23 January 2007

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked!

March 2007 -- RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked!. Aspyr announced yesterday that Soaked, another project of mine, will be available for Macs soon. This is an expansion pack to the popular amusement park game. You get to build wave pools, water slides, and such in your theme park along with all of the roller coasters from the base game.

07 January 2007

First time smoking a brisket

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a Brinkmann electric smoker. I had been wanting to start cooking ribs and brisket and what better way is there to do that besides smoking the meat? I had never attempted to cook like this before, and I wanted to get some practice so I can put together a good meal for the Superbowl. While looking around on the Internet for tips, I found two sites that seemed decent: BBQbyDan and the Virtual Weber Bullet (my personal favorite).

When I assembled my smoker on Friday, I noticed that the side door and its hinge were missing from the box. I was already determined to make a brisket this weekend so I had to come up with a way cover the hole. I walked down a few aisles in Home Depot and bought nuts, bolts, washers, and two small pieces of tin for three dollars. I also stopped at a local barbecue store to pick up some wood chunks and two thermometers, one to measure the temperature inside the smoker and the other for the meat.

Going against everything I read online, I did not purchase a "packers cut" beef brisket. My HEB had three of them on Saturday and quite frankly, they were too large for me to try and tackle on my first try. The only other selections were super trimmed, which the websites said to avoid as the butcher has already cut off most of the fat from them. I took the smallest brisket they had which was 6.61 pounds of USDA Choice at a price of $2.68/lb. Even it looked like it was going to be way too much meat. The only dry rub I found in HEB was the Fiesta Extra Fancy Brisket Rub so I went ahead and got it. At around 3:00 PM on Saturday, I used about 4 oz. of the rub and applied it to each side of the brisket before wrapping in plastic wrap and placing in the refrigerator.

On Sunday morning, I woke up around 7:30 AM and got everything started at 8:05 AM. With pecan wood chunks providing the smoke and flavoring, I set the brisket on the top rack, fat side up, and sat back for a long day of smoking. Here is my cooking log:

I was hoping that the smoker would reach 225-250°, but with the cool air and wind, it never got that high. After adding wood chucks at the fourth hour, I noticed a spike in the temperature and added more towards the end to boost it up again. Nevertheless, this concerned me a little bit so I moved the brisket to my oven to get a higher meat temperature.

I must admit that I was a little worried about the final product. With five friends over to help consume the brisket, I didn't have any backup plan in case it was inedible. Luckily no such plan was needed, as it turned out to be excellent. Either Lee or Mike said that I should start a business selling my barbecue and Brian said it was the best brisket he had ever had! Not bad for my first time. I still have a plate of leftovers so I'm glad I didn't pick a larger piece of beef. Now, If I can repeat this quality, I will have to smoke brisket on a regular basis.

02 January 2007

Making beer in the dark

Until yesterday, I was pretty worried about my sophomore batch of beer. I barely had time to write up my last blog entry before taking off for the holidays. I was well on my way to Carrie's parents' house before the any visibile evidence of fermentation occurred. A lot of the fun in brewing beer in my opinion is watching it ferment, even though all you can really see is the carbon dioxide escaping out of the airlock.

On Christmas day, we picked up my brother and drove straight to the airport for a visit to Tennessee. While there, I had other things on my mind such as playing with my adorable niece Emily. In fact, I was planning on calling my roommate Mike and have him check on the beer but even that slipped my mind. Due to a late return to Texas, I didn't get a chance to look at the beer until January 1st. There wasn't any evidence of bubbles in the airlock so I was nervous until I popped the lid of the primary fermenter. About an inch above the beer was a ring of foam, so something had worked. I transferred the liquid to my secondary fermenter and took a specific gravity reading. It had already reached its target reading of 1.014 which means that everything worked just fine without me. While the beer clarifies this week, I will start cleaning my beer bottles to get them ready to fill on Saturday or Sunday.