It has been a soggy few days in paradise. I know the monsoon season has never even heard of Minnesota, but here lately I tell you, you would have been hard pressed to enlighten me otherwise. Flash floods, and torrents of falling water. Gales like Joshua’s trumpets. Lightening bolts the shape of Idaho. Thunder so loud you swear mother earth had just split at the seam. Everybody, even the resident ducks, were to take cover from the tempest, huddled in our respective shelters, listening to the rain drum over the roof like pitch forks and hammer handles. Magnificent weather, to say the least. You cannot deny. But a might challenging, shall we say, in which to go outside and light the BBQ. What’s a pit jockey to do! Eventually tho, and mercifully, all the flags suddenly went limp, and a golden shaft of light pierced down from a gray sky. Water gently dribbled off the roof, and the tweety birds burped back to life. We all emerged from our holes, every living thing, scratching our collective heads, and admiring a world so fresh and anew. So wet and green and clean. And countless pools of standing water where water ought not stand.
It wasn’t over yet, however. A glimpse at the Doppler radar revealed the bitter truth. That yet another green blob was advancing fiercely from the West. The short of it was we had but two, possibly three precious hours of semi-damp respite in which to frolic accordingly before the first, fat, rain drops spattered on the ground again. One hundred and twenty minutes or so, give or take. Well, under those circumstance, that was just long enough I figured, for a Patron of the Pit. Just long enough indeed, for a smoked meatloaf sandwich hot off the grill. Here is how to do it effectively!
Truth be told this started out as a simple round of hamburgers, but after mashing about the ground beef a bit, you might say inspiration struck. I quickly cracked an egg over the meat, and added about a cup of bread crumbs. Squirted some ketchup in there, then some garlic and onion. An envelope of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. And maybe a few other things. You all have your own kinks for your meat loaf I’m sure. Do henceforth what moves thee. Anyways, I shaped the obscene looking meat muck into the relative dimensions resembling that of a wayward bun I had sitting about. I had an orphaned hoagie roll you see, one that I didn’t know what to do with. It was all alone, and frankly wasn’t reaching its potential. So why not match the meat to fit the bun, its common sense really. I ended up with an oblong loaf of meat about an inch thick, of which I dusted over in some Cajun seasoning just because. This was carefully placed on tin foil and put opposite the hot coals to tighten up there.
After the meat has tightened up enough to safely pick the loaf up without destroying it, go ahead and get that tin foil out of there. You might be able to forego the tin foil stage altogether if your loaf is sturdy enough, but that is up to your pit master instincts to decide. Anyways, the sooner you get the foil out of there, the sooner then you can commence with the infusion of smokey goodness. The smoke, after all, is what will set this meatloaf sandwich apart from any other. With eyes on the skies, we smoked this hunk of meat for a good hour in a continuous parade of curling oak wood smoke. And it was glorious. An entire hour in which to sit by the pit and do nothing at all. As usual, I was up for the task. Up for the undeniable attributes of not cooking in the rain. Like not wondering where the next lightening bolt may strike, or fighting a stormy gale. The way of course to grill in a monsoon is not to fight it, but to patiently hold your charcoal, biding your time. Like a adventure climbers who bandy together on the flanks of Everest, waiting on a small window of weather in which to assault the summit. And so it is today, and between the tempest, that we strike!
Checking in on the plunder is OK. You may wish to turn the meatloaf from time to time, for even cooking. But always keep it tucked back, opposite the hot coals. When in doubt, go indirect people. Ten minutes from the end of the cook, we plunked on a naked corn on the cob, and roasted it over direct heat. Rotating it often with the tongs. A little butter and salt, man, is there anything better! And lastly we toasted up the orphaned hoagie roll, to add that extra touch to a meal well executed. And whilst we dressed the bun in mayonnaise and ketchup, we put a few globs of every one’s favorite ghetto cheese on the meat to melt. Mercy!
Oak Smoked Meatloaf Sandwiches on a toasted hoagie roll. Oh buddy! It don’t get more comfort food than this! Just the ticket for what ails you, between the storms, and under fair skies.
Author’s Preface: There is one article I have been putting off for a while, and for good reason I suppose. But I finally broke. I had to. I know we will lose some readership over this one, but alas, it is a brother thing, and it had to be done. Here then is the story as I know it to be. For better or for worse.
The Woolly Bugger
With the crunch of cold tires over hardened snow, I pulled up into elder brother’s driveway, where, as I come to idle, stray cats scatter into the woodwork. I turn off the engine, and admire how the sunbeams sparkle off a mountainous bank of snow courting the western edge of the drive, where elder brother’s prized motor home is embedded into the side of said bank, like the fossilized remnants of a bygone era. I like to stop by and visit the bloke from time to time, just to see what he’s up to. Such is the case today.
The car door shuts with a muffled clunk, and I begin to stroll up his driveway. Classic man toys abound: Trucks, Jeep, motorcycle, boats, but I take note of his little Weber Smokey Joe instead, like I usually do, or would have I guess, had not it been completely buried and forgotten in six months worth and several hundred pounds of snow. But I knew the approximate coordinates where I saw it last autumn, least wise I think I do, and I paid my respects to the pile of snow there instead. Sad. Very sad.
I walk in through the kitchen door, and elder brother is standing at the sink, with his long, grayish hair floundering in a rather unruly fashion, sure to excite only a local Sasquatch at best, but he is my brother, so I don’t judge him. It appears he had just woke up anyways, rebooting as it were, the human hard drive.
“I gots something to show you!” Brother belched.
He dashed down the stairs into his basement where few have ever been, or dare to go, and returns momentarily holding a little glass test tube with something dark and fuzzy in it.
“What sort of specimen is that?” I queried
“My latest creation“, brother croaked.”
“Ohhh” ,I yammered.
“”Yes”, he went on” It is a woolly bugger I just tied, guaranteed to seduce even the most selective bass!
He was quite excited, and I nodded my head in affirmation. I didn’t have the heart to tell him however, it looked like a conglomeration of something he has been plucking out of his belly button every morning in the shower before work.
“Very nice, brother”, I lamented. “And say,” I said shifting the subject, “I noticed something outside you should be aware of. Your BBQ grill is very, very unhappy. You need to dig that thing out!”
Elder brother hung his head, his bottom lip protruding in stark remorse.
“I don’t have it in me, little brother”, he said.”The art of winter grilling has not fallen to this side of the family tree.”
The room fell silent, the way rooms always do when one admits their BBQ ineptness. I should like to also say, tho unoriginal, that the silence was only broken by the sound of mating crickets, but in point of fact, any crickets around here were still frozen stiff.
“Maybe you could grill something for me???” Brother yammered in soft, mono-toned voice, thus breaking the silence.
“I could I suppose” I said, staring calmly at the woolly bugger.
“Then I could live vicariously through you”, brother croaked, “and keep my BBQ honor intact, while you gleam the glory!”
My eyebrow rose, as I scanned the intent of his face which was lightly flaked with day old mustard.
“Sounds good my hairy brother“, I belched, “What would you like me to BBQ for you? You name it, and consider it done!”
Little did I know he would take the matter most seriously of course, and like a misguided dictator of a powerful army, he would steer the troops into a position of high compromise. And so brother thoughtfully stroked his scruffy beard as an enormous smile formed across his face.
“Would you grill me a spam sandwich and write about it?” he croaked, “I just love those things!”
“I certainly will not!” I grumbled.
“But you said you would BBQ me anything!” brother declared
“Yes but, I’m only thinking of your health, not to mention the readership of POTP. They are used to a finer fare than jellied ghetto meat!”
“But you said!”
If there is anything I have learned about the heady bond of brotherhood, it is that the bond goes deeper than logic or good sense. And that you have to back your bothers play. You got to look the woolly bugger square in the face and say, I don’t get you sometimes, but what ever. Lets party.
So it was tonight, many weeks hence, under stormy skies, the kind of April showers that soon waxed to sleet and then to snow. By the time I had the coals lit, the first sloppy, white flakes of an April blizzard were hitting the ground. That is how it has been this winter; ever-challenging for the northern pit keepers to get out and BBQ. But we find a way. It took a couple of tries to get the coals lit as the packing pellet-like snow fell from the heavens, but we got it done. Anyways, whilst the coals matured, I rummaged through the bowels of my pantry and found a lowly and forgotten can of spam.
Spam for the uninitiated, is a sort of processed meat that which many folk turn their noses up, tho it does have a faithful following from eccentric individuals, like elder brother. It is also yet another thrust in food technology, conceived and manufactured here in Minnesota. It is already cooked, and it keeps for years on end. Which comes in handy as an apocalyptic meat I suppose. You can eat it cold or hot. Slice it or dice it. You can do what ever you want with it I guess. Today, in honor of elder brother, we shall slow smoke the questionable meat amid a lavish bath of hickory and cherry wood smoke. We will take this greasy, pressed-meat cube and attempt to usher it unto a better place. Wish us luck!
So we sliced the contents of the can into 4 crude squares, putting them indirect, and tossed some onions on the cast iron griddle insert to saute. The polish sausage was merely an insurance policy on the off-chance this BBQ went decidedly south. Also, a special thanks to Rolf, at Craycort Grills for setting us up with this griddle accsessory. This is the first chance we’ve had to use it, and we absolutely love it. More to come on this toy in a future post.
Ah the smell of onions frying up in some butter over a beautiful bed of coals. Aromas reminiscent of a major league ball park. The soft tap of snow flakes on the brim of my hat, and their inevitable sizzle upon the hot cast iron grate below. This was ambiance. This is why we grill outside in winter. When the onions were sweet and complete, we took them off the pit, and replaced the old enameled lid. The wood smoke soon took draft, and a blend of hickory and cherry gently curled from the damper. I slipped my hands into my smoking jacket, like pit keepers do, and considered the day.
For canned meat it didn’t smell too bad, I thought. But then wood smoke can make even a grungy woodsman three days into the same underwear smell good. This I know. Don’t ask me how. And whilst the plumes of aroma emanated from the pit, the snow flakes fell gently to the earth, slowly cloaking the dear patch of grass that just last week I wallowed like a puppy in. Winter is a fickle lady indeed. But one in which I gladly accept, on her terms, if but to grill but one humble sandwich beneath her lovely yet demanding skies.
The last order of business was to apply the cheese and toast the hoagie roll that I picked special for the occasion. Now if you’re going to grill a Spam sandwich, you might as well use Velveeta cheese. I know what you’re saying. That stuff ain’t cheese. And you’re right. But spam ain’t meat either, so who cares. It just makes sense. Plus, Velveeta is elder brothers most favorite cheese, and this sandwich, after all, is in his honor. Anyways, whence the cheese went gooey, and the roll toasted up nicely, we brought the goods inside and thus assembled the masterpiece. And on that note, it’s not a sandwich to elder brother if it doesn’t first have some mayonnaise involved. So we were sure to put some of that in there too.
Man! Grilled onions smothered in cheese, a light tang of mayonnaise, and hickory scented spam on a toasted hoagie roll. The first bite was reminiscent of a hot bologna sandwich or something. The next bite disturbingly better. It was all uphill from there. And I must admit, I ate the whole thing happily. Well, all except that which my lovely bride curiously inhaled despite her premeditated prejudices towards the canned meat. All things considered, it was pretty good for a highly processed, pressed meat sandwich. I slurped it down, go figure, like a bass to a woolly bugger. And more importantly, I had backed my brothers play. Amen.
Slow Hickory Smoked Spam Sandwich, with sauteed onions and Velveeta Cheese on a toasted Hoagie Roll. Hey, you could do worse and not have nearly so much fun.
The smoke curled nicely from the old kettle grill, whilst the crispy cottonwood leaves scattered in the October breeze. Its cool today, half way between noon and supper time, and the heat off the pit sure feels good on my hands. The shadows are dropping swifter now, much quicker than those months ago and patron to the steamy days of summer. How the heat and humidity then seems but a distant vapor now, and also with the sun, which once dallied eternal in the sky. It is all gone now. And so we embrace a new season at the pit. A transitional season. And what better way to do that, than with some succulent, apple smoked, pulled pork sandwiches, POTP style of course. This one is a humdinger, folks. And here’s how to do it.
After a meeting with your local butcher, acquire your self a heaping mass of country-style ribs. These will be of the pork variety, and true to meat nomenclature standards, not ribs at all. What they really are is chunks of a pork butt, which of course isn’t from the hind end at all, but rather the shoulder. Anyways, this is the same section of pig where your pulled pork is created from. Country style ribs are just a small portion of that. And it is because of this, that a three-hour pulled pork sandwich is even possible.
Next, and whilst your cooker is coming up to speed, rinse off the meat under cold water for to irrigate any bone fragments stowaways possibly leftover from the band saw used to cut them. And then dust them liberally with your favorite pork rub. We tried out some Cajun Blast this time, so to pack a bit of spicy heat into our plunder, on this chill, autumn day. After a fashion, and a tip of the hat, take them out to the pit, properly stoked with coal and a small matter of smoke wood. We used apple wood for ours. But you can use what ever, and no, that doesn’t mean green treated two by fours!
Using the old kettle grill, this isn’t exactly low and slow, tho we turned down the bottom dampers to anemic slits, governing the amount of oxygen coming in, thus dropping its temperature some. It all works out tho, as you will see. Place the pork opposite the hot coals, as in-direct as you can, then plunk on the lid and let it smoke for a couple of hours. Assume your standard pit side posture, feet up, manly beverage in hand, and muse over the curling smoke, racing cloud shadows, and darting tweety birds. After two hours of this most agreeable pastime, foil the meat with a half cup or two of your favorite beverage or juice, and put it back over indirect heat. This step is where the magic happens.
For the next hour, your meat will be in the likes of an expensive health spa, pampered, and loved in an all-inclusive steam bath. This step is often used on ribs or briskets, and works wonders here too. This is where the collagen breaks down and good things happen. Where elegance ingratiates meat. And it is a glorious thing. Check in on it after a spell, after about an hour or so. It is done when the meat pulls easily with but a twist of the aluminum tong.
Take the meat out of the foil for the final step, and put it back on the grill. Now is the time to varnish it up with your very favorite BBQ sauce. The final brush strokes, if you will, to your Picasso in Pork. Man! Can you smell it yet?
As a matter of course, we toasted up some lightly buttered kaiser rolls over the remaining coals, and assembled a proper, man-sized sandwich shortly there after. You will never regret toasting your buns people. It’s just the right thing to do. Especially on frigid evenings around the pit, where the wood smoke gently rises. Amen.
Three Hour, Apple Smoked, Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Tasty bark, deep smoke ring. Oh buddy. You getting hungry now! So next time you are in the mood for some savory pulled pork, but don’t have all day to smoke a big butt, try this little number. It’s good! A sandwich sure to please the ravaging stomach and the clock alike.
People who read this might also like Country Style Rib Sandwiches