Time for Hobbies
Although we have been involved in several activities over the past couple of weeks like going to Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Canton, going Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh with Lora, J. Michael and Lydia and going to Kingwood Center Gardens in Mansfield, we have also been spending a lot of time just hangin' around the RV park relaxing.
When in relaxation mode, we play at our hobbies. Margery likes to read (she has over 700 e-books lined up for download to her Kindle), do Precept Bible studies, and crochet for charity. She also likes to cook, and now that we have a bigger kitchen in our 5th wheel, she has enjoyed researching and experimenting with low carb/low sugar recipes. Since we have additional storage space, she has also gotten several new kitchen gadgets including a full-sized food processor that she really loves.
Before we retired and became full-time RVers, Paul's main hobbies were woodworking and gardening. Although he had to give up his workshop, he has been able to do a little woodworking from time to time while we've been on the road. We recently wrote about a project for the 5th wheel where he added two leaves to our dining table so it will expand to a bigger size.
Except for a couple of house plants, Paul wasn't able to do much gardening until about a year or so ago when we signed up for a 6-month deal on our site at Blueberry Hill in Florida. As part of our agreement to sign up for two years, the owners of the RV park landscaped our site, and Paul was able to putter around and do a little gardening while we were in Florida last winter.
Paul has also been able to do some container gardening this summer. Since we decided to spend the entire summer in Berlin, we got a couple of pots of flowers and a pot of herbs.
Paul also planted a tomato plant in a 5-gallon bucket back in early June, and we were finally able to pick our first tomato a week or so ago. It wasn't very big, but it sure was tasty.
Paul also has a new hobby - barbecuing. A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the new Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker we got and about trying it out for the first time smoking pork shoulder to make pulled pork. Since that time, we used the smoker two more times. The second time was to smoke a turkey breast.
When we used the smoker the first time for the pork shoulder, we used an old meat thermometer we happened to already have to check the internal temperature of the meat. We had to remove the lid of the smoker every time we wanted to stick the thermometer into the meat, and it took so long to register a reading the smoker cooled off significantly.
Since that first time using the smoker, we ordered a new meat thermometer that has a probe that can be left in the meat the entire cooking time so the lid of the smoker doesn't have to be removed at all. Our smoker has a convenient, silicone-rubber port through which the wire for the probe can be run. We used the new thermometer for the turkey, and it made a big difference in being able to better maintain the temperature of the smoker.
Based on recommendations on many websites, we brined the turkey breast overnight before smoking it. Although the brining of poultry is recommended for roasting as well as for smoking, we've never done that before. There are lots of recipes for brine solutions, many containing herbs and spices; but we used a fairly simple recipe with 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 2/3 cup of brown sugar to a gallon of water.
The big problem with brining is finding a container big enough in which to submerge the turkey breast and then finding enough space in the fridge to put the container. We solved both problems by using a large, zip-lock bag for brining. The other good thing about using a plastic bag is, if you squeeze all the air out of it before zipping the bag closed, you can greatly reduce the amount of brine solution needed. A half gallon of brine was enough for a turkey breast weighing almost 8 pounds.
Paul smoked the turkey at 240º for about 6 hours. Unlike the pork that took longer than expected, the turkey was done right on schedule thanks in part to the new meat thermometer that didn't require removing the lid of the smoker.
Wow! Brining sure made a difference in how moist the turkey was. The turkey was delicious that evening for dinner, and it is even better cold on sandwiches. It looks like we'll be buying a lot less lunch meat in the future.
About a week after smoking the turkey, we used the smoker for a third time for baby back ribs. Like we did with the pork shoulder, we smeared the ribs with yellow mustard and coated them with dry rub the night before and put them in the fridge overnight.
Because our smoker is small, we ordered a rack that holds the ribs standing on edge so we can fit more on the grate. We also had to cut the strip of ribs in half before placing them in the smoking rack.
The ribs took about 5 hours. For the last hour of the cooking time, Paul mopped the ribs with barbecue sauce.
The ribs were delish! They were nice and smokey and fall-off-the-bone tender - just the way we like them.
We will undoubtedly continue relaxing, but we also have a few activities in mind. Stay tuned.