Avalanches, Cherry-Cured Sausage, And One Of My Favorite Comfort Foods - Musings of a Kenai Peninsula Foodie Blog at Allrecipes.com - 265051

Musings of a Kenai Peninsula Foodie

Avalanches, Cherry-Cured Sausage, and One of My Favorite Comfort Foods 
Jan. 22, 2012 5:10 pm 
Updated: Jan. 24, 2012 10:40 am
We have had a terrible cold snap... about two months early!  To be perfectly honest, we have had snow on the ground since before Halloween!  And in the past month or two, the temperatures have been down around negative 20's... as the high!  Talk about frickin' cold!!

Seward Highway to remain closed overnight

(01/10/12 16:02:49)

Update: The Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood will remain closed overnight because of difficult driving conditions, avalanche danger and an avalanche triggered by state highway workers near Bird Point, according to the state transportation department.

Here's the announcement:

The Seward Highway will remain closed throughout Tuesday evening, January 10, 2012. This is the result of continuing extreme winter storms and potential avalanche conditions. Current reports are of white-out conditions, blowing and drifting snow, and extremely difficult roadway conditions. DOT's avalanche risk reduction efforts had a positive result and induced a large slide at milepost 98.5 of the highway, just north of Bird Point. The slide impacted the highway and will require clearing. Further avalanche risk assessment and mitigation work will resume in the daylight hours tomorrow.


The Seward Highway remains closed between Anchorage and Girdwood due to whiteout conditions from blowing snow, snowdrifts along the roadway and two avalanches this morning in the McHugh Creek area, a spokesman for the state transportation department said.

Some avalanche debris reached the northbound lane and highway crews are working in the area, said Rick Feller, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. The department and Alaska State Troopers have closed the highway between Potter Marsh and Girdwood, he said.

"It's zero visibility and extremely difficult driving conditions," Feller said.

Teams were looking closely at the snowpack elsewhere to see if explosives would be needed to clear other potential avalanche hazards, Feller said.

The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which connects Portage Valley to the city of Whittier, is also closed until further notice, the DOT said.

The closures come as another winter storm is socking Southcentral Alaska, with blizzard conditions across much of the region and in Southwest. More than a foot of snow has fallen in Seward -- where the city warned boat owners to shovel their vessels at the risk of the snow causing capsizing -- and 6- to 7-foot snowdrifts are being reported around Homer, Feller said.

A blizzard warning and high-wind warning remain in effect for the Anchorage Hillside and Turnagain Arm. A gust of 97 mph was recorded at a Hillside weather station about 11 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. Areas south and southeast of the city, including Turnagain Pass and Portage Valley, are under a blizzard warning, with up to 28 inches of snow possible, the weather service says.

Hillside resident Bob Sutherland said he decided to stay home after a harrowing drive to town and back Tuesday morning.

"In the span of just a few minutes, the wind kicked up and I couldn't see the road due to the blowing snow ... I just couldn't see the road surface," Sutherland wrote in an email from his house near Upper DeArmoun Road. "The winds are strong and have been gathering force all day."

School buses that run along Turnagain Arm from Girdwood to Anchorage were canceled for the day, according to the Anchorage School District. The routes include buses bound for South High School, Goldenview Middle School and Girdwood Elementary. Students without transportation to school would be given an excused absence, the school district said.

After-school activities at Goldenview Middle School have been canceled.

Many areas of Alaska are under severe-weather warnings this morning, with blizzard conditions and heavy snow from western Alaska and portions of the Interior all the way to Haines and Juneau in Southeast.

In Kodiak, the airport and some roads are reportedly closed due to slippery surfaces from snow melting atop ice, according to the DOT.

Power outages on the Kenai Peninsula, including one near Sterling and the other between Anchor Point and Homer, affected a total of about 110 customers this morning, reports the Homer Electric Association. By 2:15 p.m., HEA was still working on restoring power to three customers.

The Peninsula community of Hope was without power about midday, and a brief outage struck Girdwood earlier, according to Chugach Electric.

Among the other weather advisories today:

• A blizzard warning until 9 p.m. for areas north of Moose Pass.

• Blizzard warnings through the day for the Cordova area and southeast Prince William Sound, with another 6 to 14 inches of snow, and for the Valdez area to Thompson Pass, with another 9 to 17 inches and high winds

• Blizzard warnings for Bristol Bay and the Kuskowim River Delta, including Bethel, until 4 p.m.

Wind on the Anchorage Hillside and along Turnagain Arm is expected to continue through the day, with sustained winds of 55 to 70 mph with gusts of 80 to 100 mph, the weather service said. Blowing snow is likely, which could make visibility on roads difficult. Not much snow is expected here with this storm, although snow is forecast for the Susitna Valley north of Anchorage. The Hillside/Turnagain Arm wind warning is in effect until 9 p.m.

The temperature in Anchorage is expected to rise somewhat through the day but will remain below freezing, with highs in the low to mid-20s, the weather service said.

* * * * * * *

Then we had this report come in...

* * * * * * *

Seward Highway reopened; new storm coming


(01/11/12 17:32:55)

The Seward Highway reopened today after an overnight closure from Mile 90 to 100, according to the Alaska transportation department.

The shutdown between Anchorage and Girdwood began Tuesday morning, because of blinding snow and avalanche danger, and ended at 11:30 a.m. today, according to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which connects the city of Whittier to the Alaska highway system, opened for traffic this morning, the DOT said, and school bus service between Anchorage and Girdwood would resume its regular schedule this afternoon, according to the Anchorage School District.

Crews triggered a snow slide to the south of Bird Creek on Tuesday and worked that night and early Wednesday to clean up debris that slid across the highway, said DOT spokesman Rick Feller. Further avalanche assessment and control work took place this morning, Feller said. None of the artillery shots that were fired today released an avalanche and the conditions were deemed safe enough to reopen the highway, he said.

"We really had to wait for daybreak to see what's going on with the avalanche conditions," Feller said. "You never know the degree of success you're going to have with each (artillery) shot. If we have a big release like we had yesterday with our controlled release, it will require more cleanup and more time."

Feller said he's been impressed with the public's understanding and patience with the highway closure, which has essentially cut off Anchorage from most communities to the south.

"A common theme I'm hearing is 'I'd much prefer spending a night in Anchorage than spending a night along the Seward Highway,' " he said.

And the state transportation workers are keeping a close eye on another dollop of snow expected to hit Southcentral later today, Feller said.

Anchorage is forecast to receive 9 to 18 inches of snow by Thursday and strong wind at high elevations and along Turnagain Arm is expected to create hazardous driving conditions, according to the National Weather Service.

Feller said cleanup efforts Tuesday and today will help with the impending snow.

"Getting ready for the next event is all about cleaning up from the prior event," he said.

* * * * * * *

So here I am, thinking that we have it bad... then I hear what's going on in Cordova!  I guess we did have it good...

* * * * * * *

Cordova out of shovels as season's snowfall tops 15 feet

STACKING UP: Homes, buildings damaged by the load on their roofs.


(01/10/12 20:27:42)

An Alaska community blitzed by nearly 15 feet of snow was hit by another storm Tuesday and a new problem -- a shortage of shovels.

A spokesman for the city of Cordova said officials had tried Anchorage, Fairbanks and other cities and finally turned to a manufacturer for a special order.

"It's ironic, isn't it? The state of Alaska -- you'd think they'd be ahead of the game. It's those logistical things you just don't plan on, or you don't think is going to be an issue," said Allen Marquette by phone from the city on the east side of Prince William Sound.

The snow-weary city of 2,200 was promised new shovels to be manufactured Thursday and delivered two days later -- but it will be too late for the "couple more feet" of snow that touched down Tuesday, accompanied by winds of 25 to 40 mph and gusts to 55.

The latest storm hit much of Southcentral Alaska. Avalanches along the Seward Highway closed the only route south out of Alaska's largest city, cutting off Anchorage from Girdwood and the Kenai Peninsula. The storm knocked out power to parts of Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. Drifts accumulated to 7 feet, Feller said, and the city put out an advisory to boat owners that 16 inches of snow could accumulate and boats should be cleared.

KMXT-radio in Kodiak said flights to the island city had been canceled and three boats sank in local harbors from the weight of snow. In Valdez, the terminus of the trans-Alaska pipeline, forecasters issued a blizzard warning through Wednesday afternoon, with winds to 45 mph and accumulations of 9 of 17 inches of snow on the Richardson Highway at Thompson Pass, the road access out of the community.

Cordova, a fishing community famed for wild Copper River salmon, may have been hardest hit. Since Nov. 1, the city has received 176 inches of snow and 44.24 inches of rain, at times increasing the weight of the snow as it piled up to 6 feet high on roofs.

Accumulations on roofs and walls damaged four commercial buildings and two homes, Marquette said.

The threat of such collapses prompted the evacuation of an apartment complex, where weight on the roof jammed doorways and windows, making it a fire hazard, Marquette said. The Red Cross has turned the city recreation center into an emergency shelter.

Dealing with the snow has turned into a near military operation. City, state and federal authorities set up a command center to organize its response to the snow emergency. One task: deciding who gets their roof or entryway shoveled first. The community set up a call-in number to report access problems or roof hazards.

"We're sending out teams to assess," Marquette said. "Everybody thinks it's serious, but you have to go out and assess to prioritize ones that need it the most."

The Alaska National Guard has sent 57 soldiers, mostly to wield shovels. The U.S. Coast Guard contributed at least 20 personnel to clean docks and help maintain heavy equipment.

A "tremendous outreach" of volunteers helped their neighbors clear roofs or clear paths to buildings, Marquette said. But as they perform the backbreaking work of moving snow by hand, they're running through shovels.

"These are big strong people, and so you're bound to have some equipment that gets damaged and broken. So we need to keep replenishing and repairing and getting those back out on the line so they can get the work done."

The city was looking for ice chisels, snow shovels and snow scoops that push snow.

"Those are real handy for flat roofs, and we were short on those," Marquette said. "So what they've been doing is using tarps -- those blue plastic tarps -- and then shoveling snow on them and dragging the tarps to the edge and flipping them off. That's been working pretty well but it would still be more efficient and faster if they could use regular snow scoops."

Coast Guardsman cleared docks at one Cordova harbor and worked on another Tuesday. National Guard soldiers had concentrated on city buildings such as the museum, library and high school and "put a good dent into the situation," Marquette said.

Ice on the city hospital made shoveling hazardous and workers dug from their knees, he said.

Danger from the storm Tuesday kept volunteers off roofs but soldiers worked throughout the day, Marquette said. Shoveling can create a small avalanche on the building, he said.

"You've got so much load on the roof, that once you break enough of it loose, the whole thing cuts loose, and if you're in the path of it, it takes you with it," he said. "It's not unheard of it to get buried in that, and it's just like a regular avalanche, only a small one. But you have a few tons or more of snow and ice coming down -- that's pretty hazardous."

The emergency shelter also was available for people in homes near an area about 5.5 miles from the city that is prone to avalanches. A woman was killed in January 2001 when an avalanche flattened her home.

A weekend avalanche lowered the threat level, Marquette said, but families were asked to evacuate. The current storm could reload the field, he said.

* * * * * * *

For the last two weeks, our highs have been in negative 20's... with 36 degrees below zero as the night-time low... around nine the following morning!  Well, it doesn't try to warm up until the sun is as high as it's gonna be for the day, which isn't much.  However, these past two days has been "balmy" -- ten above zero!!!  Geez!  Talk about a heat wave??

As it is, my freezer is full of WONDERFUL cherry-cured/cherry-spiked ham and all sorts of sausages!  I discovered my favorite butcher/deli now is on the internet.

I used to live in Michgan and had friends that lived in Traverse City which is the cherry capital of the country.  So when I was visiting friends, I would go and grab a good twenty pounds of various yummies.  But having moved to Ohio... then Alaska, I thought I'd never taste these wonderful delights ever again.

Then I somehow found myself having the cravings of cherry-pecan smoked sausage... and rediscovered them... Plevas Meats!!  In Traverse City, Michigan!!  Believe me when I say that everything I've ordered from these guys are incredible!!  And it isn't necessarily a strong cherry flavor (except for the bacon) but it adds a sweetness that is rather undescribable in that you can taste it and perceive how it marries all the other flavors so well... but am not quite certain what you are eating in the first place.  Same with the Christmas Sausage...

That's the spiraled sausage you see.  With that is a wonderful cherry-cured ham surrounded by a great cherry-cured HUGE Polish sausage!!  That's more than a meal for me!

The above here are examples of their cherry-spiked ground beef (right) and their mild Italian cherry-cured sausage.

I thought deli counters like this was only in Australia.  (They have really great deli's there as well as at least twenty different sausage flavors/types to chose from!)  However, you can spend an entire week's paycheck at this deli in Traverse City, Michigan.  I'm getting hungry.

So I called them.  And Lo and Behold -- they regularly ship to this guy in Anchorage who used to live in Trasverse City!  LOL!!  Well, now they can say they ship to the Kenai Peninsula as well.  And did I stuff my freezer full!!  Well, since I'm paying for FedEx, might as well maximize on my shipping costs!  But I didn't have to worry about these things thawing out.  It was twenty below zero when FedEx dumped the HEAVY box on the front step.  I'm not kidding -- it weighed over fifty pounds!!  But I am in heaven!!  Allow me to present my favorite, very easy comfort food to make that I must do at least once a week.  I give credit for this recipe to my big sister Becca who's dad taught her to do so...


Four large sausages (not breakfast-sized links) -- any flavor but spicy
One large can of petit pois peas -- I like this one brand from France, but I cannot find a picture of the can!  Sorry!
Three cups uncooked rice (I prefer jasmine in this case)

In a frying pan, sear/cook sausauge until it sears brown on the outside -- note:  It does NOT need to be cooked through and through at this point -- just needs to be delightfully brown.

Open can of petit pois peas and dump peas and canning brine into frying pan with the sausages.  Cover and cook on low heat.)

Now steam/boil rice as is your usual -- I love my Zo rice cooker, so I use this.

When the rice is cooked, the sausages and peas should be done.  Serve two sausage and peas on a bed of rice per person.

I know this recipe seems so simple... but believe me when I say it's addicting.  The above usually serves two people... so increase as needed when serving more.  Also, add whatever seasonings you like -- it depends on your tastes as well as the predominant flavor of the sausage you picked.  I've even added sweet corn and mushrooms...  You are only limited by your imagination.
Jan. 22, 2012 5:56 pm
gal let me just say i ADMIRE you! anybody that can live in those conditions...WOW! i think it's cols when it gets to freezing here...only twice in the last year. you certainly deserve a treat like some of your favorite meats from home! the recipe sounds excellent. thanks for sharing "life on the kenai pennisula!
Jan. 23, 2012 11:51 am
I've been watching the weather in Ak. Your account puts me right ther- without the chill, though. Great description! ...I would be remiss if I failed to get some for us. I'll order some, soon!
Jan. 24, 2012 10:40 am
I cannnot even wrap my mind around that much snow!
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I have lived many places, including Amish Country in Ohio, but Alaska is the place I adore. I get all my seafood from Peninsula Seafoods, including wild white King Salmon, and King Crab at $9.95 a pound! I love the summers where it is just around sunset all night long! And on the Summer Solstice, we'll either stay up all night with the Dragon Drummers or go fishing in the middle of the night. In the Winter, we hibernate and eat comfort food.
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I LUV to grill! I'll grill all the veggies in my house once I get my charcoal grill going. I also love Asian cooking, especially Japanese, but Kalbi is my all-time favorite meat to grill.
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My grandmother on my mother's side left me a lot of her authentic Slovak recipes which I adore. I also tried to learn as much from my Uncle Bob who is a chef extraordinaire.
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Anything seafood and noodles. In fact, I make my own pasta because it tastes so much better and soaks up the flavors of my sauces.
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Lately, I really screwed up meatloaf. And some goolash I recently did. Yuck!!! How can anyone mess up on these two entrees?? I guess I can...
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