Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I think it's about to Rueben

This weeks CSA share had a pretty big head of cabbage. We had it before this summer and I've made cole slaw. I like cole slaw, but there is only so much of it I am willing to eat. I remembered reading some various posts about homemade sauerkraut. A quick search and I was here, rereading Chef Bob Del Grosso's version of sauerkraut.

I used 3/4 of a head. I probably should have used it all, but it looked like more until I pressed it down. Anyhow, I had about 1000 grams of cabbage. 1059 grams if you are keeping score at home. Multiply that by 0.02 and you get close enough 22 grams of kosher salt. Stirred it all up and pressed it down.

And there it sits, perched upon a foosball table in the basement.

Hopefully it comes out good. If it does, there will be Ruebens.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Time to make the bacon

Saturday didn't go quite as I planned. I was going to wake up, have breakfast and play with the kids while the cured pork loin danced with heat and smoke. It didn't quite work out like that. There are 2 new calfs at my in-laws. They have been there about a week. I think they are used to a larger herd and there being only 4 cows, including the 2 of them, is freaking them out. At dusk Friday night, one calf wandered away from the other 3 cows, then couldn't find them and then lost it in a panic attack. It ran around not knowing where it was going. It broke 3 fence posts and a gate. So instead of makin' bacon (I love saying that) this morning, we went up for repairs. It was a good day. Got a lot done. Everything is fixed. Father-in-law is back to being as calm as he gets.

Sunday is looking pretty full too. The kids have a 9:30 appointment at a flu shot clinic. We've tried to cut a deal. Brave kids for flu shots in the morning, Hoffman's Playland and ice cream in the afternoon. We'll see how it goes. Then later Sunday, I have to pack and drive to Syracuse for a minimum of 2 days for work.

But the bacon is ready NOW...We got home a little after 8 this evening. Got kids to bed and it was pushing 9. So I did what any insane food whack-job would do. I went outside a lit a chimney of coals. I decided to try and do this in a kettle grill. That's the moon over my neighbor's house.

And here's the pork loin after sitting in the fridge, drying for about 20 hours. It smells good. This step helps a lot. I believe it forms a "pellicle" which helps somehow with the smoking. I've made slab bacon omitting this step and well, don't skip this step. The end result isn't as good. And again, no idea why the photo is rotated.

I put all the coals on one side and the loin on the other. I also slotted a piece of heavy duty foil and slipped it through the grate. Not sure if it worked, bu the idea was to reduce the amount of radiant heat hitting the loin. I added a few handfuls of apple chips to the coals and slapped the lit on.

After an hour on the grill, I flipped the loin and added another handful of apple wood chips. After 2 hours, the moon was higher in the sky and the loin temperature was hovering around 140 degrees. I took it off to cool after about 2 and a half hours on the grill. I'll put it in the fridge overnight and find sometime to slice and freeze it tomorrow. Cooking a meal with it will probably have to wait a week. But who am I kidding, I'll have a taste tomorrow. Did I mention it smells good?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Take off to the Great White North

Take off, it's a beauty way to go.

I haven't seen a really nice looking pork belly anywhere and I am out of bacon. I thought I'd try my hand and Canadian Bacon. Last night I simmered 2 liters of water. Added 200 grams of kosher salt, 200 grams of sugar (mostly brown sugar but some raw organic sugar made it in the mix), and 40 grams of pink salt. I combined this with 2 more liters of water in a bowl and let it sit on the counter. Through on some plastic wrap and put the bowl in the fridge overnight. (if anyone has any idea how to stop random rotations of pictures, please let me know)

Tonight, I trimmed up a 5 lb piece of pork loin. I took 3 chops to grill for dinner tomorrow and trimmed up the rest.

The loin went into a bag. I added some garlic, thyme and sage. I was going to add some bay, but I forgot.

In goes the brine and it all gets bundled up to cure.

I'll take it out Friday night, rinse it and let it sit in the fridge uncovered. Try to smoke it on Saturday. Then we'll have some homemade bacon for our weekly "Breakfast for Dinner" meal. I want to try and put a slice of bacon in a muffin tin, crack in an egg and then bake it until the egg is cooked. How bad could that be?

Koo loo koo koo koo koo koo koo!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


This is wrong on so many levels.

"Vilhelm Lillefläsk’s Squeez Bacon® is fully cooked 100% bacon. Due to the patented electro-mechanical process by which Squeez Bacon® is rendered, it requires no preservatives or other additives. Each serving is as healthy as real bacon, and equivalent to 4 premium slices of bacon! You can put it on sandwiches, pizza, pastas, bacon, soups, pies, eat it hot or cold (warm Squeez Bacon® on toasted rye is to die for), substitute it for bacon in your recipes, or even eat it right out of the tube like we do! If it’s edible, it’s better with Squeez Bacon®."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Return to the Firedome

Thursday night I made a variation of a no-knead pizza dough and let set in the fridge over-night. Friday after work, it was time to play with fire again. Firedome, that is.

This time I used more fuel to get it hotter. I loaded the coals in two batches. I was able to hold the temperature of the cooking surface at over 800 deg F for around an hour. Here's the set up.

The heat had more time to reach an equilibrium temperature. Kind of tough to read, but the heat gun is showing 807 deg F. There were a few that were closer to 850.

Time to make pizza. Turns out that I really suck are shaping pizza dough. Maybe I'll do better with a lower hydration rates, but "suck" appropriately describes my pizza shaping skills. I need a lesson from someone that knows what they are doing.  My brother used to make pizza back in the 90s. Maybe I can talk him into a class around Thanksgiving time. Had 3 kinds of pizzas. 2 pies with tomatoe sauce and fress mozz. 1 pie with garlic oil and fresh mozz and another just without the garlic. I grated Parmesan on each pie too.

They came out OK. I think I liked the last dough better. Similar proportions, different kinds of flour, but I think the kneading added something too. I also need to rig something up so that heat reflects back down from the lid. The bottoms were consistently done before the tops. A work in progress....

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

Back in the day (translation: pre-kids), Labor Day Weekend was a tailgate party. We packed up food for a few days, a portable bar, and along with 10 to 20 friends went off to Mansfield, Massachusetts to eat, drink and see Jimmy Buffett. They were great times. Unfortunately, I listen to a Buffett concert online a few weeks ago and...let's just say you can't go home again.

So now, as a family, we spend more time doing what would have done if we weren't so hung over from 2 days of power tail-gating. And that is the RING OF FIRE!!!! No, not the Johnny Cash song. On the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend at the Great Sacandaga Lake, everyone builds a bonfire. So you can sit along the shore and see fires pop up around the lake. Sporadic fireworks displays pop up all over too. Did I mention there would be adult beverages too?

Our day at the lake usually starts around lunch time. We fired up a homemade grill (remember the father-in-law with all the tools?). Not sure If talked about this grill here or somewhere else, but if you like fried hamburgers this thing kicks ass. You light a 20 lb bag of Kingsford in it. When it gets good and hot, you put the stainless steel cooking surface on. When that is good and hot, the burgers go on. The crust is unbelievable. And as the fat comes out of the burger fries in it. Confit is the only way I can think of describing it. Can you confit a burger? Here's the grill and some burgers and dogs cooking.

Check out this crust...

I also got to test out one of my latest projects. While I will agree that Newcastle is not the best beer in the world, I still like drinking it. And I love those little mini kegs. I wish other beers would start producing them. Wouldn't it be great to have 5 liters of your favorite beer on tap in your fridge? I can handle 5 liters, full kegs...I think I could physically drink one before it went bad, but I am sure I shouldn't. To keep the beer cold lakeside, I made some little ice rings.

It is a pasta pot filled with water. Then another pot is weighted down inside and the whole thing is frozen. A little warm water gets everything out of the molds.

quick check for fit...
and a tapped mini keg ready to spread ice cold joy and happiness to me and my brother-in-law.
and there you have proof my parents didn't waste money on an engineering degree.

One of the other things traditionally served at these Ring Of Fire weekends is clams. Lots of freaking clams. This year, 600 clams. All cooked lakeside on propane burners. Here's the set up:

the clams are cooking in olive oil, garlic and chopped parsely.

bowl after bowl was served. And then you ladle the broth over pasta. Good eatin.

As the sun went down. the fires started getting lit.

It was a good weekend. Kids, extended families and one last summer night at the lake.