Unseasonable but most appreciated temperatures, hovered around 65 F all day Saturday leading to the perfect set-up for a day spent in the yard cooking over an open flame. While the cooking was pretty much business as usual, there were a couple surprises that made the day particularly interesting.
Taking center stage, slow cooked to perfection, were of course my Grandmothers baked beans. The delicious combination of kidney beans, brown sugar, molasses and a full two pounds of salt pork created, as always, the perfect flavor balance of sweet and salty. Traditionally cooked in a large cast iron Dutch oven lends a “taste” to the experience hard to describe.
Also in the BBQ line-up were pork ribs and chicken legs rubbed in Denny and Mikes extraordinary enhancer “Pixie Dust”. Described as an all around rub for just about anything, it adds a light kick that is sure to please. As directed, I added the rub to all sides of the meat and let it set for a full three hours in the refrigerator. Before cooking, I dropped three full handfuls of water-moistened hickory chips to the fire pit and waited till they started lightly smoking before adding the pork and chicken. The end products were moist, with an injection of flavor and aroma brought about by the rub and containing a slight underlying smoky flavor.
In a grand experiment, I had wanted to build a reflector oven and have it ready for the weekend but time had not allowed. Needing a way to cook some type of roll or bread to accompany the baked beans, I finally decided on trying my hand at making bannock. Well, as time again grew thin, an emergency trip to the grocery store had me purchasing pizza dough. With many raised eyebrows, I rolled out long (18 inch) hotdog sized allotments of dough and wrapped them around hearty green sticks. These were then slathered lightly with butter as they cooked. The end product was a golden browned yeasty roll of bread that proved heavenly when eaten plain or drenched in bean juice.
Of course throughout the days activities, the kids enjoyed collecting hotdog and marshmallow sticks and receiving instruction on how to cook over an open flame without burning ones food or self. Also within the experience were many teachable moments identifying materials suitable to burn, such as those that were to wet or would leave food with an “off” taste. Hardwood and softwoods were identified by bark and leaf leading to many, many other follow-up questions by a very inquisitive 4 year old mind.
After a long Maine winter, the blessing of a day outside, surrounded by family and friends with food in abundance was a way to recharge ones batteries and be thankful for all of the small enjoyments life has to offer.