Fickle Variables

Last Sunday for Fathers day Michelle presented me with a “I win this argument card”.  We had a good laugh and then spent the afternoon arguing about whether or not USGA was going to give Dustin Johnson a penalty stroke for his golf ball moving by itself because of fickle spot on the green.  What a stupid rule is what Michelle was saying while I was trying to explain the logic behind it. Logic is where the whole conversation took a turn for the silly.
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I’m laying in the weeds waiting for the perfect time toss this baby out onto a steaming pile of “I told you so”.

Nerdy Stuff is Next

JC Reid, Barbecue Columnist for The Houston Chronicle, came by while working on this article about weather and barbecue. It’s a great topic from where we sit and JC’s story was published today.

Our business sometimes argues with the weather. The elements can affect what we do inside and out. Hot humid days are pretty rough on chocolate work. Chocolate does not like moisture at all. A humid room can make tempered chocolate bloom. The chocolate tastes great but looks funny or way cool depending on how you want to view it.

Speaking of looking funny…Josh and I have been having a shorts with argyle sock throwdown.  He started it and is more well stocked than me. He wins.

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Hot humid days shorten our barbecue cook times. Why is that you ask? Humid air slows the effect of evaporative cooling. When moisture evaporates in the sun it creates a cooling effect on the surface where the water was. Jump out of a swimming pool on a hot day in dry climate and you can get the chills. In Houston this doesn’t work the same because of high humidity.  The air is already wet.

There is a time while cooking briskets when the water in the meat evaporating from the surface is cooling it at the same rate the heat is cooking the brisket. This causes the temperature rising in the brisket to stall. Humid air lessens evaporative cooling and decreases the stalling time allowing the brisket to cook faster.  That’s the story I’m going with anyways. Relative humidity is a variable out of our hands. We have a water pan inside the cooker that slowly steams adding moisture to the moving hot air as a way to even out the variance in moisture.

When nature mixes in a few rainy windy days for us to manage barbecue gets more interesting. One torrential morning I wore my swim trunks, and brought extra shoes, socks and clothes because I was in for a soaked start to the day. These are the things that make barbecue so flipping interesting too me. Setting fires in the rain is serious fun.  When Chef Greg pulls the briskets at night in the rain it just complicates all the handling needed to keep your meat safe. People want consistency in the food they purchase so we do our best to put the same level of quality on trays and in chocolate boxes. Dealing with the elements is part of the task.

As I’m walking through the gate on the way to our cooker I start to piece the days puzzle together.

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On our cooker The Black October we adjust air flow and temperatures in the chase for quality barbecue.

Fire from the wood grate looking through the air vent

Wide Open Vent

The first adjustment is how much air to let into the fire box. We run the fire box vent wide open for the most part. More air makes for a cleaner burning fire. We think that this helps us produce a mild smoke flavor which is what we are after.

One morning I made a quick video that illustrates just how much air flow is created in our cooker. As the fire was getting up to ramming speed the sparks from fire snaps were shooting out the air valve and were turned right back into the vent by the air flow drawing into the fire box.

I can sit here an watch this for hours, but I only gave you about 18 seconds of nerdy fire box video.

Another way we manage air flow and temperature is the damper between the fire box and the cooking chamber. There’s a great deal of control in this rusty handle and chain.

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The chain sets the door opening between the fire and chamber.

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Here’s the view of the fire box from the inside on the opposite end of the cooker. Don’t try this at home.

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The sound of that fire bellowing down the cooking chamber is rich and deep. I didn’t get to keep my head in here long enough to soak in a lot of that music. Maybe I can find this song in Itunes for my ipad to play at night to help me sleep.

Another variable we have no control over but need to deal with is the briskets themselves.

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Briskets are not all alike. We do buy only USDA certified Prime Grade brisket, but they do come in different sizes from time to time. Different size briskets means different cook times. We’ve plotted temperatures inside our cooker at more than a dozen places so we can understand what are the temperature variables. Larger briskets are placed where the cooker runs a little hotter and so forth. Brisket placement in the cooker is part of the puzzle. We’re aiming to have meats come off the cooker at consistent times so resting meat is as close to a constant as we can manage.

This little brisket was quite awesome in flavor with is Prime marbling. It came in under 3 lbs after the cook and was sliced up to enjoy before I got a picture of the finished product, and yes this brisket was the first off the cooker that night.

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Variety is the spice of life is how I see it.

Pork Piled High

We have a nice variety of pork for you to enjoy. I took time out to eat a Swine Tri Stack sandwich.

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Pulled pork, pork sausage, and pork belly stacked up nice and tall. I opted out of the Quad Pork Stack by leaving crunchy bacon off this beauty. Perhaps we’re looking at another signature sandwich. I didn’t need to eat anymore that day.

No Question

One thing we can consistently count on is what happens when a parent buys their child chocolate.

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That’s just good parenting is what that is.

Michelle added to the variety of chocolate truffles this week. Norm and I made some of our dark milk chocolate I call Tres Leches last week.

Michelle made a new Tres Leches truffle and a Mint Truffle. One is pure creamy chocolate goodness and the other is mint happiness. Michelle just keeps bringing it with her chocolate truffle game.

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The milk chocolate with a Creme’ de Menth ganache will remind you of a thin mint. This is just a killer chocolate truffle.

Hurdles

On Tuesday I got to work in time to see the full moon setting behind The Craftory.

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While the fire was starting to crackle I made a nice pour over with Orazure’s Kenya coffee.

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This Kenyan varietal is bold and fruity at the same time. A beautiful combination of flavors. This one is limited so score a bag while you can.

I started that day with a 2008 Tundra paid for free and clear, but ended the day with a 2006 Tundra and car loan. It’s a long story but at least the 2006 has less miles and is better looking. The 2008 was facing a large large repair bill that I cannot afford at the moment. Tuesday evening I had a whiskey while discussing with Michelle about what the heck just happened. I had that Tundra for 8 years and it hauled tons & tons of railcar product in my previous life. I was sad in my face that my silver Tundra was toast.

This 2006 does have a better radio so that helps.

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The whole week was challenging. We were short a person all week in the kitchen again. Our Espresso Machine died. We still can’t locate a part we need for our tempering machine. We need more AC in the chocolate room and kitchen as we were given inadequate air conditioning to deal with. Our plans to put in a barbecue sign out front have to be changed because of gas and water lines. We did avoid having Tyler make a mushroom cloud on Elm Street with a post hole digger. We had that going for us anyways, so I can put an end to my little pity party.

Then there was you guys to make it all worth while by showing up to enjoy what we do. God bless you all and thank you for helping us succeed. It means a lot to us.

See you around the hood.

Cheers! Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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