Saturday, September 29, 2012

Starting a Food Buisness and the Cottage Food Law

In a previous post, I wrote about cottage food laws. Michigan and many other states have enacted sets of specific rules and regulations that allow a framework for food entrepreneurs to get started on a small scale. These laws allow individuals to do some test marketing before plunging headfirst into a full scale, licensed, food processing business.

The cottage food laws do have limitations. There are labeling requirements, limitations on the types of foods that can be produced for sale from a home kitchen, and guidelines for maximum annual revenues that can be earned.

Outside of the cottage food law allowances, many states and county governments offer other resources to help guide a prospective small business owner through the process of operating a food business legally. In Michigan, the state government provides significant resources online. The 64-page Guide to Starting and Operating a Small Business in Michigan provides a checklist that can be used to plan for a start-up. The guide covers taxes, business plans, licenses and regulations, hiring, financing, managment, and insurance considerations and many, many more.

All of this may seem like a lot of red tape and hassle for folks that just want to grow a hobby or personal passion into a source of income. I've seen and known many bbq enthusiasts who do bbq and other types of catering "under the radar" and out of compliance with legal requirements. This may seem like a harmless undertaking, but upon closer examination this is a pretty risky proposition. The personal liability is significant and should not be taken lightly.

There is a lot of information available to help you do it right, if you take the time to look for it. And the best part is that most of it won't cost you any money while you progress through the initial planning stages.

If you are aware of other resources that would be helpful along these lines, feel free to post them in the comments section or send me a separate e-mail so I can share the information with others who may find it useful.

Here's an example from the Small Buisness Administration (SBA):

Small Business Assessment Tool

Good luck.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Music to BBQ By - Charlie Daniels Band

This is a continuation of my new weekly feature - Music to BBQ By

When your bbq party gets a little rowdy, put some CDB on the stereo. Or better yet, if you bbq party is dull, liven it up with some CDB.

I attended a Charlie Daniels concert in Dearborn Michigan in 2004. It's been several years now since I first heard this song on 61-Country, my favorite radio station from the late '70's and early '80's out of Kansas City. We spent hours and hours listening to guys with names like Charlie, Conway, and Kenny.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Red Chili Practice Cook

Red chili aka chili without beans

This was my second weekend spent working to develop a contest-worthy-chili recipe. Last week left me a little disappointed, but this week's result turned out closer to my expectations.

I have searched and searched on Google images for what ICS contest chili is supposed to look like with very few results, so I am still unsure whether I am getting closer (or farther) from competitive quality.

Last week I tried to some inexpensive sirloin cuts labeled as "stew meat" on the package. This week I purchased a $15 package labeled as Top Sirloin and the texture and tenderness of the chili was much better.

I feel much more comfortable with the level of heat in the chili too, but that is the area I most unsure about. If a judge is just eating a one bite sample the chili can stand to be a little hotter than if eating an entire bowl (i.e. cup).

Next week I'll be working on a green chili recipe.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Trip to the Spice Store

As I prepare for my first chili cook-off in a few weeks, I made a trip to the local Penzey's spices store this morning. Here's some of the chili specific spices that I purchased:

I have never cooked a chili contest sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS). To help promote chili cooking, contests, and in support of prospective new contestants like me, the ICS publishes winning recipes on Last weekend I cooked Jim Weller's Macktown Chili recipe to establish a base to build from. The plan is to make adjustments here and there to eventually develop my own recipe.

I'm a chili novice and I'm a little fearful of making my entry too hot, if that is possible. Most of the past winning recipes look pretty hot to me, so I am sticking to a recipe that is on the milder side of things. I chose some ground chipotle, some guajillo chili peppers, and ancho chili powder for my recipe. All three are the on milder side of the Scoville heat scale.

Chipotle: 5,000 - 10,000 Scoville heat units
Guajillo: 2,500 - 5,000 Scoville heat units
Ancho: 1,000 - 2,000 Scoville heat units

For a comparison, Cayenne pepper is 30,000 - 50,000 Scoville heat units; and a Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper yield between 100,000 - 350,000 Scoville heat units.

I plan to enter the "red" and "green" chili categories. From what I've seen on the web, sometimes the green chili recipes are even a little hotter than the red ones.

I'm not expecting spectacular results in my first event, but I do expect to have a lot of fun preparing and competing. Perhaps best of all...the event I'm cooking is in it's 17th year. The event typically raises a lot of money for local charities. The grand total over the lifespan of the event is more than $265,000 in donations.

Look for a new post tomorrow when I put these new spices to use.

Music to BBQ By

I've been writing, talking about, and sharing bbq ideas on the internet for more than 10 years. Most folks that have been reading this blog or my original bbq website that was merged into this current format a few years ago have probably picked up on my personal musical tastes over the years. And to honor some of my favorite styles of music and the artists that perform them, I am introducing a new feature this week - Music to BBQ By.

So here's the first installment...

There have been numerous versions of this song recorded and performed through the years (you can see many of them on YouTube), but I have never being one to conform with what others may regard as "popular" or "normal". I like to explore the "not so obvious" and that's why I picked this version to share with you this week.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The BBQ Guy Tries ICS Chili Cooking

As the weather here in Michigan makes the gentle turn toward fall with shorter days and longer nights, my thoughts turn toward football, and naturally, toward foods that accompany the changes.

Plymouth, Michigan, near our home in Belleville, hosts the Great Lakes Chili Cookoff. The event is scheduled for October 14th this year. I've toyed with the idea of competing in the event, but knowing very little about competition chili cooking other than visiting a few events in Florida and here in Michigan through the years, I've never progressed much past the "thinking about it" stage.

3 lbs of lean beef

Today I decided to give chili-cookoff-style chili cooking another try. For any seasoned chili competitors who might come across this bbq blog post about competition chili cooking, I want to apologize just in case I've violated any cardinal rules of ICS chili.

I've cooked Jim Weller's Macktown Chili recipe as pubished on the International Chili Society (ICS) website a couple of times. Admitting that I know little about cooking chili sans beans and hamburger, Mr. Weller's world championship winning recipe from the year 2000 looked like a good starting point to develop my own novice version of ICS chili.

I did not cook the recipe exactly because I did not have the exact ingredients on hand, but being a bbq cook who likes to tinker with different ingredients and amounts, I cooked the version below this afternoon.

Brian's Chili Recipe

3 lbs of stew meat from the local big box store
14 oz of beef broth (Watkins mix)
14 oz of chicken broth (Watkins mix)
8 oz can of Hunt's tomato sauce
1 C of water
1/2 tsp of hot sauce (Louisiana Hot Sauce brand)

8 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp chipotle chili powder
3 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp garlic granules
1 Tbsp onion granules
1 Tbsp arrow root

I combined the liquids into a sauce pan and heated it for 15 minutes. I cut the beef into small 3/8 inch sized cubes and browned it in a skillet. I combined the liquids and beef into a pot and added 1/2 the spice mixture. I simmered the meat and liquids for 90 minutes, added the remaining spice mix and cooked another 30 minutes on medium-low heat (a slow boil).

I cut the beef into bite sized pieces. I was aiming for 3/8" or "pecan sized".

Beef after browing and draining

Hot sauce
In case you're like me and don't know what arrow root is I'll try to explain. It is used to thicken things similar to flour. Unlike flour, a little arrowroot goes a long way.

I have no way of knowing for sure what I need to add to this recipe in order to meet expectations at a chili cook off, but here are a few things I'm going to try based on samples I've purchased at a few events.

  • Add 1/4 cup of chopped onions.
  • Add 1/4 cup of chopped green peppers
  • Add another 8 oz can of Hunt's tomato sauce
  • Instead of 1 C water, use 1 C of beef broth/chicken broth mixture
  • Use Tabasco sauce instead of Louisiana brand.

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicken Thighs in a Skillet with Lawry's Seasoning

Taking a certain risk that some of my readers may disagree....Sometimes you just do not have time to fire up the grill or smoker and prepare a proper bbq meal.

We were watching football recently and I had a craving for grilled chicken thighs, but I didn't want to step away from the game long enough to prepare them bbq-style. I headed to the kitchen pantry and looked for some sort of seasoning to use and found some Lawry's Perfect Blend Seasoning and Rub Chicken & Poultry staring back at me.

I seasoned six boneless and skinless chicken thighs with the Lawry's seasoning and let them marinade in the refrigerator for 3 hours. If you like your chicken thighs a little more on the salty side, you can marinade longer. If you like less salt, you might want to marinade for less time, or add less spice rub from the get go.

I added some olive oil to a large skillet and then cooked the thighs on medium-high heat for about 15 - 20 minutes turning occasionally. I covered the skillet with a lid. When I cook chicken like this, it seems to help speed up the cooking process. I cooked them to 175 degrees internal temperature.

It's not real bbq, but it's a quick alternative that doesn't taste half bad.