Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday Smokin'

Well, it'd been way too long since I'd fired up the smoker, so I thought it was high time. Saturday, I got hold of a nice little 11 pound brisket, a 9 pound pork shoulder, three really nice racks of spareribs and about 10 pounds of bologna.

Saturday night (Nosh night, see post below) after all the cleanup was done and everyone had gone to bed I started in with the prepwork. I peeled and trimmed the ribs and rubbed them down with my favorite dryrub. Then I did a little injecting into the pork butt and rubbed it down all around as well. Next up I poked the brisket all over to get it good and tender and liberally applied the dry rub to all surfaces. Last up was the three rolls of bologna. Peeled the wrapper, poked numerous holes in it, and rolled it in the rub.

Here's the brisket, butt and ribs all prepped up and ready to hit the chill chest for the night.

Here's the bologna all poked and seasoned too.

Next morning I got the smoker all fired up and a good temp working with some hickory all wet and ready to hit the fire. About three hours later, here came the bologna.....

Another hour or so, and the ribs got pulled and wrapped in foil for another three hours of cook time...

And last but not least, the brisket and the butt got hauled out...

The brisket was perfect. Easily sliced and soft enough to pull apart with a fork.

The butt wasn't as tender as I like it, so I fired up the oven to about 195, and dropped Mr. Pigbutt in there for an overnight meditation on the fine art of being tender.

Next morning (actually, this morning) about 6 I pulled that butt out and, my oh my.... fork tender doesn't even come close.

All I had to do was give it a mean look and it just came apart.


It took about 2 minutes to pull this whole half sheet.

Now I just chill it, vacuum seal it, and I'm good for a few months. I generally portion the brisket, pork butt and bologna into 1 pound portions and seal each one individually. Ribs generally get sealed up whole. That way, when me and the missus get a hankerin' for some 'cue on a Satruday afternoon, we can pull out a little of each one. A couple minutes in the microwave (it's sealed, so it just steams itself), and we have smoked meat that is absolutely as good as it was the day I smoked it.

Add sauce and whatever condiments you want, and you have a 'cue feast fit for a king.

And the best part of all... is knowing that I did it all on my own and don't have to spend a fortune on 'cue from the local pit.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Nosh Night

Every couple of months or so around our house, we have what we call 'nosh night'. What that means is I spend a couple of hours in the kitchen cooking up a variety of snack foods so that everyone can snack and generally have an easy night of it.

Sounds fun, huh?

I don't complain though... If I didn't like cooking, I wouldn't do it.

Over time, our menu has come to include some basic staples. Pretty much the same things you'd find on any halfway respectable Superbowl Sunday... Buffalo Wings, Chicken Strips, Cheese Dip, etc.

Tonight we added a new item to the venue, and it turned out so well, I thought it worth posting about.

Tonight's menu consisted of:
Our World Famous Hotwings. I don't really call em Buffalo wings because... well... we don't live in Buffalo, and Tulsa Wings just doesn't do much for me.

Everybody's favorite Velveeta Cheese and Rotel Tomato dip, other wise known hereabouts as simply Rotel Dip. Although I usually fry up a little ground beef to add into mine, carnivore that I am.

Guacamole and chips... 'nuff said.

Hard Rock Chicken Strips. Got this recipe somewhere or another, and it's supposed to be the one they serve at all the Hard Rock Cafe's for about twice what they're worth.

Potato Salad and Deviled Eggs. (I know... no meat, but what the heck... the eggs have protein, so it's sorta close to meat)

And the new kid on the block... one that I've been wanting to try ever since I saw the special on Deep Fried foods around the country on the Food Network... that delicacy known as Texas Toothpicks... DEEP FRIED BACON!!!

Yes... that's right. Bacon that is breaded and deep fried... then served with a side of white gravy for dippin purposes.

I have to admit it... I had at least 2.2 seconds worth of doubt about this... but then I figured what the heck? It's bacon.. so that's a plus. It's breaded... that's a plus... and it's deep fried... that's a double plus with a 10 point bonus. So when I broke it down I realized that there ARE NO drawbacks, I plowed blindly ahead.

This is so simple to make that it's almost embarassing to write it out. I took a package of my recently home made maple bacon (see previous post), ran it through a little egg wash, and shook it around in a ziptop bag of flour and a little pepper, and dropped it in hot oil for about 5 minutes. (Your cooking times may vary)

Whipped up a little white gravy on the side for dippin, and holy cow! It was everything I'd heard and imagined it to be. A whole new way to consume that most delectable of meats.

The bad part was... I was the only one in the house who would eat it.
The good part was... I was the only one in the house that would eat it...
My oldest was convinced I now have a front row reservation in some dietary hell for doing this... but she's 20 and still has a metabolism that works, so what does she know?
If you've thought about making some deep fried bacon, don't wait any longer. If you haven't thought about it yet, consider yourself on notice.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Well... here goes nuttin....

Greetings... and welcome to my blog.

Been on the fence about this for awhile, simply because blogs take time, and time is getting to be a precious commodity.
Having said that, I've developed a keen interest in the various techniques of preserving and preparing meat, as well as having a lifelong love of cooking... so this is my way of paying it back to all those web authors who have inspired and informed me, as well as maybe passing on a nugget or two to whoever might get some value out of it.

Once this gets going, I'll get my act together some more, and this will be a little more organized.

And I have a hunch that some of the stuff I blog about will include pet peeves and other stuff that just irritates the heck out of me.
What the heck... the blog is free, and therapists cost an arm and a leg...

So, to get something on the page, here's a pic of my latest pass at some homemade bacon. This was 2 12 pound pork bellies, and I wound up with a whole ton of bacon, and a couple wheels of some really good pancetta.

And a close up of the pancetta. It was my first attempt, so it's uglier than a homemade fence, but it tastes oh so good.

When I made this last batch, I didn't take the time to get pictures of all the steps. I will next time though. But for anyone who's done it, and is curious, here's the cure recipe I used:
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
    * Per pork belly
that's it. At the time I didn't have any curing salt, and I've made great bacon without it, although I've since gotten some and will use it in the future, if only for the color retention.

I cut each belly in half and trimmed to get it more or less square. Any large end pieces I sliced up and threw in a skillet for fresh side meat. Generously rub each side of the belly with the cure, pressing it in a little bit. Put the trimmed half belly in a 2 gallon zip top bag. In my case, I put in a generous dollop (1/3 cup or so) of maple syrup and schmoozed it all around in the bag. Toss it all in the fridge. I turned it about twice a day, usually once in the morning and once in the evening. Let it cure for 4 days.
On day 5, I pulled it out, rinsed everything off, and put each belly back in it's bag. Then I added about 2 cups of water to each bag, sealed it, and tossed it back in the fridgedator. About 12 hours later, I pulled it all out, rinsed and dried it all off, and set about drying the bellies.
This is a daunting task, simply because they are big, and no one wants large cuts of raw meat lying around in their fridge. I got around my dilemma by using some rib racks for my smoker. I put 2 racks in a half sheet pan, stood the bellies on end inside the rack. About 24 hours in the fridge, and I had that wonderful tacky dry pellicle.

Then it was off to the smoker for a few hours. After a good cool down period overnight, I sliced and vacuum sealed. The rest, as they say, is history.