Once upon a time we will hearken back to the good old days, and remember from whence they sang. The days where the wood smoke bellowed freely from pit damper and chimney stack. Days where the air was still sweet to the taste, and the morning dew left on the grass seems as if it were presented there, just for you. The days of yore where we ate like kings, and slept like hogs, whilst the crescent moon hung like a phantom in a starry sky. And we could come and go as we pleased, and tarry the day long beside our beloved BBQ grills, leaning back in our patio chairs, left leg crossed over right. Baseball game bantering quietly on the pit radio, and a lovely beverage within reach. The aromas of chicken or beef or pork, perfectly seasoned, and sizzling beneath that old enameled dome. Ah yes, these were the days indeed. The days of the pit jockey. The good old days.
That’s what we’ll think some day, supposedly. Or so I’ve been told. In the elder years, tipping to and fro in the rocking chair, and looking back through the lens of retrospection. I’ve noticed plenty of folks reminisce like this. It’s the thing to do, after all, when you crave roses in December. I even like to partake in it myself from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Then I went camping with a bloke once, who informed me around the campfire that night, that these days we were in, well, they ARE the good old days.
I tossed another log in the fire, and thought about that for a bit.
Maybe he was right. Could it be we are actually living now in the good old days? Is this our time to shine? Well, when left to ponder such pickles for too long, a patron of the pit defaults to his natural and most basic thinking patterns – we eat! Join me at the pit tonight, and we’ll show you what’s going on up here on the 45th parallel.
To start, I had some good chicken thighs sizzling nicely, seasoned in Miners Mix Poultry Perfection. And because I couldn’t make up my mind, Miners Mix XXX Garlic, just because. Both highly adequate rubs for poultry. We crisped up the skin for a couple of minutes over direct heat, and then drug the thighs back over indirect heat for the rest of the cook. Standard yard bird techniques. Near the end of the session, we slapped on some Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry Sauce, and man oh man, let me tell you. This stuff is currently my most favorite BBQ sauce in the world, I think. It’s on the sweeter side, tastes like blackberries, and brings what ever meat I varnish it on to the next level in succulence. A special thanks to Brian and Joe, at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack for keeping us stocked in their magic meat elixir. Check them out some time here.
Also, if you want to hook yourself up with some Miners Mix, like the flavors we used today, check them out here.
Or you can get some on Amazon too. And if you use one of our affiliate links just below, a small kick back about as big as a bee’s knee will be sent our way. Yeah! Plus you help support the Spice Wizards of Miners Mix, not to mention your meat will taste a whole bunch better. Anyways, back to the story.
Now some of you readership have informed us that we need to get more vegetables on our plate. Well, I suppose there does come a time in a man’s grilling career where he should listen the women folk, and so here goes nothing. We sliced up a red bell pepper to roast over the coals a bit. We prepped the slices in an olive oil bath, and seasoned them with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning. Yup, they got something for everything, it seems. And mercy did it go well on roasted red peppers. Outstanding, in point of fact.That sided with some green beans, well, you can’t tell me there weren’t enough vegetables on my plate tonight! Oh yes, we eat well here at the pit.
As I plated up this highly succulent and might I add, colorful meal, I thought back to that night around the campfire. To the good old days. I dunno. When you’re blessed with a good plate of food like this, and somebody you love to share it with, it’s hard to deny that you’re not having a pretty good day, by and by. And when you think about it, any day these days seems like a gift. Because really it is. Say what you will, but you just never know when your number is up. So everyday is a blessing for sure, and that by default then makes it a good day. So be inspired then, we say, to live each day in good food, and fellowship, and to show one another just how fiercely you can love. Because yeah, I suppose these really are the good old days. But then so is every day, I’d wager, as it’s a gift straight from above. And it would be a shame to waste it on some improperly grilled chicken thighs. Amen.
Pecan Smoked, Blackberry Tinted Chicken Thighs, roasted red bell pepper seasoned in Miners mix, and a lovely bouquet of green beans for to please the lady folk. I reckon it could get a little better than this, but that’s not proper to discuss here. Yum!!
This site 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.
*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!
The sunbeams dappled through the turning cottonwood leaves, and the ducks rooted about the green grass like ducks do, whilst I tended a lovely bed of coals in the Weber Smokey Mountain. Autumn is in the air. The leaves are turning gold now, and red, and orange. Geese are on the wing. Shorter days and colder nights. I’ve always liked this time of year. Brings back some fond memories. Some potent ones too. Like the one time I found myself at the business end of a man hunt, mistaken there for a wanted murderer. That’s why I’m smoking a pork butt today. To pay remembrance to the day I felt like Harrison Ford in the fugitive. Grab yourself a spot of tea, won’t you, and I’ll tell you about it. We will reminisce through the old brain pan whilst I tend my BBQ here. And the wood smoke gently rises.
It was two years ago. It was a routine day, or should have been anyways, and I remember it well. I was on my commute, puttering along the back roads of outer suburbia on my 49cc Yamaha scooter. It was the perfect weather in which to go for a ride. The sun was golden, hanging in a beautiful autumn sky, and the geese were a’plenty as I motored by them feeling the softened wind on my face. It was lovely. About as quaint as an autumn day comes, well almost. That’s when I saw the pretty red lights flashing ominously in my mirror.
Now it isn’t often I get pulled over. And it is considerably less often I get pulled over on my little scooter. I mean, it’s not like they’re going to catch me for speeding on the thing. It can go from zero to sixty in, oh, about never. And I’d be lucky to hit thirty on a down hill, even, lest it was plummeting off a thousand meter embankment. So I was relatively sure I wasn’t speeding. So what did the state’s finest pull me over for then? And more over, why did they have their pistols out, trained on my coronary left ventricle?
It is a prudent thing to not try and out run cops on your scooter, especially when you likely look akin to a circus bear on the thing. So I did the most honorable tactic I could think of, and just pulled over. Why fight it. Their 9 millimeter Glock pistols, deployed and pointed at my rattling heart, sort of removes any procrastination on the matter.
“Get off the scooter and put your hands in the air!” croaked the fuzz. More officers suddenly materialized like phantoms on the scene. Resident squirrels darted for cover.
Now when you find yourself in this sort of predicament, with guns pointed at you, I must say your mind does rather tend to race. I was still trying to figure out what this is all about. They were taking my scooter ride very seriously, after all. And if this is how they deal with expired tabs, well, we’ve got problems. And then it occurred to me, like a dog who just crapped on the new carpet, that helicopters had been flying around all day, and I had heard on the news earlier that there was a dangerous fellow on the run in the area, who had just killed some one in a gas station parking lot a few miles away. Could it be the police thought I was this guy? Well, turned out they did.
I’ll tell you this, it is a lonely feeling to be a wanted fugitive. I didn’t have much going for me as the cops surrounded thee like a pack of wolves to a wayward moose, with my hands trembling in the air. The only thing I had going for me, I figured, was the truth. And eventually, I wagered, somewhere down a perilous and fickle line, they would figure that out. So I proceeded to enjoy a good frisking there along side the road, as the cops got to know me. They asked me some questions and I answered, of course, in an unintelligent blabber better suited for room full of baboons. But they understood it. They’ve seen my kind before. They looked at my ID, looked at me, looked back at the ID, then back at me again, and gloriously came to the accurate conclusion that I was not the man they were looking for. And that I was free to go. The truth had done it’s bidding.
“Sorry“, they said” But we’re looking really hard for some one right now“.
“That’s quite alright“, I croaked, and then I told them about the condition of my underpants. We all had a good laugh over that, and went our separate ways.
Yup, that was quite the day for a humble pit jockey such as yours truly. A day I will long remember, for better or for worse. But a day none-the-less of such note worthy stature that I figured it deserves, perhaps, a meal cooked outside, over a lovely bed of coals. Something slow, and meaningful. Something like pulled pork.
Well, once the pork shoulder ebbed over 195 internal it was ready to rest, and then an hour after that, ready to pull. Whence pulled to our proper spec, we drizzled the drip pan contents back over it, and mixed in some of Joe Joe’s Blackberry Sauce. Son of a yum! If you have not tried this sauce yet, man, I really think you’re missing out. Out of the sauces we reviewed from them, this one was the unanimous favorite by family and friends. Here is a link to it if you’re interested. Joe Joe’s Black Berry Sauce Oh, and Joe, if you’re reading this, we are all out of this amazing sauce...Hint.Hint!
So it was, as I prepped my pecan-smoked pulled pork sandwich, that my day of reflection drew to a close. I know cops have been on the news in recent times for not-so-good reasons, but I must say, that the ones who dealt with me were of good stock. Decent men with families who were just trying to do their job. Men who were putting their lives on the line for a guy on a scooter. For all of us, really. They are nothing short of heroes still in my book. And yes, they caught the guy they were after too, about a week later. He was standing at the Arby’s drive-thru, longing at a photo of a beef and cheddar sandwich there. He gave himself up with out a fight. And I was a free man. Amen.
Slow Pecan Smoked Pulled Pork with a Blackberry Tint. Say what ever you will, but backyard BBQ just doesn’t get any better than this.
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!
They came trucking up through the green grass as if they owned the place. And maybe they do. For let it be said, they were here long before we ever showed up. When we first moved in, they were the first to greet us. And when if we move from here, they’ll probably be standing there beside the driveway, the last to wave us good-bye. I speak of course, of the resident Mallards of the Pond Side Pit. And boy are they cute these days. Spring is just wrapping up here on the 45th parallel, and all the many ducks are closely followed by a feathery amoeba of miniature ducks, just like them – their little hairy faces, alive, and bright-eyed to a new, and outstanding world. Seems every time I light up the pit out back, they are there, investigating…Or maybe it is they’re just checking in that it is not their kin folk they smell cooking under my lid.
Fear not little ducks, for it is only a wee rack of pork ribs smoking under our lid today. With gentle plumes of pecan and apple wood, seasoned in Kits K.C. BBQ Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. I’m telling you this, there are a precious few better ways to while away a beautiful afternoon, than to tarry long in your BBQ chair, with a cold beverage in hand, feet propped up as per proper pit master posture, wowwy, and a cool breeze washing fresh over you the day long. Indeed, bringing pork ribs to a succulent, and tasty end game is our heady privilege. A Pit Jockey’s delight.
5 Reasons Why Ribs Are The Perfect Thing To Smoke
Ribs are perhaps the perfect thing to smoke, and I’ll tell you why. First off, ribs are meat candy to a man. Let’s just be clear about that. We lust for them. Next to bacon, I suppose, nothing gets our slobbers running more than the heady prospect of a good rack of ribs.Carnal, but true. We just had to clear the air on that matter.
It’s About Time
Secondly, ribs take just the right amount of time to cook. Look, if you at all enjoy the many facets of the Smokey Arts, and aspire yourself a patron of the pit, then you know in your soul, just as surely as you know anything, just how fun smoking meat is. Burgers and bratwurst are good and all, but the show is over too quick with those. Your coals still burn for something more. You crave a longer campaign pit-side. Something that takes you deep into the game. Pork butts and brisket are fantastic, we’re talking out-of-the-ball park home runs, but you seldom have the available clock for them. In point of fact, you might as well rip a whole day off the calendar for those big meats. That’s how long they tend to take. But ribs, ah ribs, well they saddle up just right. They are the perfect afternoon smoking project. You can fire up the pit at noon, and have your ribs done by supper. That’s just enough time to make you feel like you’ve done something proper-like in the Smokey Arts. Just enough time to rejoice in the ways of the pit master, such as napping pit-side, or watching a ball game with your shoes off. Just enough time to flex your patience a little, and log some quality pit time under blue-bird skies.
In a world ripe with haste, ribs take precisely the right amount of time.
Another reason why ribs are the perfect thing to smoke, is that success is not always a given. There does seem to me anyways, a certain smokey-scented, serendipity, to cooking ribs in charcoal fueled pit. I know this because I always marvel when they turn out good. Now if I knew it was in the bank all along, then why would I marvel? I don’t know. But know this, ribs are satisfying to get right. Not just to your belly, but to your personal growth as an accomplished meat maestro. All your research and experimentation into technique and method, culminating in a few short hours under, long, smokey columns of goodness. In many ways, ribs are a sort of litmus test of your pit skills. You can divine a great deal about a pit keeper’s craft from his ribs.Ribs keep us learning.
Picasso in Pork
Next, ribs are the perfect blank pork canvas in which to paint your BBQ Picasso. You can season them up so many ways, from just salt and pepper to intricately conceived rubs snatched from only your brain pan alone. To sauce or not to sauce, well, leave it to your pit master instincts. Smoke woods, oh where to start! Every rack is a different journey into the smokey realm. Every rack its own entity. It’s own dance with fire and smoke. Ribs are your personal expression in meat art. Your Picasso in Pork. So wield your brush, people, with all due enthusiam.
A Ticket to Relax
And at last, and subtly under-toned along the way, every rack is your ticket to an afternoon off, to loiter pit-side, with a manly beverage in hand, and declare to yourself and those who come upon you, that you are in no hurry today. That you have, by choice, raised your foot clear of the accelerator pedal of life, and for a few short smokey hours, and maybe even longer than that, all your world is right. You’re not grilling hot dogs today. Nay, you’re smoking ribs. And that my friends, is a very a good day indeed. Amen.
Five hours, low and slow, people. Pecan/Apple Amoked BBQ ribs. Son! And my ducks were Okay with this.
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.
If ever the sun dallied just right in a blue sky, this was it. By golly, this was it. I suppose it could be that my appreciation for a warm sun beam has been acutely honed through the sheer absence of such things, courtesy of a long, winter’s campaign; but I tell you this, never has a single golden ray of it kissed my grizzled face so fine as it did this quiet, unassuming day at the pit. It has been a long winter in Minnesota, and I guess I was just ready for the sun again. Biologically primed, if you will, to lavish in it’s life-giving rays, and to dawdle the day away if need be, for to soak up every last photon of it, delivered on easy slants of golden light. And I did. Pulling it in like a poker victor rakes in his chips. When a day this nice comes along, a man does what he has to, you see. He does what he must. He digs in.
Digging in. It means to plant roots. To anchor thyself in a chosen locale, usually of a lovely persuasion. To take up roost there, and nary be thwarted by anything else. That is the way of us pit jockeys, you see. When we get a nice ambiance going, or a beautiful day such as this, with wood smoke gently in curl, sunbeams dappling through the lofty tree tops, tweety birds in full serenade, well, it is ingrained in our pit master instincts to exploit it for all its worth. A task not too difficult, nor far fetched, when you are as advanced as yours truly, in the fine art of being lazy. You do know, don’t you, how we like to loiter around here? It’s rather our specialty. Still, and even so, one ought to have a goal of some sort, and I certainly did. Namely supper. In particular, beef stew patron to the pit. Are you ready for this?
Of the first order, that is after drawing a manly beverage from the refrigerator, I stood abreast the little pit, and plopped a commendable load of stew meat onto the hot cast iron grates. They sizzled in eager anticipation there, whilst I manipulated them with aluminum tongs in hand. Then, for the heck of it, because I’ve long heard that smoked cabbage is good, I tossed on a 1/4 head of cabbage, and chucked a small tatter of mesquite wood into the coals for a little smokey goodness. Put the lid on and let the pit do it’s magic thing whilst I diced up the vegetables under the eternal blue skies above.
It’s your beef stew, you put what ever you please in it. I like potatoes and carrots. Corn and green beans too. And like I mentioned, a little bit of cabbage. And some unsalted beef broth too, for it all to swim in. And the latter I would have, had I not mistakenly believed the beef broth had been tampered with. Turns out those cartons of broth are self-puncturing when you open it up. I didn’t know that, and thus, my alder bush out pond-side got a nice drink of beef broth, on the house. Live and learn, I guess.
So we nestled the dutch oven into the hot bosom of the old kettle grill, with a few coals below it, and the rest tucked around the perimeter. A little smoke wood was still smoldering, and the day was still glorious to behold. And I knew just what to do next. I put on the kettle lid, grabbed my beverage, and made camp!
Here to Stay!
Like I said, I aimed to stay here a while. To dig in! I’ve waited far too long for weather of this kind. More over, I wanted to test out my new backpacking tent, of which I launched this day, it’s maiden erection right here on the lawn, right beside the smoking kettle grill. I sensed a formidable tandem of sheer joy here. And it wasn’t long before I was belly-up in that thing, song birds blasting away, and for a moment, I was as giddy as a school boy, content with all the world, and then a few moments after that, I was dozing in the quietude, like an old man swaddled in blessings.
And the cloud shadows silently paraded across the grass, whilst the wood smoke gently tapered into that blue sky.
An unknown amount of time passed, like it always does when your dug in somewhere. I stirred quietly in my tent; scratching my hair, and then my belly, whilst listening to the day declare around me. The tweety birds still rejoiced, and the sun, I noted, had ebbed a little further south and west, on it’s fiery arc through the sky. And hark, the aromas of mesquite and beef stew wafted as if on angelic wings through the cool air, mingling with the scent of emerging spring chlorophyll in my little nylon hut. Glory! I must say, because it’s true, I’ve never had a Weber kettle grill in a campsite before, but now, after some consideration of the matter, not to mention first hand experience, I think it could be an agreeable venture after all.
I eventually emerged from my tent like a flannel-clad, ground hog, arose to a stately posture, and promptly itched my butt, then waddled over to the pit to check in on supper. Yes, I guess it is well to cook alone sometimes. Anyways, I gave it a good stir, mixing in some more of that smokey goodness. The carrots were soft. So were the spuds. I added some freshly cracked black pepper and some salt to taste. Man! I didn’t want this cook to end. This day to end. But eventually my coals did peter out. And my glorious sun swept with out care over the roof top, leaving a cold shadow over the patio from whence it shone.
That was enough, I thought. No sense in being greedier yet. It had been a good day at the pit, after all. A very good day indeed. A day in which I did precisely that which was well with my soul. A body needs such respites from time to time. And to do so where the wood smoke also rises. Amen. And time to eat.
Savory, Wholesome, Mesquite Smoked Beef Stew, Fresh out of the Dutch Oven and patron to the pit. Yum!!
A silvery moon hung over the spruce tops as I bandied a batch of coals to the edge of the old kettle grill, banking them up there in a fiery pile. Tho the air temperature dipped below zero, with a sky as clear as a glass of gin, the warmth from the fire kept things sporting out on the patio tonight. Stars twinkling above like diamonds dashed over a blackened canvas, the ice moaning on the pond yonder, and the collar turned up on my old, woolen smoking jacket, whilst hands warmed over a bed of orange-glowing coals. What a beautiful time to make time, to tarry by pit-side on a frigid winter’s eve. This is the perfect marriage of fire and ice. Just cold enough to let you know you’re still alive, but with a fire just delightful enough that you can’t help but to sidle up a little closer to it, thankful as all can be, for to fancy yourself there, a Comrade of the Coals.
People think there is hardship in winter grilling. And I presume they speak of the cold. What they often forget it seems, is that you have at your disposal, via the inherent laws of grilling, a quaint little fire of which you must foster and tend. Fire is hot. And I find this a delightful contrast to the cold. For think back to those sultry days of summer, where the sweat beads down your spine, and it is one hundred and eleven degrees in your back yard, and you smell about as rank as the neighbor’s dog, and for some reason we think it’s prudent then to light a fire and make some hot dogs. A hot fire on a hot day is nice and all, but I’m sorry, there is no comparing the pleasures to the same fire on a cold day. It’s all about contrast.
I reckon that’s why we grill in winter, or at least part of it anyways. Everything is just keener in the cold. Good things become great. It’s like grilling in HD. Your senses seem to absorb the smokey moments as if conveyed over a high speed connection. It’s hard to articulate these matters, but easy to appreciate. Anyways, we pattied up four quarter-pound burgers, seasoned lightly with Lipton Onion Soup mix, and placed them indirect of our beautiful bed of coals. It’s burgers tonight. Nothing fancy. You will find in winter grilling that you don’t often need to be fancy to be satisfied. Just putting meat to flame is sufficient enough to get your fix! And thus we did, indirect tonight, the entire way, with a little hickory wood tossed on the coals for added flavor.
Now you all know how to grill a hamburger. If you can’t you probably ought to reconsider this BBQ past time of yours. Nay, this isn’t about hamburgers, but rather the joy of winter grilling. Yes, there is joy to be had there. There is. And as you southern folk slather on your sun tan lotion, I’ll tell you more. Properly dressed, you see, and with a reasonable attitude, and a good fire stoked in the steely bosom of your pit, you can prosper here. The mechanics are the same. Put meat to flame. Cook meat. Eat meat. Burp. Any dummy can do it.
Whilst you tend your proteins over the flame, take a moment and look around. Note how clear the night sky is, free of thermal activity. The clarity meshes seamlessly into the stars, which twinkle and dance there like they were doing so just for you. And the moon, with it’s gentle light dropping through the pit-side spruce trees, their shadows dappling over crusted snow, awash in a subtle blue hue. And lo, behold the hush of a winter night, how all the snow seems to suck up decibels with aplomb, especially freshly fallen, and deep unto thy knees. The fire crackles, and the burgers sizzle, and you are cozy by and far, and highly content, patron to this good fire at your hip. Amen.
Hickory tinted cheddar cheese burgers on a toasted pretzel bun. Yum! Hey, you gotta eat in winter too, so might as well eat good.
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.