One of the axioms, in the Puckerbrush especially, was you never complain about it raining in Texas. Maybe it would be permissible to grouse about it? Perhaps? Folks are getting killed, bridges and houses washed away and still it rains. I know we needed it to break the year’s long drought hereabouts and every night the news reports how the reservoirs are filling by the hour. Still yet, hanging out in an RV when it rains day after day is no bueno,…………… and we got flood warnings yet again this evening. Maybe I oughta be thankful I am not sitting on a gate and having to work in the caliche hell mud mess that is unique to the oil patch.
I have been waiting on the Holiday Specials to come up at HEB. I figured they would have some sort of barbecue meat on sale. Lord knows I can’t afford it at regular price! Sure enough they came out with packer briskets at $1.77/lb. I ain’t bitchin’ about the price but I seem to remember back in the day we could pickup brisket for $0.69/lb. Fer chrissakes, it ain’t filet!!! Oh well!
I had an appointment to meet a fella comin’ out of Houston to exchange some Benjamins for bowling equipment and we decided on Huntsville as being a likely place. Huntsville also has an HEB and that is exactly where I headed after the exchange was done. I had folding money and a long grocery list in my pocket. Y’all might remember aside from picking up bread and eggs at the local Dollar Store I have only been to the grocery store once ($60) since arriving at the Secret Hideout 10 weeks ago. I walked out of that smallish HEB with a cart full of items ($130) and 2 briskets. The only other meat I purchased was a pound of baloney – which might be a portent of things to come in itself!
Little Blondie was a big believer in injecting and swabbing and coating meat in myriad ways when we fired up the smoker. Granted, we turned out some tasty product but sometimes I think an appendectomy was the simpler operation. Christ on a cracker! It lasted for a full day or better from start to finish and by the time all was said and done I was just about too pooped to enjoy it. Y’all know I was raised up in the flat Mississippi Delta of Western Tennessee and pork barbecue just was. Memphis style piggy. Nada mas. I can’t ever remember anybody in the family doin’ up a pork shoulder — no, you just went to your fave BBQ place and bought a pound or two, some red slaw and some sauce. Maybe you picked up a pint of two of beans if you were splurging. Otherwise, some buns, fresh onion slices and dill pickle was all you needed. We never ate off butcher paper with our fingers. Hell, the first time I heard of that kinda goings on over toward Lockhart, I thought it was heathenistic. The most lasting impression of BBQ I have was the 4th of July fundraiser the Finley, TN VFD did every year. They would get out underneath one of the big trailer sheds at the cotton gin and dig a long, long trench maybe 5 foot wide and a hundred feet long. On the eve of the 4th, they would build up a big fire of hickory logs close to the action and when it started burning down toward coals, they would shovel them in that ground pit. Along about dark, they would bring out big steel racks loaded with whole pork shoulders and lay them side by side across that pit. There wasn’t no injecting or slathering or rubbing or basting.
The next morning word would go out the shoulders were done and farm trucks would start lining up to pick up the finished shoulders that had been pre-ordered. Cash money. No credit cards or swipin’ your iPhone across a dongle or whatever. That BBQ was as simple made and as good as I have ever had; the memory sticking even after 50 years. The reason being those fellas knew their craft. They were Masters at it. I reckon they are all gone now. I figure you can’t cook pig in the open air dirt no more without some health food inspector closing you right down anyhow. All the sadder for that fact.
Several weeks back I ran across this Texas Monthly article about John Mueller, Aaron Franklin and Texas BBQ; Austin,Tx BBQ to be specific. Texas Monthly is good about doing epic and sprawling articles about all things Texas. Think about the movie Giant except it is a magazine article about BBQ. That make any sense? After reading the article, I bought Franklin’s recent book, Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, for the Kindle. With every turn of the page, I remembered back to that cotton gin shed on the 4th of July.
I could see some folks calling me a minimalist for the way I am livin’ here at the Secret Hideout. Part of that is by necessity ’cause I just don’t have the money to live a high life. The other part, the most important part, is most of our lives are lived by convenience and ease these days. The old ways of getting by according to your own resources and knowledge have been pushed aside and forgotten. I think in the back of my mind real often these older ways, getting by without most of the convenience of modern day society, are important and might be of use sooner than we might like. I am not trying to turn the clock back to 1920 and get by, oh hell no! I have the solar power and any other modern improvement I can get by hands on to live this life. What I don’t have is the dependence on the electric grid, an addiction to a Smart Phone or the local fast food drive thru as my food source.
Back to that brisket…………. Little Blondie ended up with the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker and I do miss that thing. It was convenient and turned out quality barbecue time after time. Fact is though it was a bit fragile for use out in the harsh environment of the Puckerbrush. What I ended up with was its’ much cruder cousin , the Masterbuilt Propane Smoker. It is little more than a propane burner inside a cheap sheet metal box with a door but let me tell ya it is one tough little operator. The entire time we were in South Texas it lived outside with no more than a 33 gallon garbage bag pulled down over it for protection from the elements. Each and every time I drag that little beast out to use it it doesn’t let me down. This time I was going to load it down with two large briskets that had been prepped with some kosher salt, cracked black pepper and a skoosh of smoked paprika. That was it! Hell, trimming them up and applying the rub didn’t take twenty minutes. I poured some water in the smoker pan, added some oak chips and cracked that propane tank open at 275 degrees and we were smokin’! About 5 hours later, at 145 meat temp, I wrapped those rascals in foil and throwed them back in for another 7 hours.
The result? Tender, flavorful brisket with a peppery smokey bark you can cut with a spoon. I may be on to something here! What is old is new again.
Secret Hideout Update: I was hoping to replace the tired Interstate AGM batteries on the solar system with two Trojan T-105RE 6v batteries. Found ’em 50 miles away for about $150 each. Problem is when I open up the pocketbook, there ain’t nothin’ there. The good news is the huge RENOGY® 250W panels and the MPPT TRACER Controller are throwing enough juice into those tired batteries that won’t hold a good charge that I can watch a few hours of TV nightly. If the sun is shining bright during the day, I can even run the little chest freezer.
Reality bites and fact of the matter is the bowling equipment market is depressed right now. Folks just don’t have the cash to be buying stuff. I still have a few items left but no takers at a good price. I will keep them rather than give ’em away. I did call one of the gate guard companies last week and they have 12hr gates available in Oklahoma working out of one of those shacks. Call me a prima donna but I ain’t lost nothin’ in Oklahoma and I always thought workin’ out of one of those shacks smacked pretty close to living in a cubicle. Can’t and won’t go there …. not just yet anyway.
Some people will just not leave the donation idea alone and I love each and every one of you for caring that much about me. As a concession, I agreed to publish the URL for my Amazon Wish List. The way I understand it works is you can buy stuff off the list and Amazon knows where to send it. Amazon is smart like that. If nothing else, some of y’all might find the list interesting, an insight into what my brain is thinking and what new ideas are cookin’ . Or maybe not; most times my brain is like a jumble of white coat hangers.
The projects Tuco the Dog and me have on our list is getting smaller by the day. Some projects have been completed and XX’d off the list. Some have been deferred due to funding shortfall. I do know when we run short of things to do, it will be back to the oil patch for us. I can’t be laying around doing nothin’. Just don’t work that way!
End Note: Buck these Haggard Blues by Big House from the Woodstock Nation cd. Big House has showed up here before. They are obscure to a degree and not around any more. Doesn’t mean the music is dead! Get ya some!
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