“SMOKE & SPICE”, newly re-published (revised edition) in 2003, was at that time the very latest cookbook from outdoor cooking experts Cheryl and Bill Jamison, who are the authors of over a dozen cookbooks and travel guides.
I’ve been a fan of the Jamisons ever since I discovered “AMERICAN HOME COOKING” some years ago.
“SMOKE & SPICE” is a James Beard Award winner that has already sold more than half a million copies – and, state the publishers, is the only authoritative book on the subject of genuine smoke-cooked barbecue. (Prior to acquiring “Smoke & Spice”, the only recipes I had on this subject were in a small booklet that accompanied the Brinkmann® Smoker that we bought some years ago).
In the preface to the Revised Edition, the Jamisons write, “From the time we first started writing cookbooks, more than a dozen years ago, we’ve always seen our efforts as paeans to underappreciated foods and the cultures that surround them…” They say their previous cookbooks so far have dealt with things like Texas home cooking, border traditions that Americans share with northern Mexico, and breakfast outside the box (see a list of the Jamisons’ cookbooks at the end of this review). They feel the subjects they choose to write about don’t make much buzz when chefs and other culinary pros gather (I have to say, I wouldn’t care what the professionals thought as long as ordinary people like us were impressed and buying their books).
However, the Jamisons continue, “Imagine our shock, then, when the cookbook that seemed the mostly clearly out of the mainstream happened upon a trend. When we decided to write “SMOKE & SPICE”, even our long-term publisher balked at the idea. Who could possibly be interested in an old-fashioned style of cooking that is slow, smoky, and dominated by good ol’ boys and grizzled black pitmasters? We couldn’t find one person who thought that real barbecue was cookbook material…”
Luckily for us, the Jamisons didn’t care—they love to barbecue and knew that it would be great fun to cook, eat, and write about this food topic.
“SMOKE & SPICE” they say, “came along at a time when Americans wanted to spend more time outside, when we finally got fed up with burned birds for outdoor dinners, when we went through a nostalgia phase….”
These and a lot of other reasons caused a revival of interest in real, smoke-cooked barbecue. Now, a decade later, barbecue continues to soar in popularity. “Even chefs, women and city folks talk about it now,” the Jamisons say. Consequently, they decided to take a fresh look at the book. Their publishers wanted to know whether the original recipes are still on target, or if they had been barbecuing anything new in recent years that other people would like. Were they doing different side dishes, now, or desserts, or other special treats? Did the Jamisons have a stockpile of fresh barbecue stories and tips? The answer was yes, yes, yes, to everything – so it was back to the drawing board (or in this case, the computer) where the Jamisons added 100 new recipes and many other changes to their original book.
“It’s time to graduate from grilling,” say the Jamisons. “American cooks have been enrolled in ‘Introductory Barbecue’ for a half-century now, since the days when we all liked Ike…” (for those of you too young to remember, Ike was President Eisenhower.
When he campaigned for the presidency in the 1950s, we all wore big buttons that read “I like Ike.”)
“We’ve enjoyed cooking outdoors,” reflect the Jamisons, “but we’re weary of wieners and charred chicken, yearning more and more for the full flavor of old-time, real barbecue, the kind popularly known as ‘Bar-B-Q’ food that dances on your senses and gets to your lips to rejoicing…”
“SMOKE & SPICE” is a complete guide to the genuine article. “Where we move,” write Cheryl and Bill, “beyond searing and sizzling into really smoking. Some of the hundreds of books on barbecue grilling acknowledge and applaud this advanced art but they usually suggest that a home cook can’t hope to match the results of a professional pitmaster in the Carolinas, Kansas City, Memphis, or Texas. At best, they may say, you can add a few wood chips to a conventional grill or slather or smoky sauce over food…”
“Bunk!” decry the Jamisons. In the last two decades, they say, there’s been a revolution in home smoking equipment and supplies, the subject of the first two chapters of their book. These new developments allow anyone to make great barbecue—real, honest to goodness “Q”—in your back yard or on your balcony or even inside, often in ways that avoid the potential health hazards of grilling. “All you need to succeed” suggest the Jamisons, “are the right resources and a little learning about the barbecue craft and its delightful part-and-parcel culture..”
“Today,” note the authors, “we use the term ‘barbecue’ in a multitude of ways, but in the American past, it mainly meant a big, festive community gathering…George Washington probably even slept at one. In his diary, the first president noted that he once went to Alexandria, Virginia, for a ‘barbicue’ that lasted three days…”
And when workers laid the cornerstone for our nation’s capitol in 1793, the leaders of the new country celebrated with a huge barbecue. And, as the Jamisons themselves point out, who could forget when Scarlett O’Hara met Rhett Butler at a barbecue in “GONE WITH THE WIND”?
“The cooks didn’t grill hamburgers at those affairs,” note the Jamisons. “They dug a long, deep pit in the ground, filled this trench with logs, burned the wood down to low-temperature coals, and then slow-roasted whole animals and fish suspended above the smoky fire…” That was barbecue, and, say the Jamisons, it’s still the essence of the art. To really return to your roots, you must celebrate a meal with friends and family by smoking food slowly and low over smoldering wood.
However, much of this tradition has been lost except in the rural regions of the South, Southwest, and Midwest.
“SMOKE & SPICE” will take you by the hand (the one holding onto the basting brush) and provide easy to follow lessons on the various kinds of smokers, including the vertical water smoker (which is what we have at my house) and the how-to of putting together everything you need to have your own smoker. There is a chapter devoted to fuels and tools, all of which you should read carefully before you embark on preparing your own Bar-B-Q in this unique method. One method that may interest you, if space is a problem, is Stovetop Smoking, for those who don’t have the yard or balcony or other appropriate space for smoking meat. For you,”the ‘barbecue pit’ of choice,” write the Jamisons, “is a crafty inexpensive device called a stovetop smoker…” Cheryl and Bill use one made by a Colorado Springs company, Camerons who you can call at 888-563-0227) or you can look them up on their website at http://www.cameronssmoker.com.
What can you expect from “SMOKE & SPICE”?
After the Introduction, and a chapter titled “The Secret of Success” which delves into barbecue basics, the various types of fuels and different kinds of smokers, “SMOKE & SPICE” starts out with recipes for rubs and spice medleys, pastes, and marinades. I especially like the Name-Your-Herb Paste, nice for those of us who have an herb garden….but there is Roasted Garlic Mash, Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub, Poultry Perfect Rub, rubs for seafood and rubs for beef. Primo Paste is a paste especially good on lean foods, especially turkey, while Kentucky Pride is a smoky sweet paste that will enhance better cuts of pork and beef. Everything you ever wanted to know about rubs and pastes and marinades is right here! Along with the recipes are BBQ tips and side bars which I find as interesting to read as the recipes. For instance: “Hundreds of Web Sites deal with barbecue in one way or another, often promoting cook-offs, sauces and rubs, catering businesses, smoking equipment and the like. A large number of the sites are linked through http://www.smokering.net. From there you can surf yourself silly through wave after wave of barbecue boasting. (Recently, when I was visiting my sister in Tennessee, we watched on cable the cook-off held annually by Jack Daniels—it really makes you want to get into cook-offs….or at least be a taster at one of these events!).
Marinades in “SMOKE & SPICE” range from James Beard’s Basic Barbecue Marinade to a Red Wine Marinade, Stout Beer Marinade, and Jalapeno-Lime Marinade. Cheryl’s Cider Soak, made with apple cider and cider vinegar sounds right up my alley. Next are an assortment of “Mops and Bastes”, important ingredients in traditional barbecuing, needed to keep the food moist and adding an extra layer of flavor. Choose from Southern Sop to Basic Beer Mop, Lemon Splash, Lightning Mop (made with pickled jalapenos) and Pop Mop (easily made with Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola or R.C. Cola).
I’m telling you, there are so many wonderful recipes for pork that you’ll be hard-pressed deciding where to start. There is even a recipe for going “Whole Hog” – barbecuing a full grown hog, 120 to 150 pounds! While most of us may not be quite so adventurous…the recipe is there in case you need it for your next luau party. As for me, I like the sound of Memphis Mustard Pork Sandwich, Lone Star Spareribs, Kansas City Sloppy Ribs and Cajun Country Ribs. Or, you may be tantalized by Ginger-Glazed Ham, or Maple-Bourbon Ham, both easily made with a 12 to 14 pound cooked ready-to-eat ham. (I can’t wait to try both of these recipes). Or, you might be tempted by Weeknight Pork Tenderloin which, say the Jamisons, because of its long thin shape, is one of the quickest and easiest meats to transform with smoke. Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite meats to cook for the family – because everyone likes it so much. I suspect they will like it even more as Weeknight Pork Tenderloin or Sweet and Fruit Pork Tenderloin. There are these and many other pork recipes from which to choose.
Then, under a chapter titled “Bodacious Beef” you will find so many great recipes—I’ll be making Braggin’ Rights Brisket next time my brother comes to visit, just to prove that I can make a great brisket too! However, there are recipes for Simply Elegant Beef Tenderloin, Drunk and Dirty Tenderloin, Carpetbag Steak, Soy-Glazed Flank Steak, Standing Tall Prime Rib – and “Ain’t Momma’s Meat Loaf” – Meat Loaf made in my smoker! Who would have ever guessed?
There are recipes for barbecuing lamb, mutton, goat, veal, venison and rabbit. Then there are the recipes for chicken, turkey, duck, quail, and pheasant. Then there are all of the recipes for barbecuing salmon, trout, catfish, flounder, rockfish, snapper, tuna (no, not your canned chopped tuna – this calls for tuna steaks), as well as swordfish, grouper, shrimp, scallops – as well as other seafood.
Next are all the recipes for smoke-scented salads, pastas, and pizzas. “It makes no sense to us,” say Cheryl and Bill, “to spend hours barbecuing for just one meal. You might as well buy socks one at a time. With hardly any more expenditure or effort, time, or beer, you can easily smoke food for several meals at once…”
The Jamisons say that, typically, when they fire up their big barbecue pit, they cook enough pork butt, beef brisket, and other freezer-friendly goodies to last them for months of sandwiches, salads, hashes, pastas, and the like—and what’s left after an initial feeding frenzy with friends. They write, “Even when we’re barbecuing in an outdoor smoker with a small capacity, we fill it with sausages, fish fillets, peppers and other tuck-away items for deliberate leftovers in the days ahead….” Their chapter on Smoke-Scented Salads, Pastas and Pizzas covers some of the dishes they make with the extra food, each suitable for serving as a main course. This great section contains recipes with mouth-watering names, such as Calico Pepper Salad, Smoldering Vegetable Antipasto Platter, Wild Mushroom Calzone and Smoky Summer Spaghetti.
The next section is titled “While You Wait” and these are recipes you can pop into your smoker when dinner won’t be ready for a while and you have hungry people standing around waiting to be fed. These are appetizer and hors d’oeuvre recipes but unlike appetizers you’ve seen elsewhere. Think: Nachos Blancos, Smoke Mushroom Quesadillas, Curry Pecans, Smoked Rosemary Walnuts, Smoke Trout on Apple Slices – and much, much, more.
The following chapter is devoted to Barbecue Sauces and here the Jamisons provide more than twenty recipes . I had to laugh out loud reading the sidebar “Serious Secrets”—“Barbecuists,” write the Jamisons, quoting John Thorne, editor of “Simple Cooking newsletter in 1988, “put secret ingredients into their sauces for the same reason that dogs piss on trees; to mark out a piece of territory as their own. The secret ingredient is not intended to make the sauce ‘better’ but to mark it in such a way as to leave no doubt that it’s unique—it is peerlessness, not flavor, that makes it perfect, The praise it wants is not culinary exclamation but surrender. ‘Damn it, J.D., but I’ve never tasted the like.’” So, whether you want Struttin’ Sauce or Smoke Butter, Memphis Magic or West Coast wonder, Cinderella Sauce or South Florida Citrus Sauce – there is something to satisfy the taste buds of every one of us.
Since “SMOKE & SPICE” is a cookbook intended to provide you with all the recipes you need for your next barbecue, the Jamisons have thoughtfully included side dishes –explaining, “What pitmasters serve on the side has a lot to do with what they serve in the center, and that has a lot to do with where they happen to be holding forth. Somewhere in this country, someone offers almost anything you can imagine, from pig snouts to tamales. However, Cheryl and Bill’s recipes cover the most traditional dishes plus a few of the most unusual, but they don’t always fix them in a purely old-fashioned way. “In some cases,” they say, “we’ve spiced up the preparation a bit to help finish off the flavor of a dish, so that it can stand alone as well as sit on the side…” However, despite these occasional embellishments, they tell us their recipes remain true to their tradition. Look here for recipes for creamy coleslaw, Kansas City Baked Beans, Candied Sweet Potatoes or Buttermilk Onion Rings, Prize Pilau and Buttermilk Biscuits. These and other recipes will answer any questions about what to serve with your barbecue. There is also an entire chapter on Side-Dish Salads and Relishes and I have to confess, pickles and relishes are one of my favorite things to make and eat. So, along with Southern Caesar Salad and San Antonio Cactus and Corn Salad, look for Hot German Potato Salad and Okra Pickles, Bodacious Bread-and-Butter Pickles and Wonderful Watermelon Pickles…as for me, I am heading for the kitchen to whip up a batch of Bourbon Peaches from the peaches growing in my own back yard—this recipe is absolutely perfect for using small to medium size peaches.
No barbecue would be complete without dessert – “Barbecue demands dessert,” say the Jamisons, “even if it’s no more than a packaged peanut pattie or fried pie…Sweet follows smoke as naturally as amorous eyes track after tight jeans…” And, they say, the best desserts for a barbecue pig-out are the old American favorites. Think: Prodigal Pecan Pie, Peanut Butter Cake, Black Walnut Cake, Peach Melba Ice Cream and Key Lime Pie.
Finally, there is a chapter dedicated to “Cool and Cheery Drinks” and here you will find directions for making such all time favorites as Derby Day Mint Julep, Turquoise Margarita, Sangrita Maria and more.
Cheryl and Bill Jamison have outdone themselves with “SMOKE & SPICE”, packed with over 300 recipes as well as tons of tips and information. It’s a book you will refer to time and time again, sure to become your barbecue bible.
Cheryl and Bill Jamison, who live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, are the authors of 15 cookbooks and travel guides including the following titles:
SMOKE & SPICE first edition (winner of a James Beard Book Award)
SMOKE & SPICE 2003 revised edition
BORN TO GRILL (winner of a Food & Wine Best of the Best Award)
A REAL AMERICAN BREAKFAST
AMERICAN HOME COOKING (winner of a James Beard Book Award and an IACP Cookbook Award)
THE BORDER COOKBOOK (winner of a James Beard Book Award)
TEXAS HOME COOKING
THE RANCHO DE CHIMAYO COOKBOOK
I visited the Jamisons’ website and discovered their latest cookbook titles –
TASTING NEW MEXICO
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DINNERS
And in 2007
THE BIG BOOK OF OTUDOOR COOKING & ENTERTAINING (James Beard award winner).
The Jamisons are also the authors of the following travel guides:
THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO SANTA FE, TAOS AND ALBUQUERQUE
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN HAWAII
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN THE CARIBBEAN
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MEXICO
To find a copy of SMOKE & SPICE, I found it listed on Amazon.com in paperback for $9.75 and pre-owned copies starting at $6.39.
It is also listed on Alibris.com from $11.02 and up. DO visit the Jamison’s website at cookingwiththejamisons.com.
HAPPY COOKING AND HAPPY COOKBOOK COLLECTING!