Friday, March 27, 2009

New Babies

The early crops are already popping up, and they were planted less than 2 weeks ago. I read on the back of the seeds packages and for the early crops it says "Plant in early spring as soon as ground can be worked'. I figure that if I can scratch a line in the muddy and/or frozen ground to place a line of seeds, then that is the ground being worked. And every year I hear at least a few people saying that 'it's too early, you can't grow anything yet'. Those are the people that I like to take a bowl of salad to in the first week of May. That's about the time they are thinking about what seeds they should buy.

On March
14th I planted my first early crops and by March 24th I had 3 types of lettuce, spinach, peas and radishes visibly growing above the ground. Also, I have my rhubarb and the garlic that I planted last fall coming up. If the weather doesn't take a turn for the worse, then I might be eating salad by the end of April, and just might set a personal record for the earliest salad. My personal best so far was last year, I had my first salad on May 5th.

Here's some new-baby pics:

From 2009 Garden

Sugar Snap peas
From 2009 Garden

One of my 3 varieties of lettuce
From 2009 Garden

Spinach (my favorite!)
From 2009 Garden

From 2009 Garden

From 2009 Garden

Yes, it's early, but many veggies THRIVE when it's early and either are stunted or bolt when it gets hot.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Smoked Meatloaf

I've read where people have smoked their meatloaf and I had to try it. I used a simple meatloaf recipe to try this, use any meatloaf recipe that you would like to use. Here is what I used though:

2 lbs ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1/2 green pepper, chopped fine

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup bread crumbs

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup catsup

1/4 cup milk

Mix all of these together in a bowl.

From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

On a couple of layers of heavy-duty foil, form into a loaf.

From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

Then, on to the smoker for about 4 hours.

From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

Here's what it looks like after smoking:

From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

And, just like momma used to do, covered in a catsup and brown sugar mix:

From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

Simple, easy, and oh-so-good! It tasted great.

Smoked Italian Sausage

I made one goof/oops when making this, thus it turned out just 'ok'. I will explain later. However, it was a lot of fun to make and I learned a lot. This can be used simply as bulk sausage, but I wanted to play with my new toys, and stuff it in casings.


5 lbs ground pork shoulder or butt

2 T salt

3 tsp fennel seed

2 T sugar

1 T crushed hot peppers (made from my garden peppers, of course!) Skip this or cut it down if you don't like hot Italian Sausage.

1 tsp caraway seed

3 tsp coriander

about 5 cloves of crushed garlic

1/2 cup of cold water

Grind the meat with coarse grinding plate (or buy it pre-ground.) Grind the salt, fennel, sugar, pepper, caraway and coriander together. Mix spice mixture into meat, along with garlic and water. 'Git yer hands in there and git'r done well.'

At this point you have Italian Sausage and you could bag it, or vacuum pack and freeze. However, this is where I got my sausage stuffer out. My stuffer is actually a meat grinder with a sausage-stuffing funnel/tube on the end.

From Blogger Pictures

First, I soaked the casings ('casings' is the nice way of saying pig intestines) in cold water for a half hour. Then I ran water through the casings to rinse out the excess salt, which they are packed in. Then you coat the stuffing tube with vegetable shortening, and slide the casing over the tube. Then tie a knot in the exposed end.

I stuffed the casings snugly but not excessively, for I need to pinch links off after stuffing the casing. First I stuffed the entire 5 lbs into one long roll, with no individual links.
From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

I make links by pinching the roll every 6-8 inches and rolling every other link in the same direction.
From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

Then I placed the sausage on the smoker, with low heat and a good amount of smoke.

From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

I was hoping to do this for about 4 hours, but this is where I goofed. I evidently put too much, and too dry, wood on at one point, and the wood caught fire. This caused much more heat than I wanted, but I didnt find out until it was too late. No, they weren't burned but they had dried way too much. I didn't add extra fat, so they were going to be much leaner than store-bough sausage anyway, but this overheating dried it more than I would have liked.

It still tastes good, it's just not the juicy (fatty) sausage that you would buy in a store.

From Cooking, Canning, Gardening

I cooked up several links in a spaghetti sauce, served over penne pasta, and it was really good regardless.

Next time, MAYBE I will add some extra fat, but definitely will mind the smoker a bit more closely!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mighty neighborly of ya

My neighbor was out tilling his garden with his tractor today. I stood by and watched with a bit of jealousy, because he was getting his tilled in 10 minutes instead of my 4 or 5 hours. I got a knock on the door later and he asked if I wanted mine done. "Well, I dunno, maybe, I guess, SURE!!!"
Here's Bill in action, with his tractor pulling a tiller with a 4 ft wide swath:
From 2009 Garden

From 2009 Garden

Next thing you know, 'I' am all done with my tilling:

From 2009 Garden

Not bad eh? Mighty neighborly of him, wasn't it?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Starting the garden

It's that time of year, time to get the garden started. I had a lot of winter 'junk' in the garden in the form of leaves, sticks and such that I had to clear and burn. I would have mulched it up with my mower but I need to buy a new mower, the old one has finally gone belly-up. Here's a pic of the slash-and-burning I was doing. I hope to get pictures every few weeks or so from this same place, as the gardening progresses.

From 2009 Garden

This past Saturday I planted 4 things; Salad Bowl lettuce (looseleaf), Bibb lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Sugar Snap peas, and spinach (good ol' trustworthy Bloomsdale). I plant early by not worrying about tilling a specific area of the garden, an area saved for early crops. These crops won't last until mid-summer anyway, so I can till and plant more in this area later in the year (if I get time!)

OK, this next pic doesn't look like much, but this same are will look better in about a month. This is where I planted my first crops:

From 2009 Garden

I also pruned my grapevines, my sour cherry tree and one of my apple trees. I'm thinking about cutting 2 of my 3 apple trees down, they don't produce a good apple. I don't know the variety (Jonathon??) since they were here when I moved here. I have one apple tree that produces a nice apple for making applesauce and fried apples. It is probably a Granny Smith, but I dont know for sure.

On my ever-growing To-Do list is to soon plant some onions, scallions, more peas and anything else I can get in, weather permitting.

I'm making calzones tonight, look for another post on that!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Homemade Pastrami

My goal in life lately has been to get to the point where Cowgirl( will be jealous of my food, rather than vice-versa. She is definitely the one I admire the most of any of the cooking bloggers I have seen, hands-down.
After making a number of batches of corned beef, I wanted to take it one step further and make pastrami. This is another project where plannning comes into play, for the brining of the meat takes 2-3 weeks.

I would have used a beef brisket, but have found some lesser-quality (cheaper!) cuts do fairly well too. I bought a very cheap 2.5 lb beef round roast at about $1.50 lb, since I have NO qualms about buying the roasts that are marked down in their last day in the grocery store.)
Next you brine and spice the roast in a freezer bag in the fridge for a couple weeks. For this, see my post "Corned Beef" dated 10/22/2008.
After that has brined for 2 or 3 weeks, I put it in a bowl of cold water to remove some of the salt for 30-60 minutes.

Then I added a generous amount of rub. The recipe I followed, for this 'small' 2.5 lb roast, was:
2.5 T kosher or canning salt
2 T paprika (cowgirl would've had the paprika already smoked!
1.5 T coriander seeds
1.5 T brown sugar
1 T black peppercorns
1 T yellow mustard seeds
1/2 T white peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, minced
Grind all this together in your spice or coffee grinder, then rub this all over the meat, being very generous with the amount you use. I've read articles that state that rubs aren't really rubbed in, its just called a rub. Meadow-muffins, rub that stuff into the meat.

My goal was to smoke this for about 4-5 hours, but after 2 hours the wind REALLY kicked up. This really robs the heat from my bullet-smoker, and I had to improvise. I read some articles online about making pastrami in the kitchen oven, and had to employ this after the meat was smoked for 2 hours.
With the wind ruining my plans, I wrapped it up twice in heavy-duty aluminum foil and placed it in a 225 oven. I baked it this way for 3.5 more hours. After it cooled somewhat I placed it in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I was astounded at how good this looked. I took a thinly-sliced pieces and steamed them for about 30 minutes (many restaurants steam them for 4-5 hours) and tasted it.
It wasnt the most lean, tender meat in the world but you didn't notice because the flavor was out of this world. Sometime I will try a better cut of meat. Shoot, this was so good I am barely motivated to pay 200% more money to get something 10% better in quality than this.
Heck, I was impressed. Maybe even the cowgurl is impressed. I know my gurlyfriend Sue will be, but she's like that!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eagle Nest near my home

What the heck does this have to do with gardening, canning, cooking?
Nothing. But this was really cool. I found an eagle's nest (NOT that common in Ohio, especially central Ohio.) I also bought a new camera (Canon Powershot SX10) that has a 20X optical zoom on it. I took a few pics of these 2 eagles and their nest. I got a real kick out of it, I was geeked.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I think it's important to relate your failures as well as your successes. In a past post I talked about starting red-wine vinegar. I had read where it can sometimes 'go bad', and if it starts to smell like furniture polish, to throw it away and start again. That's exactly what happened. YUK! What an awful smell. However, I have known people that have successfully made it so I am going to just try again. More on this later.
Cheese making, for the most part, has been a success. I've made some Farmhouse Cheddar and Gouda that tasted just fine. A couple of the first batches that I made were a bit bitter and I threw them away. But I have been eating some that tasted very good. With some things going on at home, including drywall/priming/painting and building a cheese press among other things, I haven't been posting a lot. However, I started another batch of gouda tonight, and want to start another batch of cheddar.
Hang in there, garden season is coming and I will have a lot to report. Though the Ohio ground is still frozen, I hope to be planting some early crops soon. My target date for the first salad from the garden is the first week of May.