Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
After framing it out (you want to make sure there are no sharp objects anywhere on the inside of the box), it's time to add some posts to all four corners as well as to frame out a door. Now, with the sides of the box being 12" high, I'm not afraid of the pups being able to get out of the box for quite some time. However, I plan on fencing this all in as once the weather gets better, I'll move the box and place it outside for the pups to spend some time outdoors. I'll also cover it at that time to keep a beating sun or any other weather off of the pups.
As I wanted to keep the cost down to a minimum, I decided to use pine shavings as the base to keep it warmer and soft for the pups. I contemplated cedar shavings as I felt that would help keep the odor down some but thought that pine would act better in absorbing puppy messes. I still may get a small bag of cedar to add to help with odors.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
You'll need a couple of things for this. First off, I recommend any apple that works well with cooking. With some apples, the sugar breaks down much too quickly to be used in cooking. The types of apples I will use with this include Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Jonathon and Gala. The types I stay away from for this are Red Delicious and Macintosh. You will also need a decent mandolin slicer. A dehydrator will work really well for this procedure but they can be done in the oven as well.
Once you've selected your apples, peel and core the apples. I don't want any apple skin or seeds in the mixture; just the fruit. After you've done this, I slice the apples at a maximum of 1/8th inch or preferably, 1/16th inch. Once you've sliced the apples, place them in the dehydrator or oven at 135F (if your oven won't go this low, place at the lowest setting and keep the door cracked open a bit). Check them periodically to test their doneness. In the dehydrator, they took about 6 hours to get to where they were dehydrated enough that they would be able to be ground into a powder. In the oven, it may take a bit longer if there is no airflow.
Now that you've gotten the apple slices dehydrated enough, I simply place them in a container (with no lid) and rest for a day or two in the refrigerator. After a day or so, I like to break up the pieces by simply crushing them with my fingers and then throw them into the burr grinder. The apples will come out as a pretty fine powder. You will probably notice a little bit of stickiness in the powder from the sugars of the apple. At this point, I like to add 2% of silicon dioxide (an anti-caking agent) to the powder to keep it flowing pretty freely. I also store this powder in the refrigerator as I feel it helps with the stickiness from the sugars.
Your powder should look something like this when finished:
The clumps of powder break up easily with a little pressure from your fingers or a fork.
That's really all there is to it. Some words of advice when using this powder. If you're planning on using this as part of a rub, it is easy for the apple to get overpowered by other spices. Either make this the largest portion of your rub or compliment it with other spices that are not overpowering. You can also use this as a dusting after the meat or vegetables are finished. You also might want to try adding some brown sugar or a minimal amount of cinnamon when dehydrating the apples. This will add another layer of flavor to compliment the apple and the dish you're creating. Sometimes, I'll also use some lemon zest to really play up the citrus component of this spice.
They say that variety is the spice of life; I say spice is the variety of life. There are many things out there that lend themselves to being used as spices. We're limited only by our imagination.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I'll usually grab some Horseradish, Jalapeno Cheddar, Habanero Cheddar, Farmers Cheese, Havarti Dill, Onion and anything else that strikes my fancy. This is how my lineup usually looks when I've selected the cheese and am about to get to smoking it.
At this point, with my Bradley Smoker, I have the smoke generator on and heating so that when the bisquettes hit the burner, the smoke will start rolling. There is no heat in the tower at that time with the exception of what is being generated by the smoke generator. When I smoked this cheese, the ambient temps at the time was in the single digits, so there was no need to set up the Bradley for a cold smoke. My next post will be centered around the Bradley, so this may make more sense after I post it.
Now that I've got the cheese and my smoke generator is running, I like to slice the cheese for a couple of reasons. First, I believe that you'll get a more thorough some adhesion with smaller pieces (thus a much better smoke flavor throughout) and it also makes slicing the cheese for consumption much easier and a much nicer presentation.
I've got it sliced up now (I left some pieces whole as I was going to shred these pieces and use for cooking) and ready for the smoke. Additionally, if you've got extra room in the smoker, I like to throw some garlic in and smoke it as well and use the smoked garlic for recipes calling for fresh garlic. I simply strip down most of the paper covering the garlic and brush lightly with olive oil to help with the smoke adhesion.
Because I wasn't using a cold smoke setup (I didn't separate the smoke generator from the smoke tower), I simply added ice to the water bowl. The spent bisquettes from the Bradley are extinguished in the water bowl. The ice helps keep the temps inside the tower down in the quest to keep the temperature from rising above 80F.
Now, the question for amount of smoke needed arises at this point. As the Bradley produces smoke differently than a traditional smokeburner, the time of smoke is much less than the traditional way of smoking. However, I've found that smoke taste is truly a personal preference. I like a lot of smoke flavor with just about anything I do, so I tend to go with longer smoke times. What I've found is that on average, I will do 3 hours of smoke on the cheese and usually use a lighter type of wood (primarily I use apple or cherry or a combination of the two flavors). I've also found that harder cheeses will have much more smoke adhesion quicker than soft cheeses. So, if I'm doing a combination of hard cheeses and soft cheeses, I'll pull the hard cheese out prior to pulling the soft cheese. Usually after 2 hours and 40 minutes of smoke, I'll pull the hard cheeses and after 3 hours and 40 minutes of smoke, I'll pull the soft cheeses.
Here are some more pics of the cheese while it's smoking:
The wire you see running down in the first picture is my Maverick ET-73 remote thermometer. It simply reads the temperature inside my smoker and transmits the temps to the receiver inside the house so that I can monitor the temperatures from the comforts of my home. It truly is a great way to make the smoking process more user friendly and keeps you a lot warmer while smoking in colder temperatures.
This is what it will look like when the smoking process has completed:
The first thing you'll notice when smoking with the Bradley is that the cheese doesn't necessarily develop that really dark smoke skin that you would normally see with smoked cheese. However, that is simply due to the way the Bradley produces smoke. The flavor is the same; you just don't get the same visual effects on the cheese that you would with traditional stickburner smoking.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The first thing I wanted to do was to take the stem and heads off of the jalapenos and habaneros and then slice them in half. I left the poblanos and hungarian wax peppers intact as I was only going to hit with some smoke and then dry just a bit. I then would mince them up and store in vacuum sealed bags in sizes that would be perfect additions for chili and other dishes.
Now that they're in the smoker, it's just a matter of what type wood to use. The Bradley (I'll do another post on this type of smoker) actually uses bisquettes that are pretty much compressed wood chips with many different types of wood for smoking. In this instance, I used a combination of hickory and oak, as I wanted a strong, smokey flavor with the powder. I did not use any heat within the tower except for the heat provided by the smoke generator. It got to about 95F in the smoker. I put on 3 hours of smoke.
After 3 hours of smoke, I put them into the oven at 170F. This is the lowest my oven will go, so from time to time, I simply opened up the door to let the heat escape. Now, this is the part that lends itself to a little advice. Do not do this in the house! The fumes from the peppers, which is really capsaicin will take over your house and your eyes will get extremely red and watery and you will find it extremely hard to breathe. I suppose if I had ever been in an immediate threat of being attacked by a grizzly, this would have come in handy. Fortunately, for me, I was the only one in the house at the time. However, I did suffer flashbacks from my basic training days of going into the Disco Hut. The Disco Hut was the room where they threw tear gas into a bunch of hot lava rocks while you were inside with your gas masks on. That didn't bother me at all. It really bothered me when they ripped my mask off and made me answer questions while I was gulping this stuff in. But, it was also a fun time. I was platoon leader, so I went first. After getting out of there, I waited outside for the rest of my platoon to depart the Disco Hut (they also played loud, blaring music with strobe lights in there. I wasn't sure what they were hoping to glean from that but I did get the feeling that being a POW would subject me to hours and hours of endless Donna Summer music, which should have been against the Geneva Convention, in my opinion). The funnest part about that day was that someone in their infinite wisdom had planted a tree many years ago right outside the exit door. This was a huge tree and when you've got tears in your eyes and snot running out of every other orifice, it's hard to see that tree. Many didn't, which is what made the day fun for me. So, long story short, either do these in a dehydrator outside or in the garage. It could lead to a divorce if you do these in the house and the spouse gets wind of it.
I then threw the pablanos and hungarian wax peppers into the freezer for about 1 hour so that I could dice them up and save as much liquid as possible. After dicing them up, I put about 2 T of each into their own vacuum sealed bag and threw them into the freezer for use in later dishes. I let the jalapenos and habaneros rest for two days in a container (with no lid) to ensure they were completely dry. After that, they simply went into the burr grinder (do this outside as well and try to stay upwind when doing it) to make the chipotle and habanero powder.
After all was said and done, I got about 3 oz of each powder (which is plenty for use; most times I never use more than 1/4 t of the habanero and 1/2 t of the chipotle).
Monday, February 9, 2009
Once you've got the garlic naked, simply place in your dehydrator. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can use the oven. Simply set the oven at 150F and let it go. Just a word of caution here: the garlic will take a long time to dehydrate to the point where you can grind it up. So, if you can't take having the oven tied up for a couple of days, get yourself a dehydrator. You can get some rather inexpensive ones that'll do a great job for this. Additionally, if you share your house with a signicant other, make sure you have their blessing. The aroma will be quite strong throughout the house. This was a battle I knew I would not win (this goes back to my jalapeno and habanero "incident"), so I dehydrated the garlic in the garage. When I post my smoked jalapeno and habanero powder experiment, you'll understand a little better!
That's it for my first blog. Give this a try and you'll like it. It'll give you the feeling that you can do more and when your garlic powder is better than store bought, you'll never go back.