The Hilarious Acronym All Cooks Promote

Breaking from tradition today in terms of post naming - It's been a while since I managed to post correctly in timeline, so I wanted to quickly reference where I was picking up from (take a look here to refresh yourself on my dilemmas about quality vs legality vs budget). 

So the H.ilarious A.cronym A.ll C.ooks P.romote. More commonly known as HACCP. Let me be clear here and explain that HACCP actually stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point - though I like my mnemonic better. Essentially, this is a system for controlling the health and safety hazards that pop up during any type of food production. If you're usually the order-in-slash-use-your-oven-for-storage-type, like my partner is, you may not realize that germs and bacteria love my cooking as much, if not more than, my dinner guests. So there are several cardinal rules that I must always follow to keep those nefarious gate-crashers at bay, and HACCP helps to identify at what point in my process I left the door open wider than in others. That's the Hazard Analysis portion. 

Once I know when my door is open, I can get an idea of what sort of barriers I should erect (baby-gate, padlock, cold-storage-below-8-degrees) and when I should be double-or-triple checking that these barriers are accomplishing their purpose. That's the Critical Control Points part. I.e. At what point is it critical that I maintain control (in order to keep the food safe from foodborne pathogens from farm to fork). 

No matter what your familiarity is with keeping your cooking safe, unless you've opened a food business here in the UK, you probably don't know that having a HACCP plan in place is a legal requirement for anyone producing food for public sale. 

Because of this broad brush requirement, there are loads of template plans available out there. Basic paint-by-numbers, fill-in-the-blanks type. Simple, easy, and straightforward. Of course when you model your whole business on something unique and new and try really hard to do something never or rarely done before... well... yeah, hardly likely that you'll find something that fits without a significant amount of rework. But the government is here to help!*

Enter myhaccp.food.gov.uk

Answer every question, and boom, by the end of the, hmm, maybe 20 page site, you've got a print-ready HACCP plan of your very own. 

I wanted to share this website with you fine readers, because when I first found it, I thought it was heaven-sent. So much information on how to consider your situation - it supported all the information I had previously learned during other HACCP courses - and it sure felt like it was going to help make the analysis and ccp set-up a breeze.

 

Wrong

Yeah. Only the super sarcasm of Hugh Laurie could convey how wrong I was. Not to say that this program isn't as helpful as expected - it's just that it cannot save you from yourself. And if you are hell bent on considering every single possible moment where there are even just tiny cracks around the edges of your door (are you still following this metaphor?!) then, it's going to take a while, whether you use a tool like myhaccp or not. I've been seriously working on this plan since December 2014. That's a long time, yo. 

But, on the flip side, once I'm 65 and the plan is actually complete - you can be guaranteed that everything you purchase from Crown & Queue Meats will be as safe as I can make it. And frankly, as opposed to the typical cooked dinner, raw fermented meats carry a teensy bit more risk. Plus, myhaccp was super helpful with shining a light on areas of safety I hadn't originally considered.

Yeah, you might think that, as anal as I already am, the LAST thing I needed was someone pointing out where else I could obsess, but that isn't so. As a sole business owner (and the only producer, accountant, janitor and delivery driver) you can easily lose sight of the grander picture of what you're doing. And even with the best of intentions, you can overlook something terrifically dangerous. I remember reading about this woman who poisoned 47 police officers with tuna sandwiches - and just thinking: "She probably didn't set out to do that!" According to the poisonees, they quite liked this lady and often purchased items from her kitchen. Close your eyes to one thing because you have 100 sandwiches to make, and well, it can really snowball. 

That AIN'T gonna happen to me. So, I'm just going to keep pushing on with my 4-month-and-counting plan. And it will be the gold standard for any cured meats producer to come after me. Or, at the very least, one more template to add the heaving online mass. 

Tune in next time for a herbaceous take on the "water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink" adage. Yeah, sure, it grows here... but you can't have it.

Tah ta till then!

 

*Don't fuss, libertarians, I'm not saying that they are in every situation. Just for HACCP. 

 

 


"It is Impossible to Love and to be Wise" - Francis Bacon

Alright - So my original plan was to write about the troubles... err.. I mean JOYS I've recently experienced trying to get appropriate premises nailed down. You remember how they were the last time I wrote about it? Anyways, we've moved quite aways beyond that and I'm excited to post about it - but before I do - I just had to take a time out and talk about swineology, a.k.a. baconophilia,  d.b.a. PORK LOVE!

It started when my brother sent me an email about his recent visit to Toronto - where, as this picture proves, even the Vegans dig on swine, no matter what Samuel says. 

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I'm rather shocked by this restaurant's aesthetic, I have to say. I'm sure that the food is great (my spies tell me that it was true in fact), and I can even come up with some southern-style ideas that are dairy, egg and meat-free, just off of the top of head! Braised collards, étoufée, red-beans-and-rice, mirliton. Plenty of delicious options there! So, I don't get it - Why porkify your message?! Because they (despite being animal-hugging vegans) have fallen prey to bacon-maaaaaaaaaaadness!

Bacon-madness shouldn't be anything new to you, let's get that out of the way. There's been plenty written on how bacon has seeped into every aspect of our dining experiences over the past decade. Bacon salad, Bacon Apple Pie, Bacon JamBacon Brownies and Bacon Ice Cream (the last one actually first came out in 1976 as a joke, but thanks to Heston Blumenthal, now it isn't). 

Bacon Varieties
Marvelous ways to celebrate without eating a bite!

Anyways - this email and vegan-photo prompt set me on a dazzling, rabbit-hole-esque internet adventure where I tried to relive as many "Now, surely, THIS is the height of bacon-madness. Nothing can be more bacon-mad than this" moments I've had in my life. 

And yeah, there were waaaaay more than I expected. 

Ranging from the arguably non-edible, where youtubers Epic Meal Time headed to my old alma mater to make a campus building out of bacon (and poutine and meatloaf, but who's counting - check out the section around 1:21 where they argue about whether they have enough bacon), to Zingerman's yearly ode to the salty, belly, treat: Camp Bacon

Feel free to watch the video below, but the faint of stomach be wary. 

 

 

But amongst the many shocking options, from the Bacon Bra (I don't want to link this - just google it if you must) to Bacon Toothpaste, I did find one thing that actually ought to have more support. 

Not that my limited readership will really help this project along, but it doesn't hurt to try:

behold...  ILIKEPIG.COM

Screen shot 2015-01-07 at 10.33.26 PM

Bascially, these guys are trying to raise the profile of heritage pork farmers who are doing the right thing, animal-husbandry-wise. Obviously this is something that I want to support. And they're trying to bring their project to the UK so double-whammy there. I don't 100% agree with their prospective itinerary once they get here (Jimmy's Farm? Really? Though the Gotts, that's Sillfield Farm, are definitely porcine royalty) but it's all for a good cause. So I'm definitely going to donate some funds. 

At some point in the future, be prepared to see me in a I LIKE PIGS T-shirt.... Yeah, yeah, I drank the koolaide. I AM THE BACON MADNESS. This like what, shocks you?! 

Baconcomic


"Once again, my life has been saved...

By the miracle of lasgana!" - Garfield (or possibly Jim Davis..)

 

Uh. 

 

So you didn't think that I managed to set up my curing chamber that quickly, did you????

 

Check out the sites I linked to last week, and you'll see, it takes a good deal of energy and time to set one of those up. And mine isn't ready yet. 

 

But I had to do something with all that shoulder meat, didn't I?!

(Take a peek over my shoulder and you'll see my new Kitchenaid, who, *coughs, was not entirely a waste of space in this endeavour!)

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The Hearty Partner Digs In...

NUM!


"Open Your Refrigerator Door...

And you summon forth more light than the total amount enjoyed by most households in the 18th century." - Bill Bryson

Back! Back from a visit to ye ol' piggy farmer with a purse full of shoulder meat. Thankfully, there aren't any borders between Colchester and London. I don't want to think about the lies I'd have to tell to sneak a load like this one if I were heading back to Canada!

I have to admit, I was perhaps a little too excited at the scene set before me at the farm - and I let it get the better of me in their farmshop... 

The Butcher ShopIMG_3936

Especially... ESPECIALLY, because I haven't any real capacity to turn meat into sausage at the moment! You mightn't be surprised to learn that meat doesn't become shelf-stable, fermented or cured on its own. But it takes more than just the run-of-the-mill ingredients that you keep in your kitchen. Or even the ones in my kitchen. (Yup. I'm implying that I stock better sh*t in my kitchen than you do. So what? I totally do. But I don't stock fermentation chambers, as a general rule...)

If this whole adventure has taught me anything though - it is that I have a grand capacity to push my dreams/schemes into reality. So I simply sat about dreaming/scheming on how to get what I needed to turn this glorious hunk o' shoulder into sausage (that one, yeah, the one right behind the leg!) before I had any premises set up. 

Then, lo and behold, what should I find on a quiet walk through my neighborhood?!

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No... it didn't come in the trolley - That was another serendipitous find. Seriously! I found the trolley first, and was wheeling it back to Tescos when I found the fridge on another side street. 

Trolley
See! Proof.

You may not know, unless you follow sites like Ben Starr's, or The Sausagemaker's, that small refrigerators like these make just about the most perfect home-curing chambers you can get. A little elbow grease and some retro-fitted controllers and you're good to go. 

And, as street-finds go, I didn't really hit any snags at all when it came to claiming this refrigerating beauty... unless you count what it feels like to walk through a crowded suburb wheeling a mini fridge on a shopping cart. Yeah. Basically, I think it was more alarming to people that I was walking calmly, and not talking to myself or throwing cats. 

I'm nothing if not resilient under trying circumstances - so a little whistling, a confident cheerful demeanor, and an elevator large enough to fit my entire shopping cart were all I really needed to see this particular scheme to its logical conclusion.

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As regards the next step, I'll spare you the gory details, but picture a lot of soap. 

 And then, finally, just a matter of hooking up these babies

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and Treeby Humidor 2.0 will be ready to go!

Saaaaaahhhweet. (If I do say so myself).  Next up! Logos, Leases, and Lasgana, oh my!

 


"It is a Good Rule in Life Never to Apologize...

... The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them." - P.G. Wodehouse

Without question, this post deserves to be headed by an apology...

Two months is a long time to drop off! On the other hand, I've filled that time with extraordinarily exciting activities. All of which have been documented extensively - but simply... not shared... *laughs. Hardly makes you feel better does it?!

Christmas Blogging
Computer and Smorgasbord

At any rate - I am carefully putting together all of these missed posts - so you should be able to expect some regular updates most, if not every day for the next few as I try to catch you up to where we are at this moment... Hovering on the edge of 2015, and FAR, FAR, FAR from where we started! 

So get your good reading glasses, blankie and mug of preferred-steaming-beverage ready!

xx


Reading & Eating; This Week in Pictures

"A writing cook and a cooking writer must be bold at the desk as well as at the stove" - M.F.K. Fisher

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Madly dashing around town this week trying to accomplish multiple, contradictory agenda items. Nail down a contractor, assign the placement of drains for the new arch (within a pretty intense time crunch - why I couldn't have had the drawings weeks ago is still slightly beyond me), get a proper business bank account, change my surname over to my shiny new married name, meet with a few designers, confirm parttime work while this little baby is working out its growing pains and attend a Level 3 Health and Safety course. Most items on the checklist are ticked, so... uh... huzzah! Sleep was on my list, as was cleaning my house and trying to pack for the grand move tomorrow, but whatever. Sleep and Pack when you're dead. Or something like that. Here's the week in pictures. X

 

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Why Do We Love Meat? It's in Our Genes...

Read this great article from the Wall Street Journal about why we all so meaterific. 

"Kangaroo ham. Rhino pie. Trunk of elephant. Horse's tongue. Domestic life was a trifle off at William Buckland's home. Some visitors to his Oxford, England, house in the early 1800s best remembered his front hallway, lined with the grinning skulls of fossilized monsters. Others recalled the live monkeys swinging around. But no one could forget Buckland's diet. A deeply religious geologist, he held the story of Noah dear, and he ate his way through most of Noah's ark. There were only a few animals he couldn't stomach: "The taste of mole was the most repulsive I knew," Buckland once mused, "until I tasted a bluebottle [fly].""

via online.wsj.com


Steps to Opening a UK Food Business - Part 2

"I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way" - Carl Sandburg

Picking out a premise!

Here's my baby-in-progress.  

Adding in drains, finishing the floors, more cladding on the walls, fixing the small matter of the 'no front wall' (not pictured), and then its on to the CURING ROOMS!

Artist Rendering

 

 

Whimsical Alcoves
Whimsical Alcoves!

 

 

Arch #8
The Whole Shebang!

 

 

WISH ME LUCK!

 


"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run...

...than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold." - Helen Keller

Have a gander at this article about nitrates and nitrites. And remember while reading it that 'how I was going to deal with these dangerous additives' was the first question I ever received about this project... long before, 'how ya gonna pay for it' and 'what about E coli 0157'. Hmmm. 

 

Article on Nitrites
I hope people feel about Jane, they way they do about Simon!

Steps to Opening a UK Food Business - Part 1

"Good enough isn't" - Adrienne E. Treeby

So. I'm breaking with tradition here a little bit. Normally, I don't give a post such obvious direction. But since we're in the endgame here - I decided to be a little more direct. This will be the first in a series covering the baby-steps Crown & Queue is taking into the real world. 

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Health and Safety

For a good long while I allowed myself to be surprised that there just didn't seem to be as many regulations here in Europe as there are in the U.S. and Canada. Beginning my research into the legislative health and safety requirements necessary, I found repeated admonishments to 'do good', to 'take care' and 'have a HACCP plan'*. But nothing particularly SPECIFIC! Coming from a continent that has rules like 'x-item must be so many mm in length and so many mm away from the wall and so many mm from a water source', it was just so confusing to be trusted. I kept thinking that there must be something I was missing... 

But this isn't the first time I've noticed that Europe has a more relaxed - some might term it 'understanding' - attitude towards food management. When I worked for the Cheese Shop - I noticed this same phenomenon. Cheeses, all out on a counter? Exposed to the open air? Exposed to, gasp!, the possibility of human touch?! That would never fly in the homeland. Yet, if these sorts of conditions were actually unsafe, then Europeans would be dropping like flies! And they're not... 

So maybe the explanation for my lack of success at discovering any enforceable minutiae is not that I'm missing something but rather that Europe is getting something. Or always got it. That food doesn't necessarily need to be thoroughly wrapped in antiseptic packaging to be kept safe. That our systems can handle a little rocking. Perhaps they didn't have the microbiological vocabulary to describe what was happening a hundred years ago, but if you look at the traditional techniques we've been handed down, you realize that without knowing it those old-school cheese-and-salume-making were abiding by everything we can put it a name to now. 

At any rate - I don't believe in doing anything by half-measures. You might take note of the quote above? So whether or not, I have to, I'm going to read everything I can and I'm going to re-up all my certifications. 

That last one begins today... with a course at LivingroomCordial** - a CIEH (that's the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) approved teaching center. A Level 3 course in Food Safety Supervison for Manufacturing. 

So far, although it's fun to go over all this stuff again and I like the teacher and other students, it's mostly been complete review. But hey.... sigh... no half measures. And I think it will definitely be worth it to include this certification in my qualifications. Because, spoiler alert, part 2 is about getting some more funding!

Visit to the new site at the end of the week!! Pictures, pictures, pictures. 

 

*Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan. It's basically a system to help food businesses avoid any issues before they even occur. You Analyze all the moments in the flow of food through your business where Hazards lurk. Then you specify at what or which level/temperature/condition Controlling becomes Critical. In other words, past this line YOU DO NOT CROSS. haha. 

**Yeah, that's totally a pseudonym. Deal with it.