The McRib Sandwich is Back! Be Very Afraid

Of all the abominations found on fast food menus, there’s the McRib sandwich, and then there is everything else. Technically a “restructured meat product,” it is literally nothing more than a pile of squashed pig organs.

Of the three main components, the pig heart is the least revolting. That makes the McRib an ideal Valentine’s Day present. Give your sweetie one of these as a present, and the chances are good that you’ll never have to buy that person another present again.

The tripe portion is probably the most nutritous of the group, though not normally associated with barbecue sauce. However, it will take a heap of sausage casings to make that sandwich.

The most exotic of the trio is the scalded pig stomach. The only possible use for this seems to be to make the ingredients as cheap as they can possibly be. The irony is that if you eat this, the same thing may possibly happen to your stomach.

So there you have it, the best example of you don’t even get what you pay for with fast food. A McRib is like a McJob or a McMansion–all image without real substance. This sandwich should run for office.

Outdoor Kitchen, Old School, Part Three–Smokin’ Smokehouse

The Smokin’ Smokehouse

This rustic construction is a smoking fool. The few pine shingles on the left are just the beginning of what will be a fully shingled structure, eventually. When that is finished, it will be as rustic as it gets, befitting of an all wood burning old school outdoor kitchen.

Here’s another piece of wood burning equipment:

Repurposed to the Great Outdoors

This old steel wood stove had been hanging out in our basement for a good fifteen years. Now, with the connection to the smokehouse completed, it is the smoke engine supreme. It is also surrounded with an endless supply of firewood.

Now we need some meat–

Sorry, Pig

That’s all pork shoulder, some sliced into strips for Tasso ham, and the rest left for barbecue. No secret rubs for the barbecue here–we just use Galena Street mix by Penzy’s Spices, which is a great small business. Too much more smoked meat –this weekend we have pork loin ribs and a salmon fillet–and I may end up as the poster boy for the fat bear photo contest.

Making Tasso Ham

Smoking!

Tasso ham is not really ham, in the common sense of the word, as it is usually made with pork shoulder, aka Boston butt. Going back in time, this Louisiana seasoning product was made from any trimming leftover from a hog killing. The only constant is the combination of spices and smoke, that make this a red beans and rice all star.

Ingredients

Sliced Pork Shoulder Strips

Paprika

Cayenne Pepper

Cinnamon

Salt and Pepper

This constitutes the dry rub, and the amount of each spice depends on the quantity of pork strips. At this point the pork strips need to dry uncovered in the refriginator a minimum of three days. Then it’s time to crank up the smoke house.

More Smokin’

This old school smokehouse, right down to the hanging strip of fly paper, is now fully operational. The external smoke source is an old steel wood stove connected via a stove pipe. This Tasso was smoked for two and a half hours with green Maple at about 150 degrees F. The char patterns on the Tasso in the photo are from the smoke, not heat. The big piece of pork shoulder in the pic was destined to be barbecue.

After the Tasso has cooled, cut it into cubes and chunk it into a freezer bag. Like the frugal ant in the ant and grasshopper fable, we will have smokey dishes all winter, while the grasshoppers have to dine on McRib mystery meat barbecue sandwiches.

Great Southern Cookbooks, Part Three–Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book, by Chris Lilly

Alabama is the crossroads of BBQ. We probably ended up with the “world champion pitmaster,” because we have every style of pork barbecue imaginable, and at least one place that serves a pineapple bbq sauce. We even had one poor sod who tried to sell Texas style beef BBQ. Tried.

In short, we have more BBQ joints per capita than any other place in the States. We have one large multi-state chain of restaurants, Jim and Nick’s, which was started by two chefs of Greek extraction. Nick Pihakis, an acquaintance of mine, besides having created this pig empire, is one of the founders of “The Fatback Project,” whose aim is to return pork production to small farms with free range pigs (he even bought his own meat processing plant.) This is definitely a battle cry for those of us who have had enough of the disgusting practices of “Big Hog.”

He’s only resting and Getting a Tan. I swear.

This book is so good, just go and buy a copy. Archduke Bezos sold me this excellent used copy for three bucks, and the restaurant is only about thirty something miles from here. There is a chapter titled “Ode to Pork,”(take that, Schiller,) that quote from one of my favorite Roman poets, Ovid, who died in exile, and the recipe for “Eight-Time World Championship Pork Shoulder.” Don’t read this book while hungry.

In case you didn’t figure out that this is one smart guy who wrote this, Chris Lilly married in to the Big Bob Gibson family, after he graduated from the University of North Alabama. It just occurred to me, that I forgot to ask MJ that most important question, “Honey, does your family own a famous BBQ joint?” The Big Bob signature white sauce recipe is in there as well, though it is also widely available online. Yes, there is a mayo based BBQ sauce. Pure Alabama.

Let’s leave with a pic of Big Bob sporting his goods in 1956.

I be Big Bob

Pig out.

Lard Help Us, Part Three–Rendering Lard

Liquid Gold

We must have been particularly good last year, as we received $125 of gift cards for Christmas to our two best local meat producers, and then a real kicker, a giant cooler full of meat from cows and pigs grown by my brother and sister in law. We probably have about a six month supply of meats.

The first to go were some pork chops, which were the finest I’ve eaten since childhood. I made two into schnitzels (take that, Deutschland), and the other two are now marry-nating. And that was one fat hog, so I trimmed the chops and rendered down some lard from the fat.

Low and Slow

The key to proper rendering is to melt the fat at the lowest possible temperature, so I set my 6000 BTU burner at its bottom level. The lard is rendered when the fat turns into rinds, and stops sizzling.

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

After a night in the fridge, the lard congeals and is ready to use. Never make any beef dish without it, and never buy commercially produced lard, if possible.

Lard Help Us–Again

Everyone should read the article from the website Raw Story with the following link, about how hydrogenated cottonseed oil replaced good old lard. It’s a perfect story about the decline of American food, funded by the industrial food industry.

How Crisco toppled lard – and made Americans believers in industrial food

Great Southern Cookbooks, Part Two–Real Cajun, by Donald Link (2009)

Real Food for Real People

There is only one thing to not like about this book, and that is I wish it was ten times longer. When you keep going back to the same cookbook over and over, you know it’s good. The “home cooking” part is the key here–these are recipes to use everyday.

Link has won a James Beard award, so home cooking may sound like an odd subject for such an accomplished chef. However, that is his strong suit, in that he cooks real authentic Louisiana food. He grew up in the region where people are comically referred to as “Coonasses,” as he notes in the book, which is a regional term for Cajuns.

The recipes? My favorites are the Chicken and Rice Soup, the Hush Puppies, the Hot Pepper Jelly, and the classic Cajun sausage, the Boudin. Cajun Boudin is mostly rice with liver and pork, but it is incredibly tasty. A Cajun seven course meal is said to consist of a Boudin, and a six pack of beer.

Strangely enough, Link is not of mainly French descent, but from German and regular Southern folks. That there are Cajuns of German descent is a surprise to many people from outside the South. And yes, those are the classic Cajun spices of Paprika and Cayenne pepper in the picture.

“Schnitzel Alarm” in Germany!

Achtung! There’s a schnitzel crisis in Germany, according to the authoritative website Deutsche Welle (that’s Voice of Germany). EU exports to China have caused a tripling of pork prices on the continent.

The cause–Swine Fever, which is killing pigs in China faster than an abacus can count. DW also reports that China plans to import three million tons of pork, much of it from the EU. And I have always loved sweet and sour pork.

So keep an eye on your pigs. Globalization is also a pig problem, and not just with Kapitalistenschwein (that’s capitalist pigs). According to the head of Germany’s Meat Association, “Sausage will definitely be more expensive next year.”

It’s time to invest in pork belly futures again.

Update! Denmark is considering building a wall along their border with Germany, to keep out the notorious wild German pigs, who may or may not be carrying Swine Fever–currently, there are no confirmed cases. The Germans have nicknamed it the “Boar-der Wall.” Now that is droll.

Hoya! Fresh Bacon Turns Grey when Cooked

No Curing Salt Here

My all time favorite congress critter has to be Mo Udall of Arizona, who would give speeches with titles like, “Who Needs Enemies When We Have Friends Like the Marlboro Man?” And that was to the American Cancer Society.

I’ve told this one before, but Mo’s favorite stump speech was about the time he allegedly had a group of native Americans yell Hoya! at him, every time he made a promise. (He did deliver a groundbreaking speech in 1965 on “The American Indians and Civil Rights.”) Hoya is the stuff you don’t want to step in when you’re in the horse stable, as he later learned from the Chief of the tribe.

I’m on my second pound of local pasture raised bacon from Hardwood Hills farm in Cullman county, and is it good! No, it’s fabulous. Despite the hoya that comes from various experts, it does not turn grey when cooked. Or as Othello would say, “Be sure of it. Give me the ocular proof.” That’s it at the top. It’s only marinated in a Saumure Anglais, without the curing salt, and it doesn’t turn grey. I guess people should buy better pork. And quote both Mo and Shakespeare, at the same time.

Traditional Farmer’s Omelette with All Local Ingredients

Bauernomlett

To celebrate a drought busting two inches of rain, and to challenge myself, I decided to make a Farmer’s Omelette the traditional German way, using only local ingredients. In fact, they were so local that all but one ingredient came from within a hundred feet of our front door.

The brilliance of this recipe is that it only calls for three main ingredients–bacon, potatoes, and eggs. Everything else is optional, and subject to improvisation. This is a jazz recipe, and I always follow my use what you have rule. Here is today’s version.

Ingredients

One slice Bacon

One skillet full of Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed

Four Eggs

Two small Tomatoes, chopped

One sweet Banana Pepper, chopped

Garlic Chives, chopped

Salt and Pepper

The only ingredient we didn’t grow ourselves was the bacon, which came from just across the Mulberry River, from my home county of Cullman. The county happens to be named after its founder Colonel Johannes Gottfried Kullman, though he was actually a Colonel in one of the failed German state revolutions of 1848. Hence his removal to the United States.

This is also no ordinary bacon

Marinated Fresh Bacon

The bacon is so large that eight slices made a pound, and I had to cut one slice into three pieces just to make it fit my omelette skillet. These slices of fresh bacon were marinated for six days in a Saumure Anglaise.

The German method of cooking this is to fry the bacon while simmering the potatoes in water for eight to ten minutes. The bacon is then removed from the skillet, and the potatoes are browned in the bacon fat. I added the peppers as well. Chop up the bacon, and mix the eggs. I put my tomatoes and garlic chives in with the eggs, and then the bacon. When the potatoes begin to brown, add the egg mixture, and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients.

I did depart from the norm, and finished the omelette in the oven at 400 degrees F. While I cooked, Melanie Jane turned on Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto. We ate while listening to one of my favorite recordings, the Bavarian State Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, conducted by the incomparable Carlos Kleiber. We also had a Bavarian flag hanging off the balcony above our dining room table, in honor of Oktoberfest. One of our semi-domesticated wolves, aka a dog, ate the leftovers.

As the salt was not mined, nor the peppercorns picked, anywhere locally, I will admit that this was only ninety nine percent local. But that is still ninety nine percent better than food that has been trucked across a continent.

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