Sunday, December 26, 2010

Putting Together A Duck Plan

I believe I have found the duck of my dreams at the Honest Weight Coop. Not sure exactly what kind of duck it is. It was just labeled "Duck." But it is fresh, local and organic. The Coop had a handful of ducks from Garden Of Spices Poultry in Greenwich. They have very favorable write ups on Serious Eats. Apparently, most of their ducks go to Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. From what I have read about him, I can say with certainty that his standards are higher than mine. If these ducks are good enough for Chef Barber...I think I'll be happy with them too.

We will be traveling for New Years to a town outside of Baltimore to visit friends. Since I won't be around to babysit the duck breast while they cure, I am going to start my project on January 3rd. Cure the breasts for about 24 to 36 hours and then hang them in a wine cooler. I'm not sure what the humidity will be in there. The duck meat will be shedding water, but that water will be trapped in the wine fridge. I'll either need to add some humidity, or crack the door and let some moisture out. Like I said, babysit.

Buying a whole duck means I'll also have 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. The wings will either get cooked up for me to eat or go into a stock with the rest of the bones. The legs and thighs are probably going to get a pseudo confit treatment once described in a New York Times food article with this recipe. If there is a ton of fat for me to render, I might try a more traditional confit like the recipe in the Charcuterie book.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Charcutepalooza! Challenge accepted.

It is almost time to start 2011. Turns out 2011 will be the Year of Charcuterie. Who knew?

Charcutepalooza to be exact. And I'm in. This is the motivation I have been needing. I hope this is like having a personal charuterie trainer cheering me on to start the next cure.

First up, duck breast prosciutto. I have seen some nice duck at the Asian market on Central. I don't remember what breed though. My original plan, that I have procrastinated over a year on, was to buy 2 ducks. Once broken down, I'd have 2 breasts for duck breast prosciutto, 2 breasts for cooking (probably on a grill), 4 legs and 4 thighs for confit, some fat for the confit, and some bones for a duck stock. And have I done it? No. Haven't even come close. But I've agreed to do this and now there is a deadline.

I'll be traveling for Christmas and then again for New Years so the cure will have to be scheduled around those trips. But this is freakin' awesome. I feel like a kid with charcuterie homework. At least it isn't a diarama in a shoe box. My duck breast prosciutto project is due on the 15th of January. It's on, baby. Please join me (and hopefully a lot of others) in this year long pursuit of cured meat.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chef's are cool

The Chicago Reader along with Sky Full Of Bacon are doing a series of articles and videos of Chicago chefs. The idea is awesome. And the chefs seem to embrace the idea and make something special.

It starts with on chef getting the "key ingredient." The chefs cooks something with the ingredient then chooses the next key ingredient to get passed onto the next chef. I think what I like about the idea so much is that it gives you a real glimpse into the thought process of a chef. I thought about forwarding the idea to Steve Barnes to use with Capital Region chefs, but since Steve doing anything with the idea would essentially be plagiarism, I didn't.

Interesting articles and videos if you have the time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Almost a post

I sat down at the computer all ready to write a post that I've been meaning to write but haven't gotten to yet. A little over a month ago, I won some soda over at Albany Eats and I had a tasting with the kids, my wife, her parents and her grandmother. It was fun. Everyone voiced their opinions and I took notes. The girls made sure their comments were written down. Here I sit, ready to tell you all about it. And I have no idea where the piece of paper with the notes is hiding. Dammit.

So, you are stuck with a curling story. I am playing in a Bonspiel (aka curling tournament) this weekend. The group of guys on the team all started curling around the same time. There is a pretty big bonspiel on the East Coast for newer curlers with 5 or less years experience and we played in it as a team about 6 years ago. I think almost 30 teams played in it that year. This bonspiel moves from club to club and that year it was held outside Boston. Road Trip.

For me, bonspiels make me nervous. I guess it is like a runner getting pumped up for a race. The easiest way to get rid of a case of curling nerves is to have a drink. We did. Many. In fact, the Friday night of that tournament probably rivals the drunkest I have ever been. But I digress...Sunday morning at 8 am we had a play down game. The winner of that game went on to one of the finals at 11. Win the finals, you get your name on a trophy plus all the fortune and glory that comes with winning obscure events. The nerves were getting to me. My first shot was so bad, and light, and crappy it didn't even count and ended up getting removed from play. One of the guys on the team recognized the nerves and jumped into action. He bolted to the bar to get a pitcher of beer. The following conversation took place at 8:05 AM in Massachusetts.

My buddy: I need a pitcher of Sam Adams.
Bartender: I can't sell beer before noon on a Sunday. It is a state law.
My buddy (without missing a beat): I need to borrow a pitcher of beer until noon.
Bartender: Okay.

With the team nursing their hangovers with a pitcher of beer, we went on to win our game. And the 11:00 game too. And somewhere out there is a trophy with my name on the side. This team reunites tomorrow afternoon. Maybe the magic can happen again and I'll get my name on another obscure trophy. I'm not getting that drunk though.

Good Curling!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Pierogie Tradition Continues

I am realizing that I like traditions. Things that can be passed on, and on, and on. But I think more importantly, these are things that should be passed on. I can see how much my wife's aunt enjoys this day and what it has become. Three generations getting together to make pierogie for Christmas.

I just watched a video/slide show my sister-in-law put together. Five years of pictures of essentially the same day. It blows my mind how much a kid can change in a year. When you are with them all the time, you tend to miss things. Looking back, well it kind of choked me up. These are kids that went from playing with dough like it was play-dough to really wanting to get into the cooking process. Every step. Helping each other. Really trying to get it right. And excitedly looking forward to the Christmas Eve party where they will get to eat the fruit of their labor. Just really beautiful to see.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Internet

I was browsing Craigslist looking for my dream-cheap-10inch-fantastic-wet-saw and I stumbled onto the Craigslsit TV channel. It's like watching a posting unfold on your screen. Anyhow, I'd buy this guy a drink. And I'd hire her to decorate my place.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend Wrap Up

On the plus side, I was able to bounce back from falling behind in my Wednesday prep and put out a pretty good meal. I ended up skipping the Tuscan salami. I think it came out just so-so. And certainly not being above average is disappointing. Perhaps the larger ones requiring a longer hang-time will fair better. I'll try them this week. But here are my two favorite things from the weekend.

The first was a story told to me by by sister-in-law Lisa. My 7-year old niece Abby was riding in the backseat next to her 3-year old brother Ryan. Abby says, "Ryan, next week is Thanksgiving! And we get to go Allison and Casey's house. Do you know what my favorite part of Thanksgiving is?" At this point Lisa said she really started listening because she wanted to hear this..."Allison and Casey's other grandma is there. And do you know what she brings? She makes cookies in the shape of everyone's name. So I'm going to get an A and you're going to get an R!" As fate would have it, an A (there are a total of 4 A cookies made) and the R were on top of the separate container holding the letter cookies.

That is the expanding tradition of Grandma Cookies. One cookie is baked in the first letter of everyone in attendance. It originally started out as just the kids years ago when I was a kid, but now the kids from back then have kids of their own. And it just kept growing...Besides the letters, the traditional cookie shapes are moons, stars, circles and the shapes from a deck of cards. I could eat them all.

My second favorite thing about this years Thanksgiving was a new guest. This was the 10th Thanksgiving we have thrown here. There are some that have made a few, some that have moved onto other venues and a handful that have been to them all. My brother-in-law's brother Tony came  this year. Their parents recently moved to Florida and he was left without his annual place to go. I'm glad he came, but I am happier that he felt comfortable enough to stay after his brother and family left to get kids to bed. That's nice. Unfortunately, Tony cleaned up at the post-dinner poker game that has kind of become a new tradition. Next year is my year, I feel it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In the weeds....

Or at least that's what I've read chef's call it. My Thanksgiving prep was really slow today. I added some extra errands this morning and by time I got going I was already behind. Finished up around 9:00. Looks like everything is set for tomorrow. I get a fresh start.

I just can't help but wonder what will happen to put me in the weeds tomorrow. Hope everything goes off well. The house looks great. Probably hasn't been this clean since we moved in.

Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you enjoy the day....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm lucky I haven't hurt myself.

Although, maybe I should shut up. I haven't gone to bed yet. There's still time.

I had a professional development day. Someone, somewhere thought that engineers need to stay current and the best way to do that was to make them sit through hour long presentations. An average of 12 of them a year or, if you are insane, you could wait until the 3rd and final year of you license and sit through 36 hours at a pop. Ouch. It all comes down to a tax. You have to pay for the credits. The people providing the credits have to pay to have the credits certified. And you have to pay with hours of your time. Couldn't they have just raised the price of a license and saved everyone the headache? Today had 6 hour long presentations so that is half my year's quota. I should be in the clear until February....

So, I came home from that and started to make dinner. About every other week, we have breakfast for dinner. The kids like putting hard boiled eggs into a slicer. There was rye toast, fried eggs, and pancakes too. I burnt some pancakes. I tried cooking the bacon in this roaster with the brilliant idea that I could use the roaster to make stew tonight. The roaster is too big for one burner. Two burners heated it very unevenly. I started to burn the bacon. So I put the roaster in the oven. And forgot to turn off the stove. Caught that a second later.

I had saved some bacon fat for the stew. Burned it. Smoked up the kitchen. Started over. The stew is braising in the oven now. I think I might go get my welding gloves to take it out. And I was going to sharpen my knives for Thanksgiving...not tonight. I'll pass on the stitches.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Casing the Tuscan Salami

This all happened Monday night. It was time to grind, stuff and hang this batch of Tuscan Salami. The grinding and stuffing is pretty easy. The hardest part of that is cleaning up. The difference between a pretty easy fresh sausage and the more difficult salami for me is the butcher's twine. I still can't tie a salami nicely. That being said, I am pleased with how this batch of slami went into the chamber. I hope it ends up tasting as good as it smell now. Here's how I spent my Monday evening....

First up, I got some casings soaking. The casings are salt packed so they need at least half an hour to soak. I also flush them out a few times. The beef middles were very different than the hog casing. Probably to be expected since the two animals are also very different. I had expected a difference in size, but not a difference in texture. Here are the two types of casing soaking. Hog casing on left, beef middle on right.

Next up, toasting some fennel to get added to the meat before the grind. This also smells good.

I tossed in the toasted fennel and started grinding. For the benefit of the camera, I only took a picture when I was done grinding.

I split this up and gave the meat a quick mix with the paddle attachment on the Kitchen Aid. No pictures of that. Then it was time to flush the casings and get stuffing. Well, after cleaning up all the grinding stuff and taking a quick break. I did the the beef middles first.

After stuffing two larger salami, I stopped using the beef middles and went onto the hog casings.

After stuffing six of the smaller diameter salami, I put the leftover beef middle back on and mad one more larger salami with the rest of the meat. Here's what I ended up with:

Now it was time to tie them up and weigh them. It took a little while. The first delay was finding the butcher's twine. I keep it on my spice shelf. It wasn't there. I looked all over the kitchen. It wasn't there. I asked my wife if she had seen it. "The girls have it, I thought you gave it to them." Not sure how or when they took it, but it was over by a craft table and I think they had been making necklaces with it. Once I had the string, the pace picked up a little bit. Not much though. About an hour later every thing was weighed, labeled and tied up. Once again, I give you salami in bondage:

These went into the chamber which got sent up slightly different than last time. Still the same piece of plastic hanging from the floor joists, but this time the humidifier isn't on the floor. Instead, it is on top of the winner cooler I bought off of Craigslist to cure salami in (it didn't work - wine fridges don't work like regular fridges and if you close the door you will have 100% humidity, no air circulation and you will be growing fuzzy, nasty looking mold).

I hung the salami fairly low. The idea was to have the humidity fall to the level of the salami and not be in the line of the humidifier fan.

The last thing I did was about 12 hours after the salami had been hanging. I bough another culture. This one is supposed to bloom a beneficial mold on the outside on the salami and prevent the case from drying out before the middle of the salami. I bloomed three grams of the culture in a little over a cup of water. Then I pour the cultured water into a lasagna pan and rolled the larger salami and 3 of the smaller salami in the water. Then I hung it up again. No signs of this culture bath doing anything yet.

The humidistat on the humidifier consistently reads 70%. The humidity readings I get on the indoor/outdoor gizmo (the little white box next to the salami in the picture above) are consistently 60%. My guess is that the truth is somewhere in between. The temperature in there seems to fluctuate between the high 50s and low 60s (Fahrenheit). The salami will hang until they have lost about 30-40 percent of their original weight. Hopefully, some will be ready for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tuscan Salami

Those starter cultures I ordered came and and I had to get moving if the salami was going to be cured for Thanksgiving. I pretty much followed the same recipe as last time around with a few minor changes. I changed the starter culture, I am probably going to add a spray on culture and  I'm using a little less fat. I used a coarse grind on the fat last time. And these salami are too narrow (think a little thinner than commercial pepperoni sticks). So I will grind everything, eyeball the fat content and maybe mix in a little more. Here's where we are so far...

We start with a pork butt from Cardona's. This is weighing in at about 6.25 pounds. It has been frozen for awhile. This is to eliminate the trichinosis larvae that are 99.5% probably not there to begin with. But my kids really like this and I'm planning to serve it to guests. Not worth the risk.

The butt gets sliced into long strips. The strips are easy to feed into the grinder attachment on a Kitchen Aid mixer. I weighed out all the other ingredients and they are ready to go. There is salt, Cure#2, pepper, dextrose, garlic, Chianti, and culture dispersed in some distilled water.

The whole mess gets mixed together and put in the fridge. This is going to give the culture a little time to get going since I will not be incubating the salami (holding it at 80 degrees for 12-48 hours before going to regular curing temperature and humidity conditions).

On Monday night, I'll toast some fennel seeds, add it to the mix, grind it all, stuff casings and hang it. Might be a late night on Monday. I also got some beef middles with my culture order. They are a natural casing but with a bigger diameter than Italian sausage casings. I'll be making a least some of the batch a little bigger. It will take longer to cure, but I am curious to see how it comes out.

I set my curing chamber up tonight and started to raise the humidity inside it to get ready for the cure. And there is also 10 pounds of pork belly coming my way this week. Bacon and Pancetta are in my future.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Variety, the spice of life

I stopped by Dean's Natural Foods in Westgate Plaza on Central. They have a very nice bulk spice counter. I picked up crashed red pepper, black peppercorns, thyme, rubbed sage, allspice, juniper berries, some bay leaves and a few whole pieces of nutmeg. All for the low price of about $6. They have little bags to fill with a sticker on it. I write on the name of the spice and the date. (Friendly piece of advice: It is easier to write on the bag before you fill it. Ask me how I know.) There are a few other stores locally that have similar bulk spice setups. Honest Weight has a pretty large one - very nice salt selection there. I didn't need any during this trip, but the chili powder and granulated garlic sold here are excellent. Perfect in rubs. That garlic is strong though, go easy on it at first.

My favorite part of this kind of system is that you can try something very cheaply. Got a recipe calling for a teaspoon of turmeric and don't want to buy a whole bottle of dead spice that has been on a market shelf for 7 years? You can buy a teaspoon of turmeric and be on your way.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Other than the 4th of July, it is the only non-secular holiday that is REALLY celebrated in this country. Yes, I know there are other holidays that fit the non-secular bill, but are they really celebrated? Have you ever seen a kid excited for a month, bursting with anticipation and counting the days until Washington's Birthday? The sales are good, but c'mon. 

My love of Halloween must have had something to do with growing up in the same house as "The Snickers Lady." That is what my mother became known as. In a pre-warehouse club era, my father had a client that owned a news stand. Every October, the order would go in and we would get boxes of full sized Snickers bars. A box of 36 candy bars at a reasonable price is much easier to get now. Costco, BJ's or Sam's will have them. My parents house in on a corner. If you come up the driveway, you go to what our family calls "the back door." If you walk up the path from the other street, you are at, you guessed it, "the front door." Pretty creative, eh? It is not uncommon for both doorbells to be ringing at the same time on Halloween. As a kid at the awkward "I shouldn't be wearing a costume" age, I can remember answering the door my mother wasn't at and handing out these full sized candy bars to kids. When you hand a kid a old enough to know the difference between fun-size and full-sized candy bars, the expression of sheer glee on their face is really fun to see. Perhaps I over analyzing or projecting, but for that specific moment in time all is good in that kid's corner of the universe.

That excitement stuck with me. The street I live one doesn't get much trick or treat traffic. I always overbuy candy with dumb optimism. This year I bought a box Nestle Crunch bars and another box of Kit Kats (I wanted Twix but BJ's only sells them in a combo pack now).  Of the 20 or so we handed out to trick-or-treaters, I'd guess 8 of them had OMFG expressions on their faces when they saw their choices. Two of the 8 were even kind of bouncing. The extra candy goes to the mailman, the kid's teacher's, people at work, and a collection for soldiers. I guess some of The Snickers Lady rubbed off on me.

The big change in our 2010 Halloween was the pumpkin carving. For at least 15 years, I have annually carved the same face into a pumpkin. Here's my buddy Boofus:

This year, I had two pumpkins and two aspiring jack-o-lantern designers. I still did the carving working off of drawings the girls made. I came pretty close. They were happy with the finished product. Maybe next year, Boofus.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So much going on

I ordered some salami making supplies last night. Spending $50 on starter cultures and beef middles should not make a grown man this excited. I don't think it is healthy. All 3 will get used next week in a batch of Tuscan Salami as preparations for Thanksgiving start. I can't believe I am already thinking about Thanksgiving. This year will be the 10th that I host. I keep expecting people to start finding other plans. Things change. Stuff happens. And through it all, the guest list is pretty much the same. In fact, probably half the crowd has been to every one of them. A very nice tradition.

I went out of town for work last week. I kind of dread this trip. Every fall, the squad I am in goes to check out the same site on the other side of the state. We went as far as you can possible go from Albany and still be in New York. There is only so much small talk a group of guys in a car can make. The round trip was just under 1000 miles of driving with breaks for work. I grew up in the burbs. I live in the burbs. I think I kind of need the burbs. Too much wide open space tends to freak me out. It is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but I don't think I would make out there.

This was the first year I actually enjoyed the trip. Got up and left early Tuesday morning. Drove to the site. Worked until 4. Put in a good day of work on Wednesday. Everything went well. We went out to dinner to this kind of...well it was almost out of the movie Roadhouse. Burger was nothing special but the wings were good. Three of the 5 of the squad went back to the hotel. I stayed with a co-worker to see what kind of happenings happened as it got later in this place. The crowd was a total mix. College seniors, farmers, guys from a basketball league, few couples. Our waitress/bartender was amazing and unique to say the least. Very energetic, very sarcastic and just plain fun. Did I mention the wad of tobacco behind her lower lip? No shit. She got a little tipsy as the night wore on (Southern Comfort and Red Bull), but she never stopped the dip. She always had some chew going.  She's telling us stories about stuff that's gone on there - wow by the way (Phairhead if someone is throwing you a bachlorette party, I have a good game for you guys) - and she's got chew and a plastic spit cup the whole time. My cheap Scotch brand of choice is J&B and I drank it all night there for $25. That price included soda for my partner in crime. He doesn't drink - more for me. And then just when you thought the scenery couldn't get better, someone starts setting up a Karaoke.

I've only been drunk enough to stand up there once. And sing backup. Barely. And I was in Wisconsin, with several hundreds of miles between me and anyone I knew that wasn't standing next to me. Never again. No one should have to hear me sing. Not even the soap in the shower. Only a few bar patrons sang. It was mostly the people that set it up. They were decent. There was one guy that only sang Elvis songs. A lot of country. But it wasn't very loud. You could still have a conversation. The whole night was just a good time. I definitely couldn't do it every night. It looked like there were people that did.

Getting up the following morning was a little harder. But I got by, got the next job done and checked into the next hotel. It was close to a casino. Around 10:30, my partner in crime (same one from the bar) hit the poker tables. At a little after midnight, I left with $203 more than I walked in carrying. What a rush.

And so, for the first time, I actually enjoyed my visit to the Southern Tier. I was actually a little sorry to leave. I can't imagine what kind of trouble I'd get into if I lived near that bar. I'll stick with the safety of making salami in the basement and just head out that way for an annual visit.

One last thing if you are still reading this...there's a guy in Southern California that is very active on the wood fired oven site. He is essentially my online hero that may or may not remember I exist. Do you have an online hero like that? We exchanged a few emails about 6 months ago. He just posted about curing his own olives because apparently in Southern California, you can walk up to an olive tree in a public park and pick all the olives you want. Last time I checked, that was not an option at The Crossings. Anyhow, he later posted about making his first batch of sauerkraut. I told him that homemade sauerkraut makes kick ass Reubens. He replied very exited about making a Reuben. Props from my online hero...I'm having a good week.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It Reuben-ed

Today seemed like the only day to have Ruebens. The kids are getting into more and more stuff. Tuesday was gymnastics. Wednesday was a meeting for Girl Scouts. And Friday is Family Fun Night at the school. So here's what I did with my Reuben window of opportunity. During lunch today, I ran over to Nino's just off Central to get a loaf of rye bread. I think their rye is one of the best locally. You can do better closer to the city though. Then I ran home and put a store bought corned beef in the crock pot filled with water to simmer (making my own corned beef is on the to-do list). Then I ran back to work. The stage was set.

I came home to a house smelling of corned beef. Ladies, you might want to think about bottling that - screw new car smell. I took a bunch of the homemade sauerkraut and put it in a pot with some of the bring, a little water and some cider vinegar to simmer. Once cooked, it tasted like good sauerkraut. Uncooked, it is still tasty, but more like a sauerkraut slaw if that makes any sense. Another rotated picture - no idea why.

I took the corned beef out of the water to rest a little and started to whip up a Russian dressing. Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, pepper, granulated garlic and relish got mixed up. Mayo and ketchup were then whisked in. Sliced some Jarlsberg and the corned beef and it was go time. I took most of the crust off of one for the kids.

They were good. Damn good. It might have to Reuben again some time.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dinner With the Girls

On Thursday, my wife had to work late so it was just me and the kids for dinner. Earlier in the day, I had flipped through a recent Metroland Dining Guide and being the nerd that I am, I circled a lot of places that I want to try. (Wine and Diner, New World Bistro Bar and Garden Bistro 24 - I hope to see you and a few others soon.) Ali Baba in Troy caught my eye. I hadn't been there in years. We didn't have kids, so it is at least 7 years. Truth be told, I did some grad work at RPI, just a few blocks up the street. Well, let's just say my relationship with RPI did not end well. Feelings were hurt...things were said...I try to avoid the area, because I might accidentally bump into the campus and say something I'll regret. I think Ben Folds summed it up when he sang, "Give me my money back, you bitch."

Anyhow, I picked the girls up from their schools and headed across the river to Ali Baba. My youngest daughter, Casey, is a little picky. Allison, she's my food nut. We all sat on the same side of a 4-top table so we could watch the oven. There is a fire in the oven, but it isn't wood burning. The thing I remember most about Ali Baba was the pre-meal bread and yogurt dip. A flat dough is put in the oven and as the steam builds up, the dough inflates. I'm not talking a little poofy. I'm talking bigger than a soccer ball. Then it gets a little brushing of oil and some seeds get thrown on top. Freaking delicious. Kids would have had that for a meal.

Pretty sure their mother would have frowned on just bread for dinner, so I order a chicken shish plate and a adana kabob for the 3 of us to share. Casey was just so-so on the chicken and the kabab was too seasoned for her tastes. Allison and I didn't have any problem finishing it though. She ate most of it. I ate most of the chicken- it was good, not fantastic but I was going for something relatively mild- and Casey just picked here and there. They had lollipops up by the register. The girls enjoyed them in the car ride home.

All in all, a very nice night out with the girls.

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....