The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Strawberries

July 2nd, 2017 by Ed Bruske

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My wife planted three 8-foot rows of strawberries last year and now we are harvesting buckets of strawberries.

In fact, we can’t eat them fast enough. Most are going into the freezer.

My genius spouse selected varieties that will keep us in berries till fall. There’s Earliglow, which, as the name implies, starts making berries in spring. Cavendish is an “early mid-season” bearer. Then there’s Mara des Bois, a so-called ever-bearing strawberry that labors on through the end of summer.

Still, the strawberry expert is not satisfied. She intends to plant additional rows with additional varieties that will fill any gaps in the calendar that might exist. In other words, excepting those months when the farm is covered in snow, we will be eating strawberry shortcake till our stomachs burst.

But wait! Since we have all those frozen strawberries, there’s no reason we can’t pig out on them all winter long.

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Ham Quest

June 25th, 2017 by Ed Bruske

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We bought another pig from our friend Mike recently and the question as always was, What to do with all the ham roasts?

A pig yields a lot of ham and we never particularly liked the smoked hams that came back from the butcher’s. We tried cooking fresh hams, but those didn’t impress either. Over a period of months we tried brining our ham roasts until finally we landed a formula that yielded a ham you might expect to find at the supermarket around Christmas time, with strong notes of molasses and clove.

After brining, all we had to do was cook in a pot with a little water in the oven. Easy.

I was explaining this to the owner of a local butcher shop where I was searching for one of the brine ingredients: Instacure #1, containing the preservative sodium nitrite. He listened most appreciatively to the story of our journey toward a more perfect ham. When I’d finished, he nodded and added a kicker: “Why don’t you smoke it?”

Why, indeed? It had not occurred to me, even though we smoke our own bacon. But it made perfect sense. I could hardly wait to brine another roast and place it on our electric smoker for a few hours with kickory chips. Eureka! Better than brined, smoking had turned our ham roast into something approaching sublime.

So now I’m ready to share.

To brine a 4-pound (or even larger) ham roast, mix together in a food-grade plastic container (e.g. plastic bucket) the following:

3 litres water

1 1/4 cups kosher salt

1 1/2 cups turbinado sugar

3/8 cup molasses

3/8 teaspoon ground cloves

4 1/2 teaspoons Instacure #1 (6.25 percent sodium nitrite)

Stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Place ham roast in brine and weight with ceramic bowel to keep ham submerged. Refrigerate for 8 days. Remove ham from brine, place on wire rack over sheet pan and return to fridge to dry uncovered for 1  day.

Place ham in hot smoker with your favorite wood chips. Smoke until internal temperature of ham reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve warm, or allow to cool and refrigerate.

This may be the best ham you’ve ever tasted.

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