If you said 'propane', I don't think we can be friends any more.

The other day, I was talking to a colleague about BBQ. Because it was either that, or talk more about cloud-based micro-services architectures for horizontal scaling… See? You fell asleep. And BBQ is awesome.

We got to the inevitable conversation about equipment. Because serious BBQ people have serious conversations about BBQ equipment. He’s a Big Green Egg person. Which I respect. When you walk into someone’s porch and you spot one of those Big Green Declarations of BBQ passion, you know you’re talking to someone who cares more for his meat than the average person.

But you have to be careful. Big Green Cultists can also be a little judgey about non-Big Green People. So when the question came, I was ready.

“Propane, or charcoal?”



When we bought the house, I had discovered this giant iron cauldron down near the pond. We had a couple of fires there (If I made it smokey enough, it didn’t so much discourage the Maine mosquitoes, as make it easier to track their flight paths as their sparrow-sized wings created disturbances in the smoke). But I pretty soon moved it up to the patio near the house.

I had been using a Weber for years that was just about ready to give up the ghost - as much as I love those simple kettle-shaped grills, they’re not made to last the ages (one of the advantages you get when you take out an extra mortgage on your house to spring for a Big Green Egg of Eternity). But the grill itself was good enough. And I was in the mood for a steak. And lobster.

Because: Maine

Because: Maine

When lobster drops to ~$4.99/lb - which happens up here at least once or twice most seasons - you have lobster with everything.

Hell, one year, lobster was $4 a pound. I was having a side of lobster with my spaghetti. I’d sprinkle that lobster on Cap’n Crunch at that price.

Anyway. Fire.

Sure, it takes a little more planning to light the fire, and warm up the pit, and build up a good set of embers. But there’s a reason that everything tastes better cooked over a camp fire. There’s some magic in the combination of smoke, heat, and char that creates a flavor combination that is down right mystical. Lobster tails taste sweeter. Steak tastes juicier. Corn or vegetables caramelize more perfectly.


So yeah, my Big Green Friend, go ahead and use your charcoal.

That’s good enough for some people, I suppose.

But I’ll stick to oak. And maybe the occasional piece of apple or cherry wood when I’m feeling whimsy.

Yes, I'll pretty much always take your dead animal.

Three days ago, my Bride and I were talking about needing to source a goose for Christmas, and then this morning during a meeting, a colleague sent me a note. 

"My husband just shot a goose. Do you want it?" 


I have been a very good boy, and the universe clearly agrees with me. 

He dropped it off in a cooler, along with a note. 

I left you a delicious goose. It's in your cooler. I apologize for the lack of a head, but it was a damn good shot!

Hope you enjoy!

I was totally enthusiastic about this, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

I had not the slightest idea what the heck to do next.

So we did what the settlers did. We looked up videos on YouTube. A couple of searches later, and we found a quick 'how to dress your goose'.  

God, I love the internet. 

We took the bird out to the barn, and pulled out a garbage bag.

The down was as soft as they advertise, and came out by the handful. Even the Boy got in on the action. He gloved up, just in case. 

We lit the fire and commenced to plucking. (the fire comes in handy later. Hold that thought).

Mostly, it was pretty easy. Everything except the wings and some of the longer feathers came out with a gentle tug. 

Most of the 'how to videos' were focused on 'breasting' the bird - dressing it in pieces. Apparently, the skin is easy to peel off, and you can quarter the bird very easily. But we want saving this bird for Christmas, and roast it for our dinner party. So we were careful to keep the skin as intact as possible (though we found one or two tears from the shot that spread). 

My Bride's mom laughed as we got into the groove.

She grew up taking out chickens and dressing them with little emotion. She took care of the rooster we had a few years ago.. She is not a woman to be trifled with. 

After plucking all that we could by hand, I wrapped the legs up in wire and lit a bundle of paper up to singe the remaining quills off. Just a quick pass of flame over the skin and the remaining little bits of feathers were toasted right off.

Amazing how well that worked.

Apparently, you can believe stuff you see on the internet.

George was such a good pup the whole time - she was clearly interested (particularly in the bloody bit where the head used to be). But other than wanting to be close to the action, she was content to be near enough to watch, but not mess with the goose. 

Now featherless, we took the goose back into the kitchen to dress it (which is a nice way to say "get rid of the gross bits you're not going to eat.")

With frequent checks on YouTube, cutting out the bloody inner bits and setting them aside was actually way easier than I thought it would be. (I had done something similar exactly once a few years ago, when I helped a buddy of mine harvest his turkeys. My job was to pull out the guts and toss them aside. It was disgusting for all of two minutes. Surprising how fast you get used to things). 

I convinced the Boy to grab onto the esophagus.

As you can see from his face, he found the experience somewhat awkward. 

Here she is, all dressed and ready. The heart, liver and gizzard has been cleaned and set aside for forcemeat stuffing. This bird was flying around this morning, and is now just about ready to be roasted and served. 

I washed the bird thoroughly, inside and out (just a lot of cold water), and patted her dry. Bagged and vacuum sealed, this will be a special center piece of our Christmas dinner.  

And probably a center piece of the stories our kids tell their therapist some day. 

Pleasantly funky

The sour corn turned out beautiful. 

I actually kept forgetting about the crock sitting in the corner of the pantry for a week or so. It sat quietly fermenting in brine under a cheesecloth coverThe instructions on "when it's done" includes something along the lines of "it should take about two weeks, depending on the temperature, humidity, or your corn. Check and see if you need more time." 

So I'm just going to say I checked, and it needed more time. 

When I went to lift the cover, there was a thick film of fungus sitting on it. I was supposed to be skimming off the film every day or two, and I forgot that too. Underneath the raft of mold was an inch or so of faintly foggy brine, and then the corn, which was held down by a plate with a heavy rock. 

I skimmed off that moldy raft rather easily and scooped up a spoonful of the corn. It smelled salty-sweet-earthy. The book describes the right flavor as something approaching taste like the last pickle from the bottom of the barrel, yet sweeter with the natural flavor of corn, with an overtone of "pleasant funk". 

That's a perfect description. This stuff is gold. 

Stored in a glass jar in the fridge, the corn will last weeks or even months in the refrigerator. It can be eaten as a cold relish on the side, or even better, the author recommends heating up a cast iron skillet scorching hot and frying it up a bit in butter or bacon grease. To be fair, I'd probably eat roadkill or a pair of slightly off socks if it was cooked up in enough bacon grease. But if you get too close to my little treasure trove of sour corn, I'll probably stab you with my fork.

Make your own. You won't regret it.