Roughing it

I interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you... roughing it.

I'm in Ludington, Michigan, where my wife's fam owns a cottage a few minutes' walk from the beach.  It's glorious.

I did not plan well from a bartending standpoint for this trip.  Maybe I remembered that Amy (the aforementioned wife) is a creature of habit, as margaritas and guacamole are served with barbecued chicken in this family (I've learned to just go with it).

Or maybe I assumed we'd be sourcing our adult beverages in the form of beer from Jamesport Brewing, which is also happening rather deliciously.

Either way, somehow I rolled on up here with supplies for margaritas and Bloody Marys*, a Stanley flask of Macallan 10-year**, and my beloved Koval Oat.

I'm not sure what I thought I'd be doing with these.  When I downed the last ounce or two of the Scotch with some Diet Peach Snapple, I knew I had hit a new low.  I'm better than this, folks.

You might be asking yourself why I don't just get up off my ass and hit up my local liquor store – that is an excellent question.  Some things to consider:
  1. We go into town as infrequently as possible.  This is vacation, people, and running errands is not my idea of a good time.
  2. I'm currently babysitting the cottage's new Weber Smokey Mountain grill, which I fired up empty in an attempt start getting the shiny coating under control.  
  3. Even if I weren't chained to the house, the taxes on liquor up here are completely out of control.  I'd almost rather not drink at all.  Almost.
Besides, I kind of like the idea of roughing it.  Sure, I'm not eating off the land or siphoning water into a bucket made of woven beach grass during a rainstorm, but seriously – I have apple juice, some highly questionable lemons and limes left here by the last visitors, the infamous Diet Peach Snapple, ice, eggs, your typical baking pantry (spices, honey, salt, etc.), and that's about it.  

Oh, and I have a smoker.  Yaaasssssss I do.  Here's what I did...

Cherrywood-Smoked Lemon Zest Honey

  • Honey - bonus points if you have locally sourced delicous goodness. I have some low-brow generic stuff.
  • Smoker – I have a Weber bullet, but you could even convert a wok or roasting pans into an indoor smoker if you wanted to.
  • Cherrywood, about 2-3 chunks (get chips if you're doing this on a gas grill or indoors)
  • Charcoal (Kingsford briquettes out of the blue bag are perfect – nothing pre-infused with lighter fluid, thankyouverymuch!!!)
  • disposable aluminum foil pan or a heat-safe glass dish if you don't mind cleaning it afterwards
  • zest from 1 lemon (I only used zest from half of the lemon, since it had seen better days, but I'd recommend using all of it)
  • water
Prep the smoker and get it stable at about 200-225 degrees F.  

Pour the honey in the aluminum pan, toss in the lemon zest and stir.  My smoker has a water pan, which I filled as part of the setup.  I put the aluminum pan with honey and lemon zest on the rack directly above the water pan, which tends to be the coolest part of the grill.

Toss one of your wood chunks into the firebox area, seal your grill back up, and let the smoking begin.  

After about 20 mins, I cracked open the grill, stirred the honey and lemon, threw the other chunk of cherrywood on the coals, and waited some more. 

20 minutes later, I stirred again and gave it a taste... lovely citrus flavor, but what about the smoke?

At 60 minutes, I stirred again, then let it go another 30 minutes just because what else am I doing while everyone is at the beach?

Finally, after a total of 90 minutes or so, I tested for the appropriate amount of smoky flavor... still no dice.  What it did have is a delicious, concentrated lemon-honey flavor with a slight peppery bite (maybe that was the smoke?), and since it was time to throw the ribs on, I decided it would have to do.

To make the simple syrup, heat 2 parts honey and 1 part water in a small pan until they combine evenly.  Allow to cool, then store in a clean container (glass jar is probably best, but all I had was the used-up plastic honey bear.  Keep in the fridge or a dark, cool place.  Not sure how long it will keep, but you probably won't need to know, since you'll use it in everything you drink until it's gone.

I definitely want to give it another go to see if I can get it to taste smoky, but it still made a pretty delicious whiskey sour, if I do say so myself.

The Whiskey Sour

  • 2 oz Koval Oat (aged in toasted barrels if you can find it)
  • 1 oz Cherrywood-smoked lemon zest honey
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Lemon wedge to garnish
Combine whiskey, honey and lemon juice over ice and stir.  Garnish with lemon wedge.

Were it later in the season, mashed-up cherries would also have made a fine addition or replacement for the lemon zest, but alas, it's still pretty early.  Maybe next time.

* using Blaum Bros. awesome Hellfyre jalapeno-infused vodka
** in a Stanley stainless steel flask – it tasted just as good on Day 3, which NEVER happens with flasks in my experience.  Highly recommended.