granola bars
August 21, 2012, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Breakfast, Easy but not quick, Fruit, Grains, Nibbles, Technique | Tags: , , ,

I have a son who is very health conscious. He rides his bike 25-30 miles every morning before he goes to class (he’s studying to be a computer engineer), and likes to eat whole-grain high quality food with plenty of protein goodness that doesn’t have anything in it he can’t pronounce.  Like me, he thinks store bought granola bars taste stale and weird.

So,a while back (maybe a year ago?) in the interest of making it myself, I took to investigating recipes. I’d never made granola bars before. The recipe I like is Alton Brown’s (seriously, I never met a recipe of his I *didn’t* like!), so I made them.

Gonna make me some GRANOLA BARS!

Only…too much honey. We’re not fond of a heavy honey flavor. Also…butter. Animal fats are supposed to be bad for you. I needed a non animal fat that wasn’t shortening (thus hydrogenated). Also…I didn’t have any sunflower seeds. A seed is a seed is a seed. How about a grain instead? I know! Quinoa! it gives a great crunch and it’s high in protein!  And…I don’t have enough sliced almonds. I’ll used 1/2 sliced almonds and 1/2 whole. Who doesn’t like whole almonds?

So, I ended up altering the bejeejums out of his recipe and totally kind of almost made it my own.  So be it.  Also? I doubled it. A 9×9 [an of granola bars would last about 10 minutes here. And I used a jellyroll pan, which makes for kind of thin bars, that bake nicely. And cranberries, because that’s what I had. And 1/4 cup of chopped hazelnuts left over from something else because WHY NOT!?

Granola Bars

preheat the oven to 350 degrees

4 cups rolled whole oats

1 cup quinoa, rinse (quinoa has a naturally occurring resin-like coating that rinses off. It’s not poisonous, but has a bitter flavor)

1 cup each sliced and whole almonds (or 2 cups sliced, or any other assortment of nuts. Walnuts would be lovely!)

grainy nutty goodness

Mix all this together in a big bowl. Put on a couple of cookie sheets or roasting pans or whatever, and bake for 15 minutes, until it all starts to smell a little toasty.

Reduce the oven to 300 degrees.

In a pot, mix together

1 cup dark corn syrup*

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil**

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

tasty sweet syrupy stuff!

Bring this to a very slight simmer over medium heat on the stove- just so it’s starting to bubble around the edges and the brown sugar is dissolved.

In a great big bowl, mix together the toasty stuff from the oven, and 2 cups of dried fruit. I used cranberries. Raisins would be nice, so would dried blueberries, or apricots, or cherries, or a blend of stuff. 2 cups worth, tho.

Daisy, ever hopeful that something will be dropped, so she can assist in the cleanup. Good dog.

Pour the liquid sugar mix over the oats and stuff, and stir it in so everything is well coated and you don’t have any dry things. It will be lovely and sticky!

Smells GREAT!

Use a bit of coconut oil to grease a big jellyroll pan. I used a 10×14 stonewear pan, but metal or glass is fine. If you don’t have a pan that big with a lip,you can pat it out on a flat cookie sheet, since it won’t spread while it’s baking.

This is a Pampered Chef stoneware jellyroll pan.

Dump the mixture in the pan and spread it out evenly. Press it down with greased hands or a spatula.

Mash it in good. (That’s Southern for “press it in firmly”)

Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, until it starts to brown and smells lovely.

remove from the oven and press it down again. I used the flat bottom of a skillet to mash it, it’s hot so you probably don’t want to use your hands.  Let it cool for about 5 minutes, then carefully flip it over onto a piece of foil and it *should* drop onto it (if the pan was well greased). Let it cool a while longer then cut it into bars.

All bagged up!

*I used dark corn syrup this time. Then I made another batch and didn’t have enough corn syrup, so I used 1/2 cup of corn syrup (all I had!) and 1/2 cup of plum jelly. I like the jelly idea and will probably use it again, because I get many jars of plum jelly every Summer and we aren’t really jelly eaters around here.
**coconut oil adds a nice delicate coconut flavor to the bars. You can also use plain vegetable oil or butter. I wouldn’t use olive oil. Wrong sort of flavor.

If you like, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

Use any sort of nuts! Play around with the fruits, add MORE if you want to! In the second batch, that I used the plum jelly in, I scrounged the pantry and found many bags of dried fruits that didn’t have enough of anyone kind for a recipe of anything, but all together made about 3 cups worth, so I made extra fruity bars with walnuts and no quinoa…they have currants, cherries and cranberries.
The main thing is the technique and proportion of syrupy stuff to dried oaty stuff. Mash it all firmly into the pan before and after baking, let them cool before cutting, that sort of thing.


Summer goodness

The weekly visit to L&D Market happened today. That’s the local place that sells locally grown produce, with a friendly 12 year old stocking tomatoes and corn, industrial fans blowing and the aroma of ripe cantaloupes wafting over you.

Today was Grocery Day, the biweekly trip to restock the pantry an reassure myself that, come what may, we WILL eat well for 2 weeks.

L&D did not disappoint, with tiny new potatoes, baby squash, PATTYPAN SQUASH! I LOVE PATTYPAN SQUASH! and big fat tomatoes, begging to be slices and decorated with basil from the garden.

My garden…is there anyone more optimistic than a gardener in February? No, there is not. I bought seeds, and was certain by this time we’d be eating delicious things every night.  We had a good bit of snow peas, that was nice,but by April they were done with. I got exactly 7 pods of English peas…how disappointing, but I tried to make the best of them by adding them to a risotto.  Some lettuce, nothing to get excited about, a few tiny arugulas, but the basil looks good and the tomatoes are trying, I hope it doesn’t get too hot for them before I get a few, but down here, that is not a given.

So,I rely on L&D and the gardeners who are better at it than I.

Oh the potatoes! Tiny tiny red new potatoes, just a bite or two, such a creamy texture, pure perfection.

Oh the squash! I pick the smallest of the yellow squash, and treat them gently and simply.

PATTYPAN SQUASH! It makes me happy with it’s silly shape and mild flavor.

and on…I am waxing rhapsodic because that’s the only way to respond to bags full of just picked vegetables in  the middle of June.

and…pictures. I enlisted my eldest son, gave him permission to use my camera in exchange for acting as photographer.

all the ingredients for dinner

Roasted new potatoes: tossed in olive oil with cracked pepper and chopped fresh rosemary. 45 minutes in a 375F oven

Grilled squash and onions, tossed in olive oil with cracked pepper and kosher salt. Grill on medium for 30 minutes, turn halfway through cooking.

Potatoes above, PATTYPAN SQUASH!! below- toss the squash with minced garlic and chopped fresh parsley and a bit of olive oil. Roast with the potatoes- 375F for 45 minutes.


The tomatoes were just sliced and sprinkled with fresh basil. The cucumbers are poona kheera cukes, an experiment in my garden, and are simply sliced and sprinkled with fresh chopped oregano.

I’ve never grown poona kheera cucumbers before, and they are delicious! The skin it a bit tough so they should be peeled, and the flavor is milder and a bit sweeter than the normal grocery store type. The texture is a lot like a small pickling cucumber.

When my 13 year old asked what was for supper, I told him and he said “what? no meat?” and I replied “no meat.” and he said “Ok, I’ll eat some leftover chicken from last night” and I said that was fine, if he was still hungry. Which he wasn’t…and that is a bloomin’ miracle because 13 year old boys are ALWAYS hungry.

As we were eating I thought “I shoulda got some fresh mozzerella to make a caprese salad…”  then I thought “I shoulda got more potatoes.”  Then Terry said it wouldn’t hurt his feelings one bit if I fixed those potatoes more often. Weekly even.

I am wondering how it would be to roast the potatoes then make a potato salad from them.

On cooking with lard
January 15, 2011, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Nibbles, Technique

People hear “lard” and go into panic mode. “OMG!!! CHOLESTEROL! FAT! DEATH!” but truth is, a biscuit made with lard instead of vegetable shortening (which is hydrogenated and bad for you is soft, fluffy and amazing. Use buttermilk as well and it’s like…perfection. Fry something in lard (chicken, okra,pickles…whatever you like to fry) and with it’s higher flash point it gets hotter than shortening or oil before smoking, and the food soaks up less of it so you end up with a crisp crust and surprisingly less grease to drain off. Plus it tastes good.

I figure, since I very rarely fry stuff or make biscuits (not out of laziness but because we are all…shall we say…hm…y’know…not in need of extra poundage,in fact we probably have some to share if you’re wanting any), and lard really makes a superior product in every way, why not use it? Yes, it’s really old school cooking…but fried chicken happens MAYBE once every 3 or 4 months,same with biscuits. So if you’re going to do it, might as well do it right.
Now, if you are worried about it, because you’ve never used it, the proportions are exactly the same as if you’re using oil or shortening. It makes a good roux as well. What you’ll wind up with in a quickbread is a slightly softer result. A biscuit won’t quite hold up to cold butter (and yes,I use realbutter not, partially hydrogenated margarine), but if you soften it to room temp, the biscuit will thank you.

One observation I’ve made about frying with it…and my chemist husband who knows pretty much everything hasn’t been able to tell me why this is so…stuff fried in lard seems to stay hot longer. I can cook chicken and 20 minutes after pulling it out of shortening, it’s room temperature, but after cooking it with lard it’s still hot. Can anyone tell me why? Am I just lucky?

Here’s a quick recipe, it’s my 19 yr old son CJ’s method for fried pickles and they are…oh SO good.

1 jar hamburger dill slices, drained but not dried. You want them still wet
Bisquick biscuit mix
a deep fryer
Put the lard in the deep fryer so it’s about 1/2 full and heat to 400 degrees
Toss a handful of the pickle chips in bisquick so they’re well coated and let sit for a few minutes before putting them in the fryer. Fry a handful at a time until they’re crispy and golden brown. You don’t want to cook more than a handful at a time because you don’t want them crowded, and you don’t want to put so many in that they drop the temperature of the oil. That would make them greasy.

Smoked Pork tamales
January 9, 2011, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Easy but not quick, Holidays, Meat, Nibbles, Pork, Technique

Tamales are a Christmas food in Texas. I’m from Texas (sort of)…being born in Fort Worth and having family there, I can claim it. Never mind my parents, brother and I moved away when I was 6 weeks old, it’s long enough to be able to eat tamales during the holidays. I didn’t make them at Christmas because we had guests who wouldn’t understand, and New Years (when I’ve made them in the past) isn’t going to work out due to travelling, so I’m making them for the National Championship Game on the 10th (WAR EAGLE),when Terry’s having some friends over for hooting and smoking and eating and drinking.


Tamales are one of those things that you might as well go ahead and make 100. It’s the same amount of work to cook a 2 pound roast or a 5 pound one. Masa harina (the cornflour mix used to make the paste) is cheap, at about $1.50 for a 2 pound bag. Corn husks come in 8 ounce packages, and that will make about 3 dozen+/-. All the work is in the assembly, and you can do that in front of the TV while watching Law&Order on Netflix.

Stuff you need, plus you'll want meat

Typically you slow cook the meat (can be beef, pork, goat, chicken….whatever you want, really). The recipes I’ve found online involve putting the meat in a crockpot or a dutch oven with water, then using the broth as the liquid in the masa paste. I kinda loved smoked meat, and wonder what would happen if the pork roast was rubbed and smoked. I picked Boston Butt because it’s streaky with fat, and makes it easy for shredding and it’s also slam full of flavor. It’s the pork cut of choice here in the Deep South for barbeque, and I thought it would be a good choice for the tamales.

Rub stuff and a 3 lb boston butt

The pork was smoked with mesquite chunks and hardwood lump charcoal, because my brother, the Charcoal Snob, convinced me that it’s better than the pressed cake charcoal, and for applications where the meat is in prolonged contact with smoke, it’s definitely better at giving a good flavor without the slight petroleum aftertaste the pressed briquets seem to give. A bit more expensive, yes, but when you’re making something as involved as smoked meats, might as well do it right.

Good smokin' fire (or in the South "fahr")

Now, let’s say you don’t have a smoker. You can make this roast the same way (well ok not exactly) in a dutch oven. It won’t be all smokey, right…but still tasty and will still make yummy tamales. If you want to, add a couple of shots of liquid smoke to the rub. It won’t be exactly the same, but not bad, either.

Daisy, Guardian of the Smoker

Smoked Pork
2-1/2 pound boston butt
1 yellow onion, quartered

For the Rub
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon ground hot red pepper (chimayo or cayenne)

Mix the rub ingredients together and rub all over the outside of the pork roast.

Set up the smoker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Use a charcoal chimney to start the charcoal. DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID. In the water pan, filled 3/4 full with hot water, add a cut up yellow onion.

In a perfect world, smoke the roast for 6-8 hours, adding charcoal (pre-lit in the chimney before adding it) to maintain the smoker temperature at about 250F degrees (or, “ideal” which is what mysmoker says, being really cheap and not having an actual thermometer). Check it after 6 hours to see if it will shred easily. You can see a ‘smoke ring’ when you slice into it. This is a dark reddish layer from the surface inward about 1/8 of an inch,and is the sign of a properly smoked piece of meat.

See that reddish edge? That's a smoke ring...YUM

I was not living the perfect life just then, so I smoked the meat for 4 hours, then put it in the fridge for 2 days until I could get back to it, then cooked it in the crock pot with 2 cups of water for 8 hours, until it was falling apart.

Once the meat is done, let it cool then pull it apart with a pair of forks.

take care to guard it from the hands of Heathens.

Now that the meat is all done, it’s time to assemble the tamales.

First, take an entire bag (about 8 oz) of corn husks and soak them in a sink full of warm water. It’s very important that you do this first, so they have time to soften. If you try to assemble tamales with dry husks it just won’t work.

Soak um!

For the masa, you need
a 2.5 pound bag of masa harina (also called masa mix, or tamale mix or tortilla mix)
approximately 6 cups of beef broth (I used 6 cups water and a heaping tablespoon of beef base)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Dump the masa mix in a large bowl and start mixing in the broth and oil, 1 cup at a time, until you have a soft dough. how much broth it takes will depend on how dry the masa mix is, ambient humitidy, all that. Today, a cold dry day, it took 6 cups liquid.

Start mixing, a cup at a time of liquid

Keep mixing until you have a soft dough, alot like a nice cookie dough. It won’t be very sticky, and you can totally mix with your hands. I recommend it.

Use your hands!

Let Daisy taste-test the smoked meat.

To assemble the tamales, you need to set up an assembly line with the cornhusks, masa paste, meat, and a colander or steamer basket.

Smear a bit less than 1/4 cup masa paste on the corn husk

add about a small bite's worth of meat

Fold over the sides, then each end, to make a small package

Stand the little packets on end in a steamer, not too tight, and cover to steam for 45 minutes

to eat, unwrap and add a couple shots of hot sauce

So, you can make the meat when it’s convenient, then when you have the time (it took me about an hour of assembling), put the tamales together. 3 batches at 45 minutes of steaming per batch resulted in 50 lovely tamales all ready for tomorrow. They can be warmed up in the microwave without any loss of quality…in fact, if you make a whole ton of them, they freeze like WOAH then you can zap them for a lunch or something…so go ahead and make a bunch and have them for emergency parties and such.

Now, I know I make ugly Gringo tamales. Alot of them were prettier than the one in the picture. Technically you’re supposed to have the masa stuff wrapped completely around the little meat tidbit, and the more I made the better they got. However, I could not tell a difference in the flavor of the ugly Gringo tamale from the fit and proper well made one. So I don’t want to hear any “hey your tamales are ugly and improperly made!” You don’t like them? write your own post and take pictures while doing it…ok?

The hardest part is beating off the heathens so you’ll have enough to serve at the National Championship game party tomorrow night! (War Eagle! Go Tigers! Woot!)

Coming soon: Smoked pork tamales
December 30, 2010, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Easy but not quick, Holidays, Nibbles, Pork, Technique

Terry has a party coming up for the National Championship football game (WAR EAGLE! GO TIGERS!) and i offered to make tamales for it, since I am not making them for New Years Day. Typically they’re made with a beef or pork roast, slow cooked, then seasoned for the filling. this time, however, I am going to smoke a boston butt, like one would for making Barbeque. Only with different seasonings in the rub: cumin, paprika, cayenne, garlic, onion… stuff like you’d use to make tacos or fajitas. I have a quart of homemade pork stock in the freezer to use for the masa paste. Anyway…pcitures will be taken , process recorded, and you’ll know how to make smoked pork tamales. The party is on the 10th, I’ll make the tamales Monday or Tuesday and freeze them. They microwave better than just about anything….

Homemade green bean casserole
November 24, 2010, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Holidays, Technique, Vegetables

Who doesn’t like it? Only…I can’t eat things from a can much so I am making it from scratch. Everything else on the menu is either crazy simple (cranberry sauce, collards, sweet potatoes and apples) or already made (smoked turkey, dressing). So I don’t mind making a little effort on the green beans.
It involves making your own cream of mushroom soup. Not hard, but it does take some time and attention. I don’t do the fried onions on top, either.

Green Bean Casserole
For the sauce:
1/2 stick butter
1 medium onion, diced
some garlic, minced (how much? I DON’T KNOW! SOME!)
some black pepper
some salt
be sensible…add a bit of salt and pepper, less than you think you might need, you can always add more later.
In a nice big pot, saute the onion until it’s soft and starting to brown. Then add the garlic…oh I don’t know…maybe a teaspoon or so, or a little more if you like it like I do. Saute a little bit longer, just a minute or two. you don’t want the garlic to brown because it will get bitter.
Add a bit of salt and coarse black pepper. Then stir in:
6 oz fresh sliced mushrooms. What do you like? I like shiitake or baby portobellas. Button mushrooms are fine. Whatever. It’s about 2 cups worth, maybe a bit more.
Stir all this until the mushrooms start to soften just a bit. Then add:
1/4 cup flour
Stir until everything is nicely coated. Then add:
1 cup chicken broth (Homemade if you have it, please don’t use canned. Please? ok… if you must.)
2 cups heavy cream (WOAH! HEAVY CREAM?!) yes, baby, heavy cream. or half-and-half. Don’t be a wimp. It’s Thanksgiving and calories don’t count.
Turn the stove down low.
Stir until it starts to get thick, then stir some more until it’s nice and thick. Set aside. you can taste it now to see if you want more salt in it.

Prep your beans-You will want about 2 pounds. cut off the ends…ok I am assuming you’re using fresh. Frozen is fine. Do not use canned. What a waste that would be.
Blanch the beans (if you’re using fresh. Skip this if you’re using frozen, but rinse the frozen beans and pat dry.) in hot water then rinse in cold water and pat dry on a towel. Now, bean aesthetic is a personal choice. i like them longish and fancy. You might prefer them cut short. It’s your choice.
Oh yeah- to blanch beans, bring a pot of water to boiling and drop the trimmed beans into it. Bring the water back to boiling, count to 20 and drain them. They will be bright green. Then rinse them in cold water.

Now, in a great big bowl, mix the beans and the cream of deliciousness soup together and put it all in a buttered casserole. Bake at 350 degrees until the whole thing is bubbly and maybe browning a touch on top.

Ok now, the cream of delicious soup…use it for anything you would use the canned stuff for. Casseroles, whatever. Or just eat it from a bowl all by itself.

Smoked Turkey
November 23, 2010, 7:54 pm
Filed under: How To Land A Man, Meat, Philosophical, Technique

Smoking takes a little bit of skill. Not alot, just a bit and some specilized equipment. ok fine I’ve seen Iron Chef enough to know that you can fake it with a foil packet of chips and a blowtorch…but in the words of someone I forget who…”bitch, please.”
That is not smoking. That is making some smoke and blowing it on the food so it tastes sorta smoky. Smoking take a LONG time. It takes a smoker, or a smokehouse, or a smokebox. I have a smoker. I had a smokebox but decided a cheap little Brinkman smoker is better. I want a smokehouse. I want 100 acres of forest and fields and a 200 year old farmhouse, too…but instead I have a $60 Brinkman smoker. Seriously y’all, it’s all you need (other than some good charcoal and a chimney starter) to make yourself some fine, fine smoked meats.

Today, I am smoking the turkey for Thanksgiving. Because we are having over the entire Ethiopian population of Bulloch County and some Philipinos and a transplant from Ohio, it’s a huge turkey weighing in at 22 pounds…in fact it’s so big I realized it might be too big to fit into the smoker but I prevailed and with some tucking and cursing it fit in. So, here’s how I am smoking it:

First, get the smoker set up according to the manufacturer’s directions. Light a chimney full of charcoal using paper/pinecones/whatever. DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID. It would make your turkey taste like kerosene. I know this. I’ve done it and it’s a tragedy. Use hardwood lump charcoal NOT briquets (sorry Kingsford). Briquets will also make your turkey taste like kerosene. When the coals are red hot (you can tell, trust me) dump them over into the bottom of the smoker. DO NOT put the rack over the coals. You will need to be able to access them. Put some chunks of smoking wood in a bowl or can or something full of water so they can soak. They need to be wet so they’ll make smoke. Get chunks, not chips.

Second, set up the water pan. This goes in the smoker and helps keep the heat even, it also provides moisture so the meat doesn’t dry out. It’s important. In the pan of water, add a couple of oranges, cut into 1/8ths. Slice about 2 inches of ginger root nice and thin (you don’t have to peel it) and put that in the water pan too.

Third, clean the turkey up. Take the fresh (or thawed) turkey, you want it pretty close to room temperature. Wash it off and dry it with some paper towels. Get all the bits of plastic off of it- that popup thermometer thing, the whatsit that holds the legs in, all that. no plastic on your turkey. Cut up a couple of oranges and slice some more ginger. Stuff all this up in the body cavity of the turkey.

4th. Make the glaze. Mix together the following in a bowl:
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate (do not dilute it! Scoop it right out of the can of frozen into the bowl)microwave it 30 second to thaw it, or use already thawed, whatever.
1/2 cup vegetable oil (NOT olive. you want an oil with no flavor to it)
1/2 cup honey
2 heaping tablespoons of dried ginger powder
Mix all this together to make a gloppy mess.
Flip the turkey back side up and smear it with the stuff.
Flip it breast side up and do the same. Go on, use your hands. Don’t get all precious on me and want to use a brush, hands will wash, that’s why God invented soap. Make sure the turkey is nicely coated. I used about 2/3 of the glaze on a 22 pound turkey so you should have plenty.

Now, it’s time to set up the smoker. The Brinkman smoker (link above) has little rests in it for the water pan. You’ll want to set the pan in it BEFORE you put the smoker over the coals. Otherwise you’ll burn your hands. After you’ve done that, set the smoker unit on top of the base filled with hot coals. Then put the rack on the top and set your smeared mess of a turkey on the rack and put on the lid. Soon the thermometer will indicate “ideal” which is the temperature you want to keep it at. t’s a range, not a specific temp. If your smoker has a thermometer with numbers, you want it at about 200 degrees.

Now, let it do it’s thing. Check on it every 2 or 3 hours to make sure the temperature is staying in the “ideal” range. If it starts to drop, once it gets to the low end of “ideal”, start another chimney full of charcoal. You’ll need to do that on a concrete or brick slab, or even on a grill if you have one. When the chimney coals are hot, carefully set the top part of the smoker to the side (you might need help)-be careful with this because the water pan is in there and you don’t want to slosh it. Add the hot coals into the pan with the other coals, and throw a couple of wet wood chunks in there with the coals. Carefully put the top part back on the coal pan, and check the temperature every now and then to make sure it’s hot enough. It’s OK if the temp gets up into the “hot” part of the gauge, you just don’t want it in the “warm” bit.

It will take about 8 hours to smoke a 10 pound turkey. 4 hours for a couple of chickens, 2 for pork chops, maybe 3 for a beef roast.
I am not entirely sure how long it will take to smoke a 22 pound turkey, but I am anticipating having to get up with it in the middle of the night to add coals. That’s ok. I might, instead of nursing the smoker all night long, take the turkey out and put it in a 180 degree oven, covered with foil and a bit of the water pan water in the bottom of the roasting pan. If it’s done in the morning, great, if not, I’ll cook it in the smoker tomorrow without the wet wood, just kind of gently bake it over the coals.

The glaze combined with the smoke will make a deep brown bird with a distinct ginger-sweet flavor.

Now, a word on woods for making the smoke. I like to use mesquite, because I am from Texas and wish to retain my right to visit there. However, oak, hickory and pecan are WONDERFUL for smoking. So are any kind of fruitwoods. We have these horrible weedy plum trees that invade all the time, and they make for wonderful smoking wood. We also have a butt-ugly (even tragically ugly) maple tree in the front yard that is always dropping limbs, and those make great smoking chunks. There are myriad peach orchards around here, and when they prune he trees in the winter, they sell the trimmings for wonderful fragrant firewood…and amazing smoking wood.o you live someplace where there’s apple or cherry orchards? Go for it! So, in my experience, trees that grow nuts or fruits or have some kind of culinary value generally make for good smoking wood. Do not EVER under any circumstances use pine or cedar. Gross. Your meat will taste like turpentine or furniture polish. How sad would that be?

Also, snooty charcoal advice…i’m serious about the hardwood lump charcoal for smoking. Briquets are fine if you’re grilling hamburgers, but smoking is like this long term relationship the meat is having with the charcoal and why invest in a long term relationship that’s going to leave a bad taste in your mouth? Terry was pondering getting all Mountain Man on me and making our own charcoal out of the butt-ugly maple tree in the front yard, and I think that would be kinda awesome, but we live in a Golf Club Neighborhood and have already fielded some ridicule for the White Trash backyard aesthetic (I swear we got rid of the truck on blocks *and* the blue rubber swimming bowl) and I just don’t know how a Dakota hole would go over with the Country Club set. So, for now we buy the stuff in bags, and it works really well. you know what? It lights faster than briquets, too. And seems to last longer when lit. Go figure.

P.S. I promise to put up some pictures, but I can’t find the cable for the camera and the computer that will accept the chip from the camera is in use by someone who is giggling maniacally and I don’t want to get involved.