Dear Diary, It’s Me, Jessica: Part 10

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Dear Diary,

It’s me, Jessica.

With the warmer weather and to conserve our propane, we have been using the charcoal grill but using wood to burn for our hot meals.  To keep everyone from having to build a fire individually, we gather at someone’s home for dinner, bringing something already made or to cook.  Everyone takes turns hosting. Even HAM guy joins in.  It is a lot of fun!  We talk, joke around, and play card games, board games, or corn hole.  If Mom’s laptop has a charge, sometimes we sing and dance.  Rae and, surprisingly, HAM guy are teaching us how to square dance.

While we were eating, and I was slipping Samson a bit of my dinner under the picnic table when Jack was not looking, Dad was talking about building a wood burning outdoor oven and stove. He said the problem was ‘materials.’  Jack said the city might have what Dad needed, but without a vehicle, it would be nearly impossible to bring back things like firebrick, or cement on foot.  There was the small hardware store in the small town to the East that was a full day’s walk.  If they could get some horses and maybe a cart, Jack said it might be doable.  The HAM guy said he would ask around at the next morning’s radio meet-up.  

Rae asked if the HAM guy had heard anything more on the radio nets about other forms of ‘government.’ He shook his head and said it was all a hot mess of rumor, conflicting information, and wild speculation. He did hear more about people forming their own local governments. Some had elected a single leader, while others had some kind of council. He thought it was promising as a new kind of normal society was being established.  

Mom asked about the local governance meeting.  

Dad said Mr. Miller rode out to the other farms past his.  As Mr. Miller was closest to our community and had horses, it only made sense they picked him to be their ‘representative.’  

After a pause, Jack said he would put out the word in the community for a formal meeting at his place at noon in two days.  During his last trip to the market, Jack talked to Sean and the sheriff.  He told them of what our community was doing, and they might consider something similar to give the market direction.  Sean and the sheriff thought it was a good idea and would hold their own meeting with the ‘denizens’ of the market.

How to Make Your Own Lunch Meat

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(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

You read about it in Dear Diary, It’s Me, Jessica: Part 9.  Here at the OP, we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk!  Let me show you how you too can make your own lunch meat at home!  

As we all know, inflation is hitting everyone in their pocketbooks.  A few years ago, a pound of deli roast beef was going for $6.99 for the store brand and the top shelf brand was going for $9.99 a pound.  Now, the store brand is going for $14.99 a pound!  I don’t even want to think about what the top shelf stuff is going for.  Another thing I noticed was in the pre-sliced grab-n-go case, the deli meats and cheeses are being sold in half pound portions rather then the pound they were previously.  I have even read news reports some people on the lower end of the socio-economic scale were skipping meals just to make ends meet.

Meat Selection and the Power of Salt

I checked the meat case for a cheap cut of meat.  Surprisingly, I found a chuck roast for $4.99 a pound.  In the past, eye of round has been at or about that price, but this week, eye of round was going for $6.99 a pound.  I selected a 2.59 pound chuck roast with a fat cap on one side.  

Using the book Charcuterie, The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, (I highly recommend this book!) I made a basic brine.   Brining meat does three things:

1) It changes the meat cells at the molecular level, allowing the cells to plump with water, thereby making the meat moist.  You can do the same thing with turkey to prevent it from drying at Thanksgiving dinner.  I have done that in the past.  

2) It infuses whatever seasoning or flavors you want to add. I made the above-mentioned Thanksgiving turkey with an Earl Grey tea infusion. It turned out great!

3)  The salt acts as a preservative, preventing bacteria from forming in the short term, more so than unbrined meat.

The basic brine is:

  • 1 gallon/4 liters of water
  • ¾ cup/200 grams of kosher salt
  • ½ cup/125 grams of sugar

I took half a gallon of water, put it in a bowl, and put it in the freezer to chill while I made the brine.  

The other half a gallon of water, I put into a large saucepan, mixed in the salt and sugar, and brought it to a boil,…