I have been wondering how to start this post for a while now. It came to me quite clearly a few days ago to just simply share the story I have been telling so many in the journey to build this smoker. Because how else do you let the world know of a company with customer service so outstanding that you want everyone to own their products? Of a company that stepped up way way above and beyond. A company I had the pleasure of working with last spring when they rolled out their Life Is Better Bbqed campaign.
In the spring of 2015 I did a 3 post project for Char-Broil. They had a Spring campaign going on with Lowes and I was honored to be a part of it. As you know we love BBQ on Nutmeg Disrupted and to work with such an amazing team was a dream come true. I received a gorgeous Char-Broil BBQ from Lowes to review and grill with for the campaign. The BBQ was mine to keep.
Flash forward a few weeks after the campaign wrapped up standing in line at Starbucks…
My phone buzzed, it was a text from my son. A huge storm was rolling into town and a tree was down in the backyard. As I was standing there I was struck with a bit of panic. Tree down. Which tree. No way it could be the 1000+ pound tree beside the deck. Then he sent a photo from the inside of the house through the patio door. All you could see was leaves.
Indeed it was said tree.
I paid for my coffee then quickly made the 70 minute trip home.
That was what I found when I arrived home.
I was devastated. Yes that is a bold statement to make about a BBQ, but in that moment I was completely devastated. It took a couple of days to get the tree bucked up and retrieve the crushed grill. Almost every inch of it was damaged.
The evening the tree fell I had Tweeted about the storm and the sad fate of my BBQ. I was thankful no one was hurt, had anyone been grilling out back I can’t even imagine how that would have ended. The smoker that was on the deck took a hit and was damaged but the full weight of the tree was on the BBQ.
What happened next was something so unexpected and wonderful.
Within 24 hours of my BBQ misfortune I had been contacted by the marketing company that represented Char-Broil during the Lowes campaign.
Char-Broil had heard about what happened and they wanted to make it right and send me a new BBQ to replace the one that was crushed. Talk about a company standing behind their product! Because I had done some work for them they were willing to replace their product, not because they had to, simply because they wanted to. Now that is a brand I want to stand behind and do business with.
I may have cried a little when I received that news. BBQ is a passion and to have not only my smoker but my BBQ also taken out in a brief moment was a huge loss.
After the tree was cleared away we took apart the BBQ to salvage any of the good parts. It felt like a such a waste tossing out such a new piece of equipment and the goal now was to repurpose what we could. Immediately it was decided that we would build a smoker. The only pieces not damaged were the handles off the doors, the temperature gage, the logo and the heating element area of the grill, though bent it was still functioning. With the salvaged bits stored away we set off with a plan of building a smoker. We had an idea of what we wanted for the body of the smoker and scoured the ads for upcoming auction sales. Everything we looked at was just not quite what we had envisioned until one day while in Canadian Tire after a year long search we found the perfect body for our new smoker.
The vision has always been to build a large smoker. Something substantial so that we had the area to do a large cook. Having catered weddings and hosted pig roasts we have had the opportunity to use some very large BBQs and we wanted our smoker to not only be impressive but have the power to do the job.
From there everything started to fall into place. In conversation with Brian our butcher we mentioned that we were building a smoker and he gave us a great idea as to what we could use for the racking inside the unit. The heating element was a close fit and with a bit of work the smoker started to coming together.
We did a few small trial runs to work out the kinks and cooked for an event mid summer.
The smoker has been getting a lot of attention, it is a gorgeous piece of equipment and with every inquiry I share my Char-Broil story.
In closing I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Char-Broil. Not only have you made this girls BBQ dreams continue, you make a product that I love and your customer service is unmatched. Thank you!
You have to wonder who thought it was a good idea to take a chunk of pork belly, rub it with sugar, salt and spices and after allowing it to rest for a few days decided it needed a nice layer of smoke with a few hours spent in the smoker.
Pretty damn delicious decision.
It has been an interesting process of learning and research since deciding to make bacon at home. It was spurred by a recent visit with some of our oldest friends out at their farm. They have been raising pigs for a while now and after spending time out at their place it brought back many memories of when we had pigs of our own. We raised 2 kinds of pigs. Over the years we had both domestic pigs and we also had a large herd of wild boar. We would have pig roasts of wild boar that would turn into weekend long events! And it was those events from which my passion for BBQ began.
After much discussion it was decided that we would buy a pig to butcher once they grow to a good sized weight.
And with pork on our mind our thoughts naturally turned to bacon.
Many things have graced the racks of the smoker but we have yet to make bacon. So with that in mind the research began. Any new smoking adventure always requires some research. in some cases you are working with expensive cuts of meat and while trail and error is a good way to learn it is always a good idea to do some research to find a starting point.
The first thing you need to find to make bacon is curing salt. The second thing you will need is time because as we quickly learnt it takes time to make bacon. It is easy to make, but after a few batches in there are step that definitely affect the final product. Taking your time is imperative to a superior end result. Do not rush, rushing will only leave you disappointed. The goal here is bacon, not seasoned side pork.
Curing salt should not be hard to find. It is available in stores that carry wood chips, smokers and BBQ products. We could not find just curing salt but we did find a bacon cure kit which has a mixture of curing salt and maple sugar. If you can not find that specific kit there are jerky making sets available that contain the curing salt required to make bacon. You can also search for online sources if you have trouble finding it locally.
The pork belly is available in the meat section where I shop. If it is not on the shelf just ask your butcher. Be sure to get it with the rind on.
The list of ingredients is short. You will also need some large Ziplock bags.
cure – 2 tablespoons per pound
brown sugar – 2 tablespoons per pound
Place the pork belly on a cookie sheet with an edge. (this is purely for easy clean up) Rub the pork belly on all sides with the cure. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of brown sugar and rub all over the pork. Place each piece of pork belly into individual ziplock bags, removing as much air as possible and seal. Place in the fridge.
Now the next part depends on the thickness of the pork belly. In doing the research for this we discovered variations of how many days you want to brine the pork bellies for. The idea is the thicker the cut the longer the brine time.
For the first batch the pork was an inch thick. We brined it for 2 days, flipping the pork over every 12 hours. We did a short brine as the pork was quite thin and we were concerned that the bacon may end up being too salty. The second batch was much thicker at close to 2 inches. We brined those for two days, flipping the pork every 12 hours. At the end of the entire smoking process we found that the second batch did NOT brine long enough. It definitely should have been left for another 2 days. It was good but there was definitely room for improvement. This is the part you do not want to rush. It takes the meat from being side pork to bacon.
A good rule of thumb is to brine it for 2 days per inch of thickness.
*notes: Some sites say to keep the pork in the brine for up to a week to 10 days. My main concern is having too salty of a product leaving it that long. My suggestion is too experiment and see what works for you.
Once the pork has been brined for the adequate period you can move to the next step.
Remove the cured pork bellies from the bags and rinse well under cold water. Now we want to soak the pork for at least an hour to 2 hours at the longest. A large container or Ziplock bag will work fine. Fill with cold water and pop in the belly. After the soak dry the pork with paper towels to remove all the moisture. Place the pork, rind side down in a container and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the pork for 24 hours. This step is very important. During this stage the pork is forming pellicle, the proteins are forming a skin over the meat for which the smoke will adhere to. Do not skip this stage, it is what gives the pork belly the smoky bacon flavour.
Getting the smoker ready!
Applewood is the preferred wood of choice in most of our smoking. If apple is not available cherry is the second choice. Use the kind that you like! We like the smaller wood chips and we do not wet the chips. We like a fast heavy smoke and from our experience wet chips take longer to get smoking at the level we want. The liquid used in the smoker this time around was water. The smoker is always preheated and the meat does not go into the smoker until there is smoke. We want the meat cooked with the heat of the smoke not the heat of the smoker.
While you are waiting for smoke, get the pork belly ready for the smoker.
Have the racks in the kitchen so you can quickly get the meat into the smoker with minimal smoke loss. You want the portions of belly to have space between them so they get smoke on the entire surface of each piece. Place the pork with the rind side on top.
Place the rack(s) into the smoker and turn down to maintain a temperature of 185 – 200 degrees. We replaced the wood chips once at the one hour mark and smoked the pork for a total of 2 hours. When it was done the racks were pulled out of the smoker and placed on paper towels to cool completely. Once cool the bacon was vacuum packed and placed in the fridge overnight to firm up and absorb the smoke. The longer you can hold off trying it the better the smoke flavour will be.
Remove the rind and slice to fry. Be sure to take note of the two bacon ends and save them for yourself. They are the smokiest most flavourful part of the bacon. If you sample a slice or two then go back to the saved bacon end you will taste the difference.
Yorkshire Pudding. Those crisp little cups of love made just for filling with rich flavorful gravy! They are not hard to make at all, they just take a little bit of time and planning!
Traditionally they are served with roast beef but go well with any meat or poultry dish.
2 cups of all purpose flour
2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of salt
Break the eggs into a large bowl.
Using a wisk, beat well to break up the yolks. Add the milk. Now add the flour and salt. Wisk well to combine thoroughly. Place the batter into the fridge for a couple of hours.
Heat oven to 400F.
You have choices as to what kind of cooking vessel to use to cook the puddings off. Muffin tins, bread pans or even cake pans work well.
Spray the pans well with non stick spray. I never skip this step, even when using non stick bakeware.
Pour a tiny amount of canola oil to cover the bottom surface of the pans.
I always place the pans onto cookie sheets before going into the oven. It helps catch any spills or overflows which can make one heck of a mess at the bottom of the oven. Place the pans into the oven to heat for 10 minutes.
I like to pour the batter into a large measuring cup for the next step. It makes quick work of a hot job.
Leaving the pans in the oven fill them half full with batter. Bake for 25 minutes.
Thanksgiving supper has always been steeped with tradition in my family. We never stray far from the menu. It is the only holiday menu that never changes. Except for the addition of desserts to the usual line up.
What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Is your menu the same from year to year or do you like to change it up?
Welcome to our version of Thanksgiving 2013!
The turkey. From Redawna
I keep it fairly simple. The bed of vegetables add depth and make a nice flavorful gravy. The butter makes for a nicely browned skin yet keeps it tender.
First I make a bed of carrots and onions for the turkey to rest on. I season it well with salt and pepper.
I wash the bird with cold water. If I am not stuffing the bird I will salt and place a couple of whole onions in the cavity.
I slather the entire bird with a coating of butter then season it with salt and pepper. Add some water to the pan then cover with a lid or foil that has been sprayed with non stick spray.
Roast in a 325°F oven for 20 minutes per pound until it reaches an internal temperature of 170°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Southwest Roasted Brussels Sprout with Prosciutto. From Roger
1 and 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (I did not halve because I like them whole if you do also, add at least 5 minutes to cooking time).
2/3 cup pickled red onion (recipe below) – chopped.
1/2 cup Cotija cheese – crumbled (can substitute Parmesan)
2 oz. prosciutto – thinly chopped.
3 Tbsp. Chipotle Honey Aioli (recipe below)
2 tsp olive oil.
2 tsp minced garlic.
Chipotle Honey Ailoi: 1 pod chipotle pepper minced, 1 Tbsp of adobe sauce (sauce in the chipotle can), 2 Tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice. Mix together in bowl.
Pickled Red Onion: 1 red onion – sliced into thin rounds; 3/4 cup rice vinegar; 5 black peppercorns; 5 allspice berries; 3 springs of thyme; 1 clove of garlic – halved; 1 small dried red chili pepper; 1/2 tsp. sugar; 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or sea salt). In a mason type jar place sugar, salt, vinegar, and spices (except thyme). Gently stir to mix. Add fresh thyme. Place sliced red onion in a colander resting in the sink. Bring 3 cups of water to a strong boil. Slowly pour the boiling water over the sliced onion to lightly blanch them. Drain water. Add the blanched red onion to the mason jar and stir gently. Place lid on jar and store in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. I occasionally gently shook the jar to get all onion slices covered with the picking juice.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Spray Canola Oil on 9.5 x 13 oven baking dish. Place Brussels sprout in pan, sprinkle with garlic and olive oil, mix together. Roast for 20 minutes cut side down (if Brussels sprouts were halved, if not halved add 5 minutes).
In a fry pan heated to medium high cook the prosciutto.
Remove Brussels sprout from oven, turn them over and then sprinkle with prosciutto. Return to oven for 25 minutes. With 10 minutes left on time add the the Chipotle Honey Aiole and pickled red onion and mix. Place baking dish back in oven for remainder of time.
Plate the Brussels sprouts and top with crumbled cheese.
Chestnut And Bacon Dressing. From Roger
Roger got this recipe from the November 1996 Gourmet Magazine. It has been a family hit every year since then.
6 cups torn bite size pieces of crusty bread.
6 thick cut bacon.
1/2 stick unsalted butter (about 1/4 cup).
1/2 C Italian flat leafed parsley – minced
2 onions – chopped.
2 cups – low sodium chicken broth.
4 celery stalks – chopped.
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary – minced.
Heat oven to 325 F.
On a baking sheet arrange bread pieces. Place on middle rack of oven and occasionally turn to golden brown both sides (approximately 20 minutes).
Prepare onion, celery, rosemary.
In a large fry pan cook bacon on medium high. Remove bacon when crisp. Turn off heat, and to the bacon fat the butter. Return heat to low. Add the onion, celery, rosemary, stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until soft. Add the chopped chestnuts and cook for an additional minute or two.
Chop the bacon.
To a large mixing bowl add bread, and then mix in chopped bacon. Next add the onion/chestnut mixture, and Italian parsley, and stir well.
Butter a 4 quart baking dish. Place the ingredients in the baking dish. Slowly drizzle the chicken broth over the dressing.
Cover with foil and place in oven for 60 minutes at 325 F. Next remove the foil and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes. From Roger
3 lbs. Gold Potatoes.
3 cloves garlic – peeled and halved.
1 and 1/2 cup half and half.
5 tbsp. butter.
1/4 tsp. ground pepper.
1/2 tsp. salt.
thyme for garnish
In a large kettle place potatoes and garlic. Add water to cover by two inches. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
In pot on low heat slowly bring half and half to a simmer.
Drain water into colander being careful to retain the garlic with the potatoes.
To a large mixing bowl add potatoes and garlic.
Stir half and half and butter into bowl of potatoes and mash. Add salt and pepper and continue mashing until you like the texture.
Plate and add a little thyme garnish.
Scratch Pumpkin Pie. From Redawna
Going the traditional route, it is not Thanksgiving unless you have pumpkin pie!
It is easy to give a simple pie a touch of class with embellishing the rim with some cut leaf cut outs.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake whole washed pumpkins on a baking sheet for 40 – 45 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut pumpkins in half and remove seeds.
Scoop out the pumpkin pulp, mash and set aside. Makes about 2 – 2 1/2 cups.
Turn oven to 425 degrees.
Place pumpkin mash into a food processor and puree until smooth. Add sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and evaporated milk. Blend well. Pour into a prepared pie crust.
Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 – 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for two hours.
2 cups of flour
1 tsp of salt
3/4 cup of shortening
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp white vinegar
ice cold water
Get your glass of water from the freezer.
Combine flour and salt in a medium sized bowl. Cut in the shortening. Place the egg and vinegar in a 1/2 cup, top up with the water from the freezer. Stir this into the flour mixture. Stir until a ball is formed.
Shape into 2 small discs and wrap, place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Roll the dough out on a floured surface large enough to line your pie plate.
I used the scraps and an oak leaf cookie cutter to make leaves for the edge of the pie.
Enjoy with whipped cream!
Coronation Grape Meringue Tarts. From Redawna
For something a little different these tarts pack a punch of flavor and are show stoppers!
Remove grapes from the stems and give them a good wash. Place them in a medium sized pot and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and place over medium low heat.
Bring the grapes and lemon juice to a simmer over medium heat for 12 minutes or until all the grapes are popped.
Strain the grapes in a fine mesh strainer until all the juice stops dripping. I did press the grapes to get every drop of juice I could.
Place the juice and sugar back into the pot and place over medium heat.
Bring to a low boil stirring occasionally until a temperature of 220 degrees is reached. Remove fro heat and allow to cool fully. The jelly will set once cooled.
While the jelly is cooling make the tart shells.
3 ounces of cream cheese – softened
1/2 cup of butter – softened
1 cup of flour
Cream the cheese and butter with a mixer. Add the flour and beat until a dough is formed.
Place in the fridge to chill for about 20 minutes.
Roll into 24 balls.
Spray a mini tart pan with non stick spray.
Press the dough ball into each cavity and form the shells.
Bake in a 325 F degree oven for 20 – 25 minutes until lightly browned.
While the tart shells are baking make the meringue.
3 egg whites at room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
Whip the egg whites until foamy with a mixer. Once foamy slowly add the sugar whipping well. This should take about 8 minutes.
Once the tart shells are done spoon a generous teaspoon of jelly into each shell. Using a pastry bag or a teaspoon place a dollop of meringue on to each tart. Broil for a few minutes until nicely browned.
Butternut Squash Soup. From Michael
Nothing screams autumn like butternut squash. Because of its natural sweetness, it is often used in place of pumpkin for desserts. In addition, it makes for a delicious, creamy soup that’s perfect for the holiday table as an Entrée (in the French sense) to the meal. The secret to this recipe is its versatility. It’s the additions to the basic soup that make it special. In this particular recipe, I used crème fraîche, salt pork, and fried sage, but you could easily use sour cream, bacon, and thyme. Tailor it to the rest of your meal, if you wish.
Eat a few or eat a lot! They are just fantastic little portable pockets of love.
I found these gems on Taste of Home many years ago and have been making them ever since.
Bacon Onion Turnovers – adapted from Taste of Home
3 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1/2 cup of warm water – 110 – 115 degrees
1 cup of warm milk – 110 – 115 degrees
1/2 cup of butter – melted
2 teaspoons of salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups of flour
1 pound of bacon, sliced, cooked and crumbled
1 large white onion – diced
pepper to season
1 egg – lightly beaten
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, butter and salt; beat until smooth. Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divided into 30 pieces. Roll each into a 4-in. circle.
Combine bacon and onion; place about 2 teaspoons on one side of each circle. Fold dough over filling; press edges with a fork to seal. Place 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 20 minutes.
Brush with egg. Bake at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Serve warm. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.