This tray is for the birds

img_3659-1We keep giant bags of birdseed in the garage to keep the birds fed and happy. However I’m not about to drag them out to fill the feeders. For a while I had a large tub that I would fill from the bag and then I’d drag that out. But then I realized that I have a bunch of quart mason jars that I got to use for my salads in a jar – but I only use a few of them for that. So now the others are used for seed – I fill directly from the bag. I was carrying them out in my arms, but then I remembered I have a serving tray that I never really use and it was just sitting in the top of a closet. So now it’s the permanent home of seven quart mason jars of seed, ready to be carried out and served to all the happy birds. I don’t think they realize how fancy it all is, but I do know they appreciate the seed.

A study in hoarfrost

Where I live we’re currently under an air stagnation advisory. This means very still air – and since it’s cold and foggy we get hoarfrost. It’s very pretty – this certainly isn’t the most expansive I’ve seen, but I thought I’d share some pictures nonetheless.

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fence post cap

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redbud branches

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dormant lavender

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dormant Japanese maple

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bamboo that is supposed to be hardy for this sort of temperature – I hope they’re right!

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nature flocked my wreath on the fence….

Smokin’

As July 4th approaches, I’m preparing to smoke pork shoulder in the Southern tradition. Not only it it a national holiday, it’s my husband’s birthday – and he’s loved pulled pork ever since my father introduced him to it. My father taught me, and then I got his old smoker when he upgraded to a new one. Smoking pork is an all-day affair with a big payoff at the end. I did it for Memorial Day weekend and the results were fantastic.

I start by lighting the fire before 6am – pork is smoked over indirect head and “low and slow” is the only way to go. Once the coals are hot, I add water-soaked hickory chips on the coals to generate the smoke.

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It’s important to have the coals up on a grate, because there will be a lot of ash created – the foil lining the bottom helps with cleanup.

Now I put on the meat – this is about 4 pounds of pork shoulder (aka “boston butt” and don’t ask me why) cut in two pieces.

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This has marinade basted on it that is very important – we use Wicker’s original and there is zero reason to look for anything else. It’s perfection. Close the lid, and now we’re smokin’!

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For the rest of the day I keep checking the smoke and the coals – every 15 minutes or so (maybe 30 at max) I need to add coals and/or wood chips. Now, there are people who will tell you that adding more wood chips after a certain time is meaningless because no more smoke will penetrate the meat. Perhaps they are right. There is no doubt a time that I add the wood chips solely to torture my neighbors with the fantastic aroma.

After an hour or so, the meat starts to tighten up and become firm and the color darkens.

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I’m continuing to baste with the Wicker’s and I turn the meat every so often to make sure the indirect head is generally distributed. Again, some people will tell you that once you close the lid you should never open it again until you are done. I say to them: my results are amazingly tasty so shut up.

After about 10-12 hours the meat has a nice bark on it and eventually it will start to feel “loose” – loose means it wants to fall apart on its own. This is what you want.

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At this point, you remove the meat and if you’ve done things right you only need a couple of forks to pull the pork apart into delicious shreds.

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The more pink you see the better – that is how far the smoke penetrated. It is juicy and delicious!

I serve this with red onion, amazing barbeque sauce, vinegar-based cole slaw, and baked beans. Many people use a bun and make a sandwich, but the bun to me is just taking up room on my plate that I could fill with pulled pork! The bark is intensely tasty and a prized treat as well.

Now I’m hungry, and I have days yet before the 4th….

Bon appetit!