The temperature was a balmy 32 degrees. The aromas of pecan smoke were in curl. Long, tapering, plumes of it, wafting into a gorgeous February sky. The sounds of chicken flesh could be heard sizzling over a hot bed of coals, and for a while at least, you could almost, but not quite, feel the warm sun press gently against your face. Oh it was a nice afternoon at the pit, I don’t mind telling you. Very abiding. A real treat after several weeks of sub zero grilling. It’s odd, I know, that 32 degrees can feel balmy, but trust me when I say, a body adapts. A sort of biological antifreeze develops, and you just get used to the cold, I suppose. And when it gets up into the 30’s in February, well, it is with great restraint that you some how resist the nagging urge to slip into your designer swimming trunks, smear SPF 15 suntan lotion over your hairy belly, and sidle over the neighbor’s fence to inflate their pool noodle. And all the neighbors rejoice.
This is to say, in other words, it was nice out, and yours truly frolicked accordingly. And the Black Capped Chickadees where in abundance, too, all singing their praises for another day of cavorting amid the piney trees. Of all the tweety birds I observe in the backyard, and living on a pond there are aplenty, I think my favorite is still the humble chickadee. They are not large, showy birds, who demand to be seen, but rather tiny little things, and somehow still maintain the quality of being impressive. I think what impresses me is that they are just more gregarious than other birds. Friendly, you might say. Chickadees have been known to drop onto your outreached hands for some seeds. Up north, where Chickadees are truly themselves, they will even land on your hat while you walk in stride, iffin that is you put some bread crumbs up there. They’re just cool little birds. Chickadees are also of the proper stock that does not leave us for the southern states, when winter’s tangled tempest encroaches our shores. Nay, the Black Capped Chickadee stays the winter long, chin up, and somehow seems to thrive. Like I said, impressive little birds. And they are always my little fuzzy cohorts, and inspiration, for these winter grilling sessions. Speaking of, today on the pit we have some chicken wing appetizers. You know, the kind you get at sports bars and the like. Tho these are undoubtedly better what with being cooked in a nice haze of smoldering pecan wood. Yum!
I do rather fancy how the sunbeams rest on my meat at times. Indeed, just to lay there, feeling that glorious heat do its bidding, with no pretense nor shame. Reminds me of my brother in-law’s old bull dog. He used to favor a sunny patch of linoleum at the foot of the stairs, where the 4 O’clock sun beam would make it’s way through the window pane, casting a warm glow upon the shoes and stuff on the floor. And the bull dog would go lay down in that patch of sunlight, belly up and illuminated, and simply revel there, with the sun warm upon his meat. Yup, I know from what he aspires to there…What we we talking about again? It was chicken wings, I thought! Hmm. I don’t know anymore…
I suppose I should let you know that these wings were all done indirect, meaning opposite the hot bed of coals. I do 90% of all my grilling indirect like that. You run very little risk then of burning your plunder. Or drying it out. Indirect slows down the cook too, I believe, and gives a pit jockey more time for the important things in grilling, such as: watching cloud shadows, observing more chickadee flirtations, dashing inside for a manly beverage, investigate your trees, dashing back inside to the little pit boys room, grabbing more manly beverages, picking your nose, and general, tho not always practical, pit-side loitering. Yup, indirect, people. It’s the best way to go!
Our seasoning of choice today, like most days lately, was from the kindly folks at Miners Mix. They have a lovely gamut of flavors, for all your culinary needs, and today we needed something for chicken. So it was off to our Miners Mix private shelf for some Poultry Perfection. I’m not sure how they do it, but they are certifiable spice wizards those dudes. If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in there. That could be one clue to how they do it. They use real stuff! The don’t put a ton of salt in it either, which makes it not only healthier, but I think promotes more attention to the subtleties of flavor. All this is to say, they make some really good rubs. If you’d like to grab some for yourself, and see what we mean, this rub and many more are on amazon. Below is our affiliate link to get you there. It would help support companies like Miners Mix, and we would also get a wee kickback too, so that we could go buy more Miners Mix. Plus your food would taste better. It’s just a happy deal all-around!
So it was, under glorious blue skies that our appetizer wings came to a most edible and succulent maturity. Then with a “new” paint brush from the garage, we glazed the spoils with a modest sheen of Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. The flavors merged together under the dome into a yard bird tome, sure to put any meat maestro on the brink of tears. I cannot divine an accurate way of conveying just how savory they smelled, tinted in pecan smoke and spice. Nor how flavor-packed and juicy they tasted. So I won’t. You’ll just have to make some yourself, and let the meat speak for itself. And if you’re a lucky bloke, you may even feel the sun smile on your face. Amen.
This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
It was seven below the zero mark, iffin it weren’t colder. And I think it was. Nobody was outside anyways, to tell me otherwise, not even the tweety birds. No one save for me, that is. And it was cold alright. The keen wind cut through the pond-side spruce with all the compassion and loveliness of a pit bull getting his favorite parts snipped off. The snow on the patio squeaked underfoot. And your breath, if you had any, spiraled like exhaust from an old diesel truck, and carried in the breeze a fathom and half over snow encrusted fields. Indeed, the day was cold against your face. My fellow patron and I were to discuss it, and we surmised that the odds were high, and probably accurate even, that I likely was the only humanoid within a hundred mile radius, out of warm doors right then, putting meat to flame on the BBQ. Oh how the neighbors must all roll their eyes every time they see my smoke rise, whilst the wind-driven ice crystals tap over their window pane. No matter, we Patrons of the Pit are a curious group by default. Not one for common thinking and none such. Forsaking oven and stove to cook instead over charcoal and wood, outside, and under random skies, we stand stalwart and proud at our pits, with our collars up and trimmed towards the tempest. BBQing in the cold is just what we do. What we have to do. Unless, I suppose you live, say, in Ecuador.
We have a reader amongst us, a long-time subscriber if you will, and an all-around good guy. Formerly of Minnesota, now roosting in the tropical climes of Ecuador. We have watched his blog, John and Mary Living it up in Ecuador, over the years, and admired their strange adventures, and knack for good living. If the winter draws long for you, do yourself a favor and check out their wonderful blog. It will warm you up, both inside and out. But the old boy there has a sense of humor, I must say, one that I often ponder in vain whilst I’m manning the smoker on sub-zero days like these. You see, he likes to chime in, and reminisce of what Minnesota in the winter was like. To nonchalantly act like he is in your corner. To recall fondly snowstorms in April, of football on the frozen ground, and of course, the cold. And then all too often, he likes to end his comments with some thing like this, and I quote “ I have to admit that I now usher in winter with a nice dip in the pool or the warm Pacific Ocean and a nap on the beach covered in SPF-30” John from Ecuador likes to rub it in that way. And we’re not just talking about his sunscreen. So it’s 7 Below. Lets smoke some ribs! We did this rack fairly simple. First rubbing it down with a little brown sugar, then hit it with a spicy rub I had sitting about. A little something to usher in the heat, if you can call it that. We placed the rack “bone-side” down on the pit, over a steely bosom crackling with orange glowing coals and two fist-sized chunks of hickory. Because it was so cold, no water was added to the water pan of the WSM. It didn’t need any help keeping them temps low today. Lid on. Damper tweaked. A nice pillar of blue-tinted smoke was soon in curl. And as nice as it was out there, I don’t mind admitting none, I sidled it back inside to my easy chair, and pulled a Grandma blanket up to my chin. Glory be! Feet propped up towards the fireplace, my socks hanging off my toes like Stan Laurel in his prime, oh what sheer pleasure it is to bandy with one’s favorite blanket and fire whilst smoking pork ribs on a frosty winter’s day. And as per most rib smokes this side of perfection, I may or may not have dozed off in turn. At hour three, we went ahead and foiled the ribs with another patting of brown sugar, a few dollops of butter and a shot or two of honey, just because. It smelled good enough to tear into right here, but like a good pit boy, I resisted. My elder brother says patience comes to those who wait. I think ribs probably aren’t far behind. A good hour or so in the foil, smoker running at roughly 257 degrees higher than the outside ambient temperature = 1 rack of authentically procured BBQ ribs. The real thing, people. Oh buddy! Varnish with your favorite sauce if you please, and ingest accordingly and at your will or whimsy. SPF-30 optional, at least for some of us. Amen. Four and a Half Hour Hickory Smoked Pork Ribs . Yum! A touch of heat and bunch of sweet. Another way to pass a northern cold snap with a wee bit of class, and patron to the pit. Grill on!
As you delve further into the BBQ arts, eventually you’ll wish to smoke something. It’s just the natural course of things. You need not fight it. Where to start, you ask? Well, as a general rule of thumb, if it grows fruit or nuts, it is probably a legitimate candidate for a smoke wood. Use common sense tho. Make sure it is seasoned, (not green) and not growing some sort of unruly fungus or anything. And please people, no smoking with green treated one by sixes off your back deck. That’s very bad!
Now one of the most common mistakes made by newbie smokers is over-smoking. The assumption that more is better is wrong. Don’t do it. Such antics can impart a bitter taste on your meat. If you see your pit puffing like a choo choo train, tweak the dampers, lift the lid, or wait it out. Wait for the smoke to taper into thinner, almost blue-tinted tendrils. That’s just right. And there is really no need to keep tossing on smoke wood through-out the cook. After about two hours, most meat has gotten all the smoke exposure it needs. Remember the old BBQ adage, smoke is a seasoning, not an ingredient.
Not counting the realm of pellet smokers, the smoke woods you will find come in either chips or chunks. Both work fine, but there is nothing like a good chunk! Two or three apple-sized chunks of smoke wood placed directly on the coals will give you all the smoke you need, many times generating wispy tendrils of it for a couple of hours. Many a pit keeper soak their chips, and even chunks in water or a variety of interesting brews, this to elongate the burn time and to add a bit more flavor. In point of fact, if you boil your wood in water, it will open the fibers and absorb even more water, and thus the wood will smoke longer. But let it be said, because its true, you need not bother with such heady antics, for at the end of the day a good chunk of smoke wood speaks for itself. Just place it on the coals, close the lid on your pit, ensure a good draft, and observe the magic that which gently transpires.
With these things in mind, here then is a little list of choice smoke woods to get you started, or experiment with. All good choices, and good, smokey fun! And many of them can be found at your local hardware or big box store. You may even have some laying in your back yard.
For your smoking convenience, a copy of this list was also placed up on the page index at the top of the site. Now lets smoke something!
- ALDER – A light smokey flavor. Excellent with the likes of fish, pork, and poultry.
- ALMOND – A sweeter tint of smokey flavor. Suitable with all meats.
- APPLE* – Very subtle, slightly sweet. Excellent with poultry and pork. This is one of our favorite smoke woods.
- ASH – A rather subtle but articulate flavor. Another fine choice for fish.
- BIRCH – Another subtlety sweet smoke. Good with pork and poultry.
- CHERRY – Lightly tinted of sweet. Does really well with red meat and pork.
- HICKORY* – Moderate to strong smokey flavor. Good for a variety of meats. If we could only pick one smoke wood, this would be it.
- MAPLE – Easy going and subtlety sweet. A light smokey taste. Good with pork, poultry. Great wood for planking.
- MESQUITE – Maybe the most robust of the smoke woods. Strong smokey flavor. Good with beef, chicken, and pork.
- MULBERRY – Reminiscent of apple wood, just harder to find.
- OAK* – Moderate to strong smokey flavor. Readily available, and a fine all around choice. Excellent for red meat. Does well with pork and fish. We would put this one in the smoke wood hall of fame.
- ORANGE- Mild and slightly sweet. Good with fish and pork and chicken and beef.
- PEACH -Another mild one. Slightly tinted in sweet. Great with beef, pork, fish and poultry.
- PEAR -Light smokey flavor.Great with chicken and pork and fish.
- PECAN* – Mild to moderate smokey flavor. Slight hint of nut. Good with all meats, especially poultry. Pecan is right up there with our very favorite smoke woods.
- WALNUT -Robust smokey flavor. Best with red meats.
*Patrons of the Pit Favorites
If not, amazon carries several species all available with a click of the mouse button. Here are a couple links to get you started.
Smoke on my cronies!
Patrons of the Pit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
It was our loftiest intention to bring to you a choice morsel of grilling immortality this week, but the truth is, I ate it. Oh it was, shall we say, a beautiful T-Bone steak, bountiful in mass, and juicy, seared then grilled unto utter perfection over a hemorrhaging bed of hard wood coals. Indeed it was I guess. Lightly seasoned in onion and garlic, and not a shade less than meat utopia on a bone, and I ate it all. Prematurely launching into its savory flesh like a dingo to a bull frog. I did not possess the mental faculty to pause even, and take a picture for you. Nor to document the endeavor in due respect. The zeal ran high and the patience thin, you might say, where the wood smoke gently curled. And by the time I plated up, it was already too late. You must understand that it was a feverish, man-versus-meat scenario. Simultaneously disgusting yet wonderful. An event where instincts were to take over, and all manners cast over the flannel-clad shoulder. There was grunting, growling and belching involved. The heady sounds of incisors ripping into red meat. Bits of grizzled fat flipping headlong through the air. Long, ghastly stares from my bride. Oh it was good people. And I ate every bit of it.
Thus, I have nothing to show you this time around but a singly savaged T-bone on a bare ceramic plate, laying prostrate in its own juices. What can I say. The steak was there. I was there. It was mutual I think. Some days are like that I guess. Some days we eat our homework. Aw well.
The winds howl like Joshua’s trumpets, and the snows they fall almost, but not quite, horizontal, riding a northern gale. Four inches have accumulated out at the pit today, and a couple more are on the way they say. The roads have gone from motorbike friendly, yesterday, to an all-out 4-wheel drive, blizzard-incarnate today. Once fully functioning automobiles have mired and gone asunder, the way they always do on bad roads, their fenders gashed, and their owners shaken. Grumpy old men mutter to themselves as they go unpack their snow blowers – again. The wintry tempest wages on despite, ever the heartless taxman. Welcome to April in Minnesota. And we do love it this way. Well, least wise some of us do.
I had to admire one individual in particular today, the stately lady cardinal out at the pit-side feeder. Here was a soul not about to give up her supper just because of a raging snow storm. I admired her spunk. Her tenacity to carry on. For that feeder was swinging in the wind, the snowflakes hurtling through the air, but she tucked herself into the lee of it, scant as it was, and dined on the savory seeds there as if it were just another day at office. Well done, Mama Cardinal. A true patron of pit. Speaking of which, we procured a tasty supper off the grill last night, just under the wire as it were, before the blizzard hit. So grab a hot brew, and a good blanket, and settle in some where soft, and we’ll tell you more about it.
It was different sort of day yesterday. Much different. Blue skies, gentle breezes, and a band of tweety birds that wouldn’t let up. They belted out their pre-programmed chorus’ with great exuberance, and utter charm. Spring was in the air, and so was the flirtatious melodies of the Cardinals, and Red Wing Black Birds. Of the Robins and even the ducks which waddled by the pit as the first plumes of smoke wafted into the air. They are residents around the pond-side pit, and often give me a visit whilst I’m manning the coals there. They need to check in on me, you see, to make certain that it is not their kin they smell cooking under the lid. And it wasn’t. What it was, however, was chicken thighs. I get in a hankering for good BBQ chicken thighs from time to time. And it has been quite some time, it seems, since I’ve ingested any. Today was the day. The day we would make things right again.
Here’s how we did them up. Firstly, we hit the thighs liberally with some Sucklebusters Competition Rub. An excellent rub from a great company run by good people. The kind of rub where you can actually pronounce everything on the ingredient list on the back of the bottle. I like stuff like that. So we dusted over the thighs in this rub, and placed them skin side down over direct heat to start. This is your classic searing option, available at a pit keeper’s discretion. The idea is to crisp up that ever-flubbery skin-flap inherent to chicken thighs. To transform it from a rubbery monstrosity, to a well-crisped, flame-pampered delight. A minute or two over direct heat usually does the trick. If your chicken begins to resemble unlit charcoal, however, you’ve probably brought the technique too far down the rabbit hole.
After a suitable crisping session, and a slurp off your favorite beverage, it is time to escort the thighs to the cooler side of the pit, opposite the hot coals. Flip them over there, crispy-side up, and admire your work for a moment. Every painter fancies to step back from the easel at appropriate moments. So be it at the pit. Feel the heat bellow out of the old kettle grill, and how it merges hence with cool air aloft. Listen to how the meat sizzles in complete compliance on a hot cast iron grate. And note that for a moment at least, how your world is at once a simple place to be. Meat + Fire = Contented Man. Which explains, by and far, why we like to BBQ so much.
Anyways, next we tossed onto the bed of orange glowing coals, two small chunks of smoke wood. One of hickory, and the other being apple – just because. Then gently placed the old, enameled lid into position, with the top damper directly over the spoils. By the time another slurp of beverage was had, the draft had already engaged, and lovely, aromatic tendrils of wood smoke spiraled sloppily into a gorgeous blue sky. I had but to sit back in my BBQ man chair, and take in the day. In point of fact, I did. Legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, beverage in hand, it was sufficient pleasure to simply watch the smoke curl and the world twirl. Contented man indeed. For a while anyways, this was all I needed. I occasionally lit from my chair to varnish on some Honey BBQ Sauce, again from the good folks at Sucklebusters. But that was the extent of my pit-side ambition today. And it was wonderful.
After a half hour or so, or when the meat reached 165 internal, I plated up and took my plunder inside. As I slid shut the patio door, I paused momentarily, and glanced back out into the yard. There past the rising wood smoke, the Mama Cardinal watched from the Alders. I smiled as she darted up to the feeder, happy as a bird can be I reckon, that I had finally left. I guess it was supper time for both of us, and she was ready to eat. Tomorrow would be no different. Just colder. Amen.
Hickory Apple Smoked Honey BBQ Chicken thighs. Man! Talk about good grillin! Onslaught of slobbers and drool acceptable. It’s your keyboard.
Here in Minnesota, when the weather starts to turn, and the temperatures fall to subzero levels, we the faithful remnant, who call Minnesota our home, have to partake in an annual ritual known as, “winterizing the house“. Now when winterizing the house, we do such things as adding more insulation in the attic to prevent any heat from escaping. We blow out sprinkler lines and insulate outdoor water faucets to prevent water freezing in the lines and bursting pipes. Some people do the bare minimum to winterize a house and other folks go a few extra steps towards convincing victory, under the flag of reason – better to be safe than sorry.
We Patrons must also do the same in preparation for Minnesota’s wintry grilling season. As the temperatures drop and our bodies begin to acclimatize, we also must take the proper steps so we don’t lose that much coveted heat, or even worse…our pipes bursting. Now some Minnesotans do the bare minimum to prepare themselves for the winter months, but we Patrons of the Pit, we will always take a few extra steps because as mentioned earlier, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. We think so anyways.
Here at the Pit the proper attire for keeping cozy in the frozen out-of-doors is like second nature. For we are both fans of winter camping and so long johns, hats, gloves and even our smoking jackets are never an understatement. We are a rare breed; we take great delight in sitting beside our smoky pits, and as its chimney puffs away we might light up ones pipe and take in a good English tobacco. As the harsh winter winds slap sharp snowflakes across our face, we fill our trusted Stanley thermoses with our favorite hot drink, and sip away. As the temperature plummets past zero we begin to hug the hoods of our pits while a small camp fire may join us during a bitter cold smoking session, sharing in its efforts to keep us warm. Therefore, insulating the inside of our bodies after standing outside at our Pits during one of our famous blizzards is something we can always work on. This weekend we started that process with Homemade Chicken Soup.
- 1 (3 pound) whole chicken
- 4 carrots, halved
- 4 stalks celery, halved
- 1 large onion, halved
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Water to cover
- Salt, Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (optional)
- Desired amount of Egg Noodles
- Desired amount of Wild Rice
Put the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, in a large soup pot and cover with cold water. Heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken meat falls off of the bones (skim off foam every so often).
Take everything out of the pot. Strain the broth. Pick the meat off of the bones and chop the carrots, celery and onion. Season the broth with salt, pepper, chicken bouillon and Garlic Powder to taste, if desired. We added a can of Cream Of Chicken Soup to thicken the broth up a little. Return the chicken, carrots, celery and onion to the pot and stir together. At this time also add the noodles and wild rice. Cook until Noodles and Wild Rice become soft and serve.
There is nothing better than dumping hot soup down one’s gullet and bringing a sudden rush of warmth to our bodies, thus beginning the process of acclimatizing our bodies from the inside out. Over the next few months, we might surprise the blog world with recipes for keeping one’s self warm and well insulated. So, let the process of winterizing begin.
“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”
Strolling the local grocer this afternoon, hands in my pockets, I seemed to have had what you might call a chance encounter with a lovely stand of pork chops. They were plentiful and magnificent, and the obvious spoor of a butcher in a good mood, for they were about one-and-one-quarters inch thick I should wager, iffin they weren’t more than that even. That and they were on sale too, a modicum of reasoning I’m sure my bride would approve. It was destiny in the meat aisle, or something there short of it. If pork chops could talk, these dudes beckoned heavily from their frigid wares, if but to yammer, “Please, take me oh pit keeper, and eat me henceforth! Make me all that I can be!” I cast a glance side-to-side, eyes darting about like a predatory cat – this on the off-chance I might need to fend off a little old lady heading for my spoils. But I was in luck, and no old ladies were in sight. I gazed upon the chops there and promptly croaked “Your mine!” Snatching up two of them like young Richard Simmons to a donut buffet. Its best I suppose not to let the locals there, nor the governing bodies see you talking to their meat, for it stirs up a mild controversy you could say. But if the conversation doesn’t draw out too long, you should be alright. Quietly pay for your plunder, then tuck it under your arm like an NFL fullback, tip your hat to the cashier, and make a good expression of haste.
I brought these beautiful chops home and immediately immersed them in a homemade honey garlic marinade. A brew of which has proven more that adept over the years at bringing out the better side of pork. Its real easy to make, and we’ve mentioned it here before, but who cares, here it is again!
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
After four long hours in the marinade, suppertime shadows fell across the pit area out back. The coals were already conspiring in the old chimney starter, weathered from the ages, belching forth that initial rush of smoke into the evening air. Plumes of it, curling, and rising into the thin blue sky. Signifying to yourself and who ever else is paying attention, that you are once again in your glory, doing precisely that which is well with your soul. And there is a giddiness in the air, electric almost, like the first day of summer vacation as a kid. It is a good day, but all days are I guess, to be a patron of the pit.
These beautiful, thick chops, I sliced a little pocket into them with a sharp knife before they hit the marinade. A strategy, it stands to reason, to get more of that delicious marinade into the heart of the meat. But also, to create a useful void in which to fill, nay, to pack to the gills with a heaping pile of home-made stuffing. Oh yes, cram it in there good, for this is your feast, your opus in meat. After they were packed tight with stuffing, and sort of held together with a some toothpicks, they were ready for the grill. So let’s get out there, where the metal meets the meat. And let us do what we were born to do. To put meat to flame, and declare that it is good!
The Stuffing is your basic Thanksgiving stuffing affair, consisting, well, of what we had handy.
3 cups of bread crumbs
1/2 onion, chopped and sauteed
1/4 cup of finely Chopped Italian Parsley
A little water or broth to bring it all together
Anyways, over in-direct heat as usual, carefully place your beloved and betrothed, pork chops that is, and listen to them sing and sizzle whence they merge onto that hot, fiery grate. Oh how we favor that sound. Tongs in my hands, I glance out over the pond, just in time, it turns out, to see the local Great Blue Heron gliding effortlessly on giant wings, and splashing down into the water there. Ripples radiate outwards across the pond, shimmering in the slanting shafts of a golden sun. I smile to myself, as I toss some peach wood chips, directly onto the coals, and carefully put the black-enameled lid on the old kettle grill. Say what you will, but this is living. And living well.
When the chops reached what I estimated to be mostly done, I got out the old black iron pan, and began putting together the home-made caramel apple sauce. Its pretty easy to do. Two apples diced as you desire, a few pats of butter and enough brown sugar to make it interesting. And do not forget a little cinamon too. Sizzle it all together in the pan over the coals, stirring frequently until apples are cooked, and tender. Perhaps splash a bit of your pit beverage in there too, just because. Nothing is quite so fine as standing over your old kettle grill, whilst the sun dips behind the houses to the West, and the song birds serenade thee from atop the fragrant Spruce. Stirring the apple sauce, the aroma of the chops, and smoldering peach wood, wafting up past your nasal front, and the sweet summer breezes caressing through the garden greens and pit-side Petunias. Glory be! Now why would you ever want to cook inside!
Around about when the applesauce was complete, so to were the pork chops which once wooed me so fiercely. They looked good. A lot better than they did in the butcher’s shanty. And I told them this. Told them that they looked mighty attractive now, and that they would be proud if they could see themselves. That if that quantum entanglement deal I once heard about on PBS, some how applied to pigs and their parts, that maybe the previous owners of these chops would be suitably flattered. No, I don’t expect you to follow that. Suffice it to say, however, these chops kicked pig butt, and they were good! Real good! Leastwise, that’s what I keep telling them. Tho I’m not sure why.
Honey Garlic Marinated, Peach Smoked, Stuffed Pork Chops with a Home-Made Caramel Apple Sauce. Good golly!
Grill on, Folks!
I found myself the other day, nestled up in the nose bleed seats at a Minnesota Twins home game, versus the New York Yankees. The sky was blue, swallows darting about, and the fans were all of good cheer I should say. Well at least that is until we fell behind five to nothing in the first inning. I didn’t mind the score any. A losing team is something we’ve gotten used to around here. Frankly, it was just good to be there, in the new open-aired stadium. Enjoying the day with other like-minded Minnesotans. I’ve always fancied to come down to the ball park once in a while, and appreciate the ambiance there. The sound of a fast ball to a leather catcher’s mitt. The organ lady pounding out some ditties. The golden sunbeams awash over a green, manicured field. The goofy mating cries of the beer vendors, marching up the stadium steps with an arm full of libations. And of course, maybe my favorite slice of ambiance from a major league ball bark – the heady aroma of Polish sausages in the breeze.
Ah, glory be to the Polish sausage who’s gastronomic fates fall unto thee, thou ardent baseball fan who resides stalwart, and yonder, up in the cheap, blue seats. By golly, I was having my way with one up there, whilst overlooking the field of dreams. And it was glorious. I’m not sure why, but them ball park sausages always make it worth the trip down town. We may lose the game, but they will never take our beloved sausage! A comforting fact I rejoiced in, as I worked my way through the Polish delight, topped with caramelized onions, ketchup, and spot of mustard. This is the high art of baseball spectating, you see. Not for the uninitiated, and not far removed from the BBQ arts.
Anyways, I gobbled the thing down with a semi-reckless abandon, with no small amount of damage neither, done to my pride. Leaning back in my seat, a big smile across my face, I was a gentleman at ease, you could say. Nary a care in the world. My bride who sat next to me, after pausing for my token belch of satisfaction, made quick work of pointing out the glob of ketchup clinging steadfastly to my chin. She always does that, when things are haphazardly adhering to my face. In point of fact, most women I suspect do that for men. And I think most men probably would go the better part of the day with it still there, had no one pointed out. And worse yet, we’d be OK with it. I know, its not how to look sexy, and we ain’t claiming it to be right. But it is also a badge of honor sort of, to a worthy feast and a time well-spent. That smear of wayward ketchup or mustard, it is a remembrance of recent glory. An emancipation of meat! Even so, I took care of it like a proper man ought to, and resumed to the spectating at hand. Indebted once again to the good graces of a woman.
What has all this baseball and women got to do with BBQ Pork Chops you ask? Well, not much! Probably nothing at all really. It’s just stuff I was thinking about whilst grilling supper this eve. Pit-side ponderments if you will. I must say tho, supper was quite tasty tonight, as good as any ball park Polish sausage, and not nearly as expensive. Another winner from the pit. Hickory Smoked BBQ Pork Chops. This one is likely to get your slobbers running, so grab yourself a bib, and a lovely beverage, and let’s get after it!
Whilst the coals matured to excellence, and in true pit keeper efficiency, I let the bone-in chops go for a swim in a teriyaki-flavored marinade. Tho BBQ sauce would still be applied at the end, I guess I just felt like a touch of teriyaki tonight, to compliment the flavor profile. I tossed on some well-aged hickory chunks too, for that smokey goodness patron to decent outdoor cooking. Set the meat as is accustomed, opposite the hot coals. You will never kick yourself for using in-direct cooking techniques. But oh how you may moan your name in vain, should in a misguided frenzy, your spoils be rendered into blackened char, because you left them over direct-heat whilst you went to the little pit boys room. Brethren of the smoke you see, are oft taken by leisure at a moment’s notice, and before we know it, before anybody knows it, we could be drool-deep into a good nap if we’re not careful. Better then to corral our meat on the cool side of the grate, just in case. And let leisure take its course.
I put the lid on and let the chops smoke for a while. Always a lovely segment of time. A time well appreciated from the vantage of your BBQ chair, watching the thin-blue smoke gently peel into the air. This is the ambiance of the pit, and all pits have their own, unique blend. And its our job, as pit keepers to simply sit back and revel in it. To note, by chance, the baby ducks down by the pond eagerly training to become big ducks some day. Their parents close at hand. The evening sunbeams, bright and golden on the shaft, and how they strike the full, green, leaves of the Cottonwood trees, which flutter against a gorgeous, blue sky. The Great Blue Heron yonder, across the pond, slowly stalking shallows. And the murmur of the pleasant summer’s breeze mingling through the pines. Oh how I’d fancy to press pause on the download of life right now, and hold that sun steadfast in the sky. Just to freeze it there, casting shadows, and watch the wood smoke gently curl.
Before you know it tho, kind of like life, your meat is done. Flipped once mid-way through the cook, and brushed with your favorite BBQ sauce at the end. We tossed on some corn too, just because. Because nothing is quite so fine, let it be said, as grilled corn on the cob, smothered in butter, on a cool summers eve. I plated up this drool-tugging ensemble, took up residence next to my bride, and in disturbingly short order, we feasted. Declarations of goodness ensued. I plunked a well-chewed bone on to my ceramic plate, and leaned back, smiling like a man ought to in such moments. Patting my tightened belly. It was good, people. The day was good. And I might have even been sexy too, had not I acquired once again that tell-tale glob of BBQ sauce, hanging from my chin. But I didn’t care. Amen.
Hickory Smoked BBQ Pork Chops with a Teriyaki Tint, sided with fresh corn-on-the-cob. You could do a whole lot worse people, and not have nearly so much fun.
Loitering pond-side, the old Weber kettle puffing quietly away, sweet sugar maple smoldering, wafting into the air. I lay aside the pit, in the thick, green grass there, immobile, in a fashion usually reserved for a coronary thrombosis I suppose. But I didn’t care. I was “hanging ten“, as the surfers out way of Waikiki would say. And the world was mine. Just staring up at the clouds as they roll past a beautiful, blue sky. Like Huckleberry Finn on the grassy banks of the Mississippi, I was at ease with everything. A cool summers breeze murmured amid Spruce , and tweety birds on high, serenaded the evening sun. The neighbors are probably used to seeing me “belly-up” in the grass like this, with the ilk of a hobo beside my smoking pits. But I’m slowly getting them trained in, by and by, and the pay off is high. For rarely now, whence I engage in such childish admissions, am I caught there and taken for dead.
On the grill tonight, we’ve got a dandy. Maple planked bacon cheese burgers. Kind of a two-part post, the first part being the recent write-up on Superior planks. Some of you expressed an interest in seeing more how this planking thing is done, and so that is what we’re up to today, at the patron’s pit. Its real easy to do, and will cast the viable illusion also, of being an experienced and highly-gifted pit master. Which is always nice.
The very first order of business when planking is to soak the wood thoroughly. Doesn’t matter how good your plank is, if it ain’t soaked, you will be singing a sorrowful rendition of Kumbaya around your flaming spoils should you neglect this key step. So just do it. An hour in the sink is suitable for most. But the longer the better. Then, whence your coals, or hark, even your gas grill is up and burning, go ahead then and lay the soaked plank on the grate and over direct heat. Let it preheat there a touch if you please, but you don’t even have to do that. Thus, and at last, place your intended vittles over the plank, and pause momentarily to appreciate the oddity of meat on wood. We formed some nice patties from some 80-20 ground beef, and laid a couple of strips of thick bacon on there too, for good measure. No man worth his tongs will ever argue the judicious use of premium bacon, and we weren’t about to tonight. Then place the lid over your grill, and assume your customary BBQ position – in the lawn chair, lovely beverage in hand, toes pointed to the heavens. And with this, you are half done already, and nearly a budding expert in the planking arts.
It is that easy folks. You nary need even touch it now until its done. You will want to, and its fine I suppose if you do flip the burger over, but we did not. It doesn’t need to be. When the lid is on, and the wood is acting like a heat shield of sorts, the grill turns into some what of an oven like atmosphere. Would you flip a burger in the oven? I don’t think so! That is half the magic of planking. The other joy tarries in the smoke. Depending on what flavor of plank you pick out, and some folks even soak them in apple juice, or wine, or what ever, the steam and smoke which rises forth, not to mention a hint of tree oil, dutifully impregnates your spoils with a woodsy authenticness like none other. As one of our readers, Carnivore Confidential, once said in his blog, “You don’t have a smoker? You don’t need one!” And its true. A more primal way of infusing smokey goodness into your supper, you shall not soon divine. Meat on wood over flame. Simplicity at its best. And poetry on the pit!
You can plank darn near anything too. From meats to vegetables to mashed potatoes, and even mushrooms. But perhaps the best use of planks is for the delicate fish fillet. No more dropping through the grate! Just put it on the plank and cook it. No flipping. No mess. No worries. So the next day, and with fish on my mind, I re-soaked the used plank. If you get good thick, hardwood planks, like that of Superior Planks, you can re-use them quite a bit. After a good soak in the sink, I placed the used-plank back on the hot grill along with some Tilapia fillets. Same process. Put the lid on and just let them do their thing. Many hard core plankers forego the seasonings all together, and just let the plank do the talking. And with that wood smoke and natural oils, turns out them old trees have a thing or two to say about good eating. Amen.
Like all fish, when they flake easily with a fork, they are ready for an immediate rendezvous with your belly! Smoked to perfection and kissed by smoldering wood. Man!
Maple Planked Bacon Cheese Burgers and Tilapia too, just because. Two of many things highly suitable for plank cooking. If you haven’t tried it yet, well, what the heck are you waiting for!
A couple of weekends ago, deep in hither lands, and way up north in the Superior National Forest, of which precise coordinates I shall not utter here, my bride and I for a time, lingered in paradise. Balsam Firs and Black Capped Chickadees abounded. Downy woodpeckers pecking. Endless blue skies aloft. And our hammocks strung in a peaceful respite. Backpacking into the remote areas like this at once ushers an inherent quietude and tranquility not soon privy the city dweller. A stillness of earth and soul, and the waters there, oh how they run so delightful and clean. Tumbling through the mossy, forest crags, as if just to be lovely that way, and to nourish the fevered palates of those weary foot travelers who happen upon it. Folks like us. We liked it so much in point of fact, we set up our camp, and we stayed there a while, as patrons to paradise.
A lovely place. A place I couldn’t help but to recollect some, whilst tending to old kettle grill this evening last, on our home patio back in the city. I get like that every now and then. Reminiscent if you will, with pit-side reflections. And I can’t help it. Lighting the grill, and seeing the fire cordially lick for the sky, and tasting the aroma of the rising wood smoke, well, in a flip of a heartbeat, I am harkened back to other campfires in other places of enduring beauty. Places that I have once pressed a tent stake in, upon which earthy soils I have slept so soundly. I am smitten I guess, for the prettier places
Places where the star fields glitter, suspended in the blackness above, and the lonesome wail of the Timber Wolves echoed through the forest hollows. Places amid the whispering pines, where if you want a good dinner, you had better have packed it in, or barring that, possess an adeptness of procuring sustenance from the field and stream. For to live simply, and deliberately, and not to be bothered by much else is the goal here. To reduce life’s endless complexities to a few scant items, and stow them neatly away in our backpacks. And for a while at least, to be gone with everything else. To flex our muscles up the cardiac switchbacks, and breathe in that freshened air. To catch fish, climb rocks, and build campfires. To be 10 again, in the Sherwood Forest, and sport a quiver with but one crooked arrow.
Back in the city again, tending supper over this old pit, I leaned back in the BBQ chair, watching the smoke curl some. Still reminiscing whilst crescent moon dallied over the Spruce, and a growing family of mallards floated serenely out on the pond. It’s kind of pretty here too, I thought. Tongs in my hand, the aroma of Cheddar stuffed Polish sausages and hickory wafting from the pit. Glory! But I think of the hammock I strung up recently, in my quaint, northern sanctum – my Shangri-la in the woods. Hung nicely between two fluttering Aspen trees. A location I became much acquainted with in my stay up there. For I took not one, nor two, but three lengthy naps there, in dappled sunbeams, and beside burbling streams. Whiled away most of the afternoon in such fashion, harboring not a morsel of guilt. It was a lifestyle, by and far, that I could get used to. If only I could get my Weber Grill out there, I thought, in this land so remote. I think I should never again return.
The aromas of supper snapped me back to the present. Back to the city. I rolled the sausages about on the old grate. Onions were already diced. Ketchup and mustard at the ready. I toasted up a couple buns for my bride and I, and assembled this most basic of grilling endeavors. Grilling Polish sausage is about as simple as they come I guess, and yet, satisfying in a round about way. They taste good, but more over, it gives us pit keepers another excuse to play with fire. To smell that smoke wafting. And I guess just to be outside. And to this cook anyways, a porthole to a bevy of memories wrought over the open flame. Reminders which rise with the wood smoke, of good times, in pretty places, where the breeze blew sweetly through the trees. Something we like do every now and then. Keeping it simple. Like a good Polish Sausage. Amen.