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Of Women and Fish: A Patron’s Shore Lunch

The kayak dawdled in the shallows whilst umpteen blue gills and assorted sun-fish loitered just beneath the hull. The sunlight had ebbed behind a bank of thickened clouds, and IMG_2968a bald eagle lit atop a shoreline maple tree, like a huge, feathered monolith fit for the gods. It was a fair day on the water, even tho progress was slow. Fishermen like to bellow that its not the fish count that matters where angling is concerned, but rather the act of fishing being what is important. Yeah. The truth is that’s just what we tell ourselves when we suck monkey butts. We get all poetic about things, often gazing henceforth to the horizon with gray, marbled eyes; turning our chiseled, Norwegian jaw line to the catch the golden sunlight of a quickly fading day. We stroke our grizzled chin, and then after some consideration of the matters at hand,  generally come to the conclusion that we still suck, and casually shrug our shoulders upwards in a disheartening gesture of bitter defeat. Sometimes you just can’t get the fish. They just stare up at you, taunting thee, laughing little bubbles up at you and your meager pittance. You are but the unwanted blight in their aquatic world. No better than the biologic residue floating off their poo which resides at the bottom of the lake. Unless, however, you are lucky enough to have in your possession the humble J-Bug.

That’s what my elder brother coined it anyways, after its inventor who namely is me. The “J-Bug” is your classic fly tier’s brain thrust. A conglomerate affair of elk hair, a hank of neatly wrapped chenille, a size 10 nymph hook, and a highly selective draft of re-purposed ceiling fan parts.  I dunno, but it works. When all else fails, the J-Bug works.  Time was ticking, and the day was morphing towards night, so I tied one on and got to work. The fly rod hooped immediately into action, as if I knew what I was doing, it’s tip pulsing,  the 7-pound leader slicing through the dark water, and within a half-hour I had half a limit already. That was good enough for this bloke. I laid down the fly rod, IMG_6545and unshackled my little thermos, drawing a hot cup of tea whilst adrift by a bed of lily pads. Well that was easy, I thought, quietly sipping my brew and studying the surface of the water. The old J-Bug did it again. For kicks I tied on something else, if for any other reason than to validate the worth of the J-Bug. But I promptly caught two more blue gill instead, and it wasn’t even a challenge. So yet again, I tied on something else, something a wee bit less appetizing- some unraveled, sickly looking clot of thread resembling a disheveled house fly with its tongue hanging out. And I couldn’t keep the dang fish away. Ten minutes later,  however, and this is a fact – nothing… Not even a rise. That’s a day on the water for you. That’s fishing. We cannot understand fish anymore than we can understand women. The latter perhaps life’s finest enigma.

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The next day, back at the Pond-Side Pit, it’s shore lunch time as the aroma of potatoes and onions frying on the old kettle grill dally forth into the still, evening air, courtesy of the cast iron deep dish pan from the good folks at Craycort Cast Iron Grates. This is the good life, people. You spend the whole day out-of-doors, so why would you go inside now, just for supper. Nay, fire up the outdoor kitchen instead, and lavish in the enduring pleasures patron to the pit. Firstly, chop the spuds uniformly, add a little oil, and beIMG_6586 mindful to scoop them around, circulating the tater population for even cooking. For taste, we lightly dashed them with some Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. And after they were almost, but not quite done, we moved them over to the griddle portion of the grate to finish off there, and proceeded to fill the now vacant pan with enough oil for a quaint spot of deep-frying. Pop your cholesterol pills, because man, this is going to be good!

Time to prep the batter. Here’s the recipe for that.

Basic Batter for Fish

  • 3/4 Cup of flour
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 Cup of water

Now make sure you start with good, hot oil before dropping your hard earned plunder in there. You all know how to do this. I like to drip a little batter in the oil and see what it does. You can even stick a match in the oil, and if the match lights, you’re good to go. We lined up the cast iron pan over direct heat, to get that oil good and hot. When everything chimes in accord with your pitmaster instincts, dip your fish in the batter, and let the frying commence!

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Let it be said, because it true, but the sound of your once upon a time elusive quarry frying up in a vat of hot oil, accompanied by occasional nasal drifts of fried potato and onion,  well there is no better illumination upon the skin of your soul that you have done something very good this day. Leastwise for your belly that is. Not to mention that small, often times forsaken tendril of real estate in a man’s mojo, that every once in a while needs to effectively and without error, “live off the land“, if but for any other reason than because he can. It feels good. Tastes good too. Check out these crispy fillets, people!

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Oh yes. Pardon this patron, but I’m sorry, I’m going to take a bite of this right in front of you. You’re just going to have to deal with it.

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Crispy, hot, flaky and succulent. Man! For what swims in yonder waters, for to court my iron pan and kettle grill, I salute thee. Nay, I devour thee. You gotta remember to breathe people. It helps by and by.

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Deep-fried pan fish sided with fried potatoes and onions. Now that’s some kind of good! And your classic shore lunch, once again, patron to the pit.

Peach Baked Beans on the Craycort Cast Iron Pan

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  • 1 Can of your favorite baked beans
  • 1 Can on Peach Pie Filling
  • 8 Strips of Bacon
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup favorite BBQ sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons favorite BBQ rub

As I repair here pit-side, at ease in my patio chair, whilst listening to the song birds evening serenade, I think about this recipe for peach baked beans. Who would have ever thought this unlikely pairing would bandy so well. If you haven’t tried peaches in your baked beans yet, you need to get after it people. Leastwise if you fancy peaches that is. And I suppose beans too.  It’s one of those gastronomic anomalies in the human condition that doesn’t make much sense at first, but after trying it, you wonder why you haven’t been doing this all along. It was invented, as far as we know, by Myron Mixon, as seen on the hit TV series, BBQ Pitmasters. Whether you take to Myron’s personality or not, one cannot deny that the man knows BBQ. He just wins. In point of fact, he’s won more on the competitive circuit more than any person alive. Least wise at the time of this writing he has. He’s good, people. And so are his beans. So to pay homage to these glory beans, tonight we deploy our latest toy from http://www.cast-iron-grate.com. The cast iron pan insert.

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It was pretty much love at first sight when this came in the mail. Many thanks to Rolf, of Craycort Cast Iron Grates, for taking good care of we patrons of the pit. His products are excellent, and stand the test of time. If you have a kettle grill, and don’t have one of these grates yet, you’re missing out people. Your grand kids will inherit this stuff, and pass it on down to their kids. That’s the beauty of cast iron. And this pan is just plain slick too, and the perfect cooking vessel for our peach baked beans. Let’s get to cooking, and we’ll show you how it went and came to be.

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Under the blue skies of a summer’s eve, whilst the cottonwood leaves gently fluttered in the breeze, we started up affairs tonight by doing a few slices of bacon in the Craycort pan. The recipe calls for 8 slices, but lo, we’ve been eating a lot of bacon lately it seems, so I felt it a might prudent to maybe tone it down a touch. You know how it goes. So I think we put in only 4 slices. They sizzled to life on the hot cast iron, which was opposite a hot bed of coals, and their wonderful aroma mingled in the late, evening air. A pleasant way to start the supper-time festivities. And it only gets better.

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Then came the onion and bell pepper, chopped to suit, and tossed headlong into the pan. A little bacon grease left over to lubricate the ensemble, and this medley came to maturity in no time flat. Cook it just long enough to get the raw out, but not so much your onions get translucent. Chop the bacon in to appropriate man-sized bites. Man…Can you smell it yet!

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Lastly, we added in the rest of the ingredients, stirring gently,  and cooked up two picturesque pork chops for good measure, lightly dashed in Lawry’s seasoned salt.  The chops were done over the Craycort griddle insert, yet another wonder of cast iron technology. That’s the great fun of these Craycort grates. You can swap out various inserts to accommodate your culinary inclination of the day. Quick and effective. And nothing cooks as evenly as old fashion cast iron.

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I settled back into my chair, momentarily, just to watch my beans bubble. It’s one of those simple pleasures, you see, patron to the pit. If you are in a hurry in this life, well,  you wouldn’t understand. I adjusted in the chair, listing a bit more to the starboard now, left leg over right, and I find I am soothed by the gentle sounds of stewing beans. Vittles on the fire. They say to let it bubble for an hour or so, and I might have, had not they looked so delightful. But I tried. I dallied as long as I could beneath a waxing, pastel-blue sky, adorned in soft, billowy clouds, which caught the evening sun. I tried to linger in the last choruses of bird song,  and the caressing summer breeze which melted through the alders and the spruce. I tried to tarry there, and do what I do best, but the chops were done, my tummy was hungry, and the beans beckoned to me.

Game over. And amen.

If you are so inclined, which you ought to be, do check out http://www.cast-iron-grate.com

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There you go, peach baked beans on the kettle grill, sided with a set of succulent pork chops! Delicious! One of those things you gotta try first, before you knock it. As you will come to learn, it’s all good, patron to the pit…

How To Yield For Flowers: Honey Tinted Pork Chops

I’m not sure why, but I like flowers. I know this is not the most manly thing for a meat blog to disclose, but it’s true. I like flowers. I IMG_6527like rolling fields of them, turning abreast in the morning sun. And I like the little one’s too, that roost on a single stem, all by themselves. I like the flowers men get for their sweethearts in February. And I fancy the lanky lilies down by the pond. I even like dandelions, for what they’re worth. Weeds to some, but pretty even so. But what I really like are petunias.

I have some petunias which lavish the flanks of the pond-side pit, delicate and dainty, and they are my daily reminder of what is lovely in this world.  In the misguided haste of youth, I remember using my mother’s petunia garden for traction in many a game of backyard tag. Today, however, with advanced years,  I’m more inclined to pull up a chair and tarry a spell, and wonder why I hadn’t been doing this all along.

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I like flowers. And as these chops sizzle over a beautiful bed of hickory-accented coals, I hope you don’t mind none if I ruminate a touch more on the softer things. You see we get it rough enough in this life just having a pulse. Your kinda of born by default into your share of the unsavory, and just when you think maybe the world is a whole lot of unfair, you come across a purple petunia to direct you otherwise. There they be, fragrant and fragile, beautiful but bold. Bold in their soft, but showy arrangements, which thus flirt in proud contrast amid the many sprawling weeds of life. Maybe that’s what I like about flowers. I like what they stand for. Of unmerited goodness in a world fallen. They’re just plain wonderful is what they are. And they put up with you too. These Petunias are good to me, even when I forget to water them. There is much grace in their little purple petals. Much patience, kindness and forgiveness. They didn’t have to be this way, you see, but they are. And that’s what makes them great. Kind of like they were created just for you, seems like. And as the season ebbs on, some how, through the grace that be above, they seem only to get better and better. Yeah, I like flowers.

I smiled as I reached for a manly beverage, whilst summer clouds idled overhead. And just then, rather unexpectedly, my lovely bride pokes her head out the patio door just to say hi, and boy howdy, if I don’t get them same gooey petunia feelings all over again. Golly… Blessed is the man with both pit and petunias and a sweetheart there to share them with.

Speaking of the pit, about these chops. They are your simple bone-in affair, delicious, and highly pleasant to do. They started a couple of hours ago with a swim in a tasty homemade honey & garlic marinade.

Honey Garlic Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons sugar IMG_6525
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cracked pepper

After the marinade, we placed them semi-ceremoniously upon the hot cast iron grate, opposite the hot coals. The cold protein sizzled to life there, as a light shroud of hickory smoke curled into the air. A portly bumble bee buzzed by, as I plunked on the old, enameled lid. The draft soon engaged, and I settled back into my patio chair again, feet up, icy beverage in hand, taking up the resident pit master posture that might otherwise be mistaken for a fellow doing nothing. These are the high rigors of BBQ, people. Somebody has to do it!

Watching the wood smoke curl there, and listening to the song birds trill in the evening light, one can’t help but to appreciate all these little things which abound. From the frogs sounding like so many rubber bands, warming up down by the pond. To the way the summer breeze flutters the cottonwood leaves, clacking gently there, under an endless, blue sky. Then to the aroma of perfectly executed pork wafting through the tomato plants. The way the crescent moon peeks around the darkened spruce tops, and how at day’s end, sunlight washes over the freshly clipped grass in a scenic flood of amber and gold. All of these “flowers” , if you will, and many more simple wonders, are always there, I’ve noted, iffin we have a mind to see them. They tarry in life’s quiet eddies,  tingling to be noticed. That’s how flowers work, don’t you know. They’re only as useful as the soul who embraces them. You gotta slow down for them tho. It’s Okay to yield for flowers. Nay, it’s our privilege. Amen. IMG_6531Hickory Smoked, Honey Tinted Pork Chops hot off the Pit. Man! Grill on comrades! Go forth and grill likewise, and do so with great exuberance!

Easy Pork Ribs On The Weber Kettle: Featuring 14-Spice Dry Rub

Well it was a good 4th of July weekend. Good as can be, really, and surely better than most. Full to the brim with good food, and good fellowship, and good times. Sadly, it’s come and gone now, like all holidays do, FullSizeRender (3)with a soft, pastel sun ebbing into a western sky. And as I watch it sink beyond yonder tree tops, with an icy beverage at hand, left leg crossed over right, I pause to rejoice for these long summer days that which are upon us. We are not worthy. As the temperatures rose to almost 88 degrees today, at last we see again what you good folk down in Ecuador and Texas and Florida experience on a daily basis. Sweat. Inconceivable tributaries of it, dribbling down spine and brow with no remorse nor good will for common man. It’s rather wretched, and that’s a polite metaphor. But after a while you learn to accept it. Because deep down you know the sweat means winter is displaced. And a winter gone means things can grow again. There is life in the good tidings of summer’s bosom. Things like the deliciousness found growing in the pit side garden. Spires of green onions proudly pitched. Pole beans reaching for more lattice. Lush, plump tomatoes and deep-red strawberries dangling in the evening sun. Glory! I must say, what a privilege it is to tarry in the garden here, whilst  blue-tinted pillars of hickory smoke catch in a summer’s breeze. That’s about how supper went tonight. Pleasant. And man it was good too! And after I refill my cup, I’ll be back and tell you more about it and how it went and came be.

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I was given this spice gift a while back, and thought well enough of it to pass it along to you. It’s a homemade affair, and makes a great gift for your resident pit master. If you go to their site, http://www.theyummylife.com, you can print up the label thing in the photo. And from your local grocer, you buy yourself the jar and all the spices and what not, and kabam! A very tasty spice rub to give to family and friends. Anyways, if you want the recipe, you’ll find the link to their site below. We tried it on pork ribs tonight, and I don’t need tell you, but will anyways, that victory was at hand!

http://www.theyummylife.com/dry_rub_mix

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Setting up for Low & Slow

Now my elder brother, who sometimes is the focus of our grilling tome here, well let’s just say he’s come a long ways in the smokey arts. He’s got frozen hamburger patties and beef franks down pretty good. He’s not using green treated wood for smoke, and I don’t think he’s burned the chicken in some three months. He’s feeling rather endowed. So he mentioned the other day that the time had come, that he wished to try smoking pork ribs, and he wanted to know if it would be possible even, on his humble kettle grill. We occasionally get queried this – how to smoke ribs on a regular, old, back yard grill. Well, the Weber kettle is about as regular and back yard as it gets, and it’s also real easy to smoke a rack of ribs with. People have been doing it for ages. Many folk hold for some reason to the misguided belief that they need a fancy off set, or expensive water smoker to smoke ribs at home. Horse hockey! Here then is how to make restaurant quality smoked pork ribs on your old Weber kettle grill. And it’s as easy as taking out the trash!

As seen in the photo above, we set up the grill for indirect cooking. Light up about a half chimney of briquettes and deploy them equally on both sides of the pit. Then mix in a few unlit briquettes on each side as well. Two little minion fires of which to do your bidding. Lastly, add a chunk of your preferred smoke wood to each pile, and that’s all there is to it. We favored hickory today, the old pit master fall back and all-around great smoke wood.

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Bone-side down over indirect heat

After removing the membrane on the back, the ribs were dusted liberally with the 14-Spice Dry Rub, and placed bone-side down, and centered in the grate. The damper on the bottom was adjusted to maybe 50%. The vent on top, open full. Plunk the lid on and let the Weber magic do it’s thing. The little pit came up to 250-something degrees and then stayed there, as the wonderful tendrils of hickory smoke curled into the air.

Now when you put the lid on, be sure to position the top vent over the ribs, thus to draw the smoke where it ought to go, over your spoils. You can stick a thermometer in through the top vent if you want, and it should read somewhere around 250 -275, which is perfect. If it’s hotter than that, reach below and close off the damper there a little more. Close the top vent even, if necessary. The more you close the vents, the less oxygen runs through the pit, and thus the cooler it gets. Simple pit physics people. A pan of water placed between the coal beds can also act as a heat sink for you, helping to keep the pit temperature down. This old faithful kettle grill settled in at 250 however, with remarkable ease. And yours will too. All you have to do is ask nicely.

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Smoke at 250 F for 3 Hours

Let the ribs and the pit do their thing now, for the next three hours. Your only job is to stay out of the way. This age-old discipline usually involves frequent sorties to the fridge where upon you may wish to draw a glass of something cold to drink.  Then it is usually good form to go take up roost some place comfortable and while away the hours there, and enjoy the natural patterns of wood smoke curling against a beautiful, blue sky. If you’re in a rush, BBQ is probably not the thing for you. But if you are one with a proclivity for loitering, at ease with long, protracted hours of peace and tranquility patron to the pit, well then, you can go far in the smokey arts my friend. And rest assured that the path there smells amazing.

On the Fourth Hour

After three hours, we foiled the ribs. Foiling the ribs isn’t necessary I suppose, but we like to do it that way. It almost guarantees a tender, IMG_6502succulent end game every time. The meat is steamed when in the foil, and let it be said, oh how it pampers it so. When you wrap the ribs, add some sort of steaming agent: BBQ sauce, honey, juice, cola, beer.  What ever you like. Just a splash or two. This time around we foiled our ribs with butter and brown sugar, and boy let me tell you, that was a round trip ticket straight to my happy place! The butter and brown sugar marry together for a wonderful caramel effect, those flavors then merging with the dry rub and the wood smoke, mercy,  the results are off-the-charts concerning pork ribs.

Also at this time, add more unlit coals to the fire if you think you need it.

Anyways, let the ribs dot their thing in the foil now for an hour at least, maybe even two. Check in on them after the first hour, and if they bend easy, or a tooth pick passes through the meat with little resistance, they’re ready. If bones are falling out of your plunder like teeth from an old man, it’s passed ready, tho still delicious. But before you jump the BBQ gun here, and dive head first into your ribs with the reckless abandoned that grips you , take them out of the foil and put them pack on the pit for a while longer. This engagement in patience will first off tighten the meat mass back up a little, and lastly caramelize the butter/brown sugar glaze it has been foiled with the last hour or so. And when we say caramelize, we mean caramel! For what, after all,  is caramel made from? Butter and brown sugar for starters. So mind the meat carefully over the coals for a few minutes at the end here, and watch that sweet pit master magic take your ribs to yet again the next level of yum! Man, can you smell it people!

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Back to the grill to tighten up

Let’s slice one off, shall we, and take a gander! Ps…No sauce necessary here!

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Please refrain from drooling on your keyboard, as it is very difficult to clean later.

IMG_6492Hickory smoked pork ribs off the Weber kettle grill, seasoned with 14 -Spice Dry Rub, sided with cold noodle salad  and a scoop of beans! Man! Good BBQ. Good times.

 

Dodging Tempests: The Voyage of the Cheesy Brat

The first rain drops splattered over the land, and over the shallow waters from whence the White Egrets hunt. In the West, brat5brooding storm clouds have gathered now, sweeping eastward, and strafing the southern tip of the lake from which my bride and I tarry, cradled in our plastic kayaks. We were afloat this local fishery, that, by and far, was a peaceful enough locale, and beautiful too – it’s calm waters reflecting the gray cloud massif advancing slowly over head. As I held my ultra lite fishing rod in hand, gently jigging into the watery abyss, mine eyes could not help but to mind the heavens above, darting to and fro, keen for bright flashes of illumination. For as much as this angler respects a bulging creel, and that is a fine thing indeed, I respect even more so, the zipper-melting mojo of a single bolt of lightning. And I might have thought it my only foe this eve, if it were not for this cheesy discord bloating forth in my belly. Indeed, seems supper, however tasty it might have been, wasn’t to loiter long down in the old plumbing. You’ve all been there. You know from what I mean. Aw well, and even so, good is good, and no less than that was this cheesy brat I tell you. Yum.

Hearken back with me won’t you, and I’ll tell you a little more about it, and how it went and came to be.

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Well they look innocent enough. Quick to cook. Easy to perfect. We even toasted the buns in our never-ending quest to be semi-outstanding. But then you all know how to cook a bratwurst. What you might notice different here however, is a wee bit of spiral goofiness going on, of which we can explain.  The working notion, if your up for it, is to take your knife and slice almost, but not quite halfway into the brat, and then kind of twist the meat and guide your knife along, creating a meat slinky of sorts. Anyways, you’ll want to leave about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch of core so the beast has something to marry itself together with. But the idea here, and the reason for this surgery in the first place is that opening it up as such, will foster more smokey goodness into its fatty bosom. Simple as that. More flavor. More of anything really that you may wish to add. Such as seasonings, or in our case, obscene amounts of melted, cheddar cheese. Oh blimey that cheese!!

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Now I love cheese, but every once in a moldy wheel, it is the heady bane of my intestinal existence. And with a tummy in recoil, whilst afloat over populated urban waters, well I don’t mind telling you that I had a favorable gaze fixed on one of them portable plastic outhouses at the boat launch. Specifically the blue and white one, half-draped in the wispy arms of an old willow tree. If I had to, I would lower myself to such means. Oh yes indeed. But just as the storm cloud I had been monitoring so carefully finally slipped out of danger, in that same wonderful moment, likewise did the cheesy turmoil go with it. I don’t know why. And I didn’t analyze it either. Instead an elegant rainbow took stage, sudden like, classic in arc, and pouring brilliantly out of the clouds, as if out of a fountain from heaven itself. Man. When are rainbows not fabulous to behold! Then of course it got even better, as my fishing rod in turn formed a rather nice hoop in it, courtesy of a wiling, large mouth bass. Line tightened, slicing sweetly through the opaque water, the serenade of loon song in the still air, lo, for a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, all my small world was right again. The tempests had passed.

That’s how it works sometimes with storms and belly aches. One minute you think you’ve surely had it, and the next minute you’re pulling fish from the end of a rainbow. Say what ever you will, but there is grace for us all. Amen.

IMG_6368Behold the cheesy bratwurst on toasted bun. Quick and Easy. And may the roll of the lactose dice be ever in your favor.

From The Patron Vault: BBQ’s Highest Compliment (uncensored)

Author’s Preface

The art of blogging has learned us many things. It has taught us a lot about what works. And it has taught us even more duckabout what doesn’t work. It has also taught us something about ourselves, and that most people are pretty much amazing if you give them half a chance. But mostly, I suppose, it has taught us not to take it all so seriously. Now some of you elder readers may remember this post from back in the day. And you were probably hoping to never see it again. Our apologies. We pulled it off the site long ago because it was just too “unprofessional”, and tucked it deep into the Patrons of the Pit Vault to tarry there in the digital dust. Well, a great deal of time has passed since then, and being that we haven’t matured any further along it seems, we have decided we may as well re-post this essay, not so much for the older readers, but for the newer crops since to come on board. As we blow off the cyber dust and reset it into place, rest assured it is not because we think this post is important. No, it’s more because we think this post is rather unimportant, and at the end of the day, no matter who you are, everybody farts…

-PotP

The other day, amid the ambiance of a Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar solo, my elder brother and I nourished ourselves in a local BBQ  joint. A hole in the wall, that smelled of wafting hickory and perfectly executed brisket. We give the place four hearty stars, should our friends and family ask. And even if they don’t, we let them know anyways. I especially fancy their brisket. Being the BBQ junkie that I am, I guess I appreciate what goes into a good brisket, and the culinary campaign that it is. And so we had lunch there, savoring it like good BBQ demands. Lost in the soft, pliable meat, the flavor profile, and the wondrous, savory aromas patron to it. All in a days work for good BBQ. We walked out of that place with tightened bellies, and smiles upon our faces, lit in a golden sun.

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Later that evening, whilst lounging about with a group of friends, chewing the fat and such, I felt a small disturbance develop down in near my nether lands. I loosened my belt a trifle, and carried on with the business of looking nonchalant.  It wasn’t working tho, as I squirmed about in my soft padded chair, like a child in a church pew. Well, being a man, I knew what had to be done here, and considering that the people I was among I think were also men, I wagered they wouldn’t mind. So as discretely as one can be flatulating in a room full of people, I listed a bit to the side, like a ship on a sand bar, make believing of course that I was investigating something on the floor, and then after a fashion,  suitably let one go.  It felt fantastic. Oh they always do. My world had conspired at once back to the comfortable wallows of a post-flatulent existence . And then, quite unexpectedly, amid the moans and curses, something astounding happened. Let me tell you about.

As my cronies were pulling their shirts up over their noses, I noted in the air a peculiar scent. Something reminiscent not of foul bodily expulsions, but of…No, it couldn’t be. I turned to my friend Ralph, who reluctantly sat beside me, and queried” Does that smell familiar to you? ”

“All too much!” Ralph bellowed.

“No” I yammered, “Pay attention. Take your time. Smell it. Get to know it.”

For the next few seconds we played the part of a couple of air biscuit connoisseurs, in a delicate dance between curious amusement and out right gagging. And we kind of came to the conclusion, in so much as one can ever conclude such things, that what we were smelling, smelled an awful lot like brisket. It did.  The others were not so convinced, even tho I bequeathed them a couple more “opportunities” to analyze it.   Even so, I know what I smelled, and it was almost, but not quite, pleasant. Frankly, I didn’t know what to think. That is until a few days later, when I went to church.

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After the Sunday service,  my blog co-host and I were chatting as men do after church, and he mentioned to me something quite interesting. He confessed that he had also experienced some rather odd but savory south end breezes. He said they actually smelled kind of good in a way. And that he too deduced it must be from the BBQ he’s been making and henceforth ingesting.

It was then, with the facts spread out before us, that we had to come to grips one way or another with our discovery. We didn’t know what to think.  Now on one hand, I guess we should be rather disgruntled. For if our farts smell like our BBQ, well what then does that say about our cooking?  But then, and on the other hand of the odoriferous beast, the BBQ has just got to be exceptional if it can make even your worst stink bombs smell akin to a perfectly smoked brisket. Go figure that. And well, in some countries we’ve long heard, a healthy burp is but a pat on the back. Thus, being the eternal optimists that we are, my fellow patron and I decided we had better just go with the latter on this one, wagering it the highest of compliments to the pit master, should your booms booms wax that of a pleasant stroll past the smoke house. It could be worse, I think… In point of fact it has.

-POTP

One For The Birds: Italian BBQ Chicken Breasts

I like birds. From the pretty tweety birds that sing from the tree tops come evening sunbeams, to the bald eagles who soar with FullSizeRender (5)magnificent ease high on the thermals. From the mama Cardinal roosting in the alders, to the Black Capped Chickadee flirting in the spruce. And unto the eerie wail of the common loons on camping trips into the far northern places. I like birds. I fancy the ducks – those marvelous mallards and dashing drakes who court the shores of Pond Side Pit, who seem always in a good mood, even when it rains. There is just something about bird life that has fascinated me for many years. Something in the way they go about business, that has contented me. Then I ran into this feathered bloke on one of my strolls through a local river hamlet. I called him Ed.

Ed wasn’t the best looking of birds. But then when you’re a Blue Heron, you don’t exactly get invited to beauty contests. No, you make your living in kinder, gentler circles, usually at the water’s edge, and usually with a keen eye for supper on the fin. Ed and I must have sat together for a half hour at least there, river-side, just watching the world go by. It’s odd to see a creature with so much patience, or maybe it was laziness, I’m not sure. That must have been what he thought of me also.  But I didn’t care. I just admired his innate ability to loiter. If only birds could BBQ, this chap would be one of the best. Speaking of BBQ birds, do let me tell you about our last cook out. Grab yourself a lovely beverage and we’ll meet back at the pit, and tell you more about it, and how it went and came to be.

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No, these are not the breasts of a Blue Heron. These are the boneless versions of a nameless yard bird, or two, that I have never met. Sometimes I wonder if the previous owners of these once knew each other back in the day. Perhaps they were buddies who’d bandy together for a good morning’s cackle. Or maybe even enemies who would eat each others poop, cause that’s what chickens do, according to a Grandma I know. Regardless, they sure looked fine sizzling over the hot cast iron grate of my Weber kettle grill. Glory be, they smelled good enough to eat raw. I suspect that was because of the marinade.

The World’s Easiest Best Marinade

One part Italian dressing. 

One part your favorite BBQ sauce.

Like I said, simple. And nary have I ever seen it fail. Quite possibly the simplest one you’ll ever use. And the most fool-proof. It’s a rather popular one on the interweb right now, so we thought we’d give it a go. Anyways the notion is it let the meat marinate over night. Twenty and four hours is even better. Now I’ve heard places not to exceed four hours iffin your marinade has a high vinegar content, lest it morphs your chicken slightly rubbery as a result. But I guess the vinegar content of Italian dressing and Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce is not enough to awaken this anomaly. All I know is it works. And it works exceedingly well. No rubber chickens here.

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We chunked on the old, enameled lid, its handle soiled in the grease and smoke of a thousand cookouts. The draft soon engaged, and sweet tendrils of wood smoke curled freely into a pure, Minnesota sky. I sat back in my patio chair, left leg over right, and admired how nice the smoke looked, puffing against the green back drop of a summer’s day. The pleasantries of the pit were at full speed, people. The ambiance meter pegged out. Manly beverage within reach, soft tunes on the pit sound system, song birds aloft, hark, I could want for nothing more save for the sun to pause in its arc, if but to extend the moment here for the moment’s sake. This is where the pit keeper cultivates his patience, you see. That hallowed span of clock from whence the meat hits the grate with an anointing sizzle, to when the meat at long last enters your slobber-strewn mouth. The magic hour. Or hours if need be. Indeed, it is good for us to wait for something once in a while. In an instant download, drive-thru, microwave kind of society, who has got to have their wares delivered at once by the hands of haste, such an act of patience will encourage some, and down right astonish the rest. But a pit master proper can pull this feat off with aplomb. It’s in our blood to tarry where  meat is concerned. Just like that old, blue heron on the river bank. He could have been running all over the place that day, flying from one locale to another, but nay, he knew the value in waiting. The precious gold in a single strand of patience. And I admired him for it. There is much you can learn from those with wings. Yeah, I like birds. I like them quite a bit. And with that said, as the evening shadows creep over yonder fields, I think it’s time to finally eat this one!

Cheerio and Amen.

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Twenty four hours, people, marinated in one-half Italian Dressing and one-half BBQ sauce, grilled over hickory, and kissed with sweet time. Man! Good eating, and good times, patron to the pit.

 

Made in Montana: Smokin-O’s BBQ Smoke Rings

Deep in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains, amid the pristine, pine-scented forests and tumbling glacial rivers which flank the Trapper2-e1424135597267 (1)gorgeous contours of Darby, Montana, reside the good folks at R&R Conner Inc and Real Wood. Here beneath gently rising plumes of wood smoke which taper into a high Montana sky, you will find the skilled practitioners of the Smokin-O Smoke Rings, or the “ring masters”, as they’re affectionately coined in these parts. Fifth generation forest stewards who, like us, have a deep seeded love for putting meat to flame and declaring it good. And through a rather nifty process where hardwoods and spices are ground up, mixed together, and then extruded under high temperature and pressure, where upon the natural lignins found in the cellular make-up of the trees at once “glue” themselves together, well, the Smokin-O Smoke Ring thus is born. No binders. No chemicals. Just pure smoking satisfaction wrought from the mountain hollows of Darby, Montana.

SO-pkg-1-980x1040Now a word about these smoke rings.  They were designed for gas grills. When they contacted us to see if we might want to try their product,  we had to decline. For let it be said, we already know what great smokey flavor is because all we cook with is charcoal and wood. It’s what we do. Smokey flavor is part of the package. We have many pits, but nary a single gas grill between the lot of us. Not wanting one either. But then I remembered there is still a small portion of our readership who remain stubborn to their gassy ways. Stalwart souls who shall not budge from their token propane grill for all the cheese in Ireland. You know who you are. You also know you’re missing out on the whole reason to be grilling in the first place – that assurance of smokey goodness patron to the pit. But there is no converting you, and we understand this. Here then is where these smoke rings gather some favor for flavor. Where they make a stand in a world gone to gas.

How to Light Smokin-O’s

They couldn’t be simpler to use. To light them, just place them over the flames of your grill. Run it up to 400 degrees and shut the lid. In 5 tosmokino1 10 minutes, the ring should be lit and smoking rather profusely. They say when it’s properly lit, about 15% of it should be cloaked in white ash and sport a nice, glowing-red edge. So that’s how you’re supposed to light it, but of course, we had to do it like a man, and put the blow torch to it. This technique is proven amid charcoal champions and pyromaniacs alike, and lo, works just fine with Smokin’O’s too. That ring lit right up like an Irishman on Saint Patty’s day, and then smoldered for a good long time. Now you may be asking, what did we smoke, and how did it go? That’s a good question.

Cold Smoking with Smokin’-O’s?

Now being that we don’t have a gas grill, and after studying the unique properties of these smoke rings, a brain thrust naturally sprang to mind. We patrons of the pit get brain thrusts you see.  We get them routinely, for better or for worse. IMG_6235Anyways, I thought, well what about a cold smoke? Perhaps these little compressed rings of wood and spice might prostitute themselves as a right fine cold smoking apparatus. Turns out they do! For the most part anyways. Cold smoking is basically smoke without much heat. Useful for such meltables such as cheese or even chocolate. Or for things you just want to add smokey flavor too, but not necessarily cook yet, like bacon or nuts, or spices such as paprika or salt. These smoke rings emit a little heat, but not much, and when placed opposite what ever you want to cold smoke, such as some cheddar cheese as shown in the photo below, the cheese did not melt. However, when the smoldering ring was placed directly below the cheese, well then the cheese melted like a depleting cheese glacier, and it was very sad. But that was a pit keeper error, and easily rectified. Just place the smoke ring well away from your spoils, and let the smoke do it’s job. Yum! The effect is only improved in the winter months. FullSizeRender (4) The strength of the Smokin-O tho, is in meat. So we felt we ought to at least use it in some traditional grilling efforts, to see it in its full glory. Tho designed for gas grills, we used it anyways on the Weber kettle grill as if it were a piece of smoke wood, and were not disappointed. We tossed it directly onto the coals, like we would with any piece of wood. Soon enough it was puffing away with a contented pillar of amazing smelling smoke. Indeed, it smelled wonderful. Not sure what hardwoods and spices it’s comprised of, but hark, we found the aromas there of most agreeable with our nasal pathways. We put the old black enameled lid back on the pit, and the draft thus engaged – convincingly. These rings have no trouble producing smoke. And will do so, they say, for about a half hour, depending on their location in the pit. The cooler the area you place them, the longer they last. When we tried them with cold smoking earlier, they lasted so long that we gave up altogether waiting to see them burn out, and just went fishing instead. In the end tho, the smoke duration seems more than adequate for most of our needs. And if you need the smoke to last longer, they suggest stacking one on top of the other, kind of like a mini minion method.

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The boneless chicken breasts we smoked up were spot on in the smokey goodness we’re used to around here. Very tasty, and more over, not over powering in smokey flavor. Many a newbie to the smokey arts tend to get a wee bit carried away when adding smoke to their grilled cuisine. These rings seem to give you just the right amount of smoke to balance well with your protein of the day, and the various flavor profiles you might be after. An all-around, good, smokey flavor. No complaints.

Final Thoughts

So if you’re set on gas grills, and vow never to waver, but wish you could still enjoy some of the flavor benefits of a good wood fired grill, then I cannot divine why you would not want to stock up on these Smokin-O’s. Easy to use, affordable, and point-blank effective in what they do – generate smoke. We also found them quite the versatile product, capable of some fairly decent cold smoking, something of which they are not advertised to do, but do, according to our tests. We also liked that they were all natural, of course, not held together by goofy chemicals you cannot pronounce, or harmful binders. And of course, they were made in Montana, one of our very favorite locales, where the ramparts rise high, and rivers run cold through the resplendent valleys below.

Check out their site if you’re at all curious for more, http://www.smokin-os.com/

Or just head straight to amazon and get yourself some! Here’s the link. http://www.amazon.com/Smokin-Os-BBQ-Smoke-Rings-wood-fired/dp/B00SVEFRAU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433861591&sr=8-1&keywords=smokin+o

Pit Keepers Choice: Spare Ribs and Shrimp Kebabs

 

Under gray skies of pending rain, and the reserved hush of tweety birds unseen, the first plumes of smoke pillared out of the old charcoal 20131101_173818_edit0chimney. There was a stillness in the morning air, and a humidity which draped like a soft blanket over the land. The Mallards milled about quietly on the pond, and the streets of the neighborhood at large we’re tranquil and fairly depleted of activity. Every one was up north I guess, or out-of-town somewhere, for the extended Memorial Day Weekend. And I don’t blame them. An extended weekend to get away is not a commodity in which to handle lightly. It is one to savor and relish. One to seize with great exuberance.  So I stayed home.

What a pleasant respite it is to stay home when the rest of the resident populous have piled their vehicles heap full of their dearest belongings and kickshaws, and then flee the township of which they are so intimately acquainted. And at once the bustling hamlet in which you live is transformed into a sparsely populated outpost on the crusty edge of society. I like that for some reason. I like it a lot. Probably due to my proclivity for the quieter places I’m sure. But I digress unto the matter ribs. Here then is how they went and came to be.

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On the pit today, shrouded in a cloud of pecan and hickory smoke, like long peninsulas of pork in a foggy fjord, reside a couple of racks of spare ribs, trimmed St Louis style, placed bone side down, with their membranes freshly peeled. We patted them down in Worcestershire sauce first, then in brown sugar, and finally seasoned them liberally with some Bone Suckin Sauce Seasoning Rub.  And that’s all there is to it. Let them then reside in manly fashion within the smokey confines of your cooker for the next two and a half hours or so. This is where you also go draw a lovely beverage from your refrigerated units, and find someplace soft to sit. Glory! I love smoking ribs!

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Long about hour three into the smokey campaign, we foiled the ribs with a shot of bbq sauce and honey. Let them tarry in the foil for an hour or two, or at the discretion of your pit master instinct. You’ll notice some shrimp have also made their way onto the pit at this time. Indeed. A little appetizer for the people! This is a great little gig of pork and surf, and is all too easy to do. You gotta try it. In this case we found a bag of precooked jumbo shrimp residing in the freezer, thawed them out, and into their natural cradle-like curvature, we inserted a slice of tasty kielbasa, and held the two species together with a well-placed tooth pick. A little kebab of sorts, and nary short on flavor. We hit them with a bit more smoke, and seasoned them with the same rub we used for the ribs. They cook fast, people. You don’t need much time, which makes them great for taming the hungry bellies which wait on your ribs. After 15 minutes or so, we varnished the kebabs in an Asian Orange Ginger Sauce, which sent them over the top.

We’ll put some links down below for the seasonings and stuff we used today.

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Oh man, pure rib smoking satisfaction. After a stint in the foil, of which is like a trip to the spa for your meat, it will be pampered and loose, and mighty delightful to the tongue. But resist, and let it loiter on the pit a little longer whilst you paint its mahogany flanks with your favorite sauce. Or not. Good ribs do not need sauce. But it’s all up to the pit keeper. Good is good, after all. And every day a high blessing, patron to the pit. Amen.

Stuff we used:

Archer Farms Ginger Orange

Bone Suckin’ Sauce Seasoning

Famous Dave’s Sweet and Zesty

 

 

 

 

 

Something From Nothing: The Art and Privilege of Camp Cooking

It may be noted, at least from time to time, that we do like to get away from it all here at this blog. To pack up a modicum of supplies, and strikeIMG_6082 off for the distant bush lands of Minnesota’s northern most tier. A locale rich in quietude, and resplendent in its sky-tinted waters and vast elbow room for the soul. Canoe country. A million acre outdoor theater where the lonesome wail of the Loon echoes with impunity through the forest primeval. Where the whispering breezes murmur sweetly amid the lofty, Norway Pines; those magnificent wooden spires that which thrust high into a wild, blue sky. Canoe country. Where the slap of a beaver tail on still waters is heard over a quarter-mile span. Where a nap in the hammock whilst the pine-scented breeze whistles through your toe pits is at last your loftiest ambition for the day. Well you can see why we like it up here. And why it is we very occasionally aspire to get away from it all.

Feeding one’s belly is one of our favorite activities whence in the hither lands. And how you go about it, and what you get out of it is solely up to you. Somethings spoil fast with out the advantages of refrigeration, and those things you probably ought to ingest the first day out, or not bother to bring along at all. Chocolate, for example, melts like a cheap nuclear reactor, and bread flattens finer than an Iowan interstate. After a few trips afield, you learn rather well what works and what doesn’t.

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In between naps in the hammock, we partook in a little culinary tinkering courtesy of the Joy for Cooking – the namesake of a little back woods chuck box spawned from many a camping trip spent on my haunches, cooking on the ground. There comes a time in Bushman’s career where the notion of a kitchen counter top is a highly appealing affair, and one worth pursuing if not for any other reason than because he can. So I did. You do not realize how good you have it at home until first you go with out.  So I came up with this little creation years ago, for to better and more effectively cultivate my joy for cooking whilst encamped in wilder places. It has been a treat indeed.

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Camp cooking is always an interesting summit to scale. It’s like a back pack, in that you only get out of it what you put into it. So if you didn’t bring a certain ingredient, then you don’t have it. And there is no running to the grocer either, this side of paradise. Well you could, I suppose, but by the time you get back it would be the next day, and your dinner aspirations would fall way of the dodo bird. So you work with what you’ve got. And usually that ain’t much. But in the same breath, that’s what makes camp cooking kind of fun; getting the most you can from a scant simple grub bag. Here we did up a plate of buttermilk biscuits/bannock, fried potatoes and onion, and a nice ration of sautéed summer sausage to round out the proteins. A hodge-podge conglomerate, if you will, of the better things I could rummage up from the recesses of the food bag. And let me tell you, after paddling the day long, with an appetite stoked from the freshened air, living a simple but deliberate life, this was a plate fit for a king. Under the circumstances even, I couldn’t think of any place better to eat. Nope, I had arrived. As any realtor knows, it’s all about location.

FullSizeRender (2)What a pleasure it is to round off a weekend in the wilderness, with a belly well fed. To lean against an old Cedar tree, hot cup of tea in hand, left leg crossed over right, and gander westward over still waters to a setting sun. To hear the loons softly sing through a land so silent, and to smell the air sweetly tinted in pine. It’s been said that time spent camping is not deducted from your lifespan. Well, I don’t know know if it’s true or not, but even so,  it would explain why we so often go afield, and why even now, at this cluttered desk back in the city, why mine heart hastens to be back there once again. Amen.

 

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