Sunday, November 30, 2008

Condensed Pain

My intention was actually to make another spice blend that I call the Deathcrier, but I was playing around with a few things, and it kind of went in a different direction.

Usually, I mix together whole spices with pre-ground spices, because that's just what I usually have laying around. This time I had whole versions of everything, so I went for it. I also decided to try grinding everything up in my little 2-cup food processor instead of the coffee grinder that I usually use, so that I could make a little more.

Things didn't go as well as I'd hoped. I wanted more heat, so I upped the amount of habaneros. I also discovered that my food processor was good for getting the chiles and spices small enough to fit into a pepper grinder, but not small enough to be called a powder. After 10 to 15 minutes of my fruitless efforts, I eventually gave up and pulled out the coffee grinder. It took 3 batches, but each batch took less than 20 seconds.

At some point, I got some chile in my eye. I got it rinsed out okay, painful though it was for a few minutes. Unfortunately, the water mixing with the chile powder that had gotten on the rest of the left side of my face made half of my face feel like it was on fire. When I finally tasted the chile powder, my mouth was in immediate pain. The first set of words that hit my brain were, "condensed pain". I like it.

Recommended hardware: painters mask, protective goggles for the eyes, rubber gloves, coffee grinder.

Condensed Pain

2 whole New Mexico chiles
3 whole guajillo chiles
6 whole chiles de Arbol
6 whole Japones chiles
3 whole chipotles
12 whole habaneros
1 Tbsp whole all-spice
2 tsp minced dried garlic
1 Tbsp chopped dried onion
1 Tbsp whole achiote
2 tsp whole coriander seed
1 tsp whole cumin seed
1 Tbsp whole black pepper

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Utah Chocolate Show 2008 Report

Well, another chocolate show has come and gone. Even though I've known about this one for months, I still felt like it caught be off-guard. I heard nothing about it from anyone, I just had to keep watching the site, when I remembered. Fortunately, I remembered a few days before the show, and did not miss it. I also only managed to show up for one afternoon, unlike other years where I spent a couple of days there.

I've gotta say, my experience was marred before I even got in the building. I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to do the Gun Show at the same time, but the Sandy Expo Center's parking lot isn't even big enough for one show at a time, much less two. The scary part is, it looked like there was an entire other exhibition hall available, but I could be wrong. The Gun Show might have extended it into it, and I would never have known, because I was only interested in the chocolate.

The show was a little smaller this year than in years past. I attribute this to two things: the wonky economy, and the University of Utah vs BYU game. Sometime around the late afternoon, many of the spectators took off to watch BYU take a thrashing from the Utes. I took off not too long after that, knowing that traffic would be light while everyone was at The Game.

There were a few stars at this year's show that you should know about. As always, Knight Family Honey was around with their amazing honey that comes from (so they told me) a pumpkin field surrounded by an alfalfa field. Okay, so it's not chocolate, but I don't mind. it's fresh, it's raw, and it's darned tasty. Keep in mind, this is coming from somebody that usually doesn't care for honey or its bitter aftertaste. This year they also had honey taffy which was decent, but tasted nothing like honey to me. Still, I liked it and have been snacking on it all day. I have a jar of honey from them too, and I may break that out for a baklava or something.

Tony Caputo's had a booth again this year, and I was glad for it. I'd wondered if Matt Caputo would recognize me, since I haven't really seen him since last year's show, but the moment he saw me he greeted me by name, and asked how things were. He was a bit busy helping other customers, and other employees would often stop by and ask me if I needed help when Matt would have to step away. It was a lot like being in their store, except that they only had their chocolate inventory with them. I was happy to see that they still carry chocolates by Chris Blue over at Chocolatier Blue. I didn't think you could still get that in Utah, since Chris left Utah earlier this year to move to Berkeley and start supplying the French Laundry, in addition to Charlie Trotter's and Chez Panisse. Even if Caputo's didn't have the largest chocolate selection in Utah, I would still stop by there just for Chocolatier Blue.

One of the new stars at the show was a company called Choffy. A few months ago I heard about a company taking coffee beans and treating them like chocolate, going so far as to sell a bar of coffee beans, sugar and cocoa butter. Choffy goes in the other direction. They take the cocoa beans and roast them, grind them and brew them as if they were coffee beans. Personally, I've never liked coffee. I've always thought it tasted and smelled like burned chocolate. That being the case, and considering that people actually like that flavor, I thought it might be a perfect product. At Matt Caputo's urging, I headed over to try some out.

They had three different varieties there. From darkest to lightest, they were Nicaraguan, Ivory Coast, and Ecuadorian. I tried all three, in that order. The Nicaraguan was way too much for me, which didn't surprise the sales rep because I'd told him I wasn't a coffee drinker. Even with cream, I didn't like it. Some sugar might have helped, but by that point I wasn't really interested. Ivory Coast was in the middle, and the show favorite. In fact, by the time I got to the booth, they had some brewed, but none left to sell. This one was drinkable, even without the cream. Still, it wasn't my thing. I decided to try lighter still.

I was surprised at how much I liked the Ecuadorian, until I found out that's what it was. I have always liked beans from there, so it's no surprise that I would like them brewed like this too. It was excellent on its own, but when I added a vanilla-flavored creamer, it got even better. I almost shelled out for a bag right then and there, but I decided to wait a couple of paychecks. Besides, I have no coffee equipment, so that would have been an issue too. Unfortunately, you can't buy their product in stores. They've apparently decided to go with some crappy MLM-like marketing scheme, which would normally mean that I wouldn't buy their product on principle. But you can order it online, so I might break down at some point at pick it up. But if they allowed Caputo's to sell it, I would be even more likely to buy it.

Last of all, Ruth Kendrick, author of the famous Candymaking book by HP Books, made her yearly appearance at the show. As expected, she was teaching a class, this time on tempering chocolate. But this year yielded an unexpected surprise for many fans of hers. Early this year, Ruth took off to the Great White North to take some classes at the Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Montreal. She has taken her years of experience and combined it with her newfound knowledge and formed her own chocolate company, Chocolot, which debuted at this year's show.

While Ruth does sell toffee and candied popcorn, her real jems are her truffles, which represent her entry into the truly high-end world of chocolates. They're as pretty as they are tasty, and are sure to impress. Remember how I said I don't normally like honey? Ruth's chocolates are another exception to the rule. My favorite flavor may very well be the beehive honey. I tried one of the chai teas, and it was also excellent: flavorful, but not overpowering. Also on my favorites list are strawverry sabe, australian ginger and rootbeer float.

Be aware that Ruth is very small-batch, and has limits as to where she can ship (anything out of the state is pretty much out of the question). If you happen to live in Utah or know somebody that does and doesn't mind shipping to you, you need to give her a shout. Her truffles are a little pricey, but the quality is excellent.

I'm a little sad that I was only able to stick around for a few hours this year, but I'm glad that I got at least that. As always, the show was a delight, and I can't wait for next year's. Here's hoping it gets a little more advertising the next time around.

Review: Amano's Jembrana and Cuyagua Bars

It took some convincing, but I finally talked Art Pollard over at Amano Chocolate into a bar of his new Jembrana chocolate. This is an interesting bar, to be sure. I've been tasting it half a square at a time all weekend. See, that's the thing about Amano: you don't eat a whole bar at once. It would just be a waste of money, and the enjoyment factor would be off.

The beans for this chocolate came out of the island of Jambrana, out in Bali. I understand there aren't a whole lot of beans that come out of Bali, which makes these extra special. Like Art's other chocolates, this doesn't taste like your run-of-the-mill chocolate. It is best consumed only a square at a time.

When you pop a square in your mouth, it starts off with a pretty familiar chocolate flavor. But it takes off pretty quickly, developing into a dark, deep flavor. There are light sour and bitter notes, but no harshness. It's definitely fruity, but not a fresh fruitiness like you get from Amano's bars. It's more developed; the difference between a fresh concord grape, and an aged pinot noir. This bar isn't for kiddies, it's for the big girls and boys.

While I'm talking about Amano, I'd better mention Art's Cuyagua bar. This one came out a while ago, and quite frankly I'm surprised he has any left. They didn't get very many beans for it in the first place, and it's been labelled "Limited Edition" because they don't know if they're ever going to get any more. That's your cue to snap up the last remaining bars before some other guy in New York beats you to it.

This is a single-origin chocolate from Venezuela, from the valley of Cuyagua. It's a lot more accessible than his first two offerings, as the actual chocolate flavor is more pronouced. There is a distinct fruitiness reminiscent of the Madagascar bar. My wife found it to have a very crisp, clean taste, while I picked up a slight bitterness that actually complimented the fruit quite nicely. It has a slightly darker flavor, but not from the overroasting that one might experience in other brands. There is a very light smokiness, that you might not pick up unless you were actually looking for it. It is definitely a bar to be savored slowly, and carefully.

If you are planning a chocolate tasting, this may be a more appropriate bar to include than other Amano varieties. Warning: it will provide a sharp contrast to other brands, and may cause your tasters to be unable to eat conventional chocolate afterwards. If you were to use all four current Amano varieties in your tasting, I think I might recommend Ocumare first, then Cuyagua followed by Jambrana and finally, Madagascar.

Then again, if you're planning on doing such a tasting, I'd suggest you hurry. Like I said, when Cuyagua's gone, it's probably gone for good.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Linkdump 2008-11-22

Utah Preppers
Safely Gathered In
Chocolot - My friend Ruth just got her chocolate business going, and it looks like she's doing well.

New Frontiers: Turducken

Last night I put three very important items in my fridge to thaw: a chicken, a duck, and a turkey. That's right, I'm making turducken for Thanksgiving this year. I've thought about making a turbaconducken (say it like the Swedish Chef on The Muppets would say it), but I decided that I'd better just work on getting a regular turducken right first.

The most expensive of the birds would normally be the turkey (mine was labelled as almost $25), but my local grocery store is selling 12 to 14 pound turkeys for only $6, with the purchase of $25 worth of other groceries. But since this is Thanksgiving, we already had that many groceries that we needed to buy anyway.

The idea on the turducken was to build a composite recipe from five other existing recipes online. This proved to be more difficult than I expected. The basic idea behind the turducken is this: remove all (actually, just most, from what I can tell) of the bones from all three birds, then stuff the chicken inside the duck and the duck inside the turkey, with stuffing between all three layers. As it turns out, a lof of people have a lot of different ways to accomplish this, and as we already know, a lot of people really don't know how to write recipes.

This can be partially forgiven with the turducken. It would seem that this dish is all about technique. Don't even think about making it unless you're really good at deboning poultry. Then there's the matter of how to stuff the birds inside each other. We also need at least one additional recipe, which is the stuffing to go between layers. This explains why so many photos accompany the recipes. Unfortunately, as we have seen in myriad videos on Make and Instructables that shouldn't have been on Make and Instructables, video can be an especially poor replacement for well-written instructions, and people that try to get away with letting the photos tell the whole story are just as bad.

Even worse, some of the recipes couldn't be so kind as to call for "X cups of stuffing", etc. They had to provide a recipe for the stuffing, and didn't bother to mention the yield. One of the worst offenders would call for "4 servings Andouille smoked sausage" and then provide a recipe that yielded 5 cups, but did not specify how large a serving was. The composite recipe was a mess, and due to format that I was using, did not go into any detail about the construction and cooking of this dish. When I first started working on the composite recipe, I hadn't even bought the ingredients, and it was already one of the toughest recipes I'd ever tackled.

So here's the drill. As has become tradition, my family is having our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday, so that all of the siblings can spend Thursday with their spouses' families. Since my wife and I will be done with everything by mid-afternoon, we'll be picking up my brother on the way home, and he will help me assemble this monstrosity. My camera has been acting funny lately, but I will try and get a detailed photo journal of the whole experience. Once assembled, the raw turducken will be covered and placed in the fridge overnight, and then put in the oven Friday morning to be done in time for our lunchtime Thanksgiving meal.

I hesitate the post what I have of my composite recipe right now, partly because I haven't finished working out the plans for my own recipe, and partly because the rest of the recipes were such a mess that they wouldn't look good. But that doesn't mean I can't at least post the links to the recipes that I will be studying over the next few days:

Turducken Recipe from
Turducken by Paula Deen
Untested Turducken from RecipeZaar
"Award Winning Turducken Recipe" from CajunGrocer
Illustrated Turducken Recipe from Instructables

The sizes of the birds that I have picked up are:

Turkey: 14.11 lbs
Duck: 5.51 lbs
Chicken: 3.80 lbs

I still need to formulate a stuffing recipe. This would be trivial, except that my sister-in-law has some food issues. I thought about making cornbread stuffing, but milk proteins make her sick. I'm still unsure as to how she'll respond to a sourdough stuffing or something. I'll be consulting with them, and coming up with something soon, I hope.

If anyone else wants to try out this monstrosity while I do, feel free to post a link here for everyone to see. I'll be posting my version hopefully on the following Saturday, barring any unforeseen events.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Extracting Files From Partial RAR Set

I came across an interesting problem today, and the solution was surprisingly easy. The facts were these: I needed a file, about the size of a CD .iso file. Since I love the newsgroups so much, that's where I started my search. I couldn't find the file by itself, but I did find it inside a pretty large set of .rar files. In fact, the full set was well over 7gb, and I really didn't want the whole thing.

I thought I might have an advantage, however. You see, .rar files are kind of like .tar files: just a collection of a bunch of files stuck together. Two of the biggest differences are that .rar files have pretty decent compression whereas .tar files have no compression, and .rar files are pretty easy to split up, which comes in handy with files that are large enough to span multiple newsgroup messages.

I had an .nzb file which held the usenet locations of 160 .rar files. I knew that there were 20 files spread across this set, and I thought that the naming convention might be predictable. If I was right, I would need to find file #12. Each file should take up approximately 8 .rar parts, which meant that I would start searching at part096.rar. I downloaded it, hopped into a bash prompt and ran:

strings part096.rar | grep Filename

It came up with Filename09.iso. I was a little off, but I knew I was close. I decided to jump ahead a little and try again with part110.rar. With it downloaded, I checked again:

strings part110.rar | grep Filename

It came up with Filename12.iso. Paydirt! I knew that I was in the middle, because it only showed one file. If it showed two, then I would know I was at the beginning or the end. So I grabbed the file before it and the one after it, and checked those with the strings command. I continued until I found the beginning and ending files. Eventually I found that my file started at part100.rar and went to part112.rar. My guess is the files were actually a little out of order (Filename09.iso was apparently immediately before Filename12.iso), and I just got lucky.

While my files were downloading, I was researching whether I could actually extract files from a partial .rar set. I found a few odd forum posts asking whether it could be done. The first one had a response with a Windows utility that claimed to do just that, but I couldn't get it installed under Wine in Linux. The rest of the messages had several responses saying that it was absolutely impossible, and that the person asking was an idiot for thinking such a think was possible.

The few responses that offered information as to why it wouldn't be possible were riddled with obviously technially-inaccurate information, which is often a sure sign that is entirely possible, if perhaps somewhat difficult. As it turns out, I had little to worry about.

With my files extracted, I scoured the man page for rar, looking for options to turn off things like file verification, etc. Each time I specified the exact name of the file that I wanted extracted. Nothing worked. But I couldn't help but notice that the following command did work without any problems:

rar t part100.rar

This command listed the file in question, and said that it was okay. Eventually, I went out on a limb and tried extracting it using the most basic options possible, and forget the filename that I needed extracted:

rar e part100.rar

Bingo! I got errors about the partial files before and after the one I wanted, but mine extracted without a problem.

I saved myself from spending hours and hours downloading a bunch of files I didn't want, just so that I could get a single file that I did want. All of my guesses paid off, as did ignoring the morons that would think me an idiot for trying something that seemed to make perfect sense. Funny how that all works, isn't it?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Linkdump 2008-11-14

A nation of culinary sissies - Yes, I know there are food allergies in the world. I've posted about them before. But some people are just wusses. And no, my dislike of ranch dressing doesn't fit into the wuss category. That's more for the snob category.
Alton Brown is now hawking Welch's - Somewhat undecided here. But now that they have a new spokesman, they need a new proofreader.
Like a sandwich - I want to make this
Green Monk sampler platter - If you've never looked at Brandon Dayton's work, you should. I can't wait for this one to hit print.
CD3WD - Helping the 3rd world help itself
Book of Yields - Saving you from having to buy the book.
Lego Gummies - Happiness ensues
Big Fat Duck - If anyone with a lot of money is wondering what to get me for Christmas this year, this is it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

(Blood) Orange Bread

I mentioned in my banana bread post that I once developed a theory: the difference between most quickbreads is little more than the types of pulp and spices used. It got me thinking back to a recipe that I picked up at cooking school: a Spanish orange cake. It was an oddity, to be sure. It called for two whole oranges, pulp and all, pureed. It also called for olive oil. When my classmates made it in school, they used straight extra virgin olive oil. It was too rich to eat. When we made it at my externship, we only had a blend of canola and extra virgin olive oil available, and the resulting cake was excellent.

I did not use that recipe as a reference for this. I decided to go with my pumpkin bread recipe, and modify it to include oranges instead of pumpkin. My original plan was to use blood oranges, with white chocolate chips folded in. This idea happened when I found blood oranges at the grocery store by my work. Unfortunately, when I actually got around to making it, I couldn't find them at any stores by my house. So I went with regular oranges for the first run, and decided to drop the white chocolate chips and play with the spices.

I thought about using cinnamon, but I decided to go with ground cloves instead. I even bumped it up a little, to make it a little more Christmassy. That wasn't bad, but I thought it was maybe just a little too strong. I went with a full teaspoon this time, but next time I make regular orange bread, I think I'll scale it back to 3/4 of a teaspoon.

I measured the ingredients by weight this time (except for those things measured with spoons), and I discovered that two oranges was just shy of a pound. I like nice round numbers, so I added another half an orange, which brought me up over a pound. It's worth noting that the batter was a lot more liquid than I'm used to with quickbread. It's also worth noting that my bread was more dense and flat than I'm used to. But this may also have had to do with leavening.

I considered the difference between baking powder and baking soda: (single-acting) baking powder is little more than baking soda plus powdered acid. Since oranges have plenty of acid, I thought that baking soda might be enough. Clearly, it was not. Granted, the excess moisture probably didn't help things either, but I figured next time around I needed to add some baking powder.

I added a little fresh ginger, just to see if it did anything for me. I didn't even taste it afterwards. I also dropped the sugar content, to keep the bread from being too sweet. The batter tasted nice to me, but the first slice of bread once it was baked tasted just a little too bitter. Some of my coworkers liked it like that, and some thought it could use a touch more sugar. At least a couple of coworkers compared it to marmalade, which I thought was pretty accurate. I thought about calling it marmalade bread, but thought that it might scare off people.

This evening, I was able to attempt my bread again, this time with adjustments to compensate for last time's failings. I also had blood oranges on hand, so I decided to use white chocolate chips again. I guess I'd better go ahead and give you the ingredients:

Ingredients#1 by volume#1 by weight#2 by volume#2 by weight
oven temp350F350F350F350F
bake time60 min60 min60 min60 min
ap flour3 cups13.2 oz3 cups13.2 oz
salt1 tsp1 tsp1 tsp1 tsp
baking soda2 tsp2 tsp2 tsp2 tsp
baking powder  2 tsp2 tsp
brown sugar1 1/2 cups11.65 oz  
white sugar  1 3/4 cups13.55 oz
oranges2 1/2 ea17.5 oz  
blood oranges  3 ea14.15 oz
butter1 cup8 oz1 cup8 oz
eggs4 ea4 ea4 ea4 ea
ground cloves1 tsp1 tsp1/2 tsp1/2 tsp
cinnamon  1 tsp1 tsp
fresh ginger1/2 tsp1/2 tsp  
mixing methodmuffinmuffinmuffinmuffin

I have listed the recipes both by volume and by weight. For those that think that measuring by weight is for chumps, I'd like to point you to the oranges. The regular oranges that I used were bigger than the blood oranges, as you can see by looking at the weight. Had I gone with just two blood oranges, I would have been pretty far off.

I upped the sugar just a little bit, and switched from brown sugar to white sugar. The sweetness with this bread was exactly where I wanted it. It was definitely orange bread, but it was also definitely not marmalade bread. I kept the baking soda the same, but then added in an equal amount of baking powder. Most baking powder these days is double-acting, meaning it rises once when it gets wet, and a second time in the oven when it gets hot.

The inside of the blood orange bread was surprisingly lighter in color than the inside of the regular orange bread. I'm guessing this is at least partly because of the sugar switch. As far as spices are concerned, I decreased the cloves, and added in cinnamon. I think that was the right choice. It was definitely more balanced than before, it worked out well.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Linkdump 2008-11-08

I thought I'd try something new. Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories likes to post a monthly linkdump, which I've always thought to be an interesting concept. I thought I'd try it out. Sometimes I come across links that I think might be interesting to share.

I recently discovered that Blogger seems to have the ability to schedule posts to publish at a later date and time. All you have to do is set the posting date for something in the future, hit publish, and let it go. So I'm going to start my linkdumps a week early, and add to them as I find interesting things. On Saturday mornings, anything that I've added throughout the week will be posted for me automatically.

The links will probably be a mix of food and tech, just like the rest of my blog. I might add other things on occassion, but those two things are my focus. So without any further ado, I present this week's links.

Search the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but since I was using it this week for a recipe, I thought I'd mention it again.
USDA Recipes for Schools I came across this while looking up the USDA Standard Reference in Google (I have it bookmarked, but Google is faster). Thought it was interesting.
Pumpkin Swirl Brownies My, these look tasty.
Deer Valley's Chocolate Raspberry Marquess I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be spelled "marquis", but that's beside the point. It's a tasty recipe nonetheless.
Hand Tatoo

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Sahale Snacks Review

Some of you may remember my recent review of the Valdosta Pecans by Sahale Snacks. As it turns out, a rep at Sahale noticed my review and thought I might be interested in a "preview" of their upcoming line. I of course jumped at the chance to be sent free food, with one condition: you may send me free food, but I cannot be bought. If I don't like them, I'm going to say so and why. Since they were okay with that, they sent some snacks on over.

The new line is a collection of glazed nuts: two different kinds of almonds and one kind of cashews. We have Almond PB&J with peanuts and berries, Almonds with cranberries, honey and sea salt, and finally, Cashews with pomegranate and vanilla.

I was a little worried. It's no secret that I'm about the only person in the world who isn't allergic to almonds, and still doesn't like them. Well, not whole, at least. But when I started munching on the PB&J almonds, I felt myself starting to convert. In fact, I think I actually liked the whole almonds in this better than I liked the peanuts in it. These nuts are not glazed as heavily as most glazed nuts; just enough sugar to make it sweet, but not too much. The berries in question are dried strawberries and dried raspberries, but they certainly don't taste like dried fruit. The pieces of fruit are tiny, almost as if grated, but that doesn't take away from them. All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with this mix.

Next up were the cranberry almonds. They failed to mention in the title that these also contain sesame seeds, but they are there and they are welcome. They don't take over in terms of flavor, but I think they help provide a nice balance. Speaking of balance, this mix is a little more heavily glazed than the first, but the sea salt helps balance it out. The orange blossom honey is a little light to me, but that also means that there is none of that bitter aftertaste that honey usually has. The cranberry pieces aren't as tiny as the fruit in the PB&J, but they are still smaller than you may be used to. It's a good mix, but I don't know that I'll be buying a whole lot more of it. If I'd tried it first, I don't think it would have converted me to liking whole almonds.

Last but not least were the cashews. These are just... awesome. Seriously, I'm in heaven. The fruit pieces are smallish, and I honestly do wish there were a few more of them. The sweetness was dead on perfect, and greatly complimented by the addition of vanilla. In fact, it's strange, but the vanilla is very obviously there, but it's not incredibly obvious that it is in fact vanilla. When I let friends and coworkers try it, they all wondered what the flavor was, and when they found out, the response was invariable something to the effect of, "ah, of course. Man, that tastes good!" This is all an excellent sign. Cashews are a favorite of mine, but I still usually can't eat very many at once; they're just too rich. But these, I think I could go on forever eating them. Not only are these my favorite out of the glazed nut mixes, they might even knock Valdosta Pecans out of the running as my favorite Sahale Snack of all.

Now, the bad news: did I mention these were a preview? It is my understanding that they are to be released sometime this month, but at the time of this writing, the website still says "Click Here To Be Notified When Glazed Nuts Are Available In Stores". Hey, you think you're disappointed. I feel like a crack addict now, unable to refill my stash. I think now that I've tasted these awesome snacks, the wait will be even worse for me.

When they are available, run, don't walk to the nearest store that sells them and buy yourself a case. Consider it emergency food storage, for any unforeseen famines than may come your way. Food storage that you rotate on a very regular basis. You know, to keep it fresh.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Importing the USDA SR21 into MySQL

If you're planning on using the USDA Standard Reference in your own software, it helps to have it in a format that your program can actually read. If you're in Windows, this isn't an issue, since the database is available for download in MS Access format. For other platforms, an ASCII version of the database is also available.

The format of the files is pretty easy to deal with; each file is caret-delimited, and text fields are surrounded by tildes. The documentation explains pretty clearly how the tables are laid out. It's simple to put together an SQL file that defines the tables, but it's tedious. And then you have to write a script to parse the data.

I just did those things this morning, and I thought I'd share, to save you the trouble. The SQL is in MySQL format, and the parser is written in Perl. I know that not everybody likes those two things, so if anybody wants to convert my SQL to Oracle (shudder) or PostgreSQL format, I'll be happy to post it. The same goes for converting the Perl script to Ruby (/me waves to Hans) or Python (/me waves to Matt) or to some other language. - Perl script
sr21.sql - MySQL Format