Just another January 2015 Backyard Day

   The weather has been being wonderful the last few days, so Peg and I decided to spend a day out in the yard.  The day before this adventure I seasoned a twinpack of Boston Butt roasts I had scored on sale, as well as one we already had in the freezer.  I rubbed them down with Steen's Cane Syrup, a couple handfuls of our  own special homemade blend of Cajun seasoning, and some Crystal hot sauce and "woo-stir-shire"..."woo".  We stuck our well-seasoned butts in the fridge, where they spent 20 hours thinkin' about things 'til the next morning. 
    The next day while I got the bbq pit goin', Peggy put on a pot of lima beans, Cajun-style, on the back burner to simmer along all day, while we worked outside.
   Peggy loves to start campfires the old-fashioned way like the ancient folks used to have to, starting simply with a small pile of dryer lint and banana leaves, then for tinder, moving up to small twigs and branches, (cut precisely to size with our specialized "nippers"), tosses in a few lovely pine cones that sometimes are dipped in wax and perfumed (but not this time, Thank God) and burnt ends from the last fire. She disdains artificial means of starting her fires, like...oh...lighter fluid.
It's great that she likes to keep her fire-starting skills sharp.  Short of using a stick and string, or flint and steel, she did the ole 1 match thing and had it smoking up the yard in no time.

While she had the fire smoldering and beginning to 'take', I parked the pork butts on the pit.
An hour later and it was looking good.
While Peggy tended the fire to the music on the outdoor speakers, I trimmed some shrubs back, cut them up and added them to the fire to keep it blazing, doin' it's job. As you can see, we've got a LOT of work to do on our yard, but burning the dead branches and such, helped some.
After three hours of smoking the pork, I rolled it over and added some more water-logged hickory chips to the coals.
We continued feeding the fire and walking around, getting some sunshine enjoying the beautiful day.
And the bbq pit continued to smoked merrily away.
Peggy loves to tend her campfires and I love to babysit a BBQ Pit.  That's one of the many things that make us a great team.
You will note in the above picture that there is a small piece of pork that is missing.  What?? You thought I could watch that stuff smoke for 6 hours and not sample??
As the shadows lengthened and the pork got done, we pulled it out and let it rest in the kitchen while we continued to enjoy the wonderful evening.
Well the evening slid by with us sitting by the fire and I guess I had a few too many beers.  We sat out long after dark and managed to consume the two smaller roasts along with some slaw and roasted ears of corn, I had stuck in the pit near at the last minute.  Normally a photo of a plate would go here <------> but somebody forgot to take a picture of it.  The dang pork was so good that we kept going back snacking on it 'til there was just a tiny piece left of the two smaller ones, which then mysteriously disappeared sometime in the night. 
   The next morning I went to work on the last two big pork roasts while Peggy made her family's BBQ sauce. 
    I cubed one roast into 6-1lb. bags of tasso for beans and such, later on.  Five of these packs went in the freezer and 1 pack went into the pot of lima beans.
I "pulled" the other roast and added Peggy's sauce to it. We put 8 lbs. of that in the freezer with a couple lbs left out in the fridge for snacking.
The Lima beans with a pound of the pork and our usual suspects for seasoning came out amazing with just the right amount of smokey heat.
The good part is, now we have a freezer full of smoked and BBQ'ed pork that will star in many coming meals.  I'll let yall know how that goes if I dont drink too many beers and forget the camera.........again.   :-)


Chicken, Oyster Gumbo With Smoked Andouille Sausage

   So far, it's been a cold and dreary start to the new year. "Gumbo weather", so we thawed out a frozen hen. Then, much to our delight, Saturday dawned sunny and warm.  Anyway, we decided to go ahead  and put a gumbo on the stove simmering away while we spent the day in the yard enjoying the sunshine. 
    This time, instead of Peggy's usual smoked chicken gumbo, I started by whacking up a big baking hen we had scored on sale, which has been sitting in the freezer awaiting it's future.
The breast on these old hens is big and can be dry when cooked, so what I do is take it off the bone and cube it into smaller pieces instead of leaving it whole. 
The chicken goes into a pot of water with our usual suspects.
Crystal hot sauce,
Worcestershire sauce
Our blend of Cajun spice
and a pack of our friend Sam's homemade smoky Andouille sausage.
As this slowly came to a simmer we cut up the Cajun vegetable medley of onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic with a couple cayenne peppers.
Peggy put her gluten-free roux to cooking and when it got to the desired color, instead of putting it directly into the pot, we cool it off and stop the browning, by adding some of the chopped vegetable mix to it. Her roux uses plain brown rice flour and olive oil.
Once the veggies had cooled the roux, it was added to the pot.  When the pot came to a simmer, we covered it and left it while we went play in the yard for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  When we came in from the yard for the day, put on a pot of rice to accompany our gumbo, and added the finishing touches to the pot.  
A special 'finishing touch': adding a pint of salty oysters that we had bought from the local seafood stand.
and the file`...can't have file` gumbo without the file`.
It smelled so good in the house, that while we were outside, MarkyBear the ol' "Sergeant doggy" sat inside keeping the pot company all day. 
Something about the flavor combination of the chicken and oysters makes for an amazing simple gumbo.  They are the sort of things that taste far better together, than apart and many a non-oyster-lover has fallen in love with this gumbo, despite their dislike of oysters.  
We saved you a bowl.
If you have never tried this unique flavor combination we strongly recommend you do.  Let us know how yours comes out. We always look forward to hearing from you.



Gluten Free Upside Down Birthday Cake

Today is my beloved wife/best friend's birthday.  With that in mind, I decided to make her a simple 'tug boat-style' upsidedown cake.  The only problem is, Peg is a 'celiac', so I got her to make the cake and I made the topping (or since it's upside down, the 'bottoming' :-)  
 My way is: since ya gotta heat up your oven to 350 anyways, while it's heating let it heat a stick of butter, that ya gotta melt anyhow.
Once the butter is melted, pour in a quart of canned loquat plums.  If you do not have canned plums I feel sorry for you, but you can use any canned fruit of your choosing .  On top of the fruit, crumble a cup of light brown sugar.  We highly recommend Domino brand sugar.  It is pure cane sugar, it's grown in our neighborhood and made down the River from here.
It is important to note, that the amount of sugar you use is dependent on how sweet your fruit is, as well as how sweet you want your topping to be. Our canned plums are not sweet at all, canned in natural fruit juice with very little sugar.  The heaping cup full of light brown sugar (that I did not measure) was all we wanted; it gave the fruit a hint of sweet and retained the tartness of the plums.  The plum flavor is delicate, so with too much sugar you couldn't tell what kind of fruit they were.
While I was doing this, Peggy made a gluten-free lemon sheet cake and which we poured over the fruit.
Hi! Peggy here with the cake batter recipe. At the good advice of one of the people in the Celiac Disease Support Group on Face Book, I'm letting yall know that this recipe (which I've 'tortured' almost unrecognizable to suit my own tastes)...comes from Bette Hagman's cookbook, entitled, "The Gluten Free Gourmet", page 92. Lemon Sheet Cake. I don't know how the cake is really supposed to taste because I've substituted so many of the "degredients", as Cappy jokingly calls them. Anyhow, here's how I made it:(...and it is GOOOOOD! )
After 40 minutes in the 350F oven, and 'toothpick' tested, the cake came out, and for those of you who have trouble with  your upside down cakes sticking to the pan, if you follow my method, when you remove the cake from the oven and give it a little shake you will see the cake moves in the pan floating on the topping.  You let it rest for 30 minutes or so cooling in the pan.  
That way the topping has time to set and for the excess juices to be absorbed up into the cake.  That way when you cut and remove a piece, the topping doesn't run back into the pan.
Like everything we do, it turned out to be a group project and wound up very good.  The lemon cake complimented the sweet, tart topping and with a dollop of Cool Whip on top it "done us proud"
It turned out to be an amazing Birthday cake and rightly so because it was for an amazing sweetie-pie on her Birthday.    


Feast or Famine; Only Time Will Tell

    One problem with living in a lush semitropical climate is the "semi" part.  Those of you who read our 'rants' have heard this before, so I thought I'd do a little post that "gambles" on the outcome.  It's January 7,  2015 and these are our Japanese Plum Trees. Another name for them is Loquat plums.
     As you can see, the tops of the these trees are ablaze with bloomage.   As you get closer to them, you can hear  the solid hum of "buzzing, as the honeybees do their job.
 The lower branches are covered with little green plums and it appears we have a bumper crop in the making.

The big question is as to whether or not they will be able to mature into the huge harvest they appear to promise, or will a late hard freeze cause us to have a lean year. 
       Two years ago we had such a bountiful harvest that after we had picked, eaten and canned to our heart's content, we still managed to give away ten full five gallon buckets to a local non-professional wine maker. 
    Now, last year, due to a late hard freeze, we barely had a dishpan full; just enough to make 3 quarts of canned plums.  This year we are wondering, "What's it gonna be??"  Tonight we are supposed to have a 'hard freeze', so we'll be covering up what we can in our yard, but the plum trees are too huge for us to cover. Tune in for the answer to this cliff err... make that plum hanger. 


First Saturday BBQ of the Year 2015

This past Friday night most folks were recouping from New Years Eve festivities. You could hear the sounds of kids using up leftover fireworks in the neighborhood.  At our house the whirr of a blender could be heard as Peggy and I made a spicy "smoothie" out of an onion, raw garlic, our own Cajun seasoning, hot sauce, Worcestershire, and some leftover sweet white  wine from the night before.  We sucked it up into our stainless-steel syringe and shot it into a Boston Butt roast, which we then parked in the fridge for it to "think about itself" overnight.     The next morning when I carried my butt outside, I was greeted by a herd of Salvador Kitties dripping from lawn chairs everywhere, while they rested from their last crazy adventures and waited to see what today's would bring, no doubt. They are so much darned fun to watch once they get going.
Okay, so I placed the roast on a very smokey pit,
and settled in to wait.  1 hour 
2 hours
3 hours I turned it over and discovered grill marks.
4 hours and if I was going for pulled pork I would either "foil" it or finish it in the house in the oven. Instead, me and da boys; us Robins, roosted in our usual patio chairs, grabbed another beer, and kept right on a-smokin'. The boys had looks on their faces like as if their Mom had imposed herself on their quiet reverie to take their picture.
After 6 hours on the pit I removed a well-cooked and very smoked roast with a dark spicy bark and a nice deep ring, to boot.
After this thing rested an hour, the plan was to cube it up and save it for smokey seasoning meat for beans and such, but when I sliced into it I just couldn't resist.
I just hadda take a slice or two and get Peg to make us sammiches out of them, with lettuce fresh outa the garden.
They were very well seasoned and very smokey and very tasty.  I can't wait to put some in a pot of beans.  A great way to start off the 2015 Saturday BBQ year.