Happy New Year. It suddenly became winter here in Maine, with some snow last week and temperatures close to zero this morning. I have a bunch of different things going on in the barn right now, so I’ll get right to them.
First, I finished the cherry bookcase/bench. It is in its new home, looking great and being functional. The base is about five feet wide, sixteen inches deep and around eighteen inches high. The shelves are four feet wide, eleven inches deep and stand five feet above the base. The finish is hand rubbed, natural Danish oil.
I also just finishing making a pair of cherry cremation ash caskets. The tops are floating panels, the finish is oil and wax.
Now I am busy getting the blue canoe ready for Maine Wood 2016, which opens Friday January 22nd at the Messler Gallery in Rockport, Maine.
I am also gearing up to build toboggans with the eighth graders at the three HAL (Hope, Appleton and Lincolnville) schools later this month. They will race them at the National Toboggan Championships in Camden next month, and then either raffle or auction them off as class fund-raisers. I will post some pics later.
And, at the farm next door, Aaron and I are rebuilding the greenhouse. It is our winter project for this year. Last year we built an 8’x8’x8′ walk-in cooler that worked out great.
My sister Melinda has asked me for “detailed instructions” on how I smoke ribs. While I am the sort of cook who rarely does exactly the same thing twice, there are a few core details that I have found work for me. I’ll try and get them down here in a manner that is hopefully useful. I’m sure there are many other ways, methods and means that are just as good or even better…
Sometimes I smoke baby-back ribs, sometimes I smoke the bigger pork ribs. I’ve never smoked any beef ribs. If I have my act together, I ask my butcher to get me some nice, locally raised meat. It is more expensive, tends to be not leaner, but fatted in a different way, and has some very nice, subtle nuances, flavor wise. The racks are also are trimmed and have the inner membrane removed, and are pretty much ready to go as soon as I get them home.
But I am just as likely to get the factory farmed, plastic wrapped, fluid packed grocery store ribs (Hormel or similar) and they come out just fine after you do a bit of work on them. First, open them up in the sink and rinse all of that nasty fluid away with plenty of clean cold water. Then pat them dry with paper towels. Usually, they need a trim to get rid of any big chunks of fat and any raggedy edges. (I save that stuff for a dinner treat for the dogs.) Most importantly, you need to remove the membrane on the under side of the rib rack. It is a thin, translucent layer of tissue that blocks smoke penetration. It is slippery, and takes a bit of effort to remove, but it is worth doing. Lastly, cut up the racks, as little as necessary, to fit inside your smoker.
I don’t really measure, and I am always using different things in my rub, but typically I start with a good amount of cumin. It is my base flavor. Other things I often add in are turmeric, coriander, white pepper, garlic and onion (either finely minced fresh or powder,) maybe cayenne pepper or paprika, or a bit of dry mustard. Then add as much brown sugar as all of the other ingredients. Mix it well. You want enough total to rub all the ribs on all sides and have a good handful left over for your mop sauce.
Apply the rub to all surfaces of the ribs. Don’t just sprinkle it on, rub it in. Put the ribs on a platter, stack them right up on top of each other and cover them with plastic. Stick them in the fridge over night.
You want to get started fairly early the next day. First, take the ribs out of the fridge, uncover and unstack them, and let them dry a bit. The rub (which will be all wet from meat juices it has drawn out) needs to get sticky and the ribs need to warm up from the fridge temperature towards room temperature. Also, take your left over rub and dilute it in either cider vinegar or malt vinegar to make your mop sauce.
Prepare your smoker. Get the charcoal going, soak your wood chips in water. You also need to have a deflector between the ribs and the fire, if you don’t have a side box smoker; otherwise, the radiant heat from the fire will be too much and ruin the bottom of the ribs, cause them to dry out, etc. a metal pie pan, on a rack between the fire and the smoking rack will do. When your fire is ready, damp it down to maintain around 225 F in the smoker, add the wet chips (you will get a drop in temperature initially, that’s ok, even good. The longer it takes to get back up to 225 or so, the better.) Place the ribs on the smoker rack, inside down and not too crowded. Close it up and make sure it doesn’t get too hot. A nice, wet smoke should fill the smoker at first, as you keep smoking it will dry up a bit. Brush the ribs with the mop sauce every fifteen or twenty minutes or so. After about an hour and three quarters or two hours, the ribs should be developing a nice bark. Remember, don’t let the temperature climb. At this point, the meat will have absorbed all of the smoke it can, so now keeping the ribs from drying out is the focus. Take them out of the smoker and wrap them well in aluminum foil. Put them back in the smoker (or in your oven) at 250 F for another few hours.Then take them out, keeping them in foil, and let them rest for a while. When you are ready to eat, cut the ribs into two or three bone sections, paint with bbq sauce (my recipe is below, but store sauce is fine, too,) and put them on a hot grill to glaze the sauce and make them tasty.
BBQ sauce recipe
chop up an onion and a few cloves of garlic and saute them in a sauce pan til soft. add around a half cup of cider or malt vinegar, almost as much worcestershire sauce, some yellow mustard and a bunch of the things you put into your rub. simmer for a bit. If you want a red bbq sauce, mix in a bit of ketchup.
Happy New Year and Enjoy!
I had a guest this week in the barn. Friend (and R/V Knorr shipmate) Frank Scofield spent a few days working on an interesting project: rehabilitating a small pram for his grandchildren to use next summer, out in the harbor. Frank tells me the boat was built back in the seventies by none other than Peter Spectre (author and long time Wooden Boat contributor) for his own children. When they out grew it, the boat was lent (Frank swears he has only borrowed it) for use by Frank’s kids.
The overhaul included fiberglass tape on all hull seams, new bilge runners and keel, new frames, and new inner and outer rails, all in ash. Frank plans to refurbish the seating, install new oarlocks, and give it all a few good coats of paint. Look for the relaunched boat next summer, out by Curtis Island on the south side of Camden Harbor. Hopefully Frank will send us a picture of the finished project.
In other shop news, I am building some furniture- pics next post. Also building some stands and getting the blue canoe all spiffed up for Maine Wood next month at the Messler Gallery.
This pretty, gray canoe is available now, in time for some fall paddling. It is a 17 foot guide model. Cedar and canvas, with ash rails, thwarts and and hand caned seats, maple decks; copper tacks and bronze screws and bolts used throughout. It weighs in around 80 lbs and can carry two adults plus either a few kids or lots of gear. The hull is painted with 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of satin base pearl gray Epifanes yacht enamel (#216.) The interior has four coats of Epifanes gloss wood finish and top coats of epifanes high gloss varnish on the hardwoods and matte finish on the cedar. This is a high quality, hand-built boat that will attract crowds everywhere you put in. Also available, hand carved solid ash paddles.
Canoe $4500.00 plus ME sales tax (5.5%)
Paddles $150 each plus ME sales tax (5.5%)
Call or email Bob for more info
Summer is definitely over, though I’m sure we will get a few summer-like days over the next few weeks. And it was a good summer. Julie and I and the dogs got out sailing a couple of weeks. I think I spent a total of 21 nights aboard Preamble, away from her mooring. Now she is hauled out, unstepped and in the shed down on the harbor in Rockland. My big task there this winter is to disassemble the steering system and replace the upper and lower bearings on the rack and pinion shaft.
Around the house, the wood piles are ready for winter, the dinghy is put away and covered, and the garden is winding down (though still producing beans, squash, cukes, tomatoes, leeks…) In the next few weeks I will put the Porsche away, swap the snowblower for the lawn mower at the front of the garage, take out the screens and put in the glass panels on the back porch.
Most importantly, though, it is time to get back to work in the barn. This fall I am building a pretty good sized, two-piece bench/book shelf. It will be made of cherry, free standing, and the two pieces will be stackable or usable separately. Here is a sketch, to scale with the wall it will sit in front of. Each block of the graph paper is 4 inches.
After that, it will be back to paddles, probably some more ducks, and, dependant on selling the last two, another couple canoes. One of the boats from last season is going to be in a show called Maine Wood 2016 at the Messler Gallery from January 22nd to April 6th. Hopefully it will sell there and maybe generate a few orders.
I also am hoping to finally finish the upstairs, separating the finishing area from my office and getting some paint on the walls, ceiling and floor up there. It should brighten it up and help keep the dust down.
Anyway, plenty to do for me and the dogs.
It’s hard to believe it is September; but it has been a busy summer. I am just getting the paint and varnish finished on the last of this year’s boats. Then it is off for a bit of a cruise down Mt. Desert way- sailing, hiking with the dogs and some nice down time with Julie. I think Rachel is planning to join us for a bit, also.
My friend Michael O’Neil stopped by and took some great pictures of one of my boats.
This one is painted with satin base Epifanes #28 (water blue) and finished with Epifanes gloss varnish on the hardwood surfaces, and Epifanes matte on the cedar (inside the boat.) The two paddles are solid ash, hand carved in a beavertail shape.
And, this morning, I put the first coat of satin base Epifanes 216 (pearl gray) on this, the final boat from this past year.
After another coat of paint, and a few more coats of varnish, this canoe will be ready for a buyer in a week or so. See 30 July post, below, for more info.