Home Roasting Coffee

I love coffee. I love everything about it: the aroma, the flavor, and the beneficial boost in energy. I am fortunate enough, even in north Mississippi, to have a local roaster. Strangebrew in Starkville always has an excellent variety of beans and blends to choose from.  However, even with a local roaster, I have managed to take coffee drinking too seriously by home roasting my own coffee beans. I don’t know many people who home roast, but I have found home roasting to be a really great hobby that doesn’t take up a lot of time and is relatively inexpensive to start. I figured it was time to give quick crash course on home roasting your own coffee. I still consider myself to be a noob when it comes to roasting, but I think I got enough of a handle on it to point newbies in the right direction.

So why home roast coffee? Well, the coffee you buy at your local coffee shop or grocery store has probably been sitting on the shelf for a while. Most american roasters don’t purge their packaging with nitrogen, so their beans will have optimum flavor for 10-14 days. The flavors of coffee you buy off the shelf probably aren’t at their peak anymore. Home roasting gives you the freshest coffee beans you can get. Green coffee beans also last a very long time if left unroasted and kept in proper storage conditions. If you buy your green beans in bulk, you will always have a supply of fresh coffee on hand in case of a zombie apocalypse. Green coffee beans are also very cheap compared to already roasted coffee. The primary reason to roast your own coffee is because it can taste better than anything you can buy at the store. Home roasting my coffee has opened a pandoras box of flavors and experiences with coffee.  Continue reading “Home Roasting Coffee”

Chocolate Bacon Bourbon Balls

Chocolate Bacon Bourbon Balls is a recipe I’ve been experimenting in preparation for football season. Football only a few months away, so I figured I’d start early with some new ideas and recipes.

I have to give credit when credit is due. This recipe was inspired by Martha and Jack’s Bourbon Truffle recipe over at A Family Feast. I took their recipe and gave it my own twists with more chocolate goodness and bacon.

This recipe is also inspired by a few of my favorite things: chocolate, bacon, bourbon, and college football (go bulldawgs!). Plus, bacon and bourbon seem to go hand-in-hand with football, at least it does here in the south. I can’t walk out of a college football game without seeing the stadium littered with small empty bourbon bottles. It’s a tradition, but one I’ve never partook inside a stadium. Continue reading “Chocolate Bacon Bourbon Balls”

Sweet and Spicy Fried Pickles

If you’ve visited a restaurant while visiting the deep south, I’m sure you’ve seen fried pickles on the menu. Fried pickles are a southern favorite and a pretty easy to make. Most folks who’ve never had a fried pickles tend to think the combination of frying a pickles as a little weird. However, I can promise you that once you try a fried pickle, you’ll order them every time you see them on the menu.

I’m kind of a fried pickle snob. Fried pickles, while delicious, can be easily ruined by one ingredient. Salt… a fried pickle that is too salty is sometimes just too difficult to eat, no matter how much ranch you cover it in. Finding the right pickle is pretty critical to the final product, so you’ll have to do a little bit of experimentation with the pickles available at your grocery store.

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Even though you might experiment with pickle varieties, we have settled on our absolute favorite pickle. Pickles from Wickles are sweet, spicy, and just a little bit salty. Wickles are thicker than your average sliced pickle, so the pickle-to-crust ratio is great. However, some folks in the south prefer their pickles razor thin to maximize the amount of crust. I think this is just an excuse to eat more fried crust with ranch dressing. With Wickles, you can actually enjoy the great flavor of the pick itself. I find myself eating the pickles for a snack sometimes.

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Sous Vide Baby Back Ribs

I think my sous vide baby back ribs are off the chart and I have to thank my sous vide machine for all of the magic. I love my sous vide machine. I don’t mean like kind of love. I really love it. It’s my favorite kitchen gadget. My wife and I use it at least once a week. There isn’t much I have cooked with it that didn’t turn out absolutely fantastic. I also love baby back ribs, but there are some days I just don’t feel like screwing with my smoker. One rainy weekend I really wanted ribs, but didn’t feel like babysitting the smoker in the rain, so I had the brilliant idea of doing some research on sous vide ribs.

There’s a lot of information on the interwebs about how to sous video a large variety of meats, including baby back ribs. The variation in information, techniques, and results is wide, so I am giving a rundown of my preferred method of cooking sous vide ribs. I don’t like tough ribs. I actually prefer my ribs to be almost fall off the bone tender. So in this recipe, we’re going to aim for some delicious fall off the bone sous vide baby back ribs.

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Honey Peanut Butter

 

honey-peanut-butter-feature1So who doesn’t love peanut butter? Well, I sure as hell do. I love peanut butter everything. My mom even has a peanut butter icing recipe because I love peanut butter just that damn much.

About three years ago I received some homemade peanut butter from a CSA I was participating in. Since then, I have been hooked on homemade peanut butter. It was hands-down better than anything you could get at the grocery store. I wasn’t able to figure out exactly what the farmer was using in his peanut butter, but this blog post is about the recipe I came up with. It’s pretty damn good and it frequently replaces our normal brand. I do keep the store bought stuff around for when I’m too lazy to make peanut butter.

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Chipotle Brined Pork Chops

I love pork chops, and my favorite way to prepare them is with a chipotle brine. Almost everyone skips brining their meat, but learning how to make a brine for my pork and chicken recipes have really been beneficial. My wife and I can’t cook a pork chop or a Thanksgiving turkey anymore without good soaking in a delicious brine.

If you don’t know what a brine is, it’s pretty simple. It’s just a salty liquid. The most important reason to use a brine is to improve the overall juiciness of the meat you are soaking in the brine. Brining works wonderfully with virtually all cuts of poultry and pork.

In this blog, we are going to stick to cooking pork chops. I feel pork chops are the one cut of meat that is traditionally cooked to oblivion and usually to the point of it being dry and tough. Using a brine fixes both of these issues.

My pork chop brines are usually composed of 10 parts water and 1 part salt by weight. I start with 500 grams of water, 500 grams of ice cubes, and 100 grams of salt. I know weighing out water and salt seems a little anal retentive, but it’s the one sure way my brine concentration is always consistent. A food scale is probably the most used tool in my kitchen.

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Buttermilk Sugar Biscuits

Buttermilk-Cream-Biscuits-Body-2Biscuits in the south are a tradition and our buttermilk sugar biscuits is our version of the southern classic. It seems that every household in the deep south has their own special recipe for biscuits. Our house is no different. Nothing gives me more joy on a Saturday or Sunday morning than whipping up a batch of buttermilk sugar biscuits for breakfast.

My wife and I have worked on our own biscuit recipe for the past few years. We could always make a solid biscuit, but it was never exactly what we were looking for. We have tried traditional southern biscuit recipes, buttermilk biscuits, and cream biscuits. Cream biscuits were our jam for a while, but we finally came across a buttermilk biscuit recipe that was also the cat’s meow. We could never decide on which recipe to make for breakfast, so we combined them! Through experimentation, my wife and I were able to combine the best of both cream biscuits and buttermilk biscuits.

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Boulevardier

A boulevardier is now my all time favorite mixed drink. When I was in college, I foolishly believed that mixed drinks were for girls. Boy was I wrong. As I get older I could care less about what other people think about my drink of choice at the bar. I have zero problems or ordering a cosmo in a group of grown adults. Who doesn’t love cranberry juice?! Real men drink whatever they want without being bothered by what other men or women think of them.

Anyways, I’m a fan of bourbon and bourbon mixed drinks. An old fashion or a whiskey sour were my default go-to drinks until I discovered the Boulevardier. This drink is typically composed of bourbon, campari, and sweet vermouth. Most recipes call for an ounce of each. I have also seen a lot of recipes call for 1.5 oz of bourbon, 1 oz of compari, and 1 oz of sweet vermouth. Well, I really like bourbon, so I go with 2 oz bourbon, 1 oz compari, and 1 oz sweet vermouth.

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Bacon Cheddar and Green Onion Scones

Saturday morning breakfast is a ritual around my house. Coffee must be brewed, bacon must be fried, and breakfast must be cooked. However, there are some mornings where the weather is perfect for sitting outside. If you live anywhere in the deep south, you know the weather isn’t favorable for outside sitting very often, so we try to take it in when we can.

On those nice mornings, the last thing I want to do is spend my morning in the kitchen cooking, even if it is ritualistic. However, while sitting on the back porch I love sipping on a fresh pot of coffee, listening to the birds, and eating a scone. It can be a plain scone with a bit of butter. It can be a blueberry scone. Or, it can be my personal favorite scone, bacon, cheddar, and onion. I’ll focus on whipping up a batch of my wife’s famous bacon cheddar and green onion scones.

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Sweet Potatoes and Killer Bee Honey Butter

There are many things in the kitchen that are pretty easy to cook and mashed sweet potatoes is one of those things. In my opinion, cooking a sweet potato is cooking 101. If you’re a relatively inexperienced chef, keep on reading. If you’re an experienced home chef,  you can probably skip to the delicious recipes closer to the bottom of the post.

Everyone has seen someone massacre a sweet potato by boiling it in water. I think this is about the worst thing you could ever do to a sweet potato. Roasting it in the oven or baking it in aluminum foil is the best way to maintain, if not improve, the flavor. The key to baking a sweet potato is knowing when it’s done. Under cook it and you’ll be eating grit. Over cook it and you’ll squeeze the moisture out of it and you’ll be left with a watery stringy mess. Bleh!

Ok, a critical part to cooking a sweet potato begins at the grocery store. The size really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you buy all of the same sized sweet potatoes. You want them all to get done cooking at the same time, so don’t go buying big potatoes and little potatoes. I have seen some pretty huge sweet potatoes and some so small I’m not sure why the store is even selling them. I prefer to buy sweet potatoes that are about 2.5 inches in diameter. Buy too small and they can over cook quickly. Buy too large and the interior can be under cooked while the exterior is mush.

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