Both hot and cold smoking traditionally has been limited to proteins. Recently, innovative chefs, bartenders and regular Joes have been experimenting with smoking techniques in various ways. A bartender in Portland  hot-smokes ice, then re-freezes it to use in his cocktails. A chef cold-smokes yogurt to use with a salad to give it a smoky taste. The possibilities are endless. Here are some random, rambling thoughts on cold-smoking, with some hot-smoking thoughts thrown in.

  • Cold-smoking ingredients impact a smoky flavor to food that doesn’t need to be cooked (e.g. butter, cheeses, salt, nuts) or that you plan on cooking later.
  • Hot-smoking ingredients imparts a smoky flavor to foods while cooking them (e.g. meats,fish).
  • The four things you need for cold-smoking include: A way of producing smoke; A method of cooling the smoke before it gets to the smoke chamber; A smoke chamber to hold the food/ingredient being smoked; Methods to regulate the amount of heat and smoke.
  • The internal temperature of the smoke chamber for cold-smoking should be below 85 degrees.
  • For hot-smoking, the internal temperature of the smoke chamber should be between 120 to 180 degrees depending on what’s being smoked.
  • If the internal temperature of the smoke chamber is greater than 180 degrees, you are cooking rather than smoking.
  • The conditions for cold-smoking are also ideal for bacterial growth. Therefore, cold-smoking is usually done in the colder months or in colder regions of the world.
  • Since cold-smoking does not fully preserve the food being smoked, the finished product should be kept in the refrigerator until it is used.
  • In addition to cold and hot smoking, meats can also be cured through brining, salting, wind drying or combinations of these methods.
  • Since cold-smoking doesn’t cure meats, salting or brining before cold-smoking is suggested.
  • Various types of equipment is available for purchase, or you can make your own. Being fancy is NOT necessary!

Here are a couple of pictures of my cold-smoker.

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Mixes and Blends of Grasses

I get a kick out of watching people trying to pick out grass seed in a farm supply store. It’s almost as much fun as watching people picking out a watermelon. The one thing the two have in common is that the average person doesn’t have the slightest idea of which one to choose. Hopefully, this brief explanation will shed a little light on the subject.

Most lawns contain cool-season grasses which are sold as mixtures or blends. A mixture contains a combination of two or more different species, while a blend contains two or more varieties of the same species. Which grass seed to choose depends upon the conditions it will be used for. Below are some typical mixtures for various conditions. Looking at the seed tags with a little knowledge should make your selection job easier.

  • For a general purpose lawn that has full sunlight look for: Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue, or Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.
  • For a general purpose lawn that is mostly shaded look for: fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, or Kentucky bluegrass, red fescue and perennial ryegrass.
  • If you have a cool, moist climate select: fine fescue and ‘Exeter’ colonial bentgrass.
  • If you want a wear-tolerant turf either in sun or light shade select: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescue.
  • If you want a turf grass for heavily used areas choose: Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue.
  • If you have a moist, shady location choose: rough bluegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and perennial ryegrass.
  • If you need a grass seed for a fast established lawn select: Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.
  • If you have a warm, dry climate select: Buffalograss and blue gramagrass.
  • If you have a cool, dry climate select: wheatgrass and turf-type fescue.

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Yes, Sir

One can tell Catfish was brought up by parents who believed in proper manners. I admire his “sir” and “ma’am” when talking with other people. The other afternoon, his “Ma’am?” to the Pickle Queen when he didn’t hear what she had said, reminded me of the PQ trying to instill this into one of our sons.

I don’t remember which son it was, but when he was about a three-year-old, he had been told several times to get ready for bed. The last time the PQ told him, she was very insistent. His response was, “Yes, sir!”

Correcting him, PQ said, “You would say ‘Yes, sir,’ to a man. I am a lady, and you would say, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ to a lady.”

Being a preschool teacher, she quizzed him on this lesson by asking, “What would you say to Daddy?”

“Yes, sir!” came the reply.

“Then what would you say to Mama?” the PQ continued.

“Yes, Ma’am!” he proudly answered.

“Good job!” replied the PQ. “Now what would you say to Grandma?”

He lit up and said, “Can I have a cookie?”

I don’t think he got the point.

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An Erector Set

We’ve been in a multitude of antique shops in the past couple of years and in around 50 percent of them there was at least one Erector set for sale. There were sets all the way from the very basic set up to ride on sets. The biggest set we’ve seen must have been 3 feet long, 18 inches wide and a foot in height. The price tag was somewhere between a thousand and fifteen hundred dollars. Way out of my league, but it, along with the other sets, brought back memories.

Somewhere in our basement, in one of the many unpacked boxes, is my Erector Set. What boy growing up in the midwest in the 50’s didn’t want an Erector Set from A.C. Gilbert. Metal beams filled with holes for assembly with nuts and bolts, along with pulleys, gears, wheels and a small electric motor was all we could dream about months before Christmas ever came. The year I thought sure I was going to get my Erector Set from Santa, I got a steel scoop shovel. How the heck was I going to build a model of something, take it apart, and build something else with a scoop shovel? That year I couldn’t, but the next year I could.

Erector had become a generic trademark for construction toys of all brands. Now they have Meccano sets. The trademark for Erector was sold to Meccano and in 2015 the Erector brand was relaunched under Meccano. I understand that there are now sets for adults as well as for boys and girls of all ages.

I had the opportunity to put together a project from an adult Erector set this past week. Catfish had bought a Multipurpose Workbench With Lighting and Outlet for Gator Babe to use for her sketching and painting projects. The company from which he purchased this ‘erection set’  is opening a new store every 3 days somewhere in the United States. There lines of tools include, Central Pneumatic, Pittsburg, Chicago Electric, Predator and others. They have advertisement in 99% of  any magazine you may pick up. These ads include coupons for 20% off any one item and choice of a “free” item. But, I digress. Catfish knew that the workbench needed to be assembled, and being a good neighbor, I agreed to do the assembling.

When Catfish opened the door to his basement and seen that I had opened the box and had parts (including at least a dozen little plastic bags of nuts, washers and bolts) strewn all over the floor, he stared in amazement and told me I didn’t have to put the bench together if I didn’t want to. I felt up to a challenge and told him I wanted to continue.

We decided that to be kind to our backs, we’d try to use his workbench as much as possible. It turned out that it was a good place for the instruction booklet to lay and serve as a place to spread out the nuts and bolts. After opening the instruction sheets and seeing that there were more pages of safety precaution in use of the bench than there were assembly instructions, I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew.

While I was off fetching the first two parts, Catfish was busy opening the dozen or so bags of hardware. He was keeping them in neat little piles, but was failing to keep the plastic bags with the part numbers with the piles. Turns out it didn’t make a nickles worth of difference. As I said before, the safety precautions outnumbered the assembly instructions. Besides only 3 pages of very poor schematics, there was no indication as to which bag of hardware went where. But what guy pays attention to instructions and schematics anyway?

After 2 sessions with about 8 person hours of assembly, this erection project was completed. No left over parts, but we did have 1 nut, 1 bolt and 1 washer, none of which fit together, left after all this fun. As I told Catfish, “The second one would go together a lot faster.”

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Roasted Hog Maw

What is hog maw you might wonder. Hog maw is the exterior muscular wall of a pig’s stomach without the interior lining (mucosa). The hog maw contains no fat if the stomach has been cleaned properly. If you are a connoisseur of Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Pennsylvania Dutch or Portuguese dishes, you may be familiar with or have eaten hog maw. Here’s a recipe for plain ole roasted hog maw.

1 pig stomach
2-1/2 lb ground pork sausage
1/2 c diced celery
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 small bag seasoned pork stuffing
1 c warm water
1/3 butter
1 qt raw diced potato

Wash and clean the pig’s stomach and soak in salt water for 2 hours. Mix stuffing with the warm water and butter. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Rinse, drain and fill the stomach with the stuffing mixture at the end of the soaking period. Secure the opening to the stomach with picks or lace it shut. Bake in a covered roasting pan for 3 hours at 350 degrees F.

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Nutrition: Myth or Reality

Many nutritional myths have been around for years. One doesn’t know what to believe and what not to believe. Here are five myths and the reality of those myths.

Myth 1: Eggs are bad for your heart

Reality: The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee dropped its caution on eating eggs and other foods high in cholesterol in 2015; it also rescinded its previous recommendation of limiting cholesterol intake to 300 mg daily. A 2015 study in the American Heart Journal found that even people with coronary artery disease showed no cardiac effect from daily egg consumption.

Myth 2: Eating Carbohydrates leads to weight gain

Reality: Calorie, not carbs, lead to excess pounds, but some carbohydrates are better for you than others. Skip foods with refined flour and added sugar, and focus on fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains to make healthy carbs work for you.

Myth 3: Fresh food is always better than frozen

Reality: While fresh is great if you can buy from local sources, frozen fruits and vegetables are a good alternative to standards found in the grocery store produce aisle since they are flash-frozen at their peak freshness after harvesting. They retain more nutrients than produce that has been picked before it is ripe and spent time traveling from farm to store.

Myth 4: Everyone should go gluten-free

Reality: Dropping gluten (a protein in wheat, barley and rye) has become a popular dietary trend in recent years. But unless you suffer from celiac disease or have gluten sensitivity, eliminating food such as whole-grain breads and cereals can reduce needed nutrients and dietary fiber, nutritionists warn. Additionally, commercially produced gluten-free products often have extra sugar, sodium or fats to make up for the often inferior quality or taste.

Myth 5: Eating late at night will lead to extra pounds

Reality: What you eat is more important than when you eat it. Late-night snackers tend to go for comfort items such as sweets or chips. Instead, nibble on fruits, vegetables or even Greek yogurt. A recent study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise found that eating protein a half-hour before going to bed helps protein synthesis, rebuilding muscle tissue and promoting muscle growth.

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Water, Who Knew?

Wandering through Costco the other day, I asked the Pickle Queen if we needed more water as we passed by the endless stacks of bottled water. We have a small refrigerator in the barn, near the garden, with 8 ounce bottles of water in it. We have 8 and 16 ounce bottles of water in the fridge in the basement. We have a few 8 ounce water bottles in the fridge in the kitchen and we have a case or two on the shelves in the ‘fruit cellar’.  You can almost guess what her answer was. It’s not like water gets old. Or does it?

Before the folks passed we would have to take empty plastic water and other beverage containers back to a retailer or the recycling center whenever we were visiting them as Iowa, like many other states, has a deposit on all beverage containers. It was a nickel per bottle in Iowa which added up fast. Besides the deposit information stamped on the bottle, there was also an expiration date stamped on it. I never gave it much thought until I got an ‘Are you kidding me?’ look and not a definite answer from the PQ on the having  enough water question.

Most water bottles bought at grocery or convenience stores have an expiration date of 2 years from the packaging date stamped on them. Some people believe that the world will come to an end if they use an item past its expiration date. There might be an item or two out there where it’s not advisable to use the product if it’s outdated, but water is not one of them. According to the FDA, unopened water bottles in the United States have an indefinite shelf life. True, it may develop an undesirable taste, but it’s perfectly safe to drink. Remember, we are talking about unopened bottles. Opened bottles may be exposed to and contain bacteria that can make it harmful, so be weary of using them.

My Grand dad’s advice on drinking water with an undesirable taste would have been to add quite a few drops of Wild Turkey, Kentucky Gentleman, White Lightening or whatever was at hand  just to be safe.

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