First BBQ Of The Year !

A few days ago I was having that all too familiar urge to barbecue. Mother Nature was nice enough to cooperate just enough so that I could get the grill going. The sun was out, a sight breeze was blowing, and the beers were cold. So what else to do but go to my secret vault and get out some of my favorite meat to BBQ. I went straight for the pork. Thick center cut pork loin chops to be exact. I put on a dry marinade of brown sugar and garlic and let it sit for hours to develop.

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While this was happening I had to raid the fridge and see what I wanted to serve alongside “the other white meat”. I found some Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, Spanish onions, cranberries , and an orange. Well that was easy. I peeled the sweet potatoes and cubed them, mixed them with the Brussels sprouts and chopped Spanish onion, then tossed them with a small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.
I put them on a foil lined baking pan

20140119-170202.jpgand roasted them in a 375 degree oven for about an hour, just enough time to enjoy a couple Tank 7’s, until they just started to turn brown.
I also took this time to throw the cranberries and orange (peel and all) into a food processor until chopped and chunky. Add a few tablespoons of honey or your favorite sweetener and mix together.

20140119-170446.jpgSee, I was doing more than just drinking beer in this power hour. At this point it was time to drop the oven temp to 275, fire up the grill, and cook the pork.

20140119-170639.jpgCook a few minutes on each side and allow to rest before you cut in.

20140119-170836.jpgThere you have it

20140119-171036.jpgFirst BBQ Of The Year!

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Homemade Ketchup

DYI Ketchup is so easy. You can make it from things most everyone has in their kitchen,

20131203-221608.jpgand the best part is that you can tailor it to your liking and leave out all of the high fructose corn syrup and other garbage that the Big Boys of Bottled Ketchup put in there to keep it on the shelves. Do it Steve From Scratch Style and you’ll never buy that other stuff again.
Everyone likes ketchup, it’s practically America’s number one condiment. I know some people, who will remain unnamed, that use so much ketchup it could probably be considered a vegetable in their diet.
So buckle up and keep your hands inside the ride and let’s make this stuff.
Gently brown some chopped onions and whole peeled garlic cloves in olive oil,

20131203-221718.jpgin a heavy stockpot, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking and burning, until soft and brown. Add canned tomatoes in juice, Cinnamon, Red Pepper, Allspice, White Vinegar, Brown Sugar, and bay Leaves.

20131203-222045.jpgCook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, about 45 minutes.

Remove Bay Leaves and Puree sauce in blender or with a Stick Mixer.

20131203-222148.jpgI used my Acme 1500 XL Twin Turbo Industrial Stick Mixer to make the batch in the picture because I was making 20 gallons of the stuff. At home it’s just as easy to use your blender.

20131203-222303.jpgStrain sauce through a strainer into appropriate sized heavy saucepan and continue to cook over medium heat until thickened, about another 30 minutes. Taste and add necessary salt, sugar, or vinegar, to your liking. Set aside to cool. Transfer to glass jar and keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

20131203-222402.jpgIn most homes it won’t last that long.

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Mexican Candy

Mexican candy is known for its authentic and unique fusion of flavors. Sweet & spicy is the most common flavor profile found in Mexican sweets. This “crazy” combination makes it stand out from other candies. Not like most candies you find here in the United States, Mexican treats are not your typical sweet candy. They usually have spicy & salty flavors, that don’t overpower the overall taste of the candy. At first you might find it weird, but if you give it a chance I promise you will find it strangely addicting.
I am lucky to work with, and have friends from all over the world, including Mexico. A few days ago one of my co-workers, Lourdes, brought me some treats straight from Mexico. Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico to be exact. The first one is a Lollipop.

20140112-220728.jpgA Chile Covered Mango Lollipop!! Vero Mango lollipops

20140112-220912.jpgare covered with with a spicy but pleasantly flavored powdered chili coating. It is mildly spicy but not hot. The delicious mango flavored candy is waiting inside. Vero Mango has long been a favorite in Mexico, popular with both young and old alike. Right up my alley. Like I said…strangely addicting. Now admittedly, I have unusual tastes, but I just love these Chile Covered Mango Lollipops. Just when it seems too much to handle, the sweetness of the mango comes through. If you like the flavors of Mexico, you will enjoy this delightful treat! The other delight Lourdes brought me was Rollo de Guayaba.

20140112-221032.jpg“Guayaba”, or Guava,

20140112-221126.jpgare plants in the Myrtle family, which contains about 100 types of tropical shrubs and small trees. They are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Guavas are now grown all over the tropics and subtropics in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and certain regions of North America, New Zealand, Australia and Spain.
Guava fruit are usually 2 to 5 inches long, and are round or oval depending on the type. The outer skin may be rough and bitter, or soft and sweet. The skin varies in thickness and is usually dark green before it ripens, but becomes yellow, maroon, or lighter green when ripe.
Most Guava fruit generally have a pronounced and distinct smell, similar to lemon peel, but not as sharp. Guava pulp, “the good stuff”, may be sweet or sour, and tastes somewhat like a cross between a pear and a strawberry, and is off-white to dark pink in color, with seeds in the middle of the fruit.
Rollo de Guayabas (Roll of Guava)

20140112-221302.jpgare some of the tastiest Mexican candy treats you will ever try. And these special candies are made right in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. It’s made out of the guava fruit and a small amount of quince. To make these delectable little morsels the whole guava is completely ground up, seeds and all, into a fine sticky paste like consistency. It is then cooked at high temperatures in large steel/copper pots called globos. Once cooked, the guava paste is spread out into a thin layer on a monster sized cookie sheet with sugar. After the candy cools and hardens, the guava paste is cut into smaller sections and “rolled” with a coat of sugar . It is then cut into bite size pieces or rolls and packaged ready for sale. If you ever have the pleasure of trying one, you will be begging for more once it’s gone.

Smoked Summer Sausage

I am a huge fan, a connoisseur even, of sausages, especially smoked sausages. If I am at an event or gathering where there is food served, I can sniff out the meat and cheese tray with relative ease. I have to watch myself closely because I have a tendency to wipe out all of the sausage off the tray before the end of the night. I guess the first step to managing a problem is admitting that I have a problem……or addiction……depends on how you look at it. This year I got a meat grinder

20140112-212851.jpgfor a Christmas gift and couldn’t wait to try it out. Something about the combo of highly seasoned ground meat and smoke that wins me over every time. I’ve only made my own sausage from time to time, for special events or occasions, until recently. Not only is it easy to do, but the best thing about it is that you can control what goes into your food, which to me is a big deal. Take a look at the list of ingredients on most any commercially made sausage and I will bet you that there are at least 3 things in there that you can’t pronounce and have no idea what they even are.

My most recent voyage into the sausage world was this Smoked Beef Summer Sausage. Now if you want to be more adventurous or just plain different, you could use venison, elk, pork, bison or any other meat. Just make sure that you have enough fat in your ground meat mixture to keep the sausage from getting dry and crumbly. Plus everyone knows that fat is where the flavor lives!
Sausage in its most basic equation is meat + fat + seasonings + goodthings! I have found that a ratio of 20-30% fat to 70-80% lean meat works best. Make sure your meat and fat are very well chilled, as close to freezing as possible, when grinding. This will help the meat grind better and form nice separate pieces of ground meat, not a mushy pile of crapola.

So once you get your ground meat and fat mixed together you need to season it. I combined some fresh minced garlic, brown mustard seed, coarse ground black pepper, a hint of sugar, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes and onion powder in a bowl and mixed until blended. Mix all of the ingredients into the meat and work it in until thoroughly combined.

20140112-213219.jpgCover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 days. Once a day for the next 3 days unwrap the mixture and mix thoroughly. Recover and put back in the fridge.
On the third day remove the mix from the refrigerator and mix one last time. Separate the mix into equal parts

20140112-213409.jpgform into tight log shapes.

20140112-213603.jpgI don’t use a casing when I make summer sausage because I smoke mine and in my opinion the casing limits the amount of smoke flavor that the sausage takes on. I use a rectangle shaped piece of plastic wrap to roll and shape the mixture into a tight log about 2 inches thick and 6-7 inches long.

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20140112-213840.jpgRoll it tightly to the end of the plastic wrap

20140112-213934.jpgTwist the ends to tighten the log

20140112-214036.jpgFold the twisted ends of the plastic wrap behind the log

20140112-214150.jpgSet the twisted logs on a sheet pan and place back in the refrigerator overnight to firm and set.

20140112-214249.jpgTime to smoke the sausage.
Unwrap the logs from the plastic and set on wire rack in smoker

20140112-214340.jpgSmoke at 185 degrees for 3-6 hours, until the internal temperature of the sausage reaches 155 degrees. Take a peek after an hour or so in the magic box

20140112-214601.jpgRemove the sausage from the smoker and allow to cool on wire rack.
Once the sausage is completely cooled wrap in plastic wrap and keep in refrigerator.
There you have it.

20140112-214850.jpgHomemade Smoked Beef Summer Sausage

20140112-214941.jpgthat will give most any of the commercial chemical laden logs a run for its money!

RECIPE

Nashville, Indiana

So before we departed Indiana, we decided to explore the neighboring town of Nashville, a tiny yet bustling town about an hour south of Indianapolis. Nashville, Indiana is an historic Hoosier artist colony located in the mystical Blue Hills of Brown County. I consider myself to be a city boy but I am a sucker for a day of small town hospitality so Nashville seemed to be the perfect escape. There are year round activities in Nashville, including but not limited to hiking, biking, wineries and wine tastings, hundreds of unique craft, specialty & antique shops, You can see artists making their wares in galleries and craft studios all over town and throughout Brown County, Indiana. Brown County is known as the “artist colony of the Midwest”. As we walked the streets for blocks and blocks of shops it quickly became evident that the town was very popular destination for family visits as well as adventurous singles and fun-loving couples.
We founds lots of cool and interesting places. Most of the ones I photographed center around food. No big surprise, right? First stop was the Nashville Fudge kitchen. I have never seen such beautiful fudge and so many flavors of hand made popcorn in my life.

20140105-214258.jpgWe left with 4 samples.

20140105-214522.jpgAnd some fudge of course.

20140105-214836.jpgThere are lots of places with home cooked comfort foods. Next stop – House Of Jerky.

20140105-215011.jpgWe wandered a little bit and found the Cedar Creek Winery tasting shop.

20140105-215204.jpgLeft with this fine bottle.

20140105-215506.jpgThen we found Brown County Winery tasting shop and decided to see what they had to offer. We ended up scoring some more great small batch wines. We like them all so much that we couldn’t adopt just one.

20140105-215659.jpgNext we stopped in a cool place called the Nashville General Store & Bakery. I got these 2 little gadgets

20140105-215827.jpg(if you can correctly tell me what these nifty tools are I will make you a culinary treat of your choice)

20140105-215945.jpgAnd a sample of this interesting syrup that I’ve never seen before. Probably because its only made in Brown County, Indiana.Found another fudge shop

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20140105-220121.jpgand had to come away with this particularly appealing one.

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20140105-220356.jpgRed Velvet Fudge. It was worth it!After all the long hard work of shopping and whatnot, we had to try Big Woods Brewing

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20140105-220704.jpgfor some lunch.

20140105-220832.jpgThis turned out to be another outstanding gem. We started with some Bare Knuckle IPA and some Six Foot Blonde.

20140105-220932.jpgI liked the Six foot Blonde better out of the two. Then we decided to get the full tour and experience a sampler flight of 8 beers.

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20140105-221210.jpgGood choice!

20140105-221248.jpg They had this Christmas Chocolate Milk Stout that was out of this world.
For the solid part of our lunch we dined on Stout Chili Nachos

20140105-223336.jpgTortilla chips drizzled with buffalo hot sauce and topped with Big Woods Stout Chili, corn , tomato, onion, jalapeño, cheddar cheese, sour cream & guacamole and and order of Pulled Pork “Wimpies”

20140105-224209.jpgthree mini pulled pork sandwiches with kicked up cucumber slaw, BBQ sauce, and house fried kettle chips. Lunch was so good. Thanks to Jaclyn for taking such good care of us. Can’t wait to find time for another visit to paradise!

Water Is Everything

We all learned in high school biology that the human body is about 60 percent water. Most fresh vegetables in the typical American diet are more than 90 percent water. For example, a carrot is about 88 percent water. A fresh cucumber has about 96 percent water. Swiss chard is 94 percent water. You need to consume about 2 quarts of water per day for your body to properly function. Most of this comes via drinking, but it can also be accomplished by eating certain fruits and vegetables. I try to eat fruits or vegetables with every meal.
Have you ever went to your refrigerator and looked in that bottom drawer, “The Crisper”, and found a bunch of slow dying wilted vegetables?(see how the celery is limp and bending -we are gonna fix that)

20131202-203346.jpgWe all have faced this situation before. Start thinking about it and you can probably do a quick tally of just how much money you have thrown out in sorry wilted produce. Well it doesn’t have to be that way. When you buy meat you use every last bit of it, including the bones (for stock), so why are we so careless with produce? Even when you try and pay attention vegetables can often wilt before you manage to eat them.

This makes me wonder why most refrigerators made for home use have the “Crisper” drawers down low to the bottom. You can do your best to make sure you buy the best fruits and vegetables, pick out the juiciest, prettiest, and most fragrant ones, but the minute you bring them home and put them in your refrigerator’s “Crisper” drawer, the refrigerator starts taking the water, the life, and the flavor out of them. In your basic home refrigerator, the cooling system is the freezer and the refrigerator gets it cold air from the freezer. The colder you set your freezer, the more humidity is removed from the air in the refrigerator, thus speeding up the natural loss of water in your fruits and vegetables. If those silly “Crisper” drawers were moved up to the middle of the icebox, closer to eye level, fruits and vegetables would be more likely to be seen and used and less likely to be “out of sight – out of mind”. If you have lost sight of some vegetables and they are wilted or slightly dehydrated, it’s worth trying to rehydrate them. Before you throw them out, or better yet before you “compost” them, try reviving them in cold water

20131202-203550.jpgto refill their water supply. Water often wakes up wilting produce, much like it wakes up a sleeping person!
Some people say soak just the root ends, some say soak them in ice water and ice, I’ve even heard of people adding sugar or salt to the cold soaking water, but the one common denominator that I’ve heard and seen, is WATER. I believe that adding other substances such as sugar or salt actually reduce the quality and integrity of the vegetable so don’t do it! Besides, you want the natural flavor, right? ALL YOU NEED IS WATER. Soak your ill and dehydrated vegetables in cold water,

20131202-203917.jpgin the fridge, to revive them. Vegetables like celery with a thick or heavy outer layer absorb water more slowly so do yourself a favor and trim a little bit off of the stem end and put them in a glass or jar of water, just like you would with fresh flowers. After a few hours the vegetables will appear crisp and refreshed.

20131202-204417.jpgYou can then remove them from the water bath. If you’re not going to use these born again vegetables right away, dry them off and store them in a plastic bag or container with a lid to prevent drying out again.
If you can’t save them, or they are too far gone, compost them. Returning them to the earth should make you feel less guilty and shows more respect for the farmers and Mother Earth who grew them in the first place.
Remember– “The first taste you take is with your Eyes!”