Sunday, September 28, 2014

Learning to smoke, western washington wild grapes, breaking and entering

Model number works  every time!   It also helps if the  spouse/partner/sig other can have as much fun with your birthday present as you can. Such is the case with  my new 30 inch electric smoker (analogue not digital).   The day after receiving my  oh-so-desired gift, I tried it for the first time.  While I would  not call my first effort disastrous, improvements  can be had.  For my first attempt at smoking, I decided to go with the classic beef jerky. I cut  two pounds of lean round   into slices  and marinated it per  instructions. I put it on the  designated amounted of time  and when I opened it  a few hours later most of it  was  jerky brittle. The wood chip container still had  almost all the wood chips intact and barely scorched.   I, of  course, consulted professor internet  and armed with new info went for  experiment number 2.  Yesterday I woke up at the crack of dawn and put a whole chicken in the fridge to  brine.  At noon I heated up the smoker  and put the chicken on the middle rack.  I  clanged the door shut. For the next 4 hours I carefully monitored the temperature and resisted the urge to open the smoker  to see what kind of progress  the bird was making.  To keep myself busy and away from temptation I dug the last of the potatoes out of the garden, pulled a few carrots up and then made Jimmy help me pick late season green beans.  I made a huge production out of  cleaning and prepping the vegetables (partly because  this will be one of the last meals with everything fresh  on our table coming from our garden).   5 pm finally rolled around.  I was of a mind to let it  stay in the smoker for another half hour just to make  sure  that it was completely done but, Jimmy wouldn't let that happen.  Around  4:45 he started dancing around on his toes singing  "its time. its time".   I prepared myself for whatever was in the box and bravely opened the door.  It was beautiful and golden.  SUCCESS! Almost... The wood chips were  only lightly scorched....again. I'll work on that after dinner.   Dinner was wonderful.  The chicken was delicious. It had a lightly smoked flavor and the  brine did exactly what it was supposed to do. So, on the second try I got the seasoning, the temp and the timing right.  After a delightfully delicious meal I consulted professor  internet  again.   According to the professor I need a tiny bit more air flow.  Not enough air flow and  the wood will not ignite and smolder.  To much air and the whole thing becomes dantes inferno, complete with fire trucks and charred remains. 
And now for something new and old at the same time.  One of the delights that Jimmy uncovered  when he  did the slash and burn blackberry removal in the  secret garden, was an old, well established  WA state  wild grape  vine.  We were not even sure it was a real grape  vine until this year.  The first two seasons we were here it produced no fruit.  It was a huge tentacled monster waging war with the blackberries.    Over last winter jimmy cut it back so far we thought he had killed it.  Not so.  This week we pulled one kitchen colander  full of tiny green wild grapes off of it. They were very tart and very sweet.  I had just enough of them to make  a half dozen jars of jelly..  Unlike the raspberry and blackberry jelly the wild grape is very light and  subtle.  The color was interesting too.  It turned out a very clear light green gold color..
I have one canning project left to do and then canning is finished for the season.  I have several pounds of tomatoes in the freezer waiting to be made into tomato sauce.  I was going to do it last week but there are still more tomatoes on the vine  ripening.  This has been the  best and longest tomato season that I can remember in years.  I'm sure the season is over  though because last night when I got home from work the house was so cold I was tempted to build a fire.  I chose to go to bed early instead because it was a crazy week.
I had a kamikaze trip down to Portland and left Jimmy here by himself.  As so often happens when I'm gone, he got bored and lonely and wandered over to the neighbors house for company.  They opened a bottle of wine and chatted for a while.  I'm not sure how it happened but Jimmy came home with the neighbors wine glass.  He left it on the kitchen table   to remind himself  to return it.  I woke up this morning to shattered glass all over the kitchen floor.   I feel bad about the glass and will  buy the very nice neighbors  a  whole set to gain absolution.  What I am truly disturbed by is that I didn't hear it happen.  I was so tired last night that  crashing  glass and running cat (I'm sure it was the cat that knocked it off the table) didn't wake me up.  The dog didn't bark either.  Seriously!... if some  underworld personage decided to  break a window and crawl   into the house in the middle of the night for nefarious purposes, we would all  just  drool into  our pillows and snore right through it.
So much for basic survival instincts....sheesh........