Great winter BBQ activity: Cold-smoke some cheese on your kettle!

Ecological Brie, Camembert, some Port Salut, and some mature Cheddar, ready for the smoker.

Ecological Brie, Camembert, some Port Salut, and some mature Cheddar, ready for the smoker.

I’m a big fan of the French kitchen, and I’m also a big fan of go big or go home. And what could be more gluttonous and over the top than going with a nice plate (or cart if you have one) of cheese for dessert after a BBQ feast? You tell me. Anyhow, it’s cold here now, freezing every single day, so it’s real easy to keep the kettle low in temperatures. This makes the weather perfect for smoking some cheese, because you really don’t want it to melt all up in your kettle now, do you? This was my first go at smoking cheese, so I bought some different ones they had at the local supermarket, just to do a test. In the pic above you can see the candidates, and since most of you don’t know Norwegian, I will explain. There are two soft cheeses, both Norwegian, ecological versions of French staples Brie and Camembert. Then there’s a Norwegian version of Port Salut, and a good Mature Cheddar from England. A hot tip btw is taking a picture like this of your arrangement, so you know which cheese is which when they come back in the kitchen. Take note that the cheese will taste best if you do the smoking some time before eating. I did it the day before, and they came out great. We found the hard cheeses came out best, which makes sense since the soft ones have this protective layer on the outside. Maybe next time I’ll try slicing the soft ones lengthwise into two circular “bowls” and see if that makes them smokier. A lot of people recommend Pepper Jack and Monterey Jack cheeses, so if you can find those where you’re at – I’d go for those! Gouda should also be a good alternative.

This is what they looked like after 2 hours of cold-smoking using hickory chips

This is what they looked like after 2 hours of cold-smoking using hickory chips

What you need:

  • Cheese for smoking
  • Some lump charcoal, or briquettes
  • Smoking wood chips (I used Hickory, but Pecan or others should be great for this too)
  • Honey, maple syrup, dried fruit and some crackers could be useful for serving. For drinks I’d go with some strong, sweet Trappist style craft beer (Chimay, Rochefort), or some dessert wine.

Preparations:

  • Make a very small fire on your kettle all the way off to one side. Make it as small as possible, just enough to keep the chips smoking. As the goal here is cold-smoking, this would best be done in winter, and if the sun is shining, keep the kettle in the shade!

The setup for cold-smoking cheese

How to do it:

  • Unwrap cheese
  • Place on cold side of smoker on a clean rack
  • Make sure you keep the smoke going all the time. I smoked the cheese for about 2 hours, and it seemed about right
  • I mellowed the cheese in the fridge overnight, wrapped in plastic. Some people claim the smoke flavour will spread better through the cheese after a couple of days or even a week. Didn’t have time to test this claim yet, but if you do, let me know what you think!
  • Remember to take your cheeses out of the fridge a couple of hours before eating, fridge-cold cheese is not awesome.
  • Enjoy!

Deliciousness!

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Tasty, creamy coleslaw

Homemade coleslaw. Ah yeh…

Coleslaw is my go-to side for a lot of BBQ and grilling meals. It’s a must for me with any BBQ sandwich, like pulled pork, hamburgers, sliders, steak sandwiches, brisket… It also works great with hot dog, as a side for BBQ chicken, fish…. Coleslaw – what can’t it do! So here’s my standard recipe, and I will get back to you with some more exciting varieties once you’ve got this nailed. Not into the creamy coleslaw? Lactose intolerent? Check out my spicy slaw instead!
Time: 20-30 minutes
Skill level:Easy

You’re going to need:
1/2 head of a large cabbage (or 1 whole medium cabbage)
2 carrots
1 cup of mayo (I suggest the homemade one found here, without the Chipotle)
1/2 cup of sour cream
4-6 tbsp vinegar (I use clear, no-taste vinegar for this)
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 clove of minced garlic (optional)
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Salt/pepper

How you do it:

  •  Put the mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, optional garlic and cayenne pepper in a container large enough to hold all your slaw. Whisk it all together, season with salt pepper, and adjust vinegar vs sugar levels to your tastes
  • Peel the carrots and grate them into the dressing
  • Thinly slice the cabbage (leave out the middle white stem part, it can be quite bitter)
  • Put on some vinyl gloves (indispensable), and mix it all well together
  • I like to make this some hours in advance, I think it tastes better when it sits a little bit. It will also keep well in the fridge for some days if you have leftovers.

Easy Homemade Chipotle Mayo

Homemade Chipotle Mayo

People tend to think homemade mayonnaise is difficult to make. Well it’s not. Here’s my basic recipe for a simple chipotle mayo (just skip the chipotle to make it regular mayo…)

This mayo is great on sliders or in my Spicy Bacon Potato Salad.

Time: 10 minutes
Skill level: Easy

You’re going to need:
2 Egg yolks
1 tsp water
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup of oil (canola, rapeseed, corn oil. no extra virgin, it overpowers everything else)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp clear vinegar
Salt and pepper
Your favorite Chipotle hot sauce (I like Tabasco or Cholula brands)

How you do it:

  • Put egg yolks, mustard, 1tsp water and 1 tbsp lemon juice in blender. Mix with 4-5 pulses
  • Pour the oil in while mizing continuously in a steady, thin stream. It should take you >2-3 minutes to pour in the cup of oil
  • Once the oil is incorporated and the mayo is thick and creamy (emulsified!), whisk in as much as you like of your favorite Chipotle hot sauce. If you don’t like Chipotle (you’re in the wrong place) you can always use freshly minced garlic or some fresh herbs instead for your flavoured mayo.

Homemade burger, hot dog and slider buns

Slider buns just out of the oven

Inspired by Norwegian-American BBQ chef Craig Whitson and his book “Far
lukter svidd” (Daddy smells burnt), I started making my own hot dog, burger and slider buns many years ago. This is basically his recipe, and it’s pretty straight-forward. I also use these for any BBQ-based sandwiches (pulled pork for instance).

Be warned though – once you try homemade buns like these, you’re NEVER going back to storebought… I usually make a large batch (2-3x this recipe), put them straight in the freezer, they only need 1-2 hours to defrost and taste great. This recipe makes about 60 slider buns, 25 large hot dog buns or 19 burger buns.

Time: 2-3 hours (mostly waiting though)
Skill Level: Easy

You’re going to need:
1 kilo (2.2 pounds) wheat flour (about 1,4 liters worth if you don’t have a scale)
2 packets of dry yeast
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2,5 dl (8,5 oz) milk
2,5 dl (8,5 oz) water
2 eggs
4 tbsp rapeseed or similar oil
1 egg white and 2 tbsp milk for brushing
Sesame seeds (or other seeds if you prefer) for sprinkling

How you do it:
Put all the dry ingredients in your mixer bowl and whisk them a little. Put milk and water in a microwaveable (!) container, and heat to about body temp (for once I avoided the temp conversion from C to F!). Whisk the two eggs and rapeseed oil thoroughly into the milk/water mixture. Pour water mixture slowly into dry stuff while mixing continuously at low speed. Once the dough starts forming, crank it up, and knead it for 5-10 minutes by machine. You’re all set, leave the dough covered to rise for about 45-60 minutes until it has doubled in size.

Now, knead the dough a little by hand to get the large air bubbles out and the small ones evenly distributed. Once that’s done, you can start making your buns. I like to use a scale, so I can get them all the same size. I use 30 grams for slider buns, 75 for large hot dog buns, and 100 grams for large burger buns.

Turn your oven to 200 degrees centigrade (390F). Roll out the buns, and then squeeze them pretty flat, about 1,5cm (half inch) thick. They rise quite a lot. Cover the trays of buns with kitchen towels, and leave to rise to double size, again about 45 minutes. Brush them with egg wash (milk+egg white), then sprinkle seeds on top. Bake them in the middle of the oven for 10-14 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack immediately to let them cool, before eating them or bagging and freezing them. Enjoy!

Ember-roasted yams

Yams that have been roasted directly on the embers. Tasty!

This is maybe my all-time favorite side dish. It goes well with all meats, it’s healthier than potatoes, and it tastes fantastic. It really couldn’t be easier than putting something right on the coals and leaving it there. The burning of the outside gives the inside a lovely smokey flavor. Best trick ever!
Time: 45-60 minutes total
Skill level: Easy
Grilling method: On the embers
Grill temperature: Doesn’t really matter as long as the coals are white-hot

You’ll need to get hold of:
Yams
(Optional) Butter, garlic, herbs for a herb butter

Yams that have been roasted directly on the embers. Yes I have moved them to the grate for the photo. Don’t do that before they’re finished.

How you do it:

  • No washing or prep needed, because you’re burning the outside to a crisp anyway
  • Just chuck your yams directly on the white-hot coals, turn them every 10-15 minutes until they have a nice, ashy, burnt finish on all sides
  • Prick them with a knife to check they’re nice and soft all the way through
  • Slice in two with a sharp knife, make a garlic or herb butter, mash it up a bit with a fork, and eat!

Spicy Fennel Ketchup aka Ketchup for grownups

Homemade spicy fennel ketchup

I like experimenting with making ketchups. The regular Heinz ketchup is of course aclassic that will live forever, but sometimes it’s good to have a ketchup with more taste to it, especially for spicy sausages and on burgers. In this one, a spicy fennel taste is what I’m going for. This recipe makes about 2 jars of delicious homemade ketchup.

Time: 60 minutes
Skill Level: Easy

You’re going to need:
8 smoked, roasted chillies
2 cans of chopped tomatoes (If you live in a part of the world with GREAT tomatoes, you can use fresh ones instead. Lucky you!)
0,5 cup tomato paste
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
6 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup of brown sugar (I use the sticky kind)
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp freshly ground fennel seed
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp ground pepper
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp maldon salt
2 tbsp ground chili flakes

Fennel seeds

Put your smoked and roasted chillies with rapeseed oil in a blender, and blend to a fine paste. Combine with everything else in a saucepan, and bring slowly to a boil. Let it simmer for 45 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Blend in batches until desired smoothness is achieved. Let it cool to room temperature before putting in containers and storing in the fridge. Sterilize your equipment and jars, seal them properly, and this kind of sauce will stay good for many months in your fridge.

Quick tip: String’em up!

Here’s a great tip for smoking or roasting small pieces of vegetables or any other small things. Get some steel string from your local hardware store, and just string them up, like so. This worked great when smoking a bunch of chillies for my homemade ketchup.

Chillies stringed up on steel string

Rocket Fuelled Bull BBQ Sauce

I make my own BBQ sauces. It’s fun, it’s a lot cheaper than buying them (at least here in Norway), and it means you can tailor the sauce to your particular tastes. I think it’s good to make as much as possible of my food from the ground up, because then I know what’s in it. Call me paranoid, but I don’t always trust the food industry to make the healthiest choices on my behalf… Also, it’s not a very difficult thing to cook. This is a sweet, tangy sauce with quite the kick to it. Which is just what I like for any BBQ beef dish.

Chillies stringed up on steel string and smoking on the BBQ

Time: 60 minutes
Skill Level: Easy

You’re going to need:
1/2 yellow onion
8 whole fresh chillies (I use some medium to mild ones)
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
0,5 cups of good bourbon
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp paprika powder (preferably the Spanish, spicy variety)
2 tbsp freshly ground pepper
1,5 cups of brown sugar
2 tbsp of liquid smoke (not necessary if you smoke the onion and chillies)

Ideally, I like to smoke and roast the chillies and onion on the grill beforehand, I normally do this while BBQing something else. If you don’t have time for that, just deseed chillies, chop onion, saute in the rapeseed oil, and then put in a blender to make a smooth paste. Combine the paste and the rest of all the ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk once in a while and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes until desired consistency is achieved. Let it cool to room temperature before putting in containers and storing in the fridge. Sterilize your equipment and jars, seal them properly, and this kind of sauce will stay good for many months in your fridge.

The finished sauce. I still draw at a kindergarten level, I know. Thanks.

Simple mustard-dill sauce

Here in Scandinavia, trout and salmon is very often served with dill and mustard. So why not make a sauce of it? This goes well with any salmon or trout dish.

Time: 10 minutes
Skill level: Easy

You’re going to need:
1.5 cups of mayo (homemade is best of course!)
0.75 cup sour cream
0.5 cup of dijon mustard, honey mustard or sweet Swedish mustard, depending on what your preference is
Handful of chopped fresh dill
Some lemon juice
Salt and pepper

How you do it:

  • Put everything except lemon juice and salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk it all together
  • Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper
  • Serve!

Did I mention this sauce goes well with for instance smokegrilled trout

Butter-steamed spring cabbage

Spring cabbage is one of the tastiest vegetables out there. It goes well with grilled fish, especially salmon or trout. In Norway we call it summer cabbage, because that’s when you can get it here. This is the easiest and best way to prepare it if you ask me, and it’s super fast.

Time: 10 minutes
Skill level: Easy
Grilling method: Steaming over direct heat
Grill temperature: Doesn’t really matter

You’re going to need:
A head of spring cabbage
4 tablespoons of butter
Salt and pepper
Aluminium foil

How you do it:

  • Slice the cabbage in longish strips about a half-inch wide
  • Make a big sheet of aluminium foil, put 4 tablespoons of butter on it
  • Put the cabbage on top of the butter
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Make it into a bowl shape, that you half close on top
  • Put it over direct heat on the grill, and let the butter steam the cabbage for about 5-10 minutes depending on heat level
  • Serve!

This goes well with for instance a whole grilled trout or smokegrilled mackerel