Friday, April 10, 2009

Meat - it's not Just for Breakfast Anymore

"Vegetarian" is an American Indian word meaning "bad hunter".

Recently I've been spending more time working on my BBQ recipes - pulled pork, ribs, etc. Not just thrown on the grill, but in a slow-cooking smoker, designed to cook the meat at a low temperature for upwards of 18 hours.


While looking at recipes and methods online I noticed a lot of information on grinding my own meat for sausage patties, brats, links, etc. This seemed like an interesting thing to try, because I like to make sausage patties for breakfast on the weekends, but they're always expensive (I'm cheap) and you're never quite sure what is in 'em.

So I found a couple of promising recipes and picked up a meat grinder.

It's the old-style crank, and not motorized. I figured if I like how they turn out and I start making and freezing the sausage I can always upgrade later on.

After the first trial run, I'm surprised at how well it works and how good the sausage is. If I buy the meat in bulk it will cost me 30% less to make my own sausage and control the ingredients. I usually buy pork shoulder for $1.50 a pound in 14-18 pound bulk packages for making BBQ, so no problem there.

The first batch I made is pork, salt, cayenne pepper, rubbed sage, black pepper, crushed red pepper, coriander, and Accent (MSG). No other preservatives, additives, finger nails, or fillers. Accent is the only semi-questionable ingredient, and I'm going to do some tests to see if it tastes the same without it. If so, it's gone, too. I'm also planning to experiment with how much fat is in the mix. Pork shoulder is very fatty, and ground sausage is usually very fatty too. If I can use less and still get good results, so much the better!

First taste test confirmed that it's a very tasty recipe. The sausage patties aren't all perfectly round and even like the store-bought stuff, but who cares? It'll all look the same at the end of the day...

I plan to try grinding my own hamburger soon. Those who have done so often swear by it, as you can control what cuts are used, the amount of fat, etc.

Garage Door Maintenance

Since we bought this place, the garage door has been a big pain in the ass. It never really opened or closed as well as it should. Over the past few months it's gotten to the point where the door won't open or close without help (me lifting or pushing down on it as it moves).

Not knowing jack-sh1t about garage doors, I figured it was just binding up on the track somewhere, so I spent a couple hours screwing around with it trying to get it to work better.

No luck.

Finally I decided to just bite the bullet and call a professional. Scheduled appointment was today between 9 and 11 am. The tech calls at 8:30 asking if he can show up 15 minutes early.

Hells yeah!

Dude gets here and gets to work. First problem is that the rollers are all original to the door installation and are worn out, wobbly, and generally crappy.

15 minutes later and he's got the original steel rollers replaced with non-steel (Plastic? Teflon? Space-age polymer? No idea...). The door moves much more quietly and with much less slop, but still doesn't open or close properly.

He adjusted the springs a number of times trying to get the left and right side to have the same tension. It got better and better, but still kept binding up. Then he noticed one of the pulleys was a little worn out. Worn out to the point where the bearings were shot and it was very hard to turn. It was hard to see when it was installed because the brackets holding it covered almost all of the center. The pulleys were the real problem.

In go a pair of new pulleys and the door FINALLY opens and closes like it should. Quiet, smooth, and without extra effort.

None of what the guy did was rocket science, but if you don't know what to look for it's damn near impossible to guess your way through this job. Looking back at it now, I could have done the job myself IF I knew what to look for. This is one of those jobs where you pay the pros, watch what they do, and then do it yourself the next time.

On the picture of the new roller you'll see a bunch of grease on the wheel. This is grease that the previous owner put on the track, which is a big no-no. Grease actually causes more problems than it solves. In the winter it gets hard (at least up here in the north) and it traps all kinds of dust and dirt, gumming up the track.

After his work was done I sprayed the track with engine degreaser and wiped it clean. I love how quiet the door is now. The new rollers also come with a lifetime warranty, so if/when I ever install a new garage door they'll just use those rollers so I don't have to buy new ones. If I keep the receipt that long, that is...