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Archive for the ‘Spice’ Category

We use salt in our daily lives all the time without much thought. It’s just one of those things we have on the table and throw around freely. When we are cooking, however, the salt we chose can make a noticeable difference in the final result. Yes, there are many choices we have to make in our lives and now I’ve added a new one. My apologies for adding to the complexity of life.

It’s a surprise to many people that not all salt is created equal. The table salt most people use to fill their salt shakers at home is not pure salt. Most salt has iodine added to it, as a solution to a shortage of the element in most people’s diet. This is the ubiquitous Iodized Salt. In addition to iodine, table salt and some other fine pour-able salts have sodium ferrocyanide added to prevent caking. These additives have benefits but for some recipes they have drawbacks. In canning these ingredients will make the liquids cloudy. They can also contribute an off flavor for brine’s and dry cures. When you want absolute control of the appearance and flavor of your creation take salts with these ingredients off the list.

In addition to the purity issue, there are differences in the coarseness of available salts. Popcorn salt for example is very fine. Table salt is normally fairly fine. Canning and pickling salts and kosher salts are fairly coarse. Rock salt is left as crystals that are not ground. These salts can be mined or extracted from sea water through evaporation. They are normally made without additives and are largely the same in terms of content but they will react different in recipes and have different purposes because of how quickly they dissolve. Kosher Salt for example gets its name because it is used to help make meats kosher by extracting the last of the blood from meats. It’s coarseness prevents the salt from being absorbed fully before the blood is picked up by the salt.
In addition to these differences, there are salts available that have flavors added to them. They can have fruit flavors added for use in tropical drinks, smoke flavors used for dry curing, and even pickle flavored salt used for… well I was surprised at how popular pickle flavored salt was for making chips, burgers or your favorite side dish have that pickle taste. (Not to be confused with pickling salt which has no flavor added to it.)

Smoked flavored salts are very useful in dry cures. This is especially true if you are cooking the meat in an oven where smoke can’t be introduced. They are normally pure so the only thing they add is that smoky salt flavor to your recipe.

Knowing what is available and how it can be used can be very helpful when preparing to dive into that special recipe. The coarseness of the salt will also effect its volume when measuring it for a recipe. So until you get a handle on how it will change your recipe, use a little less salt. Then add to flavor. It won’t take long to get the right amount.

I have a variety of salts in the IGT Store so you can see some of the available offerings.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope the added complication added to your life is worthwhile.

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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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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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Our final stop on this tour of my favorite spices and the companies behind them is Zach’s Spice Company. They offer a huge selection of spices for a variety of cooking needs. Whether you need BBQ rubs, jerky spices, sausage making ingredients, or seasonigs for a variety of dishes you can make at home, Zach’s has something for you. Again, like the other companies I have not tries everything they offer. Not even close but what I have tried and continue to use is good stuff. From their website

Zach’s Spice Company has been providing the highest quality products and customer service to the food industry for over 30 years. We service customers in different parts of the country with a wide variety of products.

Zach’s Spice Company provides spices and blended seasonings to restaurants, grocery stores, meat and sausage processors, and home consumers. Only the best of ingredients are used to meet the high standards of the food business.

Their Barbeque Spicey Rub is excellent. It’s full of flavor an not too salty, so I can slather it on as thick as I like. The complaint I have had with other fine rubs is that their salt content was a hindrance to it’s heavy use where a person wanted more flavor. Not with Zach’s.

If you prefer a sweeter flavor their Barbeque Sweet Style Rub is quite good. Some people don’t want a lot of spice on their BBQ. In these instances I use this sweet rub. Again not too salty, so you can decide how much flavor you want.

In addition to these products they offer many other rubs, batters, sausage and jerky seasoning, and seasonings for making soups, chili, and other dishes.

I can recommend them based on my good experience with their products. You can order them online at Zachspice.com or find them in meat departments around the country.

When looking to add a spice, marinade, or other ingredient to your arsenal it is nice to know what you are getting into. Having a recommendation from someone else can help save some time in trying to find that new thing. All of the spices I mentioned in these three posts are ones I use, and I did not get a thing from the manufacturers (darn it). These will work on their own or make a good base for you to expand on in your masterpieces.

Please let us know how these things work for you or recommend your own ingredients you’ve used in making ‘The Good Stuff’ in your house.

I hope this is useful and Keep Cooking

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Our final stop on this tour of my favorite spices and the companies behind them is Zach’s Spice Company.  They offer a huge selection of spices for a variety of cooking needs.  Whether you need BBQ rubs, jerky spices, sausage making ingredients, or seasonigs for a variety of dishes you can make at home, Zach’s has something for you.  Again, like the other companies I have not tries everything they offer.  Not even close but what I have tried and continue to use is good stuff.  From their website
 

Zach’s Spice Company has been providing the highest quality products and customer service to the food industry for over 30 years. We service customers in different parts of the country with a wide variety of products.

 

Zach’s Spice Company provides spices and blended seasonings to restaurants, grocery stores, meat and sausage processors, and home consumers. Only the best of ingredients are used to meet the high standards of the food business.

Their Barbeque Spicey Rub is excellent.  It’s full of flavor an not too salty, so I can slather it on as thick as I like.  The complaint I have had with other fine rubs is that their salt content was a hindrance to it’s heavy use where a person wanted more flavor.  Not with Zach’s.

If you prefer a sweeter flavor their Barbeque Sweet Style Rub is quite good.  Some people don’t want a lot of spice on their BBQ.  In these instances I use this sweet rub.  Again not too salty, so you can decide how much flavor you want.

In addition to these products they offer many other rubs, batters, sausage and jerky seasoning, and seasonings for making soups, chili, and other dishes. 

I can recommend them based on my good experience with their products.  You can order them online at Zachspice.com or find them in meat departments around the country.

When looking to add a spice, marinade, or other ingredient to your arsenal it is nice to know what you are getting into.  Having a recommendation from someone else can help save some time in trying to find that new thing.  All of the spices I mentioned in these three posts are ones I use, and I did not get a thing from the manufacturers (darn it).  These will work on their own or make a good base for you to expand on in your masterpieces. 

Please let us know how these things work for you or recommend your own ingredients you’ve used in making ‘The Good Stuff’ in your house.

I hope this is useful and Keep Cooking

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As we continue looking at some spices I use in my cooking, and the companies behind them, I am taken back to my time in the Meat Department. Quite a bit of what I learned about meat comes from that time, including my experience with Vecchi’s Seasonings.

We used spices from several different companies in the Meat Department in the making of pre-seasoned main courses and for making sausages of different types. I used Vecchi’s Italian Sausage seasonings and their Poketta Seasoning. In fact I still use those today.

Here is a description of the company from their website:

 

 

 

About Vecchi’s Seasonings

Vecchi Seasonings, Inc., is a family owned business that has been successfully marketing their special blend of seasonings since 1989. It is owned and operated by Ann Vecchi and her son David P. Vecchi. The first products introduced to the market were our private blend of Vecchi’s Italian Porketta Seasoning, Vecchi’s Sweet Italian Sausage Seasoning, Vecchi’s Hot Italian Sausage Seasoning, and Vecchi’s Country Sausage Seasoning. These blends are used in bulk by numerous meat departments to make their own porketta roasts and sausages for their trade.Due to many requests from our patrons we developed the retail jars. Now the seasonings are available for the user to use at home. Our line of seasonings has now grown from the four original blends to nine, offering a unique variety of special flavors.Our seasoning blends are all natural with no additives, preservatives or MSG. We have them available in four different sizes. Bulk (10 pound boxes), PC1, PC5, and Retail Jars.

The Porketta pork roast recipe in the post titled ‘A Pork Roast Surprise!’ is done, at least in my kitchen, using Vecchi’s. The blend of spices is perfect for Pork Roast. Complex and flavorful but not overpowering.

Vecchi’s Seasonings have a very good reputation in meat departments around the country. Again, I find that this company has a larger selection of spices than I was aware of. I sense a ‘spice’ buying spree coming on. Vecchi’s will be on that list.

Their products come in a variety of sizes and they have a gift pack so we can try their whole line. You may also find these products in your favorite Meat Department. That’s actually where I get mine. They also take phone and fax orders if you can’t find it nearby.

Our final company is in Part Three

Brutus

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Cooking is like any other bit of art. Whether made with paint or music, the artist is the ingredient that differentiates between one piece of work and another.

The same is true for cooking. The dish may be the same between two cooks and the ingredients largely the same, but the way they are combined makes each unique. So I can post an idea about a meal and when you make it, it will be your version or interpretation of that recipe. That is one of the fun parts about cooking.

That having been said, I think it is helpful to know what other people use in their recipes. So I am writing today about a few of the spices I use and the companies who make them. I hope these are tools and paints you will find useful in your works of culinary art.

First on our list is Oregon Flavor Rack.

By now it’s not hard to guess this is an Oregon based company. Here is an excerpt from their website to give you an overview.

I am the “Spiceman”!! I was born under the name David Johns on July 24th in The SpicemanHartford, Connecticut, along with my beautiful twin sister Diana, we were the second set of twins in the Johns family. Diana and I are number nine and ten of eleven children of Gladys and Kenneth Johns, who so graciously gave their love, time, wisdom and oh so important their discipline. When I was 7 years old, my family relocated to San Francisco, California, this is where I spent the remainder of my childhood and part of my adult life. I grew up in the heart of the city (in the Potrero Hill and the Fillmore Districts)……

….In the fall of 1991, we decided to create Oregon Flavor Rack, a quality line of salt free seasonings and gourmet condiments. We also manufactured custom blends for restaurants, as well as wholesale manufacturers. The business was started in our home; the products were actually made and packaged in our converted garage.

Within a few months we quickly out grew the garage and secured our first warehouse facility. It was a day to rejoice when we needed to expand and we took over the lease and all of the warehouse space. It was also just in time because shortly after we applied for and were accepted to participate in QVC “Quest for America’s Best: 50/50 tour.” At this juncture in the business, this was the largest order Oregon Flavor Rack had filled. I was extremely proud of my staff, who at that time was comprised of injured workers involved in a Preferred Workers program offered through SAIF Corporation and the state of Oregon.

Currently Oregon Flavor Rack is still a family owned business. Our products are marketed through Natural Food Stores, The Wild Oats chain and the Market of Choice stores, in the California, Oregon and Washington state areas. Our products can also be purchased through approximately 35-trades shows we attend each year and may also be purchased via our web site: SPICEMAN.COMor by telephone at: 1-800 Salt-Fre..e

They have an extensive line of products available. Enough that I can’t describe them all and haven’t even tried them all.(shame on me) I can tell you that they have quality products and they are definitely worth a try. Specifically I have used their Garlic Lover’s Garlic. This is not dried granulated garlic powder.(Vampires Beware) It is oily chunks of garlic seasoning. It is the most intense garlic seasoning I have ever seen. If you want more intensity you’ll have to grow it and concentrate it yourself.

They also have many other spices, specializing in salt free varieties. They have a salt free BBQ rub, which is handy for those who avoid salt for whatever reason. Other salt free spice mixes include Cajun Spice, Herb de Provence(a blend of French spices), Italian Herb Blend and several other interesting combinations.

They also have a variety of sauces. Dare I say, exotic sauces. Just the descriptions make my mouth water.

They also offer their spices in a variety of sizes. So if you are a ‘Jumbo Spicer’, they have the tools for you. If you are like me and just want to try a little dab of each of their products, they have ‘Gift Sets’. Including one which includes all of their available spices. Yeah, I think I will start there, next time I order.

The next company will be in part two

Brutus

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