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John Raven, Ph.B. answers your questions
about Traditional Texas Food
Online Since 1997
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Once again the good Doctor has a waiting room full of patients with problems that need solving. Here we go.
Judi writes: I would like to do a pig roast this summer, but I am not just sure how to go about it! Could you give me some help here? I would like to cook one for about 20 people. Your suggestions would be appreciated. Hey Judi: First thing you need is something big enough to cook the pig in. For 20 people you will need a pig of about 20 pounds, dressed. Ask your butcher how big that will be in feet and inches so you can find a cooker. When you have everything ready, season the pig inside and out with black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and a little cayenne. Cover his little ears and tail with foil so they don't burn off. You can uncover them to brown the last hour or so of cooking time. Cook him until the internal temperature on the thickest part, the ham, reaches "pork-well done". You will baste him from time to time, say once an hour, with a clear basting sauce -- vinegar, onion, lemon juice and water, to your taste. If you have not cooked something this big before, you really should find someone with some experience to coach you. It's hard to do over the email. Good luck.
This is for the nice couple who wrote asking about Ingram's chili, chili sans tomatoes and "chili concentrate". Their names got lost in the shuffle. Sorry about that.
Hey Folks: Several noted chili purists insist that tomatoes and/or onions do not belong in real Texas chili. Frank X.Tolbert, the Godfather of chili, was a non-tomato person. Tolbert's recipe used chili powder, cumin, black pepper, red pepper and Mexican oregano for seasoning. I think you know enough about chili to make it without tomatoes. Just use your regular recipe, omitting the red things.
I haven't been able to find any reference to Ingram's chili. Where were they located? I've seen the name but don't remember where.
The chili concentrate is probably just processed dried chile pods. Without a doubt, the dried pods make better chili than any commercial powder. If you can find some dried pods, this is the way to process them: You will want both Ancho and either Anaheim or New Mexico Red pods. Start with about six Ancho pods and four of the red. Remove the stems, seeds and any pith from the pods. Put them in a non-reactive pot, cover with water and bring them to boil. Cover and set off the fire until they cool. Use a dull knife or spoon to scrape the pulp away from the skins. Discard the stems. Save the broth the pods were cooked in and use it in the chili to thin it as needed. Don't forget to taste the broth first. If it is bitter, discard it and use beef or chicken stock for thinning. Beef stock preferred.
The pulp from one dried pod will equal one tablespoon of chili powder. Use the pulp in your pot as you would the powder remembering the pulp does not have the added spices that the powder has. You may have to increase cumin, etc. Any extra pulp can be stored in the ice box for a week or so. I think you can probably freeze it to get longer shelf life. I've had mold grow on the ice box-stored pulp after about a week.
If your chili tends to be a little bitter, you can cure that with a little brown sugar dissolved in hot water. But use it sparingly. I hope this gets you on the way to your perfect pot. Thanks for writing, and le me know how this works.
Vicky writes: Can you please give me a brand name (or two) for Triple Sec, as I cannot find it anywhere? Or let me know what it is?
Hey Vicky: A few brand names: Arrow, Bols, De Kuyper, Du Bouchett, Giroux, Hiram Walker. Triple Sec is a bitter orange-flavor liquor. Grand Mariner will substitute if you can't find the real thing. Thanks for writing.
Bobby-Que writes: I'm going to fry pickle slices using a seasoned flour and buttermilk batter. However, I'm having trouble with the ratio of spices and flour. Do you have any suggestions? Once we get this thing worked out, we are going to serve it at our BBQ stand.
Bobby: My batter recipes call for a teaspoon of salt to a cup of flour. I don't know what other spices you want to add, but I think I would start with about a half teaspoon per cup of flour and work up until I got the taste I wanted. Most of the folks serving fried pickles seem to have a mustard sauce for dipping. I don't have a recipe for that on hand. One uses Ranch dressing for dipping. I learned something from a chili cook who won a lot of contests. If you have new recipe, try it out on the kids. If the kids like it, it's good. Thanks for writing.
K. H. writes: I've inherited a cast iron grill and griddle (Aussie), but the cooking surfaces are really rusted and pock-marked. Do you have any idea about how I could save them for use? Like with a cast iron skillet?
Howdy: To get the rust off, get a good stiff bristle wire brush and apply it with enthusiasm until the rust is gone. You might want to smooth it out with some 120 grit emery cloth, available from the hardware or auto supply store. The pock marks will stay. Once you have it clean, give it a good coat of shortening or better yet, hog lard. Put it in a 350-degree oven, if it will fit. Otherwise, heat it the best way you can for about 30 minutes, then cut off the heat and let it cool. Wipe it clean with a cloth and repeat the operation. This should do it. Just keep it wiped clean and grease it after every use. Thanks for writing.
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