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Syzygies

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Syzygies last won the day on June 24

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About Syzygies

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  • Birthday 11/29/1955

core_pfieldgroups_99

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    New York, NY and Concord, CA
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    Mathematician

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  1. I have the Vacmaster VP120 in two locations. Not an oil pump, and chosen so I could lift it alone. I've certainly gotten my money's worth out of each one and the chest freezers they feed. Freezing great ingredients is central to how we've come to think about cooking, and sous vide is often a useful step. For example, nothing beats the freshest wild salmon cooked sous vide to 120 F. The trouble with fancy cooking is that some people think they're geniuses, when even the collective intelligence of an entire culture can't always improve on mother nature. I'd get an oil pump now, and the JVR Vac100 looks like a nice choice to me.
  2. I'm not aware of a machine of those dimensions that weights that little (52.35 lbs, one person could lift it). Looks nice. Ignore their bundles. Friends don't let friends buy 3 mil bags. VacMaster for example makes a wide assortment of 4 mil bags. I own 6" x {8", 10", 12"} to minimize plastic waste and save effort; with the help of friends we're on second boxes of each of these. 8" x 10" is also useful, as is 10" x 12" and 10" x 18". My machines won't take 12" wide, and 18" is too long, I should have bought 10" x 16". Go big once your machine arrives, and you can measure first-hand what's possible. Like curtains, there's slack in the path. Insert a bag fully into the clamp past the seal bar, and measure how much more length is possible at the other end, to determine the maximum practical bag length. Even coarse salt (e.g. Cantabrian anchovies) can pierce a 3 mil bag. A 4 mil bag will often tolerate bones. To be sure, cut open another bag to improvise those bone guards they sell separately. This is a great use for the 3 mil bags that come with a machine.
  3. There's something right about baking bread outdoors with fire.
  4. Ahh, obsession. I heartily believe in making everything once, as tribute, and I've made vanilla extract. @tekobo and I make our own masa for tortillas, because it's better than we can buy. I grind my own flour for sourdough bread, because I like my bread better than what I can buy. I'm obsessed with tomatoes; I spent weeks in design experiments building this tomato dehydrator to make partially dried freezer packets of garden tomatoes 60 lbs at a time, and Sicilian estrattu from Santa Cruz dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes, in my opinion better than the tomatoes they use in Sicily. After my favorite hot sauce source in Louisiana retired, I learned to ferment hot sauce. I don't make beer, though arguably the best beer I've tasted was made in a neighbor's garage. I'm friends with one of the owners of MoreBeer, and there are people in our neighborhood who've spent more on their brewing rigs than I've spent on cars. I don't make wine. I know my limits, and I like good wine. I romanticize the #@$# out of making one's own wine, but not enough to drink it. When I lived in Nice once, there was a place that filled and refilled liter wine bottles. I believed I was in the French version of heaven, till I tasted their wine. I've been gifted batches of homemade wine that makes excellent vinegar in these vinegar barrels. Vanilla extract? I'd love to be wrong here, and I wish you all the success possible. The best commercial sources are using methods not available to us. I categorize this with wine. I've read about experiments using an Ultrasonic Homogenizer. There's this famous chef who uses it to clean his brass pasta dies. It's out of our price range, but if we had one we'd probably use it for everything. I bet it would make great vanilla extract.
  5. Not everyone has internalized into muscle memory how water boils at low pressures. If none of us have had a dry pump fail, it's because we realize that fouling the dry pump loses the machine, or at least requires extraordinary shipping fees to repair. When your box arrives look up what it would cost you to ship it back. Vendors negotiate better rates. When one fouls an oil pump, one changes the oil. There are many expressions of satisfaction with every level of machine, in the various posts above. One way to read this is that you can train yourself to be happy with a purchase at every level. I don't drive a $200K car, and I'm happy with my car. Another way to read this is that every responder is in good psychological health, but most don't make comparisons from personal experience. I went through many Foodsaver machines, then a couple of very high end clamp machines, and I now own two Vacmaster dry pump chamber machines and two $50 impulse sealers. I seal liquids "freehand" using the impulse sealers (practice on chamber bags of water) and everything else using the chamber machines. I simply cannot conceive of going backwards, the quality of a chamber machine seal is so superior. This isn't "this rich person's stereo sounds better than mine", this is how sealing is supposed to work, everything else is a poor imitation. In transition I'd find those textured Foodsaver bags in our chest freezer, and I wanted to discard them from unconscious revulsion. If the contents weren't too old, I'd instead repackage them. Chamber sealed bags last longer in the freezer. I can't explain it, but it's obvious when you see it. (Get 4 mil bags, not 3 mil, and protect against bone spurs with scraps of bags or the official pieces of plastic they sell.) The oil pumps achieve a stronger vacuum, that's why I want one next. Any chamber machine achieves a worse vacuum when cold (think space shuttle o-ring failure). We keep ours in an unheated room; I finally learned that one of those food service infrared lamps used to warm french fries can serve to heat our chamber machine before winter use. Just don't use the heat lamp with the lid up: there's a square law at play. I could post a picture that would render it unnecessary to explain the math.
  6. I have two simpler Vacmaster machines in two locations. I held off on an oil pump because of weight, and the oil pump. Were I doing it over I'd get the oil pump, such as the VP215, and have a friend help me lift it. Chamber machines are indispensable, I can't imagine going back. In each location friends also rely on my machine. For example, here in California my neighbor drives to buy us each whole salmon from the fisherman. Once he parses his up into servings, I vacuum pack for him to return the favor for the drive.
  7. A couple of days near 100 F here in California. Nice to be able to bake bread outside in the KK.
  8. I'm in California, but what I've done a few times is to invite people to bring something to cook on my KK, let them try their hand. Like test driving a car, it puts people over the edge, and I get good grilled meat!
  9. Our "house" sourdough is built more for comfort than Tartine-style drama. We like the flavor from freshly ground flour; we don't like a burnt crust. A recent innovation: I question the need to adapt to handling wet, sticky doughs, and I've never liked how the starter squirts out on me when I try to combine it on a board with dissimilar dough. A Tartine bread would simply be turned in a bowl, though I've found that kneading is necessary with my flour. Finally, Captain Obvious visited me: One can have it both ways. Pick your favorite hydration for board kneading. Hydrolyze at that hydration, and add flour to the starter to reach that same hydration before combining. Combining is less frustrating, and kneading is more fun. Then move to a bowl, and fold in the remaining water to reach the desired baking hydration. One can dissolve the salt in this bowl water, which helps better distribute the salt. This would never be a commercial technique: They don't hand knead, and if a worker can suffer to save a bit of time, that's the job. For amateur bakers, this technique restores the fun in handling dough. I actually prefer kneading dough by rolling out long ropes, folding them over on themselves, and repeating. Here's a crossover lesson: Only an inexperienced woodworker ignores the grain of the wood, but we bakers don't consider the "grain" of the gluten. It's certainly jumbled if one uses a stand mixer, but my rope technique tends to align the gluten. My whole motivation for kneading in the first place is to lend more structure to the final loaf, so it better holds its form. If the stretchy gluten is better aligned, one can move to higher hydrations without the loaves collapsing.
  10. I want a cutting board with an embedded display that tells me where to cut an irregular piece of protein for equal portions.
  11. In Bordeaux, winemakers think they're geniuses, blending multiple grapes to form a human-designed concoction they consider the pinnacle of winemaking. In Alsace, winemakers are profoundly religious, and believe their purpose is to reveal God's purpose, applying generations of skills to avoid screwing up His work. I don't believe cooking is all subtraction; there's clearly alchemy in favorably combining ingredients. Nevertheless, cooking starts with ingredients. As the "dumb end of the board" helping a neighbor install a structure on the old French Laundry grounds, I saw the ingredient deliveries. They may have some of the best trained chefs on the planet, but they start with ingredients of a quality we can only imagine. In my experience, brisket is all about not screwing up the best meat one can find. I'll travel an hour to San Francisco to buy brisket that costs twice as much as any I can find closer, because the difference is obvious. If you've been invited to bring brisket to a party, and you want jaws to drop, this is what it takes. As for the cast iron pot, I am the original inventor, and I say proceed with caution. Try it once when no one important to you can also taste the results. The smoke effect is more refined, and this is a matter of taste. I enjoy a mescal that tastes like it was aged in an old tire, every bit as much as I enjoy a fine armagnac. I'll never again be able to make the corresponding comparison for barbecue, because my wife insists that I always use the smoke pot.
  12. Can I use this to roll pasta dough thin enough for dumpling wrappers? For example a honeycomb pattern using a circle cutter? It's a bit pricey, but I'm also thinking layered flat breads such as paratha or roti. Ramen noodles involve kansui and less water than one might think. The dough gets very stiff. Too much for a standard pasta maker to easily handle. Will I break this machine? Explore the design space, this tool's reach will exceed tradition, so one's ambitions should also exceed tradition. When I bought my first food processor forty years ago, I played with it. If you blend eggs for five minutes before making an omelette, you get an omelette that looks like it belongs in a Sci Fi movie.
  13. Wow, that video made my evening. I find it painful watching cooking videos where the presenter is clearly hobbled by a lack of manual dexterity. This was clearly not that; the guy's knife work was mesmerizing. Can one actually buy the dull knife he uses for the center silver skin? There are some friends I could ask, but I think he meant duller than that.
  14. I just visited a friend who owns that exact Richard Johnson K5. It cost less than $1,000 new, and was worth less than that. My K7 lost its tiles. I gave it to my neighbor when I bought my 23" KK. He then tried to give it to his gardener, but it broke into pieces when they went to lift it. A genuine KK is worth every penny.
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