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My mom’s recipe, of course.  However, I will state here that I have had Boeuf Bourgignon in France, its birthplace, and this is better.

Boeuf bourgignon

1 lb frozen or fresh pearl onions
6 slices bacon, diced (raw)
1/4 c butter
4 lbs cubed chuck or rump roast beef
1/4 c brandy
1.5 t salt
1/4 t pepper
2 cups burgundy
2 c small whole or sliced mushrooms
1.5 c beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 c parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t dried thyme
1/2 c ketchup
3 chunked carrots (or a small bag of babies)
6 T flour
1/2 c cold water

Brown onions and bacon in dutch oven, remove and reserve, leaving fat in pan.
Brown meat in reserved fat, add brandy and cook a couple of minutes. Add everything else through the carrots, including the onions and bacon. Simmer, covered, 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender. Mix flour and water and add to pot to make gravy, heat through, and serve. Makes 8-10 servings. Serve with noodles or rice, or you can cut up and add some potatoes to it during the cooking and serve it as a one-dish meal.

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For a brief time I was a guest columnist here but life interfered and I’ve been gone quite awhile. It’s been too long. And as my title implies, I have reasons but no excuses.

In January 2008 I got a new job — incredibly challenging. Six weeks later, my mother — who had always been healthy, strong and vibrant and who was 10 years younger than my father — was diagnosed with terminal, metastasized lung cancer. In the middle of this, I started questioning whether or not I wanted to stay in my then-relationship. (I guess the “then” gives away what my decision ultimately was.) My entire life was in upheaval and everything that was not necessary to move forward got put on hold — including the writing.

By March, I’d pretty much decided to leave the relationship but was putting off the actual exit until we could see what effect Mom’s chemo would have on her prognosis. In June, she had her last chemo and was doing so well we were all convinced it had worked wonders. False hope: it shrank the lung tumor but every other tumor grew in the meantime. However, during the time we thought it had worked well enough to make an actual difference in her timeline, two things happened: I told my ex I was leaving, and, that same week, I met face to face someone I had happened to meet online the week before — and knew as soon as I laid eyes on him that I was supposed to be with him forever.

She deteriorated quickly. She died on August 31. Four days before, on her last lucid night, she met the man I married four months to the day later (last Saturday, in fact), and he was with me when she died. I have not begun to assimilate her loss nor the joy my new husband brings me, but I am trying to look both of these huge changes in my life squarely in the eye and take whatever they have to offer.

My mother was a gourmet cook and taught me well. She’d love the idea that I was sharing my recipes here: she not only sent me hundreds of recipes over the years but every time she found a new kitchen gadget she liked, she bought four of them — one for her and one for each of her children. She was a generous woman, and in the name of that generosity, well, I’ll try to get back here more often and share the culinary wealth.

Iced Spiced Ginger Bars

Bars:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teas baking soda
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas ginger
1 teas cloves
1/8 teas salt
1 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
Frosting:
1/3 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teas vanilla
3 or 4 tablespoons water
Oven 350. Grease 13×9 pan. Blend all bar ingredients at low speed until moistened than at medium speed for 2 minutes, bake 350 for 20-30 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool in pan.

For frosting: medium saucepan over low heat, cook butter until light golden brown, stirring constantly. Add remaining frosting ingredients, mix until smooth, pour over bars and allow to harden. Makes 36.

Enjoy!

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It was commented by Seriouswriter (a contributor here), sometime ago, that I should try coating a ham with a 50/50 mixture of brown sugar and mustard. Being distracted by all life has had to offer, it has taken all this time to give it try.

Last night we had some family over for dinner and I thought about this recipe idea. I made a few adjustments and whipped up the glaze (also called a mop) just before putting the ham on the BBQ. The initial review of the sauces smell and flavor was a bit lackluster by my wife, who thought the experiment should wait for a dinner without company. I, however being as stubborn as any mule within sight, went forward with the plan. I thought the sauce was perfect and loved the aroma.

The ham was a Butt half ham weighing about 9 pounds. I laid the ham on the BBQ with the cut side pointing to the side. A person could put the cut side down but I thought that would dry the ham out more. All of the other sides have been through the smoking process already and are able to withstand the heat without as much moisture running out into the flames. Since this is a fairly large piece of meat, I used an indirect cooking method. My BBQ has two burners, so I placed the ham over one burner and used the other to provide the heat. If you don’t have that option make sure you turn the meat two or three times during cooking (Not a bad idea anyway). If you are using briquettes, try to keep the pile to one side and the meat on the other. The downside of cooking such a large piece of meat is that the bottom gets the most heat through the whole cooking process. It could be a bit overdone on one side if you don’t have some way to shield it.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water ( just enough to dissolve to dry ingredients)
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Mustard (I used a spicy deli variety)
  • 1/4 tsp Cloves (ground)
  • 2 Tbs Honey (optional)
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder or 1/2 clove of Garlic (optional)
  • 1 tsp Horseradish (optional)

In a small sauce pan bring the water to a boil and add the brown sugar and spices. After stirring these in and bringing it back to a boil add the mustard. Give it a few minutes to simmer and the mop or sauce is done. Take it and the ham to the preheated grill. Place the ham on the grill and mop down the ham with the sauce. Use a basting brush or your hand to apply the sauce (have a towel handy). Close down the lid and let it cook. Your target cooking temperature is 325 or so, although mine was more like 375 for most of the cooking time. I use a meat thermometer to gauge its progress. The internal temp should be 160 plus and on the 9 pound-er I cooked, this took 4 1/2 hours. The ham should also be mopped with sauce at least 3 times during the cooking process to keep the outside moist.

Our ham turned out very good, even my wife liked the finished product. I kept some of the mop so that it could be used as a sauce on the ham at the table. The outside does dry out a bit but the inside was juicy and tender as could be. It was a big hit. Thanks to Seriouswriter for pointing me in the right direction. It worked great.

Good luck with your next ham dinner. Let me know how you adjusted this recipe for your tastes.

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For most people, getting good sausage is as easy as going to the local store and grabbing a package of bulk sausage.

Some people like to make their own or are curious what it takes to make tasty sausage. So here we go, a short tutorial on this breakfast treat.

First you need trim with enough fat content. Roughly 30 percent. The range for acceptable fat content is fairly flexible but it is necessary to have some fat in sausage. It adds to flavor and texture as well as allowing the meat to hold together in patties for cooking. This isn’t like ground beef where you can select extra lean grind at about 7 percent and get a good result. I would guess anything below 20 percent would be unsatisfactory for most people.

Second you need seasoning. These seasoning can be mixed by your own hand or you can use a good premix. I hope to have list of seasonings you can mix for your own sausage before too long. For now I will give you a couple of good options. For breakfast sausage All American Seasoning has a seasoning for breakfast sausage that has been the standard for meat rooms around the West for decades. It can be a little difficult to come by though. They don’t sell retail. You can find it at meat markets that use the mix. Otherwise there are more brands of seasoning available than I could list. Zach’s have a long list of sausage seasonings as do Vecchi’s. For breakfast sausage, you are looking for country style sausage seasoning. This is a seasoning featuring sage and other spices. There are also fine Italian seasoning available from these outfits. The meat and the process are the same for these two varieties.

Once you have selected your desired flavor there will be a ratio of seasoning to meat. For example 1 lb of seasoning per 25 lbs of meat. For most seasonings I prefer to add a bit extra seasoning. About 5 to 10 percent. The limitation is the salt in the seasoning and how spicy you want your sausage.

  • First, I add the spice to the meat spreading it out fairly evenly.
  • Second I grind the meat and spice mixture with a course plate.
  • Third, I add a little water to the ground meat and mix by hand. The amount of water varies. The meat should be able to absorb the water, so don’t get carried away. If you are running the sausage through a stuffer to make links you will want to add a bit more water.

That’s it. You’ve made sausage. Fry it up or freeze it for another day.

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I’ve gone on and on about the different ways to smoke meat. Finally, I am going to have to pick one and write about it.

So here we go.

First of all, I am most familiar with using a brine to cure and flavor the meat. In a bit of research about what is out there I see quite a few recipes from people that are not worried about using a cure, in addition to salt, for low heat cooking. I think this is a bit risky, especially on poultry and fish, unless you are using a fairly high salt content by today’s standards. In ideal circumstances there would be no problem, but if the meat has a higher bacteria count than normal (maybe Earl at the plant got a bit careless when moving Porkchop to the breakdown area and dropped her on the floor, giving her an unintentional marinade in unmentionables or perhaps you were distracted as you were getting the ham out to put it down in the brine and the game you gave up on became a higher priority than that special project that got a bit warmer than intended before brining) you may wish you Had upped your protection. Point is that a cure is a great insurance policy against the unknown without having to make your brine too salty. The low heat cooking process is a more favorable environment for bacteria than a normal cooking process. The meat will spend twice as long in the ideal range for bacterial growth. So I recommend incorporating a cure in any Low Heat Cooking.

The original cure used in this process is salt. However we have other preservatives we can use, so the level of salt needed is lower and more a factor of taste than necessity. These other preservatives are the dreaded Nitrites, Nitrates, and Phosphates we spent a decade or more fearing. When the big studies were conducted to put the nails in the coffin of preservatives like these, the scientists were red faced to report that there were no links between these preservatives and health problems. In fact they found that there may be some health benefits from them. So when putting together a recipe, I recommend including a cure with your other ingredients or substitute a mix like Morton’s Tender Quick. It includes salt, sugar, nitrites, and nitrates. You use a 1:4 ratio of Tender Quick to water by volume. The directions say 2 cups of Tender Quick to 8 cups of water.

Hot Smoking Similar to Barbecuing but generally done at slightly lower temperatures. Smoke can be used for adding flavor.

Kippering Devised in particular for fish, this process relies on both the curing and cooking of meat. Smoke here is also used as a flavor enhancer.

Cold Smoking The process involved the use of smoke to preserve meat. Today, cures are used to help kill bacteria and parasites. Some people will also use a period of time (3 or more days) in the freezer to eliminate parasites, especially from fish. The cure alone only slows the growth of bacteria.

If I tried to include all of the different sources that contributed to all the ways of smoking meat, we’d have a book or two not a recipe.

That having been said, how about a recipe for something.

First, a good recipe for brine.

  • 1 gallon water (Hot)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole cloves  (ground cloves are fine)
  • 1/4 cup ground nutmeg
  • 6 cinnamon sticks ( ground is fine, but I don’t have an amount for you, My guess 1/4 cup)
  • 1-2 oz of liquid smoke (2-4 Tbs)

The original recipe calls for boiling the mixture.  I combined the ingredients I used very hot water out of the tap and mixed it until the ingredients are dissolved as much as possible.   If the ingredients aren’t dissolving as much as you would like, boil the brine for 20 minutes or so.  Either way make sure the brine is cool or even cold before putting the meat down into it.
I adapted this from About.com And is by Derrick Riches.

I used this recipe because it is the most similar I have found to the recipe we used in the Smokehouse ( Yes, I added and subtracted a bit). The ingredients we used were only available commercially. This recipe does not include any cure, so here are some options. Add 1-2 oz of Tender Quick to the recipe or find a cure with no salt and follow the directions or substitute Tender Quick for the salt and the sugar.

Anytime you are making a brine or marinade you should be able to sample it and get an idea if the ratios are right. It will always be too strong to call tasty but it will give you an idea.

As far as time in the brine, that will vary a lot depending on the type of meat. Something small (A cut of chicken or a fillet of Salmon) can be cured in 8-12 hours. Something large (A Ham) may take 7-10 days. Also anything thicker than 2 inches should have brine pumped into it. We use, shockingly enough, a brine pump for this. It is a giant syringe like device, but with a needle about the size of a large nail, only longer. No you won’t want any flu shots with this. You pump it up like a beach ball and put it down in the brine. This is handy and recommended on hams, shoulders, and even loins.

After the meat is cured, you need to rinse it. For the large cuts, 1 1/2 – 2 hours under running water. It doesn’t need to be running at full tilt, just a light flow around it. In the meat business we use a sink that over flows into another sink, so the meat is immerse. You can use a container that can overflow into you kitchen sink or (raised eyebrow time) a container set in the bath tub overflowing into the tub. (There go the brownie points with the wife) You get the idea, use your imagination and have some good excuses ready.

And finally, you cook it up. An oven will work fine. Set it at about 225 and figure on 6 hours although it could take 8. A meat thermometer is critical here. Small or thin cuts will cook much faster, probably in 3 -4 hours. When it gets to 165, its ready. Remember in lost cases it will be heated up again, so don’t expect this to look like dinner. Smaller cuts may be ready to throw on a plate but the larger cuts normally are going to be cooked again. If you find the outside is getting too well done before the temperature gets to your target, then cut the temperature back to 210 or so. Adjustment is the name of the game.

Smoked meat is a lot of work, but it is very rewarding. I highly recommend that you write down exactly what you do to make your product. It will make adjusting your recipe much easier and since there are so many steps it can be hard to remember what you did a week ago when you made that brine.

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You HAVE to Try This!

Wow, this is good:

Apple Crisp

Filling:

3 huge granny smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced and chunked, or tart apples to fill a 9-inch pie pan

1/2 c sugar

1 teas cinnamon

Topping :

3/4 c flour

1/2 c sugar

1/3 c butter, melted

Oven 400

Grease a 9-inch pie pan or equivalent size casserole dish. Toss the apple pieces with the sugar and cinnamon. Spread in the pan.  Mix the flour and sugar and melted butter well, should be crumbly. Sprinkle over the apples in the pan. Bake 40 minutes. Apply fork to mouth liberally and prepare to defend it from anyone who thinks you have any intention of sharing.

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Maybe you are expecting me to be writing a complaint or rant or something with the “wacky” title. Nope, it’s a recipe. No really!

Neck roast.

This recipe applies for any of the odd (cheaper or tougher) cuts from the Chuck (that is the front quarter on Beef or Venison). For my Neck Roast I used a Venison neck.

A 4-6 lb roast

(you can go bigger but the time will be longer and temp lower.)

2 Cups Brown Sugar

3 Tbs of Cajun Spice (Oregon Flavor Rack)

(OK, you can use your favorite Cajun spicy mix. I’m such a softy)

2-3 Tbs of Garlic Lovers Garlic (Oregon Flavor Rack)

(You can use 1 clove of fresh garlic minced or your favorite 3-4 Tbs of garlic powder)

I combine these dry ingredients in a bowl and then I adjust the flavor for my taste. How? I taste it and add as I see fit. It smells great by the way. I cover or rub the roast with the dry ingredients and then put the roast in a gallon sized Ziploc the night before I plan to cook it. (Yes, planning ahead is optional)

The roast goes in a roaster or roasting pan with some broth or water. I used 3 quarts in a huge roaster, you may want less. This amount of water gave me half an inch in the roaster, for a normal pan 2-3 cups should be plenty. I use the broth for a base for stew in another meal.

I put the roast in for about 3 -4 hours at 350. (These roasts require two things. Time and Water. If it doesn’t dry out it will be very forgiving about extending the cooking time.)
At the half-way point I do three things.

  1. Turn the roast over
  2. Sprinkle garlic and Cajun Spice on the roast. (just a little)
  3. I put potatoes in with the roast. You can use carrots, celery or any hardy veggies you like.

At this point you can also add some salt to taste. I add the salt to the broth and baste the meat, keeping in mind I have plans for the broth. This keeps the meal reasonable on salt content, in case someone is watching their salt intake. Spices from Oregon Flavor Rack are salt free, in case you are wondering. The broth will make great base for gravy, stew, or as au jus.

These roasts aren’t pretty but the flavor is outstanding. The extended cooking time and moisture are needed to help break down the toughness of these cuts, which they do very well.

Make your pain a pleasure, cook it the right way and you’ll be a hero.

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