Sunday, December 26, 2010

Double Smoked Ham / Bloody Mary

I am always looking for an excuse to do some rotisserie smoking on the Weber kettle and did another ham a few weeks ago and here are the results.

I started with a Cumberland Gap Hickory Hills hickory smoked boneless ham that weighed 10.46 pounds. These are great for a rotisserie setup.

Wasn't much to do to prep the ham other than to sprinkle on a little Smokin' Guns hot rub and place it into my EZ-Que 6" rotisserie setup. A real shame that this company went out of business as they made great products.

I decided to use the Performer as it was closest to the door and got it all setup with a drip pan and lit it up to have ready for the ham. I used some cherry wood for the smoke and used my battery powered motor for the rotisserie and then covered it with a plastic bag since it was raining.

Checked it a little later and it was going good so now it was time for a drink and wouldn't you know it, there is a story behind this drink.

As a competition cook, we usually pick parsley (and all the cooks will know what I am talking about) about 7 to 8:00am on Saturday morning at a contest. My friend Jeff Neals from the Shigs in Pit would bring me a great Bloody Mary drink that was very hot and spicy (he knows I am a chili-head) about this time in the morning and it was wonderful. I really don't do very many mixed drinks as I do like my beer but this was an exception. I asked him to give me the recipe or teach me how to do this great drink as it is killer!

Jeff told me that the first thing I had to do was to infuse the vodka and he got me started with this step.

I purchased an infusion jar that holds about 1-1/2 gallons and loaded in several kinds of peppers. Mild peppers like ancho, bell peppers, and bananna peppers, hot peppers like the hot bananna, jalapeno, seranno, and a couple of habenero peppers. Looks better if you select some for the color. Then I added some onions, baby carrots, celrey, and a couple of cloves of garlic. I then filled it up with vodka and let it infuse for about 4 days. I poured it back into the bottles and I was ready to go with the infused vodka. Them used up veggies would probably make a heck of a good pot roast!

For the mix, Jeff suggested several different brands but after trying them all, both Jeff and I prefer the Mr & Mrs T's Bold and Spicy.

Jeff would suggest that you garnish the rim of a 16 oz cup with lime juice and maybe a rub of your choice or some celrey salt but I usually leave this step out. I usually just fill up the cup with ice and then pour about 1/4 of it into my shaker. I then add about 1-1/2 oz of the infused vodka and about 6 oz of the Mr & Mrs T's Bold and Spicy mix to the shaker. Next comes a 1/4 tsp of celrey salt, and a 1/2 tsp of celrey seed and then a very generous shot of Tabasco sauce. I then grind in generous amount of fresh ground Telecherry black pepper to the shaker. Shake that all up and pour into the cup. Then add a celrey stick, or maybe a Slim Jim sausage stick or pickle or whatever you have.

I don't think you can drink a better Bloody Mary. I think the infused vodka makes all the difference in the great taste of this drink.

I made up a glaze with some bbq sauce, real maple syrup, and some honey and brushed it on the ham about 30 minutes before it came off the cooker.

Looked pretty good coming off of the Weber kettle and I let it rest covered with foil for about 30 minutes.

Set my slicer up for thin slices and started slicing up the ham.

Made up a nice plate of sliced ham and then I got it ready to send out.

Placed it into another container, added some pineapple slices and juice along with some cherries and sent it on its way.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Char-Broil / Classic Cooker

I stumbled onto this slick little cooker a few months back while doing some research on the much larger Char-Broil 940X which is one of the Classics. It is called the Char-Broil 500X and is a smaller version of the CB 940X. Like it's bigger brother, the CB 500X just looks like quality with both cast iron and heavy steel going into it's production. You know, it's just not "tinney" like many of the cookers out there today. I really liked the looks of it, the design and features, and figured if I could get it to do half of what I can do on my Weber kettle, it might be a great purchase. And then I find it on sale for 1/2 price....Bingo!!

I just got this grill on Wednesday so I put it together and then got it ready for the first seasoning and the first cook.

Very neat little grill with the pre-seasoned cast iron grates, pull out ash pan, adjustable fire grate, and a service door in the front of the grill.

I slopped on a heavy coat of vegetable oil on all the inside parts and areas like the manual suggested and then took it outside in the cold (13 degrees) for the first fire.

Placed about 3 pounds of charcoal in a chimney and fired it up and then dumped it into the cooker for a two hour seasoning session.

When that was done, I set the cooker up for my big chuck roast that I planned to use for my pulled beef.

I trimmed all the fat off of the outside of the roast and sprinkled on a heavy dose of my low carb rub.

I moved all the charcoal to the right side of the grill and then added a drip pan with about 1-1/2 cups of water to help keep it moist and prevent the drippings from burning.

Added a few more brickettes and some chunks of hickory for smoke and then placed the roast on the cooking grid.

I smoked the roast about 3 hours at about 275 degrees and when it looked right, I took if off to wrap in foil for my braising period which will tenderize it enough for pulling.

I added about 1/2 cup of beef broth to the foil and wrapped up the meat and placed it back on the cooker.

When the internal got to about 205 degrees, I pulled the roast off of the cooker being very careful to not tear the foil as I need the juice for my meat. The total time was about 5 hours for ths smoke. Sure looked good!

I pulled the meat and then added the juice back into it and it was ready for serving.

I toasted up a piece of low carb bread, added some of that pulled beef, drizzled on some of my low carb bbq sauce, added some salad and cheese, and I had myself a great meal.

You know, this cooker at half price right now has got to be one great bargain for the folks that do like charcoal. I would think it would be perfect for tailgating.

Pizza Next.....

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Smell Smoke Competition Cooking Class

I had been kicking around the idea of hosting a competition cooking class at the Po-Farm for a couple of years and finally decided to do it this year. I did share this idea with a few friends and they were all for it and said I shouldn't have any problem filling up a class if I could get a great instructor to come in and do it. Well, I only had one person and team in mind all this time and I sure hoped I could get him to fly in and do the class. I had met this fine gentleman a few years earlier when I went East to compete in the New Holland, Pa contest. He and his Father and team were cooking on the same brand of cookers we were using at the time and they did quite well at this big event. It's just got to be Mr Steve Farrin and his "I Smell Smoke BBQ Team." This is a picture of some of the trophies that "I Smell Smoke" has won over the years.

Steve is from near Boston and is a long time competition cook with a tremendous record and has been terrorizing the East coast and other areas for a number of years. Steve has over 30 Grand Championship wins in his career. He has cooked or qualified in the Kansas City Royal about 10 times, the Jack Daniels 7 times, the Gab, and has several 1st place wins in the contest categories. He has many top ten calls and many high overall finishes in the more prestigious and larger contests. Last year, Steve went down to the wire against all the other cooking teams which is over 4700 teams and did finish 3rd and just a few points out from winning the coveted Team of the Year award.

I met Steve at the Jack Daniels and we discussed what I had in mind and he said he would be interested in doing a class at the Po-Farm and just let him know the details and we would work it out.

Since the Po-Farm is out in the sticks and about 30 minutes from the nearest motel, I decided I would need to try to put together a class that could be done in just one day...but would include all the details and information that one would receive in a normal hands on two day class. Would require cooking extra meat and starting a day in advance of the class getting there but could be done with an early start and an intensive day of instruction.

Now, the ball was in my court and I had a lot of work to get done to help pull this off.

I got my friend Jeff Toler to help with setting this class up. We needed tables, chairs, a big coffee pot, to name just a few items. Needed to jury rig a sink in the basement for cleaning and washing hands. Jeff also helped with the purchase of some of the meat. Another friend Steve Creech stopped at the famous Longs Donuts in Indy and brought us some great morning treats.

Steve gave me a list of the products he uses and I had to purchase most of it to be ready for the class.

My wife Jan was in charge of planning the snacks, drinks, and lunch for the event. She also did all the running and picking up the products for me and that was a big plus. Items like notebooks, pens, tablecloths, nametags, trash cans, and this list just never ends.

I sent out a note on the class to about 27 friends explaining that we were hosting a KCBS type of competition cooking class with Steve Farrin as the instructor and included this paragraph in the note.

"The class is about KCBS contest type of cooking and will cover all 4 meats from the selection and cut of meat to the presentation of the meat at a contest. Steve tells me that he will give it all up. We will learn how he cuts and trims and prepares each cut of meat. We will learn about the rubs that he uses, marinades, injections, products used in the foiling process, sauces and sauce blends, methods, how he presents the meat in the presentation boxes, and all the other tips and tricks from his arsenal".

I got a quick response back from most of them and it filled up very quickly as we only had room for about 20-22 people. We ended up with several people from out of state with one fellow from South Carolina who would travel the longest distance. We ended up with 23 people taking the class and that was about right for the space that we were working with.

We has set the date for the class at Saturday December 4th and I was hoping for good weather. Didn't happen!! First snowstorm of the year and expecting about 3-6 inches of snow.

A few days before the event, we did have the basement setup for the class.

I also moved the cookers he wanted to my cooking patio which included the Backwoods Party, the FE 100, and a Weber kettle.

Jan picked up Steve and one of his team mates Charlie Pini at the airport on Friday morning before the contest and brought them out to the Po-Farm. Got them settled in and they went to work as they needed to trim, inject, and rub the over-night meats and get them into the cooler. We needed one round of both the pork butts and briskets done by 7:00am on Saturday morning and into the holding cooler.

Everyone showed and on time for our 7:00am early start class.

This is a picture of Charlie and Steve ready to start the class.

From my point of view, the class went very well and I sure learned a lot that I will use in the coming year. Steve and Charlie were great instructors and covered everything that they do in a contest. From selecting and trimming the meat, to the rubs, injections, marinades, the handling of the cookers along with the smoke woods, the products used in the foil wrapping, the mixing of the sauces, prepping the turn in boxes, and presenting the meats. We also received pass out sheets on the products they use along with the recipes used for mixing up these products. Since the class was done a little out of contest order to get it done in one day, Steve also sent us his timeline for a normal contest.

I will include one of Steve's pork presentation boxes to give you an idea of what he turns in at a contest.

Steve and Charlie did a great job with the class and cooking in the cold and snow and I sure would recommend this cooking class to any competition team interested in improving their cooking skills and getting into the winners circle quickly.

Steve can be reached at

I would also like to thank Stephanie Wilson of for furnishing some sample packs of the Slabs products for the class.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gopher The Dough 2011

The upcoming KCBS competition year may be a record breaker for the big buck events.

With Ron Cates of Smoke on the Water Productions planning a new event in Las Vegas at over $100,000.00 and assuming he continues with his other big events as he did in 2010, we are looking at as much as $370,000.00 in prize money just from this one promoter. WOW!! Thank you Mr Cates.

Along with Ron Cates there are several other organizers that do offer great prize funds and we as cooks sure thank them as well for their efforts at finding sponsors and money for the larger events.

I think that one of these high paying contests in 2010 paid out a check of $20,000.00 for the winner and I would guess that with some money from each of his meats, that he could have taken home around $25,000.00 total for the event. And that ain't chump change!

Assuming the money is the same as 2010, the big events in 2011 of above 20K each will look like this.

Date.............City and State................(Miles from Po-Farm)........Purse

3/18-3/19....North Little Rock, Ar..................(558).................$100,000

4/8-4/9......Scottsdale, Az.........................(1673)..................20,000

4/15-4/16....Jefferson City, Mo.....................(344)...................26,000
4/15-4/16....Lula, Ms...............................(501)...................20,000

4/29-4/30.....Huntsville, Al........................(434)...................20,000

5/20-5/21.....Bonner Springs, Ks....................(480)...................53,000

5/27-5/28.....Johnson City, Tn......................(468)...................19,800

6/10-6/11.....Tryon, Nc.............................(541)...................20,000

6/25-6/26.....Washington, DC........................(633)...................20,500

7/1-7/2.......Daytona, Fl...........................(1009)..................30,000

8/12-8/13.....Brooklyn, Mi..........................(259)...................30,000

8/19-8/20.....Midwest City, Ok......................(724)...................25,000

Not Sure/Date...Las Vegas...........................(1838).................100,000

8/26-8/27.....Springdale, Ar........................(575)...................20,000
8/26-8/27.....Amelia Island, Fl.....................(925)...................20,000

9/2-9/3.......Mesquite, Nv..........................(1729)..................39,250

9/9-9/10......Grand Junction, Co....................(1303)..................20,000

9/16-9/17.....Pine Bluff, Ar........................(576)...................20,000

10-1-10/2.....Kansas City, Mo.......................(459)..................110,000

10/28-10/29...Talladega, Al.........................(568)...................50,000

11/4-11/5.....Shelby, Nc............................(577)...................20,000

You know, a fellow could just follow the money for just 19 weeks and assuming he has an invite for both the Royal and the GAB, could compete for a prize fund of above $743,000 dollars. Shazamm!

Rekon Old Dave and His Ribs and Bibs BBQ team could win some of this loot if he would Gopher The Dough in 2011? Sure is tempting.

Looking at the above info, I do live kinda central to most of this money and think that many of these contests are just one day or less drive from the Po-Farm. If I figure I can drive 600 miles in a day with my small trailer, I could possible make about 14 of these events which would pay a total of about $489,000 in prize money.

The big bucks are a calling....

Monday, November 29, 2010

Non Traditional Thanksgiving / Hasty Bake

Another cook on my oldy but goody 40+ year old Hasty Bake Model 130 cooker.

This is my 3rd cook on it as I am trying to get this cooker figured out and I did get a pretty nice meal out of it yesterday.

There are just the two of us and we sometimes don't go to all the hassle of cooking up a big meal for the holidays. We decided to just cook something up plain and simple for Thanksgiving on my new old cooker.

I started out with stuffed pepper halves. For the stuffing, I used pulled and chopped pork, sharp Cheddar cheese, Worchester sauce, chopped onions, cream cheese, and bacon. I also par-boiled the pepper halves before I stuffed them.

Added a little rub and the bacon and this dish was ready for the cooker.

I took a head of Romaine lettuce and cut it lengthwise right down the middle to have two pieces. I then drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled on some fresh cracked black pepper, some sea salt, and some garlic powder to both sides and this treat as well was ready for the cooker.

Next step was to get a couple of nice thick ribeyes ready for the cooker. I sprinkled on some fresh ground black pepper and some garlic salt on the meat.

For my bread, I then prepped some Cresent Rolls for the cooker.

This is the way I set up the cooker and maybe some of you Hasty Bake owners can tell me if I got it right for this cook. My older cooker doesn't have the slide out firebox so I just loaded thru the top of the cooker and filled the right side or right half of the firebox full of lump charcoal. I placed the heat deflector over the left side of the cooker so I could cook both direct and indirect at the same time. I lit it up and brought it up to temp and raised the firebox up to just under the cooking grates.

I placed my stuffed peppers on the left or indirect side of the cooker.

I then placed my raised baking grid over the peppers for my Cresent rolls.

I placed the Cresent rolls on the indirect side of the cooker and then loaded the Romaine lettuce on the direct side of the cooker. The lettuce only cooks about 3-4 minutes a side to just get some char or black on some of the leaves and to get it warmed up in the middle.

Looked and smelled great coming off of the cooker. I shreadded up about a half cup of fresh Romano cheese and sprinkled it on top of the lettuce.

Placed the steaks on the direct side of the cooker and right over the fire and cooked them to about medium rare. Took about 6-7 minutes a side.

The steaks came off looking good.

I took the stuffed peppers off next but the bread was not ready.

I finally took the bread off after about 12 more minutes and it didn't come out as brown as I would like but it was done. I guess I just had the lid opened up tooo many times with the rest of the cook to build up enough heat to brown the bread.

You know, it sure wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving meal but it sure was a good replacement in my book.

That was the first time I did that lettuce like that and it was KILLER!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holiday Appetizers / Smoked Cheese

I usually like to get my holiday cheese smoking done by early November so it has some time to age in the vacuum sealed packages before the holidays. Running a little behind this year as I just got to it yesterday.

Wife purchased a large batch this year and this is the cheese I got ready for smoking by cutting it up into logs that measure about 1" to maybe 1-1/2" near square logs.

Three Alarm Colby Jack 11.46 lbs
Alpenhaus Swiss 4.80
Dutch Gouda 2.00
Colby-Jack 2.00
Bruschettta-Jack 2.00
Danish Havarti 1.43
Le Gruyere 1.30
Sharp Cheddar 4.81

This is 29.80 pounds of cheese and probably the largest batch I have smoked at one time.

I decided to smoke this batch in my Backwoods Party as I thought it would be a full load and this cooker was handy and at the front of the garage.

I rolled the smoker out of the garage and loaded a charcoal chimney with about 10 brickettes of that great Rancher charcoal. When it was ready, I fixed up my firebox (pie pan) with 6 greyed over brickettes and then added some chunks of a mild hickory out of Maine which I won at a contest a few years ago.

I was right in that it really filled up the cooker. I smoked this batch of cheese a total of 90 minutes and it was checked for smoke flavor about 3 times until I got it to where it should be perfect after it comes out of the vacuum sealed packages.

This is some of the cheese coming off of the smoker. Sure looks good...

We got it all bagged up and vacuumed sealed and placed back into the fridge to age for a couple of weeks which will mellow out the flavor. Just can't wait to get into some of that smoked Three Alarm Colby-Jack cheese.

For the folks that need more detail on cheese smoking, see my other articles on this subject.