New bathroom countertops

The first to go was the powder-room on the first floor. The old countertop came off easily. I had already installed shut-off valves for the faucet and had new a new P-trap and extensions ready as the drain holes would not line up.

I was able to carry this top by myself. Teal helped to guide it into position and hold it up while silicone seal was applied to the counter to glue it in place. We then carefully lowered it down and slid it the last little bit still at an angle. The backsplash is mosaic tile on top of Hardi backer board so that it is not too far recessed behind the marble pencil trim.

To drill the faucet hole I placed the template and clamped it down. This makes starting the ore drill / hole saw easy and prevents it from skittering around and damaging the top.   I tried adding water but immediately sprayed out all over.   Just place the vacuum nozzle nearby to catch the majority of the dust.

Similar process for the master bath. However when I pulled out the old tile top, the backsplash was about 1/4″ too low to fit over the new top.   So I had to pull off the old tiles and broke two. Fortunately 24 years ago when I originally installed the tile I had saved the spares in a dark corner under the basement stairs.   The old tiles needed a bit of clean up on the stationary belt sander. So now the”new” backsplash was installed and matches that around the shower.

Sinks are Kohler, the top  faucet was a Kohler Toobie, and the master bath has a Hansgrohe.    The savings on the tops paid for the tools and upgraded fixtures.

Funny point. Teal was sealing the granite and we wondered about using the sealer on the quartz.  She looked it up and came away laughing. It is not needed as the only thing that stains it is permanent marker, which is why I had to polish off my measurement marks.

Cutting and polishing countertops

We have wanted to replace a couple of the bathroom countertops for some time. I saw some nice pieces for very reasonable prices at a Habitat ReStore. So I did some research on Youtube and was convinced I could do it myself. I needed a couple more tools:

  • Diamond wet saw: DEWALT DWC860W 4-3/8-Inch Wet/Dry Masonry Saw
  • Wet grinder / polisher: Stadea SWP103K Variable Speed Wet Polisher Grinder Electric Wet Sander – Granite Countertop Polishing Kit
  • A few 4.5″ Turbo Diamond blades were needed for the saw and my angle grinder.
  • A 1 3/8″ diameter diamond core drill was needed for the faucet holes.

Now I purchased a couple of pieces of granite and one of quartz . IT was on 2 trips to the Restore as once I started and saw how easy it actually is, we accelerated the timing of the master bath upgrade. These are all 3cm thick.

Aside from unloading from the truck and final placement, I was able to move the slaps by myself, walking them into place and laying them on the 2x4s that were the work surface.

When doing the cutting and polishing a good dusk mask, glasses and hearing protection are required.   There can be a LOT of dust and little chips are constantly flying off.

A metal straight edge is used to guide the saw.  Given that I am working on the floor without enough height for clamps, I used double stick carpet tape on the bottom of the guide and spring clamps

For each cut, start by back cutting a bit at the end. This is to prevent uneven chip out. You just need to go back a few inches.  Then start with the main cut.   Here you can also see one mistake. I used a Sharpie on the quartz for my marks. This did not come off even with Xylol and the marks had to be polished out (800-3000 grit)!

 

Even angle cuts are easily made.

 

The corner radius is done with the polisher. A 50 grit pad works quickly. You just need to always keep moving. Then work yup through the grits and don’t skip any . To polish the entire end took <20 minutes to sequence through all of the grits up to 3000. I had a Workmate to hold the end of the piece so it stayed vertical.

The sink cut outs were a bit daunting as there are no straight lines for the 2 we chose.  Position the template, tape down one edge then lift it to put some contrasting vinyl or duct tape under the cut lines. Check for overlap and then cut through the template and the tape with a razor knife.

Remove the template and peel the inner pieces of the tape off and this is ready to cut.

Start with diagonal slices for the corners   You can also cut across the center.  However that is not really necessary

Next do the sides. At this point the piece will not drop out as there are still arcs on the bottom that are not cut through.

Make a few more angled cuts . Break out the narrow wedges with a large screwdriver and then it just drops out.

Make a few more nibbling cuts with the wet saw and switch to the angle grinder.

Ready to test fit.

It does fit – first try. I did put green masking tape on the back  to avoid scratching the blue paint.

Same in granite.

The diamond blade for the saw took a bit of beating but is still cutting reasonably well. The polishing pads have hardly any wear.  I had bought a spare set but I am really impressed with these Stadea D series grinding / polishing pads. I also really like the grinder. Nice soft start /stop and rugged construction.

 

Eggplant Caponata

I have searched for years to find a good Eggplant Caponata recipe.  This was started when I was looking for something similar to my Grandma Ann’s  Antipasto recipe but without the tuna and not quite as difficult to make.  What I have found in italian markets and specialty grocers never comes close. Hers was a food of love.

A few weeks ago an old friend posted a link to an Eggplant Caponata recipe on Facebook from: https://createtv.com/recipe/caponata+stewed+summer+vegetables.

I made it, and our family quickly devoured it (and I had a few bites for leftovers).

It is still time consuming, but  while not the same as my Grandmas. it evokes some of the same “food memories” and our family loves it.  So take the following recipe with a grain of salt (and maybe a glass of wine)  and adjust to the summer or fall garden bounty at hand. The grouping of ingredients and cooking technique are more important than the exact proportions. Having real garden (or farmers market) fresh plum tomatoes is one of the keys to success (as is the fresh basil).  This year I discovered growing San Marzano tomatoes. Great flavor and very low moisture compared to other varieties that I have grown.

Ingredients per batch

4-5 small or 2 large eggplants  ~2 lbs

1/2 cup red wine vinegar – boiled to reduce by half

2 Tbsp sugar

2 medium or 1 large onion

1 medium to large yellow or red bell pepper

4 ribs celery

1lb fresh plum tomatoes  – San Marzano are ideal. Frozen, thawed and drained also work, but you may have to add back some liquid that was drained at the end if things are too stiff.

1 cup green olives – castelvetrano or cerignola – sliced

1/3 cup small capers drained or salted that were washed and soaked in warm water. For either, soak in warm water changes a few times for 15-30 min total to remove some more salt.

10 large basil leaves – finely chopped

Prep and cook

Chop all of the veggies into 1/2-3/4″ pieces. There is no need to peel the eggplant or tomatoes.

Toss the eggplant with 1-1.5 tsp fine grained salt (Morton Canning and Pickling Salt)  and drain for 60 min.

Use your largest skillet, dutch oven or shallow stock pot. The frying will make a mess otherwise and you want lots of surface area for evaporation.

Pan fry the eggplant in 2/3 c vegetable oil for 15 min on high heat 0r deep fry at 365F for 10 min.  Drain and set aside

Saute the onion, celery and pepper in olive oil until translucent on medium heat. You still want a little bit of snap and definitely no browning. About 8-10 min

Add the capers, olives and tomatoes, vinegar and sugar.  Saute until the liquid is basically gone. About 10 min or close to 20 if using regular tomatoes (non-plum). Add basil at the end so as to not cook off the flavor.

Add several grinds coarse black pepper (~1/3 tsp)

Cool and serve or continue to canning while hot

Canning

For vegetables such as these,the pH must be below 4.5 and preferably around 4.0 for food safety when boiling water bath canning . Consult your University Extension if you have ANY doubts on technique. https://learningstore.uwex.edu/Assets/pdfs/B1159.pdf.

Test with pH paper. I have a roll of Hydrion 0-6 pH which I use for canning to give sufficient resolution.  If pH is too high, add more red wine vinegar or lemon juice and boil a bit more if too runny. Ours came out in the 4-4.3 pH range consistently over 3 batches.

Pack in sterilized jars and process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes

Each batch should make about 4-5 pints minus what you sample.

Pulled Pork – Paper wrapped 1

I have made many variations of pulled pork over the years starting with my Grandma’s Porchetta recipe.  This one is a new experiment  where the pork shoulder is wrapped in pink/peach butcher paper once it hits the stall so that it can finish to a higher internal temp without drying out.

For those of your that wonder why your roast takes so long to smoke and it never seems to get past 150-160F, that is “the stall”. At that point the evaporative cooling prevents the meat from climing higher until a significant portion of the water is lost. Then after a few hours (or seemingly an eternity when you have a bunch of guests coming for dinner) the temperature will start to rise.  For many cuts such as pork shoulder or brisket, the final temp should be in the 195-205 range where the collagen breaks down. There is a big difference in the texture just going from 195-202 and then holding for an hour or so.   So after doing more research where I was looking for brisket tips I came across the idea of wrapping the roast in peach paper once it hits the stall to accelerate the cooking and hold in moisture.

This is an overnight smoke with the temperature controlled by the HeaterMeter.

8lb Pork Shoulder / Boston Butt bone in . Trim off excess fat.

Start the smoker and preheat to 225F

Season liberally with granulated garlic, Penzey’s lemon pepper, Sinnamon Chipotle rub and salt.  Rub it in.

Place meat on smoker (indirect heat with a BGE). This was at 6:30PM

9:30 PM reduce temp to 205F  (not sure if this is necessary ).

6:30 AM internal temp was 136-151 depending on probe location.  Smoker is still at 205F.

Wrap in 2 layers of peach paper. Return to the smoker and raise the temp to 275F.

At noon it was pulled from the smoker with an internal temp of 203F and placed in a small cooler. where it remained until 2:30. By then the internal temp had dropped to 163.

Pull apart and eat.   It was juicy and pull apart tender.  We had to hold most of it until dinner in the oven at 190F covered,  with a bottle of Leinies Honey Weiss added.

Total time in the smoker 18 hrs. Hold in the cooler for 2.5 hrs but 1 would probably be sufficient.

 

Drunken Ribs

This week had an unusual discussions at work about cooking and I am prepping for a party tomorrow where we will be serving Drunken Ribs and the Coke Smoked Chicken. I just realized that I have not posted the recipe for Drunken Ribs which is a family get together staple.

The recipe will seem like heresy to some southerners and folks from KC . However as we have traveled around the country, my family still likes these the best. Simple, repeatable, fall off the bone tender and leaner than most. We have been making these for close to 30 years.  Weather has been everything from 100F and humid in the summer to -20F snow blowing sideways in the winter (and that IS my cut off) .

The secret is braising then grilling low and slow. It is also a great way to use up that light or sweet beer that is left over from the last family visit or party. Save the “good stuff” for drinking. Too much hop flavor actually ruins this  (and other beer braises).  Depending on the flavor level you want everything from Coors Light (nearly water), Leinie’s Honey Weiss, or a nut brown will all work .

The braise is done in a stock pot that just fits the ribs. Not too big. Sometimes when making a big batch (9 racks), then we need 2 pots.  We use baby back ribs. Choose carefully  as you want the really meaty ones, not the skinny “on sale” family packs that have almost no meat covering the bones. Most often we get the cryo packs of 3 racks of baby back pork ribs from Costco.  Pork or beef spare ribs also work but the baby back pork ribs have been the year in – year out favorite.

Quantities are not critical. Ratios at play. Make as big or small of a batch as you wish. Normally we do 3 meaty racks and that is what the recipe is normalized to.

3 meaty racks of ribs

3 medium onions  sliced 1/4″ thick

1/2 -2/3 cup chili powder

3 cans and 1 TBsp beer

Slice the racks of ribs into “rib pairs”. At the end you may end up with a 3 rib end piece and that is Ok.

Cover on all sides with chili powder. It takes nearly 1/2 cup for 3 racks.   We generally use Tones but you can step it up and use Penzey’s.

Take a medium to large stock pot. Put the ribs in on edge packing them in tightly.  Now put the slices of onions between the ribs. As you finish, it should be hard to add more onions, but persevere.

Depending on the size of your pot you may need to add another layer of ribs and onion. The goal is to have tightly packed layers. Otherwise you need a lot of beer and the flavor gets diluted.

Cover and place in  a 300F oven for 3 hours .    Note that you can braise the ribs a day or 2 before and then put them in the fridge ready for grilling. After being cooked in this manner, most of the fat has floated off and the meat is very tender, but is too soft. Grilling firms up the meat, removes most of the rest of the fat and caramelizes the sugars.

Pre heat the grill on high and reduce to low heat before adding the ribs.

Place ribs meaty side down on the grill. Based the top and sides with barbeque sauce. We use Sweet Baby Rays. If you make your own, all the better. Close the grill and cook for 20 min . At the end the meat should be browning nicely and bubbling and the sauce will be starting to thicken and caramelize .

Flip the ribs and again baste liberally with BBQ sauce on top and sides.  Cook for 20 min more. Sauce on top should be thick and caramelized. Bottoms should be dark but not burnt.

Serve and enjoy. These will be nice and tender and with less fat remaining on than most other recipes.

The juice left over from braising the ribs also makes a darn good base for home made baked beans after skimming off the fat.

 

Makin’ Bacon 2

Makin’ Bacon 2

After the success of Makin Bacon and then being raided by the kids, we needed more.   The pork belly  was a bit more difficult to procure than we had envisioned.  Pork belly can be hard to find in retail establishments on a regular basis. Locally: Panos, a few butcher shops and even Costco had none. When were in Oregon last month Colin and Jean took us to a great restaurant supply place which had some, but it was not likely to survive the trip back to Wisconsin.   So we kept looking…  On our last trip to Costco, I stopped to ask the butcher and he showed me where it was hidden (under the pork loins).   So we bought 2 packages and happily headed home with 20 pounds of pork belly.

 This lead to  Batch 2

This was started 6/30/18 and using the same curing mix as we had previously used, we had:

15 lbs  in 3×5 lb slabs with 75g of cure blend  each

5lb slab with 80 g cure blend  plus  2 tsp Penzey’s BBQ3000 and 1Tbsp crushed black pepper

These went into the garage fridge for a week  in the covered with Saran wrap in the crisper drawers and were then turned once per day. At the end (day 6),  they were pulled out, rinsed and then placed on racks over jelly roll pans for a day in the fridge. This gives the meat a chance to dry on the surface and develop a “pellicle”. The idea here is to dry the surface of the meat a bit so the smoke can penetrate without creating a nasty sooty film.

Smoking

The BGE was set for 220F and the slabs were placed on the 3 tier  rack. At this point I realized that 5 lb slabs were too big for the Large BGE with the 3 tier rack and then had to slice them into smaller sections. Next time I will cut the meat into  3 lb slabs .

These were smoked at 220F for 2.5 hours . The meat was at 150F at  50 minutes and then held more or less . However, once again at the end of the time the fire kept raising despite being damped down and controlled with the  HeaterMeter.   I think that eventually the fat dripping off causes too much combustion to control. So at that point, I pulled the slabs. These were then wiped down with paper towels to remove any excess grease and soot and then placed on racks in the garage fridge to cool for slicing.

Slicing and bagging

We sliced for “normal bacon” thickness.  The slices were stacked and vacuum bagged. Teal insisted that the “spicy” be kept form the “normal” bacon.   However on taste testing she actually liked the BBQ3000 version, but just not for breakfast.

So we have not only another successful batch, but are starting to prove out that the reduced salt and reduced nitrates cure actually works !  The bacon is delicious as proven by frying up samples as we sliced and bagged. The color is great  – nice pink meat.  So I think we have a successful recipe. We will do another batch in a month (or sooner if the kids raid the freezer too much).

20 packages including one of the “ugly bits” which are destined for salads and baked beans.

Next time we will do more of the BBQ3000 version . It is delicious and I can’t wait for the tomatoes to be ready for BLTs.

Lightly Smoked Chicken

The Chicken

It was brutally hot and humid this weekend (at least for Wisconsin, 78-80 F dew point is not my favorite).  So we were looking for something that we could make that did not not require much attention allowing us to retreat to the air conditioned indoors while it cooked.

The goal was to have a brine that was not critical for timing and then to smoke / grill also at a non-critical temp that did not require constant attention in the miserably hot and humid weather.  We chose legs and thighs to provide juiciness and flavor (and the price was right for thigh and leg quarters.).

We prefer to have air chilled chicken that is not already loaded up with a  brine of questionable contents. In our area the Smart Chicken brand fits the bill. By the time we finished, thunderstorms had moved through the area producing a nearly 20 F degree drop in temperature and providing a pleasant evening.

Brine

5 cups cold water

2 lemons quartered, squeezed of juice into the brine and then thrown in

5 TB Mortons Kosher salt. We are aiming for a 5% brine. Other brands will vary a LOT.

3 nice fresh bunches of sage, oregano and thyme. 3-5 stems each . Leaves of the thyme stripped from the stems and the balance chopped finely.

1 tsp fresh coarse ground black pepper

Stir the brine until the salt is disolved

Add the chicken which has been broken down into the primal cuts. Legs are cut from thighs, etc. You want the recognizable pieces that folks will eat with their fingers .

Put the chicken in the brine and refrigerate for 2-12 hours. Remove, pa dry with paper towels and air dry on a rack at room temperature for 30-120 min . This is critical to dry the skin a bit, develop the “pellicle” and avoid sooty chicken.  The chicken will not be in the “danger zone” long enough to worry.

This light 5% brine will not over-salt the chicken so the time is not critical. We did 5 hours for this batch.

Grill

Start the grill / smoker with lump hardwood charcoal.  Add a couple of good sized chunks of a fruitwood just before adding the chicken. We use cherry.

Close the grill vents down so the grill stays at about 275F . Add the chicken on direct heat skin up. After 30-60 min flip and cook for an additional 30-45 min.  Remove and serve. Skin should be nicely bronzed and slightly crispy.  With the relatively low temps the times are not critical. You do have to watch for fat flare ups that may mar the bronzed perfection.

Yum.

 

 

Sourdough whole grain variant

The kids got me a couple of Emile Henry ceramic bakers for my birthday.  One is baguette pan and the other is a bread loaf pan.  Today was the first trial of them.  The bread was made in between all of the yard work and errands that needed to get done with our slow spring and sudden summer —  95F today.

This is based on the Multigrain sourdough recipe  but I was out of the KAF Harvest Grains Blend.   So to substitute I used the following mix which was soaked in the boiling water:

  • 1/4 c poppy seed
  • 1/4 c steel cut oats
  • 1/4 white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c roasted / salted pepitas / sunflower seed mix (from Farm and Fleet)

The dough was a bit wet, I probably had too much water in the starter feed but then added more bread flour to make up.  Again the dough was mixed and rested for 30 min before the kneading.  First rise was 2 hrs at 76F (I had to run out and go get more herbs for the garden) .   After rolling to shape, the top was brushed with water and the black sesame seeds were springkled on .  Second rise was 1 hour at 100F.

Bake at 425 F for 33-38 min with the last 5 min uncovered.

YUM! Thank you: Jessie, Elyse and David for the bakers.

Canadian Bacon

With the low price specials on whole pork loins ($1.99 /lb for 10lbs),  I could no longer resist making some Canadian Bacon (or Back Bacon as they call it up there).  The recipe is based on the one in Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn with some more spices added. I have not yet adjusted the salt and pink salt as this is my first attempt and we generally don’t cook this until browned as we do with Bacon.

Brine

  • 4 liters (2 gallons) water
  • 650 grams kosher or pickling salt
  • 480 grams white sugar
  • 75 grams pink salt / Cure #1
  • 1 TB ground Nutmeg
  • 1 TB ground Allspice
  • 1 TB granulated Garlic
  • 2TB dried Sage
  • 2TB dried Thyme
  • 2 Bay leaves crumbled

I would have used fresh herbs but they are not up yet this spring.

Mix well. Note the salts and sugar are by weight. This is important as the density varies dramatically between types and brands.

Brining

Cut the pork loin in half. Trim off the silverskin and surface fat. This was a 10.5 lb pork loin after trimming.

Submerge in the brine and weight down with a plate or 2. Place in refrigerator for 48 hours. Since I was also doing a batch of Smoked Chicken Legs and Thighs  at the same time, this ended up in the crisper drawer of the garage fridge. This is actually quite convenient.

Cook and taste a sample to check for saltiness.  Slice a couple pieces off the end, rinse and pan fry. At the 36 hour point it was a bit saltier than we like so half the brine was poured off and replaced with water.

At 48 hours Remove, rinse and pat dry. Taste test again.  If OK place back in the fridge uncovered for 12 hours to equalize and from the pellicle.

Smoking

Hot smoke with cherry wood at 230F, until an internal temp of 150 degrees has been held for 30 -60 min. This takes about 4 hours. At this point, it is fully cooked and could be served ready to eat. Ours is slabbed like smoked pork chops and thin sliced for pizza and sandwiches.

The verdict

Delicious. Teal said we may never buy ham again!

 

Multigrain Sourdough

Another variation on the Multigrain Sourdough Boule from the King Arthur Flour website.  Each iteration is improving.

Starter

The night before ,feed the starter using 1/2 c starter , 2 cups flour, 1.5 to 1.75 cups warm water. Cover and rise over night at room temp +.   Our lower oven after baking in the top one is perfect. Using the proof setting of 100F  is actually too warm and the rise is not as nice later.

Ingredients

  • 1.5c KAF Harvest Grains Blend  + 1/4c poppy seeds
  • 1c boiling water
  • 3c fed starter
  • 2c whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 c bread flour
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Instant yeast (I use SAF)

Add the harvest grains to the water and let soak for 20 min

Mix and rise

Mix everything together and let sit for 30 min to hydrate the flour. This is especially important for whole grain flours.  Huge improvement in texture

Knead for 7 min  – Kitchenaid with dough hook and #2 . Mixer will get warm.   Dough will be soft moist, and very sticky

First rise 90 min at 100F in the mixer bowl covered with a hot wet dish towel.

Liberally butter the inside of a dutch oven (including the lid).

After the first rise scrape the dough into the dutch oven. No need to knead. Even out the top. Cover with the wet towel again .

Rise again for 40-60 minutes at 100F until doubled.

Bake

Preheat oven to 425F .

Move to the hot oven and bake covered on convect for 30-35 min.

Uncover and continue baking 10-20 min and check the internal temp. 190F is done.

Remove from oven when done. Rest in pan for 5 min, then turn out onto wire rack.