Monday, February 18, 2013

Summer in February

Winters can seem to drag on and seem endless. To get through it, we have an annual Summer in February picnic. It's a summer family barbecue in the middle of winter. Groundhog's Day has nothing on this. You ever have a Thanksgiving style food induced coma on Groundhog's Day? Didn't think so.

The tradition started a few years ago when we gathered at a camp on the Sacandaga for a pot-luck picnic and a bunch of outdoor winter fun. The food kept getting better and the event quickly picked up an alias, Pierogie and Rib Day.

Other than a little of the coordination, my contributions to the meal are the ribs and sausage. I've got a burn barrel for making charcoal. At some point in this barrels history, it was a 55 gallon drum of tomato paste. With a few modifications, this thing has been generating charcoal for barbecue for over 10 years. You cut a small door towards the bottom. This is where you shovel out the coals and control how much air the fire gets. You drill holes so you can make a grate of rebar above the door. My grate is by the lower barrel rib. The grate supports the burning logs and allows coal sized pieces to fall to the bottom. Once you're done cutting and drilling, you basically have a giant charcoal chimney.

Start a fire an you are off to the races. With the door at the bottom open, you can turn this into a jet engine. With is closed, you have a more controlled, slow burn. Although this year, I got smart and used a bunch of coals from the wood stove to heat the pit. Usually, I have to make two fires.

The pit is just a stack of old concrete blocks. In the summer, I just put the colas on the ground. You can't do that in the winter. The coals thaw the frozen ground then water comes out of the once frozen ground and puts out your fire. Ask me how I know. The work around is some bricks and an old cast iron grate just above the ground.

 I cooked two rack of ribs and a few pounds of sausage in there. Instead of the usual rub, I went with one recommended by Mr. Dave. Here's a link to the recipe. As to be expected from a Mr. Dave recommendation, the rub is great. My wife's uncle took the extra rub I had home with him.

Off to one side of the pit was a slope my father-in-law set up for the kids. They had fun with it. Here's my nephew on a sledding run.

Once the food started, it never seemed to stop. There was a big taco dip with chips. On paper, I shouldn't like taco dip, but I love it.

I threw together a Buffalo cheese dip. Not bad. It's one of those things that isn't fantastic but for some reason you can't stop eating it.

 Aunt Carol fried up a ton of pierogi. There are only 9 in the pan...she fried up a lot more than 9.

My mother-in-law makes some seriously good deviled eggs. Her potato salad is great too.

Now that's a lot of pierogi. The ribs came out tender and the combination of smoke with the rub wa delicious.

Here's Round 1 for me.

Hope you left room for dessert. In addition to ice cream, there were lots of cookies - some gluten free thin mints that really tasted a lot like the real thing, chocolate cherry cookies and kissing hands. Plus an apple square and a chocolate rum cake.

After the kids went to bed, there was a loud, highly contested six-handed pinochle game that went until 1 AM. Just like in the summer.

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