Once upon a time, way up North in the hither regions of the Canadian shield, I found myself encamped upon the tranquil shores of a wilderness lake. It was night, and all the stars were scattered like diamonds across the blackened canvas above. A chorus of frog song belched from the ether as I wafted off to sleep in my tent, ensconced in nylon and downy feathers. Intermediate loons gently wailed. Let it be said, that nothing is quite so fine as a good night’s slumber in the wilder places, lulled to rest amid the gentle sounds of the forest veld. Truly pleasant. And this would have been the case too, iffin it weren’t for them darn cantaloupes.
I didn’t know cantaloupe trees grew in Canada. And I never saw any there, but that night I swear they were ripening off the branches and plunking into the lake just outside my tent door. “Kerploosh!!” One would go, followed closely by a span of quietude and then another well-meaning, and well-placed “Kerploosh!” I poked my head out the tent flap, moonbeams sparkling off the surface of the lake. And there he was, a lone, but handsome beaver, trolling stoically through his environs.
“Could you keep it down“, I croaked, “A feller needs his winks!”
The beaver responded rather rudely, and dove under, with a final last gesture of slapping his tail on the water. And go figure, it sounded just like a cantaloupe landing in the lake. The beaver equivalent, I thus deduced, of flipping me the finger.
“Well I never…” I muttered, as I curled back up in the tent, where eventually I dawdled off to sleep. A sleep in vain tho, ravaged by dreams. I drempt of a 500 pound, monster beaver, waddling up out of the lake, and in turn laying waste to my humble encampment. It’s saber like teeth slashing my tent apart, and felling young trees with aplomb. With frying pan in hand, we dueled like man and beast would, grunting and groaning, with occasional wind sprints for higher ground. It was a stalemate. A backwoods stand-off. And mercifully I awoke at dawn. Relieved. Sunlight filled the tent. Tweety birds sang from the tree tops, and the lake sweetly lapped upon the rocky shore, whilst the summer breeze whispered through the pine. I stretched there like a spoiled house cat, scratching my belly, content again, and just glad to be alive. My relationship with the almighty beaver was forged. Not to mention a Pavlovian thing with cantaloupes.
Fast forward a great many years later, to just last week in point of fact. I, through good fortune acquired myself the hind quarters of a beaver. Don’t ask me how. When you’re known in your community as a grill junkie, strange meats have a way of finding you. And thus I found myself, perusing the vast cyber sphere for beaver recipes. I’m not going to lie to you, I hadn’t the first clue how to BBQ a beaver. Turns out the inter-web was of little value too. Only like four people eat beavers out there. Least wise those who wanted to write about it. Well, make that five now, and here is how it went, and came to be.
I decided to treat the meat like any other I would prepare for the pit. Firstly marinating the beaver legs for a couple of hours in a mixture of olive oil, soy sauce and garlic. Then, dusting them over with a suitable rub. We used Sweet & Smoky Rub, by the good folks at McCormick. That seemed to appeal correctly to my pit jockey instincts. Then for good measure, I hit them over with a Cajun Blast, for to add some heat to the mix. I shrugged my shoulders, and took the plunder out to the pit.
I’m sure the keen-eyed readership will note a rack of ribs in the back, and I can explain that. Think of it rather as an insurance policy! You know, a little something to fall back on should this foray into beaver go asunder. Like Clint Eastwood used to bellow, a man has got to know his limitations. And I wasn’t sure yet if I was limited in beaver craft. (The scraps of meat up front, are back straps from the beaver). Anyways, two hours we let it go on the pit, running roughly at 275 degrees. Bathed in glorious hickory and cherry wood smoke. And it smelled point-blank amazing. At the genesis of the third hour, we foiled the beaver.
Foiled the beaver legs with a long squirt or two of Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce, and a good tendril of honey. Foiling the meat like this, is a good old trick known in BBQ circles as the Texas Crutch. Many a pitmaster proper does it with ribs or brisket, for to sort of steam the meat for a spell, loosen it up, and make it tender. I figured a beaver might like a trip to the spa as well, so I foiled him, almost out of habit. Returned him to the pit, and went way of most men who BBQ for long hours – to the man chair, belly up with a lovely beverage in hand.
From my chair, let’s just say all the world was right. I could see out the patio door to the pit, first off, to admire it puffing contentedly away there. There is just something about wood smoke rising on a cold day that which sings straight to my soul. It soothes thee. Likewise, just past my toes, and over a field of soft carpeting, the NFL playoffs adorn the big screen TV, and the fireplace crackles off to the side. What more could a man want! I sigh as I pull an old grandma blanket up over me, and sink further into the recliner. A slight droopiness washes over me. This is the high rigors of competent BBQ, people! You gotta know how to deal with the pace!
I dosed off amid the banter on the TV, and once again, a beaver had made it full circle into my dreams. This time however, I was the victor, and convincingly so, whilst its unruly meat came to succulence swaddled in tin foil. I awoke hungry, and sidled out to the pit. Here is what I found…
Around three hours, maybe a little more, it was falling off the bone. Good enough for my likes. Pulling it, I had to admire its smoke ring, and bark. The texture and appearance of beef. It’s savory succulence! It was thus piled high onto a toasted hoagie roll and consumed. Scarfed like it’s namesake to a Poplar tree! Tasted akin to beef, but with a faint tang of wild game. Very good. And once again, patron to the pit!
Cherry Smoked BBQ Pulled Beaver on a toasted Hoagie Roll. For an aquatic rodent, it weren’t half bad. In fact it was good!
Whilst the thin tendrils of hickory smoke gently ascend into a darkened sky, I tug up the zipper of my old smoking jacket, and cast a glance out over the frozen pond. The world is so still now, as if time itself had fallen from the star-scattered sky; with not a whisper of wind – and the earth pauses in orbit, holding its collective breath. It is cold tonight, but not desperately cold I guess, least wise not by Minnesota standards. It’s just cold. Single digits I would say, but maybe more than that. Regardless, it is easily enough, it appears, to drive the hearty grilling populace that once was back into their thermostatically controlled environs for to while away the winter months there. They will moan the weather man’s name in vain, and abhor the ice that dare forms upon their tightly manicured driveways. They will crank up the furnace and prance about the house in their finest tropical beach wear, little umbrella drinks in hand, whilst listening to Jamaica Farewell on the steel drums for to sooth the chronic frost that which builds on the seedy fabric of their soul.
There are a few of us, however, who haven’t cracked yet. Who haven’t conceded to winter’s impersonal knack of leverage. Hockey players for instance. Down hill skiers I suppose. Snow plow drivers, mail carriers, and of course, Patrons of the Pit. For the latter I speak now, and in good behalf I believe. We are but a hearty bunch indeed, who refuse to hang up our tongs when ice so rudely compiles upon them. Nay, we raise the goblet of BBQ instead, and bandy only tighter to our craft. Thus here we are tonight, pit-side, wood smoke curling, with the subtle blue hue of moonbeams peaking over the spruce tops. What a privilege to not have disregarded this most rewarding of seasons. The sky is so cold and so clear, with nary a ripple of heat, my but how it reaches for the heavens, tapering into the stars. I love it. Yes, it’s cold, and you will have moments of life considerations, but in truth, the hardships of grilling in the cold is nothing a good smoking jacket and a hot bed of coals can’t get you through. Besides, you need to eat.
On the pit tonight, a little honey garlic pork shoulder steak with a hickory tint. It’s real easy to do too. Let’s dash inside, shall we, and I’ll show you the marinade.
Honey Garlic Marinade
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked pepper
Mix up a batch of this goodness and marinate your meat as long as you see fit. And the longer the better. Works great with any pork dish.
When marinated to your satisfaction, go ahead and plop thy spoils over indirect heat, toss a small piece of hickory wood into the coals, and plunk on the lid. The draft should engage, and you ought to see plumes of hickory smoke soon in curl. Remember the old BBQ adage here, smoke is not an ingredient, it is a seasoning. We’re looking just to tint the meat here, with the woodsy, slightly nutty aroma of hickory. Hickory has a fairly strong flavor, so don’t over do it here. If you want to learn more about smoke woods, a while back we assembled a list of the better woods to use, which you can find at the very top of the page, entitled, go figure, Smoke Woods. Or just click on the photo! We want you to take it easy around here.
Flip the pork at the prompting of your pit master instincts. The USDA recommended minimum for pork is 145 degrees internal. Bring it there at your leisure, whether it’s 9 degrees outside or 90 degrees, it is your privilege to tarry in the good ambiance of wood and coal and sizzling meat. What joy it is to chum up next to a radiant kettle grill on a cold winter’s eve, and relish the BTU’s bellowing forth from it’s steely bosom. To smell the succulence of roasting pork, and wafting wood smoke. To feel the heat against your face, whilst moonbeams swing on ethereal tethers over spruce trees, and puffing chimney stacks. To hear wood fires snap, whilst starlight sprinkles over fields of white. Glory! Our privilege indeed, and the magic of the winter time pit. Amen.
A tip of the tongs to our cold weather pit keepers out there. You are the faithful covenant, you know, and the Brethren of BBQ most hearty. Grill on!
Garlic & Honey, Hickory-Tinted Pork Shoulder Steaks hot off the pit. Sided with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed green beans.
I held aloft your mahogany-tinted rack for all the world to see. For you are mine, and I have fairly loved you so. I slaved over you, from membrane to rub, and from foil to dinner plate. You were no small task, let me say. And aside this quaint fire, with embers glowing, and a lovely beverage at hand, I am moved to reminisce but for the heady days of yore. To hearken back to our time together, which goes way back today indeed, about five hours I should say. Nay, maybe six. Oh who am I kidding, I loved you at first sight, you know. When it was I saw you laying there, with all the other pork racks just like you, sprawled in one accord, in the cold, artificially lit compartments of the grocery aisle. Your fat cap was pronounced, and unashamed, illuminated in the soft fluorescent light, and your meatiness struck me just right. And you won me over there, like good ribs do, wrought from the hands of a balding butcher named Sam.
So with a courtship anew,I brought you home, and henceforth, like any pit crooner would, I made you my own. It didn’t go well at first. Nay, you were reluctant if you recall. Stripping thee of your gnarly membrane, which peeled in a fashion like that of industrial adhesive off an old tennis shoe. But we muddled through it alright. We made it there together. And then I trimmed you of your ill-flattering flaps, and squared you up a bit, a la the immortal St Louis cut, fashioning you at once presentable to thee. You looked svelte in the morning light, and eager with purpose. Indeed, you were destined for the smokey fires yet to come.
Now whilst the smoker came up to speed, I bathed thee. Flushing your bone fragments clear under the cool streams of the kitchen sink. I think you kind of liked that, tho I’m not sure. Next I slathered you with a cheap, embarrassing mustard. It was cold, but you didn’t complain. Nary said a word, humbled in that yellow smear. For you and I both knew of the adhesive properties of a mustard base, and we were OK with it, by and far. And then, with delicate hands, I pampered your flanks with a litany of spice and rub, conceived the night prior, just for you. Patting you down, and around, and everywhere else, for to fortify the flavors most becoming of your shapely rack. It was good times, and the outlook was high. Stomachs rumbled on cue.
Ushering you to the smoker, it was my privilege to place you gently upon the oiled grate, bone-side down of course. There but to bathe you now, for three hours in the heady plumes of aromatic hickory and apple wood smoke. Ever stalwart, ever by your side, I tarried long in my reclining man chair, chin upon my chest. You were never far from my sight, beloved. Well sort of. That is until I fell asleep, I suppose, lulled to nap amid the succulent images of your forthcoming, which flirted asunder about the flickering emulsion of my mind. I awoke as if by instinct, eyes snapping open, prompted from above. I scampered pit side, your bones were showing now, and your meat had pulled back just right. And hence I swaddled you tenderly in aluminum foil, in the mild acquaintance of apple juice and a wee shot of honey, for to while away the next hour and a half, at 250 degrees. A sweet steam bath for the unruly likes concerning you. And never since had a set of ribs been so pampered. The swine who grew you would even nod in approval.
Lastly, with foil removed, I saw you there, tender, and falling apart. You wouldn’t win any awards, but for the one which took my stomach straight to church. For a good rack of ribs is much more than just supper in the belly. It is a relationship, you see. A journey. And every rack is a little different trip. Every trip takes time. And oh but to taste that first glorious bite, the venerable pit master privilege. Succulent and savory – the edible opus of spice and smoke and sweet time. And there in the slanting rays of the evening sun, you were declared worthy, and for a moment at least, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. So I held aloft your mahogany-tinted rack for all the world to see. For you are mine, and I have fairly loved you so…
And then of course I ate you. Amen.
One Patron’s Foray Into The Fine Art of Hardware Store Dining
It was the last of autumn, and the days they were falling short. All the leaves had fallen, sunbeams in scant supply, and the tweety birds and retired folk had gone south now, to tarry under balmy skies, and big umbrellas. The hardy residents that which remained, however, here in Minnesota, could be found battening down their homes; cleaning gutters, mulching leaves and stacking firewood. Prepping their nests for what wintry tempests may brew. This increased activity on the home front is surely sparked by the seasonal folds, and likewise may I say the same about my dinner tonight. A nice spot of hot, savory soup sounded good all day, chicken and wild rice to be exact, and when I got home, I aimed to do something about it.
Oddly enough, my sojourn into soup today started many hours previous, flannel clad, in a local big box store which rhymes roughly with “my nards“. Anyways, I was strolling through the manlier sections of the real estate there, fondling saber saws and cold chisels, you know how it goes, when I came upon a small grocery section, recessed deep in the bowels of the store. It was lovely to the eyes, I must admit, like a gastronomic island oasis in a sea of hardware. I paused as any man would, in the shadow of a veritable wall of beef jerky – meat spanning a fathom wide off both my anatomical port and starboard, and rising higher than I could reach. Glory be, but I had stumbled upon a worthy den! I moseyed thus over to a wall of assorted nuts, all neatly canned and priced to sell. Every nut you could think of. In every size and shape. And I might have lingered there too, had I not first been wooed by the soup.
The soup was in an semi-attractive yellow package I guess, but the price was even more handsome still. I do not know why, but men folk are sometimes drawn to these things. I think because it looks easy. Or barring that, it must be the pretty pictures. At any rate, Shore Lunch Creamy Wild Rice it was called, and it even looked creamy, so I tossed it in my cart. I knew with a supplement of chicken quarters I had back home, and a hand full of mesquite wood chips, I could do something worthy with this humble offering, patron to the pit. And that’s just what we did.
So under a gray November sky, we did up the soup as per it’s instructions, but of course we did it on the faithful Weber Kettle, for poetic reasons you see. Real men don’t need stoves! Placing the pot over direct heat, stirring often, it’s heady aromas soon melded with the cool, Autumn air. Along side, we lightly seasoned some chicken quarters in garlic salt, and grilled them up as well, opposite the hot coals. And lastly, we tossed some mesquite wood onto the coals for that signature scent and added touch only found in outdoor cooking. There by, and for a good while, we let it simmer and smoke whilst the November breeze rustled through the old oak tree. It was good times, as the season’s first snow flakes fluttered down about thee.
When the chicken was bronzed and savory to eat, and the soup had thickened up, we brought it all inside. Shredded the chicken and stirred it lovingly into the soup, bringing a smokey tinted affair to the meal. And it was good. Darn good I must say. My bride mistakenly assumed even, that I had slaved the afternoon away, preparing the dish from scratch. Now I suppose I could have let the myth perpetuate itself, with my chest stuck out in sad deception- but I couldn’t. I eventually had to fess up that tonight’s rations were procured from but a humble yellow bag that I found at the hardware store. And if she didn’t mind beef jerky and nuts for dessert, I had that covered too! Amen.
Mesquite Smoked Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. Sometimes you’d be surprised where your next meal will come from. Then again, all is possible patron to the pit. Grill on, people!
A cool wind stirs, as the last of a golden light ebbs over the neighborhood roof tops, their silhouetted chimney stacks puffing contentedly against a pale, autumn sky. Where geese occasionally cruise on the wing, first stars appear, and the moon holds still, suspended in time, above the old Cottonwood tree down by the pond. A tree almost, but not quite yet ready to give up its beloved leaves. Umpteen thousands of them, born of green, the shapely spawn of the Populus deltoides, such as the Latins have coined, and my but how they have fluttered brightly the summer long. A life of sunny days and rainy nights. Of storms and droughts. Of bluebird skies that would never end. Now one by one, laying to rest in fields of gold.
Oh what a show the Minnesota trees are putting on right now. By the time this is published, most of the leaves, save for the stubborn, old oaks, will have parted ways with their respective tree, and made their rendezvous with decay on the forest floor. One can’t help but to marvel at the beauty of it all right now, and I guess if you’re anything like us, kindle a good fire in the pit, and cook something there. To flip meat over flame whilst the leaves rain down upon thee. It’s good times, people. And while the coals come up to speed here, let us head inside, shall we, and see how we prepared tonight’s protein.
Now, just as I do not know how many leaves have fallen in my yard, likewise, I cannot tell you how many cheeseburgers I have grilled in my life. Both tallies are rather uncountable, I should wager, and neither will ever be enough. Oh how I fancy a good burger. When guests are to come over, burgers are at once an easy dinner solution that most people, save for the odd, toothless relative, seem to devour with a haste usually reserved for flannel clad individuals on a diet with a disturbing affection for maple glazed doughnuts. You know who you are. Burgers are just good, people. And they always will be. Here then is this patron’s go-to burger recipe when rumbling tummies come calling.
What we do is disperse one envelope of onion soup mix evenly through a pound or so of 80-20 ground beef . The soup mix, if you like that sort of thing, adds a delicious ensemble of flavor, that which favors beef, and can nary attempt to be any simpler. Work it into the meat good and thorough and get your hands dirty. It’s OK. Good meat responds to the hands that which pamper it. Anyways, that’s it for the seasoning. In point of fact, it’s more than enough. In the steel bowl towards the back, in case you were wondering, resides a few spuds from the fertile fields of Idaho, lovingly shaped by my beautiful bride into a plethora of french fries for to swim in the electric deep fryer. Nothing accents your burger craft with more authority than a batch of home-made french fries. Do go out of your way some time, and try it.
Burgers deployed over the iron grate, opposite the hot coals. You can cook burgers anyway you want. If you want to go directly over the coals, and cook them hot and fast, then let it be so. Today, however, I was in the mood to mosey. To take the scenic path as far as grill craft is concerned. So we placed them indirect, and tossed on a hunk of mesquite wood too.
After a fashion, the old, porcelain enameled lid was set in place, and the damper adjusted just so. Naturally there after I assumed the proper pit master position, in the outdoor man chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, lovely beverage within reach, and the brim of my hat tipped up in a rather nonchalant manner. The blue-tinted smoke spiraled out of the vent in long, magical tendrils, dissipating into the ether, and smelled point-blank out of this world. I hear the tell-tale honk from one of Minnesota’s patented voices, the Canadian goose, who it seems is always aloft this time of year – the benediction of Autumn. It brings a smile to my face, as I lean back and look over the kettle lid, at the old Cottonwood tree, standing handsome at the edge of the pond. It’s upper most canopy still lit in the evening sun. It’s leaves softly clacking in the breeze. And for a while at least, all the world spins as it should. These are but the moments pit-side we cling to, and try to remember come the frigid, short days of winter. And so I sat there in the quietude, with wood smoke rising, trying to remember. Amen.
God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December – James M Barrie
Mesquite Smoked Cheddar Cheese Burgers, Darting Canadian Geese, Autumn Awesomeness & Deep Moments – it’s all there, people, and patron to the pit.
Part One: The Day Off
There comes a time in a man’s day-to-day, when all the world seems to conspire around him. Where one social posture leads into the next, and for a while at least, he cannot seem to get his feet on solid ground. Nary can he find a hidden moment even, to catch his breath, and enjoy his inalienable right to watch the clouds slowly idle by. Such was the case here recently, as it sometimes is when one lives a busy life. Drawn henceforth from duty to duty, event to event, it’s easy for a pit jockey to get restless for his craft when he cannot do it. When the ever-whirling cog of society sweeps you under the rug of life, and you are mired there, like a dull, gray moth trembling in a spider’s web.
This weekend last, as the tweety birds cavorted in the morning dew, and the sun came up over the pond, for the first time in a string of many weeks, I found myself the proud owner of an entire day. A day in which, if I so fancied, I could do anything I pleased. No schedules to uphold. No duties to meet. Just sweet time at my disposal. Naturally, then, and without much fore thought, I did first what any red-blooded man would do. I grabbed a wood working magazine and headed for the little pit boys room. There I amused myself with cutting edge articles of mortise and tendon joinery, whilst casually forming my itinerary for the day. The goals at hand today would be lengthy, I concluded, but doable. Whilst still perched on my white throne, in the classic fist-on-chin-elbow-on-leg position suitable to the great thinkers of our time, I nonchalantly chucked my magazine aside, and with steely eyes trained on the far wall, tabulated the plan of attack for my day off. I would, I reasoned, under blue skies and warm breezes, smoke a brisket point low and slow, and by golly if I could help it any, refrain from doing anything else. It was mission statement I was up for I think, nay, born for some might say. In point of fact, I already had the pit coming up to speed. Lets head out there now and check out the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Here in the fire bowl, we have what is known in the smokey arts as the Minion Method. A technique developed by its name sake, one Jim Minion, of high BBQ immortality. If you are going to delve far into the low and slow philosophies, or just want a long-sustained fire in your pit, with minimal babysitting, then this is the way to go. It really works slick. To learn more about the Minion method, check out our write-up, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion
Now, Onward to the Beef!
As an aside, and in a show of flat-up beggery, if any of our lovely readership would ever feel the urge to send us a Wagyu Brisket for a slobber-tugging and thoughtful review, or just to be nice to a couple of pit boys, we are dutifully and irrefutably here for you! We like Wagyu. It’s just that we can’t afford it!
In a quaint haze of mesquite smoke wafting up out of the pit, I plunked on the gastronomic center piece of the day , – a modest, Wagyuless, 5 pound brisket point, or in fancy talk, a deckle. What ever you wish to call it, suffice to say, it’s an ornery slab of beef that which requires much love, and much pampering. And as the laws of conventional BBQ would have it, about 7 or 8 hours of quintessential pit time, aside curling plumes of wood smoke, and soft, tapered sun beams. Perfect. Just what I was looking for. It went on fat side up, for to harvest the natural basting effects of rendering fat and gravity. We also filled the water pan below with about two gallons of water for to promote a moist smoking environment, but more than that, to act as a heat sink from the raging fires just below.
Of Seasonings & Such
The home-made seasoning today was a simple affair to be sure. An ode to the Texan way of doing things, one part kosher salt, and one part black pepper. That’s all a good brisket needs is salt and pepper, thus letting the wonderful beef do the talking. Especially if you’re smoking for a mass variety of palates, going simple is the surest way to please the majority at least. But for kicks we mixed in a little garlic powder and a shot of cayenne pepper, just because, and to bring a wee more heat to our end game. There was a dash of paprika in there too. Here is the simple rub recipe we concocted.
- 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
- 1.2 Cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Table Spoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Before we carry on to Part Two, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you about the book of books concerning brisket. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country! How do we know? Well, just read the reviews on his book. You’ll see. We humbly bow to his expertise. Anyways, back to our story.
The Campaign For Nothing
Big black enameled lid in place, and we were off. The aromatic issue of smoldering mesquite soon took aloft, and before I knew it, I was ensconced in my patio man chair, settling in for the day. Left leg crossed over right, lovely beverage in hand, I was ready, doing what I do best – nothing! And that is the secret to brisket. Patience. You gotta wait for it. Let your smoker do all the work. And you my friend, your biggest duty is just to kick up your feet and keep yourself hydrated hydrated. Just do nothing.
It didn’t take long tho, for temptations to rear. The tomatoes in the garden, for example, looked a wee bit thirsty. Why it wouldn’t take me but two minutes to give them a drink, I thought. But then that would go against my moral code of the day, which was to do nothing. So I resisted, and the tomatoes went thirsty. I kicked my feet up instead, and trimmed my hat towards the sun, eyes drawn shut whilst enjoying the aromas of curling wood smoke and the gentle clatter of the cottonwood leaves yonder. It was a fine day indeed, to smoke a brisket.
A few hours into it, I had amassed a commendable tally of tasks that I was able bodied enough to avoid doing. Temptations to productivity that I thus refused. And I was getting pretty good at it too. I resisted, for example, the re-occurring, yet compelling urge to wash my truck. Which turned out, wasn’t really that hard to resist after all. Likewise to scrub out the shower stall, which stood in long need, again wasn’t that tough! Napping however, was allowed I figured, for that is the veritable incarnate essence of doing nothing. Indeed I should aspire, I thought, for as many naps as I could. So when the urge to do something was strong, I just laid down until the feeling passed. I was developing a system that I could have gotten used to, or would have, had it not been for the ribs.
I love ribs. A cannot deny, they flutter about in my dreams, and court my very salivary glands to no end. I long to be in their presence, and admire their mahogany complexion post bathed in sweet hickory. Let me as soon as I can muckle onto a rack and henceforth make it my own. And the thing was, I had a rack in the refrigerator, and it was calling my name. Well I had to respond in kind, if but for the efficiency of the smoker alone. Would be a pity, I reasoned, to run that big old pit with just a wee little brisket on board. What a waste of fuel. It needed company. So before I knew it, the “do nothing treaty” was broken, and a rack of pork ribs lay prostrate on the pit. Tendrils of mesquite rose silent into the air. I settled back into the man chair, content with my biddings and resumed with the heady business of doing nothing.
That’s the great difficulty, I discovered, with doing nothing. You can’t stop to rest! It is very challenging and awkward at best. But it can be done, I’ve concluded, if but in short, well-calculated bursts. You kind of have to work up to it. After a fashion, a few hours at least, you do slip into a beautiful rhythm. A magical span of clock where the hours while away in a wondrous melody patron to the scenic path. You find you do not fight it any more, the urge to rush from one thing to another. That sort of hasty lifestyle is the rhythm of anxious city folk, and not fit for a pit keeper proper. Good BBQ should never be rushed. Instead there is an almost honest embrace taking place, for the leisure at hand. Like a prized trophy wrought from the battlefields of haste. What once was a struggle to sit still, is now your privilege. What great fun it is to lean back in your chair, in no hurry for once, and just let the world spin headlong with you. Letting up on the accelerator pedal of our lives for to bask at the end of warm sunbeams, where the wood smoke also rises.
Take the point to 195-205 internal temperature
We took the brisket to around 200 degrees internal. A brisket is usually tender between 195 to 205. That’s your window of victory. If the thermal probe slides in with little resistance, you probably got it right. We never wrapped it in foil either, tho some do. It didn’t need to be wrapped no how. The beefy juices fairly oozed forth, and the bark came out a robust, peppery ensemble of flavor. Man! We went about chopping up the brisket next, for to fashion a BBQ sandwich to match any man’s dream and meatiest ideal. And we declared it good. A good day indeed to smoke a brisket, and for a while at least, do very little else. Amen.
Slow Mesquite Smoked Brisket Sandwiches on a toasted Ciabatta Roll with a touch of tangy Sweet Baby Rays. Yum! Top it with slaw Carolina style if you please.
Postscript: When smoking the big meats like this, it is imperative to watch the internal temperature. If you miss that window of 195 to 205, you’ll probably screw up your supper. There are lots of gadgets for monitoring the temperature. The one we’ve been using for years now is the Maverick RediChek ET-73. A decent performer for a fair price. To see our review of it, click here. Or check it out on Amazon. We are an affiliate for this product, so a small commission will be sent our way ,eventually, if you go through our link. We do appreciate it.
The cooker we used, Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5, was a fantastic performer as usual. Always a pleasure. Check it out also on amazon!
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They were cute once, iffin you didn’t already know it. My beloved tweety birds which dart about the pond-side pit here, happy-go-lucky, flirtatious, and like I say, cute. But this morning as I stepped out on the patio, beverage in hand, I find a gaggle of them floundering fancy in the ash pan residing beneath the old kettle grill. Flopping about there, doing their best wildebeest impressions, antics oft reserved for the dusty plains of Botswana. Their little feathers cloaked in ashen debris, kicking up little gray clouds of it, which scattered in the morning breeze. What a bunch of goof balls, I thunk. Rolling around like pigs in the mud. Like puppies in the grass. Like grown men in the ball pit at the Burger King. They were having a good time at it too, and I nary could convince them otherwise. But then again, I wasn’t trying to.
I’ve long admired blokes, you see, who make the best of things. When your bird bath is as dry and filthy as a Weber ash pan, and you look like a bird who has just endured a volcanic blast, yet you still frolic with great and unbridled enthusiasm, well my hat is off to you little bird. Not conformed by conventional thinking or naysay, but emboldened perhaps, by the cliché cup of lemonade that awaits you – you made the best of things, and you did so with the least of things. You did it with a pile charcoal ash. I guess they were just washing themselves, or something akin. Tweety birdologists could enlighten us, I suppose. But I say if their goal was to get out the other side of this activity cleaner than they began, well, they failed miserably at it. I had me some dirty birds at the pit today. Some very dirty birds indeed.
Anyways, lunch was a trifle cleaner you might say, and probably better tasting too, than tweety birds rolled in ash. We henceforth evicted them of their little health spa, and fired up a chimney of coals. And whilst those coals matured, we sprinkled some of this Cajun Blast Seasoning over two portly patties of 80-20 ground beef. We were burger hungry at the pit today, I cannot deny. But then if you asked us most days what we would fancy, a good hamburger is usually at the top of the list, and rightly so. For they are a rather filling affair of meat and bun. Easy to do. And quick too, if that is how you like to bend. But above all that, burgers are just plain good, and nothing more needs to be said about that.
You all know how to grill a hamburger, so we shan’t prolong here the intricacies of it. A hamburger is personal anyways, as every pit keeper embellishes his or her own unique touch on it. Like a finger print, perhaps, no two burgers are the same. A burger proper is but a reflection of your mood that day. Some days you’re feeling spicy, other days just plain. Some days you’ll hanker for the works, plucking everything and anything out of the refrigerator door. While still other days, you’ll just stick a fork in your burger and eat it like meat Popsicle. It’s all good in Burgerville, and that is precisely what makes them so wonderful.
We tossed some cherry wood into the coals for to smoke there, and brought the burgers to a state of well done, just before of course, toasting the buns. We almost always toast our buns, if but to add that extra texture so lovely in a hamburger. Then melted some medium cheddar cheese as a matter of course, added a slice of tomato from the garden folds, and lastly, and totally fueled by impulse here, squirted a shot of Thousand Island-like salad dressing on the bottom bun. Man!
As I plated up, sunbeams swept across the green lawn. Clouds the shape of pork chops and wiener dogs idled overhead, and a gentle breeze with subtle kisses of autumn mingled through the fluttering tree tops. Tomatoes ripening before thine eyes. Bean plants sprawling. Honey bees buzzing. The ninth inning of summer was going strong. And yet another span of moments pit-side, sealed in that smokey vault of memories. Satisfied, my plated spoils in hand, I stepped into the house, sliding the screen door shut behind me. And just then, and rather out the woodwork, three little tweety birds fluttered up on my six, and with a cheerful chirp, lit again into their hallowed ash pile- floundering around there in little gray clouds stretched by the wind. I smiled quietly. What can you do. I had some dirty birds on my hands today, and that’s all there is about it. But they were cute once, I tell you, they really were. Come to think of it, they still are I guess. And burgers are always good. Amen.
Author’s Preface: There is one article I have been putting off for a while, and for good reason I suppose. But I finally broke. I had to. I know we will lose some readership over this one, but alas, it is a brother thing, and it had to be done. Here then is the story as I know it to be. For better or for worse.
The Woolly Bugger
With the crunch of cold tires over hardened snow, I pulled up into elder brother’s driveway, where, as I come to idle, stray cats scatter into the woodwork. I turn off the engine, and admire how the sunbeams sparkle off a mountainous bank of snow courting the western edge of the drive, where elder brother’s prized motor home is embedded into the side of said bank, like the fossilized remnants of a bygone era. I like to stop by and visit the bloke from time to time, just to see what he’s up to. Such is the case today.
The car door shuts with a muffled clunk, and I begin to stroll up his driveway. Classic man toys abound: Trucks, Jeep, motorcycle, boats, but I take note of his little Weber Smokey Joe instead, like I usually do, or would have I guess, had not it been completely buried and forgotten in six months worth and several hundred pounds of snow. But I knew the approximate coordinates where I saw it last autumn, least wise I think I do, and I paid my respects to the pile of snow there instead. Sad. Very sad.
I walk in through the kitchen door, and elder brother is standing at the sink, with his long, grayish hair floundering in a rather unruly fashion, sure to excite only a local Sasquatch at best, but he is my brother, so I don’t judge him. It appears he had just woke up anyways, rebooting as it were, the human hard drive.
“I gots something to show you!” Brother belched.
He dashed down the stairs into his basement where few have ever been, or dare to go, and returns momentarily holding a little glass test tube with something dark and fuzzy in it.
“What sort of specimen is that?” I queried
“My latest creation“, brother croaked.”
“Ohhh” ,I yammered.
“”Yes”, he went on” It is a woolly bugger I just tied, guaranteed to seduce even the most selective bass!
He was quite excited, and I nodded my head in affirmation. I didn’t have the heart to tell him however, it looked like a conglomeration of something he has been plucking out of his belly button every morning in the shower before work.
“Very nice, brother”, I lamented. “And say,” I said shifting the subject, “I noticed something outside you should be aware of. Your BBQ grill is very, very unhappy. You need to dig that thing out!”
Elder brother hung his head, his bottom lip protruding in stark remorse.
“I don’t have it in me, little brother”, he said.”The art of winter grilling has not fallen to this side of the family tree.”
The room fell silent, the way rooms always do when one admits their BBQ ineptness. I should like to also say, tho unoriginal, that the silence was only broken by the sound of mating crickets, but in point of fact, any crickets around here were still frozen stiff.
“Maybe you could grill something for me???” Brother yammered in soft, mono-toned voice, thus breaking the silence.
“I could I suppose” I said, staring calmly at the woolly bugger.
“Then I could live vicariously through you”, brother croaked, “and keep my BBQ honor intact, while you gleam the glory!”
My eyebrow rose, as I scanned the intent of his face which was lightly flaked with day old mustard.
“Sounds good my hairy brother“, I belched, “What would you like me to BBQ for you? You name it, and consider it done!”
Little did I know he would take the matter most seriously of course, and like a misguided dictator of a powerful army, he would steer the troops into a position of high compromise. And so brother thoughtfully stroked his scruffy beard as an enormous smile formed across his face.
“Would you grill me a spam sandwich and write about it?” he croaked, “I just love those things!”
“I certainly will not!” I grumbled.
“But you said you would BBQ me anything!” brother declared
“Yes but, I’m only thinking of your health, not to mention the readership of POTP. They are used to a finer fare than jellied ghetto meat!”
“But you said!”
If there is anything I have learned about the heady bond of brotherhood, it is that the bond goes deeper than logic or good sense. And that you have to back your bothers play. You got to look the woolly bugger square in the face and say, I don’t get you sometimes, but what ever. Lets party.
So it was tonight, many weeks hence, under stormy skies, the kind of April showers that soon waxed to sleet and then to snow. By the time I had the coals lit, the first sloppy, white flakes of an April blizzard were hitting the ground. That is how it has been this winter; ever-challenging for the northern pit keepers to get out and BBQ. But we find a way. It took a couple of tries to get the coals lit as the packing pellet-like snow fell from the heavens, but we got it done. Anyways, whilst the coals matured, I rummaged through the bowels of my pantry and found a lowly and forgotten can of spam.
Spam for the uninitiated, is a sort of processed meat that which many folk turn their noses up, tho it does have a faithful following from eccentric individuals, like elder brother. It is also yet another thrust in food technology, conceived and manufactured here in Minnesota. It is already cooked, and it keeps for years on end. Which comes in handy as an apocalyptic meat I suppose. You can eat it cold or hot. Slice it or dice it. You can do what ever you want with it I guess. Today, in honor of elder brother, we shall slow smoke the questionable meat amid a lavish bath of hickory and cherry wood smoke. We will take this greasy, pressed-meat cube and attempt to usher it unto a better place. Wish us luck!
So we sliced the contents of the can into 4 crude squares, putting them indirect, and tossed some onions on the cast iron griddle insert to saute. The polish sausage was merely an insurance policy on the off-chance this BBQ went decidedly south. Also, a special thanks to Rolf, at Craycort Grills for setting us up with this griddle accsessory. This is the first chance we’ve had to use it, and we absolutely love it. More to come on this toy in a future post.
Ah the smell of onions frying up in some butter over a beautiful bed of coals. Aromas reminiscent of a major league ball park. The soft tap of snow flakes on the brim of my hat, and their inevitable sizzle upon the hot cast iron grate below. This was ambiance. This is why we grill outside in winter. When the onions were sweet and complete, we took them off the pit, and replaced the old enameled lid. The wood smoke soon took draft, and a blend of hickory and cherry gently curled from the damper. I slipped my hands into my smoking jacket, like pit keepers do, and considered the day.
For canned meat it didn’t smell too bad, I thought. But then wood smoke can make even a grungy woodsman three days into the same underwear smell good. This I know. Don’t ask me how. And whilst the plumes of aroma emanated from the pit, the snow flakes fell gently to the earth, slowly cloaking the dear patch of grass that just last week I wallowed like a puppy in. Winter is a fickle lady indeed. But one in which I gladly accept, on her terms, if but to grill but one humble sandwich beneath her lovely yet demanding skies.
The last order of business was to apply the cheese and toast the hoagie roll that I picked special for the occasion. Now if you’re going to grill a Spam sandwich, you might as well use Velveeta cheese. I know what you’re saying. That stuff ain’t cheese. And you’re right. But spam ain’t meat either, so who cares. It just makes sense. Plus, Velveeta is elder brothers most favorite cheese, and this sandwich, after all, is in his honor. Anyways, whence the cheese went gooey, and the roll toasted up nicely, we brought the goods inside and thus assembled the masterpiece. And on that note, it’s not a sandwich to elder brother if it doesn’t first have some mayonnaise involved. So we were sure to put some of that in there too.
Man! Grilled onions smothered in cheese, a light tang of mayonnaise, and hickory scented spam on a toasted hoagie roll. The first bite was reminiscent of a hot bologna sandwich or something. The next bite disturbingly better. It was all uphill from there. And I must admit, I ate the whole thing happily. Well, all except that which my lovely bride curiously inhaled despite her premeditated prejudices towards the canned meat. All things considered, it was pretty good for a highly processed, pressed meat sandwich. I slurped it down, go figure, like a bass to a woolly bugger. And more importantly, I had backed my brothers play. Amen.
Slow Hickory Smoked Spam Sandwich, with sauteed onions and Velveeta Cheese on a toasted Hoagie Roll. Hey, you could do worse and not have nearly so much fun.
Today’s BBQ story begins out under neath my car. You see I woke up there, after a fashion – after a little routine maintenance amid its grungy under-carriage. I had it up on ramps in the garage a few weekends ago, television softly bantering in the shop, and was under there changing the oil like men do, when I at once felt a great and abiding drowsiness draw over me like a warm, wet, towel – feelings patron to the finer things in life, and I, being the capitalistic man that I am, seized it in due order. And I cannot tell you that the odd but savory sensations to be found napping under your automobile is representative of a stable-sounding individual, but I would stand be-funked to say that I didn’t enjoy it to no end. It was fabulous. Sheer pleasure it is, to dose off neath such a view as this: between struts, and ball joints, and the mechanical heavens snaking above. The sound of oil draining into a cold, plastic pan. Oh yes. The art of nap-seizing is something I learned from my elder brother long ago, and is a dark art, perhaps, settled nicely on the bottom of the family gene pool. I digress.
Elder brother, in his prime anyways, was known to fall asleep in the oddest of locales: from atop snow banks, up trees, half-submerged in trout streams, half-inserted inside big machines on the factory floor in which he works, and yes, under his cars supposedly changing the oil. Who doesn’t like a good, albeit dubious, oil change now and again. I wouldn’t have even thought napping under cars was possible, had not I caught the man mid-drool one day, on his drive way, snoring peacefully under his jeep. He’s been doing this sort of thing for years. The wife would walk by and see him laying under it, soiled boots splayed at forty-five degree angles, and mistakenly assume he was being productive. She’d scamper up the steps into the house none-the-wiser, with her groceries in her arms. Elder brother had cracked the code and the highest level of unashamed loitering. After I saw that it could be done, and not to mention what could be so dubiously accomplished, whilst all the while maintaining your illusion as an upstanding and useful individual, I started taking some of my own naps this way. And a couple of Saturdays ago was one of them.
I came to under the car, eyes coming to focus on the catalytic converter, and promptly rolled myself out and sat up, hair tossed like a bad salad.
“Crikies“, I thunk,” time to stir the stew!”
I made my way for the pit with haste in my foot steps, and snatched the lid clear of the old kettle grill. There a well-seasoned 12 quart cast iron dutch oven looked up at me, piled high full of stew fixings. A beefy aroma rolled off the steaming vittles as I stirred it accordingly, nurturing unto a better place. Gray clouds and cold breezes swirled through the naked alders skirting the pond. A light mist dappled over the land. And a squadron of Canadian geese honked over-head. I dare say, no finer weather nor more apt a comfort food, than a delicious, and hearty bowl full of home-made beef stew. It’s real easy to do too, and here is how.
One chimney full of charcoal is all you need. Rip-roaring and hot, spill it out into your grill, making a quaint layer but abiding layer. Shape the bed of glowing coals just a trifle smaller in diameter than your intended dutch oven. There upon, and with the ape-like ease of a brick layer, place your dutch oven accordingly, and precisely over the fiery bed. Here we go now. Splash in a little cooking oil, and a good matter of stew meat, and brown it up. That is where the money is. This is the heart of beef stew, so take your time and pamper it. Better yet, and if you feel like it, shish kabob the stew meat, and brown them up man-style, right over the hemorrhaging flames, so to impart a bit of smokey goodness into your plunder. Can’t beat that!
Next step is to add the fixings.
This part of stew making rides on the street car named discretion. Do what you will and how you like it. We put in a big pile of peeled and quartered potatoes. Enough carrots to make bugs bunny weep. An entire bag of french cut green beans. An entire bag of corn. And a quarter cabbage, chopped. Fill the gaps with water, until it almost drowns everything and dash on some salt and pepper, that is it. Stew making 101. And anybody can do it. Let it go until the coals exhaust themselves. Ours was done in about 3 hours. We also used the big iron lid for Dutch oven most of the cook
The joy of stew however, good stew anyways, is that it benefits with the sweet passage of time. The longer we let it be, the better it gets. In point of fact, this stew will taste even better the next day, having mingled over-night amid its own host of distinct and varied flavors. So don’t rush it on the pit, tho it should be done in but a few, scant hours. Let in linger there. Let it dwell in the good ambiance of rising smoke and slanting sunbeams. And for a while at least, let this crazed drive-through-sort of world spin headlong with out thee. You will eat just fine. For good cooking should take time. Plenty of time. This to afford a man his freedoms you see, to go about his business for the day. To get some things done around the house, as it were, and maybe even go out in the garage and change the oil again. But don’t bring a pillow, cause that would just be weird.
Hearty, wholesome, and so easy to do. Home Made Beef Stew hot off the grill. Man! Oil change optional.
Location: Pond-Side Pit
Temperature: 81 degrees F
Whilst waiting on a batch of coals to mature, the sun waned over the roof tops, its golden beams glittering over the pond here by the pit. A doable humidity dallied in the air, and the tweety birds flirted about in the alders and cottonwoods. Lazy clouds of cotton idle in a sky of pastel blue. I positioned myself in my BBQ chair of leisure, and tuned in the Twins game on the pit radio. One of the finer joys of summer grilling, is listening to my beloved baseball team travel the country-wide, and play ball. Granted, they generally lose 2 out of 3, but that’s OK by me. They add to the BBQ ambiance if you know what I mean. An acoustic wallpaper of sorts, to blend with the soft banter of nature.
The coals in the charcoal chimney are getting there. They are in no hurry it seems, which is fitting for our style of the BBQ sciences. No hurries, which off-hand and by-the -way, is the attitude also of the lonely Blue Heron down by the pond. He was in the middle of supper when I sat down, and like many a bird tends to do for some reason, had his spoils clamped firmly in its bill. Tighter than Bill Gate’s vault I would wager. He stood there, backed by tall weeds leaning in the breeze, for what seemed minutes on end, with nary a motion usually reserved for dinner bells and the like. Other than when these fellows harpoon their intended quarry with the fierceness and accuracy of a Samurai warrior, they are one of the slowest, most graceful moving birds I have seen. Deftly stalking the shallows no faster it seems, than the sun arcs yonder through the heavens. I am always and quite dutifully impressed by the innate patience they seem to harbor for their craft. No hurries. A motto undoubtedly suited for the BBQ arts as well.
By the time the Heron commenced with choking down his fish, my coals were ready. I thus banked them to one side of the old kettle grill as usual, for some in-direct cooking. Tonight on the grill, we have something special. Something sure to sooth the savage sweet tooth. Homemade Blueberry Peach Cobbler. Adapted from a little ditty we found at Man Cave Meals, a great site if you’re looking for more on the art and zen of BBQ. There are a lot of words we might use to describe this fruity delight, but “Yum!” about says it all. Let us then get after it, for the patience, I must admit, resides better now with the Blue Heron. This is good eating!
Mix up the batter accordingly:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup of milk
In an 8 x 8 pan, or roughly that, and over a half-stick of melted butter, pour the batter gently. Resist, by and far, the urge to mix it all up. Just let the batter mingle for the sides of the pan. Advancing at its own good speed.
Bring to a boil in a sauce pan the following:
- 2 cups of peach slices
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
Pour this beloved mixture of sweetened fruit over thy batter with a gentle, yet well-meaning hand. Then, mostly for culinary poeticness, lightly dash some cinnamon over the whole ensemble, and place the pan opposite the hot coals.
Go head and put the lid on and do what you do best! Grab a lovely beverage and tarry in the good ambiance patron to the pit. You’ve had a long day no doubt, and you sort of owe it to yourself, don’t you think, to kick your feet up and relax a little. To feel the summer breeze whistle through your up-turned toe-pits. To partition a little time off the clock today, and let up on the accelerator pedal of life. To boldly let the world spin with out you for a while. For life goes by fast enough as it is, so let us not rush it of all places at the pit, doing that which we feverishly love. For this is your opus now. This grill. This evening. The aromas of baking cobbler. The way the sunbeams slant over the green grass. The moment is yours to seize if you want it. All you need do is sit there, and watch it all unfold. No hurries people. No hurries.
In about 45 minutes, or when the batter has browned over a touch, or when it passes the toothpick test adequate to thee – it is done. It’s also always good, when baking via this method, to turn the pan 180 degrees mid-way through the cook, for even cooking. I brought the wondrous dessert inside, and my what lovely aromas tarried with it. Served hot with whipped cream, or better yet, a scoop of your favorite ice cream – glory be!!! A tastier dessert from the grill nor even the oven too, you shall not soon divine. Hot Blueberry Peach Cobbler off the grill. Like that old heron with his fish, there may be more yummy things in life, but right now, we can’t think of any. And getting there was half the fun. Amen.
Repairing in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, I spied them from afar, ambling head-long through the steely grass. A half-dozen little yellow-green fuzz balls, escorted under the watchful wing of ma and pa. Bumbling creatures, but terribly cute, looking only at the ground, pecking about for what wonders may reside there. It was good to see new families like this. Triumps of unconditional love, and a feathery nurture. They seem to do this every year about this time, along with every one else. They wandered right up close to my BBQ chair, as if to address me in some formal manner reserved for goose ideology or the like. I adjusted my posture some, and noted how once again, these feathered blokes have ambled by precisely when the first plumes of smoke curl from my old kettle grill. More times than I have counted they have come to share supper with me like this, babies and all. I’d like to think it’s because they like me, and appreciate the ambiance of the pit I strive so hard for. But the truth of the matter is that I’m only being used. For I usually toss them some crusty old bread if I have any, and that seems well enough for them to at least fake a friendship out by the pit. And I’m OK with that.
Spring time. New life. Turns out one of our close friends this week, had a baby too. A wee little thing, neither yellow-green nor fuzzy, and pert near about as cute as they come in baby land. My bride suggested we do something nice for them, because she’s rather thoughtful like that, and being the fire-lighting, meat-eating man that I am, naturally the only logical course of action I could come up with, was to have a BBQ. What better way to introduce a new soul to this ever-spinning world, I thought, than a plate of tin foiled potatoes, BBQ chicken, and sirloin steak! Everything a wee pup needs to make a lasting, first impression. And besides that, it’s never too soon to draft another into the BBQ arts. I don’t know if they make little Weber grills for babies, but they should. I would set one down in front of the kid, just so they could imprint on each other. And it would be a better world because of it, somewhere on down the line.
The baby feast started with the potatoes naturally, because they take the longest. Diced up and seasoned tonight with a dash or two of Lipton Onion soup mix. Cause that stuff ain’t just for soup you know. Over the seasoned and diced potatoes, I added a lovely melody of vegetables for to please the lady folk, along with a few dollops of butter, and wrapped it all up in foil. This in turn placed over direct heat for 20 minutes or so, flipped over once mid-way for even cooking. Whilst the spuds did their thing, the chicken legs were then placed opposite the hot coals, and a small piece of hickory wood added to the fire for some smokey goodness. The legs previous were rubbed down in McCormick’s Chicken Rub, and later, at the end of the cook, painted with a generous layer of Sweet Baby Rays. Now what infant wouldn’t want to suck on one of them!
As the white clouds idled in a blue sky, and bird song rang from the Alders, I pulled the foiled potatoes over indirect heat. They were done, and so was the chicken. Lastly, and to bring a sense of closure to the meat fest, we seared a nice sirloin steak over a hot bed of orange-glowing coals, and then finished it off indirect. When you set up your grill like this, with the coals banked to one side, you will be afforded much control this way. You will have established in your grill’s fiery bosom, three distinct temperature zones. One for direct heat right over the coals, one for indirect cooking opposite the hot coals, and something of a Switzerland affair, right smack in the middle. The thermal trifecta of modern grilling. Anyways.
I plated up the meats and taters, and bid a farewell to my feathery friends, still pecking through the green grass. Not to be rude to the little geese, nor to point out the shallow nature of our relationship, but it was time to go show the newborn some of the finer things worth looking forward to in this world. Something far removed from a crusty old piece of moldy bread. Amen.
Hickory Tinted BBQ Chicken Legs, Sirloin Steak, and Tin Foiled Potatoes. Man! And so what if a baby doesn’t have teeth. The parents do!
A blustery north wind swirls under gray skies. Mercury levels hover in the 60’s, cottonwood leaves clack about, and an American Robin ambles through the green grass, with a squirming earth worm clamp steadfastly between its beak. I do not know what it is that compels a creature of suitable reason to otherwise abandoned its surely inherent need to ingest his intended quarry with the fierceness and efficiency like that of hungry lion to a Tanzanian Wart Hog, but it does. And frankly, I admire its restraint. Cause that wiggling worm to a Robin, is like a beef tenderloin to a pit keeper, marinated and smoked over cherry chips, rubbed in garlic and onion. The little bird proceeded to hop around the grass, nary once it seemed, contemplating the notion to eat its earthy spoils.
Good for you, I thought, but I’m getting hungry. And I shall not likely possess your oaken resolve to wait much longer. Thus, and on the grill tonight, an old-time classic and highly favored sandwich. BLTs – Patron of the Pit style. So get your fires lit people, an let’s get after it.
This evening, whilst wandering the aisles of the local produce shop, I came upon some fair looking rolls, whose destiny I knew at once, like men sometimes do, would involve an intimate acquaintanceship with my grill, over a beautiful bed of coals. I brought them home. Sliced and buttered, and set aside for the last portions of the cook. Now if you’ve never made bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches on the grill before, you are politely excused to go to the corner somewhere and murmur your name in vain. Here at once is such a simple treat, delicious, and easy to do. A dance where upon we take the hand of an old-time sandwich, which was dang good in its own right, and escort it to a whole new level, patron to the smokey realm.
Bacon is good, and the world knows it. No man nor woman alike would refute its gastronomic pleasure, lest they keep the company of pigs for pets or something. Bacon is glorious. Bacon cooked on the grill, over a smokey fire, is point-blank out of this world. I do not know how many bacon strips are allotted to a man’s lifespan, so when we do it, let it then be of the good stuff. Thick cut, and the very best your purse can afford.
Over a drip pan, lay your bacon opposite the hot coals. Toss on some smoke wood too. You’ll want a drip pan lest your grill wax into a real treat, of ash, fat and muck. For this cook, we used hard wood lump charcoal, and some hickory wood. A basic and primal heat source worthy of a pit keepers fondest intentions. Put the lid on and let the smoke and heat do their magic. You all know what you’re doing here. Cook the bacon as you please, and at the terminus of the cook, go ahead and toast those buttered buns with the pit master authority vested in you. Tongs in hand, be ever vigilant against the burn. For your buns shall not char today, but slide onto your dinner plate with a confident display of utter, toasted perfection. Build your grilled BLT accordingly, and thus to satisfy your lofty specifications.
Needless to say, I dove into this sandwich like an alcoholic to a German beer garden. Like a puma to an antelope. I do not know what it is, and my elder brother suffers from the same plight, as well as some other men I know, but when we are presented with a meaty affair, savory and to the point, well, we do not require a whole lot of time to ingest it. It kind of bugs us frankly, that we seldom harbor the patience to slow down with our food. We are beasts! We have noticed ourselves at times tearing into our food, as if governed by some genetic impulse to eat fast. There is some savage chomping, some wild slurping going on, and before you know it, before I knew it, my beloved BLT was gone. A few lone bread crumbs residing on my belly. I licked my lips, and picked the crumbs off my shirt whilst glancing out the window to the pit. It smoked quietly away over diminishing coals, at ease and content with its job well done. And just beyond that I noticed, standing in the green grass was the little robin, with that dang worm still, hanging limp from its mouth. He’ll eat when he’s good and ready I guess. And I really don’t know how he does it.
There you go. Grilled Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato on a Toasted French Roll. Next time you’re ready then to take your BLT to the next level, do the sensible thing why don’t you, and do it on the grill!
I am not a sun worshiper, I do not seek out the sunny areas of the outdoors and bask in the sunshine, I do not try to tan my skin or even want too. But having said that, I have to volunteer, somewhat discreetly , that yesterday afternoon I lavished in the golden sunbeams. I lay willingly in the warm sometimes hot caresses of that fiery orb that is the center of our solar system. I paid homage to the sun and all the good things that it brings.
The warm breeze swept across the ice-covered lake, mingling the hot and the cool air like I love so much. In the northern climates, a day like this is not wasted, it is seized and every drop of enjoyment is squeezed out of it. Motor cycles come out, bicycles, dogs and the people who walk them. Minnesotans find things to do outside, and for some of us, that means lighting up the grill…
It has been six months since I last started the big grill here at the cabin, and I am still a bit intimidated by the hugeness of the thing. I got it for free, someone left it down at the end of their driveway, a piece of cardboard hanging on it swinging in the breeze, scratched with magic marker saying “FREE”.
I kind of see why now, after using it last summer.
They could not afford to fill the thing.
This grill is the GMC Suburban of grills. You can fit an entire turkey in the thing and still have room left over for a few bratwurst and hamburgers for your close friends. The thing is huge. My little Weber grill back home is twelve inches in diameter. At the start of a grilling session, I have only to put five to seven pieces of briquettes on the leftover coals from the last cook. That is all it takes to make the Weber Smokey Joe run. My little brother calls it the Honda Civic of grills. You get a lot of mileage from those little black chunks of coal.
My big Suburban grill at the cabin likes coal, like a sailor likes his rum. I toss four to seven pieces of charcoal into its vast maw and they drop into the abyss. Like dropping rocks into a well. You can hear the things bouncing off the sides on the way down, and they disappear as they reach the darkness at the bottom. Back home, on my humble Weber, a small bag of charcoal will last most of the summer. The largest bag of charcoal I can buy will barely get me three cooks on this behemoth. And worse, because the lid does not fit tightly, they burn all the way down each time, forcing me to replenish the whole pile with each session.
After the grill is lit, and the flames have settled down, ( or stabilized as my brother would say) I feel somewhat awkward placing my single hamburger patty and two Bratwurst on the immense grate. They only take up a small portion of the vast area under the lid. It made me think of being at a baseball game where only you and two of your best friends are sitting in the stands cheering the team, the rest of the huge stadium empty.
I swear, the sizzling hamburger patty had an echo.
In spite of my brother’s influence, I have never been very good on the grill. A piece of T-Bone steak, seasoned with garlic salt is the epitome of my meager talent. I bow to my little brother, who is the proclaimed “Patron of the Family Pit”. I have of course been reading his blog and like you followers out there, I feel inspired to try my hand at the craft. But , I know my limits. . .
I have never grilled fish on a cedar board, and more than likely never will, but give me a pound of hamburger, or some hot dogs, and I am in my glory. Simple tastes for the simple-minded I guess.
I read with awe how my brother put together Apple Wood Spare Ribs, or the Smoked Brisket. I have actually tasted his Hickory Smoked Rib Sandwiches. If I am in the right place, at the right time, an occasional chicken wing will come my way. But, and I will be honest here, I have about as much chance of making his Smoked Honey Tainted Pork Chops as I would making a slam dunk with a basketball.
I thought about these things as my Suburban grill at the cabin did its thing with my three pieces of meat . I knew I was not going to impress my woman with such a scanty offering, but hey, we were out in the middle of nowhere looking out over a frozen lake. Where else was she going to get food?
-The Patron’s Brother
We are betwixt by the fire and by the ice. That oft volatile, yet seasonal line between winter’s bond and that of a lush, green lawn. Of snow banks and sun burn. Of golf clubs and wind chill. Of spring in Minnesota. This evening, upon the outer crust of the midlands of April, standing over a beautiful bed of coals, working the pit, admiring a lawn full of grass whilst blizzards gather headlong in the west, I am reminded yet again, of the heady pleasures of Minnesota BBQ. Sleet taps like ball bearings over the land now, and the cold wind curls around the old kettle grill – the wood smoke wrapped in eddies. Perhaps this is the reason you never hear our state mentioned on the same pages like that of Texas, South Carolina, and Kansas City, when it comes to BBQ. If those blokes had to BBQ in sub-zero temperatures for fifty percent of the year, perhaps we northern wannabes would tally a might higher in their counts. Its not easy, let me tell you, fighting off wind chill induced hypothermia while procuring a perfectly executed rack of ribs. But even so, some body has to do it, and we are up here despite, giving it a go. For it is the journey anyways, that we favor most in BBQ. The rest sorts itself out, by and by.
On the grill tonight, blizzard or not, we’re doing up a house favorite – BBQ chicken quarters.I know you’re tempted in the grocery aisles to pick up your packages of boneless chicken breast, but I have long held to the notion, that birds we’re designed to have their bones in them. More over, that the bone imparts a noticeably better flavor on your meat’s end game. Indeed, we are men, and we just know how ever it is men know things, that meat on the bone is poetically correct, and the very best way to go. And chicken quarters have lots of bones, beautifully placed alongside vast reserves of meat. It is a good thing. A worthy bone to meat ratio. Thus, and amid the falling sleet, the quarters were rubbed down in olive oil, and dutifully dusted in a liberal fashion with Grill Mates Chicken Rub. This while the fire matured, and the darkened, snow-laden clouds advanced upon our fair hamlet.
As usual, well that is if your interested in a crispier skin, we seared these lovely quarters a couple minutes per side, over some hot coals. Then of course tucked them back, to the cool side of the grill for the rest of the ride. We used apple wood for the smoke flavor tonight. Apple is an apt choice for all things poultry, and one can nary go wrong using it. Just a chunk. You do not want it bellowing like a choo choo train, as pretty as it may look. Nice thin wisps of smoke are what you’re after. Too much smoke is actually possible, and over-doing it has been known to result in bitter tasting meat. Indeed, it is well to think of smoke perhaps as a seasoning, and not an ingredient, like so many newcomers to the BBQ sciences postulate. Anyways, the lid thus was put into place, and the smoke began to curl. And for a while, tho the winter tempest was conspiring, all the world was right. That glorious, contented feeling, patron to wafting wood smoke, and savory meat sizzling quietly aside hot embers. The last ten minutes of the cook, I went ahead and applied the BBQ sauce. Brush strokes of a Meat Mona Lisa! The aromas of smoked chicken and apple wood a waft in the chill, April air. Man! Say what you will, but this is living!
Ain’t too many things finer before a spring snow storm, than a steaming plate of good BBQ chicken. Meat on the bone. It not only sets a man straight in his ways, but motions him to accept the prevailing weather scenarios with aplomb. To be OK straddling that curious but seasonal line the sand right now, which seems so privy to both fire and ice. Good BBQ knows no meteorological boundaries. It can’t you see, as we won’t allow such foolery, less we keepers of the northern flame would have to hang up our tongs half the year long. And that just ain’t right. Its not right at all.
In the morning, winter had returned, making itself at home on the pit once again. So be it. For a hearty flame still burns here, deep in the frigid north. And the wood smoke shall rise again. Amen.
It was one of those vintage, gorgeous Sunday afternoons here on the 45th parallel, if you can call 38 degrees gorgeous. Minnesotan’s I think can, because we love the spring. We love it because for a time, we were rather convinced it would never make our acquaintanceship again. For long was the winter, and eternal did its icy bonds adhere, not only to our driveways, and our favorite lakes, but unto the tender skin of our souls as well. Persistent ice and cold, well, it has it way of getting to some people, like barnacles on the buttocks of our lives. Even so, we kept a positive attitude, and we endured. But most folks I know of are done now with the winter, throwing up their middle fingers along with their shovels in a quiet contempt, dis-satisfied with its once frosty allure, for they are ready again, for the vibrancy of spring. Emboldened by the sun on their shoulders perhaps, and ready for action. Like for instance my ducks.
Our pit faces a pond you see, and these ducks, oh how they like to strut around the place, with their little chests puffed out so proud. Many a time I will be lighting up the grill, and I don’t know if it’s the smoke or the resounding clang of the enameled lid, but they more often than not come hustling up out of the pond to see whats for supper. And I tell them. I have to tell them you see, or they get mad at me. I have to assure them that this too is not their kin they smell cooking under the lid. They always show up as such, and always in the nick of time it seems, making things just a little awkward, as if they have every right to. And maybe they do. Some day I may just have to get it over with, and smoke a duck, and watch them all tout about, and field their penetrating glares. I don’t know. Regardless, and on the menu tonight, we’re making a backyard pit favorite – artisan pizza on the grill. So get a hold of your inner Italian, and let’s make a pizza pie!
If you’ve been paying attention in this blog over the last month or so, you will recall a write-up, How To Impress A Woman: Bread. You should also remember, because there was sugar involved, that the same bread dough we used for that, was also used to procure some rather amazing caramel rolls off the grill, in How To Impress A Woman Again: Caramel Rolls. These two culinary triumphs are not without a third. For we have subtly been holding your hand, here at the pit. Ask for but one strand of golden hair from an elvish queen, and she may give you three. Indeed, and henceforth, tho we ain’t no queen, here then is the third installment towards a higher carbohydrate utopia; a cheesy salute to an all-time favorite, and yet another use for this amazing dough. Sure to impress women and men alike, and maybe a couple of ducks too. If you need to refresh your memory on how to make the dough, just refer back to the links above. But here is memory nudge, none the less.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
- 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
You can use what ever pizza dough you wish of course, and many of you already have your own systems for pizza in place, which is great, but the whole point of this article, and the two previous blogs under the bread umbrella, as linked above, is to show you the utter versatility of this fantastic dough. From fresh bread, to pizza. To caramel rolls for dessert. Its real easy to do too.
Simply roll out the dough to a uniform 1/4 inch thickness, add what ever toppings you fancy, and transfer it to an oiled pizza stone, which has been preheated on the grill. Charcoal arrangement should wax reminiscent of a smoldering doughnut, sure enough about the diameter of your pizza stone, and the lid on for an oven-like atmosphere in the cooker. If you’re using a Weber kettle, vents should be wide open. Grilling pizza goes against everything we have taught you about the hallowed virtues of going low and slow. It is hard for us to utter such words, but hot and fast is your motto here. Thus for you a speedier rendezvous to your quintessential pizza nirvana. Whence the crust is of a golden brown, plate the pie, and offer it in good stride to your people. Oh, make haste with it. Plop it down on the table in front of them, with the steam still rising. And watch the molten cheese ooze over the sides whence you peel off a slice, appreciating for a moment how your people foster flattering notions for thee, as their pit master most cool, and bequeather of the beloved Artisan pizza pie. Yum!
Artisan Pizza hot off the grill. Man! Yet another culinary gem from the such a versatile dough, and even better of course, patron to the pit.
Chickadees lit amid the Alders, chirping and rejoicing, as shafts of brilliant, warm, sun slanted through the stands of Spruce with aplomb. The smell of apple wood smoke tinted the air, as snow melt dribbled from the roof like, cold, glacial run off, reminiscent of the icy ramparts of the Mountain West. Like a seasoned man’s hairline, the snow piles around the pit had receded some in recent days, exposing for the first time in a long time, a few sickly looking, tendrils of grass, bent over from a winter’s hiatus. A good life choice I suppose, if you’re a blade of grass in Minnesota. Take the winter season off, and re-group come springtime. A mindset of no such value however, to we patrons of the pit, who have been grilling hard all the winter long. Keepers of the flame, and chickadees alike, know no such luxury as hibernation. Nor at the end of the day, I wager, would we want to. It’s a beautiful Saturday. The inaugural first smoke of the spring. The tweety birds are singing. And my fellow patron has come over to share it with me, like any good BBQ crony would.
Every once in while, if the stars and the orbits of our lives align, my fellow patron and I like to get together to ply our craft. The likely recipients of our exploits, for better or for worse, being our beloved wives. Sweet girls who have put up with their fair share of experimental BBQ over the years. They have been there for the very best of it, delighting in our victories, and they have been there amid our fool blunders too, politely eating it anyways. Lovely souls, who just so happen today, to be out on the town together, doing what ever it is ladies do when their out together. My fellow patron and I henceforth found ourselves doing what only came naturally, hunkered over my pit, procuring some rather tasty vittles for our women, whilst at the same time entertaining the notion of keeping digital tabs on our credit card accounts. Anyways, on the pit tonight, smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. Grab yourself a lovely beverage, and let us get after it.
Whilst the big WSM was coming up to speed, being the efficient creatures that we were, we split up the duties. Divide and conqueror tactics if you will. John took the chicken thighs, and I took the beans. The chicken was amazing, seasoned in a blend of home-crushed spices, and I’ll tell you more about that in a bit, but first let’s get after these peach baked beans. And don’t curl your nose, I think you’ll like them. They humbly are not of our brain thrust, but of Pit Master Myron Mixon, who was at one time at least, the Tiger Woods of competitive BBQ. Say what you will about the man, but he can smoke. And these beans I figured, were at least worth a shot. Here’s how you do it.
Peach Baked Beans
- 1 can baked beans
- 1 can sliced peaches or peach pie filling
- 1 diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped bacon
Into your grilling pot, empty the contents of your favorite can of baked beans. Then dump yourself in a can of sliced peaches. A little of the peach juice is a good idea, but you may want to refrain from dumping the whole thing like I did, less you fancy a soupier baked bean. Or a better bet is to use a can of peach pie filling, which is what you’re really supposed to use, but I didn’t have any on hand. Next thing is to dice up a red bell pepper and toss that in there too. Finally, and to every meat lovers fancy, add a good handful of chopped up bacon chunks. If you really want to do it right, you’ll do up the bacon on the grill first, and impart a liberal dosage of smoke upon it, because its bacon after all, and bacon is worthy of our highest flattery. So mix all these wonderful ingredients together, and if you have a hankering, sprinkling in a little of your chosen spices of the day, is hardly ever a move soon regretted, and compliments the main course with a quiet, but favorable elegance. Proceed then to let the flavors mingle and stew for two hours out on your pit, stirring on occasion to circulate a little more smokey goodness into your bean pot of glory. Man! Now let’s see how John did up those thighs.
First order, he removed the flaps of skin common to inhabit chicken thighs, and then rubbed them down in olive oil. This to properly receive his freshly ground melody of spices which include, but are not limited to: Coriander, brown sugar, pink Himalayan salt, pepper corn, onion powder, smoked paprika and ground rosemary. By freshly ground, we’re talking an hour before the cook, in his mortar and pestle. Glory! It don’t get no better than that folks. Then he sprinkled some over the thighs. A little of this stuff goes a very long ways, he said, so he made work of it with a light hand. Delicately allotting the spices equally over the meat. He was quite proud of his creation, often bellowing in acute joy over how pretty it looked. The spice he has since coined, Rolling Stone Rub, its namesake inspired in the heady wages of the recent kidney stone he recently passed. A token beam of brilliance wrought from a most miserable circumstance. Anyways, then he gently placed the thighs out on the smoker, where upon an apple wood fire had already stabilized into a light, easy-going smoke. There they would stay for the next couple hours, next to the pot of beans. Oh buddy!
So it was, meat and beans on the pit, a light apple wood smoke wafting amid the patio, sunbeams melting in through the windows, and we menfolk at last taking up the proper BBQ posture, in our man chairs, beverages in hand, and a couple of hours of premium loitering ahead of us. Nothing quite so fine as that, after a hectic week whirling about in the cog of society. And we chew the fat some, as men do when they are waiting for meat, frequently gazing out to the pit, appreciating the curling smoke there. We kick our feet up and get a trifle more comfortable, click on the TV, and settle in for the high rigors of the BBQ life. Somebody has to do it.
Apple smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. If there’s a better way to usher in the spring, I can’t think of any.
*Bean recipe was ultra simplified here, but of you want to see the original recipe, in it’s uncut form as Myron Mixon intended it, let us refer you to the following link:
Before I go on to explain the “beast”, I will hang my head low and admit that the one I was wrestling with was only 3 pounds. It was my humble first smoke of that cut of meat and I walk away with more knowledge on smoking a brisket. I don’t know what go into me. My father-in-law was heading over for dinner and I wanted to impress him, as all son-in-laws do. You see, I know I can cook a good rack of ribs with sweet and tangy sauce dripping from your chin and elbows while working your way to the bone. I’m confident that my smoked chicken will flake apart at the press of a fork and my burgers come out oozing with a savory smoky flavor. I know that on Saturday I was not confident in smoking a brisket and I probably pulled out all the rookie moves. So, I’m writing this to share with you what not to do if like me, you are a rookie at the brisket.
My first mistake… When I was at the local hardware store a few months ago I needed to stock up on my coal supply. It was around the same time I installed the offset firebox on my smoker. Being it was around the Christmas season I was holding tight on my wallet privileges and so I decided to go with Lump Coal instead of my usual brand Kingsford. I have nothing against Lump coal, but I know that I can get my Kingsford coals to heat up and hit a steady temperature for a good 3 hours in the winter. As I filled my firebox with lump coal, it quickly heated up my smoker. It hit the trusty worthy temperature of 250 degrees and kept going. So I adjust my vents accordingly to bring down the temp. Again it hit 250 and kept going down. So, I repeated the process until I was able to zero on where I needed it. One thing I also noticed with the lump coal was that the slightest breeze, I’m talking a sneeze from one of my annoying hibernating pocket gophers would cause the smoker to raise a good 20 degree and then back down 20 and then teeter off in the middle somewhere. I almost didn’t need the wireless thermometer. I was outside enough to look at the gauge itself.
My second mistake…Never take two different theories on how to smoke a successful brisket and put them together (unless you really know what you are doing). I started off with throwing the brisket on the grate and leaving it there. My brisket was going just fine and then I had to open up my BBQ bible by Steven Raichlen. I read an excerpt from Steven’s book that tells me to wrap the brisket in tin foil a good 3/4 th of the way through, and so i did. As much as I respect Steven Raichlen’s knowledge of the grill and his years of cooking over a flame, I also have learned that some of his techniques are not always the only way. He has tv shows and books, but there are other ways of doing it. Wrapping your brisket in tinfoil wasn’t the rookie move. No, the rookie move was the I changed up my method right in the middle of a smoke. If something is going fine, leave it.
One my goals for the process was seeing bark on the brisket. However, I was informed later that my absence of bark was because I had wrapped the brisket in tinfoil. By wrapping it in foil, I allowed too much moisture to collect and therefore, no bark. I know, a rookie mistake I have made. I shouldn’t change methods in mid-cook and I humbly lay my head low because of it.
In the end, my result was a fully cooked brisket. I achieved the tenderness I wanted. In fact, it was so tender you could cut it with a fork which I believe is the goal from what I hear. The smoky flavor had a great impact with every bite taken. I was complimented greatly from my father-in-law, little did he know of the rookie mistakes I made.
I think I’ll wait until I enter the ring with another brisket. I will then throw it on and leave it. No foil, just intense smoke and a solid 250 degrees.
I don’t like looking back. I’m always constantly looking forward. I’m not the one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I’m too busy looking for the next cow. ~ Gordon Ramsay
Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.
I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below
- Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.
- If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.
- Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
- For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.
Well, we had allot of left over roast beef from the Po Boy cook a couple days ago, so I thought to myself, self, why don’t you do up something a little different with that left over meat. Something involving the blessed binder of cheese. Take your sandwich kick you’ve been on to another state, and salute something good there. Viola, the destination was clearly then apparent – Philadelphia, and the gloried cheese steak sandwiches – POTP Style.
Man! Sauteed some onion and green pepper, re-heated the Po Boy meat, and mixed it all together. Then promptly topped it with everyone’s favorite ghetto cheese – Velveeta. Slipped this monument to sandwich technology into the toaster oven for a couple minutes, and thus arrived on the shores of cheese steak bliss. It was good people. It was real good.
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 heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants. I pushed the meat over indirect heat, paused, and thought about it for a while.
The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees. Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time, lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.
Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.
Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal. Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.
That, and I like to eat! Amen.
Game day in the National Football League Playoffs. 9 degrees of mercury registering. What do you think we’re going to do! Lets light the smoker!
There are a precious few alignments in the human condition so fine, as football and BBQ. Don’t ask me why. All I know is one shouldn’t tamper with the good things in life, nor try to analyze it much, less it evaporates, like the morning mist over still waters. No, we shall not try to figure out why, but instead be emboldened to embrace it. To put meat to flame, and declare the day is well. Thus to salute the rising smoke, and for a while at least, maybe even to live the dream.
As I repair by the fire-place, in my favorite man chair, the game quietly on the TV, a glance out to the patio sees the brand new 22 1/2 inch WSM puffing gently that fine-blue smoke patron to a good and established, hickory fire. It’s maiden voyage, if you will, like a big ship slipping slowly out to sea. On board today, a rack of maple syrup glazed beef ribs, and a good matter of country-style pork ribs, both dusted in a sweet but spicy, home-made rub. The country-style ribs, which are really cut from a pork butt, took a bit further journey tho, pampered long over-night in a custom marinade adept at improving pork. Like all good journeys, the journey of BBQ starts with an idea, and is done when it is done, never quite positive of where you may end up. Or how you may get there. And I do not think we would have it any other way.
The spoils are on the smoker now, for a two and one half hours I should wager, bathed in light hickory smoke, at a modest 250 degrees. The keen wind chill, of which it must be subzero, slices with ease, and not-so-compassionately through the trees, and over the frozen land: but the WSM holds stalwart in the face of bitter inclement. A victory affording myself the high pleasure of taking up residence “belly up” in the man chair, feet propped up by the fireplace, dosing peacefully amid the banter of Sunday football. There are few naps finer than football naps, save for perhaps golf naps, tho that would probably be up for debate I suppose. My brother likes to take naps under his truck, but that’s a different story. At any rate, as cozy as I was, eventually I knew I had to get up and foil the ribs, of which I did. A labor of love, by and by. It was no big deal.
Another hour and half in the foil, with a dose of BBQ sauce and splash of Dr Pepper, just cause. This loosened up the meat with aplomb, and took it by the hand, escorting the unruly meat to the next level. Taming the beast, as it were, swaddled in tin foil. Pampered with love.
Lastly, a toasting of the french bread, over the remaining, tho still softly-glowing embers, for that finishing touch savored by the lady folk.
After the bones pulled freely, we then plated the ribs, and chopped them into lovely man-sized chunks, and served them lightly basted in BBQ sauce on the toasted french bread. This was it. We had arrived. The maiden voyage of the new smoker had landed, nudging the fateful shores of a meat utopia. A land where the slobbers run freely, and a good burp is considered high praise. If ever you want to one-up your standard pulled pork sandwich, this is how to do it. Man!
Next time you’re in the mood for some tasty football food, and wanna do something a little different, try yourself some slow-smoked rib sandwiches. Ain’t too many things finer.
I can’t go often in life without music. Creating playlist or soundtracks as I like to call them has become a hobby of mine. Matching music up to what I’m doing at that moment. To become the musical director for my life is something I take serious. Being that I’m a musician, I’m very picky and biased when doing so. To go into the many avenues of life and tell you about my music selections would probably force me to start another blog, so I’m going to focus on sharing of my music stations I have created when dedicating an afternoon at the BBQ pit.
First off, who could go wrong with a B.B King station. How often is it you walk into a BBQ joint and they have classical music, or rap playing on their overhead speakers? What music is better associated with BBQ than blues music. The crying guitars whine as your basting your meat. The harmonica calls out while the hickory smoke curls into a dimming orange sunset. The singer cries as they have lost their lover over, perhaps over someone else’s BBQ. My B.B. King station of course is always my first choice of serenades when standing next to a smoking pit.
My second choice is my Elvis station. I grew up listening to Elvis and have many fond memories of establishing myself on a sunny afternoon. Our backyard patio packed with Aunts and Uncles. My dad sat with his banjo and my Uncles sat with guitars, often livening up the family with classic rock and roll tunes and old country western songs. This station is often listened to because of the strong feeling of nostalgia it brings on. I can remember words of songs I hadn’t heard in 20 years purely because I fell in love with the moment I first heard them. Thus, Elvis often joins me when BBQing for large groups of people.
Now there is a station I don’t often brag about. This station is played in my headphones so many people don’t judge my geeky side of life. But here, I hide nothing about my BBQ experience. So I would like to publicly announce the third choice of station is my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack station. I use this station when having a full day ahead of me – of a long drawn out smoke. When smoking a cut of meat that may need a little more effort. From the point of lighting the flame to pushing a sharp knife through that saucy, sweet, smoky, spicy side of meat. You then know your efforts have paid off and the epic journey of BBQ was fulfilled. No other station encourages such BBQ geekiness as my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack Station.
So, my question is to you who have read this, what music do you like to listen to during an afternoon at the pit? What might be on your BBQ playlist?
Have a good day – POTP
Have you ever happened upon a piece of meat that should come with it’s own cardiac unit! A mass of flesh so prominent that folks are slowed by it’s gravitational field. That cameras are drawn, and grown men weep with happiness. Meat so big that it’s effects ripple into the stock market, and Wall Street, and pronounced plunger sales. Such a hunk of meatiness was spotted in the Minneapolis area over Christmas. Photos were snapped. Respects were paid. And then of course, after a moment of silence, it was eaten. Amen.
Once upon a time, back in the days when the patio had but one grill, I remember thinking also, that one bag of charcoal was plenty for my needs. And it was I suppose. But as BBQ skills matured and grew, it seemed so too would my charcoal reserves. For let it be said, nothing quite so burns your brisket more than getting your slobbers going for some good BBQ, and then to go out into your garage or shed and discover a nearly empty bag of charcoal sitting there, with three maybe four briquettes left, sitting prostrate in a shallow carpet of coal dust. Oh how many a fanciful smoke has been delayed by this grievous situation not soon forgotten until at last some coal is lit, and meat plunked on the grate. We Patrons of the Pit, we eventually learn, and we heed the boy scouts long-standing motto, and vow to be prepared, ever more, less this sort of foolery rear again. Here is how we do it.
We buy allot of charcoal. My brother says we’ve gotten to the point now where we are buying charcoal by the pallet. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, but I guess it not uncommon to see an mean average of a 120 pounds of Kingsford blue in our garages on any given day. Some days even more. And it is a beautiful site of preparedness, one of which grilling purists, and Brethren of the Flame will all hail, and the rational people of the world I suppose, all shake their collective heads. It is only slightly obsessive we wager, stocking up on so much charcoal, for grilling proper is but a seizing of the moment. And to not have the adequate sum charcoal on hand when the moment is ripe, is a travesty not fit for a pit master proper, nor even his dog. So we stock up.
Of all the charcoal products out there, the Kingsford in the blue bag is what we keep coming back to it seems. For the very simple reason – they work. Indeed, they always give a predictable burn, with a steady heat, and are easily lit. They are the baseline charcoal briquette most enthusiast cut their teeth on. There are rumors circulating the internet that Kingsford has changed something in their charcoal as of late, but we haven’t noticed if this is true. How ever, it is still fun to change it up at times, and cook with hardwood lump charcoal, which tends to burn hotter that briquettes, which is not at all a bad idea for things like steaks or burgers. Regardless of what charcoal you go with however, it is well with a grill master’s soul to amass a veritable mountain of it deep in his lair. To be prepared. So that no sooner does the impulse to grill strike that he not plunder in the folly of the moment, for this sad state of not having enough charcoal in which to dutifully roast his beloved, tho highly fattening pork butt.