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.