Sometimes its not about what you cook, its about how and where and with what challenges.  Well today, much like cooking breakfast on an open fire, the challenge was not in what I was cooking or how I was cooking, it was the element of nature that produced the biggest source of problem in my cook.  In the midst of a blizzard warning this morning I fired up the smoker to smoke up some rosemary and brown sugar rubbed Boston butts (3) for some pulled pork.

Smoking in a blizzard

In spite of the snow and the massive drifts and the sometimes strong winds, I prevailed the smoked stayed going and the pork is now ready for some pulling.  Its not new, its not special but it was a challenge.  And if I do say the results look, smell and taste fantastic.

My apologies for the picture quality, they came from my phone. 🙁

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Ribs, Again!  This time with more style.  Last time I used two rubs out of a bottle and had good ribs come up but the rubs was not complimentary.  The ribs were good but they were not as good as they should have been.  This time, I managed a little more success.

Ribs with Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Last night I whipped up perhaps my favorite pulled pork rub, a brown sugar and rosemary rub, using some fresh rosemary, from the plant to the rub, it doesn’t get much fresher than that.  From there I lightly rubbed the ribs with Dijon mustard and then the rub and then it was into the fridge to rest overnight in bask in that magnificent rub.

Then in the morning it was onto the smoker with some apple wood and some hickory at 225°F for 3 hours, I did spritz the ribs a couple of times as the skin dried out with apple juice during this time.  Then it was into a double layer of foil for 2 hours, then back onto the grate in the smoke with no foil until they reached 172°F in the thickest part of the rib.  I brushed them lightly with BBQ sauce during this time as well.  Then it was off the smoker and back into some foil, a wrapped in a couple towels and then into a cooler for about 30 minutes of rest to allow the juices to redistribute and the flavor to mature.

Then it was time to eat them.  They were better than the last rack of ribs I smoked, either half of them.  They were sweet and had a nice bark on them were fall off the bone tender.  The rosemary complimented the sweet and the delicate flavor of the pork ribs, they were perhaps the best ribs I have ever had.

With one exception it looks like I have found my rib recipe for at least the immediate future.  My wife smelled the cumin in the rub when I was making it and she was able to taste a hint of it in the finished product, she wanted less cumin next time.  I thought all was well the way it was.

Either way they were great, an appropriate use of such a fine piece of meat and they went well with some garlic and rosemary mashed red skin potatoes.

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So many people have raved about apple cider brined pork chops and smoked pork chops that I had to see what all the fuss was about.  Well now I know, they didn’t knock my socks off but they were certainly good enough to make again and when paired with my made from scratch bbq sauce, it was a match made in heaven.  They were delectable.

Apple Cider Brined Smoked Pork Chops

Looks expensive doesn’t it, well it doesn’t have to be.  In addition to being inexpensive, it was crazy easy to make.  All that is involved is an over night soak in the brine detailed below, a quick dusting with any seasoning you want.  I used a little bit of BBQ 3000 just to give it a little more and then a quick (2 hourish) jaunt on the smoker at 225°F with some apple wood.  I cooked them up until the internal temperature was 165°F, pulled them and let them rest for a short while, before cutting into these juicy and mighty tasty pork chops.

4 c apple cider (not juice)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c kosher salt
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp chile powder
1 c boiling water

Mix sugar and salt into boiling water until dissolved.  Cool mixture.  Mix together apple cider, chile powder, vinegar and water mixture.  Place pork chops in a 1 gallon zip lock bag, pour in brine and fill remaining space with cold water.  Refrigerate over night in brine, remove, season and smoke.

Like I said this recipe will be sticking around next time it might not be chops, it might be another cut of meat.  It would also make a great base for some other marinade, just adjust the seasonings.  Please tell me it at least made you hungry to look at.

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A week and a half ago we had a successful fishing adventure, we went up to Half Moon Lake here in Michigan and fished for Rainbow Trout.  As luck would have it we got one, a hair over legal size, yes merely one but it was a successful trip none the less.  Because of other things going on I had to wait to smoke him until today so he took up residence in my freezer until I took him out to thaw.  Today was the day, I brined him this morning for about an hour and a half in my standard fish brine, why change a good thing right?

Previously I had not smoked a whole fish, and that was the plan to smoke the whole gutted fish, but I decided since I had forgotten to remove his gills when I cleaned him and he still looked rather surprised I had to smoke him without his head.  In reality there is nothing edible in there anyways.

After his stint in the brine, I pulled him out, did not rinse him and stuffed him with some lemon wedges and onions and tossed him on an oiled smoker grate.  I then smoked him at 190°F over some apple wood, I usually smoke fish over alder, but had heard that trout was excellent over apple wood and I was not disappointed.  Using my PID controller for my electric smoker it was easy/effortless to maintain temperature and once the smoke was rolling it was time to sit back and let him cook.

After about 2 hours I retrieved him from the smoker and using a technique I had recently learned I grabbed the spine with on hand and the fish with the other and gently removed the spine and all the bones from the fish, it worked great.

Smoked Rainbow Trout on Rice

As if smelling the sweet smell of the apple wood smoke all morning wasn’t good enough, eating it was incredible.  It was done just right, flaky.  It was smoky but not too smoke and the apple wood complimented the lemon well and trout well, it was not fishing but it was fish.  It was in a word awesome, so trout beware I am coming for you.  If I only fish for one thing for the rest of the year it will be trout.

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Those who know me, know that there are two things I enjoy that relax me and often yield outstanding results fishing and cooking (by cooking I mean grilling, baking, smoking, roasting, etc).  Because of this a lot of people ask me what is the best way to eat fish?  Without a doubt the best way regardless of how it is prepared to eat fish is fresh, I enjoy smoked fish, baked fish, fried fish and grilled fish, but compound any of those methods with a fresh catch and it is exponentially better.  As a result of last nights catch today’s smoked fish lunch went from the lake to the plate in less than 24 hours, now that is some pretty fresh fish.

Brined the fish this morning for a couple of hours in my famous fish brine, let it sit out and dry/skin for about an hour and into the smoker at 190°F with some alder and apple wood for about 2 hours.  Had a little trouble getting the smoke going early on the Brinkmann Electric (which if you remember I built a PID controller for it last year), but was trying something new.  The results in spite of the difficulties where phenomenal, there might not be a better fish to smoke.

The famous fish brine recipe is as follows:

2 qts water
1 c kosher salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tbsp pickling spice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper

I stir the salt in the water until dissolved and then test to see if an uncooked egg floats.  If it does not remove the egg, add more salt, stir and test again until the egg floats; this is important to get an 80 brine.  Once the salinity is all set add the rest of the ingredients, mix in thoroughly and refrigerate until needed, I have left it in the fridge for weeks and used it with excellent results.

I follow the brining directions located here.

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