Winter Outdoor Cooking

In one of our old family albums, there is a faded black and white photo of my husband grilling in the dead of winter with snow a foot deep. He is dressed out as thick as an Eskimo, the grill being shifted to the open porch where he could keep an eye on it and run into the house to catch a breath of warm air every-so-often.

He had no desire to stand out in January cold, building a fire, slowly grilling a beef roast with barbecue sauce on it. Yes, it could have been done in the oven, but what about the great smoke flavor? What about the challenge of keeping the temp just right? What about the macho thing? Ah, yes, that was back when he was young, easily influenced by his wife and willing to answer questions from the curious neighbors.

We still grill in winter but it is our son who is master of the outdoor range now. With grill and smoker, just about any meat or fish can be cooked. While I write this, the smoker is puffing away with a five pound pork butt (mustard and dry rub applied) slowly coming to a temperature 205 degrees in a heat of 265 degrees. Patience is essential; hours go by until it is time to let it cook over a pan of apple juice. After a ten hour process, the meat is full of flavor and tender enough to shred at a touch of a fork. But it’s not done. Honey is smoothed over top and it rests for two hours. Only then is it shredded, sliced and ready for the next day’s eating.

Last evening, a large trout was cooked over coals in the kettle grill. Cold evening air blew steady all around, but the foot or so in front of the grill was toasty warm and an inviting aroma filled our senses with butter, salt, pepper and thoughts of the hot sauce of butter, shallots, green onions, garlic and hot pepper flakes to be poured over the plated crispy brown beauty.

Last week, the master griller produced a succulent, crisp-beyond-belief, spatchcocked chicken. In cooking history, spatchcock was a culled immature male chicken, but today it refers to a way of cooking a whole chicken quickly over high heat. It requires a very sharp pair of kitchen shears and one cannot be squeamish when it comes to cutting through bones, gristle and flesh in order to flatten the bird. The bird is butterflied. Cutting down both sides of the backbone, removing it completely, will lend the bird space to spread out and flatten under the pressure of a heavy hand or iron skillet. The hardest part of it all is done. Apply a dry rub and put it on the hot grill.

Anytime a recipe calls for a dry rub just put together your favorite spices such as paprika or smoked paprika, garlic powder, pepper, cayenne for a bit of heat and personalize it for Italian (oregano), Chinese (onion) etc.

While we can be satisfied with the entrée off the grill and a salad, some may want to round out the meal with vegetables and fruits, perhaps a bite of sweet for a finish. Following are a few recipes for those items.

Contact Connie with comments, recipe requests at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Box 61, Medway OH 45341.

Blueberry Salsa

  • 1 large pink or red grapefruit
  • 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • ½ tablespoon finely minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red or sweet onion

Section grapefruit (or substitute an orange) and dice the sections. Add the rest of ingredients and mix. More or less pepper or onion is up to you. Chill until serving time. Serve with chips, crackers or alongside meat or fish.

Fried Bacon Cornbread

  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • Dash each of salt and sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 slices crispy fried bacon, crumbled
  • Leftover kernel corn, optional
  • Vegetable oil or butter for frying

In mixing bowl, sift together flour and baking powder; stir it into the cornmeal. Add salt, sugar and crumbled bacon. If using corn add also. Mix egg and milk together; add to dry ingredients and mix well. Heat oil or butter in heavy 10-inch nonstick skillet or well-seasoned iron skillet. Drop batter by tablespoons into hot oil. Fry until brown, turn, cook until done. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

Carrot-Potato Bake (or grill)

  • 3 cups thinly sliced potatoes
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • ½ cup sliced green onions
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices crumbled, crispy cooked bacon, optional

In two-quart casserole, layer ingredients in order. Cover, bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Favorite shredded cheese can be add the last 15 minutes of baking, just leave the cover off.

For grilling, cut 3 large squares of heavy duty foil-about 18-inch squares. Stack foil. Place potatoes, carrots, onions, butter and bacon on center. Bring up opposite edges of foil, folding them at top two or three times to seal, flatten slightly. Turn package and do the same with other two edges. Package should be sealed tight. Place on grill directly over medium hot coals, cook about 20 minutes, moving package several times to ensure even cooking. Test with fork for doneness. Caution – When opening package hot steam will escape.

Date-Oatmeal Cookies

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped dates soaked in apple juice
  • 3 cup old-fashioned oats

Cream butter, shortening and both sugars. Add egg, vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture, blending well. Stir in dates which have been drained. Stir in oats. Drop onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about ten minutes. Time will depend on size of cookie. Bake until set.

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