The Black Capped chickadees cavorted outside the tent in the gray, morning light, whilst shafts of cherry and gold began to burst over an endless sea. I looked over at my fellow patron, who was already mentally booted up and gazing out the tent flap at a sunrise fair to tally the ages. We were encamped on the wild shores of Lake Superior, in Minnesota’s famed arrowhead country. The big lake was alive, and pulsing with ice water waves that which rolled against the rugged coastline. We love it up here. It’s what we do. We’ve come not just escape the maddening urban throngs of the city, but more, to embrace the wild side of this planet, on it’s own varied and distinct terms. To live simply. To breathe purely. To sup from the fountain of youth. And if we’re lucky, maybe even cook something tasty here, where the earth meets the sky. And the steaks have no name.
Tradition Has No Name
It was a year ago about this time that we made steak sandwiches on our annual November romp in the prettier places. You can read about that write up here, if you’re into such things. The sandwich was so good, and so delightful on the palate, we sought to recreate it again this year. But this time we would up our game slightly with the always covetous and tender chew of No Name Steaks. Now I don’t know if you have ever had occasion to plate up No Name Steaks before, but to those who have, you know from what we speak when we say them things is tender. Like you almost don’t need a knife to cut it, kind of tender. The kind of steaks that give false-toothed grandpas a real kind of hope! We’ve grilled them now and again over the years, and we have concluded that you would have to be a rank folly pit keeper to screw up one of these endearing steaks. I don’t know what they do, or how they do it, or why they have no name, but meat wizardry is clearly at hand with these cuts. I suppose also one ought not to dawdle on these things either, but instead to say thank you to the kindly meat folk at No Name Steaks, for producing such lovely and slobber-tugging Hunks O’Tenderness. Our bellies are forever indebted to your mastery of the meats.
Anyways, lets get after it.
Griddle Up Boys!
Business was done in style this time, with our highly esteemed and beloved, Mojoe Griddle. We’re talking restaurant grade, people – 35 pounds of one-quarter inch, hot-rolled steel (insert grunts here), the thing will keep cooking after three apocalypses we reckon, and deflect bullets too if tipped up on end. Always a pleasure to cook on the Mojoe. True, our gas mileage was reduced by 5% hauling this thing up north, but lo, who cares. You can set it on a Weber kettle, or over the fire pit, or like we did this time, on the Camp Chef Stove. When cooking en-mass for a fair number of hungry and hardy outdoors people, not too many other griddles are as finely suited than this.
Thus it was merely a matter of slicing up the steaks into bite sized strips, along with some red onions and green bell peppers. Saute all this together over a very hot griddle, lightly coated in oil. The less oil the better the char. The Mojoe doesn’t need much oil either, as it’s near friction-less surface is akin to that of an air hockey table. Griddle up your steak chunks to a nice medium or how ever you like it, salt and pepper to taste, and bring the peppers and onions to an agreeable tenderness as well. We even tossed on some thinly sliced roast beef that we happened to have in the cooler. Why not! Be creative. This is really elementary cooking folks. Anyone can do it. We toasted the lightly buttered baguettes in one accord, and assembled the sandwiches with a fist full of shredded cheddar cheese, and some Mount Olive deli relish. Sided with a scoop of camp chili. Mercy!
Dinner was held by the romantic glow of the kerosene lamp, and was a pleasure all unto its own, serenaded by the pounding surf of Lake Superior, and the camaraderie of good friends and fine food. You could have offered us a table at the world’s finest 5 star restaurant then, but we would have turned you down, I think. For as our tummies tightened around these cheese steak sandwiches, and the stars turned above, we were at once and unitedly content there. At ease in our little corner of the world. We had come to live deliberately, as Thoreau once said. Where the earth kissed the sky. And we did that. And for a moment at least, and maybe even longer than that, weren’t we the kings. Amen.
A special thanks to the good folks at No Name Steaks for sponsoring our dinner tonight. They are a local Minnesota company based not too far from where we live. They’ve been putting out tasty steaks for years and years, and I can hardly wait to grill up the next one. Please check them out at No Name Steaks and get your pit master a box for Christmas or something!
Also, if you want to learn more about the Mojoe Griddle, here is their site for you too.
Grill on! -PotP
The tapering buzz of the Cicadas fill the St Croix River Valley, of which the stately pines and hardwoods stand, their needles and leaves like whisper chimes to a soft, summer breeze. And the sun dallies aloft, warm and sure; bronzing, burning or beckoning to those who tarry below. The river slips with a gentle current there, and the ducks and egrets play whilst puffy white clouds idle silently in a thin-blue sky. It’s summer time in Minnesota. And I’ll tell you what, we may have half-a-year of snow and cold around here, and a few additional months more of poor sledding, but when it is a nice day in Minnesota, let it be said, there is no finer place to be in all the world than this.
Call of the Wild
Naturally, we went camping. It is half our joy in life it seems, to spend lots of money so that we can go play hobo in the woods. To understand this oddity in depth would take another blog, so let us instead just tell you what we made for supper here, along the beautiful banks of St Croix.
Now I’d like to fancy myself a very fine fisherman, able and capable of procuring a rainbow from the natural environs from whence it swam. With steely eyes and a flick of of a fly rod, reading the river, and knowing my opponent with the sureness of a chess grand-master, I could single highhandedly, if I so choose, seduce and woo any submersed aquatic adversary with child-like ease, and have it served next to a side of beans on my dinner plate in about a one-half hour’s time. Yup. Well that’s the dream anyways. But reality in the woods is often times not like we dream. Especially when you leave your fly rod at home. And I may have exaggerated a wee bit on my fishing skills, too. Maybe.
Okay I did. But we didn’t go hungry!
No Name Supper Insurance
Not to worry, for tucked in the cooler, I had the foresight to stash a supper insurance plan. Salmon! No Name Salmon, to be exact. And let me say, putting fish on the plate could hardly be easier or more tasty. I had never had No Name Salmon before, and I’ve come to learn I’ve been missing out.
On the box, it said you could cook the salmon on the grill, or in the oven, neither of which was an option in my primitive encampment. But I had a camp stove and a frying pan and a wee bit of olive oil. So that would have to do. Hungry men ain’t picky.
Preheat the pan with a little oil, and saute yourself a few onions to go with it. Hey, just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you can’t be fancy! So we softened up some onions a bit before laying the fully thawed fillets in. Just a few seconds after they hit the pan and sizzled there, the aroma of the juices and marinade it was packed with fairly filled the campsite with the smells of a gourmet restaurant, the likes of which I am sure every black bear within a 10-mile radius tipped a nose to. Mercy it smelled good! And the frying pan method worked just fine, off-hand and by the way. Even got a bit of crust on the fish, which I always enjoy. Just flip the fillets from time to time for even cooking. And like most fish, when they flake easily, they’re done.
We also made up a little camp biscuit/fry bread called bannock. Very simple yet tasty stuff, comprised of water and Bisquick. We’ll tell you about that in another blog.
Supper is served. Put your face in this, people! Who needs a stinking fishing rod!
No Name Salmon, Biscuits and Beans, cooked camp style on the tranquil shores of the St Croix. I don’t know how they do it, but these things were delicious! And goes to show that you don’t need to catch fish to eat fish in the great out-of-doors. We dined henceforth in great style, thankful for the food, this campsite, and the cicada serenade that which buzzed amid the forest canopy, dappled in sunlight, and cast from above. Amen.
For more information on No Name Salmon and other succulent meats, check out their website at nonamesteaks.
So I was assigned the prestigious and heady duties of procuring pulled pork for our daughter’s first birthday party. Even tho she can hardly manage a cheerio, I accepted the duties in full. I briefly scanned the weather charts and learned of the veritable monsoons that would impact our fair hamlet, naturally and precisely when I needed to smoke said pork shoulder. Now the reasonable minded cook would probably defer to his or her crock pot, I’m sure, or oven, but being I have a rep around here as a hardened pit jockey, I pretty much have to cook outside. No matter what.
The big day started fairly early, as most pork butts do, loading the fire bowl of the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain with 20 pounds of charcoal. Yes, the entire bag. It’s a rather big cooker people, reminiscent of a Chevy Suburban and it’s awe inspiring 40 gallon gas tank. I suppose I could have dialed down the fuel costs on this smoke, but I didn’t feel like messing around. You know how it goes. It’s my baby’s birthday!
Anyways, the pork shoulder was seasoned the night before in the old stand-by, Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and dusted over yet again the next morning before plunking it on the smoker. The more time the pork has to marry with the spice rub, the better. The meat went on at 8 am, as I settled the giant porcelain enameled lid on to the smoker and surveyed the sky. It was gray over cast, with a minimal wind. Smoke curling straight up. I kept in mind the weather app on my phone is only wrong half the time. And the other half it just seems confused. We can do this!
By 9 am the first sprinkles dappled over the pond and the camouflage tarp I had strung up, just in case. It was lovely in it’s own way. A symphony of rain drops pattering like Beethoven in the key of nylon. I did the most proper thing I could think of, and simply sat in my BBQ chair and listened to the rain for a while, the sounds of pork sizzling in the pit, and watched the apple wood smoke pillar into the humid air.
By 10 am the rains fell considerably, like bed pans and hammer handles, pounding the pond side pit with gallons upon gallons of sky-born water. I dashed for the good cover of the house, and found sanctum on the couch with Netflix, and a lovely beverage there. Standard operating procedure for a hardened pit master.
By 11 am the rains came sideways as the fury of the tempest lashed like a thousand vipers outside my sliding patio door. To it’s credit, likewise to the engineers of Weber, the Smokey Mountain some how puffed contentedly away despite the Midwestern waterworks. Whilst the good critters of the world hunkered in their caves and holes, the rain continued to fiercely pound the land, and the wind bellowed from the north like Joshua’s trumpets. I could just make out my temperature gauge through the rain-cloaked window pane. The WSM was holding 250 degrees. Lo, this is how we BBQ!
By 1 pm the rain let up a trifle, good enough anyways that I could get the beans on the pit too, thus to lap up a bit of that good apple wood smoke there. They were your basic beans tightened up a bit with some ground beef, molasses, and some BBQ sauce. I was pleased also to see the butt, previously divided in half, had already developed a nice bark on it. A rough likeness suitable for a stand-in model of a good meteorite or something. But that’s how bark ought to be. It should raise the eyebrow of the uninitiated, and twist the grin of the seasoned pit maestro.
Around 2 pm the sun fairly exploded from behind curtains of gray, and the skies split into blue pastures, where song birds darted on the wing. Nice of it to wait until after I was done cooking, but that’s how it is sometimes at the pit. Mother nature gives us the finger. We adapt. And BBQ is accomplished never-the-less.
Around 3 pm all the guests arrived and sunk their chompers into this, a most succulent and well-deserved meat opus! Son-of-a-bacon-maker! Then they all celebrated one year of successful planetary living with our little girl: gathered around, watching her smile, opening gifts, crawling through multi-colored wrapping paper, and laughing like only one year old’s can for the benefit of our cameras, all the while unbeknownst of the previously mentioned rainy day smoking trials, patron to the pit. And after thinking about it for a bit, isn’t that precisely how it ought to be. Amen.
The rendezvous was classic trout camp, sans the trout. One by one we came from various corners of the state and all conspired at the river’s soft edge for a bit of camping, fellowship, and good food under the crescent moon. We had come to trout country not to fish, however, because trout fishing annually closes it’s doors in Minnesota in November. Poachers we are not. Instead we came here just to be, in a place that we really liked being, which in itself was sweetly enough, because, as Robert Traver once wrote in his esteem book, Trout Magic, “I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful“. And they are.
So we made our camps here on the shores of trout waters, deep in south eastern Minnesota, and did what we do best – eat! Now I don’t want to suggest that we come to the woods like this just to stuff our pie holes with endless calories, but in truth, it is a part of it. When your camp mate is also your fellow patron and long time pit cohort, well, with two cooks in the outdoor kitchen, lets just say pants are going to get tight! Like our first night there when we made cheese steak sandwiches on the Mojoe Griddle. A better backwoods sammich I do not rightly recall right now. Let me tell you about it, and how it went and came to be.
Enter The Mojoe
Established readers to this blog have seen this sexy beast before. The Mojoe Griddle. I’m telling you, if you have the space in your truck and can lift 35 pounds, this is one of the finest camp cooking rigs you can get. And marry it with a humble, two burner, Camp Chef Explorer stove, shoot, the world is yours! One-quarter inch hot rolled steel, people, restaurant grade, nearly non stick, complete with aluminum griddle strap to keep your spoils from toppling into the dirt! And better yet, large enough to fry a pancake to match a man hole cover!
This is high living, people.
With the sun setting over the valley rim, tree lines waxing to silhouettes, we got to work in the doable illumination of the porch light outside of the camper. Red onions and bell peppers sauteed in olive oil. And steak, I don’t remember what kind, but steak, seared to perfection over the hot steel. Ah yes, camp cooking at it’s finest, right here.
Through the pungent woods of shag bark hickory you can hear the gentle tumble of trout stream, the quiet banter of our camp mates in tarry around a crackling pine fire, and the comforting sizzle of vittles cooking on the Mojoe. The smell of onions and meat waft in the damp, November air. The rhythmic clank and slide of a steel spatula on a hot griddle. Tummies rumbling. You getting hungry yet! I could do this all day!
Near the end of the cook, we toasted up our hoagie rolls for that added texture to the perfect backwoods sandwich. I don’t know about you, but I have never regret toasting my buns. Ever.
The Finishing Touch
After a fashion, all was done and we went inside the camper and assembled our spoils. My fellow patron brought along a jar of this stuff to put on our sandwiches. Boy did that add a lovely dimension of flavor and camping class. Really good! He thinks of these kinds of things, when I never would. I found it on amazon if you’re interested. Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill 16 fl (Pack of 2)
The cold rain began tapping over the plastic roof of the camper as we settled into the dinette by soft candle light. The heater kicked on, softly murmuring in the background, and mood music played on the radio. Yeah, okay, this wasn’t exactly the sort of rough and tumble camping as is often associated with the past time, but hey, it was November in Minnesota. Our last fling of 2017. We had come to smooth it! And besides, we get it rough enough in town! Anyways, we ate a lot of food on that trip. Good food. But this sandwich in particular hangs with an asterisks in the panniers of our mind. There was something about how it came together: in the woods, the joys of that big griddle, the way the deli relish set off the flavors, the char on the green peppers. I dunno, it was just good! And made better yet doing what we love, with people we really like, in a place we really enjoyed being. A place where the trout leapt. And the men were men. Amen.
Stuff We Used
Check out the Mojoe Outfitters at their site, here
Camp Chef Stoves are also available off amazon. Here’s a link to that. Happy Camping!
Patrons of the Pit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
It finally happened. The event we northerners have been waiting for all winter long. I tarried in my leather man chair with a hot cup of tea in hand and simply watched it for a while, swirl and dance outside the window pane. Snow. Lots of it. Riding a tempest. One might even go so far as to wager it was a blizzard, and by golly it hit the spot to see. It hit the spot because of all the many times the weather men cried wolf this winter, barking of the big one to come. And it never did. Believe it or not, there are some people who actually like snow, look forwards to it, and want to frolic accordingly amid it’s softened flakes. We be some of those people. So it was good to see a boisterous and proper, Minnesota snowstorm engulfing our fair hamlet again. This was how it should be. And after it settled a bit, I went outside to cook something there.
The Power of Halves
After examining my meat larder, something men of a certain age tend to do, I settled on one portly pork butt to do the job. I think it weighed in at 8 pounds, I don’t recall. But I knew if I wanted to have it done by supper time, (6 hours away) then I would have to deploy the old pit master trickery of slicing the butt in halves, thus to reduce the cooking time. It’s a technique I’ve used many times at the pit, and always with favorable results. Not only does it reduce cooking time by maybe a third, but it also increases the surface area. This is good because it basically unlocks new real-estate for more spice rub and smoke penetration. More bark people. Take that weather man!
The Science and Art of Bark
Here we are a few hours into the cook, and as you can see, we were already developing a flavorful and robust bark. The smoke, courtesy of two large hunks of apple wood, combined with the relatively low heat of the Weber performer, which ran at 275 degrees, and the spice rub, Kits KC BBQ Rub, courtesy of the good folk at Miners Mix, all came together in a magical union of yum! Bark is a scientific thing, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to eat it. The Flintstones will do! If you want to learn more about how it’s formed and what is going on, check out the master’s write up of it over at Amazing Ribs What is Bark.
So it was, as the Alberta clipper slid into town that we put the finishing touches on our pulled pork sandwich. A squirt or two of sweet baby rays, combined with some of the more succulent muscles of the pork shoulder, and as always, I like to mix lots of bark in there too, so you get some in every bite. Mercy! Can you smell that? That’s a proper pulled pork sammich people!
When The Bark is Worth the Bite
I plated it up with a side of beans and returned to my man chair. After settling in, feet propped up, and fueled by repetitive instinct, I reached for the TV remote like any red-blooded American man would, but then curiously caught myself looking out the window at the snow again. A soft smile formed from my lips, and I set the remote back down, and picked up my sandwich instead. I had been waiting a long time for this, and I didn’t want to dilute it with the flashing images of a TV. It would be just me, my pork, and the snow. And for a while at least, that was enough. Amen.
Nothing quite so fine as a plateful of bark and beans! Burp!
The cold is an interesting beast. On one hand we need it, to keep our foods from spoiling too fast. On the other hand, we run from it when ever it sinks its icy fingers into our own meat. Some people hate the cold so much that they leave the north altogether, and live in the south. My brother’s neighbor once lamented that he was done with winter in Minnesota, and that he was going to load up his snow blower into the back of his pick up truck, and drive south until some one asked him what it was. It was there, he figured, would be a good place to live.
It’s 6 Below Outside.. So What!
To my brethren of the brisket of whom’s pit dampers puff ever stalwart in this arctic blast, we salute thee. Our warmer days will come. They always do. But in the mean time we thus must embrace the wintry folds that which are upon us now. A pit jockey well seasoned takes no issue with inclement of weather. For good BBQ will always find a way. Besides, if we waited for the perfect weather to BBQ in, well, we Minnesota folk would only grill maybe twice a year! I was lucky this cook tho, for it was only a meager and sultry, 6 below. And mercifully the north winds were blocked by our humble abode. That helps one’s situation ten-fold right there. So grab yourself a hot cocoa or something, and get comfy and we’ll tell you all about it, and how it went and came to be, patron to the pit.
Firstly, I must digress for a bit. For it has been a couple of moons at least, since we’ve last posted here. As many of our readership know, we done birthed a little patron last summer, and she is by far the sweetest thing our eye’s hath ever seen. Oh we were warned by other parental types how little babies, can, with a flick of heart beat, melt your soul into a rather nice pile of unintelligible goo, and I guess I am here to report that these people were right. You all were right. I’ve been a big pile of goo for the last 6 months, I’d say, in awe at the preciousness of a baby. Every time I hold her hand, I get weak in the knees, and mine heart fills with a gladness I’ve never known before. And for a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, it’s not so cold outside after all. For my heart burbles over with warmth of a different sort. The kind forged in unconditional love. And that is maybe the greatest warmth you can ever feel.
Stranger Things Below Zero
Life below zero is always interesting. Take for example my steaming patties. This is just something you don’t see at your classic summer BBQ. Raw meat spilling it’s vapors like curling plumes of hickory smoke. I’m not sure what principles of physics and science were at play here, but I thought it amusing if only for a while.
Once you have a lovely bed of coals glowing in the bosom of your grill, it’s pretty much business as usual, no matter how cold it is. A good kettle grill can keep up just fine. And so it was with a modicum of effort, I worked the burgers with my big steel spatula, enjoying the warmth of the fire, the sound of sizzling beef, and my eyes drawn to thin slits from the bright sun resplendent over crusty snow. Ah yes!
There is a joy to be had patron to the pit in the wintry months. Maybe it’s because the mass populous thinks it’s miserable, or just not worth it effort in the cold, that makes doing so all the more sweeter. I don’t know. I would offer you this thought, tho, – that it’s maybe not the ordeal you think it to be. For to bandy close to the coals when the mercury drops, is the coziest of affairs. The gift of heat always at hand. The thrill of contrast. And there is a certain but articulate satisfaction gleamed as well, enjoying grilled meat in the dead of winter. I cannot deny that. And neither would you!
Anyways, it’s good to log some time at the pit again. Good to scribe another entry for the POTP archives. We do hope you all have been well, and are enjoying your winter and new year to come. We’re slowly getting back in the groove again, here. Finding our footing in the new and intoxicating world of babies. We are blessed and highly favored at the pit these days, I don’t mind telling you. So I’m going to take this plate of burgers now and go enjoy some of the good life. Time spent in food and fellowship. And yeah, I got me a soft, little hand to hold afterwards, accompanied with a string of unending smiles, and enough BTU’s to warm mine heart for the next thousand years at least. Amen.
*BTU Baby Thermal units
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.
The mesquite smoke curled with a certain impunity on this balmy summer’s eve. The South wind wormed it’s way through the residential hamlets and marshlands like a warm bath, bringing a sort of sticky contentment to the pit jockey who tarries near to his craft. Oh yes, summer has arrived here on the 45th Parallel, finally, and I suppose one ought to grill something. I mean, it is “grilling season” after all. That hallowed sliver of the calendar where the once captive masses return to their barbies in one accord and offer forth pillars of enriched smoke to the BBQ gods. I dunno, I guess when you refrain from grilling for a tally of three seasons running, you would rather tend to miss it. I know I would. But to us folk who run a year around BBQ blog, summer grilling is just another chapter in a year’s worth of grilling endeavors, except I suppose, sweatier.
Yes, nothing is quite so charming as wandering out to the mail box on a muggy summer evening, only to return to the house cloaked in sheen of your own juices, and sporting a rankness not even desirable to the neighbor’s bull dog, whose standards are suitable low anyways. But that’s summer in the Midwest. You sweat. And the sooner you come to grips with this inherent reality, the sooner you can move on and have fun with this most pleasurable of seasons. You just smell like a stink bomb is all. What can you do. Anyways, on to something that smells a whole lot better than I do. It’s burger night at the pit, and here’s how it went and came to be.
Summer time grilling don’t get too much better, folks! Check out them grass fed burgers and onions on the new Craycort grate. Yum! As usual, we think you all know how to grill a hamburger already, but we will mention the seasoning was just a packet of Lipton Onion soup mix, dispersed amid two pounds of ground beef. Easy cooking, and even better eating.
Toast Thy Buns
Of course we toasted the buns. You are toasting your buns aren’t you? Nothing quite so adds that touch of gourmet to your burgers quite like a crisp, toasted bun. The texture is a pleasure, as well as the satisfaction of knowing you went the extra mile in your burger craft.
Going The Distance
We do rather get into burger night over here at the pit. Note the cool little red baskets, and homemade fries. Not to mention the ultra chocolate shake all served up 50’s diner style. All ideas of my lovely wife who loves burger night as much as anybody, I’d wager. Good times, patron to the pit. And Amen.
Look at that grub! Man! I won’t even mention the joy of feeling your belly wrapped around this greasy handful. I think you get it! Mercy! And with that we bid you a toodaloo from the pit, as the summer sun traverses a blue, Minnesota sky. Blessings to the readership and happy 4th of July in advance.
Somewhere in northern Minnesota
When the wind stopped talking to the stately pines, and the waves settled into calm glass, I could at once hear the lonesome wail of the loon and the distant cry of an eagle in flight. The sun waxed amber over the western shores, distantly beautiful and studded in balsam and papal and birch. The pine-scented air hung freshly in the encampment, as I came down to the canoe for to survey my kingdom and the wilderness sanctum that which spanned the miles nary soiled by the hand of man. I stood there at the water’s edge, gazing, letting the silence which echoed through the forested primeval melt into my mind, and drip down hither into my soul. This is where I longed to be. Where I simply had to be. Living deliberately. Somewhere in northern Minnesota.
My Secret Spot
No, I shall not in a thousand and one blogs be likely to illuminate you as to where this lovely photo was snapped. I cannot reveal my paradise, not even to you good folk and readership of the POTP. You must understand the glories of the quieter places, and the toils upheld there to preserve them. Nay, you’re just going to have to go find your own wilderness sanctum, let it’s magic sidle upon you and nestle into your heart, and when you return home, figure out yourself how to not mistakenly divulge your secret spot’s location. It’s hard not to tell people, but alas, it would not be a secret spot any more if you did. So I won’t. I will tell you however, that we did eat well out there. Not all camping is hardtack and swamp water you know. Not if you’re a patron of the pit.
Brought the Solo Titan along on this romp. You might remember this piece of kit from last autumn. We did a review on it. A wood gassifier stove! Yeah, it’s a wee bit too heady to explain right now, but if you want to read the review and learn all about it, here is a link for that. Solo Stove Titan Review
We cooked up a couple of bannocks and this lovely dish of corned beef hash and eggs for breakfast. A filling way to start a day in the bush. Or were we ending the day? No matter, good is good.
Somewhere Else in Minnesota
Oh we’ve been getting around. Let me show you another secret spot about 7 hours away from the last spot. Stream-side we were, where the native brook trout make their home and lives in the swift flowing currents of this quaint river. I couldn’t catch trout this day, but that did not mar my dinner plans. I knew I wouldn’t woo any trout so I brought along a suitable protein in it’s stead. Steak!
For this cook we broke out the old Mojoe Griddle. Remember this beast? If ever there was a love affair with a 1/4 inch, hot-rolled, 35 pound steel disc, then this is it. As always, a privilege to cook on, especially in the prettier places. It’s a restaurant grade griddle, and could not be more fun. If you want to learn more about the Mojoe, check out our review in this link – Mojoe Griddle
Aside the babbling stream we fried up a massive hunk of steak, sided with several piles of black beans and corn and fajita stuff; all of this was served over a good bowl of red beans and rice, and thus topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Go ahead and wipe the drool from your chin now…We’ll stand by and wait for you. Oh man that was good! I could eat this every day!
And….Somewhere Else Again…Still in Minnesota
This secret spot was along Lake Superior. That’s all I’ll disclose. Suffice it to say there is no better place to cool off on a summer’s day than on the rugged shore of the big lake they call “Gitchigumi” . That’s Ojibway for “Huge Water“, in case you’re interested. Anyways, we ate good here too! Man was it pretty!
More steak and beans, this time on the Instagrill. Yet another cooking gem we reviewed not long ago. Truly a portable charcoal powered cooking unit fit for the gypsy and wandering nomad in all of us. Love this little pit!
We cooked all our meals on it at this campsite. Here is a lovely breakfast burrito in the making. We’re toasting the tortilla whilst the ham and egg and cheese innards stay warm up in the corner. We really enjoyed cooking over this thing. The perfect camping grill. If you missed the review of this one, you can check it out here, InstaGrill Review
Or better yet, just check out their website Myinstagrill. By the way, they met their kickstarter goal, and are supposed to go into production of this little cooker this summer sometime. Good on you Jonathan!
A fine little grill to be sure. But if you can swing it, and have the inclination, not to mention perhaps a fair degree of lunacy, then nothing beats a 22 inch Weber Kettle grill in camp!
Somewhere Else’s Else….Yes, still in Minnesota
Boy we’ve been living the camper’s dream this spring. Gone every other weekend, living sweet lives. My cronie, bless his heart, he done dragged this Weber kettle about an 1/8 of a mile down the winding trail, through the woods and across creeks, to one of our favorite campsites, where upon we enjoyed quaint billowing clouds of wood smoke and the aromas of slow cooking pork ribs. Nothing is quite so fine as that in a rustic, backwoods encampment. It would have been better tho, I suppose, had he remembered to bring the cooking grate.
Indeed. But with a few pop cans and some green branches procured from the camp-side thickets, we were able to make do and eat well anyways, patron to the pit. Let no obstacle stand between a man and his meat! It’s all about working with what you’ve got, and adapting to your place in the sun. And that is how you stay alive in the woods, not to mention some secret spots of paradise that we can’t really tell you about. You understand.
Life is good when you go bush. Life is even better if you have good food there. And we did. And you can too! 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!!
This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
*Another experiment, resurrecting a post from the archives. One of our lesser read pieces, that explains in part, I think, why it is we do what we do. Enjoy.
Blessings – PotP
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the hea…
Source: Testament of a Grilling Geek
Well, it’s February. And it’s still winter in Minnesota. Tho the sun may tarry in the sky now a few minutes longer than it once did, signifying, perhaps, that the summer processes have begun, I’m here to say, you can’t really tell. It’s just plain cold out. Snow still courts our yard, it’s still dark when I come home from work, and there is a patch of ice on the driveway that I think has been there since Thanksgiving. But that’s Minnesota. And after a while you simply come to accept your deep freeze situation in life, and just make the best of it. Indeed, there comes a point in every Minnesotan’s winter campaign where they acknowledge to themselves and the rest of the free world, that it’s not going to get any warmer for a while, and that they for one are done complaining about it. Mostly.
A good example of what I mean was found on my routine food sortie to the local Cub grocery store. There outside the motion activated sliding doors perched this lovely ice sculpture. I guess I can’t tell you what it is tho. Looks something like a duck and a man merged together, and carrying a purse. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. What matters, like all good gifts, is the thought behind it. The poetic triumph of it all. For here stands a sculpture really of what it means to be Minnesotan. To be stuck in the cold for half the year. Nay, half of your life, when you think about it. It is at once an icy monolith to the power of positive thinking! It says that life in the ice box has not gotten this soul down. That they will make the best of it, regardless. Lemonade, if you will, wrought from winter’s harshest fruit. Yup, that ice sculpture was much more than the tangible work of a talented person. It is a symbol of sanity when everyone around you is losing theirs. Odd that you can gleam so much just going to the store for some chicken wings, but it is so.
Later that evening, speaking of chicken wings, I fired up the old Weber kettle grill for supper. One of the things I like to do, when the charcoal chimney is under fire, is give it a little whack on it’s side with the tongs, and watch how the sparks scatter into the night. Sometimes it makes for interesting photos. Sometimes not. But even so, I enjoy the artistic spray of sparks flashing against a dark, wintry sky. It soothes me.
There is also a certain comradeship amid the coals. They give off two things a winter bound pit keeper craves: light and heat. And oh what a joy it is on these frosty winter evenings to bandy close to a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. To feel the heat rolling out of the pit. It takes the sting out of the cold night, and loosens a stiffened soul. And for a while at least, you are content in your dark little corner of the globe, managing your meat over this beautiful bed of briquettes. Even in the middle of a Minnesota winter, out on the patio in the cold, there is joy to be found, patron to the pit. Like so many hardy folk around here, you just have to make the best of it.
These wings were seasoned first in one of our favorite blends, Poultry Perfection, from the great folks at Miners Mix. They’ve been awful good to us, and it’s our privilege to thank them yet again for sharing their wares with us. True spice wizards if ever we’ve seen any. Anyways, at the end of the cook, we glazed over the wings with some Sweet Baby Rays as per custom in BBQ fare, whilst back inside, some banter of the bodacious sort was at hand.
My bride whipped up a hearty batch of Miners Mix Bodacious Bean Dip. Mercy, it’s good stuff, people, very tasty, and one box seems more than plentiful, I might add. A plentiful bean dipping Nirvana. Plentiful also in the after effects come bed time, for thy cotton sheets may billow as if hit by a soft summer breeze. I almost slept on the couch that night if not for the mercy of my lovely wife. But like most good Minnesotans, she too made the best of it. We all did. Mostly. And Amen.
This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Russell Cate of Indiana!
Congratulations, you are the winner of the Solo Stove Titan Giveaway. The Solo Stove Company will be contacting you shortly, and you guys can sort it out from there. Well done sir. Hope you have much fun with your new toy. It’s really a great little stove!
And Russell, if you’re so inclined, we have a cyber podium up front here for you to stand behind, and give your victory speech in due haste.
A special thanks to the good folks at Solo Stove for sponsoring the giveaway, and an equal thanks to all the varied personalities and voices of the the readership who showed up to participate. With out you guys, this stuff just wouldn’t happen. It was fun. Maybe we’ll do another one of these somewhere down the line if you guys want it.
Anwyays, at ease…And grill on!
*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!
Autumn is a lovely time of year. Cooler days and chilly nights. Walking out to the car in the morning, there is a crisp bite in the air, and it just smells better, somehow, because its cold. Geese are on the wing, daily it seems, flying like bomber squadrons overhead, honking as they strafe past, their strong wings whooshing through the chill air. And then there are the leaves. Umpteen billions of them. Golden, and orange, and fiery red; around every corner, down every road – and they quiver and tingle on thin stems in the slightest breeze, quaking there. Waiting to drop. Waiting the turn.
I was cooking supper at the Pond Side Pit the other night, just admiring the autumn scene. Namely the big, old cotton wood there, and how resplendent its leaves looked against a blue, October sky. I don’t know how it is in Texas, or the desert, or even for our friends down there in Ecuador, but autumn in Minnesota is maybe why we all live in here in the first place. It is surreal. Something beautiful to behold every square foot, leastwise in the natural realm. All the trees gussied up so fine, free of that chlorophyll stuff, and my but they look akin to bride’s maids for the Fall.
Supper was some pork chops. Thick-cut of course, for not only are we Patrons of the Pit, but hark, we’re also hungry! So thick-cut it would be. For seasoning we tried some rub our old buddy, TJ Stallings, sent to us. His good friend, O’Neill Williams, of O’Neill Outside came up with some new flavors, and we were lucky enough a hold of some,thanks to TJ. Tonight’s medley of yum is the Wild Game Seasoning, tinted with a light mesquite smoke, and some darn succulent chops. Granted, my pork chops aren’t too wild, but no how, good is good, right, and now wildly good, perhaps, with some of this seasoning. We’ll give it a shot.
As I bandied a pile of orange glowing coals to the side of the little kettle grill for indirect cooking, it dawned on me that my leisurely summer evenings of cooking in the sunlight were coming to a close. The turn was at hand. Where autumn fades to longer nights. If there is a draw back to this fabulous season, at least for a pit jockey, it is the longer nights. Up here in Minnesota, the nights will come on all-too-swiftly in the coming weeks, and before somewhere in December, the nights will last about 14 hours altogether. That just ain’t right. So that means one of two things for a pit keeper. You either make your supper elsewhere, or you grill in the dark. For some reason I cannot completely divine, we’ve always been partial to the latter. Probably the sum result of inhaling one too many smoke plumes off a smoldering hickory log. Aw well.
So as I brought these gorgeous chops to the sultry land of succulence, I couldn’t help but to lavish also in the scant light that which lingered at the pit this night. How the long slants of an autumn sunbeam washed through the fluttering cottonwood leaves, and lit up that blue sky above for just a few minutes more. Indeed, we’ve been blessed. I savored the moments here, pit side, with tongs in hand, listening to the pork sizzle over the bed of coals, and enjoying the radiant heat off the old kettle grill. This was nice, I thought. Very pleasant. Maybe because I knew in the back of my mind that the winter grilling season was right across the way. I mean, I could see it yonder. Just over there, behind that seasonal curtain waiting to drop. Behind those beautiful leaves fixed to fall. But for the moment anyways, and maybe even longer than that, I know that I am grilling in the light, and long may we tarry here in the sweet sun that which fills the day. Amen.
Mesquite Tinted Pork Chops seasoned with O’Neill Outside Wild Game Seasoning on an October Eve swiftly fading. And all the pit jockeys rejoiced!
Ps…If you’re so inclined, we made a little companion video of this pit session to share with you. Another way to see our meat! Yes, we have a you tube channel. And no, we never use it! But it’s there for times like these, even so. Enjoy!
They came trucking up through the green grass as if they owned the place. And maybe they do. For let it be said, they were here long before we ever showed up. When we first moved in, they were the first to greet us. And when if we move from here, they’ll probably be standing there beside the driveway, the last to wave us good-bye. I speak of course, of the resident Mallards of the Pond Side Pit. And boy are they cute these days. Spring is just wrapping up here on the 45th parallel, and all the many ducks are closely followed by a feathery amoeba of miniature ducks, just like them – their little hairy faces, alive, and bright-eyed to a new, and outstanding world. Seems every time I light up the pit out back, they are there, investigating…Or maybe it is they’re just checking in that it is not their kin folk they smell cooking under my lid.
Fear not little ducks, for it is only a wee rack of pork ribs smoking under our lid today. With gentle plumes of pecan and apple wood, seasoned in Kits K.C. BBQ Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. I’m telling you this, there are a precious few better ways to while away a beautiful afternoon, than to tarry long in your BBQ chair, with a cold beverage in hand, feet propped up as per proper pit master posture, wowwy, and a cool breeze washing fresh over you the day long. Indeed, bringing pork ribs to a succulent, and tasty end game is our heady privilege. A Pit Jockey’s delight.
5 Reasons Why Ribs Are The Perfect Thing To Smoke
Ribs are perhaps the perfect thing to smoke, and I’ll tell you why. First off, ribs are meat candy to a man. Let’s just be clear about that. We lust for them. Next to bacon, I suppose, nothing gets our slobbers running more than the heady prospect of a good rack of ribs.Carnal, but true. We just had to clear the air on that matter.
It’s About Time
Secondly, ribs take just the right amount of time to cook. Look, if you at all enjoy the many facets of the Smokey Arts, and aspire yourself a patron of the pit, then you know in your soul, just as surely as you know anything, just how fun smoking meat is. Burgers and bratwurst are good and all, but the show is over too quick with those. Your coals still burn for something more. You crave a longer campaign pit-side. Something that takes you deep into the game. Pork butts and brisket are fantastic, we’re talking out-of-the-ball park home runs, but you seldom have the available clock for them. In point of fact, you might as well rip a whole day off the calendar for those big meats. That’s how long they tend to take. But ribs, ah ribs, well they saddle up just right. They are the perfect afternoon smoking project. You can fire up the pit at noon, and have your ribs done by supper. That’s just enough time to make you feel like you’ve done something proper-like in the Smokey Arts. Just enough time to rejoice in the ways of the pit master, such as napping pit-side, or watching a ball game with your shoes off. Just enough time to flex your patience a little, and log some quality pit time under blue-bird skies.
In a world ripe with haste, ribs take precisely the right amount of time.
Another reason why ribs are the perfect thing to smoke, is that success is not always a given. There does seem to me anyways, a certain smokey-scented, serendipity, to cooking ribs in charcoal fueled pit. I know this because I always marvel when they turn out good. Now if I knew it was in the bank all along, then why would I marvel? I don’t know. But know this, ribs are satisfying to get right. Not just to your belly, but to your personal growth as an accomplished meat maestro. All your research and experimentation into technique and method, culminating in a few short hours under, long, smokey columns of goodness. In many ways, ribs are a sort of litmus test of your pit skills. You can divine a great deal about a pit keeper’s craft from his ribs.Ribs keep us learning.
Picasso in Pork
Next, ribs are the perfect blank pork canvas in which to paint your BBQ Picasso. You can season them up so many ways, from just salt and pepper to intricately conceived rubs snatched from only your brain pan alone. To sauce or not to sauce, well, leave it to your pit master instincts. Smoke woods, oh where to start! Every rack is a different journey into the smokey realm. Every rack its own entity. It’s own dance with fire and smoke. Ribs are your personal expression in meat art. Your Picasso in Pork. So wield your brush, people, with all due enthusiam.
A Ticket to Relax
And at last, and subtly under-toned along the way, every rack is your ticket to an afternoon off, to loiter pit-side, with a manly beverage in hand, and declare to yourself and those who come upon you, that you are in no hurry today. That you have, by choice, raised your foot clear of the accelerator pedal of life, and for a few short smokey hours, and maybe even longer than that, all your world is right. You’re not grilling hot dogs today. Nay, you’re smoking ribs. And that my friends, is a very a good day indeed. Amen.
Five hours, low and slow, people. Pecan/Apple Amoked BBQ ribs. Son! And my ducks were Okay with this.
The other weekend my trail crony and I made camp at a nearby wilderness establishment; a locale of great loveliness, off the beaten path, and aside a watershed patron to a sky full of stars. As you may have gleamed around here, from time to time, we do rather like to engage our souls in the wilder places. In point of fact, if ever we were to scribe another blog, it would doubtless be one touting the high joys of the outdoor life. For this is what we do, by and by, besides grilling beautiful cuts of meat, that is. We seek to tarry where creation is most divine. And so there we were, naturally, on the forest floor, our tents poetically pitched at the tail of a moonbeam. The stars drifting across an ebony sky. And the coyotes yelping from the distant hills.
If you’ve never spent the night in the forest, your senses have never then been properly primed. Nor your imagination so sublimely stretched. To hear the critters scamper about, and everyone of them, you swear, sniffing the trembling corners of your tent. You can hear the diameter of coyote’s nose at ten paces, as it draws it’s air from the still night. The Trumpeter Swans bellowing in the darkness. You can hear those too. The Great Horned Owls stirring up a nocturnal racket, yapping on like little old ladies sitting in the tree tops. Then, some time in the wee hours, the undecipherable sounds of something heavy and hairy wandering at the edge of the woods. Nay, that’s just my camp mate, out for his nightly leg raise. It’s all good in the woods.
Shifting gears now, out at the pit. A light pecan smoke curls from the old kettle grill. It’s been a long week. A busy week. The kind of week that the big city is good at dishing out to those challenged and beleaguered souls entrapped within it’s elastic bosom. Everyone is in a hurry here. Pedal to the proverbial metal. Car horns blaring. Phones ringing. Sirens racing. It’s really something. Or at least you seem to notice it more, perhaps, after a good camping trip afield. Maybe that’s what it is. There is a palatial difference, or is it indifference, between the speed of life in the city and one out in the quieter places. One of head-turning, iconoclastic proportions. And it only takes one night bedded down on the forest floor to realize it. And so my grilling, as humble as it may be, is at last a small respite to me – a last beach head of tranquility in a world gone to haste.
So it was, and with great pleasure, too, that I laid the succulent pork chops over the pecan-scented flames. This one simple act, where man cooks meat over fire, outside, seems to trigger a domino of mental pleasures, all toppling forth in a splendid way before me. For starters, the smell of the wood smoldering over the fire. Very pleasant. Which in turn, connects to memories of cooking fires past. And some of those memories, of fires yonder, in places long ago. Of camp fires and good people. Over hill and by the dale, where the coyotes freely sing, and the moonbeams kiss the tender fabric of our tents. And illuminate the quiet hollows of our soul. Amen.
Pecan smoked pork chops, with garlic mashed potatoes and a good spill of peas. Good is good at the pit tonight. And even better cooked outside. A Pit Keeper’s respite.
My brother has a cabin way up in the woods you see. A humble conglomerate of shingle and cedar. A manly outpost on the edge of all things, in rhythm with the earth and sky. Maybe even a last vestige, perhaps, of solitude in a world surely gone mad. You need only to get in your truck and go there. Out past the city limits, indeed way yonder past that. Past the wind-swept prairies drifted high in waves of granulated white. Over the frozen river and through the woods, where the brown, crisp leaves of the red oak trees still tremble in a winter’s wind. Past the next hamlet and the one after that. Down the winding gravel road you must go. Keep going past all these places, until you reach where the stately white pines rise up and anoint a beautiful, blue sky, and the Blacked Capped Chickadees cavort with a contagious enthusiasm. To where the morning sun dapples on an earth seldom trampled. And here, where the wood smoke curls serenely from a lone chimney stack, on a hill just up from the lake, you will find my brother’s cabin.
I haven’t been to my brother’s cabin in some time now. And I guess the misery of it is, neither has my brother. Oh elder brother is fine and all, it’s just that the wretched noose of society hath wrapped it’s callous coils around his neck again, refusing ever to let go. It’s called work. And responsibility. That’s the high problem of the city life. The city, by it’s very nature will try to pin you down and hold you there, wriggling like a worm under an angler’s thumb. It is it’s most favorite thing to do, seems like. For all the social postures we thus escape, and still to maintain a reasonable and untrammeled urban profile, well, it’s some trick. Some kind of way yonder too big a trick.
So I think of my brother’s cabin now, as I put these chicken thighs to flame. Listening to them sizzle over a hot cast iron grate, with pecan wood buried into the coals. The interesting thing is, every time I light the grill, and smell the wood smoke pillar into the air, even here in urban America, it triggers something, and I cannot help but to recall a vast gamut of recreational fires past, and elsewhere, all over the country in part, and some of those, yes, at my brother’s cabin. That’s the wonderful, under-stated, glory of wood smoke and memories. They are linked in a symbiotic dance. And my how it brings you back. Oh how I fancy to be there right now, under that old, squeaky roof, towering with snow, to hear the crackle of pine and the cedar pop in his portly, old wood stove. A kettle of orange tea simmering quietly there. The sweet, radiating heat of the fire, glory be how it feels like Beethoven incarnate on your cold feet. And I would tarry in the chair there, just because, sipping from an old tin cup, and gaze out across the frozen lake to the far distant shore where the Bald Eagles perch. Drinking in the quietude set aside for thee. Yup, I miss that place. And you need only to get in your truck and go there. And we might, iffin it weren’t for this whole earning a living thing.
This post is turning out rather anemic concerning the things of BBQ, and for that I apologize. I guess I’m engaged in a bit of what you might call, “day dreaming”. It’s just that the winter wears long in these parts, and to a man, we haven’t felt the sun on our face in some five billion years, feels like. Those of you blessed with eternal summers, patron to the good southern life, I do not know for certain if you feel our kink here. Of how long a winter can ride. Or how giddy we can get at the mere thought of spring. For let it be said, it’s that time of the year again, where all that we do, and all that we ponder on, is the promise of spring. Well seems like, anyway. And we pace at the edge of night, with a cup of hot tea in hand, fire crackling in the old wood stove, listening to the cold sleet tapping against our window panes. In the paraphrased words of Jim Klobuchar, “we tingle and ache, waiting for the exploding sun”.
Yes indeed we do that.
Pecan Smoked, Grilled Chicken Breast, varnished in a light but tangy BBQ sauce. Man! Can you smell it people!
Every time we light our fires, we kindle also those quaint fires past. Those smokey memories impressed on the tender fabric of our souls. That and we usually get something good to eat too! Just another couple of reasons to cook outside and revel in it. Amen.
I love to BBQ, this I know.
And it’s not so much because I love to eat, tho that is a part of it no doubt. But more rather, it’s the act of BBQ that which inspires me. The process. That and also because I get to be outside, where the fresh air is tinted with wood smoke, and my patio chair resides quietly at the terminus of a warm sunbeam. Well sometimes. When you do your BBQing in Minnesota, sometimes that warm sunbeam part takes a six month hiatus, contrary to your ideals. But not this Sunday last, the day I cooked out-of-doors, under pastel blue skies, amid a hint of spring.
I could not help but to rejoice when I saw a patch of grass in my yard, gently unveiled there in a hollow of spruce, the sunlight dappling through the green needles, the snow tapering out of the shade. It isn’t much I know, but to a snowbound pit jockey, it is a sight as sweet and as glorious as the grandest mountain. As welcoming as the soft clasp of a baby’s hand. That there dollop of sunlight on the brown grass is much more than a soggy place in the yard. Nay, it is hope.
Hope for a promise of warmer days, and long BBQ campaigns in a slow-ebbing light. Of chlorophyll emboldened trees, and their delicious, green leaves flapping in the summer breeze. Of bountiful tweety birds, resplendent in their many colors, and all singing their praises from atop the highest perch, patron to a deep, blue sky. Of naps in the hammock, undisturbed, nor hijacked by cold. Of a nicely beaded glass of something cold to drink, whilst the radiant sun rubs the back of your neck, and the aroma of perfectly executed brisket lingers in the air. Yup, that’s what that patch of grass yonder means. A dash of hope, and a hint of spring.
Man I love to BBQ. The day must have got into the 40’s even, sunshine eternal, and I reveled accordingly in it. Two plump chicken breasts seasoned heavily in Miners Mix Poultry Perfection. You can go heavy with these spices because they’re low in sodium by design. That’s the way the Spice Wizards there at Miners Mix developed their rubs- low in salt. That way you can enjoy what the rub really tastes like. If you want to add salt you always can, but trust us, you don’t need to with a good rub, and some quality protein at your side. We put these breasts indirect of course, if but only to take our time with the cook. To linger and pause, where the savory aromas dawdle in the cool air.
Somewhere along the way, the day got even better still, when I kindled a small fire in the chiminea. Old scraps from the wood shop served to up my ambiance meter one more notch, as I leaned back in the chair, gazing into the humble flames. The day was as comfortable as I’ve seen it at the pit in many months, and were talking no jacket here, which is saying something for Minnesota in the end of January. I didn’t complain either. One has to take these things in stride, you see, lest he becomes complacent to the better things in life. And so I tarried there, in no particular hurry to go anywhere or do anything. Just the aroma of BBQ in the air, and this quaint, crackling fire was all that I needed. And for a moment at least, the world was simple again, and kind, and warm. And a contentedness filled through-out my soul. That’s kind of why we do it. That’s the joy of BBQ. Amen.
Slow roasted, indirect BBQ chicken breasts with a touch of apple wood smoke, sided with a smattering of vegetable matter for to please the lady folk.
Post Script.. Here is my sunshiny soggy place of hope today. Ain’t that how it goes.
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.
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.
This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
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.