November 28, 2015

honing in on habanero beef jerky

today i finished preparing my second batch of beef jerky.  i started with the recipe from charcuterie, but i'm still tweaking it to achieve a better result.  i got inspired to make this because i love the super spicy jerk'n pickle habanero jerky, but at about $64 / lb i don't buy a whole lot of it.  i've tried lots of other commercial beef jerkies, and frankly i think most of them suck.  so decided to try making my own.

the first batch i made was with an 2.3 lb organic eye of round roast.  i trimmed it, quartered it, and froze it for four hours before cutting it 2mm thick along the grain on the meat slicer.  i cut it along the grain because i was worried that if i cut it against the grain it would fall apart.  i then proceeded to cure it for 24 hours with:
    • 20 grams salt
    • 5 grams garlic powder
    • 5 grams onion powder
    • 60 grams chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
    • 0.5 grams ground habaneros
    i dried it in a dehydrator for for 23 hours at 95 F.   what i got was essentially tasty chewy meat paper:
    first batch.  tasty chewy meat paper.

    it wasn't very spicy, it was a bit too thin, and a bit too dry. in the end i got a yield of 12 oz, and since i started with a overpriced organic roast from whole foods, my cost was $45.90 / lb.

    before starting my second batch i got some advice from a friend who is a BBQ expert.  (actually, he has never made jerky before, but since he's a competitive BBQ'er he knows people who have so he relayed me some advice.)

    for my second attempt i started with a non-organic 2.6 lb eye of round roast from my local grocery store.  after trimming it and halving it, i cut it 5mm thick against the grain and i didn't have any issues with the meat falling apart.  for the cure i increased the heat by using 2 grams of freshly ground dried habaneros from our garden.  this time i dried the meat for 12 hours at 155 F.  here's the before and after:
    second batch going into the dehydrator

    second batch coming out of the dehydrator

    here's the first batch (on the left) compared to the second batch (on the right):
    jerky comparison.  first batch (left), cut 2mm thick with the grain vs second batch (right), cut 5mm thick against the grain.

    the flavor on the second batch is better, there is actually some heat in it now.  the texture is also better with the meat cut against the grain.  unfortunately i dried it too much.  i checked on it after about 6 hours of drying (before i went to bed), and it definitely needed more time, but by the time i woke up it was bone dry and a bit crunchy (almost like meat candy).  this time around i got a yield of 12.5 oz and my cost was $8.65 / lb.

    next time i'll probably try cutting it 4 mm thick, using 4 grams of habanero, and drying it for 8-9 hours at 145 F.

    October 31, 2015

    bacon, phase one, take one

    i recently bought charcuterie by ruhlman and polcyn, and today i started my first attempt at making bacon.  i got a 3.7 lb pork belly from whole foods and i rubbed it with:
    • 50 grams of basic cure (8 parts salt, 7.6 parts dextrose, 1 part pink salt)
    • 3 crushed bay leaves
    • 10 grams cracked black peppercorns
    • 5 crushed garlic
    i put it in a 2 gallon ziploc bag and now it needs to cure for 7 days.  since i don't have a smoker my current plan is to cook the bacon in a sous vide bath (with some liquid smoke) after it's done curing.  (apologies in advance to all the actual bbq and smoker experts out there.)

    my tasting assistant knows it's going to be a while before this will be ready.
    my tasting assistant knows it's going to be a while before this will be ready.

    mmm.  pork. the king of meats. hopefully i can do it justice.
    mmm. pork. the king of meats. hopefully i can do it justice.

    i didn't even know they made 2 gallon ziploc bags.
    i didn't even know they made 2 gallon ziploc bags.

    October 28, 2015

    Jury selection dismissal

    Today I was the first juror dismissed (by the prosecution) from an initial selection of 18 jurors.

    This was my third time participating in a jury selection and the first time I've actually been selected, questioned, and dismissed.

    This was a criminal DUI case that would probably have lasted two to three days.  Talking to some other jurors who were initially dismissed I was the only one who was actually interested serving.  I thought it would be informative to see the criminal justice system working.  I also thought I could do a good job on the jury, judging the evidence in accordance with the law.

    There were many jurors who in answering questions made it clear that they felt they would not be able to apply the standards of the law.  For example, one juror said they couldn't understand why someone would refuse to take a breathalyzer test when it could so easily "prove their innocence" and that this refusal would bias their judgement.

    During the juror selection process, some of the questions that came up and that I replied to were:
    • The defense asked a long winded, hypothetical question that essentially amounted to asking if we could follow direction.  I pointed this out and indicated the judge had already asked this and I had already answered in the affirmative.
    • The defense asked if, in the case that the defendant declined to testify on their own behalf, would bias our judgement in the case.  I replied that it was the prosecution's burden to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and lack of testimony from the defendant would not affect that burden of proof.
    • The prosecution asked if anyone would have problems accepting the testimony of a trained police officer.  I replied that any officer’s testimony would need to be judged equally with all the other testimony, taking into account any instructions from the judge and in the context of the law as explained by the judge.
    Given the number of jurors trying to get themselves excused, and the fact that I thought I could do a good job as a juror in this case, I mistakenly thought I had a pretty good chance of being selected.  Just before they started with dismissals the woman next to me in the jury box leaned over and told me we were both out.  She was an auto-insurance claims investigator and said we were both "far too logical" to stay.  She was the second person dismissed.  IMO neither of us had given any indication that we would have any problems serving fairly in this case.

    So as future reference note, should I find myself in jury selection for a case where I'd actually like to serve, I should keep my responses as curt as possible and avoid nodding or speaking up unless directly spoken to.  Also, if I find myself in jury selection for a case in which I don't want to serve, I should just be myself.

    September 12, 2015

    Saturday recap

    I actually went for a bike ride. (My last ride was three week ago.) My normal short ride through Emerald Hills, up Kings, and back. I did some intervals in Emerald Hills. Unlike the past few days, the weather was reasonable today (high 60s and overcast).

    I roasted two batches of coffee.

    I chopped back a lavender bush that was trying to take over the driveway.

    I cleaned the driveway. Kinda a Sisyphean task since we have a black walnut tree over the driveway that renders it useless most of the year by constantly shitting a stream of sticky, resiny, and staining walnuts onto it.

    I cleared a forsaken three foot wide patch of dirt next to the garage. In the past few years at least a foot of detritus had accrued there which contained rats nests, bird carcasses, and some huge spiders. It was also causing some rot in the exterior siding of the garage.

    I put down termite poison in most perimeter areas around the house and fences.

    Somehow this home owner shit has rendered me exhausted and useless. The only thing I'm capable of doing now is writing this drivel and going to bed.