A Brined and Smoked Turkey Day!

WildThis magnificent wild fellah was shot (by camera only) a few years ago on our property. This is what the Pilgrims supposedly ate. This guy was in absolutely magnificent physical condition and hopefully he’s still strutting around to this very day.

Before I get to brining and smoking, first a little turkey biology: All the different kinds of birds that folks know as “turkeys”, commercial broad-breasted white, broad-breasted bronze, wild, and heritage are all the same species: Meleagris gallopavo. The name literally means guineafowl chicken-peacock.

Commercial, “grocery store” broad-breasted turkeys are similar to the commercial meat chickens I wrote about in a prior blog in that they are man-made creations. They grow abnormally fast, are extremely efficient converters of feed to body mass and are ready to harvest in only a few months. Broad-breasted turkeys emphasize to the extreme broad meaty breasts with abundant white meat. This variety of bird would not survive without the assistance of people far kinder than me because these birdsheritage - Copy cannot mate naturally. All broad-breasted birds have to be artificially inseminated, a job that I can unequivocally state that I do not want. The toms have way too much “stuff” hanging down in their fronts and are too heavy to perform as male birds are supposed to perform.

We’ve been raising a different type of turkey, namely heritage turkeys such as Blue Slate, Narragansett, Sweet Grass, and Royal Palm varieties for some time now. These turkeys have longer legs, grow much more slowly, can (and do) fly and roost at night, and can (and do) reproduce without human assistance. Heritage and wild turkeys are also quite intelligent, personable, and very inquisitive compared to their broad-breasted, dim-witted cousins. Once the broad-breasted birds appeared onto the turkey scene they dominated the market which caused heritage breeds to almost completely disappear. Thankfully, heritage breeds of all kinds of animals including turkeys are now making a comeback. For a lot more info on heritage turkeys, check out Porters Rare Turkeys online to see great photos of all the different color variations of these wonderful birds.

Plucked - CopyWhen plucked, heritage birds are more narrow than the commercial breed; their breasts are sharply V-shaped as opposed to the round “butterball” shape we’ve all come to know. Next to a commercial bird of the same weight, the heritage bird may actually look somewhat emaciated, but in actual fact, there is a nice thick layer of fat under the skin covering the breast, so meat from heritage birds is far less likely to turn out dry. Commercial birds lack that thick layer of fat just under the skin, and we all know fat is flavor! Dark meat from heritage birds is darker and also more flavorful than the same meat from a commercial bird.

One final, important difference between heritage birds and broad-breasted birds: Grocery stores frequently offer major promotions on commercial turkeys. They sometimes end up free or nearly so, with a set amount grocery purchase. Heritage birds are an altogether different story; they’re somewhat difficult to find and once found, be prepared to pay a hefty price, sometimes exceeding $200 each.

Some years ago, Miners Mix acquired a really nifty off-set pit smoker. In actual fact, this thing is nothing more than a giant wood-fired oven that has proven extremely useful when preparing food for a large crowd. The smoker is fantastic for turkeys, hams, roasts, stuffing, yams, pies, (all at the same time too!) and just about anything else that requires baking and might also benefit from the addition of a tad bit of smoke flavor.

Like most folks, we usually have a big crowd at Thanksgiving and the centerpiece is always turkey. Sure, we also sometimes do geese, ham or roasts, or other things as well, but they’re always second fiddle to the turkey (unless you’re my daughter who can’t stand the stuff). We sometimes still cook the mundane broad-breasted commercial variety turkey in the oven, but lately have been using our own heritage turkeys and smoking them in the pit smoker.

Many commercial turkeys are pre-brined or injected with a solution of salt and flavorings. Because we use our own birds, we brine before smoking and have been very happy with the results. The following buttermilk brine recipe was originally found on Smoking-Meat.com, a website from which I’ve gleaned many useful tidbits over the years. I’ve altered the proportions somewhat to impart more flavor, but the original recipe produced great results as well. Here is my slightly modified version:


2.5 gallons buttermilk

1 gallon water

2 cups kosher salt



Mix the water and buttermilk together and slowly add the salt. Stir well until all the salt is dissolved. We like to add about ½-3/4 cup of Miners Mix Maynard’s Memphis Rub to the brine as well.

We prepare the bird by sprinkling Maynard’s Memphis Rub under the skin where possible. On heritage birds, the skin is not nearly as loose as with a commercial bird, so not a lot of rub can actually be placed under the skin of the turkey.

Usually we place the bird in a new plastic trash bag which then goes into a large cooler. The brine mixture then gets poured into the bag and after as much air as possible is removed, the bag gets tied off and topped with sufficient ice to keep things nice and cold for about 24 hours, or at least overnight. It is critical to keep things cold. You need a big enough cooler to hold sufficient ice so the bird stays below 39F. It may be advisable to check the bird after several hours to insure there remains sufficient ice to last through the night and into morning.

PreppedThe next morning, remove the bird from the trash bag and rinse well. It won’t need any additional salt, but we usually season the cavity with more Maynard’s and quite a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, along with half of an onion and/or perhaps part of an apple.

SmokingI like to make a paste of Maynard’s and a stick of butter, then rub the uppermost part of the bird. Not a pretty sight, but it does result in a flavorful end result! This time I cooked it breast side down and rubbed the back of the turkey. Next time I’ll try breast up. I like rubbing the breast with Maynard’s.

Into a pan to hold juices, then into the almond wood-fueled smoker went the bird. When smoking, it’s important to leave the bird unstuffed, so that it will heat up above 140F as rapidly as possible. Getting the bird above this threshold rapidly is important to hold in check those nasty bacterial buggers that want to over-run things and make everyone sick. Stuffing greatly increases the heating time which increases the danger of food poisoning, particularly when using lower temperatures for smoking compared to normal oven temperatures.

I smoked this bird at a little higher temperature than is optimal, about Done300F or so. This bird was probably about 15 lbs. and I think it reached 165F in about 4 hrs.

This is what it looked like when taken out of the smoker and onto the platter.   Sorry I don’t have a photo of the turkey beautifully carved, there was just no time to waste because of the hungry horde awaiting their smoked turkey dinner! However, trust me that it turned out fantastic, moist, and with a beautiful smoke turkey flavor that exceeded any store-bought broad-breasted bird I’ve ever sampled. My daughter refused to taste it. Oh well, more for everybody else.

Even if cooking in the oven this year, give the buttermilk brine a try. Buttermilk is one of the standards if you peruse any of the old time southern fried chicken recipes. It works wonders for chicken and also for turkey!

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Wine Trails

It’s been some time since my last effort on blogland here. There’ve been quite a few business distractions lately, plus we’ve done little of note that honestly, is either worthy of documentation or your effort to read.

Miners Mix just finished the Madera Wine Trails event that was held Nov 7 and 8. The Madera Vintners Association holds these events thrice/year and they’re well worth the booth       visit. We’ve been at the same winery, San Joaquin Wine Company, for the last several years. Being overly fond of really good wine and better people, this is one of the events to which all of us look forward to working. All the wineries in Madera are far less pretentious than wineries in Napa or Sonoma, and the wines, especially those from San Joaquin Wine Company are pretty much the equal of anything from those better known regions at 25% or less of the price of your average Napa bottle. This place is an absolute winner all around in our collective humble opinion.

At one event this past Feb. which was a chocolate-themed event, we went out on a limb and made three versions of chocolate truffles containing our Fire in the Hole Ghost Pepper Rub, Pepperhead’s Hotbanero Rub, and Wholly Chipotle Rub. The truffles were such a smashing success that we decided to make them again. The candy was simply a vehicle to sample our hot rubs, but we had so many folks actually asking where they could buy them that we may actually explore production and marketing options!

The truffles were wonderful tools that enabled folks to try the hot rubs and experience the different burns from the different chiles in the rubs. There was not enough chile in the recipe to really light folks up, yet one could still experience the different heats and relative intensities of the chiles in the rubs. Chipotle imparted almost no heat at all; at the most the Wholly Chipotle rub yielded a smoky chocolate and a very, very slight tingle. Hotbanero seemed to promote a more forward and immediate heat while Fire in the Hole imparted a slower burn that intensified over a few seconds and was more noticeable in the rear of one’s mouth. A great thing about using truffles for sampling was that the heat was all gone in a few seconds.

These truffles are stupid simple to make. FYI: Stupid simple is at the very core of the entire cooking philosophy of Miners Mix. If you’re reading this blog hoping to see some pictures of beautiful presentations and haute cuisine, it ain’t gonna happen!

Miners Mix stupid simple truffle recipe:


  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla (or your favorite alcohol – rum, brandy and bourbon all work well)
  • 1 tablespoon of Miners Mix Fire in the Hole, HotBanero, or Wholly Chipotle rub.


  1. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Stir in melted chocolate, vanilla and the hot rub until no streaks remain. Refrigerate for about 1 hour. Shape into small balls. We color coded the balls with red sugar sprinkles being Fire in the Hole, powdered sugar being HotBanero, and cocoa being Wholly Chipotle.

Fire in the Hole TrufflesFITH

HotBanero TrufflesHB

Wholly Chipotle TrufflesWC

We usually try to highlight one rub or another at these events, so I always drag a BBQ grill to set up out back. Besides the staple Miners Mix signature garlic bread demo tidbit, we’ve done salmon and tilapia with our Miners Mix Salmon Marinade, shrimp with the Miners Mix XXX-Garlic Rub, Miners Mix Bean Dip, Miners Mix Chorizo, Mexican Au Gratin potatoes with Miners Mix Chorizo Blend, Mushrooms with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie, marinated chicken pieces with Ranch dressing and Miners Mix Kit’s K.C. Rub, and pineapple dusted with Miners Mix Wholly Chipotle. All of these get the customary Miners Mix eye roll along with an OMG! nearly 98% of the time. You can browse the full line of Miners Mix products here.

We had never done anything with Miners Mix Maynard’s Memphis Rub before, even though we all feel it’s one of our best products. Ribs or pork butts require many hours to PB1do properly, and serving samples out to a thousand or so people can become problematic. Oh well, time to suck it up and jump into the fire, er smoke!

For this last Wine Trail event, I decided to smoke a bunch of Maynard’s-rubbed butts on the famed Miners Mix reverse-flow offset pit smoker and then bag and freeze them for a few days before the wine trails event. The butts were slow-smoked with almond wood at about 230F for about five hours. I like to finish them in aluminum roasting pans covered with foil and baked in the oven for anotherPB3 five to eight hours at 275 F or so. The roasting pans catch all the good smoked grease and PB2juice that can be separated and then frozen for later use in many other dishes to impart smoky goodness.

The night before Wine Trails, I set the butts out to thaw, then the next morning into the coolers and off to the event they went.

Once the BBQ grill was up to temperature, into the trusty grill basket went each butt, one by one, or depending on size, half butt by half butt. The pork was turned and stirred in the basket and dusted with additional Maynard’s Memphis Rub, and the pulled pork became crispy smoky pulled pork carnitas goodness.GBPB

Look at those pieces of red smoke-ring!

I love pulled pork done this way. My son calls traditional pulled pork “string cheese pork” because it usually has the consistency of string cheese, or worse. Using a grill basket facilitates occurrence of a Maillard reaction in the same way that a seared steak tastes superior to one that has been boiled. The pieces become crispy which intensifies the flavor and provides a mouth-feel character that is not present in traditional, soggy pulled pork. Even slathered with sauce, the crispiness of pork from a grill basket is still noticeable and the flavor is a great addition. Highly recommend the stir friend carnitas pulled pork!

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Reflections on the Cycle of Life and Marinated Chicken Thighs

Up here in the hills near Yosemite National Park, we are entering early fall and hopefully soon, the beginning of a sorely-needed rainy season. After four years of drought many of us have dry or barely-functioning wells. Everyone here hopes that the predictions of a truly epic rainy season prove accurate, yet, we are all aware of the good and the bad such epicBird rains may bring. Whatever the outcome, there will be green grass and wildflowers again and it will be wonderful to see them once more.

The Mariposa Co. Fair has come and gone; concomitantly the end of the 4-H year is close to the end as well. 4-H is a fantastic program that fosters skills and tremendous social growth in kids. 4-H kids in general, have far more self-confidence in their abilities, and are far more adept at conversation with adults than are most other, non-4-H kids their age.

4-H revolves heavily around a wide variety of projects. Besides traditional animal projects, there are also a broad range of non-animal projects in which kids can enroll. Traditionally, animal projects involve raising a meat breed animal, bringing it to the fair, showing that animal, and then auctioning that animal at the livestock auction from whence it gets processed and returned to the buyer in packages. There are animal projects, however, for showing and exhibition only.

My kids are very involved in the poultry project and show fancy birds in showmanship along with Cornish Cross meat chickens in the market class. In this rural county, the pair of meat chickens my son raised fetched over $700 at the fair livestock auction! Way beyond making obscene amounts of money at the local auction, raising animals teaches kids the economics of business. They learn to recognize that spilling and wasting feed, or neglecting their animals, costs them in the end when they complete their project books and tally up the costs of raising Vs their auction results. More importantly, and unlike many other kids, they know the food on their plate was not produced by a local grocery store.

Cornish cross chickens are perfectly suited to commercial broiler production. They grow from cute yellow chick to a market weight of 5-6 lbs in only about 6 weeks. They will not scratch and forage like other chickens will do, even if free-ranged. They will instead sit in front of the food dish and can quite literally eat themselves to death if given the opportunity. Meat chickens are the most efficient of all meat-breed animals at converting feed into body mass; it takes 3 lbs. of feed to make 1 lb. of chicken, and that’s why chicken remains inexpensive.

I write this, because as part of the poultry project, we along with most other 4H families have excess meat chickens and broad-breasted turkeys that need to be processed. We do this as a group, everyone pitching in on everyone’s excess birds. The rooster above is close to 9 lbs at only 2 months of age. If not butchered, he will grow until he literally cannot walk. The size of his body will overtax his immature skeletal and cardiovascular systems and he will suffer a hip dislocation, a broken leg, or a heart attack. These chickens are quite literally prisoners of their own genetics. It saddens me for them and I look forward to the day when my son graduates out of 4-H and I no longer have to raise these creatures.

Growing up in suburban S. California, I never dreamed I’d butcher chickens and turkeys. I don’t like doing it, I actually hate it, but here in this rural environment, it’s a useful skill. Far more importantly, however, the act of butchering emphasizes the importance of not wasting food. Many folks don’t give a thought about the origins of what’s on their plate and how it got there. Many inner city folks actually think the food they eat somehow grows inside that foam and stretch wrap container sitting on the grocery shelf. Nope! That piece of steak, pork, chicken or even lettuce or carrot in your salad, came from a living organism that quite literally gave to us absolutely everything it had. We as consumers have an obligation to prepare the food to the best of our ability to give maximum value to the gift that animal or plant gave to us. To do anything less is an affront to the life of that animal or plant.

Which brings me to the subject of marinated chicken thighs!

After a long miserable day that I guarantee was far more unpleasant for the stars of the show, it’s nice to come home and cook up a little bit of wonderful heaven. This is one of my all-time favorite ways to grill chicken and the combination of the sweet Kansas City BBQ rub along with the ranch dressing magically combines to make a kind of BBQ sauce over the chicken as it cooks. Trust me, it’s way better than it sounds from the ingredients. We do this recipe at shows and events and it never fails to get the customary eye-roll and OMG! along with “What did you put on the chicken”.

Cooked chickenOne of the time-honored techniques for real southern fried chicken is a buttermilk soak of the raw chicken. I’m told it makes the flavor more mellow, whatever that means. At any rate, if it’s been done for something like a hundred years in a place where they really know how to cook chicken, then I’m OK with that.

Rather than using buttermilk in this marinade, we’ll use buttermilk ranch dressing. Blend a cup of ranch dressing to ½ cup of Miners Mix Kit’s K.C. BBQ Seasoning and Rub. Toss in the chicken pieces and allow to marinate for at least a few hours, though overnight or even longer is best. This recipe seems to work best with thighs or chicken pieces with the skin removed. Whole chickens or legs don’t come out as good, I think the skin may inhibit the marinade penetrating into the meat.

For this grill, I’m using packaged thighs. Truthfully, I can’t taste much if any difference between the chickens we grow and those we buy. When you consider the cost of the feed and the hassle of processing chickens, there’s no way in the world we can grow chickens as cheaply as Foster Farms. Plus, if it’s organic chicken you want, you can pretty much double the feed cost over what Purina supplies.

Once marinated to your satisfaction, place the thighs on the grill at about medium temp. raw marinadeYou can’t use real hot temperatures because the Kit’s K.C. BBQ Seasoning has quite a bit of brown sugar in it and the ranch, being a salad dressing, contains quite a bit of oil, so it can burn as well.

Grill the thighs or skinless chicken until done. As they cook, the color of the marinade will change from the pumpkin-custard color to the beautiful color in the picture above. Get ready to enjoy one of the best grilled chicken meals you’ll ever eat.

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Often Overlooked; Frequently Underutilized

No, it’s not parts of camel or baboon that are only eaten by that guy on TV.  It’s Grill Baskets!


If you don’t have a grill basket in your selection of BBQ implements, then you’re lacking one of the most useful tools known to the world of grilling. You most definitely need to ask Santa for one, or make a visit to your local Grillin’ superstore to get properly equipped. A grill basket expands the grilling horizon to just about anything that swims, walks, runs, flies, or is anchored into the ground via roots. With a grill basket, you can cook all sorts of stuff over real coals that you’d never otherwise consider putting onto the grill, except maybe foi gras or refried beans!

Grill baskets come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Some are essentially rectangular or square flat cages, with lids that latch closed. These do a fine job of containing fragile foods like fish so the entire basket can be flipped without fear of consumable goodies falling down into the fire lurking below. Some are elongate, rectangular, and narrow. They’re designed to do kebobs without that pesky bamboo skewer. Some are not baskets at all, but more like a rack of some kind.

Many, however, are clearly and cleverly designed to catch grillers and their hard-earned dollars, rather than fulfill an actual useful role in a griller’s tool kit. There are baskets designed to hold corn on the cob, and there are some that have indentations to hold hot dogs. Other than a nice flat steak, there are few foods in this entire world that are more amenable and perfectly shaped for grilling than are corn and hotdogs. Now it seems to me that a BBQ grill is a kind of basket, in and of itself, so why in the world would one need a basket to grill wieners?

In my opinion, the most versatile and useful of all grill baskets are kind of like flat-bottomed woks full of holes, or a bowl made from stainless steel mesh. Usually these are about 12” dia, tapering down to maybe 8” or so at the bottom where they sit on the grill, and they range from an inch or two to 4-5 inches or more in height. Baskets come in a range of sizes, so be sure to get one that’s sized appropriately for your grill. You don’t want a basket with an 8” bottom that you plan on using on a 4” square hibachi, for instance. Sometimes grill baskets come with a lid, which is a mystery to me because I don’t know why anyone would want to grill something that might jump out of the basket. Baskets with removable handles are nice, since permanent handles tend to get so hot that gloves are in order to move the basket, or to dump the contents once all is cooked. Your basket is going to get really grubby; be sure it’s dishwasher-safe and avoid fancy wooden or other non dishwasher-safe handles as well.

These bowl-baskets facilitate wonderful flavors that you’ve never dreamed could be imparted to foods that may be small, fragile or unusual. With the bowl baskets, you sort of stir-fry your way to eye rolls when your creation hits the table. Plus, with these bowl-baskets, you can still do things like kebobs, but you now have more flexibility! With conventional kebobs, everything is either skewered together, or all in the same kebob basket which makes it impossible to include veggies like squash or potatoes alongside your tomatoes, onions, and bits of steak. By the time the squash or potato is done, the meat is crunchy jerky.

With the basket, however, you can start with cubed potatoes or squash, drizzle with a little olive oil and seasoning of your choice, and grill ‘em until they’re almost done, then add in the onion, cook a little longer, then toss in the tomato and meat. With this technique, you actually end up with medium or rare steak chunks in your kebob alongside perfectly done veggies. The final product won’t look like a kebob because it’ll be jumbled together in a basket, but will taste better because everything is cooked as it should be, and nothing is overdone. Plus, with a gentle stir fry technique, the veggies get bathed in all that wonderful meat juice and end up tasting far better than if they’d all been impaled on a stick with a chunk of meat every now and then.

Here are a few items, some crazy, some more “normal” that I’ve cooked with my grill baskets over the years.

Hominy: Yep, no kidding! I bet I’m the only person in theHominy entire world that has grilled        Hominy! With some olive oil and our Steak and Veggie Rub, it was pretty dang good too!

Shrimp: Grill baskets are perfect for doing shrimp over charcoal. These were thawed, then marinated in a few tablespoons of olive oil and an equal amount of Miners Mix XXX-Garlic Seasoning and Rub. The secret to stir-frying shrimp over medium heat charcoal is not to cook them too long. They’re done when they cook 30 sec to a minute or so longer after they turn opaque and begin to show pink near the tail. Try one to see if it’s done before taking them off the grill. Once they’re done, melt about half a stick of butter with 2-3 tablespoons of XXX-Garlic Seasoning and Rub and pour the butter seasoning mixture over the cooked shrimp.

Shrimp1  Shrimp2

Ravioli: These were thawed and lightly brushed with olive oil then grilled in one of those rectangular baskets. I grilled them until they were lightly toasted. RavioliThey would have been better if they’d been boiled first, then allowed to cool, oiled, then grilled. Might give this another try at a later date.

Pulled Pork, Carnitas Style: Carnitas are little crispy pieces of pork, and when done correctly, they are wonderful. Next time, instead of serving up mushy, limp pulled pork in sauce, first dump a hunk into your trusty grill basket over fairly high heat. Stir fry it some, and allow it to crisp up and caramelize for enhanced flavor. While the pork is crisping, sprinkle it with more Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub as you stir it in the grill basket. The crispiness of the pork yields a wonderfully unique crunch to sandwiches when mixed with BBQ sauce.

Pork     Veggies

Grilled potatoes, zucchini and squash: Dense veggies like this need to be precooked somewhat in the microwave or by boiling. When close to done, dice them up and drizzle with olive oil and Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning, then finish them off in the grill basket over medium to high heat. YUM!

Potatoes Potatoes2

Grill Basket Herbed Potatoes: Recipe is pretty similar to the recipe above. Potatoes are precooked, then drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie and finished in that grill basket.

Mushrooms: This dish is one of the standards we do at nearly every event or demo where we have access to a grill. It never fails to elicit OMG! along with an eye-roll from everyone who tastes it. Even folks who don’t like shrooms are impressed by this one and it’s one of the reasons that Miners Mix has taken home 5 People’s Choice awards at various EggFest events in CA. Best of all: .IT’S STUPID SIMPLE! Start with white grocery store variety mushrooms (Costco). If they’re large, quarter them, wash, then bag in a ziplock and douse liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle very liberally with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie Seasoning, then dump into the grill basket over fairly high heat and stir fry until nice and done. Taste one or two and use more Steak and Veggie if necessary.

mush Mushroom1

If I figure out how to do refried beans or come across foi gras, caviar, or any other yummy, un-grillable item, rest assured there’ll be a forthcoming blog about my experiences!

Happy grill basketing!

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We Went, We Cooked, We Won!

4 years participation; 3 wins, and one second!


Miners Mix EggFest Recipes

 Miners Mix Pulled Pork, Carnitas Style

Rub your pork butt heavily with Miners Mix Maynard’s Memphis BBQ Rub. For the best flavor, wrap the rubbed pork with stretch wrap and allow to sit in the fridge for at least a day or two. Lacking time for this EggFest, however, they went directly into the BGE after the rub. I used boneless butts from Costco.

Set the Egg up for a smoke. Use quite a bit of smoking wood, 40% or more of the fuel load. Since I planned to smoke for only about four hours and then finish up in the oven, I wanted a heavy smoke pulse, so I used real Mariposa oak limbs that were about 3” in diameter and about 4-6” long. There were probably 8-10 pieces this size in the fuel load. Almond and apple produce much lighter smoke flavors, and are probably better for overnight smokes. Because I did a shorter smoke, I smoked at a higher temp., about 300F using a plate setter and a drip pan.

After about four hours on the Egg, I removed the butts, placed them in an aluminum roasting pan and covered the pan tightly with foil. Into the oven they went at 250 for another five hours, until they were falling apart tender. One could finish in the Egg this way, but I needed the Egg for another two butts for the event! Finishing in the oven facilitates the collection of fantastic smoked pork juice and smoked grease, which are great additions to boxed au gratin potatoes, stove top stuffing, or anything that calls for butter and would benefit from a smoke flavor as well. If a recipe calls for butter, substitute an equal amount of smoked pork fat instead, for great smoky flavors. Use the juice to make a fantastic smoked pork gravy.

After cooking in the oven, the pork was allowed to cool, divided in half, and then placed into ziplock bags and then the freezer. porkOn EggFest day, the pork was thawed and half a butt dumped into a grill basket directly over the coals (no plate setter). NOTE: I don’t remove any of the fat layer at any time; it ends up in the grill basket just as it came out of the bag in which it came from the store. The grease in the fat is essential for crisping over the coals. As the pork heats over the coals at medium high heat, 350-400+F or so, shred it with tongs, turn it, and sprinkle with more Maynard’s Memphis Rub. Allow the meat to get a little crispy, so it becomes pulled pork carnitas. Serve on Kings Hawaiian rolls with your favorite BBQ sauce. 

Salty, Crusty, Bacon-Wrapped Ol’ Miners Balls For EggFest, there were three variations.

 Bacon –wrapped, garlic mashed potatoes with Lil’ Smoky inside. For EggFest, I used instant mashed potatoes. At home I use real potatoes. For using real potatoes, bakeballs

or boil three medium potatoes until they are done. Peel and mash without adding butter or milk. To three potatoes, add half a pack of Miners Mix OMGarlic! Cheese Bread Spread, and about 1 cup sour cream. Adjust the amount of sour cream up or down to obtain the constancy of the potatoes you desire. For salt, use chicken bouillon granules instead of white salt. To wrap with bacon, I wanted dry potatoes, however, for mashed potatoes with dinner, I’d add butter or maybe some of that smoked pork fat from above along with a little milk. The sour cream is what makes the magic happen though.

When cool, scoop a small gob of potatoes, roll it into a ball, and shove a Lil’ Smokie sausage inside. Wrap the ball with a strip of bacon. When the strip overlaps itself, angle the bacon and begin to wrap a different portion of the ball, so that most of the ball gets covered with bacon. Allow the balls to sit and harden up somewhat, or better yet refrigerate while you make more and different Miner’s Balls.

NOTE: After cooking at EggFest, I’d add an egg or two next time, depending on the amount of potatoes, so that the balls hold together better while cooking.

Bacon-Wrapped Stove Top Stuffing with Lil’ Smokie. I wanted stuffing to hold up to the bacon in texture and flavor, so I used cornbread stuffing. You want the stuffing to be dry, so use only one cup of water and nothing else. When cool, add one egg/package of stuffing used and mix well. Form balls, shove a Lil’ Smokie inside and wrap with bacon as for the potatoes, above. Dust liberally with Miners Mix Maynard’s Memphis Rub and allow to sit and set-up, or refrigerate.

Bacon-Wrapped Steak and Lil’ Smokies.   Hot Tip! Our local meat market has “Stew Meat” in their freezer that they sell REAL CHEAP (about $2 / lb). The chunks are actually trimmings from rib steaks, New York, Porterhouse, etc….so the meat is very tender, lean, and of exceptional quality. Worth getting to know your local meat market and looking into “Stew Meat”, I’d say!

big ballsTake a couple pieces of “Stew” meat, season with Miners Mix Original Steak and Veggie Rub, surround a Lil’ Smokie, and wrap the whole with a strip of bacon. All there is to it!

Grill your Crusty, Salty, Bacon-Wrapped Ol’ Miners Balls at about 400F over a plate setter for 20-30 min or so, until the bacon is the desired degree of doneness. Allow the balls to cool a little, then burn the heck out of your mouth as you eat greedily! 

Miners Mix Magic Shrooms 

Wash mushrooms and cut in half or quarters if they are large. Drizzle mushrooms liberally with olive oil and coat liberally with Miners Mix Original Steak and Veggie Rub. Stir fry with tongs in a grill basket over fairly high heat until the shrooms are golden brown, tender and juicy.


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Getting ready for Wine Country EggFest (www.winecounrtyeggs.com)

I’m not much of a competition BBQ guy. Lugging all that gear, tables, pop-up canopy, coolers, tools, etc., plus that pit smoker, never seemed like much fun to me. Some of these serious BBQ guys have pits that would take a forest just to get up to temperature! When you figure you have to lug it all home again, wash it, and put it away, all that work really puts a dent in the fun quotient. Plus I think the competition among the grill masters kind of kills any camaraderie that might otherwise occur between competing chefs (Naw, you can’t peak at how I do things cuz you might learn some of my secrets and beat me next time). Also, way back in my KCBS judging days in CA, most competition BBQ events prohibited the general public from actually sampling what the competitors send to the judges table. I always thought the lack of the public’s opportunity to taste truly magnificent competition BBQ at these events negated the entire point of having these events in the first place.

About the only competition BBQ I enter are Big Green Egg EggFests, which are not really competitions at all. They do award a People’s Choice, but truthfully, what makes these events cool is the opportunity to talk to attendees who paid an entry fee and are looking to purchase an Egg of their own. eggSome of these folks have absolutely no clue about grilling and smoking and some actually know which end of the tongs to grasp. There are usually at least 20 cooks who are provided with a new, pristine Egg, lump charcoal is supplied, and the chefs can prepare anything they want to cook. At the conclusion of the event, the slightly used Eggs (mine always look like a war zone) are sold to the attendees at reduced prices.

EggFests usually start around 9AM or so with the lighting of the charcoal, and food starts coming off the Eggs at around 10. The chefs cook a variety of things all day long, and the attendees get to visit with, and eat everything that those 20 or so cooks make. There’s folks who make paella, cookies, brownies, cobblers, pizzas, breads, grilled Twinkies (really!), about the only thing I haven’t seen yet is grilled ice cream and foi gras. I’ve had the pleasure of cooking, “competing” and winning People’s Choice multiple times at EggFests in northern CA over the last several years. I don’t do breads, pizzas and desserts, but instead focus on more traditional BBQ fare, all seasoned with Miners Mix, of course!

If you’ve viewed the food porn slideshow, you’ve seen some of the oddball and the conventional items I’ve cooked at EggFests. It’s really cool to see the eye rolls and get those OMG! responses when people try  bacon-wrapped Thanksgiving dinner or Mac N Cheese, for instance.

Lacking any real idea of just what I wanted to cook and having a temporary total lack of creativity, I started experimenting with different things to grill. Stuff to finish in less than an hour so I can get it out to the attendees. Sooner is better. Here’s a few of the things I fooled around with:

I was sent a BBQ Pit Boys youtube link to on making Beer Can Burgers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq2kmbI_1EA&feature=player_embedded

I made these. Maybe I should have used a real beer can, but I had none with any beer, and nasty canned iced tea was all I had sitting around. Basically you take a lump of ground beef and jamb the can into the gob of meat, then form the meat up around the can to about half way up. It basically forms a cup. Wrap a couple strips of bacon around the meat, then gently rock and twist the can to loosen it and remove the can from the ground beef. Fill the meat cup with whatever you want to put in there and grill over indirect heat for 35 min to an hour or so, until everything is done. I used canned chili, caramelized onions, tortilla chills and lots of sharp cheddar cheese. The end result wasBeef cups Cooked beef cups       not so great. While they looked spectacular, there was way too much meat compared to filling.

I decided to try again with smaller meat cups using small drinking glasses as the mold. We made the meat sides much thinner to try to get the filling/meat ratio right and we filled these with jalapenos and sharp cheddar, macaroni and marinara sauce (sort of an insideSmall beef cups out meatball), canned chili, pulled pork with BBQ sauce, and some other things. I even made a cup out of breakfast sausage and filled the cup with waffles and maple syrup! These proved to be far too labor intensive to make in quantity for an EggFest and the end result was still not the result for which we were looking. While really impressive looking, the ratio of meat to filling was just not where it needed to be for maximum eye rolls.

Back to the drawing board

I’ve grilled/smoked a lot of unusual things wrapped in bacon. This stuff makes everything better. After perusing some of the BBQ recipe sites to get inspiration, I decided to put on the thinking cap and try something that had not been done before, as far as I know. I call my results Salty, Crusty Miners Balls!

PotatoMy son and I smashed three medium potatoes without using milk or butter. I used about 8 oz. of sour cream and half a pack of Miners Mix OMGarlic! Cheese Bread Spread. To get the salt flavor right, we used some chicken bouillon. The resulting potatoes were pretty dense and stiff which is what we wanted. Josh rolled the potatoes into ping pong sized balls, around half a Lil Smokie cocktail sausage, and then suffingwrapped a slice of bacon around the ball.

Next, I made some Stove Top cornbread stuffing with 1 cup of water and no butter, so that the stuffing was very dry and stiff. When it cooled, I cracked an egg into the mix so it would hold together when cooked. Josh rolled ping pong sized balls of stuffing and covered them with a strip of bacon. We sprinkled them liberally with Maynards Memphis Rub.

Then I decided to try prosciutto and cheese tortellini wrapped with bacon. These were in the refrigerated foods case, not frozen. We simply wrapped 1/3 slice of bacon around the uncooked tortellini and held it in place with a toothpick. These were finished off with a Tortheavy sprinkle of Maynard’s Memphis Rub.

Finally, to balance our diet and get some beef into the mix, we sliced cube steak into strips, seasoned liberally with our Steak and Veggie Rub. Half of the strips got spiked with Lil Smokies sausage. Josh wrapped the cube steaks in bacon. Josh wants everyone to know he is truly the bacon wrapping king.Beef

I placed all the balls on the grill over indirect heat, about 350F or so, and gave them about half an hour cook time.

This is what the tortellini, mashed potato and stuffing balls looked like when finished. We didn’t get pictures of the cube steak balls, but they looked pretty good as well!


We’re all pretty sure that these Salty, Crusty, Miners Balls will get the kind of responses we seek. Up here in the backwoods of CA, we call that kind of “OMG!” and eye roll, a Miners Mix response!

At the EggFest in a couple of weeks, I’m going to do pulled pork sliders ( I’ll smoke the pork ahead of time and crisp it up there in a grill basket, sort of carnitas style) as well as one of my Miners Mix standards, grilled mushrooms along with these Salty, Crusty Miners Balls. We should be good to go!

If you have a opportunity to attend an EggFest either as a chef or just to go and graze, it’s a great time either way. Low key and great BBQ makes a great combination. In the future, I hope to see you at one near me!

Posted in Barbeque, Cooking, Outdoor Cooking | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What a calendar!


Well the Fresno Food Expo was a wild ride!  The Ol’ Miner is busy working up his next blog entry for you, so we thought we’d grab the blog for a couple of quick, shameless plugs!

Fresno was very busy for us, but it was fun, and we got to meet lots of folks.  As usual, the Miners Mix line of products WOWED the crowds.  FresnoOur next event will be the Eggs on the River Eggfest.  Miners Mix is a sponsor for the event, and we’d love to have you come visit us there!

For those who’d like to join the conversation, you can find us on Twitter.  We’ve also got new content slated for the website, so keep an eye peeled there!  We’ll also be firing out Instagram images from Eggs on the River.  If you’d like to see them, follow us on Twitter!

We’d love to hear from you.  You can leave a comment below, or email us at info@minersmix.com.

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