Guinness Pulled Pork

Because I think that trying new things is important, and because I don’t think there’s such thing as ever truly perfecting a dish, I decided to try a new recipe for pulled pork the other day. On freebie day, someone had left a box of books on the side of the road, and one of the ones in there was Cooking With Beer: Quick & Easy from Publications International Ltd. (2010). One of the ingredients in the recipe was stout – there weren’t any brands mentioned (probably due to trademark or copyright issues), but whenever anyone thinks “stout” around here, one of the first beers to come to mind is “Guinness”. So that’s what I used.

Given that it was a beer-based recipe, I also used Bulls-Eye Guinness Barbecue Sauce (recently bought on sale for $0.99 a bottle), and I served it on my bread machine beer bread (you can find the recipe in yesterday’s post). I thought that this would be the perfect combination.

Sadly, I wasn’t terribly thrilled with this pulled pork recipe. It had a nice flavour, but you didn’t really taste even the slightest tang of beer. Also, the sauce didn’t thicken very much; it was more like pulled pork soup than a proper sauce. And, in my case, it took way longer to cook than planned. I mean, the meat was cooked through by the specified time, but it definitely wasn’t soft enough to shred. Now, that might have been the fault of my oven, but overall the recipe just wasn’t up to my (admittedly high) hopes. All that being said, though, everyone ate their fair share, because there’s only so wrong you can go with pulled pulled pork on fresh bread.

Bread Machine Beer Bread

I think I’ve finally gotten the beer bread recipe to the point that I feel it’s good enough to share! This bread is customizable based on what kind of beer you choose to use. For this bread I chose to use Lost Craft’s India Pale Ale, which is a nice, light beer with only a 4% alcohol content. But feel free to choose the beer that you like best! A stout will make a much darker, richer bread, while a crisp, light beer will have a much less pronounced taste. You could even use a non-alcoholic beer. Additionally, you can choose to omit the caraway seeds, which do have a strong flavour of their own, so that the beer shines through.

The beer that you choose to use changes what it goes well with. It’s a light fluffy bread no matter the beer, so if you’re going to spread something on top, it’s best to toast it first. With a light ale and caraway seeds, I like it paired with a sharp cheese, deli meats, and/or a touch of mustard. Without the caraway, I have served it with eggs and toast for breakfast, and received quite a few compliments.

Bread Machine Beer Bread
Yields one 2lb loaf

A note about bread machines:
Every bread machine comes with an instruction booklet (most of which are also generally available online) that will specify the order that ingredients should be added. Mine says that liquids should be added first, then flour, then yeast. When preparing this recipe, the instructions for your specific bread machine should take first priority, so if your manual says to add the ingredients in a different order, do so.

Into the bread machine pan, pour:
1 ½ cups India pale ale
2 Tbsp olive oil
Over the liquids, pour evenly:
4 cups flour
Into one corner of the pan spoon:
1 Tbsp sugar
Into the other corner of the pan, spoon:
2 tsp salt
Make a divot at the center of the flour. Into the divot, put:
2 tsp yeast
Over the top of all of the ingredients, sprinkle:
3 tsp caraway seeds

Set the bread machine to the basic/normal/white setting, with a light or medium crust to your preference. Press start. Running this cycle should take about three to four hours, depending on your machine.

It’s as simple as that!

My Food is Problematic

So the thunderstorms that they were predicting throughout the day yesterday never happened. Instead, we had drizzle all day that just upped the humidity so that when the sun finally came out, your clothes stuck to your skin and your face became greasy with sweat almost instantaneously. Well, at least the heat and humidity were predicted correctly, and I had planned a meal that could cook out in the garage where it wouldn’t heat up the house: pulled pork in the slow cooker, fresh white bread in the bread machine (simply the herb bread recipe minus, well, the herbs), a few slices of lactose-free cheese, and a grocery store salad. Easy peasy.

Except that at about 4:40pm, right before the bread was scheduled to start its baking cycle and near the end of the pulled pork’s cooking time, the power went out. Blips being what they are, that didn’t concern me too much until 45 minutes had passed, at which point I realized that it wasn’t going to come on again any time soon.

We looked into multiple options, such as borrowing a neighbour’s power (that wouldn’t work, the coverage on this outage was pretty large and affected 1,000+ people), cooking on the barbecue (with nothing thawed and nothing that I had started being barbecue-friendly), and going out for dinner (just like the other 1,000+ people who suddenly couldn’t cook dinner). Eventually we settled on driving over to my parents’ place and finishing cooking dinner there. Of course, to do that I had to wait until my husband got home so we could all go together, which added to the wait. By the time we arrived, the capacitor or backup battery in the bread machine had flattened and it couldn’t be re-started from the same point in the cycle. I mean, at least it hadn’t started baking, since it’s more or less impossible to finish cooking a half-baked loaf over an hour later… So I had to bake the bread in the oven, which was totally opposite of the point of using the bread machine in the first place! And I had to finish the crock pot meal inside my parents’ house, when the whole plan was to cook outside to avoid the heat. Not only that, but in all the hooferah I forgot to pick up the salad!

In the end, almost two hours late, the dinner was the pathetic-looking thing pictured above: bland and boring and entirely without even the semblance of vegetables or fruit.

My string of bad cooking luck definitely needs to end soon. I am becoming disheartened.

On the bright side, at least the power was back on for us by 8:00pm or so, when they’d predicted it wouldn’t be up before 1:30am Friday. But I understand that at least half of the 1,000+ customers affected by the outage didn’t get their power back until the wee hours of the morning, so it could have been much worse.

Not Charcoal Briquettes

Last night for dinner I wanted something quick and easy, as well as something that could preferably be cooked on the barbecue. I just wanted to spend time on that lovely new deck! There are lots of options along those lines, but unfortunately not a lot of them could be made without having to make a run to the grocery store this time. Honestly, I have run out of rice, potatoes, and carrots, which are three of my main staples. I really must go do a large grocery run. But I still needed to cook a family dinner with what I had at hand.

So I went with what I’ve been resorting to all too often of late: eggs and toast. The toast was day-old Fluffy Dill Bread. (I’d run the bread machine in the garage since it was so hot and humid the day before, and I didn’t want to heat up the house.) Eggs are always quick and simple, so I made both over-easy and scrambled, to peoples’ preferences. But then there was the sausages to go with the dinner, which are not, as one might think, charcoal briquettes.

Something about the kind of wood pellet we’re using at the moment in the smoker grill turns everything cooked in there black on the outside. I think it’s just a high-ash mixture. You can see it to a certain degree on the burgers, but the buns hide the worst of it. But with the sausages, it just looks horrible. It’s funny, though, because the meat tastes absolutely fabulous. It’s juicy and tender and not at all overdone. And, of course, there’s a lovely smokey flavour and scent that comes through with anything on a wood pellet grill. We’re just going to have to invest in some nicer pellets next time we run out. The ones we’re using came with the grill when we got it last fall second-hand from my in-laws, and I have no idea what kind they are. After all, not every dish needs to look as if it’s been blackened.

Useful Weeds

Last year my mom planted dill in her garden (mammoth dill, I believe). She’d hoped for a reasonable yield, but the plants grew up tall and spindly and woody, and they dried out rather early in the season, much to her disappointment. This was especially surprising because last year was a really wet year, so it’s nigh on impossible that they weren’t watered enough. At the end of autumn, she ripped the desiccated stalks out of her garden and thought nothing more of it until this spring.

It appears that the dill self-seeded. Apparently, although it didn’t like the nicely fertilized and weeded soil of her garden, it really likes the cracks between her paving stone and between said stones and her garden border. Go figure. Dill is growing there, well, like a weed.

This seems to be a trend at Mom and Dad’s house. Ten years ago or so, a clump of chives started growing between the paving stones near the back yard — but never in the actual garden. This was especially surprising because Mom never planted any chives at all. Who knows where the seeds came from; dropped by a bird, perhaps? At first, Mom pulled the chives out like she would any other weed, but they always came back. She mowed them regularly when she did her lawn, but that didn’t cause much of a dent in their growth. Yet the chives didn’t spread to her garden or her lawn. They have self-propagated a bit along the paving stones closer to the fence, though, as you can see in the above photo. Eventually, Mom just gave up and started harvesting the chives for her own cooking; it’s a free crop that she doesn’t have to plant every year. Thing 1 and Thing 2 love those chives and grab a handful whenever we visit in the summer, leading to many car rides where the whole car reeks of onions.

I have a feeling this is what’s going to happen with the dill. This weed is a bit more aggressive than the chives, so Mom will weed it out of the garden so it doesn’t choke out her tomatoes (which she plans to plant next week). But the dill growing in the cracks can stay and supply her — and me — with all the dill we could possibly use over the summer. I actually harvested a few handfuls yesterday to make into bread machine dill bread. I needed to test out my new-to-me bread machine at any rate. The machine is smaller than my previous one, making 2lb loaves instead of 3lb, but it works a treat so I can’t exactly complain, seeing as it was free.

I think I need to make some kind of salmon dish with a creamy dill sauce, to take advantage of the herb being so nice and young and tender. Maybe next week.

Rockland Community Garage Sale

The whole town of Rockland sets aside the holiday Monday of the Victoria Day Weekend every year for the Rockland Community Garage Sale. The sale centers around the parking lot of the Independant Grocer on Laurier Street, where a flea market pops up for the day while the main store is closed. (I believe the garden center was open, though.) While this is the hub of activity, the sales continue throughout the town and a leisurely walk or drive around will lead you to some scores.

I spent the day out searching for finds with a friend of mine. She’d been going to this sale for many years, and she is the one who alerted me to its existence — I’d never gone before! My friend was hoping that a particular booth with scrapbooking supplies would be there again this year; sadly, we never found that particular vendor. However, we both came away with some fantastic bargains.

Front to back, left to right, I came home with:

– a bag of white Christmas bead garland (free)
– a bag of tiny Christmas balls (free)
– three sets of light-up LED shoelaces ($5 each)
Borderlands for the PS3 ($5 — and yes, somehow I didn’t have the original game)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS ($5)
Pokemon Pearl Version for the Nintendo DS ($5)
Pokemon Diamond for the Nintendo DS ($5)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief for the Nintendo DS ($5)
– a brand new Hogwarts scarf ($3)
– a fish bowl or possibly a candle globe (free)
– a small lunch box ($0.25)
– a bread maker (free — to replace mine, which I’ve worn out)
– Super MasterMind ($2)
– a massive load of glass marbles ($10)
– two pictures ($0.50 each — and I only want the frames to try out Epbot’s frame resizing tutorial)

According to my math, that means that I spent $56.25, which is generally more than I’ll spend in a day of thrifting, but those DS games will be saved for Thing 1’s birthday, so I feel I’m ahead of the game there.

I think my favourite find, I think, was the big bags of marbles. This was a combined purchase from a couple of different sources, but I love the look and weight of them all. I’m determined to teach the girls how to play this summer. I don’t know how they’ve managed to miss it, but although the kids have a double-set marble run that they build regularly, they don’t play the game the way I used to as a kid. I think it’s a good thing to learn, and maybe they can teach it to their friends. Who knows, perhaps I’ll start a classic childhood game fad at their school?

Crock Pot Sloppy Joes

I need to defrost my freezer at some point in the near future, so I’ve been trying to use up the remaining food that I stored there for winter. At the same time, I’m trying to use my slow cooker more often in order to give myself more time to work on ComicCon costumes. A quick Googling for recipes showed me that I had all of the ingredients to make Crock Pot Sloppy Barbecue Beef Sandwiches from The Spruce Eats, or, as my family has always called them, Sloppy Joes — which we’ve always served open-faced, I don’t know why.

Instead of buns, I let my trusty bread machine do most of the work and whipped up some Bread Machine Fluffy Herb Bread, this time using dried rosemary instead of fresh dill. I found that the robustness of the rosemary went really well with the vinegar tang of the Sloppy Joe sauce. If you like crusty buns for this dish, the ends of the loaf are great. Or you can always use the dough setting on your bread machine, then shape the dough into rolls, proof, and bake them in the oven instead. I went the easy route on this one.

As is my wont, I had to alter the meat sauce’s ingredients a bit. I omitted the sweet peppers because I’m not terribly fond of them, and I didn’t have any celery. However, I liked how the recipe had lots of hidden vegetables, so I upped the number of grated carrots to four. I also used about a cup of chopped frozen, thawed rainbow chard stems left over from last year’s garden crop.

Despite all of the changes, this dish turned out really well. The kids hoovered up their dinners and kept saying how much they liked it. I really think that you could add just about any vegetable to this dish if you want, so long as you cut it up small enough that it blends well with the meat and you give it the appropriate amount of time to cook. I will definitely be making this recipe again and I highly recommend it.