Tag Archives: appliance

Where there’s smoke…

My husband has taken up smoking again. Only this time, he smokes with woodchips and food.

After debating and researching and shopping around and hoarding Canadian Tire money for several years, we bought a Bradley 4-rack digital electric smoker about a month ago. My husband had wanted a smoker for quite a while, so this is now his new baby.

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Now I know that the purists are going to rabble here and say that the best smokers are charcoal, and that we’re settling for second best with an electric smoker. Yes, charcoal is better. If we had unlimited amounts of time to laze around waiting for charcoal to be ready to go, we’d have a charcoal smoker and a charcoal grill. However, we don’t have unlimited amounts of time, and I like eating dinner before 9pm. Therefore, we have a propane grill and an electric smoker.

The Bradley smoker that my husband ended up buying has a few features that are really nice. First, it’s digital, so setting the cooking temperature is a breeze. It will also maintain that temperature for as long as required without any babysitting. And it can be used to cold smoke things like cheese, which was a “nice to have” for my husband. (Cold smoking isn’t something that we’ll be trying in the middle of summer, but on a cool spring day it worked great.) Finally, the Bradley website has an active and friendly forum if you have questions or problems. (The forum members are also quite handy, and are willing to show off their hacks and homemade smokehouses. Lots of ideas there!)

On the downside, it takes proprietary “bisquettes” of wood for the smoke. These can be a bit pricey, since one bisquette will only burn for 20 minutes, but we’ve been keeping our eyes open for them and getting them when they’re on sale. Also, the cord is a bit short. This may present a problem if you lack convenient outdoor outlets. On that same thread, it is electric, so I wouldn’t consider it an all-weather smoker. Again, a smokehouse might be in our future when we redo the backyard.

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So far, he’s smoked cheese, tofu, a whole chicken, a pork tenderloin, and ribs. We were working up to the ribs, and boy – were they worth waiting for!

The baby back ribs were doused with the Sweet Chili rub from Bon Vivant and smoked with hickory at 275°F for two hours. We then wrapped the ribs in foil, and stuck them in the oven at 275°F for an hour. The packets were opened, the juices saved, and the ribs went back in the oven for one more hour. The reserved juices were then mopped onto the ribs, and they went under the broiler for about two minutes, just until the juices started bubbling.

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Wow! I’m not even sure what to tweak with this method, because the ribs came out so good. It helped that we started with a quality product from Frig’s, and the rub and the smoke added just the right amount of flavour to enhance, rather than cover up, the taste of the ribs.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about our smokey adventures in the next while.

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Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

If there’s one thing that I love, it’s ice cream.

I think I learned my love for ice cream from my dad. I remember going for ice cream in the summer. We’d all get cones, and he would always finish his first… And then selflessly volunteer to “help” us with ours. (I did sometimes let him help a bit, especially if it was a hot day and the ice cream was melting faster than I could eat it.) These days, though, I’m perfectly capable of finishing my ice cream all by myself. A little too capable, actually.

Chocolate ice cream.

A while ago we decided to get an ice cream maker. This was a surprisingly hard task. We found one at Sears that was really tiny. I also liked the idea of the ice cream maker bowl and paddle for our Kitchen Aid mixer, but the price was a bit steep.

We eventually stumbled upon a huge cache of ice cream makers at Home Outfitters. We bought the Deni Ice Cream Maker (with candy crusher!) and brought it home to try out right away.

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It took some trial and error to find a recipe that we liked. I didn’t want to have to bother with recipes with eggs (and besides, that’s not ice cream – it’s frozen custard), so we set about figuring out the best combo of ingredients for our tastes. One recipe was too crunchy – it was more frozen milk than ice cream. Another tasted like sugary butter – very, very rich, and not really to my tastes.

Finally my husband broke out an Excel spreadsheet to figure out the optimal percent of butterfat that our mixture should have (gotta love being married to a geek!) The resulting flavours and mouthfeel are just perfect. Now that we have a good base down, we’re set to experiment!

To make my husband’s vanilla bean ice cream, you will need:

* 1 whole vanilla bean (look in a gourmet food store or the baking section of a well-stocked supermarket)
* 1 1/2 cup whole milk (3.25%)
* 1 1/2 cup whipping cream (35%)
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 pinch salt

Mix the milk, cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan over low-ish heat. You want to be able to control what temperature the milk gets to, and if it heats too quickly it may scald.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center and flatten it out. With the back of the knife, scrape the inside of the vanilla bean out. (You’ll get lots of seeds and pulp. It’s good, good stuff.) Put the seeds and pulp into the milk mixture as it heats. Toss the emptied vanilla bean husk in too, why not!

Carefully heat the milk mixture to 170°F. My husband uses his handy-dandy touchless IR thermometer from Think Geek, but you can also use a candy thermometer. Constantly stir the milk so that no hot patches form in the liquid. As soon as the milk mixture reaches 170°F, remove it from the heat.

Allow the milk mixture to cool a bit, then pour it into a container with a lid. Store it in the fridge overnight to let the mixture chill completely and the flavours mature.

When you’re ready to make ice cream, remove the ice cream maker bowl from the freezer (you did remember to freeze it overnight, right?) and assemble the appliance. Remove the vanilla bean husk from the milk mixture. Turn the machine on and slowly pour the milk mixture into the machine.

It usually takes about 20-25 minutes for the ice cream to reach soft-serve consistency. Using a spatula, pour the ice cream into a freezer container. Freeze the ice cream for a few more hours to give it a more firm texture.

Scoop and enjoy.

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