Dry-curing bacon for seasoning meat, part 2

The previous post, with some basic info and getting started on this batch: 

This batch ended up sitting longer in the fridge, near the end, because I got distracted by a tooth abscess–but, it turned out fine anyway. Here are some more process photos, finally. 🙂

Day 2, before draining and resalting:

Day 3 or 4, with less liquid already getting drawn out:

Don’t worry if the brine smells like stale blood, BTW, because it mostly is. 😐 Glad to drain that stuff off!

Day 5 or 6:

I thought that, with the amount of lean meat full of moisture, it would probably take a bit longer for this batch, and it did. At this point, it needed a couple more days of curing.

But, a couple of days after that, it was starting to dry out enough that I intended to dump the rest of the cure on it and give it one more day in the fridge. That turned into about a week, but at that stage it wasn’t a problem. Thankfully! This photo is after I started resalting it for the day.


About a week ago, I finally got it rinsed, wrapped, and hung up to dry more.

Ready to go!

First I laid out a clean, thin tea towel. Don’t use one that you mind staining; some other kind of thin cotton cloth will work OK, too. This one has been repeatedly used for things like this, and it still doesn’t look great even though I always wash kitchen towels with Oxi stuff to get rid of germs.

Yep, my counter’s still a wreck. 😉 The bag of GF pasta in the background at least fits the theme here.

The lighting was really bad here. But, lay the pieces lengthwise, and wrap them up. This approach is easier with a single bigger slab, but it works OK with the sliced.


I rubber-banded the top and bottom. One reason I like to use these towels is that they come with handy hanging loops. 🙂


Those hooks are inconveniently placed for dish towels, as Mr. Sweden intended, but they’re great for things like bags of citrus and drying bacon. 😉 Not to mention decorative corn that you’re not sure what else to do with out of season. But, corn!

Cherokee folk song sung by Walker Calhoun of Cherokee, North Carolina at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music 10-26-90.

Today, I figured it was probably dry enough, and I wanted to use some in a pot of beans. One of the leaner pieces still had a bit much moisture, so I cut some from it and hung it back up. The other three pieces got double-bagged and put into the freezer. Salty, fatty things won’t keep too long in there, but it ought to hold for a few extra months without starting to go rancid. IME, about six months is the freezer storage limit before it starts turning.

The color is a bit off here, but looking pretty good! I wasn’t sure, but apparently there was enough nitrate (with my cautious addition) to keep it from turning brownish greyish: perfectly fine to eat, but an offputting color.


Ready for the freezer!


Review: Pizza Hut UK’s gluten-free version

I liked the “serve it on a cutting board” approach.

I was excited when Pizza Hut introduced a gluten-free crust in the UK, and had been meaning to risk cross-contamination and try it. Homemade crust is great when you have the time and energy, and I’m glad to have good access to decent frozen pizzas to embellish, and GF pitas or naans to use as a base–but, I’ve really missed just being able to order a pizza! It’s taken a while to try, since the nearest dine-in location is not so convenient with me gimpy from the celiac complications, and our not having a car. Which is pretty frustrating, in itself, since that’s less than a mile and a half away, and I used to walk or cycle to the Homebase and Pets At Home there pretty often. There used to be another location in Romford town centre, but it closed for some reason several years back.

They started out launching the GF crust only in dine-in locations, but I see now that it is apparently now also available from delivery-only ones from a couple of weeks ago, which is handy!

But, we needed to go by the vet’s in Pets At Home over the weekend to pick up some more Advocate for the cats (it’s never not flea season, in this climate!), and Mr. Sweden suggested popping in Pizza Hut for a late lunch.

He can eat the regular crust, but we ended up splitting a Cajun Sizzler and a Best Ever Supreme (*hollow laughter*). Not surprisingly, the selection in UK restaurants is different from what I’m used to in the US, and it’s been better than five years since I was in a Pizza Hut at all, so I had a hard time deciding what to get. 🙂 Here’s the official menu, BTW. The GF crust only comes in a 9″ square, to easily distinguish it from any of the wheat crusts, and the size was about right for one person.

Well, the crust had a pretty good texture and flavor. It got a little dry mouthfeel as it cooled down, but overall I was impressed. They did well with the crust recipe.

But, I won’t be going back to that location for more pizza, because they were so stingy with the toppings, including sauce, that I ended up having to add some caesar dressing and pickled jalapeño rings from the salad bar for lubrication! The regular pizzas on other tables looked the same with that, so I think it’s just a subpar Pizza Hut location.

A bad shot of me holding up a piece, but you can maybe see that there is very little on top of the crust in cross section. 0_o  Plus Mr. Sweden’s knife-and-fork approach, which is too civilized for me! I also gnaw on bones in public.

Cajun Sizzler

Most of what I could taste with the Cajun Sizzler was the crust and chile rings. I was remembering it as a Cajun Chicken Sizzler, because the one we got didn’t have any pepperoni at all–but it was apparently supposed to, looking at the menu now. They were even skinchy with the onions. There wasn’t much chicken, either, but that did have a pleasant seasoning.

“Best Ever Supreme”. The little brownish dots are apparently the beef. This didn’t have more sauce; that’s mostly color spreading out from the pepperoni.

The “Supreme” had a little more flavor from mostly the pepperoni, but yeah. I would be embarrassed to serve something like that, for (I think) £8.95. Mr. Sweden paid, and I wasn’t paying much attention to the price. It isn’t clear on the online menu, but I think they are charging “regular” size price for the smaller GF crust version. (Fair enough.)

I didn’t want to complain too much at the time, since the hub was thoughtful in suggesting it and then sharing pizzas when I couldn’t decide what to get, but yeah. Overall, it was a disappointing experience, but I am chalking it up to a not-so-great individual restaurant location. And, now that I know it’s available now, I look forward to trying some more from the delivery-only location just down the road. 🙂 If I weren’t already cooking some red beans for tonight, I might call it Pizza Night.

That was Sunday, and today (Tuesday) I am still not noticing any ill effects. So, maybe the round of restaurant roulette was OK from a cross-contamination standpoint. *crosses fingers* I seem to be less sensitive to traces than some, though, in terms of violent symptoms, so YMMV even at that restaurant location. (It probably doesn’t do much for nutrient absorption, anyway, and I’ve been trying to be more careful lately.)

Still to try: the Dominos version. 🙂 Even though I have some problems with the parent company’s political activity in the US, and how they treat their workers: I’ll take extra cheese, olives, no homophobia (the two things are not unconnected, AFAICT). At least the corporate Operation Rescue ties are false, according to Snopes, though I am not pleased with the personal contributions there. Desperate celiac pizza lover here, though. 😉

Also, I see that there is a nearby Zizzi location, serving GF pastas besides risottos, which I am totally going to have to try, even if they don’t have GF pizzas or calzones.

Dry-curing bacon for seasoning meat

As I mentioned in the Basics: Greens post ages ago, another food item I’ve missed being readily able to buy is dry-cured seasoning meat with the kind of cure I want. (Not usually so crazy about fatback.) You can find lots of bacon and other cured pork products here, both British and imported, but the cure is still just not quite what I’m looking for. (Still, better availability than in most of the US, with pretty good dry-cured bacon and pancetta in most supermarkets.) And a chunk of cured meat is better to throw in to season vegetables than bacon that’s been sliced thin for frying, to my taste.

Old Waynesboro brand side meat, from MillRiverStore.com. I think I’ve actually bought some of that North Carolina brand before. I also didn’t know you could buy boiled peanuts in a can, before looking at that site, but they’re not really a thing back home anyway because peanuts don’t like the mountain climate. Now I’m oddly intrigued.

At any rate, I had never tried curing meat at all before I got cravings for the “right” kind of seasoning meat. 🙂 This was a much less intimidating project than the hams I used to watch my grandfather cure sometimes, with trying to find a balance between not getting it oversalted so that you get crystals in the meat, and making sure you use enough that it doesn’t go bad next to the bone. It’s also less tricky than bacon you’re intending to slice up and fry without soaking, so I have been erring on the side of making it salty and dry.

Before going into my procedure, here is some general information on dry-curing:

A good British step-by-step on dry-curing bacon. Also, the page I linked to earlier on dry-curing hams from Virginia Cooperative Extension, which goes into safety rather a lot.

As they also mention in both, you don’t absolutely need to use nitrates, though they don’t actually seem to be that bad for you after all. Another good one: Home Cured Bacon Without Nitrates. The first batch I made, I didn’t use any, and the flavor was good even if the brownish-greyish color was more than a little offputting. 😉 It did go rancid more quickly without the added nitrate, though the possibility of botulism is no doubt lower if you let it dry longer than is usually a good idea for straight eating bacon. (One of the reasons I’ve been doing that, besides its hopefully keeping longer in general with the lower moisture content.)

One I’ve been meaning to try, tasty as the commercial stuff is: Lap yuk 臘肉 – Chinese dried bacon, which also usually gets used to flavor vegetable dishes and the like. They also have interesting posts on making some other Chinese cured meats there.

Also, for safety, while I’m thinking about it: you might want to use the ready-mixed curing salt intended for bacon. I already have pharmaceutical-grade potassium nitrate (saltpeter) on hand for aquarium plant fertilizing purposes, and feel OK using that–and guesstimating proportions to use by volume, erring on the low side. If you’re concerned about getting it wrong, it’s probably best to use the curing salt. Like with the brine pickles, the chances of making yourself sick are probably very, very low, but I still don’t want to encourage anybody to risk it!

On with the show, such as it is! I’d been meaning to make another batch for a while now, and couldn’t resist picking up a pack of thick-sliced pork belly that I spotted yesterday. Usually, I’d want to use a bigger chunk of meat, but this worked out just fine before. (Inspired to try it by the Chinese bacon approach!)

This was reduced, but it was still very fresh. The store-cut meat from our local Sainsbury’s tends to be good quality, in general.

I still had a little curing mix left from the last attempt, which didn’t turn out so well since even a British summer is not the best weather if you don’t want it going rancid on you while it’s drying. 😐

Please ignore the cluttered wreck which is my counter right now. I decided to pass on the red pepper pesto for this. 😉

But, to that, I added:

  • 100mL/about 0.5 c. sea salt ground up some in a mortar and pestle, for extra flavor. If you’re using regular table salt, it will pack down more and take a little less.
  • 1.5 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon very dark brown sugar (the balance here is totally to taste)
  • about 1/8 teaspoon potassium nitrate
  • A teaspoon fresh, coarsely ground black pepper (it may take more later)

All mixed up and ready to go, in an airtight storage container.

This 2L container takes up a lot of space in our smallish fridge, but you want one that’s big enough to lay the meat flat in a single layer.

Now, just sprinkle some of the cure on with a spoon (you don’t want to keep putting meaty hands back into the container!), and rub it in well. You’ll want to use plenty of it to draw the moisture out. Make sure to get all the crevices, especially if the meat you bought was already slashed on the top fat for crispiness in cooking, like all the pork belly I’ve seen here.

Now, without my hand blocking most of the view.

Just a few minutes later, you can see how much moisture it’s already started to draw out of the meat.

Yep, that’s some very brown sugar.

Now it needs to go in the coldest part of your fridge, usually the bottom.

You’ll want to pull it out once a day for several days, to drain off the brine and salt it again with the curing mix. When it stops leaching out a bunch of moisture, it will be ready to wrap in cloth and hang to dry. No more batches than I’ve made so far, that time will vary quite a bit depending on the moisture in your meat starting out. As much lean as this particular pork belly has, it may take a week of daily draining and salting.

I did consider waiting until it was done and doing a post then, but the last time I tried that it just never got written up. 😉 I will try to do some followups as it progresses.

And once that’s done clunking up the fridge, I may try some corned beef or pork again.

Good gluten-free bread machine results

(As usual, you can click through for a larger version of any photo.)

I was reminded again today, baking another loaf of bread, that I hadn’t yet gotten this posted. I’m still having problems with the osteomalacia, and have been running into some symptoms of the vitamin D deficiency (and hypocalcemia) again this winter in spite of supplementation, including the low energy and fatigue. So I haven’t been able to post as much lately as I’d like. There are a lot of step-by-step recipe photos waiting for writeups. *wry smile*

But, it took me a while to figure out a consistently good bread machine recipe and techniques for basic sandwich-type bread, and I thought I should share what’s been working well here.

I lost the first recipe I was getting consistently good results from, and haven’t been able to find it again online. But, I was glad to try this one: Finally, Really Good Sandwich Bread: Our Favorite Gluten Free Bread Recipe, from Gluten Free Cooking School.

That looks to be a good basic recipe (with no dairy, and the option of egg replacement), but of course I had to fiddle with it. 😉 Here’s the version I’ve been using:

  • 1.5 packages of fast-acting yeast, or roughly 1 tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 0.5 c./about 125mL water a bit over body temperature. As long as it’s not hot enough to burn your skin, it’s OK.

Mix that up in a coffee mug, and set it aside for the yeast to proof while you get everything else ready.

In another bowl (I just use a handy British pint measuring cup), mix the dry ingredients together:

  • 2.5 cups/British pint/roughly 600mL flour blend (I’ve been using roughly a third each of chickpea flour/besan, brown rice or sorghum flour, and finely ground white rice flour)
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste, since this makes a fairly hefty loaf and I like salt 😉

In the bread machine loaf pan, combine:

  • 2-3 lightly beaten eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 1 c./250mL kefir, buttermilk, or yogurt warmed to about body temperature (a good use for any that’s gone very sour!)
  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter

By this time, the yeast should be threatening to foam out of the cup, and we’re ready to go. 🙂

As with most baking, the behavior here will vary depending on your ingredients, the weather, and especially your particular bread machine. But, this is what works best with mine: a circa 2004-vintage Kenwood model, which helpfully came with a GF cycle I didn’t even know I needed then! If yours doesn’t have that, the cake setting is supposed to work pretty well. A GF dough doesn’t want more than one rising period, so the regular bread cycles don’t work as well.

I didn’t think to get photos before everything was mixed up in the pan, either when I took these photos or today.

But, add the proofed yeast into the pan with the other liquid ingredients. I have found that it works best to start the cycle before beginning to add the dry ingredients gradually and carefully, so it doesn’t throw flour all over the place. Especially with the xanthan gum in there, it tends to glump up and need more stirring to mix up properly if you just dump all the flour in there before turning the machine on.

It still takes more attention during the mixing and kneading stage than a wheat flour bread would, because the dough needs to be wetter and doesn’t move around the pan as freely. A rubber spatula is your friend, with a table knife to scrape the sticky dough off it back into the pan. 🙂 You’ll need to scrape the sides of the pan down, and make sure it all gets properly mixed. I usually fold the dough over with a spatula a few times later on during the mixing/kneading process, just to make sure it’s uniform.

The dough consistency should be kind of like a thick br0wnie batter starting out; it also takes a while for rice and bean flours to absorb liquid, so hold off on adjusting the consistency for at least five minutes after it’s thoroughly mixed up.

It’s hard to get decent photos inside a working bread machine, so this is what we end up with instead. 😉

Dough near the end of the kneading time. This loaf still turned out a little moist and dense, but that’s better than dry and sandy end results!

At the end of the kneading cycle. As you can see, it tends to get a big air bubble around the paddle, at the bottom of the pan. I’m knocking that out with the spatula, and about to smooth the top of the loaf.

As smooth as it’s going to get! It’s hard to get all the gooey dough scraped down off the sides, but that’s good enough.

Even starting out with warm liquid ingredients, the rising time on my machine is still not long enough. I usually have to switch the machine off and let it sit for an extra hour or so, then use the “bake only” cycle.

I was afraid this would collapse if I let it go much longer. You can see how the top is starting to crack, with bubbles visible. That’s a better indication that it’s risen enough than the common “doubled in the pan” standard, in my experience.

And, finally, a finished loaf of bread! This one did turn out a bit denser than I’d wanted, from slightly too-moist dough, but it was still delicious.

Carefully pulling the very hot paddle out of the bottom of the very hot bread with a chopstick! It tends to stick.

This basic dough has also worked well for pizza crust, BTW. You can make the dough a bit stiffer, but this still won’t roll out well. Best just to plonk it onto a well-oiled pan with a good sprinkling of corn meal, and spread it out with your hands. Smoothing it down with slightly wet hands works better for a xanthan gum dough than flouring it for ease of handling, IME.

Slow cooker Carolina-inspired pulled pork

It tasted a lot better than it looks here. 😉 More on the toast later.

Warning: The lighting in our kitchen is even worse than usual, so these photos are pretty bad! The overhead fluorescent conked out, and Wilko was out of tubes that fit, so I temporarily dragged a halogen floor lamp in there from the living room. I tried to fix these a little, but yeah. At least it’s enough light to cook by.

I hadn’t even planned on posting this one, so I didn’t get any step-by-step photos while cooking it. But, it turned out tasty–and easy!–enough that I wanted to go ahead. 🙂

Lately, I’d been craving something with a Carolina style vinegar-based barbecue sauce. (Interesting article: BBQ History: A Very Brief History of the Four Types of Barbeque Found In the USA) One of the things I’ve missed a lot living in the UK–besides good Mexican restaurants!–is barbecue. Mr. Sweden keeps watching Food Network UK, which doesn’t help, with all the shows from the US full of barbecue and other kinds of food which are hard to impossible to get in restaurants here!

Another thing you need to make for yourself, usually including the sauce because most of the bottled stuff available here is not to my taste, besides all being the thick tomato-based stuff. I like those styles too, but not all the time. A lot of the time I’ll use Tropical Sun Smoked BBQ Seasoning for a dry rub (be careful, I think it was the Island Sun kind that I got home and found was full of wheat!), with a good hickory smoked flavor to it. Reggae Reggae or other jerk barbecue sauces are good too, for a thicker tomato-based option. But, especially with pork, sometimes I just want a mustard or plain vinegar-and-pepper sauce for a lighter flavor. This sauce ended up kind of a hybrid there, with just a hint of mustard flavor to it.

The recipe I worked from with this: Spicy Carolina Style Pulled Pork (In Crock Pot) Recipe, with an average five-star rating, which sounded promising!

I had to substitute a few things, but the version we ended up eating tonight was delicious enough that I’m trying not to run back in the kitchen and eat more of it now. 🙂

The GFSC version

1.5 kg / 3.3 lb. pork shoulder roast

I actually bought two smaller frozen ones, and let them thaw a little before putting on the dry rub. Anywhere near that weight range would work fine for the amount of seasonings.

Dry rub mixture:
1.5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Rub that all over the meat, then put it on top of a big quartered onion laid in the bottom of the slow cooker. If you have the time and patience, let it sit for a few hours in the fridge. (With the long, slow cooking here, I’m not sure how much difference the extra marinating time makes.)

While that’s sitting, you can mix up the sauce. I just put in a smallish jar, to make it easier to shake up and store about a quarter of it in the fridge while the meat cooks.

1/2 c. / 125mL cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons GF soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I thought we had more in the cabinet!)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 big cloves finely chopped/crushed  garlic (or 1.5-2 tsp. garlic powder)
1 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper (I used half cayenne and half Indian chili powder, for more complex flavor)

Put all of these in a jar, and shake to mix it up.  You may want to add more red pepper when you taste for seasonings later. I like it hot, but started off easy on it because crock pot cooking usually gives intense flavors. If you don’t like the heat so much, use less starting out. 🙂

Pour about 3/4 of the sauce over the meat and onions in the crock, then let it cook 8-10 hours overnight on the low heat setting, or probably 4-5 hours on high. You want it tender enough that it’s starting to fall apart. This batch took longer to cook, but it went in half-frozen.

Doesn’t even come close to doing it justice, but yum.

As the original recipe author put it:

remove the meat and onions to a cutting board. remove skin and set aside. using two forks (or your fingers, if you have asbestos hands), pull and shred the pork. chop the onions, and mix into the shredded meat. using a fork, remove some of the fat from under the skin, mince, and add to the shredded meat and onions as needed for moisture and flavor.

I let it cool down enough so I could handle it without burning myself. I’d actually wanted to chop instead of shred it, but that shoulder cooked with vinegar wanted to shred–it’s all good! 😉

Then I put the pulled meat back in the crock, mixed it up with the saucy juices (just about the right amount, though I was afraid it would be too juicy), let it simmer about half an hour longer on low, then tasted for seasoning. Ours needed the rest of the vinegar sauce left in the jar added, along with some extra spices and a few dashes of Tabasco. After a late brunch, we weren’t hungry again yet, so I just let it simmer on low for a couple more hours. It’s hard to get the cooking time too wrong with a crock pot.

Best served with some buns and coleslaw. (And some extra sauce on the side, but we didn’t really miss it.) As you may have noticed from the top picture, I had some trouble with that! I totally forgot to buy any GF buns, and the small store I stopped by only had savoy cabbage out. You could probably make slaw out of that, but I didn’t feel like trying today. It just wasn’t the same without slaw mounded on top. Mr. Sweden plopped some ranch dressing on his (on top of nice wheaty buns :P), and said it was pretty good.

But, toast works, and the bagged salad with homemade ranch dressing has come cabbage and carrots in there. 😀 It made a good meal, anyway!

Not surprisingly, even after the dog looked pitiful enough that he got a big plate of it too (minus salad), we had about half the batch left. It should freeze OK for later.

This post has enough to do with the long-term effects of celiac and gluten sensitivity that I am reblogging it here.

Urocyon's Meanderings

Content note: Discussion of dental fear, with descriptions of bad experiences with dental treatment.

One of my personal worst fears seems to have come true: it looks like I probably have an abscessed molar, and can’t keep putting off having some dental work done. Last night, I went ahead and e-mailed a nearby dental anesthetic clinic to try to set an appointment (yes, luckily there is one!), and have been spending the morning so far avoiding my e-mail and having anxiety attacks thinking about it.

I have never had an abscess before, myself, but seem to have pretty much all the symptoms, including a migraine-level headache and earache and other nerve weirdness on that side of my face. I’ve always been afraid of them, though, because my mom had a serious problem with them, and got very sick a lot and ended up losing a lot of teeth from…

View original post 5,211 more words

Making green hot sauce

A followup to the  post.

Since I got a new blender*, and the peppers were well pickled, I decided to whiz them into hot sauce today.

The pickled peppers, with the brine bags out of the top and any scum and dried salt wiped off the neck of the jar.

I held the peppers in the jar with a fork, and drained the brine off into a cup. It’s not as hot as I was expecting, but it should still be useful in cooking.

The peppers were barely covered by the brine, and it picked up a lot of color and flavor. Yes, those mugs are super-cutesy, but I couldn’t resist. 😉 There are cows and sheep, too. They feel good in my hand.

Not really related, but I had to move this leftover fresh homegrown tomato salsa I made yesterday (with a green chile off the same plant 🙂 ) out of the blender cup before I could use it for this sauce. (The storage lids are very handy.) The color mostly turned out light because I accidentally totally puréed the onion in there, and I had to finely hand-chop some more tomato to add for chunkiness. But it turned out delicious!

Appropriately, it went into a salsa jar. 🙂 And it is pretty hot.

Time to purée!

I wasn’t sure how much vinegar it would need, so I started off with about 1/4 cup/65mL. It took another tablespoon/15 mL or so, judging by repeated taste testing. I used white wine vinegar, because I thought cider might overwhelm the flavor. It did also end up needing a pinch of salt (on top of what it picked up in the brine) and about half a teaspoon/2.5 mL of sugar, to round the flavor out with the green chiles not having developed the ripe hint of sweetness yet. Just that little bit really helped bring out the flavor of the peppers.


It didn’t look nearly that green in reality, but very yellow. I guess I need more practice in adjusting color levels so that the end result doesn’t just turn out looking weirder, but I didn’t even try with these photos. All of them look much greener than they really were. But, besides the phone camera factor, the lighting in our kitchen is really freaking bad; not only is it all overhead fluorescent, one of the two tubes needs replaced.

I didn’t much like the yellow color, so I added a little bit of totally optional green food coloring.(The only kind we have! I have yet to see one of the boxes with small bottles of different colors here, but for some reason I picked up a bigger bottle of green several years ago, for one use.)

I took the container to natural light to try to get a better view of the actual color after adding a bit of green. It still looks too vibrant, but you can get a little better idea of the consistency after blending.

The texture looked OK, so I went ahead and put it in a jar to heat process. It probably wouldn’t mold or anything, stored in the fridge, with that amount of added vinegar, but better safe than sorry. We don’t have any suitable empty bottles right now, so I just poured it into a jar so we can put it into a bottle later.

I started out putting it in a “closed up tightly right after it dried from the dishwasher” peanut butter jar, but that would have meant using our biggest pot to make sure it was totally covered for the water bath. (And me still without jar tongs…) Plus, it had more headroom than it needed, so I moved it into another jar the same as the salsa one above.

Adjusted so it’s overexposed, still lurid green…

Yes, we can still get glass peanut butter jars** here, with metal lids. I prefer that to plastic, especially for something as fatty as peanut butter, which might get more crud leached into it from the plastic container.

I wasn’t sure how long to give it in the water bath, but I figured 20 minutes at the boil would probably be good. Especially with it starting out room temperature; otherwise, maybe 15. Again, better safe!

Just tighten the lid, and put the jar in a pot of water to bring it up to the boil, then time from then. You’d probably have to turn the burner down some to keep the jar from dancing around as wildly, and keep a kettle of hot water in case you need to top it up to make sure the water level stays over top of the  jar(s). In the interests of safety, here is a more complete description from Virginia Cooperative Extension (based at my old university 🙂 ): Boiling Water Bath Canning – Including Jams, Jellies, and Pickled Products.

Note: They say not to use other than jars with two-piece lids. You may want to follow that, to be safe. As long as I inspect the lids to make sure the seal is good, I don’t worry about reusing pickle, mayonnaise, etc. jars, especially for higher-acid things like pickled items and jams which are less likely to grow really dangerous stuff. (Yes, I am semi-paranoid, and water bath process jams instead of using an open kettle method. I did grow up eating a lot of pickles and jams/jellies done that way, and nobody ever got hurt, but yeah.) If they seal properly as they cool down, it’s OK by my standards. That also goes for reusing some two-part lids, if they’re not bent at the rim from prying off and the seal rubber still looks good. I’ve also never had a jar break while being heated or anything like that. But, it’s your choice.

A while back, I ran across a tip to add a splash of vinegar to the water if it’s hard enough to leave mineral residue on your jars. We have liquid chalk, so it seemed worth a try. And it worked! 🙂 (I grew up on limestone karst, and seriously never saw any water as hard as what comes out of the spigot from the London Chalk basin. And I’m used to seeing spring and well water that will have actual flakes of lime floating around in it when it’s cold. Our toilet tried to grow stalactites around the rim here.)

At this point, about halfway through, I’d usually expect a white scum of lime on top of the water in the pot. The water is that hard. Bad photo with all the steam, but you can at least see that there’s no scum at all.

I still need to get a taller pot than our biggest one, for canning bigger than pint/500mL jars. But, this is a pretty good illustration of one of my points in the  post: you don’t have to do the kind of overwhelmingly big batches at a time that I grew up seeing. You can stick something in a single small jar and use any pot tall enough that the lid is safely covered by an inch/2.5cm or so of water, without it threatening to overflow the pot.

The sauce did a weird separation thing from the boiling. I’m guessing that shaking will take care of that. The color here is particularly weird, though the watery stuff at the bottom really is showing more of the added color.

And, that’s my first try at making a hot sauce. 🙂 Like other pickled items, we’ll probably let it sit for at least a couple of weeks for the flavors to meld and mellow before trying it.

But, with the taste tests while making it, removing most of the seeds and membranes did seem to take the heat down a lot. I was half-expecting super-super-hot results from the little Thai peppers, even so, but it came out milder. Still with a pretty good bite, of course. 😉


* I’d been wanting a new blender for a while, since the stick blender we were using got some kind of short and started shocking me. 😐 That one went away, but it took a while to remember to get a replacement; I also put it off, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring a blender/food processor combo in to take up space in the cabinets. Not long ago, I was watching some excellent, mostly Punjabi food cooking videos, and was impressed at how well the Magic Bullet blender seemed to be working for him. Pureeing onions, garlic and ginger for a smooth sauce? Very quick and easy-looking. Cooking for two, in a small kitchen, I also liked the idea of its having small blending containers and a small enough footprint that I can just leave the base unit on the counter, instead of wrestling the whole thing in and out of a cabinet every time I want to use it. (Bending down is still a problem for me, with the celiac osteomalacia. If we had other storage space for pots and pans, I wouldn’t even keep them in the bottom cabinets.) It does also have a full-sized blender container, which I haven’t even washed to use yet.

So, I decided to try it, and ordered one (not from JML). After several days’ use, I really like it. The mugs with handles are particularly handy for making icy smoothies–often banana and some ice cubes, with a splash of orange juice–which I had missed with lunch or for a quick snack. (The stick blender wasn’t up to that, either.) We’ll have to see how it holds up. But, so far, I would definitely recommend this model.  I usually avoid “as seen on TV” products, but this one actually seems to be a good one.

** This really didn’t fit in the post at all, but I just had to throw in a shot of the house brand we’ve been getting at LIDL:

Screamingly “American”, all right. 😀 I guess you can’t just call it “McDonald’s” or “Kennedy”, but the weird mashup probably sounds great if you are making “American” food in Germany. It’s not quite as funny as some of the “American” packaging on the Japanese market, but… (Shame I couldn’t track down one post with photos of some of that which had me laughing, a couple of years ago.) At some point, I should probably do a post with some of the “American” stuff  here in the UK. Unlike with the peanut butter, I usually would not have figured that out without all the stars and stripes, I tell you what.

I can’t resist laughing, but it’s really good peanut butter of the 96% actual peanut kind. And cheap. I haven’t actually seen any for sale in the UK which is so heavily bulked out with shortening and sugar as most of the stuff back in the US, which is fine by me. (Other than imported Skippy, etc.)

Brine pickled green chiles

In the last post, I talked some about pickling in general. Now I’m finally getting around to what I had intended to write about then: putting up a jar of pickled green Thai bird peppers off our heavily producing plant, with a batch of hot sauce in mind.

What you need:

Peppers, a clean jar, a knife, something to put the discarded stem ends and seeds in, some salt, a measuring cup for making the brine, and last but not least: rubber gloves for handling the peppers! I forgot to put the garlic out for this photo, and the cherry tomatoes were just sitting there. 🙂 Salsa making will probably come later, though.

I already mixed up the brine there, using about 2 tablespoons/30 mL of coarse sea salt per US pint/little under 500 mL of water. If you’re using finer salt, you may want to use 1.5 tablespoons for that amount of water, as suggested here. You can use any salt that’s not iodized (things will keep fine with iodized, but it may taste odd), but I like to use sea salt now, for the extra flavor. The brine concentration isn’t that critical, as long as it tastes saltier than something you would want to drink–even if you like salty flavors as much as I do. 😉

Since I’ve been making small batches of pickles, I have just been mixing up the brine in a Pyrex measuring cup, either by microwaving it until it boils or by topping it up from the electric kettle, then stirring to make sure the salt is dissolved. You can heat it in a pan on the stove, if you want to. I’ve also been using filtered water, though ours doesn’t smell or taste strongly of chlorine. (Unlike back home, where the stuff coming out of the spigot smells and tastes like swimming pool water most of the summer, when it’s dry and the rivers are down.) Still, better safe than sorry, to avoid maybe killing off the bacteria we want. Boiling should also help drive off some of the chlorine, though you’d want to let it boil at least 5 minutes.

I haven’t been sterilizing the jars in a pot of water, but just running them through the dishwasher. You can also add some bleach to the load if you like, but the detergent we’ve been using already has plenty of oxidizers in there, judging from the bleachy smell when the machine empties.

While the brine was cooling to lukewarm at hottest, I got the peppers ready. Since it was a nice day, I took them outside to sit on the patio and get a little evening sun.

The first one.

These small peppers are very fiddly to work with, but it’s worth it. Larger ones should be less trouble to deal with. This variety is so hot and thin-walled that, besides cutting the stem end off, I also cored most of the seeds and membrane out with the paring knife. For something like jalapeños, this isn’t really necessary. You will be very, very sorry later if you don’t wear gloves for this!

Don’t worry if you split some of them down the side with the knife, especially since these are going to get blended up for sauce anyway.

A handful down, most of the tray to go!

I just put them into the colander I was planning to rinse them off in. Better to do that after the prep (at least if they don’t have pesticides), rather than try to handle a bunch of slippery wet tiny peppers!

Finally done, and ready to go into the jar after a good rinse.

A few small cloves of garlic in the bottom of the jar, for extra flavor. This is a good way to use up those teensy little ones at the middle of the bulb.
This is just a saved mayonnaise jar. It doesn’t really matter what kind of jar you use for this, as long as it’s clean and has a lid.

Peppers packed into the jar. It’s a little big, but this was the smallest one I had ready.

Brine poured in, with some reserved to double-bag and put in the top to hold the peppers under the brine, and keep air from getting to the top of it. (Mold prevention, in other words.) Make sure the brine is lukewarm at most before you pour it in.

Double-bagging the extra brine in sandwich-sized zipper bags, for extra leak protection. You’ll want to squeeze most of the air out of them. I ended up having to make a little more brine, but that is no problem if you use the same proportions and let it cool down before pouring it in.

The photo of the finished jar seems to have disappeared, but here it is days later, with a cut up yellow sweet pepper added. (The colors should blend well when it’s whizzed into sauce, and that should have a mellower flavor to help balance out the slightly bitter greenness.)

You’ll notice that the brine has gone cloudy, and the peppers are taking on a pickled (or cooked) color. Sediment and cloudiness are what you’re looking for, there’s nothing wrong. 🙂 It will also get a little fizzy, from the lactofermentation.
Please ignore the counter clutter, BTW; that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

It wasn’t on the drip tray right then, but you will want to use some kind of container under it to catch the brine that bubbles out over the top. (Note the wet paper towel underneath…)

If you have another jar of something pickly going, you can use a spoonful of that brine as a starter. This jar definitely got going faster than I was expecting. Here’s the jar of dilly cucumbers I used for a starter with this (there shouldn’t be enough spice/herb flavor in a spoonful to make any difference), on the same day I put the chiles up:

This is in a plastic takeaway container, and you can see a little better how the brine bag approach should work. Also the color difference between what I just added there, and the ones that have been pickling for a little while. As you can tell from the reddish brine color, maybe I went a little overboard with the little dried peppers. 😉 (I have since fished some of them out.)

BTW, that was one thing I wouldn’t have thought of before reading Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation: it works perfectly fine to incrementally add things to the jar, just as long as you stay clean about handling it and don’t go poking dirty fingers down in the brine, or something. (Ewww…)

The one I added to the jar that day, actually. The blossom end hung up on the trellis, so it grew curved. My hand looks very, very purple there in contrast to all the green.

We only have three cucumber plants going, and they’re just really starting to produce over the last couple of weeks. It’s been working fine to add cucumbers as they get big enough, periodically topping up some fresh brine if necessary and pouring some out of the baggies to make up for the rising level in the jar. Just as long as they stay covered in brine, it’s cool. You don’t need to fill the whole jar at once, just wait a little longer for the newer additions to pickle.

That jar was actually finished today. (I added one more I spotted on the vine after taking this photo.) I wedged in the last couple of cucumbers so they were well below the top of the brine, fished out any floating spices with a spoon to make sure that wouldn’t mold, wiped the brine off the jar threads with a paper towel, and put the lid on it loosely. I’ll probably let it continue to work for a week or so–still in the drip tray–before tightening down the lid and putting it in the fridge. Then comes the fun of trying to pull out the older ones first, from the bottom of the jar. 😉

Another thing I put together, which I hope to post about soon: some green beans and carrots. But, you can use this basic technique, plus whatever seasonings you like, for pretty much any vegetable or combo of vegetables.


Today I harvested some green chiles off our little Thai bird pepper plant that I nursed through the winter inside. Wow, has it really taken off this year! I have just been throwing extras into a Ziploc baggie in the freezer or drying some of the red ones (by accident sometimes, leaving them sitting out :), but that smallish single plant is producing enough that I thought I would go ahead and brine pickle some to make hot sauce later. This wasn’t even all the green ones on there; I left some on there to ripen, and probably try to make some red sauce out of it.

Can’t tell it was a very bright day here, huh? 😉 I thought the light effect looked cool, even if it turned out a really bad picture of the pepper plant itself.

That process will wait for another post, since what I intended as a little intro has turned into its own post about pickling.

Now, I used to help (often more like “help”) my Nana pickle and can things a lot, when I was a kid, and those experiences made the idea of doing it myself a little intimidating. They had a small farm, where I loved to spend a lot of the summer, and my Nana always kept a huge garden. She would also go out and pick wild strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, pears, crabapples, and grapes in particular for jellies, preserves, and juices. It was always bushels of vegetables or fruits at a time, all summer long. Even after she got older and scaled back a little, she would still grow, can, jelly/jam up, and pickle enough for the kind of big extended family farm she grew up on, and give most of it away. 🙂

The pickling was the worst for me, with huge pots of boiling vinegar brine and hot water baths in the hottest part of the summer. It may not get as breathless sweltering in the mountains, but that was still in a Virginia summer before anybody we knew had air conditioning at home! Sometimes she would set up a wash tub outside over a fire for the water bath, but the whole house was still full of vinegar steam; between the heat and the fumes, I kept a pounding headache whenever pickling was going on. That was about the last thing I ever wanted to do on my own. The food may have been wonderful to have later on, but the whole process was just miserable–and Nana didn’t handle the heat any better than I do!

But, then I moved to the UK, and couldn’t find the kinds of pickles I wanted–that’s hard enough in the stores back home, though I saw that more are stocking regional favorites the last time I was back, but there is also nobody sending you away with homemade jars here. 🙂 So, I got desperate enough to try making smaller batches of some things, starting off with Rick McDaniels’ Crisp Bread and Butter Pickles. (From before the site went to a blog format, and I could have sworn my first try at cabbage-pepper-onion chow-chow–basically nothing like the Pennsylvania Dutch version–came from his site too. But, maybe not.)

I say “smaller”, where a smaller batch meant one big head of cabbage and a couple each of sweet peppers and onions. That will still fill a lot of jars for two people to eat, and needs a pot of seething, fuming vinegar and another big pot for the water bath. At least it very rarely gets so hot here, though we’re in a heat wave right now. It’s harder to find canning supplies here, so I didn’t even have any jar tongs to lift them up out of the boiling pot, the first few times! O_o Had to dump some of the water into the sink, then carefully try to grab them out with an oven mitt… I think we may still have a small jar or two of the first batch of chow-chow left in the back of a cabinet, from 2004! Giving people jars of stuff, or bags of fresh veggies/fruits, just isn’t a thing here, either; talk about your culture shock. I know maybe two people to give pickles, jams, etc. who wouldn’t just look at me like I had three heads.

Mr. Sweden was the one who tried his hand at brine pickling first, here. He was used to being able to get briny dill cucumber pickles in Sweden, and you just couldn’t find them here then. Maybe some specialty shop somewhere in Greater London was carrying them, but what’s now Totally Swedish didn’t even have them. Since Poland joined the EU, there has been enough immigration that within the past few years all the supermarkets have gotten Polish sections with cheap and good briny dills and jars of sauerkraut. Before that, we were both thrilled to find some Israeli export pickles in a can, in the tiny kosher section of one store! (Those are not bad at all; I was afraid they’d taste like the can, but not at all.) But, at any rate, he decided to try making some brine pickles.

It’s really hard to find pickling varieties of cucumbers here to buy, but the big English cucumbers work pretty well cut up. (This year, I’m growing my own cute little pickling ones, in patio containers since that’s the space we have.) The texture is not the same, but it’s pretty good. He used a recipe out of the classic Prinsessornas Kokbok (“Princesses’ Cookbook”, apparently with an English translation), and they must have really wanted to make sure the pickles kept well before refrigeration was common; the brine was so strong we had to soak some of the salt out before eating them! But, otherwise, that experiment worked out well, and it gave me more confidence in trying brine pickling.

A pickling cucumber growing on the vine

This one can have a couple more days to grow a little bigger.

Where I’m from, brine pickling and drying used to be the main ways of preserving vegetables for the winter, and people still make and serve quite a variety of pickles. My mom had wondered why so many people made sauerkraut, when there were few enough German settlers in the area that some of their surnames got totally mangled (like “Linkhorst” turning into “Linkous”, or “Stambach” into “Stumbo”!), but that would be from cabbage getting introduced into an area where people had already been making pickled green beans like sauerkraut for a very, very long time. (Along with the pickled corn, summer squash, etc.) I figure it partly took over because, besides being tasty, it’s also a lot less work to shred or chop the cabbage than to snap all those beans to fill enough crocks to get you through the winter! A lot of people still make pickled beans, but they’ve mostly switched over to smaller quantities of vinegar-based dilly beans rather than the huge crocks to eat cooked like sauerkraut.

Nigohilv tsunatsosdi sgewi tsigisgo’i.

I always eat sour kraut.#

I like the stuff, but not that much! 🙂

An excellent post: How To Make Kraut – The Old Timey Way.

My Nana had some kind of by-hand cabbage chopper, but I like the texture better shredded. I used to use a knife, but a mandoline is easier. With this one, you can kind of see how the cabbage-onion-pepper style of chow-chow may have gotten started, with the peppers they’re putting in the kraut there. I have made some brine-pickled chow-chow (add sugar, if you want, to balance the sour when you serve it), and it was really good with my beans :), but I have yet to try one variation of the brine pickled kind my mom saw when she was a kid: once it’s pickled, you hang it up to dry some in cloth bags, I would guess for an effect more like the Tianjin preserved vegetable. It would probably keep longer without refrigeration, half-dried like that. Sounds intriguing, but I’m not sure where I could even hang it to dry where we’re living.

My Nana was one of the ones who switched over mostly to quick-pack, heat-processed vinegar pickles, which were pushed as all modern and sanitary. She still made and canned crocks of  sauerkraut and briny dill cucumbers every year, but I didn’t help as much with that, and just was not as comfortable with the idea of trying it on my own before Mr. Sweden’s experiment turned out well.

Boy, am I glad I started. 🙂

Though I’m still skeptical about some of the wider health claims in there, Nourishing Traditions helped get me started making by-the-jar batches of salt pickled veggies. I started out half-afraid that I would screw things up, get proportions wrong, and kill everyone in the house, but that turns out not to be much of a problem at all. It’s  not so easy to poison yourself if you show some sense and don’t eat mushy, moldy, and/or foul-smelling vegetables. For the cautious, I ran across a good post: Tips on mitigating risks for fermented dill pickles (most of which would seem to apply to other vegetables). I have stopped worrying about it much, as long as I don’t eat it if it looks or smells weird, and take normal sanitary precautions–for someone raised with OCD-influenced ideas about being clean in the kitchen, at least! (Not exaggerating.) *wry smile* But, I wouldn’t want to influence anybody else to get food poisoning.

But, indeed, it hadn’t even occurred to me before that, that I could do things like use half a head of cabbage and half a green pepper for slaw, and just turn the rest into a jar of sauerkraut. Making smaller quantities and eating them before they would sit around long enough to maybe need heat processing to keep has been working out a lot better for me. (And that leaves whatever probiotic value alive, besides being easier.) So far, I haven’t turned out as many pickles as I have wanted to, thanks to not always having the energy from the celiac-related deficiency problems, but it is much easier than I ever would have thought based on the “bushels of veggies and vats of boiling vinegar” experience.

Another good kraut post, also from Blind Pig & the Acorn: How Granny Makes Kraut. In jars, with a method I hadn’t seen before. I’m not sure about adding the sugar, but just putting the salt in the top of the jar looks well worth trying!

One book I would definitely recommend: Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation. I didn’t know he had a newer (and apparently more comprehensive) one out, but I will definitely be picking The Art of Fermentation up, too. It did kind of bug me the way, as an incomer living in East Tennessee, he referred more than once to what Native people used to do (with not nearly as much info on local pickling traditions as he could have found out by talking to some people living there now), but most people have been explicitly taught that we’re not even around anymore. It still gets on my nerves sometimes, but the book is excellent, other than that. I like the emphasis on using your imagination to come up with mixtures of vegetables and seasonings that you like, to your taste, working off some very basic proportions. I am still not sure about some of the things he has tried pickling, like cooked potatoes, but you can pickle basically any kind of vegetable.

I may not have much room here to grow my own food, but I also having a handy way to use up gluts of things from the weekly vegbox we’ve been getting delivered. (Just about the best decision ever! Super-fresh stuff, and I don’t have to lug it home with the osteomalacia bad back.) Get more carrots and zucchini than you can use, make a jar or two of carrot and zucchini pickles. 🙂 (Carrots are one of my favorites, either on their own or thrown in with other things.)

Or, indeed, the bunch of Thai peppers I started off writing about. 😉 I had been thinking of trying my hand at making some hot sauce–the “matured” peppers on all the labels are actually brine pickled–but had put it off because we don’t have a working food processor right now, and I keep forgetting to buy another one. A lot of people apparently grind the fresh peppers up into a mash and then salt that and let it do its pickly magic. But, I saw a good piece from April McGreger, Home pickles made easy–and delicious, when I was looking for a quick brine proportion reference. She suggested putting the peppers through the food processor after they’re pickled. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work, so decided to go ahead and give it a try!

But, I set that up this evening, and will do a separate post with the process there.

For one: Broccoli and feta pasta with vaguely jerk pork loin

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve kept taking photos, but then been too tired to write things up after cooking. 🙂 If I don’t do it immediately afterward, it just doesn’t get done.

But, Mr. Sweden is on another business trip, and I thought trying to get some food blogging done might encourage me to actually cook something decent before I’m hungry enough that I just have to scrounge for something quickly. That keeps being a problem when there are no other humans here wanting food.

Today I’ll mix it up a bit, and go with the photos under desperately bad kitchen fluorescents, without the separate recipe list.

Tonight’s “what needs used up?” fare hardly warrants posting a recipe, but it did turn out tasty. I had considered making a bit of salad too, but probably couldn’t have held it after eating that plate full.

Earlier this evening, I sprinkled some dry jerk rub on a few pieces of pork loin, and let it sit a few hours in the refrigerator. That is purposely more than I needed for supper, so there would be some left over tomorrow. If I had been using the usual Rajah (yes, very Jamaican-sounding 😉 ), that would have been enough seasoning, but we have some fill-in TRS. The flavor turned out good, but not very strong with the amount used. The TRS is also not nearly as heavy on the allspice notes.

It’s not just meat; every kind of food I have put in those bowls looks weird. Bit of a shame, since I like the color on its own. Mr. Sweden usually ends up eating out of them, because it doesn’t bother him.

Once I was getting hungry, I did a little vegetable prep. First: about half a medium heading broccoli’s worth of purple sprouting broccoli, which needed cleared out to make room for the contents of a new vegbox today. (One of the best food decisions I have ever made, getting someone to bring super-fresh veggies to the door most weeks!)

It’s almost a shame to cook the purple sprouting broccoli, and muddy the colors up.

Because we got some decent-looking cherry tomatoes today, I quartered half a dozen of them too.

After that was done, I put some salted pasta water on, planning just to throw the broccoli in during the last couple of minutes’ cooking time.

While that was heating, I put a couple of cloves of garlic through the press, and mixed in a couple of pinches of smoked sea salt (mostly because it was sitting on the counter), to let it sit a while for extra flavor complexity.

Yes, Sainsbury’s is now putting out store brand versions of the little tubs of flavored Cornish Sea Salt–and Mr. Sweden keeps picking up different flavors. 😉 I assumed it was exactly the same, but the Sainsbury’s Chilli flavor is GF, unlike the name brand we picked up before in an assortment pack. (That was full of breadcrumb filler. Yuck.)

The Kitchen Supervisor supervised from the edge of a drawer I’d left open, whether I wanted him to or not. Good thing he’s so cute. 😉

Please ignore the counter clutter. That’s what I’ve been doing. Mirrors really doesn’t care.

I also took the feta out of the fridge to come up closer to room temperature, before the pasta went in, and crumbled it. That is probably a third of a 250g/about 8 oz. pack–i.e., what was left in the fridge. 😉

Once the water was boiling, I threw in about a third of a 500g bag of gluten-free spaghetti, broken in half so it didn’t break itself into even smaller pieces while cooking. (Don’t like the necessity, but every GF spaghetti I have tried has broken itself to bits if you didn’t break it first.) Penne would have been better for this dish, but we were out.

Time to put the skillet, with a very thin coating of olive oil on the bottom,  over a medium-high flame to pan-broil the meat.

Yay cast iron! This shot is blurry from the sizzling, and I had to wipe oil droplets off the lens. 🙂

When the pasta had two or three minutes left to go by taste-testing, I threw in the chopped broccoli.

After about a minute in there, it was already changing color.

While that was draining in a colander, I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil  (medium-low) for the garlic and spices.

The extent of the seasoning tonight. Looks like almost time to refill both bottles from bigger containers. 🙂 I’d have preferred a pepper blend in here, but black was what we had.

The garlic and spices only need to fry for 30 seconds or a minute. Then I threw in the tomatoes, just long enough to get them heated through and barely starting to soften–maybe a minute?

Looks ready to me.

When that was done, I just dumped the pasta and broccoli into that pan to get it all gently mixed up. Once it was coated in oil, I mixed in the cheese.

Pork chops waiting on a plate. Still nice and juicy; they should only need a couple of minutes on each side to get them well-cooked without drying them out.

Once the pasta is well-mixed, things should be ready to go.  This amount would probably serve two with a salad, but I’m not very good at scaling things down. 🙂