Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Gone Wild

I love to cook & every Thanksgiving have been given the task of cooking the turkey because I won't tolerate a dry turkey & everyone knows it. Now I have tried all the different ways of cooking the perfect turkey which includes, deep frying, ovens, smokers, roasters & boiling. I have used brine's, marinades, injections & all types of secret recipes from the food network, family, friends & even a few old wives tales.
I have however conjured up my own recipe & if the turkey is under 25 lbs, you will have a turkey as tender & moist as the very best chicken you have ever eaten. I have had chef's tell me that they wanted me to teach them what I do because they like it so much. Now I know that people give compliments all the time when they get free food & don't have to cook themselves but I am not really a big turkey fan & find that I really like the flavor of my turkeys along with how moist they are.
I have an interesting story recounting this years Thanksgiving turkey which weighed in at 36.7 lbs & no, this isn't a typo although I have plenty with my two fingered typing.

I take my turkey & do all the normal prep work, like start my defrosting a day or two in advance in the refrigerator because Heaven forbid you might get some bug from defrosting wrong. I then take everything out of turkey & rinse it in clean water. I pat it dry & let it stand for about an half hour while I prepare my cooking barrel. yes, I have an old 55 gallon barrel that I designed & built to be a smoker. I add 10 lbs of Kingsford briquettes in the bottom of barrel which sets on a rack that is a few inches off the bottom. I never used pre soaked briquettes because they have a oily residue on them. I then add my electric starter to the briquettes until they start to have some flame.
While waiting for the flames to appear, I get my turkey ready by taking melted butter & rubbing it with my own dry rub consisting of sage thyme, chili powder, garlic salt, Lawry's season salt, dry mustard, salt & pepper with a little brown sugar. I reach between the skin & the body of the turkey & do the same.
I place sliced apples, oranges, garlic, & onion under turkey in a roasting pan filled with chicken stock, mixed with more of my dry rub spices & some apple juice or orange juice. I place the lid on the roasting pan or cover with tin foil to keep the moisture in the pan & in the turkey. I then set the pan on a rack about 3/4 of the way up my barrel for 1.5 -- 2 hrs. make sure the lid is on the roasting pan & make sure the lid is on the barrel.
I check for my 165* at thigh joint, next to body. I then add 10 more lbs of briquettes while lid is on roasting pan. After a few minutes I take lid off roasting pan to let the turkey brown. If the bath the turkey is cooking in is getting dry, you can add more at this time & baste the turkey.
your 20lb turkey may be done at 2hours but don't take out of smoker until you reach 165 degrees. I know we are told to reach 170-180 degrees but this is way overkill. You now continue basting at half hour intervals & checking temperature. If it is taking longer to reach desired temperature, put the roasting pan lid back on to keep moisture in pan & turkey. If you do everything correctly you will cut down your cooking time in a conventional oven by 1 to 2 hours & this will be the most flavorful & moist turkey you have ever experienced.
My son called this year because he couldn't get home for Thanksgiving & said that he didn't realize how different my turkeys were from others until he had turkey at some friends house this year. he may have been just making dad feel good but "it did".
Now we get into this years monster turkey. We had a traditional 20 pounder but the neighbor shows up with a turkey just under 37 lbs that they were given as employees of a turkey farm. I didn't know turkeys could be so big but I can assure you, they do. I began to stress out because this monster didn't fit in anything I owned & outside of using a chainsaw to cut it in half, I didn't have a clue what to do but I knew that I couldn't serve dry turkey.
An advantage to living in a small town is you get to know a lot of people & I went to the Murphys Hotel to ask the owner if I could rob his kitchen for a giant roasting pan. He said yes & then gave me his ideas on what to do which included piecing out the turkey & cooking seperately which was considered. I still thought the pan was to small so I went to Ironstone Vineyards massive kitchen to find two pans that were big enough but I was concerned how I would get this monster in my barrel.
I found that my concerns proved to be valid as when I got home & began to place the pans into my barrel, they didn't fit. I was finding myself a little bit screwed if there is such a thing as being a little screwed? I racked my brain for a solution with less than 18 hours before the timer begins on this adventure & then it struck me to get 3 of those funky aluminum roasting pans from the store. they were flexible enough to mold to the turkey & if I added 2 or 3 inside each other, they would be sturdy enough.
I boiled 1 cup salt with a gallon of water along with sage, thyme, brown sugar, salt & pepper. I then added a couple gallons of cold water into a 5 gallon bucket. I added the turkey & let the brining process work overnight, hopefully breaking down the meat & tenderizing it with flavor. The next morning I rinsed turkey with fresh water & let sit.
I could just barely get my citrus, apples & chicken broth bath in the pan & knew I need more moisture in the barrel to keep the meat moist so I filled 2 small camp pans with broth mixture. I placed one on top rack next to turkey & one in the briquettes on the bottom. Now I just had to do what I have done every year & hopefully I would have the same results.
I checked my temperature at 2 hours like I always have done & added 10 more lbs of briquettes but the temperature of 140 to 150 of which I usually expected was at 70*. I gave myself 5 hours just in case but was beginning to sweat it when at 4 hrs & 10 more lbs of briquettes, I was only at 140*. I couldn't rush it but I knew that the chances of a moist turkey were fleeting by the moment & I was not very optimistic. My options were none, except to tell the guests to cover the turkey with gravy & cranberry sauce & that was my exit strategy.
We received a call about 4.5 hours into this from one guest, saying they would be an half hour late. I was greatly relived to have an extra half hour & at 5 hours & 165* I pulled the turkey out which needed a small crane. I then wrapped it in tin foil & placed it in an ice chest to continue cooking while becoming moist by sitting in its own steam bath.
At 2:30 I pulled the turkey out of the ice chest & set it on a cutting board to rest for half an hour. The juice was running everywhere & after I cut the first slice of breast meat of which I don't really like because the breast is always more dry, even though this process negates this normal problem. this meat had a beautiful pink smoke ring about a 1/2 inch deep into the meat & tasting incredible with the moisture of turkeys past.
I sighed a breath of relief & served the turkey which received rave reviews, with everyone taking large bags of turkey home for later.
After 20+ hours of worry & 5 hours of cooking, the entire eating experience was over in less than half an hour & I needed two aspirin to relax of which I finally did.
yes, there are 37 lb turkeys but my advice is not to get one, they will only cause you stress because by the way, it didn't fit into our oven either. Happy cooking & you now have my secret to the perfect turkey that you can add to the thousands of others you probably have.
Gobble Gobble

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Innocence Lost

When does it happen that innocence becomes a vague memory of a once distant quality or personality trait? What is innocence? I watch my grand kids & I see innocence in everything they do but when I see adults or teenagers, not so much. I don't know for sure but I think innocence is a state of mind, free from corruption, trials & greed. When I see a child, I know that they are not responsible for any actions because they don't have pre conceived motives or desires of hatred, lust, greed or retaliation. Most adults however have some or all of these traits along with coveting, unforgivness, jealousy & envy.
When do we lose innocence & are there adults that are innocent? I think we lose innocence when we are betrayed, hurt by others, lied to & for the most part, been involved with any type of turmoil, tragedy or hardship. I believe that innocence is purity of heart & that adults can have innocence, it just isn't as profound as with children.
Innocence should be sought after because it is what allows us to be free & if we have lost it we should do what we can to find it again. If you arent sure how to get it back, just do what children do because child like is a virtue & child like is innocence.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Angels Camp & the famous Frog Jump

Many of you don't have a clue where angels Camp is or what the Frog jump is so let me explain it to you. Without going into all the details of where the story comes from & how it all started, I will let you research that on your own but check Mark Twain & Angels Camp CA. for more information.
Angels Camp is located approximately 50 miles east of Stockton, in the Mother Lode region of California. Known for its colorful past, Angels Camp hosts the annual Frog Jump which in & of itself isn't that important but the fact that people from around the world, continue coming to an old mining town of less than 8,000 people for a small County fair just to see frogs jump, is remarkable.

I was born in Calaveras County from where the Frog Jump takes place & as a small boy, I became fascinated by the fair & all the incredible activities & food that go along with a County fair but the one thing which always became the highlight of my fair experience was the jumping of frogs. Anyone can sign up to jump a frog from a circle placed in the center of a stage & after 3 jumps, the frog which jumps the farthest, wins the award for frog jumping in that year. You can bring your own frog or choose from some fatigued frogs that have been jumped by 100s of kids all day.
I know that seeing frogs jump doesn't seem like an interesting day but to a youngster with the thought of winning anything & playing with frogs, was a pretty incredible way to spend the day.
The allure remained for many years even though as I got into high school it wasn't so much the frogs I wanted to see but rather my friends and the girls that tagged along.
To some degree, I believe the fair still holds these same meanings for the different ages but for me, the mystique wore off years ago as the commercial element crept in & the charm was lost. the Frog Jump went through a rebellious time during the late 1960s & early 1970s in which the Hells Angels took over angels Camp & broke windows throughout the community along with other infamous groups that found a place to have turf wars, far from their homes in the Bay area or other California cities. My Mom in fact, was knocked over by a biker in the 1970s while she volunteered to collect entrance fees for the Frog Jump but never did it again after she was robbed & her neck was severely damaged. The next year the National Guard was called in to maintain peace & civility. The hippie movement also came to the fair and it was hard to find a space in the surrounding hills close to the Frog Jump which didn't have naked & dirty people expressing themselves any way they wanted. Once again the police cracked down on the hippie movement & for me the once, dreamed of, Frog Jump adventure was lost forever.
I took my children to the fair when they were young because they wanted the experience & I wanted to be with them but once they lost the desire to go or no longer wanted to be with Dad at the fair, I relinquished my fair duties & have not been for over 5 years. I can't say for sure if that is because it no longer interests me, I didn't like the change that took place or if I just became to lazy to walk around all day to visit friends. I can't answer to what reason it is but I know that the Frog Jump is unique & although the Hells Angels & the Hippies have been replaced by Yuppies on motorcycles along with a mixture of locals & the curious from around the world, everyone should experience the Frog Jump at least once in their life because where else on earth can you come & watch frogs jump or relive your youth by jumping your own frog ?

Sarah Palin

I don't care whether you like Sarah Palin or not but what is the obsession with her? You love her, you hate her, everybody has strong feelings about her. Why is that? I think it is because she appears normal & that scares people in power but makes herself endearing to normal people who see her as one of them. I can't understand the argument that says, " she has no experience"? This is a conundrum to some but it in reality, she has more experience than many of the elected officials in office today & even if she doesn't, she ran a state. Even if she doesn't, the elected politicians with the "so called" knowledge, being referred to with Sarah Palin, are the very politicians that have destroyed our Country. So if somebody wants to come in & run the Country with common sense & be fiscally conservative while giving power to the people, I am voting for that person, regardless of the party they attach their name.
Why would people spend millions of dollars trying to smear somebody with false accusations if there wasn't a real fear that this person had the right answers & was able to lead others? If Sara Palin wasn't a threat to the liberal, progressive movement & the Democrats, she would be dismissed like yesterdays boring news but she isn't so maybe you should pay attention to why she is so hated & why she is so loved?
There is a reason & it isn't because she is inexperinced, it is because she will stand up for middle America & tell the Corporate elite to kiss off. Something my party should have done years ago before they started "butt kissing". Anybody that tells you that you can have something for free is lieing to you & if they say they will take it from the rich & give it to you, they are more dangeroous because the rich are going to stay rich & the way they do that is by passing on their costs to you, Duh!!!! are we so stupid that we would think anything else???? Come on & wake up, if you don't like somebody like Sarah Palin saying it straight & want to hear somebody tell you a fairy tale, here is one for you. Magically, Obama is going to wave his wand & sprinkle fairy dust on everyone so that we can live happily ever after & we will all have money falling from the skies as the elite give their money to you out of kindness & love.
Yeah right. You don't have to like Sarah Palin but quit justifying your own selfish motives by demonizing somebody else because they disagree with you, that is contardictory to what you are preaching. We should all be able to speak our opinion & not be crucified because of differing points of view, you don't like somebody, don't vote for them but don't try to destroy their life.
We are all on this planet together so lets try to share it with respect.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dogs vs Friends

Wouldn't it be nice if friends were as loyal as dogs or if friends talked as much as dogs? There are times when it seems the world is falling down around me & it doesn't matter which friend you talk to, they all talk to much but when you look at your dog with their loyal eyes wanting to be with you & comfort you, there is just a sense of peace & a feeling of being needed.
Dogs accept you when you don't accept anyone, dogs will love you when nobody will, dogs are loyal, comforting & willing to please you just because all they want in the world is to be with you.
there is no other friend or family member that is as loyal as a dog or accepting of your life regardless of how unstable you are or confused about life.
I have had dogs for most of my life & outlived two of them that lived to be over 12 years old. These two dogs wanted to spend every moment with me regardless of what I was doing. They would always greet me with a friendly, excited attitude & would do everything possible to make me play with them & be happy. I miss those dogs because they gave me over 24 years of unquestionable loyalty & friendship, which brings me to today.
The funny thing about dogs is that it really is personal preference of what type you want or where you get them. My last dog which I had for over 12 years was an Australian Shepherd & I picked Tasha up from the pound as a puppy. This dog would die trying to keep up with us on hiking trips or doing anything for me, she didn't ever want to be away from us.
I picked up my current dog from the pound as a puppy last winter & his name is Shasta, now I have to admit, Shasta is a beautiful black on white border collie but he is so full of energy I wasn't sure I could handle it. He would run off every chance he got & I do believe he was beat as a little puppy because he was afraid of everyone until you started playing with him.
We have taken Shasta on hiking & camping trips which seemed as though they would kill him because he was so out of shape but in the past two months he has transformed into a loyal friend that can't please us enough. I say that with a slight hesitation because he is much closer to my wife & perhaps because she walks much more than I do or maybe because she makes me discipline him. Shasta loves to play & every morning & evening greets me when I leave & when I come home, with loving eyes that say "please notice me & play with me", so I do.
Shasta is not the brightest dog I ever had or is he the easiest to train but what is the same is his love for us & his willingness to please regardless of how I feel that day.
I guess the moral of my thoughts is that when nobody can give you what you need, your dog always will, so treat them like the best friends they are.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What Do The Polls Tell Me To Do

I am so sick of politicians making every decision on what gets them elected or doesn't offend their money donors. That is why whether you like the woman or not, you have to admire the tenacious attitude of Sarah Palin. I know the argument against her, she has no experience, she should be home with her kids & on & on & on. Bla Bla Bla, so friggin what. All of us should be doing something but probably aren't doing it as well as we should or can so give the woman a break. When somebody has the backbone to stand for their own convictions & not a poll number or peer pressure, they become unique in today's world & they are people I respect, whether I agree with them or not. They are not afraid to take a stand against God himself, if needs be but they stand for something & it is transparent to everyone.
Now on the flip side, we have what some may call, "President Obama" & his merry band of pollsters & manipulators. I don't personally call him president because I have another name I have given him which I will keep to myself. I don't know anything about this man because he waffles on everything. The biggest problem I have with people like Obama is that they say one thing & do something else, they say what people want to hear while doing what the poll numbers tell them to. The case in point is the requested troops in Afghanistan of which Obama can't make up his mind if he wants to send any troops. Imagine yourself as a soldier which is (being shot at daily to protect us) & you need some help to be safe because the enemy is getting closer to where you are. The soldier asks the person in charge for help to get out of this alive & the person in charge cant make up their mind because it doesn't look good with money donors or with some polls. I want to rip my hair (whats left of it) with anger because of such a Pansy attitude. these people are protecting us as well as people in other Countries & Obama wants to play political games to make a decision because he is afraid to do anything. You sicken me as a human & are just like the people on a street that watch somebody get mugged or raped or murdered & do nothing or worse yet, you video the tragedy so you can make money off of it.
I don't want the troops there, I have a son in law there but get them out or give them help, there are no other options Mr President.
You think sports fans go crazy when their team loses or wins? You think sports fans don't venomously hate the rival teams while holding their home team on a pedestal with God? Well if sports fans can get this crazy over a stupid sport, what do you think will happen when it isn't about a sports team but about your own family or about somebody allowing them to be hurt or suffer. What do you think a person will do to protect their family if they will blow up the rival teams cars & beat each other senseless? We are at this point Mr President, which side are you on?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Children and Angels

Every time I am fortunate enough to wish my grand daughter a good night with sweet dreams, I end with "goodnight sweet angel". Well today I overheard her talking to my daughter & she asked her mom, "can angels fly"? Her Mom said "yes, angels can fly", which I thought was the end of the conversation but then as if planning an elaborate trap to catch her mom in a false statement, she popped up with, "am I an angel"? Her mom responded with a quick yet thoughtful response which I thought, once again, would end the discussion. She said, "of course you are an angel".
Oh but as we all know, it was not over because children can ask questions forever & become the master manipulators. The little angel with a quizzical mischievous side to her asked, "well if I am an angel & if angels can fly, then why can't I fly"? Her mom once again, brilliantly responded without hesitation by saying & I do believe this comment was her attempt to end a conversation that she was going to lose. She said "You aren't old enough".
This wouldn't have satisfied me but seemed to satisfy my granddaughter as she went around the house flapping her arms in an attempt to fly, while hoping to find out if she was old enough to fly at the age of , as she would tell you, 4 but almost 5. In any event, the debate was over but I am sure this will need to be dealt with again because children have an amazing memory & won't forget anything, unless of course it is what they may do wrong & then their little memories are magically erased forever.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Overcoming Fear

What is fear? If you are afraid of something, does that mean you are afraid of everything? I can't speak for everyone but as far as fear has entered my life on occasion it is specific to a certain situation or thought & doesn't affect other facets of my life.
I was afraid of the dark when I was younger & had a traumatic event to magnify that fear which became an insecurity that lingered throughout many parts of my life, causing me to be afraid of other things. I was afraid to speak or be the center of attention in public, I was afraid to be around adults or to have to speak to them, I was afraid of my Dad, I was afraid to sleep because my demons became vivid reality as I had nightmares all night long. I was so afraid of the dark & my nightmares that I would rather wet the bed than to get up in the dark. This became an added burden because my Dad was not very patient with me regardless of my Mom being very patient. I was yelled at, spanked, humiliated & spent many days & nights feeling alone & worthless because of my insecurities.
I was 12 when I decided that I had enough & had to take control of my life & quit living a double life. I say double life because I was popular, good in sports & polite to others but on the inside I was falling apart while thinking I was the only person in the world that had these fears & was to afraid to talk about them.
I decided to conquer my fears, one at a time & felt that if I ever had a chance to be strong mentally that I would have to take this on myself, of which I did.
I didn't mind hiking, fishing or being in the woods alone during the day but once it got dark, I was in the light & at my home, which is why my fear of the dark challenge became so remarkable. I took my small dog, some camping gear & food & walked about a mile through the forest to a favorite fishing hole of mine. I built a campfire pit & rounded up enough wood to last me all night. You have to remember that I was 12 or 13 & the mere thought of being alone in the woods after dark was the very nightmare I had run from hundreds of times in my nights when I slept. It started off ok because I was fishing & playing with the dog but when it started to get dark, I kept thinking, I can still make it out of here before black covered the forest but then it happened, It was to dark to leave & I knew that I was facing the biggest demon of my life. Fear overcame me & I was at the state of panic while trying to keep the fire as big as possible. I tried to take my mind off the fear by playing with the dog & eating but I wasn't hungry & every time I played with the dog, I lost focus of the forest noises of which I was paranoid about.
As night settled in & the darkness engulfed me I laid perfectly quiet in my sleeping bag within reach of an enormous wood pile that I could keep the fire going with. I heard the forest noises & tried to imagine what each sound was so I could justify that it wasn't a bear or mountain lion that was looking for a 12 year old meal.
I struggled to stay awake & thinking back, I don't know why because I certainly couldn't have fought off a bear or mountain lion as a helpless kid but at the time, I suppose that I believed I could. Next thing I realized was that it was getting light out & my fears began to subside as the sun made its way over the mountain ridge between myself & civilization. Not only did I make it through the night, I realized that fear was a state of mind & that if I could convince my mind that the dark was nothing to fear, then I could conquer all my fears.
I began an annual quest to identify fears & conquer them. My birthday became the point of realization & myself along with trusted friends began finding things that scared me, with the hope that I could overcome those fears. My journey took me from sky diving, bungee jumping & survival camping in many different weather conditions to fire walking which has it's own type of fear attached. I heard about a fire walk over hot coals & had to see what this was about & after a couple hour training on mind control & self worth, I followed some of the participants across 20ft of red hot coals. I have since done this three other times over 20 years & each time , although the fear is gone, I learn something new about myself & the quest I have to overcome fear.
I have done many things over the years to overcome fear & although my quest may not be yours, I would recommend that you at least find out who you are & what you are capable of because if you don't push yourself, you really won't know what you are afraid of until that defining moment arrives.
Fear for some is a measure of comfort & tells us when to stop while others, whether right or wrong are motivated by fear. I have to say that the latter is more in line with me but I also will back off in sight of fear if the outcome is not worth the sacrifice or pain.
I suppose the moral of the story is that if you are comfortable with yourself in any given situation, you can decide whether fear stops you or motivates you because it really doesn't matter what anyone else does, you need to know your limitations but don't let limitations stop you from being & doing whatever you want to do.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Las Vegas World

I recently was given a Birthday trip to Las Vegas by my wife & although I had an incredible time with all the great food & entertainment, I found myself watching the people from all over the world, that seem to be in another world. I understand that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" but people go crazy. I saw people justifying why they spent thousands of dollars & were now broke, I saw people chasing a mobile strip club that had girls performing at the intersections while being in a lighted glass box in a huge van. I heard a woman say that she couldn't understand why people don't like cigarette smoke & look down on her while not complaining about cocaine addicts????????
The competition between casinos to bring the people in is nuts, you have big name performers of which we saw two incredible acts. LaReve & Terry Fator. You have huge deals on rooms, food & amenities so as to get you to drop money in the machines or at the tables. Try buying a pair of shoes in a Casino or any other clothing item or accessory. $99 for a cotton button up shirt was cheap & as high as $200, slippers were $110 but still selling for $250. I know that when people are wasted, lost all their money gambling or just got married to someone they met at the bar is all part of Vegas but then to rip them off walking out the door & drain every last drop of money & dignity the poor person has left, this is just wrong.
Las Vegas is like the ultimate playground for adults & encourages frivolity with a bit of uninhibited exploration thrown in. If you want it, you can find it, if you want to be crazy & carefree, you have a place to do it but if you want to go for a peaceful & relaxing weekend, Las Vegas isn't the place to go.