Sunday, April 20, 2014

SUCCESS!!! My first experience with my Weber Smoker.

I just took the chicken out of my smoker!  This was my first ever experience with smoking meat and it couldn't have turned out better.  The chicken weighed four pounds uncooked so I was going to lift the lid at the four hour mark.  But when I went back to my owner's manual, it said 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours cooking time.

I stuck a thermometer into it and it was above the 165 degree desired temperature.

I'm hooked on smoking meat!  The smell while it is cooking is just wonderful.  And unlike my fears, this couldn't have been easier.  I soaked the chicken overnight in a brine of water, salt and brown sugar.  This morning I took it out of the brine, rinsed it well and dried it with paper towels.  Next I rubbed it with olive oil and then with a rub consisting of sugar, salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, and oregano.  While I was doing that, I had the charcoal in a charcoal chimney heating up.  You pour the lit charcoal over a bed of unlit charcoal, sprinkle a few shavings of hickory wood over it, place the water bowl, filled with water over that, and next comes the rack with the chicken.  Put the lid on it and let it do the rest of the work.  I took the second rack out.  Why have to clean a rack that I wasn't going to use?

I had to keep an eye on the temperature to keep it within the smoking range.  That required a few adjustments to the air vents.

Much of the time I sat in the backyard with it while Morgan ran herself ragged all over the yard!  I finally got her to be still long enough to take this picture.
Lessons learned:  Next time bring out my small folding table to hold all the gear and have a clean place to put the lid.  Also, line the water bowl with foil.  Didn't realize how grungy that could get with drippings from the chicken.  I cleaned that and the grate with an SOS pad using my backyard water faucet.

Friday, April 18, 2014

My new Weber smoker

Tonight I assembled my new Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker.  This is the 18 1/2 inch model.  In less than an hour, I unpacked the parts from the box, spread everything out on the living room floor, and finished putting it together.  I admit to being a bit anxious by seeing all the parts.  "What have I gotten myself into?" I asked myself.  I just followed the exploded view in the owners manual and took one step at a time.  The only tools needed are a screwdriver and adjustable wrench.  On the very last step, screwing the two rubber pieces above and below the lid handle, you need a phillips head screwdriver, so I went to my kitchen drawer and pulled out a phillips head screwdriver and I was back in business!

And here it is all put together!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

First paddle of the season

Today was the first really nice weekend day we've had and it was not a day to spend inside.  The bicyclists, motorcyclists, golfers, runners, people walking their dogs - everyone was outside.  I went paddling in Black Creek in the section that empties into the Genesee River.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A new adventure

About 12 years ago, I had my first taste of home smoked meat.  I was visiting my father in Florida and attended a cookout with him.  The host used an old refrigerator to smoke about 10 whole chickens.  That was the best tasting meat I had ever eaten.  I was intrigued with the taste and the moist, tenderness of the meat. 

I had never heard of home smoked meat and was more than a little taken aback by the use of an old refrigerator!   Over the last several years, I heard more and more about people smoking meat in their backyard.  A co-worker told me about smoking their Thanksgiving turkey.  I wanted to try it.

Recently, I began to get serious about doing it and started researching how to do it and what is the best brand of smoker to get and equally important, were there smaller smokers more suitable for my needs?

I started reading everything I could get my hands on, books, online information, You Tube videos, and talking to everyone I could find who cooks this way.  I zeroed in on the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker that comes in three sizes.  I have three Weber products already, the Weber Genesis gas grill on a stand with wheels, a portable Weber Q gas grill and the smallest Weber portable domed top charcoal grill.  The Weber brand, in my experience, is highly reputable, long lasting, and easy to use.

I bought two books, “Smoking Meat” by Jeff Phillips, and “Smokin’ with Myron Mixon”, the winningest man in barbeque.  I couldn’t tear myself away from their pages!

Stay tuned.  I haven’t bought the smoker yet.  But when I do, look for posts and pictures of my new adventure!  And I would love to hear from you if you are already into smoking meat.  Recipes are most welcome!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A new Spring bud!

Maybe I had to look carefully for them, but after the unusually harsh winter we have had, maybe you can understand my excitement at seeing new growth on my tree out front!  It's still too early for the forsythia and crocuses, but for now, I can be happy with just these tiny buds!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Random thoughts on the 6th annual cousins' reunion

My dad died in 2003.  Funerals and weddings draw relatives out of the woodwork.  Having lived in New York State since 1974 and not getting back down South a lot during those years - I was busy raising two very active boys - I didn't see most of my cousins in all those years.

Amazingly, at my dad's funeral, we seemed to pick up right where we left off as kids all those many years ago.  Uncle Harding, my dad's last surviving sibling, was near death several years later in Jacksonville.  I chose to go visit him before he died, rather than go to his funeral.

I realized what I had missed not being closer to my relatives and my mind started churning.  I sent out an e-mail to everyone sometime in 2008.  "Why don't we get together one day this next Spring at the old homestead?"  I had no idea what kind of response I would get.  We all have our own busy lives.  The response was unanimous. . . "let's do it!"

That first reunion brought 11 people, 9 relatives and 2 friends  A few others wanted to come but could not get away for one reason or another.  I don't think I envisioned back in 2009 just how much fun and how successful each new reunion would be.  Some years we have had as many as 20 show up.  We extended it from just one day, to some of us showing up on Thursday to be at the property on Friday to target shoot and just enjoy being on the land that has been in our family since it was deeded from the government "way back there!"  My grandfather was a prosperous cotton farmer and he and Granny raised their four children there.

Most years, Rita and Kip, have invited some of us to end the reunion by going to Kip's parent's vacation home on a wide river about a 45 minute drive from where we hold the reunion.  That is always a lot of fun and Kip's buttermilk biscuits for breakfast are a treat I look forward to each year.  Nobody makes them like Kip!

Yes, it is a long, two day, 1200 mile drive for me to get there each year and another two day drive back, through 8 large cities. . . Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham, and Montgomery.  If you catch any of those at rush hour - and I invariably do - you've got a stressful situation on your hands, like going at a crawl for an hour or more in a sea of cars.  But the pain of that is easily forgotten once I get there and start having a good time.

No, I don't choose to fly, not with the gear that I take with me!

Here are mindless thoughts that go through my mind as I drive down and back!

Tennessee has the very best rest areas of any of the states I go through.  They even say, "Welcome!" when you walk in the door.  Kentucky is a close second.

Driving through central, rural Ohio and into Kentucky is pleasant with the vast farmlands, the old barns of Ohio and the hilly terrain of Kentucky.

Hampton Inn is the very best hotel chain out there and their staff always goes out of their way to be friendly and helpful.

I broke the AAA habit this year.  Long story short, earlier this year, AAA really made me mad about an issue.  I asked for their traditional flip top triptik and was sent the mapquest version.  They seemed annoyed when I brought this to their attention, like it was my fault.  I found that with a map and my iPad, I got along just fine.  I used my iPad to pull up the map of two cities where I wasn't sure which turn to make.  Surprisingly, when I spoke to friends about my issues with AAA, I found that a lot of people are dropping AAA.  My insurance company has road side assistance. . . something I've never needed. . . and now I get a senior citizen's discount for lodging, so who needs AAA?

I am pleased that the next generation, some of our children, make a point to come each year.

And finally, if you have long lost relatives that you haven't seen in a long time, look them up and get together.  Family is important.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cousins' Reunion pictures

This year, I didn't take as many pictures, and many of the ones I did take, didn't turn out good.  But here are a few.

Jeremy loves to fish, even from a tree!

This is Aunt Ileen with her dog, Cody.  Aunt Ileen is 92 this year and still going strong!

After the reunion, some of us spent a few days at a beautiful vacation home on a big lake, thanks to Rita's in-laws.  I took this picture while my coffee was brewing, just before the sun came over the horizon.

As always, the reunion was a lot of fun, and one I look forward to each Spring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another great cousins' reunion is history

As my regular readers know, every Spring, I head South for our annual Cousins' Reunion.  This one was a lot of good times, a lot of laughs, and one that left us with memories that will last a lifetime.  Watch for pictures in my next post.

My cousin, Kenny, will always. . . always, get the last laugh.  This time was no exception.  Our day at the "old homestead" is very unstructured.  Some of us gather at the old downed tree where we shoot targets into the stump, some of us fish, others walk the land - it is acres and acres of unimproved land handed down for generations in our family.  So Kenny came back from a walk and held an object in front of me which I overlooked.  "Someone left an abandoned mobile home on our property!" he smiled.

"WHAT?"  I screamed.

"Yeah," he replied, seeming totally unconcerned.

First, I was enraged that someone would use our land for a dumping ground.  Further, I was angry at Kenny for acting like it was no big deal.

"Kenny, are you telling me someone has left a damn trailer on our property and you don't think it is a big deal?"

At this point, he pushed the "object" closer to my face.  But I was too mad to notice what it was.  "That is outrageous.  I am NOT going to stand for that!"  I screamed.

"What is that damn thing in your hand?" I asked.

"This is the abandoned mobile home. . ."  It was an empty turtle shell. . .

Yes, that's Kenny!

After a big day at the reunion, some of us headed over to Rita's in-laws' vacation home on a big lake for a few days.  It is so relaxing to sit on their enormous deck that sits over the water and just watch the world go by.  A pleasant change from my usual fast paced life back home.

This was our sixth year.  We ranged in age from Aunt Ileen, who is 92, and swears this is her last year at the reunion (she says that every year) to the next generation, some of our children came.  We all enjoyed it and look forward to Reunion #7!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Morgan playing in the snow

The March 2014 Blizzard is in full swing right now.  Here is Morgan playing in the snow.  I tried taking a video of her running around the yard, but, of course, as soon as I started the video, she stopped and looked at me!  The wind is howling, snow is flying. . . it's just a big mess out right now.

In a few more months, those bushes will be filled with big green leaves and huge white blossoms, which turn pink as the summer moves into fall.

We've gotten a lot more snow than this picture indicates.  There is the bare spot and where Morgan is standing, the snow isn't very deep.  In other places, just out of range of this picture. . . AND in my driveway! . . . there is a good 10 inches or more.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rest in Peace, Molly

Molly passed away yesterday at the age of 12 1/2 years.  She was a good dog and I will miss her tremendously.  The picture above was taken a couple of years back on a walk we took on the Erie Canal.  She brought a lot of joy and love to my life.