The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
GS3-2008_Blog_Header-HDR-960x500

Get Fresh

First Image
For more years than I care to admit I was a lazy cook. A recipe would call for fresh herbs and I wouldn’t even consider it. I would reach up on the shelf for the jar spices. Also when a recipe call for fresh juice, I would go to the supermarket for a bottle of juice. Or the recipe would call for zest, the scrapings off the skin of the fruit, and you guessed it: I ‘d get the zest in a bottle. Now in my defense a lot of it was plain ignorance on my part. I didn’t know how to cut up the fresh spices, or an easy way to get the juice without the seeds. The last little detail was I didn’t know what a difference there was in flavor.

“Second

T Caption .


Picture 5
Herbs & Spices-The Cook’s Reference by Jill Norman-one of the two reference books that I used to get familiar with fresh ingredients

A few years ago when I started getting more serious about my grilling I started cooking year round. During the Winter I started doing big roasts that could be cooked indirectly and with smoke in my gas grill. The recipe I decided to use for my Christmas standing rib roast called for a fresh herb paste made with EVOO plus fresh rosemary, oregano, Italian parsley, basil and garlic. The author admitted to not using fresh herbs very often himself but made a point that you should do it with this recipe. With the price you pay for a standing rib roast I decided to go for it. The first thing I noticed right away was the wonderful aromas that filled the Kitchen. You certainly don’t get that with jar spices. The proof was in the tasting though. The herb crusted standing rib roast was amazing. The picture at the top of this page are the fresh ingredients for that rub, just before they were blended.

“Second

T Caption .


Herbs & Spices-Cover
The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices by Tony Hill-my second reference book. I like each book for different reasons

This amazing rib roast opened my eyes wide. Here was a relatively simple change I could make to my cooking that would make a HUGE difference. The first step was to learn more about fresh herbs and spices. A trip to the local book store solved that with a couple books about spices, both of which are illustrated here. Doing a Google search for a spice will often turn up articles, or better yet videos on how to prepare that item. Both the web site About.com and AOL have quite a bit of information and videos on cooking. As I started using more varieties of fresh herbs I noticed a great improvement in the flavors of what I made. A side benefit is the great smell in the Kitchen while you work. I think fresh basil is my favorite aroma, but rosemary and cilantro are a close second. The only downside is the extra time it takes to chop up the fresh herbs. It is a small price to pay for the great flavors. Get yourself some good sharp knives and you will find you can make reasonably short work of this task.

“Second

T Caption .


IMG_0037-Blog-300x225
The Krupps coffee grinder makes a great spice grinder. Just don’t grind coffee in the same on you grind spices in.

I also purchased a spice grinder so I could grind up some of the spices fresh for certain recipes. Actually my “spice grinder” is a Krupps Coffee Grinder which I found many people use as a spice grinder. Just don’t grind coffee in this one, buy a second one if you want to grind coffee too. The price is quite reasonable and it is easy to use and clean. You use it pretty much like a miniature food processor.

One thing that you’ll need to know: If a recipe calls for either fresh or jar spices and you substitute one for the other it is not a one to one equivalency. What surprised me is you use less of the jar spice than the fresh spice. Going by the intense flavors of the fresh herbs and spices you would think the opposite is true. But it is not, I guess the jar spices are more concentrated. Here is a link that gives the equivalents for fresh vs jar spices:

Spice Equivalency Chart
While we are talking about flavors, when you in the process you add the spice will determine how intense the flavor is. Adding it at the beginning usually results in a blending of the various flavors. Adding it closer to the end results in more intense and distinct flavors. Your recipe should specify the sequence and timing for adding the various herbs and spices.

“Second

T Caption .


IMG_6856-Blog-300x225
These classic juicers come in three sizes for oranges, lime and lemon (shown here). You cut the item in half and put it cut side down in the bottom half and squeeze the handles together

The next discovery I made was what a difference using the fresh squeezed fruit juice makes to the recipe. I wrongly thought that where the juice is added in early on you would not notice the difference between fresh and a concentrated bottle juice. I know, I know, I should have known better-fresh squeezed orange juice is much better than bottled or frozen. My own wake up call was when I was making some ribs a few years ago. The recipe called for adding fresh lemon juice to the apple juice marinade used for soaking the ribs. I had made this recipe before and always used bottles of concentrated lemon juice. For whatever reason I decided to try fresh squeezed lemon juice. Not only did I notice the difference , others who tried the ribs noticed the lemon taste without my mentioning it to them. I was now a convert. I had bought a lemon juicer to squeeze the lemon juice out, it was now back to the store to buy two more for oranges and limes.

These days many recipes are calling for lemon or lime zest. This is the scrapings you get off the outer skin. I used to buy zest in a jar. Well now that I am using fresh lemons, limes and oranges, I have the skins around. A quick trip to the store and I had a zester that scrapes the skin and produces the zest. And by now I am sure you’ve figured I am going to tell you this is better than the jar variety. Once again: No Contest.

So if you want to make a big difference in your cooking: Go fresh. If you don’t believe me, try it once on an old favorite recipe. Preferably try one where you’ve been using jar spices in lieu of the fresh herbs or spices the recipe called for. I think you’ll agree that the big difference in flavor is worth a little extra work.


  BACK TO BBQ BLOG 2008
  ARCHIVE OF BLOGS: 2008
  INDEX OF BLOGS: ALL YEARS

blog comments powered by Disqus