A long time ago on a backyard patio not too far away….
It was a time of year when the heat was beating on our Pits with such strength. For one Patron was going about his summer enjoying the freedoms of his yard and his pit, when completely unexpected, he was taken back by a phone call that would change his life forever. He and his wife were asked to adopt a baby girl who hadn’t been born yet. Fast forward 4 days later, little Isabella Mae was born at 8 lbs 11 oz – about the same size as a prized brisket. Being he and his wife only had 3 days to prepare for their new blessing, their world was turn upside down.
Three months later this Patron was starting to feel very comfortable with the lifestyle of a new Daddy, as he noticed he hadn’t touched his pit once in those three months. Sharing his revelation with his wife she dared to ask a very conniving question,
“Are you sure you still know how to smoke anything?”
Insulted, yet with a cocky posture he looked at her and said,
“Honey, I am a Patron of the Pit! Smoking is in my blood. I sweat hickory! I enjoy the burn in my eyes as the hood of my pit opens and the sweet aromas of fire, wood, spice rubs and barbecue sauces bellow towards my face. There are not many of us who stand out at their pit during a Minnesota blizzard while the rest of the world curls up on their couch waiting for a microwaved dinner. I will not let three months of not lighting my pit filter this Patron’s good name!”
So with his chest out and his head high, he accepted her challenge unveiled.
With eagerness he took his challenge fervently. He stalked the aisle of the meat market looking for the cut of meat that he was going to shock the family with. And there it was, a 4 pound pork butt! He went in for the kill…even though the choice meat was dead, he paid for it and took it home like any backwoods hunter would, returning to his family with trophy in hand.
That Saturday night he mixed his marinade:
- 1 beer
- 4 tablespoons of hand crushed peppercorns,
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
He let the pork marinate for 12 hours in the refrigerator and the next morning the coals were lit at 10 am.
It was a nice day out at his pit. A south wind was blowing at a medium pace and the sun was hitting the cooker just right. Though it was only 15 degree’s out, he enjoyed the cold air mixed with his choice of wood for the perfect smoke. He decided to hit the pork butt with the sweet flavor of cherry wood, offering up a light smoke to taunt his neighbors with. The smoker was a steady 250 degrees as he monitored the temperature and stoked his fire-box as needed. A good 5 hour smoke went by and around 4 pm he took the pork butt off the cooker, wrapped it tightly in tin foil and let it rest for 45 minutes. Once it was done, he slowly peeled back the foil. The pork immediately fell into pieces, thus started the pulling process. With two forks he did just that. He added his favorite smokehouse maple spice rub and mixed it all back in with the juices that collected from the initial smoke.
Later that evening with a full belly, his wife turned to him and at last recognized his craft. She reassured him that he hadn’t lost his skill and stated that she wished for him to continue plying his art of the smoker. And so he sat, knowing that a successful pork butt wasn’t the real prize here. The real prize was sipping from a bottle in his arms. He smiled contentedly…
Here in Minnesota, when the weather starts to turn, and the temperatures fall to subzero levels, we the faithful remnant, who call Minnesota our home, have to partake in an annual ritual known as, “winterizing the house“. Now when winterizing the house, we do such things as adding more insulation in the attic to prevent any heat from escaping. We blow out sprinkler lines and insulate outdoor water faucets to prevent water freezing in the lines and bursting pipes. Some people do the bare minimum to winterize a house and other folks go a few extra steps towards convincing victory, under the flag of reason – better to be safe than sorry.
We Patrons must also do the same in preparation for Minnesota’s wintry grilling season. As the temperatures drop and our bodies begin to acclimatize, we also must take the proper steps so we don’t lose that much coveted heat, or even worse…our pipes bursting. Now some Minnesotans do the bare minimum to prepare themselves for the winter months, but we Patrons of the Pit, we will always take a few extra steps because as mentioned earlier, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. We think so anyways.
Here at the Pit the proper attire for keeping cozy in the frozen out-of-doors is like second nature. For we are both fans of winter camping and so long johns, hats, gloves and even our smoking jackets are never an understatement. We are a rare breed; we take great delight in sitting beside our smoky pits, and as its chimney puffs away we might light up ones pipe and take in a good English tobacco. As the harsh winter winds slap sharp snowflakes across our face, we fill our trusted Stanley thermoses with our favorite hot drink, and sip away. As the temperature plummets past zero we begin to hug the hoods of our pits while a small camp fire may join us during a bitter cold smoking session, sharing in its efforts to keep us warm. Therefore, insulating the inside of our bodies after standing outside at our Pits during one of our famous blizzards is something we can always work on. This weekend we started that process with Homemade Chicken Soup.
- 1 (3 pound) whole chicken
- 4 carrots, halved
- 4 stalks celery, halved
- 1 large onion, halved
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Water to cover
- Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (optional)
- Desired amount of Egg Noodles
- Desired amount of Wild Rice
Put the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, in a large soup pot and cover with cold water. Heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken meat falls off of the bones (skim off foam every so often).
Take everything out of the pot. Strain the broth. Pick the meat off of the bones and chop the carrots, celery and onion. Season the broth with salt, pepper, chicken bouillon and Garlic Powder to taste, if desired. We added a can of Cream Of Chicken Soup to thicken the broth up a little. Return the chicken, carrots, celery and onion to the pot and stir together. At this time also add the noodles and wild rice. Cook until Noodles and Wild Rice become soft and serve.
There is nothing better than dumping hot soup down one’s gullet and bringing a sudden rush of warmth to our bodies, thus beginning the process of acclimatizing our bodies from the inside out. Over the next few months, we might surprise the blog world with recipes for keeping one’s self warm and well insulated. So, let the process of winterizing begin.
“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”
This winter in Minnesota was a very long, drawn out winter. A winter where we thought for moment our region of the United States by chance had entered into a new Ice Age. We had a few glimmers of hope, but as soon as we saw fresh grass…… FRUMP!, We were again snowed on. Though we Patrons are tolerable with utilizing out our pits all year long we find Spring to be a sigh of fresh air. Don’t take us wrong, wiping snow off of our pit covers and removing our gloves to light a chimney full of coal is just the way of the bbq force out here. We know that for 5 to 6 months of the year removing our boots and putting them back on to maintain the pit is an expected part of the bbq process. HARK! We are now ready for the luxury of flinging off the flip flops and melting into our favorite patio chair with a cold beverage in hand, whilst sitting next to our hot smoky pits. AH yes, to sit downwind so that the cool breezes can blow the pit smoke directly into our paths becomes a fantasy while sitting in a cubical during our weekly rotating responsibilities. The time has come when we can rightfully say goodbye to a season that I can comfortably say had overstayed its welcome. I love winter and I love snow, but it is that time I welcome Spring.
Grill on – POTP
Sometimes life should stay simple. Though us Patrons enjoy working hard at making culinary masterpieces over a flame, we don’t always have the time to do so. Surprised you might be to the fact that we also work full-time jobs. Though we may post many things on here throughout the week, it’s not because we stay at home grilling and smoking meats all day, tho there are days where we wish we could do so. Days when the flirtatious considerations of leaving the trustworthy 9 to 5 and becoming a full-time food artist dance across the brainwaves of our minds. We sit back in our desk chair, stomachs groaning, while the pondering issues related to our work trade gather in the background. We exhale a sigh, because all we want to do is fill a coal chimney, stuff it with newspaper and light it with a flame. Then of course, reality strikes, and we can’t. We eat a granola bar to cater to grumbles of the stomach and press on until the whistle blows. During the winter when the sunlight is less than your blessed summer nights; we like most of you out there need to keep meals simple. A brat, corn and baked beans are one of the most intelligible meals you can get. So simple that the only spice I used was cracked pepper over the beans. It may be simple, but it hits the spot…always. In closing, cheers to those who work real jobs, a full eight-hour shift that allows little glimpse of sunlight. To those who need to think of something fast, remember there is always hot dogs, brats, corn and peppered baked beans. Grill On – POTP
It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. – Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’m a morning person. I like getting up before most people and listen to the weather outside. I enjoy sitting here quietly and contemplating life. The folk music on in the background and the tea kettle announces its finished with its end of the job. I hold my bowl of raisin cookie oatmeal close to my chest taking in and enjoy every bite. Sipping my hazelnut coffee I feel blessed, content with what my maker has shown me. It’s days like this when you know it’s going to be a very good day.
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:11, 12 NIV)
Why is it when us Patrons of the Pit become giddy as a kid on Christmas when we know a snow storm is in our forecast? Why is it we contemplate our next meat choice in the grocery store as the weatherman predicts a cold and heavy snow. Why do we bundle up and head out into the tundra as we know the rest of the world stays inside? As the winter wonderlands blow across our patios we hold our tongs in hand waiting to add another chunk of hickory to the flame. Our neighbors gaze out the window and question what we are up to next. Our wives sip hot coco and smile knowing that they will get a meal out of our insane obsessions. While the whole time we sit in peace. As snowflakes falling on our stocking hats and ice crystals collect on our whiskers. We breathe in and out, taking in as much of the aromatic mixture of smoke, meat and spice rubs. It’s natural…it’s poetic.
Yes, to all of those affected by the storm this weekend. Let your grill smoke away. Let your meat slowly fall apart on the hot grate, when only 1/16th of an inch away, Winter hammers the lid of your smoker with its fierce cold. When you sit at your dinner table, fork in hand and BBQ sauce in the other, smile at your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself knowing you have performed an act that most people in their right mind never would. Then eat!
Way up yonder, on the northern tiers of Minnesota, we often press a tent stake patron to some pretty places here and there. Places of exquisite beauty, where the waters run clearly, and the breezes taste sweet, sifted through the fragrant pines. My fellow patron and I routinely visit these locales, if not even for but one day. One day to inhale that pure, unpretentious air, and to absorb a rarefied tranquility lost, but not forgotten, in the ever-whirling cog of society. Indeed, we fancy to strike off for the wilder places just as often as we can, for to live simply, and abandon all tension there. For we are at home in the woods, by and by, and love to tarry fire-side amid the whispering pines.
Putterers by nature, we are content for hours on end it seems to cook exotic camp food over smoldering coals, repair in our chairs, and simply watch the smoke rise unto the standing pines. To tell story, and play song, whilst dotingly poking at the fire. Bannocks baking in blackened skillets, chickadees flirting, and all the many phone calls at once escaped in our own personal, wilderness sanctum. Oh the places, the beautiful places, that we have loitered in, here and there.
Campfires of Birch and Balsam often flicker in camp, as the lake serenely laps upon our shore, and the stately pines sway gently in the breeze, like a thousand and one fly rods, nay, make that a thousand and two. Oh how we love to cook over the open flame in these places, to ply our craft, turning our spoils into shore lunch. The stars, the moon, the forest glade, we love it all, even the smoke in our face! And here is the thing I have noticed, and maybe some of you have to; every time back home when we thus light the grill, and we smell that campfire-like smoke lofting towards the heavens, are we not at once, and irrevocably so, reminiscent, and smitten deeply for these places. Because smell is at once patron to memories, and memories thus flood back of those quiet campsites nestled aside shimmering waters. And for a moment, we can taste again the simple life we had once aspired to there. Because here it is again, deep in an urban sprawl, working over this old kettle grill; and there are blackened skillets, and chickadees even, and the sweet fusion of memories gently forged, both here and there, over the swiftly ebbing seasons, and the smoke which curled there. Amen.
The Super Bowl, a game that draws crowds together in front of TV’s across America. To bring families and friends together and carry on with banter of who might win the big game and discuss what their team should have done better that season. All while eating sloppy barbecued cuisines that make us men proud because we spent that afternoon over an open flame, a cloud of smoke and a bed of ash. Some areas of the country under a warm sun, in my part of the country it was spent in a warm winter jacket.
Though Kick Off might have started for most at prime time, it started for me around 12:30. A last-minute Super Bowl party was set in place and so I had to pull out all the last-minute calls. I had to be picky with the plays I was going to make and how I was running the ball, for I had only four and a half hours to come up with a menu. Game on!
My day started off with cutting chicken breasts into chicken tenders and giving them an hour bath in apple cider vinegar and apple juice. During that time I gathered my ingredients for the Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce. BOOM… 1:30 exactly and my coals were nice and hot. Into the smoker they went, water pan filled and lid closed to heat up to the blessed 250 degrees. Back inside to prepare the North Carolina Coleslaw, a recipe from Steven Raichlen BBQ bible cook book. Hark, the clock hit 2 pm, 3 hours until my door bell starts to ring, chicken now hits the grill. The chicken was dusted with Grill Mates Apple Rub and was blasted with a heavy dose of mesquite wood smoke. The chimney of the smoker quickly puffed with a thick bellow of smoke and as the smoke rose, the snow quietly began to descend with big flakes turning my pit into the scene from a snow globe. AHHH…2:30, as much as I want to sit outside in my backyard wonderland, I’m on a time crunch and I have people to cook for.
The Carolina Mustard Sauce was fun to cook. I like doing sauces because I’m a sort of mad scientist when reading recipes. I rarely stick to the main recipe, and though I can’t take credit for the idea, I’ll post how I made it.
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup Ballpark Yellow Mustard
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup distilled white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup of orange organic blossom honey
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup of apple juice
- 1/8 teaspoon of horseradish
Bring to a simmer, turn to a low heat and let it simmer for about 5 min. Take it off the heat a settle until room temperature. This will last about 2 weeks in the fridge. Your house will become overwhelmed with the scent of mustard, but the taste is worth is. This one is great over pulled chicken and a great baste for ribs.
OH MAN…3:35, time to take the chicken off the smoke and put in a tin foil pan to speed up the cooking process. It’s a nice trick for doing pulled chicken in a crunch. After putting the chick in the pan, I gave it another splash of apple juice.
Clock check…3:45, Time for the slaw. Whisk in a large bowl mix…
- 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar (I used apple Cider vinegar)
- 2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 5 tablespoons of mayo
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
To speed things up I used pre-shredded cabbage, carrots and other junk for the slaw. Once everything is whisked together, pour it over the cabbage mix. Stir and chill.
Star Date 4:15…45 minutes until the doorbell goes nuts. Time to make the Caramel Fudge Sea Salt brownies! Ok, I will admit, I’m not good at baking. I won’t pretend either for the blogs sake. I went to the store, bought a box of mix, added eggs, oil and water and baked it as directed.
5pm and the brownies are pulled out of the oven. Let them cool for whatever time you want, pour on caramel and sprinkle on your desired amount of Sea Salt. I tend to be generous with it. It’s an amazing combination if you have never tried it.
5:15 took the chicken off the smoker and began to pull. I poured out some of the greasy fat juice and replaced with more apple juice. Last, I finished it off with a good dusting of the Grill Mates Apple Rub.
5:30…DING DONG… company arrived late. WHEW!
Though, I was a little bummed at the outcome of the game, MY game was on for the day. When everyone dove into the food that I had made, I felt that I chose the right plays. That’s right, I ran the ball at the exact time I needed too and the outcome was a victorious culinary win. I can only hope the rest of you enjoyed your day and evening as much as I did.
Please, share any of your game day creations. We would love to hear!