The Earliest Risin’ Wrangler (TECHNICAL CORNER)

The Earliest Risin’ Wrangler (TECHNICAL CORNER)

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

The earliest risin’ wrangler gets up at 3:30 A.M., puts on the coffee pot, and goes for a walk. He rounds up all the 4-legged “lawn mowers” that have been hobbled and turned loose in the pastures. The wrangler is the cowboy responsible for the riding stock as well as most other animals on a ranch. He keeps them fit and trim by feeding them correctly and looking after their medical needs. All in all, he’s a “top hand” and savvy! Very much of his work is technical and in honor of his expertise, we present this forum. It’s about the technical or specialized topics in our craft, with a few corny jokes thrown in here and there.

If a procedure or product has important specifications, reference data, particular information, or know-how n’ savvy that you don’t wish to memorize but need to refer to once in a while to “refresh your memory”, then try looking here. We’ll update the information here from time to time and try to maintain this info as a reference source for your convenience.

For instance, some of the topics include:

  1. How to butcher and dress your own chickens or ducks
  2. How to barbecue the best ribs and brisket in the West!
  3. How to barbecue an entire hog (with sauces)
  4. Info about casings and stuffers
  5. Info all about lamb with recipes
  6. How to calculate nitrate/nitrite cures
  7. Info all about salt
  8. How to taste food with your nose
  9. List of common sausages with descriptions
  10. Much, much, more!

Butchering And Cleaning Your Own Whole Chicken Or Poultry 
Processing and preparing a living, cacklin’, chicken for the dinner table is not trouble-free, nor is the procedure enjoyable or pleasant, although butchering the bird is inevitably essential if folks are to enjoy eating poultry inside a secluded ranch house situated high in the backcountry. As much as people would like to avoid it, they may have to take matters into their own hands now and then – and quite frankly, there is no way to describe the processing of a chicken other than to do it bluntly. Now, take a sharp meat cleaver out into the yard, and git’ really nasty with the thing. Find a tree stump and prepare to chop a chicken’s head off. Using one quick, clean, stroke of the blade, be humane. I realize it may be just a chicken, but the thing is giving up its life to help prolong yours, so give it a little respect.

Scald the chicken, dipping it into 170-degree F. hot water containing a little dish detergent (breaks up oils in the feathers) to loosen its “pulchritudinous plumage” fer’ pluckin’! Avoid boiling water, as it will initiate the cooking process. Submerge the bird only about five seconds while agitating it, as an even scald is attained. The bird should be dipped in cold water immediately to prevent burning of the skin. Remove the feathers and note the small hairs remaining. Using any type of flame, being careful not to scorch the skin, you can easily singe these hairs to remove them.
Remove the chicken’s feet by placing a knife blade into the little divot inside the joint, and over the tendon that attaches the thigh to the foot. Applying downward pressure, cut straight through the joint then wash your hands again (and often) to maintain cleanliness.

Evisceration is a polite word for “gutting”. Do it with the least possible mess by first tying off the esophagus to prevent leakage afterward. Make a shallow cut through the skin between the drumsticks, following the slight curvature of the raised portion of the breast. Removal of the internal organs may be made through a longer lateral incision made through the skin of the abdomen extending to the area just above the anus and tail (removed later). Avoid stabbing or damaging the intestines using the knife carefully. As soon as the bird has been opened, wash everything involved using a steady stream of water, safeguarding sanitation. Inserting a hand into the cavity between the intestines and carcass, scrape out the material along the top inside (the side nearest the breast). As the bird’s shape begins to curve downward near the throat, carefully pull out the inside intestines without breaking the esophagus, allowing them to hang over the tail once outside the carcass. The bundle will now be held only by one intestine leading to the cloaca (bird anus). Sever the entire accrual using one clean cut of a knife, and then cut around the anal opening removing any undesirable tissue. Now that there’s a bit more working space, remove the trachea (windpipe).

The gizzard is the largest, firmest internal organ you’ll find while cleaning a chicken. This organ serves as the bird’s “teeth” where mechanical digestion takes place-using grit to grind up food. Folks preferring to consume the gizzard must first do a bit of prep work. Open up one end using a knife, slicing through the red meat until the cut is deep enough to see a very tough, white tissue lining protecting the gizzard muscle from the grit inside. Beneath the tissue is a yellowish sac, containing a mixture of food and gravel, which must be removed. An experienced butcher equipped with a sharp knife may skillfully cut through the first inner white layer using the precision of a surgeon, without opening or tearing the yellowish sack (which must be discarded). However, many “dudes” hurriedly split the gizzard in half lengthwise, rinse it out well, and then peel away the yellowish layer.

Remove the neck from the body for making great gravy. Many people also like to save and eat the heart. Located between the wings, it is dark and oblong shaped, and slicing away the attached blood vessels just above the layer of fat, will make it appear better dressed. Before freezing the chicken and its parts, wash and flush it thoroughly with clean, cold water.

Types Of Chicken 
Chickens are usually classified according to age. Young chickens, eight weeks old, have grown to 4 pounds. They are tender and plump for broiling or frying. Roasting chickens are older and fatter. Here’s the scoop:

“broiler-fryer” is an all-purpose chicken weighing from three to three and a half pounds and its best to purchase the whole bird allowing at least ½ pound per serving with the bones intact. Pre-cut chicken found in supermarkets offer greater convenience but will cost more per pound. As a general rule, remember “the bigger the bird, the more meat in proportion to the bone”.

“roaster” is a chicken with a bit of age on his old hyde. A bit larger and older than the broiler-fryer, the “roaster” weighs in anywhere from four to six pounds. Its tender meat is ideal for roasting.

“stewing chicken” is a hen, weighing from 4-1/2 to 6 pounds. This mature and less tender bird is best cooked by simmering it in stews and soups.

“Cornish Game Hens” (Rock Cornish Hens) are small, young, and specially bred chickens. Cornish hens have all white meat and only weigh from one to one and a half pounds. Allow one bird per person in your recipes.

Cutting Up Your Own Whole Chicken
Place a whole cleaned chicken upon a cutting surface with the breast side up. Remove a wing by cutting into the wing joint with a sharp boning knife, slightly rolling the blade as it finds its way through the curve of the joint. Repeat the process with the other wing. Remove the legs by cutting the skin between the thighs and the body. Slice through the meat between the tail and the hip joint on each piece. Bend a leg back until the hip joint pops out; cut around the bone and through the remaining meat and skin.

Next, locate the line of fat that runs between a drumstick and thigh. Drumsticks are separated from thighs by cutting along this line. Find the joint by flexing the leg and thigh. Pop it! Then cut through the joint.

Cut the breast from the backbone by holding the body and neck down and cutting along each side of the backbone through the rib joints. Place the breasts with their skin sides down and cut through the white cartilage at the neck to expose the keel bone. This is the dark bone at the center of the breast. Bend back both sides of the breast to pop out the keep bone, and then cut the breasts into halves with a knife or poultry scissors. Remove the skin from a whole chicken breast then place the meaty side down on a cutting board. Cut through the white cartilage to expose the keel bone then bend the breast halves back until the keel bone pops away from the meat. Place a finger along each side of the keel bone to loosen it, and then pull it out. It may come out in pieces. To remove the rib cages, insert the tip of a knife beneath the long rib bone and cut the ribs away from the meat. Cut through the shoulder joint to free the entire rib cage. To remove the wishbone, slip the knife beneath the white tendons on either side of each breast, loosen and remove the tendons. Cut the breast into two pieces.


Brining (brine soaking) meat or poultry with salt and sugar water is a procedure used to increase its moisture holding capacity. This water retention (about 20% more weight) allows a longer time for collagen to be broken down resulting in a moister product when it is cooked. Through osmosis, the salt and sugar enter the cells causing their proteins to denature or unravel. This interaction results in the formation of a moisture-capturing gelled matrix that keeps liquid from leaking out of the meat as it cooks.Normally, as meat cooks, the loss of moisture is minimal below 120 degrees F. As the temperature of 140 degrees is approached, a significant amount of water is released. The meat cells begin to break down at temperatures higher than 140 F. resulting in even more moisture loss even though the actual juices of the meat are quite safe. Scientists believe that salt and sugar placed into the cells by brining, enable the proteins to stay bonded together longer at temperatures over 140 F., while retaining moisture. Consequently, many chefs and especially BBQ’ers regard brining as a mandatory procedure inside their kitchens whenever preparing fowl. Be aware there are limitations to consider, especially using salt, whenever brining meat, as many traditional barbecue cuts, including brisket, ribs, and pork shoulders, may end up tasting like ham! To make a good barbecuing brine, add a quarter cup each of uniodized salt and sugar to a quart of water and soak meat for an hour. If you are going to grill the meat over high heat, lighten the salt and sugar by half. If you are going to bake or barbecue a turkey or a chicken, try the following brine.

 Chuckwagon’s Poultry Brining Solution 
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup uniodized salt
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 tblspns. minced garlic
  • 2 tspns. onion powder
  • ¼ cup black pepper
  • 2 tspns. liquid smoke or ½ oz. maple flavoring

Brined poultry means flavor! Cover any freshly cleaned fowl completely with the brine and refrigerate it several hours or overnight. Rinse the bird completely before barbecuing or baking-smoking it. Baste the turkey, chicken, or other bird, every hour with butter and cook only until the meat is 170 degrees F. This is excellent brine for other foods also when used with less time for smaller cuts. Used with Cornish game hens, 1-1/2 hours is plenty.

Best Wishes,

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Howdy folks, I hope you are enjoyin’ your experience at our site. Be sure to check out our recipe and resource index. Please feel free to ask questions and join in the chat.

Oh yes, I must tell you about my experience the other day. I ran in to our ol’ friend “Grasshopper”. “Hey Grasshopper, where ya been?”, I asked as the colorful ol cowpoke rode in from town.

“I had to check out Big Mike’s newfangled supermarket with all those new ‘state of the art’ attention-grabbers,” he said.

What are you talkin’ about Grasshopper?” I asked.

“Well”, responded Grasshopper, reachin’ up to scratch beneath his Stetson, “There’s a new automatic water mister to keep the produce fresh. Just before it goes on, you hear the sound of distant thunder and the smell of fresh rain”.

“What’s new about that?” I asked.

“Well now when you approach the milk case, you hear cows mooing and detect the scent of fresh cut hay.” Grasshopper rubbed his chin and continued, “An’ when you approach the egg display case, you hear hens cluck and cackle and the air is filled with the pleasing aroma of bacon and eggs frying”.

“It sounds pretty nice to me ol’ pardner”, I answered.

“Well” said Grasshopper, pulling on his ear lobe, “I just ain’t- ta-gonna buy toilet paper there anymore”!

And now… And now…. This!

Rules For Men To Follow For A Happy Life

Fellas, it’s all-fired danged important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks from time to time, cleans up, and has a job. And land sakes! It’s catawampously important to have a woman who can make you laugh. It’s also danged-daisy, plumb important to have a woman who you can trust, and doesn’t lie to you. And sakes alive! It’s sure ’nuff as snuff, jo-fired, important to have a woman who is good in bed, and likes to be with you. But most of all… most of all… it’s very, very important (imperative, in fact), that these four women do not know each other or you could end up dead like me!

And That’s When The Trouble Started...  

My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary. She said, “I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 150 in about 3 seconds.”

I bought her a bathroom scale.

My wife came into the living room and asked, “What’s on the TV dear?”
“Dust”, I replied.

They say I’ll probably walk again but I’ll have a limp!

        Ribs, Ribs, Ribs! 
Rocky Mountain Wrangler’s Rubber Ribs, Rotten Rub, Ghastly Glaze, N’ Rusty Sauce 

If you order just one rack of these tasty, golden-brown, smoky, ribs in a fancy restaurant, you’ll probably have to sell a kid or mortgage your house! Why would anyone want to cure a rack of ribs? Brining ribs in a curing solution allows them to retain moisture and ensure their safety in the smokehouse. In America, pork must also be heated to a minimum 138°F. (59°C.) if smoked, destroying any possible trichinae. Later, the finishing temperature will be 160°F. (71°C.). If the rack is to be slowly cooked while being smoked, it must be cured – for safety reasons.
Remember nitrites completely change the texture and flavor of meat. If you grill a fresh rack of ribs, you have great tasting roasted pork. The same fresh rack of pork ribs cured with sodium nitrite a few days, will gradually develop an entirely different texture and flavor we know as cured ham and it is delicious smoked and finished on the grill! Most often, large amounts of ribs are prepared for sizeable gatherings of famished folks at parties or gatherings, and clostridium botulinum should be the last thing a busy cook has to worry about. Restaurants, often cooking ribs on the spot, consistently choose to cure ribs for the convenience of storage or bulk purchasing.

Rocky Mountain western-fashion tasty barbecued ribs are first cured, then smoke-cooked, being hung inside a smokehouse several hours before being removed and grilled over indirect high heat for just a couple of minutes while a little glaze is applied. On the grill, the final temperature of the meat should be about 160°F. (71°C.). Remember, the smudge in the smoker cuts off oxygen, the meat remains moist, and with temperatures relatively low, the use of actual curing agents is critical, as a smokehouse composes perfectly correct conditions for botulinal development. The process is completely safe if a cook remembers any smoked meat must be completely cured using a precise amount of nitrite and dried to the touch before it will take in any smoke.

“Baby Backs” Pork provides four types of ribs, perfect for any barbecue party. Back ribs, sometimes called “Baby Back Ribs” or more correctly “pork loin ribs”, are those of the center rib section with the loin “end” attached. They are taken from the upper part of the piggy’s rib cage called the “chine”, adjacent to the backbone. One domestic rack of baby-backs weighs about two-and-a-half pounds, costs a little more than beef, and feeds only two hungry guests. These slightly more expensive chine ribs created the expression “eating high off the hog”.

Spareribs taken from the rib cage surrounding the sides and upper belly, are larger and longer than baby backs. Often they are called “Dinosaur Bones” in jest. Containing more connective tissue, they are a bit tougher, but the meat is actually more flavorful. The average weight is about 3-1/2 pounds and the shoulder end of the rack is wider than the other. Longer ribs are leaner than the shorter, more fatty, and more meaty ends. No matter what your pocketbook will afford, either section is great for grilling.

Rib tips are the favored, very flavorful, sections used in much Chinese cooking. Tips are taken from gristly section connecting the two racks of spareribs in the piggy’s underbelly. These ribs contain much cartilage and may be a little tough to chew, but their flavor is certainly worth every cent you may pay for them. Braised then barbecued, they are the first choice of many wranglers.

Country ribs are most often not considered ribs at all in the Rocky Mountains. They are taken from the blade-end of the loin and are much like small, meaty, “pork chops”. Although many markets trim the bones from the meat and present the cuts as “country style ribs”, you may find these tasty n’ fatty cuts ideal for grilling if they are baked first.

Preparation Instructions A little preparation is necessary for great barbecued ribs, consisting of trimming, membrane removal, application of your super-secret rub, and resting of the ribs before cooking. First, remove the tough translucent membrane located along the inside curvature of each rack of ribs allowing spice rubs and smoke flavor to penetrate the meat, making eating more pleasurable. The membrane is best removed using a blunt instrument like a screwdriver to begin the separation. Once you are able to get your fingers and thumb between the membrane and the bones, use a paper towel and your fingers to pull away the membrane. You’ll soon discover that for some unknown reason, peeling the membrane is much easier if you begin at the small end and peel toward the large end of the rack.

Trimming the excess fat from the ribs is the next step. Using a smaller boning knife, carefully remove any extraneous pieces of fat, leaving the natural fat located between the ribs. Don’t attempt to remove all the fat, as much of it is absolutely crucial for creating moist, flavorful, ribs while self-basting during the cooking process. Simply remove the larger pieces along the outside of the meat.

“Wrangler’s Rusty Rib Curing Solution” Nitrite Curing Brine For Ribs)

  • 25 lbs. pork ribs
  • 2-1/2 gallons ice water
  • 1 lb. uniodized salt
  • 8 oz. powdered dextrose (its only 75% sweet as sugar)
  • 16 level tspns. (four ounces = 113.4 gr.)
  • American strength 6.25% sodium nitrite Prague Powder #1.

Clean, trim, and remove the membranes from 25 pounds of pork back ribs. Mix the salt, dextrose, and the curing nitrite #1 into the water to make Wrangler’s Rusty Ribs curing solution. You may simply double the recipe for 50 pounds of ribs if you don’t intend to eat alone! Place the ribs into the brine completely submerging all the meat and bones and refrigerate them (in the brine) two days inside a non-reactive container. A food-grade cooler or plastic lug is best. 

Rinse the ribs thoroughly and pat them dry. Generously apply and vigorously rub in your own super-secret, yet to be legendary, spicy rib-rub. Common ingredients of rib rubs consist of salt, sugar, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, Hungarian paprika, peppers and chilies of all types, and, whew… many more. Every self-respecting rib cook develops his own favorite seasonings through experience and better “rib rubbers” soon discover the necessity of allowing the meat to rest a bit following rubbing, while seasonings and cures work their magic. You may want to start with my recipe for “Rotten Rub”:

“Rocky Mountain Rotten Rib Rub”

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Smoke-Cooking “Rocky Mountain Wrangler’s Ribs”
Place the cured, dried, and rubbed ribs into a preheated 120° F. (49°C.) smokehouse, start the smoking process using dampened hickory sawdust, and completely open the dampers, allowing moisture to escape. Gradually increase the heat inside the smokehouse to 160°F. (71°C.) degrees over a few hours time. The internal meat temperature must reach at least 138°F. (59°C.) although most wranglers smoke-cook ribs a little higher, until the meat just begins to separate from the bones (in about four hours). Remove the ribs and allow them to cool for later use or finish them on the grill over indirect heat with more hickory (moistened “chips” this time) at only about 200°F. (93°C.). Many old timers retain the meat’s moisture during final grilling by brushing on a little sugary glaze while the ribs finish over indirect heat, being most careful not to burn or char the sugars! Because sugar burns at 265°F. (129°C.), brush on glaze only at the very end of the grilling. The following glaze recipe is an old favorite silky-smooth blend generating a mahogany sheen that just can’t be ignored!

Ghastly Grilling Glaze For Pork Ribs

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup apple or apricot preserves
  • ½ cup whiskey
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 tspn. garlic powder
  • 2 tblspns. lemon juice

*Simmer all the ingredients five minutes then brush the mixture over the ribs just before removing them from the grill.

Careful now. Smoked ribs simply do not need the extremely lengthy cooking periods, as do briskets, shoulders and whole hogs. Never cook ribs, or any meat being barbecued, over a direct heat source. Use indirect heat by turning off the middle burners of a gas grill, or by scraping hot coals to the edge inside a covered charcoal grill. If you have the luxury of a larger offset smoker, you’ll find plenty of room to place the ribs and won’t have to worry about them drying out or over-cooking. If at all possible, rotate the ribs at intervals providing uniform heating. One perfectly ideal method of barbecuing ribs is to use a rotisserie, slowly cooking either several dry or wet rubbed racks, taking advantage of the utensil’s self-basting capabilities.

A few old “coots” like myself, prefer a simple glazing solution of vinegar, butter, and limejuice! Remember, glazing ribs with any mixture containing sugar, should be done just before serving them to avoid charring.

When the finishing temperature of the meat reaches 160°F. (71°C.) serve the ribs with plenty of “finishing sauce”. My favorite is “Rocky Mountain Red”. Some of the ingredients are not readily available in Poland so I’ve posted this recipe in another column previously with recipes for making your own 57 Sauce, ketchup, etc.

Rocky Mountain “Red” (Barbecue Sauce)

  • 4 cups ketchup
  • 2 bottles (10 oz. ea.) Heinz 57 Sauce
  • 1 bottle (10 oz.) A.1. Steak Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1-1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tblspns. Frank’s Hot Sauce

Directions: Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy, Dutch oven or non-reactive saucepan and cook the sauce, stirring it frequently, over medium heat, five minutes to develop flavors. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture, covered, until it reduces to the consistency of a thickened sauce – in about 90 minutes. Be sure to stir the mixture frequently. Start with a half cup of vinegar, then as the mixture simmers, add more a little at a time, until it suits your taste. The best way to serve the sauce is piping hot in small bowls. Be sure to serve an unlimited supply of moistened finger towels. Cool leftover sauce and pour it into jars. Cover and refrigerate. This sauce will keep several months when refrigerated.

The ribs are usually cut in pairs as to include lots of meat between the two bones as well as half on the sides. At a party, I often serve the entire rack in one piece – slathered with this sauce… and let the guests cut their own ribs. I hope you give this recipe a try. People will think you are a culinary expert!

Best Wishes,

Brisket “Tech”
“Bandit’s Brisket” (Barbecued Brisket)

Between a steer’s front legs are muscles mostly used for walking. This “brisket”, cut from the chest of a steer (or cow), is naturally tough but naturally delicious when carefully prepared. Called “London Broil” by butchers desiring to boost sales, most folks in London have never heard of the stuff! Most cooks, even the pros, have few clues how to slowly roast brisket that is both tender and flavorful – not overly smoked, bitter, or tough. Being naturally sturdy, the brisket contains two distinct muscles separated by a layer of fat that will not render. Worse, the meat absorbs smoke like a sponge, and may easily become bitter to the palate of many folks. It is also so large, it requires a longer period of cooking time, and most chefs and cooks consider its preparation without drying the meat, a legitimate challenge. The brisket may very well be the most difficult piece of beef of all to barbecue, and the process of selecting, preparing, and barbecue-cooking brisket in many parts of the United States is truly an art form, remaining in a culinary class by itself – often chosen only to display the skills of a good chef. Inside a working ranch barbecue pit, properly cooked brisket habitually becomes a matter of economy, using all the parts of a steer. Allow me to share a few sourdough secrets I’ve learned along the trail to turn this “tough stuff” into a delicious meal.

Selecting And Trimming A Brisket For The Barbecue
Selecting the best brisket from a butcher’s cold case is almost a combination of skill and luck and cookin’ the ominous article may seem as if a miracle were needed. On the range, you may choose and cut an eight to ten pound brisket from a medium size beef, having checked the cut for flexibility – and the brand on the steer! Place your hand vertically beneath the center of the butchered brisket and let the brisket “flop” over the edges of your hand. As with the selection of tenderloin, find a pliable cut with a natural bend. If it is tough coming from the meat locker or butcher shop, it will be difficult to make it more tender upon the barbecue grill.

The large end of the brisket is called the “point”. Place the brisket upon a cutting board and remove the outside fat from the brisket’s backside with a boning knife. This layer will not render drippings and is hard, tough, and often slightly yellow in color. With a boning knife, cut the thing almost to the muscle so there is only a slight amount of fat remaining. It will look mostly red with just a bit of fat remaining. Yes, there is much waste in preparing a good brisket.

The fat at the front of the brisket is handled a little differently. Notice two things. First, how deeply you must cut into the fat layer of the brisket in order to remove the maximum amount of fat separating the two muscles. This fat layer invariably remains in the center traveling the length of the brisket, separating the two muscles. Second, note the inch thick layer of fat along the bottom of the brisket. This layer will vary anywhere from 1/4 inch to about 1 inch in thickness. If you select a brisket with the 1/4-inch of fat trimmed along this side, you must thank your butcher, as it certainly did not come that way. Be sure to send him a Christmas card and shop at his market often. The goal is to trim this fat edge to about 1/4 inch in thickness, offering a protective layer during the long period of cooking. Although this hardened fat will not render, it will help keep the meat moist while preventing it from absorbing too much strong smoke smudge, becoming overly bitter or having too strong a smoke flavor.

Seasoning The Derned Thing
Now that you’ve selected the best brisket and have trimmed it to perfection, it’s time to season the meat. Some folks choose to marinate the brisket, being aware the process only penetrates the meat to a depth of about 1/4 inch and won’t penetrate fat at all. Whenever cooking a hefty piece of meat this robust, marinating is not all that effective, although I use marinade to introduce as much garlic flavor as possible, prior to sprinkling the meat with a spice mix called a “dry rub”.

Folks in the southern and eastern United States apply a thick coating of ordinary prepared yellow mustard to the meat by “painting” it with a pastry brush before the dry rub seasoning is applied. Some of these brisket-bakin’ barbecuers are the finest in the country and their plain ol’ yellow prepared mustard helps keep the meat moist, keeps the dry rub on the brisket, and seals the meat by developing a tender crust. The vinegar within the mustard will also help tenderize the meat to a slight degree. The mustard flavor dissipates entirely during the cooking process. Believe me, those southerners definitely have a great secret. However, in the Rocky Mountains, by tradition, most ranch cooks simply skip the mustard for some reason, usually preferring to “smoke-cook” briskets for hours inside low-temperature smoke houses using light smoke for only a short period of time. Rocky Mountain briskets are mopped infrequently using a garlic-oil, oregano, vinegar, and mildly sweet citrus combination sauce much like a Cuban “mojo sauce”. I can’t explain the reason for not spreading on the mustard; it’s just not done often here in the mountains, and to be absolutely truthful, most brisket (having been marinated overnight) is cooked within a matter of minutes as high heat is applied from both sides of the cut simultaneously. It is then cut on the bias, thinly across the grain. Hmmm… perhaps this is London broil style?

More experienced barbecue cooks, wishing to have meat they may cut with a fork, tend to slowly cook brisket overnight. First, they liberally sprinkle a “rub” onto the meat. Here are two of my favorite recipes:

“Tenderfoot’s Brisket Dust” (Basic Brisket Rub)

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tblspns. garlic powder
  • 2 tblspns. onion powder

“Noble ‘No Bull’ Brisket Rub” (Beef Brisket Rub With A Little More “Velocity”)

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tblspns. chili powder
  • 2 tblspns. ground black pepper
  • 1 tblspn. ground cumin
  • 1 tblspn. ground oregano
  • 1-1/2 tblspns. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tspn. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tspn. powdered mustard
Smoke Cookin’ Brisket Low And Slow

Now pay attention cowboys! Beef brisket cannot be cooked in the same manner as pork and can withstand very little smoke during the cooking process. It simply becomes bitter with too much smoke. Pork is quite “forgiving” when it comes to the use of excessive smoke. Pork ribs, butts, and sausage, retain their unique flavor very nicely with lots of hickory smoke. Not true with beef brisket! Lightly smoke brisket using charcoal briquettes rather than real wood as your fire source and you can’t go wrong. If you desire a little extra smoke flavor, you may occasionally place a few hardwood chips on top of the coals, but this is done sparingly and cautiously.

Barbecued beef briskets need long and slow cooking with frequent basting to prevent an over dried “bark”. We prefer a smoker using lower heat. If you use a grill or a pit, the thermometer, (located at the same level in the pit as the meat), should be reading no more than 225° F. for great barbecuing. Using the indirect method of cooking, place the meat as far away from the source of the heat as possible. If you are using a gas grill, turn off the middle burners and heat the chamber using the side burners. This practice provides even cooking temperatures and consistent tenderness. It also dries out the meat! Allowing ten hours cooking time for a ten-pound brisket is fine – if the brisket is contained in tightly sealed foil during the final eight or nine hours (after smoking). Left alone these last hours of cooking without containing the meat’s natural moisture, will only produce a blackened cinder. In times before the innovation of handy aluminum foil, the meat was “sealed” with a heavy sugar or honey based mop sauce applied liberally and often. Today it is perfectly acceptable to inject flavorful liquids into a brisket while using a probe type thermometer to constantly monitor the meat’s internal temperature as it cooks. Be sure to mop the meat often using your favorite mopping concoction. A brisket cooked “low n’ slow” (eight to ten hours at 225° F.), is well done when the internal meat temperature registers 170°. A pink center is not desired in this particular cut of meat.

If you have a smaller pit or kettle type barbecue, rake glowing charcoal briquettes to one side of the pit and cook the meat using indirect heat, turning it every 30 minutes or so, as you baste. Keep the cooking temperatures consistent as possible. If you are using a vertical cooker, try using some type of pan beneath the meat to catch the juices, preventing flare-ups, and to act as a diffuser for even low-temperature cooking. A water pan with 1/4 inch of water will keep juices from flaring up and scorching the meat, producing a bitter, burned taste.

To baste or not to baste – that is the question. The only method known by horse ridin’ scientists to barbecue tender brisket, is to cook it slowly. Do not baste it at first, allowing the rub to thicken and dry a bit. Later, periodically raise the lid and begin basting the brisket with the liquid or marinade of your choice to intensify flavor. Basting a brisket is usually done with a barbecue mop – a twelve-inch wooden handle with cotton tassels on one end. It’s great for soaking up liquid then quickly and gently “moping” sauce onto the meat. Usually, moisture – holding thicker sauces are applied, containing all types of seasonings, crushed garlic, onions, carrots, celery, and the like. Sometimes, a hand held spray bottle is preferred, containing pure liquid juices without pulp. Many ol’ pros use straight apple juice only. Another sourdough’s old secret here – and a mighty important one: never use a tomato-based basting sauce on a brisket as it will burn and become bitter long before the meat is ready to be eaten.

I’ve heard a few “experienced” cooks say thermometers are for newbys. Don’t you dare believe it! Use a baby-dial thermometer and carry it inside your shirt pocket. This tool is vital to good ranch cooking and great ranch cooks are constantly aware of the internal temperature of the meat they are cooking. As not all meats cook at the same rate, constant monitoring is essential to perfectly cooked meat – easily accomplished using an inexpensive meat thermometer – usually $10 or less. Newer models constantly monitor the meat’s internal temperature without ever lifting the lid, and the latest on the market are read using remote sensors. By the way… there are many arrogant and overconfident cooks out there who claim they don’t need a thermometer because they “can sense when its ready”. These guys are usually looking for respect and recognition and indeed are the easiest individuals to bluff in a good poker game! Although you may be filling an inside straight, or even holding four aces, always beware of the guy with a thermometer clipped to his shirt pocket! Especially if he raises the stakes in the pot!

A good brisket-broiling bronco-buster should constantly be aware of the temperature inside any cooking vessel. Charcoal briquettes and lava rocks are affected by wind and weather. I’ve seen barbecue pits employ several thermometers to register proper temperatures; not a bad idea at all used to prevent underdone or overcooked meat. Without the knowledge of the cooking utensil temperature, a panjangler has no idea when the meat will be done. Use charcoal briquettes only when they have burned to gray ash. If you use wood as a fuel while cooking a brisket, use it only when it has been reduced to red-hot coals – not as raw wood pieces placed into the pit. Always use the cleanest fuel available. Professional brisket cooks using wood, often burn the fuel into coals using a separate fuel fire, avoiding the placement of raw wood directly into a barbecue pit. The pros never use a petroleum based lighter fluid or fluid-soaked charcoals to start their pit fires.

Anytime any cut of meat is overcooked, it will become dry. Although brisket does not contain a bone, it is still good to know that if a roast contains a bone, overcooked meat will release itself from that bone. Never overcook any meat trying to make it “falling off the bone” tender! If meat is tender, it simply stands to reason, it has not dried out and has become toughened by overcooking the cut.

Best wishes,

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36 thoughts on “The Earliest Risin’ Wrangler (TECHNICAL CORNER)

  1. “Hole-In-The-Wall Whole Hog”
    (Barbecued Whole Hog)

    I don’t know if Butch Cassidy ever roasted an entire pig on his barbeque spit at Hole-In-The-Wall… but he should have! Have you ever been asked to cook for a very large party? Most folks freak out and decline if the guest list gets to be much more than a couple of dozen folks. If a little “Saddlebum Savvy” is applied, it actually isn’t that tough at all but an entire hog gets to be a bit pricey if just one cowboy if footing the bill. But what about fundraisers and organizational get-togethers where a company might foot the bill or one where participants could all pitch in and help with the expenses? Why not barbecue an entire hog? It really isn’t that difficult if you have a spit and a pit. Shucks pards, here’s how ol’ Butch and Sundance would have cooked the dang thing!

    Barbecuing a whole hog somehow seems to be the total assessment of a confident chef’s mettle, although I’ve seen beginning grill jockeys arm themselves with a little “know how” and just “smoke away” a few self-proclaimed pros. Lands sakes owl hoots, you may very well be the world’s next best swine-smokin’ specialist. Tackle the job of barbecuing an entire hog, and you’ll gain everyone’s respect.

    How much Pork?

    A hog is a pig over 120 lbs. The dressed carcass of a hog (with the head on) provides about 40% edible meat. In other words, a dressed, hundred pound hog will yield about 40 pounds of great tasting pork. A hog having a dressed weight of 150 pounds will give you about 60 pounds of meat, while a 200 pounder will provide about 80 pounds of meat for your party. A wise cook plans on at least a pound of meat per person.

    Planning Ahead

    This is one project you don’t wish to be left scratchin’ your head thinking about what must be done at the last minute. Make a written plan and schedule. Plan to purchase all your spices, briquettes, smoking wood, utensils, sauces, and anything else you will need. Arrange for special items such as a large serving table with fresh butcher paper taped to the top. What about grill gloves, a couple of towels, thermometers, extra pans, paper towels, and plenty of water? Find a good water spritzer and make sure you’ve got plenty of tinfoil available. You don’t want to be looking for these items at the last minute. Although you might never use one, why not have a fire extinguisher on hand just in case of an emergency. You never know what might take place. Someone could knock over a grill or kids could throw something flammable into the fire. Be ready – not sorry!

    Again, plan on cooking at least one pound of meat per person and give your butcher plenty of notice. Tell him you’ve got a party in about two weeks and that you’ll remind him again in another week. Follow through and make sure the butcher has ordered the piggy so it will arrive on time. Don’t take chances with the meat spoiling while you prepare it. If you don’t have access to a cold storage locker, purchase a couple of new plastic garbage cans and fill them full of ice to make a temporary refrigerator. Use any means necessary to keep the temperature of the meat between 35 and 38 degrees F. (1.7 to 3.3 degrees C) up until the time you begin cooking.

    Make A Butt Rub

    Rub porky inside and out with plenty of “Butch Cassidy’s Butt Rub”. I like a little vegetable oil with plenty of freshly crushed garlic and black pepper added to the recipe for this type of barbecue cooking. Simply rub the mixture into the fresh meat before it starts to cook.

    “Butch Cassidy’s Butt Rub”
    1-1/2 tblspns. freshly ground black pepper
    1-1/2 tblspns. lemon pepper
    1 tblspn. cayenne pepper
    1 tblspn. dried basil
    1 tblspn. garlic powder
    1 tblspn. onion powder
    1 tspn. dried parsley
    2 tspns. paprika
    1/2 tspn. salt

    How much heat?

    A whole hog is best cooked “low and slow” at about 225°F. (107°C.) for several hours. Leave the head on the carcass and plan to cook one hour for every 5 to 6 pounds of pork inside a constant 225°F. (107 °C.) smoker or fire pit. At least three hours of that time should be with your favorite smoke permeating the pork. Turn the meat at intervals to ensure even cooking. The meat is done when the deepest part of the thigh registers 190° F. (88°C.). Make sure the thermometer does not touch a bone and don’t be tempted to rush the process by increasing the heat. Be patient. If you need a reference, think about this: A smaller hog may be cooked at 225° F. (107 °C.) for only about eight hours to achieve the ideal serving (internal meat temperature) of 190° F. (88°C.) while a porker weighing about a hundred pounds requires up to sixteen hours slow cooking at 225° F. (107 °C.). A larger piggy needs eighteen hours or more to reach that same ideal serving temperature (an internal meat temperature of 190° F.).

    Mopping Sauce

    “Ma’s Monument Valley Magic Mop” is not some sort of Harley-Davidson cleaning utensil; rather it is an ideal liquid for mopping an entire slow cookin’ hog, lamb, or steer, preventing the meat from becoming too dry as it cooks. This sauce actually has its origin in Cuba long ago, where folks often buried a hog to cook it at Christmas time. I have no idea how my aunt came to acquire it… I’m just happy that she did. Note the lack of sugars in the recipe, which would char before the meat cooks.

    “ Ma’s Monument Valley Magic Mop”
    (Whole Hog Mopping Sauce)

    2 entire heads of garlic
    1/2 gallon cider vinegar
    1 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1 cup lemon or lime juice
    1 tspn. kosher salt
    1 tspn. freshly ground black pepper
    2 tspns. dried oregano
    1 tspn. dried basil
    3 sprigs rosemary

    Okay pards, do you remember how to make vinaigrette? The recipe calls for three parts of oil to one part of vinegar. This recipe contains just the opposite – three parts of vinegar to one part oil. Remember to add sugar-based sauces only at the end of cooking. Right now, porky needs a thin, permeating, garlic flavored product to penetrate and flavor the meat as it slowly barbecue-bakes.

    First, crush and mince all the garlic. Heat the olive oil and the apple cider over medium heat in a saucepan and braise-cook the rosemary and garlic until the garlic slightly browns, being careful not to burn it. Remove the rosemary sprigs, and add the remaining ingredients, lowering the heat to simmer the mixture for a couple of minutes only. Allow the sauce to cool and steep for an hour before brushing it onto the barbecuing hog. (Whenever barbecuing an entire lamb, remember to mix in a bit more rosemary with lemon). Mop the entire carcass every twenty minutes or so, slowly turning it on a spit, barbecuing over slow embers of only 225°F. (107°C.) coals of hickory or oak.

    Worth Considering

    Do-it-yourselfers often fashion first-rate grill-smoker barbecue pits large enough to accommodate a 75-pound animal, by cutting in half, (lengthwise), a common 55-gallon clean barrel drum. Expanded metal is used for a grill, placing hot briquettes upon smaller expanded metal grates (air must get to the coals) inside the bottom. If you have a four-burner gas grill, you may handle a smaller piggy (40-50 lbs.) with ease.

    Use indirect heat and remember to cook only with hot, glowing, coals – never over an open flame. Keep the temperature constant as possible at 225°F. Use dampened hickory or another suitable hardwood for smoke smudge and don’t forget to find a nice large red apple to place in porky’s mouth when he is served. When you suspect the meat is nearly cooked, start taking porky’s temperature regularly or use a probe-type thermometer with an alarm. Again, the hog is done when the deepest part of the thigh registers 190° F. (88°C.). When the piggy has cooked and flakes with a fork, brush on plenty of “Robber’s Roost Rust” before serving. (BBQ sauce in Utah, does NOT go on meat as it cooks and we usually hang anyone who burns and blackens good barbecue sauce on perfectly good meat; Oh, of course… they get a fair trial first, but then the guilty meadow-muffin munchin’ mutton head is lynched on the spot! Robber’s Roost Rust is served hot, separately at the table. Be sure not to confuse mopping sauce with BBQ sauce.

    Barbecue Sauce
    (Yee Haw!)

    “Robber’s Roost Rust”
    Utah Barbecue Sauce

    4 cups ketchup
    1 bottle (10 oz.) A.1. Steak Sauce™
    2 bottles (10 oz. each) Heinz 57 Sauce™
    1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce
    1 cup white vinegar (more or less to taste)
    2 cups apple cider
    1/3 cup brown sugar
    1/3 cup honey
    ¼ cup molasses
    4 Tblspns. “Frank’s Hot Sauce™”
    4 Tblspns. liquid smoke
    2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon mustard powder

    Directions: Uh… sorry about the “yee haw”… I just couldn’t resist. Combine all the ingredients in a large non-reactive Dutch oven and simmer the sauce over medium heat for half an hour stirring it frequently. Taste the sauce and correct the flavors. Stir the mixture slowly and often as it continues to cook to develop flavors. As the mixture reduces, add a little more vinegar if desired, a little at a time, until it suits your taste. Continue to simmer two more hours until the mixture reduces and thickens. Adjust the vinegar (or sugar) to taste. The best way to serve “Robber’s Roost Rust” is piping hot in small bowls at the table. If using this sauce with ribs, be sure to serve an unlimited supply of moistened finger towels. Cool leftover sauce and pour it into jars, then cover and refrigerate them. This sauce will keep several weeks when refrigerated.

    Best Wishes,

  2. Sausage Casings, Speakin’ The Lingo, And Vertical Stuffers!

    There are four general categories of sausage casings:

    1. Natural Casings
    2. Collagen Casings
    3. Fibrous Casings
    4. Synthetic Casings

    1. Natural Casings
    Natural casings are usually supplied in a sealed bag in a moist salt solution and are made from the submucosa ( layer of loose connective tissue beneath the mucous membrane), a largely collagen layer of the intestine. A sausage maker uses what is needed then re-seals the remainder in a re-sealable bag for storage (usually provided by the retailer. Re-sealed casings can be stored for months in the refrigerator. Any natural sausage casing enhances and complements the natural juices and quality of the meat and spices in a sausage. Natural cases also permit deep smoke penetration.

    Beginners usually start with hog casings as they are easier to work with than the more expensive, delicate, sheep casings and produce a good thick sausage. Hog casings should be soaked in water for 30 minutes to an hour prior to using. Many types of sausage use only hog casings and the recipe usually specifies the size (diameter). However, it is generally accepted that sheep casing give the best flavor and appearance to a final sausage product. Sheep casings produce a very delicate thin sausage with a perfect “bite” or “snap”. However, care must be taken not to overstuff them. Once you get the “feel” for stuffing sheep casings, you’ll find using them is well worth the effort. These casings should be rinsed and soaked in water for 30 minutes to an hour before using them.

    2. Collagen Casings

    Collagen sausage casings are made from the gelatinous substance found in the connective tissue, bones and cartilage of all mammals – the same substance used to make Jell-OTM – the famous gelatin dessert. Most commercially purchased sausage in the USA is stuffed into collagen casings.

    Collagen casings are acceptable in all sausage preparations and applications, including freezing, deep fat frying, grilling and oven baking. Supplied on a shirred stick, the sausage maker uses the amount needed for each application, preserving the remainder in a refrigerated, dry, package. These casings are never soaked and are stuffed dry.

    3. Fibrous Casings

    Fibrous sausage casings are made from wood cellulose (essentially paper) permeated with protein. Fibrous casings are inedible and are the toughest casings produced. Sausage in fibrous casing may be smoked and are used where maximum uniformity and strength is desired. They do not require refrigeration.

    4. Synthetic Casings

    Synthetic sausage casings are made from alginates*, and the casings themselves require no refrigeration. Synthetic casings are used by mass producers and can be made in different colors. They are the most uniform and strong of all types of casings.

    *Alginates are refined from brown seaweeds. A wide variety of brown seaweeds of the phylum Phaeophyceae are harvested throughout the world to be converted into the raw material commonly known as sodium alginate. Sodium alginate has a wide use across a wide variety of industries including food, textile printing and pharmaceutical. Dental impression material utilizes alginate as its means of gelling. Alginate is both food and skin safe.

    Speakin’ The Lingo

    Hog casings (upper intestines) are sold in 91-meter lengths cut into “hanks” 1 to 2 meters long and gathered into bundles called “shorts”. Their average diameter is about 35 millimeters and may be used for cooked sausages, pepperoni, Italian sausage, Kielbasa, Kishka, larger franks, and a host of other stuffed sausages.

    Hog middles (middle intestines called “chitterlings”) are curly in appearance and cut into one-meter lengths, sold in bundles of nine or ten. They are available in wide, medium, or narrow calibers, determined by the location of the item within the animal. Middles are ideal for Braunschweiger, liver sausages, dry salami, and Italian salami. Hog bungs (called “fat ends”) are the intestine’s extreme southern end of a north-bound pig. Bungs are sold individually and are used primarily for liver sausage and Branschweiger, Genoa salami, Thuringer, and summer sausage. Diameters vary from 55 to 90 millimeters.

    There is no real “trick” to handling the stuff, but there are a few things that may help. First, you need a large, washable, work surface or table. It’s best if it has a small tilt to drain water, and even better, a sink in it. Stainless steel is ideal but expensive. If you go to the plumbing and hardware shop, you can get all sorts of ideas for making your own nozzle for quick loading of casings. I have a slippery plastic “gooseneck” rising straight up from a sink in the table. The pipe is reduced to 3/4” and rises a foot and a half then makes a u-turn before being cut off, leaving plenty of workspace. A custom pointed nozzle (I made myself) fits on the end. When a “short” of hanks is removed from the cooler, I place it in a plastic bucket of water to help with the handling of the thing and to find ends. I pull the ends up over the edge of the bucket until I need them. Next, I trim the ragged ends squarely with a pair of scissors. This makes for easy loading onto the nozzle. I’ve found that if I keep a small open bowl of salt on the table, I can dip my forefinger and thumb in it to help with the handling of the casings when laying them out on the table. I place another plastic bucket into the table-sink and fill it with water. I place only one casing at a time into it while a small stream of water straightens it out in coils in the water. This is the time to loosen and straighten any knots or twists – while it’s filled with water – IN the water. You may have to turn off the flow for a moment or two while you straighten them out so as not to “blow out” a casing. A little practice makes this operation much easier, believe me. Have a little patience and practice by making lots of sausage. When the water reaches the end of the casing and flows out, I increase the flow and flush out the salt thoroughly. I’ve heard of people flushing their casing for as much as 30 minutes but I believe that is much too long. Just be sure they are flushed cleanly and are free of salt. My stuffer swivels to the sink for easy loading but I still start by filling a water “bubble” inside each casing so it lubricates the nozzle as it slides on. The bubble of water stays in front of the stuffing horn as the casing slides onto the horn. I never use butter or any other “lubricant” as this will cause “smearing” and problems with texture later in the smoker. If you are not near a sink, you may have to use a dish of water to start your bubble.

    Just one more suggestion if I may. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, as I believe it is really important. Use a vertical, geared, stuffer to stuff your sausages. You’ll never realize just how much work this little gem will save you in the long run. A 5-lb. basic, no-frills, vertical, model, currently sells for about 125 bucks and has a stainless steel cylinder and chrome-plated frame.

    Some models have nylon gears, but in my opinion, if a prudent person stops cranking when the piston hits the bottom of the cylinder, it will last indefinitely. I checked with the manufacturer and learned that the material is called, “resin comp”, and it is most reliable. I’ve used one of these for years and still use it when making smaller batches and found it to be a top quality product. I believe you should look at a stuffer as an investment. It will save much time and even more effort! In the long run, it will pay for itself and prevent you from using foul, abusive, and infelicitous language around the kitchen, unbecoming of a high-caliber sausage maker like yourself! It might even possibly save your marriage!

    One last thing… please don’t waste your money on one of those curved “horn-type” stuffers. It requires three men and a boy just to pull the lever down… and your language will go from bad to worse. Why, I’ve seen full-grown men throw a fit right in their own kitchen, just trying to pull that handle down. Soon, a blue cloud of language hangs over the house and the police are called in. The wife starts packing her bags and the poor sausage stuffin’ cowboy is taken away in a straight-jacket muttering all sorts of indecent, incoherent syllables with inappropriate 4-letter words. So, play it safe and just tell her that all the folks on this forum are urging her to give you the go-ahead on a VERTICAL (geared) stuffer.

    Best Wishes,

  3. Lamb! Lamb! Lamb! (With Just A Bit Of Bull)

    El Duckaroo wrote me an email with the following information:
    …got a leg of lamb marinating (your recipe) for Sunday dinner with an
    old fraternity brother and his wife. I plan on cooking it in the
    backyard smoker, using hickory. None of us like mint jelly either, but
    we’ll have some on the side in your honor, heh, heh.

    I wrote back:
    How did everything turn out, you… you… you disturbed drumstick? Of course you skipped the mint jelly, right? Right? Well, didn’t you? You didn’t make mint jelly… Right? Only a lop-sided, mule-eared, mutton-punchin’, namby-pamby, yammerin’ yak would be caught eatin’ mint jelly with perfectly good sheep meat! Yeeeee Hawwwww!

    Easter Lamb (With A Little Bull)

    Our ranch outfit rode furiously two days, before our “sweet-talked” wives had the opportunity to change their minds ‘bout lettin’ us go! Organizing camp in drenching rain, we’d reached the high Uintahs with its crystal clear-blue lakes. Here remain a few scattered locations where man has never “set a foot” and the pan-sized rainbow, brook, and native cutthroat trout swim to the surface of the lakes and streams barking “catch me, catch me”, then jump into your buttered hot black skillet! The trick of catchin’ these tasty fellas is to place a black iron skillet over a slow, up-wind fire, add garlic and butter, place a Green River Renegade (trout-catchin’, hand-tied fly) into the skillet, then run and hide in the trees! Allow the aroma to drift across a lake a bit, waiting for the fish to leap right into the pan! When trout get just one whiff of the garlic, they stampede to the surface in herds rather than schools. Our advice to beginners is to always bring along a “back up” cut of meat, just in case this carefully planned strategy fails. A shoulder of lamb will do nicely.

    A heavy lightning storm will drive fish to the bottom of a lake for days at a time and Butch Cassidy’s Carbon County “spinners” (dynamite sticks) won’t bring ’em to the surface. Real cowboys don’t dunk worms – they flyfish! So, we holed up inside a canvas wall tent, cheating at poker, and Black Jack “Si” Johnson, dealing from the bottom of the deck, was winning! Following three days of steadily pounding, unrelenting rain, I roasted a lamb shoulder over the glowing coals of a campfire spit.

    Everything in camp was rain-soaked and our horses were beginning to shrink! I reached up beneath the boughs of firs (pines) to find dry tinder sticks with which to start a campfire. Next, I found semi-dry pine logs, beneath fallen trees in the deadfall of the forest. Knowing logs with dry centers would float in water, I simply tossed a few into the lake. The “floaters” had their bark removed with my hand axe and went into the fire. I shaved the bark from a heavy willow trunk about two feet long then drove two forked heavy willows into the wet ground to support the spit willow just above the coals. The lamb roast was prepared with punctures stuffed with garlic, rosemary, and lemon. Forty minutes before the lamb had thoroughly roasted, unpeeled potatoes went straight into the embers, along with buttered cobs of corn inside their soaked husks as Dusty Rhoades pulled out a ten-high straight flush of diamonds!

    “Greenhorns” say lamb is an acquired taste. Obviously they’ve never had properly prepared succulent, tasty lamb grilled over a hickory-smoke ranch barbeque fire. The two most commonly made mistakes are over-cooking the meat and not providing an escape for the excess tallow produced. Many folks say lamb is the best domestic meat of all. Others won’t touch it, having experienced some jasper’s disgustingly appalling mint jelly… served up with overcooked mutton – both good reasons to lynch the cook! Genuine lamb is not quite a year old and best roasted with pink centers in popular cuts. Mutton is the meat of a mature sheep best prepared in stews and slower cooked recipes. And mint jelly? It’s a ghastly concoction invented by some hallucinating, bizarre, and misled individual pretending to be a cook while suffering seizures and convulsions from having a size 36 waist while wearing size 34 underwear!

    Perfectly cooked lamb has a crispy, smoked, surface with a pink tender center. Being a bit delicate, it must not be overcooked for flavor at its best. This is exclusively the only way to serve lamb in the west, or anywhere else upon the planet earth! If you turn it into shoe leather, hang your head in shame for using too much heat for too long a period – and don’t you dare throw it to your shelties! Bury it in the dirt and try again.

    Lamb Cooking Temperatures:

    Really Rare = 131 degrees F. IMT
    Medium Rare = 141 degrees F. IMT
    Medium = 151 degrees F. IMT
    Medium Well = 160 degrees F. IMT
    Well Done – No such thing! (Don’t Do It!) = 165 + degrees F. IMT

    Lambs, Lemons, And Limes

    Each year, Americans consume scarcely five hundred million lemons? That’s only seven lemons per year for every man, woman, and child in the nation. I’m not sure about the statistics in other nations. What is the matter with us? Forget the awful green mint jelly and use lots of lamb’s best seasoning – freshly squeezed lemon or limejuice with lots of rosemary and even more garlic. The most popular cut of lamb is the whole leg, usually about seven or eight pounds with the “bone in”, or five or six pounds with the bone removed. Either should be smoke-roasted for best results, using the age-old secrets of the Mediterranean. Yup, you guessed it… rosemary, butter, garlic, and lemon. Be sure to include and rub in plenty of olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and a little thyme. Cooking any meat with its bone attached will produce a more flavorful and moist result, and lamb is no exception. Some folks prefer to have the bone removed before cooking. Here are a few basics:

    A butterflied leg of lamb is boneless and trimmed, having been opened up and slightly pounded flat by the butcher. A boneless roast loin comes in two pieces and each should be rolled and tied. This is the premier cut and is always lean and tasty. Loin chops include the bone and should be 1-1/2″ thick or more. Lamb chunks are usually cut from the shoulder. Used in stews, a good butcher will include a few chunks from the leaner leg for your recipes. If the man does this, be sure to thank him by no longer riding your horse inside his store, not to mention shooting up his ceiling!

    A rack of lamb is cut from the ribs. Its divine, expensive, and only feeds two cowboys. The whole leg serves eight, while the sirloin will satisfy six demanding gunslingers. Lamb loin chops are usually grilled or fried, cut only an inch thick. Heat up a black skillet until it almost melts and rub olive oil well into the chops. When they hit the pan, fry them only a few minutes turning them only one time. Better yet, use your hot smoky grill, being sure to rotate the chops 90 degrees after only two minutes. After two more minutes, turn the chops over and cook them only three minutes more rotating them 90 degrees only once after a minute and a half. Lamb is always served with pink meat inside! Don’t overcook it in the Rockies or you may find some large, appalling person measuring your neck with a tape measure!

    “Green River Grilled Lamb”
    (Marinated Grilled Leg Of Lamb)

    1 leg of lamb (over 5 lbs.)
    3 lemons (sliced)
    2 cups dry white wine
    8 cloves garlic (crushed)
    1 tblspn. rosemary
    1 tblspn. thyme
    1 stick cinnamon
    1 tspn. salt
    black pepper (freshly ground)

    Zest one of the lemons, squeeze the juice from all three, and then slice them thinly. Mix the juice with the zest, wine, lemons, garlic, and seasonings then marinate the leg of lamb, covered and refrigerated for a day. Turn the lamb a few times a day to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat evenly. Many folks prefer to inject the liquid directly into the flesh a few hours before cooking the leg.

    Using a drip pan beneath the grilling bars of a gas grill, roast the leg of lamb on a rotisserie using indirect heat and soaked chips of hickory to produce heavy smoke-smudge. Wrap the chips in a foil packet and place it directly upon a burner. Be sure to poke a few holes in the foil. After ninety minutes, begin checking the internal meat temperature with a baby dial thermometer. Baste the meat at intervals, using a little of the leftover marinade mixed with a little olive oil. The meat should be slightly pink inside the leg and served medium rare as the thermometer registers about 145 degrees F. Medium doneness is about 155 degrees. Slice the meat after it has rested ten minutes. Be sure to try this lamb cooked directly over the glowing coals of a wood-burning barbecue pit also. Experiment with alder or apple woods for smoking.

    Lamb is getting more difficult to find and many butchers no longer place it on display. You must ask for it. If the butcher starts making excuses, be polite but insistent – threatening to lasso the manager and drag him through the creek then down aisle thirteen. More likely than not, he will place lamb back into the display case once again.

    Roasting Lamb

    The general guidelines for roasting lamb are simple. Barbecue a leg of lamb using indirect heat, 30 minutes per pound, inside a 325˚ F. (163˚ C.) barbecue pit. If you’re inside the ranch house using you kitchen oven, preheat it to 400˚ F. (204˚ C.) then lightly oil a roasting pan. Place two sliced onions, lemon slices with juice, eight crushed garlic cloves, and three chopped tomatoes into the pan then place a roasting rack over them. Rub the lamb with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Make several stabs into the meat placing garlic halves, lemon zest, and a few rosemary needles into each incision. Roast the lamb until the juices run clearly yet the center remains pink. Lamb is delicate. Please don’t overcook it. The cooking time should only be about an hour and a half. The internal temperature of rare lamb is only 131˚ F. (55˚ C.), and medium rare, using your baby-dial thermometer, is about 135˚ F. (57˚ C.) Medium cooked lamb is 141˚ F. (61˚ C). There is no such thing as lamb well done.

    If you’re on the trail with your camp-style Dutch oven, apply the same know how. Use a cake rack to elevate the roast and remember to use a few charcoals on top of the oven for slow, uniform, cooking. Leave the lid slightly ajar to prevent steaming and be extra careful not to scorch the bottom vegetables. It’s perfectly all right to “peek” in on this recipe once in a while. When you do, take its temperature with a baby-dial thermometer.

    “Ranch Leg O’ Lamb”
    (Diminishing Heat – Pit Grilled – Boned Leg)

    Many folks prefer to remove the pelvic bone before roasting an entire 6 lb. leg of lamb, leaving the leg bone intact. Don’t saw through the bone. One hour before roasting the leg, remove as much fat from it as possible without cutting into the flesh.

    Make a paste of crushed garlic (lots of it), olive oil, your favorite chopped herbs (try rosemary, basil, and oregano), and a little salt, black pepper and red wine, then rub it well into the entire surface of the meat with your hands. Place whole, crushed, garlic cloves into incisions made in the meat. Our ranch outfit prefers wagonloads of garlic, rosemary, and lemons and folks have told us they could smell the aroma of the cooking meat long before they entered the canyon.

    Using a pit thermometer, roast the leg upon a grill or slowly rotating spit suspended above the coals at 450 degrees F. for ten minutes with moist alder or hickory chips for smoke flavoring. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. and continue cooking for twenty more minutes without adding more smoke chips.

    Reduce the heat again using a “slow fire” at 325 degrees F. and continue roasting the lamb for half an hour more. Reduce the heat once again, to 225 degrees F. and finish the cooking in twenty more minutes. Test the meat for smoke flavoring and doneness. It may be necessary to add more chips and cook the leg a little longer. The meat in the center of the lamb should be pink, but cooked.

    Adjusting the heat of an open grill is a bit tricky at first and as there is nothing worse than overcooked lamb, you should pay constant attention to your fire. Again, roast the meat until it’s just pink in the center and a little juicy. I’ve known cooks to spray water on the coals to reduce heat but end up with ashes all over the meat. A more practical method is to remove the spit temporarily and rake out a few coals or simply move the lamb further away from the heat source. However, as you develop your own cooking secrets, please remember: Never cook meat over the open flames of a campfire or a grill fire. Always use hot glowing coals.

    “Getaway Gulch Barbecued Lamb”
    (Greek-Style Lamb Skewers)

    Some of the finest friends I’ve had, and the nicest people I’ve known, are emigrants from literally every country in the world. Most early settlers of eastern Utah came to work in the coalmines or on the local railroad lines and as a result, coal-rich Carbon County has always been known as a “melting pot” of all peoples. Yup pards, this is where Butch Cassidy robbed the mine payroll and other desperados shot up our streets, a county attorney, and a couple of sheriffs. We’ve always enjoyed a special resolve here, as we simply have not experienced ethnic or cultural problems so prevalent in other communities. Somehow, everyone has always been respectful and courteous of one another’s allegiances and backgrounds and I’ve always been truly grateful for such an intermixture of nationalities in eastern Utah. After all, these folks elected me their sheriff!

    Forget about soaking bamboo sticks, purchase a nice set of stainless steel skewers, and try alder or apple wood for grill-roasting and smoking marinated lamb. In Greece, of course, trimmed olive branches are used. By the way, did you know that in ancient Greece, it was illegal to cut down an olive tree? Yup! And the penalty? Death! Here are the ingredients for the marinade that “Gorgeous George” meticulously prepared. You may adjust the proportions yourself to cover the amount of meat you intend to baptize. Grill marinated lamb pieces on skewers, with staggered onions, green bell pepper chunks, and zucchini slices. Please don’t “cram” all the pieces together on the skewers. Allow a little space between each item so the heat and smoke may penetrate the food.

    “Gorgeous George’s Marinated Lamb Skewers”
    (Greek White Wine Marinade)

    1 cup dry Greek white wine or sherry
    3/4 cup Greek “fermented cooking sauce” * (soy or Worcestershire is ok)
    8 tblspns. minced garlic
    1/2 tsp. lemon zest
    2 tblspns. extra virgin olive oil
    juice of two lemons
    juice of one lime
    3 sprigs fresh rosemary
    1/2 tsp. thyme
    1 tsp. minced parsley
    1/2 cup very hot water

    Shred the needles from a few sprigs of rosemary and place them into a half-cup of very hot water with the parsley, lemon zest, thyme, and minced garlic. When the water cools to room temperature, add all the other ingredients, placing the mixture into a plastic food storage bag, along with lamb cut into 1″ squares. Marinate the lamb chunks an hour or two before placing them upon skewers with larger pieces of onions and green bell peppers having been brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Include other favorite vegetables, chilies, or fruit and grill them above less hot coals with plenty of moistened hardwood chips or sawdust producing heavy smoke.

    Greek Lamb Stew

    Lamb cooked in the tradition of the Greeks in this part of the country is legendary and their recipes are certainly traced to the old country. Many of the best cowboys and sheep men in the west, have been of Greek decent. Simply ask anyone living in the Rockies. My ol’ pal, George, a decorated war hero fighting the Nazis, immigrated to America following the war, where he owned and operated his Greek restaurant for years before passing away. As a young sheriff, I spent much of my time in his restaurant kitchen, a place I called “Getaway Gulch”, and affectionately, I called him “Gorgeous George”. The much reserved, white-haired, skilled Renaissance man was a true sourdough and he chivalrously overlooked my raw inexperience as he took me beneath his wing to prepare Greek lamb recipes of all types.

    Lamb stew should really be called “lamb soup”. In the following recipe, cut the lamb into one-inch cubes and brown them inside a Dutch oven using a little olive oil. Some folks add a little lemon zest at this point. Add the green onions and the flour, stirring the mixture to cook the flour slightly. Care must be taken to avoid burning the green onions. Deglaze the cast iron using wine while scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the water, tomatoes, garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and bay leaf and simmer the mixture an hour. Remove the meat and strain the liquid into a bowl. Place the lamb back into the Dutch oven with the strained liquid. Discard the strained solids then season the stew to taste with salt and pepper. In a large black skillet, melt the butter over medium low heat then add the carrots, turnips, garlic, and onions, sautéing them until they are browned only. Add the vegetables to the broth and lamb inside the Dutch oven, covering and simmering the lamb stew for 30 minutes until the meat is tender, adding more water as necessary. Skim off the fat and serve the lamb stew with your own rustic garlic toasted bread.

    “Hog Leg Lamb”
    (Traditional Greek Lamb Stew)

    4 lbs. lamb shoulder
    2 tblspns. olive oil
    4 tblspns. green onions (chopped)
    2 tblspns. flour
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    3 cups water or stock
    30 oz. tomatoes (diced)
    6 large garlic cloves (minced)
    1/2 tspn. thyme
    1 tspn. rosemary
    1/2 tspn. parsley flakes
    1 bay leaf
    salt and pepper
    6 carrots (shredded)
    4 turnips (quartered)
    1 rutabaga (large dice)
    16 small white onions (peeled)
    3 tblspns. butter

    “Dry Gulch Garlic”
    Garlic Butter

    1 cup butter (softened)
    6 cloves roasted garlic (paste)
    2 tblspns. parsley (finely minced)
    2 tblspns. onion (finely chopped)
    1/2 tspn. freshly ground black pepper

    With one stroke of a sharp knife, cut the tops from multiple cloves of garlic, as they remain attached to their roots in whole heads. Do not separate the cloves or remove their paper. Wrap each head in aluminum foil and bake them inside a 325-degree F. oven for an hour. When baked and cooled, squeeze the cooked garlic pasty pulp (flesh) from each clove and discard the skins. Mix the paste with the butter, parsley, onion, and black pepper. Spread the mixture on slices of Italian baguette and toast them in a hot oven a few minutes.

    “Lawman’s Lamb Stew”
    (Western Lamb And Tomato Stew)

    4 tblspns. tomato paste
    1-cup chicken broth
    1 tblspn. peanut oil
    4 lbs. lamb stew meat
    2 onions (chopped)
    2 stalks celery (diced)
    6 cloves garlic (minced)
    1 beer
    3/4 cup raisins
    1/2 tspn. red pepper flakes
    1 tspn. turmeric
    1/4 tspn. black pepper.
    40 oz. tomatoes (diced)

    You’ll quickly notice a smooth tomato-celery combination in this recipe. The beer adds the flavor of hops and grains. Mix the tomato paste with the chicken broth then set it aside. Cut the lamb into one-inch dice and sear the meat in hot peanut oil inside a “campfire pre-heated” Dutch camp oven. Reduce the heat by removing the oven from the coals temporarily. Add the onions, celery, and garlic, “threatening” them with the residual heat of the cast iron a minute or two only, while they give up their flavors. Add the tomato-broth mixture and continue cooking, placing the oven back over the hot coals of the fire. Add the remaining ingredients except the tomatoes, cover the oven, and simmer the stew sixty minutes, checking the heat frequently while stirring it occasionally. Finally, add the tomatoes, cover the oven, and simmer the stew thirty more minutes having replenished the charcoal briquettes upon the oven’s lid. This is another lamb stew recipe customarily made without heavy, thickened, gravy.

    “Tumbleweed Stew”
    (Spring Lamb Stew)

    2 lbs. boneless lamb shoulder
    1/4-cup flour
    1 tblspn. peanut oil
    2 cups lamb or chicken stock
    4 cloves garlic (minced)
    1/2 tspn. salt
    1/4 tspn. black pepper
    1/4 tspn. dried thyme
    1/2 tspn. basil
    1/2 tspn. oregano
    28 oz. tomatoes (chopped)
    1 cup fresh (or frozen) green beans
    1 cup fresh (or frozen) peas
    2 yellow onions (sliced)

    Here’s lamb stew with fresh spring green beans and peas. Of course, you may use frozen vegetables if spring is yet a few months away. Cut the lamb into three-quarter inch dice and coat the pieces with flour. Heat the oil inside a Dutch oven over medium heat and brown the lamb. Add the stock, garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme, reduce the heat, cover the oven, and simmer the stew sixty minutes, stirring it occasionally. Finally, add the basil, oregano, tomatoes, green beans, peas, and onions, cover the oven and simmer 15 more minutes or until the vegetables become tender. For maximum flavor, remember to saute’ and caramelize the onions before adding them to the stew.

    Greek Festival Days And Lamb Stew

    As far back as I’m able to remember, each August, the Greek folks in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado began sharpening their knives, collecting loads of garlic, hoarding rosemary, and diligently shopped for California lemons. It was (and is) Greek Festival Days and people attend from all over the west! Building a huge pavilion shelter near the Greek Church in Price, Utah, the festival easily handles hundreds of people at a time. Later during the month, they move the festivities to Salt Lake City and do it all over again! One must show up early, as there is always a line of folks waiting to get in. What a celebration it is, as all the wonderful older Greek ladies born in the old country show the youngsters how to prepare the delicacies for which they’ve become famous. The men roast and grill lamb while the women prepare grape leaves, stews, gyros, suvlaki, and other tasty tidbits of fine Greek culture. Everyone’s favorite seems to be grilled lamb on a stick and multi-cultured folks just sit down and talk about the festival, enjoying each other’s company. If you attend, please try the gyros and Greek lamb stew. Often hangin’ around Gorgeous George and others of Greek ancestry, I learned how to prepare great Greek food when I was younger – not a bad endeavor for a pudgy little Swiss boy, eh?

    The very best Greek Lamb Stew requires a little planning and preparation. First, slowly roast a leg of lamb using as much garlic, rosemary, and lemons as you can possibly load into the back of your pickup truck! Use a little sage with onion too. When the meat begins to separate from the bones, dice and reserve it. Kick up the heat and continue to roast the bone several hours.

    Make your Greek Lamb Stew inside a large Dutch oven, preparing a “simmerin’ sauce” by slowly cooking 1/2 cup burgundy wine with slices of a fresh yellow onion, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, a bay leaf, three crushed cloves of garlic, and a teaspoon of fresh rosemary. When the bone is well cooked, simmer it in the sauce and add as much lamb stock as you desire. Having refrigerated the mixture, skim off the fat. Strain the solids, add the lamb dice with chopped fresh parsley, shredded carrot, (try parsnip or turnip too) with frozen green peas, then simmer the stew until the carrots are barely tender. Wow, it just doesn’t get better than this!

    “Robber’s Roost Rack”
    (Rack Of Lamb)

    1 full rack of lamb (and don’t peel the bones!)
    extra virgin olive oil
    2 tblspns. rosemary (chopped)
    2 tblspns. thyme (chopped)
    salt and pepper
    1 cup red wine
    3 cloves garlic (chopped)
    1 tblspn. butter

    Sheep have always naturally produced lambs in March and April. Now days, modern animal husbandry allows for lamb of varying ages to be available year round. As sheep age and mature, their meat becomes darker, gamier tasting, and less tender. Lamb is far more popular in other parts of the world, particularly the Mediterranean, than it is inside the United States. The average American scarcely consumes about a pound of lamb per year, with the rack of lamb, cut from the rib section, being almost everyone’s favorite. Why do Americans persist in not cooking rabbits or lamb? What is wrong with us?

    Whenever particular folks order a rack of lamb inside an classy restaurant, they invariably receive an expensive full rack containing eight ribs with the bones “Frenched”, having the meat scraped away from the tips for a nice appearance. It is time to shoot the cook again as any legitimate, literate, lamb lover on the level will tell you that the best part of feasting on rack of lamb is nibbling on the bones afterward. The bones are delectable, and even though propriety should restrain a well-mannered cowpoke from gnawing on them in public, stark concerns of etiquette often cheat a genuine mutton maniac out of a delicious snack the following day. We should lynch the dude who decided naked bones look better than meaty ones. Assuming four chops will serve one person, one rack will feed two people.

    The chine bone, part of the spine, if not removed, will prevent the cutting of individual chops. Ask your butcher to remove it or do it yourself. Trim only part of the excess fat from the rack as some of it is needed to naturally baste the meat as it cooks. Lightly brush the meat with olive oil, then sprinkle both sides with half of the rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Place the rack into a large Dutch oven or cast iron roasting pan, with a grate on the bottom, and cook it at 375 degrees F. Forget the cooking time and cook the lamb by registering its temperature frequently. Remove the lamb when a thermometer placed dead center inside the meat reads 125˚ F. degrees for rare, 130˚ F. for medium rare, and 135˚ F. for medium. Remove the roast from the Dutch oven, place it upon a serving platter, cover it with aluminum foil, and allow it to rest while the meat re-absorbs its juices. Don’t even think about cooking the lamb any longer!

    For sauce, place the Dutch oven over hot coals or a high burner, add the wine, bring it to a boil and deglaze the fond, scraping the browned bits from the bottom. Add the remaining rosemary and thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Reduce the sauce to at least half, add the butter at the end, and then strain it. Carve the roast into individual chops and pour the sauce over them. For a delicious variation, you may substitute homemade beef or veal stock for the wine, or use a combination of stock and wine.

    “Bootjack’s Broiled Baa-Baa”
    (Broiled Lamb)

    A “bootjack” is a pivoted plank of wood with a leather-lined notched “V” cut into one end where a cowboy places the heel of each boot to easily remove both at the end of a hard day. “Bootjack” Henry came from western Canada where his face appeared upon various wanted posters. We didn’t ask, and he didn’t explain. We instantly liked the personable man as he proved himself to be an experienced and reliable ranch hand, and an outstanding cook. Bootjack tucked his pant legs inside his boots, buttoned his shirt collar, parted his slicked-down hair in the middle, and everyone teased him about style that had gone out with the stagecoach to Tucson… that is, until he put lamb cuts on the grill to broil. Whenever the other ranch hands began combing their hair and tuckin’ in their pant cuffs, they could depend on broiled lamb for supper, knowing the secrets of great broiled chops never go out of style. Bootjack’s favorite ol’ sourdough tricks included butterflying the cuts then marinating them three hours in any real wine with garlic, lemon, rosemary, and other favorite spices and herbs. The meat was drained and the marinade was brought to a boil and used later in the basting process. Bootjack mixed a rub with salt, pepper, and something he called “necessary and imperative” – a mixture of fresh rosemary, garlic powder (not garlic salt), grated lemon rind, and oregano. The ol’ cow-cusser broiled the lamb four inches from the heat source for four minutes, then, turning the meat over, six inches from the heat source for six minutes. He sliced a piece to see if the center was barely pink, knowing he may have had to char the surface just a bit longer by placing the meat closer to the heat source.

    Greek Gyros

    Gyros, (pronounced “yuros”), are delicious wraps of lamb, cheese, vegetables, and a special Greek “Tzatziki sauce made with yogurt, garlic, lemon, and cucumber. Large restaurants stack pounds of lamb onto vertical rotisseries and slowly roast the meat as it turns (consequently the name gyro), shaving off long, perfectly roasted crispy strips. Highly spiced with oregano and onion, the mixture is bound by Pita pocket bread.

    Here’s an authentic Pita bread recipe I stole from a Greek Goddess after she broke my heart more years ago than I care to remember. In the Middle East, this recipe (in Arabic) is called Khyubz. The Greeks call it Pita in the west. The bread is soft, chewy, absorbent, easily reheated, and the hollow pouch is perfect for wrapping Lamb Gyros. Store unused bread in plastic bags to keep it from drying out. Don’t confuse Greek “Pita” with Turkish-made “Pide” bread, made with similar ingredients but with added black sesame seeds and egg glaze.

    “Ranch House Pita Bread”
    (Greek Pita Bread Made In The Ranch Oven)

    2 tspns. dry yeast
    ½ tspn. sugar
    1-1/4 cups water
    3-3/4 cups bread flour
    1 tspn. sea salt
    2 tblspns. olive oil

    Add the yeast, having checked the expiration date, and sugar to half the water, stir to dissolve it, and allow it stand five minutes. Mix the salt with the flour inside a large bowl and make a “well” in the center of the mixture. Pour in the dissolved yeast and the olive oil and start mixing the ingredients together. Add the remaining water a little at a time as needed to make a firm, soft dough.

    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it about fifteen minutes. The dough will soften a bit as you work with it. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to coat the dough evenly. Cover the mixture with a dishtowel and allow it to rise 1-1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and allow it to rest ten minutes.

    Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Roll out each dough ball on a lightly floured surface, forming quarter-inch thick ovals each about nine inches long. Cover the ovals with a dishtowel and allow them to proof twenty minutes while they rise slightly.

    Dust two baking sheets with flour and preheat them to 425 degrees F. for five minutes. Place the ovals onto the baking sheets and return them immediately to the hot oven. Bake the Pitas from five to ten minutes until they puff and begin to turn golden brown. Remove the Pitas from the oven and wrap them in a clean, dry cloth to keep the crusts soft and the bread moist. If you prefer whole-wheat Pitas, substitute ¾ cup of the white flour in the recipe with whole-wheat flour.

    “Pistolero’s Pita”
    (Greek Pita Bread For Lamb Gyros On The Trail)

    3 cups white flour
    1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    1 cup tepid water (about 110 degrees F.)
    1 packet of yeast (check the expiration date)
    1 tspn. honey or sugar
    1 tspn. salt
    1 tspn. olive oil

    In a large bowl, stir the yeast, whole-wheat flour, and the honey (or sugar) into the water and allow it to proof ten minutes. Add two cups of the white flour with the salt and stir the mixture into a batter. With your hands, mix in the remaining cup of flour and the olive oil and knead the mixture into dough.

    Cover the bowl with a towel and allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in volume. Punch down the dough, transfer it to a floured surface, and knead it a bit. Divide the dough into 6 ball pieces making sure you have plenty of flour on your work surface. Roll each ball flat, only 1/16” thin, allowing the circles to rest for half an hour. If you are at home, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. On the trail, use a very hot black iron skillet or camp-style Dutch oven. Many times, I’ve flipped over the lid of a camp Dutch oven, placing it upon the very hot coals of my campfire. It made a fine pita “griddle”.

    Always allow any cooking utensil to completely heat up before placing food upon or inside it. Spread a little cooking oil upon the surface and bake pita bread at a very hot 500 degrees! At this temperature, the bread’s surface will quickly brown as its soft interior bakes. To maintain the supple texture of each pita, place them into a paper bag and close it. When they’ve cooled, slice them in half and open the pockets with a table knife.

    “Getaway Gulch Gyros” With “Tzatziki sauce”
    (Greek Lamb Gyros)

    1 lb. lamb (ground)
    2 tblspns. yogurt (for marinating lamb)
    1 slice of day old white bread
    2- tblspns. milk
    1-tblspn. olive oil
    1-cup onion (minced)
    1-cup red onions (sliced)
    2 cloves garlic (minced)
    4 tblspns. lemon juice
    1 tspn dried oregano
    1 tspn ground cumin
    1 cucumber (seeded and finely diced)
    ¾ cup nonfat yogurt (drained) for Tzatziki Sauce
    1 tspn. fresh mint (finely chopped)
    1 cup shredded lettuce
    1 cup tomato (diced)
    Feta cheese (crumbled)
    4 “Pistolero’s Pita” or “Ranch House Pita” breads

    Marinate the lamb in a couple of tablespoons of yogurt overnight then shake off the excess yogurt. Soak the bread slice with the 2 tablespoons of milk and crush it into a panade with a fork. Using your hands, mix the bread panade well with the marinated ground lamb. Saute’ the onion and garlic in the olive oil then place the mixture into a bowl with the lamb, oregano, and cumin. Mix the ingredients thoroughly then shape four thin patties. Grill the patties only a couple of minutes on each side over medium low direct heat with a little hickory smoke, while you make a “Tzatziki sauce” combining the cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice and mint in small bowl. Cut around the edge of each pita bread and pull them open to form pockets. Fill each pita with the lettuce, red onion slices, tomato, lamb, Feta cheese, and the yogurt Tzatziki mixture.

    If you must… if you must… Eweuuuuuuuu – I hesitate to use the word.. substitute – great-tasting lamb because the misinformed, hoodwinked and persnickety little lady of the house has declared she, “just won’t have it”… then grill chicken breasts, marinated overnight in yogurt and cut into large dice. Better yet, ditch the “little lady” and find a sturdy female pioneer who loves garlic and lamb! Yes indeed, in this ol’ world, there are still some lop-eared, one-sided, mule-faced, mutton-punchin’, namby-pamby, yammerin’ yaks who just don’t seem to care for good lamb!
    Have a great Easter holiday everyone! This year, (2015), it falls on April 5th.

    Best Wishes,

    Attachment:  Gunslinger.docx

      1. Chuckwagon said:

        “Only a lop-sided, mule-eared, mutton-punchin’, namby-pamby, yammerin’ yak would be caught eatin’ mint jelly with perfectly good sheep meat! Yeeeee Hawwwww! “

        Is the lamb going to be carved and served with the use of some silverware, or are you just going to grab it off the serving plate with your hands and gnaw the meat off the bone? Mint-apple jelly should always be available on the side with a properly roasted leg of lamb. Would you offer prime rib without au jus or horseradish? Of course not! RAY

        1. What? Ray, have you been taking “Duk” lessons? Have you been lacing your whiskey sours with sheep dip? Don’t you realize that green mint jelly for lamb was invented by a perverse, deranged, and depraved, lunatic cowboy whose size 34 underwear shorts were stretched around his size 38 waist for hours at a time? Tarnation! We should have hanged that repugnant, mint-green, reprobate, wannabe-bottle washin’ scoundril while we had the chance a few years back! SheeeYuks pal… anyone who eats that awful stuff is just further evidence that he fell out of the saddle and landed square on his head inside a cactus patch! OOOoooooo!

      2. Yeah Mike,
        I once saw a sheep come a’ wandrin’ through a cow camp! It was mind-bogglin’ and distressful! Yes, it was a lugubrious and sorrowful sight – all those toughened, rough n’ tumble, weathered, cowboys running away in fright from a little lamb! It was just heart-breaking… watching all those gun-totin’, cowboy waddies shrinkin’ in fear and haulin’ ass outta there, screaming, “What is that – What is that?’
        Yes, truly distressful, I tell you! Mighty bothersome and discomforting, I say! There is just no reason at all for cowboys to fear sheep!

        Best Wishes,

    1. To see this recipe (and other delusional ramblings) by Chuckwagon, see the Recipes page and go down to “Lamb Preparation” in the “Specialized Guides” section.
      WOW! Boys-and-Girls! You can click here, if you’re in a hurry, for a printable PDF of your very own!

      1. What? Delusional ramblings eh? Delusional ramblings! Why, you sanitorium-bound skeet target! And just who appointed you Chief Waterfowl Officer? Shouldn’t that be Chief WaterFOUL Officer?
        I’ll have you know that every word I write is the absolute truth and I would not stretch a story for a bowl of El DuckO soup. Shucks, I can’t even remember ever being WRONG either! If there is any delusional rambling goin’ on round these parts, it’s being dreamed up and spread like manure by a danged ol’ Duk… A Duk with a lot of nerve and cold, steel-blue eyes… a Duk that does a lot of quacking just to hear himself quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Danged ol’ waddlin’ wackO anyway! OOOOOoooooo!

      2. Oh, YEAH??? Well, here’s a pair of photos. (By the way, it was delicious.) Click on ’em to enlarge and read the notes.

        My smoker won’t reach 325, let alone 400 degrees F like the recipe calls for. I use a thermocouple meat thermometer and go for the desired IMT. You do get some crispy outside, but not as much as you would at a higher temperature. …but it was still really good.


        1. Oh my goodness Duk! Quit moaning and follow these instructions:
          Find several dry sticks of wood and place them in the bottom of your smoker over a ball of crumpled newspaper. Stuff a lunch sack full of green pine needles and a half a dried-up cow “meadow muffin’. Next, place the sack on top of the sticks and newspaper. Pour a pint of motor oil over the entire works. Now, turn on your smoker and run away. Run away quickly. Run away and STAY away for several hours while it smokes like hell! The motor oil and pine needles will really impart an exclusively piquant and uncommonly unique flavor to your bacon!

          1. Sayyyy… Didn’t they make the solid fuel rocket motors for the Space Shuttle Booster in Utah, using a remarkably similar recipe? Hmmm… All that’s missing is the o-rings.

            Now that Space-X will be launching from South Padre Island, Texas, we could pay ’em a visit and suggest that, in NASA’s best interests, should become a contractor for the space program. We could soon litter the red planet’s Utah-like scenery with metal shards and discarded rib bones, much like your back yard probably looks.


        2. That looks wonderful Ducko, I could go for a slice of that right now! I like to pummel mine with garlic and some rosemary on the outside with some black pepper. I do them most often on my Ronco 4000 rotisserie, no smoke flavor but pretty darned juicy and yummy.RAY

        3. Yeah, Ray, I think I’ll have to fire up the Brinkmann to do it that way. The temperature just won’t go high enough in the electric. That way, I could get the crispiness and the smoke flavor too.

          I visited a Jewish family in the Bronx, back in college days. They strictly observed Kosher dietary guidance, not having dairy with the main meal. When it was finished, they’d take the kids into to the kitchen and have a glass of milk. Maybe that’s the way mint jelly was handled in CW’s household when he was a kid. We’ll have to see if there’s anything about mint jelly in the Kosher laws.


  4. Calculating Legal Amounts Of Sodium Nitrite

    During the mid 1970’s, I became interested in a congressional hearing that took place to define safe limits on the amount of nitrates and nitrites introduced into our meat products. It was determined by a panel of doctors that the maximum limit of ingoing nitrite in immersed, pumped, or massaged products be set at 200 parts per million.
    To obtain this, it becomes necessary to add precisely 4.2 ounces (120 grams) to one U.S. gallon of water. In the case of comminuted sausages, the maximum allowed limit of sodium nitrite was determined to be 156 parts per million. In non-cooked, dry-cured (air-dried) fermented sausages, the limit was set at 625 parts per million. At the end of the hearings, it was determined that much more study should be done regarding the subject and it was decided that the panel would reconvene to study the issue further and again make recommendations. After 37 years of waiting, I see that there yet remains a wide controversy regarding “safe” and “effective” levels.

    Solving For “n” (nitrite in curing mixture) In Comminuted Sausage:
    To calculate formulas regarding cures, it is necessary to convert the weight of all components to a common unit such as pounds, ounces, kilograms, grams etc. Let’s look at comminuted sausage first and solve the question, “If I grind and prepare 100 lbs. of sausage meat, how much cure #1 do I need to add to the mixture?” The formula solving for “parts per million” equals the curing mixture (unknown), times the percentage of sodium nitrite in the cure, times one million (parts), divided by the weight of the meat. Mathematically written, it looks like this:

    Parts per million = Curing mixture X % sodium nitrite in the cure X 1,000,000 (one million) ÷ Weight of meat

    Cure #1 contains 6.25% sodium nitrite. It is written as: 0.0625
    Maximum allowed parts per million sodium nitrite in comminuted products is 156 ppm.

    Solve for:
    Amount of Cure #1 (unknown represented by “n” for “nitrite”)

    The formula is written: 156 = n X 0.0625 X 1,000,000 ÷ 100
    Enter these figures into your calculator:
    n (nitrite)=156 X 100(lbs) ÷ 0.0625 X 1,000,000
    The answer is: n=0.2496 lbs. of Cure #1.
    0.2496 lbs. = equals 3.99 ounces or (113 grams)
    113 grams of Cure #1 is needed to cure 100 lbs. of meat.

    Solving For “n” (nitrite in curing mixture) In Brine-Cured Products
    Now let’s talk about a brine curing mixture. It’s easy to substitute 200 for 156 in the formula for parts per million, but we must remember that in comminuted sausage, the nitrite remains inside the sausage – becoming nitric oxide having been reduced by staphylococcus and micrococcus bacteria. In a brine-cured meat product, a specific amount of nitrite is taken up or “picked up” then the remainder is flushed straight down the drain. There are too many variables in the process, including duration time in proportion to strength, to make precise conclusions or even construct any number of graphs or tables to accurately predict outcome. As Stan Marianski says, “A meat piece can be immersed in brine for a day, a week, or a month, and a different amount of sodium nitrite will penetrate the meat. Brines with different salt concentrations will exhibit different speeds of salt and nitrite penetration.” – (Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages by Stan Marianski – Bookmagic). So, how do we ensure consistency?

    Commercial meat processors employ an injection process that eliminates conjecture insufficient to ensure reliability. Modern processors, using a “gang” of needles, stitch-pump a precisely measured amount of a defined and particular strength wet cure based upon a ten-percent pickup. Here is a link to a commercial chart with the most popular formulas: http://www.wedlinydomowe….peklowania4.htm

    So, if Ross has a ten pound ham, he needs to inject it with one pound of brine. To calculate the amount of Cure #1 in this case (placing it into a brine), we need to know the weight of a gallon of water. The formula reads, “Parts per million equal the curing mixture “n” (nitrite in curing mixture), times the % of sodium nitrite in the cure, times the pump percentage, times one million, divided by the brine weight”. Mathematically written, it looks like this:
    Parts per million = Curing mixture, X the % sodium nitrite in the cure,X pumped %, X 1,000,000 (one million) ÷ Weight of Brine

    Cure #1 contains 6.25% sodium nitrite. It is written as: 0.0625
    Maximum allowed parts per million sodium nitrite in brined products is 200ppm.
    Hams should be pumped at 12% using Cure #1. Several whole muscle meats require only 10% pumped curing brine.

    Solve for:
    Amount of Cure #1 (unknown represented by “n” for “nitrite”)

    Note that this time we are factoring in the pumped percentage required by the particular meat (i.e. 12% for hams). We are also dealing with the weight of the brine rather than the weight of the meat. A gallon (U.S.) of water weighs 8.33 lbs. If that water is saturated (100°), it contains 2.64 lbs. of salt. This is the point where no more salt may be dissolved in the water and the total weight of the gallon of water becomes 10.03 lbs. Because we do not use saturated brine (100°), the weight of brines will vary according to how much salt is contained in them. A very popular brine is that of 40°SAL strength. However, reducing the strength (from 100° to 40°) drops the weight of a gallon to 9.5 lbs.

    So, the “curing mixture” = parts per million, X brine weight, ÷ % pump, X 0.0625 (sodium nitrate in the cure) X 1,000,000 (one million).
    Written, it becomes: “n” = 200 (parts per million) X 950 (brine weight) ÷ 0.12 (percent pump) X 0.0625 X 1,000,000.

    Let’s say El DuckO decides to mix up a hundred gallons of brine to “cure a herd of longhorns on the spot” pumping… not hams this time at 12%, rather beef chucks at only 10%! How much Cure #1 will he need to add to the water to make a curing brine? Grab yer’ calculators cowboys. Yee Haw!

    Solve for “n” (nitrate) using the formula above.
    n = 200 X 9.5 ÷ 0.10 X 0.0625 X 1,000,000
    Check you math here. 200 X 9.5 = 1900. That number is divided by the product of .10 X .0625 X 1,000,000 which is 6250
    The answer is: n=0.30 lbs. of Cure #1 (based on 9.5 lbs. per gallon)
    0.30 lbs = 4.8 ounces or 136 grams

    In the United States, the only folks with access to pure sodium nitrite are commercial professionals who cure meat for a living. They basically use the formula above, but substitute pure sodium nitrite in their own formulas in place of the hobbyist’s “Cure #1” which is mixed with salt. By equally dispersing nitrate into salt via a roller “drum”, Griffith Laboratories developed “Prague Powder Cure #1” containing 6.25% sodium nitrite and 93.75% sodium chloride. Because many nations around the globe (including the United States) yet do not use the metric system, I’ve found that many people are confused when it comes time to put a specific number of “grams” into a curing mixture. Let’s see if we can eliminate some of the confusion by posting a few mathematical equations:

    1 ounce of Cure #1 = 6 level teaspoons (2 tablespoons). One ounce of cure weighs 28.35 grams.
    4 ounces of Cure #1 will cure 100 lbs. of sausage. Four ounces of cure weigh 113.4 grams.
    1 ounce of Cure #1 will cure 25 lbs. of sausage.
    ½ ounce of Cure #1 will cure 12 lbs. of sausage. This means less than ½ ounce will cure ten pounds of sausage.
    4.8 ounces of Cure #1 (in the formula above) is equal to 136 grams and will cure 100 lbs. of meat.

    I hope this takes some of the mystery out of calculating nitrites in meat. For more information on this subject, refer to “Home Production Of Quality Meats And Sausages”… by Stan and Adam Marianski, and “The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages”… by Stan and Adam Marianski. (See

    Best Wishes,

  5. And Speaking Of Salt…

    Does kosher salt taste better than table salt? Interestingly, yes, it does. As kosher salt is pressed together by huge rollers, the grains become pyramid-shaped, allowing them to dissolve more easily so it does not linger on the tongue. It’s made without additives, by compacting granular salt into larger flakes that tend to draw blood easily from freshly butchered meats. Kosher salt, at about seventy cents a pound, is ideal to cook with as it blends well, is clean tasting, and contains no additives to influence flavors of cooked foods.

    How many times have you been tempted to leave out the “pinch” of salt called for in your favorite recipes just because we eat more than 25 times as much salt as is necessary to maintain good health? The fact remains, salt is a flavor enhancer that is just as important in sweet recipes as it is in savory dishes. In sausage making, it is an essential ingredient. Never tamper with the amount of salt given in a sausage-making recipe. It is critical in controlling bacteria, destroying possible spiralis trichinella, assists with binding, and assists with dropping the AW in fermented type sausages. Sweet recipes without salt, taste flat and boring. That little pinch of salt reinforces flavors such as butter and vanilla, and that’s not all… it actually masks and suppresses bitter flavors like those of yeast, leavening agents, coffee, eggplant, bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, flour proteins, and many other foodstuffs we consume.

    Salt is just salt, right? So why do so many people get excited over the simple seasoning? Although most of us are concerned with its application inside the kitchen, in today’s world salt has more than 40,000 applications from manufacturing to medicine! The ancient Greeks traded salt for slaves, originating the phrase “not worth his salt”. Roman soldiers were partially paid with garlic and salt, explaining the origin of the word salarium (Latin for salt) meaning salary. Salting fish made long-range explorations possible in the age of sailing ships.

    Great chefs have always known the amount of salt in a recipe is important, but the type of salt is crucial. Most of us amateurs are familiar with common table salt (sodium chloride) in granulated form. Mined much the same as coal, rock salt is further processed using water to form small, uniformly shaped cubes. The problem with this type of salt is its inability to dissolve readily, leaving crystals lingering on the tongue. Perhaps you remember when iodine was added to common table salt to prevent medical problems as thyroid disease. Iodized salt is never used in sausage making or meat preservation as it alters the taste of the products.

    Today’s “trendy” salts are expensive in comparison to kosher salt and their flavors dissipate during cooking. Nevertheless, some folks purchase exotic salts for “finishing” (sprinkling on food) and it is not uncommon to see price tags in excess of thirty dollars per pound. Maldon Sea Salt is an English finishing salt receiving a delicate flavor from boiling sea water to produce hollow, pyramid-shaped crystals. At about eleven dollars a pound, it is light on the tongue and may actually be crushed between the fingers. France’s Sel Gris is called “gray salt” and is made along the country’s Atlantic coast when shallow basins are flooded with seawater before the month of May when the evaporation process begins and continues through September. Harvested by raking, it picks up it characteristic flavor from minerals in the clay of the basins. A refined by-product of Sel Gris is called Fleur de Sel (flower of salt). On calm, warm, days without wind, the gray Sel Gris “blooms”, creating white, lacy, crystals of carefully hand-harvested finishing salt with a high price tag. Hawaiian Sea Salts are either black or red. The red salt contains the distinct flavor iron, introduced by the soil used to color the substance. The black salt is flavored with purified lava and contains a flavor and aroma of sulfur.

    Adding a pinch of salt to cream or egg whites will enable them to whip better, faster and higher. Improve the flavor of any fresh fowl by salt brining or simply rubbing the bird inside and out (beneath the skin) with salt before roasting. Safeguarding preserved foods, salt creates a hostile environment for certain microorganisms by altering osmotic pressure and dehydrating bacterial cells. Historically, meat has required upwards of 8% salt for its preservation. With the widespread use of Prague Powders (sodium nitrates and nitrites), salt levels are now reduced to less than a palatable three percent. As complete elimination of salt is not possible, it is most important to never reduce or increase the prescribed amount of salt in a sausage, ham, or bacon-making recipe, as salt serves as a binder and fine-tunes certain proteins in meat enabling them to hold water.

    Salt is amazing! It’s an excellent cleaning agent by itself or used in combination with other substances. A paste of salt and vinegar cleans tarnished brass or copper and strong salt brine poured down the kitchen sink prevents grease from collecting and helps eliminate odors. Salt and soda water will clean and sweeten the inside of your refrigerator without scratching the enamel. A thin paste of salt and salad oil removes white marks from wooden tables caused by hot dishes or water. In mild solutions, it makes an excellent mouthwash, throat gargle, or eyewash. It is an effective dentifrice, antiseptic, and it can be extremely helpful as a massage element to improve complexion. Rub your hands with salt and lemon juice to remove fish odors. Peeled apples, pears, and potatoes dropped in cold, lightly salted water, will retain their color. The stuff even helps destroy moths and drives away ants. Salt tossed on a grease fire on the stove or in the oven will smother flames. Remove bitterness from percolators and other coffee pots by filling them with water, adding four tablespoons of salt and percolating or boiling as usual.

    Table Salt…….…………………………..1 cup……………292 gr. …10.3 ounces
    Morton (Kosher).…………………..1-1/2 cups..……..218 gr. ..…7.7 ounces
    Diamond-Crystal (Kosher) ………..1 cup……………142 gr. ….5.0 ounces

    Note that 1 cup of regular table salt weighs more than twice as much as 1 cup of Diamond Crystal (Kosher) salt.

    There are 6 grams in ONE flat teaspoon of TABLE SALT.
    1 oz. (28.3 gr.) = 1-1/2 Tblspns. (4-1/2 tspns.)
    2 oz. (56.7 gr.) = 3 Tblspns. (9 tspns.)
    ½ cup = 146 gr. (.322 lb.) or (5.15 oz.)
    1 cup = 292 gr. (.644 lb.) or (10.3 oz.)
    Prague Powder (Instacure) – 1 ounce (28.3 gr.) = 2 tblspns.
    1 ounce salt = 1-1/2 tblspns.
    The ideal salt content for (fresh) sausage, is about 2 g. per 100 g. meat.
    1 lb. salt = 1-1/2 cups

    How Salt Is Measured In Brine

    If the salt in the sea could be removed and spread evenly over the Earth’s land surface, it would form a layer more than 500 feet thick. Seawater averages 3.5% salt. When a cubic foot of seawater evaporates, it yields about 2.2 pounds of salt. In contrast, the fresh water in Lake Michigan contains only one one-hundredth (0.01) of a pound of salt in a cubic foot. That’s merely one sixth of an ounce. This means that seawater is 220 times saltier than the fresh lake water in Lake Michigan.

    The salinity of saltwater is measured in parts per thousand and the symbol 0/00 (parts per thousand), is used. For instance, the salinity of the Dead Sea (the world’s most salty endorheic body of water) is 30.4% or 304 0/00 meaning there are 304 pounds of salt in 1,000 pounds of its water. The level remains practically constant, unlike the Great Salt Lake in Utah where the water has a variable salt content between 8 and 27% or 270 0/00 in its heaviest concentration.
    Why… my goodness, the water is so buoyant in that ol’ lake that I’ve see horseshoes float on the surface!

    Using A Salinometer

    The only way to produce unvarying and consistent hams or other brined products, is to use a salinometer to detect the exact amount of salt in a brine. There is no “universal” or common brine, but there are general, suggested strengths. A floating glass salinometer tube has a stem marked by degrees from 1 to 100. One degree indicates only 0.264% salt and merely 0.022 pounds of salt per gallon. At the far end of the scale, 100 degrees indicates 26.395% salt and 2.986 pounds of salt per gallon. To strengthen the brine, simply add salt. To weaken it, add more water.
    There is an old conventional and generally accepted rule that recommends using enough brine water to equal fifty percent of the meat’s weight. In other words, for a 12 pound ham, six pounds of brine water will suffice. This means the container must be a bit “snug” and perhaps even shaped like the product. Some recommended strengths are:

    Poultry 21° (salinometer) degrees – 8 hours
    Ribs 50° (salinometer) degrees – 3 days
    Bacon 50-65° (salinometer) degrees – 1.5 days per lb.
    Canadian Bacon Loins 65° (salinometer) degrees – 5 days
    Hams & Shoulders 70° (salinometer) degrees – 1 day per lb.
    Fish 80° (salinometer) degrees – 2 hours

    A U.S. gallon of fresh water weighs 8.33 pounds. The maximum amount of salt it can hold (under normal circumstances at 60°F. (15°C.) is 26.4% (called the “saturation point”). Thus, one gallon of saturated brine contains 2.64 lbs. of salt and weighs 10.03 pounds.

    If you unearth a great recipe and wish to know the strength of the brine, find the percent of salt by weight in the solution by weighing the salt and adding the weight of the water. Multiply the sum by 100%. Locate the percentage on a “Salinometer Brine Tables Chart (on the internet or accompanying your salinometer purchase) in the center column – the percent of salt by weight. The corresponding left side column gives us the number of Salinometer DEGREES, and the right side column, the number of pounds of salt per gallon of water.

    Yup Pards! Its just like meetin’ a bear on a tightrope. There is just no getting around it! If you want consistent results with your meat products, you’ll find the use of a salinometer is essential.

    Hmmm…. Winchester 12 gauge salt loads! … keeping kids off your lawn since 1886!

    Best wishes,

  6. Two Very Special Men
    Sausage Secrets Handed Down Through Generations

    Prior to the late 1980’s, much of the technical information we take for granted today, was simply not available. It wasn’t found in libraries or schools, and certainly not something that would later be known as the “internet”. Sausage-makers had to rely on information being “handed down” from generation to generation. In Europe, the secretive old masters had taught their sons, but some of the information was being lost as it became “inherited”, not to mention any subtle changes taking place. Sausage-making had always been a closely-guarded, secret craft, available to only those who were lucky enough to have family mentors.

    A Polish American, Rytek Kutas, had much inherited information from his Polish family, but had to learn much more from scratch and “trial and error” as well. Rytek was often found at the local library studying the limited amount of information available. Disappointed when he couldn’t find the answers to the carefully guarded secrets of the industry, he traveled directly to the large companies, asked questions, and took notes. Upon opening his “Hickory Shop” in 1966 Las Vegas, he found me stumbling in for the first time. I remember how great the place smelled and the two “cool” guys behind the counter – Rytek and Hank. That’s about the time Rytek uttered those immortal words, “While I was learning, I threw out more sausage than I ever saved”.

    It seems that during the 1960’s, not many folks were sharing their secrets. However, Rytek was always happy to share his knowledge with anyone and throughout the 1970’s, Rytek wrote his remarkable book, “Great Sausages And Meat Curing”, copyrighting it in 1984. Incredibly, no one would publish it! So, sharing with the public, all the secrets he’d learned over a lifetime, along with numerous recipes, he published it himself! By the time the book was in its second edition, it had become the standard “required reading” for most agricultural and meat processing courses at most every university in the United States. It is now in its fourth printing.

    In 2007, I heard about a man who was writing a book about fermented sausages. I wrote to him and he replied immediately, sending me a copy of his first manuscript copyrighted in 2008. The author (Stan Marianski) was one of the founders of the Polish organization and website called Wedliny Domowe, – dedicated to the preservation of the old master’s time-proven techniques and recipes. Although I am not Polish, I became the moderator of the English-speaking division of “Wedliny Domowe”, and Stan and I became friends. When Stan Marianski published his comprehensive book, “The Art Of Making Fermented Sausages” in 2008, he explained to the public, just how and why all those secret methods and rules were applied. Then in 2010, Stan released his book, “Home Production Of Quality Meats And Sausages” and today it remains the premier publication sought by home hobbyists as well as professionals. These two altruistic men revolutionized home-sausage-making by unselfishly sharing technical information not available previously. As a result, we “home hobbyists”, have an unlimited resource reserve. Thanks fellas!

    Best Wishes,

  7. Tasting Food With Your Nose
    Saddlebum Savvy And Recipe Rescues

    Do you realize we humans experience only four fundamental tastes? They are sweet, salty, bitter, and sour, although some scientists allege the existence of a fifth taste called “umami”, which they perceive as “savory”. As we make distinctions with the unique characteristics of tastes, we perceive flavors. Nothing new here, but did you know that the way a food smells actually accounts for more than 70 percent of the flavor we perceive? Why then, is the sense of taste so much less complex? It’s because our sense of taste merely makes distinctions in the quality of food (or any other material) we have already selected and placed into our mouths.

    In primitive man, a keen sense of smell was vital for successfully hunting food – often under dangerous conditions – and his ability to quickly detect and recognize thousands of odors became advanced. He could qualify it later, using his much less complex sensation of taste. Of course food had to taste good, simply to be palatable.

    Odors and aromas of foods need volatile compounds (organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions) to reach our nasal cavities, and the aroma of hot food is usually the only encouragement we need to straighten up and be seated at the dining table. That’s fine for hot pastrami, but what about cold Alysandra salami? When the temperature of food drops, very little vapor is released. Accordingly, most cold food does not have much odor, not to mention taste. Thus, a problem occurs when we prepare or eat cold food – how do we keep it interesting? How does one soup-up a sensational salami so it attracts a little attention? One solution is to use particularly pungent flavorings such as garlic or onion. Other foods may use citrus for a little potency. The best answer to the question is to spotlight the four basic tastes of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. Many sausage makers select strong-smelling seasonings to heighten taste, but because acidity may be detected at low temperatures, the development of lactobacilli becomes most essential, providing something we call “tang”. In some cultures, vinegar is sometimes used as it is in chorizo and similar sausages.

    Our sensitivity to salt remains somewhat uniform whenever tasting both cold and warm foods, and we usually add comparable quantities to each. Experienced cooks often check cold foods just before serving them to see if they require more salt. Experienced home sausage makers often cook up a quick sample and taste it before the batch is stuffed into casings.

    Another consideration sausage makers may be concerned with is an introduction of contrasting flavors. For instance, consumers often sprinkle salt on cold watermelon or pineapple to emphasize their sweetness by providing a distinctive counterbalance. The combination of honey and mustard make an interesting combination. In crafting flavors for meat, smoke and brown sugar often play an important part in addition to culturally indigenous spices and herbs such as marjoram in Polish sausages, fennel in Italian favorites, or sage in English bangers.

    We have roughly 10,000 taste buds inside our mouths; females having more than males. Taste buds sensing salty and sweet flavors are located near the front of the tongue while those identifying sour flavors line its sides. Bitter flavors are identified at the very back of the tongue. Our sense of taste is the weakest of the five senses, and as we grow older, our taste buds become much less sensitive – perhaps nature’s way of having us trim calories as we become less active as we age. However, older people are more likely to eat foods they once thought were too strong.

    It may be fun to really learn how to taste the sausages you make. Why not take a new approach to savoring your hard work? Begin by tasting any other food – soup for instance. Be sure to check the temperature before placing a scalding, savory, soup sample into your mouth. Juggling a spoonful of steaming, 210-degree “chicken-noodle ambush” inside your mouth will completely take your mind away from your immediate objective. Many chefs will have their customers “cleanse” their taste buds by placing a spoonful of ice cream on the tongue and immediately chasing it with a shot of carbonated soda such as Sprite or 7-Up. Next, enjoy the aroma of the sausage sample. Leave your nasal passages open and close your mouth. Close your eyes and move it all about your mouth or swirl it around a little as if tasting liquid. Notice which taste buds react most as you individually evaluate sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, or sourness. Concentrate and appraise each of the four tastes you were born with. Through experience, many chefs develop a talent for correcting their dishes by using their “mind’s eye” – imagining the effect of added seasonings upon their final effort. I’ve seen old time sausage makers taste, squint, rub their whiskers, reach inside the grub box, then add just exactly the right amount of one thing or another to the mixture, “seasonin’ the blend” perfectly. These same ol’ pros usually stick to the basics – salt, sugar, pepper, adding perhaps a single “signature spice” to make the best sausage. Most have learned that too much spice or too many spices are simply not necessary to create sensational sausage.

    Herbs come from plants – spices from seeds. Some just naturally blend well used together. For example, equal amounts of basil and oregano, with half as much thyme, make a first-rate choice seasoning for countless recipes, but once they’ve been added, the cannot be removed. In sausage, they are usually added minimal amounts. Rosemary, ginger, sage, and tarragon have comparatively strong flavors and as a general rule should be used sparingly. On the other hand, some spices or herbs should be used by themselves.

    Beginners, believing they may “neutralize” the sweetness of sugar by adding more salt, or curb the taste of salt by using more sugar, have much to learn. It doesn’t work. Yet, occasionally, some dishes may be adjusted or “pulled up” using a bit of “western saddlebum savvy”. The following remedies are not foolproof , yet may help if a particular situation is not too grim: If a food is too spicy, try adding some sweetness or creaminess. Too sweet? Don’t add salt! Try adding something sour or spicy hot. If a food is too bland, try adding salt or some spicy heat. If it’s too salty, don’t add sugar! As an alternative, try adding something sour. If something is just too harsh, you may try adding a touch of something sweet, and if your cooking just needs a kick in the fanny because it lacks depth, charge it up using something acidic or aromatic near the end of cooking – perhaps vinegar or an ingredient with just a bit of spicy heat in it. I’ve only one more note on the matter. The sausage making pros with years of experience, use very few spices and flavorings actually. Most ol’ timers say that sausage is best when the flavor of the meat is allowed to naturally shine through. They often tell beginners that how they make a sausage is equally important as what goes into it. I just hope your taste buds just reach up and tickle yer’ tonsils!

    1. Good post CW but at 1 am? Do you have an opinion (silly question eh) about the influence of difficult economic times on the use of several spices/herbs and fillers because meat itself was scarce or too expensive? Recently I’ve been looking into Cumberland sausage and that is the impression I have had about it..

      1. I think his conscience keeps him awake!
        I’ve seen speculation that meat would go bad, due to lack of refrigeration, and that people in France and India used spices as a way of disguising it, developing delicious foods as a result.

        1. The Duk wrote:

          I think his conscience keeps him awake!

          Why you (&!%#@%!!* danged duk! Will you pullll-eazzze hold still why I reload! Dad Gummit!

      2. Phil,
        We saw the photo of your Cumberland sausage by Len Poli all coiled up on “that other website”. Care to share the recipe with us?

        1. Geez, must have been a while ago cause I haven’t been on that other website for weeks. Today I’m trying Oddley’s Cumberland recipe from another of those other websites. I’ll post the recipe if it passes the fry test. This will also be my first time with sheep casings since DW has ordered breakfast links.

          1. Glad to hear it Phil. El DuckO wrote a perfectly acceptable post on that “other site” and they let it remain a few days… then they discarded it. His post did not violate any rules and it was not rude in any way. They just got rid of it after they saw WHO wrote it. If I were El DuckO, I’d be livid!
            It just goes to show you how small jealous people can be if they allow themselves to become envious and resentful. I see the old site has become a stale, cold, travel log, run by a mushroom picker with no sense of humor. Too bad.

          2. I remember going back to that “other site” a few months back to retrieve a recipe while CW and Ducky were still busy building this one. Boy howdy, talk about how the mighty have fallen, more deserters than the French army in WW2! Oh well, seems everyone has got what they deserve and everything has worked out quite nicely. Taking the heart out of something tends to make it not be quite as alive as it might have been, if ya get my drift. 12 more days until the great blast-off to Flaming Gorge! I’ll live on wild hog sausage and hip-shot burgers, my wife wants some salad too. Women are strange that way. RAY

  8. The ebb and flow of these sites is interesting as they do have a life of their own. Eg, the English are currently discussing the Umai bags as though they are a new discovery and keep referring to the older posts on the other site’ as reference material. There is no doubt in my mind that if the sites don’t keep contributing to knowledge they fall into disarray.
    The Bradley Smoker site has a thread going about the disappearance of the old timers with 2700 views and 62 replies including some from the guys ‘who have disappeared’.

  9. Common Sausages
    (A reference for a few of the more popular sausages around the world)

    Andouille, (Cajun ) pronounced ahn-dwee or ann-do-ee is a spicy, smoked Cajun sausage used in jambalaya and gumbo. It’s not to be confused with the milder French Andouille sausage and it is not usually eaten by itself other than being served as appetizers.
    Andouillette (pronounced ahn-dwee- yet) is a tripe (stomach lining) sausage and a smaller version of French Andouille sausage. This sausage is really quite different and takes some getting used to. However, some people have grown accustomed to its taste.
    Bauerwurst is a chunky German farmer’s sausage that’s often grilled and served on a bun or cooked with sauerkraut.
    Blood Sausages are made of pig’s blood mixed with fat and sometimes a filler like breadcrumbs or rice. Sold precooked, flavors vary from region to region, including Louisiana’s boudin, Germany’s blutwurst, and Spanish morcilla.
    Bockwurst is a mild, very perishable, German sausage made with pork, milk, eggs, chives and parsley. It must be cooked before serving.
    Boerewurst is a spicy South African farmer’s sausage, made with beef, pork, and pork fat, seasoned with coriander. It must be cooked before serving.
    Boudin Blanc (pronounced boo-dahn-blahn) is a white, milk sausage made of pork, chicken, or veal and rice. Boudin Rouge (Pronounced boo-dahn-roozh) is similar to boudin blanc, but includes pork blood.
    Bratwurst is made with pork and sometimes veal, and seasoned with subtle spices. It usually needs to be cooked before eating.
    Breakfast Sausage Patties are heavily seasoned with delicious sage and usually fried before serving. English Bangers are mild British pork breakfast sausages.
    Chaurice (pronounced shore-eese) is a spicy pork sausage used in jambalaya and other Creole and Cajun dishes. Available in links or patties, it’s hard to find outside of Louisiana.
    Chipolata (pronounced chippo-lah-tuh) are as small as Vienna sausages, but much spicier.
    Chorizo is fresh pork mixed with lots of spices. Don’t confuse Mexican chorizo (needs to be cooked), with dry-cured Spanish chorizo.
    Chourico (pronounced shore-ee-so) is a heavily seasoned Portuguese pork sausage.
    Cotechino (pronounced koh-teh-kee-no) is a mild and fatty Italian pork sausage. Pierce the links before cooking to allow some of the fat to drain out. This is a no-no in preparing other sausages.
    Cumberland Sausage is British pork sausage and usually made as a long coil, and sold by the length rather than the link. It’s baked in the oven with cabbage and potatoes.
    Frankfurters are hot dogs. Everybody knows all about America’s favorite most popular “wieners”. Note that in late 1998 several people died after being exposed to Listeria, a deadly bacterium traced to some improperly prepared hot dogs and deli meats. Make your own or know your butcher!
    Goetta is Ohio’s answer to Pennsylvania scrapple. It’s a mixture of fried oatmeal and sausage.
    Haggis is a large Scottish sausage made by stuffing a sheep’s stomach with the animal’s heart, lungs, and liver, and then adding oatmeal, onion, fat, and seasonings. It’s steam-cooked before serving.
    Italian Sausage is a pork sausage flavored with garlic and fennel seed. Available in sweet, mild, or hot varieties in bulk or links, it is probably second only to the popularity of Polish Kielbasa.
    Kielbasa is smoked Polish sausage made with pork and beef, flavored with garlic and marjoram.
    Kishke (pronounced kish-kah) is a Jewish specialty consisting of beef intestines stuffed with matzo meal, onion, and suet.
    Knockwurst is smoked beef sausage seasoned with lots of garlic. Cooked before eating, knockwurst is often served like hot dogs smothered in sauerkraut.
    Kolbasz is Hungarian sausage similar to Polish kielbasa with paprika added to it.
    Landjager is German “hunter” sausage of smoked beef, needs no refrigeration, and is handy to take on hunting trips.
    Lop Chong is a Chinese dried pork sausage. It looks and feels like pepperoni but is much sweeter.
    Linguica (pronounced lin-gwee-sah) is a fairly spicy Portuguese smoked garlic sausage, cooked before serving.
    Longanisa is much like kielbasa.
    Loukanika (pronounced loo-kah-nih-kah) is Greek sausage made with lamb, pork, and orange rind, cooked before serving.
    Medisterpoelse Sausage is a Danish pork sausage, cooked before serving.
    Merguez Sausage is North African lamb sausage seasoned with garlic and hot spices, often used in couscous dishes.
    Mettwurst is soft and ready to eat like liverwurst. It’s usually spread on crackers and bread.
    Morcilla is the Spanish salty version of blood sausage, usually made with onion or rice as filler.
    Pepperoni is a spicy sausage made with beef, pork, fennel, and caraway. It’s hard, chewy, and edible right from the casing.
    Pickled Pork is added to Louisiana bean dishes. It’s simple to make from scratch.
    Pinkelwurst is a German sausage made with beef, pork, onions, oat groats, and bacon. It’s often served with potatoes.
    Potato Korv is a Swedish pork sausage.
    Scrapple is a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty of sausage and cornmeal often slowly fried and served with eggs and grits.
    Sujuk is a spicy Lebanese beef sausage similar to salami.
    Tocino is Spanish for bacon. In the Philippines, it refers to cured pork marinated in a sweet red sauce.
    Toulouse Sausage (pronounced too-looz) is French sausage usually made with pork, smoked bacon, wine, and garlic. It’s a great sausage for casseroles and bakes.
    Vienna Sausages are mild cocktail wieners.
    Weisswurst are lightly colored, mildly seasoned, German veal sausages eaten with potato salad.

      1. Okay Graybeard…. start with the Haggis! OOOOOOOoooooooooo! I’ll pass, thank you!
        Steam cooked? What? Shucks, if they can’t smoke it over a campfire, I ain’t ta’ gonna eat it!

  10. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reports that Hillview Meat Processor has recalled raw pork and pork organ products supplied to food businesses in Calgary, Alberta, because of possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

    The recalled products were supplied to 11 companies in Calgary for further processing into raw meat cuts, ground pork, sausages and raw ready-to-eat products. These products were sold fresh or frozen up to 16 February and were distributed only in Alberta. They may have been sold pre-packaged, or clerk-served, with or without a label. An additional related recall of 13 prepared meal products containing pork and sold by Dashing Dishes in Calgary has also been initiated.

    These recalls were triggered by the findings of an investigation by the CFIA and provincial agencies in Alberta into an outbreak of foodborne illness. The outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infection under investigation has affected at least 14 people in the Calgary area and two of the cases have been linked to certain pork sausage products. However, the CFIA states that no cases of illness have yet been definitively linked to the recalled pork.

    Chuckwagon 2/24/16

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