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Two Minutes a Fugitive: How To Survive A Man Hunt and Make a Real Good Pulled Pork Sandwich

 

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The sunbeams dappled through the turning cottonwood leaves, and the ducks rooted about the green grass like ducks do, whilst I tended a lovely bed of coals in the Weber Smokey Mountain. Autumn is in the air. The leaves are turning gold now, and red, and orange. Geese are on the wing. Shorter days and colder nights. I’ve always liked this time of year. Brings back some fond memories. Some potent ones too. Like the one time I found myself at the business end of a man hunt, mistaken there for a wanted murderer. That’s why I’m smoking a pork butt today. To pay remembrance to the day I felt like Harrison Ford in the fugitive. Grab yourself a spot of tea, won’t you, and I’ll tell you about it. We will reminisce through the old brain pan whilst I tend my BBQ here. And the wood smoke gently rises.

img_3692It was two years ago. It was a routine day, or should have been anyways, and I remember it well. I was on my commute, puttering along the back roads of outer suburbia on my 49cc Yamaha scooter. It was the perfect weather in which to go for a ride. The sun was golden, hanging in a beautiful autumn sky, and the geese were a’plenty as I motored by them feeling the softened wind on my face. It was lovely. About as quaint as an autumn day comes, well almost. That’s when I saw the pretty red lights flashing ominously in my mirror.

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Pork shoulder rubbed in Miners Mix Memphis Rub, bathed in pecan smoke. Man! Can you smell it, people!

Now it isn’t often I get pulled over. And it is considerably less often I get pulled over on my little scooter. I mean, it’s not like they’re going to catch me for speeding on the thing. It can go from zero to sixty in, oh, about never. And I’d be lucky to hit thirty on a down hill, even, lest it was plummeting off a thousand meter embankment. So I was relatively sure I wasn’t speeding. So what did the state’s finest pull me over for then? And more over, why did they have their pistols out, trained on my coronary left ventricle?

It is a prudent thing to not try and out run cops on your scooter,  especially when you likely look akin to a circus bear on the thing. So I did the most honorable tactic I could think of, and just pulled over. Why fight it. Their 9 millimeter Glock pistols, deployed and pointed at my rattling heart, sort of removes any procrastination on the matter.

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Take the internal temperatures to 195 or so. This is the succulent threshold to the world of pulled pork. *Note the drip tray below to catch some juices to pour back over the meat whence it is pulled. Yup, we’re thinkers here at the pit!

Get off the scooter and put your hands in the air!croaked the fuzz. More officers suddenly materialized like phantoms on the scene. Resident squirrels darted for cover.

Now when you find yourself in this sort of predicament, with guns pointed at you,  I must say your mind does rather tend to race. I was still trying to figure out what this is all about. They were taking my scooter ride very seriously, after all. And if this is how they deal with expired tabs, well, we’ve got problems. And then it occurred to me, like a dog who just crapped on the new carpet,  that helicopters had been flying around all day, and I had heard on the news earlier that there was a dangerous fellow on the run in the area, who had just killed some one in a gas station parking lot a few miles away. Could it be the police thought I was this guy? Well, turned out they did.

I’ll tell you this, it is a lonely feeling to be a wanted fugitive. I didn’t have much going for me as the cops surrounded thee like a pack of wolves to a wayward moose, with my hands trembling in the air. The only thing I had going for me, I figured, was the truth. And eventually, I wagered, somewhere down a perilous and fickle line, they would figure that out. So I proceeded to enjoy a good frisking there along side the road, as the cops got to know me. They asked me some questions and I answered, of course, in an unintelligent blabber better suited for room full of baboons. But they understood it.  They’ve seen my kind before. They looked at my ID, looked at me, looked back at the ID, then back at me again, and gloriously came to the accurate conclusion that I was not the man they were looking for. And that I was free to go. The truth had done it’s bidding.

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Equipment like the Maverick Redi Chek are handy things at the pit. It will alert the pit boy when his meat has reached the proper internal temperature.

Sorry“, they said” But we’re looking really hard for some one right now“.

That’s quite alright“, I croaked, and then I told them about the condition of my underpants. We all had a good laugh over that, and went our separate ways.

Yup, that was quite the day for a humble pit jockey such as yours truly. A day I will long remember, for better or for worse. But a day none-the-less of such note worthy stature that I figured it deserves, perhaps,  a meal cooked outside, over a lovely bed of coals. Something slow, and meaningful. Something like pulled pork.

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Well, once the pork shoulder ebbed over 195 internal it was ready to rest, and then an hour after that, ready to pull. Whence pulled to our proper spec, we drizzled the drip pan contents back over it, and mixed in some of Joe Joe’s Blackberry Sauce. Son of a yum! If you have not tried this sauce yet, man, I really think you’re missing out. Out of the sauces we reviewed from them, this one was the unanimous favorite by family and friends. Here is a link to it if you’re interested.  Joe Joe’s Black Berry Sauce  Oh, and Joe, if you’re reading this, we are all out of this amazing sauce...Hint.Hint!

So it was, as I prepped my pecan-smoked pulled pork sandwich, that my day of reflection drew to a close. I know cops have been on the news in recent times for not-so-good reasons, but I must say, that the ones who dealt with me were of good stock. Decent men with families who were just trying to do their job. Men who were putting their lives on the line for a guy on a scooter. For all of us, really. They are nothing short of heroes still in my book. And yes, they caught the guy they were after too, about a week later. He was standing at the Arby’s drive-thru, longing at a photo of a beef and cheddar sandwich there. He gave himself up with out a fight. And I was a free man. Amen.

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Slow Pecan Smoked Pulled Pork with a Blackberry Tint. Say what ever you will, but backyard BBQ just doesn’t get any better than this.

 

 

 

Resilience

 

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Rising from the murky waters of Louisiana there is hope. Resilience. Tho the tempest has howled, and the floods have washed much asunder, it will not wash away the human spirit, nor the ability to carry on. This photo was just too fantastic not to share. We do not know who these guys are, but a tip of the BBQ Tongs of Gold Award to these Gentlemen of the Grill. Comrades of the Coals. And Patrons of the Pit. In the words of Kipling, “You have kept your wits about you when all others are losing theirs“. Bless you, and prayers for drier days. Amen.

 

Meat Lust: Tri-Tip on the Weber Kettle Grill

In all the years we’ve been into BBQ, and all the smoking projects to come and go across the pit, one of the most elusive has been the venerable Tri Tip. It’s not for lack of trying. It’s just that up here in Minnesota, and many other places across the country, Tri Tip roasts are rather hard to locate. Sort of like a kindly old grandma at a heavy metal concert, it just doesn’t happen. Indeed, I’ve searched this county high and low, and nary a Tri Tip to be found. And then last week, on a casual bacon foray at my local butcher counter, I cast first glance upon my meaty betrothed.

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She was beautiful. So shapely and raw. Three points of beef, and decidedly marbled. She laid under the glass like a super model, next to the T-Bones and the rump roasts. My, but I was smitten for this cut of meat. I was ready to drop to my knee right there, and dig out my wallet when a voice bellowed from behind the counter.

Can I help you with something?” asked the butcher in the white shirt.

Where have you been all my life!“, I belched through a long-standing gaze, wiping my drool off my chin.

The butcher man just shook his head in shades of pity. I pointed to my quarry beneath the glassy pane.

“Oh, we’ve carried Tri-Tips for years“, he croaked. “You just have to keep an eye out for them, as they do come and go“.

Conversation was squelched by my giddiness, no time to chew the fat, well, at least metaphorically speaking, and before long I had my beloved swaddled in butcher paper and tucked under my wing like an NFL half back, as I darted hither and yon through the crowded grocery store. Putting a spin move on a mother of four. Lowering my shoulder to the door. Back to the Pond Side Pit I went. Back to my caloric destiny! And I knew precisely what must transpire next.

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Whilst the coals came to maturation on the old kettle grill, we seasoned up the tri tip with same goodness we used on our 4th of July brisket a while back. Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub, from the good people at Miners Mix. Absolutely love this rub. It has been fantastic on ribs and butts, and likewise we were keen to discover it performs well on beef too. Said so on the back of the bottle. Said it was recommended for Tri Tips, and well, that’s all we needed to know. So we coated the roast liberally with it. Then, as a second layer of flavor, and just because, we sprinkled on a fair coating of Montreal Steak Seasoning. If you have none of this, the old stand-by of salt and pepper is nothing to hang your head about. Add a little garlic and onion powder to that, and you have yourself a time-tested, and most worthy spice rub.

*You can season Tri Tips liberally because you are going to slice it later into thin 1/4 inch pieces, like a brisket. So let the seasonings fly.

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It wasn’t long before my meat bounty lay prostrate next to a fiery bed of coals. It sizzled accordingly when it hit the hot Craycort grates, a sound well-loved by many a pit jockey in good form. The sound of that first sizzle sort of signifies to yourself, and those who may be looking on, that the games have indeed begun. That for a while, man and meat will dance, and the fires will be hot. I love it. And to hold with Santa Maria Tri Tip culture, we tossed some oak chips onto the coals. Red Oak is the most poetically correct wood to use. That’s what the Californians would say. But if you’re a rebel, use what you want. I hear pecan wood is no slouch for competent tri tip. We’d caution against green treated wood, however, from your deck. Don’t do it people.

The Poor Man’s Prime Rib

What do you get when a brisket and a sirloin steak get married and have a baby? I think it’s

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Santa Maria Style Grill

Tri Tip. It reminds me quite a bit of working with a brisket. But it tastes something like a steak. Tri Tips are harvested from the sirloin, we’ve heard, so that is part of it I’m sure. Some folks like to think of the Tri Tip as the poor man’s prime rib. I like that sound of that too. But it is an exquisite cut of meat, and quite fun to cook. Out in California, they do it all over an open Santa Maria style grill. If I’m ever out in Santa Maria, I must check out their Tri Tip prowess. Those open grills look like too much for a patron of the pit.

Reverse Sear

As meats go, Tri Tip is an easy cut to cook. Ours was done in about an hour flat, courtesy ofIMG_6525 the Weber kettle grill. The little lady is not so much fond of rare red meat, so we brought the internal temperature to 150 or so, all on indirect heat,  opposite the hot coals, and then plated the beast up and let it rest for 15 minutes or so. During the rest, the meat will reallocate its savory juices in adequate fashion. Then, and only then, we brought it back out to the pit once more, and seared it over direct heat this time. The reverse sear, as it called. Meaning to sear at the end of the cook versus the beginning. This, the one last glorious finale to the grilling process, produces a pleasurable crust, and sort of locks in the rested juices. Searing it at the end of the cook like this also means you do not have to rest it again. In point of fact, serve it immediately to your guests, and watch their eyeballs pop open with delight. The meat burst with succulence. And note the accolades which befall the chosen pit master. Man, can you smell it! Tip your hat, draw a lovely beverage, and thus tarry now in the wake of deeds well done. Indeed, where man and meat hath danced as one. Amen.

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*When you slice your Tri Tip, do so as you would a brisket. Cut on the bias, or across the grain for a tender chew. It makes a remarkable difference. 

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Oak Smoked Kettle Grilled Tri Tip. Come on people now, it don’t get much better than this!

 

 

 

 

Random Acts of BBQ

 

Two Men, Two Pits, and Forty Pounds of Yard Bird

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It was early Saturday morning at the Track Side Pit. The song birds were singing as brightly as the warm, August sun, of which it’s golden shafts dropped with authority from an eastern sky, kissing the Petunias that which bordered the patio here. Soft music played on the pit speaker system, whilst the tall, leafy stalks of the track-side Mullen plants leaned in the morning breeze. Smoke curled off the freshly lit charcoal chimney, as I prepped the 22 inch Weber Kettle grill for action. My fellow patron, and caretaker of the Track Side Pit, patiently tinkered with his old, Char-Griller Outlaw, also prepping it for business. Yes indeed, a dual patron cook out was in progress. We love it when this happens. It is not often both co-founders of PotP bandy together to ply their craft in one locale. But we did this morning. We had things to do. Manly things. And we would do it together, by and far, as Patrons of the Pit. We would do it for Lee.

 

There is this BBQ chain that I rather admire, called Sonny’s BBQ. Many of the readership here Sonny'shave probably heard of it. Many have probably even partook of it. Sad to say I have never been there however, nor sampled their smokey wares. I’m sure the vittles are good tho, I don’t question that. But it isn’t their food so much that impresses me, even tho I know it would. Nay, it is their character, and in particular, this thing they do, called, Random Acts of BBQ.

What they do is find some one in the community who has been giving selflessly, of their time and talent to others. And doing so whilst asking for nothing in return. Just plain good people helping other people. Anyways, the team at Sonny’s BBQ cater a bunch of tasty BBQ to these folks, throwing a shin dig as just a way to say thanks, and to let them know they are appreciated. Pretty cool stuff. Well, figuring that there is no copyright on kindness, we here at PotP thought we’d dabble in the practice ourselves, and do something nice for some one else, who could use some good BBQ.

That some one is friend that goes to our church. She’s been through a rough time of it lately, rougher than most people I know, losing her husband, Lee, in a car accident last spring. It’s miserable stuff, but with grace handed to her from the Lord above, she’s managing through it alright. Life goes on, as you know, and here lately, she had to throw a graduation party for her daughter, and she needed a lot of meat grilled up for this. She needed help. And this is where a Patron of the Pit must answer his calling. This is what we’re born to do! And we were glad to do so.

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40 Pounds

40 pounds. That’s about how much chicken we had to grill up this morning. This would later be chopped up for a massive quantity of Chicken Caesar Wraps, sufficient enough in-part to feed a parade of hungry tummies. It’s a lot of chicken! And rotating between two pits: the 22 -inch kettle grill, and the Char-Griller Outlaw, we made it happen. Systematically cranking through it. Several chimneys of charcoal. Several lovely beverages.  And four hours of good, meat-flipping comradeship. We were men, you see. Soldiers of the Smoke. And highly smitten for the day. What a pleasurable cook it was. And it started of course, with bacon.

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No, the bacon was not an ingredient for the Chicken Caesar Wraps. Nay, it was for us! If you’ve not yet experienced the joys of breakfast at the pit, well you’re missing out on some of the finer moments of life. My fellow patron brought out his camp stove, and set it up pit-side, and in a few moments, the sounds and aromas of sizzling bacon were at play. That combined with a gaggle of fried eggs, a cup of coffee and some old fashion donuts, well, such set our bellies off right, here in the golden shallows of a morning sun.

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So it was, batch by batch, we grilled our way through the morning hours, whittling away on the 40 pound pile of chicken breasts. It is not technical grilling. Anybody could do it. We seasoned each chunk in a light offering of salt, pepper and garlic. SPG as it’s called in the business. Then we placed them over direct heat to start, right over the coals, this to sear them a touch, and promote a moderate crust with lovely bits of char. And when this was completed on both sides, the breasts were then escorted by tong in hand over to the other side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and there they would finish out the remainder of the cook, and their journey to excellence. And we did our best of course, not to get in the way of that.

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Indeed, once we found our rhythm, we settled down into our patio chairs when appropriate, legs crossed like gentlemen of leisure, and just watch the smoke pillar from from our grills. Sunbeams broke through the deck above us, illuminated in smokey shafts. Tweety birds sweetly serenaded us from afar, and the grass yonder never looked so green. The children frolicked in the sand box, and you could almost hear the garden growing right beside us. We looked at each other and smiled. Nary a word was said, or needed to be said. We both knew we had arrived. Doing precisely that which is well with our souls. What a beautiful day to grill something. And what a better day yet, to do something helpful for someone else. And to let them know that they matter, and that we’re here for them, by and by.

This one’s for you, Lee. And the little lady. Blessings. And amen.

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 What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.

– James 1:27

 

Pork Chops and Fishing Poles: A Loiterer’s Tale

It was with small fan fare that my elder brother and I made way this weekend last, for the resplendent, and highly secretive, Valley of the Trouts. ASAMSUNG CSC quaint locale of which neither of us is particularly keen in giving you the coordinates to. You know how it goes. Tell one person, tho well-meaning, and that person will in-turn will tell another, and that one passes it on to yet another bloke, and so on, thus engaging the metaphoric domino topple of death to your secret place. So we’re not going to disclose its location. Not today. We will tell you, however briefly, that the stream which gurgles along the valley bottom is of the sweetest variety. Clear and cold and sick with rainbow trout. Winding like a watery tapestry through forests of Oak, and Pine, and Shagbark Hickory. And the sun swings high in a summer sky there, dropping its warm light on golden slants to the valley floor, dappling through the hardwood canopies, and glittering upon trout waters. Indeed, it is a place worth being.

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So it was my elder brother and I made an encampment upon these earthy shores of paradise. The stream ever-gurgling past our snug respite. Tweety birds in full form. We got to work doing what we do best – eating! Brother put some bacon to cook in the camper, whilst outside, I fired up the flimsy, old, portable BBQ grill that has seen a thousand and one campsites over the years. What holds that contraption together still, I do not know, but the answer must reside somewhere in the sinew of memories of campsite’s past, and the grilling under the tall pines we have done there. Oh how we love to cook out-of-doors. And especially this is so, in camp.

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Perhaps it is the fundamentals of such things, why we aspire so to cook in camp. Just to lay meat to flame in the wild places. Or to hear supper sizzling over a quaint bed of coals, whilst the breeze whispers through stands of stately pines. Life nary achieves a simpler status than this. For a while anyways, all the complexities of our day-to-day are cast aside. And the only thing left now, the only pressing matter in life, is to eat. And to eat good. And then maybe watch the world slowly turn by.

From time to time, it is well to live this almost simpleton’s existence. It sort of reboots a soul to function  proper-like,  once again.  And could nary be more fun.

You know, cooking bacon is kind of like photographing a beautiful woman!” my brother belched from within the camper.

I’m not sure what he meant by that, for comparing women to bacon could go a multiple of ways, but no how, and even so, I could hear the bacon crackling in its pan of juices, whilst brother manipulated various plates and utensils. And I reveled in the acoustic glory of it. The aromas, too, of thick-cut pork belly wafting out the camper door. Mercy! And amid this splendor, I tended the grill and two portly pork chops there, with the bone in for added flavor. Seasoned simply with garlic and onion salt. And just like with the Weber kettle back home, I created a little pocket for indirect cooking, for a modicum of thermal control under such raw and primitive conditions. Camp life was in full swing.

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Of course we engaged in our share of trout fishing whilst there. When you camp next to a trout stream, it sort of stands to reason. And when you love to fish, as we do,  it is all but a certainty. We caught a few rainbows, but returned them all. Something a little easier to do when you have a baker’s dozen worth of pork chops in the RV ice box. And you can’t beat a trout camp for ambiance either. Just seeing the fishing gear propped about brings a smile across my heart. Old waders and spin casters and fishing bags. I haven’t however the faintest of clues who Bensy is, but they made the photo even so.

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The chops were done at the same time the potatoes were. That’s true camp harmony right there. When two cooks conspire in the woods bringing together the perfect little meal, at just precisely the right time. We don’t always nail it like that, but we did this time. We forgot the cooking oil, however, so we had to fry our potatoes in bacon grease. It worked exceedingly well.

So we tarried there, with a plate of good food, in the Valley of the Trouts. The stream babbled over stones and fallen trees, creating a song which sang sweetly unto our ears. Wood smoke curled off the camp fire, and an old, white-enameled coffee pot sat nearby, and at the ready. Leaning back in our camp chairs with a plate of vittles on our lap, I gotta say, this was proper living. Our chosen life style if we could get it. We gobbled down our food like two pumas to a warthog, and fed the fire whilst the sun ebbed behind the valley rim. And the blue skies all tapered to black, and the stars emerged like scattered diamonds on high. We bantered into the night, as per par for trout camp, enjoying the soft glow of a kerosene lamp, the randomness of fire flies, and a contented feeling residing kindly in our bellies, and deep in our soul. Amen.

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Stream side with grilled pork chops and fried potatoes. Oh yes, and bacon!

Keeping it Simple: How to Grill for the Mass Populous

Rule #1: Don’t Experiment On Your Guests

The heat index hemorrhaged around 102, but of course,  it felt even hotter than that. It pretty much had too. I was grilling, you see. Grilling on the hottest day of the year. I stood abreast the pit, fires blazing as if spurted up from the very bowels of Hades, sweat tumbling off my nose like a Yosemite waterfall, spatula in hand, working deftly a herd of cheeseburgers about the grate, trying to coral them all into the indirect heat, opposite the orange bed of coals. The grease spilled from the burger underbellies, igniting like Ron Howard’s Back Draft on the coals below. The casualties of burnt knuckle hair a’waft in the evening slants of golden light.  I slipped the lid on with all due haste, snuffing the inferno. Vexed like a Saber Toothed Tiger who just chased a monkey up a tree. I grabbed a paper towel and drew it across my forehead. My but it was hot and sporty at the pit today. Unmercifully heated! But I worked it. I had to. I stood my ground as Keeper of the Coals. For I had people to feed today. Lots of people.

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We were having some company over, you see, and my bride hereby appointed me head cook for the crowd. You can do that, I guess, when you’re a wife of a patron of the pit. There are certain privileges they enjoy, such as not cooking, and getting to sample your routine grilling spoils. It’s a good life for them, I cannot deny. But they also must endure. They oft-times are the humble recipients of your experimental meat art. Of new flavors, and coarse culinary ideas. She never quite has let me live down the smoked peach cobbler incident, that which tasted more like a rank ash tray that any peach we knew. But what can you do? Seemed like a good idea at the time. This day, however, we were going with a known quantity sure to sooth the populous tongue. Cheeseburgers! And thus, under blue skies and a rather hellish sun, so it was, and came to be.

You Seasoned it With What???

Now when cooking En masse, because of a distinct variety of tastes you’re trying to please, I find a good technique as far as seasoning is to err on the edge of simple. Keep it simple. For some folks do not care for bold, in-your-face, flavors. They just don’t. And it is a pain in the pit keeper’s hind quarter, but alas he should refrain from impregnating his beloved beef patties with his newly contrived ghost pepper sauce. Just don’t do it. Lest you enjoy hearing your name moaned in vain across three and one-half zip codes. Keep it simple.

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So to season our burger patties we went about as simple, and as time-tested as you can get. Just some kosher salt and some fresh cracked black pepper. That’s it. That’s all you need when sailing the sea of many palates. Throw some smoke wood on your coals to give the burger a little something extra, patron to the pit. And your guests will know at first bite that your burgers hail from the smokey realm. And don’t forget the bacon either!

Enter The Meat Candy

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Being your quintessential red-blooded man, I estimated we needed roughly two pounds of thick cut, maple-smoked bacon, give or take, for our cheeseburgers. A frying project perfectly suited for the Mojoe Griddle. We took the steel behemoth from its box and lugged it pit-side, and centered it over the 30,000 BTU burner of the Camp Chef stove. Glory be, you have never in all your days seen a mound of bacon cook so swiftly, and so effortlessly as this. And the heady aromas which pummeled your nose bordered on cardiac utopia. Once again, we are smitten with the Mojoe way of life. But then, who wouldn’t be with all that bacon.

If you haven’t yet had occasion, and if you feel like it, do go and check out  http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ You can learn all about the Mojoe there, and who knows, maybe even pick yourself up one for your next meat party.Worth every dime.

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Thus it was with a sweat laden reproach that we scooped the last burger off the pit, some of them cloaked in a gooey pile of medium cheddar. Man! Lightly seasoned only in salt and freshly cracked pepper, and tinted with a sweet kiss of pecan smoke, just because. And all the fixings left to the discretion of your supper guests. That’s how you do it. If you’re a good pit jockey, you might even toast the buns for them. Amen.

 

 

 

Food and Fellowship: How BBQ Could Save The World

A thin-blue smoke pillared from the old bullet cooker as a bandy of black birds sangblt4 from the pond’s edge. It was mid-afternoon, mid-summer, and mid-week come to think of it, and all the world seemed on the bustle today, and busy, and hurried to get along. Well, save for yours truly that is. Nay, I had other plans this afternoon. To smoke up a rack of ribs, for one, and also some chicken wings to take to some friends who could use a good meal these days. A BBQ care package, I guess you could say. People just like barbecue.

Something For Everyone

Barbecue. Have you noticed ever when you go into a BBQ joint that there is just something in the air, something besides the most succulent aromas known to mortal man. That’s right. There is an abiding sort of gastronomic appreciation there. A universal reverence almost, for what is smokey and good. A joy for BBQ scattered in unbiased fashion across the social cross-section.  Your class or zip code makes no bearing in BBQ. Doctors and lawyers, I suspect love BBQ. So do teachers and garbage men. Clergymen and atheists. Pig farmers and even vegetarians, I bet, tho they won’t eat it, deep down admire BBQ. Even people from Iowa! Indeed, black, yellow, white or brown, your skin matters not in BBQ. Every one is free to tarry on it’s savory shores.

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BBQ Fusion

That’s the beautiful part about good BBQ. People from many walks of life coming together in food and fellowship. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, if the BBQ is good, you will gladly slurp it off a paper plate, and wipe your face with your sleeve.Whether you’re a grease monkey from Queens, or the Queen of England herself, everybody is equal where fine smoked meat is concerned. And say what you will on this, but that is no small thing. For BBQ is oft times regarded as a fickle, and snobbish pursuit. One of the most opinionated subjects in the free world, just behind politics and religion. Yet, and somehow,  we all come together in fellowship for some good BBQ.

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What If…

It’s a childish notion, I know, but what if all the leaders of a world gone mad, conspired together for lunch some day, and had BBQ. All sitting around a big table, with make-shift, paper towel bibs, and tall drinks at hand. Communing and dining on perfectly executed BBQ.  I bet they’d be in a pretty good mood for the most part. Well as good a mood as you can be, I suppose, being a world leader and all. There’s just something about BBQ that makes it all okay.

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And so they would eat and feast and look around the table at each other, everybody sporting a little BBQ sauce wayward on their face, and a pleasant, satisfied feeling deep in their bellies. For a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, I hope they would notice that it’s not all bad having lunch together. That if they can get along well enough for an hour or so, maybe they can do it some more, and maybe even become friends, with a plate of good food in front of them. Childish notions for sure, but hark, the working model of this, of course, has already been perfected -a little something your local BBQ shack has known for many years. BBQ brings people together.

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A Time to Share

As the mallards milled about on the pond’s edge, and the breeze mingled sweetly in the trees, I glazed up the wings with some more Blackberry BBQ Sauce, from the kindly folks at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack. On the other pit, the ribs had just come out of the foil, highly pampered there in brown sugar, butter, and a squirt of honey. Smoked with pecan wood. Oh buddy! They were almost, but not quite, falling off the bone. Time to deliver these spoils for whom they were intended! And time to make time, for what is good. And what is right.Barbecue may never save the world, but I’ll tell you this,  it sure is a better tasting place because of it. And that’s a start at least. Amen.

Trouble With The Curve: On Baseball and Brisket

We love baseball here at the pit. Love having it on the radio whilst plumes of pecan smoke curl into the air. Or on the TV whilst we nap soundly in our man chairs. And we love to go to games when we can, too, and see the boys of summer ply their FullSizeRender (14)craft afield. There is just something about the ambiance of a baseball game of which is as endearing to me, perhaps, as the game itself. From the sounds of wooden bats cracking on a warm summer’s night, to the violent thwack of a fastball arrested in a catcher’s mitt, to the highly-honed riffs of the organ lady as she rallies the crowd. I even enjoy the thoughtful scoop of the plastic seats. And the hearty bellow of the hot dog vendor as they ascend the steps. The sound of some one shelling peanuts in the seat behind you. It’s all part of the ambiance. And ah yes, the food.

The food is half the ambiance right there. From the aroma of polish sausages, and sauteed onions, riding on a breeze. To freshly popped popcorn. And pork chops and deep fried walleye. And Tony O’s Cuban sandwiches. And the heady scent of hot mini donuts drifting down a crowded concourse. Man! Indeed, the ambiance, and the food of baseball, is maybe why we go to games in the first place. It’s the best thing going, after all, when your team is last in their division. Nay, when they are the worst team in all of baseball. Yes, the Minnesota Twins are that team this year. They achieved this status early on in the season, and haven’t bothered to budge ever since. They have struggled. A list of expectations seldom met. Aw well. Let’s just say they’re having some troubles with the curve. But then again, don’t we all.

Indeed, we all run into curve balls from time to time, and sometimes even with things we’re supposed to be good at. Like BBQ. I think of a couple of weekends ago, the July 4th weekend as it were. I was up before the tweety birds, and like many American men, still in my pajamas, standing on the patio gazing up at the stars. It was a beautiful night, or morning, or what ever you want to call it that time of day. Let it be said, however,  there is only one thing in this world that will get a man up this early on his day off, and that thing is brisket! Yes sir, I was the proud owner of a 10 pound prime packer brisket, and it was beautiful, and today, if the BBQ gods would have it, it would finish it’s life’s course with a succulent rendezvous deep inside my belly! I was giddy, I don’t mind telling you. But this is brisket, and as any pit jockey knows, you have to wait for brisket.

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Whilst the Weber Smokey Mountain came up to temp, we went inside and trimmed the brisket of excessive fat. There are like two kinds of fat on a brisket. Hard fat and softer fat. The hard stuff doesn’t render that well, and we would do well to carve it out of there. The softer fat renders better, but oft times there is just too much of it. And while the fat does baste the meat and help keep it moist, all the big shots in the BBQ industry seem to say to trim it down anyways to about a 1/4 inch thickness. So that’s what we did. We also took a slice off the corner of the flat, as you can see. This an old pit jockey’s trick to remind us later on, whence the brisket is cloaked in bark, which way it was again that we were supposed to slice the thing. Always slice your brisket across the grain for a tender piece.

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For the rub today, we used two standbys around here. The first layer is maybe our favorite rub in recent months, Maynards Memphis BBQ, from our friends over at Miners Mix. If you haven’t tried this stuff yet, you’re missing out, people. Very good! So that was the first layer. For a secondary layer of flavor, we like to put on a light to moderate dusting of McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning. This just gives brisket another layer of flavor that is flat-up awesome. A little something extra to greet your tongue at the front door, and invite you in to the show. Man! Let’s get this on the pit already.

We dialed in the pit temp to a nice 250 degrees, of which the plan was to hold it there all the day long. The going formula these days for a brisket is 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound. We had a 10 pound brisket, and well, you do the math. It would be a long smoke. One of almost heady proportions. Hence our early pit call this morn. And so we put the brisket in the WSM, fat-side up, for to render that fat down into the meat whilst it cooked. Now the choice smoke wood for brisket, if you’re a Texas man anyways, is Post SAMSUNG CSCOak. We couldn’t find any oak about these parts, so we went with the next best thing, pecan wood. Pecan wood is fast becoming our favorite all-around smoke wood. It just works with everything, it seems. And for some reason, stores carry it around here, despite there being no pecan trees in Minnesota.  Go figure.

So it goes, under a shimmering star field, our brisket sets out on its long, smokey voyage. And in time, the night sky dissolves into the blue pastels of early morning, courtesy of a softly rising sun. The pecan smoke curls gently in the stillness of the dawn, and I can hear the brisket start to sizzle and drip. Song birds sing sweetly from on high, and it appears, if but just for the moment anyways, all the world is right, and in perfect working order. My eye lids droop like as I pandiculate pit side. I check the pit temp one more time, and then do what any red-blooded man who got up at 4 in the morning would do…I itched my butt and went back to bed

That’s one of the high joys of the long smokes you see. No, not butt itching, but the inevitable spans of clock now at your disposal. Free time. For our people generally leave the pit master alone when meat is on the cooker- to mind it you see, to nurture it, and guide it via our vital pit master instincts to a happy and most edible end game. Now when you have a good smoker, like say a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or even in our case, a Weber Smokey Mountain, once you dial in that temperature, well, you can rest relatively assured that it will stay at that temperature for as long as the coals hold out.  And I dumped in a goodly amount of coals, let me tell you.A full 20 pound bag of charcoal, in point fact, and expected a good 12 hours of burn time. Reminiscent of my elder brother’s suburban back in the day, with the 40 gallon gas tank. Anyways, I was a might pooped, and like I said, I sidled back to bed a spell. Belly-up and snoring post-haste, whilst the morning sun crept across a blue sky, the tweety birds cavorted at the pond’s edge, and my pajamas smelled like wood smoke. It was glorious. And then of course,  came the curve ball…

Mind Your Meat!

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I had been asleep, oh, about 3 hours I should think. Not much more than that. I was awoken by my friend, Ralf’s, text. It’s a good thing too, because when I went out to the pit to check in on things, like pit keepers ought to,  I discovered something rather interesting had transpired with my beloved brisket. The internal temperature of the flat was 208! Over done by just a tad, but it would suffice. For brisket you want to get it somewhere between 195 and 205. That’s your window of good fortune! That’s where the most amazing things happen in Brisketville. What is interesting here tho is that it reached this temperature in about 4 hours flat!  I was expecting something rather more in the vicinity of 12 – 15 hours. And rightfully so. But it happened in 4 instead. And to this end, I have no explanation. I’m what you might call, “Bum-puzzled”. Scratching my head, I couldn’t tell you the tip of my nose from my big toe on this one. The old BBQ adage, “Its done when its done“, certainly applies to this smoke, I guess. The mysteries of conventional BBQ, folks. What can you do? But the thermal probe slide into the tender meat with a butter like consistency, leastwise in the point it did. That’s when you know you’ve nailed. When the probe slides in with no resistance. Just didn’t expect to get there in 4 hours.

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Resting Your Meat

No matter. The brisket needed to rest anyways. Always rest your meat before slicing it, to ensure that the juices are properly sucked back into their appropriate locations. Resting your meat 1 to 2 hours is plenty, but if you must, or you screw up like us, you can rest it for 6 hours like we had to. Just wrap it in foil really good, so that no leaks are present, and then place it in your cooler with a bunch of towels. We’ve been using this trick for years, and it will keep your brisket or pork butt piping hot for several hours on end. It really works great.

Blackberry Burnt Ends

This is where we hit the curve ball out of the park. An hour before the meal was to be served, we chopped the point of the brisket up into cubes suitable for burnt ends. Dashed them over with more  Maynards Memphis Rub, some Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry BBQ sauce, along with a splash or two of apple cider vinegar. The pan thus was put back out on the pit for another 45 minutes or so, to do its thing. And no, I did not go take another nap.

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Burnt ends are fabulous, people. If you have not yet had occasion to make yourself a batch of these kingly BBQ morsels, you are pretty much missing out on one of the top four best things in BBQ. They melt in your mouth like popcorn, almost. These had a subtle blackberry tint to them, a nice, flavorful bark, and some mighty succulent smoked beef. Man! It is in my estimation the best thing we’ve pulled off the pit in a very long time. Maybe ever. Great Scott they were good!

I plated up a handsome portion of these beefy spoils, and made the acquaintanceship of my man chair. Feet kicked up like a gentleman of leisure, I flipped on the TV to the Twins game to see how they were doing. Turns out they were losing, go figure, and as usual, I didn’t seem to mind much. Not with a plate of good vittles in front of me anyways. That’s the thing. The better the food, I’ve noticed, the easier it is to watch them lose, which explains, now that I think about it, why there is so much good eating at the stadium. And it stands to reason, if good food can take the edge off a losing season, then perhaps a properly smoked brisket is of suitable caliber for the worst team in baseball. Amen.

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Pecan smoked brisket and blackberry burnt ends. Yum! You gotta eat, so why not eat well.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s In The Sauce: Joe Joe’s Hog Shack BBQ Sauces

Every once in a while, we here at the pit like to sample the wares of our readership, and then if you don’t mind, tell you about it. You might call it a review, but we just call it spreading the word. It’s a highly tasty thing we get to do, so we don’t mind none doing it. I mean, golly, we get to eat BBQ, and help out some others along the way. Why  wouldn’t we! So this won’t be our normal sort of post that you’re accustomed to. But rather a thank you to some good folks who sent us some of their spoils! Today’s culinary brain thrust comes to us all the way from the lovely folds of Maryland, courtesy of Joe Joe’s Hog Shack.

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Joe, the man behind the curtain over there, has come up with three pretty darn impressive sauces: Blackberry, Sweet “N” Tangy, and a Carolina Sauce, the latter of which, is the final incarnation of his first sauce, Joe Joe’s Hog Sauce. But before we tell you about his sauces, we wanted to first tell you a little more about the man, because I think we rather fancy him. And you might too.

Joe is a traveling man. An outdoors man. Leastwise, that’s what we’ve gathered. And that right there ranks him decidedly high in our book. A bit of a gypsy’s soul, apparently he can oft-times be found gunk holing up and down the east coast tarmac in his recreational vehicle. Gunk holing. It’s a sailing term. Honest. Not sure how it applies here, but I just like the word, I guess. Anyways, back to Joe. You might also spot him dug in at a campsite somewhere, aside beautiful rivers and fluttering trees. Routine weekends at the hunting lodge are not uncommon with Joe either. Yeah, we like this guy! Anyways, Joe started to develop BBQ sauces to take with him on his many trips afield. Something for to please the palate of his travel mates. And what at its genesis was just a hobby, morphed into something far greater. A passion. And a business.  These three sauces are the culmination of much kitchen tinkering. Much work. And much love. Let’s dig in, shall we, and learn a little more about them!

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Seek the Meat!

Rummaging through the freezer for a test meat is always fun. My bride is a highly organized individual with an acute need for tidiness.  This is reflective in all her areas of the house. Color coded and alphabetized. Even our movie collection is organized into Genre. And of course alphabetized from there.  But my freezer at once, is the opposite of this. I’m talking about the freezer out in the garage, now. Man space, as it were. To open the top lid of that freezer is to view chaos in its most distilled, and paralyzed form.  There is everything in there from ham bones, to pheasant, to liver, to fish guts wrapped up in plastic bags and stashed and forgotten there to keep them from smelling up the trash can. And somewhere down in the icy crags of the freezer, shoulder deep,  I found the perfect test meat for our sauces today. Chicken legs. Plain, old, boring chicken legs. If anything would bandy well with a flavorful sauce, these would be it.

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So I got to work at once with a little searing over direct heat, to crisp up the skin, and then tucked them back over indirect heat, opposite the hot coals, for the rest of the cook. We applied the sauces at the end of the cook, during the final few minutes.


Meanwhile, over at the Track Side Pit, our fellow patron/co-founder, was doing some testing himself. He had a much better portion of the yard bird too. Thighs! Man, we love them thighs! And here is a shot of them in full maturity, heavily glazed in Joe Joe’s Blackberry Sauce. Man, get your bibs on people!

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Chicken Thighs Glazed in Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry Sauce.Wow!

Blackberry Sauce

The Blackberry Sauce was at once a delight on the tongue. It’s a thin sauce. There is no spicy after-kick, and was highly favored by our food critics, also known as, our wives. Mother In-law approved too.  It sported a very pleasant blackberry flavor, not over-powering, but just pleasantly there, sweet, yet mildly complex, and because of its high sugar content, be sure to use this stuff only at the end of the cook. It would make a great glaze, we wagered, be it on your pork ribs, or beef ribs, chops, even the Easter ham! It also is supposed to do well with vegetables, we read, and of which we had to agree. When our corn on the cob wandered by happenstance into the sauce, it almost felt like a marriage had just transpired on my plate. It was amazing. Out of the three sauces, the Blackberry was my personal favorite, and the favorite also of most of the people we ran it by. You just wanted to eat with a spoon right out of the jar! It’s a very, very fine sauce.

Carolina Sauce

Our fellow patron, however, thought the Carolina Sauce smothered on his apple wood smoked pork chops, was, and I quote, “A death row kind of meal“. And whilst I don’t care to thoroughly test his thesis on that, I shan’t argue too hard against it either.  For through some rather exhaustive field studies of my own, forced to smoke up a rack of spare ribs the other day, I varnished said ribs with a good deal of this Carolina Sauce, and what henceforth transpired in my mouth can only be summarized as, “meant to be“. Man that was good! Authentic BBQ flavor. We both thought all these sauces were very good on chicken, but we both agreed they were outstanding on pork. Especially this vinegar-based, peppery, Carolina Sauce.

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Pulled Pork Slider with Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Carolina Sauce

We were also pretty much in accord that the ultimate end game for this Carolina Sauce, in our opinion anyways, has got to be a good pulled pork sandwich. Something of which we were glad to verify. The thinner viscosity of this vinegar-based sauce oozed with great effect into the succulent hollows of the pulled pork, it was quite tasty, people,  and no doubt would satisfy any man or woman in kind. Even, perhaps, those unfortunate enough to be residing in the cold,  incarcerated flanks, of death row.

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Sweet “N” Tangy

Now back to the legs, where we’ll finish things off today. The last sauce we tried was Sweet “N” Tangy, of which we liberally slopped on a couple of the chicken legs. Now here was a tomato-based sauce that as soon as you popped the lid off the jar and took a sniff, you just knew that Mr Joe, of Joe Joe’s Hog Shack was a gifted man. And you become relatively certain also, that his family is probably well-fed! A tint of smokey goodness, it is a thicker sauce with a very impressive peppery kick at the end. Not enough to make your nose run or anything, but enough to let you know you’ve lived a good life today. It’s a very good sauce, as good as any you’ll buy in any store somewhere. Maybe even better, because Joe made it.

Joe, you’ve done good, good sir. Your sauces are worthy. Adept. And well thought out. Thank you for your expertise, your time, and simply giving the sauce business a go, so that we all can share in your spoils. The world is a little better tasting now, because of you. Thank you!

On another note, and about the only thing we can knock on the sauces, is the glass jars they come in. We love glass over plastic, but they were rather prone to cracking during shipment. Not a big deal, because when we contacted them, they promptly sent us a replacement. Very quick customer service over there. And good people, too.

So if you’re looking for a new sauce to try out, give our friends at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack a try.

And tell Joe he done good! Because he did…

http://www.joejoeshogshack.com/

 

 

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.