Olan Suddeth

Dad. Computer geek.
Homebrewer. Disney nut.
Would-be crafty guy.

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HomeBrew Dad

a blog about making all sorts of things while raising a large family

How to Make Spicy Beef Jerky at Home

I'm a huge fan of beef jerky. I'm not a huge fan of the expense of beef jerky - a tiny bag of it will easily cost more than ten dollars... and will often be rather bland, even so.

Recently, I got the urge to try making my own jerky. I did a little homework, and discovered that it's actually a pretty simple process - and you can cut the price of the finished product in half (or less), with total control over the taste. I've done it successfully a couple of times now; Donna and the kids all really love it. You don't need a dehydrator or any other fancy gear at home, as you can make tasty jerky in your oven. The process I use is a little more complicated than that, but even so, it's easily doable.

My recipe and process will yield spicy, smoky jerky. Feel free to play with the variables to go with whatever flavor profile you would like to achieve!

Olan's Spicy Jerky Marinade

  • 1 tbsp. coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup water
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke

Don't use liquid smoke if you plan to add natural flavor via real smoke! Also, please keep in mind that these are approximations only - I tend to be a "dash of this... nah, add a little more" kind of guy in the kitchen, with seasoning blends that vary slightly from batch to batch.

Regardless of the finished flavor you seek, you want to start with VERY lean beef. I know that flank steak will work, but I've been using eye of round roast with great success. For ease of cutting, try tossing the meat in the freezer for an hour or two - this will firm it up and make slicing a...

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Tags for this post: Cooking

Delicious Hash Brown Casserole

My wife dearly loves hash brown casserole. I'll eat it, but it's not a favorite of mine, and none of our kids really pine over it, either. Donna is a very giving cook - she seldom makes any dishes that aren't someone else's favorites; as a result, she never gets to eat hash brown casserole unless we go to Cracker Barrel or unless my mother decides to send some to our house.

Last week, Donna was talking about it, and how she had found a simple recipe on Pinterest (a site that I simply cannot seem to get the hang of). I got the recipe from her, then picked up the ingredients in an effort to surprise her with it this past weekend. Well, she saw the ingredients and killed the surprise, but I obviously went ahead with cooking it.


  • 32 ounces shredded hash browns
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 can (10.75 ounces) cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
all ingredients mixed together

Cooking Steps

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Melt butter
  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined
  • Spread evenly in a typical 9x13 baking dish
  • Bake for 45 minutes (until the top is melted and browned)

As you can see, this is about as...

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Tags for this post: Cooking

Smoking my First Ever Brisket!

For years, I have slowly built my skill on the grill. Steaks are actually done according to the desired temperature (most of the time). I can grill chicken without drying it out. Corn, potatoes... no problem. I can even do fish.

But I have never in my life smoked anything.

Oh, I've talked about it. For a couple of years now, Donna and I have mentioned how I ought to do a brisket. But those are not cheap cuts of meat, and I've just never found the right time to take the plunge.

Well, a few weeks back, I noticed that Target (where I shop for groceries) was carrying brisket. I mentioned this to Donna, and we said again that we really should have me give it a shot. Then, Caleb suggested that he ought to come over the watch the NFL playoffs, and that I should do a brisket. The stars were aligning, so I took the plunge.

I obtained a couple of 4.5 pound briskets from Target, got myself a large bag of charcoal and another bag of hickory chunks... and started to do my homework.

charcoal and hickory for smoking

As it turns out, there are a ridiculous number of approaches to smoking meat, and the number of opinions as to what was the "right" way to do almost anything was pretty daunting. One concerning recurring theme was that...

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Tags for this post: Cooking

Gaining Fulfillment from Learning Irish

I was always a fairly academically minded young man; I enjoyed learning, enjoyed reading about new concepts, new ideas. It comes as no surpise, then, that school itself is something that I likewise enjoyed. Once upon a time, I assumed that I would one day hold a Doctorate (or at least a Master's). I figured that I would get my degree, then after working for a while, I would perhaps start working on post graduate stuff.

I'm sure that you are shocked to discover that a guy who has worked two jobs while raising nine kids over the past twenty plus years has not, in fact, found the time (let alone the money) to pursue any further education.

2019 was not a great year for me on a personal level. I don't think it extended to a full midlife crisis, but I did deal with feelings of failure due to not reaching various goals, of feeling listless, of being stuck in neutral. It seems like most of my effort is devoted to surviving as opposed to achieving, and that is not the most fulfilling take on things.

Please don't get the impression that I am ungrateful. I have an amazing, talented, loving wife. I have been blessed with a large family full of remarkable children. My wife and youngest child could have both died in 2019, or Kalani could be like some that were born around the same time - we know several families whose...

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Tags for this post: Hobbies

A Preemie Baby at Christmas Time

Gideon, age two
Gideon, ready to open birthday presents.

This past weekend, my little man, Gideon, turned two years old. Those of you who know me personally may recall what a trying time his birth was; for those who don't (or don't know the details), I'll share it here.

My wife had undergone a very difficult pregnancy with liver issues, a tremendous amount of abdominal pain (she literally could not sleep in the bed for the last several months of the pregnancy), and an absolutely traumatic birth experience. Donna's regular doctor had been hospitalized with his own health issues, and was sidelined for several months. She had been passed from doctor to doctor, as they basically just worked her original doctor's appointments in; as a result, the standard of care that we had been accustomed to was just not there. I suspect that they didn't know how tough she was, how little she complained in a typical pregnancy... they just saw "pregnant lady is uncomfortable" and went on.

One doctor did end up listening. She ran all sorts of tests, and while nothing proved definitively wrong, she just had a bad feeling about all of the issues, and kept Donna overnight for observation on a pretty flimsy justification of "blood pressure monitoring", with the plan to deliver the baby early for the sake of the health of both mother and baby. I had intended to stay the night, but Donna...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

The HomeBrew Dad 2019 Gift Guide for Dads

The HomeBrew Dad Gift Guide for Dads

Folks, it's that time of year again. Black Friday is this week, which means that the Christmas shopping season is about to jump into full swing with Christmas only a month away. In response, I've decided to do a few Christmas gift guides, featuring products that I have personal experience with and can heartily recommend.

This first gift guide is for dear old Dad.

Let's face it - gifts for dads can be pretty tough to come by. If Dad needs something, he probably already has it. You'd probably like to buy him something that he will really enjoy and use - and let's be real, a tie or pack of socks or tee shirts or whatever only check one of those boxes (at best). Lucky for you, I so happen to be a dad myself, and can suggest some items that ought to check both boxes - and most of them are VERY affordable.

Trust me when I tell you this - Dad almost certainly isn't valuing your gift based off of what you paid for it. He's valuing a gift based on the thought you put into it, and how useful the gift actually is.

Without further ado, let's get to the list.


Price: $8
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Tags for this post: Product Reviews

Review: Johnsons Curl Defining Shampoo and Conditioner

I have a true curly girly in my house - Wynter's hair falls down in waterfalls of ringlets. Donna has had to educate me that no, shampoo is not just shampoo; certain hair types require different sorts of hair care products than do others. Who knew that shampoo came in different types besides "normal" and "dandruff control"?

After trying different products, we had settled on the Fairy Tales line of products, as they did pretty well. Wynter has always had issues with flyaways and tangles, but these products had been the best we had tried. Yes, the company was proud of them, price wise, but they were worth it.

A couple of months ago, Johnsons launched a new line of hair care products for kids, including their Curl-Defining Shampoo and Conditioner - both touted to be tear free. Donna wanted me to pick some up to try, so off I went on a hunt.

Johnsons Curl Defining Shampoo Johnsons Curl Defining Conditioner
Shampoo and conditioner. Click the images for Amazon listings.

I discovered that the shampoo wasn't too difficult to source locally, but few stores carried the conditioner - and those that did could not seem to keep it in stock. I finally gave up and ordered it off of Amazon (where is was back ordered for a...

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Tags for this post: Product Reviews

Make Your Own Incredible Vanilla Extract

For some reason, I am feeling particularly festive this year. I'm itching to get our tree up, to listen to Christmas music, to get into the holidays properly. Donna suggested that I brew a Christmas beer this year, and the idea captured my imagination. I have already brewed the base beer (a nice British winter warmer) that I plan to add holiday spices to. If it turns out, I'll print up some cool labels, wax the bottle caps, and give them away to spread some holiday cheer.

Holiday beer bottles, labeled and waxed
Holiday beer bottles, labeled and waxed.

To get my spices just right, I decided to make tinctures of fresh spices in a little vodka; this way, I can add drops to a glass of the base beer until I get the spice profile just right. I will then add the correct ratios to the keg, and (hopefully) have a really nice final product.

Dealing with those fresh spices got me wishing that I had some homemade vanilla extract again, so I decided to whip up a batch. While it sadly won't be ready in time for the holidays this year, it's still a lot of fun to do - and is a stupidly simple process. I thought that I'd share it with you folks here in a post.

First things first - to make good vanilla extract, you need Read More
Tags for this post: Cooking

Beard Lights and Manliness

This morning, I saw a Facebook friend posting about how cool it would be for bearded guys to put lights in their beards. Now, as you may know, I decorate my beard for Christmas every year - as a matter of fact, this is what led to me growing it out longer in the first place, so as to showcase the glitter and/or ornaments. Donna and I have been talking about me getting some lights this year, so this was a timely reminder for me to stop procrastinating.

Olan with beard glitter
A little fun beard glitter!

That said, I saw a guy in the comment feed make a statement that made me laugh - he didn't have a beard, he explained. But if he did, he wouldn't hang lights in it, since they wouldn't go with his dress.

The comment reminded me a lot of a guy on reddit last year that went out of his way to try to convince me why I shouldn't decorate my beard with glitter or whatnot. You see, this gentleman explained to me in all seriousness, that beard decoration was a trend that THE GAYS started, and people might get the wrong idea about me if I did this!

So this morning, I felt compelled to reply to the Facebook guy in much the same way that I did the reddit guy last year. I thought that I'd...

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Tags for this post: Family Life

HomeBrew Dad's Award Winning Chili

This past weekend, I whipped up a batch of my chili, then put it into the crock pot to be ready for us after we did our wet outing to the Halloween event at Tannehill State Park. Now understand, Donna does the lion's share of cooking in our house, but I have a few specialties... and chili is one of them. I can guarantee that I will be asked to bring it to various family functions, I've been asked to bring it to work, I've won a couple of competitions with it. Yes, I'm a little proud of my chili... but I'm happy to share the recipe. Before I get into the recipe, I want to cover a few bases.

Yes, I understand that some people believe with religious fervor that "real" chili contains no beans. That's fine... but mine does; it has three kinds of beans, as a matter of fact. If that bothers you... well, this isn't the recipe for you.

This chili is rather spicy; I feel like if you don't get a bit of a runny nose when you eat it, then it's not hot enough. If you prefer for you chili to be milder, cut down on the peppers and the seasonings.

It should be known that I learned to cook from my mother, who does not believe in measurements unless they are absolutely vital; she is an old school, "pinch of this, dash of that" kind of cook. This was her... Read More
Tags for this post: Cooking
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