July in Texas

I love July in north Texas. Sure it’s hot, but there is B-B-Q and the garden is picking up steam. I like getting up early to take my walk in the summer. So after dousing myself with repellent to keep away the hummingbird-size mosquitos and the chiggers lurking in the grass, I walk up and down my country road for my requisite thirty minutes. I am serenaded by my four donkeys as soon as I walk out the front door; our built–in intruder alert system. This morning when I got back Indy came up for a little snuggle time and to see if he could finagle a treat.

Pretty Boy Indy
Indy

God had a good day when he made donkeys. These little miniatures are loyal, affectionate; they keep away coyotes and kill the bad snakes before they get into the yard. Indy is a little stud donkey we keep on our back pasture. He is by himself (not counting the deer) on about four acres, we keep the Jennys fenced on another pasture (we have four miniature donkeys and that’s enough) and his sire, Poco in the pasture up front. Where have you been momIndy has a thing about smelling my shoes. His version of asking “Where have you been?” So after he investigates my shoes, he gets his scratch and poses majestically for pictures.

Bette Davis eyeI think donkey eyes are beautiful; rimmed with black and with the longest eyelashes! Donkeys are perfectly adapted for the rocky, cedar-covered hills that surround our home.

Just one inch more
If I could just reach that piece of grass.

This summer I have been trying to get the back garden going again. We have a few tomato and green pepper plants in our garden berm that has fencing around it to keep the deer out. I have not done much else but plant a beautiful Purple Fountain Grass plant (my new favorite plant) yarrow (which the rabbits are eating) and Moonflowers.

Purple Fountain Grass
Purple Fountain Grass

 

 

 

Moonflowers
Moonflower Vine

The Moonflowers have made it so far I think only because they are poisonous and the animals know that. They will have large white flowers that bloom in the afternoon and smell wonderful. The rabbits or deer ate all but three of my sunflowers as soon as they sprouted. But those three are the colossal kind so they will be enough. On the other side of the patio is a huge berm where the trick is to pick plants that like partial to heavy shade, hot weather and resist grasshoppers and hungry rabbits. So far, the dianthus, zinnias, coleus, begonias and cosmos have done the best. There is a large red oak tree over this spot that shades these plants.

 

Zinnas
Zinnias
Cosmos
Cosmos
Coleus Beauty
Coleus
Begomia
Begonias

I’m especially enjoying today because my sweet husband of almost forty years is smoking ribs and a roast in the smoker today. He is a talented and passionate griller/smoker and from the looks of things I won’t have to cook meat for a while.

Green salad and potatoes to go with, plus I baked a two-person size red velvet cake for dessert. Yum. I’ll have to walk for an hour tomorrow.

George’s Christmas Ham

a-thing-of-beauty

 

 

My husband George is a great cook. Never scared to try something new, this year he wanted to make his own Christmas ham. Not the pre-cured ham that comes already cooked but the real thing; a fresh ham shank, butt end. He started with a great recipe from Weber’s at http://www.weber.com/weber-nation/blog/pecan-smoked-fresh-ham-with-maple-glaze-on-the-wsm and modified it a little for our tastes. Tender and juicy, the meat has the best characteristics of pulled pork mixed with a not-too-salty ham taste. Definitely a keeper!

 

The Pig
9-10 pound ham shank (not precooked, some people call these “green”, which sounds a little weird) A note of admiration here for our butchers at Brookshire’s Grocery Store in Weatherford, Texas, who talked with George about this little project and held us a ham shank from their Christmas order. He told us they usually only get these in at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We can request one anytime.

dsc00446
Ham shank and rub.

 

The Rub
½ cup brown sugar, dark
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons black pepper, ground coarse
2 tsp cayenne pepper, ground (optional)

the-rub

Score the fat cap on the ham shank to allow the rub to soak into the meat. Mix rub ingredients and apply to the meat liberally. He wrapped ours in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for 48 hours. Reserve some rub for application right before you smoke it. Make sure you set the meat out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before you put it on the smoker. We used the coarse ground black pepper, but next time will use a smaller grind to keep it out of your teeth.

wrapped-up

dsc00453
Scored and dry-rubbed ham.

The Glaze:
½ cup honey
2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup (not imitation flavored)

Mix ingredients and bring to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Reduce by half. Be sure to watch this carefully because it can boil over really easily. I won’t tell you how I know that. Glaze the ham every two hours. He used a foil pan underneath to catch the fat drippings. Makes clean-up easier.a-thing-of-beauty

 

 

 

 

The Wood:
8-10 pc apple wood chunks (presoaked in water)
apple wood-infused charcoal

The original recipe called for pecan wood, which is a little strong for our tastes, so we used apple wood instead. After he set the smoker bed with charcoal, he also needed three additional chimney starter’s full of charcoal to maintain the desired heat for the six-hour smoking time.

We have a big off-set smoker so the temperature that Weber wanted, 250 degrees, is a little tough to maintain for six hours. He cooked the ham shank six hours between 200 and 220 degrees on the smoker and finished it in the oven covered with foil at 250 degrees for at least two hours. We use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the meat is at an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Happy eating!

Swiss Cheese and Sausage Quiche

 

 

final

 

I honestly can’t remember the first time I had quiche. I know my mom never made it; my Air Force Senior Master Sargent father did not take to such food, but being a child of the 60’s; which means a time before eggs and cream became a bad thing, I must have had it at restaurant. I was hooked.

Definitely not a diet meal, but in cold weather, a big puffy sausage, egg and cheese pie really hits the spot. I have a green salad on the side to make myself believe I am eating something healthy. This quiche is also good cold the next day.

Homemade pork sausage is a snap to make and doesn’t have those nasty little gristly bits that the store-bought breakfast sausages have in them. I must give credit here to Bobby Flay, who I watched make this sausage on the Food Network and then tweaked the spices to fit my palate. I use pre-made pie crust for my quiche, because I have never learned the art of a good pie crust. Gives me something to work for.

Hope you enjoy.

First, the sausage.

Homemade Pork Sausage

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon (at least) rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

Mix spices and ground pork together. Split meat mixture in half. Sauté half the sausage until brown, breaking it up into small pieces. Drain on paper towels. Make four patties with the remainder and save for breakfast sausages.

crumbled-sausage
Sausage for quiche.

 

breakfast-sausage
Breakfast sausage for the next day.

For the quiche.

Custard

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup white wine (or you can skip this and use more milk or cream)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Beat eggs and add milk, cream, wine, salt, flour and cayenne. Mix well.

creambeaten-eggs-and-cream

 

Assembly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  • Place one store- bought pie crust (or make your own) in a deep dish pie plate.
  • Place browned sausage in crust.
  • Chop 8 oz. of Swiss cheese and place on top of sausage.

assembly-3

final-before-oven

 

 

 

 

 

Pour custard on top of filling and bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned.