Banking the hot coals to the back of the old kettle grill, I cast a glance upon the pond, and the skies of gray, rolling over-head. A mist dapples over the land, the house, and the bushes down by the water look wet, and tired today. The leaves of the cottonwoods have all turned yellow now, and many of them have fallen to their inevitable rendezvous with the earthen substrates below. One of them, however, landed on my patio, soaked, but still lovely, in this, the last turn of autumn. One last confident gesture of something beautiful, before ice and snow and darkness seize the land. It hasn’t much more to do in its life now. No more duties to uphold on the heady matters of photosynthesis. It need not provide shade nor solace for critters or kin. And it will decompose in time, like things do, and morph into dirt or the like. Something rather unbecoming of a once beautiful leaf, but in the same breath, kind of noble and good. An intricate interlace in the ongoing circle of life. One of which I considered some whilst plucking some bell peppers from the fertile soils of the pit garden. We’re having chili tonight, you see, and I like peppers in my chili.
What better spoil for the pit, on a misty, autumn day, than some smoked pit chili, procured over a beautiful bed of coals. Its real easy to do. As easy as on your kitchen range, but dare I say, twice as fun. I started with the old, black iron frying pan, and a pound or so ground beef, browned in accord. Then I tossed in some diced onions and bell peppers plucked fresh from the garden folds. Sautéed and softened a tad, before adding the rest of the ingredients.
The other ingredients can be as vast or as precise as you wish. Chili is a most forgiving dish. There is no hard and fast rule to chili making, especially on the pit. So make it however you like. I started with a base of tomato sauce, one can as it were, followed by half that can of water. Then a can of kidney beans, drained of course. A big squirt of ketchup, and a modest handful of brown sugar. Some salt and pepper. About a table-spoon of chili pepper. And a dwindling bag of frozen corn I discovered in the furthest recesses of the freezer. I like corn in my chili, I don’t know why. All this is stirred up and left to simmer in a sloppy-brown communal affair, opposite the hot coals. Let the flavors marry, and get to know one another. Next comes the good part.
The part that separates the outdoor chef from the kitchen dweller. Smoke. I’m sure the cowboys of old, who slept under the stars, were used to a smokey flavored chili, but that is something wrung tight now out of the human experience. Doing your chili out on the pit, with a bit of hickory wood thrown in for good measure, is not only a supreme means of procuring some tasty supper, but you are also paying homage, in a way, to how chili was always meant to be done – over the camp fire. I tossed on a chunk of smoke wood and placed the old, black-enameled lid back on. Tweaked the top vent, and in no time, aromatic plumes puffed contentedly away. Thus, and unto the journey’s end, let the pot simmer away for as long as you wish. And very occasionally stir the contents. This, in part, to stir in more of that smokey goodness, which is half the reason for cooking outside in the first place. Glory!
Whilst the wood smoke curled up into a gray, mist-ladened sky, I stood abreast of the pit, gleaming what heat I could from it. Hands in the pockets of my smoking jacket, eyes surveying the pond. A gentle drizzle tapping over the brim of my hat. There is a chill in the air, and a dampness to match it. And one lone mallard afloat out on the pond – quacking away. Seemingly laughing, almost, in an upward-raised indifference to the weather. Ducks are like that. Hamming it up, he was, like Phyllis Diller in her prime. And I admired him for it. I admire any schmuck, come to think of it, winged or not, who seems to enjoy the soggy, cold, days of life such as these. For that matter, any day in which he is given. Those wholly absorbent souls who grasp a moment for the gift that it is, and belch forth of its glories anew. That is a confident gesture of something beautiful, if you ask me. Something noble and good.
I muckle onto the hot iron of steaming chili and bring it inside, closing the patio door behind me. The autumn mist dawdles on, whilst the old mallard chortles from the dappled pond. What a good day it has been, I thought. A gift indeed. And another golden leaf dropped from above. Amen.
Hickory Smoked Chili fresh off the pit. Dang people. If that don’t warm your belly and soul on a wet day, you probably have dirt in your face.
Location: Pond-Side Pit
Temperature: 81 degrees F
Whilst waiting on a batch of coals to mature, the sun waned over the roof tops, its golden beams glittering over the pond here by the pit. A doable humidity dallied in the air, and the tweety birds flirted about in the alders and cottonwoods. Lazy clouds of cotton idle in a sky of pastel blue. I positioned myself in my BBQ chair of leisure, and tuned in the Twins game on the pit radio. One of the finer joys of summer grilling, is listening to my beloved baseball team travel the country-wide, and play ball. Granted, they generally lose 2 out of 3, but that’s OK by me. They add to the BBQ ambiance if you know what I mean. An acoustic wallpaper of sorts, to blend with the soft banter of nature.
The coals in the charcoal chimney are getting there. They are in no hurry it seems, which is fitting for our style of the BBQ sciences. No hurries, which off-hand and by-the -way, is the attitude also of the lonely Blue Heron down by the pond. He was in the middle of supper when I sat down, and like many a bird tends to do for some reason, had his spoils clamped firmly in its bill. Tighter than Bill Gate’s vault I would wager. He stood there, backed by tall weeds leaning in the breeze, for what seemed minutes on end, with nary a motion usually reserved for dinner bells and the like. Other than when these fellows harpoon their intended quarry with the fierceness and accuracy of a Samurai warrior, they are one of the slowest, most graceful moving birds I have seen. Deftly stalking the shallows no faster it seems, than the sun arcs yonder through the heavens. I am always and quite dutifully impressed by the innate patience they seem to harbor for their craft. No hurries. A motto undoubtedly suited for the BBQ arts as well.
By the time the Heron commenced with choking down his fish, my coals were ready. I thus banked them to one side of the old kettle grill as usual, for some in-direct cooking. Tonight on the grill, we have something special. Something sure to sooth the savage sweet tooth. Homemade Blueberry Peach Cobbler. Adapted from a little ditty we found at Man Cave Meals, a great site if you’re looking for more on the art and zen of BBQ. There are a lot of words we might use to describe this fruity delight, but “Yum!” about says it all. Let us then get after it, for the patience, I must admit, resides better now with the Blue Heron. This is good eating!
Mix up the batter accordingly:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup of milk
In an 8 x 8 pan, or roughly that, and over a half-stick of melted butter, pour the batter gently. Resist, by and far, the urge to mix it all up. Just let the batter mingle for the sides of the pan. Advancing at its own good speed.
Bring to a boil in a sauce pan the following:
- 2 cups of peach slices
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
Pour this beloved mixture of sweetened fruit over thy batter with a gentle, yet well-meaning hand. Then, mostly for culinary poeticness, lightly dash some cinnamon over the whole ensemble, and place the pan opposite the hot coals.
Go head and put the lid on and do what you do best! Grab a lovely beverage and tarry in the good ambiance patron to the pit. You’ve had a long day no doubt, and you sort of owe it to yourself, don’t you think, to kick your feet up and relax a little. To feel the summer breeze whistle through your up-turned toe-pits. To partition a little time off the clock today, and let up on the accelerator pedal of life. To boldly let the world spin with out you for a while. For life goes by fast enough as it is, so let us not rush it of all places at the pit, doing that which we feverishly love. For this is your opus now. This grill. This evening. The aromas of baking cobbler. The way the sunbeams slant over the green grass. The moment is yours to seize if you want it. All you need do is sit there, and watch it all unfold. No hurries people. No hurries.
In about 45 minutes, or when the batter has browned over a touch, or when it passes the toothpick test adequate to thee – it is done. It’s also always good, when baking via this method, to turn the pan 180 degrees mid-way through the cook, for even cooking. I brought the wondrous dessert inside, and my what lovely aromas tarried with it. Served hot with whipped cream, or better yet, a scoop of your favorite ice cream – glory be!!! A tastier dessert from the grill nor even the oven too, you shall not soon divine. Hot Blueberry Peach Cobbler off the grill. Like that old heron with his fish, there may be more yummy things in life, but right now, we can’t think of any. And getting there was half the fun. Amen.
Our fellow patron host is on vacation this week. He has traveled much this year, and as usual, he has some things to report from the field. Like when he visited Arizona earlier this spring, and discovered the Dip Lady. Or when he was up in the wilds of northern Minnesota a few weeks back, and won the great 2013 Burger Throw Down there, with his pine-apple topped blue cheese jerk burger. This week he finds himself in Door County, Wisconsin, a lovely tendril of real estate patron to a mid-west sort of paradise. He’s loitering in a quaint country cottage there, and reports back to us his latest supper from the grill. The man is clearly on vacation.
There are times when your mind needs to slow down. When your body needs respite, and life just needs to take a little break. A small cottage in the middle of Door County, Wisconsin, is just a place to do such things. Though the six-hour drive may seem long, pulling into the driveway there is the moment when the cares of this world seem to leave. When life, work, and responsibilities back in Minneapolis begin to disappear. Though I’m not going to write about my worries and cares, there are a few things I can honestly say allow me to let the worries of the world leave for a few hours. And that happens usually when I’m cooking, and mostly when I’m cooking for other people. Which was one of my few responsibilities while spending six quick days in Door County, Wisconsin.
Pork chops are this evening’s canvas for the variety of flavors I’m able to add to them. Mustard, cracked pepper, salt, and brown sugar to start, and finished the it all off with a medium baste of bbq sauce.
Ahh, this evening’s “chef-d’oeuvre”. A BBQ glazed pork chop with a fresh garden salad. Oven baked potatoes topped with sour cream and chives. I only heard a few choice words during dinner. Allot of yums, mmmms, and a couple of wows. I walked away knowing the lack of communication was a compliment.
Way up yonder, in the northern reaches of Minnesota, a series of Weber Smokey Joe grills quietly puffed in turn beneath the whispering pines. Men plying through their coolers, and spice stashes. Other men circling about, taking pictures. Patties of ground beef delicately formed, and laying at the ready. And a light humidity hung in the air. This was the scene of the 2013 Burger Throw-Down. A gastronomic snippet of a men’s retreat. A humble tho seriously esteemed competition held in the hinter lands of Northern Minnesota, along the White Fish chain of lakes. It was there in these competitive pools, that my fellow blog host sought to ply his burger craft. Each contestant was provided 2 pounds of ground beef, 4 hamburger buns, a Weber Smokey Joe, and what ever spice and accompaniments they wish to steal from their home pantries . There would be 8 judges, each sporting a most scrupulous eye, and two hours, give or take, in which to greatly impress them.
As the Canadian Jays and Black Capped Chickadees cavorted in the white pines, and the air smelled of damp earth from recent showers, the contestants hovered over their prep areas, one and all, prodding over patties of beef, and a litany of spice and cheese. The game was on, and our fellow blog host recalls, in his own words, getting things underway, in this, the great burger throw down of 2013.
“The burger throw down was as fun as I thought it would be. I was the first one to show up knowing I would have much prep for my burgers. I had my premixed jerk rub tightly vacuumed sealed for freshness and a large can of pineapple rings. I also brought a zip lock bag of hickory chips that has been soaking since Thursday night, so almost 2 days. So, I started my coals first, as one should always do, and as they began to burn I started moving them around the bowl of the Smokey Joe. Placing them on one side of the bowl so I can do a little in-direct smoking once the burgers were fully cooked. When people saw what I was doing with the coal placement, I could hear comments like “wow, he’s got it down to a science, or this guy is serious”. I was just doing what I’m used too.”
The men henceforth got down, as men do in competitive burger making. Got down to the heady business of procuring something memorable, and pleasing to the palate. Something apt to move a judge’s tummy for the better, and put a mile on his face. The contestants were up for the challenge Everything from pesto and jalapeno to feta and Munster cheese. Our fellow patron admits to being slightly intimidated, standing alongside some of these Meat Maestros. But he sticks with his game plan, and his secret weapon – 48 hour soaked hickory chips.
“I then quickly began to prep my burgers. Now, I brought a lot of spice rub with me and I wasn’t sure how much I should use so I decided I would start mixing the rub into the meat until I could smell it. I used about half of what I brought, folding and pounding the meat until the smell joined the wet pine of the camp. I quickly shaped my patties and filled the middle with blue cheese. I sprinkled a little more rub on the cheese and laid the other patty on top of it. I finished by pinching the patties together and rubbing spice on both sides of it. I think soaking the chips as long as I did helped put steam into the meat because I know my burgers were juicy. After they were fully cooked I moved them to indirect heat and placed the pineapple over the coals. I charred them up a little and then toasted the buns. I threw everything together and mine were the first for the judges to eat. I realized at that point I forgot two of my main ingredients, bacon, which would have gone on top of the pineapple, and then some smokey bbq sauce to go on top of the bacon. I’m glad my burgers were juicy, because sometimes without sauce you get a dry burger.”
Were talking a burger here folks. One that would make even a heathen man pause to say grace. One-half pound of hickory smoked ground beef, filled with a pocket of gooey blue cheese, seasoned with the patron kick of good jerk rub, topped with a charred pine-apple ring and of course, a toasted bun. Dang! You certainly are not going to eat a whole lot better under the whispering pines nor burger shack alike. And apparently the judges thought so too, as they gave our fellow patron 1st Place honors for his Smoked Blue Cheese Jerk Burger. Well done old chap. Well done indeed.
Besides getting to sport the title of Defending Champion for a year, he also won himself a chef’s hat and an apron. If we’re nice to him, and flatter him a little, maybe we can even get him to model it for us. I doubt it, but maybe.
This winter in Minnesota was a very long, drawn out winter. A winter where we thought for moment our region of the United States by chance had entered into a new Ice Age. We had a few glimmers of hope, but as soon as we saw fresh grass…… FRUMP!, We were again snowed on. Though we Patrons are tolerable with utilizing out our pits all year long we find Spring to be a sigh of fresh air. Don’t take us wrong, wiping snow off of our pit covers and removing our gloves to light a chimney full of coal is just the way of the bbq force out here. We know that for 5 to 6 months of the year removing our boots and putting them back on to maintain the pit is an expected part of the bbq process. HARK! We are now ready for the luxury of flinging off the flip flops and melting into our favorite patio chair with a cold beverage in hand, whilst sitting next to our hot smoky pits. AH yes, to sit downwind so that the cool breezes can blow the pit smoke directly into our paths becomes a fantasy while sitting in a cubical during our weekly rotating responsibilities. The time has come when we can rightfully say goodbye to a season that I can comfortably say had overstayed its welcome. I love winter and I love snow, but it is that time I welcome Spring.
Grill on – POTP
What a pleasant thing it is to walk past your patio door, and see your old grill out there, puffing away in a cloud of hickory. To smell the wood smoke in the air, and know something tasty is developing, cooking, and residing just out yonder, under that beat up lid. It soothes a man, I must say. It is well with his soul. For there is just something about putting meat to flame and cooking it there, whilst the fresh air encircles you, that for a while at least, we are content and in need of very little else. And maybe that’s why, come to think of it, we like to cook slowly around here, if for any other reason than to extend the moments – these the fellowship of the coals. It is our twinkle, every time we light the pit, and watch the smoke curl there.
Now every man I ever knew, and a lot of women too, if there was one thing they were good at on the grill, it was big cheese burger. And rightly so, for that’s what most folk start off with, in their formative, teeth-cutting years at the grill front. My eldest brother has long-held to the tactic, when visiting a restaurant for the first time, that the safest, and most efficient stroke you can play there is to try their cheeseburger. For they are not likely first off to screw it up, but more over, in a gastronomic gumshoe sort of way, you can tell a great deal about the rest of their fare, their cook, and their establishment as a whole, but from the mere details revealed in their humble hamburger. How much pride have they taken in preparing it? What is the grade of beef? Do they bother to toast the bun? How much did it cost? Likewise on the grill. It is a pit junkie’s thumb print, the hamburger. And everybody who has flipped a patty has one. Every finger print is a little different it seems, and like a thumb into an ink pad, it is our most basic impression onto the BBQ arena. Want to get an idea of a pit keeper’s prowess, consider first his cheeseburger. Thus, and with a good bed of coals, let us make it a favorable one at least.
You can do a lot of things with hamburgers. Stuff them full of various odds and ends, from bell peppers and corn to blue cheese or hot sauce. Some cast iron constitutions do all of the above at once, and wager it a good day. But if you have supper guests coming over, as we did this evening, and their palates you are not yet acquainted with, it is a wise move for the pit master to keep the meat simple. Provide a cornucopia of toppings and condiments on the side, and let the unknown taste buds hence arriving paint their own masterpiece. And that’s just what we did. Started with 80/20 ground beef, which if you haven’t heard, is the optimal ratio for hamburgers. Leaner blends tend to fall apart on the grill, and lack a little less flavor. Anyways, before the patties were even formed, I worked in to the beef, an envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix to give it some flavor. Formed some rather massive patties, half-pound colon busters if you will. Hard to tell in the pictures, but easily appreciated in person. Placed them on the grate opposite the hot coals, and pressed a golf ball-sized depression into the center of each one to thwart the often occurring “curl”, an unsightly malady that burgers sometimes do. The depression punch is purely a cosmetic move for the end game. Next, and to add a nice touch you don’t often get with a hamburger, I added a couple chunks of hickory to the coals, for a pleasant smokey tint to the beef. Nothing like a smoke ring on your cheeseburger to set a man right!
You can leave the burgers over indirect heat the whole way, tho some prefer to do it all right over the coals, hot and fast like. It’s up to your pit master instincts. But one thing you should always take the time to do is to toast your buns. And get the best buns the bakery has, or better yet, make your own. And one of the best ways to toast them is to butter each half, and plunk them on the hot side of the grill. Tend to them like a needy relationship. Like a puppy keen to poop on your new carpet. Check them every few seconds with your tongs. For they can burn easily, and all your hard labors might soon go up in flame. But nothing quite so brings your burger to the next level than a perfectly toasted bun. Man. And never has a dinner guest not appreciate this simple, yet effective effort.
In the end, each person had a 1/2 pound Colby Jack cheese burger with the works, larger than their face, and towering off the plate like a meat monolith. Mercy! Basic grilling 101. Filling. Tasty. And an American favorite for sure. It is the cheeseburger. Your pit keeper’s thumb print.
Through the cold and dark the smoke shall rise
a curling blue mist that burns in the eyes,
Stoked coals heat the patient Patron
with pit scented fleece and a dirty apron,
The smells of spices thicken with rain
the longer he waits the temperature gains,
Hickory heats and odors his jacket
the pit brings peace from everyday racket,
He quietly waits as the rain drips on
and spring ushers out a snow filled lawn,
A flaming pit through its yearly fashion
the ash pan fills with a fiery passion.
“Grill on” – POTP
Amid the spring thaw, and blustery gales , I touched flame to the chimney of hardwood lump. I love the smell of lump charcoal lighting, and the sound of it as it crackles and pops. I am transported all at once back up into the northern tiers of my Minnesota bush lands, back to camp fires past, neath the whispering pines, in the forest hollows, aside babbling streams, at tranquil campsites pitched upon the cold, bones of the earth. Those camp fires of birch and balsam, how their warm light reflects off the faces of camp mates, always make a soul feel more at home there, in a harsh, and barren land. I often reminisce in this way, every time I light the pit here on the patio. I hover my hands over the chimney, relishing the heat there, as the keen northern winds slice with disturbing ease through the city streets, kicking up old tatter along the way. And tho it is cold this April day, the sun is still out, and tweety birds, well they don’t seem to care one way or the other, if it’s cold, or windy, or what sort of charcoal I may be using. And that’s OK. I’m not sharing my supper with them anyways. Speaking of supper, come inside with me won’t you, and let me show you what we have marinating tonight.
On the counter, in a zippered plastic bag we have a good couple handfuls of chicken wings, the kind of wings popular at sports bars and taverns, and places with more big screens than a showplace theater facility. Blessed is the man whose freezer harbors a bag of these wings. In the immortal words of Mary Tyler Moore, it can take an otherwise nothing day and suddenly make it seem all worthwhile. And it has. For we are men. We eat meat. And we are keen for the wing!
The winglets today, before they hit the hot grate, receive a good pampering in a delicious home-made marinade. A salty and sweet affair with a touch of garlic. Here is the recipe for it if you have a hankering.
Sweet Garlic Marinade
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 table spoons honey
- 3 table spoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Also whilst the coals come to maturity, and the wings marinate, we are soaking some peach wood too. I still prefer the big fist sized chunks, as there is no need to soak those. But if all you have is chips, you make do, and you’ll need to soak them before the cook, less they disintegrate like a 20-year-old pair of underwear whence they hot the coals. Not that I’ve tried that. I was pleased to find some peach wood at the local Cabelas, on one of my monthly forays there. You don’t see that sort of flavor up here in the frozen north too often, and I grabbed it rather by instinct when I saw it. A bit of Floridian essence amid icy winds sounded good today.
Nothing is quite so fine as peach smoke carried in the wind. Do to the high sugar content of the marinade, we went indirect the whole way this cook. Life opposite the hot coals is a good motto to grill by, and will long keep you out of grilling peril. I put the lid on and admired the smoke for a bit, like BBQ people do. I sat down, hunkered into my smoking jacket, and watched the smoke dance off into the stately breezes. And then, rather out of the blue, my left eye lid began to droop. Followed closely by the other. And I pandiculated right there in the chair. Pandiculation. That’s my new word. It means to stretch and yawn at the same time. Turns out I’m really good at pandiculating, and so are a lot of people I know. Anyways, when we brethren of the smoke feel such lethargy brewing, there is of course only one suitable course of action. I promptly went inside and took up residence in the man chair, reclined back to its utter most fancy, and there upon, and with great abandoned, did what sleepy men do when meat is slowly cooking on the grill – I belched and wafted off to sleep. It was lovely.
Most men, we postulate, and some women too I think, are born with an internal meat alarm clock. A meat sense, if you will. Sort of a quantum entanglement deal, where upon we just know when our betrothed meat is ready to eat, or more over, if it is in jeopardy of burning, or being pillaged say, by the neighbor’s dog. It’s a great skill set to have really, whence your aspirations for sleeping on the job come to fruition. BBQ is rigorous work after all, and we should be privy to all the tricks. Anyways, the internal alarm went off and I awoke in my man chair with a gentle yet satisfying graduation, like that of brisket coming to its temperature ideal, whilst resting on the counter top. I wiped the accumulated drool from my left lip pit, as my body rebooted. Golden beams of sunlight washed over my face, as I stretched like a spoiled old house cat in the soft chair. Yes, I pandiculated again. And I knew, as surely as one can know these things I guess, that my meat was done. It was time to eat, and after a fashion, never rushed, we did just that. And the wood smoke tapered in the breeze. Amen.
Peach smoked winglets with a tint of sweet garlic, and the theory of quantum meat entanglement. Man oh man. If you understand one, you probably have the other.
Nothing is quite so fine as firing up your pit on Easter morning. The smell of hickory wafting in the early sunbeams, the finches flirting in the fragrant spruce, and the world today, as most days go, seems to be rotating a little slower. There is leisure in the air, aloft with the wood smoke, and every fiber of your BBQ being knows it. The token urban madness is displaced it seems, with quieter streets, strolling neighbors, and driveways of parked cars, patron to house holds filled with warm banter and good food. And I like that. We had family coming over too, because once upon a time, I had leaked word that one could aptly pump up the flavor of your run of the mill smoked ham by ten times, if you smoked it again. Well it wasn’t long before I was asked one year to do the Easter ham, and well, that’s how traditions start I guess. My privilege. And that is what we’re up to at the pit this day. Smokin’ that good Easter ham. So get yourself a bib tied on, and lets commence with the task at hand. But be warned, once you do it on the smoker, you may never want to put your ham in the oven again. Man it’s good!
Now the first order of business, that is after of course pouring yourself a lovely beverage, is to rub your ham down in mustard. No, it’s not a flavor thing really, but as many smoke masters know, it is an adhering agent. In point of fact, I never heard of any one who can even taste the mustard whence the cook is complete. Think of it maybe as a primer for your rub. Lots of folks rub down all matter of cuts of meat in mustard before applying the rub. It’s just a great way for getting your rub to stick. Anyways, our rub today is as simple as it gets – brown sugar. That’s it. You can use what ever you like of course, but we went with good smearing of brown sugar. Then decorated it with pineapple slices, not just for cosmetic value, but also for the self-basting effect of smoking pineapples. It’s important here to let the ham and the sugar get to know one another for a while. To mingle. Wait until the sugar has liquefied, and becomes tacky to the touch before it goes on the smoker, for improved reception to the smokey goodness imparted upon it.
Hams are delightfully easy to double smoke because most hams that you’re used to are already cooked. Which nicely removes the pressure of wondering if its done or not. However, you want it hot, so the target internal temp to shoot for is 140 degrees, which is a good eating temperature for most tongues, save for the most hardened coffee drinkers. So I put the maverick probe in, just to keep tabs. With your smoker set at 250 degrees, most hams will take about 3 hours. Otherwise just keep an eye on that internal temperature. The smoke wood today is hickory, since the ham was originally hickory smoked to start with. It’s good to match it up if you can, however, I also tossed in a couple chunks of apple wood too, because that’s just how I roll.
Around 130 internal, you’ll want to start brushing on your glaze. The glaze we used was almost as simple as the rub.
Maple Ham Glaze
Mix together in your sauce pan the following:
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
Then proceed to varnish your ham with liberal abandoned. When it reaches 140 internal, go ahead and bring it inside and foil it. Let it rest as you do, as the juices find their way back through the smoke-scented meat. Note the aromas in the air, how they fill the house, and how your people at once beckon closer to thee, for to sample a bite perhaps, before the dinner bell tolls. Snag the choicest bits for the pit master of course.
Hickory Apple Double Smoked Ham, with a Maple Brown Sugar Glaze. Man! With a special thanks to our Savior, for He’s the reason we even get to smoke a ham today in the first place. Amen.
*Stomachs, time, and the rest of the food out-paced our Easter ham, and I had to reluctantly pull it from the smoker too soon, and accelerate it in the oven. And tho it didn’t come out the most attractive thing after that, rest assured, it was still as moist and savory as it was smokey, complimented with that wonderful, sweet glaze. And bellies were filled.
Chickadees lit amid the Alders, chirping and rejoicing, as shafts of brilliant, warm, sun slanted through the stands of Spruce with aplomb. The smell of apple wood smoke tinted the air, as snow melt dribbled from the roof like, cold, glacial run off, reminiscent of the icy ramparts of the Mountain West. Like a seasoned man’s hairline, the snow piles around the pit had receded some in recent days, exposing for the first time in a long time, a few sickly looking, tendrils of grass, bent over from a winter’s hiatus. A good life choice I suppose, if you’re a blade of grass in Minnesota. Take the winter season off, and re-group come springtime. A mindset of no such value however, to we patrons of the pit, who have been grilling hard all the winter long. Keepers of the flame, and chickadees alike, know no such luxury as hibernation. Nor at the end of the day, I wager, would we want to. It’s a beautiful Saturday. The inaugural first smoke of the spring. The tweety birds are singing. And my fellow patron has come over to share it with me, like any good BBQ crony would.
Every once in while, if the stars and the orbits of our lives align, my fellow patron and I like to get together to ply our craft. The likely recipients of our exploits, for better or for worse, being our beloved wives. Sweet girls who have put up with their fair share of experimental BBQ over the years. They have been there for the very best of it, delighting in our victories, and they have been there amid our fool blunders too, politely eating it anyways. Lovely souls, who just so happen today, to be out on the town together, doing what ever it is ladies do when their out together. My fellow patron and I henceforth found ourselves doing what only came naturally, hunkered over my pit, procuring some rather tasty vittles for our women, whilst at the same time entertaining the notion of keeping digital tabs on our credit card accounts. Anyways, on the pit tonight, smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. Grab yourself a lovely beverage, and let us get after it.
Whilst the big WSM was coming up to speed, being the efficient creatures that we were, we split up the duties. Divide and conqueror tactics if you will. John took the chicken thighs, and I took the beans. The chicken was amazing, seasoned in a blend of home-crushed spices, and I’ll tell you more about that in a bit, but first let’s get after these peach baked beans. And don’t curl your nose, I think you’ll like them. They humbly are not of our brain thrust, but of Pit Master Myron Mixon, who was at one time at least, the Tiger Woods of competitive BBQ. Say what you will about the man, but he can smoke. And these beans I figured, were at least worth a shot. Here’s how you do it.
Peach Baked Beans
- 1 can baked beans
- 1 can sliced peaches or peach pie filling
- 1 diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped bacon
Into your grilling pot, empty the contents of your favorite can of baked beans. Then dump yourself in a can of sliced peaches. A little of the peach juice is a good idea, but you may want to refrain from dumping the whole thing like I did, less you fancy a soupier baked bean. Or a better bet is to use a can of peach pie filling, which is what you’re really supposed to use, but I didn’t have any on hand. Next thing is to dice up a red bell pepper and toss that in there too. Finally, and to every meat lovers fancy, add a good handful of chopped up bacon chunks. If you really want to do it right, you’ll do up the bacon on the grill first, and impart a liberal dosage of smoke upon it, because its bacon after all, and bacon is worthy of our highest flattery. So mix all these wonderful ingredients together, and if you have a hankering, sprinkling in a little of your chosen spices of the day, is hardly ever a move soon regretted, and compliments the main course with a quiet, but favorable elegance. Proceed then to let the flavors mingle and stew for two hours out on your pit, stirring on occasion to circulate a little more smokey goodness into your bean pot of glory. Man! Now let’s see how John did up those thighs.
First order, he removed the flaps of skin common to inhabit chicken thighs, and then rubbed them down in olive oil. This to properly receive his freshly ground melody of spices which include, but are not limited to: Coriander, brown sugar, pink Himalayan salt, pepper corn, onion powder, smoked paprika and ground rosemary. By freshly ground, we’re talking an hour before the cook, in his mortar and pestle. Glory! It don’t get no better than that folks. Then he sprinkled some over the thighs. A little of this stuff goes a very long ways, he said, so he made work of it with a light hand. Delicately allotting the spices equally over the meat. He was quite proud of his creation, often bellowing in acute joy over how pretty it looked. The spice he has since coined, Rolling Stone Rub, its namesake inspired in the heady wages of the recent kidney stone he recently passed. A token beam of brilliance wrought from a most miserable circumstance. Anyways, then he gently placed the thighs out on the smoker, where upon an apple wood fire had already stabilized into a light, easy-going smoke. There they would stay for the next couple hours, next to the pot of beans. Oh buddy!
So it was, meat and beans on the pit, a light apple wood smoke wafting amid the patio, sunbeams melting in through the windows, and we menfolk at last taking up the proper BBQ posture, in our man chairs, beverages in hand, and a couple of hours of premium loitering ahead of us. Nothing quite so fine as that, after a hectic week whirling about in the cog of society. And we chew the fat some, as men do when they are waiting for meat, frequently gazing out to the pit, appreciating the curling smoke there. We kick our feet up and get a trifle more comfortable, click on the TV, and settle in for the high rigors of the BBQ life. Somebody has to do it.
Apple smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. If there’s a better way to usher in the spring, I can’t think of any.
*Bean recipe was ultra simplified here, but of you want to see the original recipe, in it’s uncut form as Myron Mixon intended it, let us refer you to the following link:
First off, ladies, don’t get all excited that we’re actually going to clean our pits with the likes of soap and water or anything. No pit master worth his tongs would perpetrate such foolery as that. Because its basic pit fact that the greasier and grimier our pits are, the better the food tastes. Whence that nasty grunge has conspired on the inner walls of our beloved grills, a little more seasoned they have become. We patrons of the pit wear our grimy muck like badges of honor. But we do on occasion however need to dispose of the ashes. Because built up ashes restrict the airflow our pits were engineered for. And restricted air flow is like losing the temperature knob on you’re stove top or oven. So the ashes have got to go. Here is a great way to do that.
Every pit should come with its own built-in Shop Vac we think. For there were times I’d wheel over the garbage can and just invert my grills and ash pans over it. The result naturally resembled something akin to loitering on the flanks of Mount St Helens after a modest eruption. Whence I emerged from the cloud of ash, hacking and wheezing, I always figured there had to be a better way than this. My bride hoped for that too, every time I’d come inside, and want to sit on the couch. Then one day, I started sucking my pits out with the Shop Vac, and man, that made life amid the ashes at once a manly pleasure worthy of the pits of which I have soiled. A utopia of grandiose suckage devoid of ashen clouds. Sucking them out like this is especially the way to go if you’re a big green egg user, or any of the other heavy ceramic pits, where upon ashes reside deep in the bottom caverns, where no man was ever really intended to go. Like wise with other awkward pits or ash pans. A mere swipe or two of your Shop Vac hose, and your pits are at once refreshed, and the proper air flow returns. Line your vacuum with a plastic bag for even easier clean up. An elementary slam dunk in the grilling games, and could hardly be more fun.
So, if you haven’t sucked your pit yet, well, your missing out on one of BBQ’s simpler victories. Something difficult to appreciate I know, from the vantage patron to a gray cloud of settling ash…
Be good to your pits people!
*Make sure all your coals are completely cold, of course, before engaging in this activity.
Gentlemen. A few blogs back we showed you how to impress a woman by baking her bread on the grill. Women chimed in from all across the blogosphere, and were impressed left and right, and a good thing had been done. Women began at least, to foster a modicum of hope for us. But the ladies in our life are worth more than a mere loaf of tenderly grilled bread. They’re worth some dessert too. Thus it is time now for the encore, if you will. Time to take our efforts to the next level. It’s time to make some caramel rolls on the grill, because if that don’t astound the female species, nothing will. Come with us won’t you, and we will show you just how to do it.
First thing you’ll need to do if you haven’t already is to go back and read our article, How To Impress a Woman: Bread! You’ll need to use the Master Recipe found there for the dough. Yes, the exact same dough you use to bake bread can also be used for the most delicious, home-made, caramel rolls you’ll likely ever ingest. So you’ll need to make yourself up a batch of that dough, if you wish to try this amazing treat.
Whence the dough is made, grab a grape fruit sized chunk of it and plop it on a pan. Next, you’ll need to roll it out to a 1/4 inch thick. I couldn’t find my roller, but discovered a Quaker Oats oatmeal can rolls pretty nice instead. It’s all good. Anyways, then you’ll need to spread the filling out over the top of the dough. Here is how to make that filling.
- 4 Tbsp of butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Cream all this together in your Kitchen Aid or what have you, and plop it over your rolled out dough. Don’t worry about how pretty it looks. Whence that is complete, go ahead a roll it up into a shapely log resembling your fondest burrito, and then let it sit and think about its life whilst you tend to key goodness factor – the caramel topping.
- 6 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
Cream together all this stuff too, and spread it over the bottom of a pie tin or the like. You can sprinkle some pecans over it here too if you have any on hand.
Next thing on the docket is to slice up your burrito, cutting cross sections every two inches or so, and place them in your pan directly over the topping you spread out there. The hardest part of this project is done now. If you made it this far, you can accomplish this masterpiece. Now it’s time to motion for the pit, back into our element. Where the pine-scented breezes mingle with the aromatic virtues of burning charcoal, and the banter of the flirting Chickadee.
Put your precious cargo on opposite the hot coals. Indirect is your mantra here. Abide by it, and be well. This is no dish to screw around with. We tossed on a few pieces of peach wood at this point, that had been soaking in water for an hour or so. This project requires a delicate smoke, a wee bit, just enough to let you know these rolls hail from the smokey realm, but not so much that it over-powers the whole thing. Treat the smoke as a spice, not an ingredient. The light smoke and the caramel produce an unlikely yet worthy bond, that will set these rolls apart from any other. Yet another privilege of a pit cook. Put on the lid, and assume your standard pit master position – in your man chair, lovely beverage in hand, and wait for the awe-inspiring aromas to hit you.
Whilst its baking, because your working a pit with varied temperatures running through it, you will want to lift the lid and check in on it from time to time, rotating 180 degrees at least once, and otherwise follow your pit master instincts for even baking. And like most baking projects, you’re looking for a golden brown crust to form, of which you should see in about 30 – 40 minutes. Keep checking in on it, be diligent, re-assuring it that you love it, and care about it’s well-being. Part of impressing a woman is being thoughtful and considerate you see. Best to practice on your caramel roll first if you have to.
Whence a golden brown crust becomes the standard on your rolls, and it looks akin to something you think you’d like to eat, go ahead and proceed to the fun part – inverting it on a plate. Keep the inverted pan on top of it for a bit, tarry there, letting the piping hot caramel ooze and dribble of its own free will, where ever it so pleases, thus soaking into and over your rolls in a fashion suitable for the prestigious likes of Betty Crocker and your favorite grand mother. Folks will smell something good at this point and jockey nearer to thee. Look them in the eyes, pausing for effect, and remove the inverted lid, and proceed at once to astound the nearest woman. And maybe even yourself too.
Twilight in February. I strike a match, and put flame to the political section, which resided nicely crumpled in the bottom of the charcoal chimney. The initial rush of smoke was strong, as it curled up into the fading light. A satisfied contentment was in the air as I tarried there at the pit, hands in my smoking jacket, admiring how the moon hung in the eastern sky, and how its soft ,blue hue washed over my many snow piles, shoveled high, and seasoned in ashes blown. A pleasant evening to grill, by and far. But then when isn’t it, really. Lets head inside then, and see what’s for supper.
Deep in the recesses of the freezer, where men seldom tread, I found a bag of winglets which all but begged for attention. I was reminded of some popular sports bars in the area, where upon I would patron on occasion, who would specialize in these sort of wings. And they were pretty good wings as wings go, tho nothing remarkable, but a staple still you could count on in the heady thralls of meat lust. But I grow weary of those places, with their crowds of people and their sticky tables. And their overly loud ambiance, of which you can nary hear anybody you’re talking to anyways. I guess I’m getting older. I aspire higher than that. Thus, but to create their choice appetizer from the quiet and tranquil quarters of my pit, kissed gently by a moon beam, well, that was more my style tonight. As most nights are I guess.
After the winglets had thawed, and being the creature of efficiency that I am, I just left them in the bag for the seasoning process. I dusted them with great abandoned with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and shook the bag around like the shake and bake commercials of old. It felt good. Almost therapeutic A lovely technique for getting that rub everywhere it ought to go. And by golly, I shook it good. The rub was actually a bi-product of haste, go figure, as I mistakenly clicked on it, and the inter web minions thus sent it to my door step, for better or for worse. Turned out to be pretty tasty, however, and I think I might even order some more now. At any rate, the wings are ready, so let’s go put them on the grill. Let us put meat to flame!
Over direct heat to start, nice and hot, like sending your soldiers to boot camp, to sear them up, and make them a little crunchy on the skin. After boot camp, lets tuck these winglets aside over the all-important in-direct heat, a forgiving technique all aspiring grill masters seldom can go wrong with. Smoke wood optional, but if you have it, why not. I always seem to have scraps of hickory laying about, so that’s what I used. Also, in my freezer foray I happened upon some shrimp, or least-wise I think it was shrimp. Yeah, it was shrimp alright, of which I added to the cook at the last-minute, to broaden if you will, the meat diversity on my plate. Giving equal ingesting opportunity to the things of the sea, as well as what flirts in the farm yard.
Next step was to put the lid on and leave the thing alone for a while, to infuse some of that smokey flavor into the meat, that we all know and love. A wonderful process involving the procuring of yourself a lovely beverage from the ice box, and taking up residence in the nearest easy chair, whilst overseeing the grill puff away in fading light. Milky moonbeams on hickory smoke, ah, these are the simple pleasures patron to the cook. Why it is we do what we do, forsaking the stove top for the hobo lifestyle, under the shimmering stars, and over the open flame. Ambiance no crowded sports bar will ever match.
During the last 10 minutes or so, I basted the winglets in some Sweet Baby Rays, and hit them a little more with some direct heat, to caramelize the sugars a tad. Man! Then proceeded to plate up, and dine in the acute absence of the sports bar scene, whilst basking in the relative tranquility patron to the pit. Amen.
Repairing on the couch with lovely beverage in hand, I muse over the weather forecast. The man on the screen says a wintry tempest brews, and a prominent Canadian chill is soon to descend upon us, with no mercy. And the winds will howl, and the temperatures will feel akin to twenty below. Squirrels will fall from trees, and children will openly weep. I crossed my legs like a gentleman of leisure, gazing into the warm glow of the fire-place, whilst listening the weatherman banter, and the cold sleet tap like ball bearings over a frozen window pane. I could almost hear the mercury sink for cover in its fragile, glass tube. Like any opportunist, I knew this was some fine weather to do a little baking. To partake in some quality ambiance. In point of fact, I already had some bread going out on the grill!
Let it be said, because it’s true, anything you can cook in the house, you can also do on the grill. Take bread for instance. Once thought to be the sole domain and prize of a good oven, we keepers of the pit have been puttering on such matters, and are here to tell you, good bread can be baked right along side your steaks and chicken, if you have a mind to. And why wouldn’t you! Bread is good, and besides that, the lady folk all seem to appreciate it, and take to it with consistent good cheer. Say what you will, but that is no small thing.
First off is the dough. I’ll admit, I’m a man, and I can’t bake bread. I have tried before, the end result resembles something rather like a stale, old shoe. And once upon a time, along with many menfolk I presume, I had given up all together of ever having the sufficiency of skill for baking worthy bread. And I was OK with that. I’ll stick to steaks, and leave the bread to the prettier folk. But then one day, on a visit to my elder brother’s abode, everything changed. I stepped into his house and was greeted by a wondrously pleasant aroma I don’t often associate with my elder brother – that of fresh-baked bread. And he was procuring loaves upon beautiful loaves of it from his faithful oven. A big grin on his face, a tightened belly, and mass quantities of bread lay steaming at the end of a bright sunbeam. Well, he had cracked the code it appeared, and after a sampling, a passing of the knowledge was in order, and of course, I felt compelled then to adapt it for the grill.
The bread I speak of is from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A day, an excellent book that swept the nation a few years back. I’m quite sure many of you already know about that, but some of you may not. If you’re in the minority and fancy yourself a bread lover, but inept at making it, then you’re in for a lovely treat. Instead of regurgitating some one else’s brilliance, let me instead link you to the masters themselves. This short video will tell you everything you need to know about making this wonderful bread. Then we will show you how to work it on the grill.
In case you didn’t catch the master recipe, you’re going to want to hang on to this for some future grilling adventures here at the Patrons of the Pit. We have but just begun to show you what is possible, where the bread maker and the grill master meet in stride.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
- 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
*We have found, through extensive experimentation, that 5 1/2 cups of flour makes for a considerably softer bread, and though the dough is trickier to work with, it does at least save some flour.
Adapting it to the grill is easy too. Every thing about this bread is easy. Now the grill we’re using this cook is your basic Weber kettle type, on the assumption that’s what most people have. If your working the BGE or other ceramic egg types, odds are since you have one of those, you already know how to set it up for baking. If your working a barrel type grill, the concept we will share isn’t too far off. You’re pit master instincts will serve you well. Anyways, while ideally you’ll want your grill at about 450 degrees, it’s not that big of deal if it’s not. Employ your considerable skills to get it close enough. Next, if you like a crunchy crust on your bread, lay it directly on the grate, in-direct of course. For a more easy-going crust, lay the dough on a pizza stone or in a cast iron pan, and again, over in-direct heat. A pan of water in the grill is also supposed to lend to crisper crust, but having done it both ways, neither seem to make much difference, so I usually just go with out. Put on the lid to create an oven-like atmosphere, and proceed to go draw yourself a lovely beverage. As it bakes, check in on it from time to time, and rotate it 180 degrees at least once for even baking. At 450 degrees, it should take about 30 minutes. This particular loaf took 45 minutes, none the worse for the journey. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 200 degrees. After some practice, you’ll know exactly when it’s done by its hollow sound, with but a mere strike of the finger upon its golden crust.
Artisan bread on the grill. It will amaze your family, and astound the women in your life too. Womenfolk like bread you see, don’t ask me why, they just do. They are drawn to it, and irrevocably so. To its soft center, shielded by a firm crust. To its deposits of guilty carbohydrates inherent within. They just like bread is all. And if they see a man make it, well, you quickly become their hero. And you’ll just have to deal with it, by and by.
I know, a meatless blog by The Ministers of Meat. It ain’t right. Rest assured tho there was chicken grilled also during this cook, and that this bread makes for amazing, robust, meat sandwiches if one so chooses. Anyways, gentlemen, if you want to impress your lady, try baking them a loaf of home-made artisan bread. Better yet, go do it on the grill, and you’ll both be happy ever after, I think…
Why is it when us Patrons of the Pit become giddy as a kid on Christmas when we know a snow storm is in our forecast? Why is it we contemplate our next meat choice in the grocery store as the weatherman predicts a cold and heavy snow. Why do we bundle up and head out into the tundra as we know the rest of the world stays inside? As the winter wonderlands blow across our patios we hold our tongs in hand waiting to add another chunk of hickory to the flame. Our neighbors gaze out the window and question what we are up to next. Our wives sip hot coco and smile knowing that they will get a meal out of our insane obsessions. While the whole time we sit in peace. As snowflakes falling on our stocking hats and ice crystals collect on our whiskers. We breathe in and out, taking in as much of the aromatic mixture of smoke, meat and spice rubs. It’s natural…it’s poetic.
Yes, to all of those affected by the storm this weekend. Let your grill smoke away. Let your meat slowly fall apart on the hot grate, when only 1/16th of an inch away, Winter hammers the lid of your smoker with its fierce cold. When you sit at your dinner table, fork in hand and BBQ sauce in the other, smile at your accomplishments. Laugh at yourself knowing you have performed an act that most people in their right mind never would. Then eat!
Over a steaming cup of tea, I glance out the window at the pit, watching spindrift swirl off the house in a fashion suitable maybe, for the weathered, icy, flanks of Everest. The mercury gauge read a sporty 5 degrees F, but the weather man said it felt more like minus 15, and I guess believed him. You kind of have to believe him I concluded, when it feels like your parking brake is engaged when you back down the driveway in the morning, only it isn’t Yeah, it was cold out there alright. A vintage January day in Minnesota. The kind of day where you put on two or three shirts in the morning, and then you go about the business of getting dressed. I curled my toes in my warm socks, fingers cradling the hot, porcelain cup , and after a dash of consideration, I decided to do the only sensible thing I could think of – to go outside naturally, and ignite the Snow Weber!
Robert Frost postulates in his poem the virtues of world destruction either by the fire or by ice, figuring either, if we had to, would be pretty nice. I wonder tho if he ever grilled in winter, or knew that the two forces could harmonize together for the betterment of his tummy. Because they can. And so it was, with pork chops in hand, I stepped out onto the wind-swept patio, and at once my left eye lid seared tight from the keen northern wind. I love it! Tenderly I placed the two chops on the hot grate, and admired them there for a spell. The previous owners of which I’m sure knew each other back on their farm. Perhaps routinely getting together for morning slop, to discuss their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. Maybe they even aspired to make it on to this blog one day. Hmm. I shook off the thought, and dusted the chops with some Louisiana Fish Fry Cajun Seasoning instead.
After a while, and maybe even longer than that, I felt the compulsion to put the lid on, and go think about my life. Nothing quite so fine as repairing out in the yard with a 15 below cross-wind, whilst two pork chops sizzle on the snow grill. Glory! The art of winter grilling, if your wondering, is not to fight it. But to embrace it. To make the proverbial glass of lemon aid out of it. To meet it on it’s terms and not your own. That, and a degree of lunacy doesn’t hurt none either.
And supper is served, courtesy of, and inspired by:
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
We are men. And we are moved by meat. Don’t ask us why. We don’t know. Difficult perhaps to articulate, but easy to appreciate, whence our incisors have pierced the hallowed surface of that perfectly seared steak. Ah yes, steak. A good one will settle a restless man’s soul, and in turn draw him closer to thee, and unto his meatiest ideal. Hark, the world and it’s cares fairly ebb to a faint hush, and the pendulum of the sun at once holds stalwart in the sky, when at last we lay big meat to flame, and simply cook it there amid the rising smoke. Oh how we favor a good steak, abiding in it’s juices, sizzling quietly over a beautiful bed of coals. It moves us.
It was one of those vintage winter afternoons, under skies of sleet and falling snow, where the call of the grill was at it’s most primal. It’s most basic, I should wager. Nothing fancy today, as fancy would only ruin it. Nay, when bridled in the heady thralls of meat lust, let there just be meat on flame, and let hunger be our spice. The rest will sort itself out, by and by. For today, as in days past, we are smitten for the rib eye. The bone-in succulent sort known to send grown men into slobbering fits of idiocy. Plunk one of these down on a man’s plate, and plop a potato along side it, and he is at once and for all the world, a contented species. Gobbling quietly by himself, with no apparent no need for conversation. Like a pacifier to a new born, for a time anyways, he will require little else. Indeed, for a few fleeting minutes, and maybe even more than that, all the world is right. For let it be said, nothing is quite so efficient at setting a man straight, than grilled meat on the bone, and a fashionable side of potatoes.
So next time your looking for something simple off the grill, or have a restless man on your hands, well, ain’t too many things better suited for both, than a perfectly grilled Rib Eye, and the space in time to devour it.
Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.
I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below
- Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.
- If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.
- Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
- For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.
Dirt, rubbish, or waste matter.
Dirt….Rubbish….Waste Matter?? I’m slightly appalled at this definition of the word “muck”! Bean Muck is far from that. Though, the effect of eating too much of it could leave you feeling mucky, the dish itself is at best genius. Let me explain.
There was a time, a few years back, my Patron and I were up in the Northern bearings of the SHT. No, this is not a misspell for a foul word, it’s simply an acronym of the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking trail is a footpath that extends the northeastern ridge line of Lake Superior for about 275 miles. It’s decorated with pine, birch, aspen, fir and cedar. On occasion you will hear the chickadees sing, the squirrels squawk and the lonely wolf howl. The breeze whistles through the pines in an airy lullaby at night, and you can get lost for days without running into your own species. Back to my point… It was the end of September, early October, and we had the itch to get out alone into the woods. Had a name for our trip, and we decided on the selfish title of Camp Glutton. We title our small adventure because we realized we had enough food to feed ourselves along with 10 other hikers that might cross our trail. So there we sat, 3 long, relaxing days cooking over a campfire. The air in our camp was thick with the odors of brats, steaks, a couple of loaves of French Bannock (story to come) and onion. My patron and I rarely go anywhere without a fresh onion. We cooked eggs for breakfast and soups for lunch. We often retreated to our camping chair and hammock, our guts full and domed high to the heavens waiting for the next round of meals.
We had made it to our last day of camp. Waking up as the sun hits our tents, stretching to the skies and hungry as bears out of hibernation. We knew we didn’t want to leave camp with food still in our packs so we got creative. I had one large can of Baked Beans and a couple of Apple Gouda brats left. My Patron pulled out of his pack an entire onion. We decided to get creative. So, over the fire the brats went. The onion diced up into small squares and the beans simmering over the flames in the pit. Once all three were done, they all ended up in the same pot. There is nothing pretty or attractive about this dish. There is no right or wrong way of making it. Why in Bean Muck you can add really whatever you want. Its Bean muck! We have flirted with the flavors of peppers, spices, honey, syrup, ground beef, and rabbit meat. There is only one key ingredient that one needs to start with and I’m sure you figured it out by now, a can of beans.
Now, the POTP cannot take credit for inventing Bean Muck. We are sure many of you others out there have been creative with your own can of beans. So let us know what some delicacies you have added to your Bean Muck. Share your secrets and lets prove that muck isn’t always dirt, rubbish or waste matter.
**WARNING** When experimenting with Bean muck make sure it’s on a weekend when you’re not around loved ones. If you do, you may find life can be lonely for a week or two. Carry on…
Well, we had allot of left over roast beef from the Po Boy cook a couple days ago, so I thought to myself, self, why don’t you do up something a little different with that left over meat. Something involving the blessed binder of cheese. Take your sandwich kick you’ve been on to another state, and salute something good there. Viola, the destination was clearly then apparent – Philadelphia, and the gloried cheese steak sandwiches – POTP Style.
Man! Sauteed some onion and green pepper, re-heated the Po Boy meat, and mixed it all together. Then promptly topped it with everyone’s favorite ghetto cheese – Velveeta. Slipped this monument to sandwich technology into the toaster oven for a couple minutes, and thus arrived on the shores of cheese steak bliss. It was good people. It was real good.
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants. I pushed the meat over indirect heat, paused, and thought about it for a while.
The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees. Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time, lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.
Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.
Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal. Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.
That, and I like to eat! Amen.
Game day in the National Football League Playoffs. 9 degrees of mercury registering. What do you think we’re going to do! Lets light the smoker!
There are a precious few alignments in the human condition so fine, as football and BBQ. Don’t ask me why. All I know is one shouldn’t tamper with the good things in life, nor try to analyze it much, less it evaporates, like the morning mist over still waters. No, we shall not try to figure out why, but instead be emboldened to embrace it. To put meat to flame, and declare the day is well. Thus to salute the rising smoke, and for a while at least, maybe even to live the dream.
As I repair by the fire-place, in my favorite man chair, the game quietly on the TV, a glance out to the patio sees the brand new 22 1/2 inch WSM puffing gently that fine-blue smoke patron to a good and established, hickory fire. It’s maiden voyage, if you will, like a big ship slipping slowly out to sea. On board today, a rack of maple syrup glazed beef ribs, and a good matter of country-style pork ribs, both dusted in a sweet but spicy, home-made rub. The country-style ribs, which are really cut from a pork butt, took a bit further journey tho, pampered long over-night in a custom marinade adept at improving pork. Like all good journeys, the journey of BBQ starts with an idea, and is done when it is done, never quite positive of where you may end up. Or how you may get there. And I do not think we would have it any other way.
The spoils are on the smoker now, for a two and one half hours I should wager, bathed in light hickory smoke, at a modest 250 degrees. The keen wind chill, of which it must be subzero, slices with ease, and not-so-compassionately through the trees, and over the frozen land: but the WSM holds stalwart in the face of bitter inclement. A victory affording myself the high pleasure of taking up residence “belly up” in the man chair, feet propped up by the fireplace, dosing peacefully amid the banter of Sunday football. There are few naps finer than football naps, save for perhaps golf naps, tho that would probably be up for debate I suppose. My brother likes to take naps under his truck, but that’s a different story. At any rate, as cozy as I was, eventually I knew I had to get up and foil the ribs, of which I did. A labor of love, by and by. It was no big deal.
Another hour and half in the foil, with a dose of BBQ sauce and splash of Dr Pepper, just cause. This loosened up the meat with aplomb, and took it by the hand, escorting the unruly meat to the next level. Taming the beast, as it were, swaddled in tin foil. Pampered with love.
Lastly, a toasting of the french bread, over the remaining, tho still softly-glowing embers, for that finishing touch savored by the lady folk.
After the bones pulled freely, we then plated the ribs, and chopped them into lovely man-sized chunks, and served them lightly basted in BBQ sauce on the toasted french bread. This was it. We had arrived. The maiden voyage of the new smoker had landed, nudging the fateful shores of a meat utopia. A land where the slobbers run freely, and a good burp is considered high praise. If ever you want to one-up your standard pulled pork sandwich, this is how to do it. Man!
Next time you’re in the mood for some tasty football food, and wanna do something a little different, try yourself some slow-smoked rib sandwiches. Ain’t too many things finer.
I can’t go often in life without music. Creating playlist or soundtracks as I like to call them has become a hobby of mine. Matching music up to what I’m doing at that moment. To become the musical director for my life is something I take serious. Being that I’m a musician, I’m very picky and biased when doing so. To go into the many avenues of life and tell you about my music selections would probably force me to start another blog, so I’m going to focus on sharing of my music stations I have created when dedicating an afternoon at the BBQ pit.
First off, who could go wrong with a B.B King station. How often is it you walk into a BBQ joint and they have classical music, or rap playing on their overhead speakers? What music is better associated with BBQ than blues music. The crying guitars whine as your basting your meat. The harmonica calls out while the hickory smoke curls into a dimming orange sunset. The singer cries as they have lost their lover over, perhaps over someone else’s BBQ. My B.B. King station of course is always my first choice of serenades when standing next to a smoking pit.
My second choice is my Elvis station. I grew up listening to Elvis and have many fond memories of establishing myself on a sunny afternoon. Our backyard patio packed with Aunts and Uncles. My dad sat with his banjo and my Uncles sat with guitars, often livening up the family with classic rock and roll tunes and old country western songs. This station is often listened to because of the strong feeling of nostalgia it brings on. I can remember words of songs I hadn’t heard in 20 years purely because I fell in love with the moment I first heard them. Thus, Elvis often joins me when BBQing for large groups of people.
Now there is a station I don’t often brag about. This station is played in my headphones so many people don’t judge my geeky side of life. But here, I hide nothing about my BBQ experience. So I would like to publicly announce the third choice of station is my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack station. I use this station when having a full day ahead of me – of a long drawn out smoke. When smoking a cut of meat that may need a little more effort. From the point of lighting the flame to pushing a sharp knife through that saucy, sweet, smoky, spicy side of meat. You then know your efforts have paid off and the epic journey of BBQ was fulfilled. No other station encourages such BBQ geekiness as my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack Station.
So, my question is to you who have read this, what music do you like to listen to during an afternoon at the pit? What might be on your BBQ playlist?
Have a good day – POTP
Have you ever happened upon a piece of meat that should come with it’s own cardiac unit! A mass of flesh so prominent that folks are slowed by it’s gravitational field. That cameras are drawn, and grown men weep with happiness. Meat so big that it’s effects ripple into the stock market, and Wall Street, and pronounced plunger sales. Such a hunk of meatiness was spotted in the Minneapolis area over Christmas. Photos were snapped. Respects were paid. And then of course, after a moment of silence, it was eaten. Amen.