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Wednesday, January 16, 2008 

Cookin' in the cold

A cold morning in VT.

Last weekend, as I implied in a previous post, I dedicated a day to cooking barbecue. It's fun to justify it as "practice" even though I'm really just doing it because cooking makes me happier that many other things I could do. I realized this morning, as I was attempting to bring my brain to life with a massive cup of coffee that the pace of life many of us keep is frightening. We work five days a week, for most of the day. We come home try to be with our families and take care of those things that are important to us. We get up the next day and do the same thing. This is why I cook, and why I cook barbecue. No matter how you try, you simply cannot rush through the cooking of a pork butt or brisket. They require long, slow cooking and regular attention to bring out their best qualities. In short, barbecue makes me slow down.

The view down my valley, crisp and clear.

When I woke up Sunday morning, I was greeted by a cold, crisp morning. In the silence that hangs in my valley on an early morning, I puttered happily about, getting my pit up to temp and rubbing my butts.

Naked butts

Cooking butts

The buts, being the largest piece of meat, went on early and spent a good part of their day without company in my pit. However, early in the afternoon I added several companions to smoke along with it. I threw in three racks of St. Louis-style ribs and a whole chicken.

St, Louis-style ribs rubbed with my new Green Mountain Rib Rub.

I cooked the ribs for about five hours, probably an hour longer than would have been appropriate for a KCBS competition. If you look closely at the image of the finished products (two images below), the meat is pulling back from the bone a bit too much, a sign that they're overdone. However, what is overdone by the rules established under KCBS and what I actually like are not always the same thing. I like the meat on my ribs to come off the bone easily. And these ribs were perfect.

Finishing the ribs.

Once they came off the pit, I moved them over to my grill for the finishing touches. My sauce caramelizes nicely and adds a great color to the racks. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how my rib methods shake out in a competition.

Finished ribs, ready to eat.

One rack of ribs and the chicken were eaten for dinner on Sunday night. The other two racks were frozen and stored as a test to see how they will handle being re-heated.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I'm already looking forward to this summer. Barbecue has taken a prominent place in my life and I'm very grateful that it acts as a way to slow me down and bring me down to earth. With life as hectic as it is, it sure is nice to savor the smoke and fire for at least a little while.

Be well,