July 5th 2008, that was the date The Beast and myself had agreed upon to hold a Barbie for his daughter’s celebration of leaving school and burning her old school books. Months of planning were finally going to come to fruition, a menu was created and lots of items were taken out of many freezers. We were going to make our own beef burgers as opposed to buying them, use the best farm sausages we could find, smoke a full brisket weighting 18.5 pounds and smoke a pork shoulder at the same time.
The mince, all 25 pounds of it was defrosted and on the Thursday night prior to the event, Roger Moor, Bean Counter and me all turned up at The Beasts house. Along with TB’s long-suffering wife the five of us swung into action peeling onions, chopping Chiles into very fine pieces and assembling herb and spice combinations. Five types of burger were created that evening and they included:
Chile burgers, which was 3 pounds of minced beef, 12 ounces of chopped onions, 2 Oxo Cubes, three teaspoons of dried Chile flakes, three teaspoons of dried hot Chile powder and 5 chopped fresh Chiles two twists each of salt and pepper from a grinder for each pound of mince and bound together with 2 eggs.
Curry burgers, and for this we used three pounds of mince using the same quantities of salt, pepper, eggs, 2 Oxo cubes, onions and using 12 teaspoons of mild curry powder.
Tomato burgers, which consisted of three pounds of mince, basil, thyme, garlic, rosemary, lots of tomato sauce and anything else that TB could think of to throw in. We did not use any eggs to bind these with.
Bourbon and cheese burgers. Three pounds of mince, 12 ounces of onion, 2 Oxo cubes, salt and pepper to taste, several good slugs of bourbon and I really don’t remember how much grated cheese we put in the mix. (It has to be said that this was an off the cuff decision and owes more to the inspiration of a beer or two than anything planned and carefully thought out. I am pretty sure that we put other stuff in as well and we used most of this mixture on the night of production as the finished burger tasted wonderful.)
For the plain beef burgers we used ten pounds of mince, 40 ounces of chopped onion, 4 Oxo cubes, 2 twists of salt and pepper for each pound of meat, 4 eggs to bind and half a pot of Phileas Fogg Steakhouse seasoning.
To ensure consistency of size, weight and shape all the burgers were produced using a hand held burger press.
The Brisket, which was a huge cut of meat, was marinated in Stubbs beef marinade for 36 hours and placed straight into the smoker. The Pork was marinated in Cider for 24 hours and then given a dry rub of Kansas City sweet and sticky spiced rub. The smoker, comprising of the Rumo I had purchased the year before, was fired up at around 6am on the morning of the Barbie and initially started with a mixture of charcoal, twigs and firelighters. When the firelighters had burned off and all smell of paraffin had vanished, chopped and dried silver birch logs along with chestnut and some oak logs were placed on the still flaming charcoal to ignite. At approximately 7pm when the heat had built up to around 100 centigrade the brisket was loaded into the smoking section with the shoulder of pork at the coolest end of the chamber as it was the smaller of the two cuts. Logs were added for the next 7 hours and the dampers on the air intake and the smoke stack were adjusted to keep the heat constant.
Keeping the heat constant is a job that requires some skill and the air intake had to be opened when things cooled down and closed when it was becoming too hot. The flow of air to burning wood is what actually produces heat or smoke and the damper on the chimney stack ensures that the hot smoke stays in the chamber. If the airflow damper is closed and it is still too hot in the smoking chamber, then opening the smoke damper allows the hot smoke to rush out taking the excess heat along with it. The meat was turned both horizontally and vertically every hour or so to ensure the smoke would cover equally every section of the meat. The brisket was basted with Stubbs marinade as opposed to mopping sauce at approximately 2 hours before it came out of the smoker.
The burgers and sausages were cooked on the Billy Oh gas griddle. I have said previously that this grill is the best I have ever used. It has large easy to use control knobs and a large hot plate. The burgers were cooked on the hot plate allowing them to be pressed down with a scraper. Cooking them on the griddle and pressing them down would have pushed them through the gaps between the bars. Because the burgers were home made and thicker than the shop bought ones they took a little while longer to cook but they had a lot less fat in them and tasted much better than any mass produced burgers I have purchased before.
We had catered for around 70 people and at least 80 were invited. The date had been set a couple of weeks before hand and as the meat had to come out of the freezer there was no option of changing this date. With this in mind a block of 12 or so people decided the day beforehand that they could not make it and the weather forecast was for thunderstorms. TB worked like a demon preparing the ground and between TB myself and Roger Moor we erected a Heath Robinson affair of a marquee comprising of two sheets of tarpaulin and some string. All of this in the pouring rain, and, whilst being interrupted to be told TB’s van was on fire. It was not the most auspicious start to the biggest Barbie of the year so far.
On the day itself only about 30 people turned up due to the appalling weather conditions. Most people had left by 11pm, however TB and me made up for the lack of people by trying to entertain everyone single handed, admittedly I got on some peoples nerves in the process but that is a minor issue! At one stage in the evening we ceremoniously burnt the college work of TB’s eldest daughter on a fire of logs and real coal. It was around about this time that some one suggested we go fire walking by stepping bare foot across the hot coals. With several large gins under my belt this sounded like a really good idea and I stripped off my socks and shoes. It was then I noticed that the others were not so much as fire walking but fire running and even fire sprinting. I was determined to do this properly or not at all and so I strolled casually across the glowing embers only screaming at how much my feet hurt when I had got to the other side. Photos of the event can found by clicking this link
Due to the vagaries of the British weather, those nice weathermen have informed us that this years summer will be a washout and the wettest since records began. I had though last year was bad enough and it was the wettest since records began, this may well be the first and last Barbie of the year.