Ode to Fall … how I love thee!!

Greetings Carnivores,

The skies are grey, change is in the air. I can feel it, see it, taste it. My house, high on a hill is bearing witness to the trees beyond the lake, turning as I write.

Just a few short weeks from now, when the night time temps dip, the trees will blossom with beautiful hues of Autumn Red, fading to Orange, Gold and Yellow.

Today is nasty in a wonderful Fall sort of way. It’s raining and a bit chilly.

I REALLY DO hate to see the Summer days grow short but … I SOOOO love the Fall. Bright sunshine and cool nights. NO BUGS to spoil any outside leisure activities and, those beautiful colours in the trees.

According to Wikipedia, An “Ode”  is elaborately praising or glorifying an event, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally.

And so, this is my Ode to Fall … how I love thee!!

Ahhhh, but the promise of Winter … my favourite.

Yes, I know some have a problem with that. Perhaps I’m one of the strange ones.

I SOOOO love to ride my motorcycle. Sadly, I just don’t do very well with the crazy heat and humidity that goes hand in hand with the Summer months here, where I have lived almost all of my life.

Being a Butcher for 35+ years has messed up my internal thermometer. I used to DREAD going to work. “How in the WORLD am I going to stay warm for 8 hours ???” Crazy thing now, I LOVE it !!!

I ACTUALLY look FORWARD to spending the ENTIRE day in the COLD !!! Seriously!!!  I can work my butt off and NEVER break a sweat !! It’s BEAUTIFUL !!

Again, I digress …

Here’s the deal … I SOOOOO look forward to the cold and SNOW !!!

I want to be clear … I LOVE the change of seasons we are blessed with in this part of my beautiful country (Canada) and, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  As much as I look forward to Spring, and the rebirth of everything green, I ALSO SOOOOOO look forward to the COLD, exhilarating slap of WINTER!!

I am a skier. I love all things out-of-doors, especially in the Winter. I guess that makes me a bit of a “Winter weirdo” and, let’s not forget … a FOODIE too!

For me, the Winter presents a WHOLE new experience for folks that just love to cut, cook, prepare, present and serve FOOD to appreciating people (mainly my Marital equivalent, family and friends). Comfort food to warm the heart and soul. Spicy chili’s, hearty stews and crock pot recipes that beg for a crackling fire, glass of wine and a big sweater.

Coming home today, as I drove up my long driveway, I was wondering “how am I going to impress my marital equivalent for dinner tonight ” and, … I’m SERIOUSLY drawing a TOTAL blank.

I put the key in the door, my beautiful four legged Princesses meet me as usual, and … dinner is gone. Out of my mind like the flush of a big Porcelain throne.

History. It’s play time and … Daddy’s home!!!

I usually give dinner serious thought during the day. Today however, I’m waffling between pulling nasty, last minute, got-no-time-for-anything-else, burgers or worse out of the freezer … OR, (wait for it …) the dreaded “Breakfast-for-dinner”!!! Fast n’ easy, bacon and eggs with toast (yum … so easy, … AND, sooooo good)

Sadly, my lovely spouse just doesn’t “GET” the whole “Breakfast-for-dinner” thing !!!

Back to the drawing board.

With the days growing colder, my opportunities to smoke (food, NOT tobacco or that other funny stuff!) are dwindling.  As the outside temperature drops I must add more and more time to my overall cook, since I use an old water smoker. One of these days I’ll invest in a Big Green Egg but, I digress, … again.

Back to dinner. I want to use my smoker tonight but, I haven’t presoaked any wood chips … or have I ???

This whole diatribe has been the reason for my Blog post today.

I have a ridiculously obvious and simple tip I actually fell into by accident to share.

Back in the summer, after  smoking some ribs for dinner, I was cleaning up and realized there was still half a bag of hickory chips soaking in my bucket. Not wanting to drain them, dry them and store them for next time, instead, I put them into a ziplock bag and stuck them in the freezer.

Waiting for wood chips or chunks to soak can be a pain (at least 30 minutes to 1 hour). If you’re eager to begin smoking food as I am tonight, the wood needs to soak before being added to the grill in order to maintain a slow smolder rather than a quick burn, which can impart an acrid taste to your meat.

In my freezer, I have pre-soaked, ready to use wood chips!! By the time I get the old smoker rockin’ , my chips will be thawed and ready to use!

Necessity is the Mother of Invention AND, the end result of many happy accidents around here !!

BTW, … the same tip is great for soaking bamboo skewers as well.  This is a must before grilling since soaking will help keep the wood from burning before the food is cooked.  You can even use frozen chips for your gas grill too.  Just place them inside a foil pouch with holes poked into it for ventilation and add them to your BBQ while cooking your favourite protein.

Chicken leg quarters, brined, smoked and finished in my little water smoker, served with foil wrapped potatoes and steamed, buttered broccoli.

Comfort food for a chilly night … ahhhh the crackling fire.

Honey? … can I pour you some wine ???

All is good.

Until next time Carnivores, stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Pickling, Curing, Salting and Smoking … a primer for preserving food.

Greetings Carnivores,

I enjoy answering questions from people who have a particular meat puzzle. I sometimes hear from those of you who follow my Blog.

Today’s post is an answer (hopefully) for Teresa, regarding Curing salt.

I have been meaning to write about this topic but to be honest, I didn’t think it would make a very interesting read.

I guess I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not I’ve hit the mark.

Here goes.

For thousands of years people have been Pickling, Curing, Salting, and Smoking their meat, fruit and vegetables as a way of preserving and prolonging it’s ‘normally’ very short shelf life. I fondly remember my Mom and Grandmother, every Summer and Fall ‘putting up’ the harvest veggies and fruit. Making jams, jellies and pickles of all shapes and sizes was a real event around our house back then.

Sadly, today’s family has little, if any time for this tradition. Modern techniques have all but seen this form of home preserving go the way of the Pterodactyl.

Pterodactyl

Just wanted to help you out with a visual here …

Salting meat and fish helps prevent microbial growth by drawing the cellular moisture out of the flesh, thereby retarding the natural spoilage timeline. The salts used in this process are usually a mixture of Sodium Chloride (common table salt), Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite. The Nitrate and Nitrite are both forms of “Pink Salt” and are coloured so they’re are not confused with the common ‘white’ table salt.

Including smoke as an additional preserving technique, adds chemicals (depending on what is being burned) to the exterior which further enhances preservation and adds a strong depth of flavour. There has been some concern in the past that certain chemicals released in smoke are carcinogenic but, as I like to say … “everything in moderation”.

Unless you eat smoked or BBQ’d food Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner … you’ll find these levels much lower than being exposed to tobacco smoke.

A few words about ‘Pink Salt’ aka, Himalayan salt or Prague powder #1 and #2.

Past studies have raised concern regarding both Nitrate and Nitrite … I refer you to the following:

http://chriskresser.com/the-nitrate-and-nitrite-myth-another-reason-not-to-fear-bacon”

Don’t fear the Bacon people !!! 🙂

Up here in Canada, we’re famous for a particular treat, known around the world as, Canadian Back Bacon.

peameal-bacon

World famous, Peameal Canadian Back Bacon

It starts off as a boneless loin of Pork. It’s then injected and pickle cured in a strong brine of ‘Pink salt’ and water. This process makes the cut product a nice looking, pink colour but the outside of the loin has a rather unappealing grey hue. To fix this problem, the whole loin is rolled in peameal (Corn meal) for looks more than anything else, VOILA ! Peameal Canadian Back Bacon.

For those of you who would like to experiment at home making your own Sausages or Cured meats you’ll need to source out your ‘Pink salt’. Start with the ‘net’ … you’ll find LOTS of resources.

Until next time Carnivores stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Smoke Houses, Rib joints, BBQ … and, some REALLY cool roads!

Greetings Carnivores,

Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and finally, New York.

Our whirlwind motorcycle trip wound it’s way through these great States last week, and surrendered some of the BEST roads I have EVER ridden. Please folks, … no angry comments. Let me explain. I have been riding and travelling by motorcycle for over 45 years, had the honour of living all over and, although there are some pretty spectacular two wheeled AND four wheeled destinations located on our “Left” coast and all over this land, … until last week I thought I’d seen the best. Nope, … move over Rockies AND Sierra Nevada.

In my humble opinion, The Tail of the Dragon (US129), The Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway of Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are the premier riding roads in North America.

Jim Oliver's Smoke House 009

The world Famous “Tail of the Dragon” US129. 318 curves in 11 miles!!!

Now, … before I make this MORE about the motorcycle and less about the meat, I need to say the Smoke Houses, Rib joints and BBQ we encountered along the way were spectacular.

Sadly, the one place I REALLY wanted to visit was the world famous Rendezvous in none other than Memphis Tennessee  … to my great disappointment, there wasn’t enough time to do everything I wanted. *sigh*

So, what’s a guy to do instead?

Head to Lynchburg TN and visit the place where every drop of Jack Daniels Tennessee sippin’ whiskey sold WORLD WIDE is lovingly, painstakingly, thoughtfully handcrafted, of course.

I highly recommend seeing this place for yourselves … even IF you’re not a Bourbon fan. The history is well worth the tour … and, it’s free!

Now then, … the best BBQ joint we had the great good fortune of ‘stumbling’ onto is in the VERY small town of Monteagle Tennessee,  Jim Oliver’s Smoke House, Restaurant and Trading Post

The Ribs were fall off the bone, smoky delicious and the restaurant/Trading Post was a walk through time.

Jim Oliver's Smoke House 001

Soup, salad bar, main course and sides … I had road food for the following day!!

Jim Oliver's Smoke House 004

The Trading Post was a walk through time

I know it’s a bit off the beaten path but … that’s what brought us there in the first place … a ride, off the beaten path.

There are thousands of Smoke Houses and Rib joints, all over this great country. Follow your noses … you’ll discover some real gems.

Thanks to my fellow Gearheads Wes, Davey Boy and Mikey and to my beautiful better half … next time … you and I, two Harleys and the open, twisty road.

Until next time Carnivores stay hungry and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Nirvana … BBQ and the Great Smoky Mountains

Greetings Carnivores,

Seems like an eternity ago, during the cold, dark, days of yet another Canadian Winter, my beautiful Marital equivalent blessed me with the “Green light” to go on a week long Motorcycle trip with 3 of my two wheeled, like minded, gear-head buddies.

The long awaited day has arrived.

Months of planning, during those icy frigid days, are a distant memory now that the earth has turned on it’s axis, and the days have warmed and grown long.

Spring has Sprung and … I itch to do two things … BBQ/Smoke (meat, of course) and … RIDE!

Tennessee here we come 002

Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains, here we come!

We’re leaving today at noon and I’m packed and ready to go.

The weatherman has been talking all week about a Tropical storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico just west of Florida. T.S. Andrea (small possibility she ‘could’ turn into Hurricane Andrea) plans to head north to meet us on our trip south.

As I write this, the skies are gloomy but that can’t dampen my spirits … I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl this morning, and I can’t wait to roll.

Damn the Torpedoes, FULL STEAM AHEAD !!!

The reason I’m writing this?

Simple, … we’re planning to ride some of the BEST Motorcycle roads the USofA has to offer, through the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee AND, hit some of the best BBQ joints and smokehouses in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina along the way. (My stomach is rumbling and I’m drooling right now).

For a smoking junkie like me … what better way to spend a week of hard earned vacation time: incorporating TWO of my favourite things … Motorcycles AND BBQ!!

It just doesn’t get ANY better than this 🙂

Stay tuned Carnivores … I’ll update you with stories from my trip next week.

Until then, Stay hungry Carnivores and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Champagne taste, beer budget.

Greetings Carnivores,

Back in the early 80’s I was a not so young lad, working my way through a four-year University degree. I say ‘not so young’ because I didn’t actually decide to go back to school ’till I was twenty-five.

OKeefe_House

O’Keefe House … I LOVED every minute of my four years there!!

Money was very tight and living in an all male residence on Campus (ever see the movie ‘Animal House’? … THAT pretty much sums up my four wonderful years there) meant I ate A LOT of Kraft Dinner. (I actually owned a cook book called “101 creative ways to cook Kraft Dinner”!)

*sigh*

Champagne taste, beer budget.

Around the same time, an upstate New York chef, in the long-suffering city of Buffalo, did something in his kitchen that would change the face of every roadhouse restaurant, sports hangout  and dive bar north and south of the longest unprotected border … forever.

With all due respect, I say ‘long suffering’ because the city of Buffalo has been a perennial sporting Bridesmaid.
Buffalo-Bills-53

The NFL Superbowl dance  from  1991 through 1994  saw the Bills come away empty-handed four straight years in a row … unheard of in Professional football.

230

Their NHL Sabres likewise, were also Bridesmaids at Lord Stanley’s party in the 1974-75 season. But, … their most crushing, heartbreaking defeat was handed to them on June 20th 1999, when Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars scored the Cup winning goal … with his skate CLEARLY in Dominik Hasek’s crease.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda … who knows what the outcome of the game MIGHT have been if the refs had done the right thing, reviewed the play and seen what everyone else was seeing through the beauty of instant replay, … and disallowed the winning goal.

Never has the city of Buffalo been able host a winner’s spectacle, and sing “We are the Champions” while enjoying their ticker-tape parade through the streets, and proudly hoisting the spoils of their labour.

*Sigh*

Again … I digress. Back to my story.

The long suffering city of Buffalo however, IS famous for something.

The ‘life changing’ event in the kitchen of that Buffalo restaurant I’m referring to of course, is the lowly Chicken Wing.

Now and forever, … referred to as, …  Buffalo Wings.

Smoked wings 002

Brown sugar and Sea salt brined … ready for the smoker.

Back then, they were thrown away or used for making stock but … this guy thought to himself … “Hey, … I wonder what would happen if I deep-fried these things, added some hot sauce and, put ’em on the menu?”

Fast forward, and today you find the price of Chicken Wings ridiculous! Think about it … there are ONLY two on every bird. The popularity of this bar staple has now made supply and demand such that the Wing has gone from something restaurateurs couldn’t give away, to one of the BIGGEST sellers on ANY menu, in ANY roadhouse, sports joint and dive bar … coast to coast … bar none … period! Entire restaurant chains have been established SOLELY on the Wing. Bars proudly advertise “BEST WINGS IN TOWN”. Boy, … from such humble beginnings. Seems CRAZY huh?

When I was in school, Wing night (every Tuesday and Thursday) at a local dive, walking distance from Campus for us was Nirvana. Back then Wings were 10 cents each! Poor students like us could eat 30 of them for $3.00 and STILL afford to have a couple of beers to wash ’em down!

Being that I’m a smoking junkie (meat, NOT tobacco … or that other funny stuff) means that Wings are one of my favourite subjects.

Two days ago I prepared a brine of Brown sugar (1 cup), Sea salt (1/2 cup) and water (8 cups). To this tincture I added my Wings, sealed them in a Ziplock bag and tucked them into my frig.

Smoked wings 004

All set … LET’S SMOKE !!!

Yesterday, I retrieved my Wings from the frig, rinsed them with cold running water and sprinkled them with Clubhouse Wild Whiskey Smoked BBQ seasoning. I prepped my water smoker, sprinkled pre-soaked Applewood chips on the hot coals, added my Wings and called my fishing buddy Steve Agius (www.myfishpattern.com) to come for Wings, beer and the NHL playoffs.

Smoked wings 005

3 hours later, beer in hand, hockey on the flat screen. Does it get any better?

Life is good 🙂

Stay hungry Carnivores and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Don’t have a Smoker? You don’t need one !!

Greetings Carnivores,

I have written Blog posts about smoking, and the joy of eating food prepared this way but, I understand not everybody owns a smoker. Like I’ve said before, … smoking meat is a labour of love that takes HOURS and, I’m pretty sure not everybody shares my addiction. For me, it’s a bit of a passion. I read about it, watch it on the food network, and try endless recipes and methods in my smoker. I suffer TERRIBLE withdrawal when the weather turns cold because for every one degree drop in outside temperature I have to add 20 minutes to my overall cook time. Winter smoking (with my water smoker) is NOT very practical. I once put my very first electric (Little Chief) smoker in my living room fireplace, and smoked some ribs in the Winter. I wasn’t very popular at my house since the whole place smelled like a smokehouse for DAYS (I thought it was GREAT!!) My poor, long suffering Marital Equivalent didn’t share my enthusiasm however. Through it all though, … she  has endured all my successes AND even some epic fails.

Ok so, where am I going? Here’s the deal. YOU DON’T NEED A SMOKER!

Grilling with charcoal or briquettes is making a HUGE come back and, if you have one of these obviously you can cook/smoke with indirect heat, thus making your grill a wonderful ‘smoker’. BUT … for those of you who use gas grills, you can STILL achieve the same results.

I’m quite sure you’ve all heard about BBQ’ing Salmon on a Cedar plank. Have you ever tried it?  MAN … you’re missing out if you haven’t. But, … did you realize you can cook pretty much ANYTHING on a cedar plank??  The secret is … you have to use a THICKER plank for extended cooking time.

Seems pretty simple when you think about it but … the planks sold at any home improvement,  or big red box store (starts with a “C” and ends with an “O”) are fine for a nice Salmon filet since the total cook time ‘may’ be as much as 7 minutes but, probably no more that 12-13.

When using a plank for cooking, you must soak it for 20 minutes or so before placing it on the grill. Then, you get it rocking ’till it starts to ‘smoke’ (essentially it’s ‘starting’ to smolder) add your fish and … Bob’s your Uncle. 7 to 10 minutes later … NIRVANA!

The problem is … planks sold at the big box stores are EXPENSIVE! Sure, you get 6 or 8 of them in a pkg., BUT, they’re so thin you really only get (if you’re lucky) 15 minutes of cook time out of them before they REALLY start to burn so, they’re not much good for anything OTHER than fish.

Know what I do?

I go to the same home improvement store BUT … I buy a 10 foot, 1 x 6 cedar fence plank (for about 12 dollars) and cut it to any length I need, depending on what I’m cooking.

PLEASE, … DON’T BUY GREEN, PRESSURE TREATED FENCE LUMBER TO COOK ON … THEY’RE INFUSED WITH TOXIC STUFF TO INHIBIT INSECTS AND ROT!!

Ok so, since the 1 x 6 is SO much thicker than the cedar ‘wafers’ they sell FOR the BBQ … you can cook for MUCH longer. Back ribs for instance … cut the board to accommodate the length of the rack, weigh it down and soak it (use the laundry tub if it won’t fit in your kitchen sink) then, put it on the grill, get it rocking ’till it just starts to smolder (smoke),  add your ribs and Voila! Go pour yourself a nice Summer libation, take a chair (spray bottle at the ready) and enjoy the wonderful smells emanating from your BBQ!

Just so I’m clear … always keep a spray bottle of Apple juice handy (you can use plain old water but … where’s the adventure in that?). This serves double duty. First, it helps to keep whatever you’re cooking/smoking  moist (and sweet) and second, to quell any errant flames that ‘may’ want to caress the wood and burn your planked treasure.

Try your favourite Chicken preparation, Lamb, … you can even cook Burgers like this! The cook time will be much longer so please, make sure you use a good digital meat thermometer to insure the correct doneness … I don’t want any of you getting sick. 🙂

I like to transfer whatever I’m planking (except fish … it’ll fall apart) to the grill for some nice grill marks at the end of the cook … it just looks better.

There you have it Carnivores, now … get out there and smoke something. I love to read your comments and answer any questions you may have.

In the meantime, stay tuned and … please click “follow” at the top of the page (Carnivore Confidential). You’ll get an email notice every time I write something new.

Until then, stay hungry Carnivores and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential

Yard work? Phooey, get over it and, … smoke some ribs!!

Greetings Carnivores,

Well, … the 1st long weekend of the Summer has come and gone, and what a spectacular weekend it was!

Bright sunshine, moderate breeze, perfect for … chores???

Yikes, … the long weekends of my youth were spent in a carefree way, swimming, hanging out with good friends and … maybe even a little bit of drinking … WHAT HAPPENED???

Oh ya, … with age comes responsibility and, just like death and taxes, … yard work and planting are a Spring passage that’s unavoidable.

May long weekend 20013 004

New fence, planted pots … what else do you do on a warm early Summer day?? Oh ya, smoke some Pork back ribs while you work !!

Fortunately for me, I WAS able to smoke some Pork back ribs but … only because it takes HOURS to do them and, guess what?  Between swapping out the snow tires for the all season radials (they’re not really ALL season around here), digging post holes, building a new cedar rail fence, cutting the grass, planting all the gardens and flower pots, I was grateful I could walk away from my chores from time to time, grab a cold libation and check the progress of my smoker!

Ok so, … the ribs. I started with two beautiful racks of Pork back ribs and removed the membranes from the inside. Then, I painted them with plain-jane yellow prepared mustard on both sides. You can use any kind of mustard, I just happen to like the yellow stuff. Next, I generously sprinkled them with sea salt, and followed that with dried Rosemary leaves. That’s it.

Meanwhile, outside  my smoker was prepped and lit. Mine is a  “water” model but I added Pineapple juice to the pan instead (you can use any kind of juice … it bathes the meat in moist  sweet humidity while they smoke). When it reached 220 degrees, I added my moistened Apple wood chips, stood my ribs in a rack, placed them on the grill, popped the lid on and … went back to work.

As you probably already know … smoking is a labour of love that must be tended to from time to time so … this offered me many occasions to take a much needed break between jobs in the yard.

After 3 hours in the smoker I removed them, generously slathered them in BBQ sauce (use your favourite), placed them bone-side down in a glass baking dish, placed a little more Pineapple juice in the bottom, (don’t drown them) and covered TIGHTLY with heavy tin foil. Hold them in a 250 degree oven until dinner time and finish (to caramelize the sugars in the sauce) on the grill.

I have to apologize here Carnivores. I’m really kicking myself in the butt because … I didn’t take any photos. What a shame too because, they looked and tasted spectacular. I have to pay homage to my Blogging friends in the great State of Minnesota, (click here) The Patrons of the pit. They ALWAYS write the BEST prose and BBQ posts, AND accompany them with awesome photos too. Check them out.

Sorry folks, next time I won’t be sooo remiss … you’ll just have to try this method for yourselves and take your own photos.

Until then, stay hungry Carnivores and as usual, please follow my posts on Twitter @DougieDee and like and share them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/carnivoreconfidential