Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Some housekeeping!

First, my reconstructed Watergate salad is in the Marx Foods contest previously mentioned. If you like voting for me, this is pretty much the only way to do so. Conduct yourself accordingly.

Second, this whole fucking Maker's Mark thing.

I've mentioned the whiskey shortage before, and even written about it in my day job. The upshot is this:

* For a long time people drank less whiskey because of vodka and shit like that.

* They started drinking a bit more whiskey.

* Whiskey takes a long time to make. There was no way of knowing whether the increased demand would hold up, or if it was just a fluke.

* Distilleries reacted in various ways: new American microdistilleries sold a lot of white whiskey (unaged) and in general aged their whiskeys a lot less than the larger distilleries, which not only brought their product to market faster but made them more flexible with respect to reacting to demand fluctuations; Scottish distilleries like Macallan removed the age statements from some of their whiskeys, no longer guaranteeing, for instance, that the whiskeys in Macallan 12 would be a minimum of 12 years old, freeing them up to increase supply by using younger whiskeys; many, many distilleries have simply raised their prices; and Maker's Mark has done more or less the same thing, reducing the proof of their whiskey -- which means adding more water, so that a given barrel of whiskey will fill more bottles than before.

It's not too weird a way to respond to supply and demand problems - it's like grinding up meat and adding bread crumbs to it so you can have six servings of meat loaf instead of five servings of whatever meat you started with. It's the done thing.

But you know, when you make meatloaf instead of meat, you're changing the product. And the difference in proof isn't great here, but it's real.

In theory, this shouldn't affect me much - Bulleit and Knob Creek are close enough to Maker's price point that I buy them more often. On the other hand, perhaps because it's a flagship brand, Maker's goes on sale often enough that it's remained in the heavy rotation of my purchases for years, because I can so often get a great deal on it.

If you love Maker's, you should be a little insulted by the change, but it's not going to ruin things for you: add less ice or drink it faster, and it's the same juice.

Third, yesterday was Mardi Gras, so today is Lent!  My usual Lent fasting is in effect:

- Meat only once a week (traditionally Sunday) plus corned beef on Saint Patrick's Day.

- Seafood doesn't count as meat.

- Meat-derived products like homemade stock and lard are okay as long as I'm not buying meat expressly for that purpose. In other words, I think it's silly to let things in the fridge and freezer go to waste for the sake of Lenten fasting.

Sadly, my Lent this year won't include Maine shrimp. The season has been abbreviated and beset by problems from the weather: even before Winter Storm Nemo, shrimpers were having problems with the texture of the shrimp they caught, because conditions at sea were so cold that the shrimp were freezing on deck.

It will include salmon heads ...
Salmon head
... and the collars I remove from those heads ...
Salmon collar
... and smelts.
Pan-fried smelts with lemon juice

My last meat meal before Lent?

Pig tails covered in a mountain of salt, curing salt, sugar, and chiles, for a few days; rinsed off and let to air dry in the fridge for a week; simmered until the skin softened; and smoked. Amazingly good country ham tails.

Pig tails

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