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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers

This is the season that we are looking for ways to use and to save fresh produce out of our garden. The challenge this week has been for a unique way to save some of our home grown cucumbers. We came up with a simple refrigerator pickling process that doesn't require us to cook or to seal the jars, but this time-saving technique means we must keep them in the refrigerator and use them within 6 months.

Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers



 Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers

Research:

The only research I did this time was some quick Googling around where I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and this one from About.com on Local Foods. I used a modified version of this for my receipe.

The Plan:

Slice up the carrots and cucumbers while preparing the brine. Stuff the cut-up veggies into freshly washed jars, pour in the brine, seal and place in the fridge. Pretty simple and quick. I also picked up some pickling spice mixture to add a little kick.

The ingredients include apple cider vinegar, white wine, sugar, salt, pickling spice and peppercorns.

 Execution:

 First grow some cucumbers ;) and pour a glass of wine.

Wine and other things
 
The ingredients we will be using
For every pint jar you make: Heat 1/2 cup of white wine, 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tbsp of sugar. Bring it to a boil for 2 minutes.


I used an old bottle of Moscato white wine that I was pretty sure wasn't going to see the bottom of a glass. So, I was a little concerned that the sweetness of the wine might have a negative effect on the results but it turned out fine.

Heating brine
 While the brine is heating...

Add 1/2 tsp pickling spice to jars
Add a tsp of peppercorns
Slice up the vegetables and cut them to length
Decided to keep some of the stems to add interest to the jars...


  

 Then Stuffed everything into the jars.


After the brine boiled for 2 minutes I decided to cool the whole thing down to 150 degrees or so before pouring into the jars because I was afraid the very hot liquid would break the jars.

Pouring the brine
Finally I tightened the lids finger tight and put them in the fridge.

The Verdict:

I let these pickled carrots and cucumbers sit in the refrigerator for one week before pulling them out and trying them so that I could report to you how it tasted. After one week we were delighted with the results. They tasted light and tart and tangy and the vegetables were still crisp.  It was exactly what I was hoping for.

Don't hesitate to make these.
We will check back in later as they age and see how the taste changes, but I can say at one week they are really good.

Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beer Can Chicken on the Big Green Egg

It is time to make the famous beer can chicken. Anyone who has been grilling for any amount of time has heard of the fabled beer can chicken. This is the weekend. Let's see what all the fuss is about.



Beer Can Chicken on the Big Green Egg (BGE)

Research:

This recipe is the perfect example for why we decided to do this blog. There are tons of resources for beer can chicken, but I couldn't find any of them that seemed really good. That doesn't mean there aren't any, I am sure there are, but I couldn't find them.I looked here and here, and between these and just some googling around I was able to piece together a plan. I did note that almost every place I visited was really promoting some product, like a stand to hold the chicken, or the beer, or the BGE itself. Forgive me for saying it, but the BGE needs no selling.  You just need to show what the machine is capable of producing!

The Plan:

Get two whole chickens because I want to feed 5 (including one very hungry 14-year-old boy). I usually like to source meat and produce at Whole Food or the farmers market because it makes me feel like it is higher quality.  Not sure that it is.  Buy some beer along with some sides that I'll skip for this. We are focusing on birds here.

Cut the top off beer cans, pour about half of the beer out (or just drink it). Wash the birds, rub one bird with 3 beer BBQ rub on one side, and on the other bird just salt and pepper.  Mount the birds on the cans in disposable aluminum pans.  Get the BGE to 375 degrees and cook the birds until their internal temp reaches 175 degrees.

Execution:

Wash the chickens and get the BGE heating

 Cut the tops off the cans

This was surprisingly difficult. I used a box cutter and nearly cut my finger off several times. There must be a better way. I don't see why you couldn't leave the top on and just open the can.

Rub down the birds and mount on the open cans

Here are the birds before we put them on the BGE. One bird has the 3 beer rub and the other is simply salt and pepper. You can see that the BGE is at about 400 degrees. I decided not to put the plate setter in because I figured the pan would accomplish the same thing, plus I wanted to char some veggies after cooking the birds, and as you probably know, it isn't easy getting the plate setter out at temperature.

Chickens on the grill
Updated photo showing our ceramic chicken holders. Much safer...



They ended up on the grill for about 1 hour 15 minutes ...a recent effort required 1:30 minutes. Don't rush it, let the chicken get to 175 minimum and check for tenderness...  before the breast reached 175 degrees. I took the temperature in several places on the birds but figured out that mid breast seemed to be the last part of the bird to get hot. When I pulled the birds off the BGE, the beer cans were still a quarter full or so.

Perfectly tender and moist

Almost fell apart

Really turned out great as the main for our dinner

Verdict:

It was the best version of chicken we have made on the BGE. Really juicy and tasty. This will be the standard way I will be making chicken on the BGE. It is simple and quick and the birds turned out perfectly. This seems to be a simple and no-fail way to make tender and moist chicken on the BGE.

A few lessons learned:
  • Don't cut the top off the beer. I don't think it would make any difference. In my opinion, the beer imparted no flavor into the bird.  It only provided steam and a way to get more heat into the middle of the bird so that it cooks more evenly.
  • Put the rub under the skin as well as on top. Some people don't eat the skin and miss out on the rub.
  • Don't discount the importance of the whole bird cooked bone-in. This adds a lot of flavor by itself.






Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer

Monday, July 15, 2013

Peach Jam

It is peach season in Georgia, and as such we are celebrating the occasion by making homemade peach jam just as we saw our grandmothers make. We are going to make traditional jam, and we are going to make a batch or two that has a little bourbon in it.

Peach Jam

Research:

We purchased a book on canning by Ball, the jar manufacturer, and it was used as our primary research: The Ball Blue Book guide to preserving. We also purchased liquid pectin, jars, a basket to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the hot water bath, a kit that contained a jar lifter, funnel, and a magnet on a stick that helped with fishing lids out of nearly boiling water.

Oh, and let's not forget the ingredients. We purchased a box of fresh Georgia peaches from the local farmer's market, a 25-pound bag of sugar (yeah, jam has a lot of sugar in it), lemon juice and the liquid pectin that was mentioned previously. We also used a little Maker's Mark.

Fresh ripe peaches


Jars and canning kit

The Plan:

Blindly follow the directions in the Ball Blue Book because neither of us has ever done this. For this, sadly, no wine.

Execution:

Wash the lids and jars in warm soapy water

We then learned it was best to go ahead and get the big pots of water on the stove and heating. This much water takes a long time to get boiling.  You need one pot to keep the jars sterile until they're ready to be filled, and you need another pot that will be used to boil your filled and sealed jars.

Keep the lids on to heat faster

Once the water gets hot, go ahead and put the basket in the bottom of the pot (to prevent the jars from touching the bottom of the pot), and then put the jars in to get them to boiling temp.

Keeping the jars sterile in 180+ degree water

Lids shouldn't boil

You shouldn't boil the lids. They should be at 180 to prevent damage to the seals.

Ok, now that everything is heating, it is time to get the jam ready. A pretty simple process.

Dice up 4 cups of peeled peaches. For us, that was about 7 peaches.

Peel

and slice, and then dice

 
4 cups of diced peaches

Then measure out 7 1/2 cups of sugar.

Yeah, a lot of sugar

Combine the peaches, sugar, and 1/4 cup of lemon juice in a sauce pot. We used a 5 quart pot and wished that we had used one a little bigger.

Slowly bring to a boil and then add the liquid pectin packet. Return to a rolling boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. Skim off any foam, though we didn't get this 100%. (For the bourbon batches we added 4 oz of bourbon when we put in the fruit.)

Note:  There are different types of pectin (powdered, liquid, low-sugar), so be sure to read your recipe closely and use exactly the type of pectin recommended for your recipe.

Foam

Skimming foam

Now it is finally time to get them in jars.

Remove a jar from the hot water bath. Using the funnel in the kit, ladle in the jam leaving 1/4" air space between the top of the jar and the jam.

Adding the Jam


Carefully wipe the top of the jar with a moist clean towel to make sure no food product is on the sealing surface of the jar.

Cleaning the sealing surface

Then pull a lid from the hot bath with the magnetic stick and place on the jar. Screw on the lid to finger tight. Then return the jar to the preserving pot using the jar lifter that came in the kit.

Our jar lifter had a jar contact surface that was made from plastic and it almost immediately broke off. I spent the remainder of the evening worried that the metal-on-glass jar lifter would result in some dropped jars, but it seemed to hold up fine and we didn't drop one.

Returning the jars to hot water

One the big pot was loaded with jars, we turned up the heat to boil them for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes of boiling, remove the pot from the heat. After a few more minutes, we pulled the jars and placed them on a wire rack to cool.

Cooling on a rack

After 10 or 20 minutes the seals began to pop as they seated.

The following day we checked the lids for a good seal by removing the screw cap and gently pulling on the cap with your fingernail to make sure it wouldn't come off.  We also checked to make sure the lid top was sucked in and could not be pushed in.

Finally, we also checked the jam consistency to make sure they set up correctly. We turned the jars sideways to see if the air bubble would travel in the liquid. Sadly, we did have one batch out of our four batches that was a little more liquid than we hoped, but after a couple more days, it seemed to firm up.

Verdict:

This was a process. It took us a whole day on Sunday to get two batches done, and then we returned to the process after work the following Monday for two more batches that took us until midnight to complete.

In the end, the jam is delicious, and we hope to share it with friends and family to give them a little taste of Georgia and Kentucky.

Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer

Monday, July 8, 2013

Big Green Egg Salmon with Tomato-Cucumber Salad

This week we decided to highlight a weeknight meal that utilized fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from our patio container garden. After all, 'tis the season.

Salmon on the Big Green Egg and Tomato-Cucumber Salad

Research:

Not much. We have cooked this in the past and have had great success making salmon on the BGE. If you haven't tried it, you must. Most restaurant salmon (especially the casual dinning chains) have very salty and very overcooked salmon. Homemade is almost an entirely different dish.

The salad recipe we simply made up, but it is based on common receipes. We used cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and basil from our containers and then sprinkled on some feta cheese that we had left over from a trip to the cheesemonger at Star Provisions, a must-visit cheese shop if you find yourself in Atlanta.

The Plan:

We normally get the egg to 200 or 250 degrees, place a piece of salmon on a cedar plank, and cook it until the fish starts to become flaky. Pull the fish off the grill before it gets too done because the fish will continue to cook even after it is off the grill. You are looking for flaky and creamy.  We have found an internal temperature for salmon of 125 degrees is the tastiest doneness.  You will see that some people suggest cooking salmon to as much as 145 degrees.  Experiment with it and find what you like best.

Drink wine.

Execution:

Make the salad first. The salmon goes really quick once on the grill, so we lit the grill and let it get up to 200 degrees or so and made the salad in the meantime.

Pick some fresh tomatoes!

Here in Atlanta, it is tomato season. The plants that we started just after Easter are starting to bear fruit. We grow both tomatoes and cucumbers in containers, as well as a variety of herbs, including basil.

Pull two fresh cucumbers

We like to leave some skin on for flavor and interest

Remove the seeds

Slice into half moons

Add to cherry tomatoes that have been halved

Chiffonade the basil leaves to release lots of flavor
(ideally a sharper knife that we have here)

Be especially careful when drinking wine

Looking great and smelling even better!

Whip up some homemade champagne vinaigrette.

Use what you like, but a quick homemade vinaigrette is delightful on a fresh salad.

Mix 2 oz vinegar of choice (we like champagne vinegar for this dish), 1 teaspoon of dijon, 1 teaspoon of honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then whisk in 1 oz of olive oil. Taste it. You can adjust acidity and sweetness by adding vinegar for more acidity, more olive oil for less acidity, and honey for sweetness.  

Sprinkle on some fresh feta or whatever mild fresh cheese you like.  Freshly grated parmesan would also be lovely.

Tomato-Cucumber Salad


Meanwhile...back at the BGE

Alaskan wild salmon with the skin on.
We soak the cedar plank in water for about 30 minutes and place the salmon directly on it.

Add your favorite seasoning

Nothing wrong with finding quality, store-bought marinades and sauces.  This is our favorite marinade for salmon: Stonewall Kitchen's Roasted Apple Grille Sauce.

Then put the cedar plank right onto the grill

Close the lid. If you're lookin', you're not cookin'. I like to set a timer for 5-minute intervals and then open the lid and check for doneness.  If you're a home cook like us, you will probably want to just open up the fish just a little in the thickest portion to check for doneness.

Here you see that the fish is getting flaky and perfect. About 10-15 min total cooking time, 
depending on the grill temp.

Verdict:


Add a little wine and some steamed broccoli and you have a quick, healthy and delicious dinner.

Please help support our site, buy something you like on Amazon. Simply click through the links below and though you can pick anything, I suggest the thermometer and knives below:


So apparently Thermoworks doesn't sell through Amazon anymore. You must buy direct. Still the thermometer to have. Go here and order direct. 

Aaron Franklin's Favorite trimming knife:

Dexter-Russell (S131F-6PCP) - 6" Boning Knife - Sani-Safe Series

Aaron Franklin's Favorite Brisket cutting/serving knife:

Sani-Safe S140-12SC-PCP 12" Scalloped Roast Slicer