Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A meaty weekend

This past weekend was the first in our self-sufficiency challenge and our focus was meat. The kids bought Gerry a "Jerky Gun" from for Christmas and it was the first test drive of it. This great tool was much sturdier than I expected and didn't have any learning curve at all (compare that to the pasta maker attachment on the KitchenAid which took a good three batches of pasta before things started to resemble the form they should).

We took two pounds of freshly ground beef (thanks again to our KitchenAid attachments) and added some paprika, garlic, salt, pepper, pink salt (a combo of salt and sodium nitrate), and chili flakes. That mixture sat overnight and then was pushed through the jerky gun in two batches. Using the tube shape, we formed long rolls of jerky meat onto oven racks and then left those overnight again. Next day, Gerry dried them in the oven on 170 degrees for 5 hours. Next time, we will check them after 3 hours. Our question...dried or cooked. This pepperoni is definitely cooked.

We dried them a bit too long and next time will reduce that to keep some of the chewiness. Now a word about the sodium nitrate. I know, I know. Homemade items are supposed to help keep  us from additives. But we have tried sausage making without it and I am not about to poison the family cause I didn't use a tiny (and I mean five pounds of meat you only need add 1 tsp of's Instacure). Nough said. You can try it without but I am not that experimental.

Next, I put together the pickle for a good corned beef. One of the great gifts I ever received was my dad's pickling book " The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes" by Leonard Levinson. Not only great recipes but also great historical snippets about all things pickle. The never fail recipe is for much larger batches of corned beef but I always scale it back to enough for one meal and maybe some sandwich spread afterwards.

Starting with a fresh beef brisket, I give an 8 min full boil to water, sugar, pickling spice, and bay leaves and once this elixir is cool, pour it over the brisket (to which I added a few whole cloves of garlic). The mix has to cover the meat entirely. You can use a weight (plate, rock in plastic bag etc) to hold it under. After covering the pot with two layers of plastic wrap and adding the lid, this then sits outside (Nature's refrigerator works well this time of year) for two weeks. After the two weeks there is a big decision to make......corned beef (which you just then boil until cooked) or pastrami, which is smoked then sliced. Haven't made my mind up on that one yet....but I have time. There is nothing, I mean nothing, like fresh corned beef. Whatever it is you buy in the store cannot compare.

The final experiment of the weekend was bacon. Yes,BACON. When I picked up the brisket at the butcher's I also grabbed a piece of pork belly. Now make sure it is fresh pork belly and not smoked or brined.The recipe is simple. Salt and pink salt (we use Instacure) rubbed thoroughly into every side of the pork belly. Then 1/4 cup maple syrup (can also use honey) rubbed overtop. This is then slid into a ziplock bag and put into the fridge. Voila, two weeks later, bacon. Well, maybe not completely bacon, but it can be eaten at this stage. Best to taste a bit at this point anyway to see how the salt level is. If too salty, soak for an hour in cold water then taste again. If it works for you, you can either slice and fry at this point or put into the smoker....we will be smoking ours using our Big Chief smoker and some hardwood chips.

Will keep you posted on how these projects all turn out. 

The New Year's resolution still stands.....we are working on seeing what we can make at home, what we can do without, and how we can improve our lifestyle by considering these things.

The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes