Makin’ Bacon batches 3 and 4

The method is repeatable.

We have made 2 more 18-20 lb batches as of 9/23/18. Each is as good as the last and leaves more room for experimenting with the spices.

It is definitely better to do the low temp smoke on a calm day. I am still having a bit of temp control trouble if windy as  the Heatermeter does not yet have a damper. The problem is if the temperature spikes a bit, more fat renders off. With more fat on the fire, the temperature spikes and so on.  Better if it can be held low and slow or you are a better tender of the smoker than I.   Batch 3 was spiking on smoker temperature and was pulled at 3 hours. Batch 4 was kept low and slow for 4.5 hours.

The slabs of skinless pork belly we have been buying at Costco are in the 9-10 pound range. To best fit for smoking , they are sliced into thirds. We use a Large Big Green Egg with the 3 tier rack as you can see below.   This was taken at the start of the smoking process.

4.5 hours later with the smoker temp at 190F, the internal tem is between 150F and 154F and has been there for the last hour.  This is now food safe and pasteurized.

 Net step is to refrigerate overnight, slice, bag and freeze.  Ready for frying and raiding by the kids.

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.