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Grilled Chicken Thighs, Little Old Ladies, and The Theory of Mass Convergence

*Rummaging about in the digital vault lately, we happened upon an article of old that never made the light of day. Not sure why. We’ll file it under the “Lost Patron Essays“, those wayward tomes which never took root in the cyber soils, left for dead and forgotten by the publishers that be. So it is our pleasure to kick the dust off this old one, now, which you might hazard, has been aging nicely in the digital wine cellar of PotP. Enjoy at your leisure. Or cast aside for further aging. We understand.

So one day you’re driving down a country road, kicking up gravel dust behind you, blue skies over head, and panoramic fields of long country road1green grass swaying in the breeze. Your shadow looks good as it flies along beside you in the ditch, fluttering over the picket fences and such. Cold beverage in the cup holder, windows down, your favorite tunes on the radio. Life is good. And for a solid hour straight you have had the road to yourself now, nay the whole wide world to yourself. Up ahead you finally see a tractor idling slowly down the road.

So you slow down some, then just as you begin to make your move around him, you note an old pickup truck parked alongside the road, precisely where you and the tractor will meet. How does this happen! Not only that, now is also the time when you meet your first oncoming automobile in the last hour. And all of you, every single one of you, somehow through the mysterious forces of the working universe, your paths all manage to come together at this one geographic spot on the globe, and do so at this exact moment in time. If the timing were just a few seconds off, if you would have finished that whole cup of coffee, you’d all miss each other. Instead, you all converge in space and time.

Welcome to the Theory of Mass Convergence, and I don’t get it.

IMG_0442I was thinking about this phenomenon whilst lighting up the grill the other day. I was in my patio chair, doing my best not to do anything, save to sip a lovely beverage, and admire my Cottonwood tree, and how pretty it looked against a pale blue sky. A lovely evening to be sure. The smoke off the charcoal chimney swirled  about, and the tweety birds sang sweetly in the waning light. Then I noticed the moon was out, tho not quite full, but hanging just over the budding crown of my tree. How nice I thunk. Then with a squint of the eye, I noticed something else, a jet plane, or the contrail of anyways, and who knows how far away it was, but it was heading straight for the moon. And for a moment in the vast time continuum: the plane, the moon, the Cottonwood tree and my patio chair all lined up as if it were their high calling all along. That is a weak example of the convergence theory, but none the less it is there.

The Theory of Mass Convergence, just to be clear is my own theory. And I admit to still be tweaking the math on this one. It’s just that the observations of this matter are so plentiful that I cannot disregard it’s inherent validity. I see it all the time. Anyhow.

I scratched my head at these simple wonders and rather than continued efforts in vain at divining the intricacies of universe, I did something rather IMG_6105more productive, and plopped a few chicken thighs on the barbie! Now this I understand. Man put meat to flame. Flame cook meat. Meat make man happy! Also on the pit, we did up a batch of tinfoil potatoes. Those were easy too, and maybe our very favorite side to make on pit. Just dice the spuds up into uniform chunks, season with what ever strikes your fancy, add a few pats of butter and wrap it all up in a sheet of tin foil. Place over direct heat for 25 minutes or so, flipping once at your pit master instinct. If you wanna get fancy with your tin foil potatoes, try adding any matter of vegetables that move you at the moment, from: onions, to corn, to peas, to carrots, shucks, it’s all tasty done up on the grill this way.

Now back to those thighs. The thighs were seasoned with some Bone Suckin’ Seasoning, which has been our go to bottle as of late. Fairly good stuff of which I humbly admit being  wooed by its odd, but catchy nomenclature. They were thus liberally seasoned and seared a bit over direct heat. Such was the skin crisped up a might there before escorting back to the cool side of the grill, opposite the hot coals. And there they would stay the rest of the cook, slowly pampered in mesquite smoke.

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With the lid in place and damper tweaked, the draft thus engaged, sending heady plumes of mesquite curling forth. I settled back into the patio man chair, positioned left leg over right, cold beverage in hand, and further mused over the intricacies of the universe at hand. Still thinking about that convergence thing. In point of fact, the very thighs which roast over these coals now, were wrought from mysteries of convergence.

We’ve all been there. Walking slowly down the grocery aisles, pushing that slightly squeaky cart to and fro, the one that always wants turn to the left, and will at the most inappropriate times. Well anyways, I was making my way there, rounding the corner to the meat section. I see a little old lady coming my way, her head just peaking up over her enormous purse residing in the infant seat of the grocery cart. She plods along, tipping her nose up for to gander through her bifocals at various things attractive to little old ladies. She has a slow, but steady strafe going on, very efficient I must say, as she sweeps along the meat aisle. Now like any red blooded man with a pulse, I just want to get to the poultry section, of course, grab my thighs, and make haste for home. The sooner done with shopping, the better. But as I approach the target area, and as if right on queue, our little old lady stalls out right smack in front of the chicken thighs, whereupon she gazes over them for some time, whilst rifling through a hand full of coupons. I yield for little old ladies. And chicken thighs too, I guess.

The theory of convergence strikes again. Some times I wonder if the Good Lord brings people together like that on purpose, cause it sure happens more than I can tell you. Here is yet another classic.

Also in the grocer, and don’t deny you this hasn’t happened to you, but you find yourself alone, say in the frozen foods aisle, and for a while now you have been battling a growing gas pain deep within your wretched being. You cast a glance hither and yon, as well you should, and the coast is irrefutably clear. Then, as if prompted by your carnal instinct, you bequeath an air biscuit of suitable proportion to your misery. Relief floods your body. A smile curls across your face. And then it happens. It always happens. The most beautiful specimen of a super model struts around the corner, long locks of blonde hair flowing in the florescent light, heels clacking over the hard white floor, and they make way straight for you. Classic convergence. And there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it. Anyways.

After a suitable fashion and the juices ran clear on the chicken, we varnished it over with some of that Orange Ginger Sauce we’ve been playing with as of late. Man that stuff is good. It has sugar in it tho, so be mindful not to burn your spoils too close to the fire. Blessed be the adept tong that which orchestrates your smokey symphony to a better end game. We plated up the mesquite scented thighs along with those tin foil potatoes, and sidled in through the patio door. One more convergence yet to go today. Namely this here succulent protein with my hungry belly down below. May it make the acquaintanceship post haste. Amen.

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Mesquite Tinted Grilled Chicken Thighs with a Ginger Orange sauce, sided with tin foil potatoes. Prepared with love, and patron to the pit.

The Joy of BBQ: A Hint of Spring

I love to BBQ, this I know.

And it’s not so much because I love to eat, tho that is a part of it no doubt. But more IMG_0328rather, it’s the act of BBQ that which inspires me. The process. That and also because I get to be outside, where the fresh air is tinted with wood smoke, and my patio chair resides quietly at the terminus of a warm sunbeam. Well sometimes. When you do your BBQing in Minnesota, sometimes that warm sunbeam part takes a six month hiatus, contrary to your ideals. But not this Sunday last, the day I cooked out-of-doors, under pastel blue skies, amid a hint of spring.

I could not help but to rejoice when I saw a patch of grass in my yard, gently unveiled there in a hollow of spruce, the sunlight dappling through the green needles, the snow tapering out of the shade. It isn’t much I know, but to a snowbound pit jockey, it is a sight as sweet and as glorious as the grandest mountain. As welcoming as the soft clasp of a baby’s hand. That there dollop of sunlight on the brown grass is much more than a soggy place in the yard. Nay, it is hope.

Hope for a promise of warmer days, and long BBQ campaigns in a slow-ebbing light. Of chlorophyll emboldened trees, and their delicious, green leaves flapping in the summer breeze.  Of bountiful tweety birds, resplendent in their many colors, and all singing their praises from atop the highest perch, patron to a deep, blue sky. Of naps in the hammock, undisturbed, nor hijacked by cold. Of a nicely beaded glass of something cold to drink, whilst the radiant sun rubs the back of your neck, and the aroma of perfectly executed brisket lingers in the air. Yup, that’s what that patch of grass yonder means. A dash of hope, and a hint of spring.

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Man I love to BBQ. The day must have got into the 40’s even, sunshine eternal, and I reveled accordingly in it. Two plump chicken breasts seasoned heavily in Miners Mix Poultry Perfection. You can go heavy with these spices because they’re low in sodium by design. That’s the way the Spice Wizards there at Miners Mix developed their rubs- low in salt. That way you can enjoy what the rub really tastes like. If you want to add salt you always can, but trust us, you don’t need to with a good rub, and some quality protein at your side. We put these breasts indirect of course, if but only to take our time with the cook. To linger and pause, where the savory aromas dawdle in the cool air.

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Somewhere along the way, the day got even better still, when I kindled a small fire in the chiminea. Old scraps from the wood shop served to up my ambiance meter one more notch, as I leaned back in the chair, gazing into the humble flames. The day was as comfortable as I’ve seen it at the pit in many months, and were talking no jacket here, which is saying something for Minnesota in the end of January. I didn’t complain either. One has to take these things in stride, you see, lest he becomes complacent to the better things in life. And so I tarried there, in no particular hurry to go anywhere or do anything. Just the aroma of BBQ in the air, and this quaint, crackling fire was all that I needed. And for a moment at least, the world was simple again, and kind, and warm. And a contentedness filled through-out my soul. That’s kind of why we do it. That’s the joy of BBQ. Amen.

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Slow roasted, indirect BBQ chicken breasts with a touch of apple wood smoke, sided with a smattering of vegetable matter for to please the lady folk.

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Post Script.. Here is my sunshiny soggy place of hope today. Ain’t that how it goes. 

 

Sitting In The Sun and BBQ Wings

The sun is 93 million miles away. That’s what they say anyways. And only a small fractionFullSizeRender (4) of the light given off from it ever even reaches the earth. And a smaller piece of it yet, ever makes it to places like, Minnesota, where I am from. Even so, and despite it’s seemingly scant privilege, the light of a new day is cast no how, every day, often times sparkling over crusty fields of snow. It melts through piney tree tops, alive with darting Black Capped Chickadees. It glares over the frozen pond, all tracked-up now with little webbed footprints from the resident ducks. And the good light also spans the roof tops of the city, with their numerous chimney stacks, back-lit, and puffing into the crisp morning air. For not getting much sun light, what we do get we sure seem to notice. For example, some of that sunlight even slipped in through my bathroom window the other morning, and illuminated my toilet.

Ninety and three million miles away and it still lights up my can like it was all in the world it had to do. How about that. It’s the little things, people. And it is pleasurable event indeed, I cannot deny, to thus engage in your morning constitutional whilst positioned at the tail of a sunbeam. Sort of sets a man off right in his day, so-to-speak. I felt like the solar roulette wheel landed on my number for once, and graced me there on the bowl. Hey, it has been a long, cold, and exceedingly dark winter, so let a fellow bask when he can!

SAMSUNG CSCAnyways, onto lunch. It was simple affair of wings and spice. Nothing earth-tilting to report, but delicious even so. Now you all know how to grill a chicken wing, there’s nothing to it really. But here is how we did it, just in case.

Of the first order was to spice the wings up with one of our new favorite rubs from the A2015-Poultrykindly folks at Miners Mix. They call it Poultry Perfection, which does indeed live up to it’s billing. And we used it liberally. We put all the wings into a plastic bag, dumped in a good pile of this spice rub, and did the old “shake & bake” maneuver. Well in this case, “shake & grill“, which, off-hand, is about 93 million times more fun.

The generously coated wings were then placed opposite a hot bed of coals – indirect as we like to say in the smokey arts.  Why? One reason comes to mind foremost. So they don’t morph into blackened charcoal-like substrates better utilized below your grate than above. In other words, so they don’t burn. Indirect heat is markedly gentler, and gets the job done just the same, and often times with a juicer, more evenly cooked end game. But best of all, by cooking indirect, you nary need worry then about whether or not your dear plunder will be sacrificed to the grilling gods in a column of black smoke. It’ll be just fine. Which frees up the pit jockey for equally as important pursuits, such as filling up his favorite mug with something lovely to slurp. Or watching the puffy clouds idle slowly overhead whilst loitering amid the earthy aroma of tomato plants. And if the day will have it, just maybe, to find someplace quiet to sit in the sun. Which when you think about it, at 93 million miles away, is about as indirect as it comes. Especially so on the privy! Amen.

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Indirect, lightly smoked chicken wings, seasoned in Poultry Perfection, touched up with Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet n Spicy. Yum!

 

In Contrast: Arctic Grilled Cheeseburgers

A silvery moon hung over the spruce tops as I bandied a batch of coals to the edge of the coals2old kettle grill, banking them up there in a fiery pile. Tho the air temperature dipped below zero, with a sky as clear as a glass of gin, the warmth from the fire kept things sporting out on the patio tonight. Stars twinkling above like diamonds dashed over a blackened canvas, the ice moaning on the pond yonder, and the collar turned up on my old, woolen smoking jacket, whilst hands warmed over a bed of orange-glowing coals. What a beautiful time to make time, to tarry by pit-side on a frigid winter’s eve. This is the perfect marriage of fire and ice. Just cold enough to let you know you’re still alive, but with a fire just delightful enough that you can’t help but to sidle up a little closer to it, thankful as all can be, for to fancy yourself there, a Comrade of the Coals.

People think there is hardship in winter grilling. And I presume they speak of the cold. What they often forget it seems, is that you have at your disposal, via the inherent laws of grilling, a quaint little fire of which you must foster and tend. Fire is hot. And I find this a delightful contrast to the cold. For think back to those sultry days of summer, where the sweat beads down your spine,  and it is one hundred and eleven degrees in your back yard, and you smell about as rank as the neighbor’s dog, and for some reason we think it’s prudent then to light a fire and make some hot dogs. A hot fire on a hot day is nice and all, but I’m sorry, there is no comparing the pleasures to the same fire on a cold day. It’s all about contrast.

I reckon that’s why we grill in winter, or at least part of it anyways. Everything is just keener in the cold. Good things become great. It’s like grilling in HD. Your senses seem to absorb the smokey moments as if conveyed over a high speed connection. It’s hard to articulate these matters, but easy to appreciate. Anyways, we pattied up four quarter-pound burgers, seasoned lightly with Lipton Onion Soup mix, and placed them indirect of our beautiful bed of coals. It’s burgers tonight. Nothing fancy. You will find in winter grilling that you don’t often need to be fancy to be satisfied. Just putting meat to flame is sufficient enough to get your fix! And thus we did, indirect tonight, the entire way, with a little hickory wood tossed on the coals for added flavor.

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Now you all know how to grill a hamburger. If you can’t you probably ought to reconsider this BBQ past time of yours. Nay, this isn’t about hamburgers, but rather the joy of winter grilling. Yes, there is joy to be had there. There is. And as you southern folk slather on your sun tan lotion, I’ll tell you more. Properly dressed, you see, and with a reasonable attitude, and a good fire stoked in the steely bosom of your pit, you can prosper here. The mechanics are the same. Put meat to flame. Cook meat. Eat meat. Burp. Any dummy can do it.

Whilst you tend your proteins over the flame, take a moment and look around. Note how clear the night sky is, free of thermal activity. The clarity meshes seamlessly into the stars, which twinkle and dance there like they were doing so just for you. And the moon, with it’s gentle light dropping through the pit-side spruce trees, their shadows dappling over crusted snow, awash in a subtle blue hue. And lo, behold the hush of a winter night, how all the snow seems to suck up decibels with aplomb, especially freshly fallen, and deep unto thy knees. The fire crackles, and the burgers sizzle, and you are cozy by and far, and highly content, patron to this good fire at your hip. Amen.

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Hickory tinted cheddar cheese burgers on a toasted pretzel bun. Yum! Hey, you gotta eat in winter too, so might as well eat good.

Do-It-Yourself Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches

The standard, blue-tinted hickory smoke ascends into the first light of a new day, a FullSizeRender (2)new year at the pit. We fired up the coals rather early today, tho the sun was up already. It’s just that we had to get an early start of it if we wanted pulled pork for supper. The big meats roll like that, as you know. And we had a genuine hankering, as they call it, for some authentic, slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. And save for a sortie to the nearest BBQ shack, there is only one way to get real pulled pork – you wait for it.

Waiting comes with the package of Do-It-Yourself BBQ. That’s just how it works. If you’re used to having your spoils swiftly in life, and don’t lend well to, say, loitering in your man chair with a lovely beverage for the better part of 5 hours for a taste of rib meat, then BBQ may not be the thing for you. BBQ only comes to those who wait, you see. So once you figure out how to do that, then you’re well on your way, mentally at least, to some succulent, home-spun BBQ.

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On the pit we plunked a big, old, pork butt, with a few of it’s kindred spore tucked around it’s flanks for good company. The smaller the butt, the quicker they cook it’s true, but that’s not the point here. Pork butts as a crude rule run at about an hour and half per pound, and you want to get them up to anywhere between 195 to 205 internal. Or until they pull apart in a savory way that which matches your expectations. Pork butts are perhaps the most forgiving of the big meats in the BBQ arena, and if you’re just getting into the art of smoking meat, pulled pork is a fool-proof dish to start with. Just set your pit to 225 -250 degrees, toss a few chunks of your favorite smoke wood on to the coals, and let the meat take it’s course from there. If you have a good pit with even heating, you don’t need to flip the meat over. You don’t even need to wrap it in foil. Harbor no offence to this, but the less you touch it, the better.

 

I suppose we ought to elaborate how we seasoned the pork butt. Well, if A2015-Maynardsyou fancy a good bark on your BBQ, starting your seasoning process with a good mustard slather certainly can’t hurt. Paint the meat over with some mustard, and do so every where. No, you will not taste the mustard in the final product, but what it does do is serve as an adhesive agent. Such provides something nice for your rub to stick to. The more rub that sticks, combined with lots of time and lots of smoke, equals amazing bark on your BBQ. So we slathered the butt up in some cheap mustard, and then liberally dashed if over with Miners Mix Manards Memphis Rub. You can use of course what ever rub you like, we just happen to like this stuff lately.

Once your butt is slathered and seasoned, and placed henceforth on the pit at 225 – 250 degrees, and some smoke wood added to the coals, the hardest part of your day is done. All you have to do from here is wait for it. And this is where most pit jockeys are at their very best. Now is the hallowed time where you may go to the ice box and draw yourself a manly beverage. Now is the time where taking up roost in your favorite man chair, with an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is also a good call. If the wife sees such acts of laziness but deplorable in her eyes, then, if you must, you can always flip out a proper chair by the pit itself, and declare you are working on supper there. Silently plying your innate, God-given craft for smoke and meat for the betterment of your family. They usually leave you alone at that point, and with any luck, you may be able to nod off a bit there, where the wood smoke tapers into a blue sky. Ah the rigors of BBQ!

Whence your plunder is pull-able, do so, and then stir in some of your favorite sauce. Game over. Inhale henceforth at your soonest convenience.

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Do-It-Yourself Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches. You will not find more authentic BBQ than this. It’s the real thing, people. And any body can do it! Oh yeah, it tastes amazing too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Retrospection: The BBQ Life

It’s that time of the year again. Time for noise makers, popping corks, and quiet moments of retrospection by the fireside. Just fireplaceshoveled out the BBQ area today, and it’s looking good. It only snowed a few inches. Tidy and well-kept, it is ready for action. Ready for some New Years Day pork ribs, and Boston butts.  Anyhow, as I take a sip of tea, I find myself rummaging backwards in time through the annals of my memory, in particular, the many BBQ moments and cook outs often tallied on these cyber pages. It was another very good year at the pit. I think we averaged about once a week, year round. No matter what the outside temperature. No matter the weather. We stood stalwart at our pits, patron to the gently curling plumes of hickory smoke. In retrospection, I should like to favor you with some of our favorites culinary forays from the past year in the BBQ arts. Or at least the ones that stand out to us as remarkable, and worth mentioning again. The first, I guess,  being the beaver.

Yes, aquatic rodent. You read that right. We ate one, oh, a little less than a year ago. That was a different sort of endeavor, I don’t mind telling you, but hey, we’re always up for a new challenge. We barbecued that thing just as kindly as we knew how. Dusted in rub, swaddled in foil, we ushered the odd but savory meat to what we declared a decidedly succulent end game. Turned out better than we hoped, and we didn’t hope for much. It looked akin to pulled beef, and didn’t taste far off from it either. Oddest BBQ Award goes to the beaver!

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On occasion here at the pit, we fancy to do a review or two. But we usually only do such with stuff we really like. Because we could say yes, I suppose,  to every buckaroo that hits up our inbox,  but if their product stinks, well we’ve just wasted your time. So we try and only review the best of the best. Looking back, I think our most favorite piece of outdoor cooking equipment we reviewed this year has got to be, hands down, the Mojoe Griddle. 35 pounds of restaurant grade hot-rolled steel, nearly stick free, and oh what a pleasure to cook on, patron to the pit. When you’re not cooking with it, and if by chance you should find yourself in the heady crossfire of a gunfight, you can tip this griddle on edge and hunker behind it for blast protection. When the battle is finished, you can flip it back up and make pancakes for every one. We loved this griddle. And our Editor’s Choice Award for the year, goes to the Mojoe Griddle. Truly, the best of the best.

https://patronsofthepit.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/review-breakfast-with-the-mojoe-griddle/

A great many spice rubs also come our way in a given year. Some that we buy, some that we make from scratch, and some that are sent to us by people who create them. Our surprise favorite spice rubs this year all came from our readership, and one reader in particular nailed it the best. Miner’s Mix. They challenged us to try a “real rub”, and sent us some samples. And we were blown away. Clean ingredients, great flavor, and even better people. We’re still trying out their many flavors, but if you’re looking for that next great rub to add to your larder, it don’t get much better than these cats. Our Favorite Spice Rub Review of 2015 goes to the good folks at Miners Mix.

https://patronsofthepit.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/what-is-good-maynards-memphis-bbq-ribs-and-pulled-pork/

We also had occasion to test out some mighty nice cast iron. Cast iron and cooking, especially grilling, is a marriage conceived straight from heaven.  And one of the best upgrades you can make to your standard Weber kettle grill, is to grace it with a cast iron grate. One to last the eons, and give you those all impressive char marks. But it gets better. If you’re lucky enough to have a grate from the folks at Craycort, you also get to play with cool inserts. Our Favorite Cast Iron Accessory we tried this year, no doubt, was the cast iron pan insert for the Craycort grill. That thing was all too pleasant, and more than enough fun for a pit jockey proper. It’s pie shaped robustness slips nicely into place, merging with the main grate to create a symphony of cooking options for your grill. What a great idea, and a tip of our BBQ hat to the good people at Craycort for offering such coolness.

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Somewhere along the way it rained. Lots of places across this beautiful globe get their wet seasons I’m sure, and Minnesota was no exception this year. We had a soggy stretch where it must have rained for 14 days straight. Such enduring weather would send most folk indoors to stare glumly out the window, but not a patron of the pit. Nay, we simply erected an old, blue tarp and carried on as usual. Thinking back over a year of BBQ, of all the umpteen cook outs, one beef rib smoke in the rain comes to mind as maybe our most favorite smoking sortie of 2015. There was just something keenly pleasant about roosting under a well-strung tarpaulin in a rain storm. Something quite therapeutic about it that which melted straight into the soul. The infinite drumming of the rain drops over head, whilst the hickory smoke silently pillared from the damper on the old weber smokey mountain. Not exactly sure what it was, but it was perfect even so. Hard to articulate, but easy to appreciate. Our Favorite Smoke of 2015 goes to the Rainy Day Beef Ribs. And oh yes, they hit the gastronomic bulls-eye!

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Every once in a while, we like to venture away from base camp, and bring you something a little different. To go somewhere, and do something BBQ related. Well, it didn’t take much retrospection to find the most different thing we did this year. Dating way back to last winter, in point of fact, we loaded up our cameras, downy jackets, and headed north to the Fire on Ice BBQ Competition. The only BBQ competition in the world that we know of to be orchestrated over 4 feet of ice. It was a giddy experience shuffling past all the many custom pits lined up so neatly on the ice, forming the hallowed “BBQ Alley”. If you ever get the hankering to smoke a beef brisket whilst pulling a walleye up through a hole in the ice, this is the place. The Coolest BBQ Road Trip goes to the Fire on Ice BBQ Competition.

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As I toss another log on the fire and warm up my tea a bit, I find there has been a vast many pleasantries, BBQ-wise, to come our way this year. Plenty to be thankful for. We’ve been undeniably blessed. Many good memories gently forged in the company of orange glowing coals and soft tendrils of wood smoke. The best memories tho, are not of ribs, or steak, or perfectly executed pork shoulder. Nor do they hail from all the cool toys a patron of the pit gets to play with.  Nay, the best memories are of the people. Of you guys.  Those lovely souls who often sidle by, if for nothing else, than just to say hi. You are our prized brisket. The true gems of the pit. So, a kindly and sincere thanks to the readership, and the regulars who frequent these online accounts. Who give lift to our airfoil in the cold vacuum of cyber space. We thank you for putting up with us, and tuning in so faithfully. We love to BBQ, and we love to tell you about it. To butcher the late, Robert Traver’s fly fishing tome, with BBQ in place of fishing – it isn’t that we regard BBQ as being so important, but it’s just that so many other things in life are just as unimportant, and not nearly so much fun. Amen.

Happy New Year!!

Yours Truly,

PotP

 

 

 

Camp Fire Pizza: The Dark Side of the Moon

The sun barely hemorrhaged in a southwestern sky, its underbelly seemingly scratched by the dominant, leafless,  silhouetted oaken forests below, bleeding it’s beautiful salmon hues FullSizeRender (1)and soft pastels over the frozen wetlands from whence we camped. Off the shore, a large pond nestled like a flattened jewel in the forest primeval, frozen in time, and reflecting the last colorful rays of the day. My trail cronie and I watched, as the last sunbeams kissed the cold earth, and all the land tapered into darkness. We felt like a couple of Apollo astronauts, adrift, our orbit silently slipping around to the dark side of the moon.

You see, it’s the winter solstice here in Minnesota. And thus it gets dark, swiftly,  and kind of stays that way for an exquisite amount of time. The sun was to set at 4:34 in the afternoon, they said,  and not to rise again until 7:48 the next morning. I quickly did the math.  It came to around 15 hours of darkness. Now I have no idea what it’s like, or how long it takes to orbit around the far side of the moon. Nor how those brave astronauts must feel abandoning all light and heat, sailing on faith through the darkness, but this may be as close as I ever get. Cold, dark and alone. Well not alone, I have a fellow patron with me today. We decided at the last-minute to celebrate the shortest day of the year with a little camping trip afield. A sortie to one of our favorite little woodland retreats, to get away from the urban throng a bit, and if the day would have it, to bake a pizza.

Turns out we did. The crust was just one of those easy ones. You know, the kind where you get to pop open one of them pressurized cans. When its 20 degrees outside, we figure, who wants to mess around. Anyways, oil the bottom of the pan, and spread the dough out accordingly. Season with olive oil, oregano and garlic. Earlier, whilst still the recipients of a sunlit encampment, we baked the crust first. Call this instincts, but not all cooking over a camp fire is a sure thing. With uneven heating, and scant equipment at your disposal, as is commonplace in a campsite, we figured we best see to it the crust got the best shot it could towards a delicious end game. So we cooked it separately, for to keep an eye on it and make sure it complied to our highest bidding. First, we placed it on the fire grate, over direct heat and cooked the bottom. Then tipped it on edge, indirect of the fire, to finish it off by reflection. Now the crust is done all the way through. Because we have no oven, and are just winging this cave man style, this seemed good strategy. Next we assembled the yum!

I believe we had about two layers of pepperonis on that thing. A can of olives. A can of mushrooms. A pile of red and green peppers. And enough cheese to block up an elephant. Man! Whence the creation was built, it was then laid indirect of a good blaze, and tipped towards the fire as much as possible without dumping everything into the ash. Oh it’s a dicey game we play when we dare to dance the flames of camp fire cooking. A better technique would have been to put a lid over the pan of pizza, and scatter some coals atop of it. To cook it like that intensely from above. But we didn’t have a lid. We didn’t have much of anything really. We were camping, you see, and didn’t wanted to be bothered by the clutter. Which is another way of saying, I wish we had a lid! But we didn’t. Turns out if your patient type, you don’t need a lid after all, to bake your camp fire pizza. You just need time and heat. And we had both.

So we let the pizza ride indirect for 20 minutes or so, and rotated it 180 degrees for even cooking. It was the slowest pizza we have ever baked, but it was getting there alright. By about 40 minutes into it, you could just start to identify the aromas of fresh-baked pepperoni pizza wafting through camp. Say what you will, but out yonder in the hither regions where no man goes, with a frozen ground below your freezing toes, and the stars shimmering above, and no running water nor electrical outlet for your vain amusement, and an eternal December night stretched out in front of you – well, to smell hot pizza in your vicinity, let’s just say there is no reward so sweet!

Low and slow pizza is what this turned out to be. Such are the antics of the campfire chef. But good is good, and pizza is always good! And under the soft LED glow of a head lamp, we sliced into it, making first tracks on the dark side of the moon. Amen.

 

 

How BBQ Saved Christmas

You were born to loiter. And especially so on Christmas christmas-ballmorn. I remember as a pup, waking up at the break of day a most energetic individual, and dashing down the hall in my footie pajamas, out to the fake tree all gussied up in little red balls and dazzling lights, and quietly arrange my plunder there, so I could keep a child’s eye on them.  And I would pace the living room floor hither and yon, waiting for the rest of my family to get their Christmas butts in gear. Boy they liked to sleep late. Didn’t they know I had presents to open up! Toys to play with! Worlds to conquer! In short, I always had to wait on Christmas morning. I had to loiter.

Patience comes to those who wait…” -Elder Brother

Now loitering, as you know, is a key component to successful BBQ. And who knew my training for prolonged barbecue endeavors would start so young. Like a good brisket deckle smoking indirect over a nice bed of coals, nary can you rush things any more in the BBQ Arts, than you would with the festivities of Christmas. Like the old BBQ adage laments, “It’s done when it’s done“. Well, I’m here to say, likewise with the pleasantries of Christmas, and possibly the same with the cultivation of patience.

Patience is a fickle friend. Thing is, with advancing years, a soul tends to notice such things like Christmas are getting done with quicker and quicker. Leastwise that’s how it seems over here, and I’m not so sure that that’s fair. What once stretched eternal is now over in the flip of a heart beat. Before you can sing one round of Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer, our Savior’s birthday is done already, and your filling out your tax forms before April 15th rolls around again. What’s a bloke to do…

Well, what you can do, of course,  is loiter! Perhaps over the years, you have gotten a distorted view of loitering. It’s not a bad thing if applied correctly. In point of fact, it’s good. Loitering is just deliberate living in the face of advancing time. Loitering is soaking in the metaphoric hot tub of the present moment. To absorb what is, and nary be bothered by any thing else. Loitering proper is simply to extend the moment for the moment’ s sake. Which is also what we love to do in BBQ. And with any thing that we love, really. To make it last.

And so it may sound far-fetched, I’m sure, but as a student of the BBQ Arts, you cannot help but to notice the same patience required, nay cultivated, to smoke a 14 hour pork butt, is invaluable just the same in properly prolonging the best day of the year. Patience is an interchangeable commodity this way. Consider your family gathered about the tree here in a few days. Indeed it’s all a pup can do to keep from ripping into his gift larder, this we know, but the old, wise grand parents, if you notice, tarry back on the parameter with cup of coffee, letting the day come to them as it will. They’re in no hurry. They have a lot of Christmas’s logged under their muffin tops, you see, and know precisely what they’re doing. They are elite in the mastery of stretching a moment. For they know how fanciful and swift the ever-ebbing passage of time can be, and they for one are in no hurry to speed it up. So they wait. They purposefully loiter in the warm wake of Christmas Day. Like an ode to Carpe Diem in bifocals.

So next time you’re in a hurry to speed Christmas along, take pause and reconsider. Think like a pit jockey instead. Or your grandma. It’ll be done when it’s done.  And usually done quicker than you’d like. Would you rush a good rack of pork ribs? Of course not! For a pit master’s highest quality may be his patience, and it’s this same patience you may in turn wield at your discretion, to parlay the day unto greater and more appropriate effectiveness. To make it last. Indeed, to make it last. And I suppose that we all cultivate our patience in a great many of ways, it’s just that If I have any these days, it likely was forged pit-side, waiting for succulence. And in a round about way, very round, I guess that’s how BBQ saved Christmas. Or something like that. Now I just need some footie pajamas again. Amen.

Merry Christmas

PotP

Taking it Slowly: Hickory Smoked Pulled Venison

By the softened light of a gray, December afternoon, two humble venison shoulders sizzled amid a cloud of hickory smoke in the old Weber Smokey Mountain. I sidled out the patio door to see the smoke in curl, and several black capped chickadees swoop off into the thickets yonder. Smiling, I tilted the lid up on the pit, and took a gander under there. The venison was taking on some color now, and smelling point blank, out-of-this-world. But we were only an hour into it, and had four more hours to go. So I shut the lid, content to wait. Because I knew in the back of my mind, back in those quiet places where men know such things, that these were the days you reach for, by and far, as a BBQ junkie. The sort of day where the wood smoke puffs away in marathon fashion, hour after hour, and you have nothing else in the world to do save for to tarry quietly in it’s gentle presence. That being said, I took a seat in the patio chair, left leg crossed over right, and further mused to myself. Need more time in a day? Then smoke yourself some meat. And do it slowly.  Oh how the hours drag ever onward in a slow parade of salivating moments, with umpteen pleasant memories forged pit-side, under beautiful skies, and tinted in smokey goodness.

Our spice rub today is a keeper, leastwise for wild meats. Copy and paste it in your archives and thank us later! 

Field & Stream’s Ultimate Wild Game Rub

¼ cup kosher salt

¼ cup ground black pepper

¼ cup sweet paprika

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed and minced

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Yeah, we had no juniper berries either. What can you do. Anyways, after three hours on the pit, the meat has received all the smoke it needs. In point of fact, it looked edible enough to eat right there iffin you had a mind to. But we didn’t. We sought the hallowed shores of succulence instead. We wanted this ornery cut of meat dropping off the bone like your mama’s pot roast. To accomplish such high bidding, we wrapped each leg/shoulder gently in foil, along with a half-cup of apple juice for to service as a steaming agent. Put it all back on the pit for two more hours, at 240 degrees, to wallow there in an apple scented steam bath. Oh man! And that was all it took. The bones came out as clean as hammer handles, and the meat pulled like a pork butt.

There is a great privilege in taking the better things in this life, slowly. From a date with your sweetheart, to Christmas morning with family, to simply preparing supper, if that’s what you love to do. If not for anything else, but to just extend the moment for the moment’s sake, and then to revel in it. So do it well, then, and with a heart of thanksgiving, and by all means, take your time with it, and enjoy the journey. For life sweeps by fast enough as it is, seems like. And every day is another reason, it stands to reason, for taking it slowly. Amen.

5-Hour Low and Slow, Hickory Smoked Pulled Venison Shoulder, Patron to the Pit. Yum people!

A Tale of Two Smokes: A Pit Keeper’s Feast/Blackberry Glazed Ham & Pecan Smoked Turkey

It was the best of times…And it was still the best of times…They called me Mr. Two Smokes, cause that’s what I did last weekend. I smoked twice. Once on Thanksgiving day, like any man ought to. And once more the day after, on Black Friday, because, well, why wouldn’t you. And let it be said, because its true, a finer way to pass the holiday respite, than with good, smokey-tinted meat and warm fellowship I do not know. It will gratify the belly and appease the soul. And thus here it is, a tale of two smokes. Of a turkey and a ham, and the seasons first snow fall, patron to the pit.

DAY ONE

Thanksgiving morn found me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before even the rising sun. All the house was silent, as I padded about in my favorite pajamas with the all-important business of turkey on my mind. The turkey, a free-range, never frozen, sixteen pound specimen of a gobbler, resided the night long in my cooler, in a bath of salty and sweet brine for to coax the oft borderline tolerable meat unto better days I suppose. The brine we used was the same formula we’ve been using frequently this fall, and if you want the recipe, you can grab it in this brine post we did a while back. Anyways, I pulled the bird from the brine, pampered it a bit with paper towel and the like, and set in motion a herb/butter paste, that which was rubbed under the skin and over the top of it too, smeared all about with a quasi-reckless abandoned. Cavity piled full of apples and onions and the timeless aromatics better known as rosemary and thyme. Does it get any better folks! And under the dark of night, in an abnormally quiet neighborhood, I lit the coals in the old Weber Smokey Mountain cooker, put the bird on, and with very little fan fare, promptly did what any pit keeper still in his pajamas before sunrise would…I watched a John Wayne movie.

Okay, I admit, “watch” is probably not the operative word to use here,the duke unless, that is,  you wager such still a fashionable verb when your eye lids have sunk like a couple of flat tires, and your head is tilted eighty seven degrees to the starboard, with a rivulet of drool seeping from one’s right lip pit. Classic pit master posture to be sure. But it was one of those delightful naps where part of you was still alert to your surroundings, appreciative of it, whilst the other part of you wallowed at the foot of unconscious rapture. I could still hear The Duke bellowing on the television. Could hear his many fist fights and heady blasts from a shot-gun. And also, off-hand, I could hear myself snoring there, listing comfortably on the couch. Not sure how that happens, but when your smoking a turkey on Thanksgiving Day, you have to put up with such inalienable rigors. I know I did.

The Pandiculation 

Long about when The Duke was engaged in his final bar room brawl, I stirred momentarily under my blanket, stretching there like a fat, spoiled house cat. All was right in the world, or at least my world. I scratched my head, my hair tossed like a bad salad, then unashamedly pandiculated right there on the davenport. Pandiculate. That means to stretch and yawn simultaneously, people.  And every body does it. Men, women, children, elderly folk, donkeys. And especially so pit jockeys early to their game! Anyways, I glanced out the patio door, there to gaze upon the smokey pillars of pecan wood gently curling aloft into a gray, November sky. A sky of which that was all a’flutter with sloppy white snow flakes. It was lovely, and a fine touch towards the ambiance of the day. What a pleasure to awaken from your nap to such a glories anew.

At any rate, we monitored the turkey’s breast temperature until it hit 165 degrees internal, and brought it into the house to rest. And here is how it came out, by and by. The aromas of pecan smoked turkey filled the house at once, and heads turned. I felt like hoisting it high for all the world to see. To lay eyes upon its golden brown carcass and supple leg quarters. It turned out real good. If you’ve never had turkey off the pit for Thanksgiving, you have put off a good thing far too long. Be encouraged, people, and smoke likewise…

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Day Two

The festivities of Thanksgiving lingered into the night, and I slept long the next morning. The season’s first real snow fall had accumulated a few inches in that time, and such seemed poetically right to me. It is good to have snow on Thanksgiving vacation. It just works. And even better still to have ham! You see, this day marked our 3rd Annual Black Friday Ham Smoke. A little tradition we have fashioned out of the swift-ebbing river of time. My but this living. Is there a finer way to bypass the heady throngs of mass consumerism, than with a single wisp of wood smoke off your patent enameled cooker? Nay, this is the course of a wiser man, to hold stalwart at the pit this day, and ply his craft to great effect there, whilst the snowflakes conspire on the lawn and the chickadees flirt amid the patron spruce. Indeed, let the heady throngs of consumerism all jockey for position on the commercial battlefield, we will be just fine here with our elbow room, a good recliner, and a tall glass of something cold to drink. This is our Black Friday Annual Ham smoke, and I nary can wait to get after it once again.

Firstly, after a proper slurp off a manly beverage, we built a good minion bed in the fire bowl of the WSM. It was comprised with plenty of unlit briquettes, lots of lit ones, some hickory wood, and to add a little sport to the day, some unlit chunks of mesquite lump charcoal. It was a nice pile of coal and wood, aptly fit for the day’s initiative, and did us proper for what we wanted to do. Smoke a ham.

Glory be, but what a sight on the old smoker grate, this lovely precooked ham, oh about ten pounds I should wager, and all matter of sexy. We greased it down in a mustard rub first, and then dusted it liberally with Maynard’s Memphis BBQ Rub from our friends over at Miners Mix.  If you haven’t had occasion to try their spice rubs yet,  here is another thing you’ve put off too long. They truly are delicious. Anyways, on with the lid. And on with the smoke. The 2nd smoke in as many days. This is the life!

The Posture of a Pit Keeper

Here then is our privilege as pit keepers; to tarry in our favorite chair, hat tipped up ever so slightly, manly beverage in hand, and simply observe the world gather and spin. This sort of enforced leisure, you might say, to mind the meat, sort of frees up a gent to a great many other important activities in life. Such as: watching clouds form in the sky, admiring tweety birds, catching up on naps, reading more magazines on the toilet, postponing annoying chores, watching football, observing bunny tracks in the snow, and if time allows, to take another nap. All things starkly absent to the consumeristic herds filing through the motorized double doors of Best Buy. Anyways.

Now a ham, or most hams people buy are already cooked, as you know. In point of fact, most are already smoked too. So some of you may be asking a very sincere question here, namely, what in the heck are we doing? Well trust us when we tell you that your average ham can stand to soak up a lot more smokey goodness. It can handle it, and will up the flavor of said ham by about ten fold. Apple wood works great here. Maple is fantastic. Pecan is no slouch either. But we used hickory as mentioned early. Hickory might be the most popular smoke wood in the entire country, probably over used by the BBQ populous, but even so, with good reason. It just works. Works with nearly everything. A little hickory smoked ham coming right up! Well in about three or four hours, anyhow.

Stalking The Black Berry Glaze

Eventually I had to get up. Every pit jockey does eventually. I was kind of in the mood for a glaze this time around, but I wasn’t sure what I had on hand. I thus rummaged through the pantry and fridge, looking for anything to concoct a simple glaze out of. Found some apricot preserves dated back I think, to the last time the Vikings made the playoffs. So its been a while. I cracked the lid, and looked in the jar like any man would. Not sure if that was fuzz I saw down in there, or just peanut butter leftover from some bygone midnight sandwich.  Hmm, onto the next jar. That’s when I came upon a brand new jar of blackberry preserves, and I knew my sweet destiny had just been met.

Into a small sauce pan I compiled:

  • 1/2 cup Blackberry Preserves
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Apple juice
  • 1 Clove of garlic (smashed and minced)

Out at the pit stove, I brought the ingredients to a light boil, stirring gently, and whence the instincts of my inner Julia Child motioned me, I took the pot off the heat, and let it cool back down. Let it thicken up a tad, before I lovingly varnished my dear ham in this sporty nectar! And I cannot express the wondrous aromas floating about the pit right then. Like smokey pork in a candy factory. Man! Glory!

Such is the plight of pit keepers near and far. Just when we think our quarry is done, and the wait is over, we must wait yet again. This time to rest the meat. To let the juices back track unto their most favorable coordinates, and then, and only then, make the beastly pilgrimage into our awaiting gullets. And so concludes today’s culinary essay. And a weekend well spent. And well fed.  And the Tale of Two Smokes, patron to the pit. Amen.

Hickory Smoked Blackberry Glazed Ham sided with home made scallop potatoes and green beans. In a word – YUM!

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