Components of Barbecue Flavor: Seasoning (Part 1: Dry Rubs)

Dry RubThe final component of barbecue flavor to be dealt with here is seasoning, most typically a dry rub and/or a sauce. Seasonings may be utilized pre-cooking, as marinades, during cooking, as a mop, or post-cooking, as a dip. Today we will deal with some of the most common styles of seasonings found in the United States. Again, when deciding what seasonings we wish to utilize, and when to use them, it is important to keep your eyes on the prize, i.e., know what final result you are after in terms of taste. We will want to balance the tastes of meat, smoke and seasonings into our equation to produce what is the ideal barbecue product in our eyes. A couple of quick reminders before moving on to a discussion of the various types of seasonings, if you are, like me, a fan of using marinades, again, be extremely careful with the use of sugar and salt in your seasonings. Extensive use of salt in the pre-cooking stage can lead to severe drying-out of your meat. Think jerky! Extensive use of sugar in a marinade, or even during the cooking process, can lead to caramelization of the sugars, which means, quite simply, with meat, burning. In general, marinades can serve two purposes, the addition of flavors which will bring out dimensions of flavor in your meat, and the tenderizing of meat. A number of ingredients have enzymatic properties which aid in the tenderizing of meats. Acid is one such ingredient, and so the judicious use of something like vinegar in your marinade will help tenderize meat. Mustard is another ingredient which will tenderize. The most concentrated form of mustard will be in its powder form, but prepared mustard with sufficient mustard powder component will also do the job. Papain, an enzyme found in papaya, works extremely well, as does bromaine, found in pineapple, and pineapple juice. Okay. “Nuff said. Let’s talk about some of the most popular forms of seasonings used in this country in barbecue.

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Green Kids on the Block-Creating a Family of Grassheads

grassheadsA great family project is one where there really are no rules and creating grassheads is one of those projects.  It is a cross between horticulture and fashion.

To begin the project, one must start to collect eggshell halves.  One of the best times to do this is during the Easter holiday.  The colored eggshells add a designer look to the grassheads.  Do not worry about washing out the eggshells before doing this project.  The inside of the eggshell will be covered up.  Also, begin to collect different types of egg cartons.  Different colors of Styrofoam and cardboard cartons work great for this project.

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Components of Barbecue Flavor: Smoke

smoking_woodsThere are essentially three components to producing the final flavor in barbecued food, the food cooked, most typically, but not always a meat or protein source, any seasonings added to this food, most typically a dry rub or sauce, and the source of smoke (as the old saying goes, if it ain’t smoked, it ain’t barbecue). Food chosen will always be a matter of personal preference. In the first of the two articles, we will focus on how to attain the flavor desired through the use of a smoking medium, most typically wood, although we will touch on a few other options. In going for a particular type of taste, it is important to note that temperature and length of smoking will also affect end result. Obviously, the more smoke taste you desire, the longer the smoking process, but temperature and type of smoke source are also important here. Let us look at some of the most popular types of wood used in smoking. First, we need to point out that any wood used should be untreated, and it should be a form of hardwood. Softwoods or evergreens may contain tars or residues which may be harmful upon consumption.

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How to Create a Rose Garden

rose_gardenAs summer quickly approaches, many homeowners are considering revamping their landscaping.  Some updating projects include new outdoor lighting, new furniture, and even a new water feature. One new project that many gardeners find intimidating is the creation of a rose garden.

Before considering creating a new garden bed, consider the amount of time involved in this process.  Roses are not that hard to grow, but they do require some care beyond planting them.

If a rose garden is still in your future, then begin with a plan.  Observe your lawn or garden space through out the year and note the direction of the sun, wind direction, and any features that shade or interfere with the chosen space.  Roses require at least 6 hours of full sun a day and actually do better with more sunlight. If the wind in the chosen area is strong, the roses will have to be planted with some type of windbreak.  This can be a building, fence, or vegetation.

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Designing a Welcoming Hummingbird Garden

hummingbird_1A welcome site in the spring is the arrival of the hummingbirds, but if the garden is not welcoming they will not come.  To roll out the welcome mat to the hummingbirds does not take much space or time, but instead requires planning and a little homework.

Before setting down and drawing out a plan, the gardener needs to become familiar with the local hummingbirds.  They need to learn about the migration dates, nesting season and seasonal presence.  They also need to become familiar with native plant species in the local area.  These types of plants are more welcoming than non-native species.

Also determining where in the garden space the hummingbirds will go is another decision that needs to be made before planning the garden.  Hummingbirds like areas of open space with a mixture of tall trees, shrubs, meadows and lawn.

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How to Care for the Easter Lilly During the Easter Holiday and Beyond

easter_lilyMany churches and formal dining rooms will be decorated with a plant that has white trumpet-shaped flowers that are as much a symbol of Easter as chocolate bunnies and Easter egg hunts.  The plant that I mention is the Easter lily or Lilium longifloram.

This lily is native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan.  During World War I, Louis Houghten found these beautiful flowers and decided to bring some of the hybrid bulbs home in a suitcase.  In 1919, these bulbs arrived on the south coast of Oregon and shared with Mr. Houghten neighbors.  These bulbs continued to be grown in this area for the enjoyment of those in the area.

World War II, not only caused a nation to go into turmoil but also cut off the supply of the Easter lily from Japan.  This shortage started an entrepreneurship across the Oregon with those who originally received bulbs from Louis Houghten. Many hopes and dreams were believed through the production of the Easter lily or what it became known as “White Gold.”

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New Talent Up To Bat in the Outdora Showroom

denny_pic_2Outdora is proud to announce a new addition to the team with Denny Perelli, our new Sonoma Showroom manager. A veteran of the outdoor kitchen business, Denny started his career as an independent rep in 1993. He’s represented top outdoor kitchen retailers, including Twin Eagles, Lynx, Fire Magic and Primo and has years of experience designing outdoor kitchens and Islands.

Denny’s first exposure to the outdoor kitchen business began long before 1993, when he owned his own appliance business, working in the wholesale and retail appliance markets. Before that, Denny played professional baseball for the Pittsburg Pirates and the Chicago Cubs as a catcher.

Come out and meet Outdora’s new Showroom manager Denny Perelli at his first of many cooking demonstrations this Saturday, April 16th at the Sonoma Outdora Showroom. From 11:30am to 2:30pm Denny will cook up a variety of outdoor grilling staples on the grand Lynx Grill. Anyone with an appetite and an interest in grilling is welcome to attend. The event is free and offers a demonstration of one of Outdora’s premiere outdoor cooking products as well as the opportunity to grab a glass of wine just off Sonoma’s historic downtown plaza.

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Smoking Hot! Smoking Bacon On Your Home Grill

Smoked BaconIs smoking really a healthy habit? If it involves a home grill, a little pork belly and Prague powder #1, then yes, it sure is!

We recently discussed smoking at home, but only touched upon the finer points that will lead you down the garden path of homemade bacon glory. If you haven’t already had a look at the previous article, (Smoking Hot! Turning your home grill into a smoker,) please do. It will help you understand the basics behind converting your grill into a smoker, and hopefully will inspire you to join the bacon making trend sweeping the nation.

As you may well know, I’m a huge advocate of thinking outside the box when it comes to your grill. There are endless ways in which to manipulate the average outdoor barbeque, and a range of recipes that is limited only by the cook’s creativity. One skill that sets a grill master apart from the crowd is smoking. The ability to control heat, and to utilize the subtleties of smoke is an art. While it may seem daunting, rest assured, this is something anyone can learn.

A brief word of caution before we begin: Take care to follow safety instructions when it comes to the handling of meat, curing salt and temperatures for smoking. While it is a great hobby, home smoking is not without certain risks, all of which are easily managed with careful attention to detail.

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Grilling for Passover

passoverGrowing up Jewish on the East Coast, Passover represented one of the most joyous times of the year. Members of the family gathered around the dining room table for the Seder, the service celebrating the journey to freedom of our people, and, of course, a suitably festive meal. Like the service, much is proscribed for the meal, but there is still room for individual additions and subtle changes. As part of the service, the following things are required to be served:

Matzoh- The traditional Jewish unleavened bread. They are placed within the folds of a napkin, a reminder of the haste with which the Jews fled Egypt, having no time for the bread to rise. Two pieces are consumed during the service, a third is hidden during the ceremony, to be found later by the children as a prize.

Maror- Bitter herbs, usually horseradish, symbolic of the bitterness of slavery.

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How to Grow Your Own Perfect Cup of Tea

tea_plantTea has been in the news recently and been touted not only as a good tasting drink, but also as a superfood.  While the process of growing your own hyperlocal cup of tea may seem complicated, it really is not.  It only takes some patience, time, land and/or a container.

To understand the process required to grow your own tea, one must understand some facts about the tea plant.  Tea is actually a shrub called Camellia sinensis, which grows close to 30 feet if not maintained.  Tea can grow outdoors in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 1-8.  If grown outdoors, it likes to be in humid areas and in an acidic, sandy soil that is well drained. In the fall, the tea shrub blooms yellow-white flowers and produces the seeds for another crop of tea shrubs.  The seeds are picked during this time and stored in sand for planting in the spring.

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