This was sermon on the mount type of stuff. Indeed, I decided, right then and there that I was going to give it another try. I was going to smoke something! First thing was to get some wood chips.I eyed with intent, my wife’s sculptured flower beds, with their mounds of wood chips. Little brother cautioned against that. He did not say why, but like a parent with a questioning child just said… “Because I said so.”
I got within twenty feet of my Lilac bush before I heard him holler “Stop”! Like he would to a dog running into a busy street.
Likewise, when I picked up a Maple tree branch from my front yard, left over debris from winter storms, I glanced furtively over at brother. His eyes were closed, his chin was sunk to his chest in dispare, slowly shaking his head back and forth.I guess I was not impressing my teacher too much…At this point Little Brother stood up, glanced around and stated flatly, “I gotta go”.And that was that. I was on my own again.I could tell that my brother was a little bit displeased with my lack of attention to his teachings, so I was going to do something about it. I would go to the store and buy some of those dad-burned wood chips. I would get wood with a label on it, so that next time he cornered me,and wanted to know what the heck I was smoking, I could tell him!Fifteen minutes later,I pushed through the door of the hardware store like a gunman walking into an old western saloon. I stopped for a moment, studying the room and the sauntered over to where the barbecue grills were sitting in all their glory. I casually lifted a lid here and there , checking things out, trying to look cool while searching for wood chips. Golly, there was a lot of paraphernalia for smoking. There were four different kinds of thermometers, and half a dozen tongs to choose from. Then along the bottom shelf I found the wood chips.I found a lot of wood chips. I had no idea there were so many different kinds or what they were even used for. Pecan, Hickory, Apple, Peach, Grape, Mesquite, Cherry and I thought about that branch in my yard when I read the last one, Maple. About then a young gal came over to me, one of the clerks at the store, and asked me if I needed help. I glanced up from my kneeling position at the wood chip shelf, and asked if she might have a preference for one kind wood over the other.
“Oh my,” she stated, “that is way beyond me…I have no idea.”
The girl at the cash register was of the same mind, “Wow” she said, “You one of those guys who can use smoke?”
I stood up a little straighter, a little bit of pridefulness swelling in my soul. I was enjoying this.
“OH, I like to dabble a bit” I said.
I walked out of there with my chest pushed out,apple chips in hand and pride in my stride. Yup, I was one of those guys. I was on my way to becoming a patron of the pit.Back home I was excited to get the little Smoky Joe into action. I placed my seven pieces of charcoal gingerly onto the residual pile from the last cook, and lit up. I watched the flames for a while, mesmerized by the aroma of the smoke wafting out from the little grill. Back in the kitchen I prepared for the event to come. I had nice thick Pork Chops laid out on the cutting board and started to put the seasoning on, or “Rub” as my brother would say. I gently padded and rubbed the meat, trying to emulate my little brothers technique. I really did not know what this was all about, Me? I prefer to pat and rub my plump belly after I eat the meat. But then I respect little brother. After all, he has a Blog, I do not…While all this fondling of meat was going on, I had dutifully been soaking my apple chips in a bowl of water. I will tell you this, they looked just like the chips from the wife’s flower garden. I did the obvious calculation and discovered that it would cost well over a thousand bucks to do her flower beds with this exotic wood. Lucky for me, I only needed a small handful accomplish my needs.Wood on the coals, meat on the grill. I was doing it. I set the little lid on the little Weber and waited, soon puffs of smoke started rising through the holes in the lid. Alright! I sat there in wonder, the magic of the smoke drifting around my camper and driveway. I was surprised that people were not stopping along the street in front of my house to witness this extraordinary event.
An hour later, after shutting down the little grill, I brought my prized meat into the house, the perfume of the apple wood smoke lingering in the air. Gosh, this was good stuff. Brother would be proud of me. I had done a good thing here! I laid miraculous chops alongside the chopped potatoes that I had cooked in foil down in the coals during the cook. The presentation was completed with a dappling of steamed peas and carrots nestled into the grouping.
I work second shift, and as such rarely am home for supper, but I am the cook of the house and I cook for my bride almost every day. When she comes home, there is some kind of supper for her in the refrigerator, waiting for her to heat up. Today was no different, I placed cellophane over the plate and placed my prized meal on the refrigerator shelf like I was setting up an entry for a state fair competition. I would have the left overs when got home from work.
While I was at work, I could smell the distinct aroma of the apple wood,still clinging to my clothes, off and on the whole night. I wondered if anyone else could pick up on the scent. Each time I picked up the fragrance, I would get a flashback, seeing the smoke puffing out of the grill, the smell of the kitchen as I put the meal together. Man, when the bell rang and my shift was over I could not get home fast enough, I was ready to taste the spoils of my toils.
My wife was fast asleep when I got home, but I hardly cared, I was like a kid at Christmas, I had been thinking about those pieces of pork for nine hours. I went straight to the fridge and swung open the door. My mouth was watering as I stared blankly into the empty space that once held my long waited supper.
Nothing was there! I glanced feverishly around the kitchen, what the heck! Where was my supper? I looked in the freezer, and finally in the sink, and there found two dishes, remnants of meat stuck to the dirty edge of one plate. A stray green pea off to the side of the other. It became obvious that my supper was gone. I started at the plates, lifted one gently and took a whiff. Ah…the smell was still there, the fragrance of success. I set the plate back into the sink, leaned my hands on the edge of the counter, and smiled. The loss of my supper was also my gain. It meant that I had passed a test of sorts. I had smoked meat, and it was good.
Good enough that my bride ate it all.
I was now…a “Patron of the Pit”.
Early spring in Minnesota. Melting snow, and river-lets of ice water meandering down the streets. Bird song returns to the barren tree tops, and the sun feels just right on your shoulders. Oh how we love this time of year. Just the mere thought of feeling the warmth from the sun again, not only registers as an event, but it is therapy too for the soul. For here is a simple pleasure, this light from on high, that has spanned the vacuum of space and landed precisely on your corner of the earth. Kissing your cheek there, like it had nothing better to do. That gives a winter riddled bloke hope, I think. And engenders in one’s brain pan those long but dormant notions of golf clubs, and fishing poles. And motorcycles and BBQ’s. The latter of course, something we here at this blog have never put away in the first place. Even so, as I banked the coals this evening to the side of the old kettle grill, I gloried in the purified air that spring seems to usher with it, and how a patch of grass in the spruce grove yonder, is flooded now, in a golden light. It is a pleasure to tarry by the pit on days such as this. And on the grill tonight, now that you mention it, apple smoked, honey tinted pork chops. Man! Are you ready for this!
Coals assembled like a flaming choir to the side of the pit, for proper indirect cooking. The chops were thus lightly rubbed in honey, and then sprinkled with some homemade spice, fresh out of the mortar and pestle. Now when you put sugar based things like honey on your meat at the beginning of the cook, you do increase your odds of burning things. But I didn’t care. With proper pitmanship, one can minimize the sugar rebellion, and procure some dang fine vittles. Thus, I went light on the honey, kept the meat well away from the coals, and just baby sat the beautiful pork chops, giving them almost all of my attention. It is a great hardship I suppose to sit tight to the grill, enjoying its radiant heat like that of a pot-bellied stove, whilst listening to the tweety birds cavort in the Alders. To at once let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and fancy the view of the world spinning with out me, whilst the apple wood smoke rises unto the heavens. This is a great pain indeed, these rigors of the BBQ arts, but one I am willing to endure now and again, for the assurance of delicious meat hot off the grill.
So it was, under blue skies and the banter of returning birds aside dwindling snowbanks, and warm sun beams cast upon my small little corner of the world, thy chops were dutifully grilled, with a touch of smoke, just because. Continually flipping them, nurturing them, ensuring they are having a good time there opposite the hot coals. I know I was. The aromas at the pit were a melody of inspiration, from the apple wood, to the caramelizing honey, to the fresh ground coriander and rosemary that my fellow patron gave me, as a token of good pit gesture. A spice rub we used in the Dual Patron Cook Out blog, consisting of brown sugar, Himalayan Pink Salt, onion powder, pepper corn, smoked paprika, coriander and rosemary. An agreeable host of aromas in which to aptly tarry by. And as I did precisely that in my patio chair, aside the smoking pit, I noted to myself how nice it was to be doing such a thing as this, with out a jacket, no less. The winter grilling season, and those 20 below cook outs, might I wager, are on it’s way out now. Confirmed yonder, by the melting snow, the bird song, and the golden rays of sun residing on a scant patch of grass. Oh yes, we love this time of year.
Apple smoked, honey-tinted pork chops, with freshly ground, aromatic spices. You could do a whole lot worse I suspect, but not have nearly so much fun.