Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book review: Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades by Steve Reichlen

Thought I would give a book review for the heck of it. Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades is one of the first BBQ books I bought when I started to get real serious into BBQ. I had wanted to make my own BBQ sauce and this looked like a step in the right direction. It has been some time since I first bought it, but I can remember clearly sitting down to look at it and ended up reading the thing from cover to cover. I'll tell you one thing, there aren't too many cookbooks that you can say that about. You can do that with Steve's books as well as Ray's (Dr. BBQ) books as well. I think that any good cookbook worth it's salt (pun intended) should be similar in nature. I finally came across a basic bbq sauce that sounded like your traditional BBQ sauce. I checked over the list, and ended up going to the grocery store the next morning to get what I was lacking. These days that would rarely happen, but at the time I didn't have as full a stocked pantry as I do now.
OK, I'm back home with everything and make the small batch size that the recipe was for. Fantastic! This is what I have been looking for! It was excellent! I immediately multiplied the batch size by 10 and went back to the store for more ingredients. This was around the end of November I believe as I was also trying my hand at smoking cheese as well (something that could only be done on my cooking equipment when it was cold). I made a couple of large batches and canned the whole mess. Everyone in the neighborhood got BBQ sauce and smoked cheese that year for Christmas.
The recipe was called sweet and smokey BBQ sauce. I have since changed it up quite a bit and the version I now make is something pretty much my own, but would not have known where to start without this book and the vast amount of information in it. There are lots of other good starters as well. Flipping through it just now I see some things that I bookmarked and never got around to trying, but will probably do so shortly. I have my eye on the pineapple garlic glaze.
Pick it up if you get a chance. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just a funny poster I saw somewhere.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The evil MSG

Let's take a look at MSG today. Monosodium glutamate, sodium glutamate, flavor enhancer 621.

The following is from EU food additive code: E621, HS code: 29224220 (IUPAC name 2-aminopentanedioic acid. Also known as 2-aminoglutaric acid), commonly known as MSG, Ajinomoto, Vetsin, or Accent, is a sodium salt of glutamic acid. MSG is a food additive and it is commonly marketed as a "flavour enhancer".

There is a lot more to read at wikipedia by following this link. Especially if you want to see more technical information.

Why is there such a phobia of this wonderful flavor inhancer? It is basically a natural product.

Modern commercial MSG is produced through fermentation of sugar beets, as well as sugar cane or molasses.

According to Wikipedia, this is a sampling of where you will find MSG.

Canned soups
Pre-prepared stocks often known as stock cubes
Common snack foods
Most fast food
Instant meals such as the seasoning mixtures for instant noodles

It is almost impossible to live in this country without having MSG in your diet, so why all the hooplah? Some people even claim to have allergies to it.

Here is where it all started as far as I can tell. The following is an exerpt from the link.
In April 1968, Ho Man Kwok wrote an article for the New England Journal of Medicine where he said, "I have experienced a strange syndrome whenever I have eaten out in a Chinese restaurant, especially one that served northern Chinese food. The syndrome, which usually begins 15 to 20 minutes after I have eaten the first dish, lasts for about two hours, without hangover effect. The most prominent symptoms are numbness at the back of the neck, gradually radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness and palpitations...". This comment began a global health scare about monosodium glutamate and "Chinese restaurant syndrome" was born. However, research has failed to prove that monosodium glutamate affects a large percentage of the population, and Chinese restaurant syndrome is largely resigned to urban legend status. However, monosodium glutamate is still thought of as suspect by a large proportion of the general public, and many foods continue to be labeled "MSG free". [4]

The following list also from pretty much covers all of the regulations and findings on MSG.
The 1987 Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization placed monosodium glutamate in the safest category of food ingredients.
A 1991 report by the European Community's (EC) Scientific Committee for Foods reaffirmed monosodium glutamate's safety and classified its "acceptable daily intake" as "not specified", the most favourable designation for a food ingredient. In addition, the EC Committee said, "Infants, including prematures, have been shown to metabolize glutamate as efficiently as adults and therefore do not display any special susceptibility to elevated oral intakes of glutamate."
A 1992 report from the Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association stated that glutamate in any form has not been shown to be a "significant health hazard".
A 1995 FDA-commissioned report acknowledged that "An unknown percentage of the population may react to monosodium glutamate and develop monosodium glutamate symptom complex, a condition characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
Burning sensation in the back of the neck, forearms and chest
Numbness in the back of the neck, radiating to the arms and back
Tingling, warmth and weakness in the face, temples, upper back, neck and arms
Facial pressure or tightness
Chest pain
Rapid heartbeat
Bronchospasm (difficulty breathing)
Sweating." This list of mostly very non-specific and common symptoms was compiled from anecdotal reports[5

Looks like varied findings and not enough proper testing to me.

I just walked throught he store and picked 15 items off the shelf, 10 of which had MSG in their ingredient list. None of the products were oriental even though we have some oriental products in the store. I purposely did not look at those.

I looked around the web and found some PRO MSG websites, but the number of ANTI MSG websites far out numbered the pro. The funny thing is that when looking at the anti msg websites, they all misquoted the research articles that are posted above as well as left out key information in the studies.

My use of MSG. I see nothing wrong with it, and I'll bet that when I go home, almost all of the seasoning mixes I use have it in their ingredient list. We use it here at the store. We don't use hardly any salt at all, but when something calls for it, we instead use half salt and half MSG. It cuts down the sodium and helps enhance the flavor.

My verdict? Use it until it all runs out. Which doesn't look likely any time soon.

What is cooking today?

Jerky. I have a batch of terriyaki jerky in the smoker. Started with some eye of round. I trimmed the fat from the outside and cut it on a slicer for uniformity. I guess about an 1/8th of an inch.

I have a basic recipe that I start with and always go from there. It is something that originally came from my mom and I stripped a bunch of stuff out to get down to my basic.

Standard wet jerky base
Equal parts soy sauce and worchestire
A good bit of granulated garlic powder, granulated onion powder, and fresh ground black pepper.

Standard terriyaki wet jerky base
Same as above except substitute terriyaki for the worchestire.

That is just the start. Depending on the mood that I am in will determine what else goes into the batch. But for starters here are some of the other things that I may or may not add in no particular order.
Cayenne (or many other types of pepper)
sesame oil
brown sugar
pineapple juice
chinese 5 spice
hot sauce
That is just a start. Get the picture? What ever you want to make of it. If you screw up, don't do the same thing next time.

Liquid smoke is not on my list as I cook it in a smoker and get real smoke flavor to it. If I want mesquite flavored, I will use mesquite wood. In fact, you will rarely see me mention liquid smoke as the only thing I use it for is an ingredient in BBQ sauce.

Whatever concoction you come up with, marinate the meat over night. Make sure that the meat is well coated on both sides before leaving to set.

I have this batch going at about 180 in hickory smoke and will be about a 3 hour smoke. I am not trying to make real jerky, just a tasty similarity. It is not dehydrated, nor is it shelf stable. It still needs to remain refridgerated. The picture shown is an almost finished picture, otherwise it did look a lot more full when I started it this morning.

Yums! I just went and had a piece. It's all coming out now.

Go and make yourself some jerky!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BBQ and Grilling

Since this is my very first blog post, I am going to set out to clarify the difference between BBQ and grilling. They are terms that I will probably use quite a bit, but are NOT interchangeable. Not in my vocabulary. I have looked them both up many times in my life and will give my condensed version here for a definition.

BBQ- The cooking of food, typically meat, at low temperatures over an indirect fire either of wood, charcoal,or gas.

Grilling- The cooking of food, typically meat, at high temperatures over a direct fire either of wood, charcoal, or gas.

Now that that is settled, we can go on. I prefer doing BBQ , but love to grill as well. It's just a matter of how much time I have to dedicate to supper that night. For the most part, I reserve BBQing for the weekends during the summer, and grilling is for weeknights during the summer and most of the time during the winter months. Grilling is NOT a season, it is a year long event. I'll admit though that I will typically resort to the gas grill for those winter evening cooks, otherwise it is a good old Weber kettle.

Now that the winter weather is finally showing signs of breaking, I will post some pictures of my gear as I get outside and get the time to clean everything up for summer use. Besides the grills mentioned above, my backyard sports a very nice BBQ pit made by Dave Klose from Texas. He makes a quality pit that will last more than a lifetime. I also have an FEC100 made by cookshack that is in the kitchen in the back of our deli, and a spicewine cooker that we bought for possible on-site catering gigs. We haven't put the spicewine through it's paces yet, but I have used one before and they are a fantastic pit as well.

OK, that is the basics for outside. I have a pretty nice indoor kitchen as well, but nothing as nice as the one we have at the deli, that's for sure. I'll spend a day talking about that kitchen as well and posting a few pictures.

What I will be talking about on a regular basis? Well, I don't really know for sure myself, but rest assured there will be some BBQ and/or grilling talk. I will probably throw lots of other food adventures into the mix I am sure. I roast my own coffee beans and may have some info in there about that coming down the road. I have also just started to make my own wine, and that may crop up once in a while. I also don't know how often I will be posting. For now, it will come as often as I feel like spending a bit of time writing.

Don't expect to get any healthy eating tips here. You will have a hard time finding them. You never know though, they may just crop up unexpectedly.

My cooking background? Well, let's see, I would have to say it comes from both my mother and my father. Not sure why, but I always gravitated toward the kitchen and mom was always more than willing to share her cooking expertise if she wasn't too busy. I believe my first foray into baking was probably a sour cream coffee cake that mom had a recipe for and I know I made that quite a bit. It didn't stop there. Pancakes were one of my favorite things to eat, and I know those were made lots of times after I got it right (story about that later down the road). I just always liked being in the kitchen and it shows.
We always loved it when it was grilling time. Dad was of course the grill master of the house as is the way of most households across America. I picked up all of the basics from him and more. But besides the grilling, he also gave me my first peak into BBQ and smoking. We had a walk-in smokehouse on the small farm that I grew up on. I don't remember a whole lot about it, but I do remember some of the smoked fish that was produced out of it. Oh man was that some good stuff. The smell of sweet smoke was present in that building looooong after it was turned into a tool shed. So, my dad was where I got the smoke thing from.
I eventually started doing this stuff on my own and wound up finding a nest of chuckle-heads on the internet called the bbq-brethren. They have become a second family to me and a crutch for my addiction called BBQ.

More info before I close for today. I also dabble in competition BBQ and will probably post about those during the year. I haven't hit the formula completely solid yet, but have done well in every category at least once. Just can't put them all together at the same time. Oh well, that will come eventually. If not, it is still fun and I will do it as often as my schedule and finances allow.