In Contrast: Arctic Grilled Cheeseburgers
A silvery moon hung over the spruce tops as I bandied a batch of coals to the edge of the old kettle grill, banking them up there in a fiery pile. Tho the air temperature dipped below zero, with a sky as clear as a glass of gin, the warmth from the fire kept things sporting out on the patio tonight. Stars twinkling above like diamonds dashed over a blackened canvas, the ice moaning on the pond yonder, and the collar turned up on my old, woolen smoking jacket, whilst hands warmed over a bed of orange-glowing coals. What a beautiful time to make time, to tarry by pit-side on a frigid winter’s eve. This is the perfect marriage of fire and ice. Just cold enough to let you know you’re still alive, but with a fire just delightful enough that you can’t help but to sidle up a little closer to it, thankful as all can be, for to fancy yourself there, a Comrade of the Coals.
People think there is hardship in winter grilling. And I presume they speak of the cold. What they often forget it seems, is that you have at your disposal, via the inherent laws of grilling, a quaint little fire of which you must foster and tend. Fire is hot. And I find this a delightful contrast to the cold. For think back to those sultry days of summer, where the sweat beads down your spine, and it is one hundred and eleven degrees in your back yard, and you smell about as rank as the neighbor’s dog, and for some reason we think it’s prudent then to light a fire and make some hot dogs. A hot fire on a hot day is nice and all, but I’m sorry, there is no comparing the pleasures to the same fire on a cold day. It’s all about contrast.
I reckon that’s why we grill in winter, or at least part of it anyways. Everything is just keener in the cold. Good things become great. It’s like grilling in HD. Your senses seem to absorb the smokey moments as if conveyed over a high speed connection. It’s hard to articulate these matters, but easy to appreciate. Anyways, we pattied up four quarter-pound burgers, seasoned lightly with Lipton Onion Soup mix, and placed them indirect of our beautiful bed of coals. It’s burgers tonight. Nothing fancy. You will find in winter grilling that you don’t often need to be fancy to be satisfied. Just putting meat to flame is sufficient enough to get your fix! And thus we did, indirect tonight, the entire way, with a little hickory wood tossed on the coals for added flavor.
Now you all know how to grill a hamburger. If you can’t you probably ought to reconsider this BBQ past time of yours. Nay, this isn’t about hamburgers, but rather the joy of winter grilling. Yes, there is joy to be had there. There is. And as you southern folk slather on your sun tan lotion, I’ll tell you more. Properly dressed, you see, and with a reasonable attitude, and a good fire stoked in the steely bosom of your pit, you can prosper here. The mechanics are the same. Put meat to flame. Cook meat. Eat meat. Burp. Any dummy can do it.
Whilst you tend your proteins over the flame, take a moment and look around. Note how clear the night sky is, free of thermal activity. The clarity meshes seamlessly into the stars, which twinkle and dance there like they were doing so just for you. And the moon, with it’s gentle light dropping through the pit-side spruce trees, their shadows dappling over crusted snow, awash in a subtle blue hue. And lo, behold the hush of a winter night, how all the snow seems to suck up decibels with aplomb, especially freshly fallen, and deep unto thy knees. The fire crackles, and the burgers sizzle, and you are cozy by and far, and highly content, patron to this good fire at your hip. Amen.
Hickory tinted cheddar cheese burgers on a toasted pretzel bun. Yum! Hey, you gotta eat in winter too, so might as well eat good.
January 20, 2016 at 11:00 am
January 20, 2016 at 11:14 am
January 20, 2016 at 6:22 pm
Best time of the year to break out the wok and do stir fry on the grill…
January 20, 2016 at 11:27 am
Now you’re talking! Thank you mrbream!
January 20, 2016 at 2:00 pm
“Grilling in HD”. I like that. Well written. You make me question my choice to only grill “in season”. At least I can wallow in your words while I wait for the sun to make it’s presence felt more regularly. Cheers, my friend.
January 20, 2016 at 9:21 pm
Thanks Todd. And I’ve long admired your restraint to wait on such things. Makes coming back to it sweeter yet. It’s just that when you operate a BBQ blog, well, what can you do! I do rather like to play with fire tho.
January 20, 2016 at 9:34 pm
Beautiful writing. The closest I will get to this is grilling in the rain. It’s not the same!
January 21, 2016 at 3:26 pm
Many thanks, Conor. You telling me it doesn’t snow in Ireland? Grilling in the rain has it’s own ambiance for sure. I think my favorite smoke from 2015 was some beef ribs. It rained the whole time.
January 21, 2016 at 3:55 pm
We get snow only every few years. It plays havoc when it comes. We are always prepared the year after the snow.
January 21, 2016 at 3:56 pm
Of all of the wise things you have said so poetically, you captured the real truth about living with and loving winter when you noted the need to be properly dressed with a “reasonable attitude.” That is what I loved most about my Minnesotan friends. They actually got excited for the cross-country skiing, winter camps, ice fishing, and even winter barbecuing.
I once had that same attitude and was first out the door with shovel in hand after a fresh snow. Ah, the cold clear air would scrub clean the lingering sleepy sands of night!
But, now I am content to live with memories – well stirred by your posts – while I grill poolside in year-round 85 degree weather. Keep up the good work and stay warm!
January 22, 2016 at 8:19 am
Well shucks, that was some mighty fine poetic writing there yourself, John. It is good to know you haven’t been spoiled silly by year-round 85 degree weather all your life, but have also experienced the joys of snow and cold.
“Ah, the cold clear air would scrub clean the lingering sleepy sands of night!”
I like that quote. And it’s true. There truly is something invigorating , don’t you think, about cold, clear air. It’s like going up to a mountain summit without the effort!
But you’ve served your time, and I do admire your new lifestyle there poolside, with the grill puffing away, and the Yellow-Rumped Cacique birds serenading you all along the way. That ain’t half bad either!
Blessings John and Mary!
January 22, 2016 at 9:59 am
AMEN! I do so love grilling in the winter. Hmmm, maybe that’s why when I grill in the warmer months, I wait for the sun to go down… ALOHA!
January 23, 2016 at 10:59 am
Hey Auntiedoni! Yeah I bet night grilling in the desert has an ambiance all of its own. That’s funny you exit till it gets dark. How you do that and not get too hungry! But then any time grilling is a good time, so it’s all good.
January 23, 2016 at 11:04 am
FOR SURE PotP! The night skies here in the middle of the desert are so beautiful, some as Hawaii… this is why AZ and HI have the highest concentration of observatories in the World, clear skies + little light pollution = bright stars to watch at night… a hui hou, until we meet
January 23, 2016 at 8:13 pm
Damn, that’s a good looking burger! A pretzel bun sounds like something I might need to try…
January 23, 2016 at 2:23 pm
I thought it turned out rather edible. Yeah pretzel buns are fun. A little firmer bite than a regular bun. Hopefully you can find some somewhere.
Good to hear from you mate. Always a privilege!
January 23, 2016 at 2:30 pm
Lookin’ guud!!! 🙂
Loved the presentation. Recently I’m into baking my own buns, so will gladly share a recipe with you.
January 26, 2016 at 4:01 pm
Many thanks, Ed. Would love to see your home made bun recipe. That’s pretty much taking one’s burger craft to the next level. That’s great!
January 26, 2016 at 4:50 pm