Archive for May, 2007

Neighbour friendly

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

After a great day cooking, It all started to go pear shaped at around eight pm. The food had gone well, everyone was really into the swing of things, it was raining but we did not care however the bourbon had run out! BBB (Big Bad Brad) had stayed sober and offered to take me to the off licence to buy another bottle and so dressed and looking a complete twat I jumped into the car and marched into the off licence. No one said anything but I sorta knew that the counter assistants were dying to laugh but to their credit they didn’t. Armed with a full bottle of Jim Beam I arrived back at the barbie and proceeded to call everyone a poof who would not take a swig. Surprisingly enough most did and the bottle ran out in an alarmingly short space of time. It was now time to open a bottle of Whisky and I had by this time forgotten that I hated whisky but it was a southern theme as I think the photos in the gallery show. By 11 pm The beast started throwing up in the drain and then washed his mouth out with a hose pipe and continued drinking. “That’s why they call him the beast” one wag commented. The fire was raging and the last thing I remember was trying to shove a heavy log onto the dying embers. It would appear that was around midnight. Apparently I fell over, (I have the bruises to prove it) and some one decided to put me to bed.

Legend has it that the party ended at around 3-30am. I got up at 9-30 am to get something to drink and took in the devastation around me. Ted was asleep on the couch, Little miss sunshine’s’ daughter was asleep on the couch in another room and the fire from the night before was still smouldering. The garden lights were still on and the garden itself resembled something from Vietnam that had been hit by a napalm strike. I have no idea what happened between me passing out and the final guest going home. I only knew I could not walk and every muscle I had ached and my brain hurt. There was only one thing for it, I went back to bed. It would only be a matter of time before some of my neighbours either banged on my door or pulled me in the street to complain about the smoke and the noise. One thing is for sure, spit roasting is not hard if you put enough preparation into it but you really cannot do it properly in a suburban garden with neighbours close by. The smoke is horrendous, the aftermath of the fire is something that can only be put right with a lot of time and you need around a ton of timber which is what we went through plus around 40 Kgs of charcoal.

I cant wait for the Rumo smoker to arrive, hopefully that will cause a lot less damage than a spit and be more neighbour friendly.

To be continued!

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

What a weekend! I picked up the pork on Friday gone and it was a bit of a shock as I had never actually handled such a large piece of meat before. It was huge and this only weighed 30 pounds. Anyway I made a dry rub mix called “Sweet Southern Pork Rub” containing sugar, black pepper, paprika, dry mustard and cayenne and rubbed it well into the flesh of the meat. I then placed it into a large bag and shoved it into the fridge. The following day I went to see Ted Magnum and we managed to finish the spit and the stands. After leaving Ted’s with the spit in the back of my car I unloaded and assembled the spit and built a fire pit of breeze blocks stacked upon each and interlocking. The Pit was two breeze blocks wide, three breeze blocks long and four breeze blocks high. After giving the meat another coat of rub and putting it back in the fridge it was almost time for bed.

The following morning I got up at seven am and took the meat out of the fridge to reach room temperature and then set about lighting the fire pit. This is where my problems started. It was going to be a long day and it was only early morning! It was raining and I knew that with the amount of rain that was falling I had no chance of lighting the fire pit. I hacked off a small amount of meat and managed to fit it into the oven while I sat and thought about what I was going to do. The answer was simple, put a cover over the fire pit! But.. Where do you get one at eight am in the morning? I had to wait until 10 am till the shops were open and buy a cheap gazebo to cover the pit. Buying a cheap gazebo was not easy as everyone had sold out of the really cheap ones and I ended up paying 25 pounds for one. After getting that home and assembling it I set about lighting the pit. I really can’t understand how forest fires occur. I used around 15 fire lighting cubes and a litre of fire lighting fluid to get 20 Kgs of charcoal and some dry logs to ignite and burn evenly.

Some two hours later my pit was roaring nicely and ready to take the meat. It was now around 12 noon and the meat had been cooking in the oven for 2.5 hours. I took it out and tried to get the spit through a section of the meat. It was about this time I discovered that to spit roast anything you really need something with a cavity so you can see where to place the rods through the meat and through the spit to secure it into place. With a hollow piece of meat you see what you are doing and where to push the rods through. With a solid lump you can’t, its all guesswork even with a steel rule which I used to try and guestimate the holes. Needless to say I eventually managed to secure the meat so it would not slip on the spit as it was turned and therefore cook evenly all over. It was now around 12-30 and it was only due to the help from the Bean counter that I managed to place the meat over hot flames at all. This job really cannot be done by one person alone. It takes team work. It was about this time that I rang Ted magnum to ask him where he was and he said he would be there shortly, he had a hangover!

I now realised that although it was raining it was not raining heavily enough to stop the canvas gazebo from become dangerously hot and so in the rain I stood there with a hose pipe directing water over a smouldering canvas canopy to cool it down and thus prevent it from bursting into flames. Ted arrived at around 1pm and the pair of us started to cook in earnest. For an hour or two it all went well. The canopy was cool, the fire was hot and the meat smelt heavenly. The  I realised that some sections of the meat were cooked so well that the rods holding it onto the spit were cutting through it and that as I turned the spit, the meat just hung there heavy end down. It was time to take the meat off the spit and place it onto a grill of sorts and cook it over the flames only turning it occasionally. Ted and me managed to fashion a grill from old bits of metal I had lying around and the meat was transferred to the grill. At this point I opened a bottle of bourbon (big mistake) and started to slather the meat with a Vinegar mop to stop it from drying it out. The vinegar mop was made from cider vinegar, black pepper, coarse salt, mustard powder, brown sugar, molasses, Tabasco sauce and hot red pepper flakes. It looked disgusting but smelt divine and tasted wonderful. After several shots of Bourbon it seemed like a good idea to test out the new branding iron I had and consequently Ted and me branded several sections of a large cut of meat. (see gallery for photos)

At around 4-30, just about the same time we had finished the bourbon off by, the meat thermometer reckoned that the meat was cooked and we took it off the flames and left it on a large plate to draw back some of the juices that were now oozing out the spots that were not seared with the branding iron. At around five pm the first of our guests arrived. By six pm I had a garden full and the meat was carved and served and compliments to the chef flowed along with lashing of home made apple sauce that the bean counter had been busy preparing while Ted and me did manly things like drink and make fire. So far it had been a great day……..

To be continued!

Hopefully up to date

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

After my last post my email inbox bulged. A few said they thought the idea of spit roast goat was disgusting, a whole lot more said they wanted to try it. I guess some people are just fickle. Over the last week I have been really busy and the greenhouse I said I was going to leave fallow has been filled with summer vegetables and salad stuff. I hope to be able to pick stuff out of the greenhouse and use it as it is needed when I am cooking outside. I have done this quite successfully in the past with my herb garden and fresh herbs during the summer months have never been an issue for me.

Included in the bulging mail box was a letter from the people I had ordered the Brinkman Cimarron from informing that they no longer dealt with Brinkman owing to “quality issues” and they could not fulfil my order. They could however supply a substitute from a German company called Rumo and it would only cost me around 550 pounds more. This was considerably more than I was prepared to pay but I could not find another UK importer of the Cimarron model I wanted. They did agree to knock 250 pounds of the price for the inconvenience and I eventually decided I had no options if I wanted a decent off set smoker for this year. The total cost of the smoker including delivery is now 1200 pounds. Feeling battered in the pocket I counted up how much I have spent so far this year on BBQ stuff. It’s a lot more than I thought………..

I went to see the Beast on Monday evening gone and returned with a full boot load of cut logs from his garden. The next evening he turned up at mine with another load. I made a few trips to the fabricators shop to collect the final pieces for the home made spit and as they were not finished or as in one case made incorrectly I hope to have them in place for tomorrow morning. I called in to see Ted Magnum with what bits I had and discussed the project so far. Ted has done a magnificent job with welding drilling and painting. Unlike me Ted has a tendency to over engineer and he should really be working for Mercedes, whereas I like things to just work and not overly worry about the odd 1/16 of an inch here and there. On that note I would like to add that both he and I speak different languages. He is obsessed with millimetres and as I try telling him I still work in Imperial. Metric was not invented when I went to school!  Aesthetics are a secondary consideration. In general I like things to look as Heath Robinson as possible so people can see things have been home made and time has been spent making things fit and do a job they were never intended to do in the first place. This to me is half the fun of making the spit. Ted like’s his engineering to look as though it has just come out a showroom and he gets as much fun out of making things as perfect as possible.

Tomorrow I should also take delivery of a lump of pig weighing around 30 pounds in weight both Ted and myself are hoping the spit will be ready on time which means finished for Saturday night. I am also taking delivery of 40 or so breeze blocks with which to build the fire pit over which the spit will stand. No amount of descriptive text would do what we intend to build any justice so I will post some photos in the gallery of the finished article some time next week. Hopefully I am now up to date and will let you all know what the meat is like when I go to the butchers tomorrow afternoon

Pretty good but hectic

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

It’s been such a busy week I have not had time to fill in my blog for what seems like ages so in attempt to catch up here goes. Friday quiet night in, Saturday the worst cup final I have ever seen, Chelsea and Manchester United, it was an embarrassment to our national game. I also received a phone call from the traveller that he was on his way to China. Sunday went to see Ray Davies at the Liverpool philharmonic and it was well worth going. Almost a 2 .5 hour set full of new songs and of course all the old favourites that I remember him for. Monday I went see the beast and came home with almost a ton of cut logs (see the BBQ blog). Tuesday, the Beast came to see me and we sat in the garden with a beer or two. Wednesday went shopping, tidied the house, went to a fabricators (again see BBQ blog), came home and got ready to go and watch the EUFA cup final at a friends.

Yes the EUFA cup final, ahem… Well the first goal was a handball and should not have stood the press photos clearly show this. The final whistle went 13 seconds before the close of play not taking into consideration the fact a substitution by AC Milan took place and should have added at least 30 seconds to the run of play as well as injury time during the three allocated minutes of added time. Not that I am bitter at all, the second goal by AC Milan was magic. The driver rang me up just after the match to taunt me; well every dog has his day and just wait until next year. Seriously though this season has shown that it’s now practically impossible for any English team to fight on four fronts with three domestic honours to compete for and European glory as well.

Today I took mum to hospital for another inspection and the doctors are quite happy with her progress, so much so that she has now been discharged and does not need to go back again. On another note Bo Diddley has suffered a serious stroke and it looks as though his career is over at the age of 78. I wish him well and will rue that I did not see him live and the date at the cavern club in Liverpool for next month has duly been cancelled. All in all it’s been a pretty good if not hectic week.

The Menu

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

After some thought, I decided it was all to common to roast a pig. Every one seems to be doing it these days. With the big bash coming up, scheduled for June, something different is in order. Something that would compliment the half pig or Boston Butt as our American chums call it (The shoulder half of the pig). After a trip to my butcher, I discovered what he could and could not supply. He can supply the half pig and a shoulder quarter is on order to pick up next Friday for the practise run on Sunday. A visit to Little Miss Sunshine revealed she had a source for whole goat and after a few phone calls I have now ordered a whole goat to go with the Boston Butt. I have no idea how big the thing is and no idea of what it tastes like but it should be a voyage of discovery not only for me but for everyone who attends on the day. One thing is for sure, the menu will be different to most other peoples!

What the hell, its harmles fun

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

My branding iron arrived this morning, and pretty good it looks too! I have for now given up on the idea of trying to build a smoker on bits I can find lying around, its too far into the season for that. So with my credit card at the ready I went hunting the net for a decent ready made smoker. After some reasearch I decided I was going to buy a Brinkman, they seem to give the best guarantees on their products. Two hours later and one credit card begging for mercy and I am now awaiting delivery of my very own Brinkman Cimmaron Ltd edition smoker. (See photo in gallery alongside a pic of the grill I use) It has to be said its a beast and with a 75 year guarantee it should be here long after I am gone. That alone makes it worth every penny. Exactly how I am going to pay for it is another matter entirely but I am sure it will all be worth it in the end.

A pratice run for the spit has been scheduled for the weekend of the English May bank holiday. Its now Thursday 17th May and I have nine days to have the spit up and running and so far I am on schedule. All being well a huge chunk of pig will be ordered next Tuesday and delivery should be on the Friday giving me two days for marinating and creating dry rubs etc. I am still waiting for the beancounter to stitch up the dungarees (well she did offer). Combined with my grillslinger, my machette (for chopping up bits of wood for the smoker) and my branding iron, hat and dark glases I should look like the ultimate pro and ready for anything. My gut feeling is I will look like a right twat but what the hell its all good harmless fun.

Cold Steel!!!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

The steel was delivered to Ted Magnums this morning and some major design changes were decided upon. As a result the welding is now finished and the steel is now in the process of being painted in a fetching shade of black for the lower stanchions and silver for the upper with the roller bearing caps being finished in red. It may not be professional but it looks good and is as Heath Robinson as we can get it. The target of it being ready for the May bank holiday is looking good and a quarter pig for practise is on target. Photographs of the finished assembly will be placed in the gallery as soon as a working model has been constructed. All in all its amazing what you can do with some pre planning, determination and some cold steel!!!

ETA May Bank Holiday

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

I managed to pick up the steel I ordered yesterday, so far so good. The bad news is the estimate I was given was wildly out and for what I thought was going to cost me 25 pounds actually cost me 50. The construction will start some time next week when Ted Magnum has practised with the welding kit he bought from EBAY. Things are still looking good for it to be ready and up and running for the May bank holiday. With this in mind I think its time to go and stock up the beer supplies in anticipation.

Gone but not forgotten

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

Todays news headlines have been about little else other than Tony Blairs decision to stand down as Prime minister or should that be presidente? I have never met the man and to the best of my knowledge he has never done me any personal harm but amid all the glowing and gushing tributes I cant help but harbour reservations about his so called legacy and I am not sorry he is going.

As he once said when he first came into power, "you cant be in office for so many years and get everything wrong".  Personally I cant see what he got right that either directly or indirectly affected me, all I have to go one is the list of things I believe he got horribly wrong. He did not put right all the wrongs the previous government had got wrong and our ship yards and heavy industries still lie in ruins. Our national border controls are an embarrassing international joke. Our prisons are overcrowded despite crime rising substantially and some judges saying they wont put prisoners away because there is no space. At least 8000 places in prisons could be created tomorrow if all the foreign criminals were deported.

Political correctness is out of all proportion as is the lack of ability to administer discipline along with any pretence that respect for anything other than gun law and violence actually exists. Add this to a disastrous war in Iraq over none existent WMD and allegations of sleaze and honours for sale with cronism and media spin. No I am certainly not sorry he is going and as soon as I am able I will be leaving this country too. Its sad because I believe myself to be fiercely patriotic and its a shame that some one has been allowed to run the country of my birth into what I believe is a state of non repair. If any of my ex pat mates are reading this, let it be a sad reminder of why you left in the first place, its even worse now than when you first departed. Like Tony Blair you are gone but not forgotten

April showers are late this year

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Sunday… oh bloody Sunday. Well the bits I remember were good anyway! After a few beers at the pub prior to picking up the bean counters car from the night before and then speaking to the Tiler on the phone with a few more beers, I decided to spark the grill up and invite a few friends around. This is where it gets a bit hazy. I decided I desperately needed a machete for the purpose of chopping up small logs to go in the smoker. I contacted my mate Ted Magnum who duly turned up with a selection for me to try out. The instructor came along with a mutual friend and his wife. It seems everyone ducked when ever I drew the machete out of its scabbard but I discoverd it did indeed do the job and for an hour or so as I was knocking back Bourbon and coke I pretended I was Errol Flyn at his swashbuckling best until someone took the big knife away and hid it. I must admit not only does it chop trees, logs and small branches, its sharp enough to cut a steak. It now has pride of place on my Grilslinger utility belt and will get used on many occasions during this years season.

So onto today. I got up early this morning, this being my day off work, and went and ordered the steel for the spit. Ted magnum and myself then went to the beancounters place of work and loaded up a trailer of hewn timber which had been chopped down from the surrounding woodland. There was so much we went back for another trailer full. I dont remember having so much fun chopping trees down and there is at least another trailer full of timber to be picked up at another date. There is to be a big barby at Ted’s place sometime this year when we test out the spit and we need a big bonfire to accompany the proceedings. It would appear that at the last one Ted had he managed to burn over a ton of dried and seasoned logs in a period of five or so hours. Ted does not do small fires, no these are more like pyres and huge at that.

I pick the steel up tomorrow evening and then with the aid of Teds welding gear we will attempt to assemble the final article. I am convinced my design will work and be strong enough for a 160 pound pig. We intend to address the problem of motorising the spit when its built. If we use a 240 volt motor then we are limited to where we can use the thing as we will be bound by the lenght of electricty cable. Ideally what we need is a 12 volt motor with lots of torque that wont drain a decent car battery in a few hours. With two batteries we should be able to make it through the end of the session before each is flat. Well that is the reasoning anyway. The spit should be built by the weekend and we can cross the bridge that is the motor issue a few days after that. More news as it happens. PS its raining and has been for the last few days with lots more to come, the April showers are late this year!