Monday, October 11, 2010

Get Smokin'!

So far I've planted a garden, I've had a successful jam session, and I've recovered from the great raisin incident of 2010.  The next step on my journey was to approach the scary looking monster on my back porch... the smoker.

My opera singing, pasta making, spam loving dad
Two major events have lead me to my new experiment in culinary experimentation and preservation.  First, my father and I shared the same obsessive compulsive need to try new kitchen gadgets.  One year I gave him a hand crank pasta roller for Christmas.  By New Year's Eve, he sent me a video message of him cranking out pasta wearing his Spam apron and singing opera.  When he passed away, I inherited a pile of new gadgets such as an electric dressing stirrer, an electric meat slicer, and the Great Outdoors Smokey Mountain smoker.  It was covered in grease and soot, smelled like dead fish, and was home to many spiders and bugs but I was determined to unlock the secrets held within.

The second reason gives me a chance to brag about my most important and exciting purchase as a gigantic freezer we shall call The Beast.  Before we had even moved in to our  new house, I dragged my husband to Sears to purchase the freezer I had dreamed about for at least 10 years.  It's an upright freezer with moveable shelves, an ice cream storage compartment, and it can hold up to 750lb of food.  What was I to do but immediately start filling the Beast up with meats, homemade stock and soups, casseroles, and, more recently, fruits and vegetables from the garden.  It's filled with all the raw materials needed for a homecook to create a culinary masterpiece.  To my husband however, it's filled with items that he doesn't know how to prepare or cook and when he's foraging for food it's a barren wasteland of pot roast and whole chickens mocking his culinary abilities.  He recently made a request that perhaps we should take a couple months to actually eat through much of my carefully stored food to ensure that nothing gets lost in the back of my Beast for the next ten years.

I pulled out five pounds of pork shoulder steaks and another three pounds of chuck roast steaks (all fantastic clearance purchases that added up to about $6).  My intention was to make pulled pork and beef jerky.  For the pork, I cooked half of the steaks in the smoker and half in the crock pot to test the differences in taste and texture.  I used a basic pork rub on both but added a bit of smoke to the crock pot version.  In the smoker, I cooked the port at around 250˚ for about 4 hours using applewood chips.  The taste of smoke did infuse into the meat but because I used pork shoulder steaks instead of the whole shoulder, the meat was a bit tough... but that didn't stop my DH from inhaling it for dinner :).  The crock pot version had the tenderness and it had a great taste (I threw in chopped onions and peppers for extra zip).  Both versions were a success but somehow I felt like it did the pig more justice in attempting to use the smoker in a time honored tradition of cooking meat.

self made beef jerky made from solid strips of...Image via Wikipedia

For the jerky, I sliced the meat thin and then marinated overnight in a mixture of soy sauce, Worcestershire, chili paste, and garlic.  I got some great tips from Fabulous Foods on how to slice and prepare the meat.  I didn't follow a few tips ahead of time such as removing the water basin from my smoker and using lean cuts of meat.  I smoked the meat for about four hours at 200˚.  My slices were a bit too thick and there was too much moisture from the fat and the water in the smoker to get the jerky really dry so it tasted more like the beef nuggets you find at the store instead of the dry strips.  The flavor was spot on and the smoke really came out in the meat.  Since this was homemade jerky with no preservatives, it was not suitable for storing the the cupboard but it kept very well in the fridge and I froze the rest.

My first foray in the world of smoking food has been mostly successful and the experience is enticing enough to encourage my adventurous side to explore more.  Now what to do with all that extra space in the freezer.... the Beast calls to me.
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  1. Wow, this is exciting! We can't wait to visit you guys!!

  2. in your quest for good smoke i recommend books by Steven Raichlen , he is also on pbs with bbqu and the barbaque bible was a good basic foundation for grilling , bbq , and smoking .

  3. I did take a bit of inspiration from his show!




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