Just Peachy Pork Loin

We had prepared 3 pork loin roasts in anticipation of a big family gathering next weekend. However, with the Covid-19 lock down, that is not happening.  So I pulled one of the pork loin roasts from the freezer. It was already seasoned with Penzey’s “Barbeque of the Americas” and vacuum bagged, ready for sous vide cooking and grilling. However today it was not exactly great grilling weather with 20-30mph winds rain and 40 degree temps.  I figured it would be better to make something that could be cooked completely indoors.

Roast pork loin with peaches

So I surfed for recipes for pork loin or chops.  One with peaches looked appealing. We had also stocked up on canned fruit at the start of the virus outbreak, so this seemed workable.

Pork loin

  • 3 lb pork loin trimmed of fat
  • Season Liberally with Penzey’s Barbeque of the Americas
  • Vacuum bag and cook at 141F for 4 hours.


Toward the end of the cooking time, prepare the sauce.  Later when serving it was clear we underestimated the amount of fruit and sauce needed for the meal and left-overs. So think of the list below as the amount per pound of meat.

  • 1 can – 14 oz sliced peaches in natural juice
  • Drain the juice into a sauce pan and add:
    • 3 finely minced cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 tsp dried thyme – crushed after measuring
    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary  -crushed after measuring(Teal hates the “twigs” as she calls the rosemary needles)
    • 1/3c packed brown sugar
    • 1/4c balsamic vinegar
    • 6 peach slices finely chopped

Simmer this until reduced by half. Then add:

1 shot (1.5 oz )bourbon  – I use Makers Mark , and simmer for 5 min more

Prepare to brown and roast

Preheat the oven to 500F

Remove the roast from the bag, scrape off  the protein globs and pat dry.

In a large pan , melt 1.5 TB bacon drippings and heat to just under smoking

Brown the roast on the top, sides and ends (about 2 min per side)

Add the rest of the peaches and pour the thickened sauce over the top of the roast

Place in the oven on convect for 10 min. It will get all nice, bubbly and caramelized.   When I pulled it from the oven the center temp was 147F.  This was a bit higher than desired, but still acceptable

Rest the roast  for 10-15 min and carve for serving.

Roast pork loin with peach sauce

Changes for next time

Definitely more peach sauce – as I noted above treat these amounts as “per pound of pork”

Maybe I should have set the sous vide temp to 139 instead?   Maybe it will be a bit pinker but it was definitely juicy and delicious.

Add Cowboy Candy or half a finely chopped, seeded and deveined habanero chili to a batch. I will try this when I am making multiple batches (otherwise Teal would revolt) .


Sourdough bread variations

Now that you have your loaves coming out more or less consistently (or at least fewer batches consigned to being croutons) you may want to start mixing things up.

Remember when trying different flours, the autolyse step becomes even more important. They absorb the water at different rates and you can easily over-do the water if you use the initial consistency as mixed as a guide.  So start out with a bit less water than you might think you need.

Cheesy sourdough

Split batch white and cheesy

Cut the salt by half

Leave the dough stickier than usual

About 3/4 of the way through mixing add 2 big hand-fulls of shredded cheese. I am partial to 4 cheese mexican blend from costco.    This can be a bit hard to mix in. Crank up the mixer to 6 for short bursts until blended .

Now add flour if needed to adjust the texture.

Sprinkle with a bit of cheese, after slashing for fun.  If you put the cheese on prior to slashing you will pull a lot of it off.

This is one where you can split the recipe and make one loaf of white and one cheesy.  I love the cheesy sourdough toasted for breakfast slathered with peanut butter.

Rye sourdough

Rye sourdough

To the starter (about 2 cups) add 2 cups dark rye flour  and 3/4 c water

2 Tbsp Vital wheat gluten  (Bobs Red Mill) or King Arthur Rye dough Enhancer (which also adds more traditional “deli-rye” flavors

Caraway seed (optional)

Autolyze and mix as you normally would and adjust consistency as normal


Whole wheat

To the starter (about 2 cups) add 2 cups whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur Whole Wheat)   and 3/4 c water

2 Tbsp Vital wheat gluten  (Bobs red mill)

Autolyze and mix as you normally would and adjust consistency as normal

Note that a rye and whole wheat blend is really good as well

Pizza bread

1/2 salt

Leave the dough stickier than usual

About 3/4 of the way through mixing add 1/2 c sun dried tomatoes drained of oil and chopped finely  or 1/2 c rehydrated dried cherry tomatoes from the garden. Chop after rehydrating or you will have tomato chip shrapnel all over the kitchen.    The dried cherry tomatoes from my garden are awesome and keep in the fridge for years.

One large handful shredded mozzarella  or maybe two

1 tsp Italian seasoning (Penzey’s)

Now add flour if needed to adjust the texture.

Spent Grain Sourdough

What can be better than combining brewing and baking?

Spent Grain Sourdough 2 

Spent Grain Sourdough 1

Added seeds and grains

In proper baking terms this is referred to as adding a “soaker” . You need to hydrate the seeds before adding or they will dry out the dough AND not cling very well to the dough, resulting in deflated loaves.

1/2 c seed mix  such as King Arthur Flour Harvest Grains Blend

1/4 c hot / boiling water.

Mix the seeds and water for 1/2 hour before adding to the dough about 3/4 the way through mixing . DO NOT add at the start!

Mix and adjust as usual


So think of these as jumping off points to try different flours and flavors rather than firm recipes. Now that you know how to adjust your dough be feel, feel free to try new things. Worst case,  is that you end up with more croutons or bread crumbs to use for something else.

Happy baking.

Sourdough Bread Basics 2- Rising, Forming and Baking

Now that we have the bread dough it is time to let it rise. There will be 3 rises and then baking.

End of the first rise
Rolling the dough
Rolling more
Dough ball after turning and rolling the second time

Rise 1,   1 hour  At the end of the hour, the dough will have doubled in size. Scrape the dough for the bowl with your fingertips and turn out onto the countertop which has been dusted with flour.  You can fold the dough in theirs each way or do as I do and roll it. Grab an edge of the dough ball, and start rolling that towards the center. Keep doing this until you have rolled all of the surface in – typically 3-4 turns. Pop any large bubbles along the way. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repat, starting on one end. Now it will be back into a ball shape. Return it to the bowl and cover with the damp towel .

Rise 2, 1-1.5 hours   At the end of this time scrape the dough from the bowl as before onto the floured counter top. If making loaves, split the ball in half with a pastry scraper and  then work each piece individually as before, rolling  inwards and form a pair of loaves. I place them on my pizza peel which has been liberally coated with corn meal.    Place the pastry scraper upside down between the loaves. Cover with the damp towel .

If you are cooking as one large boule in a dutch oven , roll the dough as before and the place the ball in the center of the oiled dutch oven and put the lid on.

Rise 3,  2-3 hours

Loaves formed for 3rd rise
Loaves risen and ready for oven

Before the end of the rise place your pizza stone in the oven on the middle rack. Place a sheet pan on the bottom rack or the bottom of the oven. Pre-heat oven to 440F. Set for convect.   If yours does not have convection baking set for 460F.

Heat 1 cup of water to boiling (2 min in my microwave).

Transfer the loaves to the pizza stone. The scraper can help if they are sticking.

Pour the hot water in the sheet pan and quickly close the oven.

Tops slashed.
Nearly finished with temp probe in place. Look below and you can see the sheet pan

Wait 2 minutes then quickly score the top of the loaves in the pattern you desire. I use a bread knife and like one long slash in each about 3/8″ deep. No need for a fancy lame or other tool – just the bread knife.

Waiting before slashing the top, lets the skin of the dough set up a bit, and avoids deflating the loaf.

Work quickly to keep the steam in the oven.   Now you can have the kids watch see the slash open up as the bread rises further. This is known as the “oven spring”.

Set the timer for 13 minutes. At the end insert the thermometer probe close the middle of the loaf. You want 200- 205F.   I like the remote probe of the Thermoworks  ChefAlarm as I can leave the probe in and close the oven door. The alarm is normally set for 203F so I can wander around the house and do other things while the bread finishes and not worry about forgetting to pull the bread out of the oven (again).

Once the temperature is reached open the door and pull out the rack to let it cool for 3-5 min before transferring to a wire rack on the counter to cool. If the bread cools too fast, it may cave in a bit in the middle.


The sourdough bread freezes well and makes fantastic toast, grilled cheese sandwiches and garlic bread.  King Arthur flour sells nice light weight bread bags to use for storage.



Sourdough Bread Basics 1 – Making The Dough

When delving into the baking of sourdough bread, the questions often arise faster than the answers. This is especially the case where you don’t have someone to teach you in person and are trying to figure it out from books and youtube:

  • How much starter to use?
  • Why “discard” starter – seems wasteful?
  • How stiff or wet / slack should the dough be?
  • How much to mix / knead and when?
  • What is “folding”?
  • Why does my bread fall when I slash it like they say to do in the cookbooks?
  • Is steam important?

I will try to answer these and more based on my experience and experimenting of the last few years. Your experience may differ but I think this provides a solid starting point. I think it is good to work your way up in complexity as you gain experience and confidence. Don’t jump in and make multigrain baguettes with lots of seeds as your first try. How about white bread in a dutch oven or loaf pans?

I was given some sourdough starter from some friends a few years back and they also recommended the book Bouchon Bakery. 

This book provided a start, but I was still unsure of the what the texture should be and I also jumped into the more compex styles too quickly.  So there were some super dense breads that resulted and I was still relying on commercial yeast to help.

I keep my starter in a glass crock with snap top lid in the back of the fridge. In peak bread making season, I am baking every 1-2 weeks and this keeps the starter in good condition.   If it is neglected for a long time (weeks or months) there will be gray liquid film on top and the starter will take longer to become active again.  Don’t discard this, but you will need to build it up prior to use (future posting).

Safety first, the starter is a mix of yeast and bacteria. Each time you add flour you may add more types of bacteria and different kinds of yeast.  Treat the starter and uncooked bread dough as you would raw meat. Wash your hands and utensils well after handling and never eat the raw dough! 

Preparing the starter

Starter as mixed 7 AM Saturday
Starter 10AM
Starter 2:45 PM – peak fermentation
Starter 5 PM – peak fermentation
Starter 8 AM Sunday – fallen and past peak – ready for bread

The day before you want to bake, you will need to make your starter. You will also see the terms Biga and Poolish for this.

I have settled on using 2 cups bread flour , 1.5 cups warm water and the entire contents of my crock (pour off any excess liquid on top first).

Mix this up and place on the kitchen counter in a covered bowl.

I really like the Pyrex 10 cup prep bowls and their lids for this.
















Pulling out starter for the crock

The next morning remove about 1/2 cup of the starter and return it to the crock. Place the crock in the fridge.

Now is the best time to take any out to share with friends.

Preparing the dough

Dough mixed and ready for to rest hydration / autolyze

Take the remainder and put it in the mixer bowl.  Add 2 cups of bread flour and 3/4 c water and stir this together.  If the flour is really dry you may add a few Tbsp more water but resist the urge to add much right now. Now let the mixture sit for 30-90 min (I usually make breakfast and start other projects during this time).   This is referred to at the autolyse. The flour is hydrating and it will then make a better dough once you start mixing / kneading.

Add 2 Tbsp vegetable oil . This yields a silkier dough and it seems to stay fresher longer than if you omit the oil.

Add 1.5 Tbsp Honey  – you could use sugar, but the simple sugars of the honey seem to get the rise off to a quicker start.   This is not to make the bread sweet, but provide enough sugar that the yeast and bacteria have enough to feed on during the rises over the course of the day

Kneading the dough

Kneading a still too wet
Flour added and almost ready -still a bit sticky

Start kneading the dough. I use a Kitchenaid stand mixer with a dough hook and the speed set on 2.

As it is kneading, evaluate the texture. Is it stuck to the sides or pulling away in a ball?  If sticking to the sides, start adding flour a couple of Tbsp at a time , letting it fully incorporate before adding more.

After 5 min at 1 tsp fine sea salt. This will cause the dough to firm up as it mixes. You can omit the salt if you are on a salt restricted diet, but even this 1 tsp is much less than most commercial breads use.

Ready to rise – note it just barely is sticking to my hand

Continue kneading for 5 min more.   the dough should be pulling away form the sides as it is mixing and only stick to your dry hand a little when you touch it.   Adjust adding flour or water in small increments 1-2  Tbsp flour, 1 tsp  water as needed. If you do bigger amounts it is very easy to overshoot and end up in a flour-water-flour-water cycle and before you know it you have used up your flour and have enough dough for 4 loaves of bread!

Cover with a damp towel for the first rise.   Place on the counter at room temperature.




Coq au Vin

Perfect cure for a cold almost spring day. It is also known as “Chicken with wine” in English. I have also made this on vacation and notably Caribbean dive trips where we did not have a whole lot of cooking supplies or gear. It is a great 1 pot dinner. The whole house is now fragrant with the delicious aroma.

Finished – ready to serve

8 chicken thighs. We prefer the boneless skinless when available, or just the “family pack” with skin and bones works fine.  Dredge in flour (~1 cup), salt and pepper and  brown over medium heat  in a couple of tablespoons of  bacon fat or olive oil in a large kettle or dutch oven. Be sure to BROWN on all sides. Caramelization is important for best flavor (Maillard reactions are your friend) . You may cringe at the bacon fat, but the original recipes called for salt pork or fatback. This will be lighter if you just use the bacon grease rather than the fatback,  but I if you want to be extravagant, smoked pork jowls chopped and fried would be just incredible. You do need the hint of smokiness which is why the bacon grease is preferred to oils. Keep adding more so that it does not run dry as you fry the pieces. It is better to do the frying in batches than crowd the pieces together.  Drain off the excess fat at the end unless you are browning the potatoes as well (below). 

Some of the browned chicken

Add coarsely chopped:

  • 4-8 potatoes (4 if large, 8 if small)

You can optionally brown the potatoes a bit after the chicken comes out while you chop the rest of the veggies .  Add a bit of olive oil so they don’t stick .

  • 2-3  medium onions
  • 8-10  carrots
  • 3-6 ribs of celery (unless you are cooking for Teal)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • Tomato paste – small can (4 oz)

Add 2 cups water and 1/2 liter or so of red wine; Burgundy or pinot noir. You want light and fruity, not oakiness.

After 1 hr in the oven

3-4 bay leaves

3 tsp dried thyme (fresh sprigs if summer, but my thyme is buried under the snow right now)

1 tsp chopped dried rosemary    – Teal objects to rosemary “twigs” in the stew. This should be what you grew last summer – fresh dried rosemary is so much better than old stock . If nothing else, make a trip to Penzey’s for the herbs.

Bake covered at 325 for 4-8 hours.  Check every hour to make sure that it does not boil dry . Add more water if necessary.

Uncovered the last hour  and mix in a bag (14.5oz) of frozen pearl onions) . With the top off to thicken up a bit and brown the top a bit.  When you uncover, dig a depression to gather the fat in. This makes skimming the fat off much easier.

Applied time is about an hour. You could cut this to 20 min if you just “chop and flop” all of the pieces in the pan without browning but you won’t win as much praise that way.

Serve with good crusty bread and more wine. Enjoy.

Cuban Style Pork Shoulder

This past weekend we were in Miami, stopping over on what we hoped would be a dive trip to Cayman Brac. Unfortunately, the coronavirus made other plans for us and we ended up turning back. However, we had an excellent dinner at La Rosa and the Cuban Roast Pork Shoulder stole the show and I decided I just had to make some when we got home.

Cuban Roast Pork

A quick web search turned up a recipe on Serious Eats. This is a trusted source for me and proved to be an excellent starting point. As usual, I deviated from the published recipe whether due to ingredients on hand or personal preference. The Mojo sauce is used both as a marinade before roasting and the reserved portion is part of the sauce for the cooked meat.  I had forgotten to pick up fresh citrus when I got the roast, so concentrate was used along with dried herbs (it is still winter here in Wisconsin) .

Mojo Sauce ingredients

8 cloves of garlic very finely minced

2 tsp ground cumin

1.5 tsp fresh (finely) ground black pepper

1/2 cup limeade concentrate  – Minute Maid is our favorite as it has less sugar than many brands

1/4c raspberry lemonade concentrate

1/2 c water

Mix the ingredients well and reserve half for serving later

If you have fresh fruit that is preferable, but the concentrate worked out well.

Prepare the pork

5-6 lb pork shoulder  – a.k.a. Boston Butt

Remove the bone and the larger pieces of fat, slicing along the muscle lines. You should end up with 4-6 good sized pieces with the majority of the fat removed. I pull the fat off as I do not like the consistency of the remaining fatty tissue once the fat renders off.

Add 1/2 of the Mojo and marinate overnight, turning a few times.


Place the pork in a large dutch oven with all  of the sauce it was marinated in. Add 1 c water.   Salt the surface with 1 tsp fine salt. Cover and roast at 275F for 3 hours

Uncover and roast at 325F for an additional 2-3 hours. Baste every 30 min or so.  Make sure the liquid under the fat does not all evaporate, add more water if necessary.  The Meat will get nice and brown and crunchy on the surface

Remove from the oven. Remove the pork from the pan and cool for 15 min. Separate the drippings removing as much of the fat as you can without losing too much of the tasty part underneath.   Add the remaining mojo sauce and microwave for 2-3 min.  Add 1 TBsp of red wine or cider vinegar to taste (cust the sweetness and fattiness).

Pull the pork apart and add the sauce, mixing well.

Serve with black beans and rice  and enjoy . If you have some fresh lime to squeeze over it, all the better.

Olivia’s Bed – Delivery Day

Today, we delivered and set up Olivia’s bed and dresser.  There was some final assembly work and alignment of the drawers in the pedestal.  She was also taken with the idea of the cubby spaces underneath being the “lower bunks” for her stuffed critters.

The new pulls match on the dresser and the bed drawers. They are a sort of ’50s look.

 I think she is pleased.


Finishing Olivia’s Bed and Dresser

Finished footboard

This finishing schedule is my go-to when I need robust color. I learned the basic technique a number of years ago in a class that was put on by the Wisconsin Woodworker’s Guild featuring Jeff Jewitt. Jeff also runs Homestead Finishing.

I wanted the bed and dresser to look like they belonged together, however the bed is red oak and the dresser is cherry so an exact match is not feasible.  The dresser had been my Dad’s and was a mid-century brownish grey color. When I scraped and sanded the old finish off the dresser, the cherry had wide swaths of sapwood in the top and drawer fronts. This was too jarring for my taste. So after removing the top, I sanded the underside of it to match how the top would be and made some tests with dye and stain. This proved my theory, that dye and stain could even out the sapwood -heartwood variation nicely.

Underside of top with wiped on dye and stain
Finished top – flipped but in same orientation as the underside shot

The original finished was scraped and sanded off down to bare wood.
The colors of the cherry then showed through. However there was a lot hf difference between heartwood and sapwood. This may be why the factory finish was so opaque.

Finish schedule

  • 2x Light spray coats of Transtint medium brown dye in alcohol per label instructions.
  • 2x wash coats of 2lb cut blonde shellac also sprayed on.  These must be light coats or the shellac with dissolved dye will bleed back out of the pores resulting in “pimples”. This can be severe on the Oak
  • Scuff sand with green Scotch Brite pad. This is roughly equivalent of 220 grit sandpaper.
  • General Finishes Nutmeg gel stain . Wiped on liberally and wiped off after 10 minutes.
  • Allow to dry for one week as the oil based stain would otherwise cause adhesion problems for the following finish coats
  • 2-3x coats of General Finishes water based polyurethane – matte lustre . These were sprayed on for the head and foot-boards of the bed, brushed on all other pieces. Each coat consisting of a tack coat and flow coat from opposite edges of the pieces.  On other pieces I have used the General Finishes Endurovar or Precat Lacquer. However this was done mid-winter and this was the least obnoxious finish for indoor application (and without risk of explosion).
  • Dresser top was also rubbed down with 0000 steel wool to eliminate the last brush marks.

Progress photos

View of the headboard after the dye and shellac has been applied and the gel stain is half applied.

Headboard with dye and wash coat of shellac and half of the gel stain applied.

The headboard and footboard had plywood scraps attached to the bottoms of the legs this mad handling of them MUCH easier with no worries of tip-overs.

Pedestal drawer fronts
Dresser drawers and top
Bed base with platform and drawers
Dresser ready for hardware


Spent grain sourdough

Spent grain sourdough fresh from the oven

I have been experimenting more with sourdough breads and have made a few more variants of the spent grain sourdough.  I think this is a bit simpler.  I have been baking every week or every other so the 2 step starter feeding is not necessary.

When choosing your grains for the sourdough, consider that the bread will get baked and brown further. I tried one with the steeping grains from an Imperial Stout and that was too dark. Edible, but almost burnt tasting when toasted.

Today, I am using Briess Caramel 40 malt. This was from a Dead Ringer IPA extract kit (one of my favorites).


~3/4c of saved unfed starter

2c Bread flour – King Arthur

1 1/2 c – 1 3/4 c warm water.

Mix and set aside,  covered for 24 hours.   The starter should be a bit wetter than bread dough, but not runny. It will loosen up as it ferments as well. After 24 hours it is “gloopy”. Think of your kid / grand-kid’s container of Slime but stickier.

Bread dough

Fed starter – 1/2c which goes back in the crock in the fridge

2 -2.5c spent grains – well drained

1c bread flour – start with 3/4 c and see what the consistency is like

1/2 tsp baking yeast

Mix for 2 min

Rest for 15 min

Mix for 5 min

Add 1 tsp salt

Add 5 tsp cooking oil

Mix at medium speed until the oil is incorporated. Then slow down 2 2nd lowest setting on the Kitchenaid mixer and mix for another 10 min. Add flour as necessary to have a slack dough that pulls away form the sides of the bowl while mixing.

Cover with damp towel and let rise for 1 hour. Then fold several times adding flour if necessary.  Let rise for another hour. Fold several times and work into a ball.  This dough needs support from a pan. So, place in an oiled dutch oven. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.


Preheat the oven to 425F . Place a sheet pan in the bottom.

When the oven is hot, heat 1 c water in the microwave until boiling.

Working quickly, uncover the bread, slash the top and place the bread int he oven . Then pour the hot water on the sheet pan and close  the oven.   This bread completely filled the dutch oven with no room to rise (I may have let it rise a bit extra long while working inthe shop). Set timer for 15 min.   At 15 min insert thermometer probe and cook until the internal temp is 195-205F  depending on how brown you like the top.

A view inside

We have started taking the spent steeping grains and placing 2-2.5 c measured portions in the freezer so that the spent grains are available between brew days as I bake a lot more often than I brew.  1lb of grain will yield about 6-7c of well drained spent grains.

Sous vide Pork Chops

Start with thick cut pork chops about 1.25 -1.5″ thick.

Season liberally with Penzey’s Jerk spice blend and vacuum bag.

Optionally add 1-2tsp honey per chop if you are grilling at normal height.

Cook at 140F for 4 hours.

Grill over a very hot fire or on the coals for 2-3 min per side to caramelize the crust.  If the meat is down on the coals 60-90 sec per side.  If the grid is elevated to normal height, then a light coating of honey prior to grilling will enhance the browning. If it is applied and the meat is down on the coals it will be blackened in 60-90 sec.  A bit too fast for my taste.

Even with the outside being a bit over done / charred, the inside was still moist and delicious.

We served these with: cauliflower with cheese sauce, smashed potatoes and apple sauce.

Tomorrow, I will be shopping for a bit bigger grate to place low but not quite on the coals.