Best Schools to Tailgate on any given Saturday

It’s almost here, our favorite time of the year – College Football. Fall camps have begun on campus’ across the nation…… and every fan believes this is the year! Optimism is rampant, always will be when your team is undefeated.

The Grove

But Saturday’s aren’t just for football. Tailgating, that great social gathering enjoyed by all, is as much about a day on campus as scoring the winning touchdown. Like the sport of football, some schools just do it better.

Here are the Hall of Fame Tailgating Schools

# 10 Colorado

It’s all about location, and few can match what Colorado has. And it doesn’t hurt that Boulder is the best college town in America. Throw it all together, mountain scenery, cool town, crisp fall days, a partying fan base….. and its easy to see why Colorado makes the Hall of Fame

# 9 UCLA

The Beach Boys said it best, “I wish they all could be California Girls”. Start there, throw in stunning scenery and the California sun, the legendary Rose Bowl, a burger and beer…. and you have the makings of an epic tailgate.

# 8 Wisconsin

Beer, cheese curds, bratwurst and hardcore fans make Camp Randle Stadium the best place in the Midwest on any Saturday. Of course, that culinary combination might explain why Badger games are some of the loudest.

#7 Texas A&M

Texas A & M is all about tradition….. from the 12th Man to Midnight Yell to Yell Leaders – Aggies are proud of their history and traditions. One more tradition they should be proud  of can be found at any Aggie tailgate…… Texas barbecue.

# 6 Penn State

They call it Happy Valley for a reason….. Nittany Lion fans come to party. The tailgate is so much of Penn State football that many come to tailgate only….. forget about the game.

#5 Washington

They come by land, sea and air for the Husky games. But the ultimate Husky tailgate is by sea. It’s called stern-gating, and there’s something very civilized about partying on a yacht before a Husky game. Beautiful setting!

# 4 West Point

A setting and history that is unmatched in all of college football, a tailgate and game at West Point is required on any college football fans bucket list. The fans realize that the players on the field are preparing for far more important things than football….. and so they socialize and soak in the setting while keeping it all in perspective. Nothing can match the fall leaves along the Hudson, stunning!

#3 Tennessee

It’s called the Vol Navy – a flotilla of boats of various sizes and makes that sail the Tennessee River on Fall Saturdays. At historic Neyland Stadium they are joined by thousands of Volunteers, 102,000+ to be exact – to make one of the more unique tailgate in college football.Throw in great barbecue and a little moonshine and it’s no wonder Neyland Stadium is known as one of the loudest in college football.

# 2 LSU

Ahhh, those fun loving Cajuns. If there is one thing they might love more than their Tigers – its partying before and after a game. Drink is enjoyed….. but the food is unsurpassed. Jambalaya and gumbo, stuffed quail, deer sauce picante, cochon de lait, Cajun sausage, crawfish etouffee….. the smells are intoxicating enough without the drink. And the Tiger fans are very hospitable….. you will be subjected to a few “Tiger Bait” but they love to share their nourishment.

#1 Ole Miss

In Oxford Saturday is all about winning the tailgate…… which must drive Ole Miss Rebel coaches crazy. The Rebels are not the power they were under Johnny Vaught in the early 60’s, but they do know how to socialize. The beautiful coeds and their mothers dress as if they’re going to a wedding and as many men can be found in blazers and bow ties as not… the tables under the individual tents are groaning with food and drink….. this is how to prepare for a big SEC battle.

Seersucker & Tweeds blog by American Suit Store

Time to extend a warm welcome to summer

Today is the first day of summer! What are your favorites of summer? Here are a few of mine.

Favorite summertime outfit; nothing a man wears can say summer more than a cool, crisp Seersucker Suit

Favorite summer activity; no outdoor activity gives me more pleasure than flyfishing…. my Dad was right, trout don’t live in ugly places

Favorite place; our national parks; I once read that 95% of visitors to Yellowstone see less than 5% of the park. Yellowstone and our other parks are national treasures, I strongly urge everybody to visit….. and while there leave the car, put on your hiking shoes and grab a hiking stick….. and enjoy what Mother Nature has given us and some visionaries helped keep.

Favorite family activity; the beach….. probably the favorite of most Americans, especially the kids. Summer is the beach!

Favorite Summertime food; Fried Chicken! No dish takes me back to my childhood… Sunday lunches after church and before a visit to my Grandfather’s farm and his smallmouth bass stream, than fried chicken. The best place to get fried chicken in the summer….. Strouds in Kansas City

Favorite light show; fireworks is a close second but lightning bugs are #1. And no place puts on a better lightning bug show than the Elkmont section of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the bugs put on a synchronized show beginning usually around the third week of June and lasting for about 3 weeks.

Please reply and give us some of your favorite summer activities.

For your summer pleasure, Kansas City Ribs

Living in Kansas City you can’t escape barbecue…. it seems there’s a barbecue joint on every corner, contests and festivals on every weekend, discussions over the airways on the merits of local BBQ restaurants every day, and friends, relatives and neighbors who see themselves as the last authority on slow cooking meat. I count myself in the latter category, but….. in the interest of full disclosure, I admit to borrowing ( stealing ) recipes and methods from those who have taken their barbecue passion to another level. More times than not my go to guy is Craig Goldwyn of Chicago, aka Meathead. He has a fantastic website that anybody who dreams of smoking the perfect slab needs to visit, www.amazingribs.com. Over the years, after many experiments (and a few failures), I have found his rib recipe below the best there is.

The Rig

My smoker is a Smoky Mountain Outdoors and was purchased at Bass Pro. For years I used a Weber charcoal smoker but am now sold on the propane for my heat source. No more constant checking and resupplying the charcoal, and since I like to smoke my briskets at night no more getting up at 2am to check the temperature. I find I don’t open up the smoker as often as I did with the charcoal smoker, therefore the temperature stays constant.

The Recipe, from www.amazingribs.com

Yield. 2 adult servings

Preparation time. 15 minutes minimum. 10 minutes to skin ‘n’ trim, 5 minutes to rub, overnight dry rub marinating is optional.

Cooking time. 3 hours minimum. We will be cooking low and slow at about 225°F, so allow 5 to 6 hours for St. Louis Cut (SLC) ribs and 3 to 4 hours for baby back ribs. Thicker, meatier slabs take longer, and if you use rib holders so they are crammed close to each other, add another hour. Begin by learning how to set up your grill by reading my article on 2-zone indirect cooking. That means that one side is hot and the other is not. This is the single most important technique a pitmaster must learn. Then set up your grill for a meatless trial run so you can learn how to tweak the dials and vents to get it to 225°F. If you have a gas grill, use only one burner as described in my article setup for a gas grill. Put a disposable aluminum pan with water on top of the hot burner(s). Moisture and combustion gases in a propane grill combine to create a seductive, bacon-like flavor in the meat. If it has only one burner, put the water pan between the meat and the burner. If you have a charcoal grill, start a full chimney, about 80 briquets, push the coals all the way to one side as in the photo and as described in best setup for a charcoal grill. You can use a water pan, but it is not necessary. If you have an offset firebox smoker, follow my instructions for an setting up an offset smoker. If you have a bullet smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain, read my article bullet smoker setup.

Total time. 3 hours 15 minutes minimum.

Hardware

chimney for charcoal1 grill with a cover. You can use a dedicated smoker or any charcoal grill or gas grill as long as it has a cover. A tight fitting cover with adjustable vents like those on the Weber Kettle is best.

1 (18 pound) bag of charcoal for charcoal grills or smokers. You won’t use all that charcoal, but because you will need more on cold, windy, or wet days than on sunny and warm days, have a full bag on hand. Hardwood lump is best, but regular briquets will do fine. Absolutely do not use the instant igniting stuff that has solvent in it. Chimney starters (shown at right) are by far the best way to start charcoal, especially for long slow cooking where the smell of the solvent in charcoal starter fluid can ruin the taste of the meat.

1 tank of propane for gas cookers. You won’t need it all, but, until you get the hang of this technique, don’t risk running out by starting with a partial tank.

8 ounces by weight of hardwood chunks, chips, or pellets. It doesn’t matter how many slabs you are cooking, 8 ounces should be enough. I prefer chunks of apple, oak, or hickory for pork. Never use any kind of pine unless you want meat that tastes like turpentine. Never use construction lumber because it is often treated with poisonous chemicals to discourage rot and termites. You do not need to soak the wood because wood does not absorb much water. That’s why they make boats with it.

different rib cutsThe jargon butchers use to name different rib cuts can be confusing. Baby backs lie near the spine. spareribs attach to them and run all the way down to the chest. St. Louis Cut ribs are spareribs that have had the rib tips removed. Country ribs are really not ribs at all. Click here for a complete description of all rib cuts.

1 pair of long handled tongs

1 sauce brush, preferably one of those newfangled silicon jobs

1 good digital oven thermometer

1 six pack of beer (for the cook, not the meat)

1 lawn chair

1 good book and plenty of tunes

Software

1 slab of fresh St. Louis Cut (SLC) ribs. That’s 1/2 slab per adult. If you use baby back ribs, get a whole slab per adult. You’ll probably have leftovers, but what’s wrong with that? SLCs are the meatiest and most flavorful ribs. They are spareribs with the tips removed so they form a nice rectangular rack. You can use baby back ribs if you prefer. They are smaller and cook faster. Country ribs come from the shoulder and are not really ribs, so don’t use them for this recipe. Get fresh, not frozen meat if possible. Fresh meat has the best pork flavor and the most moisture. Ever notice the pink liquid when you defrost meat? You can’t get that back into the meat, so buy fresh meat whenever possible. Ask the butcher to remove the membrane on the back side.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 tablespoons of Meathead’s Memphis Dust or a similar spice rub

1 cup of your signature homemade barbecue sauce or a good commercial barbecue sauce

Do this

1) Rinse. Rinse the ribs in cool water to remove any bone bits from the butchering and any bacterial film that grew in the package (don’t worry, cooking will sterilize the meat). Pat dry with paper towels.

removing the membrane from ribs2) Skin ‘n’ trim. If the butcher has not removed the membrane from the back side, do it yourself. It gets leathery and hard to chew, it keeps fat in, and it keeps smoke and sauce out. Insert a butter knife under the membrane, then your fingers, work a section loose, grip it with a paper towel, and peel it off. Finally, trim the excess fat from both sides. If you can’t get the skin off, with a sharp knife, cut slashes through it every inch so some of the fat will render out during the cooking. Click here to see more photos of how to skin ‘n’ trim.

3) Rub. Coat the meat with a thin layer of vegetable oil because most of the flavorings in the rub are oil soluble, not water soluble. The oil will help the flavor get beyond the surface and help make the bark, the desired crust on the top. A lot of seasoned barbecue cooks use a base of mustard, but I think oil works better. Sprinkle enough Meathead’s Memphis Dust to coat all surfaces but not so much that the meat doesn’t show through. That is about 2 tablespoons per side depending on the size of the slab. Spread the Memphis Dust on the meat, rub it in, and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. Some folks insist on putting the rub on the night before, but I don’t think this is necessary.

4) Setup your cooker for 2-zone indirect cooking.5) Adjust the temp. Preheat your cooker to about 225°F and try to keep it there throughout the cook. Adjust the air intake dampers at the bottom to control heat on charcoal grills. Intake dampers are more effective than exhaust dampers for controlling the temp because they reduce the supply of oxygen to the coals. Take your time getting the temp right. Cooking at 225°F will allow the meat to roast low and slow, liquefying the collagen in connective tissues and melting fats without getting the proteins knotted in a bunch. It’s a magic temp that creates silky texture, adds moisture, and keeps the meat tender. If you can’t hit 225°F, get as close as you can. Don’t go under 200°F and try not to go over 250°F. Click here for more about meat science and the thermodynamics of cooking.

wood types5) Smoke. For charcoal or gas cookers, add 4 ounces of wood at this time. On a gas grill, put the wood as close to the flame as possible. On a charcoal grill, put it right on the hot coals. Resist the temptation to add more wood. Nothing will ruin a meal faster and waste money better than oversmoked meat. You can always add more the next time you cook, but you cannot take it away if you oversmoke.

6) Relax. Put the slabs in the cooker on the indirect side of the grill, meaty side up. Close the lid and go drink a beer, read a book, or make love.

7) More smoke. When the smoke dwindles after 20 to 30 minutes, add another 4 ounces of wood. That’s it. Stop adding wood. If you have more than one slab on, halfway through the cook you will need to move the ribs closest to the fire away from the heat, and the slabs farthest from the flame in closer. Leave the meat side up. There is no need to flip the slabs. Otherwise, keep your lid on. Opening the lid just upsets the delicate balance of heat, moisture, and oxygen inside your cooker. It can also significantly lengthen the cooking time. No peeking. If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’.

Shortcuts

This recipe is similar to the method that top competition cooks use and it contains a few steps that will give you small incremental improvements that you can leave out and still make killer ribs. Naturally I would like to see you not take any shortcuts to see what Amazing Ribs really taste like, but if you must you can:

1) Use baby backs. They don’t need much trimming and they cook faster.

2) Leave the membrane on. The membrane is a bit leathery, but it doesn’t interfere much with flavor.

3) Skip the oil under the rub. Oiling the meat helps develop the bark, but you can still get a good bark without it. Don’t skip the rub.

4) Skip the Texas Crutch. Wrapping in foil can make a diff, but it’s a bit of a hassle, and only an expert judge will know you’ve skipped it.

Don’ts

1) Don’t skip the rub.

2) Don’t skip the wood.

3) Don’t cook over direct heat and don’t cook hotter than 275°F.

4) Don’t take them off until they’re ready.

5) Don’t eat too many!

barbecue beans

Serve Last Meal Ribs with

Creamy Deli Slaw or Sweet-Sour Slaw

Kosher Dill Pickles

Bourbon Baked Beans or Grannie’s Texas Beans or Hoppin’ John South Carolina Beans or Boston Baked Beans

Bron’s Cheesy Grits or Cornbread or Garlic bread or Grilled Corn on the Cob or Crack & Cheese

Rosengarten’s Real Home Made Lemonade or Southern Sweet Tea or Beer or Marvelous Mint Juleps

8) The Texas Crutch. This step is optional. It involves wrapping the slab in foil with an ounce or two of liquid such as apple juice, for up to an hour to speed cooking and tenderize a bit. Almost all competition cooks use the crutch to get an edge. Beginners should skip this step. You’ll still have killer ribs. Click here to learn more about The Texas Crutch.

bend test for ribs9) The bend test. Allow 5 to 6 hours for St. Louis Cut ribs or 3 to 4 hours for baby back ribs. The exact time will depend on how thick the slabs are and how steady you have kept the temp. If you use rib holders so they are crammed close to each other, add another hour. Then check to see if they are ready. I use the bend test (a.k.a. the bounce test). Pick up the slab with tongs and bounce it gently. If the surface cracks, it is ready.

bbq ribs with sauce10) Sauce. Now paint both sides with your favorite home made barbecue sauce or store-bought sauce and put it directly over the hottest part of the grill in order to caramelize and crisp the sauce. On a charcoal grill, just move the slab over the coals. On a gas grill, remove the water pan and crank up all the burners. On a water smoker, remove the water pan and move the meat close to the coals. On an offset smoker, put a grate over the coals in the firebox and put the meat there. With the lid open so you don’t roast the meat from above, sizzle the sauce on one side and then the other. Stand by your grill and watch because sweet sauce can go from caramelized to cabonized in less than a minute! One coat of a thick sauce should be enough, but if you need two, go ahead, but no more! Don’t hide all the fabulous flavors under too much sauce. If you think you’ll want more sauce, put some in a bowl on the table.

If you’ve done all this right, you will notice that there is a thin pink layer beneath the surface of the meat. This does not mean it is undercooked! It is the highly prized smoke ring caused by the combustion gases and the smoke. It is a sign of Amazing Ribs. Now be ready to take a bow when the applause swells from the audience.