Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
I couldn’t ask for a better mid May day to take in a very friendly, informative tour at a new sustainable/biodynamic farm in Prince Georges County-P.A. Bowen’s Farmstead. Since this is a farm with animals-Jersey cows, pigs and chickens and laying hens, it is especially fulfilling to visit on a glorious day in the spring when you can count on the babies being outside.
Now this isn’t just any startup dairy farm but a venture of Sally Fallon Morell, co-founder of The Weston A. Price Foundation and author of the famous, Nourishing Traditions. Sally advocates a nutrient-dense diet of whole foods, including animal fats. She is now also a cheese maker at her 95 acre historic farm, P.A. Bowen. The cheese making is regulated by the state of Maryland under a pilot program for raw cheeses begun in 2009. The milk and cheese are tested regularly for pathogens.
Currently the farm store is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday selling soy-free, pastured animal foods including many cuts of beef, humanely raised veal, pork, and chicken, including a variety of organ meats. (In the fall they also have turkeys for Thanksgiving.) There are also soy-free eggs and raw milk cheese made on site.
Farm Tours are given on Saturday mornings at 11am. Admission - $15 for adults and $5 for children 10-18.
Happy to have a new raw cheese maker in our midst, I purchased both the mild and more feisty blue cheese as well as the Chesapeake cheddar. Some of the products are sold in farmers markets in our region and Sally welcomes inquiries from CSA’s and farm buying clubs.
I also was anxious to try the small poultry since I have been disappointed in whole chickens from some farms. I decided to do a simple brine and then smoke that little bird. Delectable, it was-smothered with fresh spring salsa based on mango. The recipe below is a real treatise on smoking for beginners. I usually just whip it together without any measuring or real timing. I do, however, use a digital thermometer for doneness. For the mild blue cheese from P.A. Bowen's, I topped fresh local green beans with the cheese and sprinkled on fresh lemon thyme.
Brined Smoked Chicken
Because chicken is such a lean meat, it has the tendency to dry out quicker than other fatty meats. Brining a chicken is a popular method of keeping your chicken moist by forcing water into the muscle of the chicken. While brining, you can also add seasoning to your mixture that will flavor the meat. You can also think of brining as a way to marinade the chicken by adding the seasoning to your brine recipe which penetrates the inside of the bird.
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 gallon of water (or enough to completely submerge your chicken)
- 3/4 cup salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon of pepper
- 1 tablespoon of cayenne
- 1 bag of charcoal
- charcoal chimney starter
- 1 or 2 bags of wood chips of your choice
- Aluminum foi
This recipe takes longer than other smoked chicken recipes because you will need to brine the chicken for about 12 hours before you want to start cooking. To start the brining process, boil the water in a large pot that can hold the water and chicken. Add your sugar and salt so these ingredients can be dissolved and then let the water cool down or add ice so you do not cook the chicken in the brine mixture. Then add the rest of your brine ingredients and the whole chicken to the pot and set it in your refrigerator for 10 hours. The brine liquid has to be at a temperature lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to work properly.
Next, soak wood chips in water for an hour to two but no longer than two hours. Soaking these wood chips will allow them to smolder and smoke for a long period of time instead of lighting on fire and quickly burning up. You can use any type of wood smoking chips you like, but we recommend a mixture of hickory and mesquite woods. You will want to light your charcoal smoker about 30 minutes before you want to start cooking the brined chicken. You will know when the charcoal is ready when all of the coals turn to a glowing white hot color.
While you are waiting for the charcoal to set up, mix all of the smoked chicken rub recipe ingredients together. Then fully coat the chicken inside and outside with the rub seasoning. You can separate the skin and the breast of the chicken by pushing your fingers in between them. Then, you can stuff the seasoning down right on top of the chicken breast meat to add another layer of flavor to your brine smoked chicken.
Wrap the water soaked wood chips in an aluminum foil pouch and punch holes in the top with a fork in order for the smoke to escape. Put the foil pouch above the charcoal at the same time you put the rub seasoned chicken on the smoker. You may need to add more foil pouches throughout the cooking process depending on how long your chicken takes to cook. Adjust the vent on top of your smoker to allow 75% of the steam to escape the smoker. If your grill lid is adjustable, make sure the vents are positioned over the top of the chicken in order to draw all of the smoke over the chicken before it escapes the grill.
Check the brined chicken about once an hour to ensure the smoker is holding the temperature. If not, add more charcoal to your smoker. If you are using a side smoker box grill, you should to turn your chicken half way through the cooking process to ensure both sides are cooked evenly and the smoke flavor is balanced on both sides. See below for more information about cooking times and how to determine when your chicken is done.
Brine Smoked Chicken Cooking Time The average cooking time for smoked chicken is about 4 hours but will vary depending on the size of the bird, the temperature and the type of smoker you are using, and how often you open the lid. The more you open the lid of the smoker the longer it will take to finish cooking. To check to see if the chicken is done use an instant-read meat thermometer and stick it in the deepest part of the chicken breast and check for a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. See our meat doneness chart for a full list of different meat doneness internal temperatures. From Smoke Grill Barbecue(.com)
Mango Cucumber Salsa
When I see those Champagne mangoes in abundance in the market, I know it’s time for that divine salsa balanced with our local produce. Make this salsa at least an hour in advance so it can season.
- 1/2 large mango, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh diced cucumber
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic scallions or scallions
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon minced jalapeno chile pepper
- 1 tablespoon snipped garlic chives
In a medium bowl, combine the salsa ingredients. Taste and adjust lemon juice and seasonings.
Local Green Beans with Artisan Blue Cheese, Lemon Thyme
- 1 pound local fresh green beans, root ends snapped
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon thyme leaves
In a medium saute pan, add just enough water to equal 1/4 inch of water. Bring to a boil. Add the beans and cover with a lid. Steam for about 4 minutes. Add the olive oil and toss; Continue cooking without the lid until most of the water is absorbed, tossing occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and place on a serving platter, sprinkling with blue cheese and then lemon thyme. Serve immediately.