Pork Skins (or Chicharones)

Fried pork skins. They’re a great Southern snack. And in Latino culture, they call them “chicharones”. Many people either do not like them, or refuse to try them; but many of us love them. Plain, with salt, hot sauce, or vinegar and BBQ seasoned flavors are all popular ways to eat them. But it is a somewhat involved process. Normally, I am happy to eat ones prepared by someone else; however, I recently bought a couple of picnic shoulders with the skin on them, so I decided to try my hand at making fried pork skins.

This isn’t so much a recipe, as it is directions for a process. What you need is some clean pork skins, a good sized pot, a cutting board, a sharp knife, a dehydrator, and another pot with oil, for frying. You should either have a skimmer or a basket for removing the skins, and a paper towel lined plate or bowl for the skins, after they’ve been fried.

First, cut the skins into strips that are a couple inches wide, and several inches long. The less fat attached to them, the better. Boil them in a pot, with enough water to cover by a several inches.

Boiling the skins.

I read directions that said to boil them for about an hour, but I took mine out after just over a half an hour. The skins get kind of sticky and gelatinous, and if cooked too much, can tear more easily or fall apart. I might have stopped a little too soon, though. The idea is to be able to remove as much fat as possible, from the skin. This will help it dehydrate faster. I used a sharp boning knife to do this step, but if I had cooked them longer, I might have been able to use a butter knife.

Skins, boiled and with as much fat removed as I could.

After stripping away the fat, place the skins on dehydrator racks, and dehydrate until they are completely hard and snap loudly when broken, 24 to 36 hours. (I let mine go 36 hours.)

Finished dehydrating at 36 hours.


Fat scraps.

By the way, the removed fat can be slowly rendered down to make “cracklins” and pork grease.

Rendering the fat.


Cracklins and pork grease.

Finally, fry the skins in hot oil, about 375F, and they will quickly puff up.

Dehydrated pork skin.

Starting to puff!


















You may have to hold them under the oil for a few seconds to get them fully expanded. Remove to paper towels and season with salt…or your choice of seasoning flavors. Enjoy!


Whole Wheat Fettuccine

I’ve been looking for some healthier alternatives lately…ways to cut down on sugar and carbs. I know that pasta isn’t low carb, but when I’m looking for a little cheat, at least I can try a little whole wheat, to mitigate my splurge.


2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur brand)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons olive oil, extra virgin

1/2 teaspoon salt

water, if needed…I used about a tablespoon total


In a bowl, or on a clean counter, combine the flours and salt. Blend together. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs and olive oil. Mix the eggs, and then start bringing in the flour to form a dough. Using clean hands, bring the dough together and squeeze/knead until all the flour is incorporated. Dribble in a small amount of water, if necessary. knead the dough until smooth, elastic, no longer sticky…give it a few minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk, and wrap in plastic film to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

After resting, you can roll out the dough however you like. If you have a pasta sheeter and cutter, you can go that route. I just used a rolling pin and extra flour on the counter to keep it from sticking. about halfway through, I cut the sheet in half, so I would have counter space to finish rolling out each piece as thin as I wanted. Using a little more flour to dust the dough, I rolled the dough into a tube and then cut fettuccine thickness cuts. Then I fluffed and unrolled the pasta…viola! Fettuccine! If using a cutter, you could hang the pasta on a drying rod. I just dusted mine and fluffed it on a cutting board. The pasta should dry for at least 15 minutes, to develop a little bit of a crust. Slip the pasta into salted, boiling water and cook for a few minutes. Fresh pasta cooks quickly, but this is pretty sturdy pasta, not delicate. It’s only going to get so soft. But it is tasty!









Serve it with the sauce of your choice. I made a chicken alfredo and tossed them together…even my picky daughter loved it!

Chicken Alfredo with Whole What Fettuccine. (Sauce made in an Instant Pot)


Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken w/Guajillo-Pasilla BBQ Sauce

Pulled BBQ Chicken

This recipe basically adapts the technique that I used for the enchilada filling, except I made a BBQ sauce from my Guajillo-Pasilla  to add to the chicken, rather  than the enchilada sauce. I offered rolls and flour tortillas with the chicken, and it was a hit…no leftovers!


For the Chicken

4 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed

1 T. vegetable oil

1/3 c. Guajillo-Pasilla  sauce

1/3 c. water

1/4 t. each cumin, granulated garlic, black pepper

1/2 t. salt

Set the Instant Pot on Saute. When hot, add the oil and coat the bottom of the pot. Brown the chicken, in a couple of batches.

Brown the chicken pieces.

Add the chili sauce, rinse the sauce container with the water and add to the pot. Add the spices.

Add the flavorings.

Put Instant Pot lid in place, turn vent to “sealed”. Change setting to Pressure Cooking, High, and set timer to 10 minutes.

Cooked chicken

When time is done, either carefully vent pressure, or allow to depressurize naturally. Set aside chicken until cool enough to handle. Also save and refrigerate the cooking liquid for later use.

Set aside to cool…and save the cooking liquid!

For the BBQ Sauce

1 c. Guajillo-Pasilla sauce

1 can tomato sauce

1/2 c. light brown sugar

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. each cumin, granulated garlic. paprika, and black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Stir to combine well and bring up to a simmer.

Chili sauce and spices.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced; about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.

with tomato sauce….simmer

Pull chicken into shreds. Toss with enough BBQ sauce to completely moisten the chicken. (See first photo!) Serve any extra on the side.

Shredded chicken.

By the way, I saved the chicken trimmings, and combined them with a handful each of carrots, onion, and celery, in the Instant Pot, with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauteed until browned.

Chicken trimmings with aromatics.

I also added salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. I added water…maybe 5 or 6 cups?

Browning the trimmings and veggies.

Put the lid on, switched to Pressure Cook on High for 10 minutes. When done and depressurized, strain and voila!

Darn close to free chicken stock!

Chicken stock

This and the cooking liquid from the chicken pieces will be refrigerated until I decide to use them…possibly together for a Pazole! Hardly any waste, and very cost effective. Enjoy!


Instant Pot Guajillo-Pasilla Chili Sauce

Guajillo-Pasilla Chili Sauce


This sauce is basically like a liquid version of chili powder. The Instant Pot helps with the toasting of the dried chilies, and then speeds up the process by pressure cooking the chilies briefly, rather than soaking for a half hour to an hour.

Dried chilies, stemmed and seeded.

The rest of the process involves a blender, a strainer and a utensil to force the pulp through the strainer. It can be a little messy, but the result is a “master sauce” that is extremely versatile. This one is pretty mild, but you could do a little research, and change up the dried chili types to get a sauce with more heat, more smokiness, or whatever you prefer. I think I’ll double the recipe next time, so I get more sauce for the same amount of effort. This recipe yielded a little over a half pint. But remember, it’s an ingredient; not a whole dish.

There are SO many things you can do with this sauce…add it to menudo or pazole, add some spices and bake chicken or pork in it, or make enchilada filling. You could use it to make taco meat or chili con carne. I think I may use the smaller amount and pressure cook some boneless chicken breast in the Instant Pot, and use the rest to make a barbecue sauce…add tomato, molasses or brown sugar, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar…and have pulled chicken BBQ!


equal amounts dried peppers, stems and seeds removed. I used Pasilla and Guajillo.

3 cups hot water


Preheat the Instant Pot on the Saute setting. When hot, add the dried chili pods (stems and seeds removed and discarded). Dry toast the chilies until they have softened and become aromatic, turning frequently. CAUTION: Try not to inhale the steam or smoke produced by the chilies or get it in your eyes! It could cause significant irritation!

Chilies “toasting” in the Instant Pot.

Add the 3 cups of hot water and switch the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook, high, for 10 minutes. Put the lid in place and put the vent control in the sealed position.

Pressure cooked chilies in Instant Pot.

When finished, you can let it  depressurize naturally, or carefully open vent. When you have verified that the Instant Pot is completely depressurized, open, and transfer the chilies to a blender container, using tongs. Add about half of the liquid from the pot to the blender.

Sauce being blended. (Not as full as it looks.)

Carefully blend the contents, until smooth. you may need to use a kitchen towel to cover your blender pitcher, and vent to avoid pressure build up from the steam. Now, pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer, over a bowl.

Strain the sauce and pulp. (I should’ve used a slightly wider container.)

Use the back of a spoon or ladle and work the sauce through. scrape the bottom of the sieve to get all the sauce! You should have some solids left in the sieve. This is the chili’s skin, and any seed bits that got through.

Almost done. Just have to work a little more through the strainer.

Now you have a nice, smooth, beautiful chili sauce! (See first photo)

I store mine in the refrigerator in glass canning jars until I’m ready to use it. It will keep for at least a couple of weeks! Enjoy!

Here’s how much this batch made. Half pint jars.


Pickled Red Okra

Red okra. I saw this somewhere and it sparked an interest. I made a couple of jars of pickled okra last year, and I entered one in competition at the State Fair. I had some winners, but my okra wasn’t one of them. I tried it, and I thought it was good; but I’m not a pickled okra “expert”, so…. How can I get the judges’ attention? How about some RED okra?!

I followed the basic recipe found here:  http://nchfp.uga.edu/

Our State Fair requires that the recipe source follow established and tested guidelines for submissions, and this is the site specified. I broke down the brine ratios for a small batch: 2 cups water, 2 cups white vinegar, and a little over 3-1/2 tablespoons of kosher (or pickling) salt, brought to a boil.

Into each prepared pint jar, I packed the cleaned and trimmed okra, then added a fresh, whole garlic clove, a couple small springs of fresh dill, and I eyeballed around 1/4 teaspoon each of dill seed, yellow mustard seed, and a dash of red pepper flakes.

Red okra packed in jars with flavorings.

Meanwhile, I had prepared my canner, jar lids and rings, and utensils.

Canner coming to a boil, brine, and lids.

To the jars of okra, I added the hot brine, leaving 1/2″ head space. I cleaned the rims, added the lids and tightened the rings.

I processed the jars for 10 minutes.

After processing, I removed the jars from the canner and made sure the rings were tight. Now, they will rest 24 hours. I have already observed the lids creating the “ping” sound for sealing. So, tomorrow, I will remove the rings, wash the jars, and store them in my pantry. I have one for competition and one to eat, after I see what the judges’ think (October). Fingers crossed.

I can already see that the color of the okra has faded and colored the brine. (See top photo) Not as striking, but hopefully still eye-catching!


Easiest Dessert Ever!

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble


I have always been an admirer of Jaques Pepin. The man is a culinary technique master of masters. Today, I happened to catch an episode of his PBS television show “Fast Food, My Way” and watched him prepare the following recipe. It was SO simple, that I had to prepare it immediately! I didn’t catch a name for the dish, but it’s basically a berry crumble. I can’t imagine a dessert being any easier, and still being “homemade”.

Ready to bake...blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Ready to bake…blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

2 small containers of fresh or individually frozen berries, plus/minus (I used frozen blackberries.)

1/3 cup sugar, more or less, depending on sweetness of berries

Your choice of cookies, crumbled. (I used my homemade shortbread) About 1/2 cup plus/minus

4 T. butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. In a pyrex or similar baking dish, around 8″x8″ or 9″x9″, add enough berries to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle cookie crumbles over to evenly cover the berries. Sprinkle sugar over, evenly, Break up the butter into pieces and dot around the top of the crumble. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling throughout the dish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to warm or room temperature.

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Serve with your choice of accompaniment, such as ice cream, whipped cream, crème fraiche, etc. I can see doing these in individual mini dishes for guests. Enjoy!


Muscadine Grapes: Unexpected Bounty!

Big, juicy muscadine grapes!

Big, juicy muscadine grapes!


I got a text message from a niece recently, because she saw that I had made scuppernong jelly, and I had commented that my usual foraging locations were not productive this year, so I had to purchase the grapes at the local farmer’s market. She and her husband had just moved back to my area recently and she discovered that the property has a large grape arbor in the back yard. Would I like to come by and pick some grapes? Absolutely!!!

I have an 18 month old grandson and she has a 13 month old baby, so we arranged a play date and grape picking get together. A couple of days later, she mentioned that they had friends over this past weekend and they had picked a big bag of the grapes, but she thought there were more available. *sigh* Well, I guessed the grapes would be pretty sparse. After a little playtime inside with the babies, we headed outside…hmmm…there’s a cluster of ripe grapes, and a few more, and more…and I realized that there was no shortage of grapes here.

Kids outside by the grape arbor.

Kids outside by the grape arbor.

I filled a 2 gallon pail and there were plenty left! After another week, there will be more ripened and ready to pick. I have weighed what I picked, and I have 11 pounds, 6 ounces!

Nice haul of muscadine grapes!

Nice haul of muscadine grapes!

So, now I have to decide what to do with the grapes…if I need them all for a batch of wine, or if I will have enough to make some jelly, too. I may have to go back next week for a smaller batch to do jelly. I’ll be reviewing my last two wine batch blogs to see what I did with them. Two years ago, I did a muscadine red wine that turned out pretty dry, due to the yeast I chose. https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/day-144-muscadine-wine/  Last year, I did a muscadine/blueberry wine that was a little lighter/softer, but still fairly dry. https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/starting-blueberry-muscadine-wine/  I would like to do one that is a little sweeter, but I still don’t want to do the overly sweet wines that are normally associated with muscadines. Also, for last years wine, I bought a pH test kit and something to adjust it, if necessary…have to track that down and read up on it again. I also rented a wine bottle corker and bought bona fide wine bottles and corks. The first batch was put into beer bottles. I might have to open a bottle of each…for research.  I have also read that sweeter homemade wines don’t preserve as well, so just a little sweetness would be good. More to follow after research and when I get time to work on it.