Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Pork Barbecue from a Crock Pot?

While we do own two smokers, they are not the type of equipment that can be set up and forgotten about; specific temperatures, wood supplies, and maybe even water in a pan must be maintained.  Considering the several feet of snow outside, and especially blocking the door to the shed, where the smokers are housed, they will not be used any time soon.

How to get a good pork barbecue if not using a smoker?  Believe it or not, but it can be done simply in a crock pot; a piece of equipment that can be set up and walked away from until ready to eat.


Attempts have been made using pork roast or tenderloin, however, Boston butt is the way to go whether using a smoker or not.  This section of pork comes from the upper part of the shoulder, on the front leg, of the pig; usually sold with the bone intact.  Unless you have plans for that bone, have your butcher take it out; why pay per pound for something you will more than likely throw away?  Sometimes the butt is sold with the bone already out, but the cost is more; I was very, very lucky to find a nice four pounder without the bone and on sale. Think about it, I have 4 pounds of meat as compared to perhaps 3 to 3 and 1/2 pounds after the bone is removed; definitely a bargain!  By the way, it is a given that the meat might have to be cut apart here or there to get the bone cleanly out; you want those sections!  If in a package, you will find them tied together into one big roast with butcher's twine; just remove the twine before cooking...well this recipe anyway.

Personally, most times I have found pork to be on the dry side.  To solve this problem, the meat will be brined, overnight, before cooking it. This salt water soak will help to open up the meat fibers to allow the fat, as it melts, to flow into the meat and keep it moist and juicy. It also allows seasonings, and sauces if simmered in them, to do the same thing.  If there is a lot of extra fat hanging off the butt, it is alright to trim some of it off as there is plenty within the Boston butt itself.  Now, when you are ready to begin the cooking process, set up a 6-quart crock pot (spray the inside with nonstick cooking spray) and set the temperature on low; place the brined Boston butt inside.  Some folks rinse the brine off the meat before cooking, but it really is not necessary, and the salt helps to flavor the meat itself.

Whether you use homemade barbeque sauce, or store bought bottled, make sure to add two cups of diced onions.  When all is cooked and ready to be devoured, you will appreciate the addition of those onions.  Cover the meat with six cups of sauce; cover and cook for 6-8 hours.  The meat should be so tender, it simply comes apart with a fork.  With my crock pot (Hamilton Beach 3 in 1 with tall, round crock pots), the four pounds of pork only took six hours before perfection was achieved.  Depending on how your equipment works, it could be the same or longer; but you want it so tender that it shreds without effort.


I serve up my pork barbecue sandwiches two ways; first off, large potato buns for both; the first way is simply with barbecue sauce on top.  The second, and our very favorite way, is with coleslaw layered on top.   In case you missed the August 3, 2022 edition, of the San Juan Record, here are the recipes for Coleslaw Dressing, and putting together Coleslaw itself.

Roasted Potatoes is a tasty side dish.

Coleslaw Dressing 


2 cups mayonnaise

2 and ½ Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp.  lemon juice

3 Tbsp. white vinegar

½ tsp. ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

½ tsp. celery seed


Whisk all ingredients together in bowl until smooth and creamy.

To Make Coleslaw

In a large bowl containing 1 lb. shredded white cabbage (or ½ lb. white plus ½ lb. purple) plus ½ cup shredded carrot, pour dressing over; toss until all vegetables are coated.

Makes 8 servings of Coleslaw.

In case you have a good amount of barbecue sauce left over after the pork is all gone; put it into a plastic bowl and into the freezer for about an hour.  Any fat in the sauce will solidify at the top and you can scoop it off to throw away.  Seal the container, label it, and keep it in the freezer, up to six months, until you need barbecue sauce again.  Cooking it with the pork does not ruin the flavor, only enhances it.

There you have it, smoky, juicy pork barbecue, made in the kitchen, simply with a crock pot.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Failure Still a Sweet Success.

When it comes to perfection, I am far from it, and proud of my quirks.  They make me unique, the square peg that does not fit into the round hole, and most of all, a character.  Enjoyment comes from attempting new things; little adventures that make life very interesting.  When it comes to cooking and baking, there are so many adventures that do not always end up as planned.

Take, for example, an attempt at making chocolate lava cakes.  You know, those little round chocolate cakes, that when broken open with a fork, liquid chocolate oozes out.   While downsizing older cooking magazines, I found a recipe, from Ghirardelli, for their Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes and decided to try it out.  All the ingredients were in the well-stocked pantry; but only needed to purchase another set of custard cups (safe for oven use) as I only had a set of 4 and the recipe made 6 cakes.

Now mind you, I am still not a big fan of baking from scratch; all that measuring and calculating, but I was up for giving it a go.  It was chocolate, so how wrong could that be, right? I followed the directions, made the chocolate that would go in the center of the cake and waited the two hours recommended. Then it was time to make the batter and assemble in the cups; easy peasy. Only problem is that, even tempering in the oven, beforehand, my metal tray decided to warp, so the cups could not sit on it properly.  I ended up balancing the cups on the oven's metal rack; the oval cups had no problem; the round ones kept me on my toes to make sure they stayed up straight.


After baking the required 15 minutes, the cups were moved to a rack on the counter for 5 minutes of cooling. I could see the cakes begin pulling from the sides of the cups as they cooled, so was happy no knife was required to help remove them. Inverting one cup over a dessert plate, the cake easily came out.  The chocolate smell was incredible!!!



Slowly slicing open the single cake, expecting to see molten chocolate ooze out; and what did I see? Cake; super moist, decadently rich cake, but no melted chocolate center! The melted chocolate had been absorbed into the cake batter as it baked and gave me...cake!



Maybe it was just this one, so I tried another only to find the same result. To the computer I ran to read up on molten lava cakes; some recipes had higher temperatures and less bake time; some had higher temperatures with more baking time. Many recipes incorporated the melted chocolate into the batter and baked them at the same temperature and timing as I had done. Cooking forums were a little more helpful than straight recipes; the conclusion was to use the same temperature, but lower the baking time to 10 minutes instead of 15. Ovens are all different and I guess mine baked quicker which resulted in the chocolate ball melting and then being absorbed into the batter.


So alas, my hubby and I had to bite the cake bullet with a whipped cream topping and sliced strawberry. Oh, the agony of defeat never tasted so deliciously sweet.








...and here is the recipe and directions from Ghirardelli:

Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes


1 and 1/2 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars

2 eggs

1/4 cup heavy cream

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup cake flour


To make centers, melt 2 ounces of chocolate (1/2 a baking bar) and cream in double boiler. Whisk gently to blend. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm. Form into 6 balls; refrigerate until needed.

To make cake, heat oven to 400°F. Spray six 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups with cooking spray. Melt 4 ounces of chocolate (1 baking bar) and butter in double boiler; whisk gently to blend. With an electric mixer, whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla on high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and light. Fold melted chocolate mixture and flour into egg mixture just until combined. Spoon cake batter into ramekins. Place a chocolate ball in the middle of each ramekin.

Bake about 15 minutes or until cake is firm to the touch (remember, with my attempt, the baking time should have been 10 minutes maximum). Let it sit out of the oven for about 5 minutes. Run a small, sharp knife around inside of each ramekin, place a plate on top, invert and remove ramekin. Garnish with raspberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

Makes 6.

Note:  Do NOT use baking chips for this recipe.  They are manufactured to resist melting quickly, so their shape and consistency will be maintained in cookies and dessert breads.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, maybe homemade chocolate lava cakes for yourself, and your sweet hunny, whomever it is?

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Rabbit Proclaims Luck for the New Year.

January 22, 2023 to February 9, 2024 is the calendar year of the rabbit, according to the Chinese zodiac.  The rabbit is the fourth, in the twelve-year cycle of animals, that appears in the Chinese zodiac, and is an earth symbol.  

In the origin story of the zodiac, Rabbit was proud and arrogant about his speed. He was neighbors with Ox and always made fun of how slow Ox was. One day, the Jade Emperor said the zodiac order would be decided by which animals could cross the river, and arrive at his party. Rabbit set off at daybreak, but when he got to the river, no other animals were in sight.  Instead of going across, in his arrogance, he thought he would be thought of as first in line, just for showing up.  So, he laid down and took a nap.  However, when he woke up, three other animals had already crossed over to arrive at the party on time, and one of them was the Ox that he had always looked down upon.  How did Rabbit get across the river anyway?   He hopped along stepping stones, slipped and fell into the water, but was able to grab onto a floating log.  Dragon was flying overhead, took pity upon Rabbit, and blew air from his nose to help push the log across to the shore.  Rabbit came in fourth place, while Dragon came in fifth, due to his being so helpful to Rabbit.

Foods served for the New Year include longevity noodles for long life, a whole steamed fish for abundance, sticky rice balls for togetherness, and pork dumplings for good fortune.  While they are commonly known as dumplings in most Asian nations, other versions are Japanese gyoza or Korean mandoo.

In America, they are known as potstickers as that is exactly what they tend to do.  Potstickers are pan fried on the bottom and then steamed.  When they are served, the browned pan-fried side is shown.  Jiaozi is the Mandarin version; the dough is thicker than for a wonton and the dumpling itself is usually boiled and pan fried.  Gow Gee is the Cantonese version; wonton wrappers are frequently used, they can either be steamed or deep fried; no boiling involved.

The Chinese dumpling dates back to 200 B.C. to the fable of Pan Gu who ends the chaotic state of the world by separating it into two "half egg" shaped parts; the sky and the earth.  They are a staple for many Chinese celebrations, and express best wishes for happy days and good health.  It was not unusual for a trinket (coins or jewels) of some value to be hidden in a few dumplings; very similar to the prizes in the English Christmas pudding.

While making the dough for dumplings is not difficult, premade wrappers can be found in the fresh produce section at supermarkets.  Also available are wonton skins, or spring and eggroll wrappers.  Not up to making the dough, or even purchasing packaged wrappers; check the frozen food section for premade dumplings, follow the package directions, and enjoy the Chinese New Year!

Chinese Dumpling Dough


2 cups flour

2/3 cup warm water


Combine the flour and water until a soft dough forms; knead on a floured surface for five minutes.  Cover with a clean linen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.  Divide the dough in half, roll out each half into a 12-inch-long cylinder; cut into 1/2-inch slices.  Flatten out each slice with the palm of your hand, or use a rolling pin, to a 2 and 1/2-inch diameter.

Makes 48 dumpling wrappers.

The filling for dumplings is very versatile and can contain any kind of protein, vegetable or combinations; using fruit will give you the filling for a unique dessert item.   

Chinese Dumpling Filling


1/2-pound ground pork

2 large napa cabbage leaves, rinsed and finely diced

2 green onions, finely sliced

1 Tbsp. minced ginger

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Bowl of warm water


Mix all ingredients listed, except water, together; place a teaspoon of mixture off center in a dough circle.  Dip finger in water and trace around outside edge of dough circle; fold dough over filling, with edges meeting and begin pleating the edges to seal filling in.


To Fry Dumplings:


In a large skillet, heat 1/4 of canola or peanut oil over medium-high heat, add dumplings, 12 at a time, and brown one side; takes about 2-3 minutes.  Add a 1/2 cup of water, cover and let steam for 5 minutes; uncover and let cook for another 2 minutes.



To Steam Dumplings:


Fill a large stockpot halfway with water and bring to a boil.  Line bottom of bamboo steamer with cabbage leaves, place dumplings within, cover and place steamer on top of stock pot.  Steam for 6 minutes.




To Boil Dumplings:

Fill a large stockpot halfway with water and bring to a boil.  Put dumplings into boiling water and when they float, they are done.

Serve dumplings with your favorite sauce(s).


With the boil method, you can make a delicious soup by cooking the dumplings in a vegetable broth, and adding vegetables such as sugar snap peas, red bell pepper strips, and Bok choy, plus soy sauce and ground ginger.  Serve with a crispy egg roll as a side, and that is one delicious meal!

Mary Cokenour