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Grilling Paradise: How To Be There When You’re Not

          How we love to tarry in the prettier places. Often times striking off for the pristine hinter regions of northern Minnesota. And there, under the whispering pines, beside tumbling rivers, we press a tent stake into the soil, and rest like gentlemen of leisure. The cares of the city life metaphorically swirling down the drain, like dirty bath water after a long day afield. Soon, we think of nothing else, nothing but the wind, the sky, the woods, and the loveliness of water falling in paradise.

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The river flows with a fierce elegance up here. She will dazzle you with her beauty, and in the flip of a heart beat, wash you into one of her deep pools, and pin you there but for the wages of eternity. Kayakers know this. And so do Patrons of the Pit, who cower wisely on the shores. Nay, these waters are best left to the native brook trout which loiter in the eddies, awaiting the wayward drift of a Rhithrogena germanica or the like.You know how it goes. Anyways, whence the night falls over the forest primeval, we do rather like to kindle a fire and bandy close to its coals.

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An old, blackened tea-pot with a dented, and beaten-up lid, hangs hobo style over the fire, bringing the evening’s water to a boil. I rummage through my pack for my twenty year old steel mug, whilst the flicker of the flames dance softly over head on the bottom of the pine bows. Found it. I rip open a package of cinnamon tea, and plop the bag into my cup, it’s string hanging limply over the lip. I look up. The stars are out now, shimmering behind the tall pines, dappling through the thin needles. The river tumbles in the darkness. And I can smell the smoke waft off the fire, and taper into the pine-scented woods. Can you smell it!

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Via the powers of the blogosphere, you have now been transported. Swept away through space and time, and plunked down in a saintly fashion at the Track Side Pit, where our fellow Patron is plying his craft upon a congregation of yard bird legs. Chicken legs for you city folk. He’s got a nice char going on, as you can see, with flirts of caramelization. Seasoned with who knows what, but it’s good! The aromas bellowing off the grill would turn a vegan silly, I’d wager. And can you smell the smoke…

Smoke. The smell of it. For some reason God has linked smells inextricably with memory. And that’s the curious link between here and there. Between cooking on the patio in the city, and cooking over the open fire, far away, encamped in a quiet, forest hollow. We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll say it again. Because every time we light the fires here at home, the aroma of the smoke in-turn triggers a rush of memories from camp fires past. And a great many of those fires have been in the wilder places, in paradise, doing what we love to do. And as we rotate these gorgeous chicken legs over a fiery bed of coals, with metal tongs in hand, we cannot help but to reminisce at the same time of the beautiful locales from whence we’ve tarried. Oh yes. To reach back on the tender wings of nostalgia, and thumb through our memory vaults to those campsites past, fire-side, under fragrant pines and starry skies, where the water falls in paradise. Amen.

 

 

5 Reasons Why Ribs Are The Perfect Thing To Smoke

They came trucking up through the green grass as if they owned the place. And maybe thumbnail_IMG_0727they do. For let it be said, they were here long before we ever showed up. When we first moved in, they were the first to greet us. And when if we move from here, they’ll probably be standing there beside the driveway, the last to wave us good-bye. I speak of course, of the resident Mallards of the Pond Side Pit. And boy are they cute these days. Spring is just wrapping up here on the 45th parallel, and all the many ducks are closely followed by a feathery amoeba of miniature ducks,  just like them – their little hairy faces, alive, and bright-eyed to a new, and outstanding world. Seems every time I light up the pit out back, they are there, investigating…Or maybe it is they’re just checking in that it is not their kin folk they smell cooking under my lid.

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Fear not little ducks, for it is only a wee rack of pork ribs smoking under our lid today. With gentle plumes of pecan and apple wood, seasoned in Kits K.C. BBQ Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. I’m telling you this, there are a precious few better ways to while away a beautiful afternoon, than to tarry long in your BBQ chair, with a cold beverage in hand, feet propped up as per proper pit master posture, wowwy, and a cool breeze washing fresh over you the day long. Indeed, bringing pork ribs to a succulent, and tasty end game is our heady privilege. A Pit Jockey’s delight.

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Today’s rub provided by the kindly spice wizards of Miners Mix. Very tasty!

5 Reasons Why Ribs Are The Perfect Thing To Smoke

Meat Candy

Ribs are perhaps the perfect thing to smoke, and I’ll tell you why. First off, ribs are meat candy to a man. Let’s just be clear about that. We lust for them.  Next to bacon, I suppose, nothing gets our slobbers running more than the heady prospect of a good rack of ribs.Carnal, but true. We just had to clear the air on that matter.

It’s About Time

Secondly, ribs take just the right amount of time to cook. Look, if you at all enjoy the many facets of the Smokey Arts, and aspire yourself a patron of the pit, then you know in your soul, just as surely as you know anything, just how fun smoking meat is. Burgers and bratwurst are good and all, but the show is over too quick with those. Your coals still burn for something more. You crave a longer campaign pit-side. Something that takes you deep into the game. Pork butts and brisket are fantastic, we’re talking out-of-the-ball park home runs, but you seldom have the available clock for them. In point of fact, you might as well rip a whole day off the calendar for those big meats. That’s how long they tend to take. But ribs, ah ribs, well they saddle up just right. They are the perfect afternoon smoking project. You can fire up the pit at noon, and have your ribs done by supper. That’s just enough time to make you feel like you’ve done something proper-like in the Smokey Arts. Just enough time to rejoice in the ways of the pit master, such as napping pit-side, or watching a ball game with your shoes off. Just enough time to flex your patience a little, and log some quality pit time under blue-bird skies.

In a world ripe with haste, ribs take precisely the right amount of time.

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Serendipity

Another reason why ribs are the perfect thing to smoke, is that success is not always a given. There does seem to me anyways, a certain smokey-scented, serendipity, to cooking ribs in charcoal fueled pit. I know this because I always marvel when they turn out good. Now if I knew it was in the bank all along, then why would I marvel? I don’t know. But know this, ribs are satisfying to get right. Not just to your belly, but to your personal growth as an accomplished meat maestro. All your research and experimentation into technique and method, culminating in a few short hours under, long, smokey columns of goodness. In many ways, ribs are a sort of litmus test of your pit skills. You can divine a great deal about a pit keeper’s craft from his ribs.Ribs keep us learning.

Picasso in Pork

Next, ribs are the perfect blank pork canvas in which to paint your BBQ Picasso. You can season them up so many ways, from just salt and pepper to intricately conceived rubs snatched from only your brain pan alone. To sauce or not to sauce, well, leave it to your pit master instincts. Smoke woods, oh where to start! Every rack is a different journey into the smokey realm. Every rack its own entity. It’s own dance with fire and smoke. Ribs are your personal expression in meat art. Your Picasso in Pork. So wield your brush, people, with all due enthusiam.

A Ticket to Relax

And at last, and subtly under-toned along the way, every rack is your ticket to an afternoon off, to loiter pit-side, with a manly beverage in hand, and declare to yourself and those who come upon you, that you are in no hurry today. That you have, by choice, raised your foot clear of the accelerator pedal of life, and for a few short smokey hours, and maybe even longer than that, all your world is right. You’re not grilling hot dogs today. Nay, you’re smoking ribs. And that my friends, is a very a good day indeed. Amen.

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Five hours, low and slow, people. Pecan/Apple Amoked BBQ ribs. Son! And my ducks were Okay with this.

 

 

Track-Side: Ceder Planked Shrimp and Scallops

Location : Track-Side Pit

Time : Not too long ago…

Take a gander at this spread, won’t you, put on by John, our Patron of the Pit Co-Founder, and care taker of the Track Side Pit. Yes indeed, he was seen in his backyard recently, plying his craft over a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. Nothing stood in his way of culinary, smokey-tinted perfection.  We’re talking :butter, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, scallops, shrimp, onion, pepper and red potatoes. Man! If this don’t make you hungry right now, you probably have a face full of dirt! As he so bluntly, but exquisitely phrased it, “Freakin sexy goodness!”  Indeed, old boy. Indeed.

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He’s coming along, that boy. In point of fact, he finally got himself a 22 inch Weber Kettle Grill. And he’s loving it. I don’t know what he was waiting for either. And as you can see, he’s been making good use of it too.

Here is another thing he whipped up off-hand the other day. A pit keeper’s favorite.

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ATB’s. Better known as Atomic Buffalo Turds. He took them a step further than most pit jockeys, and later glazed them in maple syrup, and dashed them with fresh cracked pepper. Mercy!

So that’s the recent goings on of the Track Side Pit. It’s good to see the other half once in a while. He doesn’t very often post here, or brag of his grilling talents. But I personally think he can grill circles around most people I know, including myself. He holds down the social media branch for PotP, and samples any spices or sauces that are sent our way. If you want to see more of what he’s been up to, you can find him supporting our Patron of the Pit Instagram account. Boy it’s a party over there! Stop by and say howdy to him!

https://www.instagram.com/patronsofthepit/

Sometimes he shows up on our facebook page too.

https://www.facebook.com/Patronsofthepit/

Grill on!

PotP

 

 

 

In Honor of Heroes: Memorial Day Pulled Pork

The Lilacs are blooming on Mt. Moriah. 

SAMSUNG CSCGreetings dear readership, and brethren of the smoke. We’ve been on vacation as of late, and I won’t deny it’s been a rather lovely sortie away from the digital trenches. A routine of which, if I am not careful on the matter,  I suspect that I could get quite used to. We’re talking life on the road here. Seeing new sights every day. Meeting interesting people. And that hallowed feeling of putting a great many miles between you and the home front. It’s nice, and a wee bit intoxicating to the spirit. But alas, we are home now, and well-traveled. We have some good vittles outback on the smoker, too, but before we get to that,  I’d fancy to show you something we discovered out way of the Black Hills. Something I thought it was kind of cool, and maybe you will too.

We were in the small Cowboy Hamlet better known as Deadwood, SD. Strolling up the main street there, which if there ever was a main street in this world that begs to be strolled, this perhaps was it. We made the usual token rounds: We saw the Celebrity Hotel where Brad Pitt’s slippers from Spy Games were on display. We went in the ice cream shop hoping for a double scoop of Rocky Road, but no one was around to harvest our currency. So we sidled out the door – scoopless. We also poked our head in the bar where Wild Bill Hickok was shot, thought about it for a while, then left. You know, the usual Deadwood flybys. Then, after the formalities were over, we found ourselves up on a hill, on Mt Moriah to be exact, in a cemetery there overlooking the town. It was a quaint place, by and by, that is if cemeteries can register as quaint. The lilacs were fragrant, and the grass was green. And it was up there that I saw the flag.

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The American flag hung limply on it’s pole, back-dropped by a blue, South Dakotan sky. I guess it wasn’t so much the flag, there, waving over Deadwood that captured my attention. It was more the plaque residing just below it, and the words it forever held there.

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Here is a flag, if you read the plaque, that is always up. Every day. Twenty and four hours a day. Never in our lifetime to see a half-mast. Never to forget our brave soldiers in battle, nor their selfless trials endured for the sake of our country. It’s been flapping in the sky over Deadwood for a long time now, since WWI it says,  as stalwart, and as true, as the veterans it honors. I don’t know about you folks, but I thought that was pretty cool. In a day and age where so many flags seem perpetually stuck half-way up the pole, here is one that at last resists. And that is no small thing amid the pine-scented breezes of Mt Moriah.

Anyways, that is what I wanted to show you. Something we saw in our travels afield. Now out to the pit!

The Joy of Bark

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It was Memorial Weekend, and as you can see we had some fine eating coming to maturity pit-side. A humble little pork shoulder, or butt if you must, one of which needed only 6 hours on the smoker, courtesy of it’s wee size. I think it was only 5 or 6 pounds, boneless, and nary fraction shy of utter succulence. This photo was snapped near the end of the cook, and my oh my, take a look at that bark. Glory be!

Bark. It’s what every pit jockey secretly strives for. That hallowed offspring of seasoning and smoke, and of heat and meat. The magical effects of bark cannot be understated, nor I think, adequately even explained. Just trust us when we say, you want bark. Yes, to the uninitiated, it might resemble something more of a meteorite that landed in your back yard. Likewise, lift the lid of the pit housing a well-barked butt, and the newbies about will at once moan your name in vain, declaring it a grievous loss. This is common place. You always have to reassure them that it’s alright. It’s just bark.

When you pull your pulled pork, which is usually appropriate anywhere from 195 to 203 internal, you always want to evenly distribute plenty of bark amongst the meat. The best pulled pork sandwiches have a little bark in every bite. And we have found if you foil your butts like many pit masters like to do, that the practice can sometimes lend to a lesser bark. So if you want a robust bark, let your pork shoulder ride “nekkid” the whole way. That’s just our opinion, but it seems to be the case.

Another tip for good bark is to use a mustard slather first thing, before you apply your rub. The mustard acts purely as an adhesive agent for your spices. The more rub you can get to stick, the better the bark. And no, the mustard flavor will not register on your tongue. I don’t know why, nor do I try to analyze it. It’s just one of the enduring mysteries of the BBQ Arts. Our rub we used this smoke, Maynards Memphis Rub, was from the kindly spice wizards at Miners Mix. We’ve used it on a lot of stuff now, and pork may be it’s strongest suit. Man! Very tasty! Oh, and our smoke wood this time was hickory and apple.

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After letting the meat rest, whilst tented in aluminum foil, we pulled the tender and most succulent pork muscles into savory tendrils of perfectly smoked pork. Mixing that all important bark in through-out the sandwich. This is authentic BBQ, people. The real thing. I’m sorry, but your all-beef wieners will just have to take a back seat today. That’s just how it goes.

Before We Devour

I try to give thanks to the Good Lord more at meals these days. Just because. Because it’s the right thing to do, I suppose. Thanks for family, and for health, and for good food, like slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. Not to mention just the privilege of just getting to BBQ in the first place, in a country that is free to do such things. Indeed, much to be thankful for. And as I cast a glance out the patio door , and see the smoker out there still curling faint, blue, wisps of smoke, I cannot help to but to give thanks also for the military men and women who have served, and still serve our country. You will always be our heroes. And always have our respect. And I think of the American flag flying stoically atop Mt. Moriah, and the beautiful fragrance of the lilacs which bloom there. Amen.

 

 

How To Think of Nothing Else: Pecan Smoked Chicken Fajitas

The fly line went taut and the rod hooped over nicely, as I set the hook into the leviathanIMG_0713 that which swam the grass banks. I soon managed to get the fish onto the reel as I played him closer to shore, determined this time not to let old “Moby” elude me once again. A light rain dappled over the pond, tapping lightly on my rain jacket, as I let out some more line, the reel singing as the fish muscled for rank. “Keep the line tight”, I thought to myself. I have already lost this bucket mouth once today, and this time, if I could help it, he would be mine. The bass suddenly torpedoed out for deeper water, like bass do, then reconsidered to the divining will of my 5 weight fly rod, and made haste instead for a small passel of weeds, there upon and of which he was, I dare say, masterfully escorted unto the damp shore from whence I stood. He laid for a moment there in the grass, panting. We both did.

I do not know what it is about fishing, but I am continually amazed how sweet life’s keen focus is when a fish is tight to our line. More sharpened moments of clarity I seldom see. Likewise, I’m reminded of the show Gilligan’s Island, and something they once said there. I digress. You see on Gilligan’s Island, the Skipper and Gilligan were fishing in the lagoon one day. And the skipper, being a salty, fishing man who never changed his blue shirt, said to Gilligan in a bellowing fashion, that when you’re fishing, and you get a fish on line, for as long as you’re hooked up together, that fish and you, you will in turn think of nothing else. And it’s true.

You think of nothing else.

Maybe that’s why we like to fish so much around here. For the focus. For the rendering of life’s many complexities into quaint, articulate moments of intense, penetrating focus. Fish do that to a body. Don’t ask me why. And we are blessed and highly favored to have a nice pond, pit-side, in which to partake of our craft nearly every day if we want. To stand on it’s earthy shores, and for a while at least, think of nothing else. Man…

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Anyways, all this fishing of late has made this little pit boy ripe with hunger. And if you are too, you’re in luck. Tonight’s feast will sooth what ails you, believe me. Pecan smoked chicken fajitas, patron to the pit. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.

Today’s seasoning once again comes from our friends at Miners Mix. XXX Garlic, and man IMG_0682does it do right by poultry. All natural, no junk in this stuff, people. If it wasn’t around in 1850, it ain’t in there. If you’re still looking for your next favorite rub, go and check these mates out. We don’t know how they do it, but they’ve managed to crack the code on spice rubs. We’ve really been enjoying their products. Anyways, we semi-liberally dashed this garlic rub over some boneless chicken breasts, and set them indirect on the Weber Kettle Grill, along with a good bandy of pecan smoke. Lid on, and damper tweaked. I sat back in the BBQ chair with a manly beverage in hand, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure.

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When the chicken was almost, but not quite done, we removed it and set it aside for a few short moments. If grilling wasn’t fun enough, it’s about to get even better. Enter the ever-sexy, oft-coveted, Mojoe Griddle. Oh yes…

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I tell you this people, if ever in the world a piece of cooking equipment were to have a swagger, this is it. If you’ve been in our readership over the last year or so, you’ve seen this beast surface now and again. 35 pounds of high grade, hot-rolled steel- a restaurant quality griddle, and it all fits neatly over a multiple of heat sources. Simple, effective, and tough. Thus, not wanting to let my cooking coals go to waste, we plunked this behemoth over the top of the Weber Kettle and, viola, the best griddle action money can buy.

We are pretty much in love with this griddle. And we aren’t bashful about it. If you want to up your game some day, or just want to learn more about it, we did a review on it a while back, and you can read that here. Or better yet, go and visit our friend, Cam, the inventor of the Mojoe Griddle, at his website, http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ , and he’ll show you around. Tell him PotP sent you! Anyways, where were we…

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On a hot, oiled, Mojoe, we set forth our green peppers and onions to saute their way to greatness. Spatula in hand, what great pleasure it is to stand aside the hot steel, cooking in the freshened air. Where the song birds trill and the skies are so blue they do not stop, save for to smile down upon the lone, outdoor cook, flipping his vegetables yonder, amid a soft, summer’s breeze. There is great therapy in cooking outside.

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Next we chopped up the smoked chicken and tossed that into the mix too, and listened to it sizzle there, next to the green peppers and onion. Oh man! The aromas which filled the patio were point blank, off-the-charts. Olfactory high-def stuff, people. Thus, and with great exuberance, I plowed thy spoils about with the steel edge of an inverted spatula, and smiled to myself, as the cloud shadows calved silently across the lawn. Oh if only to slow this cook down, and to extend the moment for the moments sake. I was enjoying this. This relatively simple moment of cooking supper in a complex world. There is just something magical about it. Something right under the sun. If you’re lucky in this life, you will enjoy a few pursuits like this, that which gently cull you from the throngs of haste. Activities that which defy distraction. And promote moments of lingering focus. Like fishing I suppose, and cooking outside. The results of which will illuminate your day, and tug by tender strings, the joy for which tarries down in your soul. Amen.

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Pecan Smoked, Garlic Tinted, chicken fajita makings, patron to the pit. I do believe you can take it from here. Yum!

Pit Paradise: Pecan Smoked Meatloaf With A Twist

Been spending a lot of time out at the pit lately. Here in Minnesota, our privileged,lilacglory season” is well upon us. Has been for a couple of weeks now.  It’s also called Spring. And oh how my senses revel is this bandy of moments. The snow and ice are long gone now, and in it’s stead, green glades and leafy bouquets. Blue bird skies that won’t stop. And air so fresh and so sweet, you want nothing more than to lavish the day long, out-of-doors, drinking that Lilac-tinted air into your lungs. Around every bend, there is beauty. Blooms every where. From apple blossoms to dandy lions. And the sun feels like an old friend again, with it’s warm arm around your shoulders. Man I love spring! I adore it for what is reflected in my soul.

Naturally then, and as stated, I’ve been loitering with great effect out at the pit in recent days. Often taking my suppers out there, feet propped up, hat tipped up, and the world gently twirling before me. I’ll put a bit of music on the pit sound system, draft a lovely beverage, and make an evening of it there, contented and well fed. One of the projects we’ve smoked lately was meatloaf, which in of itself is not uncommon at the Pond Side Pit. But this particular loaf had a twist to it. A strategically placed core of hard boiled egg up it’s center. Yes mam, that’s what we did.

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The idea was suggested to us by one of our Australian readers, Laurie. A pleasant bloke from down under with an affinity for eating good things. So when he mentioned we ought to put hard boiled eggs in our meat loaf, well, we took it as gospel. Laurie knows things. He also harbors a keen sense of humor, so, if he’s pulling one over on us, well, then we’ve been egged. Regardless, Laurie, this one is for you.

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The smoke wood of choice today is pecan. A lovely, abiding, and faintly nutty bouquet sure to escort this loaf into the smokey realm with a degree of elegance. It is not an over powering smoke, but very well-rounded. If you only had pecan wood to smoke with at your pit, I don’t reckon your life would be too bad off. It makes our personal Mount Rushmore of Smoke Woods. And whilst were at it, may we remind you of our smoke wood list we compiled a while back, where upon many woods are gathered in one digital archive for your reference pleasure. Click on our Smoke Woods link here to take a gander.

At any rate, and back to meatloaf, it was prepped like any other meatloaf. I’m sure you’ve all got your recipes for that. We tossed in some chopped onions and green peppers, a few others odds and ends, and seasoned the meat with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. We flattened it out in a big pan, and laid three hard boiled eggs in a line, as seen a couple photos above. After a moment of retrospection, we bid the eggs adieu, and swaddled them in sticky meat. Meatloaf surprise was thus conceived.

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Man. Can you smell this! After about an hour on indirect heat, gently bathed in pecan smoke, the meat loaf took on a fairly nice crust, which I appreciated. Now if you set up your grill like we did, for indirect cooking, that is all the coals banked up to one side, with your protein on the other side, you will do well to rotate your meat load 180 degrees half way through the cooking process. Rotating is just for even cooking. A large spatula will do the trick there. And the whole cook takes about an hour. Which, off-hand and by the way, is the perfect amount of time to slurp down one manly beverage and nod off a wee bit in your patio chair. Yes sir, these are the high rigors of conventional BBQ. If you’re not up to the challenge, hand the tongs off to some one who is! We think you got this tho!

Thus, and under a beautiful blue sky which tapered into evening pastels, I did what I do best – nothing. Nothing save for to tarry there in the fresh air, and watch the wood smoke pillar from the pit damper. The meat loaf in the home stretch now, I crossed my legs like a gentleman of leisure ought to, listed a bit in my chair, and relished the final minutes of my BBQ. I could feel the accelerator pedal of life let up now. And for a while at least, all the world was reduced to this simple, suspended moment in time.  The wood smoke curling. The aroma of meatloaf under the lid. Song birds serenading from yonder tree tops. And the distinctly soft kiss of Lilacs in the breeze. Amen.

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Pecan Smoked Meatloaf with a Hard Boiled Egg Core. Man! I gotta say, it wasn’t half bad. Kind of takes your run-of-the-mill meatloaf, and makes it bit of a center piece. If we were to do it again, I do think I would rather fancy a nice bacon lattice wrapped around it’s flanks. Bacon and eggs, after all..Regardless, good eating patron to the pit! Thanks Laurie!

 

When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking: Chipotle Grilled Chicken

A lone Drake in good form, and handsome as a duck can be,  glided silently over the water, whilst the sun hung dimly on the drakehorizon. It’s scant rays caressing the roof tops, and budding leaves which adorned the neighborhood parkways. I just got home from a long day of responsibilities and the like, and wanted nothing more than to prop my feet up from the vantage of my man chair, and do little else there, save for to monitor the latitude of my eye lids. Yes sir, one of those days where you get home, foot sore and dirty, weary of body, and would fancy a lovely home cooked meal if it were there, but wished frankly to exert no effort towards that end. That’s the predicament I found myself in the other day. And I think we’ve all been there.

Well, I had two choices. Lay there and go hungry, or get back up again and cook supper. It’s times like this where you know you have, what they call, “1st World Problems“. Or, “Rich People Dilemmas“. At least there is a choice. My wife once took a missions trip to Africa. To the East African Rift zone, and the harsh plains of Kenya there, where upon she encountered many a family who didn’t have a choice in the matter at all, as to what’s for supper. Their day, no less weary than mine, and they would, by enforced circumstance alone, indeed keep laying there after all, and go hungry despite. And here I am grumbling about the ordeal of cooking supper. Not cool.

Thus, and with this renewed outlook and shift-of-mind, I swiftly came to the very accurate conclusion that cooking supper, whether I’m tired, in the mood,  or not, is indeed and always a great privilege. And one we probably ought not to be grumbling about. If you don’t believe that, just ask some of the Kenyan families I just told you about. Anyways, the evening was still lovely. I had some chicken in the freezer. Some potatoes at my disposal. And it’s a given, that I always love to grill once I’m out there, where the wood smoke also rises. So lets get after this, shall we, and procure some supper, patron to the pit.

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Meat and potatoes. That’s me. Classic man food. Freshly humbled, I got to work over the old kettle grill, with steely tongs in hand, plying my craft in the waning light. Some tin foiled potatoes were placed over direct heat. In the foil and swaddled decently there, were of course, potatoes diced to uniformity for even cooking, a sliced up onion, a few pats of butter, and some salt and pepper to taste. I think some peas too, just because. One of the simplest, and maybe our favorite kettle grill side dish. Tin foiled potatoes. If you’re one of the 5 people left on the planet who hasn’t made potatoes this way yet, well, you’re missing something out of your life. Direct heat – 20 minutes ought to do it. 

For to season our chicken today, we went with one of our favorite rubs as of late, Wholly A2015-ChipotleChipotle, by the good folks at Miners Mix. This one has a little kick to it, well, leastwise to us sally-tongued Swedes it does, so dash it on accordingly. If you slow down, and eat like a civilized cave man, you can notate a slow parade of flavors in this rub. A nice smokey chipotle base which marries well with a variety of meat. Man!

Ah the glories of grilling in the fresh evening air. I was glad I resisted the gravitational pull of the couch. But then I always am where grilling is concerned. Something about the ambiance of wood smoke in curl, and the serenity of the pit. Of communing with the tweety birds, and watching how the grass bends gently in the breeze. How the light dapples through the tree tops.  And the how the clouds idle in a pastel sky.

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A thin-blue smoke, patron to smoldering hickory wood, pillared forth from the top damper. It looked good there, in the wee, slanting light. We most always include some sort of smoke wood when grilling. The flavor of charcoal is well enough, and ten times that of any gas grill (sorry gassy people), but if you really want to amp up the flavor of your next cook-out, toss a chunk of hickory onto the coals. Or peach wood. Or pecan wood. Or apple wood. Your dinner guests will know at once your kettle fare hails from the smokey realm. A kingdom of which you alone shall rule over with tongs in one hand, and a manly beverage in the other. Ah yes, I love to grill, and I love to tarry out-of-doors under wide open skies. This is your privilege people. Seize it!

And this then is the trick, you see, of how to go about cooking supper when you don’t feel like it. You just get up and do it anyways. You do it because you need to eat. And because you can. And because in a world where so many go hungry, he who is too lazy to cook his own spoils, that which he was richly given, is not at all resonate of a thankful heart. I don’t know about you folks, but I think we should always give thanks for our food. And for the kindly hands that prepared it. Amen.

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Hickory Smoked Chipotle Chicken Breasts sided with Crispy Tin Foiled Potatoes. Another winner, patron to the pit.

A Pit Keeper’s Respite: Pecan Tinted Pork Chops on the Weber Kettle Grill

The other weekend my trail crony and I made camp at a nearby wilderness establishment; a locale of great loveliness, off the beaten path, and aside a watershed patron to a sky full of stars. As you may have gleamed around here, from time to time, we do rather like to engage our souls in the wilder places. In point of fact, if ever we were to scribe another blog, it would doubtless be one touting the high joys of the outdoor life. For this is what we do, by and by, besides grilling beautiful cuts of meat, that is. We seek to tarry where creation is most divine. And so there we were, naturally,  on the forest floor, our tents poetically pitched at the tail of a moonbeam. The stars drifting across an ebony sky. And the coyotes yelping from the distant hills.

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If you’ve never spent the night in the forest, your senses have never then been properly primed. Nor your imagination so sublimely stretched. To hear the critters scamper about, and everyone of them, you swear, sniffing the trembling corners of your tent. You can hear the diameter of coyote’s nose at ten paces, as it draws it’s air from the still night. The Trumpeter Swans bellowing in the darkness. You can hear those too. The Great Horned Owls stirring up a nocturnal racket, yapping on like little old ladies sitting in the tree tops. Then, some time in the wee hours, the undecipherable sounds of something heavy and hairy wandering at the edge of the woods. Nay, that’s just my camp mate, out for his nightly leg raise. It’s all good in the woods.

Shifting gears now, out at the pit. A light pecan smoke curls from the old kettle grill. It’s been a long week. A busy week. The kind of week that the big city is good at dishing out to those challenged and beleaguered souls entrapped within it’s elastic bosom. Everyone is in a hurry here. Pedal to the proverbial metal. Car horns blaring. Phones ringing. Sirens racing. It’s really something. Or at least you seem to notice it more, perhaps, after a good camping trip afield. Maybe that’s what it is. There is a palatial difference, or is it indifference, between the speed of life in the city and one out in the quieter places. One of head-turning, iconoclastic proportions.  And it only takes one night bedded down on the forest floor to realize it. And so my grilling, as humble as it may be, is at last a small respite to me – a last beach head of tranquility in a world gone to haste.

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So it was, and with great pleasure, too, that I laid the succulent pork chops over the pecan-scented flames. This one simple act, where man cooks meat over fire, outside, seems to trigger a domino of mental pleasures, all toppling forth in a splendid way before me. For starters, the smell of the wood smoldering over the fire. Very pleasant. Which in turn, connects to memories of cooking fires past. And some of those memories, of fires yonder, in places long ago. Of camp fires and good people. Over hill and by the dale, where the coyotes freely sing, and the moonbeams kiss the tender fabric of our tents. And illuminate the quiet hollows of our soul. Amen.

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Pecan smoked pork chops, with garlic mashed potatoes and a good spill of peas. Good is good at the pit tonight. And even better cooked outside. A Pit Keeper’s respite.

Belly Up: Double Smoked Maple Glazed Ham

What a delightful thing it is to awaken to the savory aroma of smoked ham, and the warm banter of a house full of contented family. It was Easter, and as the day would have belly upit, we had some family over to the pit to celebrate our Savior’s victory all those many years ago. And after the festivities were done, and our bellies were filled, we sort of bandied off to various sectors of the house, some to play games, others to watch a movie perhaps, and still others, like me, who sought a comfy locale in which to go “belly-up” for a bit. And that’s what I done did. The long-honored and highly esteemed privilege of the pit master. I took a nap.

Wake Up and Smell the Ham

Not all that exciting, I suppose, but for me, you understand, it was an event to rival a home run in the World Series. Okay, I have low standards, but even so,  I love to nap. It’s my hobby these days. One of which , I find, I seem to get better and better at with advancing years. There is just something about a well-placed nap that sets a bloke off right. It syncs a soul into the proper speed, perhaps. A worthy speed for disciplines of patience, such as the BBQ Arts, but also an over all suitable gait for general life enjoyment as well. You see, taking a nap slows you down, and that right there is the most important thing it does. It says to yourself and the world around you, that for a while at least, you’re in no hurry. That you’re content in this present moment, and you’re doing precisely that which is well with your soul. Oh, I adore a good nap.

Thus,  I melted into the couch with an abundance of soft pillows and drapey blankets. The soothing banter of family took up the acoustic back ground. Some movie also, played quietly on the TV. There is something intriguingly intoxicating about background murmur. The sounds you hear, but don’t really listen too. They ensconce around you like an acoustic gramma blanket almost. Anyways, I wiggled in, pillows situated just right.  My eyes drooping like a pair of wet underwear. And my deeds as a pit keeper met yet again, for another Easter. Indeed, a belly full of ham and a long string of “Z’s”. I was content, but before I doze off, let me tell you a little more about this Easter ham. And how it went and came to be.

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Hams are easy smokes, by and by. Unless you buy them green, or uncured, all the work is already done for you. Shucks, you don’t even have to cook it if you don’t want to, as most ham is cooked and ready to eat cold, right out of the package. In point of fact, most hams come smoked already too. So what’s a pit master need really to do then with a ham? Well, the obvious answer is to smoke it again! And that’s just what we did. The double smoke!

Match The Smoke

If you ever want to amp up the flavor of your run of the mill ham by ten fold, this is how to do it. Look on the package and see what kind of wood was used to smoke the ham, and then sort through your wood larders and see if you’ve got the same. Match the smoke if you can, just so you can maintain a certain tidiness about things. If not, apple wood is an excellent choice. Hickory too, and pecan wood is always wonderful as well.

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Whilst the smoker was coming up to speed, we rubbed the ham down in a cheap yellow mustard. Rubbed it all over like a bronzed Ecuadorian smearing on his sun tan lotion. The mustard rub is not for flavor of course, which many newbies think it is. Nay, it is your adhesive agent, varnished there to help hold your rub longer to the ham. And our rub today was about as simple as it gets – brown sugar. Feel free to add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to the ensemble, as I forgot to do that in my enthusiasm. We also lanced a few pineapple rings to the old ham for to serve as a self-basting sort of mechanism, but in truth, we did it mostly because it looks cool.

From there it was a slow ride in the Weber Smokey Mountain, at 225 degrees, bathed in a cloak of hickory smoke. A span of clock reaching about 3 hours, I should say, until the internal temperature of the ham reached 135 degrees. That is more than enough time to practice your pit master posture, in your favorite BBQ chair. Lovely beverage in hand, the world twirling slowly about you. Stately plumes of wood smoke curling from your old pit damper. Song birds rejoicing from yonder tree tops. This is our time, people,  our privilege patron to the Smokey Arts!

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Near the end of the cook, we glazed the meat lightly with some home made maple syrup, fresh from my brother’s tree. Don’t get too much better than that, folks!

And so it was, after the festivities were done, and our bellies were filled, we sort of bandied off to various sectors of the house. To do our bidding as it were. And it wasn’t too long before I was buried in a warm blanket, belly-up, head listing partial to the left, with a faint trail of drool accumulating in my down stream lip pit. The soft banter of family, a full belly, and the warm confide of a nap. Man!  And for a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, all was right on Easter Day. Amen.

For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him     –  Romans 6:9

How To Dig In: Dutch Oven Beef Stew

If ever the sun dallied just right in a blue sky, this was it. By golly, this was it. I suppose it could be that my appreciation for a warm sun beam has been acutely honimages (1)ed through the sheer absence of such things, courtesy of a long, winter’s campaign; but I tell you this, never has a single golden ray of it kissed my grizzled face so fine as it did this quiet, unassuming day at the pit. It has been a long winter in Minnesota, and I guess I was just ready for the sun again. Biologically primed, if you will, to lavish in it’s life-giving rays, and to dawdle the day away if need be, for to soak up every last photon of it, delivered on easy slants of golden light. And I did. Pulling it in like a poker victor rakes in his chips. When a day this nice comes along, a man does what he has to, you see. He does what he must. He digs in.

You Dig?

Digging in. It means to plant roots. To anchor thyself in a chosen locale, usually of a lovely persuasion. To take up roost there, and nary be thwarted by anything else. That is the way of us pit jockeys, you see. When we get a nice ambiance going, or a beautiful day such as this, with wood smoke gently in curl, sunbeams dappling through the lofty tree tops, tweety birds in full serenade, well, it is ingrained in our pit master instincts to exploit it for all its worth. A task not too difficult, nor far fetched, when you are as advanced as yours truly, in the fine art of being lazy. You do know, don’t you, how we like to loiter around here? It’s rather our specialty. Still, and even so,  one ought to have a goal of some sort, and I certainly did. Namely supper. In particular, beef stew patron to the pit. Are you ready for this?

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Of the first order, that is after drawing a manly beverage from the refrigerator, I stood abreast the little pit, and plopped a commendable load of stew meat onto the hot cast iron grates. They sizzled in eager anticipation there, whilst I manipulated them with aluminum tongs in hand. Then, for the heck of it, because I’ve long heard that smoked cabbage is good, I tossed on a 1/4 head of cabbage, and chucked a small tatter of mesquite wood into the coals for a little smokey goodness. Put the lid on and let the pit do it’s magic thing whilst I diced up the vegetables under the eternal blue skies above.

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It’s your beef stew, you put what ever you please in it. I like potatoes and carrots. Corn and green beans too. And like I mentioned, a little bit of cabbage. And some unsalted beef broth too, for it all to swim in. And the latter I would have, had I not mistakenly believed the beef broth had been tampered with. Turns out those cartons of broth are self-puncturing when you open it up. I didn’t know that, and thus, my alder bush out pond-side got a nice drink of beef broth, on the house. Live and learn, I guess.

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So we nestled the dutch oven into the hot bosom of the old kettle grill, with a few coals below it, and the rest tucked around the perimeter. A little smoke wood was still smoldering, and the day was still glorious to behold. And I knew just what to do next. I put on the kettle lid, grabbed my beverage, and made camp!

Here to Stay!

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Like I said, I aimed to stay here a while. To dig in! I’ve waited far too long for weather of this kind. More over, I wanted to test out my new backpacking tent, of which I launched this day, it’s maiden erection right here on the lawn, right beside the smoking kettle grill. I sensed a formidable tandem of sheer joy here. And it wasn’t long before I was belly-up in that thing, song birds blasting away, and for a moment, I was as giddy as a school boy, content with all the world, and then a few moments after that, I was dozing in the quietude, like an old man swaddled in blessings.

And the cloud shadows silently paraded across the grass, whilst the wood smoke gently tapered into that blue sky.

An unknown amount of time passed, like it always does when your dug in somewhere. I stirred quietly in my tent; scratching my hair, and then my belly, whilst listening to the day declare around me. The tweety birds still rejoiced, and the sun, I noted,  had ebbed a little further south and west, on it’s fiery arc through the sky. And hark, the aromas of mesquite and beef stew wafted as if on angelic wings through the cool air, mingling with the scent of emerging spring chlorophyll in my little nylon hut. Glory! I must say, because it’s true,  I’ve never had a Weber kettle grill in a campsite before, but now, after some consideration of the matter, not to mention first hand experience, I think it could be an agreeable venture after all.

I eventually emerged from my tent like a flannel-clad, ground hog, arose to a stately posture, and promptly itched my butt, then waddled over to the pit to check in on supper. Yes, I guess it is well to cook alone sometimes. Anyways, I gave it a good stir, mixing in some more of that smokey goodness. The carrots were soft. So were the spuds. I added some freshly cracked black pepper and some salt to taste. Man! I didn’t want this cook to end. This day to end. But eventually my coals did peter out. And my glorious sun swept with out care over the roof top, leaving a cold shadow over the patio from whence it shone.

That was enough, I thought. No sense in being greedier yet. It had been a good day at the pit, after all. A very good day indeed. A day in which I did precisely that which was well with my soul. A body needs such respites from time to time. And to do so where the wood smoke also rises. Amen. And time to eat.

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Savory, Wholesome, Mesquite Smoked Beef Stew, Fresh out of the Dutch Oven and patron to the pit. Yum!!

 

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