Friday, August 31, 2012

Season put on hold after St. Charles


Last year, our season was afflicted with equipment woes. What with getting a brand new trailer, we were looking forward to a much more positive year, but health problems that presented themselves after our last contest, that may derail this entire season as well.

We hope to be back in October to do Arthur, IL, and Libertyville, IL contests, but only time will tell.

If we can't post up again this year, we'll be back cooking and posting next year!

Hope everyone had a better summer than we did!

Monday, June 18, 2012

St. Charles, IL #2 for the year

Well, we had a week off after Westmont, but not a weekend. Saturday, 6/2, we cooked lunch for a group of folks at the church across the street from us, who were having an "all church fix-up day" They have been kind enough to allow us to keep our trailer there, as I don't have a good spot in our yard for it yet. We're working on it, but some other things have come up that may take precidence. More on that later.

After the church lunch, we also had a party for 60 folks we had BBQ and sides for, so it was a busy day.

The week of 6/3-7, I worked Mon-Wed, and Thursday, we finished packing the trailer, and headed to downtown St. Charles, IL. There's a nice little grassy park right at the intersection of Illinois street and 1st avenue, along the Fox River. That was to be our home for the next two nights and days.

We got set up easily enough, and were happy to have been early arrivals. There were a LOT of teams who came in the next day, and shoehorning into thier sites, for some anyway, became a bit of a puzzle. But all in all, Kevin, the organizer, and his crew did a pretty good job, considering this was a first time event! There were 29 teams total, and I'm not sure how many in the amatuer comp on Sunday, as we had to leave. (My niece's graduation/birthday party was Sunday afternoon, and we provided food)

Once we got settled in Thursday, we started a little fire in the fire pit (a first for us, as we hadn'g previously had space for it) and had a nice chat with Ty, the night security person for the event. Great guy, not from the immediate area, but very freindly and helpful!

Saturday morning, I got up and started staging tables and such where I wanted them, got my meats inspected early, and set about prepping for the evenings start of cooking. The bugs in the morning were unbelievable! A thick blanket of them seemed to be everywhere. At some point, I think someone said they were just called river bugs. They didn't bite, and didn't swarm food, they were just...everywhere! Along with the BBQ competition, in or around the same park, there was an event called DockDogs. ( ) This was a lot of fun to watch, and at one point, I realized one of the participants was a coworker of mine, who started with my company the same week I did, some 14 years ago! (Hope you did well Scott!)

So, before I share pics from the event, I forgot to ever really post pics of the camper, so here are a few...

Those were from before Westmont, when we were getting things set up. The thing on the bed is a soft sided portable kennel for Ember. Turns out we haven't needed it yet! She's a good pup!

Anyway, I digress, let's get back to St. Charles! After getting my meat inspected (most of which I still needed to butcher) I decided to have a look at the bag of green leaf, and the one of parsley that I'd purchased at a restaurant supply store on the way. Ugh! Parsley looked good, but the lettuce was turning black, and slimy! I could have gotten out to a store with the truck at that point, but decided to walk across the street to a grocery there, and found enough decent produce to fill my needs! EZPZ!

So now we could set about finishing prep, visiting with old freinds, making new ones, and just enjoying the day! It was warm, so I'd connected the camper to the generator, as we only had 20A service from the venue. Water was a challenge also, as it needed to be toted from a fireplug attached faucet across the park from us. Fortunately, I'd loaded up 40-50 gallons (going by the tank indicators) to bring along, since we figured it might be a challenge otherwise. That got us through dishes, handwashing, etc. Until right after turn in, when the water ran out! So, although we'd hoped for a shower before awards, no such luck! We got almost everything washed though, all but 2 knives, and a cutting board.

I'm noticing that I'm kind of skirting the actual turn in, so I should go there...

I was extremely happy with our chicken. It is something unusual, that I have never seen as a judge, and although this wasn't the first time we tried it, it was our best effort yet. At least in my opinion. A similar box at Westmont got us 25th of 66th at Westmont, but here, despite a better presentation, spot on taste and texture, it got us 20th of 29. Not pretty!

Ribs, well, I figured we'd screwed the pooch on ribs. I ended up overcooking them, and, although they did taste good to me, they were tending toward the much side, and it was all I could do to get some decent looking bones in the box!  Oddly, they squeaked in to the top half, at 14th of 29! Pork was our best of the day, although I can't figure why! The taste and texture were good, but lordy, the box!!! I thought it was a nightmare, but Diane thought it would be ok. It got 4 9's (and 2 7's???) for appearance, 2 9's, 2 8's, a 7, and a 6 for taste (I don't understand such far apart scores, and was good enough to place 6th overall. No money for 6 and down though!
Brisket I knew we'd messed up. I made a HUGE mistake, going by temp instead of feel, and my brisket was a bit underdone. A dissapointing 24th of 29. Big fall from 3rd 2 weeks before! All in all, a good weekend though. We had fun, and my sister and brother in law came out from Michigan to see the contest Saturday, and then surprise my brother and niece by showing up for her party on Sunday.

I'll end this post with a few other photos of the contest. I alluded in the first paragraph about something else going on, I'll elaborate in a future entry. Thanks for looking!

Oh...BTW! congrats to QUAU and MBURS, Grand and Reserve grand champs, and also to Dan, of team Big Daddy Dan's Backyard, for placing 15th overall, 9th in ribs, 5th in pork, and being awarded best rookie team in his first ever competition! Congrats also to new freinds Husky Hogs for top 10 in 2 categories, and finally, to Stockcar BBQ, for thier first ever 1st place chicken. And to all who heard their names called!

                                           Contest - trailer top view#1
                                           Trailer top view #2   
                                           The DockDogs pool

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A new season, and a new beginning!

So, our first competition (besides the non-sanctioned burnoff) is in the books. We had few, if any issues with the new camper. (Sorry, still no pics, but I'll be sure to take them at the next one)

We arrived Friday to a fairly small number of other competitors already being set up. But by 4:30 PM, the organizers were getting ready to close down access to the street we were parked on. Our freinds from Moose's BBQ in WI were already onsite when we arrived. Once they had thier site set up, they set off for dinner, and an evening in a hotel, before returning for the comp.

I set about getting everything leveled, wheel chocks locked up, power run (no water was available yet, but I'd brought in about 40 gallons). Set up the tables, cookers, etc. Wandered around a bit after dinner to say hello to freinds and visit a while, and had a very nice visit with the brothers from
These two know a lot about marketing, AND about barbecue, barbeque, BBQ, Bar-B-Q, or however you want to spell it. And they are down to earth, salt of the earth types. I'd talked with John previously, and he has always treated us well. His brother Josh is a great guy as well.

We spent a while talking with them and then settled into the new QCasa for the evening. Unfortunately, the exitement of finally being out in the new trailer made sleep difficult, and we ended up talking until 3AM, only to be awakened at about 06:40 to the sound of something rattling outside the door. Turned out it was our banner, flopping fairly wildly in the wind, and trying to pull off the canopy of the trailer! Turned out the wind had kicked up pretty well, and was gusting up to 30 or so mph. I quickly cut down the banner and retracted the canopy, and then noticed my surroundings were a bit...dishevelled!

The first two photos were the shelters of a first time team, who set up their gear Friday, and left. Apparently, they weren't anchored will enough.
The last photo belongs to another first time competitor, who was nice enough to help us out back in February at the winter burn off, and we'd had located as close as possible to us so we could help him out as needed. His stuff is on the left. When I first saw it Saturday, the pole structure in back was a twisted mess. The tarps tie wrapped to it were just yanking it every which way. So we cut the tarps down, lowered the canopy in front, and tucked things away as securely as we could until he and his crew could get things back up and stabilized.

I believe that this was the 6th or 7th annual Westmont event. I know it was our 5th cooked, and we judged the year before that, so we have been involved in one way or another, almost since the beginning. I believe that it is now one of the largest, if not the largest, in the state of Illinois! And they did a phenomenal job this year, especially considering the 66 professional and 47 amateur teams they had to cram into one space!

One of Diane's childhood freinds came by and surprised us! They wanted to say hello, see the new trailer, and also had a relative competing that they wanted to say hello to. We were fortunate enough to have been asked to cook for their 25th anniversary party, and will be doing so again this weekend for their daughters college graduation! I would congratulate her by name, but not sure she wants that.

By Saturday afternoon, the bands were jamming, we had most of our meat prepped, and we were getting ready for some of the side competitions, which included sauce, sausage, wings, and dessert. Other than dessert, all 3 other sides were to be turned in Saturday evening, after the cooks meeting.

So we did them all. And in retrospect, I think it would have been better to do one or two, and keep a closer eye on the main 4 categories, but what's done is done.

Sauce, well, no photo there, red stuff in a foam cup, not real exciting.

For sausage, we thought we'd do something a bit different. Instead of stuffing our spicy jalapeno sausage into a casing, we packed it into corn husks, tamale style. garnished with a few sweet and spicy pickled jalapeno slices...
I know, not all that visually appealing. But the smell of the cilantro, and of the sausage was really amazing. I just doubt the judges knew what the heck to do with it! I'll tell you what, the leftover made some awesome breakfast sammies! And the pickled Jalapenos are killer (and homemade!)

Then came the wings, and although they tasted good, I won't even bother to show a photo! When the sides were done, I finished brining,  injection and leftover prep of the main meats for the next day, got the pork butts in the cooker (much later than I'd hoped) and wandered around to visit a bit.

There was a pretty good crowd Saturday night, which hopefully meant that all the vendors, the carnival, and the concessionaires had a better year than last, when the weather rudely interrupted the proceedings!

Normally the wife and I do something that has come to be known as the Shot Fairy Rounds Saturday evenings. It was started by my wife Diane 5 years ago, at the Westmont comp, our very first time competing, coincidentally! It was conceived as a way to break the ice and meet all the teams without being regarded as "shiggers" (Note: Shigging means that you are lurking around other folk' site trying to observe, and potentially steal methods and secrets from. We've always made it clear, or tried to, that we generally go against what is "standard practice" anyway, so we don't care about shigging. But it is fun to meet as many new folks as possible, and we try to see old freinds as well. The "shots" are flavored like apple pie, and we've been told, are a pretty good approximation. While they do contain a little alcohol, they are in no way meant to knock anyone off their game. They are merely a little something. Many teams these days actually will come by and ask "where were you" if she doesn't show up!

Well, this time, Di stopped a a few sites a little longer than normal, and before we knew it, it was after 1, and time to go home, especially after the late night Friday. So to those who the shot fairy missed, we're sorry, and will try to catch you next time!

On Sunday, time came for the "big 4" Chicken, ribs, pork butt, and brisket.

Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of all categories.
Chicken, I got, but won't be showing it as it is a new box for us, and we want to work on it a bit more.
We managed scores of 878 878 889 988 889 and 987 on it.

For those unfamiliar, the groupings of 3 each relate to 1 of 6 judges. The first digit is the score for appearance, the second, for taste, and the third for texture. The allowed scoring is from 1 to 9. One is a DQ, and is only given on the direction of the KCBS rep in charge of the event. A one is only rewarded in the event of a disqualification for breaking a rule. Beyond that, scoring is from 2 (bad) to 9 (excellent) It is a weighted system, meaning that taste is weighted more highly (at 2.2858) than is tenderness/texture (at 1.1428) or appearance (at .5714)

That doesn't mean appearance or tenderness/texture are any less important. Any of them that aren't decent can tank you.

Anyway, on to ribs. In my opinion, our ribs this time weren't the best. And this isn't to reflect on the meat, but on my own failings.  I found them a bit underdone, and with 958 689 888 877 789 and 876 scores, the judges agreed. No big surprise.

Pork wasn't much better. I had 2 beautiful Duroc butts from Standard Market, one of the sponsors, and there wasn't a thing wrong with either of them. The problem was I let myself be distracted by sides, and didn't get them on until after 9 PM. Something I try to not ever do. The result being that I had to push them to get done Sunday, and wasn't happy with the end product.

But I still had brisket left. And that gorgeous, 30 day aged, 14lb Choice Angus brisket from Standard was looking every bit as good as I hoped it would!

It was done right on time, and had I not been distracted a bit, I think I'd have remembered to put the burnt ends back in the cooker a while, add a few ingredients to punch up the flavor, and maybe taken it a notch higher. But when all was said and done, we took 3rd place brisket! I guess since I explained the scoring system, I should post our scores for brisket as well. 999 988 887 879 999 899

And what made it better, was that the person who took 2nd, hadn't bought his meat from Standard Market. So in Standards alternate contest (they donated 1,000.00 per category, 500 for 1st, 300 for 2nd, and 200 for 3rd) we won 2nd place! (and 300 bucks!) And a nice trophy from the comp, and a nice ribbon from the market! After doing only 3 comps last year, and only one call, this feels like a good start!

We have a busy few weeks coming up. We have 2 events to cook for this weekend, the following weekend, we will be competing in the Firin' up the Fox challenge in St. Charles IL on Friday and Saturday, then heading to my brothers place in Bensenville to cook for my neice Autumns' high school graduation party on Sunday

Then there's Jimmy Buffett show 6/30 in Tinley Park, where we'll be tailgating (but not with the trailer) Our BBQ schedule through the summer is fairly light. We will be catering a wedding in the Traverse City MI area for the son and soon to be daughter-in-law of some of my oldest high school freinds, an event we're really looking forward to!

Our comp season won't pick up again this year until late summer, early fall. We'd intended to do the Kenosha, WI event on 8/24-25, but a conflict came up, and the Debuque, IA comp was cancelled. So our next scheduled comp after St. Charles will likely either be Murphysboro, IL (if we can swing it) 9/22, and/or Arthur, IL in October, followed by Libertyville, IL. We missed Arthur last year for lack of a decent power system/heater, and then we had the fuel pump issue that killed our season Libertyville weekend.

5 or 6 will be plenty this year, and we'll see what comes at us. We are still waiting to hear from the Chili Pepper folks about thier rib contest faceoff in Houston, I suspect that will be in the fall as well

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Well, it's the first of May, and our competition season is coming up fast! Still have a lot of work to do on the trailer, getting equipment stored, organizing, etc. I will try and post some photos prior to our first competition Memorial Day weekend at Ty Warner Park, in Westmont, IL.

The Westmont contest has a few interesting wrinkles this year. In addition to the 8,000.00 prize pool, there are some additional awards available. A local new market in the area, Standard Market, is a sponsor for the event, and is offering an additional $1,000.00 per category, to be divided into 500.00 for first place, 300 for 2nd, and 200 for third, in addition to the regular contest money. The only condition is that for each category, the winning meat has to be from their store (receipt required) I visited their store last week, and can say they have a great meat selection, with specialties of Berkshire and Duroc pork, at fairly reasonable prices. The meat manager, Joe Parajecki, is friendly, helpful, and great to talk to! My first trip I brought home some of their Berkshire spares to try, along with a pork steak from both Duroc and Berkshire varieties, to evaluate the differences. Also picked up some Fleur de sel, a little foie gras, and a small tub of D'artagnan duck fat to play with!

They have phenomenal seafood, sushi, produce , you name it, as well as a restaurant in house, with a new one going up just across the street! and Can't wait to try the restaurant too!

Anyway, I digress. There is also going to be a raffle amongst the teams, with the winner being awarded a 4,000.00 Tremore Breeze smoker

Never have seen one, but based on the web site, I'm thinking one would look nice in my back yard!

Interesting note is it says it's worth 4K on the Westmont website, but this years model is 4,999 + shipping and handling. I don't have the right equipment to use it to compete, (more to the point, to haul it) but wouldn't mind a nice shiny new cooker!

So we have 24 days to get it together and prepare. Lots to do between now and then! But having the trailer should make competing easier. I used to cram most of the smoker stuff into the pop-up, but not wanting to get the inside of the new trailer too cruddy, I'll be mostly carrying cookers in the truck, except the bases, which will fit in one of the trailer storage areas.  We should have less dependence on the carlisle insulated carriers, as we can now keep our meats in the fridge/freezer, and will try just going with a single Carlisle for this one, to keep meats warm once they're ready.

I'm going to be trying to keep my knives, boards, rubs, injections, tools, thermometers etc. all in a Stanley tools FatMax toolbox this year. That should hopefully reduce the clutter caused by dragging all our stuff around in bus tubs that fit in the pop up, then having to empty everything out to use the bus tubs for dishes! My goal this year is to be much more organized than years past.  We will be bringing a portable 10x10 EZ-up as in the past, but hope to be able to do without it, and use the canopy that came with the trailer.

So 3 weeks, and 3 days until our 2012 season officially kicks off!

I will try to add photos of the trailer once I have them

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A new season is just around the corner! And we have reason for excitement!

Well, the Des Plaines Winter Burn was a ball as always, and got our juices flowing for the coming season.

Our first move towards a better season this year than we did our last, was to try and upgrade our equipment a bit. We started by attending the 2012 Camping and RV show in Rosemont, where, after a day of running around comparing, we finally settled on a shiny new 2012 Jayco Jayflight model 22FB!

We'll be hopefully picking it up either this Saturday or next, and I'll post lots of photos as soon as I'm able!

Not having to set up and tear down that old pop-up should make a marked improvement in our results, AND our attitudes! It's a great old trailer, but I just don't have the time to fix the cables for the roof, etc. And wanted something that, at least for a while, just needs routine maintenance.

Since we don't have it in our possesion yet, this link shows what it looks like.

So now, we look forward to taking delivery, stocking it up, and our first sanctioned contest of the year at the Westmont, IL Red, White, & BBQ event, 5/25-27 at Ty Warner Park in Westmont!

But that won't be at least until Saturday. So I should mention a little about the outstanding meal we had last night at Sweet Baby Rays, in Elk Grove Village IL.

Dave Raymond, the owner, (and the original Sweet Baby Ray) had an idea to get Chicago Area Barbecue folks together, to spread the word about something called Operation Barbecue Relief, an organization founded in May of 2011 to assist those affected by the tornadoes that devastated Joplin, MO. Since then, Operation BBQ Relief has expanded and grown to now include many more members, now able to help many more people. More info about Operation BBQ Relief can be found here

Anyway, to bring all those folks together, he invited about 150 or so of his closest freinds to enjoy a phenomenal spread of some really fine food, and take a little time to talk about the cause. Among the crowd were scattered some local as well as national bbq personalities, including Lee Ann Whippen, of Wood Chicks BBQ as seen on BBQ Pitmasters, Barry Sorkin, of Chicago's Smoque restaurant, Mark Link, of Westmont's Uncle Bubs BBQ, and  others, as well as a host of local competition bbq teams, and supporters of OBR as well. I have to apologize for not being able to list all the guests. It was ver loud, and where we were sitting, it was hard to hear a lot of the introductions.

The menu included a variety of appetizers, including gumbo shooters, bbq martinis, a mix of bbq beans, pulled pork, and slaw in a martini glass topped with a strip of millionaire bacon, burnt end bites, and bbq shrimp. Followed by the entree selections of pulled pork, brisket, St. Louis spare ribs, baby back ribs, Texas sausage, and jerk chicken, accompanied by sides including corn maque choux, potatoes tchoupitoulas, green chili mac, red beans and rice, bbq beans, and 2 cornbread varieties, and finally topped off by a selection of desserts that included pecan pie, key lime pie, and an assortment of mixed dessert platters. Dave and his whole crew put on an amazing event, for a very worthwhile cause! And every bite was delicious! Sadly, I forgot both my cell phone AND my camera, but there are lots of great photos of the event at SBR's Facebook page, which you can find here

So now we've got a 3 day wait ahead before hopefully being able to go pick up our new "bbq wagon"! Can't wait to get it loaded up and head out on our maiden voyage!

Friday, February 17, 2012

2012 Des Plaines Winter Burnoff is in the books.

Well, our first effort of the year came with mixed results, but a lot of fun!

Between the last post and this one, I made up about 17 pounds of various sausage. We made Texas Hot links, mild Italian, and a bacon-cheddar-cheeseburger variety that wasn't bad either!
This would be the Hot Links

So, I spent Saturday packing up the truck with all our stuff, prepping meats, and making chili.(?)
Last week midweek, the organizers put out the word that they needed more entries for their chili contest, an alternate contest in addition to the 4 meats included in the BBQ comp. I figured I'd have a few pounds of rib trimmings to use up, so opted to make up a pork chili verde, with about 35 fire roasted tomatillos, 6 Anaheims, 3 poblanos, and 5 or 6 jalapenos, all fire charred and peeled.
There was no real recipe, just added those together with some sauteed onions, and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, corriander, a beer, and a few other things.

At 04:10 Sunday morning the 12th, I finished the last of the packing, including the crock pot with the chili. We stopped for a little breakfast at the Dunkin' by our house, and headed up to the bowling alley. We arrived at about 6:40AM, and the temp was about 14. We'd had someone ask if they could assist/observe through this comp, and he was there right on time to help set up the canopy, and the canvas tarp walls, so we could get things nice and warm asap. To be honest, once the sun came out it wasn't nearly so cold, and it wasn't raining cats and dogs like last year!

The Rand-River Bowl in Des Plaines is generous enough every year to donate a days use of thier facility for this annual event, the Des Plaines Winter Burnoff. Besides being a huge load of fun, it is done to raise funds for a charity near and dear to the organizers, Keith and Rebecca Engstrom's hearts. It is all done to benefit NOAH, the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation.

Besides the bbq contest, there is, as I'd mentioned, an optional chili category, a number of lanes set aside for bowling for the charity, silent auctions, raffles, it's just a darn fun day! And I think this may have been the best attended in the seven years it's been done! (I believe we've been directly or indirectly involved with 5 of those)

So since bbq isn't really a safe, indoor activity, the bbq comp portion goes on in the parking lot, well, except for the judging.

Turn in times at this event were nowhere close to a regular KCBS. First was sausage, at 13:30. We turned in a bit of all 3 that I'd made, Italian on the left, bacon cheeseburger in the middle, and Hot Link on the right.There's a bit of sloppiness on the right, and I probably could have gotten a bit more in the box, but the sausage itself was delicious. At least we all thought so!

So at 14:00 - time for chicken turn in. We turned in some huge wings, glazed with a homemade cranberry habanero honey glaze (we used that glaze later for our pork entry as well)

If we'd gotten two more in there, it might have made up for the sauce on the greens in the rear middle. Diane gave one of the extras to someone organizing the auction packages, and having tasted it she spent seventy dollars on a basket full of our products! So I guess it was pretty good!

Next was ribs, at 14:30. I was pretty happy with these. We'd used a mop that was essentially leftover spicy pickle juice from our candied hot jalapeno slices, and then sauced with a sweet, slightly spicy glaze

And finally, pork loin/tenderloin. I went simple, with 4 tenderloins slow and low for about 30 minutes, to get a little smoke on them, and then finished on a hot grill to get some brown on the outside. Probably should have added 2-4 more slices now that I look at it. Or done 3 rows lengthwise instead of two widthwise? Oh well, too late now!

Now none of these have been my favorite boxes, but given that they were mostly put together in sub-freezing temps, which has a tendency to make lettuce and parsley go limp and brown, I'm not altogether unhappy with them either!

So with everything done now but the crying, we, with the help of our hugely helpful volunteers, tore down, and packed everything back in/onto the truck, and made ready for the awards presentations...
Which follow here...Des Plaines 7th Annual Winter Burnoff Pt 1 of 2 , here Des Plaines 7th Annual Winter Burnoff Pt 2 of 2, and finally, for the chili, Actually, that part of the video seems to be missing, if I locate I'll post here in an update. 

So our first competition comes with mixed results. Chicken and sausage weren't what we'd hoped, but we were 11 of 22 overall, 6th in pork, 3rd in ribs, 1st in chili, and came away with 2 trophies, and enough in winnings to cover our meat. We also donated a basket of home made goodies that fetched 70 bucks for the charity, and sold a little extra that helped cover our meat costs! And there were no leftover wings from the 34 I made, so while the judges might not have liked them, the crowd sure did!

We had a great time, saw some old freinds, and met some new ones! And now I'm looking forward to the Westmont event Memorial Day weekend!

Now all we need is a functional trailer, and the search starts tomorrow! We're heading out to Rosemont, IL for the 2012 RV & Camping show at the Rosemont Convention Center

We're hoping to find something in the 18-24 foot range that we can mount a hitch receiver to for a hitch mounted shelf/cabinet to hold our cookers. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Let's try this again?

Well, after last years' never ending equipment malfunctions, it's almost time to try again. The pop-up camper will not be an issue this year. It's our intent to get a "real" trailer of some kind before May. In fact, not this coming weekend, but the following one, we'll be scoping out some at the Rosemont, IL RV show.

We don't want, or need a lot, just the basic necessities, fridge, decent bed, heater, AC, well, ok, maybe a few bells and whistles, we are after all, not spring chickens, and like our creature comforts!

Right now, we're preparing for the Des Plaines, IL Winter Burnoff on Sunday the 12th, at Rand/River Bowl (in the parking lot) It's an annual fund raiser held to benefit NOAH ( ), and always a great time! Given the weather conditions in February, rather than the usual 4 categories of chicken, ribs, pork butt, and brisket, the entries here are for chicken, ribs, pork tenderloin, and sausage.It now looks like there are 22 teams scheduled to participate, so it should be fun! I'll post photos, and hopefully some video when I have time available to do it.

Speaking of sausage, I'll be making ours this year, instead of buying it. I made some fresh polish sausage just before Christmas that turned out well, so this time will be trying a few more varieties, including one or two cured ones as well.

We did a few other canning projects over the winter. Made some pickeled jalapenos

And the store near us had cranberries on sale for 50 cents a bag after the holidays, so we made cranberry habanero jelly......

We also made a cranberry ketchup, and a grainy cranberry mustard that is absoulutely great on a turkey sandwich! ( sorry, no photos)

For now, I have the next 3 days (took some days off to use up my leftover vacation from last year)  including today, to prep, pack, and get ourselves together for our first comp of the season.

As always, thanks for looking, updates will follow soon!