Sunday, October 25, 2009

Visiting Weekend

It started on September 26, 2009 after K and C’s wedding my younger brother C came to me and told me that he, my son J and my son in-law K were talking about getting together to make beef jerky. My brother C said it would work for him to come Friday October 23 and he and the boys would make beef jerky.

And so it started. During the past four weeks, I invited most of my nephews to come and take part in this family get together. I also invited my older brother and his wife. However, for one reason or another, my nephews were not able to come. My brother told me he thought they were scheduled to go to visit his wife’s family and wouldn’t be able to come. So despite my best efforts it started to appear that it would not be as large a gathering that I was trying to put together.

About a week ago by my older brother asked if my offer for his coming was still good. I told him “Of course it is still good and to ask his wife along also.” It turned out that his wife wasn’t able to get the time off work. Than on Thursday evening the phone rang and my younger brother’s wife said it worked out that she would be able to come along if we still had the room. Now that we are officially “empty nesters” we have plenty of room so M came along.

I must say that these weekends when my brother and boys get together to make beef jerky aren’t just spent making beef jerky. They often will start the day off with a special type of breakfast and finish the day with a fancy meal. As we began thinking and talking to one another we must have sent between 50 – 75 emails, instant and text messages to each other. The making of the beef jerky wasn’t what all those messages were about; they were discussions about the other food items and the dinner menu. Once the menu was finalized, those messages switched to who was preparing what and did we have all of the required spices at our house or would the need to be taken along from other’s homes. Then there were messages about the types of breads my brothers would make while here. At last all the decisions were made and on Friday afternoon people began to arrive.

My brothers and sister in-law arrived first on Friday afternoon. Just about the time they had unpacked coolers, a dehydrator, a smoker and personal items from the car, daughter K arrived, than her husband followed by our son K and his wife C. Soon everyone was talking, visiting making supper. It was about this time that I ended up feeling totally exhausted, even though I had taken two naps earlier in the day and tried to spend the week resting up for the weekend, so I was in bed before supper. Shortly after supper, my wife P and other son J arrived. P had to work later and J’s train was running late. As each person arrived the visiting became more intense and the laughter more frequent. I sat in my bed watching and listening, not really hearing what was said but hearing how everyone seemed to be happy. Judging from the amount of laughter I would say that everyone was having a great time.

I remember one time a number of years ago when I made jerky, it took P and I 6 hours to slice the meat by hand. Earlier this year, we borrowed an inexpensive home style meat slicer which cut the prep time down to a couple of hours. After finding out how much easier and faster that was, my son in-law talked to his uncle, who works for a company that sells professional meat slicers, about borrowing a used professional meat slicer the next time we made beef jerky. So when K arrived Friday evening he walked in with a professional meat slicer. What took us 6 hours the first time and 2 hours the last time now it took us less than one hour to slice the meat for the beef jerky. In fact my brother only made jerky with a third of the meat he sliced. He froze the other two thirds and took the rest home with him for making into jerky at some later time.

Even though everyone was still busy, I finally had to close the bedroom door, give in to my exhaustion and go to sleep. Saturday morning when I woke up and went into the kitchen to make coffee, I found one HUGE bowl with no knead bread rising. I also found a bowl with a sourdough yeast sponge and two containers, one with whole wheat kernels soaking and one with oatmeal and other grains soaking. Also there was absolutely no room in the refrigerator for anything else. Later, I found out that the overflow refrigerator in the basement was full of marinating meat waiting to be smoked and dried making beef jerky. My older brother D came up as the coffee was brewing and once it was brewed we sat in my bedroom drinking coffee and catching up with each other’s life. Soon the house was busy with people. The four women were going out for breakfast and then planned to spend most of the day at daughter K’s house making applesauce and visiting.

Son J finished the Bacon Sausage Explosion he had on the smoker while brother D made homemade buttermilk biscuits for our breakfast. While they were busy making that my brother C was busy loading his smoker with strips of sliced, marinated beef brisket. It was at this time that we discovered that the weather was too cool and windy causing the smokers to be too cool. Because two of the smokers were electric, we moved them into the garage. But we found out that if we plugged both smokers in at the same time they caused the circuit breaker to blow. So we took an extension cord and plugged it into our neighbor’s garage electric outlet. I don’t know when J and K started smoking their sliced meat but for a while we had three smokers going, two electric and my charcoal smoker.

By early afternoon all of the jerky had been smoked and was being dried. So after a rest period the guys started on the evening meal. Son J. started preparing Braised Beef Shanks with Winter Squash and Red Chard. Brother C smoked half a salmon, made portabella mushroom potato gratin and poached pears for dessert. That along with a salad brought by two of J friends and the breads my brothers baked made for a wonderful evening meal.

Shortly after the meal, J two friends and left to drive back to Chicago. Soon after that K and C also left to drive back to the city. I have no idea how long everyone else stayed up, but when I once again closed my bedroom door everyone was still up. This morning however, once my brothers and sister in-law got up and had a simple breakfast, they loaded the car and were on their way home by shortly after 9:00 A.M.

When son J got up this morning, the first thing he did was to go out and bring in the pork shoulder that he had placed in one of the smokers just before the evening meal and that had been in the smoker all night. He had tried a new rub on it which I liked better than the other rubs he has used when smoking pork shoulder. He used the two fork method to shred the pork shoulder so now we have shredded pork shoulder in small containers in the freezer. I wanted these because on those days P ends up working late, or has some of those too busy days the shredded pork will make a fast easy meal. J then did some work on his mother’s computer, loaded his car and headed back to the city.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. I love it when the family gets together and spends time preparing different foods. There are many other ways families can get together; weddings, camping trips, family reunions just to name a few. However, I no longer have the energy and strength to attend those types of functions. I can however, enjoy a house full of people. Having the beef to turn into jerky and a meal to prepare give everyone a purpose for being here rather than just visiting me. I find that if I am in my bed with the bedroom door open, I can hear and see a lot of the activity. I also find that doing this allows people to stop by my bed, sit and talk for a few minutes and then go off to attend to something. What a great way to have visitors. They can come and not feel like they have to spend every minute visiting, they can get up and leave the room without feeling guilty and if they can’t think of anything to talk about, they can always tell me how the smoking, or cooking is coming along.


Blogger Boots said...

Wish I could have been there, but glad that you had a good time with everyone.

Monday, October 26, 2009 at 8:33:00 AM PDT  
Blogger UP said...

I wish I could figure out how to do something like this the entire extended family for a reunion. Only I don't know how we would work that out.

Monday, October 26, 2009 at 9:00:00 AM PDT  
Blogger moitz said...


Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 5:50:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Cal Meuzelaar said...

Phil is accurate in saying we approached him at the wedding and said we were planning another meat weekend. What he fails to mention is that this was organized in response to tremendous high pressure lobbying from his truly. Even so, it was a great time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 3:10:00 PM PDT  

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