Hello! Food again.
My friend Kerry sent me a really good link with slow cooker tips, after one of my last disastrous attempts. There's a lot of good information there and she has a ton of recipes. What I'm immediately taking away from that site is that I'm going to start very simple - soups and stews until I get the hang of 8-10 hour cooking. There's a lot less chance of my destroying something and (hopefully) the kids will like it. I also need to get my hands on a smaller slow cooker as I am now sure that only having my large one half filled is contributing to the overcooking debacle. So, soups and stews in large quantities in the big cooker, and then smaller meals that shouldn't be incincerated in a smaller one. I'm going to wait until Kohl's has a Kohl's Cash earning period and I have a coupon and see what they've got, or I know JC Penney has housewares, too.
I'll invest in a decent smaller cooker (rather than my first instinct which is to get one from GeeDub, but in this case who knows what's up with the wiring in a used one). Lastly, I need to test this theory but I really think my cooker cooks on high when set to low and vice versa. Maybe it's something about how the heating elements are engaged and my not filling it enough, but I'm going to test it by heating water at each temperature at different levels and checking the temps. I'll get this stupid thing figured out yet.
Yesterday I made southern pulled pork - from what I read (so who knows if it's true but it sounded good to me) what makes it "southern" is that you cook the pork plain, then add your sauce to it individually upon serving it. So I browned the boneless pork ribs (rather than using a shoulder), then took them out and added a chopped onion and four cloves of minced garlic to the pan, heated them until soft, then deglazed the pan and put the whole mess in the slow cooker. Between the deglazing and water I added to the crock I used about four cups, total. Set it to high and walked away for six hours.
I did stick a thermometer in it 4 hours through and found the water to be around 195 degrees, the meat between 180 and 185. So maybe it doesn't cook low on high after all, but there must be some connection between how full I'm filling it and how the contents cook. The end result was pretty tasty - I would add a lot more salt next time (I skipped using a rub so that's probably why it needed it) but the pork was easy to shred with a couple of forks and the onions had cooked enough that there were barely any traces left (important for picky children). I put the pork back in the water to keep it moist and made some barbecue sauce on the stove with a can of tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. I also put out a bottle of ketchup for the kids and Michael really likes Stubb's so we had a bottle of that, too. Reviews were generally positive - Margaret really liked it, kidlet wasn't too jazzed but he ate some. He's tough. We have a metric crapton of leftovers, so yay lunch for me!
Got my most recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine and there is a gorgeous looking pizza on the cover. I've been wanting to try my hand at pizza crust and voila, a recipe inside...now I know that pizza crust ain't exactly rocket science, but I'm glad to have it delivered right to me from a source I've come to trust. I bought yeast earlier this week in anticipation of trying some more bread.
Also today I went to the natural food store and did find both raw milk and organic meat and eggs. It's prohibitively expensive, like whoa, but it's good to know it's there in a pinch. There's a farm about 20 minutes away that we used to patronize all the time that also offers organic milk, meat, and eggs, so I plan to check them out, as well. We stopped going as they cut their weekend hours down to some small span only on Saturdays, and we never got our shit together to get there while they were open. Checking their blog I see that they are now open Thursday through Sunday, 6pm on weeknights and 5pm on weekends. Perfect! I will take kidlet there tomorrow. Of course being a slightly trendy place their prices were always a little steep, but at least now I have something to compare. I'm going to make a list of products and their costs by source. Here's hoping I'll be able to find a really small operation that doesn't have a fancy pants "farm store" and I can really save some money. Baby steps!
As for tomorrow, I've got three pounds of stew meat to brown and get into a new stew recipe that will hopefully be kid-approved. Balsamic vinegar = miss; brown ale = miss; red wine = miss. Fourth time's the charm, I hope! If not I'll be eating a lot of beef stew ;)