|My opera singing, pasta making, spam loving dad|
The second reason gives me a chance to brag about my most important and exciting purchase as a homeowner...my 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.
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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.