Author Archives: Midwest Flatlander

Hey guys!  It's John the Midwest Flatlander here, and I know it's been a while since I posted.  But it is spring here on the flat land, and that means lots of work, work, work.  But today it's raining, so I thought i would try to get ya'll caught up on what's been happening.  You probably picked up on at least some of the fun we are having here on the flat land by looking at the title of this post.  And you are right, so let's get started!

So I love bacon.  I know.  Right?  And it's easy to get, and there are lots of different brands and types to choose from.  Thick cut, smoked, peppered are just a few examples.  So I went to Costco one day and was browsing the meat department, my new favorite place, and saw pork bellies for sale.  I was immediately smitten, and I knew at that moment that home made bacon would be a reality.  I searched the internet for a recipe, and I found this one.  And yes, I used the nutmeg and coffee as described, and I also used the grade B maple syrup which I'm very glad I did.  Since I cut a 10 pound pork belly in half, I made a double recipe.  So now let's take a look at what I did, because I did stray from the recipe ever so slightly.  Hey, it's me.  Right?  Here we go.

I took the pork belly I bought from Costco and cut it in half.  Then I slathered the pork bellies with the grade B maple syrup and coffee.  To do the slathering, I poured the wet ingredients into a large metal mixing bowl and dropped the bellies in one at a time coating generously.  After slathering the bellies with the wet ingredients, I then packed the dry ingredients from the above recipe (note, here is where I strayed from the recipe; I used pink Himalayan salt which is very salty tasting so next time i might try kosher salt or just cure it for a shorter period of time).  Start by mixing the dry ingredients (salt, ground black pepper and nutmeg), and then putting half the mix into the bottom of the pan (pans in my case).  Place the pork bellies on top of the dry ingredients in the pan(s).  Lay the pork bellies down on top of the dry ingredients and coat the top side of the bellies with the rest of the dry ingredients.  The instructions said to square up each cut, but I did not.  I wanted to have some "ends" to put into beans or other recipes.  Here is what they looked like.

Pork Bellies Ready to Cure
Pork Bellies Ready to Cure

I put the pork bellies into the fridge to cure for 3-7 days turning them everyday.  I turned them everyday as instructed, and by the time the curing was done they looked like this.

Pork Bellies cured after 7 days.
Pork Bellies cured after 7 days.

After I pulled them out of the pans, I rinsed them thoroughly.  Now it's time to smoke.  You can check out my smoker setup in any of my previous smoker posts, however I will say that this time I did about half of the charcoal I usually do.  I used apple wood, but you can use your favorite smoking wood.  Smoking time for this recipe is approximately 2 hours, so I only filled the coal basket half full.  Once I hung the pork bellies into the Pit Barrel Cooker, it was go time!  Here is the final product.  Outstanding!

Smoked Bacon in the Pit Barrel
Smoked Bacon in the Pit Barrel

Remember, this smoke is not designed to cook the meat.  You just want to give the meat enough time to absorb the smoke adding just the right amount of apple wood smoke flavor.  The only thing left to do now is slice the bacon and package it up for the freezer or the frying pan.  AH YEAH!!!!

Thick cut bacon!
Thick cut bacon!

The only thing left to do is taste it.  It fries up just perfectly in a cast iron skillet which is my favorite frying method.  Delicious!!!  And save that grease!

Cast Iron Skillet fried BACON!
Cast Iron Skillet fried BACON!

So there you have it.  Home made DIY apple wood smoked bacon!  I think I might change things up a bit next time I make some.  And there WILL be a next time.  That's it for this session.  Hope you got some inspiration for your next DIY food project.  I'll see you next time for more adventuring outside.  And remember leave no trace, leave a legacy.

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Hey guys it's John the Midwest Flatlander here with another idea to inspire you to get outside, fire up the smoker and enjoy sharing life with your family and friends.  So we are continuing on from my last post discussing BBQ--one of my favorite topics.  This time we are going hog wild at the pit. With so many options for BBQ, it really is difficult to pick the type of BBQ to make.  Add to that the many different methods to cook the meat, and you've got yourself a real dilemma.  The pain is real people.  We need some good old fashion grilling therapy, so let's fire up the grill or smoker and make it happen!  Here we go!

So one of my favorite BBQ meats has to be pulled pork.  Whether it's in a sandwich, wrapped in a tortilla, or just plain, pulled pork is a BBQ staple and somewhat intimidating to make especially since there are lots of ways to make it.  I decided to go with slow and simple, and as you will see the results were exactly what I was hoping for.  Let's get started.

I purchased a 16 pound double pack of boneless pork shoulders at Costco for around $25/pack.  I could totally live in the meat department at Costco.  So many different choice cuts to choose from, it's amazing.  Just saying.  Anyway, both shoulders were very close to equal weight, so cooking time would be about the same for both.  To prep the shoulders for the smoker, I rubbed on a light coating of peanut oil.  Use whatever cooking oil you have, however if you use coconut oil be sure to heat it up until it becomes liquid before using it.  Next I dusted both shoulders with the All Purpose Rub from Pit Barrel Cooker's website.  That's all there is to it.  Simple.  Easy.  Now let's setup the Pit Barrel Cooker.

Pork Shoulders ready for the pit.
Pork Shoulders ready for the pit.

I used the same setup for the Pit Barrel as I used for the turkey, however this time I used apple wood instead of hickory.  I did not use a blend on this smoke, but I plan to try a blend of apple and hickory the next time I do pulled pork--and there WILL be a next time.  Setup on the Pit Barrel is easy.  First, fill the coal basket to the top with Kingsford Original briquettes.  Then remove about 1/4 of the briquettes, and put them into a starter chimney--no need to use lighter fluid.  I used a folded newspaper with a little sunflower oil stuffed into the bottom of the chimney.  Light the chimney.

Setting up the Pit Barrel Cooker
Setting up the Pit Barrel Cooker

Place the coal basket into the Pit Barrel.  Once the coals in the chimney are ready, dump them on top of the coal basket and you are ready to cook.  Be sure to place the two pieces of re-bar into the holes on top of the Pit Barrel, as they help control the heat inside the Pit Barrel.  Time to get the pork shoulders!!!

Pit Barrel ready for the magic!
Pit Barrel ready for the magic!

I placed two of the meat hooks that come with the Pit Barrel into each shoulder making sure there was room for the re-bar to fit through.  Then, I hung them as evenly spaced as I could to ensure even cooking.  Next I put the lid on and let the magic begin.

Pork Shoulders + Smoke = Happiness!
Pork Shoulders + Smoke = Happiness!

I started checking temperature about 2-3 hours into the cook.  The smell was amazing!  Just a quick check with my thermometer and back to the smoke.  Cooking time was approximately 4-5 hours up to a temperature of 160F.

First check on the shoulders.  Right on schedule!
First check on the shoulders. Right on schedule!

Once we got to 160F, it was time to take them off the smoker and wrap the shoulders in tin foil with a wrapping juice.  I used wide heavy duty tin foil to wrap each shoulder.  Before I close up the foil wrap, I poured about a half cup of apple cider over each shoulder and put them back into the smoker.  The Pit Barrel comes with a grill grate that I set the shoulders onto.  Once the temp got to approximately 195F, I took them off and let them sit for about 30-45 minutes.  Finally, I peeled back the foil, and beheld the joy!

The results are perfect!
The results are perfect!

As you can see, the shoulders are still sitting in the apple cider which is exactly what you want.  The next step is to pull the meat apart.  I used two forks to do this.  Use whatever tool you want.  As you shred the pork, the apple cider bastes the meat even more adding more flavor to the final product.  Here is what it looked like after the shred.  Amazing!

The finished product.  Perfect!
The finished product. Perfect!

All that's left is to grab a bun, some Curley's BBQ sauce, some beans and a tall glass of your favorite beverage!  I hope you found some inspiration for your next cook out.  If you want to please your family or friends or if you are looking for something great to cook for a large crowd or even a Super Bowl party, give pulled pork a try.

That's all for this session. I'll see you next time for more outdoor cooking and adventures.  Be sure to get out and enjoy your own adventures with your family or friends.  And remember, leave no trace...leave a legacy.

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Happy New Year everyone!!  This is John The Midwest Flatlander here with a great holiday turkey idea to inspire the inner pit master in all of us.  Okay so I love love love barbecue, and I'm always trying to learn new techniques and recipes to try and perfect if I can.  Well, I've stumbled on to a great new method of smoking all different kinds of bbq meats.  I thought I would share a few posts on some of the things I've smoked using this new method.  So, let's discuss turkey.

 

I've done turkey on the grill before, but I've never done one on a smoker.  That is until I met the Pit Barrel Cooker.  I first saw this smoker on Steven Reichland's Primal Grill TV show--one of my favorite grilling shows.  He used it for smoking chicken which I have not tried yet.  Don't worry, it's on the list.  Anyway, the Pit Barrel Cooker is a 30 gallon ceramic coated drum with holes at the top that hold two ceramic coated pieces of re-bar as well as a vent hole at the bottom.  This design allows you to hang meat over a coal basket and achieve even cooking.  This even cooking happens because of the round shape of the barrel coupled with the position of vent hole at the bottom and re-bar holes at the top.  The smoke swirls around inside the barrel creating a vortex effect resulting in even cooking around any piece or pieces of meat you hang inside.  It is an amazing concept and produces fantastic results as you will see in this and other posts.

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Okay, so enough geek speak about the Pit Barrel.  Time to get this bird into the barrel.  Let's get cooking!  It's turkey time.

 

I started with a 20 pound turkey and coated it with oil.  I used peanut oil, but you can also use olive oil or any other type of cooking oil.  If you use coconut oil, be sure to warm it up and apply it in liquid form.  The oil will act as an adhesive for the rub.  So when I bought the Pit Barrel, it came with two packs of rub that Pit Barrel makes.  I decided to go with their All Purpose Pit Rub for my first smoke.  Use your favorite rub.  Apply that rub to the turkey.  Be as generous as you like.

img_2636

The turkey should look something like this when you are done depending on how generous you were with your rub.  I tried to be generous.  Since this bird will hang inside the Pit Barrel, you will need to use the meat hooks that come with the Pit Barrel or the Turkey Hanger which is an extra accessory I purchased with the Pit Barrel.  You can also purchase it using the above link.  Now that the bird is ready, let's setup the Pit Barrel.

 

The recommended charcoal to use with the Pit Barrel is Kingsford Original, so that is what I used.  Simply fill the coal basket that comes with the Pit Barrel with the charcoal briquettes until full.

img_2633Then, remove about 1/4 of the briquettes and place them into a chimney starter and light as you would normally light your chimney starter.  Do not use lighter fluid!

img_2634

Place the charcoal basket into the Pit Barrel, and add your favorite wood chunks.  I used hickory, but you can you use favorite wood.  Once the chimney coals are hot, pour them directly on top of the rest of the charcoal in the basket and insert the re-bar.

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This method replicates the "upside down fire" method of building a slow burning camp fire by building a small fire on top of a larger pile of wood as shown in the above linked video done by YouTuber Cr0cket20 (one of my favorite YouTubers).  You can check out his YouTube channel here.  Once I poured the lit coals into the charcoal basket, I waited maybe 15 minutes before putting the turkey in just to let it get going.  Once I saw that smoke coming out, I knew it was go time!

img_2639

 

Time to hang the bird.  Simply place the bird in between the re-bar and hang it.  If you use the meat hooks that come with the Pit Barrel, place one over each piece of re-bar.  If you use the Turkey Hanger like I did, simply place the turkey in between the re-bar and rotate one quarter turn and set the ends on the re-bar.  It should look like this.

img_2638

 

Total smoke time for this 20 pounder was approximately 7 hours reaching an internal temperature of approximately 175 degrees F.  Since the charcoal burns top down, it burns slow enough that I do not have to add any additional charcoal while smoking which is great.  The only adjustment I made was to set the vent hole to half open.  No other adjustments require.  Nice and easy.  I started taking temperatures at 4 hours to check on the progress.  Once the internal temp hit 175, I took the bird out and let it rest for about 45 mins in an aluminum foil tent.  Here is what it looked like when I took it off.

img_2640The skin turned basically to a very leathery texture which it great, because the meat inside was so tender and juicy.  It was amazing!

 

Here is the finish.  I fried up some hash brown potatoes and threw on some Curley's BBQ Sauce (my personal favorite).  Home run!!!!  Touchdown!!!!  Goal!!!!  So tender and juicy, and the flavor was amazing!

img_2641

 

I hope this inspires you to try smoking a turkey for yourself.  The Pit Barrel is a great method for smoking, but it is not the only way.  Use your favorite method and get out and smoke or grill your favorite meat for the holidays or anytime.  What a great way to enjoy good food with family and friends!

 

That will do it for this session.  I'll see you next time, and remember leave no trace...leave a legacy.

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Hey guys!  It's John the Midwest Flatlander here, and I know I haven't blogged in like forever.  I'm sorry about that.  It has been an unexpectedly busy year here on the flatland.  Lots of work happening and lots of changes which are too numerous to mention here.  Life seems to be getting back to normal sort of, so that means it's time to make like a cow patty and hit the trail...the Elk River Trail (ERT) to be exact.  So come on along with me and my 4 oldest kiddos on a weekend backpacking adventure on the flatland.

 

Located just outside of Elk City State Park near Independence, KS, the ERT is our favorite place to backpack on the flatland.  One of the flatland's many hidden gems, the ERT is a 15 mile rugged trail that follows the shores of the Elk City Reservior and the Elk River.  The beauty of this trail is intense and abundant.  If you are a Kansas resident, pardon this comparison but when on the ERT you do not feel like your in Kansas anymore...Toto.  Okay, sorry Kansans for the lame comparison.  On to the adventure!!

 

We arrived at the trail head late in the day which meant that we would hike in to our campsite in the dark for some of the time.  This was a new experience for us, but it proved to be a lot of fun.  Along the way we did stop for a picture or two.

We hustled on the hike in but took time to take in the fantastic Kansas sunset.  Sunset on the flatland is amazing!!!
We hustled on the hike in but took time to take in the fantastic Kansas sunset. Sunset on the flatland is amazing!!!

 

We planned to make this a short hike-in trip, because we wanted to enjoy an easy time without a lot of intense hiking or rigorous activity.  We really wanted to chill-ax on this trip and enjoy our time at camp and the immediate surrounding area including a beach area by the lake.  So after a short 1.5 mile hike in, we setup camp, ate supper, and went to bed.  The remaining time was spent doing normal camp chores like gathering firewood, collecting water, and tending the fire.  We also spent our time swimming, fishing, a little bit of hiking, and of course eating.  Now, I'm sure some of you are wondering how to take a backpacking trip with four kids.  Well, I would like to discuss that with the remainder of this post, because I want you all to know that not only is it possible but also a whole lot of fun!

 

So let's start with the basics of how to pack the packs.  As you can see in the above sunset pic, we try to pack as light as possible, and we also try to "spread the love" as much as possible.  In our case, the love is weight.  The kids pack what they need for their own individual camp including shelter (hammock/tarp/tent/sleeping bag), extra clothes and warm layers (hoodies, jackets, warm socks, etc), and eating utensils/water bottles/cups (we pack a cup for hot drink and a cup for eating out of).  They also pack extras like a flashlight/headlamp and anything else they want for comfort in their hammock/tent.  For cooler weather, we also pack reflectix (you can get this for about $10/10ft roll at Home Depot) to put underneath our sleeping pads to help insulate us from the cool.  Everyone also carries their own individual food bags which we packed equally anticipating that some would eat more than others and vice versa.  By packing equal amounts we ensured that we would have a little extra from those that would not eat as much to provide extra for those that would.  Works out pretty good, as we even had a little bit of snacks left over to eat on our way home.  This method of packing food made for happy and full kiddos.  Once these items are packed, we divide up equally any other items we need for the trip among the oldest kids' packs (cooking stove, fuel, cook pot, etc.).

Everything tastes better in the woods.
Everything tastes better in the woods.

Our main meals (breakfast and supper) were various flavors of Mountain House for both suppers and one for breakfast.  Our other breakfast was instant oatmeal which happens to be very inexpensive (approximately $9 for a box of 60 packets at Sam's) and a favorite with my kids.  We also took a pack of Hormel precooked bacon which we laid on the stick that is fixed over the fire pit to crisp.  That pack of bacon we got at Sam's (Costco has it too) for about $10, and it contained 72 strips of bacon.  Yeah, inexpensive and made kids (and Dad) very happy at breakfast time.  For lunch we typically take snack type food including trail mix, cheese sticks, protein bars, fruit leather, jerky, summer sausage, and the like.  Costco is where I buy most of that stuff, and you can find really good deals on those types of snack foods.  We also packed a small bag for hot beverage which included things like coffee/cappuccino, hot cocoa, and Tang.  Yes, we enjoy hot Tang in the morning.  We try very hard to keep food simple, inexpensive, and delicious.  Mountain House single serving bags can run in the $5-8/bag  range depending on what you choose.  We have found that buying the ones that we like in a #10 can save money and feed us for multiple trips.   Simply repack the meals from the can into quart sized freezer bags and you can really stretch your food budget.  My next goal is to learn to make my own dehydrated meals and hopefully save even more money on food.  We'll see how that goes.

 

 

Now let's talk about setting up camp.  Over the course of the last several years, my kids and I have discovered the joy of the hammock.  My three oldest kids and I all have Eagles' Nest Outfitters (ENO) Double Nest hammocks (a mid range hammock with a price point of around $50-$60).  We totally love this hammock, and it has served us well on our adventures.  We set up our hammock using a webbing type strap for suspension, and then run a ridge line above the hammock which we use to drape a tarp (the $15-$20 heavy duty tarps at Wal-Mart work great) over us for shelter from wind and rain.  There are many hammock setups to choose from.  We watched many different YouTube videos on how to hang a hammock and decided to try a couple.  We eventually stuck with one that all the kids seemed to figure out quickly to the point where they are able to setup their own camp by themselves.  It took a few times for them to figure it out, but they are for the most part completely independent and able to handle their own setup and tear down.  My youngest daughter was along for her first backpacking adventure, so she had to bring a tent.  However, she tried a hammock and now wants one, so she is putting that on her Christmas list for this year.  Hammocks are a very good and light weight option for a backpacking shelter setup.

Our campsite.
Our campsite.

 

Water is something that might seem difficult to come by on a trip like this especially with 4 kids along.  Retrieving and filtering water for one person can be a daunting task in and of itself, however with some planning and a little help from your kids it can not only be doable but efficient as well.  We have a Sawyer 4 Liter Gravity water filtration system that we really like, and it works very well.  It filters 4 liters of water at a time which is typically enough for us to cook a meal with as well as have hot beverage.  In addition, having additional water collection containers is also handy, so you can filter and have additional water to filter without having to make several trips to the water source (in our case the lake).  Water collection options that we use are the Sea to Summit Collapsible Bucket.  On our next trip, we are each going to lash an empty 2-liter bottle to our packs to use for water collection as well.  Lastly, once the water was finished filtering, I would store it in a Nalgene portable canteen.  Typically we would use this water for cooking, so I could fill that canteen after each meal and be ready to go for the next one.  This technique worked very well, and we always knew how much water was needed for our meal as well as how much needed to be collected for the next.  Worked great for us on this trip.

 

I highly recommend finding a spot to go back to again and again, because there are places for exploration.  If you take your kids backpacking, be sure that they have a lot of opportunity to explore and discover.  You will be surprised at what they find.  The area of the ERT that we go to has all of that.  Lots of rocks to climb and find along the lake shore.  One year we went with a group from our church and the kids discovered a cave with an owl's nest that had several eggs in it.  Totally cool!!  And of course, the lake itself provides opportunities to fish and swim even in November.  Exploration is one of the keys to a successful backpacking trip with kids.

Nothing amazes me about my kids more than their ability to explore and discover.
Nothing amazes me about my kids more than their ability to explore and discover.
Swimming in November.  It can happen.
Swimming in November. It can happen.

 

One thing to remember when planning a backpacking trip with kids is to give yourself some time to relax and just enjoy being together.  The hammocks help with this, as we were able to set them up in a U shape.  This setup allowed us to hang out (literally) and just relax and talk and have a good time.  My youngest daughter's tent was right next to my hammock, so she was able to participate as well in the chill-axing.  It may only last for a few minutes, but taking time to just relax makes for a good recharge before you head back out for more fun and adventure.

Take time to relax.
Take time to relax.
Chill-axing by the fire.
Chill-axing by the fire.

 

One of the things I've learned about my kids while backpacking is not to try to fit them into a mold that I've come up with in my mind.  Letting my kids be who they are is something that I continually learn as a parent, and this concept comes out while in the woods as well as other places.  For example, my oldest son likes to hike in his flip flops (he rarely wears shoes at all).  At first I was opposed.  Didn't want him to break an ankle or fall or fill in the blank of all the kinds of disastrous things we as parents imagine our kids doing to themselves if we do not step in and take over.  Well, I decided to let him.  He did great!  Lesson learned; sometimes I just have to let my kids be themselves.

Who says you can't hike in flip flops?
Who says you can't hike in flip flops?

 

Looking back on this trip, I must also confess that I did a few things wrong.  I try to learn from every trip we take and remember to do things a little different or try something new.  This trip, my Zippo lighter failed us after one use.  This caused us to learn how to take really good care of our fire and make sure it did not go out.  The lesson I learned, buy another ferro rod to put in my pack and leave it there.  And maybe switch to Bic lighters instead of Zippo.

Tending the fire turned out to be very important on this trip.
Tending the fire turned out to be very important on this trip.

 

Well guys I hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as we did.  We try to make it to the ERT at least once a year, but we are trying to increase that number as time allows.  I hope you find inspiration in this post.  Let me encourage you to try this or something like it with your kids.  These are experiences they will never forget, so get out there and be bold and adventurous and make those lasting memories.  I know what your thinking, it's too expensive.  It can be, but it doesn't have to be.  We started with backpacks from NexPak that we picked up here and there and online.  They are good packs and reasonably priced ($40-$60/pack).  We also look for stuff on garage sales or auctions that we can supplement.  These types of adventures cost as much as you want them too, but there are lots of low priced options out there waiting to be discovered.  So go find them and go adventuring.  It will be worth the effort.

My girls love adventuring in the woods, and they did an awesome job!
My girls love adventuring in the woods, and they did an awesome job!

 

That will do it for this session.  I'll see you next time, and remember leave no trace...leave a legacy.

Hey everyone.  John The Midwest Flatlander here, and I love brats!!  I can't describe it, but there is just something that seems right about grilling brats.  In fact, I don't think I've ever eaten a brat that was not grilled.  Brats and a grill are just meant for each other.  They're like peanut butter and jelly; biscuits and gravy; bacon and...bacon.  So I recently discovered that I really like smoking brats more so than just grilling them.  But I have to say, I like using a particular type of smoke with brats.  My new favorite smoking wood for brats is non other than apple wood.  I get amazing results using apple wood, and it's really easy to work with.  So let's get started.

First, soak some apple wood chunks (I also throw in one hickory chunk but that is not required) for an hour or two.

Applewood

Next, load up the chimney with charcoal and get that fire going.

Charcoal Chimney

Setup the grill for indirect grilling and place the wood chunks onto the hot coals.  Set the brats on the cold side of the grill.  Place the grill lid onto the grill with the vent holes completely open and placed directly over the brats, so that wonderful smoke will be drawn over the brats as they slow cook.  Don't worry if your fire gets too hot.  Simply close the vent holes slightly until that fire settles down.

Brat Placement on Grill

Cooking time is approximately 30-45 minutes.  The color of the brats will guide you as you they cook, so be sure to give each brat a quarter turn to make sure you get balanced color.  Once they turn this amazing reddish color on all sides, it's time to eat!  If you like a little char, leave them on for a few extra minutes.  I wish you could smell these.  Boy howdy I'm getting hungry!  Where's my plate?

Finished Brats

Finish them off with a delicious salad and some home made vanilla cream soda, and you've got a real crowd pleaser.    Why yes, I'll have a double please.

Brats Meal

So the next time you run out to the grocery store, grab your favorite brats, and don't forget the apple wood.

That will do it for this session.  I'll see you next time, and remember leave no trace...leave a legacy.

Hey everyone.  John The Midwest Flatlander here.  So fall gardening season is upon us here on the flatland.  Spring and summer seasons were pretty good and a ton of fun.  The weather was very different than usual this year.  We had an enormous amount of rain during the spring.  So much so that I was unable to plant as much as I wanted to, because the ground was so wet.  I was able to get a lot of things planted which is good.  We planted sweet corn this year, along with potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and watermelons.  For the fall season, we planted more potatoes.

Garden 5

We also planted the green beans we wanted to plant in the spring but couldn't because of all the rain we had.

Garden 4

The tomatoes and peppers are also going strong, although the tomato plants have slowed down their fruit production.  I tried a new technique for growing tomatoes this year, and I am very happy with it.  I've seen the idea around the internet, so I decided to try it myself.  I do believe I will continue using it next year.  I also started my tomatoes and peppers from seed this year which I believe I will continue to do next year.  Will soon be time to make salsa, and I think I'm gonna try to make ketchup if I have enough tomatoes left over after making salsa.

Garden 2

Garden 1

The watermelons got planted late this year, because of the rain as well.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way complaining about too much rain.  And all that rain basically recovered us from the drought we had a couple years ago.  We'll call this one of Bob Ross' "happy misfortunes" and just smile big.  Having a lot of rain made us rethink things a little and plant strategically which is great for learning how to adjust to nature.

Watermellon 1

Last year we planted June-bearing strawberries and saw a bountiful harvest of bright red and sweet strawberries.  They are filling in even more now, so we are looking forward to a new crop of juicy sweet berries come next June.

strawberries 1

You may have noticed that I use a lot of straw in and around the garden.  Well, out here on the flatland we've got lots of different kinds of prairie grass.  If you don't do something to try and smother it, you will have...well...grass.  I don't eat grass, so I like not having it in the garden.  That's where the straw comes in.  By layering the straw on the garden, I can keep the grass somewhat smothered to where it is contained and can easily be pulled from the garden.  The straw keeps the soil soft and damp which makes pulling the grass and weeds easier and keeps the plants happier.  The straw also breaks down into a nice compost that helps keep the soil fertilized.  There are several different names for this gardening method.  I just call it the "putting straw on the garden to keep the grass smothered and the ground moist and fertilized" method.  Just trying to keep it simple.  I think most others call it "mulch gardening" or something complicated like that.  Hope your garden is producing lots of good produce wherever you may be using whatever your favorite gardening method happens to be.

That will do it for this session.  I'll see you next time, and remember leave no trace...leave a legacy.

Hey everyone.  John The Midwest Flatlander here, and fall is in the air here on the flatland.  At our house, fall means birthdays.  We have 3 birthdays in September and October, so that means I am grilling which means it's kind of like having my birthday all over again.

So my dear wife had a birthday recently and turned 26 again.  She's been turning 26 for years.  As soon as I figure out how she does that, I'll write a post about it.  So when my wife has a birthday, she gets the day off from cooking which can only mean one thing - fire up the grill!  This year's menu - BBQ chicken, deep fried taters, and grilled veggies.  Let's get started.  I'm getting hungry.

So to start things off, let's get that chicken started.  I'm using my one-and-only Weber Kettle Grill setup for indirect grilling (all coals on one side).  We like chicken thighs, so that's what we are putting on.

Chicken on the Grill

I know what you're thinking.  Why did you setup the grill for indirect grilling when you're cooking over the hot coals?  So glad you asked.  I like to cook the chicken over the hot coals first, and then move them over to the cold side after I glaze them with BBQ sauce.  My favorite sauce to use for chicken is Curley's.  Once I glaze the chicken with Curley's sauce, I move the chicken thighs to the cold side, and put the lid on with the vent holes right above the chicken.  That sauce will caramelize and take on a darker color giving that chicken a dynamite flavor.  Cooking time is approximately 30 minutes.

BBQ Chicken Final

Now that the chicken thighs are done, let's get the veggies going.  So this time around I'm using mushrooms, red bell peppers, and sweet red onions.  I've also done zucchini and yellow squash.  First thing I do is marinade the veggies overnight using this marinade.  Note, this marinade is also great for chicken, but this time I'm using Curley's.  Once they are good and marinaded, I put them on the grill directly over the coals.  I'm looking for a great char, so I let them cook with the grill lid off.  Oh, and my wife just recently got me a new veggie basket for me to use on the grill, so this one will go back to being a burger basket.  Use what you have.  Make it work.  Cooking time is approximately 15 minutes depending on how much char you like.

Grilled Veggies

Now for the deep fried veggies.  So there aren't a lot of things in the kitchen that I like to use.  Cast iron pans, toaster, and the Fry Daddy.  Since we are deep frying taters, it's Fry Daddy time.  Take any size potatoes and chop them into cubes.  I had some tiny taters from my garden that I cut in half.  I left the skins on, but you can peel them if you want.  Heat the oil in the Fry Daddy and put the taters into the hot oil.  Let them fry until golden brown.  Remove from oil, place them on a plate with paper towels to soak up the excess oil, sprinkle with Lawry's Seasoned Salt and eat.  Delicious!

Fried Taters

I didn't try dessert.  She insisted on making herself a cheesecake.  I'm not arguing, but I gotta say cheesecake on the grill sounds fantastic to me.  Maybe next year.  Give this a try for your wife's next birthday.

That will do it for this session.  I'll see you next time, and remember leave no trace...leave a legacy.

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Hey everyone!  John The Midwest Flatlander here.  So we have been doing a lot of grilling this summer.  And I don't think that is a bad thing, but we have not discussed one very important topic (not bacon, although it is a very important topic), dessert!  So, in this inspiration session, we are gonna look at a fantastic dessert idea for the grill that will make everyone happy (unless you hate pineapple then you're hosed).  But then that's more for the rest of us.

Okay, so my favorite pit master is by far Stephen Reichland from Barbecue University.  Love watching him grill and smoke all kinds of different meats, veggies, and desserts.  He also has a show call Primal Grill, and here is where we get our inspiration for this recipe called Coconut Grilled Pineapple.  I may throw in a little Flatlander Finesse to the recipe, but for the most part I follow this recipe pretty close.  So I hope you're hungry.  Let's get started.  We're having dessert first.

Here is what you will need to make this happiness a reality:

--1 (or more) Pineapple(s) sliced and cored (mine are approximately 1 inch thick)

--1 Can of Coconut Milk (I used unsweetened but use what you like)

--1 1/2 cups sugar mixed with 1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

--1 Bag of toasted coconut flakes

--1 scoop of ice cream (I used French Vanilla)

What You Need for Grilled Pineapple

 

First, brush the pineapple with the coconut milk on both sides.

Brush Pineapple with Cocomilk

 

Sprinkle a generous amount of the cinnamon-sugar onto both sides of the pineapple.

Sprinkle Pineapple with Sugar

 

The pineapple rings should look something like this.  Looks like they are ready for the grill.

Pineapple Ready for the Grill

 

Set up the grill for direct grilling.  You can do this on whatever grill you like and use the fuel of your choice.  I'm using my faithful Weber Kettle Grill with lump charcoal.  So this time around I'm putting a small pile of coals right in the center for my direct grilling setup (sorry about my finger photo bomb).  Use your favorite direct grilling setup.

Pineapple Grill Setup

 

Once you've got hot coals and your set up for direct grilling, get those pineapples on the grill.  Be sure to place them directly over the hot coals.  You can pick the side you want them to start on.  Be sure to place the lid back on the grill, because as that yummy cinnamon-sugar caramelizes some of it will drip onto the hot coals and flame up.  However that is not all bad, because you want some of that flame to kiss the pineapple and give 'em just a little bit of char which gives 'em a whole lot of flavor.

Pineapple on the Grill

 

Cooking time per side is approximately 3-4 minutes, or just cook them to your liking.  I like a little char (yeah, that's mine in the middle), but not everyone in my family does.  So I kept one or two on the edge of the fire, and didn't give them as much direct exposure to the hot coals.  But you make them how you like them.  Now let's finish them up.

Grilled Pineapple Char

 

Place a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream (or your favorite, but I recommend some form of vanilla) and sprinkled on some toasted coconut flakes to finish, and dessert is ready.  Dinner will have to wait cause we're eating dessert first!

Grilled Pineapple Final 2

Give this dessert a try at your next grilling adventure, and be sure to check out all of Stephen Reichland's recipes on Primal Grill.  That will do it for this session.  I'll see you next time, and remember leave no trace...leave a legacy.

Hey everyone!  John The Midwest Flatlander here, and you guessed it.  We are talking about two of my most favorite things--smoke and meat!  If you like both, you are in for a treat.

Okay, so I love smoked meat--brisket, pork, turkey, BACON, the list goes on.  There's just something about smoke that makes meat happy and me happier.  So when my buddy's wife texts me and says that he's gonna fire up the smoker this weekend and asks if I have anything I want to throw on, you can bet that I'm gonna go to and fro to the ends of the meat department and find something.  And I did!!!  The meat of choice is a 14-15lb turkey.  Yum!  My buddy prepped this dude with the seasonings you see here, as well as stuffing the cavity with whole onions and whole peeled apples.  This setup produced two "flavor zones" in the final product.  The meat towards the skin side had a really awesome smokey flavor.  The meat closest to the inside of the cavity had that awesome onion and apple flavor.  Put pieces from each flavor zone together and the taste buds would dance a jig.  It was an amazing flavor experience!!!

Pre-Prep

Now my buddy custom built his smoker from an old propane tank, so it's big and beautiful.  It requires a lot of wood to get that perfect smokey flavor, so he likes to make sure it is full of meat when the fire is lit.  Enter the Flatlander who is always willing to help in a time of need especially in a time of meat crisis.  He was smoking some pork for a family reunion and had a little space left on the rack, so my turkey was off to the smoke shop for an 8-hour bath of pecan wood smoke in this bad boy.

Smoker 1

It's go time for this bird!!!

Light It Up

After about 8 hours give or take, this bird is done.

Turkey Done

He texted me when it was ready, and I came and got it to go!

Turkey Done 2

Now that is what I call Smoked Turkey on the flat land.  Special thanks to my buddy K and his awesome smoker for some out of this world smoked turkey.  The Flatlander household polished off this bird in two days, and it was a mighty fine two days.

That will do it for this session.  I'll see you next time, and remember leave no trace...leave a legacy.

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Hey everyone, John The Midwest Flatlander here, and if you love corn on the cob and roasting over an open fire you have come to the right place.

Summer on the flat land is hot, really hot.  And while I may not like the heat of summer, I do like the food of summer.  One of my favorites is corn on the cob.  I love love love fresh corn on the cob!  Let's just say it helps take the misery out of the heat.  Okay, who am I kidding, nothing takes the misery out of the summer heat.  However, if I'm gonna sweat to death I might as well eat good food like corn on the cob.  And burlap style fire pit roasting is a great way to fix it when camping or backyard barbequing.  It goes great with your favorite grilled meat (sirloin steak in this case). So let's get started before we're all too hungry to read.

Ingredient and "Tools" list:

10-15 ears of fresh corn on the cob (not husked)

Some water in something used to pour

1 burlap sack soaking in a bucket of water

1 portable grilling grate with stand

Now you can use whatever kind of corn on the cob that you like.  I picked the corn I'm using a few days ago, so it is garden fresh and ready to roast.  If you are curious, the variety I'm using is called Gotta Have It from Gurney's, and it is my favorite.

 

Corn Preparation:

Okay so we have about 10-15 ears of our favorite corn still in the husk.  Now I don't like "hairy" corn, so I peel back the husk on each cob far enough to remove as much silk as I possibly can (if you like your corn "hairy" feel free to skip this part).

Now, out here on the flat land, we got little corn worm critters that like to eat the ends of the corn ears.  That's okay.  Those little guys need to eat too, however they ain't a part of this recipe.  So, while you are remove the silk you might want to cut the end off of any ear that has a little stowaway on board.  Once you remove the "hair" and critters, make sure to push the husk back up to the end so it covers the ear.  Do not remove the husk from the ears of corn.

 

Fire Pit Preparation:

I didn't use any kind of special wood for this recipe, so use the kind of wood you like.  I just tried to use what I had laying around the yard.  Now, light that pit and make yourself a nice bed of hot coals and you'll be good to go.

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You will also need to make sure you have some water (I filled up our pink pig watering can named Babbs) and a burlap sack soaked in a bucket of water.

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Take the grill grate and rub it with oil and place it over the bed of hot coals.  Now place the ears of corn onto the grill grate.

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Cover the ears of corn with the soaked burlap sack and let the roasting begin.

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Pour water over the burlap sack as needed to ensure that the corn and the burlap sack stay wet enough to not burn.  Note, some of the edges of the husk may catch fire.  This is normal, however do not let the burlap sack dry out or it might catch fire.  This would be bad.  No worries for me.  Babbs kept the situation under control.

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Since I had a lot of space between the ears of corn and the hot coals, cooking time for me was approximately 2 hours.  However you can speed that up by moving your ears of corn closer to the coals.  If you choose to do this you will need to be sure and keep the burlap sack good and wet not only to prevent it from catching fire but also to allow the water to steam and help to cook the corn.  Also, I turned the ears once at about the halfway mark to ensure even roasting.  Here's what they look like when they are done.  Yum!!

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LET'S EAT!!!!!

IMG_1648I'm a butter and salt guy, but you can dress up the ears any way you want.  My oldest son likes to put on butter, seasoned salt, pepper and a little cayenne.  Talk about adding some kick to your corn.

So there you have it.  Next time you're looking for a different way to roast corn on the cob, try it burlap style.  That will do it for this session.  I'll see you next time, and remember leave no trace...leave a legacy.