Autumn is a lovely time of year. Cooler days and chilly nights. Walking out to the car in the morning, there is a crisp bite in the air, and it just smells better, somehow, because its cold. Geese are on the wing, daily it seems, flying like bomber squadrons overhead, honking as they strafe past, their strong wings whooshing through the chill air. And then there are the leaves. Umpteen billions of them. Golden, and orange, and fiery red; around every corner, down every road – and they quiver and tingle on thin stems in the slightest breeze, quaking there. Waiting to drop. Waiting the turn.
I was cooking supper at the Pond Side Pit the other night, just admiring the autumn scene. Namely the big, old cotton wood there, and how resplendent its leaves looked against a blue, October sky. I don’t know how it is in Texas, or the desert, or even for our friends down there in Ecuador, but autumn in Minnesota is maybe why we all live in here in the first place. It is surreal. Something beautiful to behold every square foot, leastwise in the natural realm. All the trees gussied up so fine, free of that chlorophyll stuff, and my but they look akin to bride’s maids for the Fall.
Supper was some pork chops. Thick-cut of course, for not only are we Patrons of the Pit, but hark, we’re also hungry! So thick-cut it would be. For seasoning we tried some rub our old buddy, TJ Stallings, sent to us. His good friend, O’Neill Williams, of O’Neill Outside came up with some new flavors, and we were lucky enough a hold of some,thanks to TJ. Tonight’s medley of yum is the Wild Game Seasoning, tinted with a light mesquite smoke, and some darn succulent chops. Granted, my pork chops aren’t too wild, but no how, good is good, right, and now wildly good, perhaps, with some of this seasoning. We’ll give it a shot.
As I bandied a pile of orange glowing coals to the side of the little kettle grill for indirect cooking, it dawned on me that my leisurely summer evenings of cooking in the sunlight were coming to a close. The turn was at hand. Where autumn fades to longer nights. If there is a draw back to this fabulous season, at least for a pit jockey, it is the longer nights. Up here in Minnesota, the nights will come on all-too-swiftly in the coming weeks, and before somewhere in December, the nights will last about 14 hours altogether. That just ain’t right. So that means one of two things for a pit keeper. You either make your supper elsewhere, or you grill in the dark. For some reason I cannot completely divine, we’ve always been partial to the latter. Probably the sum result of inhaling one too many smoke plumes off a smoldering hickory log. Aw well.
So as I brought these gorgeous chops to the sultry land of succulence, I couldn’t help but to lavish also in the scant light that which lingered at the pit this night. How the long slants of an autumn sunbeam washed through the fluttering cottonwood leaves, and lit up that blue sky above for just a few minutes more. Indeed, we’ve been blessed. I savored the moments here, pit side, with tongs in hand, listening to the pork sizzle over the bed of coals, and enjoying the radiant heat off the old kettle grill. This was nice, I thought. Very pleasant. Maybe because I knew in the back of my mind that the winter grilling season was right across the way. I mean, I could see it yonder. Just over there, behind that seasonal curtain waiting to drop. Behind those beautiful leaves fixed to fall. But for the moment anyways, and maybe even longer than that, I know that I am grilling in the light, and long may we tarry here in the sweet sun that which fills the day. Amen.
Mesquite Tinted Pork Chops seasoned with O’Neill Outside Wild Game Seasoning on an October Eve swiftly fading. And all the pit jockeys rejoiced!
Ps…If you’re so inclined, we made a little companion video of this pit session to share with you. Another way to see our meat! Yes, we have a you tube channel. And no, we never use it! But it’s there for times like these, even so. Enjoy!
I’ve never been to Ireland but my gnome has. And I guess the worst part of it is that I didn’t even know he was gone. He was one of those little dudes in your life that you tend to take for granted, I guess, until he comes back to you. You see he tarries in the garden, where any self-respecting gnome ought to, and no, he doesn’t have a name. I’m not much of a gnome fellow, and I do not see what my wife sees in him, but none-the-less, he stands stalwart among the bean plants, like a gate-keeper to the greens. She picked him up on one of her many errands to the garden center, and nary ever bothered in turn to tell me why. Either you get gnomes or you don’t, I guess. Kind of like Neil Diamond. But I suppose he’s cute enough, by and by. And I’m talking about the gnome, thank you kindly.
Well one day not too long ago, and unbeknownst to us, he was covertly and flagrantly gnome-napped. Taken hostage by two friends of the female variety, who stowed the little fellow into their travel satchel of assorted womanly sundries, and henceforth made way over the big pond in an aeroplane for Ireland. For ten days, our little gnome parlayed for mercy at the hands of his abductors, and for ten days he was forced to pose for photos in front of a variety of Irish land marks. I did not know whether to be happy or sad for him, this mostly, again, because I didn’t even know he was gone. But he was. And that’s the great patheticness of it all.
Here is a photo of him let out to pee by the Irish Sea.
And here is one of him bandied together with like-minded drinking buddies or the kin. I think they were making a break for it and were caught again by the female captures. Their faces say it all.
I digress. This post was supposed to be about the art of grilling supper, and some how you got me going on gnomes. It’s just that whilst I was loitering by the pit here, the little gnome has done the very same in the pit-side garden. Him and I hang out like this a lot, don’t you know. Just watching the smoke curl into a beautiful Minnesota sky. Leastwise we do these days. Now that his ransom has been won, and he has thus been returned to my garden plot with his spoils intact. I don’t take him for granted as much as I once did. Anyways, about supper. Take a gander at these thick cut chops! For seasoning tonight, we went fairly simple. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder. That’s it. If it’s good pig, that’s all you need most days.
For ninety seconds, we placed the chops over direct heat, to sear in the juices there. Then we flipped them for ninety seconds more on the other side. Gray clouds idles overhead. A Great Blue Heron swoops past the scene, it’s massive wings fanning through the summer air. The pork chops sizzle sensuously on the hot cast iron grate. If smells were music, then the heady aromas bantering about the pit were like a lovely dollops of Beethoven up your nose. Glory! We then tossed a chunk of hickory wood on the fire, and thus escorted the chops over to indirect heat, opposite the hot coals. And there they would ride the remainder of the path unto a hickory-tinted, highly edible succulence. And it didn’t take long either.
We also prepped up some tin foil potatoes, one of our very favorite sides for the grill. Two potatoes and one onion, diced to uniformity, and seasoned in salt and pepper, along with a few globs of butter to keep things sporty whence foiled over direct heat. Tin foil potatoes are an easy victory, people. Twenty minutes or so over direct heat, flipping once at your pit master instincts. They are the perfect side to compliment any meat patron to the pit. Yum!
The Gnome Thieves
It is likely our civic duty to gnomes, and to lovers of gnomes, to post these mug shots in kind. They probably don’t want their identities revealed, and we won’t do that here, but suffice it this way – if you happen to spy these two ladies poking about your homestead, all I can say is grab your gnomes before they do! Grab them post-haste, people, and run!
Hickory Smoked Thick-Cut Garlic Chops, sided with Tin Foil Potatoes. Man! The Land of Meat and Potatoes, people. Where good is good, and less is more than enough. Amen.
I’m not sure why, but I like flowers. I know this is not the most manly thing for a meat blog to disclose, but it’s true. I like flowers. I like rolling fields of them, turning abreast in the morning sun. And I like the little one’s too, that roost on a single stem, all by themselves. I like the flowers men get for their sweethearts in February. And I fancy the lanky lilies down by the pond. I even like dandelions, for what they’re worth. Weeds to some, but pretty even so. But what I really like are petunias.
I have some petunias which lavish the flanks of the pond-side pit, delicate and dainty, and they are my daily reminder of what is lovely in this world. In the misguided haste of youth, I remember using my mother’s petunia garden for traction in many a game of backyard tag. Today, however, with advanced years, I’m more inclined to pull up a chair and tarry a spell, and wonder why I hadn’t been doing this all along.
I like flowers. And as these chops sizzle over a beautiful bed of hickory-accented coals, I hope you don’t mind none if I ruminate a touch more on the softer things. You see we get it rough enough in this life just having a pulse. Your kinda of born by default into your share of the unsavory, and just when you think maybe the world is a whole lot of unfair, you come across a purple petunia to direct you otherwise. There they be, fragrant and fragile, beautiful but bold. Bold in their soft, but showy arrangements, which thus flirt in proud contrast amid the many sprawling weeds of life. Maybe that’s what I like about flowers. I like what they stand for. Of unmerited goodness in a world fallen. They’re just plain wonderful is what they are. And they put up with you too. These Petunias are good to me, even when I forget to water them. There is much grace in their little purple petals. Much patience, kindness and forgiveness. They didn’t have to be this way, you see, but they are. And that’s what makes them great. Kind of like they were created just for you, seems like. And as the season ebbs on, some how, through the grace that be above, they seem only to get better and better. Yeah, I like flowers.
I smiled as I reached for a manly beverage, whilst summer clouds idled overhead. And just then, rather unexpectedly, my lovely bride pokes her head out the patio door just to say hi, and boy howdy, if I don’t get them same gooey petunia feelings all over again. Golly… Blessed is the man with both pit and petunias and a sweetheart there to share them with.
Speaking of the pit, about these chops. They are your simple bone-in affair, delicious, and highly pleasant to do. They started a couple of hours ago with a swim in a tasty homemade honey & garlic marinade.
Honey Garlic Marinade
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cracked pepper
After the marinade, we placed them semi-ceremoniously upon the hot cast iron grate, opposite the hot coals. The cold protein sizzled to life there, as a light shroud of hickory smoke curled into the air. A portly bumble bee buzzed by, as I plunked on the old, enameled lid. The draft soon engaged, and I settled back into my patio chair again, feet up, icy beverage in hand, taking up the resident pit master posture that might otherwise be mistaken for a fellow doing nothing. These are the high rigors of BBQ, people. Somebody has to do it!
Watching the wood smoke curl there, and listening to the song birds trill in the evening light, one can’t help but to appreciate all these little things which abound. From the frogs sounding like so many rubber bands, warming up down by the pond. To the way the summer breeze flutters the cottonwood leaves, clacking gently there, under an endless, blue sky. Then to the aroma of perfectly executed pork wafting through the tomato plants. The way the crescent moon peeks around the darkened spruce tops, and how at day’s end, sunlight washes over the freshly clipped grass in a scenic flood of amber and gold. All of these “flowers” , if you will, and many more simple wonders, are always there, I’ve noted, iffin we have a mind to see them. They tarry in life’s quiet eddies, tingling to be noticed. That’s how flowers work, don’t you know. They’re only as useful as the soul who embraces them. You gotta slow down for them tho. It’s Okay to yield for flowers. Nay, it’s our privilege. Amen. Hickory Smoked, Honey Tinted Pork Chops hot off the Pit. Man! Grill on comrades! Go forth and grill likewise, and do so with great exuberance!
The traffic was thick, but moving. Umpteen thousands upon thousands of automotive transports, motoring to and fro, and remarkably, if you ever think about it, all making their way, living their lives, and doing so in a unified, harmonious manner for the most part, save for those scattered but beleaguered souls, who’s middle fingers keenly ache from strident and resolved over-use. But that’s city driving for you. You come to expect the restless motorist or two. Anyways, upon a Sunday drive, we came upon the southern flanks of Minneapolis, which I think is a pretty city, as far as cities go. And I’m not much a city person, by and far. But I liked how this one looked, has always looked, in the beautiful evening slants of light, with its mighty steel and glass massifs sparkling down over the villages and alleyways. If you’re lot in life is to be a big stinky mess, you might as well look sexy then, in the right light at least. And this one always has. But I could never live there. It is the sort of land I must keep driving through, for my own sake, and for more open spaces. For venues of precious elbow room. For environs devoid of the blaring horn, and the well-timed, upward raised middle finger. Indeed, a place where the wood smoke so sweetly curls with the lullaby of bird song and whispering pine, that for moment, you know as surely as you’ve ever known anything, that you are exactly where we wish to be, doing precisely that which is well with your soul.
Let’s head there now, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s for supper, and how it went and came to be.
On the pit today, a simple fare. As simple as you please, really. A couple of thick cut pork chops, and a small bandy of diced potatoes swaddled in foil. Roasted with love. That was all we needed. Give a man meat and potatoes, and you have just given him the world. We are content with this. We long for this. Regardless, the chops were lightly dashed with a bit of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, each side. I seldom use this stuff, but mercy, when dusted over a good chop and merged with the heady scent of smoldering hickory, well, I can see why they sell it in the bulk, economy size. And why it has been around and going strong since the German tanks rumbled across the Austrian border in 1938. Lawry’s Seasoning has been around a good, long while.
The foiled potatoes were a bit more involved. But you all know how to do that. We added a few dollops of butter in there, along with a portion of a Lipton Onion Soup Mix packet, for a little extra flavor. Foiled them and placed them over direct heat for the entire cook, which takes about 20 – 25 minutes. Half way through, or at your pit master instincts, flip the taters with but a single, twisting wield of the tongs, and hear the meat sizzle on the hot cast iron grate, smile quietly to yourself, and consider your day well spent.
Somewhere in there, about the time I was to settle into a wee spot of loitering, I tossed forth onto the coals, a chunk of crooked hickory wood, roughly about the size of Laurie from down under’s big toe. If you haven’t had occasion yet to peruse his blog, Laurie27wsmith, you might find it quite the treat if you were ever at all curious about Australia and the pretty things that abound there. A wonderful bloke, always in good humor, and I do rather enjoy rummaging through his photos whilst pit-side, waiting on my plunder to mature. Nothing is quite so lovely as a male kangaroo posing unashamed on your portable device whilst the aromas of fresh meat bellow forth from your pit damper. Mercy!
I flipped the chops one last time, and stood abreast the steely bosom of the old kettle grill, savoring the heat on my hands. The smell of the Lawry-tinted pork about sent me straight to church, people, dripping there over a blazing rubble of orange coals. The sizzle and the hickory smoke, the breeze amid the Spruce, even the feel of the tongs in my hand, it all felt right and meant to be. Far removed from the bustling, ever-flowing ribbon of traffic that which flanks the city yonder; this meat, and this fire, and this endless sky above, it is for the moment all that I need. A simple fare where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.
It’s that time of the year again. Late summer. The blooms have bloomed. The garden is thick. Football is on TV again. And the Minnesota State Fair is underway. I guess I could take or leave the fair, massing up with a million and a half of my closest friends, shoulder-to-shoulder in a sauna with the state’s largest pig, but I digress. One of the high privileges of the fair, of course, is the food there. The bigger the fair, the more choices of wonderful food you’ll find. The Minnesota State Fair is about as big a fair as there is. So we go there hungry, needless to say, and primed for fat on a stick!
There are many things to try at the fair, from: deep-fried pickles, to bull bites (hmmm), deep-fried snickers bars, to the venerable funnel cake or elephant ear. We try to spread our calories with equal opportunity, with no gastronomic discrimination or bias, but the one place I must never miss, is Peterson’s Pork Chops. Man they’re good! Now the fair is a big place, vast acres of it in fact, but you can always find Peterson’s Pork Chops by following the smoke. The aroma trail from which the nose shall navigate unto a savory victory. And there you will find, and the terminus of a smokey rainbow, the spoils that which you have sought. Grilled to perfection. Juicy. Smokey. And without question, served on a stick. It’s a fair thing. We usually like to stroll the campus with our pork chops in hand, like meat lolly pops, and wander into the pig exhibit there, just because. I know.
That’s all well and fine, POTP, you say, tell us all about your state fair’s marvelous pork chops, but what’s in it for us! We poor schmucks who can’t make it to Minnesota right now, just for a pork chop on a stick. Well, we’re glad you mentioned that! Turns out Peterson’s Pork Chops have the very same seasoning they use at the fair, for sale also. And why not, I reckon. When you stand in line twenty and some minutes for a pork chop, they must be doing something right. So I picked up a bottle of it not too long ago, just because. Just in case my belly ever acquires the urge to reminisce with what is good and right about the fair. And such was the case tonight, under muggy, gray skies, and darting tweety birds. I wasn’t able to go to the fair, so this was the next best thing. So grab a lovely beverage and join us at the pit, and we’ll show you how it was and came to be, the premiere state fair pork chop, patron to the pit.
First on the pit, a little side order of red potatoes, rolled about in olive oil, and sprinkled with seasoning. The seasoning we used tonight, is Grill Happy Seasoning, from Peterson’s. Yes, the same seasoning we’ll use a little later for the chops. It says right on the bottle you can use it on vegetables too, so we did. Good is good, after all. Places the spuds over direct heat, flipping occasionally at your pit master instincts. If you do them right, they will have a delightful crispness to the outer skin, and be fluffy hot inside, cordial to a pat of butter if you please.
Then the cold chops hit the hot iron grill, sizzling there like good meat does, whilst we dusted them over with Grill Happy Seasoning. The first dribbles of drool accumulated in my left lip pit. The smoke began to curl. And the cook was on. We did the chops opposite the hot coals the entire time, pampering them as good pork ought to be. Flipping once or twice for even cooking. I could not help nurturing the urge to impale a stick into these lovely chops, but alas, I resisted. Let’s not get ridiculous, after all.
An ode to the Peterson Pork Chop, courtesy of Grill Happy Seasoning, and patron to the pit. Succulent and savory, dripping with flavor, sided with a lovely bouquet of roasted red potatoes and lightly peppered corn. Man! So if you can’t make it to the Minnesota State Fair either, but would fancy a taste, this is how it’s done. Oh yes!
It is with great adoration, yet reserved applause, that this Minnesotan declares the arrival of Spring. I came out of my hole the other day, and I saw my shadow, so that must mean something I figure. I have seen motorcycles too, whizzing up and down the local roadways. Golfers milling through the local foliage in search of wayward shots. The turdus americanus is also in town, hopping about the semi-green grass in search, I suppose, of a good worm or two. I have noted likewise, that the ice has dissolved off the local lakes and waterways, and people of generally good ilk are walking to their mail boxes with out the aid of down parkas or thermal underwear. Things are looking up in other words! And just below it all, quivering in the trees and bushes, in the brown fields and winding stream banks, is that once upon a time and long ago lost color that is green. Chlorophyll! Glorious galleys of green chlorophyll. And it tingles and aches, leashed by a solar clock, waiting patiently to explode.
On the pit tonight, a house favorite. Hickory smoke pork chops with a maple glaze. They’re real easy to do too, so let’s get after it.
These bone-in chops came smoked right out of the package, and I swear smelled good enough to eat right there, but like any pit keeper worth his tongs, we’re going to double smoke the chops on the old kettle grill. Oh yes! Placing them opposite a good bed of mature coals, with a few small chunks of hickory wood added to the fire, we were ready for action. We lightly sprinkled the chops in garlic and onion salt, and placed the old, black enameled lid on, tweaked the damper, and caught the draft. Soon aromatic plumes of hickory smoke mingled about the patio, signifying to thee yet another pit session in progress. I was about to assume the proper BBQ posture in the pit-side man chair, but a maple glaze needs to be made, and such things don’t make themselves you know. Here is how to do the glaze.
- 3/4 Maple Syrup
- 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons Mustard
- 1 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Stir it all together and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat.
With about ten minutes left in the cook, we varnished on the maple glaze, with greater Picasso-like brush strokes. You’ll want to stay mindful here, making sure your chops are indirect still, for the sugars in the glaze can get burned easier than a kindly old grandma in a used car lot. Be good to your chops, people, and unto your grandmas too! Keep the hickory smoke wafting, and repeatedly brush on the glaze, frequently flipping the chops. Open up the bottom damper, and get the heat up if you can, for to caramelize your spoils aside a hemorrhaging bed of coals.
I pulled the man chair up close to the pit, tongs still hand, and tarried there a spell, like pit keepers do. The aromas of smokey pork mingle with the freshened, April breeze. I leaned back, left leg crossed over right, and mused over the cottony clouds parading over head. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do this. To loiter pit-side and watch the clouds go by, that is with out fusing my hind-end to a subzero, ice-encrusted patio chair. Outdoor leisure only operates for so long when the temperatures court that of a Popsicle factory. But today was different. No jacket needed. And the sun tarried aloft more than adequately to see to cook by. Mallards chortled out on the pond. Blue Jays darted to and fro. And the sweet aromas of perfectly executed pork wafted in the air. I smiled to myself. I could sit here all day, just watching the world spin, and I might have iffin I weren’t so hungry right now. Our supper is done. Lets plate up these chops, and commence to doing what men do best – stuffing face!
Maple Glazed Hickory Smoked Pork Chops hot off the grill. A delightful blend of sweet and smokey meat sure to take your belly straight to church! Man!
A few dim stars hung overhead as I struck a match and put sweet flame to the political section. Oh there are other sections of the daily paper equally as adept I suppose, at lighting your coals via the venerable charcoal chimney, but none nearly so satisfying. And as the initial rush of smoke curled into a cold, Minnesota sky, a comforting glow conspired neath the maturing coals. I tucked my hands in the pockets of the old smoking jacket, and for a moment, watched the smoke curl. I don’t know why, but I have always enjoyed lighting the coals this way. The process of it. And I suppose, because it is slow. The very thing many a well-meaning pit keeper has turned his back on, for the undeniable speed and convenience of the gas grills. And they are fast I suppose. And convenient too. We cannot deny this. But where these things reign, they also fall sadly short of that smokey flavor patron to the pit. For missing are those lofty aromatic tendrils of rising wood smoke. The crackle and the pop of hardwood lump coal. The ambiance in aroma and sound. And besides that, I like that it takes time to light charcoal. And I’ll tell you why. For here is something I love to do – to be out-of-doors, putting meat to flame, hark, let me hence extend its magic for all its worth. And when the smoke has finally faded, and the evening’s plunder resides steadfast in my belly, at least I will know, as surely as I’ve know anything, that I have just done that which is well with my soul.
Anyways, and all digressions aside, on the grill tonight, another foray into American succulence – Honey Pecan Pork Chops, lightly tinted with apple wood smoke. Dashed in garlic. Good eating, people. This fire looks ready to go, so grab yourself a manly or not-so-manly beverage, and let’s see how these chops turned out, courtesy of the coals.
The Thermal Trifecta of Modern Grilling
- Banking the coals to the back side of the old kettle grill for indirect operations is the first step. Nary is it ever a good idea to spread your coals everywhere in your grill, which we have seen many a smokey tenderfoot burned by. Far better, and more efficient to put them to one side of the pit, thus creating the coveted thermal trifecta of modern grilling. That is what we call it anyways. Three distinct temperature zones in which to ply your bidding. One directly over the coals for intense searing. One, cooler zone, opposite the hot coals for to nurture along your spoils at a safe and modest pace. And something rather of a Switzerland affair right in the middle. It is with these three zones of heat that we charcoal pit keepers can most effectively apply a sweeping thermal sovereignty through-out the smokey kingdom patron to the pit. Oh yes. Anyways, about those chops.
We lightly dusted them in garlic salt, both sides, and sent them straight to Switzerland. After a hearty rummage through the pit-side woodpile, I procured a lovely, baseball-sized chunk of apple wood, knocked the snow off it, and tossed it gleefully onto the orange coals to smolder there. Lid on the old kettle, and the smoke soon began to curl. And nothing is quite so fine on a cold, starry night, whilst the icy breeze sweeps over crusty fields of snow, than the heady aromas of wood smoke and pork. Man! After a fashion and a flipping of the chops, I whipped up the honey pecan glaze.
Honey Pecan Glaze
Are you ready for this. It’s complicated.
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Crushed Pecans
Introduce them, marry them, and bring them together
Often times the better things in life are also simple in design. Like butter. And so go forth with your sweet and nutty glaze in pan, and whence your pork chops have almost, but not quite yet completed their journey on the pit, varnish them there in a fashion suitable to thee. Flip and brush some more on the other side, tucking them back to the cooler portions of the grill. Lid on, and be mindful whilst you tarry in the aroma of perfectly executed pork. Dang people! Bring them to the land of caramelization if you please, or not. It is a pit master’s discretion. But what ever you do, do not burn your spoils now! The resident sugars are prone to such fates, so monitor it closely, and bath it in smoke. When your chops reach their destiny according to your pit, plate them at once and sidle in through the door and present them to your loved ones. For a fairer fare you shall not find, nor ingest proper, patron to the pit, and courtesy of the coals. Amen.
So I was out at the pit the other night, raking about a bed of orange-glowing coals and smoldering embers. Well the word “night” isn’t quite the choice word I guess, when it’s only five in the afternoon. But what in the heck else was I supposed to call it, when the stars were already out, and the old Weber kettle is silently straddled its own moon shadow. Might as well have been the dark of night. All of that at five PM and two degrees below freezing too, is what you get in Minnesota come November. But like an ugly puppy or something, we love it anyway.
I flipped the old cooking grate over the coals, almost burned through from years of patio service, and scrubbed it down with a wire brush. Moonbeams dropped through the snow-tinted spruce trees whilst I plopped a handsome chunk of apple wood, through the access panel on the grate, directly onto the coals. It quickly caught flame, as I slipped on the old, enameled lid, and the aromatic pleasure of apple wood smoke soon filled the patio. To round off the ambiance, I clicked on the pit radio, and old Beethoven was doing his thing again. His ridiculously famous Moonlight Sonata, which at the time, seemed poetically apt, this night, under the shimmering stars and pale-blue moon wash. It relaxed me at once, patron to the pit, and soon two, portly pork chops met their destiny over the coals. And whilst the meat sizzled over the pit’s fiery bosom, I could feel my foot dutifully slide off the accelerator pedal of life, as the tendrils of wood smoke curled, and the soft music ascended into the night.
Let me tell you a little more about these chops. These particular ones came pre-smoked straight from the ranch we buy them from. They smelled fabulous right out of the sack, which, when you think about it, maybe ain’t a half-bad compliment for a pig. Anyways, even tho they were already smoked, of course we would smoke them again, because that is what we do, and amp up the flavor ten-fold, using apple wood. Before they hit the grate, however, I dusted them over in liberal fashion with one of our pit favorites, Famous Dave’s Rib Rub. That stuff works on everything. And it excels on pork chops.
Whilst the chops came along opposite the hot coals, and under the soft light of the kerosene lamp, I whipped together a batch of maple glaze for to bring our culinary end game to a proper and most agreeable dismount. Like an Olympic gymnast flipping through the air in one of them triple-whirly-toed-double-tucked-front-hand spring deals, it doesn’t garner the mojo if they don’t last stick the landing. This glaze, needless to say, stuck it like a lawn dart.
In a sauce pan over the coals, mix up the following:
- 3/4 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1 Teaspoon Mustard
- Pinch of Salt
- Pinch of Pepper
- Pinch of Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Cup finely diced apple (optional)
When the chops were of edible quality, I lovingly varnished them over with a fair coating of the maple glaze. Bits of apple clinging here and there, and after a fashion of in-direct cooking, the sugars caramelize some, as they ought to, wrought in smoke, and bathed in heat. The flavors, the time and the effort all come together now in one, last, glorious song that would leave Beethoven himself, verklempt. Is that your stomach I hear, bellowing? Plate up this succulent end game, your Sonata in Pork, and offer it unto your people, for you have done a good thing here indeed, amid the wispy plumes of wood smoke and the pale-blue moonbeams which tarried there. Amen.