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Hot dog! September 20, 2013

Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Home, random stuff.
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Before you get worried, no this is not a post about how Jarly deals with warm weather. You’re welcome.

A few years ago, my in-laws gave me a copy of Charcuterie for Christmas. Probably one of the few things I’d run into the burning house to rescue. It’s a delightful book on the salting, curing and smoking of meat. Since I got it, we’ve stopped buying commercial bacon and I make my own pastrami. But I’ve only just scratched the surface of what I can do.

There are a few things I have no interest in, some I haven’t gotten around to yet and a couple that just aren’t terribly practical. I mean, I would love to cure and ham and age it for six months or so. But I don’t really have a good place to do that, and even if I did, I would have well over ten pounds of bone-in ham that I would need to do something with.

One of the things that was on my “get to it” list was hot dogs. That’s right, homemade hot dogs.

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Now, before you start wondering where I managed to get pig lips and tails and other things that probably go into commercial hot dogs, stop. I didn’t have to get anything even remotely weird. I actually had almost everything I needed on hand.

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First step is to grind two and a half pounds of boneless beef short ribs. Which were on sale at our local butcher shop.  Lucky me! As an aside, taking something as wonderful as short ribs and running them through the meat grinder was a little rough. But I managed it.

Next add to the ground meat a little Kosher salt and some pink (curing) salt and some water and mix with your hands as completely as you can. Then, in a covered container, it goes into the fridge for 24 to 48 hours. Not too difficult so far, right?

Once you’re ready for the next step, you add the seasonings to the meat. Dry mustard, paprika, ground coriander, white pepper, minced garlic and a little corn syrup. Those get mixed in by hand. You then spread the meat out onto a sheet pan and put it in the freezer for half an hour or so to firm up for the next step. I put a silicone baking sheet down first, just to make life a little easier.

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Once the meat is completely chilled and quite firm, it gets run through the grinder again. You want to make sure that the meat is very firm. The second grind is less than fun if the meat is too warm. Trust me. Once you’re finished grinding again, spread the meat out again on the sheet pan and back into the freezer with it. Another half hour or so should be enough.

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The next thing, once the meat is cold again, is to run it through your food processor. You want to turn the meat into a paste as quickly as you can so as not to warm the meat up too much. Since our food processor isn’t large, we ran it through in two batches.

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Now comes the fun part. Stuffing. I have read online that using the stuffing attachment for a stand mixer is a less than fun job for this recipe. Fortunately, my totally awesome wife gave me a sausage stuffing gizmo a couple years back that I am very happy to have. And just as a hint, to help keep the meat cold during the stuffing process, I had put the hopper for the sausage stuffer in the freezer to make sure that there would be no problems.

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Now, there was one thing I was concerned about. We keep natural hog casings in the house for making either Italian sausage or the really yummy pork and leek that my wife discovered. But they’re really too big for making hot dogs. They work, but what I wanted was sheep casings. They are narrower and are prefect for the job. Sadly, the only way I could get any was in large packages. Five pounds or more. Which is way more than I wanted around in case this experiment didn’t work out. So, for the time being, we went with some collagen casings that I came with the grinder that were about the right size.

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Once your casings are stuffed, you’re almost done. To finish the job, your hot dogs need some smoke. So, I got some charcoal going on the small smoker and rigged up a coat hanger to hang the hot dogs on while they smoked. I’ll figure out a better system some other time.

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Once your hot dogs have reached a temperature of 140 degrees, remove them from the smoker and put them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. That’s it, you’re done.

We ended up with about a dozen properly sized hot dogs and a few that were a little small. Sample sized.

The verdict? These were really good. Really good. The texture was perfect, and the flavor was incredible. They tasted very similar to Nathan’s hot dogs, we both thought. The collagen casings were far from perfect, but that’s probably the last time we’ll use them. I don’t have a problem now with keeping two kinds of sausage casings in the house.

The only question is, is this now our house hot dog? Probably. It wasn’t a lot of work, mostly waiting. If we can get short ribs at a decent price, I have no problem doing a double batch or two and shoving them in the freezer until we need them. Plus, now that we know this works, we can experiment a little with different cuts of meat.

Porkstrami! June 14, 2013

Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Home, random stuff.
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My wife and I were looking through the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine a week or so ago. It’s not our favorite food magazine, but it’s usually interesting.

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There was a one page article on food halls being the new food trucks. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. But it mentioned a place in D.C. called the Red Apron Butchery that does something they call “porkstrami”. This got our attention.

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We did a little looking online and found a few mentions of the stuff, but no references as to how it’s made.

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But the more we thought about it, the more we were liking the idea. Pastrami made from pork. How could this be a bad thing? So, we figured that since I already make my own pastrami, why couldn’t I make this? So, not knowing how, and since I have the free time, it was time to try.

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I picked up a pork shoulder at the store and had them bone and butterfly it, so that it was a relatively uniformly sized piece of meat.

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It went into the same curing brine that I use for making pastrami. Kosher salt, sugar, curing salt, pickling spice, brown sugar, honey and garlic in about a gallon of water. In the fridge for five days. No problem.

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Sunday was the big day. I ground equal parts of black peppercorns and whole coriander for the outside and was ready to start.

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Now, the one thing my wife and I couldn’t agree on was how to put it in the smoker. She thought that rolling and tying it up before the spice rub would be the way to go. Me, I was thinking that leaving it flat would be just the ticket. Unable to decide, I did both.

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I started with about a seven pound pork shoulder. I cut it in half and rolled and tied one half as tight as I could manage. The other half I left alone.

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Both halves get covered in the spice rub and we’re ready to go.

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It was a perfect day for smoking. I had already had some pork belly curing, and we had also bought a pork loin so that we could put some of that on the smoker, too. I mean, you might as well fill the thing if you’re going to use it at all. My wife was a little concerned that the bacon was going to drip onto the porkstrami. But what is not improved by a little bacon fat?

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After about two hours, most everything was ready to come out. The flat version of the porkstrami was just perfect.

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The pork loin and the bacon turned out just right. The rolled and tied porkstrami needed more cooking time. But we’d already expected that.

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Another hour and a half or so, and it’s time to take the last of the porkstrami off the smoker. We spent the rest of the afternoon nibbling on both versions as well as the bacon and pork loin. Go figure.

The verdict? Porkstrami is definitely a thing. It’s pretty good. The coriander and black pepper on the outside adds a great flavor to the cured pork. And since pork and smoke are such great friends, the whole thing works very well. The rolled and tied version takes longer in the smoker. The flat version has a better meat to rub ratio, I think. And is a little less fussy to get ready. Either way, it didn’t suck.

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The next day I got the meat slicer out and sliced it all as thin as I could manage. Most of it went into the freezer for another day, but I left a little in the fridge for lunches and/or snacks for this week. We have not given it the ultimate test of heating it like pastrami. Maybe in the next week or so. In the meanwhile, we’ve tried it and liked it a lot. And pork shoulder is much cheaper than beef brisket. Although, I wouldn’t mind trying it again with a hunk of pork loin. Just as an experiment.

And who knows? Maybe this will catch on. And we can say that we did it ages ago. Heh.

Monday Musings: 06.10.2013 Edition June 9, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Big Lug, Cooking, Food, Garden, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff, Shopping With Peeps.
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Isn’t it amazing how quickly time flies when you’re busy?  And BOY have we been busy lately!

Jar’s got the right idea, though, I think.  After a GRUELING tracking class (not really grueling, but he worked pretty hard), and a last-minute obedience class, by the time he finished dinner, he was done.  He crashed on his bed and barely moved for the rest of the evening – in fact, he never even came upstairs for bed!

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Boy, you take your eyes off that herb garden for a few days and it just goes CRAZY, doesn’t t?

Tarragon trying to take over, sage blossoming all over the place, and the MINT is trying to make a break for it!

Don’t even get me started on the random dill popping up all over the place.
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It may be had to tell, but I did make a bit of progress in imposing order on that mess!  I did some weeding, trimmed the sage, and tied up the tarragon.

I didn’t have the heart to rip up that runaway mint – though I’ll probably be sorry later, won’t I?

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Speaking of gardens and imposing order . . . I finally had a chance to do some work in the vegetable garden this weekend, too.  The beans, in front here, are up and doing beautifully, and the potatoes, which you can’t really see WAY at the back, are also mostly doing well – I think a couple of the plants didn’t come up (yet?), but the ones that are there are very happy!  I also thinned the kale, so we’ll be enjoying a baby kale salad in the near future, probably with some sort of mustard-y vinaigrette.

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I’ve got tomato blossoms!  You know what this means, right?

It means it’s only a matter of time (well, less time than it was, anyway) until  I’m out there picking my very own fresh tomatoes and making plans for that summertime favorite – BLTs from scratch!

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Speaking of BLTs – I did plant some lettuce, though it’s not doing spectacularly.

And apparently, my compost has gifted me with some of last year’s seeds – and the little volunteer looked so happy there trying to blend in with the lettuce, I just didn’t have the heart to pull it.

I have no idea what it is, though if I had to guess, I’d say it’s either got to be a winter squash or a melon.  Maybe.

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How about a quick Shopping With Peeps?  (Sort of, anyway.)

How do you like our Summer Snow?  The parking lot of the supermarket this morning was just absolutely loaded with piles and drifts of the stuff!

Here in the Rochester, NY area, we seem to have an alarming number of cottonwood trees – which wouldn’t be such a bad thing, really, unless you’re allergic to the stuff.

Yeah, I’ll spend the next few weeks blowing my nose and itchy-eyed.  But I’m used to it by now, I guess.

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We had an absolutely gorgeous weekend, and Peeps grabbed the opportunity to smoke some pork – some bacon, some pork loin, and some pork shoulder.  (You know, since the smoker was going anyway, might as well do it all, right?)

He even had some help, too!  Jar wanted to help carry, but Peeps had it under control.

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Meanwhile, I’m starting to get more than a little tired of walking around Jar’s unfinished feeder-to-be, so I hauled it out to the deck and sanded the daylights out of it and put a coat of paint on the inside.  I’ll give that a chance to dry, then finish painting it.

And if I’m smart, I’ll add a coat of polyurethane or something equally slobber-resistant.

I’m just not sure yet if I’m that smart. . .

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And of course it wouldn’t be Sunday without a nice bone in the back yard for Mister Fuzzy Butt (speaking of  fuzzy butt – OH the SHEDDING!)

I stopped at the butcher shop, and when I asked the butcher to cut the bones in half because his tongue wouldn’t fit all the way inside, well, the guy thought I was a little nuts.

So  I didn’t tell him I was buying a box of Honey Nut Cheerios to use as treats. . .

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When I cleaned the daylights out of the herb garden, I ended up hacking down a TON of sage.  So I salvaged half a dozen leaves, added to them the zest of half a lemon, some black pepper and some sea salt, and I chopped them all together.

I figure that’ll be a lovely rub for some pork chops that are going on the grill – after all, you didn’t think Peeps had smoked ALL of the pork, did you?

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  Last week was a looong week, and this week looks like it’s going to be more of the same.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you – just a little tired.

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So, most of the week is looking fairly decent – in fact, I’d go so far as to say we couldn’t ask for much nicer weather – except the couple of rainy days, of course.  But even that, we can live with – after all, the garden needs the water, right?

Monday -  Peeps requested Breakfast For Dinner, so we dusted off an old favorite lemon-ricotta pancake recipe, and we’ll work on finishing up the last of the oldest bacon in the freezer (if there is any).   I may even get ambitious and make some kind of blueberry sauce for the pancakes – that’ll be good, right?

Tuesday - Since it’s going to be rainy, and since we wanted something meatless (or mostly meatless, anyway), and since we loved the idea when we got the newest Cook’s Country magazine, we’re going to try their Corn Chowder makeover – which apparently the ENTIRE INTERNET has not yet heard of.

I’ll let you know how it goes. . .

Wednesday - Did I mention we smoked a pork loin this weekend?  We did.  And that got me thinking about Cuban sandwiches, and how they’re made with pork loin and supposed to be kind of squished, which made me think about that so-good-but-so-bad panini that I haven’t made in AGES – so we’re going try a Cuban-ish panini-ish sort of thing.  Smoked pork loin and kale and onion relish and cheese, with wild garlic pesto mayo on semolina, grilled panini-style.  With maybe some potato salad and green salad on the side

Thursday - I’ve got another “thing” after work, so I’ll be home for dinner, but just barely.  So after Kay‘s comment the other day, we realized that we hadn’t grill-spatchcocked a chicken in a while.  Peeps will deal with that, along with some pan-roasted little potatoes and some green beans from the freezer – a lovely dinner after a LONG day!

Friday - As always, Friday is pizza night - last week, I enjoyed wild garlic and asparagus, which was great.  This week, maybe there will be a bit of roast pork or chicken, otherwise I’m sure I can manage to rustle up a few fresh herbs. . .

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Roast chicken on the grill June 6, 2013

Posted by Peeps in Cook's Illustrated, Cooking, Home, random stuff.
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A few weeks ago, my wife and I were watching America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a relaxing way to spend half an hour before I have to walk the dog. And we might find something we want to try.

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They did a show on how to roast a turkey on a charcoal grill, so that you can save oven space at the holidays. And even though it’s nowhere near the holidays yet, and we didn’t have a turkey handy,we decided that we wanted to try it.

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We still have several whole chickens in the freezer and we thought that it might be worth trying. Roasted chicken in the Summer time without heating up the house? Let’s go!

You start by cutting four slits into the back of the chicken to let rendered fat drain out. The skin then needs to get loosened. Yes, it’s not a fun step, but you need to do it. Then you need to season the bird. In this case, salt inside the cavity to start. The turkey version called for something like two tablespoons, but we scaled it back a bit. It was a large chicken, but not quite that large.

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Some salt needs to get under the skin of the bird. Get as far as you can reach without tearing the skin You’ll be happy you did.

Then the outside of the bird gets covered in a mixture of salt, pepper and baking powder. It apparently helps with browning and makes the skin crispy. And who doesn’t want that?

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The bird gets covered with plastic wrap and goes into the fridge at least overnight. Two days will work, if you don’t mind having the bird take up all that room in your fridge.

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When you’re ready to cook, you need to get the grill ready. Unlit coals on either side of a disposable aluminum pan filled with water need to go into your grill.

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Once your coals are hot, you pour the hot coals on both sides of the aluminum pan and close the grill to let it heat up.

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The way of arranging the coals and the pan allows you to cook the bird on indirect heat. The water in the pan helps even the heat out and creates a slightly more damp cooking environment.

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Once the grill is hot and the grates are clean, place your bird right over the pan of water and close the lid. Now walk away for a while. Check the bird after about two hours, you want the breast meat to read 160 degrees and the thigh to be 175. Once the bird is cooked, let it rest for about fifteen minutes or so. And don’t look at the stuff that ended up in the aluminum pan, it’s not terribly pretty.

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This was great. It wasn’t quite as brown as we would have liked, but it also wasn’t on the grill all that long. The skin was crisp, the meat was well seasoned and juicy and there was very little to clean after dinner. I think this might happen more than once over the course of the Summer.

If you care, you can see how to do this with a turkey right here.

Pork under pressure March 14, 2013

Posted by Peeps in Cook's Illustrated, Cooking, Food, random stuff.
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Everyone who reads our blog knows all too well how much we use and love our pressure cooker. It’s a very rare week that goes by when we don’t use it for something.

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Not too long ago, we found out that the good people at Cook’s Illustrated were coming out with yet another cookbook. But not one we could ignore, not this time. It’s their new book of pressure cooker recipes.

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Needless to say, we were pretty excited about the idea. They always have solid, reliable recipes that taste really good. The sad part was that it wasn’t going to be coming out until the middle of March. And we didn’t want to wait that long to try it out.

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Fortunately, my wife reads a great many food blogs. Apparently one of them, Macheesmo, was contacted by Cook’s Illustrated not long ago and given a free copy of the new book. Along with a brand new pressure cooker. He apparently has a lot more readers than we do.

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After we got finished seething with jealousy, we realized that this was our chance to try the recipe that Macheesmo blogged about, Pork Vindaloo. We love Indian food. Particularly when it doesn’t involve going somewhere or taking a long time.

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We followed the recipe exactly. While Toys cut the meat into bite sized cubes, I measured and cut up everything else.

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The browning of the pork took a while. And a few more batches than two. More like five. But hey, I’m not a professional. Once everything was ready to go, the lid when on and the pressure was on. Thirty minutes under pressure and a natural release, about another fifteen minutes.

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We served it over brown basmati rice and with a nice India Pale Ale. It was fantastic! Since it make so much, we had it for lunches for a couple days afterwards, and I think we even had enough left over for one more dinner.

If you own a pressure cooker, at the very least try this recipe. If you regularly use a pressure cooker, you may want to consider getting the book. They have never once let us down.

And thank you to Macheesmo for letting us try something out of a book that we’ll be getting soon.

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