Smoking a Chicken (or 2)

On our farm we raise both chickens for meat, and chickens for eggs. This means we often have to deal with roosters from the egg laying breeds and they are definitely not in the same  class as the meat birds. As a result, I most often simply keep them whole and use them for chicken stew and such.

Today I decided to try smoking a couple with different rubs to see how they turned out – here are the results.

I filled the water pan on the smoker, loaded up apple wood chips and warmed it up to about 200. While it was warming up, I rinsed the birds and coated them liberally with dry rub. I then stuck them in the smoker at 200 for 6 hrs, which was probably a bit too long, but they are so moist and juicy it all worked out great. I think the water pan is what kept this viable and helped avoid dry meat (which no one likes.)

One of the challenges with these birds is that they are generally tough and do not have a great deal of meat. The smoker made a nice difference, cooking them low and slow and breaking the meat down to a much more tender consistency. I will likely brine next time to see how that affects them, and maybe try opening them up but that is for another day. For now, it is dinner time!

Smoker Recipes and Tips

I bought an electric smoker, after using my charcoal and propane grills to indirect smoke for years. My idea with the electric smoker is to be able to gather data in a more controlled way, allowing for consistent reproduction of results and more accurate recipes to share here. I bought my model through Sams Club, and got a pretty good price but here is the same model on Amazon.  Note that the smoker is considerably more buying from Amazon, but I am including the link for reference as to what it is.

I will be putting up a page for links to smoker recipes now, and related information as I experiment more, and once I get a good handle on this model, I think I will likely adapt it for cold smoking as well using an old wine fridge I have.

The first projects are just to understand the machine, but then the work begins in earnest. The challenge I am working on is managing boar taint smell in meat from an intact male pig. We butchered our large intact boar, and there is a strong odor when cooking as a result of hormones in the animal. There is no problem with eating the food, but the smell is off putting and hence I need to figure out a good way to prep and cook it. I will have more details on the successful ideas in a related post.

Smoking Eggs

Today I had the smoker running and decided to make some apple wood smoked eggs. They turned out well and I do love the flavor of the apple wood in the background.

I got the smoker warmed up to around 200, then added the eggs. I had a pan of water in the smoker to keep the shells from drying out too much and set the temp for 225. I let the eggs cook for about 2 hours and then opened up the smoker to cool. I would have pulled the eggs at this point, but I had my grandson in my arm, so I did not want to mess with the smoker!

Worth noting here, there are a lot of ways to smoke eggs, and many people hard boil first, or even peel them. This gives you different outcomes and require a bit more work in some cases. I simply put the eggs in raw, and let the hot smoking cook them.

The finished flavor is like a regular boiled egg, with a smoky note that is not over powering.  These pair well with a little Gentleman Jack if you are so inclined…

Jowl Bacon and Sauteed Spinach

I do love Jowl Bacon – when ordering a pig, I highly recommend you specify some Jowl Bacon for yourself. I think the pairing of the bacon and spinach is about perfect and for this recipe, I added a bit of garlic and onion for the saute and then a bit of chicken broth to give it a little bit of soup to make a nice finish.

What you need on hand:

  1. Pan to cook in – I like a stir fry pan and lid but most any medium / large pan will do.
  2. Bag of spinach – cooking spinach is the most economical, but you can use most any type.
  3. Jowl bacon or your favorite type of bacon. Smoked gives it more depth if you are into that. 🙂
  4. Salt – kosher, coarse if you have it.
  5. A few cloves of garlic or crushed garlic, whatever you have on hand
  6. An onion or so, depending on taste. A large sweet, or a regular cooking onion. Really it is about what you like.
  7. Some soup stock (1/4 cup or so) you can substitute bullion, powdered soup base with water, etc…
  8. Fire & Water + Patience and a sharp knife and cutting board.

 

Start with a stir fry pan if you have one, and if not, a large sauce pan that you can cover. Slice up a generous portion of the bacon into small pieces.

Throw the bacon into the preheated pan and fry it up on medium heat while you dice up some onion and fresh garlic to taste.  Once the bacon has reduced and is almost done, drain the grease into a jar for use later. Throw in the garlic and onion and stir it a bit while the onions caramelize a bit – this is also a good time to toss in a few pinches (or to taste) of coarse salt. I like Kosher or sea salt.

Once the onions are caramelized and looking ready to eat, toss in as much spinach as you can fit into the pan. You can see from the photo I pile it high as it wilts down when you cook it. Cover and let it steam for a few on low heat. Toss in about 1/4 or so cup of water or chicken stock when you do this to help steam the spinach. Most of the liquid will cook off but it will also help flavor the spinach. I like to use a spoon or two of the dry chicken soup base here.

As the spinach starts to cook down, start tossing it a bit to keep it cooking evenly. Once it is reduced as you see in the photos, plate (or bowl) it and enjoy!

 

Review of pork butt/shoulder recipe

Jim posted a great article about recipes for pork shoulder.. I decided to review one of the recipes posted.

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Below is our home -grown pork shoulder.

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The directions called for 8 hours of slow roasting at 250 degrees. I rubbed celtic salt and pepper all over the roast.

I chose to use my turkey roasting pan with parchment paper on the rack.

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It was very nice to have the house smell like a delicious roast all day. The roast was removed after 7 hours in the oven. You tent the roast with foil while pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees. Put the meat back in the oven for 20 minutes or until the fat layer can get crispy.

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I was disappointed to see how much it shrunk! Something to take into consideration for the future. This roast fed 5 people, including our 19 year-old son. I think I will adjust our cut list to include larger roasts.

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This was juicy, melt in your mouth meat. It was served with cooked small multi-colored potatoes with butter and scallions on top. We also had a side of asparagus with fresh lemon on top. Great meal for a cold January night!

Ham Hocks

Hocks are not a typical part of a cut list people think about in the northern United States, but are an important addition to ask for on your list.  The hock is the middle portion of the leg, above the feet but not up into the ham or picnic roast.

When buying a whole of half pig, it is important to recognize that you are investing in a farm raised, healthy animal, but also to know that there are ways to get the most value for your dollar. Part of that is to learn how to use every part of the pig and the hock is no exception.

As the hocks are not generally a robust meat cut, but they are full of flavor, they are often used in bean and rice dishes or soups and stews for flavor building. I am including a few links here to get you started on using the hock, and I encourage you to try it out and include it on your cut list.

From over at AmazingRibs.com there is Hoppin’ John Beans & Rice. This is one that is relatively simple but rich and flavorful. I recommend it as a winter evening meal.

If you want to avoid the beans route,  I recommend looking for stew or soup recipes that you like, and substituting for example a ham hock for a chicken carcass.

You can also try cooking the hocks with greens or even sauerkraut for a different flavor and delicious combination. For these approaches, all you need to add is salt and pepper to taste, but I feel it is best to start with a smoked hock for best flavor.

Pork Ribs

Ribs are almost a religion in many parts of the United States, and the world for that matter. There are those who swear by the dry rub, those who say the secret is all in the sauce, those who will say there is no other way than smoking on wood and any other permutation you might think if.

I love most ways they can be prepared, but I lean to smoked with a dry rub and finished with a sauce that does not over power the pork flavor. If you do not have a smoker, you can make do with a grill and a smoker box for wood chips. If you do not have that, you can use a grill and put your wood chips in an aluminum foil packet after soaking them, poke some holes in it and toss it in the coals or on your hot side of the grill. The ribs will mostly cook on the indirect heat, or non fueled side of the grill.

Please check out AmazingRibs.com for this part. I have linked to their site for other cuts, but they do such a good job on rib options I think it it THE place to start. Once you get a foundation there, feel free to experiment and search the internet for other options.

There are options for every taste. My main advice here is to not fall into any single camp or accept any one of the rib religions. Play around, enjoy them and take the time to search out hole in the wall rib shacks in your area or on your travels. Learn from them, ask questions and apply your lessons at home.

If you are still reading at this point, and not already at the Amazing Ribs site, go now to the recipe for “Last Meal Ribs: The Best Barbecue Ribs You’ve Ever Tasted!

Cooking a Ham

The Ham comes from the upper hind leg of the pig and comes in many sizes depending on how you request your cut list, or what your local butcher may have. Bone in or carved from the bone will change cooking times and technique to some degree so pay attention to your particular recipe and account for this variation when preparing your own ham.

For smaller families or couples, it is possible to ask your butcher / note on your cut list to cut your large ham into smaller portions to speed cooking and spread over multiple meals. I recommend this approach where possible as it gives you the most flexible use of the meat and allows you to maximize the variety of ways you might prepare this delicious cut. Additionally, if you are ordering a pig from us, this will be a part of the cut list selection and you will need to determine if you will want your ham smoked or not, based on preference and taste. I am a fan of the smoked flavor and I go for that option for my family.

The authoritative primer on all things Ham

As you will find, I frequently link to or point to the site AmazingRibs.com for their recipes and ideas. I am not repeating that content here – they do such a good job I think it is best to simply go there and learn as I have. Please start with that to understand options and then build on it from there.

Smoked, Honey-Glazed Ham

At honest-food.net, there is a good recipe for smoked, honey glazed ham.  I am including this one as it is a nice foundation recipe that you can use to build from and tweak to your liking. The author bases his off a wild hog, but points out that you might use a variety of hind leg cuts with the same success. The article covers the curing as well as cooking and is a good reference to understand the process, even if you pick a different finishing technique. If you visit this link, please take the time to read the comment thread at the bottom of the article as I think that is as valuable a resource as the article itself.

Baked Ham with Rum and Coke Glaze

This is a no-brainer, it has rum in the recipe! Seriously though, this one is worth reading through and giving a whirl. It is not complex, but it is a bit labor intensive in terms of staying on the process with the glaze. I suggest sticking with the suggestion for the dark brown sugar and a dark rum for flavor when you make this one and use the real deal coca-cola, this is another place to not compromise.

Ham Slices / Ham Steaks

While not a link or recipe, I suggest adding some ham steaks to your cut list. I am a big fan of these for a hearty morning breakfast coupled with farm fresh eggs and potatoes. They are super easy to cook – pan fry in a cast iron skillet or even grill.  They will taste sort of like a cross between ham and bacon  and have a great texture to fill you up and get your day going.

Picnic Roast / Pork Shoulder

The Picnic Roast is the lower half of the shoulder, the top half being called the Boston Butt. This cut can be combined into both and the cooking options are similar. This is a heavily used muscle and a flavorful meat with good fat and connective tissue that will render when cooked low and slow.

Over at the Dizzy Pig site, they have a recipe for pulled pork that uses both of these shoulder cuts to make pulled pork, an all time favorite. The low and slow method is at the extreme here, but the results are worth it. Check it out for it’s nice explanation and detailed instructions and options.

Ultra-Crispy Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder is a favorite of mine, due in large part to the delicious cracklin from the final step in the process that produces crackles on the outer layer. The recipe at serious eats has some nice suggestions on this that you can build on with links to sauces and related dishes. Additionally, this is a simple meal to make though you will have to plan ahead and budget 8-10 hrs.

The general rule to keep in mind for shoulder cuts is that you need to cook it at low temp for a long time to melt all the fat and connective tissue, but they are rich and flavorful cuts. If you have smaller roast, you will reduce the cooking / smoking time accordingly.

I encourage you to check out AmazingRibs for a very good article on cooking temps and times. This is a great site overall to familiarize yourself with and you will find we link to it frequently.

Pork Head Cuts

When buying a pig, whole or half, one of the often overlooked options is the head and related cuts. The ears are a great cut to get both to cook yourself (very popular in some cultures) or even to have smoked as a special treat for your dog. The jowl is a delicious cut – again, not as common in the US as other areas, but well worth asking for. There are other recipes for the head and stews or soups are often the target here, but at a minimum, it provides trimming for sausage and scrapple.

I do encourage you to do a little research on your own and consider this as an adventure to explore in your next cut list or trip to the butcher!

Pig ears

Smothered Pig ears – This one is a soul food take on the pig ear and I have yet to make it but is sounds good. I would love to hear from anyone who makes this and add your review here.

Pig’s Ear on a griddle and Red Braised Pig’s Ear – This link provides 2 methods of cooking and also an entertaining read about the process of picking them up and a little history. When buying a whole or half pig you will not have a quantity of ears, but if you ask ahead of time, we can coordinate with customers who do not wish to get the ears back and you might get a free add on bonus! (We won’t let them go to waste either way.)

Super Bowl Snack: Crispy Pig Ears – These treats take a different approach and are from Chris Stewart, the co-owner of the Glass Onion in South Carolina. A quick tip on this take is the simmering in the over portion calls for a mirepoix – for those who might not be familiar with that, it is essentially a mix of onions, carrots and celery but can be varied.

Hog Jowl

The jowl is a cut that is essentially, bacon. It is rich in fat and meat and can be treated like a belly cut for bacon, or cooked as an accompaniment for black beans or other dishes.

First up is a recipe from Taste of Southern and covers frying the jowl. I am including this one as it is well done, with great photos and ideas. It is primarily focused on the bacon approach, but is a good site to explore on it’s own as well.

Another approach to the jowl is covered in a very solid article over at mattikaarts.com and is Home Cured Guanciale. As described on the site, “Guanciale is a whole pork jowl, that has been rubbed with salt herbs and spices, and air dried.”

Once you make it, the resulting product can be used like a super rich bacon in salads, pasta or any other dish. I think this is worth a try if you are serious about your pork, though it represents an investment in time and energy.

Wrapping it up

Generally, with the head there are so many things you can do I encourage you to make google your friend. (or whatever search engine you like)

There are more options out there to try than you can imagine and so many great flavors and treats to eat. Do not be afraid to experiment and provide comments to us and we will post it here if you wish.