Once upon a time, way up North in the hither regions of the Canadian shield, I found myself encamped upon the tranquil shores of a wilderness lake. It was night, and all the stars were scattered like diamonds across the blackened canvas above. A chorus of frog song belched from the ether as I wafted off to sleep in my tent, ensconced in nylon and downy feathers. Intermediate loons gently wailed. Let it be said, that nothing is quite so fine as a good night’s slumber in the wilder places, lulled to rest amid the gentle sounds of the forest veld. Truly pleasant. And this would have been the case too, iffin it weren’t for them darn cantaloupes.
I didn’t know cantaloupe trees grew in Canada. And I never saw any there, but that night I swear they were ripening off the branches and plunking into the lake just outside my tent door. “Kerploosh!!” One would go, followed closely by a span of quietude and then another well-meaning, and well-placed “Kerploosh!” I poked my head out the tent flap, moonbeams sparkling off the surface of the lake. And there he was, a lone, but handsome beaver, trolling stoically through his environs.
“Could you keep it down“, I croaked, “A feller needs his winks!”
The beaver responded rather rudely, and dove under, with a final last gesture of slapping his tail on the water. And go figure, it sounded just like a cantaloupe landing in the lake. The beaver equivalent, I thus deduced, of flipping me the finger.
“Well I never…” I muttered, as I curled back up in the tent, where eventually I dawdled off to sleep. A sleep in vain tho, ravaged by dreams. I drempt of a 500 pound, monster beaver, waddling up out of the lake, and in turn laying waste to my humble encampment. It’s saber like teeth slashing my tent apart, and felling young trees with aplomb. With frying pan in hand, we dueled like man and beast would, grunting and groaning, with occasional wind sprints for higher ground. It was a stalemate. A backwoods stand-off. And mercifully I awoke at dawn. Relieved. Sunlight filled the tent. Tweety birds sang from the tree tops, and the lake sweetly lapped upon the rocky shore, whilst the summer breeze whispered through the pine. I stretched there like a spoiled house cat, scratching my belly, content again, and just glad to be alive. My relationship with the almighty beaver was forged. Not to mention a Pavlovian thing with cantaloupes.
Fast forward a great many years later, to just last week in point of fact. I, through good fortune acquired myself the hind quarters of a beaver. Don’t ask me how. When you’re known in your community as a grill junkie, strange meats have a way of finding you. And thus I found myself, perusing the vast cyber sphere for beaver recipes. I’m not going to lie to you, I hadn’t the first clue how to BBQ a beaver. Turns out the inter-web was of little value too. Only like four people eat beavers out there. Least wise those who wanted to write about it. Well, make that five now, and here is how it went, and came to be.
I decided to treat the meat like any other I would prepare for the pit. Firstly marinating the beaver legs for a couple of hours in a mixture of olive oil, soy sauce and garlic. Then, dusting them over with a suitable rub. We used Sweet & Smoky Rub, by the good folks at McCormick. That seemed to appeal correctly to my pit jockey instincts. Then for good measure, I hit them over with a Cajun Blast, for to add some heat to the mix. I shrugged my shoulders, and took the plunder out to the pit.
I’m sure the keen-eyed readership will note a rack of ribs in the back, and I can explain that. Think of it rather as an insurance policy! You know, a little something to fall back on should this foray into beaver go asunder. Like Clint Eastwood used to bellow, a man has got to know his limitations. And I wasn’t sure yet if I was limited in beaver craft. (The scraps of meat up front, are back straps from the beaver). Anyways, two hours we let it go on the pit, running roughly at 275 degrees. Bathed in glorious hickory and cherry wood smoke. And it smelled point-blank amazing. At the genesis of the third hour, we foiled the beaver.
Foiled the beaver legs with a long squirt or two of Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce, and a good tendril of honey. Foiling the meat like this, is a good old trick known in BBQ circles as the Texas Crutch. Many a pitmaster proper does it with ribs or brisket, for to sort of steam the meat for a spell, loosen it up, and make it tender. I figured a beaver might like a trip to the spa as well, so I foiled him, almost out of habit. Returned him to the pit, and went way of most men who BBQ for long hours – to the man chair, belly up with a lovely beverage in hand.
From my chair, let’s just say all the world was right. I could see out the patio door to the pit, first off, to admire it puffing contentedly away there. There is just something about wood smoke rising on a cold day that which sings straight to my soul. It soothes thee. Likewise, just past my toes, and over a field of soft carpeting, the NFL playoffs adorn the big screen TV, and the fireplace crackles off to the side. What more could a man want! I sigh as I pull an old grandma blanket up over me, and sink further into the recliner. A slight droopiness washes over me. This is the high rigors of competent BBQ, people! You gotta know how to deal with the pace!
I dosed off amid the banter on the TV, and once again, a beaver had made it full circle into my dreams. This time however, I was the victor, and convincingly so, whilst its unruly meat came to succulence swaddled in tin foil. I awoke hungry, and sidled out to the pit. Here is what I found…
Around three hours, maybe a little more, it was falling off the bone. Good enough for my likes. Pulling it, I had to admire its smoke ring, and bark. The texture and appearance of beef. It’s savory succulence! It was thus piled high onto a toasted hoagie roll and consumed. Scarfed like it’s namesake to a Poplar tree! Tasted akin to beef, but with a faint tang of wild game. Very good. And once again, patron to the pit!
Cherry Smoked BBQ Pulled Beaver on a toasted Hoagie Roll. For an aquatic rodent, it weren’t half bad. In fact it was good!
“Here is where the metal meets the meat concerning burger-craft, and moreover, what separates you from the indoor chef – and that is smoke. Most folk don’t think to smoke their hamburgers, but let it be said, because its true, they are also missing something out of their lives.” -PotP
It was by all accounts a wintry evening at the pit. The recent snows had firmed up now, from the bone chilling cold. Crispy sounding to walk on, like Styrofoam on a cold kitchen floor. Tentacles of ice adhere like winter weeds to the faithful Weber water smoker, whilst the chill winds swirled from a darkened sky. The moon hung stoically behind a soft veil of gray, barely leaking through, scarcely there it seemed, as a night-light to the heavens. And the aromatic plumes of cherry wood smoke bellowed forth from an active pit, one of which I huddled dear to, this cold, winter’s eve in Minnesota.
On the grill tonight, an old staple – the hamburger. Now every grill keeper worth their tongs has sought to conquer this section of the menu. It is what most of us started out with, or cut our teeth on, so-to-speak. And no faction of the grilling arts, perhaps, says more about your grilling style, than the humble burger. Want to get a better idea of a grill jockey’s mojo, consider first his hamburger. It is a pit keeper’s thumb print. For instance, what ratio ground beef is used? Or is it just a frozen, mass-produced patty? Is there anything inside the burger?Are the buns toasted? Would your Grand mother be proud of your hamburger?
We love a good burger here at the pit. But then, who doesn’t. It’s an American way of life, hamburgers are, like the venerable, and ever-iconic, Big Mac. You know the jingle, “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun“. A few years back, I was loitering in the shadow of the infamous golden arches, where I had re-acquainted myself with their flagship burger. By golly, I thunk, the burger wouldn’t be half bad if it were done proper like, out on the pit that is. Surely with a few altercations, and a little tweaking, hark, it might even be a pleasant, yet reasonable experience. And so, after the passage of several years, I finally got around to making my own Big Mac – PotP style of course. I guess I sort of changed most everything about it, save for the special sauce, but man did it turn out! So grab a lovely beverage and settle in for a spell, and we will tell you a little more how it was done, and how it came to be, this the culinary remake of a franchise burger.
To start with, no frozen patties here, folks. But that is a given among our readership, for you all are reasonable folk when it comes to your hamburgers. Never would you render your innate craft so low as for the seductive, frozen pucks stacked like poker chips in the back recesses of your refrigerator. Never! We used a pound 80/20 ground beef from a local farm, raised drug-free on the cool plains of Minnesota. Now the Big Mac has two patties, but that is just likely a marketing gimmick if you ask us. Why have two patties when one, half-pound “proper-sized patty” will do just fine. Mercy! So we formed a couple of manly patties, lightly seasoned in garlic and onion salt. Next we brought them out to the grill, which was already puffing away.
Here is where the metal meets the meat concerning burger-craft, and moreover, what separates you from the indoor chef – and that is smoke. Most folk don’t think to smoke their hamburgers, but let it be said, because its true, they are also missing something out of their lives. Oak would be an excellent choice here iffin you have the means. Likewise, hickory or even mesquite if you go lightly. What we used however, and with great effect, was a baseball-sized chunk of cherry wood, which was just the trick for these husky beef patties. We placed them opposite the hot coals the entire time, never once exposing them to direct heat. The idea was to take them slowly, and infuse a good matter of smokey goodness that which every pit keeper and kin alike, crave.
Lid on, burgers in-direct, cherry wood smoke lightly puffing through the dampers, glory! The heck with the winter time blues, for there is no such thing patron to a well-loved pit. It’s token fiery bosom is well enough to keep us warm, if not but for our passionate resolve as well. Bank those embers tall boys, for neither ice, nor snow, nor the dark of night will keep us from our appointed BBQ!
Anyways, and with modest fanfare, prepare your buns with a light buttering. Whilst you’re at it, slice a tomato nice and thick, and like-wise with a good red onion, and a pickle, if you’re into that sort of thing. Chop a hunk of lettuce to size. Get your favorite cheese sliced and ready to roll too, along with your very best accompaniments. And then, when the time is right, deploy the “special sauce“. The big mac is known for its signature sauce. A little mayonnaise mixed with sweet pickle relish and yellow mustard whisked together with vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. Or if you’re feeling a wee bit lazy, like we were, Thousand Island salad dressing will of course do the trick too.
Whence the burgers have pooled somewhat, in other words, juices have collected atop the patties, and/or they have engaged in a mild curl or sorts, flip them over, still opposite the hot coals. Toss on some more smoke wood if you need to, and let them finish up there, at their leisure, until firm to the tong, or your desired interpretation of the word done. Lastly, toast the buns accordingly, and dutifully, for this is your song, people, your triumph in hamburger technology! So make it count, and take some pride in your spoils. And when all of this is done, and you have supped another inch off your favorite beverage, roll up your sleeves, patrons, and assemble then your masterpiece. Indeed, be inclined.
So next time you’re thinking of swinging into the golden arches for a big mac, don’t. Rest assured, you can do better, a world better indeed, patron to the pit. And if your wife makes homemade french fries, all the better. Amen.
“We are men. We eat meat. And half the year we grill in the dark. We do it in part because not doing it chews about as well as a half-cooked brisket.”
I was out at the pit the other day, grilling up some supper, and noticed it then. Like a long-lost and once-upon-a-time house guest peering over the bushes. Darkness. And it stirs folks to action. It is getting to that point in the year where good people are rolling their cookers into garages and sheds, or barring that, getting comfortable with the mind-set of putting the BBQ toys away for the winter. We do not understand. These were once upstanding citizens, you see, capable of much smokey goodness. Able to roll a brat or flip a burger with the very best of us. Now regressed, cowering in their flannel sheets and cotton afghans, supping herbal teas and watching the Wheel of Fortune. That sort of Tom Foolery seldom sits will with a patron of the pit. You will nary see a white flag waving over our cookers, nay, not if we can still lift a bag of charcoal you won’t. There is a better way. So stand tall brethren of the brisket, for now is not the time to become lax. It is a smokey imperative that we bandy together, and stoke the fires tall, for a great darkness is coming, and snow is coming with it.
Go henceforth to the market and secure yourself a plunder of meat and coals, and stock your larder at once. Let there be no excuses whence the gales of November come howling. Devise a wind break if we must, for to thwart that icy wind, and light the fires strong, boys, for there is still meat to be smoked, and joy to be had, patron to the pit. There is. It is our time now to rise and to revel in the quaint ambiance of the night shift. To where as my elder brother is fond of saying, “the metal meets the meat“. To warm our hands over a beautiful bed of coals. To be out-of-doors, under star-spangled nights, aside smoking pits, grilling at the end of blue-tinted moon beams. Glory!
Or, I suppose, we could dawdle inside our thermally advanced housing units, in designer slippers, watching that wheel spin by, and nary see any of this.
Indeed, it is wired into our manly nature to put meat to flame, and declare for all the world that it is good. It is just what we do. And to do outside, under magnificent skies, is how it was always meant to be done. The heck with heat waves or blizzards or any other inclement for that matter. And as this fair Autumn ebbs into darkness, which it will, we will be there too, pit-side, with our tongs in one hand, and lovely beverage in the other. There is no off-season for the keeper of the flame, you see. Nor would be wish for there to be. This is our twinkle. Our humble opus. So let us treat it as such.
And so together we will stand stalwart at our pits, leaning into the wintry tempest. You are not alone. We are the fellowship of coals. And there is camaraderie in flame. And meat.
This concludes our pep talk. Grill on and sally forth!
“At the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path”
It is sweetened by the passage of time. BBQ. Here is a form of cooking, where the whole of the out-of-doors is at the threshold of your kitchen; and where the wood smoke gently rises, you will find your journey in the smokey arts. Pit keepers spanning this country-wide, and the world over, find poetry in the flames, fellowship in the coals, and contentment in their bellies where BBQ is concerned. It is not just for the food, you see, that we aspire for the pit. It is the journey also, which is half the fun.
To BBQ proper is to release yourself from the grinding cog of societal cares, the urban rush, and our inbred bondage to the clock. Brethren of the coals, we are smitten for the hour hand, and to see just how slowly it can make its appointed rounds. Indeed, we are in no hurry at the pit. We are there by and far, but to extend our craft, and up our loitermanship, under lovely skies, and soft breezes. To let the unruly collagen in our lives dance at 225 degrees whilst bathed in smoke and sweet time, and in that time, rendered a tender opus closer to thee. And let it be said, there are a vast many more expedient means in which to cook our supper. And be sure of this also, we will do our utmost to avoid them. For we love to BBQ. It’s as simple as that. And why would anyone, of rational mind, fancy to rush along something of which they so fiercely love. If you’re in a hurry, use the microwave.
So we grill, smoke and BBQ, over real wood and charcoal, because in part, it is slower that way. And forsake the methods that which clutch dearly the hands of haste. To BBQ is to take the long way home, on purpose. And at the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path – where rainbows, tweety birds, and pale-blue moonbeams reside. Our goal you see, as pit keepers, is not only to procure the best possible and most succulent culinary end game we can, but also if we might, to dutifully grab that ever-slipping sun by the tail, and hold it steadfastly there, hemorrhaging in a pastel sky. Bending the fabric of time, for to suit our souls, and with any luck, to extend the moment for the moment’s sake. For we love to BBQ, you see, outside, and in the prettier places, doing that which is well with our souls.
The art and play of BBQ, like a fine wine, ages adeptly in the root cellars of our minds. It is sweetened by the passage of time. And with every cook, and kettle of dancing flame, memories are formed. With every fold of season, and another empty charcoal bag, memories tally. Memories gently forged at the cusp of a loved one’s saucy grin, amid the banter of nature, and the cool, steely grass. And it turns out, the more we do it, the more we show up at the grill front and dare to procure our spoils slowly there, the better off we seem to be. Because in a world of instant gratification, it slows us down, you could say, and places roses in our hand. And after a while at this, it eventually even becomes clear. That not only is BBQ real good, and pleasing to the belly, but the means of getting there is even better still. It is good for us. And this is the way, perhaps, it was always meant to be. This and a few other things, when we choose the long way home, and the hickory-scented plumes which tarry there. Amen.
Strolling the local grocer this afternoon, hands in my pockets, I seemed to have had what you might call a chance encounter with a lovely stand of pork chops. They were plentiful and magnificent, and the obvious spoor of a butcher in a good mood, for they were about one-and-one-quarters inch thick I should wager, iffin they weren’t more than that even. That and they were on sale too, a modicum of reasoning I’m sure my bride would approve. It was destiny in the meat aisle, or something there short of it. If pork chops could talk, these dudes beckoned heavily from their frigid wares, if but to yammer, “Please, take me oh pit keeper, and eat me henceforth! Make me all that I can be!” I cast a glance side-to-side, eyes darting about like a predatory cat – this on the off-chance I might need to fend off a little old lady heading for my spoils. But I was in luck, and no old ladies were in sight. I gazed upon the chops there and promptly croaked “Your mine!” Snatching up two of them like young Richard Simmons to a donut buffet. Its best I suppose not to let the locals there, nor the governing bodies see you talking to their meat, for it stirs up a mild controversy you could say. But if the conversation doesn’t draw out too long, you should be alright. Quietly pay for your plunder, then tuck it under your arm like an NFL fullback, tip your hat to the cashier, and make a good expression of haste.
I brought these beautiful chops home and immediately immersed them in a homemade honey garlic marinade. A brew of which has proven more that adept over the years at bringing out the better side of pork. Its real easy to make, and we’ve mentioned it here before, but who cares, here it is again!
Honey Garlic Marinade
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
After four long hours in the marinade, suppertime shadows fell across the pit area out back. The coals were already conspiring in the old chimney starter, weathered from the ages, belching forth that initial rush of smoke into the evening air. Plumes of it, curling, and rising into the thin blue sky. Signifying to yourself and who ever else is paying attention, that you are once again in your glory, doing precisely that which is well with your soul. And there is a giddiness in the air, electric almost, like the first day of summer vacation as a kid. It is a good day, but all days are I guess, to be a patron of the pit.
These beautiful, thick chops, I sliced a little pocket into them with a sharp knife before they hit the marinade. A strategy, it stands to reason, to get more of that delicious marinade into the heart of the meat. But also, to create a useful void in which to fill, nay, to pack to the gills with a heaping pile of home-made stuffing. Oh yes, cram it in there good, for this is your feast, your opus in meat. After they were packed tight with stuffing, and sort of held together with a some toothpicks, they were ready for the grill. So let’s get out there, where the metal meets the meat. And let us do what we were born to do. To put meat to flame, and declare that it is good!
The Stuffing is your basic Thanksgiving stuffing affair, consisting, well, of what we had handy.
3 cups of bread crumbs
1/2 onion, chopped and sauteed
1/4 cup of finely Chopped Italian Parsley
A little water or broth to bring it all together
Anyways, over in-direct heat as usual, carefully place your beloved and betrothed, pork chops that is, and listen to them sing and sizzle whence they merge onto that hot, fiery grate. Oh how we favor that sound. Tongs in my hands, I glance out over the pond, just in time, it turns out, to see the local Great Blue Heron gliding effortlessly on giant wings, and splashing down into the water there. Ripples radiate outwards across the pond, shimmering in the slanting shafts of a golden sun. I smile to myself, as I toss some peach wood chips, directly onto the coals, and carefully put the black-enameled lid on the old kettle grill. Say what you will, but this is living. And living well.
When the chops reached what I estimated to be mostly done, I got out the old black iron pan, and began putting together the home-made caramel apple sauce. Its pretty easy to do. Two apples diced as you desire, a few pats of butter and enough brown sugar to make it interesting. And do not forget a little cinamon too. Sizzle it all together in the pan over the coals, stirring frequently until apples are cooked, and tender. Perhaps splash a bit of your pit beverage in there too, just because. Nothing is quite so fine as standing over your old kettle grill, whilst the sun dips behind the houses to the West, and the song birds serenade thee from atop the fragrant Spruce. Stirring the apple sauce, the aroma of the chops, and smoldering peach wood, wafting up past your nasal front, and the sweet summer breezes caressing through the garden greens and pit-side Petunias. Glory be! Now why would you ever want to cook inside!
Around about when the applesauce was complete, so to were the pork chops which once wooed me so fiercely. They looked good. A lot better than they did in the butcher’s shanty. And I told them this. Told them that they looked mighty attractive now, and that they would be proud if they could see themselves. That if that quantum entanglement deal I once heard about on PBS, some how applied to pigs and their parts, that maybe the previous owners of these chops would be suitably flattered. No, I don’t expect you to follow that. Suffice it to say, however, these chops kicked pig butt, and they were good! Real good! Leastwise, that’s what I keep telling them. Tho I’m not sure why.
Honey Garlic Marinated, Peach Smoked, Stuffed Pork Chops with a Home-Made Caramel Apple Sauce. Good golly!
Grill on, Folks!
Delving into the smokey arts with any degree of abandon, sooner or later you’re likely going to find yourself with a sincere desire to smoke something peculiar. Oh its starts innocently enough with the usual gamut of savory meats. But before you know it, and if you’re not careful, you may catch yourself trying to smoke such oddities as vegetables, fruits, and even nuts. And in the back of your mind, where brain thrusts often copulate, you no doubt will have the curious yet lingering urge to set smoke to your favorite block of cheese. No worries. Such thoughts are common place among the brotherhood of the pit, and not soon to be ashamed of. Indeed, fret not, for this is the pleasurable bane of many a pit keeper, of whom’s patron plumes of mesquite and smoldering apple are not just for meat alone, but a bevy of nourishment to that which benefits from the aromas abiding in the soft, tendrils of rising wood smoke. But then you ask yourself, because you’re a learned mind, how might I smoke thy cheese and not melt it all to copious goo? Good question. And luckily, it’s all been figured out for you. Its called cold smoking. And here is how you do it.
Cold smoking is not what you see nervous blokes on their lunch breaks doing, out the office back door on blustery, winter afternoons. No, cold smoking is more fun than that. It’s the rather unique condition in the BBQ experience where wood smoke fairly bellows from your cooker, but if you were to lay your finger to it, it would be quite cool to the touch. Because it is. Cold smoking done proper, you see, does not exceed 90 degrees, and sometimes, it’s even less than that. Most cheese begins to sweat at around 95 degrees, so if you can keep the heat lower than that, you will be doing well for yourself. The winter months are clearly then the prized slots on the calendar year. How one gets good smoke without the heat is often times accomplished by building a very little fire in your smoker, like 3 or 4 briquettes, and setting some wood chips on it to smoke. It can be a fickle experience, hard to regulate, and fleeting perhaps, but cold smoke can in fact be had. Or you could spend hundreds of dollars on some apparatus designed for the legion of pellet grills out there. Or, if you are a tinkerer, by golly, you could make a cold smoker out of various odds and ends laying about the homestead. We were not much in the mood to screw around, however, and just used our A-MAZE-N cold smoke generator instead, generously filled with their own pit master proprietary pellets. Simply light one corner of the little contraption, and the pellets burn like a fuse, following the maze as it goes. And a cold and wondrous smoke bellows forth.
In the big Weber Smokey Mountain, deep in the recesses of its enormous fire bowl, we placed the lit smoke generator, paying keen attention that it was receiving adequate airflow there. It puffed away contentedly, like an old steamship sidling out to sea. We then put a block of medium cheddar on the top grate, gently placed the lid on, and settled in for a wee bit of smoke watching. Cold or not, watching smoke curl is something that comes disturbingly easy to a patron of the pit. We are at once smitten for the ambiance. Drawing a lovely beverage, and taking up residence in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure. Glory be, but this the speed of life worth living! Clouds aloft like soft, white, pillow innards, drifting across a beautiful, blue sky, whilst a woodsy, aromatic smoke idles up out of the cold, enameled pit. The green leaves of the Cottonwood trees murmur in the soft wind, kissed by golden sunbeams cast from on high. And of course, the token family of Canadian geese which milled about on the lawn, like geese do, pecking through the steely, green blades there. They seemed equally as content as I, with the high rigors of cold smoking a hunk of cheese. Maybe even more so, in point of fact. And we both went about our business there, engaging the day, whilst the smoke gently curled.
After a couple of hours, all of which were sufficient for my pit-side loitering, I closed up the outdoor kitchen for the day. Bidding a farewell to the geese which still loitered in the cool grass. As I motioned inside the house, a pleasant aroma of lightly smoked cheese tarried with me. I swaddled the block in plastic wrap. Smoked cheese benefits from a long rest in the fridge, they say, sealed in plastic. Giving it time to do what ever it is cheese does after encountering smoke. That might be so, but let it be said, it also tasted mighty fine later that night, sliced, and in the good company of a few of your favorite crackers. Amen.
So next time you’re looking for a something different off the grill, or a good holiday treat, try cold smoking yourself up a block of your favorite cheese. The company of geese recommended, but optional.
*Here are a couple of amazon links for the two products we used today. The Weber Smokey Mountain, and the Amazen pellet smoker. Both top notch equipage that we’re proud to endorse. We are an amazon affiliate for these products, so if you purchase either, it helps fund this site a little. Thank you very much for your continued support!
Loitering pond-side, the old Weber kettle puffing quietly away, sweet sugar maple smoldering, wafting into the air. I lay aside the pit, in the thick, green grass there, immobile, in a fashion usually reserved for a coronary thrombosis I suppose. But I didn’t care. I was “hanging ten“, as the surfers out way of Waikiki would say. And the world was mine. Just staring up at the clouds as they roll past a beautiful, blue sky. Like Huckleberry Finn on the grassy banks of the Mississippi, I was at ease with everything. A cool summers breeze murmured amid Spruce , and tweety birds on high, serenaded the evening sun. The neighbors are probably used to seeing me “belly-up” in the grass like this, with the ilk of a hobo beside my smoking pits. But I’m slowly getting them trained in, by and by, and the pay off is high. For rarely now, whence I engage in such childish admissions, am I caught there and taken for dead.
On the grill tonight, we’ve got a dandy. Maple planked bacon cheese burgers. Kind of a two-part post, the first part being the recent write-up on Superior planks. Some of you expressed an interest in seeing more how this planking thing is done, and so that is what we’re up to today, at the patron’s pit. Its real easy to do, and will cast the viable illusion also, of being an experienced and highly-gifted pit master. Which is always nice.
The very first order of business when planking is to soak the wood thoroughly. Doesn’t matter how good your plank is, if it ain’t soaked, you will be singing a sorrowful rendition of Kumbaya around your flaming spoils should you neglect this key step. So just do it. An hour in the sink is suitable for most. But the longer the better. Then, whence your coals, or hark, even your gas grill is up and burning, go ahead then and lay the soaked plank on the grate and over direct heat. Let it preheat there a touch if you please, but you don’t even have to do that. Thus, and at last, place your intended vittles over the plank, and pause momentarily to appreciate the oddity of meat on wood. We formed some nice patties from some 80-20 ground beef, and laid a couple of strips of thick bacon on there too, for good measure. No man worth his tongs will ever argue the judicious use of premium bacon, and we weren’t about to tonight. Then place the lid over your grill, and assume your customary BBQ position – in the lawn chair, lovely beverage in hand, toes pointed to the heavens. And with this, you are half done already, and nearly a budding expert in the planking arts.
It is that easy folks. You nary need even touch it now until its done. You will want to, and its fine I suppose if you do flip the burger over, but we did not. It doesn’t need to be. When the lid is on, and the wood is acting like a heat shield of sorts, the grill turns into some what of an oven like atmosphere. Would you flip a burger in the oven? I don’t think so! That is half the magic of planking. The other joy tarries in the smoke. Depending on what flavor of plank you pick out, and some folks even soak them in apple juice, or wine, or what ever, the steam and smoke which rises forth, not to mention a hint of tree oil, dutifully impregnates your spoils with a woodsy authenticness like none other. As one of our readers, Carnivore Confidential, once said in his blog, “You don’t have a smoker? You don’t need one!” And its true. A more primal way of infusing smokey goodness into your supper, you shall not soon divine. Meat on wood over flame. Simplicity at its best. And poetry on the pit!
You can plank darn near anything too. From meats to vegetables to mashed potatoes, and even mushrooms. But perhaps the best use of planks is for the delicate fish fillet. No more dropping through the grate! Just put it on the plank and cook it. No flipping. No mess. No worries. So the next day, and with fish on my mind, I re-soaked the used plank. If you get good thick, hardwood planks, like that of Superior Planks, you can re-use them quite a bit. After a good soak in the sink, I placed the used-plank back on the hot grill along with some Tilapia fillets. Same process. Put the lid on and just let them do their thing. Many hard core plankers forego the seasonings all together, and just let the plank do the talking. And with that wood smoke and natural oils, turns out them old trees have a thing or two to say about good eating. Amen.
Like all fish, when they flake easily with a fork, they are ready for an immediate rendezvous with your belly! Smoked to perfection and kissed by smoldering wood. Man!
Maple Planked Bacon Cheese Burgers and Tilapia too, just because. Two of many things highly suitable for plank cooking. If you haven’t tried it yet, well, what the heck are you waiting for!
One of the greater joys in the grilling arts, is that you get to be out-of-doors. And every once in a while, even in Minnesota, that means you might happen upon the perfect day. The sort of sublime existence where you are neither too hot, nor too cold, but in point of fact – just right. Where the clouds, if there are any, idle over head, puffy and white, like a heavenly mobile. And the blue of the sky is of an ilk deeper than the sea is wide. Tweety birds sing at the top of their little lungs, and the plastic-like leaves of the papal tree clack in the gentle breeze, like a thousand and one credit cards. You are surrounded by green. The grass, the trees, the flourishing gardens at once ensconce thee. And wood smoke, if your lucky, curls poetically from your grill. Not that we need perfect weather to grill, for we have debunked that notion many a time here at this site. But if the perfect sort of paradisaical day happens upon you, who are we to fight it! Keepers of the pit rejoice, for these are our moments. Fractions of perfection busted from the crown jewel of time. On the grill tonight, BBQ Meatloaf and Corn on the Cob. So lets get after it!
To get started, we did up a little green pepper and onion in the old, black iron pan. A pat of butter, and sizzled the diced up melody not to a translucent state, but really just enough to get the raw crunch out of it. Whilst that sizzles on the grill, prepare thy meatloaf how ever you’re used to.
We used the following ingredients:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/3 pound ground pork
- 1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of bread crumbs soaked in milk
- 1 cup of green peppers
- 1/2 cup onions
- 1/2 cup frozen corn just because
- a little pepper just because again
Now the egg and the bread crumbs act as a binding agent of course. Off-hand and by-the-way, if you wouldn’t mind sashaying down a literary bunny trail for a moment; do you know how you go to supermarkets to purchase your bratwurst or polish sausages, and how they often times come in packages of six? And then you amble over to the bakery section to pick out your buns, just to discover that they only come in packages of eight, and that wee but if disgust for consumerism burps up in the back of your mouth? You know full will they do that on purpose. And what the heck are we supposed to do with two extra hot dog buns? Well, yesterday I had what you might call an epiphany in my meatloaf. That didn’t sound right, but what ever. But it suddenly dawned on me, like most good things do, a suitable use for the two extra hot dog buns I had sitting around from my last cook out. I thus and with great zeal, ripped them to pieces and soaked them in milk, and viola, a binding agent for my meatloaf was born. I triumph from waste if you will. A token advance unto a more efficient ideal. Anyways.
After you get your meatloaf all packed together, and if it can’t hold a decent shape flattering of a lowly meat loaf, put it in a bread pan of sorts, and lay it opposite your hot coals on the grill. In-direct cooking, as is so often the case, is once again your chosen technique here. Next add a chunk of your favorite smoke wood to the coals, thus to separate yourself from all the other indoor chefs. This is one of the distinct advantages to doing routine cooks on the grill – that wonderful and abiding smokey flavor, which in-turn will set your dish apart, and all will know it hails proudly from the smokey realm.
Now mid-way through the cook, you’ll want to rotate your meat 180 degrees for even cooking. And better yet, once the meat has tightened up a bit, go head and invert the pan and get that meat loaf out of there, exposing all of it on the grill. Toss on another small piece of hickory or mesquite, and proceed with the very important business of infusing more smokey goodness into the meat. Put the lid on, and resume the proper BBQ posture in your easy chair, lovely beverage in hand, whilst plumes of aromatic smoke curl nicely from your grill. Near the end of the cook, or when the internal temp reaches around 160 degrees, brush on a generous coat of your most favorite BBQ sauce over the top. We used SuckleBusters Original Sauce, which is pretty much amazing. Around this time we also threw on the corn. If there is anything better than grilled corn on the cob, lathered in butter, and dashed in salt, please let us know! Man!
Hickory Smoked BBQ Meat Loaf and Grilled Corn on the Cob. Dang! Enough to pacify the meatiest man. Next time you’re looking for something to grill up, give meatloaf a try.
A couple of weekends ago, deep in hither lands, and way up north in the Superior National Forest, of which precise coordinates I shall not utter here, my bride and I for a time, lingered in paradise. Balsam Firs and Black Capped Chickadees abounded. Downy woodpeckers pecking. Endless blue skies aloft. And our hammocks strung in a peaceful respite. Backpacking into the remote areas like this at once ushers an inherent quietude and tranquility not soon privy the city dweller. A stillness of earth and soul, and the waters there, oh how they run so delightful and clean. Tumbling through the mossy, forest crags, as if just to be lovely that way, and to nourish the fevered palates of those weary foot travelers who happen upon it. Folks like us. We liked it so much in point of fact, we set up our camp, and we stayed there a while, as patrons to paradise.
A lovely place. A place I couldn’t help but to recollect some, whilst tending to old kettle grill this evening last, on our home patio back in the city. I get like that every now and then. Reminiscent if you will, with pit-side reflections. And I can’t help it. Lighting the grill, and seeing the fire cordially lick for the sky, and tasting the aroma of the rising wood smoke, well, in a flip of a heartbeat, I am harkened back to other campfires in other places of enduring beauty. Places that I have once pressed a tent stake in, upon which earthy soils I have slept so soundly. I am smitten I guess, for the prettier places
Places where the star fields glitter, suspended in the blackness above, and the lonesome wail of the Timber Wolves echoed through the forest hollows. Places amid the whispering pines, where if you want a good dinner, you had better have packed it in, or barring that, possess an adeptness of procuring sustenance from the field and stream. For to live simply, and deliberately, and not to be bothered by much else is the goal here. To reduce life’s endless complexities to a few scant items, and stow them neatly away in our backpacks. And for a while at least, to be gone with everything else. To flex our muscles up the cardiac switchbacks, and breathe in that freshened air. To catch fish, climb rocks, and build campfires. To be 10 again, in the Sherwood Forest, and sport a quiver with but one crooked arrow.
Back in the city again, tending supper over this old pit, I leaned back in the BBQ chair, watching the smoke curl some. Still reminiscing whilst crescent moon dallied over the Spruce, and a growing family of mallards floated serenely out on the pond. It’s kind of pretty here too, I thought. Tongs in my hand, the aroma of Cheddar stuffed Polish sausages and hickory wafting from the pit. Glory! But I think of the hammock I strung up recently, in my quaint, northern sanctum – my Shangri-la in the woods. Hung nicely between two fluttering Aspen trees. A location I became much acquainted with in my stay up there. For I took not one, nor two, but three lengthy naps there, in dappled sunbeams, and beside burbling streams. Whiled away most of the afternoon in such fashion, harboring not a morsel of guilt. It was a lifestyle, by and far, that I could get used to. If only I could get my Weber Grill out there, I thought, in this land so remote. I think I should never again return.
The aromas of supper snapped me back to the present. Back to the city. I rolled the sausages about on the old grate. Onions were already diced. Ketchup and mustard at the ready. I toasted up a couple buns for my bride and I, and assembled this most basic of grilling endeavors. Grilling Polish sausage is about as simple as they come I guess, and yet, satisfying in a round about way. They taste good, but more over, it gives us pit keepers another excuse to play with fire. To smell that smoke wafting. And I guess just to be outside. And to this cook anyways, a porthole to a bevy of memories wrought over the open flame. Reminders which rise with the wood smoke, of good times, in pretty places, where the breeze blew sweetly through the trees. Something we like do every now and then. Keeping it simple. Like a good Polish Sausage. Amen.
Repairing in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, I spied them from afar, ambling head-long through the steely grass. A half-dozen little yellow-green fuzz balls, escorted under the watchful wing of ma and pa. Bumbling creatures, but terribly cute, looking only at the ground, pecking about for what wonders may reside there. It was good to see new families like this. Triumps of unconditional love, and a feathery nurture. They seem to do this every year about this time, along with every one else. They wandered right up close to my BBQ chair, as if to address me in some formal manner reserved for goose ideology or the like. I adjusted my posture some, and noted how once again, these feathered blokes have ambled by precisely when the first plumes of smoke curl from my old kettle grill. More times than I have counted they have come to share supper with me like this, babies and all. I’d like to think it’s because they like me, and appreciate the ambiance of the pit I strive so hard for. But the truth of the matter is that I’m only being used. For I usually toss them some crusty old bread if I have any, and that seems well enough for them to at least fake a friendship out by the pit. And I’m OK with that.
Spring time. New life. Turns out one of our close friends this week, had a baby too. A wee little thing, neither yellow-green nor fuzzy, and pert near about as cute as they come in baby land. My bride suggested we do something nice for them, because she’s rather thoughtful like that, and being the fire-lighting, meat-eating man that I am, naturally the only logical course of action I could come up with, was to have a BBQ. What better way to introduce a new soul to this ever-spinning world, I thought, than a plate of tin foiled potatoes, BBQ chicken, and sirloin steak! Everything a wee pup needs to make a lasting, first impression. And besides that, it’s never too soon to draft another into the BBQ arts. I don’t know if they make little Weber grills for babies, but they should. I would set one down in front of the kid, just so they could imprint on each other. And it would be a better world because of it, somewhere on down the line.
The baby feast started with the potatoes naturally, because they take the longest. Diced up and seasoned tonight with a dash or two of Lipton Onion soup mix. Cause that stuff ain’t just for soup you know. Over the seasoned and diced potatoes, I added a lovely melody of vegetables for to please the lady folk, along with a few dollops of butter, and wrapped it all up in foil. This in turn placed over direct heat for 20 minutes or so, flipped over once mid-way for even cooking. Whilst the spuds did their thing, the chicken legs were then placed opposite the hot coals, and a small piece of hickory wood added to the fire for some smokey goodness. The legs previous were rubbed down in McCormick’s Chicken Rub, and later, at the end of the cook, painted with a generous layer of Sweet Baby Rays. Now what infant wouldn’t want to suck on one of them!
As the white clouds idled in a blue sky, and bird song rang from the Alders, I pulled the foiled potatoes over indirect heat. They were done, and so was the chicken. Lastly, and to bring a sense of closure to the meat fest, we seared a nice sirloin steak over a hot bed of orange-glowing coals, and then finished it off indirect. When you set up your grill like this, with the coals banked to one side, you will be afforded much control this way. You will have established in your grill’s fiery bosom, three distinct temperature zones. One for direct heat right over the coals, one for indirect cooking opposite the hot coals, and something of a Switzerland affair, right smack in the middle. The thermal trifecta of modern grilling. Anyways.
I plated up the meats and taters, and bid a farewell to my feathery friends, still pecking through the green grass. Not to be rude to the little geese, nor to point out the shallow nature of our relationship, but it was time to go show the newborn some of the finer things worth looking forward to in this world. Something far removed from a crusty old piece of moldy bread. Amen.
Hickory Tinted BBQ Chicken Legs, Sirloin Steak, and Tin Foiled Potatoes. Man! And so what if a baby doesn’t have teeth. The parents do!
A blustery north wind swirls under gray skies. Mercury levels hover in the 60’s, cottonwood leaves clack about, and an American Robin ambles through the green grass, with a squirming earth worm clamp steadfastly between its beak. I do not know what it is that compels a creature of suitable reason to otherwise abandoned its surely inherent need to ingest his intended quarry with the fierceness and efficiency like that of hungry lion to a Tanzanian Wart Hog, but it does. And frankly, I admire its restraint. Cause that wiggling worm to a Robin, is like a beef tenderloin to a pit keeper, marinated and smoked over cherry chips, rubbed in garlic and onion. The little bird proceeded to hop around the grass, nary once it seemed, contemplating the notion to eat its earthy spoils.
Good for you, I thought, but I’m getting hungry. And I shall not likely possess your oaken resolve to wait much longer. Thus, and on the grill tonight, an old-time classic and highly favored sandwich. BLTs – Patron of the Pit style. So get your fires lit people, an let’s get after it.
This evening, whilst wandering the aisles of the local produce shop, I came upon some fair looking rolls, whose destiny I knew at once, like men sometimes do, would involve an intimate acquaintanceship with my grill, over a beautiful bed of coals. I brought them home. Sliced and buttered, and set aside for the last portions of the cook. Now if you’ve never made bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches on the grill before, you are politely excused to go to the corner somewhere and murmur your name in vain. Here at once is such a simple treat, delicious, and easy to do. A dance where upon we take the hand of an old-time sandwich, which was dang good in its own right, and escort it to a whole new level, patron to the smokey realm.
Bacon is good, and the world knows it. No man nor woman alike would refute its gastronomic pleasure, lest they keep the company of pigs for pets or something. Bacon is glorious. Bacon cooked on the grill, over a smokey fire, is point-blank out of this world. I do not know how many bacon strips are allotted to a man’s lifespan, so when we do it, let it then be of the good stuff. Thick cut, and the very best your purse can afford.
Over a drip pan, lay your bacon opposite the hot coals. Toss on some smoke wood too. You’ll want a drip pan lest your grill wax into a real treat, of ash, fat and muck. For this cook, we used hard wood lump charcoal, and some hickory wood. A basic and primal heat source worthy of a pit keepers fondest intentions. Put the lid on and let the smoke and heat do their magic. You all know what you’re doing here. Cook the bacon as you please, and at the terminus of the cook, go ahead and toast those buttered buns with the pit master authority vested in you. Tongs in hand, be ever vigilant against the burn. For your buns shall not char today, but slide onto your dinner plate with a confident display of utter, toasted perfection. Build your grilled BLT accordingly, and thus to satisfy your lofty specifications.
Needless to say, I dove into this sandwich like an alcoholic to a German beer garden. Like a puma to an antelope. I do not know what it is, and my elder brother suffers from the same plight, as well as some other men I know, but when we are presented with a meaty affair, savory and to the point, well, we do not require a whole lot of time to ingest it. It kind of bugs us frankly, that we seldom harbor the patience to slow down with our food. We are beasts! We have noticed ourselves at times tearing into our food, as if governed by some genetic impulse to eat fast. There is some savage chomping, some wild slurping going on, and before you know it, before I knew it, my beloved BLT was gone. A few lone bread crumbs residing on my belly. I licked my lips, and picked the crumbs off my shirt whilst glancing out the window to the pit. It smoked quietly away over diminishing coals, at ease and content with its job well done. And just beyond that I noticed, standing in the green grass was the little robin, with that dang worm still, hanging limp from its mouth. He’ll eat when he’s good and ready I guess. And I really don’t know how he does it.
There you go. Grilled Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato on a Toasted French Roll. Next time you’re ready then to take your BLT to the next level, do the sensible thing why don’t you, and do it on the grill!
We are men, and we eat meat. Not that that we require meat every day or anything, but when we do, we want it to be worthy of the wages that beset our colon, not to mention our pocket book. When the day has ebbed long, evening shadows breaking, and we waddle through the kitchen door, pekid and of trembling legs from a day’s long labor, are we not secretly hoping for a big, thick, and decidedly juicy steak, plopped on a platter, juices oozing, sided with a plentiful allotment of potatoes? You’re darn right we are. We are men! We will never turn down a steak, so long as as our doctor is not in the room. Even women get this way from time to time, deliriously entombed in the heady thralls of meat lust. And we are not to analyze why, but instead to procure a succulent T-Bone or the like in short fashion. Yes indeed, there are some days in a pit keeper’s life menu where he must at once, and savagely so maybe, abandon all fanciful marinades and intricate rubs, and get down to the primal business of just putting meat to flame, and worry of nothing else. On days like this, and your body will tell you when, nothing quite so hits the spot better, than a big steak, and a lovely side of potatoes. That is all we need. Man fuel at its most basic. And hunger shall be our spice.
With meager fanfare, let us then lay meat to flame, and declare that it is good. An appetizer of chicken wings to start, just because. Then a thick T-Bone perfectly seared ought to do, surrounded in love by a starchy congregation of potatoes. Spuds rubbed first in olive oil, and seasoned lightly with a little salt, and a little pepper. Placed in kindly order over direct heat. And the steak, oh that beloved cut of beef that we have longed for so long, of all the things we cook on the pit here, this one holds a special place. I shall not regale you with a litany of promising spice and marinade, because in point of fact, there are none. Not for steak. Oh people do, and have a dear old time I know. But of all the meats in the grilling arts, I think I like to keep steak the simplest. Just a dash of garlic and and a touch of onion salt, and nothing more, seared in smokey perfection over a hardwood fire. Dang! Good meat will do the talking, by and far, if we would just get out of its way.
You could get a whole lot fancier, but nothing will hit the spot more keenly, nor lobby for a man’s fuel so feverishly, than fire grilled T-bone steak and potatoes. We are men you see. And if this is all we had, it would be alright. Amen.
A chimney of hard wood lump charcoal crackled on the pit, its campfire-like aromas enveloping the patio. I long have fancied the patron scent of lump charcoal. The way it lights, smells, and pops like a Jack Pine fire kindled on the wild lake shores of the Canadian shield. Something in its fragrance, its mood, that transports me all at once, back to those rugged expanses of wilderness, and earthy camps from whence I have tarried long in my youth. I poured the fiery chimney load to one side of the old kettle grill, and reminisced some more like men do whilst playing with fire. My gaze sweeps over the back yard, as I mingle with the coals. The grasses surrounding my patio grow long now, with the ilk of a deep and abiding green. The sort of green that is there to stay. And there is a symphony of song birds too, perched all about, all yapping it up like a room full of women scrap booking, with hot tea at their sides. The sky is gray, the sort of gray that is a bridesmaid to the wet season it seems. Nary a breath of wind, and its neat to see the smoke from the grill go straight up for once. Some mallards conspire at the pond’s edge, rain drops cling to a lone Petunia, and a Canadian goose ambles by, trying to nonchalantly as a goose can I guess, check out my supper, and confirm it is not their kin they smell roasting under the lid.
No, it’s not goose, tho one day I probably should I suppose, just to get the awkwardness out-of-the-way. Nay, today on the grill is a simple affair – just some chicken legs, smoked over some hickory, with a light, honey twist. It’s real easy to do, easier than a lot of grill keepers might tell you. For it is an age-old rule of grilling, to apply your sweet sauces at the end of the cook, for the sugars inherent to sweet things can easily burn, and hence ruin your intended spoils as easily as a favorite dog squatting over your new carpet. You don’t let your dog onto your new carpet, and you certainly don’t put sweet things on your BBQ at the beginning of a cook out. But I do. And you can too if you’re careful is all. I rubbed down the chicken legs first in honey, then dusted them in liberal fashion with some Suckle Busters Competition Rub. Then set those legs in-direct of course for the entirety of the cook. A small piece of hickory wood for the smoke, placed directly on the coals. Lid on with the vent over the meat for a proper draft. Oh what sweet smoking pleasure it is, to kick back in your BBQ chair, lovely beverage in hand, and simply watch the smoke curl there. And to smell the damp earth mingle with that of smoldering hickory.
The only trick really to these sorts of sugary endeavors, lest the burning fates acquire your supper, is simply to keep an eye on it. Keep your tongs close, and check in on the meat. It’s OK to lift the lid, for this is no 14 pound pork butt or anything. Nay these legs will cook all too fast as it is. So visit them often, and let them know you love them. Pamper them, and turn them, and position them accordingly to your pit master instincts. If you see some going astray, be there for them, to catch them, and set them back on the proper path to excellence. See how they sing bathed in a fine hickory smoke. And note also, off-hand and by-the-way, how the world has spun on without you for a while now, whilst tending your humble pit. A sure sign that you’re doing it right. For you are in your own little paradise now, aside glowing coals, and gently wafting, blue-tinted smoke. You have put meat to flame, and in that alone there is something good enough, and it is well with your soul. Tongs raised to the heavens, this is your time now, to govern your meat with a supreme authority bequeathed those shapely souls who tarry near the fires and grilling posts of yore. Ah yes, grilling with honey – let us at once take our meat by the arm and walk it slowly down that fiery aisle, thus to culinary matrimony with our impending, tho forgiving bellies. Near the end of the cook, I brushed on a little more honey, just because. A little something more, as it were, for the old goose to think about. Amen.
Honey Tinted Hickory Smoked Chicken Legs. Dang! And yes, we ate the broccoli too!
This was sermon on the mount type of stuff. Indeed, I decided, right then and there that I was going to give it another try. I was going to smoke something! First thing was to get some wood chips.I eyed with intent, my wife’s sculptured flower beds, with their mounds of wood chips. Little brother cautioned against that. He did not say why, but like a parent with a questioning child just said… “Because I said so.”
I got within twenty feet of my Lilac bush before I heard him holler “Stop”! Like he would to a dog running into a busy street.
Likewise, when I picked up a Maple tree branch from my front yard, left over debris from winter storms, I glanced furtively over at brother. His eyes were closed, his chin was sunk to his chest in dispare, slowly shaking his head back and forth.I guess I was not impressing my teacher too much…At this point Little Brother stood up, glanced around and stated flatly, “I gotta go”.And that was that. I was on my own again.I could tell that my brother was a little bit displeased with my lack of attention to his teachings, so I was going to do something about it. I would go to the store and buy some of those dad-burned wood chips. I would get wood with a label on it, so that next time he cornered me,and wanted to know what the heck I was smoking, I could tell him!Fifteen minutes later,I pushed through the door of the hardware store like a gunman walking into an old western saloon. I stopped for a moment, studying the room and the sauntered over to where the barbecue grills were sitting in all their glory. I casually lifted a lid here and there , checking things out, trying to look cool while searching for wood chips. Golly, there was a lot of paraphernalia for smoking. There were four different kinds of thermometers, and half a dozen tongs to choose from. Then along the bottom shelf I found the wood chips.I found a lot of wood chips. I had no idea there were so many different kinds or what they were even used for. Pecan, Hickory, Apple, Peach, Grape, Mesquite, Cherry and I thought about that branch in my yard when I read the last one, Maple. About then a young gal came over to me, one of the clerks at the store, and asked me if I needed help. I glanced up from my kneeling position at the wood chip shelf, and asked if she might have a preference for one kind wood over the other.
“Oh my,” she stated, “that is way beyond me…I have no idea.”
The girl at the cash register was of the same mind, “Wow” she said, “You one of those guys who can use smoke?”
I stood up a little straighter, a little bit of pridefulness swelling in my soul. I was enjoying this.
“OH, I like to dabble a bit” I said.
I walked out of there with my chest pushed out,apple chips in hand and pride in my stride. Yup, I was one of those guys. I was on my way to becoming a patron of the pit.Back home I was excited to get the little Smoky Joe into action. I placed my seven pieces of charcoal gingerly onto the residual pile from the last cook, and lit up. I watched the flames for a while, mesmerized by the aroma of the smoke wafting out from the little grill. Back in the kitchen I prepared for the event to come. I had nice thick Pork Chops laid out on the cutting board and started to put the seasoning on, or “Rub” as my brother would say. I gently padded and rubbed the meat, trying to emulate my little brothers technique. I really did not know what this was all about, Me? I prefer to pat and rub my plump belly after I eat the meat. But then I respect little brother. After all, he has a Blog, I do not…While all this fondling of meat was going on, I had dutifully been soaking my apple chips in a bowl of water. I will tell you this, they looked just like the chips from the wife’s flower garden. I did the obvious calculation and discovered that it would cost well over a thousand bucks to do her flower beds with this exotic wood. Lucky for me, I only needed a small handful accomplish my needs.Wood on the coals, meat on the grill. I was doing it. I set the little lid on the little Weber and waited, soon puffs of smoke started rising through the holes in the lid. Alright! I sat there in wonder, the magic of the smoke drifting around my camper and driveway. I was surprised that people were not stopping along the street in front of my house to witness this extraordinary event.
An hour later, after shutting down the little grill, I brought my prized meat into the house, the perfume of the apple wood smoke lingering in the air. Gosh, this was good stuff. Brother would be proud of me. I had done a good thing here! I laid miraculous chops alongside the chopped potatoes that I had cooked in foil down in the coals during the cook. The presentation was completed with a dappling of steamed peas and carrots nestled into the grouping.
I work second shift, and as such rarely am home for supper, but I am the cook of the house and I cook for my bride almost every day. When she comes home, there is some kind of supper for her in the refrigerator, waiting for her to heat up. Today was no different, I placed cellophane over the plate and placed my prized meal on the refrigerator shelf like I was setting up an entry for a state fair competition. I would have the left overs when got home from work.
While I was at work, I could smell the distinct aroma of the apple wood,still clinging to my clothes, off and on the whole night. I wondered if anyone else could pick up on the scent. Each time I picked up the fragrance, I would get a flashback, seeing the smoke puffing out of the grill, the smell of the kitchen as I put the meal together. Man, when the bell rang and my shift was over I could not get home fast enough, I was ready to taste the spoils of my toils.
My wife was fast asleep when I got home, but I hardly cared, I was like a kid at Christmas, I had been thinking about those pieces of pork for nine hours. I went straight to the fridge and swung open the door. My mouth was watering as I stared blankly into the empty space that once held my long waited supper.
Nothing was there! I glanced feverishly around the kitchen, what the heck! Where was my supper? I looked in the freezer, and finally in the sink, and there found two dishes, remnants of meat stuck to the dirty edge of one plate. A stray green pea off to the side of the other. It became obvious that my supper was gone. I started at the plates, lifted one gently and took a whiff. Ah…the smell was still there, the fragrance of success. I set the plate back into the sink, leaned my hands on the edge of the counter, and smiled. The loss of my supper was also my gain. It meant that I had passed a test of sorts. I had smoked meat, and it was good.
Good enough that my bride ate it all.
I was now…a “Patron of the Pit”.
We will go out a limb here and foster the notion that summer has finally come to Minnesota. Or at the very least, I suppose, that winter is gone now – retreating rampantly into the far northern tiers of Canada and beyond. Minnesotan’s have cut their lawns now, for the first time since, well, I think since last October. It was a very, very long winter. But the people have emerged now. And there is hope on their face. They have wagered it plausible maybe stick a tomato plant in the ground. So to have the Lilacs began to bud, poised to unleash their fragrant bouquet any day. And the leaves of the Populus deltoides, or Cottonwood tree, have formed now, down by the pond. There is the smell of green in the air again, and humidity has come with it.
I raked the crackling hardwood lump coals to the side of the old kettle grill, readying it for in-direct cooking, and admiring the utter simplicity of pleasure it is, to do such things, and not have to stave off a subzero wind chill at the same time. Something year-round grill keepers don’t take for granted. Our stoic stands at the winter pit influence even these tranquil moments, pit-side, amid the sunshine and song birds. It is paradise over coals, and a patron of the pit knows it. He knows it by the soft impression on his soul, left by lazy clouds in a blue sky, and the silently curling smoke which lifts from his grill.
I spread out some chicken thighs over a cleaned grate, opposite the hot coals. Then I dusted them over with Cajun Injector Cajun Shake, and tossed on a small chunk of hickory wood, into the fiery coals. Lid on, and top vent tweaked – it was not long before a gentle smoke began to curl. I flipped the pit radio onto the local Twins game to complete the acoustic wallpaper. Then of course, I did what all real men of BBQ do best – repair to my BBQ chair with a lovely beverage, feet up, and survey my smokey kingdom. On the grill tonight, we’re doing one of my bride’s favorites, grilled chicken tacos – POTP style.
After a suitable amount of loitering, I flipped the chicken thighs over, and hit the other side with some more of that Cajun Shake, to give the routine meat a bit more flavorful kick. Lid back on, and the hickory smoke resumes as soon as I make it back to my roost. Hard work this BBQ stuff. I settled in, listening to the baseball game, whilst watching the thin smoke curl from the grill. A routine by and far that I could become accustomed to. The ambiance of the pit – something always missed, and then lamented over, every time a misguided pit keeper opts to cook his spoils indoors.
When the chicken is done, chop it up into man sized chunks, and consult your tortilla taco making instincts. Like a true man, I stuffed my tortilla way too full of smoked chicken, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, onions, and sour cream. And savory globs fell all which way. But who cares. Good is good, and this was good! And my pants were already dirty.
So next time you’re hungry for a taco, and want to take it to the next level, try doing them up on the BBQ. Because everything is better outside, and absolutely better off the grill.
Hickory Tinted Grilled Chicken Tacos. If a taco gets any better, you all let us know about it!
Today we saw something we have not seen in maybe eight months. We saw eighty degrees of blessed Fahrenheit grace our mercury tubes. The balmiest of suns hung in the sky, and its golden rays poured over the fair land, drenching the trees and those who wandered amid them, in a glorious, life-giving warmth. We didn’t quite know even what to do with ourselves. The last of the ice banks dissolved into a wet earth, whilst the morale of the people soared headlong with the temperatures. And the first buds of the Lilac bushes poked their heads cautiously out, to check and see if it was really as they had heard. If, whether or not, spring was commencing here on the 45th parallel. And it appears, with a rather optimistic hue, that it has.
Naturally, folks across fruited plain are finally firing up their BBQ grills, in a token light to the new grilling season. We were no different here at the POTP, tho sweeter these sorts of days are, I dare say, to those keepers of the flame who have bared the blizzards, and trimmed their grills against the tempest. To our winter grilling brethren out there, for whom’s glowing screen these cyber pages may stretch, who have stood strong in the face of defeating wind chill, eternal darkness, and driving sleet – we commend your fortitude, and your heady passion for the game. For those were our glory days, by and far, standing stalwart at our cookers as the calendar flipped, with our white flags stowed deep in our pockets. Paying our dues with the mounting drifts of snow. Those were the days indeed, robust and raw, and we can be proud of them, as we hold our tongs high. But these eighty degree days, with endless sun and darting song birds, well, they aren’t so bad either. And we can appreciate them just as well, I should say. Days indeed sweeter to the soul, having grilled long remember, on the dark side of the moon. Glory!
On the grill today, hickory-apple smoked country-style rib sandwiches. So get your bib on, cause this one is gonna fall on your lap!
This sandwich is something of an expedient pulled pork affair, for when you’re in the mood for a savory pulled pork sandwich, but you lack the time and fancy to smoke the big Boston butts for half the day long. In some ways, they are better even. A fraction of the time, and because the pieces are small to start with, you get an elevated smoke-to-meat-ratio. Every bite is not unlike the outer, most savory sections of a traditional butt, loaded with seasoning, bark, and smoke. Oh buddy!
Whilst the coals mature on the pit, gather up a pack of country-style ribs to prep. Country style ribs, by the way and if you haven’t heard, are not ribs at all. They are actually part of the pork butt, which actually isn’t a butt at all, but the front shoulder of the hog. Yeah, butchers have way too much fun I think. Anyways, I hit the meat with a good smattering of Famous Dave Rib Rub, and transferred the pork to the grill, opposite the hot coals. The smoke wood today is the pleasant duo of apple and hickory, and a tantalizing tandem in the smokey arts. Then top the grill with the lid, and turn down the dampers. Govern just enough air in to keep the coals alive, and that smoke wood smoldering with flavor.
The next step should come easy to a patron of the pit, and that is to draw yourself a cold beverage and position your self accordingly in your BBQ chair, like a solar panel to the sun. These are the days we have dreamed about all the winter long, distant fantasies once privy only to Florida people, and the blessed lucky schmucks of Ecuador. Today, we will all fend off sunburn, and our smoke will rise as equals. And what a beautiful day it was, with nary a remote disturbance in an otherwise endless blue sky. Mallards floating serenely on the pond, and the call of a song bird’s serenade from the whispering pine. I kicked up my feet on an old bucket, and laid my head back a spell, hat pulled over the eyes, and what hecticness there was at once evaporated into the summer-like breezes. A man at peace by his pit. Nothing is quite so fine. Two and a half hours later, I foiled the ribs.
I foiled the ribs with some apple juice, and let them hence enjoy a sweet steam bath for an hour or so, while I got back to the very important business of loitering in my man chair. Of monitoring sun angles, and judging the song bird try-outs. I may have even nodded off again, and that’s OK. After an hour or so in the foil, and the meat has loosened up a great deal, and the checkered flag is in sight, you’ll want to toast your buns. Yes, goes the extra mile people, and toast your buns. This is your art. Treat it as such! When everything is done, bring it all inside and prepare your sandwich accordingly. Chopping up the savory pork, and maybe mixing it with some of your very favorite sauce, or even hitting them again with a bit more rub. Lay the bite-sized chunks over the toasted bread, piling them together in a magnificent meat melee, and if you’re from South Carolina, or just weird like some of us, go ahead and dob on some cool coleslaw right over the BBQ pork. Man! Press your sandwich together, and commence with the one of the finer culinary pleasures in this life. Be warned tho, sloppy brown chunks may make the acquaintanceship of your lap.
Hickory-Apple-Smoked Country Style Rib Sandwiches. It sure don’t get much better folks! You hungry now? Man!
A formal apology must be made to my fellow Minnesotan’s, for I guess I uttered a tad too loudly in a recent blog, that winter, by and far, was done now. Oh what foolery hath slipped from my lips. For it looks like the old man winter caught wind of that, and naturally dumped a foot of snow on our BBQ grills, just for spite. Just because he can. A little slap in the face perhaps, to an over-eager gesture, here in the mid-folds of April. The snow now is shin-deep again. And tight still are the icy bonds from whence we have so endured. Tho there is hope I see, residing yonder.
The american Robin has moved back in to town now. An usher of hope. I guess he hadn’t got the word on his original twitter account, that it was still winter up here. Like many of us, he too had gotten his little hopes elevated. He’s sitting up in a tree right now, over fields of snow, chirping in a disgruntled manner, whilst no doubt reconsidering his life as a bird. Come to think of it, many people I know are doing the same thing, more or less, in the homely posture of snow-bound tweety birds. All they want for is a little green grass, and a splash of golden sun. A convenience simply not meant to be, this day, as one and all, we parlay for warmer times, and softer skies. One and all, we must surely wait.
I kind of think the wait is good for us BBQ people at least. The wait, after all, is analogous to the low & slow mantra much revered in the smoking sciences. The wait is what makes it all worth it. The longer we extend the smoke, the slower we go, the more time the meat has to absorb the smoke, and for the collagen to break down. The longer we wait, the more savory it gets, sometimes hunger alone even, need be our only spice. In this day and age of the drive through mentality, people just don’t like to wait. But I think by getting what ever we want in expedient fashion all the time, has taken something away from us as a people. It has taken our patience. Smoking meats low and slow at once returns us to that realm of waiting. Teaches us that it is OK, nay, it is beautiful, to let up on the accelerator pedal of life, and do something slowly for once. To nurture that reserve of patience we have lost touch with, and that when it comes down to it, that it is our privilege to wait for something, less we betray the beauty of the moment, and fall victim to the tragedy of haste. Patience is indeed a virtue most lovely. And, as my elder brother is fond of saying, “Patience comes to those who wait”.
A day passeth, and a brilliant sun the likes of which we have not seen in many months, rises high into a blue, Minnesota sky. Snow dripped from the roof of the house with the fierceness of a brooding rainstorm. Oh a fair shade different than yesterday. But that is the nature of spring in Minnesota, fickle and shifting, like the mood of a woman. Neither can help it, and we understand that. For it lends a greater joy towards the good days, and that which we have waited for. Anyways, it was my hallowed day off, and I knew, like any man would, that I would be grilling this day, for the day itself begged of it, and I felt more than a wee bit abiding. On the grill today, slow smoked sirloin pork roast and tin foil potatoes. Oh buddy! Let me tell you about it now, and just how it was done.
Long before any coals were lit, the pork roast was lovingly scored with a knife about a quarter-inch deep, in an artistic checker board pattern. Mostly a maneuver aimed at opening it up a little, so more spice and smoke penetration could be had. I then let it marinate for a few hours, in our standard patron marinade we use here. A sweet and garlicky affair that really helps out unruly pork cuts.
Sweet Garlic Marinade
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
After a few hours, and after the sun had risen higher yet into that gorgeous blue sky, I sought the next installment of today’s flavor profile, with this delicious paste rub. In a food processor, toss in the following ingredients, and thus process them accordingly.
Sweet Apple Paste Rub
1 Chopped Sweet Onion
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoon mustard
3 tablespoons apple juice.
Next, dutifully work the paste rub into all the many surfaces of the roast. Be gentle and take your time. Remember we’re in no hurry today. Today is the day we choose to wait. To cultivate the patience patron to low and slow victory. Whence all the paste is rubbed in, let the roast sit there with its new flavors. Let it them mingle and get to know one another. This while you are outside lighting the coals.
Bank the coals to the side, and add a chunk or two of your favorite smoke wood. We used apple wood in this cook, as most find it favorable with pork. Maple is good too. Set the roast on the grate indirect of course, with a temperature probe if you got it. If not, no worries, just keep checking back in on it. We are looking for the minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Rotate your prized meat once or twice during the smoke for even cooking. At around 150 degrees internal, is a good and worthy time to apply the glaze. Here is the wonderful glaze we used on this savory pork roast.
Caramel Apple Glaze
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
3 Tablespoons salted butter
3 Tablespoons apple juice
2 Tablespoons mustard
Boiled this all down in your favorite little sauce pan for ten minutes or so, and baste it on to the pork roast with a brush every ten minutes or so, until you reach 165 internal. Keep the lid on, and the smoke going. Turn down the dampers on the grill. Take your time people. This is your magic hour of grilling. That precious span of minutes where your vittles sizzling give off their most excellent aromas, of spice and sugars, of wood smoke and dripping fats. It is your privilege now, to slow it all down. To extend the moment for the moment’s sake. To take up residence in your BBQ chair, and tarry in the sun there. Good advice I know, and I might have taken it even, had not I spied something green yonder, by the old spruce tree. I got up and wobbled over there, and lo, a patch of grass, spread out before me, between receding patches of snow. I knelt down to investigate it. It has been some time indeed, since I’ve felt a patch of grass with my hands, and smelled its earthy bouquet. Even better, it was dry. Dry enough in point of fact, that I could sit down on it with out that awkward event of having to get up again and looking for all the world like you should be wearing a diaper. In no time, I found myself belly up in the sun there, staring up through the fragrant spruce bows, to a deep blue sky beyond. The song birds rejoiced around me, and my soul did sing. And for a moment, and maybe even longer than that, I felt a kinship with the robin I saw yesterday, and the other souls mired in winter’s clutch, once chirping in disdain over fields of snow. Turns out all I needed indeed, was but a little green grass, and a splash of golden sun.
After a fashion under the old spruce tree, I foiled the roast and brought it inside to let it rest a spell. Ah yes, even when the food is done, a good pit junkie will let his meat rest. To wait even more, in a pleasurable torment, amid aromas of perfectly smoked pork. As it rests, and you pace the floors like a predatory cat, the juices will return to where they most ought to be, and then in turn, to the infinite pleasure of thy palate awoken. Slice the roast into serviceable pieces and dribble some more of that glaze over it, and hail the dinner bell for those so lucky, and patron to your spoils. This a meal by and far, succulent, and most worthy of the wait. Amen.
Slow smoked sirloin pork roast with a caramel apple glaze, sided with tin foiled potatoes. Man! Feel free to drool. We’ll clean it up.
We are betwixt by the fire and by the ice. That oft volatile, yet seasonal line between winter’s bond and that of a lush, green lawn. Of snow banks and sun burn. Of golf clubs and wind chill. Of spring in Minnesota. This evening, upon the outer crust of the midlands of April, standing over a beautiful bed of coals, working the pit, admiring a lawn full of grass whilst blizzards gather headlong in the west, I am reminded yet again, of the heady pleasures of Minnesota BBQ. Sleet taps like ball bearings over the land now, and the cold wind curls around the old kettle grill – the wood smoke wrapped in eddies. Perhaps this is the reason you never hear our state mentioned on the same pages like that of Texas, South Carolina, and Kansas City, when it comes to BBQ. If those blokes had to BBQ in sub-zero temperatures for fifty percent of the year, perhaps we northern wannabes would tally a might higher in their counts. Its not easy, let me tell you, fighting off wind chill induced hypothermia while procuring a perfectly executed rack of ribs. But even so, some body has to do it, and we are up here despite, giving it a go. For it is the journey anyways, that we favor most in BBQ. The rest sorts itself out, by and by.
On the grill tonight, blizzard or not, we’re doing up a house favorite – BBQ chicken quarters.I know you’re tempted in the grocery aisles to pick up your packages of boneless chicken breast, but I have long held to the notion, that birds we’re designed to have their bones in them. More over, that the bone imparts a noticeably better flavor on your meat’s end game. Indeed, we are men, and we just know how ever it is men know things, that meat on the bone is poetically correct, and the very best way to go. And chicken quarters have lots of bones, beautifully placed alongside vast reserves of meat. It is a good thing. A worthy bone to meat ratio. Thus, and amid the falling sleet, the quarters were rubbed down in olive oil, and dutifully dusted in a liberal fashion with Grill Mates Chicken Rub. This while the fire matured, and the darkened, snow-laden clouds advanced upon our fair hamlet.
As usual, well that is if your interested in a crispier skin, we seared these lovely quarters a couple minutes per side, over some hot coals. Then of course tucked them back, to the cool side of the grill for the rest of the ride. We used apple wood for the smoke flavor tonight. Apple is an apt choice for all things poultry, and one can nary go wrong using it. Just a chunk. You do not want it bellowing like a choo choo train, as pretty as it may look. Nice thin wisps of smoke are what you’re after. Too much smoke is actually possible, and over-doing it has been known to result in bitter tasting meat. Indeed, it is well to think of smoke perhaps as a seasoning, and not an ingredient, like so many newcomers to the BBQ sciences postulate. Anyways, the lid thus was put into place, and the smoke began to curl. And for a while, tho the winter tempest was conspiring, all the world was right. That glorious, contented feeling, patron to wafting wood smoke, and savory meat sizzling quietly aside hot embers. The last ten minutes of the cook, I went ahead and applied the BBQ sauce. Brush strokes of a Meat Mona Lisa! The aromas of smoked chicken and apple wood a waft in the chill, April air. Man! Say what you will, but this is living!
Ain’t too many things finer before a spring snow storm, than a steaming plate of good BBQ chicken. Meat on the bone. It not only sets a man straight in his ways, but motions him to accept the prevailing weather scenarios with aplomb. To be OK straddling that curious but seasonal line the sand right now, which seems so privy to both fire and ice. Good BBQ knows no meteorological boundaries. It can’t you see, as we won’t allow such foolery, less we keepers of the northern flame would have to hang up our tongs half the year long. And that just ain’t right. Its not right at all.
In the morning, winter had returned, making itself at home on the pit once again. So be it. For a hearty flame still burns here, deep in the frigid north. And the wood smoke shall rise again. Amen.
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:
As the March sun melts through the snow-laden spruce, I rake the orange-glowing coals about in the pit, banking them to the back side, like I always do. And I pause momentarily, not just to savor the heat off the grill, which is nice, but to note this day how the sun at once seems a peck more sluggish aloft than maybe it once was. A little less keen on the business of dropping into darkness, or to give up its waning light. And this gives us northern folk pause for hope. It sings to our soul. But then I notice this same thing every year around this time, around day light savings time. We set the clocks forward, thinking that does something important. And maybe it does. Up at this latitude anyways, people today saw the sun at supper time, and say what you will, after a winter’s worth of dark suppers, this is a most novel event. Such milestones give hope to the BBQ spirit, that some day soon again, there will be warm sun beams awash over our grills, and merit to the notion we won’t soon either have to dig them out anymore, from the lofty drifts of snow which hath conspired there. Indeed, we Patrons of the Pit notice these things such as the lingering sun. How couldn’t we. It is in our blood. Anyways, let’s head inside and see what is going on the grill tonight.
One of my favorite things to grill are potatoes. And maybe my favorite method of doing them is diced up in the foil. If you’ve never grilled your spuds like this before, you’re missing something out of your grilling career. The process is as simple as it gets almost, and nary fails to turn out a delicious end game. Here is how to do it. While the grill is coming up to speed, lay down a sheet of tin foil and dice up a few potatoes into uniform chunks about the size of dice. Skin on or off, it doesn’t matter, however you like them is fine. It doesn’t really matter even what size you want to dice them, just so long as they are uniform in size thus to allow for even cooking. The next crucial ingredient is fat. You can dribble some cooking oil over them, but I like to disperse a few generous pats of butter over the potatoes. Next, if you’re an onion person, of which we can only hope our readers are, you’ll likely wanna chop up one of them on the pile too. Then hit the whole thing with a dusting of pepper and a few pinches of kosher salt. Some times I toss in some vegetables too, but not tonight. When you have it all ready, wrap it up good in the foil, tuck it under your wing like a full back, and make way for your grill. Lets head back out there, where as my elder brother is fond of saying ” the metal meets the meat”.
We preach the in-direct method allot here on POTP, and you should aspire for it, but here is one occasion where it works to go directly over the flame. Go head and put your foiled-up potatoes on the grate, right over the coals. The butter will quickly come to a sizzle, in a ricocheting applause within it’s tin foil sanctum. Now also would be a good time to toss on a few chunks of meat if you have a mind to, and if you’re man, well, this should not require too much additional thought. We’ve been on a chicken leg quarter sort of kick here at the pit lately, so we thought to use up some more of those. Patted down in vegetable oil, and seasoned in garlic salt. Nice and simple. As any meat and potato mantra should be. Seared them, them tucked them in-direct. Put on the lid, and went about the vital business of procuring myself a lovely beverage from the refrigerator. Standard Pit Master Procedure.
As is custom in winter grilling, you will want to take up residence in your favorite man chair, strategically positioned with a view of the pit and perhaps the big game on the TV. These are the moments in every cook you remember. Those contented span of minutes where the aromas of food and smoke waft from the grill damper, and there is banter in the air, as your posture slouches a bit in your chair. A seasoned pit master doesn’t fight it too much you see, and if you need to tip your hat over eyes and procure a nap for a few minutes, well, we will harbor no shame against thee. In point of fact, we will salute you. For at the heart of all good BBQ, is a soul on the scenic path, taking his time. Taking these moments we love, and extending the moment just as long as we can. No hurries, mate. However, in this cook, we do have vittles over direct heat, and they should be done in about 20 -25 minutes. So don’t nap too long. It’s time to go plate up.
My beautiful bride is particularly fond of these potatoes of you can get some of them a little crispy, and these sort you will usually find adhering like a tick to the side of the tin foil. Peel them off to compliment the color and texture of your plate. Served alongside some perfectly executed BBQ chicken, hark, a meal fairer to thee, and patron even to the sun which has returned; and unto its golden light cast upon our grills. Amen.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt the sun. Or sat comfortably, and contentedly, in its golden rays. Up here in Minnesota, the winter can stretch eternal, spanning half a year if it has a mind to. And this year at least, it has a mind to indeed. But this last Sunday was at once an anomaly, and an idealistic respite from winter’s grip, as the sunlight astutely flooded my patio with warm, life-giving thermal units. It must have been 30 degrees out there, which I know doesn’t sound like much to you Florida people, but trust me, to a Minnesotan in March, that is a veritable heat wave worthy of your very finest swim wear. Of course, and understandably so, I was out there, jacket-less, smoker puffing away, repairing in my Adirondack chair, just soaking up the sun. And it felt wonderful. Besides that, it was my beloved bride’s birthday then, and she wanted ribs. Thus, it was my privilege, as it would be any man’s, to tarry in the sun a trifle, postulate the drifting clouds and the rabbit tracks in the snow, whilst smoking some savory meats over a beautiful bed of coals. It is no hardship at all.
In the big WSM, over a smoldering fire of apple wood, I placed with great care three near perfectly seasoned racks of pork spare ribs. These racks were first sprinkled with a light measure of brown sugar, and rubbed down like a life time member in a fine spa, smearing it all about. Then I let it rest a tad, just until the brown sugar began to liquefy. This created a decently sticky, tactile surface, in which to receive the rub. The rub today, Grill Mates Applewood Rub, is a long time favorite of my fellow patron who co- hosts this blog, of which I dutifully applied in liberal fashion over the entirety of the ribs. To finish off the pork canvas, I sprinkled another light layer of brown sugar over the top of the rub, which when liquefied, would seal in the rub, thus locking into the tighter flavor profile of which I was after. Man!
During the next three hours, I naturally took up periodic residence in a gamut of my favorite easy chairs, whilst watching out of the corner of my eye, the apple wood smoke quietly curl from the cooker. I don’t know what it is exactly, about a smoking pit, and meats quietly cooking there, but it stirs me. It cultivates a great contentment in me, and for a while at least, I am in need of little else. And as I repaired on the couch with my favorite father in-law, our feet propped up, lovely beverages in hand, I declared that this was indeed the high rigors of BBQ, but more over, that we were undoubtedly up to the task at hand. We raised our beverages with the rising smoke, saluting the BBQ arts, and then I think father in-law may have even nodded off a bit. Bless him and his true BBQ posture!
At about hour three, I foiled the ribs with a generous splattering of apple juice. At about hour four, I lit up yet another grill for the chicken leg quarters, of which I have grown fond of in recent years. Nothing is quite so stroking to your pit master ego as running dual cookers out on the patio. Smoke bellowing in stereo from multiple fronts, the smells and aromas surround you. Engulf you, and then enchant you. And for a while at least, you are in your glory. Tongs in hand, you are the supreme governor of your smokey kingdom. Or the conductor of a BBQ symphony. I could have I suppose thrown the chicken legs on the smoker too, and been an efficient person, but I was after a crisper skin than one can get in a smoker. Plus I liked the idea of having two grills going. It made me happy. So I rubbed the chicken down with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and seared them up over direct heat, then tucked them back in-direct for an hour maybe, bathed in light hickory smoke. At hour 5, I took the ribs out of the foil, and put em back on the smoker, and basted them good with some Sweet Baby Rays elegantly thinned with a splash of apple juice. Oh buddy!
When dinner was served, we had some savory spare ribs where the smoke ring plum near reached the bone. The brown sugar caramelized some, mingling with the slight kick of the Apple Wood Rub and the BBQ sauce, whilst lightly tinted with the aromas of apple wood smoke. It was a symphony in meat alright. An opus of ribs. And the chicken was spot on its juiciest ideal.
Apple wood spare ribs and chicken. You could eat allot worse I suppose, but not have nearly so much fun. Amen.
Way up yonder, on the northern tiers of Minnesota, we often press a tent stake patron to some pretty places here and there. Places of exquisite beauty, where the waters run clearly, and the breezes taste sweet, sifted through the fragrant pines. My fellow patron and I routinely visit these locales, if not even for but one day. One day to inhale that pure, unpretentious air, and to absorb a rarefied tranquility lost, but not forgotten, in the ever-whirling cog of society. Indeed, we fancy to strike off for the wilder places just as often as we can, for to live simply, and abandon all tension there. For we are at home in the woods, by and by, and love to tarry fire-side amid the whispering pines.
Putterers by nature, we are content for hours on end it seems to cook exotic camp food over smoldering coals, repair in our chairs, and simply watch the smoke rise unto the standing pines. To tell story, and play song, whilst dotingly poking at the fire. Bannocks baking in blackened skillets, chickadees flirting, and all the many phone calls at once escaped in our own personal, wilderness sanctum. Oh the places, the beautiful places, that we have loitered in, here and there.
Campfires of Birch and Balsam often flicker in camp, as the lake serenely laps upon our shore, and the stately pines sway gently in the breeze, like a thousand and one fly rods, nay, make that a thousand and two. Oh how we love to cook over the open flame in these places, to ply our craft, turning our spoils into shore lunch. The stars, the moon, the forest glade, we love it all, even the smoke in our face! And here is the thing I have noticed, and maybe some of you have to; every time back home when we thus light the grill, and we smell that campfire-like smoke lofting towards the heavens, are we not at once, and irrevocably so, reminiscent, and smitten deeply for these places. Because smell is at once patron to memories, and memories thus flood back of those quiet campsites nestled aside shimmering waters. And for a moment, we can taste again the simple life we had once aspired to there. Because here it is again, deep in an urban sprawl, working over this old kettle grill; and there are blackened skillets, and chickadees even, and the sweet fusion of memories gently forged, both here and there, over the swiftly ebbing seasons, and the smoke which curled there. Amen.