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Calvatia Gigantea

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Effigy View Drop Down
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    Posted: 21 January 2016 at 23:19
If you arrived here because you googled giant puffball and you are looking for psilocybin - go away.
Go away now and NEVER EVER eat anything you cannot absolutely identify without solid scientific proof.....
I mean it -

Now if you are into wild and foraged food, warnings given - I will proceed.


Oh my!
Blessed was I!
I have read about giant puffballs. I have seen a Hairy Bikers episode that featured one.
I dreamed but never thought it possible. Well that is all Northern Hemisphere isn't it. Not going to happen down 'ere in the bottom of the world on a tiny salty island. Get over it Anne.

Look what grew under my deck!

It is the size of a tight cauliflower, medium cabbage.
I put it in the fridge and decided to make use of the fact that I work in the same building as New Zealand's leading Botanists and Mycologists. Identity confirmed I proceeded to down what to me was the natural and only course of action - cook it and eat it.


I always like to prepare new/untried ingredients in a very basic and simple way. After a bit of Googling to confirm my instinct - I peeled and sliced my beautiful puffball and simply pan fried it in butter, salt and pepper.

I hope these two photos show the importance of whiteness when using this mushroom. If your mushroom is not firm and white, do not eat it. In this photo the puffball has been in the fridge for  24 hours, the skin was not as brown as it looks in the photo. The colour of the raw slice in the pan shows the safe colour. The other golden one is the desirable cooked colour. When sliced there should be no uncooked area in the centre.
Served with bacon speck, salad and creamy leeks made in the drippings.
This is potentially the most delicious mushroom I have ever eaten!


Googled descriptions of the cooked fungus were along the lines of 'delicate field mushroom flavour with the texture of silky tofu' - that is fairly accurate.

Now - if mother nature ever blesses me with another such gift, I would cook half and dry half. I reached this decision after watching what happened after I cooked it.
There was a small feeding frenzy in my house, Grumpo and Manchild devoured half of my beautiful fungus. I had to call a halt because payment for such highly qualified fungal identification demanded I took some to work.

This proved interestingly amusing...
The botanist and mycologist, who normally lunch away from us plebeians turned up. I served them with 'mystery' food at the staff lunchroom table. Middle management ladies pounced on me to ascertain why such demigods would be associating with the likes of me. So I explained.
Of course having seen botanists eat my humble offering the 'ladies' had to too. With much ado about how one should do at least one terrifyingly dangerous thing each day - they each in turn egged each other on to eat a tiny piece calvatia gigantea.
I am still smiling and giggling - (but not judging!  Noooo nonono no Evil Smile )
So - back to realistic food land

My instinct about these things - as a dried ingredient I am certain it would be VERY useful based on my observation that Calvatia tastes even better next day after cooking. I used the last of it in an omelette. You can all imagine how good THAT was.
And now I will hand out the paper towels for you - keyboards don't do well when drooled on Wink

So in my humble opinion I think as a dried ingredient it would be very useful.

P.S. These are phone photos, there was no time for Mr Nikon. Sorry Embarrassed
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 January 2016 at 12:12
Amazing, the spoors must have really done some traveling to make it from Texas to NZ.
I have several puff balls here, on a seasonal basis.
Little bitty ones, ones with star shaped patterns, medium sized ones(1 , 1/2- 3 ") and the giant , up to 8 " .
All eat nicely.
I prefer to quick cook in a bit of butter with some chopped onion or mix them with scrambled eggs.
Puff balls are the only wild mushrooms I eat as we have a number of Amanitas, most of which are very deadly and the morels do not grow here.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Kurth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 January 2016 at 15:27
Anne,

You used the term "bacon speck." My minimal knowledge of German says bacon IS speck. Help me out here. Thanks.
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Tom

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Effigy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 January 2016 at 19:06
Originally posted by Tom Kurth Tom Kurth wrote:

Anne,

You used the term "bacon speck." My minimal knowledge of German says bacon IS speck. Help me out here. Thanks.


I was meaning little pieces of crispy fried bacon. Speck can be any pig fat you like as far as I know...
here is a link to Wiki
I'm not a fan of Wiki, but it does have its uses. Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Kurth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 January 2016 at 13:38
Anne,

Methinks we're both right. I looked in a couple different German/\English dictionaries. It seems in German that speck can be specifically bacon or generically pig fat. I had never previously encountered an English usage of the word regarding a meat product. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary.
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Tom

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 January 2016 at 12:30
   Speck...

   Interesting that in German, it simply means lard, lardo, or pork fat.  I have had a couple of occasions where I had some nice examples of Italian Speck.  Really, a wonderful product all of its own.  Below are a couple of words about Italian Speck

wiki-

History[edit]

Maturing of Speck Alto Adige PGI

The first documents containing the word "speck" date back to the 18th century, although it already appears in the butcher regulations and in the accounting records of the Tyrolean princes in the year 1200 under different names and definitions.

Initially, speck was produced in order to preserve the meat for a long time. It was a method that allowed families to have access throughout the year to the meat of the pigs butchered around Yuletide. Most importantly, speck was the only opportunity the poorer echelons of society had of eating meat and of acquiring lipids. Over time it became one of the main courses for feasts and banquets. Today it is still the star of the South Tyrolean “snack” served together with bread and wine.

Speck is a product typical of South Tyrol and originates from the merging of two different meat conservation methods: curing, typical of the cured ham of the Mediterranean area, and smoking, typical of Northern Europe. As a location at the crossways between northern and southern Europe, and thanks to its unique climate, South Tyrol has blended the two methods to produce speck according to the rule of "a little salt, a little smoke and a lot of fresh air", consisting in light curing and in the alternation between smoke and fresh air.

Initially, speck was produced only by individual farmer families. Later on, its production was taken up by the workshops of local butchers and in the 60’s it became an industrial product.

Production[edit]

Speck Alto Adige with quality seal

Speck Alto Adige PGI is a unique product manufactured in a unique way. Its production protocol provides for the light smoking of salted pork hind quarters followed by an approximately 22-week-long curing period and the application of a special crust of salt that must never exceed 5% of the final product.

The element shared by all small and large speck producers is their compliance with the "a little salt, a little smoke and a lot of fresh air" rule. Production consists in five phases: selection of raw materials, salting, smoking, curing, inspections and quality marking.

To produce Speck Alto Adige PGI lean, firm pork thighs are used. The hind quarters are selected according to the criteria defined in the raw materials specifications and trimmed following traditional methods. They are branded with the date of production start, as an inerasable guarantee and as reference for later inspections.

The speck hams are salted and flavored with a mixture of aromas (salt, pepper, juniper, rosemary and bay). They are then dry-corned for three weeks at controlled temperatures and turned over various times to help the corning penetrate.

Then the hams are exposed alternately to the smoking and to the drying phases. The smoking phase is light and is done over low-resin wood so as not to give the speck too strong a flavor, and the smoke temperature must never exceed 20 °C.

In the final phase, the hams are cured by being put up to dry in rooms pervaded by fresh air. The ageing period is defined considering the final weight of the ham, and usually lasts about 22 weeks. In this phase, a natural layer of aromatic mold forms on the hams and is then removed at the end of the ageing process. The mold layer finishes off the characteristic taste of the speck and prevents it from becoming excessively dry.

The speck that meets the production criteria imposed by the production standards and that has passed controls is fire-branded in 4 different places of the rind with the specific seal.


   and a few words on Speck...


foodarts.com - The spice blend used for speck, traditionally hand-foraged and essential to the uniqueness of each different producer, contains local herbs like juniper, thyme, sage, and fennel seeds from the alpine hills of the region. After being salted and spiced, the pig's leg is cold smoked, using a dry low-resin wood such as beech, and then air dried for 22 weeks. Removal of the bone increases salt, smoke, and flavor absorption, which over time reduces the pH, making for a drier ham with significantly stronger flavor. As moisture is extracted from the meat (speck will shed up to 40 percent of its weight in moisture during the process), the ham becomes en­veloped in mold unique to its drying room. This mold helps the spice, salt, and smoke flavors to penetrate evenly, imparting a deep rich flavor and protecting the crust from drying out.



   I would describe the speck that I've tried closer to a artisinal prosciutto over comparing it to bacon.  But the mold seems to be more comparable to a crafted salami than a prosciutto.  Mold is really one of those flavor compounds that can add a hint or an abundance...make no mistake...mold can differ as wildly as any other flavoring, smoke, meat or spice.  I think that is what makes Speck unique...the meat is cured, lightly smoked and aged for a very robust flavor...but there's an underpinning of spices mixed in delivered with a complexity, then there is the delivery of the mold.  It all just intermingles.  

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 January 2016 at 12:59
Interesting. Just to add a little bit to the whole Speck thing, in Holland, "spek" could either refer to bacon (American type belly bacon) or just pork fat, though more often than not it's referring to the bacon.  Stands to reason that since American style bacon is a lot more fatty than other types of bacon, it would get labelled with the term for "fat."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 January 2016 at 16:17
And just to add to the confusion, the Speck I've had was more in the way of a cured ham than a bacon.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Kurth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 January 2016 at 17:13
Apart from the boneless thing, the smoked, cured, spiced, 'moldy' speck sounds an awful lot like what is known in these parts as a country cured ham. lol
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 January 2016 at 18:16
Originally posted by Tom Kurth Tom Kurth wrote:

Apart from the boneless thing, the smoked, cured, spiced, 'moldy' speck sounds an awful lot like what is known in these parts as a country cured ham. lol

   Yeah Tom, that's probably pretty close...especially if the country ham gets that bit of funk going.

  

SOUTH TYROLEAN SPECK LOOKS BACK ON AN ANCIENT TRADITION

The term “speck” first appears in Tyrol’s history in documents dated back to the 18th century. However, the word makes was first used under different names and definitions in the trade registers and butchers’ ordinance as far back as the year 1200. The term has its roots in the Middle High German word “spec” and the Ancient High German word “spek” and actually translates into “something thick, fat.”

South Tyrol’s history documents that South Tyrolean farmers originally cured speck to preserve the meat. The ham was intended for home consumption. Traditionally, pigs were slaughtered during the Christmas Season. The production of speck ensured that farmer’s had a supply of preserved meat for the entire year. The ham recipe was carefully guarded and handed down from generation to generation. The ancestral seasoning secrets from more than 100 years ago still give the speck its typical taste today.

Speck Alto Adige is in no way related to the standard fatty pork belly speck described by the common German term. Speck is the result of a combination of two methods used to preserve meat: the standard Mediterranean style curing process for raw ham and smoking, which is a process typically used in Northern Europe. As a result, a unique South Tyrolean ham was created based on the traditional rule “a little salt, a little smoke and a lot of fresh air.” Speck is an ingredient used in numerous typical South Tyrolean dishes, such as the South Tyrolean Speck Dumplings. In South Tyrol, this ham paired with bread and wine, is the main component in the genuine “Marende” – the typical South Tyrolean snack platter. Over the centuries, Speck Alto Adige has been continually upgraded and is now considered a star ingredient by many award-winning chefs.
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