Michael Cox

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since Jun 09, 2013
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Recent posts by Michael Cox

Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi Michael,
This is good info. On thing for people to keep in mind is that much of the seafood that is in supermarkets has been frozen once already. Nothing wrong with buying in bulk, but have that in mind if you plan to refreeze.

Refreezing is not generally a problem in and of itself PROVIDED that it remains in a temperature controlled setting while defrosting. So if you let your frozen stuff thaw in the fridge refreezing should be fine.

The reason there is advice against refreezing is that too many people defrost things like meat by setting it out on the side in a warm kitchen.
3 days ago
Hi Folks,

I'm probably very late coming to this, but I have recently discovered the joys of buying bulk, doing some minimal processing at home, and then storing of food. A few weeks back we did a whole deer for the first time. It was a steep learning curve, but very successful.

But this week I discovered our supermarket had whole salmon. 3.5kg a fish, at £7.00 per kilo. Now we do eat salmon periodically, but we tend to buy smaller portions for a specific meal. The smaller portions work out at around £22/kilo.
So last night I spent 20 minutes learning how to fillet a salmon. We had pan fried salmon for dinner, with deliciously crispy skins. One whole side is brining for putting in the smoker. Three more meals worth are vacuum sealed and in the freezer in appropriate portion sizes. I probably saved us about £40, compared to buying the packaged portions. Well worth doing.

I have spotted similar disparity in prices between whole chicken and chicken pieces. I can see myself portioning up some birds over the holiday.

Key to making this all work for us was the vacuum sealer. It has pretty much become my favorite kitchen gadget over the past few months. Next upgrade will be a proper chest freezer!
3 days ago
Here in the UK recycling and general waste disposal are run by local councils.

The councils pay a punitively high rate for each tonne of material that ends up in landfill.  They have very strong financial incentives to do recycling properly. In practice that is a hybrid of biogas digesters for food waste, power generating incinerators for anything that won't compost and is not recyclable, and then recycling. Waste is collected in separate bins on different days, and most people keep their recycling waste "clean" enough to be processed.

There are strict clean air regulations governing incineration and they are incredibly clean burning and efficient, with exhaust scrubbers to ensure the flu gases are clean.

That said, there are limitations. Some items that are technically "recyclable" cannot currently be processed in an economical way. I'm looking at you tetra-pak. There are also consistent problems with households putting the wrong items in their bins. A typical example is thin-film plastics (bags, film lids of packaging etc...). These cause serious issues with the machinery used in recycling sorting - they get snagged on conveyor belts and gum up machinery. I watched a very interesting piece from the point of view of the recycling processor - they said that they have consistent problems with "recycling optimism". People feel that some items SHOULD be recycled, so they put them in with recycling even when they know that it isn't accepted. Thin film plastics are particularly bad for this - people shove them inside other plastic containers.

One of the end results is that their equipment spends more time stopped than it should, and they end up with backlogs of unprocess materials which then need to be diverted rather than recycled.

They were sending a very clear message. If you really are trying to do the right thing with your recycling, then follow the instructions!

Since I watched that I have become aware of a string of problems caused by inappropriate disposal of electrical items with lithium batteries. Disposable vapes seem to be the worst offender. The recycling plants - and the track drivers - are regularly having to contend with electrical fires as the batteries get damaged.
6 days ago

I see the issue. You are describing a HOT smoking process. Cold smoking is, as it sounds, done cold and for a long time. The system I use generates smoke for about 12 hours from a single burn, but doesn't heat up at all. So the smoking process does not cook the fish, hence you need a stronger brine.

Hot smoke does cook it, while also adding the smoke flavour. As it is cooked it doesn't need to be smoked so heavily.

Basically, I duplicated the process I used successfully with smoked salmon but ended up with a much saltier finished product with the mackerel than with the salmon.
1 week ago

John C Daley wrote:From ; salting and smoking mackeral
Coat your cleaned fish inside and out with rough sea salt and leave in a dish for about 45 minutes.
This helps to dry the fish out slightly so it's not too mushy when cooked.
After 45 minutes, wash the salt off with cold water and dry the fish again.

45 minutes seems really short. I had it salting for nearly 12 hours. With that light salting do you treat it as nearly fresh fish - eat quickly, and cook it  - after smoking?
1 week ago
Hi Folks,

I've recently set up a small cold smoker and have had some initial successes. I've done a side of smoked salmon, smoked cheeses and most recently some smoked mackerel. All have been really tasty, and enjoyed by the family.

The mackerel, however, ended up full of flavour but really salty. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to salt stuff prior to smoking. This time I sprinkled the filleted fish quite thickly with a layer of 3:1 salt to brown sugar, for about 12 hours in the fridge. Lots of liquid came out - more than when I did the salmon.  It was thoroughly rinsed off with lots of cold water before further air drying and smoking for 12 hours. It was quite a crude process - chuck lots of salt at it and see where it ends up.

Does anyone have tried and tested processed for salting fish to mitigate against an overly salty final product? If not, are there ways to use it that remove some salt at the end, without losing all the flavour?

1 week ago
Re the 5 to 10 years estimate - the traditional use for these was to make large numbers of lightweight portable hurdles for temporarily fencing livestock. They would be used for sheep pens at sheering and the like. They would probably only spend a few weeks each year out in the elements and the rest of the time they were likely stored undercover in barns. I doubt you would get 10 years for a panel out year round if you needed it to contain livestock. For purely decorative purposes in a garden it might hold up.

In the UK where this craft originates permanent fencing varied from region to region but was typically either dry stone walling, or a laid hedge.
Last year I practiced working with some of our heavier chestnut timbers with hand tools. Felled with a chainsaw initially, but then processed by hand.

I used splitting wedges, a club hammer, and a small hand saw. I was able to take pretty large diameter logs down to a comfortable size by splitting them along their length. Sweet chestnut splits easily, so I was playing to the strengths of the timber. Drive wedges in at one end, and then work along the developing split with more wedges. Repeat the splitting as many times as needed. I was able to take an 18" diameter stem down to approx 4" to 6" sections left very long.

These were then cut with a handsaw down to 6ft to stack in piles 6ft by 6ft by 6ft to air dry. The intention is to then cut them to length for the fire once they are seasoned.

I used metal wedges and a club hammer. It could have easily been achieved using a wooden maul and wooden wedges, if a suitable hardwood was available. The complete set of tool fitted into a canvas satchel - wedges, club hammer, folding hand saw. It took a bit of effort, but I suspect that it would be less than many other ways of processing firewood from large timber. It was quite peaceful and meditative, although I quickly learned that I needed more stamina in the forearm to do it for an extended period of time.
2 weeks ago

Almond Thompson wrote:Hey guys, do y'all know if baby wipes can be put in a humanure toilet + composted? I wasn't able to find that in my edition of the book.

Most baby wipes are not biodegradable - they contain synthetic fibres which will not break down. If you are careful to only buy special biodegradable wipes it would probably be fine.

In practice they are not too obnoxious in small quantities - we have had them end up in our compost at various point. The biological parts break down, but the structure remains. It is easy to fish them out once the compost is finished, before the compost is used.

2 weeks ago
Freehand milling is certainly viable. You would want to get it securely anchored in position. Stakes in the ground along one side, long screws to hold the log snug to the stakes.
1 month ago