Smoked Pork Chops

Pork chops are great for a quick dinner, whether you cook them in the skillet or on the grill.  Today I was smoking a pork butt for pulled pork over the weekend so I decided to add some chops to the smoker for tonight's dinner.  The chops were from a small half hog I purchased a couple months ago.  

The chops, which were about 3/4 inch thick, were simply salt and peppered on both sides and then placed on the rack in the smoker.

 

They stayed in the smoker at 250° for about 30 minutes (flipping about halfway through)  Once the internal temperature reached 145°, I pulled them and placed them on a cutting board under foil and a towel to rest for about 5 minutes.  This is not your grandmother's pork so you don't want to dry it out!  The National Pork Board recommends cooking pork chops to 145° for medium rare to 160° for medium.  By the time I sliced the chop, the juices were well distributed.

 

This was one juicy piece of pork!  

Even though I could have stopped there, I had warmed a little bit of honey with some fresh chopped rosemary and poured just a little over the top.  A side of spaghetti squash with sun dried tomatoes, toasted walnuts, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of butter and dinner was served.  Oh boy was it good!

You can buy smoked pork chops but smoking your own is so much better!  Enjoy!

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Spring favorite

It's spring time and one of my favorite early vegetables is asparagus.  There is nothing better than asparagus that comes straight from the garden.  Trust me- once you have it fresh, you'll  want to start a plot of your own if you have the space.  Forget about all those fancy sauces that they use at the steakhouses.  Plain is best but I also have a way to fix it that does take it over the top and it is so easy!

Preheat oven to 400°.  I start with a nice bunch of fresh asparagus.  Trim off the woody ends and wash.  After I dry the stalks, I drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper

 

Take your regular sliced bacon and cut it in half along the length of the slice with a pair of kitchen shears.  Wrap a slice of this bacon around each stalk asparagus and place on a sheet pan with a 1" lip (to contain the bacon grease).

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and turn each stalk over.  Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes.  

Easy and so gooood!

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Cajun Beef and Grits

Sunday night dinner was delicious.  Our local grocer had boneless chuck roast on sale and this was a great piece of meat for this dish.  My wife found the recipe on a Good House Keeping web site. 

She started by cutting the boneless chuck roast into 1 inch cubes and browning them in a skillet. Seasoned with a little salt. She cooked these cubes for 6 - 7 minutes turning them several times. 

While the beef was cooking she diced up three green peppers, one large onion, three stalks of celery and 3 cloves of garlic. 

 

She then transferred the beef to our slow cooker and turned it on high.  She added about 1/2 cup of chicken broth. This moisture helped with cooking the beef and making it a little more tender. 

And next she added the cut up vegetables to the same skillet that was used for the beef.  Cook these vegetables for approximately 2 - 3 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Now add a 14 ounce can of drained diced tomatoes and a 1/4 cup of tomato paste. Stir all together.  Add 2 teaspoons of you favorite Cajun seasoning. Continue to cook for approximately 2 minutes stirring occasionally.  Not only does it have a great aroma, but it looks good too.

Now she added this vegetable mixture to the beef in the slow cooker. She left the slow cooker on high for approximately 2 hours and then turned it to low for an additional 3 hours.

About an hour before serving, she added 5 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a large sauce pan.  She brought the water to a boil and then added 1 cup of grits. Now turn the heat down to a simmer.  You will need to stir this often (at least once a minute) for the next 30 - 40 minutes.  The grits will have a smooth texture and not be gritty.

   At this time, she stirred in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and some black pepper. 

The grits served as a great bed for the delicious cajun beef and vegetable mixture.  A side of asparagus and a delicious dinner was served.  We both agreed it was a recipe we will make again but will add a little more cajun seasoning. But we both like food that is a little spicy. 

We used grits but we feel that rice or noodles would also be good.  

As I mentioned she found the recipe at http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a42354/cajun-beef-grits-recipe/

 

 

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Valentines Day - Bacon Roses

  Yes, regular roses are a great gift for your significant other but what about something sweet and salty? Chocolate covered roses will hit the spot.     Learn how to make them.     As you see below we started with a bunch of artificial roses you can purchase at a craft store or a discount store.

Yes, regular roses are a great gift for your significant other but what about something sweet and salty? Chocolate covered roses will hit the spot. 

Learn how to make them. 

As you see below we started with a bunch of artificial roses you can purchase at a craft store or a discount store.

  Remove all the pedals so that you are left with just the stems and leaves.    Next, lay out your slices of bacon and roll as you see below. 

Remove all the pedals so that you are left with just the stems and leaves.

Next, lay out your slices of bacon and roll as you see below. 

  Be sure to roll but not in a real tight roll.  You may need to do this a few times to get what you feel looks like a rose.      After you have mastered this and have a bacon rose the way you want it, you need to place a toothpick thru the slice to hold it in place.  Next, place in an aluminum muffin pan that you punched  3 - 4 holes in the bottom.  These holes will allow the bacon grease to drain out as it cooks.    

Be sure to roll but not in a real tight roll.  You may need to do this a few times to get what you feel looks like a rose.  

After you have mastered this and have a bacon rose the way you want it, you need to place a toothpick thru the slice to hold it in place.  Next, place in an aluminum muffin pan that you punched  3 - 4 holes in the bottom.  These holes will allow the bacon grease to drain out as it cooks.

 

  As you can see, I placed the aluminum pan on a rack that was placed on a cookie sheet. This will allow the grease to drain away.     Next, place in a 350²F oven for 15 - 20 minutes.  You want them as crispy as you normally like your bacon.  Remove from oven and place in your refrigerator for approximately 2 hours or until completely chilled.      While your roses are chilling you can start to melt you chocolate.  For these 6 roses I melted approximately 8 - 10 ounces of chocolate.  I used Wilton Candy Melts. You will only need approximately 15 minutes to melt your chocolate.     Remove your rose from refrigerator and remove the toothpick.  Dip each rose into the chocolate and place on a plate so that you can place your chocolate covered bacon back into the refrigerator for just a few minutes. After they have chilled, stick onto the stem that you removed the artificial rose from earlier.  And there you have some chocolate covered roses.    Sweet and salty for your significant other.  Great for Valentine's Day or any special occasion. 

As you can see, I placed the aluminum pan on a rack that was placed on a cookie sheet. This will allow the grease to drain away. 

Next, place in a 350²F oven for 15 - 20 minutes.  You want them as crispy as you normally like your bacon.  Remove from oven and place in your refrigerator for approximately 2 hours or until completely chilled.  

While your roses are chilling you can start to melt you chocolate.  For these 6 roses I melted approximately 8 - 10 ounces of chocolate.  I used Wilton Candy Melts. You will only need approximately 15 minutes to melt your chocolate. 

Remove your rose from refrigerator and remove the toothpick.  Dip each rose into the chocolate and place on a plate so that you can place your chocolate covered bacon back into the refrigerator for just a few minutes. After they have chilled, stick onto the stem that you removed the artificial rose from earlier.  And there you have some chocolate covered roses.

Sweet and salty for your significant other.  Great for Valentine's Day or any special occasion. 

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PORK CROWN ROAST - BONELESS

For most households, the new year will begin with pork for dinner.  Many feel that it is good luck to have pork to start the new year off.   I know my grandmother said that you need to eat pork to start the new year because you want to look forward into the new year and a pig "roots" forward.

Many people like a bone in pork crown roast as it makes for a nice looking center piece.  One drawback with this roast is the fact that it is big.  You will need to invite many people for dinner and will more than likely still have some leftovers.  

For this reason I thought I would show you how to make a smaller boneless pork crown roast. Some have said that it does not look like the bone in crown roast and I will have to agree but it is a boneless roast and it is smaller. This roast should feed 4 - 5 people and maybe still have some leftovers.  This is why I like it and it does make a nice looking center piece, 

We start with buying and cutting a half boneless pork loin.  We were able to purchase the loin half at our favorite grocer. This consisted of the center loin and the sirloin end together. For a refresher please refer to our previous blog; 

http://www.meatmadesimple.com/blog/cutting-a-boneless-pork-loin.

Pictured below is our purchase.  The picture on the right is the same loin that I turned over and began to cut in half as you see with my knife. 

Now continue cutting to separate the loin into two pieces. 

For now we will want to work with only one of the halves at a time. Either half will do.

Now place this half of the half loin with the fat side down on the cutting table and the top of the triangle pointing up.  Next we will cut at various spots about 3/4's of the way thru the meat from the point of this triangle.  I like to use my index finger as a guide as to where I will make my cuts. As you see in the picture below I use the distance from my knuckle to the end of my finger.  My thinking is that this is one serving.  You can adjust to what you feel is an average serving for your family.

And continue to cut slightly more than 3/4 of the way thru the pork loin.  Be cautious not to cut all the way thru.  It is better to not cut enough and have to come back and cut a little more than it is to cut to far.  

Don't worry if that last piece does not measure the same as the others.  You will see why if the next few pictures.  And now that you have made all your cuts you should have something that looks like this. 

And now if you grab both ends and form a circle you will have a boneless pork loin crown roast.  

This next step is not required but I like to tie the two ends together.  I first use my knife to poke a hole thru both ends as you see below. 

And then use my finger to push a string thru and tie together using a note that you feel comfortable with. 

Next, I placed the crown roast in a pie plate.  I have used an 8 inch cake pan in the past or even an aluminum pan that I purchased at our local grocer.  Any 8 or 9 inch pan will work.  

 

And now I took a little break from cutting and I made some stuffing.  For this I made a box stuffing that I bought but you can use your favorite stuffing that you make,  I'm sure your homemade would be better.  I have even used sauerkraut.  You decide what you want, but I was surprised how good this boxed stuffing was. 

OK, now that I have my fully cooked stuffing ready, I place it all in the center section of my crown.  I did press it down a little so that I could get it all in but I left the top inch or so a little fluffy.

I then place the pie plate on a cookie sheet and covered it as I placed it into a 225°F over.  Yes, it will be a low and slow cooking but I want my crown roast nice and moist.  And it was.  

It was in this 225°F oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes when the internal temperature of the meat reached 110°F.  Remember the stuffing was already fully cooked and was still hot when we placed it into our crown. 

At this time I removed the foil cover and turned the oven up to 400°F.  The only reason I did this was to help brown the crown some.  In 30 minutes we had the internal temperature of the meat at 154°F and the internal of the stuffing was 148°F.  and there was a nice crust on the stuffing with some browning of the crown.  I removed our crown from the oven and let it "rest" covered on the counter for about 10 minutes.  

I then placed it on a serving plate for our pretty center piece.  

It was easy to carve as the servings had already been determined. Remember what we did earlier.  But then I sliced the servings into thinner slices as you see below.  Look at that moist pork.  And that is after it had been cut for a while. 

Remember to cut across the grain as you are slicing.  The tip here it to remember that each slice should have some of the fat as part of it.  See picture above how there is a thin layer of fat on each slice.  For additional information you might want to refer to;

http://www.meatmadesimple.com/blog/cutting-against-the-grain

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NOT YOUR GRANDMOTHER'S PORK

I am sure that most if not all of you are like me and will say that your grandma was a real good cook.  Both of mine knew how to cook great main courses and were excellent at baking deserts.

And they learned how to cook from their mom's and their grandmothers who taught them that you need to make sure you cook pork well done so that you kill "that bug" that is in the pork. All they knew was there was some bug in the pork and if you cooked the pork a lot it would kill that bug. 

Let's talk about "that bug" later.  

For now, let's get to cooking that boneless pork loin roast that we talked about cutting from a boneless pork loin in our recent blog: 

http://www.meatmadesimple.com/blog/cutting-a-boneless-pork-loin

I removed my 2 1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast from the refrigerator and after placing my thermometer in the center, I placed it loosely wrapped in the butcher paper on the kitchen counter.  So what happened to its internal temperature during the hour that it set there on the counter.  Well, let's take a look. As you can see in the picture below it registered 37°F when I first removed it from the refrigerator. 

I left it covered on the kitchen counter for one hour and look how many degrees it moved up in temperature.  As you can see the thermometer is registering 49°F.  In one hour the internal temperature increased by 12°.  And from my food safety classes, once you start the temperature increasing then keep the temperature moving thru the 40° - 140°F range. 

Now everyone's refrigerator temperature and house temperature will be different so your temperature difference could be different than this.  But now you have a good idea what you might expect.

Next I sprinkled some salt, pepper and a little onion powder on all sides.  You use whatever spice you like.  Next, I heated up a Dutch Oven on the stove top on medium high heat with just enough oil to coat the bottle.  If you don't have a dutch oven, you can use a skillet. When the oil was just starting to smoke, I placed the roast in it with the fat side down and browned it for about 3 minutes and then turned the roast over to brown the other side.  I like to put the fat side down first so that some of that fat starts to melt off and it helps brown the other lean side.  As this was browning, I cut up one sweet potato, one large onion and two carrots.  I combined everything in my Dutch Oven and put the lid on it and into the oven it went.  If you don't have a Dutch Oven then use a casserole or some deep container that you can cover.  As you can see in the picture below it made for a great looking beginning for a delicious dinner.

 

And now for what I feel is most important part.                                                                       The cooking temperature of the oven.  Low and slow is best. 

As we might remember from science class, water boils at 212°F.  So why do you want to turn that oven up so high and cook (boil) all the water or juice out of that piece of meat?  I like to set my oven at somewhere between 225° -  250°F.  For this roast I set the oven at 230°.   I know that is over 212°, but it is low enough and still won't dry the meat out like a 325° or 350° oven will.  And one hour and 15 minutes later I removed the most moist and tender roast from the Dutch Oven and as you can see below the internal temperature was 143°F.  

    Yes, I removed the pork roast from the oven at an                           internal temperature of 143° F. 

                                 Definitely not your Grandmother's pork!!!

DSC_0376.JPG

I placed the roast on a cutting board and covered with some foil for 20 minutes while the vegetables finished cooking in the oven at 300°F.

As you can see in the picture below, the roast kept cooking and the temperature increased to 15o°F.

I then sliced the pork and served.  To bad you can't see the juice on each slice in this picture.  But trust me, it is really juicy and has great flavor.  It's not dry and tough.  It was delicious. 

Now grandma knew how to cook and she cooked pork the way she was taught. She was worried about keeping her family safe and making sure that she killed "that bug".  

So what was "that bug"?   The answer to that question is, trichinosis.  Back in grandma's day, and before, many hogs were raised by feeding them garbage. Some of this garbage may have had some trichina in it that then became part of the pork.  If a person got sick from trichina they were told that they ate pork that was not cooked enough so the next time grandma cooked pork she made darn sure she cooked it enough.  

So great grandma taught grandma who taught mom to cook that pork well done and then cook it some more just to make sure.   After all, had to kill "that bug".  But guess what, she did not have to because that trichinosis bug is killed at a much lower temperature.  

With the fact that a pig fed grains gains more weight faster, today's farmer feeds his pigs grains.   Now, there could be some farmers feeding garbage but these are small operators that raise their pigs for themselves.  And by law that garbage needs to be cooked thoroughly. 

But, regardless, if we cook the pork properly, we will kill any trichina.  Notice I said properly and not well done.  So I've listed below some information from USDA concerning cooking temperatures and times.   

Pork can be safely cooked to a slightly lower temperature provided that the internal meat temperature is at least as hot for at least as long as listed in the USDA table below.[18]Nonetheless, it is prudent to allow a margin of error for variation in internal temperature within a particular cut of pork, which may have bones that affect temperature uniformity. In addition, your thermometer has measurement error that must be considered. Cook pork for significantly longer and at a higher uniform internal temperature than listed here to be safe.

Internal Temperature     Internal Temperature      Minimum Time

              (°F)                                             (°C)                                       (minutes)

              120                                                49                                            1260

              122                                                50.0                                           570

              124                                                51.1                                             270

              126                                                52.2                                             120

              128                                                53.4                                              60

              130                                                54.5                                              30

              132                                                55.6                                               15

              134                                                56.7                                                6

              136                                                57.8                                                3

              138                                                58.9                                                 2

              140                                                60.0                                                 1

              142                                                 61.1                                                   1

              144                                                 62.2                                           Instant

Many chefs consider 145°F internal temperature medium rare for pork.  So, you could cook your pork at home or at a restaurant order your pork medium rare and feel safe.  Trust me when it comes to this type of pork roast, you will have a much better eating experience.  

Look above at the USDA table, 144°F internal temperature kills "that bug" instantly.  And that very moist, tender and flavorful pork roast that we just cooked reached 150°F.  More than high enough to kill "that bug". And it was DELICIOUS. 

Try it, and feel safe having a great eating experience.  Let us know how yours turned out.  

 

 

 

 

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HOW TO COOK A MOIST THANKSGIVING TURKEY and CARVING IT

                                   Just look at the moisture that is in this white meat of our turkey!!!                       Read on to learn how you can do this and how to carve your Thanksgiving turkey. 

                                  Just look at the moisture that is in this white meat of our turkey!!!

                     Read on to learn how you can do this and how to carve your Thanksgiving turkey. 

Oven temperature and time turkey placed in oven
Oven temperature and time turkey removed from oven
DSC_0283.JPG

Let us know how your turkey turns out.  We want to know and will share with all -- no names unless you say it's OK. 

I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "You know my Thanksgiving turkey was good but the white meat was dry as usual.  That's just the way it is."  It doesn't have to be that way.  

I have been cooking our Thanksgiving turkey for more than 25 years and both family and friends always comment, how moist it is.  And then they ask, "what do you do?" 

The answer is simple.  I simply ask them a question.  At what temperature does water boil?  I usually get that look like I can't remember my science class that many years ago.  We laugh and then I proceed to remind them that water boils at 212°F.  So why cook your turkey in a 350°F oven and boil or bake all the water (juice) out of it?  

So, then I explain that I always cook our turkey in a 225 - 250°F oven.  And It is covered during the whole time.  

Now, I am sure you are going to be concerned that you need to cook at the higher temperature.  But, I was taught in one of my many food safety classes that the temperatures between 40° - 140°F is considered the danger zone for food.  Meaning that bacteria grow most rapidly within the temperature range.  But, as long as the temperature continues to move up thru this range and gets to the 165°F internal temperature the poultry it should be safe.  Like I said, I have been cooking this way for 25+ years.  

Now, I realize the 225° - 250°F range is above the boiling point but trust me it will cook your turkey and will be the moistest turkey you ever had.  

But, it will not be that golden brown that you may want for a pretty turkey for the center of the table.  It may not be pretty but it will be delicious.  I choose delicious "moist" turkey over "pretty" dried up turkey.     

I started by removing the neck, giblets, the leg tie and I crossed the wings . I did not stuff it.  I placed it in our large pan with the back up.  

I did not brine this turkey but there are  times that I do not.  In fact, most of the time I do not.  I have what I consider a good brine recipe at end of this write up. 

And after I added about a cup of plain water to the pan,  I covered the turkey with foil and made sure that the foil had a tight seal around the lip of the pan.  Into the oven it went and some 4 hours and 40 minutes later I removed it from the over and note the internal temperature at the thigh --  165°F. This fresh (thawed) 13.9 pound turkey was done.  That's 20 - 21 minutes per pound. 

So I set pan and turkey still covered with foil on the counter top and then covered the foiled pan with a couple of kitchen towels and let the covered turkey rest for 25 minutes.  As we know, the turkey will continue to cook a little more and the juices will remain in the meat when we begin to cut it.  

Yes, that is a beef thermometer.  Won it at a beef cooking contest.  

So, now that the cooked turkey has "rested", let's begin to carve it.  Remember, I said it may not be a pretty center piece but it will be moist and delicious. 

                   I placed paper towels under my cutting board to absorb any juice run off. 

                  I placed paper towels under my cutting board to absorb any juice run off. 

Next, I cut the leg off.  And then started to cut down on one side of the breast bone to remove one side of the breast. 

 Note that the thigh meat is thoroughly cooked.   Because it is, you can use your hand to push the thigh down and the hip joint will be visible so you can use your knife to finish separating the leg from the body. 

Note that the thigh meat is thoroughly cooked.   Because it is, you can use your hand to push the thigh down and the hip joint will be visible so you can use your knife to finish separating the leg from the body. 

I set the leg and the boneless breast off to the side and begin to remove the wing.  By moving the wing back and forth you can see the joint that holds it to the body.  Use your knife to cut thru this joint, separating the wing from the rest of the body.   And now set the wing aside.  

And now I cut the breast the thickness you want and place on your serving plate.  

And now separate the thigh from the drumstick.  You can find this joint by grabbing the thigh and the drumstick and move each.  Now use your knife to cut thru this joint. 

And now let's remove the bone from the thigh.  You will need to use both your hands and you knife.  Actually you will want to use more of your hands and less of the knife. 

Next, let's remove the bones from the drumstick and wings.  I will be honest with you, the best way to accomplish this is with your hands.  The next few pictures, I use a knife to get started but then my recommendation is to use your hands to remove the meat from the bones and place the meat on your serving tray. 

 Remember there are several small "pin bones" in the drumstick and your hands and fingers are best to find and remove.  I found 12 in this one drumstick. 

Remember there are several small "pin bones" in the drumstick and your hands and fingers are best to find and remove.  I found 12 in this one drumstick. 

                                                                        The wing meat and bones. 

                                                                       The wing meat and bones. 

And the serving plate for just half the turkey looked like this.  I cut the other half the same way.  

If you want, here is a pretty good brine that I have used.  It is not too strong in flavor but enhances the good natural meat flavor and I like that. 

2 gallon water

1 cup salt

.3 ounces black pepper (1 tablespoon)

.5 ounces garlic powder  (1 1/2 tablespoon)

1/4 cup Worcester sauce

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

I mix all ingredients the night before so that it is all dissolved the next day when I place my turkey in the brine.  











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CUTTING A BONELESS PORK LOIN

So you've just bought that perfect boneless pork loin and now that you have it home -- what do you do with it?  There are many, many different ways to cut your pork loin into various cut.  We can not cover them all in this segment but we do plan additional cutting ideas. 

Based on our previous blog we have either bought the whole boneless loin,  the loin half or the rib half.   Pictured below is the whole boneless pork loin.  

Let's just talk about each half separately.    Starting  with the rib half pictured on the left half of the picture.  As you can see in the picture below, I have already made a cut separating the rib half from the loin half and another cut separating the blade end (sometimes called the rib end).

You can identify this half by observing the darker colored muscle that is part of the blade end as you can see in the picture above.  The sirloin end will not have this darker muscle.  Your decision as to which half to buy should be based on what you are planning to do with the meat along with the quality aspects discussed in our previous blog  

http://www.meatmadesimple.com/blog/how-to-buy-a-boneless-pork-loin

Let's now take a look at that blade end.  And again, it is sometimes referred to as the rib end.  A good rule of thumb is to measure approximately 5 - 6 inches from the end and make your cut there for this blade end roast.  This should be about a 3 pound or slightly less piece of meat.  Really, you can make your cut wherever you want to.  Just remember that if you change the size of this blade end, you will have an effect on other cuts of the loin.  An example of this would be if you decided to make it a little bigger than you will have less pork chops coming from the center cut section.  

And now we turn this slightly so we get a good view of that dark muscle we mentioned earlier. For now, we are not going to worry about why one muscle is darker than the other.  Just remember that this means you are dealing with the rib end of the pork loin.  The end closest to the shoulder.  

Now we can  just leave this nice little 2 - 3 pound blade end as it is and it would make as excellent roast for the slow cooker or for an oven roast.  But for today we are going to make boneless country style ribs.  

You will want to make a horizontal cut all the way thru as you see in the next two photos.  You want to try and end up with two equal pieces so try to make your cut straight across at the half way point on the side.  

OK, now you should have two pieces approximately the same.  Some may want to leave these two pieces just as they are as they could be cooked as is but I like to make a few more cuts and make them into individual pieces of boneless country style ribs.  

I like them approximately 1 1/4 inch to 1 1/2 inch thick.  You should start at the larger end and make your cut as you see in picture above.  These make excellent boneless ribs and should be cooked accordingly.  Be sure to package these the way you will need when cooking them later.  

OK, so let's move on to the center rib section as you see in the picture below.

You can leave this as a whole piece and it would make a great roast.  This will typically be 6 - 7 inches long depending on the size of the blade end that you cut.  But instead of a roast we want some nice thick cut boneless pork chops.   I like mine a minimum of 1 1/4 inch but you can cut yours as thick or thin as you desire.  I also like a few slightly less than 1/2 inch as these make great chops for sandwiches.  Picture below shows me cutting the center rib into some nice thick chops.  

 Note the little of fat on top of the chops and very little marbling.  We discussed this in the previous blog;  http://www.meatmadesimple.com/blog/how-to-buy-a-boneless-pork-loin.   Picture below shows chop thickness.  Just remember, cut them the way you want them. 

Note the little of fat on top of the chops and very little marbling.  We discussed this in the previous blog;  http://www.meatmadesimple.com/blog/how-to-buy-a-boneless-pork-loin. 

Picture below shows chop thickness.  Just remember, cut them the way you want them. 

DSC_0028.JPG

So out of the rib half of this boneless pork loin we now have some nice boneless pork chops and some nice country style ribs.  

Now lets start to cut the loin half.  As you see in our next picture the loin half consists of the center loin and the sirloin end.

Now we can treat this center loin section the same as the center rib section.  We can leave it as one piece for a roast or even cut in half to make two nice smaller roasts or cut it into chops just like we did with the center rib section. I don't think you need anymore pictures concerning this.

So, let's move to the sirloin end and take a look at what we can do with it.  It will make some very nice boneless pork sirloin chops.   You can cook these the same as boneless center rib or loin chops.  Because of their location on the animal they will not be as tender as the chops but they will still be very delicious.  They usually have less marbling than the center chops so they may not be as moist.   You can also leave this as a nice boneless roast and cook accordingly or you can cut it into the chops.  Note the pictures below as we cut the sirloin end into chops. 

As I was looking at these chops, I noticed that the first two that I cut were nicer than the last three.  The main difference you will see is the fact that the three chops had more connective tissue located within the meat.  This connective tissue (gristle) is a little difficult to chew if not cooked properly.  So I thought I would separate these three chops. 

Knowing that if cooked with a little moisture this connective tissue would become more tender.  So I proceeded to cut these three chops up into bite size chunks and will use these for a delicious pork stew.  

The picture below shows all the cuts we made today.  Remember we noted when we first started that there are many different ways to cut your pork loin.  An example would be that we did not make any roasts this time.  Maybe next time.  Be sure to package the way you want and refrigerate or freeze as soon as you can.  

Country Style Ribs / Center Cut Pork Chops / Sirloin Chops / Pork Stew















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Sausage App!

We're launching the Sausage app for iPhone and iPad! Get it today from the App Store

    Loads of family recipes!

 

Loads of family recipes!

We love making sausage. There are few things as good as a fresh-made sausage. And in our never-ending quest to simplify making meat at home, we're launching this app – it's incredible! Here's what you get:

  • 100’s of years of family tradition in our recipes – our family was in the meat business in 1803!
  • Recipes for Bratwurst, Sweet Italian, Hot Italian, Polish, Irish, Waffly Good, and more.
  • Simplifies sausage making by automatically calculating spice amounts
  • A quick tap tracks ingredients as you add them
  • Work in your preferred measurement system – calculates in Metric or Imperial
    Works on iPhone and iPad!

 

Works on iPhone and iPad!

    Calculates in pounds and ounces...

 

Calculates in pounds and ounces...

    Also calculates in grams!

 

Also calculates in grams!

    Tap each ingredient to "cross it off" your list

 

Tap each ingredient to "cross it off" your list

We hope you love it and will help us out by sharing the store link on social media. 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sausage/id1023655268?ls=1&mt=8

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BUYING A BONELESS PORK LOIN

You love a good boneless pork chop and nice boneless pork roast. Your local market has boneless pork loins at a great price so you are off to save some money.   Upon arriving at the meat case you see many boneless pork loins to chose from.  There are so many it is confusing, you are not sure what to do, so you ask the butcher and his response is "they're all the same".  

Well guess what, they are not all the same.  Just as all of us humans are different, so are the pigs that produced these boneless pork loins.  So let's take a few minutes to look into some things that will help you pick out the best pork loin available.  

First we need to realize that unlike beef, pork is not assigned a quality grade. The government assigns a yield grade which takes into account the back fat and the muscle size.   The reason for this is the fact that the pig is a lot younger than beef when harvested.  Let's not get side tracked into this too much.   The only reason it needed mentioned is so that you aren't looking for a prime or choice or select graded pork loin. 

For today we are going to assume that all markets will be offering a vacuum packaged product.  Different stores will sell different boneless pork loins. Now what I mean by this is that some markets will offer a whole boneless pork loin while others may offer a half boneless pork loin.  The picture below is a whole boneless pork loin offered by some markets.  And as you can see by referencing the diagram at the top of this page, this pork loin is located at the top of the animal and has a blade end, center rib section, center loin section and sirloin end.  

And in the picture above you will see the center rib and blade section that would be the rib half of the boneless pork loin.  The center loin section and sirloin end will make up the loin half .  These are what some markets may offer as half boneless loins. 

You need to know what your market is offering and what are you planning to do with this once you get it home.  

But, before we get to that, let's discuss a few things you should be looking for when are standing at the meat case looking at the display of boneless pork loins.  

FAT COVER

This is the amount of fat that is on the top of the loin.   I recommend that there be no more that 1/4 inch thick .  I know, I've heard, fat is flavor.  But, you are paying your hard earned money and you don't need to spend it on too much fat that you probably not going to eat anyway.   The best way to determine this is to look at the whole loin cut in half and measure the fat. Now by measuring, I mean give it the old eyeball measurement.  I don't expect you to carry a ruler to measure the fat cover. You can tell. If there is more fat, then the store is paying less and so should you.  

However, if your market offers only the whole boneless loin, you shouldn't expect your butcher to cut these vacuum packed  loins in half just so you can measure the fat.  This is where past purchases and eyeballing it come into play. 

TAIL ON

Some boneless pork loins will have what many refer to as the tail or strap left on.  As you can see by the picture below this is just additional fat that is left on.  This fat on the side or end of the loin is not going to add much flavor. This extra fat will make the cost to the store of this type of boneless loin less than one that had the strap (tail) removed.  So you should be paying less if this strap of fat (tail) is left on vs. the market that is selling a loin with the tail removed as you see with the loin on the right side.

MARBLING

Simply said, marbling is the small specs of fat that are within the meat.   Now this is where the saying "fat is flavor" really becomes true.  Because, for at least the last 50 or more years, we the customer, have demanded leaner pork, and the industry has given us what we have asked for.  So finding a pork loin with a lot of marbling may be difficult.  But, this is one attribute that you need to be diligent and hunt for that pork loin that has some marbling. Marbling is flavor and  will attribute some towards tenderness.  Looking at the picture below you will see that I was able to find one with a significant amount of marbling.  

  Simply put, the fat you see within the muscle of this boneless pork chop is marbling.   

Simply put, the fat you see within the muscle of this boneless pork chop is marbling.  

The picture below is one of a boneless pork chop with really no marbling. 

COLOR AND FIRMNESS

We aren't going to spend much time on these two attributes as for the most part you will not find a lot of major differences with them as you are looking at that big pile of pork loins.  

You will want to look for a loin that is a light pink in color, not pale looking. Remember you are looking at vacuum packaged product that needs to bloom after you open it.  To learn more about meat bloom and vacuum packaging reference;  

http://www.meatmadesimple.com/blog/vacuum-packaged-beef

You want the pork loin to be firm when you squeeze it and not mushy.   

And in summary, we realize that both economics  and what your plans are for the pork loin will greatly affect your purchase.  However as you are standing at the meat counter trying to decide which boneless pork loin to purchase, keep the following attributes in mind and you will spend that hard earned cash on a delicious product and you will get more meat for your dollar.  

FAT COVER;   should be no more than 1/4 inch

TAIL ON;   you prefer not to purchase that extra fat

MARBLING;   remember "fat is flavor" and you want those specs of fat                                                   withing the muscle

COLOR AND FIRMNESS;   a firm bright grayish pink meat color is ideal                                                   

Remember, knowledge is power and now you have power when it comes to spending your hard earned cash for a boneless pork loin.  

Please send us your feed back concerning this information or any other comments.  

Comment, like, and/or share.  See below. 

 

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CUTTING AGAINST THE GRAIN AND MORE

So, you paid good money for that steak from your favorite grocer or meat shop because the boss is coming over for dinner tonight and you need to impress the boss with a great dinner.  Or, you just want to have a nice steak for the family.  Whatever the case may be, you want the steak to be delicious and tender.  

There are many factors that help determine tenderness of meat.  Let's start with the age of the animal.  Typically the older the animal is, the less tender the meat will be.   The younger the animal is the more tender the cut will be.  

And, in addition to age of the animal, the location of the muscle also determines the tenderness.  By location I mean where the muscle is on the animal and how much work that muscle does.

 

BEEF EXAMPLE:                                                                                                                                                           The chuck (front shoulder)  has muscles that help support the animal and help move the animal as it walks.  These muscles work quite a bit so they will not be as tender as let's say a tenderloin (filet mignon) that does very little work.  The more these muscles work, the thicker the muscle fibers get. Just like you and me.  The more we exercise and lift weights the bigger and tougher our muscle fibers get.  

Take a look at the difference of the muscle fibers in the two cuts pictured below. The flank  steak has the thick muscle fibers while the tenderloin (piece of meat on top) has very fine muscle fibers.  So we know which steak will be the most tender.  The one with the thinner fibers - the one that does less work.  


So now we know that the age of the animal and muscle location are two factors that will affect tenderness prior to cooking.   

WHAT CAN US CONSUMERS CONTROL:

The U.S.D.A. grades take age into consideration so as long as you purchase a USDA grade of Prime, Choice or Select you will be buying meat that came from a younger beef.  Ask the butcher if you are not sure.  

You know that the more work the muscle does the less tender it might be.  So, know where the cut is located on the beef to help you determine it's tenderness.  

As we discussed in a previous blog, cooking methods will affect tenderness also.

And now as we first stated, we have purchased our steak and we know that it is USDA Choice and we know where it is located on the beef because we purchased a Flank Steak.  And we know that this muscle does a good amount of work helping to hold the belly and this flank steak has thick muscle fibers.    

One other factor that helps controls tenderness that we can control is the way we cut the beef steak after cooking.  This is especially true with this flank steak.  As we saw in an earlier picture of the flank and the tenderloin the muscle fibers in each are quite different.  The flank has muscle fibers that are thick while this tenderloin (filet) has muscle fibers that are very thin.   

It makes sense that if you try to chew muscle fibers that thick, they will be less tender than the muscle fiber that is a thin fiber.  

Don't do this at home, but imagine trying to bite a section of clothes line off with your teeth.  How would that compare to you trying to bite a piece of sewing thread off.  Yes, the thread would be a lot easier . 

So these thicker muscle fibers need to be cut into smaller pieces that will make them easier to chew.  

That is where the term, "cutting across the grain" comes into play.  The grain is the direction that these muscle fibers are aligned.  As you can see in the diagram below the muscle fibers will be more tender if they are shorter fibers.   

So let's cut this flank steak "across the grain" to help make sure that it is tender. This will hold true for any piece of meat but we use the flank steak because it is very easy to all of us to see the larger muscle fibers.  

DSC_0932.JPG

Looking at the two pieces of flank steak on the left we see long muscle fibers. They were cut with the grain.  Meaning the same direction of the muscle fibers.   The two pieces on the right were cut across the grain (muscle fibers). By cutting this way we have shortened the fibers and thus they become more tender. 

In summary, we know that age of the animal,  muscle location, cooking and last but not least, the way we cut the beef (across the grain) all determine the tenderness of the meat we eat.  

Hope this helps.  Like us on facebook.com/meatmadesimple 

 

 

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AMERICAN LAMB

American lamb.  Proud to be raised here in the great United States.  Yet, how many of us really take the time to appreciate this homegrown delicacy?           Not many of us. 

With that being said, I have a meeting coming up with The American Lamb Board Committee late next month.  I would really appreciate some information prior to the meeting.  

This should help the lamb industry continue to improve upon and develop products that we, the consumer, prefer.

So I am asking a few questions and would like you to simply reply by typing your answers in the comment section below.  Strictly confidential. 

QUESTION

1 ) Do you eat lamb more than once a month? (answer yes or no)

2) If answer to question 1 is YES then skip this question and move on to question 3.  If NO, than please briefly explain why you do not. 

3) What could the lamb industry do to help you increase your consumption? 

4) Please add any additional comments. 

 

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GROUND BEEF

So you are standing in front of the meat case wanting to purchase a package of ground beef.  You definitely want the freshest product available and we all know that when buying meat,  especially ground beef the color red means it is the freshest.  Or does it.  

Looking at the picture below, which package would you say was the freshest?

Both packages were purchased on a Monday at the same time.   The package on the right had a sell by date of Wednesday of that week.  The package on the left had a sell by of the following Wednesday.  Yes, one week later than the package on the right.  

How is this possible?  The package on the left is vacuum packaged while the one on the right is placed in a styrofoam tray and wrapped in a plastic film. Both are placed on the grocers meat shelf for us to purchase.   

Vacuumed packaging is the removal of air from the package and without air, especially oxygen, bacteria growth is slowed tremendously.  But, because of the lack of oxygen the meat does not "bloom".  

Now we are not going to get into all of the chemistry of what actually happens to meat as it blooms but let's take a few minutes to briefly explain it.  And for this discussion we will be talking about beef, however the same principle will hold true for other species such as pork, lamb, and veal.

When one first cuts a piece of beef the newly exposed muscle will be a very dark purple. In fact, sometimes, it may even appear almost black.  However after 15 - 30 minutes this dark piece of freshly cut beef will "bloom" into a nice bright red cut.  What causes this?  The answer is oxygen.   By exposing this cut to air, the oxygen combines with the protein molecules (specifically iron atom) and when this happens, the beef turns bright red.  

So why doesn't the beef cut or grind stay bright red?  Well, guess what the answer is?  Yes, the same oxygen is a contributing factor.  Because when you first cut or grind that beef you are exposing it to not only the air, but also to bacteria.  The meat provides food and moisture for this bacteria and the package on the right allows the meat to be exposed to the oxygen that the bacteria needs to grow and multiply.  And, again, let's avoid a lot of the chemistry, but suffice it to say that the increased bacteria will start to change the ground beef from that bright red to a brown color.  The brown  color that we associate with spoiled meat. 

However,  the package on the left is vacuum packaged.  And remember what we just learned, that when beef is first cut or ground it might take up to 30 minutes to turn that bright red color we like.  So by removing the air from this package, the ground beef will remain that dark color that you see in the package on the left.  

By the way, both of these are natural ground beef with, besides packaging, the only difference is the vacuum package is 91% lean while the other is 92% lean. So for this discussion, both are considered equal.

The picture below is of the same two packages after 4 1/2 days in my refrigerator at home.  

And you can see what the bacteria being exposed to oxygen did to that bright red package of ground beef that we saw at the top of this article.   But remember, oxygen is what made the package red to begin with.  This browning of the meat in the package on the right is because of bacteria and the meat is not good.  It had a foul order to it. 

Remember the original sell by dates on both of these packages.  At this point the vacuum packaged product still has approximately 5 days left.  And the tray wrapped product was already outdated. 

And so now you wonder what the vacuum package of ground beef would look like if I open it up.  So I waited one more day.  And look at the difference one day makes.  The bacteria are really multiplying on the tray wrapped ground beef.   I opened up the vacuum packaged product.  It had a fresh odor to it and look at the "bloom" it had after about 30 minutes .

But now that I have exposed it to oxygen and bacteria, it will look like the package on the right in a few days.  

So in conclusion, the vacuum packaged beef gave me the flexibility of purchasing this package today and not be concerned about having to use it or freeze it in a few short days.  The vacuum packaged product is not bacteria free but the lack of oxygen has really slowed the bacteria growth while in the tray wrapped package, the product is constantly exposed to oxygen that assists the bacteria to grow more rapidly.  

The vacuum package also, if I needed to is a package that I could just place into the freezer and not have to repackage like the tray wrapped product would require.  

A negative about the vacuum package is the cost is more for the manufacturer, so it will cost you more.  

As you might be able to tell, I am fond of the vacuum package.   

If both packages were ground and packaged the same day, knowing what you now know,  which would you buy?

  

 

   

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PHATT BOY SLIDERS

With a name like that it has to be good.  And yes it was.  But the best part is that it is easy to make.  

All I needed was 11 slices of "the best bacon ever" and 3/4 lb. of hot Italian sausage.  Of course you don"t have to use hot Italian, try your favorite sausage. Whatever flavor you feel would go with bacon.  Well, OK, your right, what doesn't go with bacon? 

Let's get started by braiding the bacon. into a basket weave. Lay 6 slices down like this;

Next fold back every other slice like this;

And now start the weave by placing a slice like below and folding the 3 slices back;

Now fold back the other three slices back and add the second vertical slice as below and then place the three slices back to continue the weave. 

When you are complete doing the basket weave you will have something that looks like the picture above.  

Now form 12 ounces of Hot Italian Sausage and form it into a uniform log the is the length of your bacon weave.  So now you should have something that looks like this.

And now let's roll the bacon around the sausage so it looks like;

Place this on a wire rack and place this on a cookie sheet in a 375 degree oven uncovered for approximately 45 - 50 minutes.  Ovens vary but please be sure to use a thermometer to make sure the middle internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  

Pull from oven and let cool on counter top for 5 -10 minutes.  Slice approximately 1/4 inch and make you slider using your favorite condiments.  But, to be honest with you, no special sauce is needed.  





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STUFFED BONELESS TURKEY BREAST

Wow, did this turn out better than expected. You know, it was one those things where you say to yourself, "yes, this will be good", but then when it is finished you are even surprised as to how delicious it really did turn out.

We are going to get started by boning out the whole bone in turkey breast.  This is not all that difficult to bone out but you need to be careful as it becomes awkward to hold onto and remove the bones.  However, you will have that sense of pride that you did it yourself.  Not only that, you will know where everything from the meat to the spices came from. You control that and that should make you feel good.

I started with the whole bone in turkey breast as you see in the picture below.   

    I started removing the bones at the ribs and slowly cut my way to the breasts bone and then did the same to the other side.  I ended up with the full boneless turkey breast as you can see  in the picture below.   

 

I started removing the bones at the ribs and slowly cut my way to the breasts bone and then did the same to the other side.  I ended up with the full boneless turkey breast as you can see  in the picture below.

 

    Take a few minutes and remove the blood spots and any little bone chips that you see or find by rubbing you hand over the meat.    And now this next part is not difficult but you need to be careful and not cut too far through the breast.   We are going to butterfly the turkey breast by placing the knife as you see below and slicing only part way through the thick part of the breast.  

 

Take a few minutes and remove the blood spots and any little bone chips that you see or find by rubbing you hand over the meat.  

And now this next part is not difficult but you need to be careful and not cut too far through the breast.   We are going to butterfly the turkey breast by placing the knife as you see below and slicing only part way through the thick part of the breast.  

    When you have butterflied both sides of the breast you will have almost doubled its size by making it thinner.  It should look like the picture below.

 

When you have butterflied both sides of the breast you will have almost doubled its size by making it thinner.  It should look like the picture below.

    And now we are ready to add our stuffing.  We used an apple, onion, and cider stuffing.  Look in our recipes for this delicious recipe.  Below is a picture of what this would look like. 

 

And now we are ready to add our stuffing.  We used an apple, onion, and cider stuffing.  Look in our recipes for this delicious recipe.  Below is a picture of what this would look like. 

About a half inch layer of stuffing works out to be just about the right amount. But the best part was the several pats of butter that I added before I started rolling the meat and stuffing up into a pinwheel.  

And now we continue to roll until we have a very nice looking pinwheel.  You may lose a little stuffing out the sides as you roll, but you can take gently tuck it back where it belongs.  And now you will want to start to tie it all together so that as it cooks it will stay in a nice uniform shape.  The type of knot you use is not really that important, but you do want to make sure the string is snug and will not come untied.  I like to tie the string end for end trying to keep the stuffing from falling out the ends.  See picture below for finished product all tied up.

  I cooked in a covered roaster at 250 degrees F for about 2 1/2  - 3 hours.  Your oven may vary but remember your final internal temperature needs to be 165.  

I like to cooking it low, slow and keeping it covered the meat is very, very juicy. And the butter didn't hurt either.   Below is the final cooked product.  Have fun, be proud of what you did and know you are eating what you made so you know what is in it.

  

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CUT UP YOUR OWN CHICKEN AND SAVE MONEY

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DSC_0378

We all like to save money and almost all of us like chicken.  An easy way to enjoy both is to buy a whole chicken at your favorite grocer and ask their butcher to cut it up.  We all know -- that won't happen.  So we'll take it home and cut it up.  It really isn't that difficult so don't be intimidated.

Let's get started.  Get your sharpest knife and a clean cutting board.

I like  to start by removing the wings first. Lay the chicken on your cutting table with the breast side down.  Grab one wing and pull it away from the chicken.  You can move the wing back and forth to find the joint.  Now cut through this joint and remove the wing.  Repeat with the other wing.  See, that was easy.

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DSC_0104

Next, I like to remove the backbone.  Two swift cuts on each of the vertebra and the backbone is removed.  You want this to be about 1 - 1 1/2 in.  wide.  You will need to grab the tail and hold the chicken up so that the backbone is vertical to your cutting board and is facing you.  Place your knife approximately 1/2 inch or so to the right of the tail.  Now make a quick and firm downward cut with your knife.  Two important tips:

1) Hold onto the tail tight.

2) Push your knife quickly and firmly.

DSC_0108
DSC_0108

Now repeat on the other side.                                                                                                                   And the back is removed.

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DSC_0117

OK, now let's remove the legs. Turn the chicken so the breast side is up.  Grab the leg as seen in next photo and gently pull the leg away from the body.  There is a "natural" seam that separates the leg from the body so your knife needs to cut thru the skin.

DSC_0123
DSC_0123

The thigh bone  is connected to the body at the hip.  Continue to gently pull on the leg separating it from the body as the knife cuts thru the joint.

A tip  -- you can "wiggle" the leg a little to help you see the joint.  Remember this is the hip joint and it is a ball in a socket joint.

Now cut through it as seen below.

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   OK, now cut off the other leg the same way.

Our next job is to separate the thigh from the drumstick.  Put your knife down and lay the leg on your cutting table skin side down.  Now while holding the drumstick, move the thigh back and forth.   See the joint move where the skin stops.  I call this the fat line or our cut line.

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Make your cut there -- thru the joint, separating the thigh from the drumstick.                                

 We're almost done.  Lets split the breast into two pieces.

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As seen in picture above is the whole bone in breast.  We could just take our good sharp knife and make a hard and swift cut through the breast bone and cut the breast into two pieces.  Or we could do what I prefer to do and that is to remove the breast bone and then cut the whole breast into two pieces.  When you go to your local grocer you will notice these called split breasts on the label.

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And now we just need to use our knife to cut the breast in half -- thus the term split breasts.

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 And now look what you have done -- what was a whole chicken is now 8 pieces that are ready to cook the way you want to and you saved money.

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So let's look at the money.  I bought the whole chicken for $6.05.  Had I bought the 8 pieces seen above separately I would have spent $8.73 and would have saved $2.68 by purchasing the whole chicken and cutting it up myself.  You can do it.  Not bad for just one chicken. This may be slightly different for you based on the store you may be shopping at.  But, you can save money and know that you have a quality product that you, yourself produced.  

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Make the BEST Kielbossi ever

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Old fashioned kielbossi made with fresh pork shoulder butt. A family favorite here.

Kolbossi, Kilbossi, or however you spell it -- this is just good stuff.  You may think it to be a little more work and time than you want to spend but afterwards you will have to admit that it was time well spent.  And we’ll have fun as we go.  So let the good times begin.

We started with two whole pork shoulder butts that we proceeded to remove the bone from so that we could separate the lean from the fat.

Now, what I mean by separating the lean is to remove the large lean muscle pieces that are visually 95% lean or leaner.

We ended up with a little bit more lean than fatter meat.  I weighed both and noted that we had 8 lb. of lean meat and 6 lb. of the fatter meat. As long as we had equal amounts or more lean meat I am happy. 

We keep the lean meat in one container and the fatter meat in another container. Next we cut the meat into pieces that would fit into our Kitchen Aid grinder and we added our salt and cure (prague powder/pink salt).  Our salt and cure is for 14 pounds of meat, and we have two containers, one with eight pounds and the other with six pounds. We did our best to get the right amount of salt and cure on each.  After all, it will be all mixed together later.  So, now we cover each container and put in the refrigerator overnight.   As we may know the cure will turn the meat a brown color as it reacts with the meat.  Note pictures below.

Let’s not get into the chemistry of how and why this happens today. We’ll do that at a later date.

For now, just trust me when I say this is a normal look.

I like to have the meat with salt and cure set overnight.  This helps with the salt reacting with the meat protein so that they can hold onto more water during the cooking process, thus making for a more juicy kielbossi.  This step in not necessary but just my preference.

So the next day we remove the meat from the refrigerator and we grind the lean meat through our course grinder plate of our Kitchen Aid mixer.  And then we grind our fatter meat through our finer holed grinder plate. Remember to keep the meat moving through the grinder so that grinder knife and plate don’t warm up too much.  This will cause damage to the meat proteins.

And now in a large container we mix all the meat with the remainder of the spices and ice water.  Remember, your tap water temperature is probably 50 - 65° F and we want to make sure we keep the meat cold.  So I filled a container with a little more water than we will need and add 10 - 12 ice cubes.  Let this set to chill while we grind the meat.

We make sure that we spend a little extra time mixing using only our hands.  This stuff is really cold!  But that is what we want and need, so let's grin and bear it as we continue to mix.

As you can see from the picture above, it may not look real appetizing but it does smell good.  So let’s stuff it.

I went to a local meat packer and purchased our hank of hog casings.  You can purchase these online. I used 32 - 35 mm pre-flushed hog casings.  We’ll learn more about various casings at a later date.  So let’s get to stuffing. We drained the salt water that they came packed in and placed them all in a container with warm water.  You will need to rinse these slippery little devils off 2 - 3 times so as to remove any excess salt water.  So, once I did this I untied the knot in the one end and gently pulled these out of the warm water and placed on the table.  This will make help make them come apart easier as we use them.  Note in this picture we are opening the one end of the casing so we can put it on the stuffing tube of our Kitchen Aid attachment.  

And now turn on the Kitchen Aid and get some of the kielbossi to the end of the tube.  This will eliminate any air so that when we tie a knot in the end of the casing.  Now lets turn the Kitchen Aid on and stuff away.  We need to hold the casing snugly on the end as we feed the meat into the stuffer.

    One person can accomplish this but having an assistant to feed the meat is very helpful. Continue to stuff until out of casing.  Add another casing and start up again.  We need to go slow at first as learning the art of stuffing will require time and practice.  We want to make sure we stuff the casing tight enough but not so tight that the casing breaks.  At the same time we don’t want any air in the casing.  If we get an air pocket we can eliminate it with a pin or the pointed end of a sharp knife.  If we miss an air pocket, no big deal as it won’t hurt it but it just makes for an unattractive product. And now we really have a challenge of hanging this long roll of kielbossi.  We need to continue to gently grab the inside roll with one hand and hang it on on your other arm.

This really takes some patience and a lot of practice but you can do it.  Just keep trying.  And now to the smokehouse.

My method of smoking is slightly different then a lot of others but it works.  As you can see in the picture above I roll my smokehouse over our patio firepit.  It requires constant monitoring as I don’t want the smokehouse temperature to get over 190.  Depending on the outside temperature and the wind it may take me 3 ½ - 4 hours.  I really like using hickory wood but will also mix in a little bit of apple.  

After the internal temperature reaches 150° F  -- and I will check it several places to make sure -- I will remove from the smokehouse with a glove, and place in a large container (tub) of cold water.  A little tip is to constantly add cold water to your container. I put the hose in the water and turn it on slowly.  You want the internal temperature of the sausage to get to at least 110° F before removing from water as this will assure that the product will not shrivel.

Now remove from the water and place on your kitchen counter or someplace where the product can “rest” for about a half hour or so. This will help the color to "set" and help the meat hang onto the juice.   Now wrap in loose paper and place in refrigerator until it chills completely, at least an hour.

Only thing left to do is enjoy your hard work.

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COOKING -- SOME COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

COOKING: SOME COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q. What is meant by the term braising when cooking?

A. Braising is the use of moist heat to cook a less tender cut of meat. Adding no less than a half inch of water or your favorite liquid such as a broth and cover the container. Maintain a temperature of 325 - 350 degrees F

Q. Is braising done on the stovetop or in the oven?

A. Braising of meat can be can be done in a covered heavy pot or skillet either on top of the stove or in the over.

Q. Is browning the meat prior to braising required?

A. The meat can be browned on both sides if desired. A seasoned flour can be patted on each side of the meat. This browning will add some flavor and color. Finish cooking with moisture in oven or on the stove top.

Q. When braising meat, is covering the pan required?

A. Yes. This lid will keep the steam produced from the liquid in the pan and this steam will soften the connective tissue of the meat making it more tender. when the meat becomes fork tender, it is done.

Q. What is broiling of meat?

A. Broiling is the use of dry heat to cook meat. This method is best used to cook the more tender cuts of steaks and/or chops.

Q. Can any piece of meat be broiled?

A. Not just any cut of meat but the more tender steak or chop cuts broil best. However, some less tender cuts of beef like a flank steak or a top round london broil can be after marinating them.

Q. What is pan broiling?

A. Pan broiling is using a pan or skillet on top of the stove to cook the steak or chop without the use of liquid. Medium high to high is recommended temperature setting.

Q. Does the thickness of the meat make a difference?

A. Yes. When broiling in the oven the meat needs to be ¾ inch to 1 ¼ inch thick. However when pan broiling we recommend ½ inch to ¾ inch.

Q. What is stir frying?

A. Cooking thin slices of meat quickly in a skillet with a small amount of oil on top of the stove using medium high heat. Meat ¼ inch by ¼ inch approximately 3 inches in length is ideal. Add quick cooking vegetables and your favorite seasoning when meat is close to being done.

Q. What is roasting?

A. Roasting is the cooking of an uncovered piece of meat in an oven or similar appliance.

Q. What meat is best for roasting?

A. Use some of the more tender cuts such as beef rib (boneless or bone in), top round, sirloin tip, pork loin and fresh ham. Lamb as well as veal leg and shoulder cuts also roast well. Remember you should use a piece of meat that weighs more that 2 ½ lb.

Q. Should a rack be used when roasting?

A. Yes and no. The purpose of the rack is to keep the meat out of the drippings as the meat cooks and to allow air air to circulate around the roast. So, yes a rack is needed unless the meat has bones in it. Bones will raise the meat off the bottom of the pan and allow air to circulate around the meat.

Q. Should I cover the roast while it cooks?

A. No. Covering the pan with foil, or wrapping the roast with foil, or using a cooking bag is actually braising. Because we are using some of the more tender cuts, braising is not needed. Also, the browning of the exterior of the meat adds flavor to the roast.

Q. Should I season the meat before or after roasting?

A. This is personal preference. I personally like to season the meat the night before. I will rub the spices all over, cover the meat with plastic and place in the refrigerator. Be sure to unwrap prior to placing meat in oven.

Q. At what temperature should I roast meat?

A. Some feel that the oven should be set at a high, 375 - 400 degrees F for 15 - 30 minutes. Less time for a smaller roast. This higher temperature helps ‘seal” the outside to help hold the juices in. However, this high temperature will cause more cooking losses. We recommend roasting at 250 degrees F - 325 degrees F. The larger the roast, the lower the temperature. This lower temperature helps cook the meat at a slower rate and more uniform throughout. An over 8 pound roast needs this lower temperature to cook evenly.

Q. What is the difference between thermostat and thermometer?

A. A meat thermometer registers the temperature of the roast. The thermostat controls the oven temperature. Knowing that both are accurate is very important. You will need to know that the temperature the thermostat is set at is the oven temperature. The thermometer will also let you know how done the meat is.

Q. How do I know when the roast is ready to be removed from the over?

A. First you will need to decide how done you want it Following are some guidelines. Remember the more done the roast the dryer the roast as more moisture will be cooked out of the meat.

Rare 125 - 130 degrees F

Medium Rare 130 - 140 degrees F

Medium 140 - 150 degrees F

Medium well 150 - 155 degrees F

Well over 160 degrees F

You will need a stick thermometer, placing it into the center of the roast. Be sure that the end of the thermometer is not touching any bones. Bones will conduct heat faster than whole muscle meat. You will want to remove the roast from the oven when your thermometer registers about 7 - 10 degrees less than your desired final temperature. After the roast is removed from oven, place it (still in roasting pan) on counter top, cover with foil or maybe a clean cloth for 10 - 15 minutes. The roast will continue to increase in temperature the 7 - 10 degrees needed to reach your desired final temperature. This also helps the meat hold onto more juice -- thus making for a juicier cut of meat.

Q. How long do I cook this roast?

A. As we all know oven temperature will vary from oven to oven. And then to make things more confusing the roast size and type will affect the time. Also, does the roast have bones or is it boneless? These all affect the time. And don’t forget the beginning temperature of the piece of meat. But, with that said, a good rule of thumb that I like to use is 35 minutes per pound in a 275 degree F oven for an internal temperature of 150 degrees F.

Remember that the lower the oven temperature the less browning of the roast. The browning of the outside of the roast will change the flavor slightly. If you desire this than raise the temperature to 375 for the first 45 - 60 minutes and then drop the oven temperature to the 275.

Remember from your school day science class that water boils at 212 degree F. So why cook the roast at a high temperature and boil all the water (juice) out of the meat?

We have attached a link to a roasting chart that you may feel of benefit.

http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/meatchart.html

Remember, please feel free to post comments and questions.

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EASTER LAMB with CHERRY RICE STUFFING

Easter is a great time of year to find lamb at promotional pricing at your local grocer or meat shop.  I know that I like lamb several times a year and not only at Easter. Over the years, many people have told me that they don't care for lamb.  When I would ask them why, they might respond with, well i really haven't eaten it for a long time but i just remember that I didn't care for it.  And that might have been true years ago because they may have eaten some older lamb or possible some imported lamb.  However, over the years the total lamb industry has improved the quality of lamb.  And that would  mean both the imported lamb and the domestic lamb.  

I personally fell that American Lamb is a bit better that imported and will be sure to purchase American.  However, for this lamb I was able to purchase not only American but it is also locally grown.  The local national grocer offered a nice whole leg and the man behind the counter talked about the sheep farmer named Don that brings his locally grown lamb to the store.  Lamb grown here in America and just down the road.  I had to buy it.

As you can see in the picture below I started with a whole leg. 

I then proceeded to remove the bones.  This is not all that difficult if you have a sharp knife and you make sure that you keep the knife close to the bone.  To begin with we just need to remove the two bones you see in the leg above.

As you see in the picture below, the tail bone and the hip bone have been removed.

Next we will remove the top to expose the femur bone.  The top will be saved for placing in out smoker later.  

And next is to remove the femur bone. 

As you see in the picture above, the femur bone is exposed and now you just need to keep your knife as close to the bone as you can and remove it.

And once removed, you will want to trim off any excess fat.  I like to leave approximately a quarter inch as a general rule. But remember "fat is flavor".

And after it is all trimmed up, you will need to butterfly it by cutting the meat in half, horizontal to the table but not cutting it completely off.  Fold the cut piece over and you will have something that looks like this.

Season this side with some salt and pepper.  And now you are ready for the stuffing of rice.  I purchased a 3 Rice Blend at the store and followed the direction to prepare it.  Basically it was to cook 1 cup rice with 1 1/2 cup water, salt and butter.  

And now here is the secret.  

Instead of water I used 100% cherry juice with no sugar added that I purchased off the grocery shelf.  This gave the rice a sweetness but with a little tartness.  It was really good.  Another little tip is to cook the rice before you start with the meat as you will want it to chill before adding it to the meat.  Place it in your refrigerator for no less than an hour and stir it a couple of times to help it chill.

So, now I placed about a 1/2 to 3/4 inch layer of my chilled cherry rice mixture on top of the leg of lamb.  Next, I sprinkled approximately 3 ounces of dried cherries on top of the stuffing. See picture below.

And now we will roll the roast up and tie it.  Use any food grade twine that you can purchase at most grocery stores.  The main purpose of tieing  this roast and stuffing is to keep everything together and not falling all over the pan.  We don't want the strings to get too tight but we do want the snug.  I like to put a string every inch or two and will tie a couple end for end. I then rubbed rosemary with olive oil all over the tied roast.

I then proceeded to brown the roast on all sides in our skillet and then placed it in a preheated 275 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I left it in the cast iron skillet when I placed it in the oven uncovered.  The internal temperature was at 150.  If you, like me, prefer a little more rare then you might want to remove it a little sooner.  It turned out very juicy and the cherry added a nice sweetness to the lamb.  I would definitely try this one.  

 

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EASTER HAM

I don't have anything against the commercial hams that are available at your local grocer, because I will buy one every once in a while.  However, when it comes to a holiday, I like to make sure that we have a good quality ham to put on the table for our family and friends. And that I know where it came from,  what spices and other ingredients are used.  So, I made it myself and so can you. 

So, I was able to purchase a portion of a boneless fresh ham from Berkshire pork and proceeded to make my own Easter ham.  I like the Berkshire Breed of  hog as it will have slightly more marbling than some other breeds.   You will notice this marbling (white specs of fat withing the meat) in several of the pictures.  And remember from a previous blog, marbling is flavor.  

I made sure that I trimmed a little of the excess fat off the outside.  But to be honest with you, it was OK just the way it was.  I put it into the brine with all ingredients dissolved on Tuesday evening and smoked it Sunday.  The brine consisted of the following;

2    gallon cold tap water

18   ounces salt (iodine free)

16   ounces pure maple syrup

8     ounces brown sugar

5.4  ounces prague powder (pink salt)  -- available from our store

Any type of a food safe container will work as long as it will hold the 2 gallon of water, ingredients and of course the ham.  You want to make sure the ham in submerged. The white specs you see above are some small pieces of fat that I trimmed off after the ham was in cure.  

Everyday I would stir the brine and turn the piece of ham over.  To be honest with you, I didn't need to do this but it made me feel good.  

On Sunday, I removed it from the brine and let it set on a small wire rack on the counter for just about 30 minutes.  This allowed the ham to start to warm up some and to start to dry.  As you know,  smoke is "absorbed" by the meat when the meat is dry.  Once the ham became "tacky" to the touch, I made sure that I really had the smoker -- smoking.  

     

 

 

Picture above shows the ham in smoker before I really got the smoker -- smoking.   Had so much smoke, that picture didn't turn out so good.  It was all smoke.  

I tried to maintain a 200° F, however the wind caused the temperature to fluctuate several times.  However, I did a pretty good job of maintaining that temperature.  After approximately 3 hours I removed the ham at 151° F.  I then rubbed it on all over with a lite sprinkle of brown sugar.  I just wanted a little to add a touch of sweetness.   I then placed it on a rack that was on a cookie sheet and cover it with a clean cloth.   Use what you want to cover it so that the ham stays warm and the sugar melts.  

Let your ham set here for about 30 - 45 minutes and then place uncovered in your refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.  You want to drop the temperature to an internal of 40° F as quickly as possible.   This will help the shelf life of the ham.  But as good it is, it won't be around long.  And now, wrap it in some paper, or place it in a plastic container or better yet, slice it up and enjoy a quality ham that you made yourself with pride.  

Oh, and did I mention, leftovers make great sandwiches.   

 

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