Outdoor Kitchen, Old School, Part One–A Brick Oven, and a Curtain of Green

Ms. Eudora Welty came up with the Curtain Line

No stainless steel grills here, just bricks, camp stoves, and the end of an old propane tank, made into a fire pit. Welcome to old school, part one.

Our primary fuel is wood, mostly dead fall from our 5.5 acres of forest. The brick oven can take a couple of logs at once. It makes one mean pizza, or two. I need to get back into baking big loaves of sourdough bread.

Twenty two years and a few more days later, I am ready to do the trim work on this multi ton beast. Here’s the side view.

Egg Tempera Paint

That’s homemade paint, that came out very well. The siding was made a few miles from here. I have to buy some wood for the trim. Now for the back, which will be the center, or workplace, for the rustic kitchen.

Hobo Kitchen

Four more fuels available here, which I will get into later. The camp stoves burn alcohol, kerosene, and white gas. The blackish paint is flour paint. The wood grill on the right is my riff on a Tuscan style outdoor grill. The whole thing is as rustic as can be. I might even finish it one day.

A Curtain of Green is a great book by Ms. Welty, and the title of an equally great short story. It’s what happens here in this part of the South in the spring–the forest becomes so thick that a person cannot see through it. A great metaphor is forever.

Great Southern Cookbooks, Part Three–Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book, by Chris Lilly

Alabama is the crossroads of BBQ. We probably ended up with the “world champion pitmaster,” because we have every style of pork barbecue imaginable, and at least one place that serves a pineapple bbq sauce. We even had one poor sod who tried to sell Texas style beef BBQ. Tried.

In short, we have more BBQ joints per capita than any other place in the States. We have one large multi-state chain of restaurants, Jim and Nick’s, which was started by two chefs of Greek extraction. Nick Pihakis, an acquaintance of mine, besides having created this pig empire, is one of the founders of “The Fatback Project,” whose aim is to return pork production to small farms with free range pigs (he even bought his own meat processing plant.) This is definitely a battle cry for those of us who have had enough of the disgusting practices of “Big Hog.”

He’s only resting and Getting a Tan. I swear.

This book is so good, just go and buy a copy. Archduke Bezos sold me this excellent used copy for three bucks, and the restaurant is only about thirty something miles from here. There is a chapter titled “Ode to Pork,”(take that, Schiller,) that quote from one of my favorite Roman poets, Ovid, who died in exile, and the recipe for “Eight-Time World Championship Pork Shoulder.” Don’t read this book while hungry.

In case you didn’t figure out that this is one smart guy who wrote this, Chris Lilly married in to the Big Bob Gibson family, after he graduated from the University of North Alabama. It just occurred to me, that I forgot to ask MJ that most important question, “Honey, does your family own a famous BBQ joint?” The Big Bob signature white sauce recipe is in there as well, though it is also widely available online. Yes, there is a mayo based BBQ sauce. Pure Alabama.

Let’s leave with a pic of Big Bob sporting his goods in 1956.

I be Big Bob

Pig out.

Eight Peppers

Hot Stuff! Can’t Get Enough

One of my favorite movies is Major League, the goofy baseball movie about the Cleveland racist name/racist logo franchise. My favorite character is Pedro Cerrano, a power hitting Cuban player who worships a voodoo god named Jobu. At the end of the movie, Pedro famously says fornicate you to Jobu, after he thinks his bats are not being protected by the voodoo god anymore, and made into magic bats.

In his honor, and because I can’t stop buying plants, I added a Serrano pepper to my veg list, bringing my pepper total up to eight varieties, with about sixty plants. I also bought my wife a Jobu’s Rum T-shirt as an anniversary present. Jobu loved his rum. “Is not good to steal Jobu’s rum.”

Peppers, Dude

Serrano-Most are three times hotter than a jalapeno., though some can be even hotter than that

Tabasco-The dwarf yellow variety, which is a new one for me

Sweet Banana–We freeze these by the dozen, if they survive our devouring them fresh

Cayenne–No Southern kitchen is complete without a bottle of Cayenne pepper sauce

Poblano–The best mildly hot pepper. Dried when ripe, it makes Ancho powder

Royal Black–A new one, said to be really hot. It goes in the pepper sauce. Some of our seedlings have purple leaves

Early Jalapeno–Early is good

Jalapeno M–A mild Jalapeno. Why did I buy these? They must have been cheap

No regular bell peppers here, but who wants to be a regular pepper grower anyway. I probably will want to stock up on antacids.

Barbecue Without the Smoke

Does Slow Cooked mean Barbecue?

I really can’t get excited about smoking some pork for hours over hickory coals, when one the best pit barbecue joints around is a few miles away from me (the Top Hat in Blount Springs, AL), and they sell the stuff expertly cooked by the pound. This may be sacrilege, as I live in the state with the most barbecue joints per capita in the country, and we have manifold styles of barbecue, but I make mine without smoke.

How can that be done? I stole a method from the great chef Rick Bayless, who in turn stole it from some cooks in Mexico. I believe composer Igor Stravinsky said, “Good composers imitate; great composers steal.” Same thing with cooks.

The technique is essentially to boil dry a big piece of pork two or three times, and to let it fry in its own fat the same number of times. Fill up your pot with water up to the top of the piece of pork, and just let it bubble. It takes anywhere from two to four hours to do this, so this is really slow cooking. The result is some fabulously tender meat. Just don’t forget the salt. Maybe it should be called Neo-barbecue.