Category Archive for: ‘Cooking Tools & Techniques’
Silk Purse out of a Pigs ear

They (the proverbial they) say you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  I beg to differ.  I’m going to show you how to make the best Balsamic vinegar you ever had (within reason) out of the cheapest balsamic vinegar you can buy.

Considered a wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar is made from un-fermented grape pressings, not wine.  The pressings are boiled down to a syrup and aged by rules, hundreds of years old.  The real deal balsamic, only made in two provinces of Emilia-Romagna, Modena and Reggio Emilia, is then placed in unsealed oak barrels with a vinegar “mother” and allowed to turn to vinegar.  As it ages the mother will reduce the amount of liquid available and that liquid, now vinegar, will be transferred to barrels made from different woods to add to the complexity of the flavor profile over years.  This process takes a minimum of 12 years by law and as much as 100.  The 100 year aged Grande Vecchio vinegar below has been treated in just such a way.

Balsamic vinegar like the one pictured above goes for $361.00 for 2.4 oz on line.  I’m sure it would be amazing, but I can’t afford nor justify spending that much money on vinegar, no matter how good it might be.  Good “real” aged balsamic vinegars can be sipped straight from the bottle like a fine liqueur.  But wait, there is another process, a more modern process, to make balsamic vinegar that takes hours instead of years, even if it doesn’t qualify as the real thing.

The modern method uses huge presses, heat and adds sugar instead of letting time reduce and concentrate the natural sweetness of the grapes.  This grocery store stuff is not to be consumed straight from the bottle in a good crystal glass, but treated properly it can be very nice for dressings and cooking and will cost you less than $6 per liter.


The thing to do is to find a large bottle of nice acidic, sweet, inexpensive grocery store balsamic vinegar and reduce it to a syrup by gently boiling it down for a couple of hours.  Just pour the whole bottle into a sauce pan and bring to a slow rolling boil.  Make sure you save a little to taste the difference.  Reduce by at least 1/2.  I bring it down by 3/4.  But God knows, don’t burn it.  It smells terrible.  Let it cool and then use it over meat or in dressings.  Taste the difference, you’ll love it.  Note: when it cools it will be much thicker.  I’d start by reducing only by 1/2 if it is your first try at it.


Recommended Brands

This isn’t really as important as you might think.  Find a nice bottle and try it as I suggested.  If it works great, if it doesn’t try another.  You’ll only be out $3-6 but when you find the one that works stick with it, you’ll use it a lot.


Farm on, you Fat Farmers let me know what you think – Jughandle

Rice and How to Cook it

Wikipedia says

“Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima. As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after maize (corn).

We are more interested in how we can prepare it and what nutritional value it has for us.  The most common type of rice in the US is white long-grain.

100g or 3.5 oz of raw rice has

Calories – 365

Carbohydrates – 80 g

Sugars – .12 g

Fiber – 1.3 g

Fat – .66 g

Protein – 7.13


GI of boiled long grain white rice – 64 where 0-55 is low, 56-69 is med and over 70 is high

Serving size is 1 cup = 36 g of carbs

GL per serving is 23 where 0-10 is low, 11-19 is med and over 20 is high maxing out around 60

How To Cook Rice

Most rice can be cooked by boiling 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water for around 20 minutes.   The way I prefer is to use a rice cooker.  The following is a video of Jamie Oliver showing you how to cook rice.


The Glycemic Index and Load


We on the Fat Farm are interested in eating well but eating things that will keep our blood sugar in the 60-80 mg/dl range. That is the concentration of milligrams of glucose  in deciliters of our blood.  Rice is all over the Glycemic Index depending on which type you choice.  Before I get into the index values of the various rice types, I want to confuse you some more.

The GI compares foods at the same carbohydrate level, rating their ability to raise your blood sugar, with glucose being 100. This is the Quality of the food.  Since different foods contain various amounts of carbohydrates we need an index that shows the blood sugar effect by volume.  That is the Glycemic Load indicator. The GL measures the Quantity of carbohydrate in a food.  The GL is a much more accurate measurement of the effect of the food on our blood sugar.  The glycemic load of a food is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate in grams provided by a food and dividing the total by 100.

Neither the GI nor the GL are easy concepts to grasp, but for the health of our pancreas it is important that we try.

Notice in the list below that Jasmine Rice has a higher GI rating than Glucose itself.  That means that Jasmine Rice will spike your blood sugar very quickly.


 Types of Rice and Their Loads

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of rice and most even very by country.  Here are a couple to contemplate.

white Rice
Brown Rice
Basmati Rice
Jasmine Rice
Serving Size
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup

To sum it up – Brown rice good, white long grain rice OK, Jasmine rice Bad.

Farm On You Fat Farmers.  Let me know if you have any questions – Jughandle

How to Save Money Shopping

Food prices have risen 10% in the last YEAR alone!  You can’t go the the grocery store without spending $100 or more on food.  There are some basic things you can do to save money.

1. Shop the perimeter of the store.  Most of the things we normally need and the fresh foods are on the out side isles.

People tend to go counter clockwise in a store and save the frozen foods (except frozen meat) for last.  Dairy is usually at the far end of the store so you have to walk past all the impulse items to get the eggs or milk you actually went to the store for.

Also note that the most expensive items are at eye level, except for children’s items which are on their eye level. The products at the end of the aisles are generally not on sale.

2. Plan your meals by what’s on sale – Every store has a flier or website that lists the store specials for the week.  You should check your store’s specials before you plan your week’s meals and if chicken is on sale, plan a couple of meals with chicken in it.

3. Always shop with a list – after you plan your meals, make a list and try to organize the list by where in the store the items are to be more efficient with your time.

4.  Look through your pantry, freezer and refrigerator and list the ingredients you already have that fit into your meal plan. This is a good time to start keeping track of staples in your pantry and freezer. Attach a notebook to your pantry or freezer and make a list of items as you use them up. Check the lists before you shop and you’ll never unexpectedly run out of anything.  Check our earlier posts on how to stock your pantry , refrigerator and freezer.

5.  Shop with coupons.  Granted, not everything you like to eat will have a coupon offered for it, but you’ll be amazed at how much you can save with a little organization.  My wife Darlene checks the paper on Sunday and the websites before she shops and she is now saving $30-$50 on a $200 purchase.  That’s good money.  Check our title bar menu for a new “Store Coupons” category I will soon be adding.

6. Never ever shop when you are hungry.  Try not to shop when you are tired or in a hurry either.  And don’t take your kids shopping if you can avoid it.  Kids are the target of all of those low riding impulse buys.

7. At the store look for in store specials and any fliers or coupons you may have missed earlier. When comparing items on the shelf look at the “unit price” label to determine which is the best deal.  Try buying the generic, store label, products.  Most of the time they are the same product, packaged by the same manufacture as the name brand items.  The prices are lower because there are no advertising dollars associated with the label.  Did you know that you can ask for a rain check if the store is out of an advertised special.  Try asking even if the ad says limited quantities.

I will start posting current coupon location or websites and I’ll list pictures of various store layouts. – Jughandle

How to Roast Vegetables

Roasting vegetables is a great way to bring out the natural sweetness  and flavor of our garden vegetables, especially the root vegetables.


The best way to achieve tender, creamy and flavorful
roasted veggies is to preheat your oven to 450 deg F.
and lightly coat the veggies with a fat of some kind.
Put the coated veggies in a roasting pan that will allow
the heat to circulate around them as they cook.  Put the pan in the oven
covered for 20 minutes, then remove the cover for 20 minutes more and you are done.


The fat you use can be oil, bacon grease, butter or any combination.  For a healthier dish try to use the very smallest amout of oil that you can.  I cut my vegetables into 1/2 or 3/4″ chunks and put them in a large bowl.  I warm  a tablespoon of bacon fat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to thin the oil and aid in better coverage.  Pour the oil over the veggies in the bowl and toss with your hands until well coated.  Spread out on in the pan and season with herbs, salt and pepper.



A roasting pan works nicely but a cookie sheet is good too.  There really is no right or wrong here, pile the veggies up no more than two layers thick, if possible, to allow for even cooking, but you can also turn or stir the veggies half way through the cooking too.





A roasting pan usually has a cover, but if you use a cookie sheet, try covering with aluminum foil.




My favorite way to roast veggies is while I’m also roasting a chicken.  Use the big chunks of vegetables as a rack on the bottom of your pan to hold the chicken up.  The juices of the chicken add to the flavor of the vegetables and you have a one dish meal.




We will add many recipes for roasting in the near future. Until then try roasting a few veggies and let me know what you think.  – Farm On you Fat Farmers – Jughandle

How to Cook Fish

Believe it or not, according to Cook’s Bible there are 9 ways to cook fish.  I’m going to give you the short course on all 9 today.  Selecting and storing fish is another story all together and we’ll tackle that another day.  I will only tell you that the best way to select a fresh fish is to stick your finger into the meat.  If the flesh does not spring back to its original shape or if it exudes water, that fish has been out of the water too long or was not properly handled.  Fresh fish are like “Friday Night Lights” in that they should have “clear eyes” also.

1. Braising – Braising is a method of cooking in a liquid.  For fish the proper cut to braise is a steak.  Saute the fish steak on both sides with olive oil in an oven safe skillet or Dutch-oven.  Remove the fish and reserve it for later.  Add onion, garlic, shallots or similar ingredients to the pan and saute them for about 5 mins, separately from the fish.  Then add to the pan about 1/2 cup of your braising liquid of choice, which could be anything from water, stock, vinegar, or olive juice to wine.  Bring to a simmer and improve the mix with capers, anchovies, olives or other such stuff.  Return the fish to the pan and put the whole pan in a 400 deg oven for 8-10 minutes per inch of fish thickness.



2. Steaming – Stove top steaming can be accomplished in a “steamer” purchased for just that purpose or in any deep Dutch-oven or pot that can handle the size of the fish.  Into the deep pot add about 1 inch of water and arrange along the bottom something like cookie cutters or cooking rings or anything heat safe that will hold your fish above the water.  We are trying to steam the fish not poach it (see #3).  You can then put your fish on a plate or pan that will fit in the pot and let it rest on the cookie cutters above the water.  Bring the water to a slow boil and put the lid on the pot.  Steam the fish for roughly 10 mins per  inch of fish.  Most whole fishes will cook in under 15 mins. The picture to the left shows a couple of nice slices of fish in a bamboo steamer.  The cook has placed ginger and herbs on the fish while steaming.



Oven steaming can be even easier to do.  Place you cut of fish on a large sheet of heavy aluminum foil.  Season fish with salt, pepper or other spices or peppers and herbs.  Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon or lime, or wine on the fish (about 2 tablespoons).  Then fold the foil together over and over from the top, then both ends to create an air tight package, leaving a little space above the fish for steam.  Put the foil fish package on a cookie sheet and into a hot oven, 400-425 deg, for roughly 12-14 mins or until the package puffs up.  Carefully open the foil and serve.  This method is good for fillet or small fish steaks.




3. Poaching – Poaching as opposed to steaming cooks the fish in the liquid but more gently than braising and in more liquid.  While braising is good for fish that has a stronger texture, like swordfish, poaching is great for light flesh or flaky fish such as salmon.  For this reason, the poached fish is more easily handled if you wrap it in cheese-cloth for the poaching.  Place your fish in a large pot capable of holding the fish and liquid.  Cover the fish with your poaching liquid, which could be water, stock, wine or any combination.  Add your flavorings, such as, lemon, lime, bay leaves, parsley, salt, pepper, celery, cilantro etc, etc. Bring the liquid to a rolling boil then turn the heat off, cover the pot and let the fish poach in the hot liquid for 10-15 minutes.  Then remove and serve.  (This is where you thank me for the tip about the cheese-cloth.)



4. Pan-frying – Pan frying fish is just what it sounds like.  I fry everything in olive oil, both for health and flavor reasons.  Put 1/2 cup of oil in a frying pan.  Bring to a med-high heat (about 375 deg).  Meanwhile dredge the fish in beaten egg then in a combination of flour and cornmeal or Panko breadcrumbs.  Some people use cream of wheat.  Then fry in the hot oil for a few minutes per side or until nicely browned.





5. Sauteing – Sauteing is best accomplished with a fish fillet in a hot pan of butter and olive oil.  A small amount of olive oil is added to the butter to raise the smoke point of the butter.  Coat the fillet with seasoned flour or breadcrumbs or some combination of coatings, then saute in a about 1/4 inch of the butter/oil until brown and crispy.  Cook quickly and hot.


6. Broiling – This is by far the simplest method of cooking fish.  Just brush the fish with oil or butter and cook the fish in a oven safe pan in the broiler of your oven for 8-10 mins.  You don’t even have to turn over a thin piece of fish.





7. Grilling – This is the hardest method of cooking fish.  With sticking a problem, fish can fall apart, so select a nice firm fish such as swordfish or use a grilling basket to hold the fish.  Sea foods are nice to grill.  Shrimp is easy in the shell and lobster is amazing.  The problem with grilling is the heat.  You need a med heat to cook fish, which is hard to accomplish on the grill.  Remember to remove the fish when it is slightly under-cooked to allow the residual heat to finish it off.  Tuna is nice on the grill (see the picture on the left).




8. Roasting – Roasting is the best way to cook a whole fish.  Place the fish on a roasting pan in a hot (450 deg) oven and cook until done, basting with hot oil or butter during the roasting process.  The fish is done when the skin easily peals off or the tip of a sharp knife can easily pierce to the bone.





9. Marinating (Ceviche) – Yes, this is a cooking method.  Marinating fish in a acidic liquid for a period of time actually cooks the flesh.  Because no heat is used, you should only try this method with very fresh fish and shell fish.  Cut the fish into small 1/4 -3/8 inch cubes and marinate in the refrigerator covered in vinegar, lime or lemon juice for 4 to 24 hours.  Combine with other flavors and serve.





Enjoy your new skills.  Let me know what you’re doing – Jughandle

How to Cook an Egg

The concept of Jughandle’s Fat Farm is to lead our followers to a healthier existence by teaching and examining the simple acts of gathering food (shopping, growing, etc) and preparing a meal.  Once everyone understands why we eat and what the food does to our bodies we can then choose the path we would like to follow instead of being pulled by the pallet down the road of fast food and pre-prepared meals.  Every one from Man to child should know how to cook (not just forage in the refrigerator) when they are hungry.

I’ve been told that Cooking an Egg is one of the most basic and important skills a cook can master.  I would like to know that when I say to separate 7 eggs into two bowls, you aren’t going to just put 3 eggs in one bowl and 4 in the other.

Egg Chemistry

Eggs are the most complex and important ingredient we will cook with.  Because they are high in protein which is constructed of coiled molecules, they react to different methods of preparation.  Heating or the friction or whipping (also heating) causes those coils to unwind.  They attach to each other when they unwind creating a mesh that traps air or liquid that becomes permanently set when the mixture is heated to the setting point.  You can observe the trapped air reaction in whipped egg whites and the liquid in a custard.  The difference between a thick egg mixture and scrambled eggs is just 10 degrees.  So most egg dishes should be cooked slow and low to better control the results.

Trick: to make a speedy custard, add cornstarch or flour to your mixture to speed the formation of the protein mesh, thus stretching the window between success and a curdled mess.

Eggs also provide moisture to a dish, which when heated creates steam and aids in the rising of cakes and pastries.  They are also emulsifiers, one end of the molecule attracts water and the other attracts oil.  That is why you need an egg in a salad dressing such as Caesar’s or in a thicken dressing such as mayonnaise.


Lesson 1: How to Boil and Egg

There are many way to boil and egg, but remembering the slow and low method (think gentle) we will do the following:

place 4 to 6 three day old eggs in a sauce pan. 

Cover the eggs barely with cold water

place pan on high heat uncovered

when water comes to a rolling boil turn off the heat and cover pan

start timer for 10 mins 

when timer is finished uncover pan and run cold water over the eggs until cool

Eat or refrigerate

Tip: 3 day to week old eggs make the best hard-boiled eggs because they peal more easily.  Fresh eggs stick to the shell and waste the egg when pealed.  Cook’s Bible says that ” if the pH of the egg white is below 8.9 it is likely to adhere to the inner membrane of the shell.  Fresh eggs have a pH of 8 and a 3 day old egg is a little over 9.0.”

Lesson 2: How to Poach an Egg

In a pan of rolling boiling water put 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for every 6 cups of boiling water.  Swirl the water by stirring and gently crack the egg into the center of the whirlpool.  Cook 2 mins for a running center, 3 mins for a thick center and 4 to five minutes for a hard cooked center.


Lesson 3: How to Fry and Egg

Remembering the slow and low method, most fried egg problems such as, over cooking, crispy edges or dried out whites, are caused from cooking too hot.  Start your frying pan on med high then once the pan is hot turn it down to med-low.  Put in 1 tablespoon of butter and crack the egg into to butter.

For “over easy” eggs, wait until the white has set and gently flip or turn the egg with a spatula.  Continue to cook until the yellow is done to your likeness.

For “sunny side up” or “partial eclipse” eggs, cook until the white is almost set the add a tablespoon of water to the pan and cover with a lid.  Steam the egg until the yolk is to your likeness.


Lesson 4: How to Scramble and Egg

Crack two eggs into a small bowl.  Add 3 tablespoon of cream, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook in a non-stick skillet on med-low until done, stirring with a wood spoon as needed.

You can also use a double boiler over simmering water to cook these eggs.


Lesson 5: How to Make and Omelet

Start with 2 eggs.  Whisk in salt (a pinch) pepper (to taste), fresh herbs (tarragon is nice) and 1 teaspoon of water per egg.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick or well seasoned omelet pan over medium-high heat.

add the beaten egg mixture and reduce the heat to medium-low

after 10 seconds pull the edges of the omelet to the center with a spatula or turner

tilt the pan to allow the uncooked eggs to run off the cooked ones and onto the pan

do this until most of the uncooked egg is cooked

Fill the omelet now with cheese, ham, etc. if you want and

slide the omelet to one side of the pan by tilting the pan.

Using the spatula flip half of the omelet over  the filling

Turn the omelet over to finish cooking for about 30 sec.

Slide on to plate.


You are now an expert egg cook.  Practice, practice, practice – jughandle

Get a Meat Thermometer

If you are going to be cooking with me or just cooking my recipes, you will need a thermometer.  There are hundreds of ways to use the thermometer from plain steaks and fish to bread and cakes.  You can accurately cook a  beef steak to rare, 125 deg F., a fish fillet to perfectly flakey at 140 deg F., or a loaf of bread to perfectly done at 205 deg F.  It really is a “can’t miss, always right” situation.

Most good cook books will have finished internal temperature numbers to shoot for.  Remember that when you take a piece of meat off the grill or a cake from the oven it is absolutely critical to the final dish that you rest it.  During the resting period the final internal temp can rise dramatically.  The longer you cook something the higher the resting temperature rise will be.  A turkey can rise as much a 30 deg F. during the resting period, making the difference between a perfectly, moist and tender bird, or a tough and dry one.

Which one to buy?

Which one to buy will depend on two things, of course.  What and how do you want to use it and how much are you willing to spend?

There are candy thermometers which tell you when the perfect “crack” point of sugar is, and fancy digital thermometers that are wireless and have a voice command to tell you when your meal is ready.

Many professional chefs use “instant read” probes like the Termapen which can set you back close to $100, but are accurate and will last a long time.  Some will use a really cheap instaRead like




the CDN IRM190 InstaRead Meat & Poultry Cooking Thermometer for under $10 at  Personally I like to have a thermometer that I can stick in the meat and leave it until it’s done.  That way I can judge the time until the meal is served.  For that I use a thermometer such as:

Taylor 1470 Digital Cooking Thermometer/TimerOven Thermometers)

What ever you do your cooking will improve with temperature cooking.

Farm On you Fat Farmers,

Jughandle out