So did you notice that the 4th of July has slid right by now, patron to the swift-ebbing current of time? It has indeed, along with the weeks and months that tally the years. Just like that, they have all slipped into our rear view mirrors. But this is life I’ve noticed; the further you get along in it, the faster it seems to go. Like a good movie, or a bowl of your favorite ice cream. Yup, and suddenly your baby is two. You know how it goes. And maybe this is why I’ve always liked BBQ so much, because of the time it takes to make it. It makes you slow down and take your time. The purposeful sort of time that one must set aside to render succulence from the fires. And therein lies the secret. Because there are faster ways, after all, that you can procure yourself some supper in this world, but none of which so poignantly affix themselves to the scenic path of life, like that of good and abiding BBQ.
So come with us now on a little meat parade and see for yourselves some of the things we’ve cooked up at the pit over this last 4th of July. Starting first with a rack of baby backs.
Here is a pit classic sure to let up on the accelerator pedal of life. Good ribs take 4 to 5 hours to smoke, which most days, is just right to get yourself out of that hurried mode of the city life. It is good therapy in the human condition to smoke ribs at least twice a month we’d wager. Maybe more depending on how fast your life is bouncing by. By golly you hurried soul, what’s your haste made of anyhow? You’re in a hurry and don’t even know why! So get yourself pit-side, and kick up your feet for a few hours and watch the smoke curl there, in your own private meatopia! Just watch how relaxed you get, and let the world spin on with out you by and by. You’ll be just fine, by this fire, where the smoke curls thinly into a blue and yonder sky. We started our extended weekend with just such an event, seasoned with our favorite rib rub from the great folks at Miners Mix. Did the ribs on the kettle grill via the snake method. If you’ve not tried the snake method before, we recommend it. Here’s a link to more of how it works in detail.
On our second day of the BBQ parade, I favored the good company of the Santa Maria Grill Attachment for the Weber kettle. Wings were the order of the hour, and the Santa Maria frankly rocked the pants off of it. Santa Maria style cooking is like a dance, and your partner, the fire, always leads. Fires are moody by nature, and the heat fluctuates, but the Santa Maria grill lets you raise and lower your meats with a commanding control in accordance to fires. It’s dancing with the flames, and a fabulous way to grill. If you’re new to the Santa Maria style, below is a link to a write up we did on it a couple years ago. It’ll tell you everything you need to know. And some probably some stuff you didn’t want to know.
By the third day of continuous grilling, I was getting a little fish hungry, so I picked up some sockeye salmon at the local market, marinaded it for 15 minutes in Miners Mix Salmon marinade, and grilled the fillets skin side down on the freshly oil Craycort grates. Yes, Miners Mix even has salmon marinade. It ended up being more of a paste tho, which really lent a great flavor to the fish. Wasn’t sure if I was supposed to scrap it off or leave it on. Obviously I went with the latter. Burp!
Day 4 Meat Lust
By lunch time on the 4th day of continuous BBQ I had only one thing on my mind – steak! And when steak is your chief quarry of the day, as any man knows, only one species will do. Rib eye! I remember little of this event as meat lust was in high form. There was salt and cracked pepper involved. A baked potato, I remember. And a Minnesota Twins baseball game up on the flat screen. Then there was a nap, belly-up, with steak juices not even dry yet on my chin. It was a good time, people, and we’ll just leave it at that.
Day 4 / Part II
By supper time of the fourth day of continuous BBQ, and after a commodious bit of “quality time ” in the little pit boys room, I was ready to embark on the 5th grilled meal in 4 days. This time it would be a pile of chicken thighs. As an experiment, I seasoned half in just salt and pepper, and the other half with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie rub. Both my wife and I concurred, the Steak and Veggie rub beat out the salt and pepper hands down. I know you must get tired of hearing this from us, but dang it, if you don’t have some Miners Mix in your spice rack, well you’re just missing out.
Thus we see the terminus of the meat parade as it comes sadly to an end. It did it’s job tho. It fed us primarily. Fed us really well in point of fact. But in quiet undertones it also slowed us down, which is the natural by product of any good meal. For when we take time to cook, especially outside, where we must kindle our own fires, we also say to ourselves and to the rest of the world that we’re in no hurry right now. That for a while at least, we will be putting meat to flame, and be doing very little else. No instant gratification here. This will take some time. And the longer it takes the better, because this is what we love to do. And why would we want to rush something that which we love to do. And by slowing down, we may also trick the hands of time for to hold the sun aloft just a few hours more, that which we would have missed out on otherwise being in a rush. That’s the kind of stuff you can pull off when you slow down and cook. That’s what we’re privy to every day, here, patron to the pit. Amen.
As I tarry now in my writing room, with stereophonic music in play, the wind driven sleet of an April blizzard raps against the window pane like a house guest no longer welcome. It was 60 degrees the other day here in Minnesota. 60 degrees. That’s like Miami beach around here. People were gleefully expelling their breath into pool noodles and slapping on last year’s sun tan lotion. My but it was lovely then. All the snow save for the deepest recesses of shade had melted into the grass. The nice cars of the world were back on the roads. And joy had returned to the eyes again of the mass captive audience that is the north-land. Indeed, our spirits lept in proportion with the mercury. But today all of that is gone now- humbled under a half-foot of wet snow. Like a sucker punch to the gut. Like the candy bar of summer dangled in front of thee, and then yanked from your outreached and trembling hands.
We stand strong in our mukluks tho, waiting and tingling, ready to pounce on the exploding sun.
Taking the Summit
I think back to just two days ago, standing in shirt sleeves at the pit, nurturing this beautiful pork shoulder. Oh how the tweety birds rejoiced in the trees, and the migrant Buffleheads frolicked in the pond. I reveled in how the sun felt warm against my shoulders, and how the air tasted so sweet, mixed with the soft, rising tendrils of hickory smoke. This was the measure of weather we northern pit keepers have waited so long for. That which we pined for amid the enduring winter tempests of yore. I thought maybe we were done with winter. Yes, there was a glimmer of hope naively affixed to my soul, even tho the weather man said the snows were coming back again. That schools would close. And roadways would go asunder as they do. He said it was coming. And sure enough it did. But for this brief window of time, this lull between the storms, like a mountaineer who claims his pocket of good weather for the summit, we parlayed our moments pit-side, under pastel blue skies, and we gloried there. Seizing the day, as they say. And procuring some really good pork along the way. Here’s the skinny on that.
How To Make Pulled Pork in the Weber Kettle
- The Seasoning
Pork butts are the easiest thing in the BBQ arts, provided you’ve got the time. Firstly, the night before we hit the shoulder with liberal quantities of our favorite butt rub, Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and let it soak into the meat all night long on the fridge, wrapped in plastic of course. Then we hit it again as it went onto the pit.
- Kettle Set up & Operating Procedure
This is easy too. For this cook we used the two baskets that came with the kettle, along with the stock grate with the two hinged trap doors deals on either side. Very handy for this style of cooking. Filled each basket half way with lit coals, and half way with unlit briquettes and a couple chunks of hickey wood. Basically creating two little minion fires. We put an aluminum pan with about an inch of water in between said baskets, and plopped the shoulder on the grate rightly in the middle. Fat cap up to self baste later on. That’s it. You don’t touch the meat until it’s done, or about 195 internal. The pit dampers were set to about 50% top and bottom, or until your kettle settles in to around 225 to 250 degrees. We did have to occasionally add some unlit briquettes to baskets too, and more wood chunks, but that is standard O.P. for this sort of smoking. All part of the BBQ arts, and kettle cuisine at its best.
Another fine smoke suckled from the scant offerings of pleasant weather dropped from above. If only for a day, weren’t we the kings. Or at least well fed, patron to the pit. Amen.
A lot of Minnesotan’s want to give that ground hog a good burial right now. It weren’t too long ago, yonder in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where the wily rodent emerged from his earthen hollow and declared for us all an early spring. And spirits leapt. Turns out tho one, Punxsutawney Phil, is full of crap. Yup. Ever since then it’s been one blizzard after another. Up here in Minnesota lately, driveways have been lost for weeks. Squirrels buried and orphaned. Icicles stalactites draw longer from the roof than the Trump administration. And the sun seems like a distant relative of whom you can’t quite remember their face. Welcome to March in Minnesota.
I woke up the other day with a sincere hankering for some good BBQ. Being the Keeper of the Coals that I am, I knew it was within my duty spectrum and skill set to do something about it. Now to get a good BBQ on in this inhospitable parallel, you must first dig out your pit, as shown in the accompanying photo. Some days this is as easy as taking to it with a little whisk broom. A few swipes of your fairy tale wand and you’re good to smoke. Other days not so much, and full-on, shovel action is required. Such was the case this Sunday last. I dug and I dug. And I dug and I dug some more. And eventually, whilst the crisp six below wind swept off the frozen pond, I had myself a pit proper again. I employed the propane assist on my vintage 1997 Weber Performer to get things cracking. I like that feature. Not as poetic, perhaps, as the political section stuff up the aluminum arse of a charcoal chimney, but nay, it is a manly way to light one’s charcoal for sure. And whilst the smoke curled in kind there, I gave a few final finishing touches with the snow shovel and headed inside to assess the pork shoulder. Come with me won’t you. Come check out this butt!
That’s one pork butt you see there. It was so big, I felt compelled to lop it in halves to spare a little time on the cook. But more, to increase surface area to garner more bark. An old pit keepers trick I’ve used many times. The rub today is probably our current favorite pork butt and rib rub, from the good folks at Miners Mix. If you’ve not tried their products yet, well you’re missing something out of your lives. That’s all I can say. They’re legit. As good as rubs come, we think. And no they don’t pay us anything other than send us a few bottles now and then. Good stuff. Anyhow, we liberally seasoned the bone-in butt with Maynard’s Memphis Rub and set her on the Weber kettle, indirect, for the next 7 hours. We dug out. Now we’re diggin’ in!
The technique we used here, as you can just make out in the photo, worked really well. We used the old stock grate that came with the pit, you know the stainless steel kind with the hinged trap door deals on either side. It was the perfect tool for this smoke. Under each hinged door, we set one charcoal basket with some hickory wood, some lit charcoals and some unlit coals, making two little minion baskets, you might say. As the cook progresses, all you need do is knock the ash off the coals now and then and add more unlit briquettes as necessary. Maybe some more wood too. It sort of just keeps rocking on like that until thy meat lands gently on the hallowed shores of succulence. 195 to 205 internal. Or until that bone comes out clean.
A Matter of Time
Pork shoulders take some considerable clock however. These kind of smokes are not for the easily bored or the impatient. They are for the loiterers among us. Those who can tarry in a view for hours on end and still think well of their lives. Butt smokes take time. Time to flip up your feet in your favorite chair, tip your hat over your eyes, and let yourself drift into the heavenly land of nod. Time to watch the game, or a movie, or even both. Time to chase the cat around, or the baby. Time to loiter with a lovely periodical in the little pit boys room until your legs go numb. Indeed, time to let up on the accelerator pedal of life for a while, and just be…
Time to do what ever you want really. And that’s what I love most about butt smoking. The time it takes. You see, when you take the time to smoke a butt, you’re really stealing some “me time” in a most hectic world. Even your people will tend to leave you alone if they know your cooking them supper. BBQ is hard work after all! Must leave the pit master to his calling, they think. And a wise pit jockey will do his kindest to water that weed!
Behold, Mount Pork Hath Risen! Succulent, hickory smoked pulled pork courtesy of the Weber kettle and a goodly amount of time. Quality time, patron to the pit. Amen.
March in Minnesota. Don’t believe a ground hog!
As a February blizzard howls just past the frosted window pane, I tarry here in my writing den with stereophonic music in play, and a lovely beverage at hand, and reminisce now back over the previous season in BBQ. There have been some great victories pit-side to report. From Tri Tips over an oaken fire, to honey and maple glazed hams, to 14 hour slow-smoked Boston Butts that fell apart in your mouth. And all of those were delicious in their own right, not too mention biologically abiding. There is an extra hole drilled into my leather belt now to prove it. But furthermore, what I think I remember most about those cooks was not so much those things that satisfied my belly, but more, that which nourished the soul. And what I mean concerning that, by and by, is the people. The people. The more I delve into the BBQ arts, and the more I learn about making good food, the more convinced I am that these meals were never really meant to be ingested alone. One of our long time readers has been putting it this way for years now. “Remember what you cook isn’t nearly as important as who you cook it with.” –Mr Dodd.
It’s Good to Share
It’s true. You can smoke the best rack of ribs on the planet, or produce the most tender brisket this side of Aaron Franklin, but if you’re not sharing it with someone, well frankly, you’re missing out on half the fun in BBQ. And tho you may even feel full eating it all by yourself, something still inside you remains empty. Hungry. Perhaps that is why someone invented the all important shin dig. That glorious slot of time, pre-ordained by the masses, to come together over a table of good food and fellowship, and for a while at least, set aside the concerns of man, and just be together. And eat. There’s something about this simple act of stability that resonates in the soul, as if we’ve been wired for such activity all along. Mankind has been doing it for a very long time after all. And I suspect that’s because it is inalienably good for us. As good as any medicine contrived by the smart people of the world.
Our wee one is learning how to party, as you can see. Amid our summer BBQ’s she has learned the joy of green grass between her baby toes, and how to work the lid on the communal cooler with great effectiveness. She is equally as well-versed in the art of mooching off a bystander’s plate, and I can tell already she will be a force in future BBQ’s and family shindigs to come.
Yup, everyone enjoys a good party as you can see. Even this pup appreciated a wayward morsel tossed her way, not to mention a good belly rub afterward. But then, really, who wouldn’t! Life is good at the BBQ!
The Joy of BBQ
There is a camaraderie in food. I think this is because no matter who you are, or where you hail from, you probably consider yourself fairly adept at eating. Let’s face it, you’re the boss at stuffing your pie hole. We all are! And with that kind of communal talent, it’s no wonder we all like to throw a BBQ and work our skill sets together. And beyond that even, for a while at least, most folk seem even to be happy with a plate of good food in hand. Momentarily content in life’s crazy race. Say what you will, but that is no small thing. And to lean back in your lawn chair, wiping the sauce from your chin, and to survey the folks residing all about, chattering and chewing, laughing and smiling, babies crawling through the cool grass…Telling stories, singing songs…Going back for seconds.. Even thirds…The faces of those you love and those who love you. Well, it doesn’t take much to realize that this is what it’s all about. This is why we do what we do. And further, this is what the joy of BBQ looks like standing right in front of you. Amen.
Now let’s get cookin!
The Black Capped chickadees cavorted outside the tent in the gray, morning light, whilst shafts of cherry and gold began to burst over an endless sea. I looked over at my fellow patron, who was already mentally booted up and gazing out the tent flap at a sunrise fair to tally the ages. We were encamped on the wild shores of Lake Superior, in Minnesota’s famed arrowhead country. The big lake was alive, and pulsing with ice water waves that which rolled against the rugged coastline. We love it up here. It’s what we do. We’ve come not just escape the maddening urban throngs of the city, but more, to embrace the wild side of this planet, on it’s own varied and distinct terms. To live simply. To breathe purely. To sup from the fountain of youth. And if we’re lucky, maybe even cook something tasty here, where the earth meets the sky. And the steaks have no name.
Tradition Has No Name
It was a year ago about this time that we made steak sandwiches on our annual November romp in the prettier places. You can read about that write up here, if you’re into such things. The sandwich was so good, and so delightful on the palate, we sought to recreate it again this year. But this time we would up our game slightly with the always covetous and tender chew of No Name Steaks. Now I don’t know if you have ever had occasion to plate up No Name Steaks before, but to those who have, you know from what we speak when we say them things is tender. Like you almost don’t need a knife to cut it, kind of tender. The kind of steaks that give false-toothed grandpas a real kind of hope! We’ve grilled them now and again over the years, and we have concluded that you would have to be a rank folly pit keeper to screw up one of these endearing steaks. I don’t know what they do, or how they do it, or why they have no name, but meat wizardry is clearly at hand with these cuts. I suppose also one ought not to dawdle on these things either, but instead to say thank you to the kindly meat folk at No Name Steaks, for producing such lovely and slobber-tugging Hunks O’Tenderness. Our bellies are forever indebted to your mastery of the meats.
Anyways, lets get after it.
Griddle Up Boys!
Business was done in style this time, with our highly esteemed and beloved, Mojoe Griddle. We’re talking restaurant grade, people – 35 pounds of one-quarter inch, hot-rolled steel (insert grunts here), the thing will keep cooking after three apocalypses we reckon, and deflect bullets too if tipped up on end. Always a pleasure to cook on the Mojoe. True, our gas mileage was reduced by 5% hauling this thing up north, but lo, who cares. You can set it on a Weber kettle, or over the fire pit, or like we did this time, on the Camp Chef Stove. When cooking en-mass for a fair number of hungry and hardy outdoors people, not too many other griddles are as finely suited than this.
Thus it was merely a matter of slicing up the steaks into bite sized strips, along with some red onions and green bell peppers. Saute all this together over a very hot griddle, lightly coated in oil. The less oil the better the char. The Mojoe doesn’t need much oil either, as it’s near friction-less surface is akin to that of an air hockey table. Griddle up your steak chunks to a nice medium or how ever you like it, salt and pepper to taste, and bring the peppers and onions to an agreeable tenderness as well. We even tossed on some thinly sliced roast beef that we happened to have in the cooler. Why not! Be creative. This is really elementary cooking folks. Anyone can do it. We toasted the lightly buttered baguettes in one accord, and assembled the sandwiches with a fist full of shredded cheddar cheese, and some Mount Olive deli relish. Sided with a scoop of camp chili. Mercy!
Dinner was held by the romantic glow of the kerosene lamp, and was a pleasure all unto its own, serenaded by the pounding surf of Lake Superior, and the camaraderie of good friends and fine food. You could have offered us a table at the world’s finest 5 star restaurant then, but we would have turned you down, I think. For as our tummies tightened around these cheese steak sandwiches, and the stars turned above, we were at once and unitedly content there. At ease in our little corner of the world. We had come to live deliberately, as Thoreau once said. Where the earth kissed the sky. And we did that. And for a moment at least, and maybe even longer than that, weren’t we the kings. Amen.
A special thanks to the good folks at No Name Steaks for sponsoring our dinner tonight. They are a local Minnesota company based not too far from where we live. They’ve been putting out tasty steaks for years and years, and I can hardly wait to grill up the next one. Please check them out at No Name Steaks and get your pit master a box for Christmas or something!
Also, if you want to learn more about the Mojoe Griddle, here is their site for you too.
Grill on! -PotP
From time to time we get asked how can some one get into smoking meat with out the price tag and hassle of a fancy smoker. Well, if you have a humble Weber kettle grill, you can do it just fine. Here’s how.
The Snake Method
Here we have our beloved 22 inch kettle grill set up with what is affectionately referred to in the BBQ circles as “The Fuse Method” or “The Snake Method“. And it really works. You old timers already know all about this, but the basics of it is this – light one end of the “snake”, and gradually the lit coals will light up the unlit coals, and work its way along, like a fuse. Very similar to the Minion Method, of which we go into great depth and detail in our write up from many years ago now, called, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion.
The Snake Method, if you’ve not tried it before, is the common sense answer to the age old question of whether you need to buy a smoker or not. Well, from one pit jockey to another, of course you should buy yourself a new toy if you can have one, that’s half the fun. But if you can’t justify the money or the space for another pit, or just don’t want to deal with it altogether, this technique will hold you over with a degree of class and poetry representative of the big named smokers, with an end game every bit as succulent. All you need is that old Weber kettle sitting out back. It’ll work with other grills too, but here’s how to do it with a 22 inch kettle.
How To Set It Up
In your charcoal chimney plop in 12 briquettes and light them up accordingly. Whilst the dirty dozen are coming of age, line yourself up a snake of unlit briquettes along the inside edge of your grill, as seen in the photo above. We made the snake 2 briquettes wide, by 2 briquettes tall. We wrapped it about half way around the grill. Once the other 12 coals are grayed over, just place them in similar fashion at one end of the snake. Lastly, place your favorite flavor of smoke wood periodically along the snake. And viola, your done! You now have a smoker.
How It Works
As the unlit coals gradually light up, so too do the old coals gradually die off. The cycle of life in your pit. The magic of the snake method resides in this balance. At any given time, you see, the number of coals lit in your grill will produce enough just heat to keep it near to 250 degrees. The perfect temperature for smoking meat. And as the fuse burns it’s course, it will also ignite the smoke wood positioned along the way, providing a nice, continuous source of care free curls. It’s just plain lovely!
Your meat bounty should obviously be placed opposite the hot coals for proper indirect cooking, but in addition to that, with this particular method, you would do well to periodically relocate your meat as well, because the business end of the fuse does indeed, move. How long does it take to burn the snake out, you ask? We find it seems to average around 5 hours for a snake going half way around a 22 inch kettle. Results have of course varied with the weather, but that seems to be the average of things. Plenty long enough for a rack of BlackBerry Baby Backs to come to edible maturity, as you can see, patron to the pit. Let’s plate these babies up!
BlackBerry Glazed Baby Backs courtesy of the snake method. It works people! Give it a try!
Tips for Snake Method Cooking
- Open top and bottom vents wide open to start with, then adjust the bottom one as necessary. The more you close a vent the less air gets in, thus the cooler the grill will run
- Use of a water pan can also help lower pit temperatures if need be, and provide a humid environment within the pit.
- Move your meat once in a while as the fuse moves to keep your spoils indirect
- Patience. It takes the kettle grill a while to get up to 250, but it will get there, and when it does, it will stay there for many hours.
- You can skip the charcoal chimney part if you want, and just light one end of the snake with a weed burner or a mapp gas torch or some other manly lighting device you come up with
- That thermometer you have on your grill lid is probably not accurate. To really monitor your temps right most pit jockeys use a portable digital thermometer doodad, like this one
The tapering buzz of the Cicadas fill the St Croix River Valley, of which the stately pines and hardwoods stand, their needles and leaves like whisper chimes to a soft, summer breeze. And the sun dallies aloft, warm and sure; bronzing, burning or beckoning to those who tarry below. The river slips with a gentle current there, and the ducks and egrets play whilst puffy white clouds idle silently in a thin-blue sky. It’s summer time in Minnesota. And I’ll tell you what, we may have half-a-year of snow and cold around here, and a few additional months more of poor sledding, but when it is a nice day in Minnesota, let it be said, there is no finer place to be in all the world than this.
Call of the Wild
Naturally, we went camping. It is half our joy in life it seems, to spend lots of money so that we can go play hobo in the woods. To understand this oddity in depth would take another blog, so let us instead just tell you what we made for supper here, along the beautiful banks of St Croix.
Now I’d like to fancy myself a very fine fisherman, able and capable of procuring a rainbow from the natural environs from whence it swam. With steely eyes and a flick of of a fly rod, reading the river, and knowing my opponent with the sureness of a chess grand-master, I could single highhandedly, if I so choose, seduce and woo any submersed aquatic adversary with child-like ease, and have it served next to a side of beans on my dinner plate in about a one-half hour’s time. Yup. Well that’s the dream anyways. But reality in the woods is often times not like we dream. Especially when you leave your fly rod at home. And I may have exaggerated a wee bit on my fishing skills, too. Maybe.
Okay I did. But we didn’t go hungry!
No Name Supper Insurance
Not to worry, for tucked in the cooler, I had the foresight to stash a supper insurance plan. Salmon! No Name Salmon, to be exact. And let me say, putting fish on the plate could hardly be easier or more tasty. I had never had No Name Salmon before, and I’ve come to learn I’ve been missing out.
On the box, it said you could cook the salmon on the grill, or in the oven, neither of which was an option in my primitive encampment. But I had a camp stove and a frying pan and a wee bit of olive oil. So that would have to do. Hungry men ain’t picky.
Preheat the pan with a little oil, and saute yourself a few onions to go with it. Hey, just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you can’t be fancy! So we softened up some onions a bit before laying the fully thawed fillets in. Just a few seconds after they hit the pan and sizzled there, the aroma of the juices and marinade it was packed with fairly filled the campsite with the smells of a gourmet restaurant, the likes of which I am sure every black bear within a 10-mile radius tipped a nose to. Mercy it smelled good! And the frying pan method worked just fine, off-hand and by the way. Even got a bit of crust on the fish, which I always enjoy. Just flip the fillets from time to time for even cooking. And like most fish, when they flake easily, they’re done.
We also made up a little camp biscuit/fry bread called bannock. Very simple yet tasty stuff, comprised of water and Bisquick. We’ll tell you about that in another blog.
Supper is served. Put your face in this, people! Who needs a stinking fishing rod!
No Name Salmon, Biscuits and Beans, cooked camp style on the tranquil shores of the St Croix. I don’t know how they do it, but these things were delicious! And goes to show that you don’t need to catch fish to eat fish in the great out-of-doors. We dined henceforth in great style, thankful for the food, this campsite, and the cicada serenade that which buzzed amid the forest canopy, dappled in sunlight, and cast from above. Amen.
For more information on No Name Salmon and other succulent meats, check out their website at nonamesteaks.
So I was assigned the prestigious and heady duties of procuring pulled pork for our daughter’s first birthday party. Even tho she can hardly manage a cheerio, I accepted the duties in full. I briefly scanned the weather charts and learned of the veritable monsoons that would impact our fair hamlet, naturally and precisely when I needed to smoke said pork shoulder. Now the reasonable minded cook would probably defer to his or her crock pot, I’m sure, or oven, but being I have a rep around here as a hardened pit jockey, I pretty much have to cook outside. No matter what.
The big day started fairly early, as most pork butts do, loading the fire bowl of the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain with 20 pounds of charcoal. Yes, the entire bag. It’s a rather big cooker people, reminiscent of a Chevy Suburban and it’s awe inspiring 40 gallon gas tank. I suppose I could have dialed down the fuel costs on this smoke, but I didn’t feel like messing around. You know how it goes. It’s my baby’s birthday!
Anyways, the pork shoulder was seasoned the night before in the old stand-by, Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and dusted over yet again the next morning before plunking it on the smoker. The more time the pork has to marry with the spice rub, the better. The meat went on at 8 am, as I settled the giant porcelain enameled lid on to the smoker and surveyed the sky. It was gray over cast, with a minimal wind. Smoke curling straight up. I kept in mind the weather app on my phone is only wrong half the time. And the other half it just seems confused. We can do this!
By 9 am the first sprinkles dappled over the pond and the camouflage tarp I had strung up, just in case. It was lovely in it’s own way. A symphony of rain drops pattering like Beethoven in the key of nylon. I did the most proper thing I could think of, and simply sat in my BBQ chair and listened to the rain for a while, the sounds of pork sizzling in the pit, and watched the apple wood smoke pillar into the humid air.
By 10 am the rains fell considerably, like bed pans and hammer handles, pounding the pond side pit with gallons upon gallons of sky-born water. I dashed for the good cover of the house, and found sanctum on the couch with Netflix, and a lovely beverage there. Standard operating procedure for a hardened pit master.
By 11 am the rains came sideways as the fury of the tempest lashed like a thousand vipers outside my sliding patio door. To it’s credit, likewise to the engineers of Weber, the Smokey Mountain some how puffed contentedly away despite the Midwestern waterworks. Whilst the good critters of the world hunkered in their caves and holes, the rain continued to fiercely pound the land, and the wind bellowed from the north like Joshua’s trumpets. I could just make out my temperature gauge through the rain-cloaked window pane. The WSM was holding 250 degrees. Lo, this is how we BBQ!
By 1 pm the rain let up a trifle, good enough anyways that I could get the beans on the pit too, thus to lap up a bit of that good apple wood smoke there. They were your basic beans tightened up a bit with some ground beef, molasses, and some BBQ sauce. I was pleased also to see the butt, previously divided in half, had already developed a nice bark on it. A rough likeness suitable for a stand-in model of a good meteorite or something. But that’s how bark ought to be. It should raise the eyebrow of the uninitiated, and twist the grin of the seasoned pit maestro.
Around 2 pm the sun fairly exploded from behind curtains of gray, and the skies split into blue pastures, where song birds darted on the wing. Nice of it to wait until after I was done cooking, but that’s how it is sometimes at the pit. Mother nature gives us the finger. We adapt. And BBQ is accomplished never-the-less.
Around 3 pm all the guests arrived and sunk their chompers into this, a most succulent and well-deserved meat opus! Son-of-a-bacon-maker! Then they all celebrated one year of successful planetary living with our little girl: gathered around, watching her smile, opening gifts, crawling through multi-colored wrapping paper, and laughing like only one year old’s can for the benefit of our cameras, all the while unbeknownst of the previously mentioned rainy day smoking trials, patron to the pit. And after thinking about it for a bit, isn’t that precisely how it ought to be. Amen.
The days they taper slowly now, pulled by an ebbing sun. The tweety birds have all had their babies. And the green pepper plants are knee-high to a pit jockey’s eye. The cottonwood trees, pond-side, have completed their annual farting of the white fluffy things, which scatter in the summer breeze. The Lilacs have come and gone already, but my they were grand. And just like that, it’s summer time at the pit, and it’s glorious. And in some ways I thought it would never get here. Let’s digress…
Hearken back with me, won’t you, to just last April. Here is what it looked like then. This photo below tells the story so well that it made the face book page of our local news station.
April blizzards were the norm. Wintry tempests that would not cease. The wee one fancied a good window pane then, as you can see, observing the powerful winter storms beyond. They swirled endlessly it seemed, the hopes of summer BBQ but a whisper in the wind.
One day in May, I think, or was it June, the snow eventually petered away, and ground thawed and mud puddles and rain filled the days. The dirt smelled good and so we planted things there. They eventually took off like things do. And I suppose also that’s when the baby figured out how to crawl.
It was like a teenage kid learning to drive a manual transmission, stuttering in first gear in the parking lot at Sears. Eager and unashamed at the face of this daunting task, eventually she learned how to get the crawling mechanism going. Well sort of. She looked akin to a wounded puppy, sort of dragging herself along. But it worked. And she got to where she wanted to go. Which is good, I guess, it’s just that the only place she really wanted to go was straight to the fireplace.
Thus began the Chase Era. Every parent knows it. The span of months, maybe years, where you have to run down your little one and pluck them from danger at the last minute. And that’s the era we’re still in now. Maybe it never ends. Ever the perpetual eye must be kept on the little one, for the world is brand new to her, and exciting, and everything is worth investigating she thinks. And here at the beginning of July, today in fact, she is turning 1 years old already. How about that!
*On an aside, we here at PotP HQ would like to thank those of you in the readership who have faithfully stood by, or inquired where we’ve been and how we are doing. It’s been a while, I know. But we are doing amazing. As my Grandpa in-law is fond of saying, “We are blessed and highly favored!” And it’s true. Never has a rough pit master’s heart melted like this, people, nor his soul felt so satisfied. And as we start to find our new rhythms with baby, we hope to get more grilling posts out to you soon. Thank you kindly for your patience, and on going support.
As I grilled supper the other night, turning the protein over a beautiful bed of coals, breeze drifting quietly east to west, I thought back through the last year of raising a pup. I need not go into detail of the joys and the trials of such things. You all know that stuff already. But I am rather fond of one line of advice several people have told me over this last year, concerning babies. I think about it often. Perhaps you’ve heard it too.
That old saying that goes,” The days are long, but the years are short”.
How can something be so long and so short at the same time? I don’t know. But have yourself a baby and you will at least experience it first hand. I cannot for all the pork chops in Thailand figure how it has been a year already since birthing the wee one. Seems to me it was just a few weeks ago that we brought her home. Yet, in the same breath, it’s felt like this last year has taken a generation to unfold. And I suppose before you know it, she’ll be driving that stick shift and bringing home boys I do not like. These are the heady anomalies in the human condition I suspect we may never figure out. But a good reminder, however, to pay keen attention to the days we are in, and to whom we are with. For the days they may seem to taper slowly, but the years will be gone tomorrow. Like mesquite smoke snatched by the autumn wind. Amen.
Happy Birthday Day Emma! We love you!
The rendezvous was classic trout camp, sans the trout. One by one we came from various corners of the state and all conspired at the river’s soft edge for a bit of camping, fellowship, and good food under the crescent moon. We had come to trout country not to fish, however, because trout fishing annually closes it’s doors in Minnesota in November. Poachers we are not. Instead we came here just to be, in a place that we really liked being, which in itself was sweetly enough, because, as Robert Traver once wrote in his esteem book, Trout Magic, “I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful“. And they are.
So we made our camps here on the shores of trout waters, deep in south eastern Minnesota, and did what we do best – eat! Now I don’t want to suggest that we come to the woods like this just to stuff our pie holes with endless calories, but in truth, it is a part of it. When your camp mate is also your fellow patron and long time pit cohort, well, with two cooks in the outdoor kitchen, lets just say pants are going to get tight! Like our first night there when we made cheese steak sandwiches on the Mojoe Griddle. A better backwoods sammich I do not rightly recall right now. Let me tell you about it, and how it went and came to be.
Enter The Mojoe
Established readers to this blog have seen this sexy beast before. The Mojoe Griddle. I’m telling you, if you have the space in your truck and can lift 35 pounds, this is one of the finest camp cooking rigs you can get. And marry it with a humble, two burner, Camp Chef Explorer stove, shoot, the world is yours! One-quarter inch hot rolled steel, people, restaurant grade, nearly non stick, complete with aluminum griddle strap to keep your spoils from toppling into the dirt! And better yet, large enough to fry a pancake to match a man hole cover!
This is high living, people.
With the sun setting over the valley rim, tree lines waxing to silhouettes, we got to work in the doable illumination of the porch light outside of the camper. Red onions and bell peppers sauteed in olive oil. And steak, I don’t remember what kind, but steak, seared to perfection over the hot steel. Ah yes, camp cooking at it’s finest, right here.
Through the pungent woods of shag bark hickory you can hear the gentle tumble of trout stream, the quiet banter of our camp mates in tarry around a crackling pine fire, and the comforting sizzle of vittles cooking on the Mojoe. The smell of onions and meat waft in the damp, November air. The rhythmic clank and slide of a steel spatula on a hot griddle. Tummies rumbling. You getting hungry yet! I could do this all day!
Near the end of the cook, we toasted up our hoagie rolls for that added texture to the perfect backwoods sandwich. I don’t know about you, but I have never regret toasting my buns. Ever.
The Finishing Touch
After a fashion, all was done and we went inside the camper and assembled our spoils. My fellow patron brought along a jar of this stuff to put on our sandwiches. Boy did that add a lovely dimension of flavor and camping class. Really good! He thinks of these kinds of things, when I never would. I found it on amazon if you’re interested. Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill 16 fl (Pack of 2)
The cold rain began tapping over the plastic roof of the camper as we settled into the dinette by soft candle light. The heater kicked on, softly murmuring in the background, and mood music played on the radio. Yeah, okay, this wasn’t exactly the sort of rough and tumble camping as is often associated with the past time, but hey, it was November in Minnesota. Our last fling of 2017. We had come to smooth it! And besides, we get it rough enough in town! Anyways, we ate a lot of food on that trip. Good food. But this sandwich in particular hangs with an asterisks in the panniers of our mind. There was something about how it came together: in the woods, the joys of that big griddle, the way the deli relish set off the flavors, the char on the green peppers. I dunno, it was just good! And made better yet doing what we love, with people we really like, in a place we really enjoyed being. A place where the trout leapt. And the men were men. Amen.
Stuff We Used
Check out the Mojoe Outfitters at their site, here
Camp Chef Stoves are also available off amazon. Here’s a link to that. Happy Camping!
Patrons of the Pit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
It finally happened. The event we northerners have been waiting for all winter long. I tarried in my leather man chair with a hot cup of tea in hand and simply watched it for a while, swirl and dance outside the window pane. Snow. Lots of it. Riding a tempest. One might even go so far as to wager it was a blizzard, and by golly it hit the spot to see. It hit the spot because of all the many times the weather men cried wolf this winter, barking of the big one to come. And it never did. Believe it or not, there are some people who actually like snow, look forwards to it, and want to frolic accordingly amid it’s softened flakes. We be some of those people. So it was good to see a boisterous and proper, Minnesota snowstorm engulfing our fair hamlet again. This was how it should be. And after it settled a bit, I went outside to cook something there.
The Power of Halves
After examining my meat larder, something men of a certain age tend to do, I settled on one portly pork butt to do the job. I think it weighed in at 8 pounds, I don’t recall. But I knew if I wanted to have it done by supper time, (6 hours away) then I would have to deploy the old pit master trickery of slicing the butt in halves, thus to reduce the cooking time. It’s a technique I’ve used many times at the pit, and always with favorable results. Not only does it reduce cooking time by maybe a third, but it also increases the surface area. This is good because it basically unlocks new real-estate for more spice rub and smoke penetration. More bark people. Take that weather man!
The Science and Art of Bark
Here we are a few hours into the cook, and as you can see, we were already developing a flavorful and robust bark. The smoke, courtesy of two large hunks of apple wood, combined with the relatively low heat of the Weber performer, which ran at 275 degrees, and the spice rub, Kits KC BBQ Rub, courtesy of the good folk at Miners Mix, all came together in a magical union of yum! Bark is a scientific thing, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to eat it. The Flintstones will do! If you want to learn more about how it’s formed and what is going on, check out the master’s write up of it over at Amazing Ribs What is Bark.
So it was, as the Alberta clipper slid into town that we put the finishing touches on our pulled pork sandwich. A squirt or two of sweet baby rays, combined with some of the more succulent muscles of the pork shoulder, and as always, I like to mix lots of bark in there too, so you get some in every bite. Mercy! Can you smell that? That’s a proper pulled pork sammich people!
When The Bark is Worth the Bite
I plated it up with a side of beans and returned to my man chair. After settling in, feet propped up, and fueled by repetitive instinct, I reached for the TV remote like any red-blooded American man would, but then curiously caught myself looking out the window at the snow again. A soft smile formed from my lips, and I set the remote back down, and picked up my sandwich instead. I had been waiting a long time for this, and I didn’t want to dilute it with the flashing images of a TV. It would be just me, my pork, and the snow. And for a while at least, that was enough. Amen.
Nothing quite so fine as a plateful of bark and beans! Burp!
The cold is an interesting beast. On one hand we need it, to keep our foods from spoiling too fast. On the other hand, we run from it when ever it sinks its icy fingers into our own meat. Some people hate the cold so much that they leave the north altogether, and live in the south. My brother’s neighbor once lamented that he was done with winter in Minnesota, and that he was going to load up his snow blower into the back of his pick up truck, and drive south until some one asked him what it was. It was there, he figured, would be a good place to live.
It’s 6 Below Outside.. So What!
To my brethren of the brisket of whom’s pit dampers puff ever stalwart in this arctic blast, we salute thee. Our warmer days will come. They always do. But in the mean time we thus must embrace the wintry folds that which are upon us now. A pit jockey well seasoned takes no issue with inclement of weather. For good BBQ will always find a way. Besides, if we waited for the perfect weather to BBQ in, well, we Minnesota folk would only grill maybe twice a year! I was lucky this cook tho, for it was only a meager and sultry, 6 below. And mercifully the north winds were blocked by our humble abode. That helps one’s situation ten-fold right there. So grab yourself a hot cocoa or something, and get comfy and we’ll tell you all about it, and how it went and came to be, patron to the pit.
Firstly, I must digress for a bit. For it has been a couple of moons at least, since we’ve last posted here. As many of our readership know, we done birthed a little patron last summer, and she is by far the sweetest thing our eye’s hath ever seen. Oh we were warned by other parental types how little babies, can, with a flick of heart beat, melt your soul into a rather nice pile of unintelligible goo, and I guess I am here to report that these people were right. You all were right. I’ve been a big pile of goo for the last 6 months, I’d say, in awe at the preciousness of a baby. Every time I hold her hand, I get weak in the knees, and mine heart fills with a gladness I’ve never known before. And for a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, it’s not so cold outside after all. For my heart burbles over with warmth of a different sort. The kind forged in unconditional love. And that is maybe the greatest warmth you can ever feel.
Stranger Things Below Zero
Life below zero is always interesting. Take for example my steaming patties. This is just something you don’t see at your classic summer BBQ. Raw meat spilling it’s vapors like curling plumes of hickory smoke. I’m not sure what principles of physics and science were at play here, but I thought it amusing if only for a while.
Once you have a lovely bed of coals glowing in the bosom of your grill, it’s pretty much business as usual, no matter how cold it is. A good kettle grill can keep up just fine. And so it was with a modicum of effort, I worked the burgers with my big steel spatula, enjoying the warmth of the fire, the sound of sizzling beef, and my eyes drawn to thin slits from the bright sun resplendent over crusty snow. Ah yes!
There is a joy to be had patron to the pit in the wintry months. Maybe it’s because the mass populous thinks it’s miserable, or just not worth it effort in the cold, that makes doing so all the more sweeter. I don’t know. I would offer you this thought, tho, – that it’s maybe not the ordeal you think it to be. For to bandy close to the coals when the mercury drops, is the coziest of affairs. The gift of heat always at hand. The thrill of contrast. And there is a certain but articulate satisfaction gleamed as well, enjoying grilled meat in the dead of winter. I cannot deny that. And neither would you!
Anyways, it’s good to log some time at the pit again. Good to scribe another entry for the POTP archives. We do hope you all have been well, and are enjoying your winter and new year to come. We’re slowly getting back in the groove again, here. Finding our footing in the new and intoxicating world of babies. We are blessed and highly favored at the pit these days, I don’t mind telling you. So I’m going to take this plate of burgers now and go enjoy some of the good life. Time spent in food and fellowship. And yeah, I got me a soft, little hand to hold afterwards, accompanied with a string of unending smiles, and enough BTU’s to warm mine heart for the next thousand years at least. Amen.
*BTU Baby Thermal units
I can’t help it if she’s beautiful. That when her little hand grabs my finger that all my insides melt into an irrefutable kind of goo. And I can’t help it either that when she looks at me with her baby blue eyes, that my heart spills over with gladness at what the Lord has done. No, I can’t help it that’s she’s beautiful. And I tell her this all the time.
As many of the readership of PotP know, we got ourselves a little patron in the making this summer. A gift straight from above. And thus the deployment of BBQ articles has dwindled for a time, as we managed our way through the fog of a newborn in your life. Many of you have been there, done that. You know what it’s all about. And so we thank you for your patience, and all the Emails wondering how we are. Yup, we are doing fabulous, by and by, and sort of finding our footing again, amid the new rhythms of life and baby. Indeed, we’re starting, maybe, to get back into the groove again.
Adjusting For The Curve
We learned after while that you can still have a life post baby. That, off-hand, you can still go to baseball games if you want, and manage a fine time. That most stadiums actually have a “mother’s room” somewhere around, with soft chairs, and flat screen TV’s, in which to feed your baby and still keep an eye on the score. I never knew that.
We learned also that our time at the pit need not be compromised. That babies enjoy watching the meat cook as much as we do. And that you can both tarry there together under summer skies and watch how the grass bends in the wind, and the tweety birds all follow each other about from thicket to thicket. I learned that little babies have a natural wiring to make a good pit master. They are well versed, for example, in sitting around and doing absolutely nothing, at least until the next feeding is in queue. Yup she’s good at that, and I had to scratch my head as she’s an awful lot like her daddy that way. Hmm. Maybe that’s why we get along as we do.
Getting Back In the Game
So in an attempt to get back in the groove of things, let me show you my sandwich I made the other day, and how it went and came to be, all patron to the pit, and with a little help from my friend.
The Basics of Pork Butts
It was your most basic of pork butts, of which we seasoned heavily in Miners Mix Maynards Memphis Rub. It’s the same rub we’ve used a hundred times now, but there is of course a reason for that. It’s awesome. And yeah, I guess I threw on rib eye too, you know, for good measure. Hey, pork butts take some considerable clock, and a pit boy needs his snacks! Anyhow, it was an easy smoke as most pork shoulders are. Dampers tweaked down to thin slits, both top and bottom, meat set indirect, and turned 180 degrees from time to time for even cooking. A little hickory wood on the coals. That’s all you gotta do people. That and take it slowly up to 195 degrees internal temperature for to pull there into highly succulent pork sandwiches. Oh, which reminds me. Let me tell you about some sauces we recently got in to test.
Low Country Barbecue
These were pretty tasty. Low Country Barbecue sauce comes in both tomato based and vinegar. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to think a proper BBQ pulled pork sandwich is at it’s most authentic with a good vinegar based sauce, of which this one was very good. But I also tried a sandwich with the tomato based version and honestly, it was just as good. Really good. And I suppose there are thousands of BBQ sauces out there all looking for attention, and these are just some of them. But Shawn, from the Snazzygourmet was kind enough to send us some samples to see what we thought, and being he is a fellow Minnesotan we found out, well, it’s good to help a brother out. And so we will. So if you get a chance, he runs a great website called the Snazzygourmet, which is pretty much a wonderland for foodies. Not just BBQ stuff, but other goodies as well. Check it out!
Anyways, after we pulled the pork into tasty tendrils of BBQ heaven, and mixed a little of the new sauces into it, letting it’s thin viscosity mingle into all the right places, I plated up a nice sandwich or two for my wife. Baby would have to wait, I suppose, until she grew some teeth! But my other sweetheart was more than thrilled, as she usually is, holding to the good status of being the wife of a patron. She said thank you, and smiled brightly as I handed her the plate. I smiled back. Yeah, I can’t help it if she’s beautiful too!
Slow smoked and succulent, glistening in a light vinegar sauce. The privileges of the pit, the good life, and holding hands with those you love. Amen.
As some of you know, we do on occasion dally with a YouTube channel. Not very much, but when we do, it sure is fun. Here is a little video we slapped together the other day depicting some quintessential time at the pit. Of slow rendering pork shoulder, with it’s juices dribbling down it’s glistening flanks. Not to mention a gaggle of the resident ducks, who seem always to come by when there is something cooking under the hood. It was good to see them. And supper was adequate. Enjoy!
The cold rain tapped across the window pane as I sipped hot tea from an old, blue-enameled cup, whilst the fingers of my other hand tenderly worked the analog dial of my old time short wave radio. It’s been hurricane season as you know, and I was hoping to find some hams out there discoursing on the weather. I know with the inter connected world of the internet, and a few swift keystrokes, I can find out the weather any where in the world much easier than listening to the radio, but I don’t care. I just like the poetry of a good analog radio. The challenge of trying to wring out a signal from across the country, with what by today’s standards is inferior equipment. Like BBQ, I was more into the journey here than anything. The process. The poetry of good things on cold, wet nights. So I was dredging the side-bands if you will, looking for amateur radio operators talking about the weather. But mostly I guess, I was enjoying just being here, listening to the radio and the rain. And thinking off and on about BBQ. And no, my name is not Jim Reitz. He apparently was the previous owner of the radio before I got a hold of it.
Turns out the last BBQ here at the Pond Side Pit was in the rain. There’s been a lot of that lately, which is of no matter to a patron of the pit. We will grill in sheer tropical force monsoons if need be. Lo, it would be a dark day indeed the moment we actually cook on a stove. Anyways, my wife gets in the mood for fish these days, which is new to me. She’s never been particularly fond of the finned foods. But they tell us when you’re raising a newborn to eat more fish, as it is supposed to help your child grow nice and smart. Well, being a proponent of smart children, I did what any proud and new Papa would do, and went out into the wilds and procured a fish for my family. OK, I really went down to the local grocer and plucked a salmon from the ice, but the other way sounds better don’t you reckon?
What You’ll Need
- Brown Sugar
- Miners Mix Wholly Chipotle
We slathered the salmon first in mustard, then packed on some brown sugar, a little salt, a little pepper, and for our secret ingredient, a dash or two of this blend from our friends at Miners Mix. Wholly Chipotle. It is considered one of their hot rubs, so if you’re not a pepper head, just use it sparingly. A little of this stuff goes quite a ways indeed, but adds that sought after kick of heat that some of us occasionally crave. Anyways, after seasoning this fillet up, we brought it out to the pit where the cedar plank was oiled and pre-heated.
The Art of the Plank
If you’ve never had occasion to try planking on your grill yet, you’re definitely missing something out of your life. It’s about as easy as grilling gets, people. Simply put the plank over direct heat. Remember to soak it for an hour or so beforehand. Lightly oil it if you wish, an pre-heat it like you would a frying pan. Then lay your intended protein gently on top. All you gotta do from here is just get out of the way and let the plank do it’s magic. And it will. This form of cooking is so effective you need not even flip the meat. The plank acts as a heat shield which in turn protects your plunder, whilst at the same time creating an even heat environment, not to mention releasing oils and smoke into your food, giving it a flavor reminiscent of the finest restaurants. It’s just good, people. Trust us!
Planks come in many flavors and thickness, from 1/4 inch cedar, to 1/2 inch maple. Thicker ones last longer of course, but tend to run a little more expensive. You can find them in most any big box store these days. Or you can be lazy and grab some off Amazon I suppose. The best planks we ever tested at PotP were Superior Planks, grown and harvested up north of here, on a small island in lake superior. Check out our write up of that here . Anyways, a really fun and tasty way to grill if you haven’t tried it yet. You can cook anything on them too, from burgers to steaks to vegetables. But the best thing to plank, in our opinion, is fish. Ever have your fish fall apart on the grill grate? Problem solved with the good and ever abiding virtues of the plank. Gotta try this people!
There you go. Spicy cedar planked salmon from the pit. Sided with a lovely bouquet of vegetables for to please the lady folk. And a baked potato smothered in butter. Man! Good eating! And maybe even someday a smart baby, if you’re into that kind of thing. Amen.
To the time-lapsed eye, a golden sun arced like a fiery pendulum across a blue summer sky. And the cumulus clouds hung puffy and white like heavenly mobiles on high. Songs birds bellowed their stoic harmonies from yonder dogwoods and cattails softly bent in the summer breeze. Such lovely times of it here on the 45th parallel, or summertime in Minnesota. Everything is so alive and vital. So green and so plentiful. The earth spins swiftly here too, and the weeds in the garden grow like babies in the evening’s long shadows.
On the pit tonight, a big birthday steak, for yours truly! In these archives, she will go by the name Mrs Sturminator. No, not the steak, but a person we know. Mrs Sturminator is a long time friend, and frequenter of the pit, and when your birthday comes along, she tends to set a chap up rather well, so-to-speak. She’s been doing such things for years. So this year she gave me a steak. And not just any steak. A grass fed top sirloin steak, so thick I do believe it should have come with it’s own pair of suspenders! Mercy! No sir, Mrs Sturminator never is one for giving wimpy gifts.
I had some yard bird thighs handy, so I tossed those on the pit too. Along with some foiled potatoes, and of course, thy beloved and highly esteem sirloin. Of which I discovered was actually pair of steaks, which if course, was even better. The thighs were seasoned in miners mix XXX Garlic, and the potatoes were wrapped in foil along with olive oil and some Miners Mix Steak and Veggie. Yes, more Miners mix. Sorry, it’s just when you find something that’s better than most, well, you eat it! Then we also sauteed up some mushrooms in butter and more steak and veggie seasoning on the Craycort cast iron griddle insert. A modular grate affair that just keeps getting better. Love those Craycort grates!
For seasoning the steak, as always, I like to keep it simple. Steaks are too precious to screw around with. Just onion and garlic salt on this one, grilled to a modest medium over hardwood lump coal. Quite possibly my favorite thing to eat in all the known world. Happy Birthday indeed, and patron to the pit.
Think we’ll just leave it at that this week. Let the photo of this perfectly seared top sirloin topped with sauteed mushrooms do the talking. Boy did my belly wrap rightly around this one, people. Man! A special thanks to cows that eat only grass, and to Mrs Sturminator for sending a portion of one my way. Your talent for giving is one of quiet legend. But your heart measures even more so. To good people and good food.
Many thanks, and Amen.
Some people are just more clever than others. Terry Dabb, of Aurora Wisconsin, is one of them. When I came across this photo on the Weber Kettle Fans Facebook page, I thunk to myself, now why didn’t I think of that! Well, I don’t have a deck for starters, so in that respect, I do take some console in my lack of deck creativity. But a lot of people do have decks. Tiny, little decks. And a lot of those people still wonder how to fit their Weber kettle grills on them in a proper like manner. It’s a quandary that has haunted many a pit jockey down through the ages. Terry Dabb, however, has finally developed a rather elegant solution.
“What you don’t see in the pics is I have 4 more Weber’s” Terry says. “When looking for something to mount them on a free steel door came available from a customer of mine. And the idea ran from there.”
“I have limited space on my deck”, Terry said, “So I just started Brain storming. On how to try and manage my limited space.”
I’d say you brain stormed pretty good my friend. As one of our readers on our Patrons of the Pit Facebook page so eloquently put it, “I bow to the King of Sensible Deck Remodels”. Indeed, a lovely tribute to backyard ingenuity and the endearing will of an inspired pit master.
Terry, even tho you’re a packer fan, I do believe we would get along just fine. This one’s for you!
She came upon a balmy eve just a few days prior than when the doctors said she would. Just a day before the 4th of July fireworks illuminated the night skies across this mighty country. She looked purple at first, and covered in cheese, but after a while the Lord put breath into her little lungs and she became cute. And still is cute. And somewhere around there I also fell in love.
Our readership may have noted it’s been a bit quiet around this blog lately, and now you know why. Welcome to the world, little Emma Jean, all of 7 pounds and 2 ounces. You are brand new to us, yet in this short time you have already wiggled down into the tender most parts of our hearts, nuzzling the skin of our souls there, and now we are forever smitten for thee. And I don’t think I am being biased either, when I say, you are the sweetest little package of cuteness mine eyes have ever seen. That’s right. And I’ve seen a full packer brisket once.
I guess when pit jockey has a baby he ought to cook something. So I headed out to the pit and whipped up some chicken thighs, just because. Truth is, I couldn’t much keep my mind on the cooking for mine heart was back inside with this little one. But here are a few shots of the cook, even so. Just because.
Nothing quite so fine as some fatty chicken thighs seasoned in Miners Mix. We usually just do the Poultry Perfection for our chicken, but this time decided to turn up the heat a little with some Wholly Chipotle, which if you’ve never had occasion yet is one of the finer hot rubs you will find on the market today. A lovely balance of flavor and heat, by the good folks at Miners Mix. A little goes a long ways too, unless you’re a devout pepper head. But I’m Swedish, and that’s all you probably need to know on that.
Anyways, supper came off the grill without a hitch. Stuff we’ve done a thousand times. Spoils wrought from sheer muscle memory. And in the golden slants of an evening sun, I plated it up with out much for way of fan fare or small talk, and sidled in through the back patio door for to feed the family. The aromas of chicken hot off the grill wafted through the house as my eyes dropped gaze on to our new family member. Our new patron to the pit. Boy is she cute. She smiled and promptly fill her drawers in a long, gurgling sort of fashion, which was at once arrested by a silent room. Classic. I smiled back. She could do no wrong. A quaint stage of life where everything you do is somehow adorable. But then, I was in love, you see. And well, you know how it goes.
Welcome to the family little Emma Jean. You are a beautiful gift straight from God. The bearer of much joy, much happiness, and much wonder. You melt our hearts with but a single glance, and turn any manliness I once had straight to goo. We love you. We will do our best to take care of you. To show you a few good things in this life, and someday, when you’re able to chew things, feed you some very acceptable BBQ. I think you’re going to like it here. In point of fact, it’s already a better place because you are. Amen.
As I repair here at my desk, I’m reminiscent, of well, just yesterday. A day spent at the pit doing what I do. It was a day similar to a long stretch of other days lately, in that it was point blank beautiful outside, and a pleasure to behold. How could I not be out there, putting meat to flame. But it was a day also different, in that I got to cook over an open fire, the venerable Tri Tip Roast. A rarefied cut of meat out here in the Midwest, of which the popularity I do believe may be trending eastwards from the coastal hollows from whence it was immortalized. That of Santa Maria, California.
I’ve long heard stories of this enchanted hamlet, nestled somewhere in the Golden State. And I’ve heard tale of the Tri Tip festivals they hold there, and how the local meat eaters prize this particular cut of beef, and the sheer joy they take in BBQing it for others. In point fact, here is a facebook page devoted to just that.
I know that some day I must pilgrimage there, for it is the call of the pit jockey and it echoes strongly over the western hills. It would surely be to my delight, if not for the lovely aromas and tastes of perfectly executed Tri Tip in their native environs, then for the classy pits from which they were so masterfully grilled there.
Part of the romance of the Tri Tip Festival, and a great share of the poetry there, I think, would be found in their pits. From afar, my oh my but they are pleasing to the eye. As my elder brother would say, “Like Raquel Welch in hot pants“. And up close their charm and steely appeal still holds up under good light and scrutiny. Indeed, if there was ever a beauty contest held just for BBQ grills, well the lavish pits of Santa Maria would probably win every time. I’d betroth one in a heartbeat if I could afford it.
I’ve had cars cheaper than some of these grills. Some things in life will just have to wait, I told myself. Or would they? Maybe there was a poor man’s option out there, that would let a bloke like me experience the joys of a Santa Maria style grill. So, emboldened with a new and novel brain-thrust, I did what any grill lusting chum of age would do in the year 2017. I googled it. And this is what I discovered.
It’s called the Santa Maria Attachment, from Gabby’s Grills. They cost about 200 bucks, 50 of which I found out was for shipping. I read reviews and thought about it for while, you know, the usual routine people do before they crack open their wallets. And then in a moment of passion, and perhaps because it was my birthday, I snatched one up. Maybe it was an impulse buy, I’m not sure, but I haven’t regretted the purchase yet, I’ll tell you that much. The first thing I tested it on was my old chimenea out on the patio, and as you can see, it fit right in there. Thus converting the fire pit into something a wee bit more useful. But it was designed by Junior Castro, founder of Gabby’s Grills, to fit into all kinds of things, not the least of which is your Weber Kettle grill, and that’s where our story leads us next.
So it was, after a trip to the local butcher shop, that the Pond Side Pit paid a quiet homage to the pit masters of Santa Maria, as a hardwood fire crackled underneath a succulent and dripping Tri Tip roast. Oh buddy! I cannot tell you how fun this was, nor the joy that which built up in my heart and toppled out into my soul. Almost like a mini BBQ dream come true. If you like to play with fire, and are one to flip your meat with great frequency, this may be the style of cooking meant for you. Man it was fun.
A Few Specs and Such
The Gabby’s Grill Attachment is built to last too. As soon as I took it out of the box, I knew it would likely survive the 3rd and 4th World Wars with aplomb. The ring is 3/16 inch thick, 1 1/2 inch spun angle iron. And the grate can be cranked up and down like the big boy grills to a height of about 16 inches. Perfect for slower cooking high above the fire, and even better for dropping it down to coal level for a world class sear. Basically this little rig gives you most of the joys of Santa Maria style grilling at a modest man’s price. Plus, no assembly required. Just plunk it over your fire and get to cooking. Can’t beat that.
To do it authentically as they do in Santa Maria, you would also need to get you hands on some red oak. But we didn’t have any red oak, and just used hickory instead. We do ask for the forgiveness of the Santa Maria purists out there. We did what we could, and leveraged what we had.
Zooming up a little, you’ll see we tossed a few potatoes in the there too. Easy cooking people. We rotated the spuds once during the hour they spent down there, and that was enough. Did I mention this was fun stuff!
Seasoning and Stuff
Traditional Santa Maria seasoning goes along with the” less-is-more” mantra you hear a lot of these days. Most purists put only salt, pepper and garlic on their Tri Tips. “SPG” as we call it in the business. And you really can’t go wrong with that. Also, you want a good flame when cooking Santa Maria style. Embrace the flame as if it were another tool in your shop, and let it work for you. You want it licking for the heavens unto your spoils freshly placed there. As far as we know, you want the flames to just touch your meat, not to engulf it.
TIP: Pour a little bit of your manly beverage over the meat as it cooks, letting it drip down into the coals to create a billowing pillar of smoke for to rise unto your plunder. It’s good entertainment, and adds a wee smokier taste to this already wood fired way of cooking.
The End Game
I suppose you should take your Tri Tip to 145 internal, maybe removing it a little before that and wrapping it in foil to rest. The internal temp, like most big cuts of meat will continue to rise a little after it’s removed from the pit. I say, I suppose, because it’s all personal you see. Tri Tips are like big steaks, so cook it like you like your steaks and you’ll be just fine. And remember to always slice it across the grain for a proper and tender chew. Just like you would a brisket. Just like they do out way of Santa Maria, where the red oak smoke also rises. Amen.
Santa Maria Style Tri Tip Roast, grilled over the open fire. Succulent, smokey goodness! If there is a more fun way of watching meat cook, we haven’t heard of it yet!
If you want to hook your Weber up with this Santa Maria attachment, you can find it courtesy of the good people over at Gabby’s Grills
Check them out!
Somewhere in northern Minnesota
When the wind stopped talking to the stately pines, and the waves settled into calm glass, I could at once hear the lonesome wail of the loon and the distant cry of an eagle in flight. The sun waxed amber over the western shores, distantly beautiful and studded in balsam and papal and birch. The pine-scented air hung freshly in the encampment, as I came down to the canoe for to survey my kingdom and the wilderness sanctum that which spanned the miles nary soiled by the hand of man. I stood there at the water’s edge, gazing, letting the silence which echoed through the forested primeval melt into my mind, and drip down hither into my soul. This is where I longed to be. Where I simply had to be. Living deliberately. Somewhere in northern Minnesota.
My Secret Spot
No, I shall not in a thousand and one blogs be likely to illuminate you as to where this lovely photo was snapped. I cannot reveal my paradise, not even to you good folk and readership of the POTP. You must understand the glories of the quieter places, and the toils upheld there to preserve them. Nay, you’re just going to have to go find your own wilderness sanctum, let it’s magic sidle upon you and nestle into your heart, and when you return home, figure out yourself how to not mistakenly divulge your secret spot’s location. It’s hard not to tell people, but alas, it would not be a secret spot any more if you did. So I won’t. I will tell you however, that we did eat well out there. Not all camping is hardtack and swamp water you know. Not if you’re a patron of the pit.
Brought the Solo Titan along on this romp. You might remember this piece of kit from last autumn. We did a review on it. A wood gassifier stove! Yeah, it’s a wee bit too heady to explain right now, but if you want to read the review and learn all about it, here is a link for that. Solo Stove Titan Review
We cooked up a couple of bannocks and this lovely dish of corned beef hash and eggs for breakfast. A filling way to start a day in the bush. Or were we ending the day? No matter, good is good.
Somewhere Else in Minnesota
Oh we’ve been getting around. Let me show you another secret spot about 7 hours away from the last spot. Stream-side we were, where the native brook trout make their home and lives in the swift flowing currents of this quaint river. I couldn’t catch trout this day, but that did not mar my dinner plans. I knew I wouldn’t woo any trout so I brought along a suitable protein in it’s stead. Steak!
For this cook we broke out the old Mojoe Griddle. Remember this beast? If ever there was a love affair with a 1/4 inch, hot-rolled, 35 pound steel disc, then this is it. As always, a privilege to cook on, especially in the prettier places. It’s a restaurant grade griddle, and could not be more fun. If you want to learn more about the Mojoe, check out our review in this link – Mojoe Griddle
Aside the babbling stream we fried up a massive hunk of steak, sided with several piles of black beans and corn and fajita stuff; all of this was served over a good bowl of red beans and rice, and thus topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Go ahead and wipe the drool from your chin now…We’ll stand by and wait for you. Oh man that was good! I could eat this every day!
And….Somewhere Else Again…Still in Minnesota
This secret spot was along Lake Superior. That’s all I’ll disclose. Suffice it to say there is no better place to cool off on a summer’s day than on the rugged shore of the big lake they call “Gitchigumi” . That’s Ojibway for “Huge Water“, in case you’re interested. Anyways, we ate good here too! Man was it pretty!
More steak and beans, this time on the Instagrill. Yet another cooking gem we reviewed not long ago. Truly a portable charcoal powered cooking unit fit for the gypsy and wandering nomad in all of us. Love this little pit!
We cooked all our meals on it at this campsite. Here is a lovely breakfast burrito in the making. We’re toasting the tortilla whilst the ham and egg and cheese innards stay warm up in the corner. We really enjoyed cooking over this thing. The perfect camping grill. If you missed the review of this one, you can check it out here, InstaGrill Review
Or better yet, just check out their website Myinstagrill. By the way, they met their kickstarter goal, and are supposed to go into production of this little cooker this summer sometime. Good on you Jonathan!
A fine little grill to be sure. But if you can swing it, and have the inclination, not to mention perhaps a fair degree of lunacy, then nothing beats a 22 inch Weber Kettle grill in camp!
Somewhere Else’s Else….Yes, still in Minnesota
Boy we’ve been living the camper’s dream this spring. Gone every other weekend, living sweet lives. My cronie, bless his heart, he done dragged this Weber kettle about an 1/8 of a mile down the winding trail, through the woods and across creeks, to one of our favorite campsites, where upon we enjoyed quaint billowing clouds of wood smoke and the aromas of slow cooking pork ribs. Nothing is quite so fine as that in a rustic, backwoods encampment. It would have been better tho, I suppose, had he remembered to bring the cooking grate.
Indeed. But with a few pop cans and some green branches procured from the camp-side thickets, we were able to make do and eat well anyways, patron to the pit. Let no obstacle stand between a man and his meat! It’s all about working with what you’ve got, and adapting to your place in the sun. And that is how you stay alive in the woods, not to mention some secret spots of paradise that we can’t really tell you about. You understand.
Life is good when you go bush. Life is even better if you have good food there. And we did. And you can too! Amen.
They strutted across the road like little fuzzy superstars. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, with their big body guards fore and aft. Not a care in the world and just glad to be alive on this glorious spring day, doing what ever it is that goose do. This is a common sight this time of year at the Pond-Side Pit. Families of geese or ducks, wobbling about the place with an air of quiet entitlement. They own the place, and we who live here also, well, we just get out of their way. And we’re OK with that. John, he’s the little one in the front of the other little ones. He’s kind of the leader you might say, tho Paul right behind him is too, in his own right, and I suspect will go further in life. George is George, and Ringo, well, he likes to bring up the caboose and set the cadence of their daily walks. They’ll do this every day. Multiple times a day. That is in between their ritual swim in the pond, and rooting through the grass for the odd bug or what ever it is you eat when you’re a goose. Well, they can eat what ever they want, but I myself, I will be feasting proper like, over the pit of plenty today. Let’s head there now, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s cooking. And how it went and came to be. And no, it’s not goose!
It’s chicken and ribs of course. The ribs were liberally seasoned with Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and the chicken was dusted over good with a rub called Poultry Perfection, again from the good folks at Miners Mix. They never ask us to mention them on this blog, but we can’t help it, and we’ll mention them anyways. They’re just that good. Every blend they come up with seems to be a winner. We’ve chatted with the owners on occasion, and my goodness the standards they set for themselves are indeed impressive. They said if they don’t absolutely love it, they just won’t sell it. Simple as that. Such passion resonates clear to the end game too, here at this humble patio, beside a pond, with geese milling through the cool grass. Thank you Miners Mix for setting your bar so lofty. We do appreciate you! Check them out at their website www.minersmix.com
Can you smell it??? No you cannot. This is a computer you goof ball! I promise you tho, it smelled good!
The Texas Crutch
Long about hour three into the smoke, we wrapped the ribs with a few pats of butter and some BBQ sauce. TIP: If your ribs are ever coming out tough and chewy, resembling characteristics like that of proteinaceous Naugahyde, you probably ought to try wrapping them in foil for a couple of hours. Pour in a little apple juice with them, or some sauce, beer, anything that will provide moisture, and just let it steam there in the foil. This is an event for your ribs, and they will love you for it. It’s like taking them to a meat spa to be pampered and indulged there. In Texas they call this technique the crutch. Every where else we call it a good idea!
Fate of a Yard Bird
We let the chicken just go low and slow, bathed in a light hickory smoke for a few hours. Just long enough that it was almost falling apart. Bones would come loose with the slightest twist. This is what we we’re after, for the goal was to make some pulled chicken out of this yard bird! And whilst the ribs were finishing up in the foil, we went ahead and let the bird rest 15 minutes or so, then dug into it barehanded, and pulled it all to pieces for sandwiches later on. We also chopped up bits of skin in there too, because we like that sort of thing. Man!
With chicken and ribs thus procured over a soft hickory fire, and the waning light of another glorious spring day slanting in golden shafts over roof tops and through fluttering cottonwood leaves, I was at once pleased with my efforts at the pit this day. There was a temptation early on to grill only hamburgers or the simple bratwurst, but I’m glad I resisted. Glad I went with the longer smoke instead. For I do not take these moments pit-side for granted. And because it is pert near my favorite thing to do most days, I do find myself in advancing years relishing the journey of BBQ almost more than the BBQ itself. I like that some things in this world take a little time – like pulled chicken and ribs. I like how such endeavors of patience press gently against the hour hand of life, and the pleasurable moments created there for to tarry in, kindred to our soul. That is how good things should come to be. There should be a journey involved. It ought to be earned. Like good BBQ. Raising a family of geese. And perhaps English rock bands. Amen.
Slow hickory smoked pulled chicken smothered in Joe Joes Hogshack BlackBerry Sauce, sided with even more meat! Hickory smoked pork spare ribs seasoned in Miners Mix Maynards Memphis Rub. Man! Pardon me people, but I’m just going to have to eat this right in front of you.
One of our kind subs alerted us moments back that we had done a butt post. Aka launching a post of jibberish typed out by our pants pocket. I have texted with my butt countless times I’m sure, but this was the first WordPress butt post I do recall. Technology. Anyways, to pay amends here then is a proper butt post, from last year, and most suitable for the day.
It was a pretty good evening at the pit, I don’t mind saying. One of those patented, gorgeous, Minnesota evenings that when they happen are the finest evenings anywhere in the world. You see, when you wait around for 6 months swaddled in Bill Cosby sweaters and long underwear waiting for the perfect weather in which to grill supper, then, when it actually does happen, you are positively the most grateful person on the planet. You just are.
Thus it was at the Pond Side Pit, under softly ebbing salmon skies, that we reveled in weather most extraordinary, and favored a continuing burger kick partial to a beautiful bed of coals. I do not know why, nor do I seek to analyze it much, but burgers, in particular, big burgers with lots of bacon, cheese, and onions have been my most favorite thing to eat lately. And man did these meat monoliths do the trick. There was no messing around at the pit tonight. We aimed to fill our bellies, and we meant to do it right.
Whilst the beautiful hand-formed patties sizzled over the hot cast iron grate, I got to work on the onions. Also, I found this gem of a black iron pan out in the garage, a smaller 6 inch skillet that was perfect for the job. I suppose we could have used one of our cast iron griddle inserts like we did a couple of weeks back, but we like to spread the love to our other cast iron entities as well. We’re big fans of cast iron around here, if you haven’t noticed, and will bandy with that world often if we can. There is nothing better for cooking over the fire, and maybe even cooking period, than cast iron. Love it. So if you have grandma’s old black iron pan just sitting in your basement holding down a stack of old photos, we highly recommend sticking one of these pans in your grilling kit. Great for the sort of stuff that always slips through the grate, like these here onions. Yum!
And then there was bacon. Yes, I started a paragraph with the word “and” , and all the grammar police now surely hath cringed. Eyeballs rolling. But hark, it’s bacon people, and bacon should be allowed to bend the grammatical rules. Bacon is special. Countries may topple and rise with bacon. Our very destiny with alien life forms may hinge on whether or not we offered them bacon at that first meeting. Boy, I think I’ve digressed. The point is bacon is good, and nobody can deny it. Anyways, we set the bacon indirect for a while to absorb some of the hickory smoke that which wafted by. Man. The smell of sizzling bacon and fried onions over a bed of hickory coals. Buckle up people!
Hickory. We were running a trifle low on charcoal this cook and augmented the briquettes with a nice pile of hickory chunks. A lovely means in which to cook outdoors. A poetry closer to the open fire cooking of the cowboys in days past. Speaking of, we will be delving more into wood fired cooking arts this summer, sans charcoal altogether. Just straight up wood, such as man was perhaps always intended to cook his spoils all along. Be looking for more posts on that.
And so the sun ebbed over the house tops and budding cottonwood trees, it’s long salmon rays spilling across the freshly hewn grasses where long shadows were cast. The sounds of the neighborhood unwinding accompanied thee as I placed slices of smoked Gouda over the savory flanks of charred beef. I smiled as any pit jockey would, as I lowered a big tong full of fried onions atop the cheese. Then of course, the bacon. How are you not drooling on your screens right now! Mercy. Then, like a flag on the summit of Mount Everest it’s self, we topped each burger with a gently toasted bun. Burgers just don’t get no better, folks.
I don’t know if you believe in love at first sight, but I say it so, leastwise with these hickory tinted bacon cheeseburgers it is. Spoils of the flame. And patron to the pit. Amen.
Just experimenting with with some old posts…It’s a perfect day here in Minnesota right now, and this old tale of the grill came to mind… -PotP