Frost and Beans

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As can be seen in this rather poor image of the house, it is the 3rd of November and the flowers are still blooming. 

We are pretty much done with gardening now, and are simply waiting for Spring and planting.  The new garden areas that I have prepared include a 1,000 square foot grape growing area, a 4,550 square foot general garden area, enough space for 20 new fruit trees, and a 180 square foot onion area.  We will also be doing a separate squash/pumpkin area in the Spring or late Winter.  Work on the Chicken Coop is being delayed until I decide what type of design I want – I keep changing the design.  It will be done before Spring though.  I hope.

We woke up on the 3rd and saw that the hill in the distance were white with frost.  The camera did not capture 03Nov13_DSCF2040it well, but it was quite pretty.  As I have said previously, I need to quit using my point and shoot, and start using my real camera.  At the house, the temperatures are still in the mid to upper 50’s during the day, with the occasional mid 60’s day, while nights range from the lower to mid 30’s.  Quite comfortable and no snow or hard frost yet. 

The only other new thing is that I canned another 18 jars of baked beans, and they are quite good.  We are starting to be able to limit our shopping items to dairy, vegetables, sugar, and flour products such as white flour and masa.  We now buy almost no processed (canned) goods.  Tortilla chips are the exception – have to have tortilla chips.  Hopefully, next year we will be able to eliminate the need to shop for vegetables also.  No plans for a cow yet – but maybe…….a goat……

Beans: 

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Mmmm – Chicken

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Fired up the Cookshack AmeriQue today in order to smoke a chicken for dinner.  A simple rub of salt, pepper, sage, hot pepper flakes, hot chili powder, and olive oil were put on the skin an hour prior to cooking.  I did not brine the chicken, but plan on brining next time.

A chunk of apple and a small bit of cherry wood was placed in the wood pan.  The smoker was not preheated.  The initial pit temperature was 220 for the first hour and a half, then bumped to 275 for the remaining time.  Temperature probe was set to 160 and the probe was placed in the breast. 

The chicken reached 160 at 4:08 after 4 hours 12 minutes in the pit at which time the pit turned itself off.  I left the chicken rest in the smoker, which started to cool down, until 4:30.  Internal temperature was 169, which to me always produces a fully cooked chicken.  For me, pulling at 160 sometimes has resulted in underdone thighs, to I usually pull in the 170 area.  I placed the chicken in a glass pan, covered with foil, and let rest until 5:00 PM.

I cut the chicken and the meat was quite juicy, but not runny.  The smoke flavor was very mild, but present throughout the bird.  The flavor was also quite different from the13Oct13_DSCF1965 Bradley.  Not really better, but different.  Overall however, I would give the AmeriQue the edge because of the moisture of the finished product, the quality of the skin which was crisper and not rubbery as is always the case with the Bradley, and somehow the different flavor of the smoke.

The images in this post are the result, and was one of the best smoked chickens I have had. 

Smoking and Wine

07Oct13_DSCF1931As I mentioned in a previous post, my ProCom4 is not working properly.  I was going to purchase a new, updated one.  Unfortunately,  the BBQ Guru folks do not know how to respond to email, return phone calls, or answer the phone, so, I purchased a new smoker instead and will use my Bradley for cold smoking.

The image on the left is of the new Cookshack AmeriQue (SM066) in its new home.  When I received it I seasoned it, and then decided to test it with a brisket that we received when we bought our side of beef. 

The brisket was 7 pounds and had very little fat. I found a new rub recipe and put that on the brisket 4 hours prior to smoking.  I put the brisket in the AmeriQue at exactly midnight, along with 5 ounces of hickory.  I set the pit temperature to 220 and the meat probe to 190, and went to sleep.  The next morning (5:00 AM actually) I set the pit to 225.  The brisket reached 190 at 4:00 PM, at which time I wrapped it in foil along with 1.5 cups of home made beef stock, and then wrapped that in towels.  We ate at 7:00 PM.

I am really not a fan of brisket.  They are OK, just not really my favorite thing to smoke.  However, this brisket was excellently great.  I have never has a brisket as tender, including the burnt ends, and moist, and so full of flavor.  It is my opinion that it was the operation of the smoker and not necessarily the meat that made this such a great meal.  We used the rest of the meat in tacos, with rice, and by itself. 

I will not post the brisket run recipe as I really did not like the rub that much.  It was an OK recipe, just not great.  In the future I will return to the basics of salt, pepper, and maybe some form of chili for a hint of heat.

Below are a few pictures of the brisket, from start to finish:

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While the smoker was cooking the brisket, I bottled 29.5 bottles of Merlot, prepared the grain for my next brew session, and while bottling my wine, looked upon this scene from the garage:

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Bacon–Part II

4Aug13_DSCF1765Remember the bacon post – I mentioned I was curing pork belly in preparation for making bacon?  Well, the bacon is done, and it is outstanding.

I cured the bacon for 7 days, and reviewing the recipe, discovered that I had used a bit too much salt in the cure.  I decided that rather than simply rinsing the cure off, that I would soak the belly in water for an hour and a half to push some of the salt out.  So, the night before the smoke session, I took the bacon out, soaked it in water, and put it in the refrigerator overnight to dry.

The next morning I fired the Bradley up and preheated it to 120.  After it was heated, I put the two slabs (one side) in the Bradley and applied 4.5 hours of a Cherry and Hickory wood smoke.  After the smoke, I increased the pit temperature to 160 and waited until the bacon reached an internal temperature of 150.  About the time 150 degrees was reached, my ProCom4, which controls the pit temperature and displays the meat temperature, decided to give inaccurate readings, again.  As we have a lot of meat to smoke and make into sausage, I am looking into purchasing a new model of the ProCom4, as it is quite useful, if not essential, when trying to produce a stable and accurate temperature.  Apparently, the new model can be controlled via smart phone or computer.

Because the proper temperature was attained, I took the bacon out, let it cool, and sliced it in 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.  Each slice weighed about 4 ounces.  Cooked up a slice and shared it – it was wonderful and not salty at all.  Simply great bacon.

Drool over these if you will:

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Pulled Pork, and a Sunrise.

10Sep13_DSC1606Woke up to another beautiful, sunny, cool morning today. This is a view of the sunrise this morning, viewed as we sat and had our morning coffee on the side deck.  Life is good.

Thought that I would make some pulled pork this week.   For pulled pork I usually use pork butts, but since part of our pig is two large un-cured hams, I felt that it would be a good idea to smoke one, and make ham from the other one.  The ham I am smoking weighed in at 17.5 pounds with the bone.  I left the bone in as it is simply easier than deboning.  It also may be good in beans after the bone is smoked.  10Sep13_DSCF1778

I did a simple rub of salt and various spices such as chili powder, garlic, cayenne pepper, and other such items, and let it sit for a day.  At 7 am Monday, I put the ham in a preheated smoker at 204 degrees, with 4.5 hours of smoke using hickory and cherry wood.  Today at 7 AM the roast was sitting at 169 degrees.  I took the roast out of the smoker, wrapped it tightly in aluminum foil with 1.5 cups of homemade chicken stock, and placed it in a 225 degree oven.  I figure it should take another 4 – 6 hours to reach 190.  I will then cover the pork with towels and let it sit for 4 – 8 hours, or at least until dinner, when we will have the pork with homemade dinner rolls.

As for taste; When I transferred the pork a bit accidently fell off – great taste!

10Sep13_DSCF1774We also had our first taste of the pig yesterday in the form of pork chops.  Misty made a marinade and cooked the chops in a cast iron skillet.  As with the beef, the chops were extremely moist and flavorful, and quite tender too.  Absolutely nothing like even the best store bought pork. 

In other news:  We are still cleaning and clearing the land in preparation of rototilling, fence building, and chicken coop building.  Hopefully, some of the building will happen this year.  Hopefully……

UPDATE:  6:52 PM, Tuesday, 10 September 2013 – The pork reached 190 degrees at 1:30 PM.  I took it out, leaving it in the foil, and covered it with multiple layers of towels.  We unwrapped the pork at 6:00 PM and proceeded to pull it. 

The pulled pork turned out wonderfully.  Tender, very very tender actually, flavorful, and considering the cut of meat, moist.  I knew going into this project that the pork would be dryer than when using a butt, and though not as moist, it was not dry. 

Below is what it looks like.  Want some?  Come visit!

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Bacon!

4Aug13_DSCF1741Thought that it was time that Grey Cat got a bit of exposure – So, here he is.

We picked up our pig a few days ago.  I told the butcher shop that I did not want them to cure the pork belly, as I wanted to make bacon for myself.  So, on Friday, I took out 12 pounds of the belly and applied a cure to it.  Simply used salt (with the appropriate nitrates), brown sugar, and maple syrup.  I will let it cure for 7 days, soak it in water to remove excess salt, then smoke and package it up for later use.  Not quite sure what type of wood I will use for the smoke, but am thinking a mixture of hickory and cherry wood.  4Aug13_DSCF1765

I also put some of our T-bone steaks on the grill.  They were quite good as the flavor was sweet and fresh, and the meat was very moist and juicy.  What I did not like was the amount of connective tissue in the steak, as it made the steak a bit tough.  Not real tough, but enough that we all noticed.  I am not disappointed, as the taste was great and made up for any toughness, but I am a bit not happy.  We will see what the other cuts are like (the ground beef was fantastic!).

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Oh goody, a steak picture.  Notice how fresh the steak looks?  Nice white fat and non-chemically enhanced flesh.

We had a rain/thunder storm three days during the past week.  Quite a bit of rain and lightning, but the area really needed the rain, and as the skies are clear, the rain may have put out some of the fires we were experiencing. 

The image to the right is during a clearing moment during one of the storms.  This is just one example of the type of clouds that appeared as we were sitting on the side deck watching the 4Aug13_DSCF1733lightning.  Almost every day and night brings something new and beautiful to us as we sit or walk outside.

The temperatures have also cooled off a bit, and we are now at a very comfortable mid-80’s range during the day, and in the upper 50’s to lower 60’s at night.  Very nice to be out doing yard work or just walking around.

Quail, Thunder, and Dinner

27Aug13_DSC1575Another picture of our barn cat.  This is a very sweet cat that is really good at catching critters.  

The quail eggs that we had on the property hatched, and for the past few weeks we have watched the chicks become almost full grown.  The original batch of quail chicks was 12, and there are between 10 and 11 left, but it is hard to tell how many there really are.  There are a few other herds of quail that wander through the property also, and they are quite entertaining to watch.  They rarely fly, but walk and run to get around.  The images below look a bit off – I need to change the settings that I had for the low light in Juneau, and take off the Vivid settings which are a bit too vivid for this area.

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We had a thunder storm a few nights ago – and 10 or so seconds of rain.  The image on the left is looking Southeast, and the next image is looking Southwest – both images were taken seconds apart.

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If anyone is ever lacking in carbs – make Spaghetti Bread.  

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Half-way into making the bread my oven died, so the top is not brown.  However, the bread was done and it tasted great.  Next time I will use meatballs and sauce, leaving out the pasta.  Really, way too much starch for even me.  Oven was fixed yesterday.  Seems a fuse blew. 

Site News:  Some things, like the forum and gallery, do not work – they will be fixed soon.  The SacCam Java applet that controls the image on the main page is again not working.  It seems that the JavaCam.class will not function properly in IE, and I really am not in the mood to fix it just to have it break again with the next update.  Therefore, I will probably provide a link to a page with the image, or simply a link to the SacCam image.  Here is the link for now – this is looking out of the computer room window (which is dirty) and facing Northeast:  SacCam  Refresh is 20 seconds.

One Month–One Day

13Aug13_DSCF1600Corn is coming into season, so we decided to give the local corn a try.  On the 12th we purchased 60 ears of corn, froze 57, and ate three.  We found the corn to be not as sweet as store corn, but far, far fresher (it was picked the day we bought it), and very much better than the overly modified and overly sweet store corn.  It was so good that the next day (on the 13th) we went back and purchased another 60 ears to freeze. A bit of work, but well worth it.

The corn was 12.50 per 60 ears, so a total of $25 for 120 ears – not bad. 

We also ordered a side of beef and a whole pig.  That was a somewhat interesting experience as we tried to figure out what cuts we wanted and how thick our steaks will be.  We decided we wanted the bones and tail for soup….  Oh, the best part is that the price per pound is $2.89.  Going to be eating $2.89 Filet Mignon!

The meat will be vacuum packed and we will pick it up in 2 to 3 weeks.   Unfortunately it is not grass finished, but with all that is going on, we have been too busy to search for and research the local growers.  However, the butcher and supplier have excellent reputations and have been in business for years.  Next year we will buy grass fed and finished animals, and more than likely begin raising our own steer(s).

Plan to do a lot of smoking and jerky making, as well as sausage making.

Some corn pics:

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Honey Wheat Seed Bread–No Knead

Cooking_08Dec12_DSC_1447Decided that I wanted to make some bread for the weekend, so thought it would be interesting to make another no knead type bread. The bread turned out great, with just a bit of sweetness.  Considering the amount of whole wheat in this dough, the bread is not heavy at all.  The crust has a huge amount of flavor as is or toasted.  Speaking of toasting – This bread is wonderful when toasted in a toaster oven – put a generous amount of olive oil on the  bread along with a clove or two of minced garlic, a sprinkle of salt, sesame seeds, ground pepper, and a very fine dusting of hot red pepper.  Toast until the edges are brown, but do not let the center become brown, just lightly tan.  This will leave the garlic flavorful and not bitter.

I did not have a recipe that I was interested in making, so I just threw some things together and came up with the following:

Recipe:  Honey Wheat Seed Bread – No KneadCooking_08Dec12_DSC_1440

Ingredients:

6 ounces flour, white unbleached
12 ounces Wheat Berries ground (or use whole wheat flour )
2.1 ounces honey
1  teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon yeast active dry
1.25  cups water; room temperature (adjust as needed)
1 Tablespoon Sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons Chia Seeds

Procedure:

1. Add all dry ingredients except seeds and combine.

2. Mix water with honey and add to dry ingredients.  Mix until just blended.

3. Add or subtract water as appropriate.  Dough should not be sticky, but will be a bit tacky.

4. Add seeds as desired and mix until evenly incorporated.  All seed measurements are approximate – add whatever seeds you want.

5. Place dough in glass bowl (I used the same bowl I mixed the bread in) and cover with plastic wrap.

6. Let dough sit overnight.

7. Lightly knead dough, form into round shape, and place in well floured Banneton.

8. Place Banneton in a plastic bag and let rise 2 – 4 hours.

9. Place baking stone and a steam pan filled with hot water in oven and preheat oven to 500.

10. Place bread on parchment paper on a peal, and place in oven.

11. Immediately dump 1/2 cup how water in oven – close oven door.  Wait 30 seconds and dump another 1/2 cup hot water in oven.

12. Lower oven temperature to 425 and bake for 30 minutes.

13. Check bread and if not done, lower temperature to 400 and bake another 10 or so minutes.

14. Internal temperature should be between 200 and 205.

15. Let cool and eat…..

Next time I make this bread I will allow it to sit for 24 hours rather than just overnight. I think this will allow even more flavor to develop, and allow for a better rise in the oven. Other than that, I was quite satisfied with the product.

Adventures in Canning – Chili

Cooking_November12_DSC_1385In the past few weeks I have canned 57 pints of various beans, and just completed canning 25 pints of chili and beans. I really do not have a defined recipe for the chili, it was simply a mixture of meat, beans, tomato sauce and paste, as well as spices.  I just eyeball everything and it usually tastes good. 

I will post the hot salsa recipe next week, as I need to can some more.

 

Recipe:  ChiliCooking_28Nov12_DSC_1437

Ingredients:

2 pounds Pinto Beans
2 Pounds Ground Beef – extra lean
3 pounds Pork lion – extra lean
4 cans Tomato sauce
2 cans Tomato paste
Chili Powder
Cumin
Seasoning salt
Hot Salsa – Homemade
Water – as needed to ensure beans rehydrate and to thin chili mixture.

Procedure:

1. Soak beans for 24 hours and rinse very well.
2. Brown meat and add all of the ingredients except the beans.  Simmer for an hour – let sit overnight (or not).
3. Combine rinsed beans with the chili mixture and heat until almost hot (or cold pack – up to you).
4. Place in pint jars leaving one inch head space. 
5. Slowly heat canner until it starts venting – I take about 40 or so minutes for this. 
6. Vent for 10 minutes.
7. Process at 10 pounds for 75 minutes.
8. You know the rest.

One thing I will do differently next time is not mix the beans with the chili prior to filling the jars.  In the future, I will add the beans to the jars, then add the chili mixture.  What I found is that the final 6 or so jars had too many beans and not enough meat.

An image of the 25 pints of chili – all sealed and ready to store:

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