Friday, November 29, 2013

Pre-Thanksgiving Smoking Party

For the more than a decade, Uncle Kenny has hosted four pre-holiday smoking parties per year (for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas).  People -- friends, family, strangers off the street -- are free to drop off whatever they want smoked, and he takes care of the rest.  It's a social event for him, an opportunity to hang out with some friends and throw a big party at the end that involves a taste of just about everything.  We had taken meat to be smoked before, and had attended the sampling afterwards, but had never been there for the actual smoking.  This year, I decided to change that.

Uncle Kenny's smoker is an industrial bakery oven that he salvaged and converted.  It contains a giant rotisserie, and he has rigged a woodbox to it to provide the smoke. 

The woodbox, piped into the smoker.

It's an all-day event, with work starting around 5 a.m. and the last item leaving the smoker after 7 p.m. or later.  The record for the most meat smoked at one of his parties is a bit over four tons.  This year's pre-thanksgiving event didn't quite hit that level, but it was still impressive.  The tally for the day was:  18 briskets, 23 pork shoulders, 53 turkeys, 73 slabs of ribs, 21 hams, 6 chickens, 3 corned beef briskets, two pork loins, about 25 pounds of sausage, a half dozen salmon filets and a couple of trout.

Turkey's going into the smoker.

Spraying down the briskets with a bit of apple juice.

Briskets coming off the smoker.

Above: Rib prep and ribs going on the smoker.

Just about done.

The procedure for pulled pork is pretty neat.  When a pork shoulder comes off the smoker, it goes into a (clean, I promise) paint bucket.  Then, using a power drill and a custom-made shredding attachment, the pork shoulder is shredded.  It only takes four of five quick pulses, and saves a lot of time compared to doing it by hand.  The entire process is shown below.

What's most impressive is that, despite dealing with hundreds of items, everything finds its way back to its rightful owner.  Each item is tagged with a numbered metal washer (as seen on the ribs below), and that number is logged along with the name of the person who brought it.  When meat comes off the smoker, it is identified on the log, packaged and labeled with the appropriate name.

Fish and ham are the last items to go on the smoker, as they take the least amount of time (the fish will overcook fairly quickly, and the ham, being pre-cooked, only requires enough time to warm up, take on a little smoke, and let the glaze melt).

Wrapped, racked and ready for pick-up.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

World's Best Bro!

Okay, so he's not earning the title right at this moment, since he's grumbling in his bed loud enough to wake Elizabeth up, but anyway...

Uncle Tony & Aunt Jen got Ben a "World's Best Bro" shirt when we visited in July, along with an "I love my bro" shirt for Elizabeth. They are doubly appropriate since Ben's initials are BRO. Ben's shirt didn't fit so they kept it and had Jen's mom Dena make it into an incredible cape. It was a windy day yesterday, so Ben modeled it outside so it would look even cooler.

World's Best Bro & Best Little Sister

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fun Day at the K

Today the Royals held an open house for potential season ticket buyers, so we thought we'd run over there and let the kids wander through the seats for some free entertainment. It turned out to be even cooler than we imagined- free hot dogs, drinks, Cracker Jacks, and popcorn, plus the chance to sit in all the seats, walk on part of the warning track and both dugouts, check out the Diamond Club restaurant and the swanky Crown Club private lounge, and tour the visitors' clubhouse. Plus 20% off in the team store! I got a clearance Billy Butler shirt for about $10. Great-Grandma Meyer had sent the kids each $5 so Ben excitedly picked out a pack of baseball cards and Elizabeth chose a set of 2 necklaces with big baseball beads (she wanted to touch everything else in the store first, though!). We will definitely try to check this out next year, even if season tickets aren't exactly in the budget!

Elizabeth makes a call to the visitors' bullpen- we could actually hear it ring in the outfield!

He wanted to run like Daddy & Uncle Eric did at the 5K.


Ben calls the Royals' bullpen and tells them to get Greg Holland ready to pitch.

In the Royals' dugout

The view from the $16,000 seats! (I am not kidding!)

In the clubhouse

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween!

After a few days of rain, we had a nice evening for trick-or-treating. Elizabeth has been getting used to her ladybug costume over the last few weeks. She wanted nothing to do with it at first but after seeing online photos of other kids in the same costume, she understood what it was and let me help her try it on. (Full disclosure: they were bribed with delicious apple cider caramels to sit together and smile for the picture!)

On Halloween Elizabeth was excited to get her costume on (did not even want me to bother with the shirt or tights, just wanted "bug! bug!") but freaked out when the first trick-or-treaters came to the door. We carried her most of the way when we went out, though she did warm up and want to go get "treat, treat!" eventually. She was really interested in the Hershey bar she got to eat when we got home and savored it in little bites with intense focus

Ben had a ball in his Chiefs outfit and ran from house to house enthusiastically yelling, "Trick or TREAT!" He also enjoyed watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" with Dave when we got home.