Life’s a Brisket

Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich

Or a brisket sandwich at least.  Like so many quests in the kitchen and life I began my summer with a goal to smoke a brisket, I am not going to lie I have never smoked a brisket before and I am not had all that much smoked brisket.  But with a bit of patience, alot of hickory and mesquite wood and even more patience, the brisket got done and beyond that it was phenomenal.

Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich

The brisket was good on its own and even better between a couple of slices of bread.  It was juicy and flavor filled and fall apart tender.  But enough bragging here is how it came about.

Tuesday I headed over to a local butcher after work and picked up a 9lb chunk of brisket with a healthy fat cap.  After a little waffling I decided to the only cook half of the brisket and freeze the other half until I was sure I had my brisket technique down, I ended up cooking only the flat part of the brisket.  I then proceeded to trim the fat cap down to about a quarter inch over the entire brisket and scored the fat cap in about a 1 inch grid.

Then it was rub time, I had planned on making my own rub but decided to save that until later, so check back.  I used a Cookshack Brisket Rub I picked up on my last trip to Cabelas, it was MSG free and looked tasty (can’t really smell it in the store) and  I was actually very happy with the rub and will likely use it again.  I digress, I rubbed the meat with a healthy layer of plain boring yellow mustard and then rubbed the brisket with the brisket rub.  From there it was into a sealed container and into the fridge for a night of rest.

Early the next morning before the sun had even decided to rise, I was out tooling around in the garage getting the smoker fired up, water pan filled and the smoker pre-heated to that prime BBQ temperature of 225°F.  Once the smoker was ready to go I added a healthy dose of hickory and mesquite and threw the brisket on the top rack, fat cap up and gave it one last dusting of the rub.

Beef Brisket fresh on the Smoker

Then it was time for the patience, checking in occasionally to make sure it was still smoking and the temperature was still good. One hour, two, three, four and then it was time to spritz with apple juice every hour on the hour.  At hour four I shoved my remove electric thermometer into the middle of the brisket to keep track of the progress and got back to waiting.  Around hour five is when it happened at the internal temperature of 151°F, the dreaded stall and it sat there for five hours before it budged even a single degree, it was frustrating but that is what the patience is for.

One Cooked up Beef Brisket

Finally after 14 hours on the smoker the brisket was done, it reached an internal temperature of 200°F and it was pulled and allowed to rest for about 2 hours.  Then it was time to slice and pull, this was magical.  Upon slicing into the brisket I picked up one half only to have it fall apart in my hands, pulling was never more easy.

Sliced Beef Brisket

Then it was time to enjoy, I ate way more than I should have last night and we had a lunch time feast at lunch at work today and the verdict was unanimous, it was excellent.  Can’t wait to smoke another!

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Canning Banana Peppers

Pickled Banana Peppers

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but summer is winding down, it is coming to an end and in Michigan that means harvest time.  Gardening will be done in another six weeks at most  here in Michigan and right now the bulk of the harvest from my patio garden is ripening, and it is way more than we could possibly consume  before it goes bad.  That means one thing canning.

Pickled Banana Peppers

This is the first year I have grown Banana Peppers, my mother-in-law introduced them to me on pizza and they have been a must have since then.  So when the rabbits destroyed my plants this year, I went out and bought one from the farmers market and low-and-behold they are resilient little plants.  Soon after potting my plant from the farmers market the other two sprung back to life and have grown like weeds ever since.

Being the first year I have grown Banana Peppers this is also the first year I have canned them, I found some recipes online and did a best of both worlds (at least I hope) of the recipes I found.  What I ended up with was a visually pleasing jar of canned Banana Peppers, that in spite of several warning I tried before the advised 5-6 weeks tasted pretty much like what I expected.  The only difference is my expectations we based on what you get in the store and these have so much more flavor.

So without further ado here is the recipe per pint jar, I canned them as they came in as opposed to one big batch at a time and only wrote down the recipe I used per jar.

Ingredients
4-5 banana peppers (sliced into rings)
1/2 clove garlic (chopped)
1 c white vinegar
1/2 tsp pickling salt
1/8 tsp turmeric (for color)

Instructions
Place turmeric, salt and vinegar in a sauce pan and boil until salt if dissolved.  If you have not done so already, slice peppers into rings.  Pack garlic and peppers into a hot sterile jar, cover with vinegar solution leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Remove air bubbles with a non metallic utensil.  Cap jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Let sit for 5-6 weeks before eating (they are good before that too).

I also did jalapenos the same way, just omitted the turmeric.  They also turned out great.  Check back soon to see what else is cooking.

UPDATE: Make sure you add a pinch of alum powder to each jar or you will have mushy banana peppers, I did not do this with the first batch and they soon turned mushy. 🙁

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Waffles From Scratch

Waffle on a plate

Growing up I liked to eat waffles, we had them every Sunday morning it was tradition in our home.  Dad would get up and make waffles every Sunday we would pile them high with way too much brown sugar or drench them in more than enough Maple Syrup, but they were always good.  Well when my wife and I got married we got a waffle maker and I am ashamed to say that until this past weekend I had not touched it, one year had elapsed and we had not so much as made a single waffle.  Well that changed and we will be making waffles more than once in the following years.

Being that I knew absolutely nothing about making any kind of waffle that did not originate in box (I am ashamed to say), I was pleasantly surprised when one day a tweet from @thefoodgeek about waffles from scratch broke my concentration.  Now making waffles is not my specialty, so the recipe looked really simple and we gave it a whirl.

Waffle on a plate

It was almost like making waffles from a box except you have to plan ahead a little the night before and start the batter, then in the morning, add the eggs and cook them like you would cook a box waffle.  It was simple and they were really quite tasty.

Ingredients
2 c flour
2 c milk
8 tbsp butter, melted and cooled (we used margarine, blasted allergies)
1/2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla ( the original recipe called for 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon ( to original recipe called for 1 tsp, but it seemed like to much for my palette)
2 eggs

Instructions
The night before mix dry ingredients.  Stir in milk, butter and vanilla until it is mixed well.  Cover and let it sit out overnight.  The next morning separate the egg whites from yolks, mix the yolks into the batter.  Whip the whites and fold them into the batter.  Pour the batter on a waffle iron and enjoy when cooked.

Adapted from A Year from Scratch – Simply Amazing Waffles

I didn’t change much in the original recipe but I did increase the vanilla and decrease the cinnamon to match my tastes.  It is probably pretty incredible the way it is written up on A Year From Scratch, but I really like my vanilla.  There are some other great recipes and cooking information over at A Year From Scratch that are worth reading through, make sure you check them out.

One last note, these waffles freeze incredibly well, just let them cool throw them in a zip lock and freeze.  Then pull them out and toast like a toaster waffle, they make a pretty wicked toaster waffle.

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Apple Cider Brined Smoked Pork Chops

Apple Cider Brined Smoked Pork Chops

So many people have raved about apple cider brined pork chops and smoked pork chops that I had to see what all the fuss was about.  Well now I know, they didn’t knock my socks off but they were certainly good enough to make again and when paired with my made from scratch bbq sauce, it was a match made in heaven.  They were delectable.

Apple Cider Brined Smoked Pork Chops

Looks expensive doesn’t it, well it doesn’t have to be.  In addition to being inexpensive, it was crazy easy to make.  All that is involved is an over night soak in the brine detailed below, a quick dusting with any seasoning you want.  I used a little bit of BBQ 3000 just to give it a little more and then a quick (2 hourish) jaunt on the smoker at 225°F with some apple wood.  I cooked them up until the internal temperature was 165°F, pulled them and let them rest for a short while, before cutting into these juicy and mighty tasty pork chops.

Ingredients
4 c apple cider (not juice)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c kosher salt
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp chile powder
1 c boiling water

Instructions
Mix sugar and salt into boiling water until dissolved.  Cool mixture.  Mix together apple cider, chile powder, vinegar and water mixture.  Place pork chops in a 1 gallon zip lock bag, pour in brine and fill remaining space with cold water.  Refrigerate over night in brine, remove, season and smoke.

Like I said this recipe will be sticking around next time it might not be chops, it might be another cut of meat.  It would also make a great base for some other marinade, just adjust the seasonings.  Please tell me it at least made you hungry to look at.

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BBQ Sauce from Scratch

Good BBQ sauce will not rescue a poorly cooked (bad) piece of meat, sure it might add a little moisture but it will still be a bad piece of meat.  With that said, good BBQ sauce will complement a well cooked piece of meat nicely and even make a bad piece of meat desirable, if that sauce is just that good.  Face it no one likes to be seen eating BBQ sauce off a spoon, but this sauce is just that good, you could eat it off a spoon with no meat and other than the looking foolish you would be content.

Apple Smoked BBQ SauceUnlike simply squirting BBQ Sauce out of a bottle this sauce took some work.  It started its journey on the stove in the house, but only long enough to thoroughly mix all the ingredients.  From there it was onto the grill with a huge chunk of hickory to further cook down and get that great smokey flavor that really sets this sauce apart.

BBQ Sauce cooking on the grillOne note about the picture above, even though the chunk of hickory is engulfed in flames in the picture, it did not remain that way once the lid was in place, the rush of oxygen upon removing the lid allowed it to burst into flames.  A chunk of wood in flames like that above will not produce nearly enough adequate smoke to flavor the BBQ sauce properly.

Ingredients
1 15oz can of tomato sauce
2 c apple cider
4 cloves of garlic pressed
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (white vinegar would work as well)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chile powder
1 tbsp thickener (cornstarch, flour, etc)

Instructions
Start by combining liquid ingredients in a sauce pan (one safe for the grill) on the stove over medium heat and bringing to a boil.  Stir frequently.  Once the liquid is boiling add in everything else except the thickener, stir and boil until the sauce begins to reduce slightly.  It should smell amazing at this point.  Slowly stir in thickener.  At this point prep the grill (fire up the chimney and get the smoking wood ready) and move the pan to the grill when it is ready and place it on the opposite side of the grill from the heat, add smoking wood and leave to cook uncovered.  Stir the sauce every 15-20 minutes, it should be simmering nicely.  Remove the sauce from the grill when it is thickened to the desired consistency.

It is a tangy sweet BBQ sauce and it is so tasty it has boldness and depth that I have no found in a bottled BBQ sauce and it is pretty simple to make, this is going on the list of favorites.  Before cooking the sauce I did wipe the inside of the pan down with a thin film of canola oil to make cleanup simpler, and it helped, the baked on sauce just came off under the faucet and the scrubbing was minimal.  Just be sure to use a pan you can live with being a slightly different color when you are done on the outside.

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