Over At Smokin' Sam's

Early one morning my good friend Sam pulled into our driveway in his pickup and picked me up.  I threw an ice chest full of beer in the back, and myself and a thermos of coffee in the front and we set sail for his outdoor kitchen/smokehouse.
Ya know ya in a country boy "Cadillac" when in the back ya find 2 ice chests of beer, 2 five-gallon buckets, a few branches of pecan wood found along the road, a dip-net and 3 of the largest turnips I've ever seen.  When we got over to Sam's, our buddy Lance was already there getting ready to stuff a batch of sausage intended for the smoker.  And all this before the neighborhood rooster even started crowing. 
For you non-sausage stuffers I'll explain. The natural  sausage casing comes in a package called a "hank".  A hank is a whole lot of pork intestines that have been thoroughly cleaned and prepared for sausage making, and it comes in very long pieces. These pieces are soaked in a salt water solution or "brine" and invariably requires a lot of patient untangling. It works out best to use one extremely long casing  threaded onto the sausage maker tube, so ya don't have to stop and re-thread right in the middle of everything. 

I aint gonna give yall Sam's sausage recipe cause it aint mine for the givin'.  I will however share with yall a couple valuable sausage making tricks.  If ya look close at this pic ya will notice a lil ball of sausage meat protruding from the tube of the sausage-maker.  This rounds the edges off the sharp tube opening and allows the casing to slide onto the tube without tearing.  The balloon area is actually a few ounces of water.  The water in this "bubble" travels down inside the casing which helps to keep the casing untangled and moving smoothly as it's being loaded onto the tube, and the weight of the water also helps keep the casing open as it approaches the sausage making tube. 
So it's 3 cranks of the handle and tie it off, pinch, pull and cut, then tie it off.  Then tie the 2 ends together, then repeat.  The links come out at one lb. finished. One after another we piled 'em up in the bowl getting them ready for the smoker.

The finished loops of sausage are hung on angle irons then placed in the smoker, 3 racks deep, and 3 racks high.  After all the sausage is hung in the little smokehouse, Sam drags out sawdust, wood chips, smoking pellets and some secret liquid, and loads up the smoke box.  He uses 3 different kinds of wood in 3 different forms, and soaks them down with some kinda mysterious brown water.  I'd tell ya what his combination is but then he'd have to kill me. 
Sam owns what I refer to as the "Frankenstein" of smoke houses. 
The thing is made of plywood and spare parts he scrounged, and is prolly around 5 years old by now.  It's produced thousands of pounds of some of the best smoked meats around our area.  Over the years the wood walls have warped some from the heat, so to prevent too much smoke from escaping,  Sam keeps the thing sealed up with furniture clamps, a bungie cord and a few screen door latches.
After coffee led to beer, which led to sampling assorted homemade beverages, the sausage was finally ready.  Taken out of the smoker, it was dumped into an ice-chest of ice water to "set".  This is an important tip too: If ya prick a hole in this freshly smoked sausage it would squirt juice out, making them kinda deflate into a wrinkled, dry, not-nearly-as-tasty mess; not a good thing, but by shocking them in ice water, the juice 'sets' and allows ya to keep it in the casing, and when it eventually makes its way into a cooking pot it really brings a wonderful smokey flavor to what ya cooking, not to mention eatin' it on it's own.
  That's what we did that afternoon,  at Smokin' Sam's.


Smoked Coon Gumbo

So while we were sittin' and watching the smokehouse do it's thang with the sausages, we started creating a pot of what is known in our small town as a "man dish", famous in these parts as what guys make at da camp or wherever fellas gather in the winter.
We took 3 seasoned, smoked coons and put them in a gumbo pot with a couple gallons of water.  While the water slowly came to a boil we put oil and flour in an oval magnalite pot on the stove and started making a roux, nice and dark brown.

As the roux browned we put sausage and andouille into the gumbo pot to keep the coons company, and then chopped onions and veggies to go into the roux pot.
It takes a lot of steps to build a gumbo, but as we got the whole thing built and simmering away in the gumbo pot, guys started showing up for the feast and before long we were all talking, drinking, trading and having a good ole country boy shindig.
Naturally, since Sam was the head of this beast feast, an' didn't wanna "guina pig" the rest of us,  he got him a test bowl to make sure the coon gumbo met with his approval.
We all had a ball and the Gumbo was a smokey delicious critter creation deserving it's well-known reputation.
Some one brought along a tube of those paper cups that looked like they had been pilfered from a coffee pot at work somewheres.  We used them to sample the half a dozen bottles of homemade wine that also showed up.  Having fun, Colin held up 2 identical cups and hollared, "Which one of these yall like best?"
From across the room Bebe (pronounced baybay) held up an identical cup and hollered,"Meh, Colin, dis one is da best!"
Without missing a beat, Colin drank the cup of wine in his left hand and pitched the empty cup into the 5 gallon bucket/trashcan, turned to me lifting the other cup and saying, "Hey Cap, Bebe is right, dis one is betta.'"
  As I mentioned earlier, part of what we do when we get together like this is do some tradin'.  I showed up with a grocery sack of our lemon jelly and an ice chest full of beer.  I left with the pecan wood seen in Sam's truck, assorted muscadine, black berry jellies and a couple jugs of homemade wine.  Not to mention 3 of the biggest turnips I have ever seen.  While I was visiting, Peggy came over and went across the street to visit with Sam's wife ( her "BFF") Louise.  We planned it that way knowing full well that I would be drinking and one thing I NEVER, EVER do is drink and drive.  She brought me home with my "trade goods" and musta did some trading herself cause she scored some of Sam's homemade smokehouse goodies (which were NOT coon, she hastens to add;...must be a girl thing). Well, das how we roll down in tradin' Cajun country.


"Down The Street Where WE Live"

After a long day of fun-filled outdoor chores, fresh from the shower, I flopped down into my big ole recliner with a cold beer and a heavy sigh of relief, thinking of what a great day I just had with my sweet Peggy.  A fine ending to a wonderful day. Right about that time she hollared, "Come see!!", so I hopped up and ran bare-footed outside to see whas up.  She was standing in the middle of our street pointing at a beautiful sunset.
As yall know, I am a big sunset fan, so we stood there arm-in-arm in the middle of our road reveling in God's finishing touch to our glorious day.  I stood there in awe thanking God for this amazing view and the amazing lady who had thought enough of me to call me outside so we could share the awsome handiwork of our generous Creator, together.