My husband teases me because every Christmas my gifts are all related to food. This Christmas I got a smoker, which had been on back order, and it just arrived. This is a Pit Boss gas smoker, and we tried it for the first time this weekend. I got a Boston butt on sale for 97 cents a pound, which we served with an Eastern Carolina sauce, along with chicken leg quarters and smoked baked beans.
The beans were delicious! Next time, I will add more jalapenos.
For dessert, I made a blackberry cobbler. I have to say, blackberry is my favorite pie filling! I used four quarts of home canned items for this meal – yellow squash, pork and beans (2 quarts), and blackberry pie filling. I really enjoy “shopping” my panty for high quality and inexpensive ingredients.
We had no idea what we were doing, so I didn’t detail our first smoking adventure to write about. However, next time we smoke, I will take pictures and include instructions. The smoked chicken leg quarters were a favorite of this meal.
Speaking of meat, I’ve been doing a lot of processing meat purchases. I told my husband, it’s fun to throw 85 pounds of well-priced meat in the cart, but then you must pay the piper when it comes to preserving. With that much meat, you better get it frozen right away, or start polishing off those canning jars. We got 81 percent ground beef for $2.13, chicken leg quarters for 38 cents, and bacon at $2.60 a pound. The bacon was easy because we just had to weigh it and freeze by the pound. With the chicken, I put about a quarter of that box right in my electric roaster for soup and stock, and froze the rest. I jarred some ground beef in pasta sauce, some in beef broth, but most went into the freezer. I’d like to get a couple more rolls to can meatballs in red sauce, as it’s my favorite pantry staple.
I browned my ground beef with garlic, green peppers and onions in my big roasting pan. I drained the meat twice before jarring, since I browned 10 pounds at a time. A 10 pound roll of 81 percent, drained ground beef fills five quart jars.
I also got brisket for $2.69 a pound, so we bought a 14 pounds all in one piece. Since we have never cooked with brisket before, half is for smoking, and the other half is for corned beef. I’ve never corned beef before but I’m really excited to see how it turns out. Currently, my piece of brisket is in brine for 9 days. Here’s my beautiful corning brine.
Besides getting some great meat deals, I also scored baby carrots for 17 cents a pound. I canned 7 quarts in honey water, and 17 pints in beef broth. If I could do it all over, I would can more in honey water – they are really delicious, and taste exactly like Cracker Barrel honey carrots. Next time I make these, I will measure out the honey to water ratio and write a post.
Over Christmas break, I also made some fun condiments. I always buy my Thai sweet and hot chili sauce at Trader Joe’s, but I saw a recipe in Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving for this same sauce, so I gave it a try. Like most things homemade as opposed to store bought, this sauce (page 281 ) turned out fresher and zippy. The only thing I changed was, I used Clear-Jel to thicken the sauce. I dip my pot stickers and egg rolls in the sauce, but I also use as a base for Asian salad dressing. I won’t have to can this for another two years. I had all the ingredients on hand, and this was a very economical recipe. I’m saving money for a much better product.
Grainy mustard is a bit pricey, so I decided to make it myself. I had everything on hand for this condiment as well, with the exception of brown mustard seeds which I picked up at an Indian grocery store. This mustard is fresh, and very spicy! I used some in my smoked baked beans.
While I was at the Indian grocery I discovered at Hispanic store nearby. I really enjoy ethnic grocery stores because of their unique ingredients. I’ve been wanting some dried chilies to experiment with for authentic enchilada sauce, so I picked up two different kinds of chilies and other fun items. I grabbed corn husks for tamales, Mexican oregano, and cacao beans. I’ve never made tamales before, and can’t wait give them a try, and for the first time I cooked with Mexican oregano. Even though I’ve always cooked with interesting herbs like lavender and barbecue rosemary, I never knew there was such a difference between common oregano and Mexican. When I opened the Mexican oregano package, a fragrant lime scent emitted. I’ll always have this herb on-hand now, and intend on growing it as well.
I’m using the cacao beans to make chocolate extract. I smashed the beans and am soaking them in vodka. In about 5 more months I hope to decant a lovely, chocolate extract. Here’s my chocolate extract in the making.
I really enjoy having homemade meal helpers, and decided to add sweet and sour sauce to my shelf.
I watched a video from Linda’s Pantry, and she gives instructions for a perfectly balanced sweet and sour sauce. Her measurements for Clear-Jel are spot-on as well. I didn’t add the extra pineapple juice Linda used, but I did everything else exact. I can my own pineapple chunks, and used three quarts of those instead of an industrial can. I plan on using this over meatballs, pork and chicken. Can or freeze meatballs and pour this sauce for a quick weeknight meal, or pop open a jar of home canned chicken or pork as your protein. Here is a link to Linda’s video. Check out her channel!
Besides my corned beef, my next food adventure will be preserving leftover nuts from the holidays, before they go rancid. Yes, I know I can freeze, but my freezers are slam-full so I need to get creative. Stay tuned!