Oh, yes, friends. It is that time of the year again! Time of a list of stuff I love, aka The Aghag’s gift guide for difficult people. Now I have this set up where all you have to do is click on the picture and it should take you to the corresponding shop. These are all products I use and love and I am not being paid to say that!
My 11 Favorite Things of 2016
- First on my list is a Traeger grill. Look at it as an investment. A glorious investment in your mouth’s happiness. Your life will be better for this purchase. I use mine weekly, everything from smoking to grilling to just sticking my face in it and taking a big whiff. Yes, they are pricey but quality costs! And they make smoking more of a fun activity then an all day, make sure your fire is right, it’s not right, no, wait, it’s right, chore.
- As I keep repeating, I went to the South a lot this year. I loved it. I fell in love with good BBQ. It changed me. So if you are gonna pull that trigger and get a Traeger, might as well get some bomb-ass seasoning! Enter: Dreamland. They are right, “ain’t nothing like ’em nowhere!’. Sadly I only have a few more uses of my BBQ seasoning left. I’m deeply afraid of getting on that website to order more. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up with a whole bunch of ribs and a nana puddin’ getting delivered.
- The Classy Trailer and I have been friends on Facebook for years. She thoughtfully sent me a beautiful memorial necklace a few years ago when my loyal cowdog of 16 years died. It was such a meaningful gesture to me. Anyway this year she sent me an awesome pig necklace! I have a collection of agriculture themed jewelry. It’s a great conversation starter when I am out doing the Megan Aghag show. The Classy Trailer has great handmade gifts for your agriculture/animal enthusiast in your life!
- I’ve been following Alyson Thomas for years now. I stumbled across her on twitter when she was asking butchers about cuts of meat. Her art – Drywell Art is my jam. Food and booze. I have several of her meat themed pieces. I especially love her pig work! I love to give her art out as gifts to my foodie friends. Plus I got to meet her in real life at the Renegade Craft Fair, and she was super cool!
- Years ago I went to the Renegade Craft Fair in San Fransisco. It was like Etsy came to life. It was lots of fun and I picked up some great Christmas gifts for both myself and my family. My favorite thing is a feed bag purse I purchased from Selina Vaughan. I loved them so much I bought two! One for me and one for my Mom. We both used them for years and years. I use mine every time I go to an agriculture conference and always get tons of compliments.
- Big things happen this year. I met my cooking idol, Alton Brown. Good Eats was a popular show when I was in college and I watched it regularly. I love how Alton uses a science based approach to explain the why’s and how’s of cooking. That tickles my fancy. When I saw he was going to be signing his new cookbook in California, I scheduled a day off, borrowed my Mom’s car (driving a truck in the city is a big cup of no fun) and went to meet him! And you know what? It was everything I thought it would be. He was warm and charming and he is still my celebrity crush. Aside from all of that, this is a great cookbook. Everything I’ve made has been amazing. Totally a great gift for your favorite Foodie.
- I am a picky little thing when it comes to water bottles. I don’t like it when my water gets warm. I don’t like it when I can taste metal. I don’t like it when the part I put my lips on is exposed to “the outside”. I also hate using plastic water bottle once, then throwing them away (we actually recycle, but still!). But since I am outside so much during the summer I do need water with me or I shrivel all up. And that’s simply no fun at all. Swell is my favorite water bottle of all time. It keeps things cold, or hot for way longer than it takes me to drink it. The cap covers where I put my mouth so I have no fear of putting my lips in cow poo! And it doesn’t make the liquid taste like metal. Perfect gift for your favorite ranchster.
- Speaking of water…..I’m bringing this one back from last year because I still love it. Once you go bidet you can’t go back. This bidet attaches right onto your toilet and is amazing. I installed it myself in about 10 minutes and never looked back.
- My summer was rough. I worked hard. I drove a lot. I dealt with some deep shit, both literally and figuratively. By the time October rolled around, my mantra was “I worked damn hard, if I want something, I earned it, damn it”. This ring was one of those things I wanted. It matched my beautiful bag I got for my birthday. A local artist made it. And it was shiny! I like shiny things! Unfortunately, J Daily doesn’t seem to have an Esty store. But she does have an email address firstname.lastname@example.org. She had many beautiful and unique rings, earrings, necklaces – shoot her an email, check out her stuff, you won’t be sorry!
- If you didn’t notice this was an election year. While post of the posts on social media were pretty horrible; but there was one shiny, hilarious light! The Liberal Redneck and the WellRED Comedy Tour. Trae is funny. His videos talk about very serious issues in a funny way. I like that. But hey, don’t believe me check one out. After watching his videos I really wanted to see him perform, and turns out, he was playing about a hour away from me! I saw the show, and loved it! All three guys were hilarious! And they hung out after their show and met their fans! So cool! Plus Trae follows me on Twitter now. I got their book after the I saw the show, and again, really enjoyed it. It’d be a great gift for your liberal and not so liberal friends!
- Booze is always a popular gift during the Holidays. I mean it’s one of the few things you can get someone who has everything! And this particular alcohol is extra good. Lassen Cider is a new Chico, Ca business. He makes a mean cider from local, heirloom apples the traditional way. He gives the leftover apple pulp to my pigs and cattle, so he is being extra sustainable. I’ve had all three ciders he has available right now, and I must say, I am a fan. Unfortunately, you can only this cider is you are a Northern California native. Hunt some down, you won’t be mad about it!
There you go friends. Did I miss anything? What tickled your fancy this year? Care to share? Leave me a comment and hopefully I can feature it next year!
Remember last year when I went to the South a whole bunch? And discovered how amazing it is down there? One of the many, many things I loved about The South was the food. I mean, it changed my life (cough, cough Traeger makes an amazing smoker). One thing I’d never had, but heard about, was Alabama White Sauce. My first experience with it was at Saw’s (GO THERE).
After my initial mouth joy, I kinda got pissed that I went this far in life without it. It’s just not a thing in California. Before I came home, I made sure to try it as many times as I could. I bought it by the bottle and brought it home too! I also asked for recipes. I got many. I know the purist claim real white sauce is only salt, pepper, mayo and vinegar. But while I was down there I found that everyone had their own variation. I tweaked it and kinda came up with a California version, I love this sauce and make it all the time.
Alabama White BBQ Sauce:
2 cups mayonnaise (I think Duke’s is the best)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon (at least, I use more) freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Put everything in a mason jar and shake to mix. I like to give it at least 12 hours in the fridge to “meld” before serving.
Learning how to smoke has been one of my favorite things from this year. I’ve made everything from smoked potato salad to bacon candy in my smoker. It adds a whole new flavor and texture to meat and vegetables. And again, I get kinda pissed I’ve lived this long without having a smoker in my life. Don’t make the same mistake I did friends. Go get yourself a smoker, and make some white sauce. You’re welcome.
The figs are ripe here at the ranch again. I hate it. But I love it. Why? Because I don’t like figs. I don’t like to eat them, I don’t like to pick them and I don’t like to waste them. So I force myself out to the fig trees, battling star thistles and rattlesnakes, and pick until I am covered in itchy fig sap and bleeding from thistle pokes, just for the sake of jam.
When jam and jelly get involved, I love it! Figs make awesome preserves, jam and pickles and they are free!!!! I usually make 3 or 4 different fig recipes a year. My friends love figs, so I know what everyone is getting for Christmas! I needed to expand my recipe collection this year and since I still had meyer lemons, this was the perfect recipe to try! I actually ate this jam and *gasp* kinda liked it even with the figs! The thyme adds something different, which I liked a great deal.
Herbed Fig Lemon Jam
3 pounds figs
1 meyer lemon
4 cups sugar
¼ lemon juice
2 cups water
Cut figs into chunks. I like a good variety of big and little, I think it gives it a nice consistency. Carefully cut the lemon into quarters, removing seeds and proceed to cut the quarters crosswise. Mix the figs, lemon and sugar into a large saucepan. Add lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil without stirring. (It’s so hard!!! I know.)
Let cool to room temperature, place a lid on your pan and chill overnight to 12 hours. Bring mixture back to a boil until the lemon is translucent and the mixture has thickened. Add thyme sprigs to mixture and continue boiling until the mixture can pass the frozen plate test. When it does skim foam and discard thyme sprigs.
Fill sterilized jars until 1/4 inch headspace and process in a boiling water for 10 minutes.
I used to think I wanted to be a farm wife. I always thought I would follow my Mom’s example. Working unpaid for the ranch. Doing the same work as the men, plus the books, the cooking, cleaning and taking care of me, the kid AND having a full-time off the ranch job for health insurance and financial security. I thought I’d marry, and my husband would take over for my Dad and I would continue my Mom’s role.
Then I grew up. I realized just how much work it was to be a farm wife. I realized they did the heavy lifting. They were the unappreciated glue that held everything together. I finally understood I am not tough or smart enough for the “farm wife” label. Nope. I can handle being a rancHER. That’s easy. But farm wife? I simply don’t have the balls for it. Major props to you Farm Wives! Thank you for running this industry we call agriculture! We all know what you do, but we don’t vocally ever recognize and appreciate you in a way where you get to hear or see it. I hope that starts to change, and after what I’ve witnessed over the past few days, I think it will. We need to respect, praise and appreciate the women that keep us going.
We have several mission fig trees growing wild on the ranch. As a little kid, I spent a massive amount of time climbing and hanging out in the huge, cool fig tree canopies. I have lovely memories of my cousins coming over and playing with me as well, so figs always remind me of that. And pig enemas, but that is for a different post.
Around the first of August, when the main crop of missions ripen, I get to picking and canning. I’m not a fan of eating figs because of the pig thing I mentioned above, but I enjoy picking them because it reminds me of being a kid. Plus anything I can grow or glean needs to be canned or pickled, because it does.
Last summer I tried this recipe and everyone loved it. I was told these figs were great as a snack, with charcuterie, on salads, etc. I made them again this year just to compliment my charcuterie plates and so I could blog the recipe for you.
Pickled Mission Figs *
- 4 quarts firm, ripe figs
- 5 cups sugar, divided
- 2 quarts water
- 3 cups cider vinegar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 star anise (optional)
- 1 vanilla bean (optional)
Boil water and pour over figs, let stand until cool. Combine 3 cups of sugar and 2 quarts of water and heat until the sugar dissolves. And the figs and gently cook for 30 minutes. Add 2 cups sugar and vinegar. Tie spices (except for the vanilla bean just thrown that right in with the figs after you slice it open) in a spice bag and add to the figs. Simmer for about an hour.
Cover the figs and let stand in a cool place for 12-24 hours. Bring back up to a simmer. Pack the figs into sterilized pint or quart jars. leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process 15 minutes in boiling-water canner.
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*based on the Ball Blue Canning Book recipe