Two Men, Two Pits, and Forty Pounds of Yard Bird
It was early Saturday morning at the Track Side Pit. The song birds were singing as brightly as the warm, August sun, of which it’s golden shafts dropped with authority from an eastern sky, kissing the Petunias that which bordered the patio here. Soft music played on the pit speaker system, whilst the tall, leafy stalks of the track-side Mullen plants leaned in the morning breeze. Smoke curled off the freshly lit charcoal chimney, as I prepped the 22 inch Weber Kettle grill for action. My fellow patron, and caretaker of the Track Side Pit, patiently tinkered with his old, Char-Griller Outlaw, also prepping it for business. Yes indeed, a dual patron cook out was in progress. We love it when this happens. It is not often both co-founders of PotP bandy together to ply their craft in one locale. But we did this morning. We had things to do. Manly things. And we would do it together, by and far, as Patrons of the Pit. We would do it for Lee.
There is this BBQ chain that I rather admire, called Sonny’s BBQ. Many of the readership here have probably heard of it. Many have probably even partook of it. Sad to say I have never been there however, nor sampled their smokey wares. I’m sure the vittles are good tho, I don’t question that. But it isn’t their food so much that impresses me, even tho I know it would. Nay, it is their character, and in particular, this thing they do, called, Random Acts of BBQ.
What they do is find some one in the community who has been giving selflessly, of their time and talent to others. And doing so whilst asking for nothing in return. Just plain good people helping other people. Anyways, the team at Sonny’s BBQ cater a bunch of tasty BBQ to these folks, throwing a shin dig as just a way to say thanks, and to let them know they are appreciated. Pretty cool stuff. Well, figuring that there is no copyright on kindness, we here at PotP thought we’d dabble in the practice ourselves, and do something nice for some one else, who could use some good BBQ.
That some one is friend that goes to our church. She’s been through a rough time of it lately, rougher than most people I know, losing her husband, Lee, in a car accident last spring. It’s miserable stuff, but with grace handed to her from the Lord above, she’s managing through it alright. Life goes on, as you know, and here lately, she had to throw a graduation party for her daughter, and she needed a lot of meat grilled up for this. She needed help. And this is where a Patron of the Pit must answer his calling. This is what we’re born to do! And we were glad to do so.
40 pounds. That’s about how much chicken we had to grill up this morning. This would later be chopped up for a massive quantity of Chicken Caesar Wraps, sufficient enough in-part to feed a parade of hungry tummies. It’s a lot of chicken! And rotating between two pits: the 22 -inch kettle grill, and the Char-Griller Outlaw, we made it happen. Systematically cranking through it. Several chimneys of charcoal. Several lovely beverages. And four hours of good, meat-flipping comradeship. We were men, you see. Soldiers of the Smoke. And highly smitten for the day. What a pleasurable cook it was. And it started of course, with bacon.
No, the bacon was not an ingredient for the Chicken Caesar Wraps. Nay, it was for us! If you’ve not yet experienced the joys of breakfast at the pit, well you’re missing out on some of the finer moments of life. My fellow patron brought out his camp stove, and set it up pit-side, and in a few moments, the sounds and aromas of sizzling bacon were at play. That combined with a gaggle of fried eggs, a cup of coffee and some old fashion donuts, well, such set our bellies off right, here in the golden shallows of a morning sun.
So it was, batch by batch, we grilled our way through the morning hours, whittling away on the 40 pound pile of chicken breasts. It is not technical grilling. Anybody could do it. We seasoned each chunk in a light offering of salt, pepper and garlic. SPG as it’s called in the business. Then we placed them over direct heat to start, right over the coals, this to sear them a touch, and promote a moderate crust with lovely bits of char. And when this was completed on both sides, the breasts were then escorted by tong in hand over to the other side of the grill, opposite the hot coals, and there they would finish out the remainder of the cook, and their journey to excellence. And we did our best of course, not to get in the way of that.
Indeed, once we found our rhythm, we settled down into our patio chairs when appropriate, legs crossed like gentlemen of leisure, and just watch the smoke pillar from from our grills. Sunbeams broke through the deck above us, illuminated in smokey shafts. Tweety birds sweetly serenaded us from afar, and the grass yonder never looked so green. The children frolicked in the sand box, and you could almost hear the garden growing right beside us. We looked at each other and smiled. Nary a word was said, or needed to be said. We both knew we had arrived. Doing precisely that which is well with our souls. What a beautiful day to grill something. And what a better day yet, to do something helpful for someone else. And to let them know that they matter, and that we’re here for them, by and by.
This one’s for you, Lee. And the little lady. Blessings. And amen.
What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
– James 1:27
A thin-blue smoke pillared from the old bullet cooker as a bandy of black birds sang from the pond’s edge. It was mid-afternoon, mid-summer, and mid-week come to think of it, and all the world seemed on the bustle today, and busy, and hurried to get along. Well, save for yours truly that is. Nay, I had other plans this afternoon. To smoke up a rack of ribs, for one, and also some chicken wings to take to some friends who could use a good meal these days. A BBQ care package, I guess you could say. People just like barbecue.
Something For Everyone
Barbecue. Have you noticed ever when you go into a BBQ joint that there is just something in the air, something besides the most succulent aromas known to mortal man. That’s right. There is an abiding sort of gastronomic appreciation there. A universal reverence almost, for what is smokey and good. A joy for BBQ scattered in unbiased fashion across the social cross-section. Your class or zip code makes no bearing in BBQ. Doctors and lawyers, I suspect love BBQ. So do teachers and garbage men. Clergymen and atheists. Pig farmers and even vegetarians, I bet, tho they won’t eat it, deep down admire BBQ. Even people from Iowa! Indeed, black, yellow, white or brown, your skin matters not in BBQ. Every one is free to tarry on it’s savory shores.
That’s the beautiful part about good BBQ. People from many walks of life coming together in food and fellowship. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, if the BBQ is good, you will gladly slurp it off a paper plate, and wipe your face with your sleeve.Whether you’re a grease monkey from Queens, or the Queen of England herself, everybody is equal where fine smoked meat is concerned. And say what you will on this, but that is no small thing. For BBQ is oft times regarded as a fickle, and snobbish pursuit. One of the most opinionated subjects in the free world, just behind politics and religion. Yet, and somehow, we all come together in fellowship for some good BBQ.
It’s a childish notion, I know, but what if all the leaders of a world gone mad, conspired together for lunch some day, and had BBQ. All sitting around a big table, with make-shift, paper towel bibs, and tall drinks at hand. Communing and dining on perfectly executed BBQ. I bet they’d be in a pretty good mood for the most part. Well as good a mood as you can be, I suppose, being a world leader and all. There’s just something about BBQ that makes it all okay.
And so they would eat and feast and look around the table at each other, everybody sporting a little BBQ sauce wayward on their face, and a pleasant, satisfied feeling deep in their bellies. For a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, I hope they would notice that it’s not all bad having lunch together. That if they can get along well enough for an hour or so, maybe they can do it some more, and maybe even become friends, with a plate of good food in front of them. Childish notions for sure, but hark, the working model of this, of course, has already been perfected -a little something your local BBQ shack has known for many years. BBQ brings people together.
A Time to Share
As the mallards milled about on the pond’s edge, and the breeze mingled sweetly in the trees, I glazed up the wings with some more Blackberry BBQ Sauce, from the kindly folks at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack. On the other pit, the ribs had just come out of the foil, highly pampered there in brown sugar, butter, and a squirt of honey. Smoked with pecan wood. Oh buddy! They were almost, but not quite, falling off the bone. Time to deliver these spoils for whom they were intended! And time to make time, for what is good. And what is right.Barbecue may never save the world, but I’ll tell you this, it sure is a better tasting place because of it. And that’s a start at least. Amen.
Location : Track-Side Pit
Time : Not too long ago…
Take a gander at this spread, won’t you, put on by John, our Patron of the Pit Co-Founder, and care taker of the Track Side Pit. Yes indeed, he was seen in his backyard recently, plying his craft over a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. Nothing stood in his way of culinary, smokey-tinted perfection. We’re talking :butter, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, scallops, shrimp, onion, pepper and red potatoes. Man! If this don’t make you hungry right now, you probably have a face full of dirt! As he so bluntly, but exquisitely phrased it, “Freakin sexy goodness!” Indeed, old boy. Indeed.
He’s coming along, that boy. In point of fact, he finally got himself a 22 inch Weber Kettle Grill. And he’s loving it. I don’t know what he was waiting for either. And as you can see, he’s been making good use of it too.
Here is another thing he whipped up off-hand the other day. A pit keeper’s favorite.
ATB’s. Better known as Atomic Buffalo Turds. He took them a step further than most pit jockeys, and later glazed them in maple syrup, and dashed them with fresh cracked pepper. Mercy!
So that’s the recent goings on of the Track Side Pit. It’s good to see the other half once in a while. He doesn’t very often post here, or brag of his grilling talents. But I personally think he can grill circles around most people I know, including myself. He holds down the social media branch for PotP, and samples any spices or sauces that are sent our way. If you want to see more of what he’s been up to, you can find him supporting our Patron of the Pit Instagram account. Boy it’s a party over there! Stop by and say howdy to him!
Sometimes he shows up on our facebook page too.
The fly line went taut and the rod hooped over nicely, as I set the hook into the leviathan that which swam the grass banks. I soon managed to get the fish onto the reel as I played him closer to shore, determined this time not to let old “Moby” elude me once again. A light rain dappled over the pond, tapping lightly on my rain jacket, as I let out some more line, the reel singing as the fish muscled for rank. “Keep the line tight”, I thought to myself. I have already lost this bucket mouth once today, and this time, if I could help it, he would be mine. The bass suddenly torpedoed out for deeper water, like bass do, then reconsidered to the divining will of my 5 weight fly rod, and made haste instead for a small passel of weeds, there upon and of which he was, I dare say, masterfully escorted unto the damp shore from whence I stood. He laid for a moment there in the grass, panting. We both did.
I do not know what it is about fishing, but I am continually amazed how sweet life’s keen focus is when a fish is tight to our line. More sharpened moments of clarity I seldom see. Likewise, I’m reminded of the show Gilligan’s Island, and something they once said there. I digress. You see on Gilligan’s Island, the Skipper and Gilligan were fishing in the lagoon one day. And the skipper, being a salty, fishing man who never changed his blue shirt, said to Gilligan in a bellowing fashion, that when you’re fishing, and you get a fish on line, for as long as you’re hooked up together, that fish and you, you will in turn think of nothing else. And it’s true.
You think of nothing else.
Maybe that’s why we like to fish so much around here. For the focus. For the rendering of life’s many complexities into quaint, articulate moments of intense, penetrating focus. Fish do that to a body. Don’t ask me why. And we are blessed and highly favored to have a nice pond, pit-side, in which to partake of our craft nearly every day if we want. To stand on it’s earthy shores, and for a while at least, think of nothing else. Man…
Anyways, all this fishing of late has made this little pit boy ripe with hunger. And if you are too, you’re in luck. Tonight’s feast will sooth what ails you, believe me. Pecan smoked chicken fajitas, patron to the pit. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.
Today’s seasoning once again comes from our friends at Miners Mix. XXX Garlic, and man does it do right by poultry. All natural, no junk in this stuff, people. If it wasn’t around in 1850, it ain’t in there. If you’re still looking for your next favorite rub, go and check these mates out. We don’t know how they do it, but they’ve managed to crack the code on spice rubs. We’ve really been enjoying their products. Anyways, we semi-liberally dashed this garlic rub over some boneless chicken breasts, and set them indirect on the Weber Kettle Grill, along with a good bandy of pecan smoke. Lid on, and damper tweaked. I sat back in the BBQ chair with a manly beverage in hand, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure.
When the chicken was almost, but not quite done, we removed it and set it aside for a few short moments. If grilling wasn’t fun enough, it’s about to get even better. Enter the ever-sexy, oft-coveted, Mojoe Griddle. Oh yes…
I tell you this people, if ever in the world a piece of cooking equipment were to have a swagger, this is it. If you’ve been in our readership over the last year or so, you’ve seen this beast surface now and again. 35 pounds of high grade, hot-rolled steel- a restaurant quality griddle, and it all fits neatly over a multiple of heat sources. Simple, effective, and tough. Thus, not wanting to let my cooking coals go to waste, we plunked this behemoth over the top of the Weber Kettle and, viola, the best griddle action money can buy.
We are pretty much in love with this griddle. And we aren’t bashful about it. If you want to up your game some day, or just want to learn more about it, we did a review on it a while back, and you can read that here. Or better yet, go and visit our friend, Cam, the inventor of the Mojoe Griddle, at his website, http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ , and he’ll show you around. Tell him PotP sent you! Anyways, where were we…
On a hot, oiled, Mojoe, we set forth our green peppers and onions to saute their way to greatness. Spatula in hand, what great pleasure it is to stand aside the hot steel, cooking in the freshened air. Where the song birds trill and the skies are so blue they do not stop, save for to smile down upon the lone, outdoor cook, flipping his vegetables yonder, amid a soft, summer’s breeze. There is great therapy in cooking outside.
Next we chopped up the smoked chicken and tossed that into the mix too, and listened to it sizzle there, next to the green peppers and onion. Oh man! The aromas which filled the patio were point blank, off-the-charts. Olfactory high-def stuff, people. Thus, and with great exuberance, I plowed thy spoils about with the steel edge of an inverted spatula, and smiled to myself, as the cloud shadows calved silently across the lawn. Oh if only to slow this cook down, and to extend the moment for the moments sake. I was enjoying this. This relatively simple moment of cooking supper in a complex world. There is just something magical about it. Something right under the sun. If you’re lucky in this life, you will enjoy a few pursuits like this, that which gently cull you from the throngs of haste. Activities that which defy distraction. And promote moments of lingering focus. Like fishing I suppose, and cooking outside. The results of which will illuminate your day, and tug by tender strings, the joy for which tarries down in your soul. Amen.
Pecan Smoked, Garlic Tinted, chicken fajita makings, patron to the pit. I do believe you can take it from here. Yum!
Been spending a lot of time out at the pit lately. Here in Minnesota, our privileged,“glory season” is well upon us. Has been for a couple of weeks now. It’s also called Spring. And oh how my senses revel is this bandy of moments. The snow and ice are long gone now, and in it’s stead, green glades and leafy bouquets. Blue bird skies that won’t stop. And air so fresh and so sweet, you want nothing more than to lavish the day long, out-of-doors, drinking that Lilac-tinted air into your lungs. Around every bend, there is beauty. Blooms every where. From apple blossoms to dandy lions. And the sun feels like an old friend again, with it’s warm arm around your shoulders. Man I love spring! I adore it for what is reflected in my soul.
Naturally then, and as stated, I’ve been loitering with great effect out at the pit in recent days. Often taking my suppers out there, feet propped up, hat tipped up, and the world gently twirling before me. I’ll put a bit of music on the pit sound system, draft a lovely beverage, and make an evening of it there, contented and well fed. One of the projects we’ve smoked lately was meatloaf, which in of itself is not uncommon at the Pond Side Pit. But this particular loaf had a twist to it. A strategically placed core of hard boiled egg up it’s center. Yes mam, that’s what we did.
The idea was suggested to us by one of our Australian readers, Laurie. A pleasant bloke from down under with an affinity for eating good things. So when he mentioned we ought to put hard boiled eggs in our meat loaf, well, we took it as gospel. Laurie knows things. He also harbors a keen sense of humor, so, if he’s pulling one over on us, well, then we’ve been egged. Regardless, Laurie, this one is for you.
The smoke wood of choice today is pecan. A lovely, abiding, and faintly nutty bouquet sure to escort this loaf into the smokey realm with a degree of elegance. It is not an over powering smoke, but very well-rounded. If you only had pecan wood to smoke with at your pit, I don’t reckon your life would be too bad off. It makes our personal Mount Rushmore of Smoke Woods. And whilst were at it, may we remind you of our smoke wood list we compiled a while back, where upon many woods are gathered in one digital archive for your reference pleasure. Click on our Smoke Woods link here to take a gander.
At any rate, and back to meatloaf, it was prepped like any other meatloaf. I’m sure you’ve all got your recipes for that. We tossed in some chopped onions and green peppers, a few others odds and ends, and seasoned the meat with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. We flattened it out in a big pan, and laid three hard boiled eggs in a line, as seen a couple photos above. After a moment of retrospection, we bid the eggs adieu, and swaddled them in sticky meat. Meatloaf surprise was thus conceived.
Man. Can you smell this! After about an hour on indirect heat, gently bathed in pecan smoke, the meat loaf took on a fairly nice crust, which I appreciated. Now if you set up your grill like we did, for indirect cooking, that is all the coals banked up to one side, with your protein on the other side, you will do well to rotate your meat load 180 degrees half way through the cooking process. Rotating is just for even cooking. A large spatula will do the trick there. And the whole cook takes about an hour. Which, off-hand and by the way, is the perfect amount of time to slurp down one manly beverage and nod off a wee bit in your patio chair. Yes sir, these are the high rigors of conventional BBQ. If you’re not up to the challenge, hand the tongs off to some one who is! We think you got this tho!
Thus, and under a beautiful blue sky which tapered into evening pastels, I did what I do best – nothing. Nothing save for to tarry there in the fresh air, and watch the wood smoke pillar from the pit damper. The meat loaf in the home stretch now, I crossed my legs like a gentleman of leisure ought to, listed a bit in my chair, and relished the final minutes of my BBQ. I could feel the accelerator pedal of life let up now. And for a while at least, all the world was reduced to this simple, suspended moment in time. The wood smoke curling. The aroma of meatloaf under the lid. Song birds serenading from yonder tree tops. And the distinctly soft kiss of Lilacs in the breeze. Amen.
Pecan Smoked Meatloaf with a Hard Boiled Egg Core. Man! I gotta say, it wasn’t half bad. Kind of takes your run-of-the-mill meatloaf, and makes it bit of a center piece. If we were to do it again, I do think I would rather fancy a nice bacon lattice wrapped around it’s flanks. Bacon and eggs, after all..Regardless, good eating patron to the pit! Thanks Laurie!
I’ve never been to Ireland but my gnome has. And I guess the worst part of it is that I didn’t even know he was gone. He was one of those little dudes in your life that you tend to take for granted, I guess, until he comes back to you. You see he tarries in the garden, where any self-respecting gnome ought to, and no, he doesn’t have a name. I’m not much of a gnome fellow, and I do not see what my wife sees in him, but none-the-less, he stands stalwart among the bean plants, like a gate-keeper to the greens. She picked him up on one of her many errands to the garden center, and nary ever bothered in turn to tell me why. Either you get gnomes or you don’t, I guess. Kind of like Neil Diamond. But I suppose he’s cute enough, by and by. And I’m talking about the gnome, thank you kindly.
Well one day not too long ago, and unbeknownst to us, he was covertly and flagrantly gnome-napped. Taken hostage by two friends of the female variety, who stowed the little fellow into their travel satchel of assorted womanly sundries, and henceforth made way over the big pond in an aeroplane for Ireland. For ten days, our little gnome parlayed for mercy at the hands of his abductors, and for ten days he was forced to pose for photos in front of a variety of Irish land marks. I did not know whether to be happy or sad for him, this mostly, again, because I didn’t even know he was gone. But he was. And that’s the great patheticness of it all.
Here is a photo of him let out to pee by the Irish Sea.
And here is one of him bandied together with like-minded drinking buddies or the kin. I think they were making a break for it and were caught again by the female captures. Their faces say it all.
I digress. This post was supposed to be about the art of grilling supper, and some how you got me going on gnomes. It’s just that whilst I was loitering by the pit here, the little gnome has done the very same in the pit-side garden. Him and I hang out like this a lot, don’t you know. Just watching the smoke curl into a beautiful Minnesota sky. Leastwise we do these days. Now that his ransom has been won, and he has thus been returned to my garden plot with his spoils intact. I don’t take him for granted as much as I once did. Anyways, about supper. Take a gander at these thick cut chops! For seasoning tonight, we went fairly simple. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder. That’s it. If it’s good pig, that’s all you need most days.
For ninety seconds, we placed the chops over direct heat, to sear in the juices there. Then we flipped them for ninety seconds more on the other side. Gray clouds idles overhead. A Great Blue Heron swoops past the scene, it’s massive wings fanning through the summer air. The pork chops sizzle sensuously on the hot cast iron grate. If smells were music, then the heady aromas bantering about the pit were like a lovely dollops of Beethoven up your nose. Glory! We then tossed a chunk of hickory wood on the fire, and thus escorted the chops over to indirect heat, opposite the hot coals. And there they would ride the remainder of the path unto a hickory-tinted, highly edible succulence. And it didn’t take long either.
We also prepped up some tin foil potatoes, one of our very favorite sides for the grill. Two potatoes and one onion, diced to uniformity, and seasoned in salt and pepper, along with a few globs of butter to keep things sporty whence foiled over direct heat. Tin foil potatoes are an easy victory, people. Twenty minutes or so over direct heat, flipping once at your pit master instincts. They are the perfect side to compliment any meat patron to the pit. Yum!
The Gnome Thieves
It is likely our civic duty to gnomes, and to lovers of gnomes, to post these mug shots in kind. They probably don’t want their identities revealed, and we won’t do that here, but suffice it this way – if you happen to spy these two ladies poking about your homestead, all I can say is grab your gnomes before they do! Grab them post-haste, people, and run!
Hickory Smoked Thick-Cut Garlic Chops, sided with Tin Foil Potatoes. Man! The Land of Meat and Potatoes, people. Where good is good, and less is more than enough. Amen.
- 1 Can of your favorite baked beans
- 1 Can on Peach Pie Filling
- 8 Strips of Bacon
- 1 Onion
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- 1/2 Cup favorite BBQ sauce
- 2 Tablespoons favorite BBQ rub
As I repair here pit-side, at ease in my patio chair, whilst listening to the song birds evening serenade, I think about this recipe for peach baked beans. Who would have ever thought this unlikely pairing would bandy so well. If you haven’t tried peaches in your baked beans yet, you need to get after it people. Leastwise if you fancy peaches that is. And I suppose beans too. It’s one of those gastronomic anomalies in the human condition that doesn’t make much sense at first, but after trying it, you wonder why you haven’t been doing this all along. It was invented, as far as we know, by Myron Mixon, as seen on the hit TV series, BBQ Pitmasters. Whether you take to Myron’s personality or not, one cannot deny that the man knows BBQ. He just wins. In point of fact, he’s won more on the competitive circuit more than any person alive. Least wise at the time of this writing he has. He’s good, people. And so are his beans. So to pay homage to these glory beans, tonight we deploy our latest toy from http://www.cast-iron-grate.com. The cast iron pan insert.
It was pretty much love at first sight when this came in the mail. Many thanks to Rolf, of Craycort Cast Iron Grates, for taking good care of we patrons of the pit. His products are excellent, and stand the test of time. If you have a kettle grill, and don’t have one of these grates yet, you’re missing out people. Your grand kids will inherit this stuff, and pass it on down to their kids. That’s the beauty of cast iron. And this pan is just plain slick too, and the perfect cooking vessel for our peach baked beans. Let’s get to cooking, and we’ll show you how it went and came to be.
Under the blue skies of a summer’s eve, whilst the cottonwood leaves gently fluttered in the breeze, we started up affairs tonight by doing a few slices of bacon in the Craycort pan. The recipe calls for 8 slices, but lo, we’ve been eating a lot of bacon lately it seems, so I felt it a might prudent to maybe tone it down a touch. You know how it goes. So I think we put in only 4 slices. They sizzled to life on the hot cast iron, which was opposite a hot bed of coals, and their wonderful aroma mingled in the late, evening air. A pleasant way to start the supper-time festivities. And it only gets better.
Then came the onion and bell pepper, chopped to suit, and tossed headlong into the pan. A little bacon grease left over to lubricate the ensemble, and this medley came to maturity in no time flat. Cook it just long enough to get the raw out, but not so much your onions get translucent. Chop the bacon in to appropriate man-sized bites. Man…Can you smell it yet!
Lastly, we added in the rest of the ingredients, stirring gently, and cooked up two picturesque pork chops for good measure, lightly dashed in Lawry’s seasoned salt. The chops were done over the Craycort griddle insert, yet another wonder of cast iron technology. That’s the great fun of these Craycort grates. You can swap out various inserts to accommodate your culinary inclination of the day. Quick and effective. And nothing cooks as evenly as old fashion cast iron.
I settled back into my chair, momentarily, just to watch my beans bubble. It’s one of those simple pleasures, you see, patron to the pit. If you are in a hurry in this life, well, you wouldn’t understand. I adjusted in the chair, listing a bit more to the starboard now, left leg over right, and I find I am soothed by the gentle sounds of stewing beans. Vittles on the fire. They say to let it bubble for an hour or so, and I might have, had not they looked so delightful. But I tried. I dallied as long as I could beneath a waxing, pastel-blue sky, adorned in soft, billowy clouds, which caught the evening sun. I tried to linger in the last choruses of bird song, and the caressing summer breeze which melted through the alders and the spruce. I tried to tarry there, and do what I do best, but the chops were done, my tummy was hungry, and the beans beckoned to me.
Game over. And amen.
If you are so inclined, which you ought to be, do check out http://www.cast-iron-grate.com
There you go, peach baked beans on the kettle grill, sided with a set of succulent pork chops! Delicious! One of those things you gotta try first, before you knock it. As you will come to learn, it’s all good, patron to the pit…
Well it was a good 4th of July weekend. Good as can be, really, and surely better than most. Full to the brim with good food, and good fellowship, and good times. Sadly, it’s come and gone now, like all holidays do, with a soft, pastel sun ebbing into a western sky. And as I watch it sink beyond yonder tree tops, with an icy beverage at hand, left leg crossed over right, I pause to rejoice for these long summer days that which are upon us. We are not worthy. As the temperatures rose to almost 88 degrees today, at last we see again what you good folk down in Ecuador and Texas and Florida experience on a daily basis. Sweat. Inconceivable tributaries of it, dribbling down spine and brow with no remorse nor good will for common man. It’s rather wretched, and that’s a polite metaphor. But after a while you learn to accept it. Because deep down you know the sweat means winter is displaced. And a winter gone means things can grow again. There is life in the good tidings of summer’s bosom. Things like the deliciousness found growing in the pit side garden. Spires of green onions proudly pitched. Pole beans reaching for more lattice. Lush, plump tomatoes and deep-red strawberries dangling in the evening sun. Glory! I must say, what a privilege it is to tarry in the garden here, whilst blue-tinted pillars of hickory smoke catch in a summer’s breeze. That’s about how supper went tonight. Pleasant. And man it was good too! And after I refill my cup, I’ll be back and tell you more about it and how it went and came be.
I was given this spice gift a while back, and thought well enough of it to pass it along to you. It’s a homemade affair, and makes a great gift for your resident pit master. If you go to their site, http://www.theyummylife.com, you can print up the label thing in the photo. And from your local grocer, you buy yourself the jar and all the spices and what not, and kabam! A very tasty spice rub to give to family and friends. Anyways, if you want the recipe, you’ll find the link to their site below. We tried it on pork ribs tonight, and I don’t need tell you, but will anyways, that victory was at hand!
Now my elder brother, who sometimes is the focus of our grilling tome here, well let’s just say he’s come a long ways in the smokey arts. He’s got frozen hamburger patties and beef franks down pretty good. He’s not using green treated wood for smoke, and I don’t think he’s burned the chicken in some three months. He’s feeling rather endowed. So he mentioned the other day that the time had come, that he wished to try smoking pork ribs, and he wanted to know if it would be possible even, on his humble kettle grill. We occasionally get queried this – how to smoke ribs on a regular, old, back yard grill. Well, the Weber kettle is about as regular and back yard as it gets, and it’s also real easy to smoke a rack of ribs with. People have been doing it for ages. Many folk hold for some reason to the misguided belief that they need a fancy off set, or expensive water smoker to smoke ribs at home. Horse hockey! Here then is how to make restaurant quality smoked pork ribs on your old Weber kettle grill. And it’s as easy as taking out the trash!
As seen in the photo above, we set up the grill for indirect cooking. Light up about a half chimney of briquettes and deploy them equally on both sides of the pit. Then mix in a few unlit briquettes on each side as well. Two little minion fires of which to do your bidding. Lastly, add a chunk of your preferred smoke wood to each pile, and that’s all there is to it. We favored hickory today, the old pit master fall back and all-around great smoke wood.
After removing the membrane on the back, the ribs were dusted liberally with the 14-Spice Dry Rub, and placed bone-side down, and centered in the grate. The damper on the bottom was adjusted to maybe 50%. The vent on top, open full. Plunk the lid on and let the Weber magic do it’s thing. The little pit came up to 250-something degrees and then stayed there, as the wonderful tendrils of hickory smoke curled into the air.
Now when you put the lid on, be sure to position the top vent over the ribs, thus to draw the smoke where it ought to go, over your spoils. You can stick a thermometer in through the top vent if you want, and it should read somewhere around 250 -275, which is perfect. If it’s hotter than that, reach below and close off the damper there a little more. Close the top vent even, if necessary. The more you close the vents, the less oxygen runs through the pit, and thus the cooler it gets. Simple pit physics people. A pan of water placed between the coal beds can also act as a heat sink for you, helping to keep the pit temperature down. This old faithful kettle grill settled in at 250 however, with remarkable ease. And yours will too. All you have to do is ask nicely.
Let the ribs and the pit do their thing now, for the next three hours. Your only job is to stay out of the way. This age-old discipline usually involves frequent sorties to the fridge where upon you may wish to draw a glass of something cold to drink. Then it is usually good form to go take up roost some place comfortable and while away the hours there, and enjoy the natural patterns of wood smoke curling against a beautiful, blue sky. If you’re in a rush, BBQ is probably not the thing for you. But if you are one with a proclivity for loitering, at ease with long, protracted hours of peace and tranquility patron to the pit, well then, you can go far in the smokey arts my friend. And rest assured that the path there smells amazing.
On the Fourth Hour
After three hours, we foiled the ribs. Foiling the ribs isn’t necessary I suppose, but we like to do it that way. It almost guarantees a tender, succulent end game every time. The meat is steamed when in the foil, and let it be said, oh how it pampers it so. When you wrap the ribs, add some sort of steaming agent: BBQ sauce, honey, juice, cola, beer. What ever you like. Just a splash or two. This time around we foiled our ribs with butter and brown sugar, and boy let me tell you, that was a round trip ticket straight to my happy place! The butter and brown sugar marry together for a wonderful caramel effect, those flavors then merging with the dry rub and the wood smoke, mercy, the results are off-the-charts concerning pork ribs.
Also at this time, add more unlit coals to the fire if you think you need it.
Anyways, let the ribs dot their thing in the foil now for an hour at least, maybe even two. Check in on them after the first hour, and if they bend easy, or a tooth pick passes through the meat with little resistance, they’re ready. If bones are falling out of your plunder like teeth from an old man, it’s passed ready, tho still delicious. But before you jump the BBQ gun here, and dive head first into your ribs with the reckless abandoned that grips you , take them out of the foil and put them pack on the pit for a while longer. This engagement in patience will first off tighten the meat mass back up a little, and lastly caramelize the butter/brown sugar glaze it has been foiled with the last hour or so. And when we say caramelize, we mean caramel! For what, after all, is caramel made from? Butter and brown sugar for starters. So mind the meat carefully over the coals for a few minutes at the end here, and watch that sweet pit master magic take your ribs to yet again the next level of yum! Man, can you smell it people!
Let’s slice one off, shall we, and take a gander! Ps…No sauce necessary here!
Please refrain from drooling on your keyboard, as it is very difficult to clean later.
Deep in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains, amid the pristine, pine-scented forests and tumbling glacial rivers which flank the gorgeous contours of Darby, Montana, reside the good folks at R&R Conner Inc and Real Wood. Here beneath gently rising plumes of wood smoke which taper into a high Montana sky, you will find the skilled practitioners of the Smokin-O Smoke Rings, or the “ring masters”, as they’re affectionately coined in these parts. Fifth generation forest stewards who, like us, have a deep seeded love for putting meat to flame and declaring it good. And through a rather nifty process where hardwoods and spices are ground up, mixed together, and then extruded under high temperature and pressure, where upon the natural lignins found in the cellular make-up of the trees at once “glue” themselves together, well, the Smokin-O Smoke Ring thus is born. No binders. No chemicals. Just pure smoking satisfaction wrought from the mountain hollows of Darby, Montana.
Now a word about these smoke rings. They were designed for gas grills. When they contacted us to see if we might want to try their product, we had to decline. For let it be said, we already know what great smokey flavor is because all we cook with is charcoal and wood. It’s what we do. Smokey flavor is part of the package. We have many pits, but nary a single gas grill between the lot of us. Not wanting one either. But then I remembered there is still a small portion of our readership who remain stubborn to their gassy ways. Stalwart souls who shall not budge from their token propane grill for all the cheese in Ireland. You know who you are. You also know you’re missing out on the whole reason to be grilling in the first place – that assurance of smokey goodness patron to the pit. But there is no converting you, and we understand this. Here then is where these smoke rings gather some favor for flavor. Where they make a stand in a world gone to gas.
How to Light Smokin-O’s
They couldn’t be simpler to use. To light them, just place them over the flames of your grill. Run it up to 400 degrees and shut the lid. In 5 to 10 minutes, the ring should be lit and smoking rather profusely. They say when it’s properly lit, about 15% of it should be cloaked in white ash and sport a nice, glowing-red edge. So that’s how you’re supposed to light it, but of course, we had to do it like a man, and put the blow torch to it. This technique is proven amid charcoal champions and pyromaniacs alike, and lo, works just fine with Smokin’O’s too. That ring lit right up like an Irishman on Saint Patty’s day, and then smoldered for a good long time. Now you may be asking, what did we smoke, and how did it go? That’s a good question.
Cold Smoking with Smokin’-O’s?
Now being that we don’t have a gas grill, and after studying the unique properties of these smoke rings, a brain thrust naturally sprang to mind. We patrons of the pit get brain thrusts you see. We get them routinely, for better or for worse. Anyways, I thought, well what about a cold smoke? Perhaps these little compressed rings of wood and spice might prostitute themselves as a right fine cold smoking apparatus. Turns out they do! For the most part anyways. Cold smoking is basically smoke without much heat. Useful for such meltables such as cheese or even chocolate. Or for things you just want to add smokey flavor too, but not necessarily cook yet, like bacon or nuts, or spices such as paprika or salt. These smoke rings emit a little heat, but not much, and when placed opposite what ever you want to cold smoke, such as some cheddar cheese as shown in the photo below, the cheese did not melt. However, when the smoldering ring was placed directly below the cheese, well then the cheese melted like a depleting cheese glacier, and it was very sad. But that was a pit keeper error, and easily rectified. Just place the smoke ring well away from your spoils, and let the smoke do it’s job. Yum! The effect is only improved in the winter months. The strength of the Smokin-O tho, is in meat. So we felt we ought to at least use it in some traditional grilling efforts, to see it in its full glory. Tho designed for gas grills, we used it anyways on the Weber kettle grill as if it were a piece of smoke wood, and were not disappointed. We tossed it directly onto the coals, like we would with any piece of wood. Soon enough it was puffing away with a contented pillar of amazing smelling smoke. Indeed, it smelled wonderful. Not sure what hardwoods and spices it’s comprised of, but hark, we found the aromas there of most agreeable with our nasal pathways. We put the old black enameled lid back on the pit, and the draft thus engaged – convincingly. These rings have no trouble producing smoke. And will do so, they say, for about a half hour, depending on their location in the pit. The cooler the area you place them, the longer they last. When we tried them with cold smoking earlier, they lasted so long that we gave up altogether waiting to see them burn out, and just went fishing instead. In the end tho, the smoke duration seems more than adequate for most of our needs. And if you need the smoke to last longer, they suggest stacking one on top of the other, kind of like a mini minion method.
The boneless chicken breasts we smoked up were spot on in the smokey goodness we’re used to around here. Very tasty, and more over, not over powering in smokey flavor. Many a newbie to the smokey arts tend to get a wee bit carried away when adding smoke to their grilled cuisine. These rings seem to give you just the right amount of smoke to balance well with your protein of the day, and the various flavor profiles you might be after. An all-around, good, smokey flavor. No complaints.
So if you’re set on gas grills, and vow never to waver, but wish you could still enjoy some of the flavor benefits of a good wood fired grill, then I cannot divine why you would not want to stock up on these Smokin-O’s. Easy to use, affordable, and point-blank effective in what they do – generate smoke. We also found them quite the versatile product, capable of some fairly decent cold smoking, something of which they are not advertised to do, but do, according to our tests. We also liked that they were all natural, of course, not held together by goofy chemicals you cannot pronounce, or harmful binders. And of course, they were made in Montana, one of our very favorite locales, where the ramparts rise high, and rivers run cold through the resplendent valleys below.
Check out their site if you’re at all curious for more, http://www.smokin-os.com/
Or just head straight to amazon and get yourself some! Here’s the link.
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The north wind whispered among the fields and streams, and along the water’s edge down by the pond. With mallards quietly afloat there, watching as I was, the tiny white flakes of snow begin to twirl down from an ashen-gray sky. It was fairly cool out still, for the first day of spring, cool enough that is, to heighten the simple pleasures found in close bandy to a beautiful chimney of coals. One of which I had one going just then, as a matter of fact, with my hands hovering over the flames. I tossed a small piece of pecan wood into the chimney, and watched silently as it took flame.
I have always enjoyed the lighting of the coals. The process of it. The initial pungent blast of sulfur from a match, the first plumes of wood smoke curling aloft, and of course, the sweet time it takes to do such things, inherent to wood fired cooking. Oh yes indeed, there is a veritable gamut of quicker ways to procure supper for your self, this we know, from: the venerable stove top, to the drive through window of a fast food place, or hark, even behind the spattered plastic door of your personal microwave oven. Yuck. But it all works I guess. It all gets you there. Let it be said tho, because it is true, nothing so raises the bar of edible succulence, quite like a lovely rack of pork ribs riding the low and slow train all the afternoon long.
Cooking with wood and charcoal is at once an exercise in patience. Many folk have not the muster to do this anymore, or even want to do it, it seems, courtesy perhaps of our on-demand society. We are contented in large part, with what we can get quickly, and have forgotten at times, the pleasure of the wait. That’s what I love about BBQ proper. The essence of it, right down to its smokey core, is something of jaunt on the scenic path. It makes you wait for it. You have to respect the journey. And it is within the time span of this enforced leisure where the magic keenly unfolds. Lets take a peak under the lid, and I’ll tell you a little more about it, and what we have going on for supper at the pit today.
Oh sweet rendering collagen, how I darling thee! You work best at your own speed, and no one can tell you otherwise. Indeed, one should not rush the natural processes of rendering pork. It is a snail’s progression in Pig Picasso, right before our eyes. Just let it go, people, low and slow, and do your very best to just stay out-of-the-way. They say every time you lift the lid on your smoker that you add maybe 20 more minutes to the cook. And I suppose it’s true. But I had to show you, you see, if not for to glimpse the savory baby backs, but I suppose also to add 20 more wonderful minutes to my cook. Oh yes, I like the sound of that. It is well with my soul. For here is an activity of which I sincerely do love, to tarry pit side neath wild skies and darting tweety birds, just watching the wood smoke spiral and world gently spin round and round. I could do this for the better part of the day. And I do mean the better part. So why then would any misguided soul seek to hurry through it. Never!
I fancy the process of BBQ. And I like that it takes a long time. Because I suppose it gives me an excuse to loiter in my man chair and do nothing at all. It is a common secret among men, you see, and the women seem to let us get away with it, that we are hard at work out here manning our pits! That wood smoke would not curl right without our wise and manly influence. Nor would the protein cook proper like with out our steadfast sorties to the refrigerator for something cold to drink. Indeed, it is simply a man’s duty to tarry by his puffing pit and assure quality control there. And for some reason the women accept this, and the men are just wise enough not to fight it. Blessed be the pit jockey, in fact, who’s pork butt spans half the day, and the evening shadows grow long before his feet. The longer BBQ takes, the more content we are.
I reckon I ought to digress for the moment’s sake, and tell you a bit about the ribs, since your here and all. Easy enough. Firstly, we whipped up a homemade dry rub consisting roughly of what ever we had lying around, which included the following:
Basic Dry Rub of Whatever We Had Lying Around
- Brown sugar
- Smoked paprika
- Onion powder
- Garlic salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Ground mustard
- Cayenne pepper
*Amounts are left up to the pit master’s instincts.
After the membrane was removed, we thus slathered the rack in Worcestershire sauce, and promptly patted the spice rub all over, to and fro, and tip to tip. Whilst we were getting friendly with the ribs, the Weber Smokey Mountain was coming up to speed, to 251 degrees, with a good charcoal/pecan fire burning in its steel bowl. After a suitable pause to slurp the top off a manly beverage, we placed the rack bone-side down on the pit grate for to come to edible maturity there, amid the softly rising plumes of pecan smoke. Glory!
And now is when we wait for it. A pit keeper’s pleasure, if you will. And darn near our highest privilege in the smokey realm. Time to settle in somewhere fair, splay our feet upon gentle inclines, and relish for once the noble feeling of not being in a rush. To let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and just be… To commune with the aromas of perfectly executed pork, that which we usher by the hand unto the enchanted land of succulence.
In closing, I am reminded of the late Colin Fletcher, of backpacking immortality, who once coined, and brilliantly so, “Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing slowly”.
So it is, Mr. Fletcher. And so it is with BBQ also. Amen.