Paul’s whey-fed pork and Del’s curing powers, is a several-ton old metal, asphalt and hay insulated slice of heaven.
We also toured the brewery and cheese cave, namely, this converted semi truck. Inside, the interior is outfitted with a full sink and refrigeration to accommodate the cheese Paul makes for his own use (which is wonderful, unsurprisingly — we tried a goat feta and a couple of smoked cheeses). Del, who is an award-winning beer brewer, has his equipment set up — and I nosily noted a Pilsner recipe in a spiral-bound notebook — for his next batch.
We ended the tour with samples of Del’s chorizo and Italian fennel sausage, plus the cheeses, and chatted with the farm assistant who we had met earlier collecting eggs, and a beagle we had met in a barn along the way. Could life get any better than this?
I was very happy to make the journey with, and acquaintance of, Josh Chamberlain of J-Tea. We met at the tea shop on Friendly Street. Proof:
Del and Katie, Josh’s girlfriend and food writer, sampled a range of J-teas with me, each as unusual as it was delicious. It was a good reminder that I need to belly up to a tea bar every once in a while for serenity now.
And even though the teas were Chinese and not made on a farm in the South Eugene hills, Josh showed off several tea vessels made of bona fide Willamette Valley clay, the stuff that drives all of us gardeners crazy when we hack away at it to plant our tender seedlings. The teapot above is 100% local clay. The stuff cleans up nicely, don’t you think?
What a great morning. Thanks, Del, Paul, Paul’s assistant whose name I can’t recall, Josh and Katie, for a wonderful trip.