Ah, the Wonders of the Internet Age…

For the last few weeks, I’ve been IM’ing back and forth with a friend I have only known online (since around 1999 I believe) as he’s been reading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  I LOVE sharing in real-time reactions to the story.  It’s one of those things that a post, made on Facebook hours after one reads a section of story, just can’t match. 

Now, he has a little more than 2 hours left.  I’m just a bit more excited than I should be.

Advertisements

Scotch Eggs

Scotch Eggs

As a follow-up to my Sausage Making post (Click the Picture), here is the finished Scotch Egg (once of them at least). These are hard-boiled eggs, rolled in corn flour, with a blanket of sausage wrapped around them, then rolled in bread crumbs. These were then baked (rather than fried) till the sausage was cooked through. A handheld breakfast that is EXCELLENT dipped in mustard.

Making Sausage, round 1

I have a love for sausage-Scotch Eggs, Country Gravy, and Gumbo all wouldn’t be the same (or anything) without it.  I never have it in the house though.  It’s pricey, for the size you get, and because of that, I only buy it when I plan on making something requiring it (which is rare, again, because of the price), and more often than not if it requires a trip to the store, that just means that I will find something else to make.

So, I decided to give sausage-making a go.  Really, it’s not that hard looking.  I didn’t plan on making them into links (this time), only leaving it in a ground form and a few patties, so that made it easier, right?  Yup!  The hardest part was that I needed spices.  My stockpile had dwindled and not been replaced.  Since I needed to replace spices anyways, I’m not counting the cost of the sausage (even though it would not add much to the cost of the final product). 

We bought a pork shoulder roast that was just a bit over 11 lbs (bone-in.  Shopping was done close to closing, and the meat department was in process of cleaning up.  No reason to make them stay later than they needed to just to save me a little time later to have the roast deboned).  In the picture below, I mapped out the process, Left to Right, Top to Bottom.

First, I chilled the roast in the freezer.  It needed to be cold enough to help keep any food-borne illnesses at bay while I removed the bone.  I goofed on the timing, and it was a little more frozen than I would have liked, which made it a bear to cut.  But, I did get it all cut off the bone, in 3 sections.  Since the sections were all approximately 2 lbs each (I didn’t try, it magically worked out this way!), I decided to do 3 different recipes to see which was the best for us.  Once I had a section cubed, it went back into the freezer to get icy. Once icy, into the meat grinder it went.  I have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer (6.5 quart, Professional Series).  If you want a “gadget” for the kitchen, get a Kitchen Aid.  We had a 4 quart one while I was growing up (which I still have.  One of my girls will get it when they are older), and it’s well worth the investment.  The grinder attachment cost me just around $14 off Amazon.  I previously had one, but it, and other attachments were lost in a move, so I will be replacing them…eventually.

Being a little frozen, the meat was a little hard to get caught in the “worm” (spiral piece that pulls the meat to the die), but once they started to loosen up a little, it was a fast bit of work.  I ground the pork on the large die, the same I use for hamburger, since I like the texture.  If I was doing links, I think I would use the smaller die.  I ground it directly into the Kitchen Aid’s bowl, which also was in the freezer, to help keep the food temperatures in a safe range, and to which I added the spices.  Once that section of meat was ground, I placed the bowl on the Kitchen Aid, and mixed the spices into the meat.  I let it mix until it looked right.  After it mixed, I made a small patty, and cooked it, to check the mixture.  YUM!  Three separate recipes, all with good points, were finished in little more than 2 hours.  A good portion of that time, however, was me getting the meat off the bone, and waiting for the meat to chill.  (BTW, after boiling the bone for a while, my dog had a nice little treat).

 

Image

I have a few things to do differently next time around.  First, I WILL have the roast deboned in the grocery store.  I’m lucky to have a regional supermarket which boasts a full service meat counter/butcher, and they are trained to do this.  It’s a skill I need to develop, but I will need a proper deboning knife.  I had, actually, some of their old knives at one time, but I think those were also lost in the move.  Secondly, I will raise the percentage of fat.  The sausage is good as is, but it’s a little drier than I would like.  It’s ok for most things as a secondary ingredient, but as a sausage patty on it’s own?  It doesn’t quite have the greasiness required.  And lastly, less heat.  One of the recipes, in particular, called for a good portion of cayenne pepper.  It was a little spicier than I would like, and way more than my girls were comfortable with.  I might not completely eliminate it, but I will reduce it by 2/3’s, test it, then add a little more if needed.

Total, I ended up with 7 lbs, 13 oz of sausage for under $15.  Given that Farmer John sausage chubs are around $3.50 for 1.5 lbs, I count this as a total win.  If I had purchased the roast when it was on sale, I could cut my cost in half.

Why go through this, when I can buy it?  I like knowing how to do things such as this.  I also like knowing what is in my food.  I’m not adding fillers, or ingredients I know I can’t have (MSG anyone?).  And, I had a weird issue with biting into something that should be soft, and hitting a piece of gristle.  Ugh!  Once that happens, I can’t eat it at all.  That means, one bite, and I’m done.  It’s a textural issue, but it’s bad enough that I had to find a way around my issue.

 

What a year!

Wow, just wow.  I have finally had a moment to breathe, between work, kids, and the various project I took upon myself.  I work in an industry which has a busy season, and from January 1st through late Spring (usually!) has lived up to the hype.  Maybe more so.  This year has yet to really slow down, and although I received a promotion, that just means I have more duties than before.

But, it’s all good.  It keeps a roof over my head, and food on the table.  I do miss adding items to the blog, even if it’s just a little here and there that no one but me would care about.  It’s cathartic.  I don’t have a lot of outside-the-home contact given that I telecommute for my job.  It works with my introverted personality, but even I need SOME sort of human interaction, other than my kids (whom I love) or the husband.

So, here goes for round 2 of the blog!

Today’s Project, completed

I buy groceries once every 2 weeks, which means if I forget something (or use it up), I’m going to be waiting on my next check to get it.  So, I forgot to pick up sugar last check, and my baking binge went through what I did have on hand. 

Well, that just means that I needed to find something else to occupy my time.  This year, I plan on cutting down on my stash of yarn.  I have quite a bit of it, from both my own purchases, and from my husband’s uncle’s destashing efforts.  I decided to make a hat.  I decided to do a knit hat, found a pattern through Ravelry.com, and went to work on it.

Since I am a novice knitter, this took 2-3 days to complete, though IF I had actually sat and worked on it more than a few minute at a time, I think it would have been a one-day project.

Pattern: Nesaia

Image

The BEST Foot Warmer

The BEST Foot Warmer

This is Sherlock, my 10 month old kitty. He is a cave dweller, and will insist I make him a cave/tent using a blanket when I am at the computer, so he can go in and sleep between and on my feet. And, since my heater is broken, I am not going to turn him away! He has fur that feels like a rabbit, and is a big cat, so he definitely puts out a lot of heat.

Premade Oatmeal in a Jar

Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast foods.  I grew up having it with milk and sugar (and sometimes cinnamon), whereas my grandmother would have it with butter and pepper.  My oldest daughter is an oatmeal fiend!  Every morning she would ask for oatmeal, and since I’m working in my office when it’s breakfast time, and their dad is a zombie in the morning, it made it difficult to make it for her.  We did try out the instant oatmeal packets…no.  Just, no.  It’s too expensive for what you get, and the amount of sugars is so much higher than I would normally use for myself, let alone for my daughter.  And, frankly, there is a lot of waste packaging with those as well.

I came across websites showing what they called refrigerator oatmeal, where it’s already mixed with liquids and fruits in canning jars, and set in the fridge for when needed.  It was interesting, but my fridge has limited usable space.  So, when I seen THIS post from Attainable Sustainable, I figured that this was the BEST solution for us.

I picked up a flat of half-pint jars, and (once washed) added oats, honey, powdered milk, and cinnamon (using the Smidgen measuring spoon) to each jar.  In the morning, Lizzy (who will be 9 in 16 days!) uses the Keurig to measure out water in a 1 cup measuring cup that has a good pouring spout, and adds just enough water to the jar.  She then shakes it a couple times, and leaves it to sit on the counter while she uses the bathroom, gets dressed, or gets her hair brushed. 

She loves them.  Seriously, I wasn’t sure if she would like it.  It’s always a risk with kids, right?  But, she’s already begged for me to make more.  Her sister doesn’t like oatmeal, and eats her cereal dry most of the time.  I’m planning on jarring up some of the cereal for her since she keeps telling me it’s “a really good idea mom”.  In Lily-speak, that means she wants a jar too. 

I plan on trying to add some dried fruit to the oatmeal (and cereal) once I replace my dehydrator.  Perhaps some seeds or nuts as well.  My non-oatmeal eater WILL eat rice with milk and sugar, and asks for that a LOT.  I may try out a Minute rice in a jar, made like the oatmeal, and see how it goes.  IF that works out, I will make her some jars with rice.  Image