Friday, April 27, 2012

Smoked Cheddar & Provolone

I have wanted to smoke cheese every since I got my pellet smoker over 2 years ago. I almost bought a small charcoal smoker I could hook a dryer hose too and use my Traeger for the smoke source. Then on pelletheads I started to read about the Smoke Daddy. I just about ordered one until I seen a video demo & there were sparks falling from it. That was out since my smoker is on a wood deck.

I recently got a Smok’n Spice RSI, Reusable Smoke Infuser, for adding smoked spices. It worked good with the spice pellets so I experimented with wood pellets & was able to get over an hour smoke from it. I also tried some apple wood chips, they didn’t do as well as the pellets.

After reading up on smoking cheese on the net and all I could find posted from my fellow pelletheads; I felt I was ready to do some cheese. I had bought a brick of Cabot aged Vermont sharp cheddar and a brick of Auricchio aged sharp provolone, two lbs each.

I would only smoke half the cheese, in case I ruined it! I cut each brick in half & some samplers from each one. My plan was to do the provolone for one hour & the cheddar for two hours; based upon what I read. Some said theirs was too acrid & strong tasting right out of the smoker but most said it mellowed out after aging.

I loaded the RSI unit with half 100% Hickory pellets and the rest with apple wood chips. I got it smoking good & put my cheese on. Ambient temp. was 56 deg. I monitored the smoker temp. it never got over 70 deg. I tasted both cheeses at 1 hour, 1 ½ hours, 2 hours, and 2 ½ hours. The RSI was about out at 1 ½ hours, with tongs & a fork I was able to get the lid off, filled with hickory pellets, and relit.

During the tasting it never did taste too strong to me so I ended up doing both cheeses for 3 hours. I didn’t have a brown color I was expecting but had a nice gold hue to them. The samplers tasted great. I think the provolone was better than the cheddar, had a sweet smoky nut taste to it. My daughter-in-law tasted it & thought it was good. I vacuum packed the cheese & in the fridge to age for one month.

I guess you will have to tune in next month for the real results! Thanks to many pelletheads for your posts on smoking cheese!

The Cheese

Ready to Smoke

The Smoke

The Smoke at 1/2 Hour

After 3 hours on Smoke

Ready to Vacuum Pack

Ready to Age

Smokin Don

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Greek BBR's & Greek Potato Salad

I had two slabs of Baby Back Ribs from Sam’s club to do up. I would do them Greek style. I would use my Smok’n Spice RSI to cold smoke with oregano spice for the first hour. My cook plan was after the cold smoke to go to 225 deg. for an hour & a half. Then I would wrap each slab in foil along with the juice of half of lemon for an hour & a half. Then remove the foil for the last hour. The 3-2-1 method is popular but they always seemed a little over done to me. I guess you could call this the 1.5-1.5-1 method.

I found the perfect potato salad to go along with the ribs, Cat Cora’s Greek Potato Salad from I used Vidalia onions, instead of her red onions, no green onions and dried herbs instead of fresh. The red & green onions would add nice color. It turned out great, my Wife & daughter-in-law both thought it was about their favorite ever. My other side would be Green Giants steamer cauliflower in cheese sauce. I like using the steamer bags of veggies, a good short cut; that I use more often as I get older.

I got the ribs seasoned with, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and the juice & zest from ½ of lemon on each slab. I covered with plastic wrap & in the fridge until cook time, about 3 hours. I did forget the garlic so I added that just before cook time. I did another experiment too; I left the membrane on one slab.

I got the ribs on to cold smoke with the oregano spice at 1:00 and supper would be at 6:00. After starting up my smoker on 225 deg at 2:00 I peeled & sliced my potatoes about ¼ inch thick and boiled until fork tender, about 15 minutes. I mixed all together covered & in the fridge. The warm potatoes kinda soak up most of the dressing. I set them out at 5:00 to get to room temp. before serving.

At 5:45 I gave the ribs the tong test; they had a nice bend & were just staring to tear. At 5:55 I put my cauliflower in to nuke for 15 minutes, pulled the ribs & covered in foil until the cauliflower was done. Slicing the ribs with the membrane left on; the membrane came off almost whole. Tasting them I thought maybe they were just a little moister.

Everyone liked my supper & I thought the oregano spice added a flavor profile. My mostly vegetarian daughter-in-law even ate a rib & said it was good. Greek ribs are meant to eat with no sauce but my son had to have some BBQ sauce to dip his in. We had some bread & butter with the meal. I was happy with this cook!

Link to Potatosalata Recipe

Printable Rib Recipe

Salad Ingredients

Seasonings added

Mixed & ready to chill

Ribs with one membrane pulled

Seasoned & ready to marinate

Garlic added & ready to smoke

Ready to foil

Just about done

My Plate

Smokin Don

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hickory Smoked Garlic Sausage

I finally got around to using my Weston sausage stuffer. I bought it early last year & my wife reminded me several times over the year I hadn’t used it yet! Before I bought it I tried using my grinder to stuff some boudin & some chorizo. I used artificial casings & that did not work out so great. Listen to the experts, real casings, hog intestines, are easier to work with.

I was raised around a slaughterhouse. My uncle had a slaughterhouse & grocery in the small town I grew up in. He never let my cousin & I help make sausage. He let us squeeze out the intestines for making the casings! We loved the hot cracklins when he made lard. I should have watched him make sausage more & maybe this job would have went easier!

I picked up some pork shoulder from my butcher Friday. He had cut me up some with the right meat fat ratio; it was right at 6 lbs. I would use a recipe for garlic sausage from the book Charcuterie. It was for fresh sausage but I decided to use pink salt for some cure. I also added two TBS. of smoked paprika.

I mixed all my dry spices & sprinkled over the meat, added the minced garlic, stirred to coat evenly. I placed in a large plastic bag & in the fridge overnight. Saturday morning my grandson helped me do the first grind; he was the stomper. I used the large plate for this grind. It all went back in the plastic bag& in the fridge overnight.

I did the final grind Sunday morning, I used the ¼ plate. I took a couple of photos but later realized I didn’t have a card in my camera! I mixed in the cup of red wine and in the fridge to chill before stuffing.

I got enough casings soaking in warm water and did the stuffing Sunday afternoon. It went pretty well. I used a twisting method, twist one CW, pinch one, twist one CCW; this will also twist the one you pinched off. It went pretty well, had a few air bubbles to prick. Next time I will get a little tighter. I ended up with 16 links about 6 inches each and had about a pound of bulk left. All went back in the fridge to air dry overnight. The wife & kids went out to eat Chinese that evening. I stayed home with the dogs & fried up a patty from the bulk for a sandwich with mustard & onion. It tasted pretty good.

I used some 100% hickory pellets for the smoke Monday morning. I had experimented with my RSI from Smok’n Spice with the hickory pellets & knew I could get at least an hour cold smoke. I did the one hour cold smoke then went to smoke mode & maintained about 170 deg for the next couple of hours. When it reached 120 deg IT I went to 180 deg to finish to 150 deg IT. The 180 setting was more like 190 average. I had the sausage links on my top shelf & a chub of the leftover bulk on the bottom. After the sausage links were done it took another ½ hour to get the chub up to 160 deg.

After the links had air dried in the fridge I vacuum packed and froze them in 3 link packs. I had one left for my lunch tomorrow.

My grandson, he was my stomper!

Sausage & Wine

Sorry for the out of season tablecloth, it did match the stuffer!

Finished Links

Starting the Cold Smoke

Cold smoke done opened to start the smoker

Finished Chub

Ready to Vacuum Pack

Packed & ready for the freezer

Smokin Don

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Sunday Brunch

Getting caught up now I had some of the sage sauage, pancake with egg on top and maple syrup this morning. My vegetarian daughter-in-law ate a pancake & egg with me. I couldn't get her to try the sausage! Everyone else fended for themselves. That's the way our breakfast & lunches have been going, everyone gets their own.

The sage sausage I had smoked yesterday using Smok'n Spices sage Dibby tasted great with the pancake & egg. I am not a great sage lover but this tasted different. I guess the best I can describe it is smoked paprika does not taste like sweet paprika, it has a taste of it's own. That's the way the sage is & I like it.

My Brunch

Smokin Don

Friday's Cheeseburgers

I have been in the process of making sausage over the week-end. In between other cooking I got behind in my posts. I had enough corn left frozen from last summer. It would go good with cheeseburgers so I did up some on the smoker. My son fried up the corn while I did the burgers.

I did them for 35 minutes at 300 deg. added some cheese slices, topped with the buns for a couple of minutes and served. The fried sweet corn tasted good with the burgers.

Cheeseburgers Ready to Serve

My Plate, Burger & Corn

Smokin Don

Smok'n Spice Sage Sausage

I wasn’t going to cook today, this morning the grandson helped my grind some pork for making sausage. At the last minute I decided to use one of Smokn’ Spices sage Dibby’s on some fresh sausage from my butcher.

I lit it & got the sausage on my Traeger at 4:00. I didn’t get it lit well so had to relight it at 4:10. I got it going well that time. I let the sausage cold smoke until 4:45 so I got some good sage smoke for 35 min. then fired up the smoker on smoke. At 5:00 I went to 180 deg. It was averaging 190+ deg. so let it there until the sausage was at 165 IT at 6:00.

I had started some Zatarains black beans & rice to have with it & also a chicken thigh I had done with the Mediterranean blend the day before. I could taste the spice more in the chicken warmed up & liked the sausage. In a blind taste test I don’t think I could tell you it was sage but I know I could tell it from sausage that was done without. I did like the extra flavor it gave to the sausage.

I like the RSI, reusable better than the Dibby.

Sausage Smoking

After 45 min. I Turned the Smoker on

Sausage is Done

My Plate

Smokin Don

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Guy Fieri's Smokin' Potato Salad

Here is the potato salad cook I did to go along with my Smok’n Spice chicken. I did red potatoes instead of the gold the recipe calls for. They are both a waxy potato. I liked the use of smoked paprika; I use it a lot in my recipes for smoking, stews and chili. After seasoning them & adding the olive oil I did them on my Weber Q100. I did them for 5 min. on med turned 90 deg. for another 5 min. then repeated on the other side for a total of just over 20 minutes.

I also decided to grill the red onions; this would tame down the raw onion taste some. I coated them with olive oil & some of Penzey’s galangal, it is close relative of ginger, has a flavor that is similar to ginger, but more flowery and intense. I did them about 3 min. on each side.

I placed the potatoes & onions in a bowl & in the fridge to cool. After they had cooled I diced up the potatoes, onions, celery, & cilantro. I made up the dressing and mixed all together then back in the fridge until supper.

I thought I had gotten the potatoes a little beyond the brown stage! My grandson said they tasted burnt! My daughter-in-law & I liked them. I will use the recipe again but will do the potatoes on my Traeger. I won’t get the grill marks but I know I can get a nice brown on them without burning.

Link to Guy's recipe

The potatoes

Potatoes with olive oil & seasoning

Potatoes done on one side, well maybe a little over done!

Onions ready for the grill

On the grill

All diced & chopped

Dressing added

All mixed & ready to chill

Smokin Don

Friday, April 20, 2012

Smok'n Spice Mediterranean Chicken

Bentley an admistrator over at, my favorite forum, received a package of a new product called Smok'n Spice from Chris at to try out. Since he cannot except free merchandize he ask if I would try it & test out. He knows I do a lot of different cooks & posting on the site. I was glad to try this since I was about to buy their RSI, Reusable Smoke Infusier. I received the package from Bentley Thursday & did my first cook yesterday using the product. Thanks Bentley and Chris! If you have a pellet smoker, any brand, be sure & stop in at . Join us for great cooking, sharing recipes, and some fun.

Wednesday I got my Smok’n Spice stuff in the mail & was anxious to try some out. Friday I did two chickens & used the RSI full of the Mediterranean Blend pellets. Chicken probably was not the best choice, since it is always hard to get any flavors through the skin. I already had the chickens and planned on doing Friday.

Thursday evening I spatchcocked the chickens & brined overnight. Friday morning I grilled some potatoes for Smokin Potato salad, a Guy Fieri recipe. I would also have some sugar snap peas & sliced red pepper with the chickens. I got the potato salad made and rinsed the chickens & drip dried in the fridge a few hours before cook time.

I rubbed some garlic butter under the breast skin & over the chickens. I have a small sharp pickle fork I pierced the skin all over the chicken to help get some flavor past the skin. I got the RSI unit lit & chickens on at 3:30. to cold smoke about an hour & a half. I placed the chickens on the top shelf, I figured they may get better smoke coverage. I expected to see some smoke coming from the chimney of my Traeger but didn’t see any. I had to sneak a few peaks but the RSI was smoking good & chamber was full of smoke. After about 20 minutes I could see little whiffs of smoke that was coming out of the hole for the RTD wires on the left side. After ½ hour I took some pics then again at the one hour mark. At that time I was getting some pretty smoke from the chimney.

After an hour & 15 minutes I placed the chickens on the bottom shelf & turned the smoker to 300 deg. I inserted temp probes in each chicken after ½ hour at 300 deg. My grandson had baseball practice at 5:30 & I planned on getting the chicken done at 6:30.

The chickens came up evenly to 180 deg. IT at 6:30 so I turned it down to smoke mode to hold until the kids got home. When I took the chicken off I was still getting some smoke from the RSI. We actually ate about 7:00. The chicken was good, I had a leg, a thigh, & some of the breast meat. I thought it was good & had a flavor from the Med. Blend. I couldn’t distinguish the exact herb flavor; maybe Chris could jump in here & tell us what herbs are in the blend. My wife, son and daughter-in-law all thought like me; there was a flavor and was good. My daughter-in-law just ate breast meat, no skin, & said she could taste it.

I would say Chris has a pretty good product in the Smok’n Spice, I have some of each so look forward to trying them. Next week I plan on doing my Greek style BBR with the oregano pellets. The recipe is just oregano, lemon juice & zest, salt pepper and garlic. The oregano pellets should work well with it. I am not a great sage lover but have had sage sausage I like so may try the sage on some of my butchers sausage.

Link to cooking pellets & Smok'n Spice

Smok'n Spice

After 1/2 hour.

After 1 hour

Smoke from chimney at 1 hour

After moving chicken to bottom rack & firing up the Traeger

Chickens done & you can still see smoke from the RSI

My Plate

Smokin Don

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ropa Vieja, black beans, & yellow rice

It was another nice spring day, in the 60’s. I mowed grass & sat out most of the day watching the two dogs play, and sipping on a cold one. The grandson got home from school & did his homework.

For our supper I heated up the Ropa Vieja I had fixed Sunday. For my sides I fixed some Zatarains yellow rice and some black beans. This was an easy meal to prepare. I cooked the rice per instructions. I sautéed a medium onion, diced; two cloves of garlic, chopped; and a half bell pepper diced in some olive oil. When all was getting soft I added two cans of Bush’s black beans I had drained & rinsed. I tossed in a good tsp oregano & a little ground cumin, & let them heat up while I heated a skillet to fry some flour tortillas.

It was a pretty good meal, not sure my son liked the Ropa Vieja that well, he doesn’t like olives or capers & they definitely come through in this recipe. The grandson liked it all; he’s not as picky as his Dad!

The rice & beans

My Plate

Smokin Don

Monday, April 16, 2012

Smoked Ropa Vieja

Sunday morning I got my pot roast on early in my Crockpot & it would simmer all day for the wife & my supper. At 10:00 AM I put two pounds of pistachios on my smoker to do for two hours & then would start my Ropa Vieja.

Ropa Vieja, “Old Clothes” in Spanish, originated in the Canary Islands. It originally contained leftovers & sometimes potatoes & chick peas. Newer versions are just beef in a sauce. I looked at several recipes and decided on a one from by Kathleen Squires. All the ingredients sounded good to me & I could adapt it to doing on my Smoker. Traditionally it is done with flank steak but I would use a chuck roast.

I seasoned the chuck roast with some steak salt & garlic powder. As soon as my pistachios were done at 12:00 noon I put the roast on the smoker at 175 deg. to smoke for about an hour. While it was smoking I got the sauce started on the stove top using my Lodge cast iron chicken fryer. The recipe called for some bacon but I left it out, sautéed my onions in 2 TBS of bacon grease, added the garlic & peppers and simmered a few minutes. I added the seasonings & stirred to coat. I added the tomato paste stirred & cooked a minute. Then I added the beef broth & crushed tomatoes, stirred to mix well.I left the sauce simmer while I seared the roast.

At 12:45 I turned the smoker up to high. At 1:00 it was up to 400 deg. I turned the roast over & let sear another 5 minutes. I brought my sauce out & placed the roast in it. I turned the smoker back to 225 deg. I left it uncovered to cook for a half hour while the smoker was coming down in temp. At 1:30 I placed the lid on to finish cooking. At this point you could finish in an oven. I chose to just let it simmer on the smoker until 4:00.

At 4:00 I took it to my stove top, removed the roast, it was falling apart. While it was cooling some I added the final ingredients, olives, capers and vinegar. I removed the fat & shredded the meat. I skimmed off some of the fat from the sauce. I added the meat back to the pot & simmered until reduced some and started to thicken. I did a taste test & this is delicious!

After cooling it went in the fridge & will taste great with some black beans and yellow rice later this week.

Link to Ropa Vieja Recipe

Seasoned Roast

Onions, peppers, & garlic sauteeing

Seasonings & tomato paste added

Broth & crushed tomatoes added

Roast after smoking

Roast after searing

Roast added to the pot

Ready to shred

Shredded beef

All in the pot & reducing down

Smokin Don