Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Learned How To Smoke For My Dad......

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I know what you're thinking!  I'm not talking about that - I'm talking about smoking meats.  Ok, so it doesn't really go with the title of the blog, Daddio came over to celebrate Father's Day and he loves ribs!

One of the coolest things I've purchased this summer is my new smoker!  I got it at Home Depot for $40.00.  It is so easy to use - I've been smoking meat ever since!

Today, I decided to smoke some ribs and brisket for my dad.  To do this, I first put a rub on the meat (brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder).  You can make your rubs with any spice.  If you want it hotter, add some cayenne!  If you want it sweet, add some brown sugar!  Play around with any combination of spices and rub it in the meat!

Once I put the spices on the meat, I had to water down some wood.  I bought hickory wood for the smoke.  I've also tried cherry wood and apple wood.  It has all been great!  While the wood is soaking, I started a charcoal fire in the bottom of the smoker.

Once the charcoal fire has started, I insert a water pan.  Then I have two grill tops for the meat.  Some people experiment and put lemons, oranges, and spices in the water pan.  I haven't tried that yet but it sounds like a great idea!

When the lid is on the smoker, it will tell you if the inside is too hot, at ideal temperature, or not hot enough.  When the temperature starts to go down, I simply opened up the door on the smoker and inserted new charcoal and/or wood.  It is sooooo simple! 

The only downfall to smoking meat (if there is one) is that it takes a long time.  I had 3 slabs of ribs and a large brisket in the smoker for 7 hours.  I could have taken it out earlier than that, but my sister was running late (very unlike her - sarcastic tone in my voice).

When we carved the brisket, there was a large "smoke ring."  This is a pinker area on the outside of the meat,  When you smoke meat, pink is a good thing - just make sure that you use a meat thermometer to make sure it is done.

Anyway, the dinner was great!  Smoked ribs, brisket, baked beans, corn on the cob, and deviled eggs.  And of course, we had fresh cherry and blueberry cobbler for dessert!  The meal was great but spending time with my family was the best of all!  God has truly blessed me!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Canning Cherry Preserves!

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This recipe is listed on Marvelous Mondays and The Chicken Chick

I'm going to start my journey learning how to can food, and I can't think of anything better to start with than cherries!  I love cherries, but never eat them because of the dreaded pits.........To help with this problem, I bought myself a cherry pitter (Target, $11.00).  It is messy but sooooo easy! 

To start the canning process I had to do some research.  I learned that there are two ways to can:  water bath and pressure cooker.  If your food is high in acid (fruits, tomatoes, pickles, etc.) you can use the water bath method.  I'll tackle the pressure cooker another time!

To start, I had to get messy!  Here I am using my new gadget - the cherry pitter!

It took me a little while but I found it was a great way to relax.  I put on my favorite radio station (JOY FM  99.1) and spent some time with Jesus!  After that I had a bowl full of cherries!

Once the cherries were pitted, it was a breeze!  I started with 6 cups of cherries in a pot.  I turned the burner on medium heat.  While that was heating up, I had my HUGE stockpot full of water - had to get it ready to boil!  To the cherries I added 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of apple juice.  Once that was stirred in and warm, I added 6 Tablespoons of pectin.  Once the pectin was incorporated, I stirred in 2 cups of sugar.  You can add more if you want it sweeter but I found that the cherries, with the apple juice, was sweet enough.

As I'm worked on the cherries I was also preparing the jars for canning.  I simply put the jars in the hot water for a minute or so to get them hot.  I also put in the jar lids and seals.  You need to make sure the seals are put in hot water right before you need them because you are actually loosening up the gummy part of the seal.

Once you have all of the ingredients in the pot, the cherries need to come to a roiling boil for 2 minutes.  A roiling boil is one where it doesn't stop boiling even while you are stirring.  When that was finished, I used a canning funnel to add the cherries to my hot jars.  I filled them to the top, leaving only 1/4 inch head space.

Once you have filled the jars, I took a spoon and stirred it around in the jar.  You want to make sure you don't have any pockets of air.  After that, I took a paper towel and wiped the rims of the jars.  Then, I put the seals and tightened the lid.

The final step is to put the jars in boiling water and leave them to process for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, I took the jars out and set them on a cooling rack.  Very quickly I heard the "pop, pop, pop" of the cans.  As they cool, they create a vacuum seal.  Once the jars cooled, I pressed on the lid to make sure they were tight.  If you are able to press and the lid gives a little, the jar didn't process.  You can try to process it again in the water bath or simply refrigerate and use that jar first!

This was super easy!  Anyone can do this!  If you don't feel like pitting the cherries, you can use frozen, or try another fruit.  There are some great recipes for jams and jellies! 

I love Pinterest and find most of my recipes there.  I also purchased Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.  There are so many ideas and variations out there.  Go ahead - try it!