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!


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!


Cherry Fruit Leather from Fresh Cherries

Sugar, water, cherries

Sugar, water, cherries (There’s a few Mt. Raniers in there.)

With cherries in season and some deals here and there, I had some on hand. Unfortunately, nobody was eating them and they were just passing their prime. Having recently discovered that my almost 15 month old grandson was very enthusiastic with the discovery of “Fruit by the Foot” snacks, I decided to pull out the dehydrator and give it a shot. By coincidence, I happened to find a deal on some Presto brand liners for making fruit leather and had bought a couple. That probably spurred me on a bit as well. My dehydrator is a Nesco brand, however, and it has a bigger center hole than the Presto model, so the dehydrator motor would not fit through the Presto accessory’s center hole.

Presto liner on a Nesco dehydrator. Presto has a smaller hole...oops.

Presto liner on a Nesco dehydrator. Presto has a smaller hole…oops.

Having already poured the fruit puree, my best bet was to put the trays at the bottom with the empty ones on top. Those, plus the lid, got me close…still sticking up a little, but enough for the dehydrator to work.

Put fruit leather trays on bottom. Note small gap between lid and motor.

Put fruit leather trays on bottom. Note small gap between lid and motor.

As for the fruit leather, I looked around on Pinterest and found a recipe that looked like what I was searching for. The recipe, at http://www.bakedbyrachel.com/cherry-fruit-leather/  (credit where due!), specifies using an oven at 170F and sheet pans with silicone liners, but I figured that substituting a dehydrator would be no problem. I will admit  that I didn’t really measure my cherries…but I think I was in the neighborhood of four cups. In the end, I perfectly lined the 2 inserts, with none left over.

One tip: double check your cherries for pits. I thought I was careful, but a couple made it into the blender and I had  to run the puree through a sieve. I left behind a little fiber and peel, I guess, but I think I would add that step anyway, for a smoother puree. So, here’s the recipe:


Cherry Fruit Leather

4 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup granulated sugar



Add the water and the fruit to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Use a potato masher to mash the cherries as they cook. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until well broken down. (I must admit that I added the sugar also and it seems to have turned out okay, though it was supposed to be added later.)

Mashed cherries simmering.

Mashed cherries simmering.

Transfer the cooked fruit to a blender, in batches, and blend until smooth. I did mine in 2 batches. Be careful with hot stuff in blenders! I left the center hole open and covered with a towel, to avoid building pressure and causing a hot fruit puree explosion.

Pureed and strained.

Pureed and strained.

Return the puree to the saucepan…after passing through a sieve, if necessary or desired. Add the sugar…if you didn’t do it when I did, by mistake. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened some. Remove from heat and stir bubbles down a bit.

Simmered on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Simmered on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Lightly spray your dehydrator disks with a nonstick spray or lightly brush with oil and place on dehydrator trays. Ladle the puree onto disks and carefully give a jiggle to even out puree.

Ladled onto nonstick sprayed liner.

Ladled onto nonstick sprayed liner.

Add the cover and the motor and dehydrate until a little tacky to touch, but not dried out completely. (Although…it needed to be a little drier than I thought.) Should be between 4 to 7 hours, depending on your dehydrator, humidity, etc. (Mine actually took more like nine hours.) Allow to cool. Peel from dehydrator inserts and store, rolled in wax paper or parchment and stored in an airtight container, up to one month. (Cut in smaller strips, if desired.) Enjoy!

Ready to eat cherry fruit leather. Rolled in parchment paper.

Ready to eat cherry fruit leather. Rolled in parchment paper.

I did need to go to the longer period of time for the dehydrator…actually, well beyond. One tray was a little thicker than the other and, when I touched it, it kind of schmudged it some. Yeah…made up that word. And I turned it off after about 5 hours, thinking it was done. I decided it wasn’t done, later, after it had cooled. I popped the trays back in the dehydrator and let them go another 3 or 4 hours. The thicker one then went another hour. But they turned out fine, in the end, and taste good. Live and learn. Next time, the process will be smoother.



Pickled Green Beans, AKA “Dilly Beans”

Dilly Beans (I left out the optional red pepper flakes.)

Dilly Beans (I left out the optional red pepper flakes.)

I didn’t take a bunch of “process” photos, but I made 2 pint jars of pickled green beans, AKA “Dilly Beans”. I think Dilly Beans sounds kind of silly…although, it is quicker to say than pickled green beans. Anyway, I decided to give this recipe a try, because I got some green beans on sale and they looked pretty good. Plus, I have some dill in my garden that needed trimming back. I didn’t measure my beans, but I’m assuming it was a maybe a pound to a pound and a half?

Dilly Beans

Fresh green beans, trimmed both ends. Enough to firmly pack (2) pint jars.

1/8 c. kosher or pickling salt

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled, lightly crushed

2 fresh dill heads/fronds

1 t. mustard seeds

(optional: pinch of red pepper flakes per jar)

1-1/2 c. white vinegar

3/4 c. water


Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and mustard seeds in a small, non-reactive sauce pan (like stainless steel). Bring to a boil and reserve, keeping hot. Prepare a water bath canner with enough water to cover jars by an inch or two. Prepare two pint jars, lids, and screw rings. Divide the garlic, dill, and red pepper flakes (if using) between the two jars. Trim the green beans to fit the jars vertically, leaving 1/2 to 1/4 inch space from jar’s rim. Pack the jar tightly, so the green beans won’t float.

Ladle the hot brine over the beans, trying to distribute the mustard seeds evenly. Bring the brine up to 1/4″ below the jar’s rim and covering the beans. Use a skewer or a knife to make sure there are no trapped air bubbles and add more brine, if necessary. Using a paper towel or clean cloth, wipe the threads and rim. Place a prepared lid on each jar and install the screw ring to “finger tight”. Add to boiling water bath and process for 10 minutes. Leave jars in the hot water, off heat for another 5 minutes. Remove to a kitchen towel on a counter top and leave for 24 hours. When cool enough to touch, tighten lids. If lids do not “pop” to indicate seal, store in refrigerator. If properly sealed, remove the rings and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use. (I would wait at least 2 weeks and maybe a month before opening.)

I had a little leftover brine and the bean ends that I trimmed to make the beans fit the jars, so I put them in a plastic container and let them sit on the counter for a few minutes, then I popped them in the fridge. I’ll have them as a snack in a few days.



Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

About a week ago, my wife was looking for a box of Crunch ‘n’ Munch Caramel Popcorn that I had bought. I had bought two boxes and she had eaten one over the course of a couple of days. She assumed that the second box was hers, too, since I know she likes it. A reasonable assumption, but one that was proven wrong, because I had a craving the night before. Poor thing was so disappointed!

Never wanting to leave a woman disappointed(*wink, wink*), I decided to pop onto the computer and do a little secret research. Most of the recipes called for corn syrup, which I didn’t have on hand, or exact temperatures and extra steps that I just didn’t want to deal with for a quick recipe to surprise my wife with on short notice. To the rescue came a recipeI found through Pinterest at http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/04/23/peanut-butter-caramel-corn/ . Take a look, if you have a chance, you may find something else you like there as well! I like to give credit, where credit is due, and support those people who have helped me with a great recipe.

This recipe is simple, easy, and can be done in a matter of about 20 minutes with pretty common ingredients and equipment. There’s no need for a thermometer or precision. What you will need is some measuring cups, a small sauce pot for the caramel, a medium sauce pot with a lid for popping the corn (or you can use microwaved or air popped), a large mixing bowl for combing the popcorn and caramel a spoon or wire whip and a rubber spatula.

Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn


  • 10 cups unflavored popped popcorn (homemade or 1 standard size bag)*
  • 2/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, optional
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
 *I think I use a little more popcorn and stretch the caramel out a little thinner.

Pop the popcorn, remove any unpopped kernels, and set aside.

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Line a sheet pan with parchment and a little non-stick spray. Put the sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. You can cover it initially to help it come to a boil, but it isn’t required. Once the mixture comes to a boil, let it go for about three minutes.
Boiling sugar and honey...HOT!!! Be careful.

Boiling sugar and honey…HOT!!! Be careful.


Carefully remove the mixture from heat and add the salt, peanut butter and, if using, the optional peanuts.* Stir until well-combined.
Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and, using a rubber spatula, turn the popcorn until the caramel is evenly distributed.
Pour the popcorn onto the prepared sheet pan and carefully spread the hot mass out evenly to cool completely. (See header photo) When cool, break up the caramel corn into bite-sized clusters and try not to consume it all in one sitting!
*The recipe actually calls for the peanuts to be added after the caramel is poured on the popcorn, I think…but I wanted mine coated with the caramel as well.
So, I dove into the recipe and knocked it out. I have to admit, It wasn’t *quite* completely cool when I broke mine up into clusters and presented it to my wife…so it was just a tiny bit chewy. But that didn’t really matter…my wife was suitably amazed and impressed with my thoughtfulness and effort. Then she tasted the popcorn…amazing! She could not put it down. It was a MAJOR success! Eventually, she made me take it away from her, so she wouldn’t eat it all. Again, being the loving husband, I finished the rest of it. This one really is a winner. I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!

Chinese Sausage Baked Buns


I  bought a package of uncooked Chinese style sausage recently at my local supermarket and decided that this would be the way to go with it.

Raw Chinese style sausage

Raw Chinese style sausage

I thought about doing steamed buns, however; I couldn’t locate the steamer baskets for my wok. Baked buns, it is. The recipe I used for the dough was taken from Pinterest. I generally credit things like this, but I completely forgot to make note of the source. But for full disclosure, I did NOT create this dough recipe. If you search Pinterest for Chinese Baked Buns, you may stumble across it. The filling IS my creation. I just boiled the sausage to cook it through before making the filling. So, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!








3 Chinese Sausages, cooked and diced small

1 T. Fermented Black Bean Paste

2 T. Ketchup

2 T. Soy Sauce

1 T. Honey

2 T. Vegetable Oil


Combine all the ingredients, except the sausage, and make a sauce/marinade.  Add the cooked, diced sausage and stir to evenly coat. Place in refrigerator until ready to assemble buns.



10 TBSP whole milk

4 TBSP butter

2 tsp rapid-rise (instant) dry yeast

2 1/2 TBSP lukewarm water

1 large egg

2 1/2 TBSP sugar

12 1/2 oz All-purpose flour (About 2-3/4 cups)

1 large egg, lightly beaten (To brush buns before baking)


2 TBSP honey mixed with 1 TBSP warm water

For the dough, melt the butter with the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, or until warm (about 110°F). (I melted butter in the microwave, added milk and microwaved another 15 seconds and then cooled briefly.)

Put the yeast in small bowl, add the water, and set aside for 1 minute to soften. Whisk in the milk mixture and the egg to blend.

Combine the sugar and flour in a food processor. Pulse two or three times to blend. With the machine running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. After a sticky mass of very soft dough forms, about 5 seconds, (I added about 2 extra tablespoons of milk for mine to form the ball) continue processing for 45 to 60 seconds to form a smooth, slightly sticky dough that mostly cleans the bowl.IMG_20160210_121839764 The finished dough should stick a bit to your finger when pressed. Lightly oil a clean bowl and add the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place (for example, the oven with the light on) to rise for about 45 minutes, or until nearly doubled.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper before beginning to assemble the buns.

Remove the dough from the bowl and put on a lightly floured surface. Knead it a few times, then cut it in half. Cover one-half with plastic wrap or an inverted bowl to prevent drying. Roll out the dough into a 12-inch log, and then cut it into 8 or 16 pieces for medium or small buns, respectively. I find the bigger ones easier to handle and fill.IMG_20160210_132400953 (Halve or quarter the log first to make it easier to cut even-size pieces. The tapered end pieces should be cut a little longer than the rest.) Lightly roll each piece between your hands into a ball and then flatten each one into a 1/4-inch-thick disk. Use a wooden dowel-style rolling pin to roll the pieces into circles, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter for small or 3-1/4 inches in diameter for medium buns. The rim should be thinner than the center; keep a 1-inch-wide belly. The finished circle will rise as it sits. Lay the finished circles out on your work surface, lightly dusting their bottoms with flour if you fear they will stick.IMG_20160210_132704653

To form a bun, hold a dough circle in a slightly cupped hand. Use a spoon or fork to center about 2 teaspoons of filling for small buns, or about 4 teaspoons of filling for medium ones, on the dough circle, pressing down very gently and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the dough clear on all sides; your hand will automatically close slightly.IMG_20160210_133007204 Use the thumb of the hand cradling the bun to push down the filling while the other hand pulls up the dough edge and pleats and pinches the rim together to form a closed satchel. (I don’t know about the crimping meticulously thing, but I got mine sealed and ball shaped.)

Pinch and twist the dough closed at the end. Place the bun pleat side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing them 1-1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Set in a warm, draft- free place (for example, the oven with the light on) for 30 minutes to rise. Meanwhile, work on the other dough half to form more buns.IMG_20160210_133242039

To bake the buns, about 10 minutes before the rising time is over, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. (Let the buns finish rising at room temperature if you’ve had them in the oven.)

Bake one baking sheet at a time, brushing the top and side of each bun with the egg right before baking.IMG_20160210_153039114 Bake small buns for about 14 minutes and medium buns for about 18 minutes, or until a rich golden brown; the cooked buns sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove them from the oven, set on a rack, and let cool for 5 minutes.


Brushed with honey glaze

Brush the honey mixture on the buns for a sweet-glaze finish that will also soften the crust. Enjoy warm and out of hand. Refrigerate left- over buns for up to a week and reheat at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes, until hot. When making the buns in advance, wait to brush on the glaze until after you’ve reheated the buns. These buns may also be frozen for up to a month. Thaw them completely before reheating.



Further Adventures with Jackfruit…Canning in Syrup

Fresh Jackfruit. ripe.

Fresh Jackfruit. ripe.

When I got this jackfruit, I went through quite a learning experience to get the fruit separated from the husk. For that adventure, see my previous post. With some of the fruit, I decided to make a Jackfruit Cider. For that adventure, you can follow his link to my brewing and fermenting blog:


With 2lbs of fruit left, plus the seeds, I needed to finish up before things started going bad. First, the seeds. I boiled the seeds for 15 minutes and then roasted them for another 15 minutes at 400F. The skin covering the outside is a little bit of a pain to remove. The seed itself is like a very dry, firm potato. Not bad, though. A nice snack.

Jackfruit seeds. Boiled and then roasted.

Jackfruit seeds. Boiled and then roasted.

Now, for the fruit.

2lbs fresh jackfruit.

2lbs fresh jackfruit.

Canned Jackfruit in Syrup

2lbs fresh, ripe jackfruit

3 cups white sugar

3 cups water


Combine the water and sugar in a large pot or saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar over high heat. Bring to a boil and add the jackfruit. Boil for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 2 pint jars, lids, and screw rings for canning. Prepare pressure canner.

Boiling jackfruit in syrup.

Boiling jackfruit in syrup.

Add fruit to jars and cover with syrup, leaving approx. ½” headspace. Clean rims with damp cloth. Place lids and screw down rings to finger tight.

Jackfruit ready for jars.

Jackfruit ready for jars.

Place jars carefully into prepared pressure canner and close lid. Purge according to manufacturer’s recommendations (10 minutes, in my case). Place weight and bring pressure to 11lbs.

11lbs for 15 minutes, after 10 minute purge.

11lbs for 15 minutes, after 10 minute purge.

Process for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in canner until pressure is zero. Remove jars to cloth-lined counter and allow to rest for 24 hours to seal. When cool enough to touch, snug down screw rings. After the rest period, check seal, remove screw rings, and store in cool, dark space.

Canned jackfruit in syrup, just out of the pressure canner.

Canned jackfruit in syrup, just out of the pressure canner.

Note: I had excess syrup…about 2/3 of a pint jar. I let it cool and refrigerated it. Not sure what I’ll do with it yet.