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Chris Hennes

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Everything posted by Chris Hennes

  1. I have never had a problem with any of the various "fresh roasted" services: I think it's probably really not that big a deal, what with easy one- and two-day shipping available. I have not tried this one in particular, but I don't really see a reason why it wouldn't be as good as the others. If I was you I'd give it a shot - I love coffee made with freshly-roasted beans. Be sure to report back with your impressions of the service... the only differences I have seen between them is the particular coffee they are using - you just need to find one you like.
  2. Of course, if you don't drink coffee fast enough to go through the five lbs pretty quickly, any benefit of getting freshly-roasted beans disappears. In my experience this amounts to about a week. Of course, YMMV. Your best bet is to find someplace local and eliminate shipping (or to roast your own, I suppose... sounds entertaining ).
  3. I've been experimenting with one of these for doing sous vide: as I report over in the sous vide thread, they are remarkably tough bags. I held one at 190 F for 10 hours with no problems. In addition, you can actually use the bags even without the Reynolds vacuum if you own a wine-saver type pump (electric or manual both work, also reported on over in the sous vide thread).
  4. I tried this today: I filled one of the handi-vac bags with food-colored water (dark red, in honor of halloween) brought the water bath to 190 F, and added the bag, checking on it every 20 minutes. After 10 hours, the bag was still intact and showed no signs of weakening. This does not say anything about what the bag may or may not be leaching into your food, but from a structural standpoint, the Reynolds Handi-Vac bags will, I believe, work just fine for long-term sous vide cooking. I will continue using the slow-cooker liners in mine to eliminate any potential leaching, and I think they will work great as a "poor man's sous vide". Plus, they make pretty good freezer bags, too .
  5. We've actually be discussing it over in the sous vide thread, and I'm in the middle of testing the bags' heat-resistance right now (7.5 hours at 190 F and counting...).
  6. Sorry, I did't mean to come across as overly critical - I just hadn't heard that theory before. My understanding is that the drying process is to remove water, which most bacteria require to survive. This being unrelated to confiting, which is essentially a pasteurization process coupled with creating an anaerobic environment, which obviously prevents aerobic bacteria from growing. My understanding of how salt plays a role is woefully incomplete - I know that it draws moisture out, but I just don't know how big a role that plays. We are clearly not removing enough moisture from the meat to completely dry it out, which would be required to prevent bacterial growth in that manner (at least, this is all according to my rather poor understanding of the biological processes involved).
  7. Yeah, definitely - I don't think we're disagreeing on this point . I like your analogy to canning: that helps to think about what you are really doing. Clearly, cooking anything at 180 F for 8 hours is enough to sterilize it to foodservice standards (if I recall correctly, pasteurization doesn't actually take anywhere near that long at that temp). So we're cooking and preserving, then sealing with fat. I would expect confit done in a vacuum pouch to last extremely long, as compared to the traditional method of storing covered in fat only. I'm not sure on the porosity of the plastic bags (it is non-zero) but I suspect that it is less porous than the fat, so should provide a better seal. This would explain the lack of aging ability, and provide support for a very long shelf-life.
  8. This isn't quite true: if you take a cup of water and put it on a hot plate for 8 hours at 180 degrees it will all evaporate, without ever "coming to a boil." So I think what markk is saying is that cooking at 180 F for that long causes the moisture to evaporate. I agree that that has not been my experience. Exactly, with the exception that the fat is not actually completely airtight: duck fat, in particular, is quite porous. This is why Wolfert recommends using a thin layer of lard to seal your jars for long-term storage. I'm just guessing here, but I was thinking that the ripening process depends on this porosity, and that if you completely seal the confit in vacuum pouches, it will not ripen at all. So I was wondering if you could "simulate" the porosity by poking a small hole in yoour vacuum bag in an area where there is a relatively thick fat deposit, allowing just a tiny bit of oxygen in.
  9. Spawning from my recent Charcuterie project (the Ghetto Smoker 4000):
  10. In Wolfert's book she describes this, but implies that the confit doesn't age the same way as a traditionally-made confit would. Is this your experience as well? Does it have to do with the vacuum sealing creating a seal that is too airtight? I had wondered if pricking the bag before putting them into storage might allow just a tiny bit of oxygen in without allowing it to spoil.
  11. Makes sense to me... like I really needed another gadget . Your post got me thinking though: I don't have an electric wine saver, I have the hand-pumped "Vacu-Vin" system, but it works on the same principle, so I gave it a shot. It uses simple rubber stoppers, so I didn't even have to modify anything: I pressed the stopper against the vacuum port in my last bag and used the hand pump and it actually worked fine. A little more awkward than using the custom-built pump, but it doesn't require batteries, and is dishwasher safe .
  12. Does the Wine Saver vacuum have a mechanism to prevent liquids from getting into the vacuum mechanism? That is one of the things that impressed my about the design on the Reynold's vac. I'm not familiar with the Wine Saver vac.
  13. Unless we are talking about mental health...
  14. Well, I'm "thrifty" (that is to say, "cheap") -- I bought the electric-model Brinkman bullet-style smoker for around $80 at Home Depot, and it makes great bacon. Plus, I converted it to do cold-smoking as well, and so far, so good on that front. I thought the garlic sausage was one of the best recipes in the book, actually. I love that one!
  15. It seems like I've been contributing to a lot of similar threads over the last few days... I haven't been a member for very long - maybe eG is always this way... I love them because there are so many random misconceptions about what we eat and its affect on us, and because the topic is so challenging! It boils down to: we don't know very much about how our bodies work, and conducting any kind of rigorously controlled long-term study is both extremely challenging and extremely expensive. Couple this with the media's propensity to exaggerate scientific results (this unfortunately starts at the University's press office and only gets worse from there), and you have a situation in which we are constantly bombarded with changing suggestions for better health. How can anyone be expected to make any sense of it? And so we resort to a sort of "well, scientists don't know what they're talking about, I'll go with my gut feeling" attitude that results in all manner of "logic"-based diets. Some of which work, some don't, some work for a while, some result in permanent weight loss. Why? We just don't know...
  16. Yes, exactly. When you get to reading the studies themselves you can see how grossly the media tends to over-sell the benefits. The conclusions of these studies are all "this study suggest that there may be a link" which gets twisted into "CHOCOLATE CURES CANCER"-type headlines. I was just complaining about this in another thread: it drives me crazy. I understand why it happens - just try to read the studies yourself! They are over our collective heads, so we want a dumbed-down version that we can make sense of. But studies like these are simply not easy to interpret, and any non-scientific explanation is going to be off the mark, by definition. I eat chocolate because it tastes great... do I really need another reason?
  17. The long and the short of it seems to be that chocolate is a mixed bag, health-wise. It contains antioxidants, which seem to have some benefits, but it also typically contains fat and sugar, which in general have a negative effect. Whether one outweighs the other is a very complex question that will not have any clear-cut answers. I would generally refrain from saying "chocolate is good for you" -- maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Fact is, we don't know.
  18. I like it - except food coloring will never come off my painted matte-white kitchen walls (whose dumb idea was it to use matte white in the kitchen?!?). So maybe my strategy will be something like that: bring the water to a boil (the highest temp we would ever want to "sous vide" at), add the bag, and periodically check the water for traces of food coloring. Every 15 minutes, maybe? Maybe I will do it on the weekend when I am "watching" football all day.
  19. How did you test it? I was considering sacrificing my last bag in the name of science and trying some kind of test to see how long and/or how hot it could go. I should also point out that not all polyethylene's are created equal: there are dozens of different kinds, all with different properties, so just because the foodsaver bags are PE and are safe for heat doesn't mean that the Reynold's bags are. Hence the caution I took with the (polyethylene!) slow-cooker liner.
  20. There is a lot of research out there, a lot of it not easily digestible by someone not acquainted with the field (i.e. most of it goes right over my head...). Lots of correlations, no crystal clear evidence (is there ever?). Here is what I was looking at: Adamson et al. HPLC method for the quantification of procyanidins in cocoa and chocolate samples and correlation to total antioxidant capacity J Agric Food Chem 1999;47:4184-8. Bruinsma, Taren. Chocolate: food or drug? J Am Diet Assoc 1999 Oct; 99(10):1249-56 Chevaux et al. Proximate, Mineral and Procyanidin Content of Certain Foods and Beverages Consumed by the Kuna Amerinds of Panama J Food Cmpstn & Anal 2001;14:553-563 Hertog et al. Dietary antioxidant flavonoids and risk of coronary heart disease: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Lancet 1993;342:1007-11. Hollman, Hertog, Katan. Role of dietary flavonoids in protection against cancer and coronary heart disease. Biochem Soc Transact 1996;24:785-9. Hollman, Katan. Dietary flavonoids: intake, health effects and bioavailability. Food Chem Toxic 1999;37:937-42. Knekt, Jarvinen, Reunanen, Maatela. Flavonoid intake and coronary mortality in Finland: a cohort study. Brit Med J 1996;312:478-81. Lee, Paffenbarger. Life is sweet: candy consumption and longevity BMJ 1998; 317: 1683-1684. Rein et al. Cocoa inhibits platelet activation and function Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:30-5. Vinson, Proch, Zubik. Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods: cocoa, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate J Agric Food Chem. 1999 Dec;47(12):4821-4. Waterhouse, Shirley, Donovan. Antioxidants in chocolate. Lancet 1996;348:834.
  21. So I tried this for dinner tonight: I did chicken breasts since that's what I had in the fridge. I was concerned about the non-food-safety of heating a freezer bag up to 160 F so I "double-bagged" the chicken: I cut up a slow-cooker bag and put the chicken between two pieces of it, along with schmaltz, salt, pepper, and some fresh herbs (chives, thyme and parsley). I vacuumed it up and put it in a water bath at 160 degrees (I just used my stove top here). I gave it about 30 minutes, as a totally arbitrary time amount that I knew would be long enough to heat the chicken through: the result: success!! The chicken was great, the bag seal held, and the vacuum was strong enough to keep the bag firmly pressed into the chicken holding the "marinade" there during the whole cooking process. I am happy to report that at least simple sous vide cooking can be accomplished by the really cheap (grad student salary!) cook. I also got a new gadget out of the deal - the vacuum bags for the thing are quite clever.
  22. I used the cold smoker for the first time yesterday and I'm pleased to report that it worked great! I put in an ice pack (600 grams) to make sure the temperature stayed low, but it probably wasn't necessary. The temperature held relatively steady at 65 F for three hours with an ambient temp of 55 F, overcast, and windy. The only problem was with the pine board, which warped over the course of the smoking, so no longer lies flat. I think I will replace it with a domed lid from a kettle grill.
  23. This is great! I think maybe a wider diameter would be better, but otherwise I think this is very workable. In fact, if a wide enough diameter is used, then the tube could be made sufficiently long to serve as its own hopper. Also, maybe use the mechanism to drop the chips onto a chute of some kind so that the whole thing can be placed external to the smoker. That way it doesn't have to be heat-resistant and can be made out of PVC.
  24. Sounds like you're volunteering yourself, pardner. ← Well, this probably means six pork shoulders: 1) Niman Ranch 2) Heritage Foods - Berkshire 3) Heritage Foods - Tamworth 4) Heritage Foods - Duroc 5) Heritage Foods - Red Wattle 6) Supermarket To say nothing of this being about $350 in pork counting shipping (and over 40 pounds!), I started to think about how to cook it and my head started spinning... there are so many ways to cook a pork shoulder! I am thinking of trying four main tests: 1) Basic sous vide - salt and pepper only, trying to get a sense for the flavor of just the pork 2) Carnitas 3) Barbeque 4) Basic sausage The trickiest one is the BBQ, I think, since I will have to do all six shoulders at the same time to eliminate variability between smoking sessions. This will then require using quite small pieces of the shoulder to get them to fit in the BBQ, which will affect the amount of time they can be smoked. Sure is tempting to try, though... hell of a party .
  25. I would think that a running fridge would give you some added control, though. It should be possible to modify the thermostat of the fridge to function at higher temperatures. Even just rewiring the whole thing with a PID-type controller hooked up to the compressor should do the trick.
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