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
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 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.
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.
We had occasion this weekend past to grill for the masses at the bachelor party of a good friend. It was your vintage summer day, as days go. And your classic BBQ party. With a sizzling sun suspended in a bluebird sky, casting golden shafts of light that which fluttered through the thick, green, deciduous canopies of oak and maple and birch. The lawn was freshly cut too, of which I for some reason admired the aroma. My fellow patron’s google music account provided endless streams of proper country and rock for to adorn the acoustic backdrop. Tho one musically misguided brethren in the group kept wanting to listen to once-upon-a-time boy bands, to which we had to snatch the phone from his meaty hand, and tell him to think about his life. Some blokes are just like that for some reason. Always a stinker in the bunch.
What a lovely time of it tho, this day was. You see, when friends beckon a patron to cater for them, they don’t have to twist our tongs much. We love this sort of thing. And for a bachelor party, it is sort of our privilege to escort the groom-to-be on his way to holy matrimony with a gut full of perfectly executed meat! And so it was, the evening slants of light caught the pale tendrils of gently rising oak smoke from the bosom of the Gabby’s Grill. A great little addition for ye Weber owners out there. For those who aspire to a scaled down version of the Santa Maria style of BBQ, to which we are swiftly becoming a devoted fan. Oh how I do fancy manly meat cooking machinery! When you get a chance, go check out their website here. Junior, the man in charge over there, is a good dude and will take care of you fast. His customer service is off the charts. And as you can see, he’s a gifted fabricator too.
We had this beast loaded up too, with dueling tri tip roasts, and enough chicken thighs to choke a wildebeest. You will note the baked potatoes also, tucked down into the fiery depths of the grill. This is how you do it Gabby Grill style people! Load it up! Oh yes, good times indeed. But bachelor party food does not stop with mere meat and potatoes…
For to please the lady folks who may be reading this, we also grilled up some vegetables. Yes mam we did! We was GOOD patrons! On the auxiliary grill, we got sliced zucchini here, along with onions liberally dusted with a pit staple – Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning. Can you smell it? Of course you can’t, you’re just reading pixels through a dirty glass screen But trust us. If ever you wanted to smell a man’s pits before, this would be the proper occasion!
Here is one of our affiliate links where you can pick up some of that seasoning. Goes good on just about everything. Especially vegetables! Get a bottle of this and just leave it on the table as your new pepper.
Back to the meat! Mama Mia! The thighs were seasoned with Miners Mix Poultry Perfection which never fails. And the beef, well, it’s a top secret blend that we might get to tell you about some day. Here is where you can pick up some of that Poultry Perfection tho! It’s another affiliate link that we get a wee kick back from. So if you’re looking for a way to be nice to us and help us better afford baby diapers, links like this one below help a little! Thank you kindly in advance if you do! If not, thank you anyways for just being here. You guys surely class up the place regardless.
After about an hour or so, the tri tips were done, and whilst they rested in a foil tent, we tossed on the cobs! If you haven’t grilled your corn in this manner before, we do believe you’re missing something out of your life. And of course, the Gabby Grill took it like a boss! We’re telling you, you gotta pick up one of these rigs for your Weber! We’re not sponsored by them in any way, we just think it’s a great idea long over due!
Lets not forget a massive black iron pan full of sauteed mushrooms and onions, again seasoned up with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie. Oh yes, we pulled out all the stops for the man in the fading twilight of his bachelorhood. It was a good time of fellowship and food under fair and lovely skies. We wish you well in your marriage my friend. And now you even know what to cook for her! Amen.
Check out these 2 great companies for your next BBQ
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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.
It was years ago I first married my bride now, and many years before that, that I tried my first White Castle Slider. That the two entities should ever conspire together some day was but a fanciful pipe dream. For it is not with out merit that my lovely bride has refused to eat one the entire time I’ve known her…Except yesterday.
Turns out she has an adventurous palate after all, or barring that, at least a cameo moment of some rather low standards. Makes a patron take pause, it does, and consider his cooking prowess for a bit. That aside, I will admit the venerable White Castle Slider is not what we should call, gourmet. Or even good. In point of fact, half the time I wonder why I just ate it. But for some reason they persist upon the buttocks of human consumption and culinary enigmas as a gastronomic anomaly all unto their own. Why do we eat these things? The fact that I can’t answer this question sort of adds to their own legend. And that’s the disturbing pleasure of it all. But I digress.
Backcountry Sliders 101
Hearken back with me now to another time and place, far away and up north. North of the big city where the wind whispers in the pines with a stately purpose, and the rivers tumble through wide, rocky gorges, and the skies spill the color blue like you have never seen before. It was up there, at a camp site in Jay Cooke State Park, where my bride and I made camp last, and where I also cooked her the PotP version of a proper slider.
Helping me out on this cook today was our little grill donated to us by Instagrill. A prototype they were working on, which off-hand and by the way, has raised the proper funding now to put these babies into production. If all goes well, they should start becoming available this summer some time. Feel free to learn more about it in the link provided here.
Two quarter-pound patties of ground chuck, people, each impregnated with globular clusters of cheddar cheese and the occasional bit of onion. Still more onion was put on the grill, these slathered in olive oil and seasoned in salt and freshly cracked black pepper. We did onions like this a few posts back, and one of our subscribers, Todd baker, suggested that such an onion be slapped onto a burger some day. Doh! I was inspired by the man’s genius, and well, this one is for you Todd. And by the way, if ever you are looking for some good reads concerning running, metal concerts, and the odd rumination of life, do check out Todd’s blog, anddocoolstuff. Quite enjoyable. Anyways, back to the cook.
Ever gander at your meat from below? No, not with a mirror when you’re checking for ticks. But like in the photo above. I found this a refreshing angle not privy to most grills. I sat there in my folding man chair and just watched the fat render and drip, sizzling onto the coals whilst listening to Milwaukee Brewers baseball on the little radio. Oh yes, there are worse things in life than roughing it in the woods.
You all know how to grill a hamburger. There’s no secret here. We did go the extra mile however, and toasted the dollar buns like a good pit jockey ought to. We chose dollar buns because, well, that’s all the little store along the country road had. But the little buns were about the same size as a White Castle bun, and secretly I knew it would only accentuate my bountiful burgers into a thing of rapturous beauty. And this in turn would impress my wife, who was not all that impressed, I think, with the meat offering in the original WC. I can see why. The White Castle Slider sports some dubiously thin meat. Thin as a worm’s tongue it is. And not all that better tasting. Well, tonight in the woods, things would be different. Much different indeed. We would not want for beef!
Glory be! Say what you will, but this is a proper meat-to-bun ratio! Mercy, it knocked the hunger pangs out of the park like a Roger Maris home run. I was too full to even burp!
This was adequate camping grub, let me tell you. And tho I cannot promise I will never set foot inside a White Castle again, let this be an example of what can be procured in the woods or at home. Should you have a mind to, one half pound of ground beef, and a couple of dollar buns patron to the pit. Amen.
We were out in the woods this weekend last, playing hobo and such, and just enjoying the pleasures of a lovely spring day afield. The sun was warm, but the lakes and ponds still frozen, and patches of snow tarried in the shadows. We hiked along the wooded trails, kicking up leaves from last autumn, and smelling the earth unwrap itself after a long winter’s hiatus. A vintage spring day in Minnesota. The kind we wait for, and pine for. The sort we hold out hope for, that once winter has had its way with us, that it might bequeath us such climatic spoils. And it did. And what better thing to do in all the world on such a day, than to make a camp in the woods, and cook some good food there.
Enter the InstaGrill
Now I’m a tinkerer. My father is a tinkerer. My brothers are tinkerers. Tinkering, you might say, is in my blood. And so when I get to test out another man’s brain thrust, I feel honored. I can appreciate the engineering, the thought, and the time that went in to it. Such was the case this last trip afield, as we tested out the InstaGrill. A cool, little, highly portable BBQ grill sent to us by a fellow tinkerer, named Jonathan, down in Texas.
InstaGrill. That’s what he’s calling it as of now. It’s an idea he had for easy, spontaneous, low-key grilling. He sent us a prototype so we could get a better idea how it works, and maybe share it with you guys. Here is his website also, if you want more details. www.myinstagrill.com. It’s a pretty nifty little rig, and if you don’t mind, we’ll give you the nickel tour ourselves.
It’s pretty clever at first blush. As you can see, it’s a charcoal grill at its core. That’s what it runs on. You fill it half way up or so like you would a charcoal chimney, and light it from below with crumpled up newspaper or like we did in this case, with a fire starter cube. She lit right up in tremendous fashion, thanks to the built-in chimney effect. In all my years of using portable grills, I can honestly say, this is the best lighting grill we’ve ever used. No lighter fluid needed. It lights like a charcoal chimney, because, well, it is! This is probably our favorite feature of the grill. But anyways, onto the fun part!
When the coals reach maturity, or grayed over, (about 10 minutes) you simply unlatch the side and open it up. Sort of like them Murphy Beds that fold up into the wall, if you’re familiar with those. Yet another clever idea! Then you rake the coals about a bit to suit your fancy, and install the grate as seen in the photo.
As seen above, you can set the grate to three different levels. We liked that feature too!
We found the grill to be just big enough to meet the needs of about two people, least wise for breakfast out in the hinter regions. The grate size is roughly 10 inches by 10 inches. Large enough for four burgers or two steaks. The other dimensions of the grill are 5″D x 10″W x 12″ H. It weighs about 5 pounds. We found it very portable, and simple to set up and easy to use. No complaints!
Granted it was designed for more traditional grilling fare than corned beef hash and eggs over-easy, but alas when your bush, you work with what you’ve got. Regardless, it was a lot of fun cooking with it. The husky handle at the back made it effortless to transport or move it, even when it was lit, should you ever want to do such things. And to extinguish the coals, you simply close it back up and pour some water on the fire. Disperse in the trash at your nearest convenience.
Overall, it was really a joy to cook on. A well thought-out, and articulate little grilling rig. We liked it’s compactness, and portability, and absolutely loved how it started up a batch of charcoal. We can see it being useful for things like: camping, or tailgating, or even just out on your deck. It’s low key enough, it won’t draw much attention, and finally, you’ll get a proper meal cooked over a beautiful bed of coals. Such as grilling was always meant to be.
So here’s the other part of the story. If you want to buy one, you’re going to have to get in line and wait a while. This is a prototype, you see. The ultimate fit & finished product does not exist yet. That’s why the prototype was sent to us, to help Jonathan garner a little exposure. He has also set up a KICKSTARTER Campaign, here, and when and if it reaches it’s goal, he will then go into production with these grills. So if you think it’s a worthy endeavor, and want to help him get his business going, not to mention secure yourself one of his grills later on down the road, head over to his kickstarter page and help a tinkerer out!
I thought I was a humble fellow, but I guess it turns out I’m not. It was just your run of the mill slab of pork ribs. Your basic kettle cook at 20 below. Truly, I thought nothing of it when my wife requested ribs for supper during a polar vortex. This is just what I do. Its who I am. And she knew it. However, in retrospect, I probably should have gone to McDonald’s for a Big Mac instead. Let me digress.
Indeed, the recent polar vortex to come through town put the kibosh on a great many outdoor activities. What with 20 below wind chills, it was a day obviously better suited for other endeavors besides the art of BBQ. But I had never gone sally with the elements before, leastwise where BBQ is concerned, and by golly, today wasn’t the day I would start. And the winds hurtled through the icy township with a divine authority that demanded respect. The good people of the world were huddled indoors, suckling hot cocoas and watching Netflix marathons. And then there was me. Fortunately, the Pond Side Pit was tucked into the gracious eddies of the house that which broke the keen and penetrating December wind. Well, for the most part it did. And there, amid my armory of Webers, I was able to make my stand.
I chose the Weber kettle as my tool of choice this smoke, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s small, and would require less fuel on this cold day to keep it hot. And two, I just didn’t feel like dumping ten pounds of charcoal into the Weber Smokey Mountain for one rack of ribs. As much as I love the WSM, it is rather the gas guzzling SUV of the meat smoking world. No matter, I was a Patron of the Pit. I had smoked ribs in the Weber kettle many times. This was old hat! Child’s play…
“Henceforth, I destroyed thy pork ribs with a vigor usually reserved for a nuclear detonation.”
They were hard, brittle, and crusty to the touch. Looked like the skeletal remains of a pet which did not make it clear of the house fire. It was bad. A chunk in hand could have maybe sufficed as a good charcoal pencil for the cave walls, that which I felt like I have just emerged from. Hark, it looked as if my elder brother had even come by and assisted me with my BBQ whilst I was not looking. Where did I go wrong?
What we learned
Well, for starters, I learned not to under-estimate the narcoleptic value of a good grandma blanket. Because that’s where I was for much of the smoke. Under a grandma in the living room, snoring like a brown bear whilst listening to football on the TV. It was an agreeable lifestyle. The kettle grill was left to its own devices out on the patio. I thought I had set it up for success. Turns out I had not. I had built the fires too hot inside it’s steely bosom. In an ill-guided miscalculation on my part, I figured somewhat logically, that because it was so cold out, I would counter the elements with a slightly larger fire. All this did however, was raise the pit temperature from pretty hot, to split-your-own-atoms, kind of hot. And thus incinerated my beloved ribs with all due effectiveness. Aw well. Live and learn, as they say. There’s always tuna fish sandwiches for supper.
A week has passed. Maybe a bit more than that. The new weekend was upon thee, and I had a span of clock available to smoke another rack of ribs if I wanted. Well, with my last efforts still dawdling on my mind like cigar smoke in the drapes, I wanted nothing more than to rectify my blunder, and set my status right again in the smokey community. To get this rancid flavor of defeat off my tongue. The temperature had risen now to a balmy zero degrees or something like that. The wind was low, in-effectively low, and the tweety birds were even active again, darting about the yellow block of suet I had set out for them. This is as good as it was going to get in a Minnesota winter. Like an aplinist siezing a window of proper weather in which to summit Everest, I knew I must act soon. And I knew this time I would do it right, and fire up the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Tho it uses moocho much fuel, one thing is for sure about the Weber Smokey Mountain. It works. And it works in the cold too. One heaping chimney full of orange glowing coals dumped into the center of a ring of unlit coals, as seen in the photo, is all it takes for a rack or three of ribs on any given day. The minion method is your friend here. That’s where the lit coals slowly light up the unlit coals, and those coals in turn light up other unlit coals, kind of like a chain re-action, thus employing a steady, even burn, to last many hours with out baby sitting. The WSM was soon established at 225 degrees, and it did not budge from this temperature the rest of the cook. I should have just done it right the first time, but you know how it goes.
To learn more about the minion method, we did a write-up years ago on that. It’s probably our most read article. Consume at your leisure is so inclined.
Meanwhile, we seasoned up the ribs with a splattering of Worcestershire sauce, and then liberally dusted it Kit’s K.C. BBQ rub from our friends over at Miner’s Mix. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again; if we had to be monogomous to one spice rub company, I do believe the Miners Mix crew would be our choice. Just love their flavors. Here’s a link to their stuff if you guys haven’t yet had the occasion.
Anyways, we put the ribs on the pit, bone-side down, and let them do their thing for two and a half hours at 225 degrees in a gentle cloud of pecan smoke. Then we foiled them with a little smearing of butter and BBQ sauce for one more hour. And I napped only cautiously this time, under my grandma blanket, hockey game on the TV, and listened to the calling of my pit master instincts, as the culinary end game drew nearer to thee. And like it does in winter, the night fell early over the land, as the old bullet smoker puffed stoically out on the patio. The aromas of a Carolina BBQ shack wafted over the crusty fields of blue-tinted snow, for which a slender moon hung silently above. I slipped into my shoes, and waddled out the patio door to check the tenderness of my spoils, jacket zipped tight, and there under the scant starlight of a cold winter’s eve, amid the sounds of sizzling pork and aluminum foil unwrapping, I knew as surely I had known anything before, that these ribs would at once be amazing. And furthermore, that I had been quitely redeemed. Amen.
Succulent pecan-smoked pork ribs redeemed from the jaws of a polar vortex. Very satisfying, both to the stomach and soul. Grill on! -PotP
*To the readership. This is a rare event on PotP. Don’t miss your chance to enter to win a free Solo Stove Titan in our first ever giveaway. All you need to do is leave a comment below, then go to this link, Titan Giveaway – Patrons of the Pit, and it will guide you from there. Another way you can enter the giveaway is to like our Facebook page, and again, just go through the link above, and it will direct you to Facebook from there. If you can’t do either of those, an Email address will enter you into the contest also. Regardless, use the link if you want to participate in the giveaway. Think of the link as a conduit for getting things done. The widget needs the attention so it can keep track of who has entered the giveaway. Oh, and if you have previously liked our Facebook page, sorry, those likes do not count in this giveaway. Anyways, now let’s get on with this review already!
Not too long ago, last week in point of fact, I was backpacking through the hinter regions of northern Minnesota. Was on one of my usual haunts there, afoot with a pack on my back, enjoying some of the swiftly vanishing perks of wilderness travel. Solitude. Clean rushing rivers. Pure air in which to breathe, ushered on a breeze that which murmurs like poetry through the long-standing pines. It was October, and the tamarack along the way were turning golden there, kissed in an autumnal sunbeam. It was just plain lovely. So much so and in fact, it rather demanded a spot of tea.
Enter The Titan
I had along a new piece of gear this hike, one sponsored to us by the kindly folks at Solo Stove. It’s a backpacking stove, good for car camping too, that runs completely off wood, or what ever other forest debris, or bio fuel, you might find laying about. It’s pretty slick. And I don’t think I have ever had a more poetic, scientifically satisfying, trail-side cup of tea in my life, than I had with this ingeniously designed cooker. The Solo Stove Titan. The glory is in the flame. So grab yourself a cup of tea likewise, and let’s disect this thing, shall we.
Natural Convection Inverted Down Gas Gasifer
Here’s how it works. You build your fire on the nichrome wire grate down in the stove. Air comes in through the holes at the bottom of the stove, feeding oxygen to the fire there. With me so far? Simple enough. Here is where it gets interesting tho. The stove is double walled, and so warm air also travels upwards, heating up as it goes, between in the inner wall and the outer one. Once it reaches the top of the stove, it is expelled through another set of slightly smaller holes there. The oxygen coming out these holes, as mentioned, has been preheated in its ascent, and when it dumps back into the firebox, a literal secondary combustion occurs. And that, my friends, is the magic of the Solo Stove.
So What Does It Mean?
What it means is efficiency. This additional act of combustion assists the fire in burning more complete, they say. In point of fact, when the fire is going at full tilt, there is very little smoke produced at all, because it is so efficient. In theory, the stove will cook the smoke right out of the wood. Least wise that’s what the flame wizards at Solo Stove say. The efficient burn also means you will use less wood to cook with, when compared to cooking over an open camp fire. Not only that, when the fuel burns out, there is nothing but a fine, powdery ash remaining. No glowing embers to deal with, courtesy of that efficient burn. Needless to say, I was intrigued. So let’s get after that cup of tea, shall we.
It comes with a nicely crafted pot support, that nests inside the stove for travel. Anyways, I had a fire quickly kindled in its steel bosom, and set my old, blackened kettle on to boil. Enough for two cups of tea, I should wager. I sat back and watched the river gurgle by and admired this piece of cooking technology before me. Occasionally I fed it a small twig or stick to keep it happy. As the fire established, I must say, I was smitten by the results.
It didn’t take the fire long at all to stabilize, and the initial plumes of smoke on start-up, to dissolve into distant memories. There is an opening on the pot support, or cooking ring, as you can see, in which to further feed the fire as needed. We had to do a little of that. I’d wager the amount of wood used for two cups of water was something like two large handful’s of sticks broken into finger length pieces. Thicker hardwoods, of course, burn better and longer than the soft balsam fir sticks that I used, but I had about one million square acres of forest and wood to play with, so it didn’t really matter. That’s another joy of a wood burning backpacking stove, I discovered. You will never run out of fuel. Leastwise in the north woods of Minnesota, you sure won’t.
After a fashion, I also noticed the secondary combustion thing kicking in. It actually worked! Of course I failed to capture it in a photo for you, but if you were to peer down into the fire chamber a little more, you would see the fire seemingly coming out of that higher set of holes that we talked about earlier. Indeed, the main fire down on the grate was blazing away, but it was also shooting out of the holes up near the top. And the smoke was curiously absent, just like they said. I gotta say, I was impressed. Even my wife, who is not often impressed by scientific stuff, was suitably awed. We were sipping tea in no time, enjoying the warmth of a hot mug in our hands, and further admiring this little stove .
Later on in camp, we fired it up again.
The inner pyromaniac in me couldn’t get enough play time with this stove. I discovered its engineering went other ways too. Subtle ways. For example, I discovered that even when the stove is fiercely hot, that I could still move it around if I had to by gripping it below the lowest set of holes. It wasn’t exactly cool down there, but not hot enough either that you couldn’t hang onto it for a while if you had to move it for some reason. The reason that impressed us was because if it’s not hot down there, then that means you could set it on a picnic table, perhaps, and not have to worry about burning a nice 5.1 inch circle into your table top. Always a nice thing.
Here are some specs on the Solo Stove Titan, if you’re curious
Specs for the Sole Stove TitanPacked size: Height 5.6 inches, Width 5.1 inchesAssembled size: Height 7.9 inches, Width 5.1 inchesWeight: 16.5 ozMaterials: 304 stainless steel, nichrome wireFuel: sticks, twigs, pine cones and other biomassBoil time: 4-6 mins (32 fl oz of water)To read more on the Solo Stove Titan, do check out their website at:
And finally, the part you’ve been waiting for. As mentioned, Solo Stove has offered to do a giveaway for one lucky subscriber of Patrons of the Pit. We’ve never done a giveaway before, but you guys deserve it, and well, it might be fun. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are three ways to enter.
Three Ways to Enter!
We’ve all been there. Any pit jockey worth his or her tongs has been there. Has seen their beloved grill grate in various states of entropy and decay. With blackened carnage clinging to the grate in crusty reminders of smoke outs past, and grand family BBQ’s. And who hasn’t grabbed one of those steel brushes and got to work on the grate, cleansing it’s working surface for the betterment of thy people. You feel like a man when you do it. It’s what we’re trained to do. And the problem is, it’s not particularity a smart thing to do.
The Folly With Steel Wire
Seems the ageless wire brush we use on our grills has one painful folly. Every once in a while a steel bristle breaks off. And every once in a while beyond that, some one eats it. Well, we don’t need to go into detail how such a diet of steel bristles truly sucks, it’s as bad as you’re thinking it would be, but instead, lets just cut to the point, and find an answer to this quandary. An answer besides not BBQing that is. Because that would be no life at all.
Enter The Wooden Scraper
I’m sure many of the readership has heard of wooden scrapers by now. They’ve been out for a while, in response, no doubt, to steel pricks finding their way in to people’s intestinal tracks. Thus enters the wooden scraper. While we do not know who invented the idea of a wooden scraper for the BBQ arts, we gotta agree, it’s a good idea. Tho we have never once experienced a busted-off bristle ruining our BBQ, and we’ve BBQ’d a lot, it also stands to reason, why would you ever take the chance if you didn’t have to. We recently were given some wooden scrapers to test out by the good folks at bbqscraper.com. Nice little, functional scrapers made of birch. Simple, but effective. Like good BBQ, I suppose. And best of all, no chance ever of a wayward steel needle in your belly. Lets take a closer gander at this thing.
BBQ Scraper – Natural Wooden Grill Cleaner
The Original BBQ Scraper
The Scrape Down
Well there’s basically nothing to it, as you can see. Just use it. Tip it on edge over a hot grate, any kind of grate, and within the time frame of the first cook, the scraper begins to customize right to your grate. Creating its own set of grooves to match your grate. And yes, it’s a grate idea! Sorry. Had to. And further more, the more you use these kind of scrapers, the better, more customized they become. And of course, no worries about a trip the ER to dig out a steel pin from your gut, ruining your BBQ dinner. That’s always nice.
Anyways, these scrapers are looking like a good, solid, and serviceable product that should last quite a while. Well made and a pleasure to use. Adapts swiftly to your grate. There are many sorts of scrapers out on the market, and tho we cannot honestly say any are better than the other, we can say that these guys at BBQ Scraper.com were good to us, and we thank them for their scrapers. Be sure to check them out if you’re looking to ditch that old wire brush. Likewise steel bristles in your intestines. Amen.
You can find them on amazon too. As we are an affiliate for this product, we do receive a small commission if you go through our link. It is small too, but every little bit helps support this blog. We do appreciate all of you. Thank you!
It was with small fan fare that my elder brother and I made way this weekend last, for the resplendent, and highly secretive, Valley of the Trouts. A quaint locale of which neither of us is particularly keen in giving you the coordinates to. You know how it goes. Tell one person, tho well-meaning, and that person will in-turn will tell another, and that one passes it on to yet another bloke, and so on, thus engaging the metaphoric domino topple of death to your secret place. So we’re not going to disclose its location. Not today. We will tell you, however briefly, that the stream which gurgles along the valley bottom is of the sweetest variety. Clear and cold and sick with rainbow trout. Winding like a watery tapestry through forests of Oak, and Pine, and Shagbark Hickory. And the sun swings high in a summer sky there, dropping its warm light on golden slants to the valley floor, dappling through the hardwood canopies, and glittering upon trout waters. Indeed, it is a place worth being.
So it was my elder brother and I made an encampment upon these earthy shores of paradise. The stream ever-gurgling past our snug respite. Tweety birds in full form. We got to work doing what we do best – eating! Brother put some bacon to cook in the camper, whilst outside, I fired up the flimsy, old, portable BBQ grill that has seen a thousand and one campsites over the years. What holds that contraption together still, I do not know, but the answer must reside somewhere in the sinew of memories of campsite’s past, and the grilling under the tall pines we have done there. Oh how we love to cook out-of-doors. And especially this is so, in camp.
Perhaps it is the fundamentals of such things, why we aspire so to cook in camp. Just to lay meat to flame in the wild places. Or to hear supper sizzling over a quaint bed of coals, whilst the breeze whispers through stands of stately pines. Life nary achieves a simpler status than this. For a while anyways, all the complexities of our day-to-day are cast aside. And the only thing left now, the only pressing matter in life, is to eat. And to eat good. And then maybe watch the world slowly turn by.
From time to time, it is well to live this almost simpleton’s existence. It sort of reboots a soul to function proper-like, once again. And could nary be more fun.
“You know, cooking bacon is kind of like photographing a beautiful woman!” my brother belched from within the camper.
I’m not sure what he meant by that, for comparing women to bacon could go a multiple of ways, but no how, and even so, I could hear the bacon crackling in its pan of juices, whilst brother manipulated various plates and utensils. And I reveled in the acoustic glory of it. The aromas, too, of thick-cut pork belly wafting out the camper door. Mercy! And amid this splendor, I tended the grill and two portly pork chops there, with the bone in for added flavor. Seasoned simply with garlic and onion salt. And just like with the Weber kettle back home, I created a little pocket for indirect cooking, for a modicum of thermal control under such raw and primitive conditions. Camp life was in full swing.
Of course we engaged in our share of trout fishing whilst there. When you camp next to a trout stream, it sort of stands to reason. And when you love to fish, as we do, it is all but a certainty. We caught a few rainbows, but returned them all. Something a little easier to do when you have a baker’s dozen worth of pork chops in the RV ice box. And you can’t beat a trout camp for ambiance either. Just seeing the fishing gear propped about brings a smile across my heart. Old waders and spin casters and fishing bags. I haven’t however the faintest of clues who Bensy is, but they made the photo even so.
The chops were done at the same time the potatoes were. That’s true camp harmony right there. When two cooks conspire in the woods bringing together the perfect little meal, at just precisely the right time. We don’t always nail it like that, but we did this time. We forgot the cooking oil, however, so we had to fry our potatoes in bacon grease. It worked exceedingly well.
So we tarried there, with a plate of good food, in the Valley of the Trouts. The stream babbled over stones and fallen trees, creating a song which sang sweetly unto our ears. Wood smoke curled off the camp fire, and an old, white-enameled coffee pot sat nearby, and at the ready. Leaning back in our camp chairs with a plate of vittles on our lap, I gotta say, this was proper living. Our chosen life style if we could get it. We gobbled down our food like two pumas to a warthog, and fed the fire whilst the sun ebbed behind the valley rim. And the blue skies all tapered to black, and the stars emerged like scattered diamonds on high. We bantered into the night, as per par for trout camp, enjoying the soft glow of a kerosene lamp, the randomness of fire flies, and a contented feeling residing kindly in our bellies, and deep in our soul. Amen.
Stream side with grilled pork chops and fried potatoes. Oh yes, and bacon!
How we love to tarry in the prettier places. Often times striking off for the pristine hinter regions of northern Minnesota. And there, under the whispering pines, beside tumbling rivers, we press a tent stake into the soil, and rest like gentlemen of leisure. The cares of the city life metaphorically swirling down the drain, like dirty bath water after a long day afield. Soon, we think of nothing else, nothing but the wind, the sky, the woods, and the loveliness of water falling in paradise.
The river flows with a fierce elegance up here. She will dazzle you with her beauty, and in the flip of a heart beat, wash you into one of her deep pools, and pin you there but for the wages of eternity. Kayakers know this. And so do Patrons of the Pit, who cower wisely on the shores. Nay, these waters are best left to the native brook trout which loiter in the eddies, awaiting the wayward drift of a Rhithrogena germanica or the like.You know how it goes. Anyways, whence the night falls over the forest primeval, we do rather like to kindle a fire and bandy close to its coals.
An old, blackened tea-pot with a dented, and beaten-up lid, hangs hobo style over the fire, bringing the evening’s water to a boil. I rummage through my pack for my twenty year old steel mug, whilst the flicker of the flames dance softly over head on the bottom of the pine bows. Found it. I rip open a package of cinnamon tea, and plop the bag into my cup, it’s string hanging limply over the lip. I look up. The stars are out now, shimmering behind the tall pines, dappling through the thin needles. The river tumbles in the darkness. And I can smell the smoke waft off the fire, and taper into the pine-scented woods. Can you smell it!
Via the powers of the blogosphere, you have now been transported. Swept away through space and time, and plunked down in a saintly fashion at the Track Side Pit, where our fellow Patron is plying his craft upon a congregation of yard bird legs. Chicken legs for you city folk. He’s got a nice char going on, as you can see, with flirts of caramelization. Seasoned with who knows what, but it’s good! The aromas bellowing off the grill would turn a vegan silly, I’d wager. And can you smell the smoke…
Smoke. The smell of it. For some reason God has linked smells inextricably with memory. And that’s the curious link between here and there. Between cooking on the patio in the city, and cooking over the open fire, far away, encamped in a quiet, forest hollow. We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll say it again. Because every time we light the fires here at home, the aroma of the smoke in-turn triggers a rush of memories from camp fires past. And a great many of those fires have been in the wilder places, in paradise, doing what we love to do. And as we rotate these gorgeous chicken legs over a fiery bed of coals, with metal tongs in hand, we cannot help but to reminisce at the same time of the beautiful locales from whence we’ve tarried. Oh yes. To reach back on the tender wings of nostalgia, and thumb through our memory vaults to those campsites past, fire-side, under fragrant pines and starry skies, where the water falls in paradise. Amen.
The other weekend my trail crony and I made camp at a nearby wilderness establishment; a locale of great loveliness, off the beaten path, and aside a watershed patron to a sky full of stars. As you may have gleamed around here, from time to time, we do rather like to engage our souls in the wilder places. In point of fact, if ever we were to scribe another blog, it would doubtless be one touting the high joys of the outdoor life. For this is what we do, by and by, besides grilling beautiful cuts of meat, that is. We seek to tarry where creation is most divine. And so there we were, naturally, on the forest floor, our tents poetically pitched at the tail of a moonbeam. The stars drifting across an ebony sky. And the coyotes yelping from the distant hills.
If you’ve never spent the night in the forest, your senses have never then been properly primed. Nor your imagination so sublimely stretched. To hear the critters scamper about, and everyone of them, you swear, sniffing the trembling corners of your tent. You can hear the diameter of coyote’s nose at ten paces, as it draws it’s air from the still night. The Trumpeter Swans bellowing in the darkness. You can hear those too. The Great Horned Owls stirring up a nocturnal racket, yapping on like little old ladies sitting in the tree tops. Then, some time in the wee hours, the undecipherable sounds of something heavy and hairy wandering at the edge of the woods. Nay, that’s just my camp mate, out for his nightly leg raise. It’s all good in the woods.
Shifting gears now, out at the pit. A light pecan smoke curls from the old kettle grill. It’s been a long week. A busy week. The kind of week that the big city is good at dishing out to those challenged and beleaguered souls entrapped within it’s elastic bosom. Everyone is in a hurry here. Pedal to the proverbial metal. Car horns blaring. Phones ringing. Sirens racing. It’s really something. Or at least you seem to notice it more, perhaps, after a good camping trip afield. Maybe that’s what it is. There is a palatial difference, or is it indifference, between the speed of life in the city and one out in the quieter places. One of head-turning, iconoclastic proportions. And it only takes one night bedded down on the forest floor to realize it. And so my grilling, as humble as it may be, is at last a small respite to me – a last beach head of tranquility in a world gone to haste.
So it was, and with great pleasure, too, that I laid the succulent pork chops over the pecan-scented flames. This one simple act, where man cooks meat over fire, outside, seems to trigger a domino of mental pleasures, all toppling forth in a splendid way before me. For starters, the smell of the wood smoldering over the fire. Very pleasant. Which in turn, connects to memories of cooking fires past. And some of those memories, of fires yonder, in places long ago. Of camp fires and good people. Over hill and by the dale, where the coyotes freely sing, and the moonbeams kiss the tender fabric of our tents. And illuminate the quiet hollows of our soul. Amen.
Pecan smoked pork chops, with garlic mashed potatoes and a good spill of peas. Good is good at the pit tonight. And even better cooked outside. A Pit Keeper’s respite.
It’s that time of the year again. Time for noise makers, popping corks, and quiet moments of retrospection by the fireside. Just shoveled out the BBQ area today, and it’s looking good. It only snowed a few inches. Tidy and well-kept, it is ready for action. Ready for some New Years Day pork ribs, and Boston butts. Anyhow, as I take a sip of tea, I find myself rummaging backwards in time through the annals of my memory, in particular, the many BBQ moments and cook outs often tallied on these cyber pages. It was another very good year at the pit. I think we averaged about once a week, year round. No matter what the outside temperature. No matter the weather. We stood stalwart at our pits, patron to the gently curling plumes of hickory smoke. In retrospection, I should like to favor you with some of our favorites culinary forays from the past year in the BBQ arts. Or at least the ones that stand out to us as remarkable, and worth mentioning again. The first, I guess, being the beaver.
Yes, aquatic rodent. You read that right. We ate one, oh, a little less than a year ago. That was a different sort of endeavor, I don’t mind telling you, but hey, we’re always up for a new challenge. We barbecued that thing just as kindly as we knew how. Dusted in rub, swaddled in foil, we ushered the odd but savory meat to what we declared a decidedly succulent end game. Turned out better than we hoped, and we didn’t hope for much. It looked akin to pulled beef, and didn’t taste far off from it either. Oddest BBQ Award goes to the beaver!
On occasion here at the pit, we fancy to do a review or two. But we usually only do such with stuff we really like. Because we could say yes, I suppose, to every buckaroo that hits up our inbox, but if their product stinks, well we’ve just wasted your time. So we try and only review the best of the best. Looking back, I think our most favorite piece of outdoor cooking equipment we reviewed this year has got to be, hands down, the Mojoe Griddle. 35 pounds of restaurant grade hot-rolled steel, nearly stick free, and oh what a pleasure to cook on, patron to the pit. When you’re not cooking with it, and if by chance you should find yourself in the heady crossfire of a gunfight, you can tip this griddle on edge and hunker behind it for blast protection. When the battle is finished, you can flip it back up and make pancakes for every one. We loved this griddle. And our Editor’s Choice Award for the year, goes to the Mojoe Griddle. Truly, the best of the best.
A great many spice rubs also come our way in a given year. Some that we buy, some that we make from scratch, and some that are sent to us by people who create them. Our surprise favorite spice rubs this year all came from our readership, and one reader in particular nailed it the best. Miner’s Mix. They challenged us to try a “real rub”, and sent us some samples. And we were blown away. Clean ingredients, great flavor, and even better people. We’re still trying out their many flavors, but if you’re looking for that next great rub to add to your larder, it don’t get much better than these cats. Our Favorite Spice Rub Review of 2015 goes to the good folks at Miners Mix.
We also had occasion to test out some mighty nice cast iron. Cast iron and cooking, especially grilling, is a marriage conceived straight from heaven. And one of the best upgrades you can make to your standard Weber kettle grill, is to grace it with a cast iron grate. One to last the eons, and give you those all impressive char marks. But it gets better. If you’re lucky enough to have a grate from the folks at Craycort, you also get to play with cool inserts. Our Favorite Cast Iron Accessory we tried this year, no doubt, was the cast iron pan insert for the Craycort grill. That thing was all too pleasant, and more than enough fun for a pit jockey proper. It’s pie shaped robustness slips nicely into place, merging with the main grate to create a symphony of cooking options for your grill. What a great idea, and a tip of our BBQ hat to the good people at Craycort for offering such coolness.
Somewhere along the way it rained. Lots of places across this beautiful globe get their wet seasons I’m sure, and Minnesota was no exception this year. We had a soggy stretch where it must have rained for 14 days straight. Such enduring weather would send most folk indoors to stare glumly out the window, but not a patron of the pit. Nay, we simply erected an old, blue tarp and carried on as usual. Thinking back over a year of BBQ, of all the umpteen cook outs, one beef rib smoke in the rain comes to mind as maybe our most favorite smoking sortie of 2015. There was just something keenly pleasant about roosting under a well-strung tarpaulin in a rain storm. Something quite therapeutic about it that which melted straight into the soul. The infinite drumming of the rain drops over head, whilst the hickory smoke silently pillared from the damper on the old weber smokey mountain. Not exactly sure what it was, but it was perfect even so. Hard to articulate, but easy to appreciate. Our Favorite Smoke of 2015 goes to the Rainy Day Beef Ribs. And oh yes, they hit the gastronomic bulls-eye!
Every once in a while, we like to venture away from base camp, and bring you something a little different. To go somewhere, and do something BBQ related. Well, it didn’t take much retrospection to find the most different thing we did this year. Dating way back to last winter, in point of fact, we loaded up our cameras, downy jackets, and headed north to the Fire on Ice BBQ Competition. The only BBQ competition in the world that we know of to be orchestrated over 4 feet of ice. It was a giddy experience shuffling past all the many custom pits lined up so neatly on the ice, forming the hallowed “BBQ Alley”. If you ever get the hankering to smoke a beef brisket whilst pulling a walleye up through a hole in the ice, this is the place. The Coolest BBQ Road Trip goes to the Fire on Ice BBQ Competition.
As I toss another log on the fire and warm up my tea a bit, I find there has been a vast many pleasantries, BBQ-wise, to come our way this year. Plenty to be thankful for. We’ve been undeniably blessed. Many good memories gently forged in the company of orange glowing coals and soft tendrils of wood smoke. The best memories tho, are not of ribs, or steak, or perfectly executed pork shoulder. Nor do they hail from all the cool toys a patron of the pit gets to play with. Nay, the best memories are of the people. Of you guys. Those lovely souls who often sidle by, if for nothing else, than just to say hi. You are our prized brisket. The true gems of the pit. So, a kindly and sincere thanks to the readership, and the regulars who frequent these online accounts. Who give lift to our airfoil in the cold vacuum of cyber space. We thank you for putting up with us, and tuning in so faithfully. We love to BBQ, and we love to tell you about it. To butcher the late, Robert Traver’s fly fishing tome, with BBQ in place of fishing – it isn’t that we regard BBQ as being so important, but it’s just that so many other things in life are just as unimportant, and not nearly so much fun. Amen.
Happy New Year!!
The sun barely hemorrhaged in a southwestern sky, its underbelly seemingly scratched by the dominant, leafless, silhouetted oaken forests below, bleeding it’s beautiful salmon hues and soft pastels over the frozen wetlands from whence we camped. Off the shore, a large pond nestled like a flattened jewel in the forest primeval, frozen in time, and reflecting the last colorful rays of the day. My trail cronie and I watched, as the last sunbeams kissed the cold earth, and all the land tapered into darkness. We felt like a couple of Apollo astronauts, adrift, our orbit silently slipping around to the dark side of the moon.
You see, it’s the winter solstice here in Minnesota. And thus it gets dark, swiftly, and kind of stays that way for an exquisite amount of time. The sun was to set at 4:34 in the afternoon, they said, and not to rise again until 7:48 the next morning. I quickly did the math. It came to around 15 hours of darkness. Now I have no idea what it’s like, or how long it takes to orbit around the far side of the moon. Nor how those brave astronauts must feel abandoning all light and heat, sailing on faith through the darkness, but this may be as close as I ever get. Cold, dark and alone. Well not alone, I have a fellow patron with me today. We decided at the last-minute to celebrate the shortest day of the year with a little camping trip afield. A sortie to one of our favorite little woodland retreats, to get away from the urban throng a bit, and if the day would have it, to bake a pizza.
Turns out we did. The crust was just one of those easy ones. You know, the kind where you get to pop open one of them pressurized cans. When its 20 degrees outside, we figure, who wants to mess around. Anyways, oil the bottom of the pan, and spread the dough out accordingly. Season with olive oil, oregano and garlic. Earlier, whilst still the recipients of a sunlit encampment, we baked the crust first. Call this instincts, but not all cooking over a camp fire is a sure thing. With uneven heating, and scant equipment at your disposal, as is commonplace in a campsite, we figured we best see to it the crust got the best shot it could towards a delicious end game. So we cooked it separately, for to keep an eye on it and make sure it complied to our highest bidding. First, we placed it on the fire grate, over direct heat and cooked the bottom. Then tipped it on edge, indirect of the fire, to finish it off by reflection. Now the crust is done all the way through. Because we have no oven, and are just winging this cave man style, this seemed good strategy. Next we assembled the yum!
I believe we had about two layers of pepperonis on that thing. A can of olives. A can of mushrooms. A pile of red and green peppers. And enough cheese to block up an elephant. Man! Whence the creation was built, it was then laid indirect of a good blaze, and tipped towards the fire as much as possible without dumping everything into the ash. Oh it’s a dicey game we play when we dare to dance the flames of camp fire cooking. A better technique would have been to put a lid over the pan of pizza, and scatter some coals atop of it. To cook it like that intensely from above. But we didn’t have a lid. We didn’t have much of anything really. We were camping, you see, and didn’t wanted to be bothered by the clutter. Which is another way of saying, I wish we had a lid! But we didn’t. Turns out if your patient type, you don’t need a lid after all, to bake your camp fire pizza. You just need time and heat. And we had both.
So we let the pizza ride indirect for 20 minutes or so, and rotated it 180 degrees for even cooking. It was the slowest pizza we have ever baked, but it was getting there alright. By about 40 minutes into it, you could just start to identify the aromas of fresh-baked pepperoni pizza wafting through camp. Say what you will, but out yonder in the hither regions where no man goes, with a frozen ground below your freezing toes, and the stars shimmering above, and no running water nor electrical outlet for your vain amusement, and an eternal December night stretched out in front of you – well, to smell hot pizza in your vicinity, let’s just say there is no reward so sweet!
Low and slow pizza is what this turned out to be. Such are the antics of the campfire chef. But good is good, and pizza is always good! And under the soft LED glow of a head lamp, we sliced into it, making first tracks on the dark side of the moon. Amen.
Upon waking this morning, I was informed by the WordPress Monkeys that today is Patrons of the Pits birthday. Yup, go figure that. They said we were 3 years old, today. In the blogosphere, just like in human years, well, that’s just getting out of your diapers for good. So it’s our birthday. Seems fitting then to re-print here our very first blog post, just because. Enjoy…
Many thanks to our fabulous readership. Without you there would be no birthday today. And a whole lot less meat pics in cyberspace.
If memories are linked with smell, and we believe this to be so, then there are a lifetime of them every time we light the grill. The charcoal grill that is. Not to be snobbish or disrespectful to you gassy people out there, your way is fun too, for at least you are out there, putting meat to flame, but less you plunk a tatter of wood upon thy burner, you simply will never know the joy of smoke. Nor achieve that true smokey flavor that real BBQ is known for. That’s half the reason we grill in the first place, for the smell of it. For the sheer wafting ambiance of wood smoke floating over a quiet pit. Ducks milling on the pond. Gophers dashing across the back forty. The waning golden rays of sun a’wash over your tranquil patio. And the smell of smoldering mesquite in the…
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I am smitten for the surf. No, not the sort of surf you folks in California see on a regular basis, with those mighty curlers, and hearty folk balanced atop them on slender boards. That’s impressive and all, but not what I mean. Nay, the sort I speak of today is of the fresh water variety. The much smaller cousin, if you will, found on the larger inland lakes and watersheds scattered about this fine country. Maybe surf isn’t the appropriate word here. A good wave is really what I’m talking about. A good, rhythmic, all-day, rush-up-to-your-feet-and-soak-your-boot-if you’re-not-ready-for-it, kind of wave. In short, the kind of waves my fellow patron and I mixed company with this weekend last, on a little camping trip up Lake Superior way, here in the first hallowed folds of November proper. Let it be said, because it’s true, we lived the pampered life there. The respite of kings. We ate like hogs, and slept like logs, each night lulled to sleep by the soothing rhythm of the ice water waves crashing on the beach. One could not help but to feel his blood pressure lower by just being there. It was good, people. So grab yourself an appropriate beverage, pull up your favorite chair, and we’ll tell you a little more about it, and how it went and came to be.
Now half of our mission statement, besides thus escaping the urban melee back home, was simply to eat our way through the weekend. A humble, albeit attainable goal, and one of which we were suitably prepared for. To assist us towards this higher end of gluttony, besides the token pair of stretchy pants, we brought along the one tool born for the task. The Mojoe Griddle. I might as well admit it, this griddle has wooed me silly in recent months, and I cannot hide my love for it. It’s awesome. There’s a reason we talk about it so much. And that reason is it just plain works! And let it be said, lake-side, in a beautiful encampment, nothing is quite so fine when camp cooking en-masse, than the vast, nearly non-stick surface of this massive griddle. We had four bellies in camp for to feed there, and the mojoe didn’t even blink. Not once. So it was good to have this culinary comrade at the ready in camp for our caloric ideals. And one thing we cooked was stir fry.
Over the lightly oiled, hot, steel surface of the griddle, my fellow patron fried up some thinly sliced chicken breast and beef. We seasoned the meat with what we had on hand: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, seasoned salt, and a few pinches of garlic powder. Pretty much ran the booty through the entire camping spice rack for this one, and man oh man, what yonder aromas did flood our camp! Every black bear within a twenty and one-quarter mile radius of our picnic table knew precisely what we were up to. We just played the odds that ursus hibernation and November go hand-in-hand. It does, doesn’t it? Anyways.
It weren’t long before we added the vegetables. One red onion, one yellow onion, and four bell peppers of various pigmentation. A few cloves of garlic to taste. A little more oil to help things along. Glory! Sunbeams sparkle off the largest fresh water lake in all the world, whilst we turn our gastronomic medley over piping hot steel. Rice noodles come to boil on the other burner. I guess you’ve noticed by now our latest cooking tool – the venerable dry wall blade. Hey, we’re men, what do you expect! Cam, from Mojoe Outfitters, who off-hand, and by the way, is a man too, well it was he who recommended the dry wall blade for this griddle. By golly, if them weren’t words but to abide kindly in the soul. One of the finer brain thrusts to cross the camp kitchen since baked beans. If you haven’t had occasion yet to plow your peppers about with such hardware, well let’s just say you’re missing something out of your life. There is just something delightfully emancipating about it, not to mention efficient. Like seeing your 401-K triple unexpectedly, or getting a new snow blower for your driveway. The world is yours! Likewise, I suspect nary a man with a pulse would not glow ear-to-ear tending his vittles in this matter. Where dry wall meets stir fry.
Lastly, whence the plunder was tender to eat, we lavished it with some Ginger Orange Asian sauce, mixing it in thoroughly, letting all the many flavors get to know one another. To get happy together, as it were. And thus, without much fanfare or the like, we cradled a paper plate each, piled high with steaming quantities of stir fry, and settled back into our camp chairs for a bit of proper pigging out. Chins were wiped, and burps were belched. Tummies were patted contentedly. If this is all we ate today, it would be alright. And as I tarried post-supper in my camp chair, watching the chickadees dart amid the birch and the balsam, I could not help but to recall the bustling city, and captive urban throngs that which we had left behind this weekend. All chasing their tails, ever in a rush it seemed. And as I looked out over the fresh water sea which sparkled in a golden light, and listened to its powerful waves roll onto the wild, northern coast, I tried to think of something that we might be missing by leaving the city behind for a while. But I didn’t come up with anything. In point of fact, I gave up such retrospection entirely, and just went back to the stove for seconds, instead. Returning to my chair once more, for to enjoy the food and fellowship, and to delight once again in my Lake Superior encampment, and the cold waves which topple forth there. Amen.
Camp Stir Fry courtesy of the Mojoe Griddle! Man! Good eating. Good scenery. Good people. Good times.
If you want to learn more about the Mojoe Griddle, check out http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ . PotP Approved!
This has nothing to do with BBQ. Not a single thing. But then again, maybe it does.
I was standing in line at the post office a while back, with a small box under my arm, making the best of my appointed errands there. The line was long, and the people in it were restless, wanting to get things moving, no doubt, so that they could get to the next line some place else. And I guess I was one of them. I’ve never been one for lines, but come to think of it, who is. Anyways, standing behind me was as elder man, sporting a red flannel shirt, gray hair and mustache, still of good form, and in his 80’s I should wager. I liked him right off. There was just something about how he held himself, and the patience he had there standing in line, that made him different I guess. Plus I liked his flannel. And patron to a quick glance at his ball cap, I deduced he was also a veteran of the Korean War.
My Pa was a Korean war veteran too. Flew in the big C-119 flying box car, which rumbled over the sea of Japan with tremendous regularity, bringing important supplies to our troops. Every body had a job or two out there, and that was his. I’ve heard some stories around the supper table in my day, let me tell you. But’s that’s all I know. The stories. Not being a veteran myself, I know I will never fully appreciate what it is really like to serve your country. To be on the battle field. I know this because of what happened next at the post office.
There was another old man standing in line, and he too caught a glimpse of the aforementioned Veteran, noted his ball cap, which plainly said “Korean War Veteran“, and promptly engaged him in penetrating conversation.
He asked the Veteran where he was assigned to, which squadron, and so on. I do not remember his answers. I didn’t need to. And neither do you. I just watched like a fly on the post office wall. Turns out they were both veterans of the Korean war. Both assigned to similar things. And within 30 seconds, nay, maybe even shorter than that, all the talking was done, and the old men simply embraced one another. Some heads turned in the post office, but they didn’t care. Brother’s of the trench, you might say. Clearly there was more going on here today, than postage exchange.
Moments like that sorta compel man to take pause, don’t they. Suddenly standing in line isn’t such an imposition. Nay, it’s our privilege. So may the Lord bless our veterans today, and every day, for their services selflessly rendered, so that you and I can even partake in something as mundane as standing in line at the post office. Our privilege indeed, And we thank you! We thank you one and all. Amen.
In the swiftly slanting light of an Autumn’s eve, I banked a bed of fiery coals to the side of the old kettle grill. Coaxing a few stragglers at the end of long tongs, thus setting the grill up for a quiet spot of indirect cooking. The sun conspired low over the golden tree tops where it ought to this time of year, with night coming on sooner and sooner. And the air was refreshingly cool, invigorating almost, with summer’s humidity a distant memory now. I buttoned up my flannel smoking shirt a couple of notches higher, and rummaged through the wood pile for today’s chosen smoke wood. Pecan sounded good. But then so did hickory. I vacillated over this quandary all of two nano seconds, I assure you, and just did what any pit jockey would at moments of such indecision – I used both. No compromise at the pit tonight. No wasted moments. For the light here quickly fades.
Before we get to cooking tonight, take a gander in this bucket. Lovely isn’t it…Three wild wood ducks, courtesy of a hunting friend, swimming in a flavorful home-made brine. Been there all of twenty and three hours already. And I tell you this, living your days as an acknowledged meat geek, you would be surprised what proteins seem to come your way. Meat just comes to me, people. I don’t know why. Warren Buffet has the same effect with money, I’ve noticed. And to Brad Pitt goes the girls. And me, well I get meat. And not necessarily classy meat either, but I ain’t complaining none. I thought the BBQ pulled beaver a while back turned out rather well, by and by. And I’m sure tonight’s plunder will too. Hickory Pecan Smoked Wood Duck, patron to the pit. Oh yes, let’s get after it.
Now concerning the gamy nature of wild duck. Some blokes like it, and some don’t. I suspect we here at he pit dally more towards the latter, so we concocted a simple, yet delicious brine for to leech some of that gaminess out. For three small birds we used:
Apple Cider Brine
1/2 Gallon Apple Cider
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Salt
Couple splashes of apple cider vinegar
6 slices of Ginger Root
5 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon Pepper
1/2 cup Orange Juice
*Go ahead and let your birds soak in the brine for about a day.
On a similar note, in case you are interested in such things, the very best recipe book we’ve found for wild duck is, Duck, Duck, Goose, by Hank Shaw. Really good stuff. Highly reviewed too, as you will see.
You can toss in what ever you like. From bay leaves, to sage, to your favorite spices. We do like to start with a base of apple cider tho. And yup, brine needs lots of salt. It won’t work otherwise. I guess the negative sodium ions attached themselves to proteins, and in-turn repel other negative ions which wander near to it, thus expanding the space between the proteins, the void of which is then diffused with your magnificent brine. Or something like that. Who knows. We are not scientists. We’re just men, who plop meat over flame and declare it good!
And so it was, the three little birds made the acquaintanceship of the hot cast iron grate, opposite a beautiful bed of coals. A chunk of hickory and a piece of pecan wood came to smolder, and the smoke softly billowed upwards in delicate, yet stately plumes. One bird we wrapped in bacon. One bird had only the rub. And the other we just left alone, to let the brine do all the talking.
Our rub today is another dandy from the good folks at Miners Mix. It’s called, Poultry Perfection Seasoning Rub for Turkey, Goose, Duck, Chicken, and Game, and I reckon it’s aptly named. Dang but they’ve got some good stuff. We dusted a couple of the ducks over pretty good with it, and man the smell of raw meat seasoned to perfection, well, it probably shouldn’t smell that good, but it does. Just one of the many privileges patron to the pit. And I nary can postpone any longer it’s gastronomic rendezvous with the biggest orifice on my face!
Near the end of our journey to 165 degrees internal temperature, we tossed some fresh vegetables into the Craycort frying pan insert, and sautéed them there in a splash of olive oil. It isn’t often we smell the aroma of sizzling cauliflower wafting from our pit damper, but we’re here to tell you, it don’t smell half bad. And it tastes a might better than that even. Every once in a while, even your most hardened pit jockey ought to stir up some vegetables on his cooker, if for any other reason than to try something new, and barring that, to at least please his lady folk.
Lid on, damper tweaked, a light wood smoke tapers into the autumn air whilst I make myself comfy in the patio chair, and muse over the day at hand. It was a good day, as days go, but my how the light is quick to flee. Used to be bright and balmy still, just a month or two ago, but here lately around supper time, the sun dips out of sight behind yonder roof tops, and doing so just a little swifter each day. Aw well, it’s just part of the natural balance of things living here on the 45th parallel. We get winter so we can better appreciate the summer, seems like. And I’m OK with that.
Long about the time that my pit-side introspection was wrapping up, and I could just start to smell the aroma of gently smoked duck bellowing from my pit vent, I knew then I had better keep an eye out for some visitors that equaled all matter of awkward. Now is the time they always show up. And I suppose it would be an ironic justice of sorts if they did. It’s common fact, you see, that if the Pond Side Pit were to have a mascot, well, it would probably be the lowly duck. Ducks are everywhere here. They abound in plentiful numbers, out numbering the residents two-to-one, and often travel in cantankerous packs. Many a time, whilst loitering at the pit, the little dudes will waddle up to me, first to see if I have any food to offer them, and then, as if driven by some moral code of duck law, they like to establish if whether or not it was their kin that they smelled cooking under my lid. And most days it’s not, and I’m free to loiter in peace. But this time they stood to get me out right, iffin I didn’t make swift work of it here. I probed the breast, looking for 165 internal, and instead hear a sickly chortle belching in the distance. Sounded like Phyllis Diller with a hang over. Hark! They were onto me! I could see them from across the far grass now, waddling in earnest. Well, good BBQ, as you know, is done when it’s done, and there is nothing we can say or do about that. And so the gap closed between them and I. Closed like a drawn curtain. My head hung a little lower, and my bottom lip drooped as they ambled on by, looking about as nonchalant as a duck can whilst still giving me the evil eye. Man…Yeah, I was hoping they wouldn’t show up today, as it’s all matter of awkward when they do. But on that note, and to a savory end, get you bib on people, it is time to eat. And Amen.
*No Pond Side ducks we injured during the making of this post.
**For further information on the cast iron modular grate system we use, check them out on amazon at the link just below. We are an affiliate for Amazon, and we sincerely do appreciate your support.
Hickory Pecan Smoked Wood Duck, seasoned in Poultry Perfection, man! Sided with lightly sauteed vegetables tinted in smokey goodness. Good eating, and every bit of it, patron to the pit.
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