22 March, 2010

Food Prep

This weekend I decided to take advantage of my as yet unpacked kitchen and do some food preparation for the trail. I scored some great deals on ingredients at the Mexican grocery store and got down to it.

The first step was to marinate five pounds of beef for jerky. I settled on two flavors of marinade - one Asian and one basic. Both flavors got a shot of Sriracha sauce for added heat. Why fuss with pepper flakes, I thought. And cayenne powder is just so...boring.

Then I dove into making my family's traditional spaghetti sauce. I can't reveal the recipe here because it's a secret! Actually, I don't recall anyone else in the family saying that it was a secret. That's a tradition I made up some years ago for my own amusement. Who knows, though. It really sounds like something my family would do. Remind me to ask my brother sometime.

After a whisk through the blender to improve drying uniformity, the sauce went into the dehydrator for "spaghetti leather", a most delicious idea that I got from Ray Jardine's book.

The next day, I broke out the smoker and smoked all of the jerky meat. I had no idea how easy it was to smoke things until recently and it really adds that special something to the finished product. Luckily, Adam left me the electric smoker. He likes to use a mixture of apple and other types of wood, but I could only find hickory at the grocery store.

The first batch of jerky out of the smoker went into the oven. The oven process made me paranoid - would it get overcooked and turn into charcoal? Despite my fears, it did seem to turn out all right and had the proper snap when bent.

The second batch of jerky out of the smoker went into the dehydrator. By this time, it was evening and I agonized about whether or not to leave it in there overnight. Finally I decided to go for it and guess what? It turned out just fine. I did stumble out of bed at 5am to turn it off, though.

It always amazes me how the right motivator can drag me from my warm, comfortable bed no matter what the hour. Disoriented and heavy with sleep, I could barely see or keep my balance, yet I remembered to make it to the kitchen to turn off the dehydrator. Must...save...jerky!

It will likely take me all week to finish drying the spaghetti sauce. Each tray of the dehydrator only takes about 1.5-2 cups of sauce, and I made enough to nearly fill my largest pot. I only have two suitable tray liners. Must do some experimentation with plastic wrap and/or parchment paper. Drying all five trays at once would be so much faster! It might even be the case that I could start a new batch each morning before work. This morning I slept in, but tomorrow...tomorrow is a new day.

I dreamed of the trail last night. Don't remember details now, but it was a good dream.

No comments: