Wally gives his thoughts on smoking woods, brisket, something about "security" software, and other stuff. This most recent correspondence includes the passage explaining the origin of the term "Wally's Dad".
You probably think I'm a big jerk by now for not emailing back sooner than this. I spent much of last night and so far this morning trying to email everyone who now probably thinks the same way. The problem is that a lot of my "good" email somehow got put into a special folder in Outlook called "CA Spam" (where the CA stands for Computer Associates).
Apparently, this happened after I installed the anti-spyware, etc. software provided by Time Warner (my cable and internet provider here). What a MESS this has created! I missed messages from my sister (asking if she could visit at Christmas), my aunt (asking for help with a project), the county tax folks (saying I owe some stupid tax that I don't actually owe), and so on.
There were 137 messages in all that I completely missed and I'm now trying to catch up with. I'll explain to you the same as I've been explaining to everyone else: I didn't even know about this problem until my aunt called and was pretty annoyed that I hadn't even responded to her message.
I insisted that I never got any such message and she kept insisting that she sent me several messages. I did a "search" for her messages and that's how I discovered this whole mess.
So, I completely understand if you think I'm a big jerk - especially since I've been hearing that from many others - but this was really just a result of new "security" software and I didn't really understand how it works. I am truly very sorry.
If it's not too late, I'll try to reply to your message now, ok? I'll take your message in steps so I don't miss anything. To be honest, I almost forgot what we were talking about - in fact, I kind-of figured that YOU hadn't replied to ME, but I just figured you were pretty busy and it wasn't all that important....
Anyway, I think we were talking about that brisket that I tried (and it turned out pretty good) thanks to all your help and tips. Thanks again for all that! I haven't tried it again yet, but I will definitely let you know how it turns out.
I got a "foodsaver" device from Costco that has a special marinating process that seems to work pretty well. I've used it for steaks and chicken so far, but I'm looking forward to using it with brisket too.
The way it works is interesting: It uses a vacuum to pull the meat apart a bit so that more surface is hit by the marinade. I think they say it "penetrates" deeper into the meat. It seems to use the vacuum power for about 30 seconds, then it lets the meat rest for about 2 minutes, then it repeats the cycle again and keeps doing this for about 10 minutes.
They claim that you can marinate the meat in 10 minutes, and I think they're not far off. I usually run the cycle twice, just to be sure, but I've noticed that the meats are definitely more flavorful and moist. Therefore, I think it will be a good thing for brisket or anything that cooks slowly.
I know this is all probably "cheating" compared to the traditional way of doing things, but I see it as just using the tools that are available to me to produce a better end product.
I'm basically cooking for my family and I can assure you that they do NOT care whether I did it following the strict traditions or I made some current adjustments - they only care if it tastes good or not.
In other words, it's up to you whether or not you want to share any of this with your readers. Actually, that's a good way to move to the next paragraph...
I definitely want to try smoking a pork butt (or shoulder) and I hope I can make it moist and tender with plenty of flavor. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. I went to one of those all-day pig roasts a long time ago in Virginia (with the apple in the pig's mouth, rotating on a spit all day) and I will never forget the awesome smells that day.
I was literally hungry all day long. It took forever for the meat to cook, but it was putting out great smells all day long so me and some other guys built our own little fire and cooked up some steaks while we were waiting.... We really couldn't take it any longer.
Anyway, I doubt my little smoker will put out the same awesome smells as that roasting spit, but if I can give the pork a little smoky flavor and keep it moist while it cooks low and slow with a nice rub imparting flavors, then that will be good enough for me! :)
Gotta stop talking about good food 'cause it's just making me so hungry... Anyway, I'll definitely report back to you on how that works out (or the brisket, if that comes first).
Thanks for your really nice comments about my writing. I don't know if I write very well or not, to be honest, but I had a lot of practice when I was in the service and was writing letters to friends back home.
If the letter wasn't easy to read or enjoyable to read, they wouldn't read 'em. I was pretty conscious of that b/c I also "received" letters from folks and it was amazing to me that some really exciting people could write such boring letters.
Over the years, I've just sort-of accepted that some people are better at "talking" while others are better at "writing". My 12 year old son, for example, can tell a story with the best of them - but something happens when he tries to put it on paper.
He's getting much better, but it was very noticeable there for awhile. Anyway, I really appreciate your kind comments about my writing b/c it's something I worked hard on many years ago so that my friends would actually READ my letters...
As for your comments about using some of it on your website, I would be absolutely flattered! Are you really serious about that? I honestly don't know what to say. I'm very, VERY flattered. If you DO want to use anything I've written, with whatever title or intro you want, then please feel free to do so.
I had no idea any of it would be helpful. Well, I should clarify that a little - I figured SOME stuff might be helpful since there were conflicts among the experts on how to do things (e.g. the timing of applying the rub to the brisket).
I've read some experts who put mustard on the brisket (a light coating) to keep the rub in place, and I've read other experts who scoff at that idea. Having done it with the mustard, I think it really does give a nice option b/c it DOES keep the rub in place, AND something happens during the slow cook so you really don't taste the mustard in the end.
If it adds any flavor at all, it's marginal. But I think it does help keep the meat insulated a little bit and thus keeps it moist for a little bit longer - which probably translates into a bigger window of time for a perfect brisket before drying it out too much.
That just makes sense to me, and I've actually done it that way so I know it works (although I probably need to do it a few more times to be sure it works consistently).
Is it Wally or Mickey? Great question! It's been both, at one time or another and there are still people who call me exclusively "Mickey" or "Wally". For the longest time, I was always Wally - but then when my son was born, everyone started calling HIM Wally and I sort-of got demoted.
To this day, there are people who just refer to me as, "Wally's Dad". That's all - not "Mickey" or "Wally", just "Wally's Dad". I feel like saying, "Hey, I was 'Wally' long before Wally was 'Wally'!" It wouldn't do any good though - they'd still just call me Wally's Dad.
So to answer your question about whether it's Wally or Mickey: I like either one. My brother-in-law tried calling me "Chowderhead" one time, but I definitely didn't like that one. :)
Sorry this is such a long one, Jeff. Lots of explaining in the beginning. I still have some more messages to send out after this whole mess, but I'm mostly caught up with it... I hadn't planned on doing any smoking this weekend b/c I thought I was going to be helping my buddy with his wine grapes.
The process we did last time was called "crushing" the grapes, but it probably should be called "devining" the grapes since it mostly just separates the grapes from the vines. The next step is called "pressing" the grapes and that's where we smash the grapes in a big vice to get all the juice out.
It's a lot of hard work so I probably wouldn't want to be smoking anything at the same time. Anyway, I "thought" we were doing that this weekend but now he says the grapes aren't ready yet so I guess it will be next weekend. Which means I might have time to do some smoking this weekend - unless my wife has already set other plans that I don't know about yet.
I also am almost out of smoking wood and need to get more - the last time I just got some mesquite wood chunks from Lowe's, but I want to try other woods too and I've heard a lot of good things about hickory, apple, cherry, and pecan. Do you have a preference in woods? Do you get your woods locally or do you have them shipped to you?
It's probably an odd question, but I honestly don't know. The only place I've even seen smoking wood for sale was in Lowe's - but that's a hardware store, not a smoking store. I really don't know where you can buy that stuff.
Hope you have a great day, Jeff. I'm really sorry for the long delay in replying and I hope you're still "talking" to me.
BTW, I uninstalled that stupid security software from Computer Associates - not only did it cause me all those problems, but it also made my computer seem really slow. So, if you do reply, I know your message won't get routed into that CA Spam folder anymore since that folder is gone!
If you don't want to reply, I do understand and I remain very grateful for all of your kind help! Hope you have a great day, Sir!
I haven't heard anything from Wally's Dad since this email. I figure he's been smoking and cooking up a storm, though. It would be nice to hear from him every now and then. If you happen to know him... please thank him for his much appreciated contribution to this website. And please, have him contact me again.
Thank you, Wally's Dad.