They strutted across the road like little fuzzy superstars. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, with their big body guards fore and aft. Not a care in the world and just glad to be alive on this glorious spring day, doing what ever it is that goose do. This is a common sight this time of year at the Pond-Side Pit. Families of geese or ducks, wobbling about the place with an air of quiet entitlement. They own the place, and we who live here also, well, we just get out of their way. And we’re OK with that. John, he’s the little one in the front of the other little ones. He’s kind of the leader you might say, tho Paul right behind him is too, in his own right, and I suspect will go further in life. George is George, and Ringo, well, he likes to bring up the caboose and set the cadence of their daily walks. They’ll do this every day. Multiple times a day. That is in between their ritual swim in the pond, and rooting through the grass for the odd bug or what ever it is you eat when you’re a goose. Well, they can eat what ever they want, but I myself, I will be feasting proper like, over the pit of plenty today. Let’s head there now, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s cooking. And how it went and came to be. And no, it’s not goose!
It’s chicken and ribs of course. The ribs were liberally seasoned with Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and the chicken was dusted over good with a rub called Poultry Perfection, again from the good folks at Miners Mix. They never ask us to mention them on this blog, but we can’t help it, and we’ll mention them anyways. They’re just that good. Every blend they come up with seems to be a winner. We’ve chatted with the owners on occasion, and my goodness the standards they set for themselves are indeed impressive. They said if they don’t absolutely love it, they just won’t sell it. Simple as that. Such passion resonates clear to the end game too, here at this humble patio, beside a pond, with geese milling through the cool grass. Thank you Miners Mix for setting your bar so lofty. We do appreciate you! Check them out at their website www.minersmix.com
Can you smell it??? No you cannot. This is a computer you goof ball! I promise you tho, it smelled good!
The Texas Crutch
Long about hour three into the smoke, we wrapped the ribs with a few pats of butter and some BBQ sauce. TIP: If your ribs are ever coming out tough and chewy, resembling characteristics like that of proteinaceous Naugahyde, you probably ought to try wrapping them in foil for a couple of hours. Pour in a little apple juice with them, or some sauce, beer, anything that will provide moisture, and just let it steam there in the foil. This is an event for your ribs, and they will love you for it. It’s like taking them to a meat spa to be pampered and indulged there. In Texas they call this technique the crutch. Every where else we call it a good idea!
Fate of a Yard Bird
We let the chicken just go low and slow, bathed in a light hickory smoke for a few hours. Just long enough that it was almost falling apart. Bones would come loose with the slightest twist. This is what we we’re after, for the goal was to make some pulled chicken out of this yard bird! And whilst the ribs were finishing up in the foil, we went ahead and let the bird rest 15 minutes or so, then dug into it barehanded, and pulled it all to pieces for sandwiches later on. We also chopped up bits of skin in there too, because we like that sort of thing. Man!
With chicken and ribs thus procured over a soft hickory fire, and the waning light of another glorious spring day slanting in golden shafts over roof tops and through fluttering cottonwood leaves, I was at once pleased with my efforts at the pit this day. There was a temptation early on to grill only hamburgers or the simple bratwurst, but I’m glad I resisted. Glad I went with the longer smoke instead. For I do not take these moments pit-side for granted. And because it is pert near my favorite thing to do most days, I do find myself in advancing years relishing the journey of BBQ almost more than the BBQ itself. I like that some things in this world take a little time – like pulled chicken and ribs. I like how such endeavors of patience press gently against the hour hand of life, and the pleasurable moments created there for to tarry in, kindred to our soul. That is how good things should come to be. There should be a journey involved. It ought to be earned. Like good BBQ. Raising a family of geese. And perhaps English rock bands. Amen.
Slow hickory smoked pulled chicken smothered in Joe Joes Hogshack BlackBerry Sauce, sided with even more meat! Hickory smoked pork spare ribs seasoned in Miners Mix Maynards Memphis Rub. Man! Pardon me people, but I’m just going to have to eat this right in front of you.
Every once in a while we like to do a guest post. Today is one of those times. Below is a chart and intro made up for us by Joe, at SmokedBBQSource. He’s developing a website full of resources useful to the BBQ community, and he has shared his latest efforts with us. I found this little chart of smoking times and temperatures to be an effective and handy reference, thus we humbly pass it along to the PotP readership for your kind perusal. Enjoy!
And thanks Joe!
From Smoked BBQ Source:
You probably already know how important managing temperature is when you barbecue. You’ve got to closely monitor your smoker and make sure it stays within the right temperature range for hours at a time.
You’ve also got to know the right time to pull your meat off the smoker so you’re not left with a dry, overcooked mess.
While most meat can be smoked between 225 – 250°F, the best temperature to pull is going to vary a lot with what you’re cooking.
While there are no hard and fast rules, this visual, smoking time and temperature chart is a good resource to check before you fire up the smoker.
Just remember that it all comes down to your individual setup. Use this guide as a starting point, and then experiment to see what works best for you.
Here are a few other pieces of advice:
The smoking time suggestions as a very rough estimate: The problem with using hours / lb to estimate smoking time, is that the thickness and diameter of what your smoking is more important than the total weight.
There’s also a lot of other factors like humidity and how well insulted your smoker is that can effect total smoker time. Bottom line, always use a digital thermometer to determine when your food is ready.
There’s a big difference between ‘done’ and ‘ready to eat’: If you always pull your meat when it reaches a safe internal temp, you will be missing out on a world of flavor. In many cases you want to go well past the ‘recommended safe temperature’ as the collagen and fats continue to melt and make your meat even more juicy.
I like to walk. Or maybe it’s more of a stroll that I fancy. If not that, then to surely to mosey about with no particular destination is what I have in mind. Regardless, there is a quiet pleasure in routine sorties like this, that which strafe the neighborhoods and townships of our lives. And if you make a habit of it, you not only get a modicum of exercise, but you’re also privy to the seasons as they slowly ebb in the pastel light of your daily jaunts afield. And I like that. I like that a lot. I was puttering about in the Mississippi watershed the other day, watching the people come and go, and thinking of those same things. We are in the token last days of summer now, where the sun is still warm, and the trees and fields, are still to a word – green. What a privilege to sally forth on my evening walkabouts, camera in hand, and to try for a time to remember these waning days of summer bliss. For this temperate land we know, and all too swiftly, shall be long-encrusted again in wintry shards of snow and ice. That’s just the climatic facts of Minnesota. Nor is there anything we can do about it, save for to sidle down to Ecuador or something, and tarry by the eternal poolside there. But today it is still summer. The hours are resplendent, and warm. And oh how the people revel now, and delight in but one ray of the sun’s golden light.
It was a good stroll, by and by, as most strolls are, but I suppose I ought to tell you about supper too. My wife was in the mood for Mexican, you see, which isn’t abnormal in our household. Something south of the border. Something with a wee bit of spice in it, just enough to tickle you a little behind the gills, if you know what I mean. The venerable spicy chicken quesadilla should do nicely, I wagered. Well it just so happens we have the premiere instrument in stock for cooking such a thing out-of-doors – the Mojoe Griddle. If you’re looking for something slick for your next back yard grilling party, this griddle is it. Or a nice gift, perhaps, for your resident pitmaster. And do take our word for it, they will love this griddle. Anyways, grab yourself a lovely beverage, and let’s get to cooking some quesadillas shall we!
On the hot, oiled griddle, we plopped on a few boneless chicken breasts, cubed appropriately, and set to sizzle aside some chopped onions just because. Nothing is quite so fine on a waning summer’s day than to hear the sizzling satisfaction of protein coming of age before you. The aromas of chicken and spice and onions mingle with the soft summer breeze, and the tweety birds all rejoice from yonder tree tops, perching there for the last slants of an amber light. The soft clouds parade silently above. And two mallards mill about at the pond’s edge, neath the dappled shade of the old cottonwood tree. This is backyard perfection. This is why we cook outside, people. This is why we do what we do. Glory!
Now we’re tickled to tell you that the seasoning tonight was kindly provided by one of our readership, from the good folks at Miners Mix. They chimed in a few posts back and mentioned to us that if we wanted to try a “real rub” some day, to just let them know. Well naturally we did. And here it is. Wholly Chipotle! You gotta like the wordsmithing in this one. The ingredients aren’t too shabby either. No preservatives. No MSG. No flavor enhancers. Just a flavor symphony of the right stuff.
We found their motto one to appreciate too. “If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here!”
These chaps also know how to Q! Here is a link to their blog if you feel so inclined. https://minersmix.wordpress.com/
Thus, we dashed a good bit of this “real rub” over the chopped chicken breast, and set it to sizzle henceforth on the good old, Mojoe Griddle. And like I told you, the aromas on the patio tonight were off the charts. Everything was singing in tune. I didn’t even have gas, and that’s a wonder in it’s own right!
Whence the chicken and onions were done, we henceforth scooped a pile of them onto a lightly oiled tortilla, and suitably topped it with enough shredded cheese to make a Wisconsin man grin. I weren’t from Wisconsin, but let me tell you I grinned anyhow. And my slobbers gathered in queue.
Man! We formed the quesadilla reminiscent of a big taco, folding half of it back over on itself. Then toasted it gently on each side, until the it’s cheesy bosom irrigated the spicy ensemble unto every corner, and the tortilla was at last crispy to bite. I stood posted by the humble weber kettle, spatula in hand, lovely beverage in the other, just flipping quesadillas for a while, and quite frankly, savoring the last light of another summer day. Because one day soon here, the leaves will turn and fall. The nights will grow long, and the days will become cold without end. And yes, we will still grill outside. But for now I tarry patron to the pit, content, with a smile on my soul, for the sun that which illuminates my face. And maybe after supper here, iffin the light should abide, I’ll go for another walk afield and be glad in it. Amen.
Spicy Chicken Quesadillas courtesy of the pit. Yum! A special thanks to Mojoe Outfitters for developing a fantastic griddle. It can do a lot of things really well, and as for making a mess of quesadillas, I cannot divine anything doing it any better. And another tip of the hat to the folks at Miners Mix. Thanks for sharing with us a real rub. I gotta say, Wholly Chipotle Rub may have put on a couple more hairs on this old boy’s chest. Yup, that’s a good rub, mate! Real good indeed.
I like birds. From the pretty tweety birds that sing from the tree tops come evening sunbeams, to the bald eagles who soar with magnificent ease high on the thermals. From the mama Cardinal roosting in the alders, to the Black Capped Chickadee flirting in the spruce. And unto the eerie wail of the common loons on camping trips into the far northern places. I like birds. I fancy the ducks – those marvelous mallards and dashing drakes who court the shores of Pond Side Pit, who seem always in a good mood, even when it rains. There is just something about bird life that has fascinated me for many years. Something in the way they go about business, that has contented me. Then I ran into this feathered bloke on one of my strolls through a local river hamlet. I called him Ed.
Ed wasn’t the best looking of birds. But then when you’re a Blue Heron, you don’t exactly get invited to beauty contests. No, you make your living in kinder, gentler circles, usually at the water’s edge, and usually with a keen eye for supper on the fin. Ed and I must have sat together for a half hour at least there, river-side, just watching the world go by. It’s odd to see a creature with so much patience, or maybe it was laziness, I’m not sure. That must have been what he thought of me also. But I didn’t care. I just admired his innate ability to loiter. If only birds could BBQ, this chap would be one of the best. Speaking of BBQ birds, do let me tell you about our last cook out. Grab yourself a lovely beverage and we’ll meet back at the pit, and tell you more about it, and how it went and came to be.
No, these are not the breasts of a Blue Heron. These are the boneless versions of a nameless yard bird, or two, that I have never met. Sometimes I wonder if the previous owners of these once knew each other back in the day. Perhaps they were buddies who’d bandy together for a good morning’s cackle. Or maybe even enemies who would eat each others poop, cause that’s what chickens do, according to a Grandma I know. Regardless, they sure looked fine sizzling over the hot cast iron grate of my Weber kettle grill. Glory be, they smelled good enough to eat raw. I suspect that was because of the marinade.
The World’s Easiest Best Marinade
One part Italian dressing.
One part your favorite BBQ sauce.
Like I said, simple. And nary have I ever seen it fail. Quite possibly the simplest one you’ll ever use. And the most fool-proof. It’s a rather popular one on the interweb right now, so we thought we’d give it a go. Anyways the notion is it let the meat marinate over night. Twenty and four hours is even better. Now I’ve heard places not to exceed four hours iffin your marinade has a high vinegar content, lest it morphs your chicken slightly rubbery as a result. But I guess the vinegar content of Italian dressing and Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce is not enough to awaken this anomaly. All I know is it works. And it works exceedingly well. No rubber chickens here.
We chunked on the old, enameled lid, its handle soiled in the grease and smoke of a thousand cookouts. The draft soon engaged, and sweet tendrils of wood smoke curled freely into a pure, Minnesota sky. I sat back in my patio chair, left leg over right, and admired how nice the smoke looked, puffing against the green back drop of a summer’s day. The pleasantries of the pit were at full speed, people. The ambiance meter pegged out. Manly beverage within reach, soft tunes on the pit sound system, song birds aloft, hark, I could want for nothing more save for the sun to pause in its arc, if but to extend the moment here for the moment’s sake. This is where the pit keeper cultivates his patience, you see. That hallowed span of clock from whence the meat hits the grate with an anointing sizzle, to when the meat at long last enters your slobber-strewn mouth. The magic hour. Or hours if need be. Indeed, it is good for us to wait for something once in a while. In an instant download, drive-thru, microwave kind of society, who has got to have their wares delivered at once by the hands of haste, such an act of patience will encourage some, and down right astonish the rest. But a pit master proper can pull this feat off with aplomb. It’s in our blood to tarry where meat is concerned. Just like that old, blue heron on the river bank. He could have been running all over the place that day, flying from one locale to another, but nay, he knew the value in waiting. The precious gold in a single strand of patience. And I admired him for it. There is much you can learn from those with wings. Yeah, I like birds. I like them quite a bit. And with that said, as the evening shadows creep over yonder fields, I think it’s time to finally eat this one!
Cheerio and Amen.
Twenty four hours, people, marinated in one-half Italian Dressing and one-half BBQ sauce, grilled over hickory, and kissed with sweet time. Man! Good eating, and good times, patron to the pit.
One Patron’s Foray Into The Fine Art of Hardware Store Dining
It was the last of autumn, and the days they were falling short. All the leaves had fallen, sunbeams in scant supply, and the tweety birds and retired folk had gone south now, to tarry under balmy skies, and big umbrellas. The hardy residents that which remained, however, here in Minnesota, could be found battening down their homes; cleaning gutters, mulching leaves and stacking firewood. Prepping their nests for what wintry tempests may brew. This increased activity on the home front is surely sparked by the seasonal folds, and likewise may I say the same about my dinner tonight. A nice spot of hot, savory soup sounded good all day, chicken and wild rice to be exact, and when I got home, I aimed to do something about it.
Oddly enough, my sojourn into soup today started many hours previous, flannel clad, in a local big box store which rhymes roughly with “my nards“. Anyways, I was strolling through the manlier sections of the real estate there, fondling saber saws and cold chisels, you know how it goes, when I came upon a small grocery section, recessed deep in the bowels of the store. It was lovely to the eyes, I must admit, like a gastronomic island oasis in a sea of hardware. I paused as any man would, in the shadow of a veritable wall of beef jerky – meat spanning a fathom wide off both my anatomical port and starboard, and rising higher than I could reach. Glory be, but I had stumbled upon a worthy den! I moseyed thus over to a wall of assorted nuts, all neatly canned and priced to sell. Every nut you could think of. In every size and shape. And I might have lingered there too, had I not first been wooed by the soup.
The soup was in an semi-attractive yellow package I guess, but the price was even more handsome still. I do not know why, but men folk are sometimes drawn to these things. I think because it looks easy. Or barring that, it must be the pretty pictures. At any rate, Shore Lunch Creamy Wild Rice it was called, and it even looked creamy, so I tossed it in my cart. I knew with a supplement of chicken quarters I had back home, and a hand full of mesquite wood chips, I could do something worthy with this humble offering, patron to the pit. And that’s just what we did.
So under a gray November sky, we did up the soup as per it’s instructions, but of course we did it on the faithful Weber Kettle, for poetic reasons you see. Real men don’t need stoves! Placing the pot over direct heat, stirring often, it’s heady aromas soon melded with the cool, Autumn air. Along side, we lightly seasoned some chicken quarters in garlic salt, and grilled them up as well, opposite the hot coals. And lastly, we tossed some mesquite wood onto the coals for that signature scent and added touch only found in outdoor cooking. There by, and for a good while, we let it simmer and smoke whilst the November breeze rustled through the old oak tree. It was good times, as the season’s first snow flakes fluttered down about thee.
When the chicken was bronzed and savory to eat, and the soup had thickened up, we brought it all inside. Shredded the chicken and stirred it lovingly into the soup, bringing a smokey tinted affair to the meal. And it was good. Darn good I must say. My bride mistakenly assumed even, that I had slaved the afternoon away, preparing the dish from scratch. Now I suppose I could have let the myth perpetuate itself, with my chest stuck out in sad deception- but I couldn’t. I eventually had to fess up that tonight’s rations were procured from but a humble yellow bag that I found at the hardware store. And if she didn’t mind beef jerky and nuts for dessert, I had that covered too! Amen.
Mesquite Smoked Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Sometimes you’d be surprised where your next meal will come from. Then again, all is possible patron to the pit. Grill on, people!
Greeted by a wall of freshly drifted snow against the patio door, I carefully slid it open and got to work. You know you have a lot of snow when the first couple of shovel loads can be done whilst still standing inside the house, but that is how it has been this winter. It has been common place indeed. In point of fact, Minnesota is currently courting a hallowed slot in the top ten, coldest, most snowiest winters on record. Least wise in our state this is so. Over 40 days now, below the zero mark. 60 plus days if you live up north. It has been a deep, penetrating sort of cold that which has never ceased. Squirrels have fallen from trees and young boys have fused their tongues to subzero steel. And if you have invested in snow blowers this year, you are a wise soul. Seems like every day you hear their guttural rumble somewhere, echoing through the neighborhood. Reaching for records indeed. And I guess I believe it, as I finally shoveled enough snow out-of-the-way to shut the door behind me. Brilliant sunbeams sparkled over mounds of white, drawing mine eyes unto thin, uncanny slits. The air is fresh and cold, the way it always is the day after a good blizzard. And the snow it stands ever deep, and even deeper still where it has drifted between the old spruce trees just off the patio. I like how their stately boughs humbly bend in submission, selflessly playing the hand it was dealt, yet somehow attain even more beauty because of it. Nice trick. I do fancy those trees. They are the faithful ambiance patron to the pond-side pit, and have seen many winters. Many blizzards. Many BBQ’s. Such is the case today, under clear, and what seems eternally cold skies. And after I finish digging out here, and take a nap perhaps, I’ll cook up some supper and tell you about it.
On the pit tonight, something a little different. A little southwestern fare to warm a winter-locked, Minnesotan’s soul. Chicken quesadillas on the grill. If you can make a grilled cheese sandwich, you can make one of these. And doing them on the grill will at once transport this classic appetizer to a whole new realm seldom found in your local restaurant, courtesy of rising wood smoke. The first order of business is grill up some chicken. Any cut will do. We seasoned ours in some spicy Cajun seasoning to introduce a degree of heat to the flavor profile, and placed them on the pit over medium indirect heat. The cold poultry immediately sizzled upon contact with the hot iron grate. A lovely sound on a hushed winter’s eve. I rummaged around in the resident wood pile and plucked out a tennis ball sized chunk of hickory wood, and added it to the coals. Flipped the meat over and plopped on the old, black, enameled lid. Hickory smoke soon was in draft, and wafting serenely out of the pit damper. A smile on my face, I slipped my hands into the warm pockets of my smoking jacket and considered the evening before me. That brilliant sun of earlier has long since slipped down into the west, and the tweety birds have all went to roost, snug together in feathery balls. And the heavenly stage hands have pulled clear the cosmic curtain for what soft star light falls on fields of snow. And a toe nail moon dallies over bending spruce. What a privilege it is, even this side of the zero mark, to smell the wood smoke rising on a wintry eve such as this.
When the chicken is done to your satisfaction, bring it inside to chop it up. Get yourself two flour tortillas and butter one side of each, and assemble your quesadilla like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Sprinkle a manly amount of shredded cheese on it, along with the smoked, chopped chicken. And then maybe add some more cheese! Lots of folks at this point, will toss all matter of things into their quesadillas. Things like: onions, peppers, mushrooms, chives, tomatoes, bacon, and so forth. And it’s all good. Make it however you like. But if all you have is cheese and chicken, like we did, that is perfectly acceptable too, to a hungry belly. Once assembled, bring your creation back out to the pit. You have a nice bed of coals going there after all, so why not do it right!
Place your quesadilla opposite the hot coals. Yes, our old kettle grill is half-entombed in a snow bank. You can’t even see its legs anymore. Its top poking out of the snow like an black flower in a sea of white. Didn’t I mention we’ve had a real winter up here! Anyways, put the lid on and let it bake spell. After a few minutes, you will want to turn the quesadilla 180 degrees for even cooking. Whence it has toasted up some, and the tortilla on the bottom has become crispy, affectionately flip thy spoils over, like a first pancake, and cook the other side in equal fashion. Here is a cook where we cannot assume our standard posture of BBQ, belly up in the easy chair, for we must keep an eye on our intended plunder, lest the burning fates fall upon these tender tortillas with scant remorse. Indeed, we must stand abreast the pit like men were born to do, on guard and with lovely beverage in hand. For this is our moment, our gastronomic beach-head for to establish culinary harmony between pit and home. Be ever mindful then, and parlay your spoils with great effectiveness to the dinner table. A dollop of sour cream or salsa, and your tummy you will find, just took a trip a south, past old and leaky borders, to where the sun stills holds stalwart, hemorrhaging over fields of green. Amen.
Hickory Smoked Chicken Quesadillas hot off the grill. Crispy, gooey,cheesy, smokey goodness patron to the pit. Man! You don’t have to endure an epic winter to appreciate this sort of thing, but it helps!
If you are from the northern tier states, and you have lately and by chance poked your nose unassumingly outward of warm environs, well it is no secret that it is butt-cold out there. In your face, nothing-you-can-do-about-it, butt-cold. The kind of cold that which penetrates the crust of a person’s finest attitude, slaps them strong across face, and can have them cowering on the ground in matter of sheer minutes. The fellow on the morning news said a given face, pretty or not, had in his estimation, about five minutes out there, before frost bite would latch on to your epidermis and ruin your day. Upon waking this morning, it was 21 below in Minneapolis. Schools statewide were canceled, the educational system’s white flag tossed onto the ring of battle, where upon it promptly froze to the ground. And the common sense sort of people in town stayed home if they could, curled up under old grandma quilts, nursing hot teas, and mused headlong about the weather out there. Others of us tho, carried on as normal, went to work, and when duties were done, came home and promptly lit the BBQ as if it were the middle of July. Yeah, it’s just what we do!
On the grill tonight, a simplistic respite from the complexities of the smokey arts, whilst also a gentle parlay towards classical american succulence – the chicken thigh. Thighs are one of our most favorite parts of the chicken to grill. High fat content keeps this dark meat moist and juicy, and if married with the right rubs or seasonings, it is a real treat. Our rub of tonight was Famous Dave’s Rib Rub. It says on the bottle to use it on every thing, not just ribs. So we did. It provides an easy but not over-powering heat, and some other spices too that just seem to work on a variety of meats. Old Dave is famous for a reason I guess. Anyways, we dusted the thighs over pretty good whilst the coals matured out on the pit. Then doffed the old woolen smoking jacket and made haste out into the deep, penetrating cold.
Banking the hot coals to the back of the pit for in-direct cooking, we placed the seasoned thighs over the cooler regions of the grill, which is real easy to do, don’t you know, when the mercury scraps the minus 20 mark. Mercy. The heat from the coals bellowed up out of the pit in stark contrast to the frozen world beyond. I tossed on a couple of chunks of apple wood, watched them quickly catch blaze as I tucked my hands into my pockets. I gazed at the fire for a moment, and enjoyed how the light felt against my face. What a pleasure it is, tho quaint in size, to be in the good company of fire and flame on a night such as this. A night where all the world bends on knee to the authority of a merciless cold. Where would we be if it were not but for the spoils of fire. Of glorious and unabridged heat. The energy that which drive our days, and caters to our nights. It would be mighty cold chicken thighs tonight indeed, with out this, a simple fire.
I put the black enameled lid atop the old kettle grill, and the draft caught soon enough, and ushered out a lovely wood smoke through the top vent. We were up and cooking, and there was contentment in the pit. I might have dallied some there, dreaming of summer BBQ’s past, of cool, green grasses and song birds serenading from atop wavering willows, but the peculiar feeling of my left eye lid fusing shut sort of snapped me back to reality. What ever! I sidled inside, unashamed, and drew a hot beverage there. I got to watching the evening news, which I seldom do, with a hot brew cradled in my hands. The weatherman said that today was a special day here in Minnesota. He said that at one point during the day, for a moment anyways, that Minnesota was colder than even the north pole. In point of fact, he added, Minnesota was colder than anywhere. He said, sort of proudly, that this was the coldest place on earth, today. And I believed him.
I smiled sharply as I gazed out at my faithful pit, puffing stoically away on the patio. It’s a good pit. A faithful stead. And it knows not the inclement of weather, nor some days do I think it even cares. Who says you have to hang up your BBQ tongs when the mercury plummets! Indeed, with but a degree of mild lunacy, the grilling season may be extended the calendar long. And rewardingly so. And if you’re really lucky, you can even claim to have grilled your chicken thighs in the coldest place on earth.
Here in Minnesota, when the weather starts to turn, and the temperatures fall to subzero levels, we the faithful remnant, who call Minnesota our home, have to partake in an annual ritual known as, “winterizing the house“. Now when winterizing the house, we do such things as adding more insulation in the attic to prevent any heat from escaping. We blow out sprinkler lines and insulate outdoor water faucets to prevent water freezing in the lines and bursting pipes. Some people do the bare minimum to winterize a house and other folks go a few extra steps towards convincing victory, under the flag of reason – better to be safe than sorry.
We Patrons must also do the same in preparation for Minnesota’s wintry grilling season. As the temperatures drop and our bodies begin to acclimatize, we also must take the proper steps so we don’t lose that much coveted heat, or even worse…our pipes bursting. Now some Minnesotans do the bare minimum to prepare themselves for the winter months, but we Patrons of the Pit, we will always take a few extra steps because as mentioned earlier, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. We think so anyways.
Here at the Pit the proper attire for keeping cozy in the frozen out-of-doors is like second nature. For we are both fans of winter camping and so long johns, hats, gloves and even our smoking jackets are never an understatement. We are a rare breed; we take great delight in sitting beside our smoky pits, and as its chimney puffs away we might light up ones pipe and take in a good English tobacco. As the harsh winter winds slap sharp snowflakes across our face, we fill our trusted Stanley thermoses with our favorite hot drink, and sip away. As the temperature plummets past zero we begin to hug the hoods of our pits while a small camp fire may join us during a bitter cold smoking session, sharing in its efforts to keep us warm. Therefore, insulating the inside of our bodies after standing outside at our Pits during one of our famous blizzards is something we can always work on. This weekend we started that process with Homemade Chicken Soup.
- 1 (3 pound) whole chicken
- 4 carrots, halved
- 4 stalks celery, halved
- 1 large onion, halved
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Water to cover
- Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (optional)
- Desired amount of Egg Noodles
- Desired amount of Wild Rice
Put the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, in a large soup pot and cover with cold water. Heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken meat falls off of the bones (skim off foam every so often).
Take everything out of the pot. Strain the broth. Pick the meat off of the bones and chop the carrots, celery and onion. Season the broth with salt, pepper, chicken bouillon and Garlic Powder to taste, if desired. We added a can of Cream Of Chicken Soup to thicken the broth up a little. Return the chicken, carrots, celery and onion to the pot and stir together. At this time also add the noodles and wild rice. Cook until Noodles and Wild Rice become soft and serve.
There is nothing better than dumping hot soup down one’s gullet and bringing a sudden rush of warmth to our bodies, thus beginning the process of acclimatizing our bodies from the inside out. Over the next few months, we might surprise the blog world with recipes for keeping one’s self warm and well insulated. So, let the process of winterizing begin.
“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”
We patrons of the pit, we favor all the seasonal folds, but there is just something about the cooler weather that stirs us. That tugs on tender heart strings that which tarries deep in our souls. And so here recently, a few weeks ago I should say, when summer’s ante of stifling heat and humidity was displaced by a sweetly descending cool air mass, we were at once, and undeniably, in favor. Forty degree nights in the middle of summer, hark, that is something we ought to bottle up and sell in the sleep aids section at the local drug store. Glory be but it was lovely. For what a noble thing it is after all, to be able to walk to mail box in the evening, and not, when it’s done and over, come back to the house glistening in a sheen of your own rank juices, and smelling not that much better than the neighbor’s dog. Or for that matter, the neighbor.
It felt good to do a little BBQing too, in the acute absence of sweat. A foretaste, if you will, of our favorite grilling season to come… Winter! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I banked the coals as usual, a whole chimney full, to one side of the old kettle grill. Creating the thermal trifecta of modern grilling. One zone directly over the coals for searing and intense heat. Another zone opposite the hot coals, for cooler, in-direct cooking. And a dicey sort of Switzerland affair right smack in the middle, which sometimes comes in handy too. The earth is comprised of various zones of temperature too, for what its worth, which keeps things working properly and efficient like. So be it with our grills also! Anyways, got the coals situated, the grill scraped down with the wire brush, tossed on some ceremonial peach wood chips for smoke, and after a quick glance past the towering spruce tops, I placed two lovingly prepared chicken leg quarters on the hot rack. They sizzled accordingly, over direct heat for a minute or so per side. Then slid them back, traversing Switzerland with a twist of the tong, to the coolest section of the grill, whereupon they would log some significant time. I followed suit, naturally, in my BBQ chair.
This is where we keepers of the grill are at our very best. Pit-side, lovely beverage in reach, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, it was sufficient pleasure to watch the peach smoke waft from the damper, and the clouds, back-lit by a golden sun, float silently overhead. I sipped my pit beverage in the favorable company of that gloriously cool breeze, courtesy of the Canadians I think, and mused over tonight’s cook as it were. And what it was, was honey roasted chicken. Or least wise that’s what I was calling it. Let me tell you a little more about it, and how it went down, by and by.
It was just going to be plain old chicken, seasoned with a wee bit of garlic salt and what not, or would have been had not I seen the bottle of honey sitting on the counter. Like many a pit keeper, we are smitten for the sweeter things. But it has also been a hard and fast rule in the grilling arts to refrain, if you can, from adding sugary things to your meat at the beginning of a cook, lest your spoils fall victim to fates of burning sugars. Good, sage advice, and I’ve never really listened it. My bride seems to think I hardly listen at all, in point of fact, when I’m in the vicinity of sugar. Especially sugar shaped like donuts. But I do. And so with these chicken quarters, and against the grain of conventional grilling wisdom, I rubbed them things down with liberal onslaughts of honey. Under the skin even, and everywhere else. Then, I hit them in a medium-to-light fashion with some SuckleBusters Competition Rub, for to add another layer to the flavor profile. And that was it. These chickens were ready for their destiny according to the pit!
In turn, they made their way to the grill along with one of our pit favorites, a bulging packet of tinfoil potatoes and corn. A suitable meal for thee, whilst the north winds beckoned through the towering cottonwoods. Potatoes were placed over direct heat the entire time, flipped once mid-way through the cook for good measure. The chicken, as mentioned, was seared carefully at first over the coals, not long, and then tucked to the coolest regions of the grill for the rest of the culinary journey. Harnessing the various temperature zones, in a harmonious dance between meat and flame. Tongs in hand, you the pit master are the conductor of your very own meat orchestra. Free to draft the song of your choice. Choose wisely then, amid the smoke and the flame , and parlay your spoils with great effectiveness to a better end. Keep your honey-coated meat well away from the coals, over on the cooler parts of the pit, and check in on them often. Employ a fair degree of your pit master instincts, and with any luck at all, you should find a sweet, caramelized, juicy, meat Nirvana there, sizzling at the end of a rainbow, where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.
Honey Roasted Chicken and Tin foil Potatoes, lightly smoked with peach wood. Grilled in paradise. And smells a heck of a lot better than the neighbor’s dog.
Repairing in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, I spied them from afar, ambling head-long through the steely grass. A half-dozen little yellow-green fuzz balls, escorted under the watchful wing of ma and pa. Bumbling creatures, but terribly cute, looking only at the ground, pecking about for what wonders may reside there. It was good to see new families like this. Triumps of unconditional love, and a feathery nurture. They seem to do this every year about this time, along with every one else. They wandered right up close to my BBQ chair, as if to address me in some formal manner reserved for goose ideology or the like. I adjusted my posture some, and noted how once again, these feathered blokes have ambled by precisely when the first plumes of smoke curl from my old kettle grill. More times than I have counted they have come to share supper with me like this, babies and all. I’d like to think it’s because they like me, and appreciate the ambiance of the pit I strive so hard for. But the truth of the matter is that I’m only being used. For I usually toss them some crusty old bread if I have any, and that seems well enough for them to at least fake a friendship out by the pit. And I’m OK with that.
Spring time. New life. Turns out one of our close friends this week, had a baby too. A wee little thing, neither yellow-green nor fuzzy, and pert near about as cute as they come in baby land. My bride suggested we do something nice for them, because she’s rather thoughtful like that, and being the fire-lighting, meat-eating man that I am, naturally the only logical course of action I could come up with, was to have a BBQ. What better way to introduce a new soul to this ever-spinning world, I thought, than a plate of tin foiled potatoes, BBQ chicken, and sirloin steak! Everything a wee pup needs to make a lasting, first impression. And besides that, it’s never too soon to draft another into the BBQ arts. I don’t know if they make little Weber grills for babies, but they should. I would set one down in front of the kid, just so they could imprint on each other. And it would be a better world because of it, somewhere on down the line.
The baby feast started with the potatoes naturally, because they take the longest. Diced up and seasoned tonight with a dash or two of Lipton Onion soup mix. Cause that stuff ain’t just for soup you know. Over the seasoned and diced potatoes, I added a lovely melody of vegetables for to please the lady folk, along with a few dollops of butter, and wrapped it all up in foil. This in turn placed over direct heat for 20 minutes or so, flipped over once mid-way for even cooking. Whilst the spuds did their thing, the chicken legs were then placed opposite the hot coals, and a small piece of hickory wood added to the fire for some smokey goodness. The legs previous were rubbed down in McCormick’s Chicken Rub, and later, at the end of the cook, painted with a generous layer of Sweet Baby Rays. Now what infant wouldn’t want to suck on one of them!
As the white clouds idled in a blue sky, and bird song rang from the Alders, I pulled the foiled potatoes over indirect heat. They were done, and so was the chicken. Lastly, and to bring a sense of closure to the meat fest, we seared a nice sirloin steak over a hot bed of orange-glowing coals, and then finished it off indirect. When you set up your grill like this, with the coals banked to one side, you will be afforded much control this way. You will have established in your grill’s fiery bosom, three distinct temperature zones. One for direct heat right over the coals, one for indirect cooking opposite the hot coals, and something of a Switzerland affair, right smack in the middle. The thermal trifecta of modern grilling. Anyways.
I plated up the meats and taters, and bid a farewell to my feathery friends, still pecking through the green grass. Not to be rude to the little geese, nor to point out the shallow nature of our relationship, but it was time to go show the newborn some of the finer things worth looking forward to in this world. Something far removed from a crusty old piece of moldy bread. Amen.
Hickory Tinted BBQ Chicken Legs, Sirloin Steak, and Tin Foiled Potatoes. Man! And so what if a baby doesn’t have teeth. The parents do!