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.
We were out in the woods this weekend last, playing hobo and such, and just enjoying the pleasures of a lovely spring day afield. The sun was warm, but the lakes and ponds still frozen, and patches of snow tarried in the shadows. We hiked along the wooded trails, kicking up leaves from last autumn, and smelling the earth unwrap itself after a long winter’s hiatus. A vintage spring day in Minnesota. The kind we wait for, and pine for. The sort we hold out hope for, that once winter has had its way with us, that it might bequeath us such climatic spoils. And it did. And what better thing to do in all the world on such a day, than to make a camp in the woods, and cook some good food there.
Enter the InstaGrill
Now I’m a tinkerer. My father is a tinkerer. My brothers are tinkerers. Tinkering, you might say, is in my blood. And so when I get to test out another man’s brain thrust, I feel honored. I can appreciate the engineering, the thought, and the time that went in to it. Such was the case this last trip afield, as we tested out the InstaGrill. A cool, little, highly portable BBQ grill sent to us by a fellow tinkerer, named Jonathan, down in Texas.
InstaGrill. That’s what he’s calling it as of now. It’s an idea he had for easy, spontaneous, low-key grilling. He sent us a prototype so we could get a better idea how it works, and maybe share it with you guys. Here is his website also, if you want more details. www.myinstagrill.com. It’s a pretty nifty little rig, and if you don’t mind, we’ll give you the nickel tour ourselves.
It’s pretty clever at first blush. As you can see, it’s a charcoal grill at its core. That’s what it runs on. You fill it half way up or so like you would a charcoal chimney, and light it from below with crumpled up newspaper or like we did in this case, with a fire starter cube. She lit right up in tremendous fashion, thanks to the built-in chimney effect. In all my years of using portable grills, I can honestly say, this is the best lighting grill we’ve ever used. No lighter fluid needed. It lights like a charcoal chimney, because, well, it is! This is probably our favorite feature of the grill. But anyways, onto the fun part!
When the coals reach maturity, or grayed over, (about 10 minutes) you simply unlatch the side and open it up. Sort of like them Murphy Beds that fold up into the wall, if you’re familiar with those. Yet another clever idea! Then you rake the coals about a bit to suit your fancy, and install the grate as seen in the photo.
As seen above, you can set the grate to three different levels. We liked that feature too!
We found the grill to be just big enough to meet the needs of about two people, least wise for breakfast out in the hinter regions. The grate size is roughly 10 inches by 10 inches. Large enough for four burgers or two steaks. The other dimensions of the grill are 5″D x 10″W x 12″ H. It weighs about 5 pounds. We found it very portable, and simple to set up and easy to use. No complaints!
Granted it was designed for more traditional grilling fare than corned beef hash and eggs over-easy, but alas when your bush, you work with what you’ve got. Regardless, it was a lot of fun cooking with it. The husky handle at the back made it effortless to transport or move it, even when it was lit, should you ever want to do such things. And to extinguish the coals, you simply close it back up and pour some water on the fire. Disperse in the trash at your nearest convenience.
Overall, it was really a joy to cook on. A well thought-out, and articulate little grilling rig. We liked it’s compactness, and portability, and absolutely loved how it started up a batch of charcoal. We can see it being useful for things like: camping, or tailgating, or even just out on your deck. It’s low key enough, it won’t draw much attention, and finally, you’ll get a proper meal cooked over a beautiful bed of coals. Such as grilling was always meant to be.
So here’s the other part of the story. If you want to buy one, you’re going to have to get in line and wait a while. This is a prototype, you see. The ultimate fit & finished product does not exist yet. That’s why the prototype was sent to us, to help Jonathan garner a little exposure. He has also set up a KICKSTARTER Campaign, here, and when and if it reaches it’s goal, he will then go into production with these grills. So if you think it’s a worthy endeavor, and want to help him get his business going, not to mention secure yourself one of his grills later on down the road, head over to his kickstarter page and help a tinkerer out!
Such is light’s brief serenade for the sun which has dipped below the roof tops now, at an hour profoundly prior from which the supper bell tolls. The cool wind rustles up the neighborhood streets and across the backyards freshly mulched and pampered and smelling of a sleepy earth. The old pond dapples in the moonlight as the mallards and stately drakes cavort in it’s still, liquid waters. All the leaves have all fallen now, once resplendent and grand, and the geese are in constant formation it seems, bugging out for the promised land, of…well, I don’t know where the geese go actually. Probably to you guys down in Florida, I suppose. Texas too.
It’s November in Minnesota. Outdoor life is shutting down. Most folk have wheeled their BBQ’s inside for the winter now. We Patrons of the Pit, however, and Comrades of the Coals, well, we stoically march onward still, trimming our collars to the tempest of night, and manning our pits in stalwart fashion, for to bandy some rather keen moments still, in the waning, pale moon light.
On the pit tonight, probably the first head chiseled on to my personal Mount Rushmore of Things You Can Grill…Steak! A nice big one for me, and a slightly smaller one for the little lady. It always amazes me, as the resident grill jockey that I am, from all the umpteen dozens if not hundreds of recipes I’ve tried over the years, my favorite things to grill still are usually of the most simpleton in kind. For example, I enjoy a good steak, like this, lightly seasoned in just garlic and onion salt, as much as I enjoy, say, an elaborate, 12-hour, pecan smoked brisket flat, or even a rack of spare ribs perfectly executed to the nearest square inch. These things are quite lovely, and they are satisfying to do. But there’s also just something pleasantly perfect about a simple fare of meat and potatoes. About steak on the grill. And more over, there is a magic in grilling it there, amid a November night.
I flipped the steaks, tongs in hand, and listened to them sizzle on the hot cast iron grate. Orange flames licked up from below, searing the beef, as I pulled my patio chair up aside the old kettle grill. I sat there with the lid off watching the steaks cook, and enjoying the flicker of the flame and the radiant heat bellowing out of the Weber’s steely bosom. It felt warm on my face, as I looked up and noted how the moonbeams dropped like angel kisses through the pit-side spruce trees. This was nice, I thought. Much better than most people think when they think of November grilling. I was not cold. Nor did the darkness matter. In point of fact, the darkness just seem to make the fire all the better. Something poignant and lovely to bandy by. And so by fire and by moonlight I sailed the culinary seas there, however briefly to the shores of edible succulence from whence I’ve longed. It didn’t take much effort either. Steaks are like that. And I already had the potatoes done in the kitchen, so… I plated up the spoils, turned heel as any man would, and sidled inside for the night.
After sliding the patio door shut, and locking it, I took another glance out at the grill, like pit keepers do. There it sat in the dark, quietly puffing away as if it didn’t have a care in the world. No, it didn’t mind doing its duty in November. In fact, it was just doing what it was born to do. And for a while at least, come to think of it, so was I. Amen.
Meat and potatoes. Some days I tell you, people, it’s all you need. Well, and a piece of coconut cream pie for dessert wouldn’t hurt none either.
*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!
We’ve all been there. Any pit jockey worth his or her tongs has been there. Has seen their beloved grill grate in various states of entropy and decay. With blackened carnage clinging to the grate in crusty reminders of smoke outs past, and grand family BBQ’s. And who hasn’t grabbed one of those steel brushes and got to work on the grate, cleansing it’s working surface for the betterment of thy people. You feel like a man when you do it. It’s what we’re trained to do. And the problem is, it’s not particularity a smart thing to do.
The Folly With Steel Wire
Seems the ageless wire brush we use on our grills has one painful folly. Every once in a while a steel bristle breaks off. And every once in a while beyond that, some one eats it. Well, we don’t need to go into detail how such a diet of steel bristles truly sucks, it’s as bad as you’re thinking it would be, but instead, lets just cut to the point, and find an answer to this quandary. An answer besides not BBQing that is. Because that would be no life at all.
Enter The Wooden Scraper
I’m sure many of the readership has heard of wooden scrapers by now. They’ve been out for a while, in response, no doubt, to steel pricks finding their way in to people’s intestinal tracks. Thus enters the wooden scraper. While we do not know who invented the idea of a wooden scraper for the BBQ arts, we gotta agree, it’s a good idea. Tho we have never once experienced a busted-off bristle ruining our BBQ, and we’ve BBQ’d a lot, it also stands to reason, why would you ever take the chance if you didn’t have to. We recently were given some wooden scrapers to test out by the good folks at bbqscraper.com. Nice little, functional scrapers made of birch. Simple, but effective. Like good BBQ, I suppose. And best of all, no chance ever of a wayward steel needle in your belly. Lets take a closer gander at this thing.
BBQ Scraper – Natural Wooden Grill Cleaner
The Original BBQ Scraper
The Scrape Down
Well there’s basically nothing to it, as you can see. Just use it. Tip it on edge over a hot grate, any kind of grate, and within the time frame of the first cook, the scraper begins to customize right to your grate. Creating its own set of grooves to match your grate. And yes, it’s a grate idea! Sorry. Had to. And further more, the more you use these kind of scrapers, the better, more customized they become. And of course, no worries about a trip the ER to dig out a steel pin from your gut, ruining your BBQ dinner. That’s always nice.
Anyways, these scrapers are looking like a good, solid, and serviceable product that should last quite a while. Well made and a pleasure to use. Adapts swiftly to your grate. There are many sorts of scrapers out on the market, and tho we cannot honestly say any are better than the other, we can say that these guys at BBQ Scraper.com were good to us, and we thank them for their scrapers. Be sure to check them out if you’re looking to ditch that old wire brush. Likewise steel bristles in your intestines. Amen.
You can find them on amazon too. As we are an affiliate for this product, we do receive a small commission if you go through our link. It is small too, but every little bit helps support this blog. We do appreciate all of you. Thank you!
How we love to tarry in the prettier places. Often times striking off for the pristine hinter regions of northern Minnesota. And there, under the whispering pines, beside tumbling rivers, we press a tent stake into the soil, and rest like gentlemen of leisure. The cares of the city life metaphorically swirling down the drain, like dirty bath water after a long day afield. Soon, we think of nothing else, nothing but the wind, the sky, the woods, and the loveliness of water falling in paradise.
The river flows with a fierce elegance up here. She will dazzle you with her beauty, and in the flip of a heart beat, wash you into one of her deep pools, and pin you there but for the wages of eternity. Kayakers know this. And so do Patrons of the Pit, who cower wisely on the shores. Nay, these waters are best left to the native brook trout which loiter in the eddies, awaiting the wayward drift of a Rhithrogena germanica or the like.You know how it goes. Anyways, whence the night falls over the forest primeval, we do rather like to kindle a fire and bandy close to its coals.
An old, blackened tea-pot with a dented, and beaten-up lid, hangs hobo style over the fire, bringing the evening’s water to a boil. I rummage through my pack for my twenty year old steel mug, whilst the flicker of the flames dance softly over head on the bottom of the pine bows. Found it. I rip open a package of cinnamon tea, and plop the bag into my cup, it’s string hanging limply over the lip. I look up. The stars are out now, shimmering behind the tall pines, dappling through the thin needles. The river tumbles in the darkness. And I can smell the smoke waft off the fire, and taper into the pine-scented woods. Can you smell it!
Via the powers of the blogosphere, you have now been transported. Swept away through space and time, and plunked down in a saintly fashion at the Track Side Pit, where our fellow Patron is plying his craft upon a congregation of yard bird legs. Chicken legs for you city folk. He’s got a nice char going on, as you can see, with flirts of caramelization. Seasoned with who knows what, but it’s good! The aromas bellowing off the grill would turn a vegan silly, I’d wager. And can you smell the smoke…
Smoke. The smell of it. For some reason God has linked smells inextricably with memory. And that’s the curious link between here and there. Between cooking on the patio in the city, and cooking over the open fire, far away, encamped in a quiet, forest hollow. We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll say it again. Because every time we light the fires here at home, the aroma of the smoke in-turn triggers a rush of memories from camp fires past. And a great many of those fires have been in the wilder places, in paradise, doing what we love to do. And as we rotate these gorgeous chicken legs over a fiery bed of coals, with metal tongs in hand, we cannot help but to reminisce at the same time of the beautiful locales from whence we’ve tarried. Oh yes. To reach back on the tender wings of nostalgia, and thumb through our memory vaults to those campsites past, fire-side, under fragrant pines and starry skies, where the water falls in paradise. Amen.
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.
Location : Track-Side Pit
Time : Not too long ago…
Take a gander at this spread, won’t you, put on by John, our Patron of the Pit Co-Founder, and care taker of the Track Side Pit. Yes indeed, he was seen in his backyard recently, plying his craft over a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. Nothing stood in his way of culinary, smokey-tinted perfection. We’re talking :butter, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, scallops, shrimp, onion, pepper and red potatoes. Man! If this don’t make you hungry right now, you probably have a face full of dirt! As he so bluntly, but exquisitely phrased it, “Freakin sexy goodness!” Indeed, old boy. Indeed.
He’s coming along, that boy. In point of fact, he finally got himself a 22 inch Weber Kettle Grill. And he’s loving it. I don’t know what he was waiting for either. And as you can see, he’s been making good use of it too.
Here is another thing he whipped up off-hand the other day. A pit keeper’s favorite.
ATB’s. Better known as Atomic Buffalo Turds. He took them a step further than most pit jockeys, and later glazed them in maple syrup, and dashed them with fresh cracked pepper. Mercy!
So that’s the recent goings on of the Track Side Pit. It’s good to see the other half once in a while. He doesn’t very often post here, or brag of his grilling talents. But I personally think he can grill circles around most people I know, including myself. He holds down the social media branch for PotP, and samples any spices or sauces that are sent our way. If you want to see more of what he’s been up to, you can find him supporting our Patron of the Pit Instagram account. Boy it’s a party over there! Stop by and say howdy to him!
Sometimes he shows up on our facebook page too.
The Lilacs are blooming on Mt. Moriah.
Greetings dear readership, and brethren of the smoke. We’ve been on vacation as of late, and I won’t deny it’s been a rather lovely sortie away from the digital trenches. A routine of which, if I am not careful on the matter, I suspect that I could get quite used to. We’re talking life on the road here. Seeing new sights every day. Meeting interesting people. And that hallowed feeling of putting a great many miles between you and the home front. It’s nice, and a wee bit intoxicating to the spirit. But alas, we are home now, and well-traveled. We have some good vittles outback on the smoker, too, but before we get to that, I’d fancy to show you something we discovered out way of the Black Hills. Something I thought it was kind of cool, and maybe you will too.
We were in the small Cowboy Hamlet better known as Deadwood, SD. Strolling up the main street there, which if there ever was a main street in this world that begs to be strolled, this perhaps was it. We made the usual token rounds: We saw the Celebrity Hotel where Brad Pitt’s slippers from Spy Games were on display. We went in the ice cream shop hoping for a double scoop of Rocky Road, but no one was around to harvest our currency. So we sidled out the door – scoopless. We also poked our head in the bar where Wild Bill Hickok was shot, thought about it for a while, then left. You know, the usual Deadwood flybys. Then, after the formalities were over, we found ourselves up on a hill, on Mt Moriah to be exact, in a cemetery there overlooking the town. It was a quaint place, by and by, that is if cemeteries can register as quaint. The lilacs were fragrant, and the grass was green. And it was up there that I saw the flag.
The American flag hung limply on it’s pole, back-dropped by a blue, South Dakotan sky. I guess it wasn’t so much the flag, there, waving over Deadwood that captured my attention. It was more the plaque residing just below it, and the words it forever held there.
Here is a flag, if you read the plaque, that is always up. Every day. Twenty and four hours a day. Never in our lifetime to see a half-mast. Never to forget our brave soldiers in battle, nor their selfless trials endured for the sake of our country. It’s been flapping in the sky over Deadwood for a long time now, since WWI it says, as stalwart, and as true, as the veterans it honors. I don’t know about you folks, but I thought that was pretty cool. In a day and age where so many flags seem perpetually stuck half-way up the pole, here is one that at last resists. And that is no small thing amid the pine-scented breezes of Mt Moriah.
Anyways, that is what I wanted to show you. Something we saw in our travels afield. Now out to the pit!
The Joy of Bark
It was Memorial Weekend, and as you can see we had some fine eating coming to maturity pit-side. A humble little pork shoulder, or butt if you must, one of which needed only 6 hours on the smoker, courtesy of it’s wee size. I think it was only 5 or 6 pounds, boneless, and nary fraction shy of utter succulence. This photo was snapped near the end of the cook, and my oh my, take a look at that bark. Glory be!
Bark. It’s what every pit jockey secretly strives for. That hallowed offspring of seasoning and smoke, and of heat and meat. The magical effects of bark cannot be understated, nor I think, adequately even explained. Just trust us when we say, you want bark. Yes, to the uninitiated, it might resemble something more of a meteorite that landed in your back yard. Likewise, lift the lid of the pit housing a well-barked butt, and the newbies about will at once moan your name in vain, declaring it a grievous loss. This is common place. You always have to reassure them that it’s alright. It’s just bark.
When you pull your pulled pork, which is usually appropriate anywhere from 195 to 203 internal, you always want to evenly distribute plenty of bark amongst the meat. The best pulled pork sandwiches have a little bark in every bite. And we have found if you foil your butts like many pit masters like to do, that the practice can sometimes lend to a lesser bark. So if you want a robust bark, let your pork shoulder ride “nekkid” the whole way. That’s just our opinion, but it seems to be the case.
Another tip for good bark is to use a mustard slather first thing, before you apply your rub. The mustard acts purely as an adhesive agent for your spices. The more rub you can get to stick, the better the bark. And no, the mustard flavor will not register on your tongue. I don’t know why, nor do I try to analyze it. It’s just one of the enduring mysteries of the BBQ Arts. Our rub we used this smoke, Maynards Memphis Rub, was from the kindly spice wizards at Miners Mix. We’ve used it on a lot of stuff now, and pork may be it’s strongest suit. Man! Very tasty! Oh, and our smoke wood this time was hickory and apple.
After letting the meat rest, whilst tented in aluminum foil, we pulled the tender and most succulent pork muscles into savory tendrils of perfectly smoked pork. Mixing that all important bark in through-out the sandwich. This is authentic BBQ, people. The real thing. I’m sorry, but your all-beef wieners will just have to take a back seat today. That’s just how it goes.
Before We Devour
I try to give thanks to the Good Lord more at meals these days. Just because. Because it’s the right thing to do, I suppose. Thanks for family, and for health, and for good food, like slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. Not to mention just the privilege of just getting to BBQ in the first place, in a country that is free to do such things. Indeed, much to be thankful for. And as I cast a glance out the patio door , and see the smoker out there still curling faint, blue, wisps of smoke, I cannot help to but to give thanks also for the military men and women who have served, and still serve our country. You will always be our heroes. And always have our respect. And I think of the American flag flying stoically atop Mt. Moriah, and the beautiful fragrance of the lilacs which bloom there. Amen.
The other weekend my trail crony and I made camp at a nearby wilderness establishment; a locale of great loveliness, off the beaten path, and aside a watershed patron to a sky full of stars. As you may have gleamed around here, from time to time, we do rather like to engage our souls in the wilder places. In point of fact, if ever we were to scribe another blog, it would doubtless be one touting the high joys of the outdoor life. For this is what we do, by and by, besides grilling beautiful cuts of meat, that is. We seek to tarry where creation is most divine. And so there we were, naturally, on the forest floor, our tents poetically pitched at the tail of a moonbeam. The stars drifting across an ebony sky. And the coyotes yelping from the distant hills.
If you’ve never spent the night in the forest, your senses have never then been properly primed. Nor your imagination so sublimely stretched. To hear the critters scamper about, and everyone of them, you swear, sniffing the trembling corners of your tent. You can hear the diameter of coyote’s nose at ten paces, as it draws it’s air from the still night. The Trumpeter Swans bellowing in the darkness. You can hear those too. The Great Horned Owls stirring up a nocturnal racket, yapping on like little old ladies sitting in the tree tops. Then, some time in the wee hours, the undecipherable sounds of something heavy and hairy wandering at the edge of the woods. Nay, that’s just my camp mate, out for his nightly leg raise. It’s all good in the woods.
Shifting gears now, out at the pit. A light pecan smoke curls from the old kettle grill. It’s been a long week. A busy week. The kind of week that the big city is good at dishing out to those challenged and beleaguered souls entrapped within it’s elastic bosom. Everyone is in a hurry here. Pedal to the proverbial metal. Car horns blaring. Phones ringing. Sirens racing. It’s really something. Or at least you seem to notice it more, perhaps, after a good camping trip afield. Maybe that’s what it is. There is a palatial difference, or is it indifference, between the speed of life in the city and one out in the quieter places. One of head-turning, iconoclastic proportions. And it only takes one night bedded down on the forest floor to realize it. And so my grilling, as humble as it may be, is at last a small respite to me – a last beach head of tranquility in a world gone to haste.
So it was, and with great pleasure, too, that I laid the succulent pork chops over the pecan-scented flames. This one simple act, where man cooks meat over fire, outside, seems to trigger a domino of mental pleasures, all toppling forth in a splendid way before me. For starters, the smell of the wood smoldering over the fire. Very pleasant. Which in turn, connects to memories of cooking fires past. And some of those memories, of fires yonder, in places long ago. Of camp fires and good people. Over hill and by the dale, where the coyotes freely sing, and the moonbeams kiss the tender fabric of our tents. And illuminate the quiet hollows of our soul. Amen.
Pecan smoked pork chops, with garlic mashed potatoes and a good spill of peas. Good is good at the pit tonight. And even better cooked outside. A Pit Keeper’s respite.
If ever the sun dallied just right in a blue sky, this was it. By golly, this was it. I suppose it could be that my appreciation for a warm sun beam has been acutely honed through the sheer absence of such things, courtesy of a long, winter’s campaign; but I tell you this, never has a single golden ray of it kissed my grizzled face so fine as it did this quiet, unassuming day at the pit. It has been a long winter in Minnesota, and I guess I was just ready for the sun again. Biologically primed, if you will, to lavish in it’s life-giving rays, and to dawdle the day away if need be, for to soak up every last photon of it, delivered on easy slants of golden light. And I did. Pulling it in like a poker victor rakes in his chips. When a day this nice comes along, a man does what he has to, you see. He does what he must. He digs in.
Digging in. It means to plant roots. To anchor thyself in a chosen locale, usually of a lovely persuasion. To take up roost there, and nary be thwarted by anything else. That is the way of us pit jockeys, you see. When we get a nice ambiance going, or a beautiful day such as this, with wood smoke gently in curl, sunbeams dappling through the lofty tree tops, tweety birds in full serenade, well, it is ingrained in our pit master instincts to exploit it for all its worth. A task not too difficult, nor far fetched, when you are as advanced as yours truly, in the fine art of being lazy. You do know, don’t you, how we like to loiter around here? It’s rather our specialty. Still, and even so, one ought to have a goal of some sort, and I certainly did. Namely supper. In particular, beef stew patron to the pit. Are you ready for this?
Of the first order, that is after drawing a manly beverage from the refrigerator, I stood abreast the little pit, and plopped a commendable load of stew meat onto the hot cast iron grates. They sizzled in eager anticipation there, whilst I manipulated them with aluminum tongs in hand. Then, for the heck of it, because I’ve long heard that smoked cabbage is good, I tossed on a 1/4 head of cabbage, and chucked a small tatter of mesquite wood into the coals for a little smokey goodness. Put the lid on and let the pit do it’s magic thing whilst I diced up the vegetables under the eternal blue skies above.
It’s your beef stew, you put what ever you please in it. I like potatoes and carrots. Corn and green beans too. And like I mentioned, a little bit of cabbage. And some unsalted beef broth too, for it all to swim in. And the latter I would have, had I not mistakenly believed the beef broth had been tampered with. Turns out those cartons of broth are self-puncturing when you open it up. I didn’t know that, and thus, my alder bush out pond-side got a nice drink of beef broth, on the house. Live and learn, I guess.
So we nestled the dutch oven into the hot bosom of the old kettle grill, with a few coals below it, and the rest tucked around the perimeter. A little smoke wood was still smoldering, and the day was still glorious to behold. And I knew just what to do next. I put on the kettle lid, grabbed my beverage, and made camp!
Here to Stay!
Like I said, I aimed to stay here a while. To dig in! I’ve waited far too long for weather of this kind. More over, I wanted to test out my new backpacking tent, of which I launched this day, it’s maiden erection right here on the lawn, right beside the smoking kettle grill. I sensed a formidable tandem of sheer joy here. And it wasn’t long before I was belly-up in that thing, song birds blasting away, and for a moment, I was as giddy as a school boy, content with all the world, and then a few moments after that, I was dozing in the quietude, like an old man swaddled in blessings.
And the cloud shadows silently paraded across the grass, whilst the wood smoke gently tapered into that blue sky.
An unknown amount of time passed, like it always does when your dug in somewhere. I stirred quietly in my tent; scratching my hair, and then my belly, whilst listening to the day declare around me. The tweety birds still rejoiced, and the sun, I noted, had ebbed a little further south and west, on it’s fiery arc through the sky. And hark, the aromas of mesquite and beef stew wafted as if on angelic wings through the cool air, mingling with the scent of emerging spring chlorophyll in my little nylon hut. Glory! I must say, because it’s true, I’ve never had a Weber kettle grill in a campsite before, but now, after some consideration of the matter, not to mention first hand experience, I think it could be an agreeable venture after all.
I eventually emerged from my tent like a flannel-clad, ground hog, arose to a stately posture, and promptly itched my butt, then waddled over to the pit to check in on supper. Yes, I guess it is well to cook alone sometimes. Anyways, I gave it a good stir, mixing in some more of that smokey goodness. The carrots were soft. So were the spuds. I added some freshly cracked black pepper and some salt to taste. Man! I didn’t want this cook to end. This day to end. But eventually my coals did peter out. And my glorious sun swept with out care over the roof top, leaving a cold shadow over the patio from whence it shone.
That was enough, I thought. No sense in being greedier yet. It had been a good day at the pit, after all. A very good day indeed. A day in which I did precisely that which was well with my soul. A body needs such respites from time to time. And to do so where the wood smoke also rises. Amen. And time to eat.
Savory, Wholesome, Mesquite Smoked Beef Stew, Fresh out of the Dutch Oven and patron to the pit. Yum!!
Mesquite Fired Chicken Fajitas and the Decline of the Western Kitchen
I’ve been watching a show lately, called, Cooked, and it’s fascinating. Any food blogger worth their apron, I’d wager, would probably be intrigued by it also, because I know I was, and I don’t even have an apron. I must say, the docu-series has inspired me, as if I need any further inspiration, to, and for a lack of better words – cook. But it has. One of the things they said on the show, the thing that stirred the soup of my soul, if you will, was that the average American house hold is trending away from cooking. And it’s been heading that way for a long time.
Since the 60’s, they said, we’ve been cooking at home less and less. Preparing food in the kitchen has declined almost 50%. And the United States, they said, cooks less than any other country in the world.
That’s right. And the reason is time, or lack of it. We’re in too big of a hurry these days, to cook a proper meal in our own kitchen. In point of fact, we’d gladly pay some one else to do the cooking for us. And in the process of this, we’ve lost something rather precious, and inalienable along the way. We’ve lost the fellowship of the cook. We’ve diluted the human food experience to a few beeps and boops on the microwave, or the speed dial on our cellular phones. In our haste, we’re bypassing the good stuff, the therapeutic sounds, say, of a knife chopping through vegetables in a quiet room. Or the aroma of bread baking on a wintry afternoon. Or the satisfying taste of a homemade soup wrought from the nourishing bounty of our own gardens. Not to mention a disbanding of the most important thing maybe, and that is the warm camaraderie of family or friends gathered in fellowship, in the kitchen, whilst we dutifully ply our craft. We’re missing out on all of these pleasantries when we’re too harried to cook. And because of that, we are cooked.
Well that did it. I needed to cook then. No ordering out for a pizza tonight. No forays through the freezer for a frozen dinner. I got to do this right. Take the scenic path. And I figured my best shot at it, being that I’m a man and all, would be out at the BBQ grill of course. Thus, and emboldened with new vigor, I got right after it out at the old kettle grill. First cooking up some boneless chicken breasts, smoked with mesquite wood, and gently dusted in Miners Mix Wholly Chipotle Rub. This rub is excellent, but I should tell you, off-hand and by-the-way, it does have a little kick to it, so be mindful not to dump it on with a great abandon, lest you enjoy a runny nose dribbling onto your supper plate. Anyways, the chicken was seared a little on both sides, as is often the case with grilling chicken, and tucked indirect, opposite the hot coals for the remainder of the cook. The meal was coming together nicely. Then I brought out my chopped vegetables. I tell you, the modular cast iron grate from the good people at Craycort sure made the difference in this cook-out. What a pleasure it is to grill with this sort of equipage. Everything just seems to fall right into place. And they operate with a certain sort of ease that which I find very comforting to the soul. We put the pan insert into service tonight, as you can spy, and sauteed up the lovely and timeless duo of green peppers and onions. The aromas of which garnished the air of this chill evening, whilst the tweety birds quietly puttered in the alders at the pond’s edge. We love to cook, it’s true. But what we really love is to cook outside.
Next we needed some corn and black beans, of which came to edible maturity in short order, thanks again to the cast iron pan insert. They sizzled accordingly there, adding more aromas to the outdoor kitchen. I cannot deny, there is a certain love affair going on with this cast iron grate. It’s a relationship. And if you’re good to it, it’ll be good to you. Cast iron is like that. It requires a modicum of attention, with a gentle oiling before and after each use. As if it needs to be reminded you care, I guess. But then again, who isn’t like that.Who doesn’t like to be told they are loved from time to time. Cooking at last brings people together like that, so that we can tell them, if only through making them a simple meal, that we love them. Like our friend Mr. Dodd likes to say, “What you cook isn’t nearly as important as who you cook it with.” Amen Mr. Dodd. Amen.
Speaking of Mr Dodd, just above is a link to his site of you’re into reading about tasty BBQ, of which you must be or you wouldn’t be reading this!
An Act of Small Rebellion
Well, after the chicken is done, and the peppers and onions are done, and after the beans and corn are warmed through, seasoned with some Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning, and after you’ve boiled up a pot of rice, bring the food henceforth inside, and let the savory aromas at once curl into the air. And watch now how the respective noses of family members pan your way. There is energy in the air. Note also the abiding communion which begins, or has begun, ever since you first lit the flames to cook. This one simple act of taking time out of your busy day, to slow down and deliberately cook supper, even when you don’t feel like it, is at once an act of small rebellion in a world gone mad with haste. And it is beautiful.
Chop up the protein into sizes of appropriate diameter for your body’s largest orifice, and thus assemble at your leisure, this lovely mesquite smoked chicken fajita bowl over a steaming bed of rice. Man, can you taste it! Don’t forget the freshly shredded mozzarella cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Let the flavors mingle together, and get happy there. The fajita flavors are designed to marry on your plate. This is what they do. They are many times better together than apart. A fusion of individual tastes. Of texture and spice. And when you think about it, in a round about way, so are we. And that’s why cooking healthy meals at home is so important you see. Because it brings us together in fellowship and good food. And say what you will, but precious few other things in this world are quite as lovely as that. And not nearly so tasty. Amen.
*Here is the show, Cooked, that we were talking about earlier. Good stuff!
*Rummaging about in the digital vault lately, we happened upon an article of old that never made the light of day. Not sure why. We’ll file it under the “Lost Patron Essays“, those wayward tomes which never took root in the cyber soils, left for dead and forgotten by the publishers that be. So it is our pleasure to kick the dust off this old one, now, which you might hazard, has been aging nicely in the digital wine cellar of PotP. Enjoy at your leisure. Or cast aside for further aging. We understand.
So one day you’re driving down a country road, kicking up gravel dust behind you, blue skies over head, and panoramic fields of long green grass swaying in the breeze. Your shadow looks good as it flies along beside you in the ditch, fluttering over the picket fences and such. Cold beverage in the cup holder, windows down, your favorite tunes on the radio. Life is good. And for a solid hour straight you have had the road to yourself now, nay the whole wide world to yourself. Up ahead you finally see a tractor idling slowly down the road.
So you slow down some, then just as you begin to make your move around him, you note an old pickup truck parked alongside the road, precisely where you and the tractor will meet. How does this happen! Not only that, now is also the time when you meet your first oncoming automobile in the last hour. And all of you, every single one of you, somehow through the mysterious forces of the working universe, your paths all manage to come together at this one geographic spot on the globe, and do so at this exact moment in time. If the timing were just a few seconds off, if you would have finished that whole cup of coffee, you’d all miss each other. Instead, you all converge in space and time.
Welcome to the Theory of Mass Convergence, and I don’t get it.
I was thinking about this phenomenon whilst lighting up the grill the other day. I was in my patio chair, doing my best not to do anything, save to sip a lovely beverage, and admire my Cottonwood tree, and how pretty it looked against a pale blue sky. A lovely evening to be sure. The smoke off the charcoal chimney swirled about, and the tweety birds sang sweetly in the waning light. Then I noticed the moon was out, tho not quite full, but hanging just over the budding crown of my tree. How nice I thunk. Then with a squint of the eye, I noticed something else, a jet plane, or the contrail of anyways, and who knows how far away it was, but it was heading straight for the moon. And for a moment in the vast time continuum: the plane, the moon, the Cottonwood tree and my patio chair all lined up as if it were their high calling all along. That is a weak example of the convergence theory, but none the less it is there.
The Theory of Mass Convergence, just to be clear is my own theory. And I admit to still be tweaking the math on this one. It’s just that the observations of this matter are so plentiful that I cannot disregard it’s inherent validity. I see it all the time. Anyhow.
I scratched my head at these simple wonders and rather than continued efforts in vain at divining the intricacies of universe, I did something rather more productive, and plopped a few chicken thighs on the barbie! Now this I understand. Man put meat to flame. Flame cook meat. Meat make man happy! Also on the pit, we did up a batch of tinfoil potatoes. Those were easy too, and maybe our very favorite side to make on pit. Just dice the spuds up into uniform chunks, season with what ever strikes your fancy, add a few pats of butter and wrap it all up in a sheet of tin foil. Place over direct heat for 25 minutes or so, flipping once at your pit master instinct. If you wanna get fancy with your tin foil potatoes, try adding any matter of vegetables that move you at the moment, from: onions, to corn, to peas, to carrots, shucks, it’s all tasty done up on the grill this way.
Now back to those thighs. The thighs were seasoned with some Bone Suckin’ Seasoning, which has been our go to bottle as of late. Fairly good stuff of which I humbly admit being wooed by its odd, but catchy nomenclature. They were thus liberally seasoned and seared a bit over direct heat. Such was the skin crisped up a might there before escorting back to the cool side of the grill, opposite the hot coals. And there they would stay the rest of the cook, slowly pampered in mesquite smoke.
With the lid in place and damper tweaked, the draft thus engaged, sending heady plumes of mesquite curling forth. I settled back into the patio man chair, positioned left leg over right, cold beverage in hand, and further mused over the intricacies of the universe at hand. Still thinking about that convergence thing. In point of fact, the very thighs which roast over these coals now, were wrought from mysteries of convergence.
We’ve all been there. Walking slowly down the grocery aisles, pushing that slightly squeaky cart to and fro, the one that always wants turn to the left, and will at the most inappropriate times. Well anyways, I was making my way there, rounding the corner to the meat section. I see a little old lady coming my way, her head just peaking up over her enormous purse residing in the infant seat of the grocery cart. She plods along, tipping her nose up for to gander through her bifocals at various things attractive to little old ladies. She has a slow, but steady strafe going on, very efficient I must say, as she sweeps along the meat aisle. Now like any red blooded man with a pulse, I just want to get to the poultry section, of course, grab my thighs, and make haste for home. The sooner done with shopping, the better. But as I approach the target area, and as if right on queue, our little old lady stalls out right smack in front of the chicken thighs, whereupon she gazes over them for some time, whilst rifling through a hand full of coupons. I yield for little old ladies. And chicken thighs too, I guess.
The theory of convergence strikes again. Some times I wonder if the Good Lord brings people together like that on purpose, cause it sure happens more than I can tell you. Here is yet another classic.
Also in the grocer, and don’t deny you this hasn’t happened to you, but you find yourself alone, say in the frozen foods aisle, and for a while now you have been battling a growing gas pain deep within your wretched being. You cast a glance hither and yon, as well you should, and the coast is irrefutably clear. Then, as if prompted by your carnal instinct, you bequeath an air biscuit of suitable proportion to your misery. Relief floods your body. A smile curls across your face. And then it happens. It always happens. The most beautiful specimen of a super model struts around the corner, long locks of blonde hair flowing in the florescent light, heels clacking over the hard white floor, and they make way straight for you. Classic convergence. And there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it. Anyways.
After a suitable fashion and the juices ran clear on the chicken, we varnished it over with some of that Orange Ginger Sauce we’ve been playing with as of late. Man that stuff is good. It has sugar in it tho, so be mindful not to burn your spoils too close to the fire. Blessed be the adept tong that which orchestrates your smokey symphony to a better end game. We plated up the mesquite scented thighs along with those tin foil potatoes, and sidled in through the patio door. One more convergence yet to go today. Namely this here succulent protein with my hungry belly down below. May it make the acquaintanceship post haste. 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.
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/
The first rain drops splattered over the land, and over the shallow waters from whence the White Egrets hunt. In the West, brooding storm clouds have gathered now, sweeping eastward, and strafing the southern tip of the lake from which my bride and I tarry, cradled in our plastic kayaks. We were afloat this local fishery, that, by and far, was a peaceful enough locale, and beautiful too – it’s calm waters reflecting the gray cloud massif advancing slowly over head. As I held my ultra lite fishing rod in hand, gently jigging into the watery abyss, mine eyes could not help but to mind the heavens above, darting to and fro, keen for bright flashes of illumination. For as much as this angler respects a bulging creel, and that is a fine thing indeed, I respect even more so, the zipper-melting mojo of a single bolt of lightning. And I might have thought it my only foe this eve, if it were not for this cheesy discord bloating forth in my belly. Indeed, seems supper, however tasty it might have been, wasn’t to loiter long down in the old plumbing. You’ve all been there. You know from what I mean. Aw well, and even so, good is good, and no less than that was this cheesy brat I tell you. Yum.
Hearken back with me won’t you, and I’ll tell you a little more about it, and how it went and came to be.
Well they look innocent enough. Quick to cook. Easy to perfect. We even toasted the buns in our never-ending quest to be semi-outstanding. But then you all know how to cook a bratwurst. What you might notice different here however, is a wee bit of spiral goofiness going on, of which we can explain. The working notion, if your up for it, is to take your knife and slice almost, but not quite halfway into the brat, and then kind of twist the meat and guide your knife along, creating a meat slinky of sorts. Anyways, you’ll want to leave about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch of core so the beast has something to marry itself together with. But the idea here, and the reason for this surgery in the first place is that opening it up as such, will foster more smokey goodness into its fatty bosom. Simple as that. More flavor. More of anything really that you may wish to add. Such as seasonings, or in our case, obscene amounts of melted, cheddar cheese. Oh blimey that cheese!!
Now I love cheese, but every once in a moldy wheel, it is the heady bane of my intestinal existence. And with a tummy in recoil, whilst afloat over populated urban waters, well I don’t mind telling you that I had a favorable gaze fixed on one of them portable plastic outhouses at the boat launch. Specifically the blue and white one, half-draped in the wispy arms of an old willow tree. If I had to, I would lower myself to such means. Oh yes indeed. But just as the storm cloud I had been monitoring so carefully finally slipped out of danger, in that same wonderful moment, likewise did the cheesy turmoil go with it. I don’t know why. And I didn’t analyze it either. Instead an elegant rainbow took stage, sudden like, classic in arc, and pouring brilliantly out of the clouds, as if out of a fountain from heaven itself. Man. When are rainbows not fabulous to behold! Then of course it got even better, as my fishing rod in turn formed a rather nice hoop in it, courtesy of a wiling, large mouth bass. Line tightened, slicing sweetly through the opaque water, the serenade of loon song in the still air, lo, for a while at least, and maybe even longer than that, all my small world was right again. The tempests had passed.
That’s how it works sometimes with storms and belly aches. One minute you think you’ve surely had it, and the next minute you’re pulling fish from the end of a rainbow. Say what ever you will, but there is grace for us all. Amen.
It may be noted, at least from time to time, that we do like to get away from it all here at this blog. To pack up a modicum of supplies, and strike off for the distant bush lands of Minnesota’s northern most tier. A locale rich in quietude, and resplendent in its sky-tinted waters and vast elbow room for the soul. Canoe country. A million acre outdoor theater where the lonesome wail of the Loon echoes with impunity through the forest primeval. Where the whispering breezes murmur sweetly amid the lofty, Norway Pines; those magnificent wooden spires that which thrust high into a wild, blue sky. Canoe country. Where the slap of a beaver tail on still waters is heard over a quarter-mile span. Where a nap in the hammock whilst the pine-scented breeze whistles through your toe pits is at last your loftiest ambition for the day. Well you can see why we like it up here. And why it is we very occasionally aspire to get away from it all.
Feeding one’s belly is one of our favorite activities whence in the hither lands. And how you go about it, and what you get out of it is solely up to you. Somethings spoil fast with out the advantages of refrigeration, and those things you probably ought to ingest the first day out, or not bother to bring along at all. Chocolate, for example, melts like a cheap nuclear reactor, and bread flattens finer than an Iowan interstate. After a few trips afield, you learn rather well what works and what doesn’t.
In between naps in the hammock, we partook in a little culinary tinkering courtesy of the Joy for Cooking – the namesake of a little back woods chuck box spawned from many a camping trip spent on my haunches, cooking on the ground. There comes a time in Bushman’s career where the notion of a kitchen counter top is a highly appealing affair, and one worth pursuing if not for any other reason than because he can. So I did. You do not realize how good you have it at home until first you go with out. So I came up with this little creation years ago, for to better and more effectively cultivate my joy for cooking whilst encamped in wilder places. It has been a treat indeed.
Camp cooking is always an interesting summit to scale. It’s like a back pack, in that you only get out of it what you put into it. So if you didn’t bring a certain ingredient, then you don’t have it. And there is no running to the grocer either, this side of paradise. Well you could, I suppose, but by the time you get back it would be the next day, and your dinner aspirations would fall way of the dodo bird. So you work with what you’ve got. And usually that ain’t much. But in the same breath, that’s what makes camp cooking kind of fun; getting the most you can from a scant simple grub bag. Here we did up a plate of buttermilk biscuits/bannock, fried potatoes and onion, and a nice ration of sautéed summer sausage to round out the proteins. A hodge-podge conglomerate, if you will, of the better things I could rummage up from the recesses of the food bag. And let me tell you, after paddling the day long, with an appetite stoked from the freshened air, living a simple but deliberate life, this was a plate fit for a king. Under the circumstances even, I couldn’t think of any place better to eat. Nope, I had arrived. As any realtor knows, it’s all about location.
What a pleasure it is to round off a weekend in the wilderness, with a belly well fed. To lean against an old Cedar tree, hot cup of tea in hand, left leg crossed over right, and gander westward over still waters to a setting sun. To hear the loons softly sing through a land so silent, and to smell the air sweetly tinted in pine. It’s been said that time spent camping is not deducted from your lifespan. Well, I don’t know know if it’s true or not, but even so, it would explain why we so often go afield, and why even now, at this cluttered desk back in the city, why mine heart hastens to be back there once again. Amen.
Well, the Superbowl has come and gone again, and we Americans are a little fatter because of it. Regardless of who won, and who lost, or even if you care nothing at all for football, I have come to realize one unbreakable truth concerning Superbowl Sunday – people will eat a lot! And I mean a lot. The latest math, of which you may have heard circulating about your sphere of influence, was something in the neighborhood of 6000 calories per person. Crikies! Them numbers are like three times what most folk ought to consume in day, and more likely than that to send your doctor’s eyes clear to the back of their head. Still, and even so, who are we to tamper with the annual football feast, let alone tug on tradition’s most unruly cape. Here then are a couple of appetizer recipes to get your calorie count up.
Jalapeno Popper (AKA – Atomic Buffalo Turds – ABT)
We love these things. And love is an appropriate word, I think. There is a process in making these. A relationship almost. But it is a sad fact for all the pampering that go into making them, that your guests will in turn only suck them down like so many chicken nuggets and nary seem to appreciate the effort nor the ensemble of flavors conspired there upon their palate. You can never make too many poppers, I’ve learned. They will always be consumed. Every last one of them. They are delicious, people, and I’m sure way too high in calories. Which makes them perfect for Super Bowl Sunday. Here is how to make them Patron of the Pit Style.
Whilst the pit comes up to speed, in a lovely bowl, mix together the following:
- 1 Cup Onion Chive Cream Cheese ( or what ever flavor inspires you)
- 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- pinch or two of salt
This amount is good for around 20 poppers. By slicing your jalapeno in half down their length, you only need 10 of them. So halve them length-wise, and remove the pithy core. Void the pepper with adept strokes of a grapefruit spoon, and if you are a sally-tongued Swede like myself, you would do well to remove all the seeds. That and the cooking process seems to be the trick to taming these peppers down. The signature burn of the jalapeno will be a distant fantasy with these poppers. You need not fear. Assemble as seen in the photo above, lastly swaddling them in a tender bacon wrap held stalwart with toothpicks. The toothpicks are key, lest your poppers “pop” apart during the smoke.
Now before we plop them on the pit, let’s get the chicken wings out of fridge and prep them too. They’re simple to do.
Italian BBQ Chicken Wings
We had a bag of these dudes marinating for about four hours with a bottle of zesty Italian dressing. If you haven’t tried Italian dressing for your marinating needs yet, well you’re missing out. It smells good enough to eat right out of the bag – but don’t, or you’ll be running to the little pit boys room with stunning frequency. You gotta cook em first, sorry. Anyways, then we dusted them over with some home-made all-purpose BBQ rub, and that was that. Time for the pit!
Oh the heady aromas of chicken and bacon and jalapeno and cheese, roasting dignified over a beautiful bed of coals. We used hickory for our smoke wood, and that was a fine choice, but apple would do well here also. Oak or pecan would too. Shoot, it’s all good at the pit. Most folks never think to cook their jalapeno poppers on the BBQ, and let me tell you, they are missing something out of their lives. They are good out of the oven, and that’s all well and fine, but off the pit, kissed by smoke under a beautiful blue-tinted sky, a popper is point-blank out of this world amazing. You will not regret it. And there after, you’ll never do them in the oven again.
Shortly after securing the big lid of the WSM, the smoke tendrils began to curl, signifying that glorious time in a pit jockey’s day where he is at once, and undeniably, in his true splendor. That wonderful slot-of-clock where he has nothing in the world to do, save for drawing a manly beverage from the ice box, and finding someplace appropriate to repair. And with our feet propped up, and our gaze not far from the wafting plumes of aromatic hickory or apple wood, there is little question in our minds, nor upon our tongue, that this is exactly where we wish to be, doing precisely that which is well with our soul. We just love it, and there’s no explaining it past that. We just do. We revel, if you will, in a metaphoric Grandma blanket of contentment, where the wood smoke also rises.
We let everything smoke for an hour or so, nay maybe longer than that, and then dabbed on a generous varnish of Sweet Baby Rays Sweet and Spicy. We just hit the wings with it, but you could do the poppers too, if you pleased. Then we let it smoke some more., just because. After a fashionable exchange of time, and prompted by your pit master instincts, plate up your spoils and serve them unto your guests of honor. They will marvel at the hickory scented feast before them, with a chin dampened by anticipatory drool. It ain’t quite 6000 calories, I don’t reckon, but you will have done your part in the journey, at least. And with the potluck help of other like-mined folks amid your Super Bowl Get-Together, disturbingly, you’ll probably get there. We’ll pray for you. Amen.
Whilst the thin tendrils of hickory smoke gently ascend into a darkened sky, I tug up the zipper of my old smoking jacket, and cast a glance out over the frozen pond. The world is so still now, as if time itself had fallen from the star-scattered sky; with not a whisper of wind – and the earth pauses in orbit, holding its collective breath. It is cold tonight, but not desperately cold I guess, least wise not by Minnesota standards. It’s just cold. Single digits I would say, but maybe more than that. Regardless, it is easily enough, it appears, to drive the hearty grilling populace that once was back into their thermostatically controlled environs for to while away the winter months there. They will moan the weather man’s name in vain, and abhor the ice that dare forms upon their tightly manicured driveways. They will crank up the furnace and prance about the house in their finest tropical beach wear, little umbrella drinks in hand, whilst listening to Jamaica Farewell on the steel drums for to sooth the chronic frost that which builds on the seedy fabric of their soul.
There are a few of us, however, who haven’t cracked yet. Who haven’t conceded to winter’s impersonal knack of leverage. Hockey players for instance. Down hill skiers I suppose. Snow plow drivers, mail carriers, and of course, Patrons of the Pit. For the latter I speak now, and in good behalf I believe. We are but a hearty bunch indeed, who refuse to hang up our tongs when ice so rudely compiles upon them. Nay, we raise the goblet of BBQ instead, and bandy only tighter to our craft. Thus here we are tonight, pit-side, wood smoke curling, with the subtle blue hue of moonbeams peaking over the spruce tops. What a privilege to not have disregarded this most rewarding of seasons. The sky is so cold and so clear, with nary a ripple of heat, my but how it reaches for the heavens, tapering into the stars. I love it. Yes, it’s cold, and you will have moments of life considerations, but in truth, the hardships of grilling in the cold is nothing a good smoking jacket and a hot bed of coals can’t get you through. Besides, you need to eat.
On the pit tonight, a little honey garlic pork shoulder steak with a hickory tint. It’s real easy to do too. Let’s dash inside, shall we, and I’ll show you the marinade.
Honey Garlic Marinade
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked pepper
Mix up a batch of this goodness and marinate your meat as long as you see fit. And the longer the better. Works great with any pork dish.
When marinated to your satisfaction, go ahead and plop thy spoils over indirect heat, toss a small piece of hickory wood into the coals, and plunk on the lid. The draft should engage, and you ought to see plumes of hickory smoke soon in curl. Remember the old BBQ adage here, smoke is not an ingredient, it is a seasoning. We’re looking just to tint the meat here, with the woodsy, slightly nutty aroma of hickory. Hickory has a fairly strong flavor, so don’t over do it here. If you want to learn more about smoke woods, a while back we assembled a list of the better woods to use, which you can find at the very top of the page, entitled, go figure, Smoke Woods. Or just click on the photo! We want you to take it easy around here.
Flip the pork at the prompting of your pit master instincts. The USDA recommended minimum for pork is 145 degrees internal. Bring it there at your leisure, whether it’s 9 degrees outside or 90 degrees, it is your privilege to tarry in the good ambiance of wood and coal and sizzling meat. What joy it is to chum up next to a radiant kettle grill on a cold winter’s eve, and relish the BTU’s bellowing forth from it’s steely bosom. To smell the succulence of roasting pork, and wafting wood smoke. To feel the heat against your face, whilst moonbeams swing on ethereal tethers over spruce trees, and puffing chimney stacks. To hear wood fires snap, whilst starlight sprinkles over fields of white. Glory! Our privilege indeed, and the magic of the winter time pit. Amen.
A tip of the tongs to our cold weather pit keepers out there. You are the faithful covenant, you know, and the Brethren of BBQ most hearty. Grill on!
Garlic & Honey, Hickory-Tinted Pork Shoulder Steaks hot off the pit. Sided with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed green beans.
“The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei
Late morning sunbeams sparkle over the pond, long since frozen in time, whilst a cool, February breeze mingles though the pit-side Spruce trees and over the wintry land so callused in ice and snow. The first wisps of igniting charcoal waft quietly from the Weber Smokey Mountain, as it slowly comes up to speed. Black capped Chickadees dart playfully about, from spruce to feeder, and from feeder back to spruce again, nary holding still for the benefit of photographers. I didn’t mind. I was inside anyways, standing at the kitchen counter stuffing peppers with cream cheese, and enjoying how the amber shafts of sunlight fell into the house and warmed me there. It’s been a while, a good while indeed, since I’ve felt the sun on my face. It is rather remarkable when you consider, like Galileo did, that the sun is some 93 million miles away, and we only receive a small sliver of its energy, yet, in the same breath, it can make a bloke’s day when its unassuming light greets his window pane and lands warm upon his face like it had nothing else in the universe to do. The simple pleasures indeed. But then, its been a very long and cold winter, and I do tend to dwell on these things. Anyways, I should probably get along with the business of telling you what’s going on the pit today, and how it went and came to be. I think you’re going to like it.
Atomic Buffalo Turds. Yup, that’s a fact. That is what the under ground grilling community calls them anyways. Now I can’t quite figure out why they call it that, for I have on occasion made the acquaintanceship of a buffalo, and I can assure you that their back end tokens look nothing like what we’re about to cook! But who cares I guess. The name is catchy if not down right deplorable. And it is kind of fun to serve up a plate of declared buffalo turds and see how your guests thus roll their collective eyes. You might, I suppose, be better off calling them by their politically correct name, jalapeno poppers. In the end, it doesn’t matter I guess, because good is good, and these things are fabulous if you haven’t had the opportunity. Cream cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon and smoked on the pit. Glory! Lets get after it!
You will need the following:
- 10 jalapeno peppers
- 1 block of creme cheese
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- teaspoon garlic salt
- teaspoon pepper
- 1 package of bacon
- 1 cup ground Italian sausage
Stir together in your favorite bowl
First order, and whilst the pit is coming up to speed, is to brown up some ground Italian sausage. Some folk use the little cocktail weenies. And some blokes just skip this part altogether. At any rate, once the sausage is browned, mix it all together with the packet of cream cheese, shredded cheese, garlic salt and pepper. Thus your tasty filling is alas ready for deployment. After this, you’ll want to slice the peppers in half the long way, or down their length. Some people like to leave them them whole, but slicing them in half is a salute to the higher powers of mathematics you see, and essentially doubles the appetizer output for the same price. So why not. Once sliced in half, if you’re a sally-tongued Swedish pansy like myself, you’ll most certainly want to clean out all the seeds, less you regret your life a few hours hence. And believe me the burn can come back to get you, no buffaloes required, if you know what I mean. But if you like that sort of thing, well then by all means, live the dream! But it is well to scrap the seeds out, and hence cast aside any jalapeno fears you might harbor, for the longer the peppers cook, the milder they seem to get. In the end they are a fraction of their fiery selves. A beautiful descendant and a hint of warm. And I’m OK with that.
Next, and with an artist’s hand, stick a good creamy glob of the filling onto each pepper halve, and then cloak them in a beautiful strip of bacon. Tooth picks are the secret here to keeping the bacon corralled and in place. And a half strip of bacon is just enough to aptly swaddled the handsome jalapeno, provided you are rationing your pork candy. That’s it. Time to bring these delectables out to the pit!
It only took about an hour on the smoker, running around 275 before the bacon had browned up and they were done. But an hour is just enough time, turns out, to procure a lovely beverage ice box and take up residence in one’s man chair, feet propped towards the fireplace. Just enough time to watch plenty of smoke curl out way of the patio door. And just long enough, off-hand and by-the-way, to pull up something interesting on the public television station, tug your hat to your nose, and promptly doze off there, that is iffin you have a mind to. And I might have. And whilst the hickory smoke gently curled from the pit with the aromas of bacon afloat in the air, and the tweety birds all resumed feasting again in my absence, the sun also swung into position as if on heavenly strings, it’s soft hint of warmth descending upon shafts of gold, kissing the window sill that which flanked my humble easy chair. A soothing, unmerited warmth oozed over me like soft peanut butter on a hot slice of toast. And I fairly reveled in it, like a lottery winner, my body like a sponge for the sun. Indeed, the old astronomer was right, there really was nothing better in the universe to do. Feet by the fire. Free solar heat massage. PBS induced nap. Man! This is the high rigors of BBQ people. You gotta work up to it! Amen.
Hickory Smoked Jalapeno Poppers. AKA, the Atomic Buffalo Turd. Cheesy, bacon-swaddled awesomeness on a peppery transport sure to be the hit of your party or get-together. *No buffalo were offended during the making of this appetizer.
It is a pleasant thing, the sound of a match striking the side of its patron box on a hushed, winter’s eve. Even that initial blast of sulfur off the flame, tho unruly and noxious, it still triggers memories long recessed for which I am glad. Memories of past cooks, and campfires, and fellowship with the flames.
Fire. It’s part of the allure of outdoor cooking, I think. We get to play with fire. Upon lighting the charcoal this evening, I may have regressed to the age of ten again, doing things I probably ought not to. But I couldn’t help it, it’s fire after all. That brilliant, orange-fluttering seduction of heat and light, that which boys are irrevocably drawn. And tonight, I frolicked in the flames. I noticed with tongs in hand, if I tapped a charcoal chimney that which smoldered heap full of maturing coals, I got an interesting result. One difficult however to appreciate at the default and governed speed of life. But if I froze the moment, for the moment’s sake, oh what startling beauty I discovered. And with the click of a shutter, the art of flame was beheld. Lovely vectors of light, and tracers of orange and yellow against a pale, blackened night. Articulate and unique, like a thumb print on fire. Very cool, I thought. And a fun, inaugural firework sort-of-way to kick off tonight’s grilling endeavor – the venerable bacon cheeseburger. So grab yourself a lovely beverage, and we’ll tell you a little more about it, and how it went and came to be.
After the initial fire lust had ebbed, I was able to prepare the patties. 80/20 ground beef as a rule, makes a very fine place to start with your hamburgers. We took a pound of it, and formed it into three, shapely and uniform patties. My bride expressed interest tonight, in keeping a handle, as it were, on my proclivity for experimental flavors. She just wanted a basic, and simple cheeseburger. And with bacon if I might. Well I can do that, I thunk. I’ve often croaked, after all, that “simple is the best design.”
“Very well“, I declared, “tonight’s feast shall be simple.”
Keeping to the simplistic theme, I dusted the patties lightly with only salt and pepper. Oh I was eyeing my racks of assorted spice and flavors, and tho it was difficult, I resolutely resisted. After the coals were scattered to the back side of the old kettle grill, setting it up for in-direct grilling operations, I ceremoniously tossed on a small chunk of cherry wood, just because. I found I rather like a bit of smokey taste to my burgers, and cherry wood is darn near about my favorite. I gently placed the patties over direct heat for a little while per side, lightly searing them there, and then inserted my tongs directly into the center of the BBQ grate, and with a torque of the wrist, twisted the entire grate, burgers and all, 180 degrees, thus putting all the patties simultaneously opposite the hot coals. A little trick Weber owners pick up on right away, courtesy of their inherent circular grates. I love that sort of thing!
The rest of the cook would be spent in-direct, bathed in that lovely and aromatic cherry wood smoke. We put some of the double cold smoked bacon we did up the other week, alongside the burgers. Bacon on the stove top is delicious, nobody will deny that. But bacon done out on the grill, over smokey hard wood flames, is point-blank out of this world. Yum! Anyways, with the sounds of muffled traffic in the distance, the night waxed ever darker whilst I dawdled out by the pit. It wasn’t too cold tonight, only zero degrees or something, and I could manage just fine in my smoking jacket. I stood henceforth abreast the pit, like men do, wallowing in the wondrous aromas belching forth there, and thinking for a moment, about burger craft.
Burgers are such personal things, I thought. Sort of like a blank canvas to start, and a pit master proper, puts his or her own unique stamp on it. Makes it their own. There is no one-and-only, nor singularly right way to make them, and that right there is where the science parleys to art. And maybe that is why I like grilling burgers so well, along with all the BBQ arts. Each creation a potential masterpiece. Each cook a personal journey. And for the string of moments whilst you’re at the grill front, steady-footed and tongs in hand, you are at once the resident Monet of Meat. You really are! At least in your own mind you are. And this then is your art. So be proud then in what you have done there, aside licking flames and pastel evenings, where the wood smoke gently rises. Amen.
A few dim stars hung overhead as I struck a match and put sweet flame to the political section. Oh there are other sections of the daily paper equally as adept I suppose, at lighting your coals via the venerable charcoal chimney, but none nearly so satisfying. And as the initial rush of smoke curled into a cold, Minnesota sky, a comforting glow conspired neath the maturing coals. I tucked my hands in the pockets of the old smoking jacket, and for a moment, watched the smoke curl. I don’t know why, but I have always enjoyed lighting the coals this way. The process of it. And I suppose, because it is slow. The very thing many a well-meaning pit keeper has turned his back on, for the undeniable speed and convenience of the gas grills. And they are fast I suppose. And convenient too. We cannot deny this. But where these things reign, they also fall sadly short of that smokey flavor patron to the pit. For missing are those lofty aromatic tendrils of rising wood smoke. The crackle and the pop of hardwood lump coal. The ambiance in aroma and sound. And besides that, I like that it takes time to light charcoal. And I’ll tell you why. For here is something I love to do – to be out-of-doors, putting meat to flame, hark, let me hence extend its magic for all its worth. And when the smoke has finally faded, and the evening’s plunder resides steadfast in my belly, at least I will know, as surely as I’ve know anything, that I have just done that which is well with my soul.
Anyways, and all digressions aside, on the grill tonight, another foray into American succulence – Honey Pecan Pork Chops, lightly tinted with apple wood smoke. Dashed in garlic. Good eating, people. This fire looks ready to go, so grab yourself a manly or not-so-manly beverage, and let’s see how these chops turned out, courtesy of the coals.
The Thermal Trifecta of Modern Grilling
- Banking the coals to the back side of the old kettle grill for indirect operations is the first step. Nary is it ever a good idea to spread your coals everywhere in your grill, which we have seen many a smokey tenderfoot burned by. Far better, and more efficient to put them to one side of the pit, thus creating the coveted thermal trifecta of modern grilling. That is what we call it anyways. Three distinct temperature zones in which to ply your bidding. One directly over the coals for intense searing. One, cooler zone, opposite the hot coals for to nurture along your spoils at a safe and modest pace. And something rather of a Switzerland affair right in the middle. It is with these three zones of heat that we charcoal pit keepers can most effectively apply a sweeping thermal sovereignty through-out the smokey kingdom patron to the pit. Oh yes. Anyways, about those chops.
We lightly dusted them in garlic salt, both sides, and sent them straight to Switzerland. After a hearty rummage through the pit-side woodpile, I procured a lovely, baseball-sized chunk of apple wood, knocked the snow off it, and tossed it gleefully onto the orange coals to smolder there. Lid on the old kettle, and the smoke soon began to curl. And nothing is quite so fine on a cold, starry night, whilst the icy breeze sweeps over crusty fields of snow, than the heady aromas of wood smoke and pork. Man! After a fashion and a flipping of the chops, I whipped up the honey pecan glaze.
Honey Pecan Glaze
Are you ready for this. It’s complicated.
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Crushed Pecans
Introduce them, marry them, and bring them together
Often times the better things in life are also simple in design. Like butter. And so go forth with your sweet and nutty glaze in pan, and whence your pork chops have almost, but not quite yet completed their journey on the pit, varnish them there in a fashion suitable to thee. Flip and brush some more on the other side, tucking them back to the cooler portions of the grill. Lid on, and be mindful whilst you tarry in the aroma of perfectly executed pork. Dang people! Bring them to the land of caramelization if you please, or not. It is a pit master’s discretion. But what ever you do, do not burn your spoils now! The resident sugars are prone to such fates, so monitor it closely, and bath it in smoke. When your chops reach their destiny according to your pit, plate them at once and sidle in through the door and present them to your loved ones. For a fairer fare you shall not find, nor ingest proper, patron to the pit, and courtesy of the coals. Amen.