To the time-lapsed eye, a golden sun arced like a fiery pendulum across a blue summer sky. And the cumulus clouds hung puffy and white like heavenly mobiles on high. Songs birds bellowed their stoic harmonies from yonder dogwoods and cattails softly bent in the summer breeze. Such lovely times of it here on the 45th parallel, or summertime in Minnesota. Everything is so alive and vital. So green and so plentiful. The earth spins swiftly here too, and the weeds in the garden grow like babies in the evening’s long shadows.
On the pit tonight, a big birthday steak, for yours truly! In these archives, she will go by the name Mrs Sturminator. No, not the steak, but a person we know. Mrs Sturminator is a long time friend, and frequenter of the pit, and when your birthday comes along, she tends to set a chap up rather well, so-to-speak. She’s been doing such things for years. So this year she gave me a steak. And not just any steak. A grass fed top sirloin steak, so thick I do believe it should have come with it’s own pair of suspenders! Mercy! No sir, Mrs Sturminator never is one for giving wimpy gifts.
I had some yard bird thighs handy, so I tossed those on the pit too. Along with some foiled potatoes, and of course, thy beloved and highly esteem sirloin. Of which I discovered was actually pair of steaks, which if course, was even better. The thighs were seasoned in miners mix XXX Garlic, and the potatoes were wrapped in foil along with olive oil and some Miners Mix Steak and Veggie. Yes, more Miners mix. Sorry, it’s just when you find something that’s better than most, well, you eat it! Then we also sauteed up some mushrooms in butter and more steak and veggie seasoning on the Craycort cast iron griddle insert. A modular grate affair that just keeps getting better. Love those Craycort grates!
For seasoning the steak, as always, I like to keep it simple. Steaks are too precious to screw around with. Just onion and garlic salt on this one, grilled to a modest medium over hardwood lump coal. Quite possibly my favorite thing to eat in all the known world. Happy Birthday indeed, and patron to the pit.
Think we’ll just leave it at that this week. Let the photo of this perfectly seared top sirloin topped with sauteed mushrooms do the talking. Boy did my belly wrap rightly around this one, people. Man! A special thanks to cows that eat only grass, and to Mrs Sturminator for sending a portion of one my way. Your talent for giving is one of quiet legend. But your heart measures even more so. To good people and good food.
Many thanks, and Amen.
Once upon a time we will hearken back to the good old days, and remember from whence they sang. The days where the wood smoke bellowed freely from pit damper and chimney stack. Days where the air was still sweet to the taste, and the morning dew left on the grass seems as if it were presented there, just for you. The days of yore where we ate like kings, and slept like hogs, whilst the crescent moon hung like a phantom in a starry sky. And we could come and go as we pleased, and tarry the day long beside our beloved BBQ grills, leaning back in our patio chairs, left leg crossed over right. Baseball game bantering quietly on the pit radio, and a lovely beverage within reach. The aromas of chicken or beef or pork, perfectly seasoned, and sizzling beneath that old enameled dome. Ah yes, these were the days indeed. The days of the pit jockey. The good old days.
That’s what we’ll think some day, supposedly. Or so I’ve been told. In the elder years, tipping to and fro in the rocking chair, and looking back through the lens of retrospection. I’ve noticed plenty of folks reminisce like this. It’s the thing to do, after all, when you crave roses in December. I even like to partake in it myself from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Then I went camping with a bloke once, who informed me around the campfire that night, that these days we were in, well, they ARE the good old days.
I tossed another log in the fire, and thought about that for a bit.
Maybe he was right. Could it be we are actually living now in the good old days? Is this our time to shine? Well, when left to ponder such pickles for too long, a patron of the pit defaults to his natural and most basic thinking patterns – we eat! Join me at the pit tonight, and we’ll show you what’s going on up here on the 45th parallel.
To start, I had some good chicken thighs sizzling nicely, seasoned in Miners Mix Poultry Perfection. And because I couldn’t make up my mind, Miners Mix XXX Garlic, just because. Both highly adequate rubs for poultry. We crisped up the skin for a couple of minutes over direct heat, and then drug the thighs back over indirect heat for the rest of the cook. Standard yard bird techniques. Near the end of the session, we slapped on some Joe Joe’s Hog Shack Blackberry Sauce, and man oh man, let me tell you. This stuff is currently my most favorite BBQ sauce in the world, I think. It’s on the sweeter side, tastes like blackberries, and brings what ever meat I varnish it on to the next level in succulence. A special thanks to Brian and Joe, at Joe Joe’s Hog Shack for keeping us stocked in their magic meat elixir. Check them out some time here.
Also, if you want to hook yourself up with some Miners Mix, like the flavors we used today, check them out here.
Or you can get some on Amazon too. And if you use one of our affiliate links just below, a small kick back about as big as a bee’s knee will be sent our way. Yeah! Plus you help support the Spice Wizards of Miners Mix, not to mention your meat will taste a whole bunch better. Anyways, back to the story.
Now some of you readership have informed us that we need to get more vegetables on our plate. Well, I suppose there does come a time in a man’s grilling career where he should listen the women folk, and so here goes nothing. We sliced up a red bell pepper to roast over the coals a bit. We prepped the slices in an olive oil bath, and seasoned them with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning. Yup, they got something for everything, it seems. And mercy did it go well on roasted red peppers. Outstanding, in point of fact.That sided with some green beans, well, you can’t tell me there weren’t enough vegetables on my plate tonight! Oh yes, we eat well here at the pit.
As I plated up this highly succulent and might I add, colorful meal, I thought back to that night around the campfire. To the good old days. I dunno. When you’re blessed with a good plate of food like this, and somebody you love to share it with, it’s hard to deny that you’re not having a pretty good day, by and by. And when you think about it, any day these days seems like a gift. Because really it is. Say what you will, but you just never know when your number is up. So everyday is a blessing for sure, and that by default then makes it a good day. So be inspired then, we say, to live each day in good food, and fellowship, and to show one another just how fiercely you can love. Because yeah, I suppose these really are the good old days. But then so is every day, I’d wager, as it’s a gift straight from above. And it would be a shame to waste it on some improperly grilled chicken thighs. Amen.
Pecan Smoked, Blackberry Tinted Chicken Thighs, roasted red bell pepper seasoned in Miners mix, and a lovely bouquet of green beans for to please the lady folk. I reckon it could get a little better than this, but that’s not proper to discuss here. Yum!!
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I thought I was a humble fellow, but I guess it turns out I’m not. It was just your run of the mill slab of pork ribs. Your basic kettle cook at 20 below. Truly, I thought nothing of it when my wife requested ribs for supper during a polar vortex. This is just what I do. Its who I am. And she knew it. However, in retrospect, I probably should have gone to McDonald’s for a Big Mac instead. Let me digress.
Indeed, the recent polar vortex to come through town put the kibosh on a great many outdoor activities. What with 20 below wind chills, it was a day obviously better suited for other endeavors besides the art of BBQ. But I had never gone sally with the elements before, leastwise where BBQ is concerned, and by golly, today wasn’t the day I would start. And the winds hurtled through the icy township with a divine authority that demanded respect. The good people of the world were huddled indoors, suckling hot cocoas and watching Netflix marathons. And then there was me. Fortunately, the Pond Side Pit was tucked into the gracious eddies of the house that which broke the keen and penetrating December wind. Well, for the most part it did. And there, amid my armory of Webers, I was able to make my stand.
I chose the Weber kettle as my tool of choice this smoke, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s small, and would require less fuel on this cold day to keep it hot. And two, I just didn’t feel like dumping ten pounds of charcoal into the Weber Smokey Mountain for one rack of ribs. As much as I love the WSM, it is rather the gas guzzling SUV of the meat smoking world. No matter, I was a Patron of the Pit. I had smoked ribs in the Weber kettle many times. This was old hat! Child’s play…
“Henceforth, I destroyed thy pork ribs with a vigor usually reserved for a nuclear detonation.”
They were hard, brittle, and crusty to the touch. Looked like the skeletal remains of a pet which did not make it clear of the house fire. It was bad. A chunk in hand could have maybe sufficed as a good charcoal pencil for the cave walls, that which I felt like I have just emerged from. Hark, it looked as if my elder brother had even come by and assisted me with my BBQ whilst I was not looking. Where did I go wrong?
What we learned
Well, for starters, I learned not to under-estimate the narcoleptic value of a good grandma blanket. Because that’s where I was for much of the smoke. Under a grandma in the living room, snoring like a brown bear whilst listening to football on the TV. It was an agreeable lifestyle. The kettle grill was left to its own devices out on the patio. I thought I had set it up for success. Turns out I had not. I had built the fires too hot inside it’s steely bosom. In an ill-guided miscalculation on my part, I figured somewhat logically, that because it was so cold out, I would counter the elements with a slightly larger fire. All this did however, was raise the pit temperature from pretty hot, to split-your-own-atoms, kind of hot. And thus incinerated my beloved ribs with all due effectiveness. Aw well. Live and learn, as they say. There’s always tuna fish sandwiches for supper.
A week has passed. Maybe a bit more than that. The new weekend was upon thee, and I had a span of clock available to smoke another rack of ribs if I wanted. Well, with my last efforts still dawdling on my mind like cigar smoke in the drapes, I wanted nothing more than to rectify my blunder, and set my status right again in the smokey community. To get this rancid flavor of defeat off my tongue. The temperature had risen now to a balmy zero degrees or something like that. The wind was low, in-effectively low, and the tweety birds were even active again, darting about the yellow block of suet I had set out for them. This is as good as it was going to get in a Minnesota winter. Like an aplinist siezing a window of proper weather in which to summit Everest, I knew I must act soon. And I knew this time I would do it right, and fire up the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Tho it uses moocho much fuel, one thing is for sure about the Weber Smokey Mountain. It works. And it works in the cold too. One heaping chimney full of orange glowing coals dumped into the center of a ring of unlit coals, as seen in the photo, is all it takes for a rack or three of ribs on any given day. The minion method is your friend here. That’s where the lit coals slowly light up the unlit coals, and those coals in turn light up other unlit coals, kind of like a chain re-action, thus employing a steady, even burn, to last many hours with out baby sitting. The WSM was soon established at 225 degrees, and it did not budge from this temperature the rest of the cook. I should have just done it right the first time, but you know how it goes.
To learn more about the minion method, we did a write-up years ago on that. It’s probably our most read article. Consume at your leisure is so inclined.
Meanwhile, we seasoned up the ribs with a splattering of Worcestershire sauce, and then liberally dusted it Kit’s K.C. BBQ rub from our friends over at Miner’s Mix. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again; if we had to be monogomous to one spice rub company, I do believe the Miners Mix crew would be our choice. Just love their flavors. Here’s a link to their stuff if you guys haven’t yet had the occasion.
Anyways, we put the ribs on the pit, bone-side down, and let them do their thing for two and a half hours at 225 degrees in a gentle cloud of pecan smoke. Then we foiled them with a little smearing of butter and BBQ sauce for one more hour. And I napped only cautiously this time, under my grandma blanket, hockey game on the TV, and listened to the calling of my pit master instincts, as the culinary end game drew nearer to thee. And like it does in winter, the night fell early over the land, as the old bullet smoker puffed stoically out on the patio. The aromas of a Carolina BBQ shack wafted over the crusty fields of blue-tinted snow, for which a slender moon hung silently above. I slipped into my shoes, and waddled out the patio door to check the tenderness of my spoils, jacket zipped tight, and there under the scant starlight of a cold winter’s eve, amid the sounds of sizzling pork and aluminum foil unwrapping, I knew as surely I had known anything before, that these ribs would at once be amazing. And furthermore, that I had been quitely redeemed. Amen.
Succulent pecan-smoked pork ribs redeemed from the jaws of a polar vortex. Very satisfying, both to the stomach and soul. Grill on! -PotP
*To the readership. This is a rare event on PotP. Don’t miss your chance to enter to win a free Solo Stove Titan in our first ever giveaway. All you need to do is leave a comment below, then go to this link, Titan Giveaway – Patrons of the Pit, and it will guide you from there. Another way you can enter the giveaway is to like our Facebook page, and again, just go through the link above, and it will direct you to Facebook from there. If you can’t do either of those, an Email address will enter you into the contest also. Regardless, use the link if you want to participate in the giveaway. Think of the link as a conduit for getting things done. The widget needs the attention so it can keep track of who has entered the giveaway. Oh, and if you have previously liked our Facebook page, sorry, those likes do not count in this giveaway. Anyways, now let’s get on with this review already!
Not too long ago, last week in point of fact, I was backpacking through the hinter regions of northern Minnesota. Was on one of my usual haunts there, afoot with a pack on my back, enjoying some of the swiftly vanishing perks of wilderness travel. Solitude. Clean rushing rivers. Pure air in which to breathe, ushered on a breeze that which murmurs like poetry through the long-standing pines. It was October, and the tamarack along the way were turning golden there, kissed in an autumnal sunbeam. It was just plain lovely. So much so and in fact, it rather demanded a spot of tea.
Enter The Titan
I had along a new piece of gear this hike, one sponsored to us by the kindly folks at Solo Stove. It’s a backpacking stove, good for car camping too, that runs completely off wood, or what ever other forest debris, or bio fuel, you might find laying about. It’s pretty slick. And I don’t think I have ever had a more poetic, scientifically satisfying, trail-side cup of tea in my life, than I had with this ingeniously designed cooker. The Solo Stove Titan. The glory is in the flame. So grab yourself a cup of tea likewise, and let’s disect this thing, shall we.
Natural Convection Inverted Down Gas Gasifer
Here’s how it works. You build your fire on the nichrome wire grate down in the stove. Air comes in through the holes at the bottom of the stove, feeding oxygen to the fire there. With me so far? Simple enough. Here is where it gets interesting tho. The stove is double walled, and so warm air also travels upwards, heating up as it goes, between in the inner wall and the outer one. Once it reaches the top of the stove, it is expelled through another set of slightly smaller holes there. The oxygen coming out these holes, as mentioned, has been preheated in its ascent, and when it dumps back into the firebox, a literal secondary combustion occurs. And that, my friends, is the magic of the Solo Stove.
So What Does It Mean?
What it means is efficiency. This additional act of combustion assists the fire in burning more complete, they say. In point of fact, when the fire is going at full tilt, there is very little smoke produced at all, because it is so efficient. In theory, the stove will cook the smoke right out of the wood. Least wise that’s what the flame wizards at Solo Stove say. The efficient burn also means you will use less wood to cook with, when compared to cooking over an open camp fire. Not only that, when the fuel burns out, there is nothing but a fine, powdery ash remaining. No glowing embers to deal with, courtesy of that efficient burn. Needless to say, I was intrigued. So let’s get after that cup of tea, shall we.
It comes with a nicely crafted pot support, that nests inside the stove for travel. Anyways, I had a fire quickly kindled in its steel bosom, and set my old, blackened kettle on to boil. Enough for two cups of tea, I should wager. I sat back and watched the river gurgle by and admired this piece of cooking technology before me. Occasionally I fed it a small twig or stick to keep it happy. As the fire established, I must say, I was smitten by the results.
It didn’t take the fire long at all to stabilize, and the initial plumes of smoke on start-up, to dissolve into distant memories. There is an opening on the pot support, or cooking ring, as you can see, in which to further feed the fire as needed. We had to do a little of that. I’d wager the amount of wood used for two cups of water was something like two large handful’s of sticks broken into finger length pieces. Thicker hardwoods, of course, burn better and longer than the soft balsam fir sticks that I used, but I had about one million square acres of forest and wood to play with, so it didn’t really matter. That’s another joy of a wood burning backpacking stove, I discovered. You will never run out of fuel. Leastwise in the north woods of Minnesota, you sure won’t.
After a fashion, I also noticed the secondary combustion thing kicking in. It actually worked! Of course I failed to capture it in a photo for you, but if you were to peer down into the fire chamber a little more, you would see the fire seemingly coming out of that higher set of holes that we talked about earlier. Indeed, the main fire down on the grate was blazing away, but it was also shooting out of the holes up near the top. And the smoke was curiously absent, just like they said. I gotta say, I was impressed. Even my wife, who is not often impressed by scientific stuff, was suitably awed. We were sipping tea in no time, enjoying the warmth of a hot mug in our hands, and further admiring this little stove .
Later on in camp, we fired it up again.
The inner pyromaniac in me couldn’t get enough play time with this stove. I discovered its engineering went other ways too. Subtle ways. For example, I discovered that even when the stove is fiercely hot, that I could still move it around if I had to by gripping it below the lowest set of holes. It wasn’t exactly cool down there, but not hot enough either that you couldn’t hang onto it for a while if you had to move it for some reason. The reason that impressed us was because if it’s not hot down there, then that means you could set it on a picnic table, perhaps, and not have to worry about burning a nice 5.1 inch circle into your table top. Always a nice thing.
Here are some specs on the Solo Stove Titan, if you’re curious
Specs for the Sole Stove TitanPacked size: Height 5.6 inches, Width 5.1 inchesAssembled size: Height 7.9 inches, Width 5.1 inchesWeight: 16.5 ozMaterials: 304 stainless steel, nichrome wireFuel: sticks, twigs, pine cones and other biomassBoil time: 4-6 mins (32 fl oz of water)To read more on the Solo Stove Titan, do check out their website at:
And finally, the part you’ve been waiting for. As mentioned, Solo Stove has offered to do a giveaway for one lucky subscriber of Patrons of the Pit. We’ve never done a giveaway before, but you guys deserve it, and well, it might be fun. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are three ways to enter.
Three Ways to Enter!
The other weekend my trail crony and I made camp at a nearby wilderness establishment; a locale of great loveliness, off the beaten path, and aside a watershed patron to a sky full of stars. As you may have gleamed around here, from time to time, we do rather like to engage our souls in the wilder places. In point of fact, if ever we were to scribe another blog, it would doubtless be one touting the high joys of the outdoor life. For this is what we do, by and by, besides grilling beautiful cuts of meat, that is. We seek to tarry where creation is most divine. And so there we were, naturally, on the forest floor, our tents poetically pitched at the tail of a moonbeam. The stars drifting across an ebony sky. And the coyotes yelping from the distant hills.
If you’ve never spent the night in the forest, your senses have never then been properly primed. Nor your imagination so sublimely stretched. To hear the critters scamper about, and everyone of them, you swear, sniffing the trembling corners of your tent. You can hear the diameter of coyote’s nose at ten paces, as it draws it’s air from the still night. The Trumpeter Swans bellowing in the darkness. You can hear those too. The Great Horned Owls stirring up a nocturnal racket, yapping on like little old ladies sitting in the tree tops. Then, some time in the wee hours, the undecipherable sounds of something heavy and hairy wandering at the edge of the woods. Nay, that’s just my camp mate, out for his nightly leg raise. It’s all good in the woods.
Shifting gears now, out at the pit. A light pecan smoke curls from the old kettle grill. It’s been a long week. A busy week. The kind of week that the big city is good at dishing out to those challenged and beleaguered souls entrapped within it’s elastic bosom. Everyone is in a hurry here. Pedal to the proverbial metal. Car horns blaring. Phones ringing. Sirens racing. It’s really something. Or at least you seem to notice it more, perhaps, after a good camping trip afield. Maybe that’s what it is. There is a palatial difference, or is it indifference, between the speed of life in the city and one out in the quieter places. One of head-turning, iconoclastic proportions. And it only takes one night bedded down on the forest floor to realize it. And so my grilling, as humble as it may be, is at last a small respite to me – a last beach head of tranquility in a world gone to haste.
So it was, and with great pleasure, too, that I laid the succulent pork chops over the pecan-scented flames. This one simple act, where man cooks meat over fire, outside, seems to trigger a domino of mental pleasures, all toppling forth in a splendid way before me. For starters, the smell of the wood smoldering over the fire. Very pleasant. Which in turn, connects to memories of cooking fires past. And some of those memories, of fires yonder, in places long ago. Of camp fires and good people. Over hill and by the dale, where the coyotes freely sing, and the moonbeams kiss the tender fabric of our tents. And illuminate the quiet hollows of our soul. Amen.
Pecan smoked pork chops, with garlic mashed potatoes and a good spill of peas. Good is good at the pit tonight. And even better cooked outside. A Pit Keeper’s respite.
If ever the sun dallied just right in a blue sky, this was it. By golly, this was it. I suppose it could be that my appreciation for a warm sun beam has been acutely honed through the sheer absence of such things, courtesy of a long, winter’s campaign; but I tell you this, never has a single golden ray of it kissed my grizzled face so fine as it did this quiet, unassuming day at the pit. It has been a long winter in Minnesota, and I guess I was just ready for the sun again. Biologically primed, if you will, to lavish in it’s life-giving rays, and to dawdle the day away if need be, for to soak up every last photon of it, delivered on easy slants of golden light. And I did. Pulling it in like a poker victor rakes in his chips. When a day this nice comes along, a man does what he has to, you see. He does what he must. He digs in.
Digging in. It means to plant roots. To anchor thyself in a chosen locale, usually of a lovely persuasion. To take up roost there, and nary be thwarted by anything else. That is the way of us pit jockeys, you see. When we get a nice ambiance going, or a beautiful day such as this, with wood smoke gently in curl, sunbeams dappling through the lofty tree tops, tweety birds in full serenade, well, it is ingrained in our pit master instincts to exploit it for all its worth. A task not too difficult, nor far fetched, when you are as advanced as yours truly, in the fine art of being lazy. You do know, don’t you, how we like to loiter around here? It’s rather our specialty. Still, and even so, one ought to have a goal of some sort, and I certainly did. Namely supper. In particular, beef stew patron to the pit. Are you ready for this?
Of the first order, that is after drawing a manly beverage from the refrigerator, I stood abreast the little pit, and plopped a commendable load of stew meat onto the hot cast iron grates. They sizzled in eager anticipation there, whilst I manipulated them with aluminum tongs in hand. Then, for the heck of it, because I’ve long heard that smoked cabbage is good, I tossed on a 1/4 head of cabbage, and chucked a small tatter of mesquite wood into the coals for a little smokey goodness. Put the lid on and let the pit do it’s magic thing whilst I diced up the vegetables under the eternal blue skies above.
It’s your beef stew, you put what ever you please in it. I like potatoes and carrots. Corn and green beans too. And like I mentioned, a little bit of cabbage. And some unsalted beef broth too, for it all to swim in. And the latter I would have, had I not mistakenly believed the beef broth had been tampered with. Turns out those cartons of broth are self-puncturing when you open it up. I didn’t know that, and thus, my alder bush out pond-side got a nice drink of beef broth, on the house. Live and learn, I guess.
So we nestled the dutch oven into the hot bosom of the old kettle grill, with a few coals below it, and the rest tucked around the perimeter. A little smoke wood was still smoldering, and the day was still glorious to behold. And I knew just what to do next. I put on the kettle lid, grabbed my beverage, and made camp!
Here to Stay!
Like I said, I aimed to stay here a while. To dig in! I’ve waited far too long for weather of this kind. More over, I wanted to test out my new backpacking tent, of which I launched this day, it’s maiden erection right here on the lawn, right beside the smoking kettle grill. I sensed a formidable tandem of sheer joy here. And it wasn’t long before I was belly-up in that thing, song birds blasting away, and for a moment, I was as giddy as a school boy, content with all the world, and then a few moments after that, I was dozing in the quietude, like an old man swaddled in blessings.
And the cloud shadows silently paraded across the grass, whilst the wood smoke gently tapered into that blue sky.
An unknown amount of time passed, like it always does when your dug in somewhere. I stirred quietly in my tent; scratching my hair, and then my belly, whilst listening to the day declare around me. The tweety birds still rejoiced, and the sun, I noted, had ebbed a little further south and west, on it’s fiery arc through the sky. And hark, the aromas of mesquite and beef stew wafted as if on angelic wings through the cool air, mingling with the scent of emerging spring chlorophyll in my little nylon hut. Glory! I must say, because it’s true, I’ve never had a Weber kettle grill in a campsite before, but now, after some consideration of the matter, not to mention first hand experience, I think it could be an agreeable venture after all.
I eventually emerged from my tent like a flannel-clad, ground hog, arose to a stately posture, and promptly itched my butt, then waddled over to the pit to check in on supper. Yes, I guess it is well to cook alone sometimes. Anyways, I gave it a good stir, mixing in some more of that smokey goodness. The carrots were soft. So were the spuds. I added some freshly cracked black pepper and some salt to taste. Man! I didn’t want this cook to end. This day to end. But eventually my coals did peter out. And my glorious sun swept with out care over the roof top, leaving a cold shadow over the patio from whence it shone.
That was enough, I thought. No sense in being greedier yet. It had been a good day at the pit, after all. A very good day indeed. A day in which I did precisely that which was well with my soul. A body needs such respites from time to time. And to do so where the wood smoke also rises. Amen. And time to eat.
Savory, Wholesome, Mesquite Smoked Beef Stew, Fresh out of the Dutch Oven and patron to the pit. Yum!!
A silvery moon hung over the spruce tops as I bandied a batch of coals to the edge of the old kettle grill, banking them up there in a fiery pile. Tho the air temperature dipped below zero, with a sky as clear as a glass of gin, the warmth from the fire kept things sporting out on the patio tonight. Stars twinkling above like diamonds dashed over a blackened canvas, the ice moaning on the pond yonder, and the collar turned up on my old, woolen smoking jacket, whilst hands warmed over a bed of orange-glowing coals. What a beautiful time to make time, to tarry by pit-side on a frigid winter’s eve. This is the perfect marriage of fire and ice. Just cold enough to let you know you’re still alive, but with a fire just delightful enough that you can’t help but to sidle up a little closer to it, thankful as all can be, for to fancy yourself there, a Comrade of the Coals.
People think there is hardship in winter grilling. And I presume they speak of the cold. What they often forget it seems, is that you have at your disposal, via the inherent laws of grilling, a quaint little fire of which you must foster and tend. Fire is hot. And I find this a delightful contrast to the cold. For think back to those sultry days of summer, where the sweat beads down your spine, and it is one hundred and eleven degrees in your back yard, and you smell about as rank as the neighbor’s dog, and for some reason we think it’s prudent then to light a fire and make some hot dogs. A hot fire on a hot day is nice and all, but I’m sorry, there is no comparing the pleasures to the same fire on a cold day. It’s all about contrast.
I reckon that’s why we grill in winter, or at least part of it anyways. Everything is just keener in the cold. Good things become great. It’s like grilling in HD. Your senses seem to absorb the smokey moments as if conveyed over a high speed connection. It’s hard to articulate these matters, but easy to appreciate. Anyways, we pattied up four quarter-pound burgers, seasoned lightly with Lipton Onion Soup mix, and placed them indirect of our beautiful bed of coals. It’s burgers tonight. Nothing fancy. You will find in winter grilling that you don’t often need to be fancy to be satisfied. Just putting meat to flame is sufficient enough to get your fix! And thus we did, indirect tonight, the entire way, with a little hickory wood tossed on the coals for added flavor.
Now you all know how to grill a hamburger. If you can’t you probably ought to reconsider this BBQ past time of yours. Nay, this isn’t about hamburgers, but rather the joy of winter grilling. Yes, there is joy to be had there. There is. And as you southern folk slather on your sun tan lotion, I’ll tell you more. Properly dressed, you see, and with a reasonable attitude, and a good fire stoked in the steely bosom of your pit, you can prosper here. The mechanics are the same. Put meat to flame. Cook meat. Eat meat. Burp. Any dummy can do it.
Whilst you tend your proteins over the flame, take a moment and look around. Note how clear the night sky is, free of thermal activity. The clarity meshes seamlessly into the stars, which twinkle and dance there like they were doing so just for you. And the moon, with it’s gentle light dropping through the pit-side spruce trees, their shadows dappling over crusted snow, awash in a subtle blue hue. And lo, behold the hush of a winter night, how all the snow seems to suck up decibels with aplomb, especially freshly fallen, and deep unto thy knees. The fire crackles, and the burgers sizzle, and you are cozy by and far, and highly content, patron to this good fire at your hip. Amen.
Hickory tinted cheddar cheese burgers on a toasted pretzel bun. Yum! Hey, you gotta eat in winter too, so might as well eat good.
The sun barely hemorrhaged in a southwestern sky, its underbelly seemingly scratched by the dominant, leafless, silhouetted oaken forests below, bleeding it’s beautiful salmon hues and soft pastels over the frozen wetlands from whence we camped. Off the shore, a large pond nestled like a flattened jewel in the forest primeval, frozen in time, and reflecting the last colorful rays of the day. My trail cronie and I watched, as the last sunbeams kissed the cold earth, and all the land tapered into darkness. We felt like a couple of Apollo astronauts, adrift, our orbit silently slipping around to the dark side of the moon.
You see, it’s the winter solstice here in Minnesota. And thus it gets dark, swiftly, and kind of stays that way for an exquisite amount of time. The sun was to set at 4:34 in the afternoon, they said, and not to rise again until 7:48 the next morning. I quickly did the math. It came to around 15 hours of darkness. Now I have no idea what it’s like, or how long it takes to orbit around the far side of the moon. Nor how those brave astronauts must feel abandoning all light and heat, sailing on faith through the darkness, but this may be as close as I ever get. Cold, dark and alone. Well not alone, I have a fellow patron with me today. We decided at the last-minute to celebrate the shortest day of the year with a little camping trip afield. A sortie to one of our favorite little woodland retreats, to get away from the urban throng a bit, and if the day would have it, to bake a pizza.
Turns out we did. The crust was just one of those easy ones. You know, the kind where you get to pop open one of them pressurized cans. When its 20 degrees outside, we figure, who wants to mess around. Anyways, oil the bottom of the pan, and spread the dough out accordingly. Season with olive oil, oregano and garlic. Earlier, whilst still the recipients of a sunlit encampment, we baked the crust first. Call this instincts, but not all cooking over a camp fire is a sure thing. With uneven heating, and scant equipment at your disposal, as is commonplace in a campsite, we figured we best see to it the crust got the best shot it could towards a delicious end game. So we cooked it separately, for to keep an eye on it and make sure it complied to our highest bidding. First, we placed it on the fire grate, over direct heat and cooked the bottom. Then tipped it on edge, indirect of the fire, to finish it off by reflection. Now the crust is done all the way through. Because we have no oven, and are just winging this cave man style, this seemed good strategy. Next we assembled the yum!
I believe we had about two layers of pepperonis on that thing. A can of olives. A can of mushrooms. A pile of red and green peppers. And enough cheese to block up an elephant. Man! Whence the creation was built, it was then laid indirect of a good blaze, and tipped towards the fire as much as possible without dumping everything into the ash. Oh it’s a dicey game we play when we dare to dance the flames of camp fire cooking. A better technique would have been to put a lid over the pan of pizza, and scatter some coals atop of it. To cook it like that intensely from above. But we didn’t have a lid. We didn’t have much of anything really. We were camping, you see, and didn’t wanted to be bothered by the clutter. Which is another way of saying, I wish we had a lid! But we didn’t. Turns out if your patient type, you don’t need a lid after all, to bake your camp fire pizza. You just need time and heat. And we had both.
So we let the pizza ride indirect for 20 minutes or so, and rotated it 180 degrees for even cooking. It was the slowest pizza we have ever baked, but it was getting there alright. By about 40 minutes into it, you could just start to identify the aromas of fresh-baked pepperoni pizza wafting through camp. Say what you will, but out yonder in the hither regions where no man goes, with a frozen ground below your freezing toes, and the stars shimmering above, and no running water nor electrical outlet for your vain amusement, and an eternal December night stretched out in front of you – well, to smell hot pizza in your vicinity, let’s just say there is no reward so sweet!
Low and slow pizza is what this turned out to be. Such are the antics of the campfire chef. But good is good, and pizza is always good! And under the soft LED glow of a head lamp, we sliced into it, making first tracks on the dark side of the moon. Amen.
Upon waking this morning, I was informed by the WordPress Monkeys that today is Patrons of the Pits birthday. Yup, go figure that. They said we were 3 years old, today. In the blogosphere, just like in human years, well, that’s just getting out of your diapers for good. So it’s our birthday. Seems fitting then to re-print here our very first blog post, just because. Enjoy…
Many thanks to our fabulous readership. Without you there would be no birthday today. And a whole lot less meat pics in cyberspace.
If memories are linked with smell, and we believe this to be so, then there are a lifetime of them every time we light the grill. The charcoal grill that is. Not to be snobbish or disrespectful to you gassy people out there, your way is fun too, for at least you are out there, putting meat to flame, but less you plunk a tatter of wood upon thy burner, you simply will never know the joy of smoke. Nor achieve that true smokey flavor that real BBQ is known for. That’s half the reason we grill in the first place, for the smell of it. For the sheer wafting ambiance of wood smoke floating over a quiet pit. Ducks milling on the pond. Gophers dashing across the back forty. The waning golden rays of sun a’wash over your tranquil patio. And the smell of smoldering mesquite in the…
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I am smitten for the surf. No, not the sort of surf you folks in California see on a regular basis, with those mighty curlers, and hearty folk balanced atop them on slender boards. That’s impressive and all, but not what I mean. Nay, the sort I speak of today is of the fresh water variety. The much smaller cousin, if you will, found on the larger inland lakes and watersheds scattered about this fine country. Maybe surf isn’t the appropriate word here. A good wave is really what I’m talking about. A good, rhythmic, all-day, rush-up-to-your-feet-and-soak-your-boot-if you’re-not-ready-for-it, kind of wave. In short, the kind of waves my fellow patron and I mixed company with this weekend last, on a little camping trip up Lake Superior way, here in the first hallowed folds of November proper. Let it be said, because it’s true, we lived the pampered life there. The respite of kings. We ate like hogs, and slept like logs, each night lulled to sleep by the soothing rhythm of the ice water waves crashing on the beach. One could not help but to feel his blood pressure lower by just being there. It was good, people. So grab yourself an appropriate beverage, pull up your favorite chair, and we’ll tell you a little more about it, and how it went and came to be.
Now half of our mission statement, besides thus escaping the urban melee back home, was simply to eat our way through the weekend. A humble, albeit attainable goal, and one of which we were suitably prepared for. To assist us towards this higher end of gluttony, besides the token pair of stretchy pants, we brought along the one tool born for the task. The Mojoe Griddle. I might as well admit it, this griddle has wooed me silly in recent months, and I cannot hide my love for it. It’s awesome. There’s a reason we talk about it so much. And that reason is it just plain works! And let it be said, lake-side, in a beautiful encampment, nothing is quite so fine when camp cooking en-masse, than the vast, nearly non-stick surface of this massive griddle. We had four bellies in camp for to feed there, and the mojoe didn’t even blink. Not once. So it was good to have this culinary comrade at the ready in camp for our caloric ideals. And one thing we cooked was stir fry.
Over the lightly oiled, hot, steel surface of the griddle, my fellow patron fried up some thinly sliced chicken breast and beef. We seasoned the meat with what we had on hand: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, seasoned salt, and a few pinches of garlic powder. Pretty much ran the booty through the entire camping spice rack for this one, and man oh man, what yonder aromas did flood our camp! Every black bear within a twenty and one-quarter mile radius of our picnic table knew precisely what we were up to. We just played the odds that ursus hibernation and November go hand-in-hand. It does, doesn’t it? Anyways.
It weren’t long before we added the vegetables. One red onion, one yellow onion, and four bell peppers of various pigmentation. A few cloves of garlic to taste. A little more oil to help things along. Glory! Sunbeams sparkle off the largest fresh water lake in all the world, whilst we turn our gastronomic medley over piping hot steel. Rice noodles come to boil on the other burner. I guess you’ve noticed by now our latest cooking tool – the venerable dry wall blade. Hey, we’re men, what do you expect! Cam, from Mojoe Outfitters, who off-hand, and by the way, is a man too, well it was he who recommended the dry wall blade for this griddle. By golly, if them weren’t words but to abide kindly in the soul. One of the finer brain thrusts to cross the camp kitchen since baked beans. If you haven’t had occasion yet to plow your peppers about with such hardware, well let’s just say you’re missing something out of your life. There is just something delightfully emancipating about it, not to mention efficient. Like seeing your 401-K triple unexpectedly, or getting a new snow blower for your driveway. The world is yours! Likewise, I suspect nary a man with a pulse would not glow ear-to-ear tending his vittles in this matter. Where dry wall meets stir fry.
Lastly, whence the plunder was tender to eat, we lavished it with some Ginger Orange Asian sauce, mixing it in thoroughly, letting all the many flavors get to know one another. To get happy together, as it were. And thus, without much fanfare or the like, we cradled a paper plate each, piled high with steaming quantities of stir fry, and settled back into our camp chairs for a bit of proper pigging out. Chins were wiped, and burps were belched. Tummies were patted contentedly. If this is all we ate today, it would be alright. And as I tarried post-supper in my camp chair, watching the chickadees dart amid the birch and the balsam, I could not help but to recall the bustling city, and captive urban throngs that which we had left behind this weekend. All chasing their tails, ever in a rush it seemed. And as I looked out over the fresh water sea which sparkled in a golden light, and listened to its powerful waves roll onto the wild, northern coast, I tried to think of something that we might be missing by leaving the city behind for a while. But I didn’t come up with anything. In point of fact, I gave up such retrospection entirely, and just went back to the stove for seconds, instead. Returning to my chair once more, for to enjoy the food and fellowship, and to delight once again in my Lake Superior encampment, and the cold waves which topple forth there. Amen.
Camp Stir Fry courtesy of the Mojoe Griddle! Man! Good eating. Good scenery. Good people. Good times.
If you want to learn more about the Mojoe Griddle, check out http://www.mojoegriddle.com/ . PotP Approved!
This has nothing to do with BBQ. Not a single thing. But then again, maybe it does.
I was standing in line at the post office a while back, with a small box under my arm, making the best of my appointed errands there. The line was long, and the people in it were restless, wanting to get things moving, no doubt, so that they could get to the next line some place else. And I guess I was one of them. I’ve never been one for lines, but come to think of it, who is. Anyways, standing behind me was as elder man, sporting a red flannel shirt, gray hair and mustache, still of good form, and in his 80’s I should wager. I liked him right off. There was just something about how he held himself, and the patience he had there standing in line, that made him different I guess. Plus I liked his flannel. And patron to a quick glance at his ball cap, I deduced he was also a veteran of the Korean War.
My Pa was a Korean war veteran too. Flew in the big C-119 flying box car, which rumbled over the sea of Japan with tremendous regularity, bringing important supplies to our troops. Every body had a job or two out there, and that was his. I’ve heard some stories around the supper table in my day, let me tell you. But’s that’s all I know. The stories. Not being a veteran myself, I know I will never fully appreciate what it is really like to serve your country. To be on the battle field. I know this because of what happened next at the post office.
There was another old man standing in line, and he too caught a glimpse of the aforementioned Veteran, noted his ball cap, which plainly said “Korean War Veteran“, and promptly engaged him in penetrating conversation.
He asked the Veteran where he was assigned to, which squadron, and so on. I do not remember his answers. I didn’t need to. And neither do you. I just watched like a fly on the post office wall. Turns out they were both veterans of the Korean war. Both assigned to similar things. And within 30 seconds, nay, maybe even shorter than that, all the talking was done, and the old men simply embraced one another. Some heads turned in the post office, but they didn’t care. Brother’s of the trench, you might say. Clearly there was more going on here today, than postage exchange.
Moments like that sorta compel man to take pause, don’t they. Suddenly standing in line isn’t such an imposition. Nay, it’s our privilege. So may the Lord bless our veterans today, and every day, for their services selflessly rendered, so that you and I can even partake in something as mundane as standing in line at the post office. Our privilege indeed, And we thank you! We thank you one and all. Amen.
In the swiftly slanting light of an Autumn’s eve, I banked a bed of fiery coals to the side of the old kettle grill. Coaxing a few stragglers at the end of long tongs, thus setting the grill up for a quiet spot of indirect cooking. The sun conspired low over the golden tree tops where it ought to this time of year, with night coming on sooner and sooner. And the air was refreshingly cool, invigorating almost, with summer’s humidity a distant memory now. I buttoned up my flannel smoking shirt a couple of notches higher, and rummaged through the wood pile for today’s chosen smoke wood. Pecan sounded good. But then so did hickory. I vacillated over this quandary all of two nano seconds, I assure you, and just did what any pit jockey would at moments of such indecision – I used both. No compromise at the pit tonight. No wasted moments. For the light here quickly fades.
Before we get to cooking tonight, take a gander in this bucket. Lovely isn’t it…Three wild wood ducks, courtesy of a hunting friend, swimming in a flavorful home-made brine. Been there all of twenty and three hours already. And I tell you this, living your days as an acknowledged meat geek, you would be surprised what proteins seem to come your way. Meat just comes to me, people. I don’t know why. Warren Buffet has the same effect with money, I’ve noticed. And to Brad Pitt goes the girls. And me, well I get meat. And not necessarily classy meat either, but I ain’t complaining none. I thought the BBQ pulled beaver a while back turned out rather well, by and by. And I’m sure tonight’s plunder will too. Hickory Pecan Smoked Wood Duck, patron to the pit. Oh yes, let’s get after it.
Now concerning the gamy nature of wild duck. Some blokes like it, and some don’t. I suspect we here at he pit dally more towards the latter, so we concocted a simple, yet delicious brine for to leech some of that gaminess out. For three small birds we used:
Apple Cider Brine
1/2 Gallon Apple Cider
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Salt
Couple splashes of apple cider vinegar
6 slices of Ginger Root
5 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon Pepper
1/2 cup Orange Juice
*Go ahead and let your birds soak in the brine for about a day.
On a similar note, in case you are interested in such things, the very best recipe book we’ve found for wild duck is, Duck, Duck, Goose, by Hank Shaw. Really good stuff. Highly reviewed too, as you will see.
You can toss in what ever you like. From bay leaves, to sage, to your favorite spices. We do like to start with a base of apple cider tho. And yup, brine needs lots of salt. It won’t work otherwise. I guess the negative sodium ions attached themselves to proteins, and in-turn repel other negative ions which wander near to it, thus expanding the space between the proteins, the void of which is then diffused with your magnificent brine. Or something like that. Who knows. We are not scientists. We’re just men, who plop meat over flame and declare it good!
And so it was, the three little birds made the acquaintanceship of the hot cast iron grate, opposite a beautiful bed of coals. A chunk of hickory and a piece of pecan wood came to smolder, and the smoke softly billowed upwards in delicate, yet stately plumes. One bird we wrapped in bacon. One bird had only the rub. And the other we just left alone, to let the brine do all the talking.
Our rub today is another dandy from the good folks at Miners Mix. It’s called, Poultry Perfection Seasoning Rub for Turkey, Goose, Duck, Chicken, and Game, and I reckon it’s aptly named. Dang but they’ve got some good stuff. We dusted a couple of the ducks over pretty good with it, and man the smell of raw meat seasoned to perfection, well, it probably shouldn’t smell that good, but it does. Just one of the many privileges patron to the pit. And I nary can postpone any longer it’s gastronomic rendezvous with the biggest orifice on my face!
Near the end of our journey to 165 degrees internal temperature, we tossed some fresh vegetables into the Craycort frying pan insert, and sautéed them there in a splash of olive oil. It isn’t often we smell the aroma of sizzling cauliflower wafting from our pit damper, but we’re here to tell you, it don’t smell half bad. And it tastes a might better than that even. Every once in a while, even your most hardened pit jockey ought to stir up some vegetables on his cooker, if for any other reason than to try something new, and barring that, to at least please his lady folk.
Lid on, damper tweaked, a light wood smoke tapers into the autumn air whilst I make myself comfy in the patio chair, and muse over the day at hand. It was a good day, as days go, but my how the light is quick to flee. Used to be bright and balmy still, just a month or two ago, but here lately around supper time, the sun dips out of sight behind yonder roof tops, and doing so just a little swifter each day. Aw well, it’s just part of the natural balance of things living here on the 45th parallel. We get winter so we can better appreciate the summer, seems like. And I’m OK with that.
Long about the time that my pit-side introspection was wrapping up, and I could just start to smell the aroma of gently smoked duck bellowing from my pit vent, I knew then I had better keep an eye out for some visitors that equaled all matter of awkward. Now is the time they always show up. And I suppose it would be an ironic justice of sorts if they did. It’s common fact, you see, that if the Pond Side Pit were to have a mascot, well, it would probably be the lowly duck. Ducks are everywhere here. They abound in plentiful numbers, out numbering the residents two-to-one, and often travel in cantankerous packs. Many a time, whilst loitering at the pit, the little dudes will waddle up to me, first to see if I have any food to offer them, and then, as if driven by some moral code of duck law, they like to establish if whether or not it was their kin that they smelled cooking under my lid. And most days it’s not, and I’m free to loiter in peace. But this time they stood to get me out right, iffin I didn’t make swift work of it here. I probed the breast, looking for 165 internal, and instead hear a sickly chortle belching in the distance. Sounded like Phyllis Diller with a hang over. Hark! They were onto me! I could see them from across the far grass now, waddling in earnest. Well, good BBQ, as you know, is done when it’s done, and there is nothing we can say or do about that. And so the gap closed between them and I. Closed like a drawn curtain. My head hung a little lower, and my bottom lip drooped as they ambled on by, looking about as nonchalant as a duck can whilst still giving me the evil eye. Man…Yeah, I was hoping they wouldn’t show up today, as it’s all matter of awkward when they do. But on that note, and to a savory end, get you bib on people, it is time to eat. And Amen.
*No Pond Side ducks we injured during the making of this post.
**For further information on the cast iron modular grate system we use, check them out on amazon at the link just below. We are an affiliate for Amazon, and we sincerely do appreciate your support.
Hickory Pecan Smoked Wood Duck, seasoned in Poultry Perfection, man! Sided with lightly sauteed vegetables tinted in smokey goodness. Good eating, and every bit of it, patron to the pit.
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Way up north in the hither lands, in the remote forest primeval which abounds there, my bride and I made camp on the shores of this wild lake. A plot so far off the beaten-path, nary a soul was to be seen, nor man-made sound to be heard. The caustic drone of traffic on tarmac, and sirens and car alarms too, at last replaced by the ever-soft whispers of the breeze gently slipping through the Norway Pines. The lake, so cold and so clear, lapping at the pine-studded shore, whilst the heady serenade of loon song tugged on ethereal strings, that which seem lashed about the tender grommets of your soul. Yup, that’s the north country for you. Minnesota’s esteemed canoe country. And we try to go up there as often as we can, naturally, if only but to hear the loons sing strong once again, and smell that glorious, pine-tinted air. And maybe, if the culinary fates will have it, to procure something tasty over the open flame. Let’s head back to camp, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s for supper, and how it went and came to be, patron to paradise.
We brought a little something along with us from the home pit, as you can see. The latest material brain-thrust from our friend, Cam, at http://www.mojoegriddle.com . We’ll admit it, we have pretty much fallen deeply, and irretrievably in-love with this 1/4 inch steel behemoth of a griddle, and like a puppy, we found it quite difficult to just leave it at home. I was craving a little sublime camp fire cooking, you see, and quite frankly, this griddle is too much fun in a campsite not to show you. In point of fact, and in retrospect now, I think this was the most pleasant cook over a camp fire I’ve maybe done…ever. Everything just fell perfectly into place. There is a definitive poetry where flame meets high-grade steel, and we’re here today to tell you about it. Thus, and over a crackling pine fire, the Mojoe Griddle came up to temp whilst I dutifully chopped a yellow onion in kind.
The trick to chopping onions, my wife says, is not to get emotionally attached to them. I guess this prevents shedding tears or dramatic what-nots associated with onion cutting. I dunno, you take that advice as you will, whilst I plop a great matter of them over this freshly oiled griddle-top, and get about the business of making supper, here in the soft, dappled light of our northern encampment. I also chunked on a pound of 80-20 ground beef, where it sizzled alongside the sauteing onions in a perfect gastronomic union fit for a king or lumberjack alike. Mercy it smelled good in camp tonight! And a lone Bald Eagle soars just past a canopy top of ruby-red maple leaves, freshly turned against a gorgeous, blue, Minnesota sky.
From up in the birch trees, where the cool breeze gently fluttered the autumn leaves, a lone whiskey jack spied down upon us. The “camp robber” of canoe country, it was his territory we were in, and what aromas lofted his way, let’s just say he had a sense of bird entitlement or something, and perched there always, begging like the aforementioned puppy you can never leave behind. We tossed him a scrap or two of tortilla shell, in between our other duties of stoking the fire, stirring the spoils, and listening to the loons warm up across the lake. I stood abreast the fire pit, hot tin cup of cocoa in hand, my red flannel shirt buttoned up, and mused for a moment how wonderful it was to tarry lake-side like this, and cook a simple supper over a flickering wood fire. I need to do more of this sort of thing, I thought. And I supposed also, that old Whiskey Jack in the tree yonder, he must see guys like me every weekend there, standing by the fire, all thinking the same thing.
When the hamburger and onions were complete, we dashed them over rather liberally with some taco seasoning, stirring it in thoroughly, whilst splashing some water in it to simmer it back down. When a sample tasted right, we banked the meaty goods, onions and all, over to the cooler side of the griddle, and placed a lightly oiled tortilla over the hot area. Loaded it up appropriately, including a pile of shredded cheese, and let it henceforth sizzle there like a Barry White song. Lay another oiled tortilla on top to complete this backwoods quesadilla of sorts. The crux move here, of course, is to flip the entirety of the quesadilla in a fashion resembling a bloke who knows what he’s doing. With that said, we may or may not have lost a few more scraps to the camp robber, but at the end of the day, our plunder speaks for itself!
So we made up one quesadilla for the two of us, and a few soft shell tacos to boot. That’s the privilege and simultaneous challenge of camp cooking. Your choices are indeed scant, and far removed from the convenience of a grocery store just down the road. In camp cooking, you get what you’ve got! But rest assured, the food is always wonderful, patron to the beautiful location, and the effort it took to get there. Even a humble, old, bologna sandwich is a triumph in food technology if consumed in the prettier places. Location is the spice! Camping folk will know from what I mean. Others will only presume.
Once again, we were enamored with the authority in which the Mojoe Griddle handled this field test. It was at home over the fire pit, like it was born to be there all along. We didn’t even need to use the three steel legs that came with it, tho that could have been an option too. You’ll have to examine the fire pit you’re working with, and use a bit of your brain to figure out the best move. This griddle is a versatile cooking surface. In our case this weekend last, we got away with placing the griddle right atop the fire grate provided by the forest service. Leveled with three small stones, it worked pretty slick too. We are able to swing the grate/griddle laterally, and clear of the pit, when ever we needed to tend the fire, and then just swing the griddle back over the fire when done. Wonderful! And we cannot discourse highly enough how luxurious it is to have such enormous cooking real estate when cooking over the fire. No standing in line for the frying pan when there is a Mojoe in camp. No sir. Having done a great deal of cooking for large groups in campsites past, boy how I wish I had one of these griddles then. But alas.
Author’s Side Note
Another thing we noticed with the griddle, and this may just be in our heads, but there seemed to be a notable lack of smoke and heat hitting your face when stooped over tending your vittles. This compared to doing the same thing with, say, a cast iron frying pan or something. Well, my working theory for this is the griddle is so large, that the very thing you are cooking with, also acts as a shield, blocking the intense heat from the camp fire, thus making your life a more pleasant place to be. The universal bane of camp fire cooking, smoke, also seemed reduced some what, or blocked by the enormous Mojoe disc. Like I said, it could be all in my head, but that’s what it seemed like.
A little backwoods Mexican, people, pleasurably prepared and cordially consumed, fireside, with the Mojoe Griddle. I burped and wiped my chin, and sauntered down to the lake again, content with what I had done, and where I was and aimed be. I sat on the shoreline and once more gazed out over the shimmering water. The lake still lapped at my feet, and the breeze flirted through the piney woods. My tummy was tight, and for a moment, nay, much longer than that, all the world seemed gracious to me, and deliciously right. And another eagle rose on the thermals. Amen.
*To see more how Cam Stone, the inventor of the Mojoe Griddle himself, does some camp firing cooking, here is a good link for that. http://www.mojoegriddle.com/mojoe-cooking-on-your-campfire/
I paused stride in the meadow, and gazed appropriately. The sun burned on a fiery pendulum which swung across a deep-blue, California sky. Here the granite ramparts ascend high, and with utter impunity, inserting themselves into the ether, guarded only by the soaring hawks. And the mountain breezes of which I so adore, mingle with a musical air through the tall, and stately pines, and the dry ferns turned golden now, on the meadow floor from whence I stand. I’ve come to Yosemite Valley today, in part for vacation, but mostly hence to revel here. It’s what I do. Maybe what I do best even. To delight for a time simply in what is good. And it’s easy to pull off such antics in places like Yosemite. Places of such stunning creational-catalyst, for the memories of which dutifully impress themselves upon the catchy fabric of your soul. In other words, I love it here! I love it more than I can tell you.
Yosemite National Park is maybe the best thing in Mariposa County, California. But let me tell you the second best thing in Mariposa County, and yes, it has a great deal to do with supper tonight. Literally, on the door-step of Yosemite, just outside its craggy border, in the township of Mariposa, you will find the good people from Miners Mix. These folks emerged from our readership like one of them plastic thermometer things that pop out of your turkey when it’s done. They just have a way about them, I guess. A good way. And I can’t explain it any further than that. But we do like to occasionally loiter over on their blog, and see what they’re up to there. And apparently lately, they’ve just been winning competitions is all, with their various assorted spices and rubs. And after sampling a few they sent us recently, I can see why.
In our last post, we told you about their Wholly Chipotle Rub, which was plenty good enough to get out slobbers going. Today however, we want to tell you about another one, that being their Maynard’s Memphis BBQ Rub. Man on man was this stuff good, people. I could go about concocting my own home-made rub of this sort, but hark, they’ve plum figured out how to do it already, and how to do it as good as can be done.
If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here. You gotta like such wordage on your spice bottle!. By the way, they did not ask us once to promote their products. It’s just that after tasting them, well, they’re too dang good not too! Our readership has surprised us numerous times with what they’ve done to better the BBQ world, and these chaps are an example why. Anyways, we liberally dusted this Memphis Rub over a fair-to-middling quantity of boneless pork butt and a rack of pork ribs to boot. Make sure you remove that membrane folks, so to get more seasoning and smoke penetration on the back side of them ribs. Mercy, this spice smelled fantastic right out of the shaker!
Here’s a trick you can do to decrease the time needed on your boneless pork butts. It’s simple, if not down right obvious. Simply slice it up into smaller chunks. We sliced our 11 pound butt roughly into thirds, which took maybe 4 hours off the total cook time. You want to bring your butts up to somewhere around 195 internal, or until they become pull-able to your liking. Decreasing the size of the butt into several smaller ones will not only get you there faster, but even better than that, will promote more bark for your end game, because of the increased surface area. More meaty real-estate to season, you see, makes a pit jockey most happy.
After a few hours head start in a shroud of hickory smoke, the shoulder meat was coming along, so we placed the rack of ribs tenderly on the grate as well, and let the spoils all cook together for a time. Lid on, smokey tendrils in curl, I leaned back in the patio chair, hat tipped up just so, with a manly beverage in hand. Alright, it was a diet coke, but some days that’s plenty manly enough for me. Anyway, I shifted in the chair a touch, assuming a more leisurely, pit-keeper posture – left leg crossed over right, and gazed at the curling wood smoke whilst listening to the mallards and drakes cavorting in the pond. I mused internally, rummaging about my recent vacation memories of Yosemite. Thinking lucky is the bloke who gets to call that environment their home. I admire your backyard, good folks at Miners Mix. And I admire your spice rubs likewise.
The Miners Mix Memphis Rub was delicious in kind, we don’t mind telling you. Sinking your teeth into a perfectly executed pork rib, seasoned in this rub, is a truly treat to behold. Leastwise, we thought so. There was just something different about it. Something abiding to the palate. I scanned the back of the bottle, eyes darting through the easy-to-pronounce ingredients, and there it was – cocoa. The common man wouldn’t think to put cocoa in his BBQ, but common men do not win BBQ competitions either. It works people, and does so exceedingly well. No sauce needed for these ribs! My but the spices marry well with smokey pork! And once again I was reminded of life’s most basic hard-wire, and that it is it is easy to revel in what is good. Be it the granite massifs of Yosemite, or the mahogany-colored flanks of delicious BBQ. Good is good, after all, and our sincere compliments to the chef. Amen.
If so inclined, do stop by and see our friends at http://www.minersmix.com/
Or their blog at https://minersmix.wordpress.com/
Or check them out on Amazon!
They did not ask us to do toot their horn, Nay, it was our pleasure!
*This site is now an amazon affiliate for Miners Mix. Yeah buddy! That mean if you buy Miners Mix from that link above, we will get about a bee’s knees worth of commission. So be sure to tell about 6 million other friends to do the same!
I’ve never been to Ireland but my gnome has. And I guess the worst part of it is that I didn’t even know he was gone. He was one of those little dudes in your life that you tend to take for granted, I guess, until he comes back to you. You see he tarries in the garden, where any self-respecting gnome ought to, and no, he doesn’t have a name. I’m not much of a gnome fellow, and I do not see what my wife sees in him, but none-the-less, he stands stalwart among the bean plants, like a gate-keeper to the greens. She picked him up on one of her many errands to the garden center, and nary ever bothered in turn to tell me why. Either you get gnomes or you don’t, I guess. Kind of like Neil Diamond. But I suppose he’s cute enough, by and by. And I’m talking about the gnome, thank you kindly.
Well one day not too long ago, and unbeknownst to us, he was covertly and flagrantly gnome-napped. Taken hostage by two friends of the female variety, who stowed the little fellow into their travel satchel of assorted womanly sundries, and henceforth made way over the big pond in an aeroplane for Ireland. For ten days, our little gnome parlayed for mercy at the hands of his abductors, and for ten days he was forced to pose for photos in front of a variety of Irish land marks. I did not know whether to be happy or sad for him, this mostly, again, because I didn’t even know he was gone. But he was. And that’s the great patheticness of it all.
Here is a photo of him let out to pee by the Irish Sea.
And here is one of him bandied together with like-minded drinking buddies or the kin. I think they were making a break for it and were caught again by the female captures. Their faces say it all.
I digress. This post was supposed to be about the art of grilling supper, and some how you got me going on gnomes. It’s just that whilst I was loitering by the pit here, the little gnome has done the very same in the pit-side garden. Him and I hang out like this a lot, don’t you know. Just watching the smoke curl into a beautiful Minnesota sky. Leastwise we do these days. Now that his ransom has been won, and he has thus been returned to my garden plot with his spoils intact. I don’t take him for granted as much as I once did. Anyways, about supper. Take a gander at these thick cut chops! For seasoning tonight, we went fairly simple. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder. That’s it. If it’s good pig, that’s all you need most days.
For ninety seconds, we placed the chops over direct heat, to sear in the juices there. Then we flipped them for ninety seconds more on the other side. Gray clouds idles overhead. A Great Blue Heron swoops past the scene, it’s massive wings fanning through the summer air. The pork chops sizzle sensuously on the hot cast iron grate. If smells were music, then the heady aromas bantering about the pit were like a lovely dollops of Beethoven up your nose. Glory! We then tossed a chunk of hickory wood on the fire, and thus escorted the chops over to indirect heat, opposite the hot coals. And there they would ride the remainder of the path unto a hickory-tinted, highly edible succulence. And it didn’t take long either.
We also prepped up some tin foil potatoes, one of our very favorite sides for the grill. Two potatoes and one onion, diced to uniformity, and seasoned in salt and pepper, along with a few globs of butter to keep things sporty whence foiled over direct heat. Tin foil potatoes are an easy victory, people. Twenty minutes or so over direct heat, flipping once at your pit master instincts. They are the perfect side to compliment any meat patron to the pit. Yum!
The Gnome Thieves
It is likely our civic duty to gnomes, and to lovers of gnomes, to post these mug shots in kind. They probably don’t want their identities revealed, and we won’t do that here, but suffice it this way – if you happen to spy these two ladies poking about your homestead, all I can say is grab your gnomes before they do! Grab them post-haste, people, and run!
Hickory Smoked Thick-Cut Garlic Chops, sided with Tin Foil Potatoes. Man! The Land of Meat and Potatoes, people. Where good is good, and less is more than enough. Amen.
I have a superpower. I’m probably not supposed to disclose this, but it’s true. Kind of like you see in the superhero movies that are popular these days, though milder I suppose, but yeah, I’ve got one of those sorts of powers. Some dudes can levitate metal objects. Others can read and manipulate minds. While still others can run faster than a speeding bullet. Well, I can’t do any of those things, but what I can do, and astoundingly well I might add, is break stuff. I can take your perfectly functioning automobile, for example, drive it once around the block, and return hither with the muffler dragging, wipers that won’t shut off, one head light out, and furthermore, get out of the car and hand you the blinker lever too. And most days, I can do this without even trying. My elder brother sometimes refers to me as “Lo-Tech”, which sadly, and off-hand, would be my super hero name. Iron Man wouldn’t stand a chance against me, as all I would have to do is lay hands on his suit of many gizmos, and, well…That’s my superpower. I break stuff.
Thus it was with a raised eyebrow, when, Cam, from http://www.mojoegriddle.com, hooked me up with one of his steel griddles specifically designed for a variety of heat sources, and stated that henceforth, this thing could not be broken no how. Clearly he doesn’t know my powers, or he wouldn’t have bellowed such folly. For many things have come and gone out of my life, claiming to be unbreakable. And most of those things reside now at the bottom of a dump heap somewhere, a sad shadow of their gloried past. But this here griddle looks to have a different fate. And I knew this as soon as I heaved it from the box.
THE LOW DOWN
Nearly 24 inches in diameter. 1/4 inch thick hot rolled steel. Weighing in at 35 pounds of pure cooking satisfaction, I tell you this griddle meant business the very moment I muckled onto it. We have never seen another griddle on the market so well endowed. It’s quality and it’s craftsmanship are top-notch. It’s cooking area, in a word, sprawling. They are also made in California, I learned, which in our opinion, makes it all the more better. But enough talk, let’s get to testing this beast out, shall we!
The Mojoe comes with a very nice set of steel handles that grapple onto the griddle with ape-like ease. They seem well made, not that you will be moving the griddle very much once in place over your heat source, but when you do, the Mojoe is one hot & heavy entity, and bless it’s maker for including a couple of good handles with it. Now lets take a gander at the underside.
It’s simple looking under here too, however, there is more going on than meets the eye. Note the obvious – the three steel bars welded on edge. This is what holds the griddle off the top rim of your kettle grill, by about an inch, and furthermore promotes air flow for the fire below. And it works, people. It works exceedingly well. These bars also enable you to place the Mojoe on a variety of heat sources, like propane burners. These same bars also help re-enforce the griddle from warping due from extreme heat traumas patron to the pit. And the 5/8th inch nuts you see welded under here, well they’re for the galvanized steel legs to screw into, for say, if you wanted to cook over a campfire and such. Love it! Simplicity is always the best design, and this whole Mojoe experience is an example why.
With a deft fire catered in coals, we placed the griddle over the fiery bosom of the old kettle grill. The two merged together like old friends. Like they’ve been doing it all along. And it didn’t take long for the Mojoe airflow system to kick in, cranking up that fire good and hot. *Splash a little water onto the griddle, and if it dances about in a sizzle, it’s hot and ready to rock.
Of the first order, they say, is to season this puppy. And it’s real easy to do too. On a hot griddle, sprinkle it over with some table salt, and splash it with a little cooking oil. Lastly smear the works about the entirety of the griddle surface. The salt acts as a food grade abrasive, and make sure you wad up a good bee hive worth of paper towels in your hand before engaging in this activity. We were done with this process in about 30 seconds. They say to do it again after your meal is done. Kind of like book ends to your cooking. My pleasure. It kind of engendered the same, satisfied, feeling you get when you wipe down your favorite sports car after a Sunday drive. Leastwise I think that’s what that feeling was. I dunno. I don’t have a sports car. Anyways, how about some breakfast!
Have you ever been on those sorts of kicks where you just want breakfast food all the time? Well that’s been the case for things around the pit lately. And the Mojoe Griddle certainly supports such gastronomic whimsy in the human spirit. I didn’t fight it either. So we diced up two large potatoes to uniform size, and tossed them on the freshly oiled griddle. They sizzled henceforth to life, as we in turn, dusted them over with some all-purpose seasoning. With a lovely beverage in hand, we escorted the spuds about with our steel spatula as per the promptings of our pit master instincts. Very pleasant. Reminiscent of cooking on one of them fancy griddle tops you see in restaurants and cafes. Very much like the one you see at the Mongolian stir fry places. After a time, we added in some chopped onions and bacon to the ensemble. Man, the aromas bellowing about the patio could have tipped the nose of any black bear within a twenty and one mile radius. And I suppose it would have, iffin there were any black bears in the suburbs of Minneapolis. But there weren’t. And I still don’t have a sports car.
Now I was told that the surface of the griddle was nearly non stick, and I’d say that by and far, this was an accurate statement. The more you use it, and season it, the better it gets. The first cook here hardly anything stuck, and if it did, it wasn’t bad. The onions, in point of fact, slid about a little too happy-go-lucky, like you were engaged in a game of competitive air hockey or something. I even lost a few morsels over the edge, and if it weren’t for the griddle lip accessory, I probably would have lost a few more to the tall grass residing below.
The griddle lip, or metal strap, arcing around the back of the griddle, proved to be quite useful for us sloppy backyard chef types. You can take it on or off, by popping it into the same holes used for the handles. The lip was a real potato saver for this patron of the pit, and in general, a very good idea we thought. When the spuds were done, we banked them accordingly against it, to keep them warm there, and to open up room for the rest of our breakfast feast. Man! I love breakfast! Can you smell it yet!
Here is one of the other simple pleasures of the Mojoe Griddle – no edge lip or grease trough. Thus allowing one to sweep his spoils directly onto his dinner plate with aplomb. No edge around the griddle also makes clean up poignantly swift! As Cam from Mojoe Outfiitters coined, “Clean up is a snap!”. I like his thinking!
There is something therapeutically right which impresses upon the emulsion of your soul, when you cook out-of-doors. Sure we could do this sort of thing inside, whilst the TV flickers in the background, under artificial lights, and processed air, but why. For what blue skies yonder do we miss then, and the bird song too, and the sweet summer breeze which flutters the green leaves just past our outdoor kitchen. And the sun, how it sweeps in a golden trail across a beautiful blue sky, and the cloud shadows which drift silent over the land and the sea. This is why we cook outside. The food is only half the reason.
A beautiful product. We really enjoyed our maiden cook on it. It’s almost, but not quite, non stick. It sports vast acreage of cooking space. At 35 pounds, it is a bit heavy for ye types of scant muscle mass, but we reckon you’ll be able to manage. If you can lift a chubby toddler you can lift this griddle just as well. The craftsmanship is excellent. The handles are very nice. The legs were simple, but effective. We also liked that you can cook a lot of food at once on it, which makes it worthy for back yard parties, group camping, or even tailgating. Or maybe you just like to eat! The griddle lip accessory is wonderful too. If you get one of these griddles, you’ll probably want to pick up a griddle lip. We liked the option of being able to pop it on and off at our discretion. The only hit against this griddle we could find really was the price point. $264 is enough to make most wallets groan a little, but at least you only have to buy one of these. Ever. It’s not like we are going to out live the thing. Shoot, these griddles will probably still be around after the third world war has re-arranged the posture of the planet. High grade steel is like that. Over all, though, a rock-solid, versatile, large, nearly stick free, enjoyable cooking surface built to last the ages. Your grandchildren’s grandchildren will inherent this griddle. And in this disposable society in which we tarry, say what you will, but that’s money well spent. And yes, try as I may, my superpower was all but ineffective against the Mojoe. Indeed, I couldn’t break this thing, no how. And I like that. I like that very much.
WHERE TO LEARN MORE
When you get a chance, go check out http://www.mojoeoutfitters.com. Cam Stone, the man in charge over there, we found to be a kindly, salt-of-the-earth, engaging chap, with a sense of humor as durable as his griddle. A griddle 8 years in the making he said. Much tinkering in overland campsites, cooking for his trail mates. He said he got disgruntled with his little frying pan trying to cook for 4 to 5 people, that eventually he found himself a surplus steel disc, propped it up over the camp fire, and was “blown away” by the performance. He was able to cook for 5 people in about 20 minutes. Thus the Mojoe Griddle was conceived. And the world is just a little better place now, because of it. Go check it out if you please!
The kayak dawdled in the shallows whilst umpteen blue gills and assorted sun-fish loitered just beneath the hull. The sunlight had ebbed behind a bank of thickened clouds, and a bald eagle lit atop a shoreline maple tree, like a huge, feathered monolith fit for the gods. It was a fair day on the water, even tho progress was slow. Fishermen like to bellow that its not the fish count that matters where angling is concerned, but rather the act of fishing being what is important. Yeah. The truth is that’s just what we tell ourselves when we suck monkey butts. We get all poetic about things, often gazing henceforth to the horizon with gray, marbled eyes; turning our chiseled, Norwegian jaw line to the catch the golden sunlight of a quickly fading day. We stroke our grizzled chin, and then after some consideration of the matters at hand, generally come to the conclusion that we still suck, and casually shrug our shoulders upwards in a disheartening gesture of bitter defeat. Sometimes you just can’t get the fish. They just stare up at you, taunting thee, laughing little bubbles up at you and your meager pittance. You are but the unwanted blight in their aquatic world. No better than the biologic residue floating off their poo which resides at the bottom of the lake. Unless, however, you are lucky enough to have in your possession the humble J-Bug.
That’s what my elder brother coined it anyways, after its inventor who namely is me. The “J-Bug” is your classic fly tier’s brain thrust. A conglomerate affair of elk hair, a hank of neatly wrapped chenille, a size 10 nymph hook, and a highly selective draft of re-purposed ceiling fan parts. I dunno, but it works. When all else fails, the J-Bug works. Time was ticking, and the day was morphing towards night, so I tied one on and got to work. The fly rod hooped immediately into action, as if I knew what I was doing, it’s tip pulsing, the 7-pound leader slicing through the dark water, and within a half-hour I had half a limit already. That was good enough for this bloke. I laid down the fly rod, and unshackled my little thermos, drawing a hot cup of tea whilst adrift by a bed of lily pads. Well that was easy, I thought, quietly sipping my brew and studying the surface of the water. The old J-Bug did it again. For kicks I tied on something else, if for any other reason than to validate the worth of the J-Bug. But I promptly caught two more blue gill instead, and it wasn’t even a challenge. So yet again, I tied on something else, something a wee bit less appetizing- some unraveled, sickly looking clot of thread resembling a disheveled house fly with its tongue hanging out. And I couldn’t keep the dang fish away. Ten minutes later, however, and this is a fact – nothing… Not even a rise. That’s a day on the water for you. That’s fishing. We cannot understand fish anymore than we can understand women. The latter perhaps life’s finest enigma.
The next day, back at the Pond-Side Pit, it’s shore lunch time as the aroma of potatoes and onions frying on the old kettle grill dally forth into the still, evening air, courtesy of the cast iron deep dish pan from the good folks at Craycort Cast Iron Grates. This is the good life, people. You spend the whole day out-of-doors, so why would you go inside now, just for supper. Nay, fire up the outdoor kitchen instead, and lavish in the enduring pleasures patron to the pit. Firstly, chop the spuds uniformly, add a little oil, and be mindful to scoop them around, circulating the tater population for even cooking. For taste, we lightly dashed them with some Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. And after they were almost, but not quite done, we moved them over to the griddle portion of the grate to finish off there, and proceeded to fill the now vacant pan with enough oil for a quaint spot of deep-frying. Pop your cholesterol pills, because man, this is going to be good!
Time to prep the batter. Here’s the recipe for that.
Basic Batter for Fish
- 3/4 Cup of flour
- 2 Tablespoons corn starch
- 1/4 Teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 Teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
- 3/4 Cup of water
Now make sure you start with good, hot oil before dropping your hard earned plunder in there. You all know how to do this. I like to drip a little batter in the oil and see what it does. You can even stick a match in the oil, and if the match lights, you’re good to go. We lined up the cast iron pan over direct heat, to get that oil good and hot. When everything chimes in accord with your pitmaster instincts, dip your fish in the batter, and let the frying commence!
Let it be said, because it true, but the sound of your once upon a time elusive quarry frying up in a vat of hot oil, accompanied by occasional nasal drifts of fried potato and onion, well there is no better illumination upon the skin of your soul that you have done something very good this day. Leastwise for your belly that is. Not to mention that small, often times forsaken tendril of real estate in a man’s mojo, that every once in a while needs to effectively and without error, “live off the land“, if but for any other reason than because he can. It feels good. Tastes good too. Check out these crispy fillets, people!
Oh yes. Pardon this patron, but I’m sorry, I’m going to take a bite of this right in front of you. You’re just going to have to deal with it.
Crispy, hot, flaky and succulent. Man! For what swims in yonder waters, for to court my iron pan and kettle grill, I salute thee. Nay, I devour thee. You gotta remember to breathe people. It helps by and by.
Deep-fried pan fish sided with fried potatoes and onions. Now that’s some kind of good! And your classic shore lunch, once again, patron to the pit.
A golden sun waned over the house tops, casting long shadows across the green grass, whilst I banked a chimney full of coals to the side of the old kettle grill. A delightfully cool breeze mingled through the pit-side Spruce and Cottonwood, and the heat from the fire, oddly enough, felt good for once. Tho you wouldn’t think from looking around, one sort of might get the sense that summer might be fading slightly. The sun, that precious, glowing orb aloft, sure was a lot lower at supper time now, much lower than it was a couple of months ago. And darkness swallows the land earlier these days, when once we were still strutting up the 7th fairway, lovely beverage in hand, and basking in the warm, bright light there. And what about this breeze that felt so cool. And the frequent fly overs of the Canadian geese, honking proudly on the wing. Something shifts amid us. Something elemental. Diurnal rhythms and little children afoot with colorful school packs. In Minnesota, we call this Autumn, or, the end of summer. And it is a glorious time to be alive. And even a better time in which to grill something edible.
Come with us, won’t you…To the pit, and let us show you what’s for supper.
We Patrons of the Pit, least wise we two blokes who offer forth this stuff, well, were from Minnesota. A place, don’t you know, of significant contribution to the betterment of man kind. For example, masking tape was invented in Minnesota. So was the roller blade. And if you’ve ever spent a winter up here, you’d also appreciate that we invented the one-piece long underwear get-up better known as the union suit. Later modified for that all-important “flap in the back“. Glory be, the game of Twister and the Breathe Right nasal strip, also, material spawn of Minnesota. All good things, I think. But our personal favorite invention, and monument to food technology, has to be the venerable, Juicy Lucy.
The Juicy Lucy. Man. If you’ve never had occasion, lets just say that a closer marriage between meat and cheese, you will not soon divine. It’s rather simple, if not brilliant. Done proper, these hamburgers have residing inside them a copious pocket of molten cheese. Yes, cheese swaddled in meat. Every man’s caloric ideal. So pop your cholesterol pills as we continue on in our burger series, and take yourself a closer look at this Minnesota original.
Prep is easy. Easy as wrapping ground beef around a hunk of cheese. You can use any cheese you’d like too. We used Velveeta, which we admit, ain’t cheese. But it was all we had on hand, and besides, it melts like an iceberg in the Gobi desert. So wrap your ground beef, or baring that, if you’re the wife of a deer slayer, ground venison, around a commendable wad of your favorite cheese, and form it into a patty suitable to thee. Season it lightly, and make way for the grill. We seasoned ours today, with Lipton Onion Soup Mix, because it’s not just for soup you know. Proceed to ply your grill craft with great effect, and do hence what you were born to do.
We tossed on an onion for good measure. We like onions at the pit, and they are elementary to do. One small onion was ample for this cook. Peeled and set over direct heat. Rolled about like an unsinkable pool ball. Whence the outer layers become tender, they will peel off with great ease, at the pinch of a tong, into gastronomic, smokey-tinted petals that which shall adorn your monolith of meat. Graced with cheese. And patron to the pit. Man!
And of course, we toasted the buns.
The Juicy Lucy. A taste of Minnesota. And sure to win over your belly, where the wood smoke rises, and the seasons gently ebb. Amen.
*Note to our fellow patrons, who look forward to our weekly smattering of meat and prose. We will be on vacation next week, and unless the meat gods intervene, there shall be no post to speak of. We thank you for your on-going patronage, and may your grills and lives be active and full.
Why is it when us Patrons of the Pit become giddy as a kid on Christmas when we know a snow storm is in our forecast? Why is it we contemplate our next meat choice in the grocery store as the weatherman predicts a cold and heavy snow. Why do we bundle up and head out into the tundra as we know the rest of the world stays inside? As the winter wonderlands blow across our patios we hold our tongs in hand waiting to add another chunk of hickory to the flame. Our neighbors gaze out the window and question what we are up to next. Our wives sip hot coco and smile knowing that they will get a meal out of our insane obsessions. While the whole time we sit in peace. As snowflakes falling on our stocking hats and ice crystals collect on our whiskers. We breathe in and out, taking in as much of the aromatic mixture of smoke, meat and spice rubs. It’s natural…it’s poetic.
Yes, to all of those affected by the storm this weekend. Let your grill smoke away. Let your meat slowly fall apart on the hot grate, when only 1/16th of an inch away, Winter hammers the lid of your smoker with its fierce cold. When you sit at your dinner table, fork in hand and BBQ sauce in the other, smile at your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself knowing you have performed an act that most people in their right mind never would. Then eat!
Way up yonder, on the northern tiers of Minnesota, we often press a tent stake patron to some pretty places here and there. Places of exquisite beauty, where the waters run clearly, and the breezes taste sweet, sifted through the fragrant pines. My fellow patron and I routinely visit these locales, if not even for but one day. One day to inhale that pure, unpretentious air, and to absorb a rarefied tranquility lost, but not forgotten, in the ever-whirling cog of society. Indeed, we fancy to strike off for the wilder places just as often as we can, for to live simply, and abandon all tension there. For we are at home in the woods, by and by, and love to tarry fire-side amid the whispering pines.
Putterers by nature, we are content for hours on end it seems to cook exotic camp food over smoldering coals, repair in our chairs, and simply watch the smoke rise unto the standing pines. To tell story, and play song, whilst dotingly poking at the fire. Bannocks baking in blackened skillets, chickadees flirting, and all the many phone calls at once escaped in our own personal, wilderness sanctum. Oh the places, the beautiful places, that we have loitered in, here and there.
Campfires of Birch and Balsam often flicker in camp, as the lake serenely laps upon our shore, and the stately pines sway gently in the breeze, like a thousand and one fly rods, nay, make that a thousand and two. Oh how we love to cook over the open flame in these places, to ply our craft, turning our spoils into shore lunch. The stars, the moon, the forest glade, we love it all, even the smoke in our face! And here is the thing I have noticed, and maybe some of you have to; every time back home when we thus light the grill, and we smell that campfire-like smoke lofting towards the heavens, are we not at once, and irrevocably so, reminiscent, and smitten deeply for these places. Because smell is at once patron to memories, and memories thus flood back of those quiet campsites nestled aside shimmering waters. And for a moment, we can taste again the simple life we had once aspired to there. Because here it is again, deep in an urban sprawl, working over this old kettle grill; and there are blackened skillets, and chickadees even, and the sweet fusion of memories gently forged, both here and there, over the swiftly ebbing seasons, and the smoke which curled there. Amen.
If memories are linked with smell, and we believe this to be so, then there are a lifetime of them every time we light the grill. The charcoal grill that is. Not to be snobbish or disrespectful to you gassy people out there, your way is fun too, for at least you are out there, putting meat to flame, but less you plunk a tatter of wood upon thy burner, you simply will never know the joy of smoke. Nor achieve that true smokey flavor that real BBQ is known for. That’s half the reason we grill in the first place, for the smell of it. For the sheer wafting ambiance of wood smoke floating over a quiet pit. Ducks milling on the pond. Gophers dashing across the back forty. The waning golden rays of sun a’wash over your tranquil patio. And the smell of smoldering mesquite in the air there, whilst your prized rump roast sizzles in the cooker. Ah yes, the ambiance. And the smoke, for better or for worse, is a part of that.
People often dash the charcoal grill for the speed and convenience of the gas units. We do not understand. Why would you take something you love, like grilling, and try to speed it up. For let it be said, because it’s true, anything that is worth doing in this life, is worth doing slowly. There is a pleasure in the process of lighting the coals, of watching the fire slowly come to life, and the puffs of smoke ascending to the heavens. To grill over charcoal is to say to yourself, and who ever else is looking, that you’re in no hurry. Such action confounds your peers, and grabs the sun by the tail as it were, and pauses it there in sky, extending the moment for the moment’s sake. And all the Brethren of the Smoke rejoice. Indeed, there is a simple joy residing with the charcoal and wood cookers, patron to those who choose the scenic path, and the smoke which rises there. Amen.