McPherson Scottish Festival

This past weekend we were in McPherson Kansas for their annual Scottish Festival. We have been feeding the athletes for the last several years and always enjoy this weekend as we have become good friends with several of them.

The announcer is Francis Brebner who was born and raised in Scotland and now living in California. Being a true Scotsman, he likes his Haggis. Now if you look up the traditional Haggis recipe it’ll turn your stomach so I do a mock, or pretend, Haggis. I still use the traditional spices and some of the ingredients, but use ground beef and pork for the meat. This year I had the idea to make bratwurst with the mixture. The traditional method calls for the mixture to be stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled, so I thought hog casings on the grill would be a good substitute. The mixture stuffed well;

Haggis bratwurst

Haggis bratwurst

I made short links so people could have a taste. I did a test link on the grill and this is how it looked:

Haggis

Haggis

It passed the Francis test and one of the athletes who has made multiple trips to Scotland and eaten quite a lot of Haggis described it as having a true Haggis flavor, so I think I’ll keep this recipe!

We always get a good spot on the field and when we’re not too busy preparing lunch we can watch the games

Some of the athletes of the Scottish Highland Games

Some of the athletes of the Scottish Highland Games

At BBQ competitions it’s a tradition to have a good luck toast the morning of the contest and we brought this tradition to the games a few years ago. We tried to find true Scottish toasts for the event and there is one that has become the favorite of Dave, the athletic director;

Here’s to lying, cheating, stealing, and drinking;                                                                       If you’re going to lie, lie for a friend,                                                                                          If you’re going to cheat; cheat death,                                                                                       If you’re going to steal; steal someone’s heart,                                                                        And if you’re going to drink; drink with me!

A good luck toast to start the day

A good luck toast to start the day

We feed the athletes well, lots of proteins and carbs. Recently we had the good folks at Cookshack make us a set of custom racks for the FEC100 for cooking/reheating full size pans. We’re happy to say they worked well:

FEC100 with the new rack design

FEC100 with the new rack design

Of course the meal includes dessert! Which goes to show you can make just about anything in these smokers and grills! In fact, I haven’t found anything yet that I could not make in either the FEC100 smoker or the FEPG1000 pellet grill.

Gotta have those brownies!

Gotta have those brownies!

We had ordered a special pair of aprons for the event, so we just had to get our picture taken with Francis

Our Scottish 'dress'

Our Scottish ‘dress’

On a sad note, the wife of one of the competitors and a member of HASA suddenly became gravely ill just before this contest. Kelly and Thom are in our thoughts and prayers, we wish her a speedy recovery! This reminds us to never pass an opportunity to tell our friends and loved ones how we feel.

We cleaned up and got home around sundown on Sunday, so it was a mad dash to get the catering trailer emptied and put away. Now we will be using every available minute after work to get things ready for the American Royal World Series of Barbecue

Getting loaded up for The Royal

Getting loaded up for The Royal

We’ll be in spot G335 so stop by and say Hi! The blog on that event will be up sometime next week.

 

Cherokee Strip Cook Off

This past weekend we cooked the Cherokee Strip Cook Off in Ponca City Oklahoma. It’s always a good contest but we’ve had scheduling conflicts the last couple of years and couldn’t make it so we were glad to be there again this year.

We didn’t get off to a good start as we spent most of Thursday evening in the emergency room instead of trimming meat because I had a kidney stone that decided to plug up my right kidney. As much as I dislike trimming chicken that would have been a thousand times more fun! We got home around midnight and Kristi made her cheese cakes and worked on the ribs while I wondered around checking out all the pink and purple elephants in the house.

Friday morning I felt considerably better and headed to Ponca City while Kristi had to work. I got our site set up, trimmed the chicken and got the big meats ready. Kristi made it down in time to enjoy supper with our friends the Powells who were celebrating several birthdays that were just past or coming up in the next few days.

When it was time to get started I got to try my programmed setting for competitions on the Cookshack IQ5 controller, which worked like a charm. Turn ins were an hour early which meant everything went on an hour earlier but we stayed on time and got all the categories when they were due.

There once was a time we were known for the cinnamon rolls we had at breakfast but we’ve been trying to ear healthier lately so Saturday morning breakfast consisted of home made sausage, scrambled eggs and toast

Home made sausage and toast on the PG1000 for breakfast

Home made sausage and toast on the PG1000 for breakfast

We got to hear our name several times at awards, starting with a 3rd place dessert;

3rd place dessert

3rd place dessert

Followed by 1st place beans, 5th place chicken, and 2nd place ribs. It was interesting that the second place finisher in each of the 4 main categories got a small shovel and a 5 gallon bucket; something about burying the body? Hell, I was tickled pink with 2nd! Our big meats didn’t do so well but we’ll keep working on that.

IMG_0288

I know the blog is brief this time, but as I type we’re getting ready for the Scottish Highland Games in McPherson and the American Royal so there’s lots to do.

I do want to take a minute to say it was sure good to see our friends from Little Pig Town who we hadn’t seen all season.

And a special shout out to the ladies of Professionals Today who put on the contest. It was their 29th contest and was a great time for a great cause. Which leads to my tip for this week: Support your local contests and organizers. They worked hard to put on the contest and many, like this one, give the proceeds to a very worthy cause. In this case, the money goes to Hospice.

Derby BBQ Festival

This past weekend we competed at the Derby BBQ Festival at High Park in Derby Ks. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a panoramic view of the cookers in the park

That mysterious brown cloud is........ my finger

That mysterious brown cloud is…….. my finger

They are a fairly new contest and having some growing pains, but the organizers really listen to the cook teams and take their suggestions to heart. The park has a gentle slope to a lake on the east side and that setting made for a gorgeous sunrise Saturday morning

The sun rising over High Park in Derby.

The sun rising over High Park in Derby.

and we could not have asked for better weather.

The organizers supplied Creekstone Farms pork butts for the teams to cook for the People’s Choice event. They ended up being a little short of teams for that so we cooked a few extras

Braking in the new FEC100 with 15 pork butts

Breaking in the new FEC100 with 15 pork butts

which, coupled with the cookie contest, got us a little behind schedule on Saturday morning but everything turned out okay.

One of the things that was an issue last year was the People’s Choice occurring during turn in times so this year the teams had help from the Derby High School cheerleaders. Our helper was Reece and she did a terrific job handing out samples. With the extra butts we were one of, if not the last, to run out of pulled pork but she kept right on handing out samples well after the voting ended

Our helper for People's Choice

Our helper for People’s Choice

Also happening Saturday morning was the Chick-fil-a kids chocolate chip cookie contest. Our grandson Ethan made a couple different cookies but didn’t get a call. Kristi kept trying to take his picture at awards but he was acting like his grandpa did at that age. He did get to go up with us for our calls, in fact beat us to the stage every time.

But Grandma, this IS my serious face!

But Grandma, this IS my serious face!

There was an area on the other side of the lake for kids activities and there was a car show but we didn’t make it to either of those events. Check out the link to their Facebook page above for all that was going on and make plans to be there next year.

As for the KCBS part of the competition, we decided to try one of the Costco prime briskets this weekend. They do have some nice looking briskets

Costco prime brisket

Costco prime brisket

I was still getting used to the new IQ5 controller on the FEC100 from Cookshack and programmed a 3 stage cook that we normally use for competitions. At the next competition I’ll be able to just press a couple buttons and have the entire cook programmed to go. In looking at the graph of the cook later it was easy to see how well it held the temperatures I had selected.

Graph of our cook with the Cookshack IQ5 controller

Graph of our cook with the Cookshack IQ5 controller

It’s readily apparent where the smoker door was open as evidenced by the dips in the graph.

I mentioned earlier that Ethan was running up when we got a call, and we had 3 of those. 2nd in chicken, 3rd in ribs and 10th in brisket which was good for 5th place overall

Ribbons from Derby

Ribbons from Derby

It’s definitely a contest we will attend next year!

As a little side note, we have been having trouble with keeping ice all summer and had talked to a few teams who said the high dollar coolers were worth the money. I did some research and decided the best value for the money was a Pelican cooler. They have been around since the mid 1990s and are made in the USA. Oh, and they have a lifetime warranty as well. Thursday night we put three 16 pound bags of ice in it. During the weekend our conventional coolers had to have more ice twice even though it wasn’t all that hot outside, while the Pelican retained the ice that we put in it. We still had one of the bags when we got home Saturday evening and threw it in the freezer. I had the thought Monday to weigh it to see how much of the ice it retained and it weighed 19 pounds! Next time I’ll try to weigh the ice when it goes in and comes out to get a better idea of retention ability, but I think it was a good buy for us.

To paraphrase an old saying; “keep your fuel dry”. Wood, charcoal and pellets will all absorb moisture and moisture will be your enemy. If your fuel gets damp it won’t burn cleanly or at the temperatures your desire. Being unable to obtain the correct temps will really mess with your cook and as competition cookers know, consistency is key.

We’ll be cooking lakeside again next weekend, this time at Lake Ponca.

Labor Day 2015

Every now and then a couple of linked questions come up on the various barbecue forums:
Do you trim your own meat?
What do you do with the trimmings?
Yes we do, and the answer to the second question varies depending on my mood. With a 3 day weekend I decided it was time to empty some of the trimmings from the freezer.

Nearly 50 pounds of rib, pork butt, and brisket trimmings from this summer

Nearly 50 pounds of rib, pork butt, and brisket trimmings from this summer

This was most, but not all, of what we had in the freezer from just this years competitions. It was mostly pork but there was about 15 pounds of brisket trimmings, so I developed a plan of attack. First on the agenda was breakfast sausage. The first step was to get it ground and ready for seasoning. I had struggled for a few years with Kristi’s Kitchen Aid mixer with a grinder attachment before getting serious. After just one use of this Cabela’s grinder I was wishing I had bought one long ago.

Cabela's 1/2 horse commercial grade grinder

Cabela’s 1/2 horse commercial grade grinder

We tried this before the Burlington contest using the Hi-Mountain Prairie Sage blend and took 6th place in the sausage category. Kristi made some for breakfast a few days later and added some Bash Brothers Ribs & Pork Rub which gave it a really nice, yet mild, heat. After grinding the seasonings were added;

Pork ground and seasoned for breakfast sausage

Pork ground and seasoned for breakfast sausage

Before packaging, one should always do a taste test. So I fried a patty to make sure the flavor was where I wanted it, which it was.

The test patty had a nice flavor with a mild heat.

The test patty had a nice flavor with a mild heat.

Savory with a nice heat at the end. Just that one patty made me longing for some biscuits and sausage gravy. One day, one day soon.

Filled and sealed in one pound bags and put them in the freezer.

Prairie Sage breakfast sausage in the freezer

Prairie Sage breakfast sausage in the freezer

Kristi was at work and had volunteered me to help with a pot luck cookout for the hospital staff that were working. I took the Weber Ranch Kettle in and grilled some hamburgers and hot dogs.

Hamburgers and hot dogs on the Weber Ranch Kettle

Hamburgers and hot dogs on the Weber Ranch Kettle

I didn’t get a picture of the rest of the food, but we really had a nice variety and some really good food. We repeated the performance around midnight that night for the night shift crew. It was a late night but worthwhile showing the staff how much they are appreciated.

When I got back home after lunch it was time to move on to phase II: Brisket. Once again the brisket was ground and seasoned, but the beef was made into Cracked Pepper & Garlic snack sticks, again using the Hi-Mountain seasonings. Like the grinder, I had struggled with trying to make do with the grinder for stuffing but picked this up on sale at Gander Mountain. A dedicated stuffer is well worth the investment, even if you don’t use it often.

Making snack sticks

Making snack sticks

And into the Cookshack FEC100 for smoke:

Beef snack sticks in the FEC100

Beef snack sticks in the FEC100

The good folks at Cookshack had recently replaced our IQ4 controller with the new IQ5 controller;

Cookshack's IQ5 controller

Cookshack’s IQ5 controller

The IQ5 has a 3 stage cooking capability which was perfect for the snack sticks, starting at 130° for an hour, then the temp went up to 170° for an hour, then to 200° until internal temp reached 165. All three steps were done at first startup and I didn’t have to touch anything until it was time to shut it down. This coming weekend I’m going to program in a competition preset so all we have to do is turn it on, select the preset, and let it do it’s thing all night and into the next day. There are a total of 8 presets that can be customized to the user’s preference.  The old IQ4 had a low end temperature of 140° but the IQ5 goes down to 130° which is the lowest I’ve seen. That could come in very handy for cold smoking cheeses, fish, jerky and lots of other stuff. Another change is that the IQ4 changed in 5 degree and 5 minute increments but the IQ5 can be adjusted down to 1 degree and 1 minute for more accuracy. The IQ5 still has a port for a food probe although it’s not the same as my old IQ4 probe. Another addition is a USB port in the lower left hand corner of the panel. When you’re finished with your cook you can plug in a flash drive and download the cook data. You then plug the flash drive into your computer and it reads out as an Excel spreadsheet. This is a graph I made from the information collected while smoking the snack sticks

Graph of the FEC100 temperature while smoking the snack sticks.

Graph of the FEC100 temperature while smoking the snack sticks.

The sudden drops were from me opening the door to check the food temperature. It will be interesting to see what it does on a long cook, which will be coming up this weekend. You can watch a video from Cookshack’s CEO Stuart Powell on the IQ5 controller here.

While the snack sticks were smoking we moved on to the last phase, brats. Again the meat was ground and seasoned, then stuffed;

11 pounds of brats

11 pounds of brats

and vacuum sealed.

Vacuum sealing the brats

Vacuum sealing the brats

By the time we finished the brats, the snack sticks were ready to come out. They went straight into the Tru commercial refrigerator so we could get them cooled quickly.

After being smoked, the snack sticks went back into the fridge to cool and hopefully absorb a little humidity.

After being smoked, the snack sticks went back into the fridge to cool and hopefully absorb a little humidity.

I took some to work and they were certainly a hit! The had a good flavor although I would have liked a little more heat, and the FEC100 put on a perfect amount of smoke. We haven’t tried the brats yet but the breakfast sausage and snack sticks will be enjoyed for sure.

You might have noticed that I have a lot of Cabela’s equipment, that’s just because we have one fairly close to us. The lesson to be learned in that is to buy the best equipment you can afford. I tried to “get by” for years and always ended up frustrated and disappointed. Having the right equipment for the job makes it go much smoother and more enjoyable, from the grinder, to the stuffer, all the way up to the Cookshack FEC100 smoker. Cookshack also has several electric smokers as well as pellet grills so they will have a model to fit your needs. Check out the link to see them all.

We have a competition coming up this weekend so I’ll be back real soon.