Jackie making butter

Cheesemaking!

Jackie and I traveled back to the Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture to further expand the skills we are learning from them with a class on cheesemaking.  On Friday, we took the soft cheese class, and on Saturday, we learned about hard cheese.

Here are the soft cheeses we learned to make:

  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Labneh (a yogurt cream cheese)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Traditional Feta cheese
  • Ricotta
  • Cracker spread

Here are the hard cheese we learned to make:

  • Monterrey Jack
  • Pepper Jack
  • Chipotle cheddar
  • Colby
  • Colby Jack
  • Parmesan
  • Caraway Gouda

Jackie and I had a blast!  We ate more cheese than we have in some time (if ever!).  We especially enjoyed the soft cheese workshop because you can get to the end of process in several hours rather than months later for the hard cheeses.

Of course, we had to purchase some cheesemaking equipment to take home with us.  I know that it is cheaper to purchase cheese from the supermarket, but these days, if we cannot make it more complicated than that and make it ourselves, we seem not to be interested.  Stay tuned!

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Ray, Don Baylor, and Jeff

Visit with Don Baylor at Rangers/Diamonbacks’ game

Earlier posts had described our trip to see Nolan Ryan before the Texas Rangers/Arizona Diamondbacks game in June and our providing cow bones to the Arizona Diamondbacks to use to bone their bats with.  After the Rangers/Diamondbacks game, we had the chance to visit with Don Baylor, the hitting coach for the D’backs.  We were in baseball heaven to meet with two great legends of baseball and see a great baseball game.  It just does not get much better.

Frank Seale, who was Don’s high school baseball coach, along with his wife, Ann, were at the game.  We met up with them and Becky, Don’s wife, and went down to the area outside of the visiting team’s locker room.  After a bit, Don came out and greeted Thomas, Ray, and me, and we had the chance to go into the locker room to see the memorabilia room that the visiting locker room attendant has assembled over the years.  I cannot describe how many autographed baseballs, photos, bats, along with other sports memorabilia were there.  I took photos of the room so I could try to process the information, but I think it was in vain!

We ended the evening leaving the ballpark with Don and his family along with the Seales.  A gate attendant asked Don to see his rings, which were quite large and impressive.  We told everyone goodnight, wished everyone well, and went our separate ways.  What a great evening of creating lifetime memories!

Examining the bone

Aggie Cow Bones Sent to Help Arizona Diamondbacks’ Hitters

Here is the original story that ran in the Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science’s newsletter about Ray Riley and my boning bat adventure beginning in May, 2011:

The E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center received a strange request recently:  cow bones to hone baseball bats for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Jeff Savell, Regents Professor and E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chairholder, received a call from friend Frank Seale, a retired coach and administrator who lives in College Station.  Seale stated that he needed some cow bones for the Diamondbacks to hone their bats.  Savell found out that one of Seale’s former players from his days in Austin is Don Baylor, long time Major League player and manager, who is now the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks.  Baylor knew that Seale had cows and thought that he may have cow bones lying around in the pasture.  Fortunately for Seale, no cow bones were to be found and so he thought about contacting Savell to see if he could provide some bones for the team.

Savell got with Ray Riley, Manager of the Rosenthal Center, to begin the process of figuring out what the purposes of the bones were.  Searching the Internet revealed that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees used to sit in the dugout and rub their bats with cow bones to hone them so to close the wood pours and make the bats denser.  Riley found a photo of another famous Yankee, Joe DiMaggio, rubbing his bat on a cow’s shin bone to hone it.  Some articles refer to “boning” or “to bone” a bat, and some of today’s boutique wooden bat manufacturers use cow bones to hone bats before they are shipped to their customers.

In June 2011, an array of cow bones, both cooked and uncooked, was assembled and shipped to the Diamondbacks for their use.  A couple of weeks later, Savell along with graduate students, Haley Grimes and Melanie Moore, were in the Phoenix area conducting research, and through Seale, received an invitation to come to the Diamondback versus Cleveland Indians game as guests of Baylor.  After the game, Baylor invited them to the batting cage area behind the dugout to see the Aggie cow bones in action.  One of the cow femurs was attached to a sawhorse-type device between the batting cages and dugout for the players to hone their bats.  Baylor demonstrated how bats are honed, and he said that several players wanted to have similar devices made for them to hone their bats during the off-season.

Do honing bats with Aggie cow bones work?  Well, since June, the Arizona Diamondbacks have moved into first place in the Western Division of the National League.  Maybe there is something to the magic of honing bats or maybe there is magic to the Aggie cow bones.  Can requests from the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros be far behind?

Group photo

Visit with Nolan Ryan at the Texas Rangers’ game

When the Texas Rangers’ schedule was released, I checked to see if the Arizona Diamondbacks were going to be playing in Arlington this season.  I found that they were playing in June and quickly put the games on my calendar so we could see about going to see Nolan Ryan and Don Baylor of the D’backs.  I have known Nolan since the 1990s when the Nolan Ryan Beef Program was first established, and I met Don last year when we provided bones for the D’Backs to bone their bats with.

I called Charlie Bradbury, CEO of Nolan Ryan Beef, to see if he could get us a meeting with Nolan.  Charlie came through and we had the opportunity to met up with him before the game. Upon arrival at the Ballpark in Arlington, Jonathan, Kaci, and Jack, Thomas, Ray and Clayton, and I were escorted to a small room near the Media Interview room to await Nolan to show up.  After about 10 minutes are so, Nolan, his security person, and her personal assistant came into the room, visited with us, had multiple photos taken, and signed a few autographs.  I told him that I was there to visit Don Baylor, too, and told him about the boning bat story.  Nolan said that early in his career there were bones laying around in the clubhouse and dugout for the hitters to rub their bats with, but that he had not seen this in recent years.  Charlie had visited with Nolan about boning bats last year and he said that the life of a bat was too short for someone to take great interest in it.  Nolan stated that someone like Josh Hamilton went through about four bats a game by usually breaking them (Josh lost the handle on one bat at our game when it slipped from his hands and went into the stands!). By the way, Nolan was very interested in Jack and spent a lot of time talking to and about him.  I guess you can tell he is a grandfather!