Pecan smoke spiraled from the old pit damper whilst the lone drake floated serenely on the pond. The cool spring breeze caressed the cottonwood buds, and the sun, man, how divine it felt to sprawl at the terminus of one of it’s golden shafts. In a word, decadent! I was what you might say, “settled in” and pit-side, with a lovely beverage in hand and the game playing softly through the little speaker of the pit radio. The day was point blank glorious. Another vintage spring day in Minnesota. One to savor fondly from the vantage of a pit keeper.
I love to cook out-of-doors. It’s largely what I do. There are times when I actually wonder if my stove in the kitchen even works, for I use it so seldom. At certain times of the year, not unlike most grill jockeys hard into their game, a passerby of my open garage door may spy a pallet’s worth of charcoal stacked in there. Hundred of pounds of beautiful black briquettes awaiting my call. My bidding for the smoke. A pit keeper must be prepared don’t you know. Same unto the freezer adequately stocked with all matter of bits and bobs, from turf to surf. It’s all because I love to cook outside, and I for one do not wish to miss the opportunity should the impulse arise. Or, if by chance, guests come over keen with hunger pangs.
They did the other day, and I was ready. They all had cheeseburger shaped hollows in their stomachs, and the Pond Side Pit was the remedy! So I preheated the old Craycort cast iron grate, and freshly oiled it. ( See our review of this modular grate system here) I also deployed the cast iron griddle insert for this cook to assist in frying up a little bacon there. This was going to be fun!
Slow it Down Partner!
I stayed calm however. This is the hallmark of good pit keepers. The ability to exercise patience in the face of slobber-slopping expectation. You want with all your might to dive in and get after it, but then you know if you do, the fun will be only shortly lived at best. The trick then is to stretch it out. To make the moment linger if but only for the moment’s sake. It’s a game we pit jockeys play with ourselves. And those who do not love to cook outside just won’t get it. And that’s OK.
So I paused momentarily, like deep thinkers do, relieved myself of a certain pending gas, and I lit another fire in the chiminea. A blaze just for show, really, and patron I believe to higher levels of pit ambiance. Nothing is quite so fine as dual fires in a spring time cook out. The aromas surround. The crackle and pop do too, port and starboard. It works. It also slowed me down to better savor the day, which was the whole point. Then, whence a heady blaze was kindled there, I finally put meat to flame and grunted semi-appropriately in that golden light.
You don’t need to be told how to grill a cheeseburger. We’ve discoursed on that art enough in a hundred other posts. I will say, however, and if possible, do your best to refrain from pressing the burger patty with your spatula or tong, like you see so many people do. The only thing this does is squirt flavor clear of your supper. I will also say, glory be to the pit jock who does up his bacon and onions also on the grill. These two ingredients truly made the feast. Bacon and onions done over the stove are good and all, but doing them over the grill, allowing the wood smoke to adhere to the greasy bacon and the fried onions, well, it’s enough to make a grown body weep. And top these comestibles on your pecan smoked cheddar cheese burger and toasted pretzel bun, and well, I don’t have to tell you that you have officially arrived. And all your supper guests will smile and burp aloud, with grease dripping off their chins, as they tarry there, plumply, from the vantage of a pit keeper. Amen.
The weatherman said it was a Top 10 weather day, and I believed him. I mean how could I not? Blue bird skies as far as you could see, song birds trilling at the top of their little lungs, and 70 blessed degrees of Fahrenheit seemingly around every bend. The humidity was non existent too. It was the kind of day you could wear your favorite flannel shirt or your new designer swim suit, even at the same time if so inclined, and be none the worse for it minus a few stray looks. The kind of day that begs a body to be outside. The sort that draw brethren of the brisket from their smokey lairs to ignite the political section in charcoal chimneys across the land. To send forth pillars of smoke and meaty aromas into the air for to cross the neighbor’s fence and illuminate the inhabitants there. Indeed, the kind of day we wait for all winter. The kind that compels even a person of moderate-to-sober intelligence to, and at once, roll in the grass like a puppy and say to heck with what they think across the fence. In short, it was the first truly lovely day of Spring, and every soul north of the 45th parallel rejoiced in it.
Prepping the onions at the Track-side Pit
So it was I found myself pit-side for supper in the driveway of my fellow patron and co-founder PotP. Always a pleasure when I ended up over there for grilling fare. We were bachelors this evening, you see, and might I add that our spoils were simple. Basic but flavorful. Steak and onions. Lets talk about the onion pops first.
John skewered them like little lolly pops, and varnished them first in olive oil. This old trick would help his incredibly intricate seasonings properly adhere. A harmonious, time-test blend better known as salt and pepper. Freshly cracked of course. It may not sound like much, and in truth it may not be, but the end result will make a pit jockey question why he or she doesn’t do this kind of thing more often. Man they were good!
They crisp up after a fashion, and almost be come candy like. In another way, they reminded me of onion rings. It was all we could do to refrain from sucking these things down before the main event. My but they had a spell on us. The onion rich aromas likewise merged with the cool spring air like an olfactory-based Beethoven movement. And that’s where I’ll leave that analogy I do believe. Besides we got us some steaks to grill.
On the way over to the Track-side Pit, I swung by a local Ma and Pa meat market and found a rib-eye proper that called my name. Of all the cuts of steak out there, I think the venerable rib eye is still my favorite. Nothing beats it for the money. A nicely marbled rib eye is where it’s at people. Maybe it’s just me, but I also thought it looked rather becoming resting there on the manly bumper of the pit keeper’s FJ Cruiser. That’s better looking to us grill jockeys than a bikini clad super model draped over a sports car. Or something like that. Indeed, if only half the road kill out there could end like this, we’d have a Merry Christmas.
Bring on the meat!
We seasoned our steaks with liberal dosage of Montreal Steak Seasoning. A great blend for beef, and we both love it’s coarse texture and peppery appeal. Who doesn’t already have this stuff on their spice rack. A time-tested seasoning favored by the multitudes for it’s spicy crunch. We use it on brisket too, as it’s quite favorable amid a robust bark. Good stuff, people. And if you get if off the Amazon link just below, we’re supposed to get a small kickback. So it’s good for your steak, and for us! Thank you kindly and in advance for that!
Anyways, you all know how to grill a steak. We brought ours to a medium and called it good. Long as it ain’t still wiggling, we’ll eat it no how. Whilst tempering a deluge of drool, we proceeded to plate up this beefy utopia dressed in crisp onions, and admire it in the soft evening slants of golden light. What a lovely sight. A supper that which required no pampering of appetite. A perfect day is sometimes like that. And for dessert we’ll just go roll in the grass. Amen.
Grilled rib eye and bacon wrapped sirloin sided with crisp grilled onions. Simple and to the point. And our bellies did smile, patron to the pit.
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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.
We were out in the woods this weekend last, playing hobo and such, and just enjoying the pleasures of a lovely spring day afield. The sun was warm, but the lakes and ponds still frozen, and patches of snow tarried in the shadows. We hiked along the wooded trails, kicking up leaves from last autumn, and smelling the earth unwrap itself after a long winter’s hiatus. A vintage spring day in Minnesota. The kind we wait for, and pine for. The sort we hold out hope for, that once winter has had its way with us, that it might bequeath us such climatic spoils. And it did. And what better thing to do in all the world on such a day, than to make a camp in the woods, and cook some good food there.
Enter the InstaGrill
Now I’m a tinkerer. My father is a tinkerer. My brothers are tinkerers. Tinkering, you might say, is in my blood. And so when I get to test out another man’s brain thrust, I feel honored. I can appreciate the engineering, the thought, and the time that went in to it. Such was the case this last trip afield, as we tested out the InstaGrill. A cool, little, highly portable BBQ grill sent to us by a fellow tinkerer, named Jonathan, down in Texas.
InstaGrill. That’s what he’s calling it as of now. It’s an idea he had for easy, spontaneous, low-key grilling. He sent us a prototype so we could get a better idea how it works, and maybe share it with you guys. Here is his website also, if you want more details. www.myinstagrill.com. It’s a pretty nifty little rig, and if you don’t mind, we’ll give you the nickel tour ourselves.
It’s pretty clever at first blush. As you can see, it’s a charcoal grill at its core. That’s what it runs on. You fill it half way up or so like you would a charcoal chimney, and light it from below with crumpled up newspaper or like we did in this case, with a fire starter cube. She lit right up in tremendous fashion, thanks to the built-in chimney effect. In all my years of using portable grills, I can honestly say, this is the best lighting grill we’ve ever used. No lighter fluid needed. It lights like a charcoal chimney, because, well, it is! This is probably our favorite feature of the grill. But anyways, onto the fun part!
When the coals reach maturity, or grayed over, (about 10 minutes) you simply unlatch the side and open it up. Sort of like them Murphy Beds that fold up into the wall, if you’re familiar with those. Yet another clever idea! Then you rake the coals about a bit to suit your fancy, and install the grate as seen in the photo.
As seen above, you can set the grate to three different levels. We liked that feature too!
We found the grill to be just big enough to meet the needs of about two people, least wise for breakfast out in the hinter regions. The grate size is roughly 10 inches by 10 inches. Large enough for four burgers or two steaks. The other dimensions of the grill are 5″D x 10″W x 12″ H. It weighs about 5 pounds. We found it very portable, and simple to set up and easy to use. No complaints!
Granted it was designed for more traditional grilling fare than corned beef hash and eggs over-easy, but alas when your bush, you work with what you’ve got. Regardless, it was a lot of fun cooking with it. The husky handle at the back made it effortless to transport or move it, even when it was lit, should you ever want to do such things. And to extinguish the coals, you simply close it back up and pour some water on the fire. Disperse in the trash at your nearest convenience.
Overall, it was really a joy to cook on. A well thought-out, and articulate little grilling rig. We liked it’s compactness, and portability, and absolutely loved how it started up a batch of charcoal. We can see it being useful for things like: camping, or tailgating, or even just out on your deck. It’s low key enough, it won’t draw much attention, and finally, you’ll get a proper meal cooked over a beautiful bed of coals. Such as grilling was always meant to be.
So here’s the other part of the story. If you want to buy one, you’re going to have to get in line and wait a while. This is a prototype, you see. The ultimate fit & finished product does not exist yet. That’s why the prototype was sent to us, to help Jonathan garner a little exposure. He has also set up a KICKSTARTER Campaign, here, and when and if it reaches it’s goal, he will then go into production with these grills. So if you think it’s a worthy endeavor, and want to help him get his business going, not to mention secure yourself one of his grills later on down the road, head over to his kickstarter page and help a tinkerer out!
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!!
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It was a morning of slow-curling pillars of pecan smoke which tapered and twirled in the golden shafts of a rising sun. The tweety birds also were in full symphony, flirting in the naked dogwoods at the pond’s edge. And the breeze which sifted through the patio furniture was cool, but soft to the touch, with a tint of mildness lingering in the eddies; a heady sensation not privy to these parts in many moons. And the winter’s snow bounties are receding now, like an old man’s hairline. And there is grass. It’s not the best grass, but alas it’s grass no how, and say what you will, but in February in Minnesota, that is no small thing. I delight also in the way the snow courts the spruce trees yonder. Filling in between the needles. The contrast of green with pockets of white. It’s just a lovely time of year. A first hint of longer days.
Pulled Pork in Less Time With More Bark
On the pit this morning, awash in the early morning light, we have what might appear to be two handsome pork butts. But in point of fact, they are only one. One petite butt, actually, sliced in half. And the reasoning for this is something we’ve been experimenting with here at PotP Headquarters for some time.
You see, I’ve had to eat a few sandwiches for you people to figure this out, but alas, it’s a price for knowledge that I am willing to pay. I’m good with it. But it turns out you do not need to smoke a pork butt for 12 hours to accomplish effective BBQ. That is, I suppose, if you don’t want to. Because there are plenty of days I would just as soon take the scenic route like that, if for no other reason than I rather fancy the journey. But there is a secret bypass on the road to succulence. A route in detour slightly swifter, but just as edible. One that flirtatiously courts the ever-ebbing passage of time with the affable affinity and gentle premise of the tooth fairy. Lets go there, shall we. Lets do this!
The Power of Halves
By slicing your pork butt in half, what you have done, we figure, is reduced the cooking time by maybe a third. My calculations are crude, I admit, but it’s something like that. Smaller butts cook faster than bigger ones. It just stands to reason. What you have also done is increase the surface area. This opens up more acreage for more spice rub and further, more smoke penetration. And what all that means is, you’ll get more bark.And every pit jockey fancies more bark. All of this just from slicing your butt in half. So we sliced it.
The night before, in a zippered plastic bag, we marinated the pork in Kits KC BBQ Rub, from our friends over at Miners Mix. Meat and spice. It’s like hooking two lovely souls up on a highly engineered blind date. It just can’t help but to go swimmingly. We just let the flavors mingle the night long, and let nature take its course. To “get happy“, as they say, in the romantic, yet estranged confines of the refrigerator. And by golly, they did!
Or if you want to whip something up yourself, here is a basic rub recipe pretty amazing on pork.
Basic Pork Rub
- 1/4 cup Paprika
- 1/8 cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
- 1 tablespoon or more Cayenne Pepper
- 1/4 cup Coarse Salt
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
In the morning the meat was ready, already smelling amazing, and was plopped accordingly on the old kettle grill. Now, I would usually use the Weber Smokey Mountain for pulled pork, but again, I was in the experimenting mood. There isn’t much, after all, you can’t accomplish with a good kettle grill. The smoker is designed to hold a lower temperature, but you can do it on the Weber too. The trick with the kettle grill, at least the 18.5 that I used, is to build a smaller fire than usual. We’re talking just ten to fifteen briquettes, if that. Maybe a few unlit briquettes to sport a little Minion Method if desired. All this to keep the temperatures low, say around 250 degrees.
We tossed on a couple chunks of pecan wood, mostly because it’s the only wood we have in stock right now. Just so happens tho, pecan wood seems to go well with any meat you might wish to smoke. A fine all-around smoke wood. Anyways, we plunked on the old enameled lid, and went about our business. Namely that of tucking a periodical under the arm and sauntering into the little pit boy’s room for a spell. You know how it goes.
On an aside, we often get asked about our cast iron grates. They are from a company called Craycort, and might very well be the nicest thing you ever do for your Weber. Check them out on our Amazon affiliate link below. It helps keep a good company in business, gives us a wee kickback, and pretty much pimps out your kettle grill to the highest order. Sincerely, they are great grates!
*Rotate the butts 180 degrees every now and then for even cooking.
After the coals had nearly gone out, we checked under the lid and I noted I had gotten the color I was after. And that’s good enough. You don’t even need to take it’s temperature. That’s how easy this pulled pork is. And that’s all the further time the butt needs to spend on the pit. The next step is to plate them up temporarily, and ferry them inside and put them into…I can’t believe I’m saying this…but yes, put them into a….crock pot.
Now I know what you’re thinking. What would a patron of the pit be doing with a crock pot! Well, to answer that, I know what else you’re thinking. You’re thinking crock pots are awesome! Brilliant pieces of culinary technology worthy of enshrinement in various halls of fame and grandmotherly kitchens. Why wouldn’t a patron use one! And I agree. But let’s digress, shall we, to the day you were born.
Babies and Pork Butts
You see, those first couple of hours on the pit are not unlike a baby’s first two hours out of the womb. It is the golden period of maternal bonding and modern meat smoking alike. Not only are the first two hours after birth where a mother bonds intensely with her spore, but likewise, it is also where a man imprints with his meat! Okay, I got carried away there. What I’m really try to say is, your meat gets all the smoke it needs after the first two hours. In point of fact, I’ve read from multiple sources that a smoke ring is done forming around 140 degrees internal temp. Or about two hours. It just works that way. Any smoke after that point, technically, is wasted in kind. You can read more about such things, here, if you’re interested.
So the pork has all the smoke it needs after two hours on the pit. That’s the thing to remember here. It’s not done cooking. It has just received the high blessings of the pit, is all. It has been anointed in smoke. We then transferred it to the crock pot, with a few squirts of BBQ sauce, where upon and with the aid of modern crock pot wizardry, you simply leave it to it’s own devices. Bequeath it to the BBQ fates to fall apart as it will. And it will indeed at around 195 – 200 internal. And you do not need to take its temperature here either. Pulled pork in a crock pot is easy like that. Just let the meat speak to you. Use your pit master instincts. It will tell you when its done by its tender flanks submitting to the masterful glide of your fork, as succulent pieces of butt topple over itself into whetted pools of its own glorious juices. The crock pot really does take the guess work out of it. The babysitting. And when its done, it will even keep itself warm until supper. Golly! What utter decadence! It is like a Boeing 747 landing its self on autopilot, and the pit jockey need not raise a finger. And in the end, after you pull it into savory shreds, and stuff it into a good roll, you’ll have yourself some authentic, smoke house quality, BBQ pulled pork, succulent enough for the kings, fit for the pit master, and the crown jewel of your crock potting career. And it was easy too. Real easy, patron to the pit. Amen.
Savory pecan smoked pulled pork, with plenty of delicious bark. Patron to the Pit. Courtesy of the Kettle Grill/Crock Pot Hybrid System. Works real good. But tastes even better.
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*Another experiment, resurrecting a post from the archives. One of our lesser read pieces, that explains in part, I think, why it is we do what we do. Enjoy.
Blessings – PotP
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the hea…
Source: Testament of a Grilling Geek
The temperature was a balmy 32 degrees. The aromas of pecan smoke were in curl. Long, tapering, plumes of it, wafting into a gorgeous February sky. The sounds of chicken flesh could be heard sizzling over a hot bed of coals, and for a while at least, you could almost, but not quite, feel the warm sun press gently against your face. Oh it was a nice afternoon at the pit, I don’t mind telling you. Very abiding. A real treat after several weeks of sub zero grilling. It’s odd, I know, that 32 degrees can feel balmy, but trust me when I say, a body adapts. A sort of biological antifreeze develops, and you just get used to the cold, I suppose. And when it gets up into the 30’s in February, well, it is with great restraint that you some how resist the nagging urge to slip into your designer swimming trunks, smear SPF 15 suntan lotion over your hairy belly, and sidle over the neighbor’s fence to inflate their pool noodle. And all the neighbors rejoice.
This is to say, in other words, it was nice out, and yours truly frolicked accordingly. And the Black Capped Chickadees where in abundance, too, all singing their praises for another day of cavorting amid the piney trees. Of all the tweety birds I observe in the backyard, and living on a pond there are aplenty, I think my favorite is still the humble chickadee. They are not large, showy birds, who demand to be seen, but rather tiny little things, and somehow still maintain the quality of being impressive. I think what impresses me is that they are just more gregarious than other birds. Friendly, you might say. Chickadees have been known to drop onto your outreached hands for some seeds. Up north, where Chickadees are truly themselves, they will even land on your hat while you walk in stride, iffin that is you put some bread crumbs up there. They’re just cool little birds. Chickadees are also of the proper stock that does not leave us for the southern states, when winter’s tangled tempest encroaches our shores. Nay, the Black Capped Chickadee stays the winter long, chin up, and somehow seems to thrive. Like I said, impressive little birds. And they are always my little fuzzy cohorts, and inspiration, for these winter grilling sessions. Speaking of, today on the pit we have some chicken wing appetizers. You know, the kind you get at sports bars and the like. Tho these are undoubtedly better what with being cooked in a nice haze of smoldering pecan wood. Yum!
I do rather fancy how the sunbeams rest on my meat at times. Indeed, just to lay there, feeling that glorious heat do its bidding, with no pretense nor shame. Reminds me of my brother in-law’s old bull dog. He used to favor a sunny patch of linoleum at the foot of the stairs, where the 4 O’clock sun beam would make it’s way through the window pane, casting a warm glow upon the shoes and stuff on the floor. And the bull dog would go lay down in that patch of sunlight, belly up and illuminated, and simply revel there, with the sun warm upon his meat. Yup, I know from what he aspires to there…What we we talking about again? It was chicken wings, I thought! Hmm. I don’t know anymore…
I suppose I should let you know that these wings were all done indirect, meaning opposite the hot bed of coals. I do 90% of all my grilling indirect like that. You run very little risk then of burning your plunder. Or drying it out. Indirect slows down the cook too, I believe, and gives a pit jockey more time for the important things in grilling, such as: watching cloud shadows, observing more chickadee flirtations, dashing inside for a manly beverage, investigate your trees, dashing back inside to the little pit boys room, grabbing more manly beverages, picking your nose, and general, tho not always practical, pit-side loitering. Yup, indirect, people. It’s the best way to go!
Our seasoning of choice today, like most days lately, was from the kindly folks at Miners Mix. They have a lovely gamut of flavors, for all your culinary needs, and today we needed something for chicken. So it was off to our Miners Mix private shelf for some Poultry Perfection. I’m not sure how they do it, but they are certifiable spice wizards those dudes. If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in there. That could be one clue to how they do it. They use real stuff! The don’t put a ton of salt in it either, which makes it not only healthier, but I think promotes more attention to the subtleties of flavor. All this is to say, they make some really good rubs. If you’d like to grab some for yourself, and see what we mean, this rub and many more are on amazon. Below is our affiliate link to get you there. It would help support companies like Miners Mix, and we would also get a wee kickback too, so that we could go buy more Miners Mix. Plus your food would taste better. It’s just a happy deal all-around!
So it was, under glorious blue skies that our appetizer wings came to a most edible and succulent maturity. Then with a “new” paint brush from the garage, we glazed the spoils with a modest sheen of Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. The flavors merged together under the dome into a yard bird tome, sure to put any meat maestro on the brink of tears. I cannot divine an accurate way of conveying just how savory they smelled, tinted in pecan smoke and spice. Nor how flavor-packed and juicy they tasted. So I won’t. You’ll just have to make some yourself, and let the meat speak for itself. And if you’re a lucky bloke, you may even feel the sun smile on your face. Amen.
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Well, it’s February. And it’s still winter in Minnesota. Tho the sun may tarry in the sky now a few minutes longer than it once did, signifying, perhaps, that the summer processes have begun, I’m here to say, you can’t really tell. It’s just plain cold out. Snow still courts our yard, it’s still dark when I come home from work, and there is a patch of ice on the driveway that I think has been there since Thanksgiving. But that’s Minnesota. And after a while you simply come to accept your deep freeze situation in life, and just make the best of it. Indeed, there comes a point in every Minnesotan’s winter campaign where they acknowledge to themselves and the rest of the free world, that it’s not going to get any warmer for a while, and that they for one are done complaining about it. Mostly.
A good example of what I mean was found on my routine food sortie to the local Cub grocery store. There outside the motion activated sliding doors perched this lovely ice sculpture. I guess I can’t tell you what it is tho. Looks something like a duck and a man merged together, and carrying a purse. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. What matters, like all good gifts, is the thought behind it. The poetic triumph of it all. For here stands a sculpture really of what it means to be Minnesotan. To be stuck in the cold for half the year. Nay, half of your life, when you think about it. It is at once an icy monolith to the power of positive thinking! It says that life in the ice box has not gotten this soul down. That they will make the best of it, regardless. Lemonade, if you will, wrought from winter’s harshest fruit. Yup, that ice sculpture was much more than the tangible work of a talented person. It is a symbol of sanity when everyone around you is losing theirs. Odd that you can gleam so much just going to the store for some chicken wings, but it is so.
Later that evening, speaking of chicken wings, I fired up the old Weber kettle grill for supper. One of the things I like to do, when the charcoal chimney is under fire, is give it a little whack on it’s side with the tongs, and watch how the sparks scatter into the night. Sometimes it makes for interesting photos. Sometimes not. But even so, I enjoy the artistic spray of sparks flashing against a dark, wintry sky. It soothes me.
There is also a certain comradeship amid the coals. They give off two things a winter bound pit keeper craves: light and heat. And oh what a joy it is on these frosty winter evenings to bandy close to a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. To feel the heat rolling out of the pit. It takes the sting out of the cold night, and loosens a stiffened soul. And for a while at least, you are content in your dark little corner of the globe, managing your meat over this beautiful bed of briquettes. Even in the middle of a Minnesota winter, out on the patio in the cold, there is joy to be found, patron to the pit. Like so many hardy folk around here, you just have to make the best of it.
These wings were seasoned first in one of our favorite blends, Poultry Perfection, from the great folks at Miners Mix. They’ve been awful good to us, and it’s our privilege to thank them yet again for sharing their wares with us. True spice wizards if ever we’ve seen any. Anyways, at the end of the cook, we glazed over the wings with some Sweet Baby Rays as per custom in BBQ fare, whilst back inside, some banter of the bodacious sort was at hand.
My bride whipped up a hearty batch of Miners Mix Bodacious Bean Dip. Mercy, it’s good stuff, people, very tasty, and one box seems more than plentiful, I might add. A plentiful bean dipping Nirvana. Plentiful also in the after effects come bed time, for thy cotton sheets may billow as if hit by a soft summer breeze. I almost slept on the couch that night if not for the mercy of my lovely wife. But like most good Minnesotans, she too made the best of it. We all did. Mostly. And Amen.
The Modified Look
Well, it was one of those evenings where you waddle in through the front door tired and foot sore. It had been a long day afield, and all you want to do is procure a manly beverage and plant your prostate on your favorite man chair and watch some Clint Eastwood. But you can’t. Turns out your wife has had plans for you all day to grill her up some big, juicy cheeseburgers, patron to the pit.
“But darling”, you croak, “I haven’t but one ounce of energy, just let me tarry here in my chair a few hours more!”
Then she gives you a modified version of “the look”. Every man knows the look, but this one is slightly different. It’s the usual, you-better-obey kind of look, but then it’s modified somehow with a droopy, puppy dog face sort of thing going on, and it is all but impenetrable. And so you shrug your shoulders, pull your boots back on, and set off to work again. This, after all, is the life we pit masters have signed up for. And you got to take it in stride.
“Oh, can you make some ice cream too?” my wife said, batting her eyelashes.
Turns out her supper plans for me were borderline extravagant for a run of the mill weekday night. And before I knew it I had the ice cream maker sitting out at the pit with me, churning away in the dark. That accompanied by the soft, wispy plumes of smoke coming off the charcoal chimney, well, I started to get into my little ambiance there, dug out in the snow. I don’t think I have ever made homemade ice cream on a January evening in Minnesota before, but when your wife says she wants a chocolate shake with her cheeseburger, well a fellow ought to oblige if he can, right? And I could. So I did.
On the note of ice cream, and just to share with you guys, here is our secret ice cream recipe honed through the ages.
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
1/2 gallon whole milk
2 cups sugar
1 carton of egg beaters
splash of vanilla extract
Yeah, it’s complicated stuff! Not really, but it surely is delicious, and would make a fine compliment to our cheeseburgers tonight. A brilliant stroke, really. But it gets even better. Two words…French Fries!
My bride had recently acquired one of these doodleboppers. A little french fry making technology sure to up our game, giving your normal, boring french fry, the crinkled edge often coveted by french fry connoisseurs, such as yours truly. Never used one of these before, but it seemed to do the trick. These spuds were then lowered into a bubbling vat of peanut oil, and deep fried there until golden brown. If you haven’t made your own homemade french fries before, you’re missing out people. And they are not that hard to do either. Anyways, back out to the pit.
The burgers sizzled away like burgers do. And I loitered out there some, I must admit. The night wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, and the companionship of the coals seemed particularly abiding this eve. Their orange glow, set in a field of frozen white seemed “just right”. And for while at least, I was glad I got up off the couch and made supper like I was told. This was nice. Good to be manning the faithful kettle grill again. Feels like it’s been a while. Near the end of the cook, I flipped the burgers over direct heat for a bit to form a modicum of crust, purely for textural appeal. I knew the fries were nearing their end game too, and the ice cream was ready. The culmination of an wintry evening’s efforts were soon at hand. It was just about time to head inside to our home diner.
The Home Diner Experience
My bride and I are creatures of nostalgia, in particular the 1950’s. Which is odd, because neither one of us even existed in the 50’s. Or the 60’s. Even so, we are smitten for the past. So much so, in point of fact, that we re-created this little 50’s style diner nook just inside the patio door. Purely for fun of it, of course. As much as I like to eat in my man chair by the TV, I knew it would be nostalgic blasphemy not to ingest this meal, “proper like” in the diner. And thus to this end, we did.
Toasted kaiser rolls, fresh tomato slices, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, hark, the works people! Sided with a lovely bouquet of homemade crinkle cut french fries, and a tall, homemade chocolate shake. Glory be! If eating a burger at home gets any better than this, I haven’t heard of it! A top notch culinary experience. And to think, I just wanted to sit on the couch and watch Clint Eastwood. Mercifully, my wife saw the better in me, and she was pleased. Come to think of it, so was I. Amen.