It is Memorial Day weekend and people are grilling, but with a day off, there are not many things better than working in the yard with a long, all day smoke in the hot weather. Granted my “yard” is either two earthboxes on my roof or the ten foot by twenty foot patch of mulch in front of our place, but I digress. Last weekend, we cooked a pork shoulder Carolina style. This weekend, we smoke a thirteen pound packer cut brisket Texas-style. The packer cut is a full untrimmed brisket that includes both the point and the flat. Continue reading
My intention is not to anger BBQ purists (however funny that may be), but with the amount of leftovers that we had after our BBQ party, I was going through ideas on how to use all of them. One thing that came to mind was that pulled pork and confit are both very tender. Given this, something that would not only be an alternate use of the pork, but would serve to preserve it as well. Rillettes. Continue reading
This year was a fruitful birthday. I got Paul Bertolli’s book, Cooking by Hand. I got an Earthbox to grow tomatoes this summer. Finally, my older sister dropped some Nueske’s Peppered Bacon on us. Thank you older sister. Thank you very much.
I am a big fan of Nueske’s. You see, just to the right, that Nueske’s regular bacon is right up there on my bacon rankings. Here is an interesting revelation. Nueske’s Peppered Bacon is as good as their regular bacon. There is no mistaking this as a savory bacon. You have all of the great qualities of regular Nueske’s bacon with a coating of black pepper. The pepper flavor is may be a little to strong for a typical breakfast with eggs (unless you have a high pepper tolerance), but on a burger it is divine, and I am a guy who never chooses bacon on a burger. To me, typically bacon on a burger is equal to the sum of its parts. With this bacon it was much greater. Continue reading
Everyone has a standby recipe for a party. In the summer, if you have a smoker and a day to lounge around, there is no better dish than BBQ pork. It combines a relatively cheap cut of meat, hardwood smoke, and an excuse to drink something cold outside while doing very little work.
BBQ is an interesting thing. People claim it as American, but it exists nearly every place that people eat meat. In the US, it means different things depending on where you are. Texas has brisket and red sauce, Kansas City has meat in sweet red sauce, Memphis has ribs (wet or dry), and Chicago has rib tips (not the Twin Anchors boiled rib crap). My favorite BBQ is Carolina style. Specifically, pulled pork shoulder smoked over hard woods.
Once you have worked through basic smoking techniques, the process is so low maintenance that there really are no excuses to not bring the BBQ to your next summer party. The tools are simple. Smoker. Check. Whole Bone-in Pork Shoulder. Check. Vinegar. Check. Mustard. Check. BBQ Rub. Check. Continue reading
With the summer months coming and temperatures in Chicago finally breaking into the 70′s, the risk of hanging pork in our lower level is a little much for me and the vacancy in our fridge/freezer is not enough to handle smoking large portions of meat. This left me looking through books for small scale charcuterie projects. After writing a list, I was going through an old Saveur magazine and found this recipe for gravlax.
Gravlax is a Scandinavian dish preparation of salmon where the fish is cured in salt, sugar, and dill. After the curing process, gravlax is sliced very thin and served as an appetizer. Being a boorish American, my first instinct is to treat it like lox and serve it for breakfast with cream cheese, capers, and shallots.
The recipe is not difficult. Since I didn’t want to buy a whole bottle of Aquavit, a caraway flavored liquor, I upped the caraway seed content and simply used vodka. In all, it took more time to slice the gravlax than it did to do anything else. I highly recommend trying this. It is vastly better than nearly every cured salmon that I have had. Continue reading
With a strong preference for Italian testa to the more gelatinous, less meaty headcheeses of the Northern European varieties, I wondered if it was that I did not like the non-testa variety or if I simply had not had the “good” ones. With that curiousity, I have been asking around to find different varieties of this product that I had not particularly liked when I had Sülze or huspenina. A coworker suggested heading across the river to the French Market to Fumare Meats.
Fumare is an operation that carries prepared meats made in Chicago-land delis and meat markets. The bacon there is alright, but not great. The sausages are quite good and the smoked foods are great as well. Given the bacon experience being just alright and my previous experiences with Northern European headcheese, I was a little leary. Continue reading
At the previously mentioned Baconfest Vendor Expo, a product that caught my attention as being distinctly non-bacon-like was sobrasada. Around that time, I was on a hunt for Nduja, a Calabrian spreadable sausage that is virtually impossible to find commercially. Sobrasada looked to be the Spanish equivalent.
Traditionally, sobrasada is a semi-soft chorizo from Majorca made with pork, salt, paprika, and other spices. The soft texture is due to the environment in which it is cured. The area is particularly humid in the fall. Instead of slicing it, a la sausage, it is used more closely with how you would spread pate on crackers or toast. Continue reading
When seasonal produce arrives, I tend to go overboard with buying (see the display on the ramps). Rhubarb is no exception. Sorbet, crumble, pork belly. Check. Check. Check. My current stock was reaching its :best by: date and I wanted to use it in a new way, so I grabbed my pickling books and cobbled together a combination of recipes to come up with the Voltron Pickled Rhubarb.
With the natural tartness of rhubarb, I knew that there would have to be more sweetness than I typically use in a pickle to balance that flavor. I also knew from a few rhubarb-pork combinations that rhubarb pairs really well with heat, so I wanted that. Finally, in one of the pickled ramp recipes that I checked out, ginger was a big part of the pickle. I wanted that too. Plus I had some pickling spices (clove and all spice) that I wanted to use up. All in. Continue reading
In addition to the pitfalls of being the son of an outdoorsman (falling though the ice while ice fishing, 4 AM wake up calls to go hunting, sitting on a boat in the rain for a week in Canada, etc.), there are plusses. I get venison pretty much whenever I go home. Great pieces of venison. Line caught wild salmon just appear in our freezer. This time it was 2 whole Lake Michigan Whitefish that he had caught a few days before we arrived.
In leiu of having a giant fish boil in otherwise crappy weather, we needed to figure out what to do with these fish. Without a great idea of how to use it fresh, we brined and smoked both whitefish as it was the way that I remembered having it at Calumet Fisheries. Continue reading
With a few pounds of left over pork shoulder thawed and no casings left with which to make sausages, I needed to get creative. I just made pounds of tasso, there wasn’t enough to smoke into BBQ, and I still do not have a terrine with which to make pate. Given what I had (and a new stock of hermetic jars just purchased), the answer was making rillettes.
Rillettes is a preparation that produces a spreadable meat — kind of like meat butter. Typically, the meat is cured with salt and pepper, slow cooked in fat and broth, and then emulsified with the fat/broth mixture to preserve the meat. We have seen both duck and salmon rillettes, but this features some really great pork from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm. Continue reading