There’s nothing quite like a good title to drum up a little intrigue, and a little intrigue always gets the blog clicks going which is, after all, rather fun. As it so happens these past 2 weeks we’ve been doing all three above-mentioned activities right here on the Oregon coast. It’s been an interesting and experimental time, but perhaps not exactly in the way you might think. Still, it’s rather intriguing, is it not? Rather than keep you on edge with anticipation, I’ll just jump right in and tell you all about it…

(Upfront disclaimer -> I apologize to my vegetarian friends for #1, to my non-drinking friends for #2 and to mushroom-haters for #3. I will either offend you all, or offer something for everyone…only time will tell…)

1/ Smokin’

Now that’s the look of a happy man

Home-smoked ribs, sauteed farmers-market green beans and garlic/ginger spinach….YUM!

Paul has had visions of smoking while boondocking in the desert for years.  The open plains, endless skies, perfect solitude…and yes…a meat smoker. Somehow it all meshes together in perfect picture harmony as well as playing to his creative side -> smoking is after all an art more than an occupation, or so I’ve been told.

Well three years into our RVing lifestyle the dream has finally come true. After preparing meticulously for its arrival including a winter purge of excess stuff in San Diego, measuring the storage compartment space obsessively and combing hundreds of online reviews we’ve finally bought the perfect smoker for the perfect space. The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker (WSM for those in the know) arrived here at Cape Blanco just days after his birthday last week, and although we’re not quite boondocking in the desert Paul has indeed been smokin’ wild in the great outdoors. Oh yes it’s been hot…very hot…and very, very good.

Our first experiment was mere days ago with two racks of pastured ribs from our local farmers market, and today we’re tackling a shoulder roast from the same source. These are all-day affairs lasting between 6-12 hours with constant monitoring, adjusting and stoking of the coals. Paul has immersed himself in smoking forums (oh yes, they exist) and temp/time/wind-flow analysis to attain that pure-perfect, and nearly mythical “smoke ring” on the meat. The ribs turned out excellent for a first try…tasty, moist with good smoke flavor…and since it’s all electricity-free we plan to do alot more of it boondocking in the desert this winter.

2/ Drinkin’

Show-time for our new boxed wine

Having ventured so boldly into new territory with the smoker we decided to fearlessly branch out and do the same with our wine. We are what you’d call traditional wine drinkers…a glass every evening or so from a decent $10 bottle  is about our tempo. What we’ve never done (at least not since I was desperate in my youth) was drink wine from {{gasp}} boxes. My memories of box wine are a nasty acidic alcoholic juice, drunk in excess for its’ cheap price and maximum effect.

As it turns out though, box wine has come a long way in the last 20 or so years. More serious wine makers are considering the medium and some of the classier  box wines approach 90-point ratings (according to Wine Spectator). Not only that but they are super-portable (4 bottles in a clean, easy-to-carry box), earth friendly (half the carbon footprint of glass) and last for 4 weeks after opening at a very attractive price. Could boxed wine be the new green RVing classy beverage of choice?

Paul and I decided to give it a try attacking our first box, a Black Box Cab on the same night we smoked the ribs. And our results? Surprisingly good! Despite my initial misgivings I am happily impressed by the wine and could easily see buying more. Box wines still don’t offer anywhere close to the range of choice you can get in bottles, but I can see a few of them becoming handy stables for our regular meals, and for less than $5/bottle it’s a darn tasty deal.

3/ Mushrooms

I love Kombucha drinks!!

While Paul was dreaming of meat and wine, yours truly has been thinking of mushrooms…or to be more precise I’ve been brooding over yeast cultures, gluconacetobacter xylinus, and growing a mushroom “mother” for brewing home-made Kombucha. You see I love fermented foods. I’m rather fascinated by gut bacteria, our “second brain” and its’ impact on human health (it is an amazing and eye-opening area of scientific research), so one of the things I strive to do is keep my gut microbes diverse and happy. We regularly eat Kimchi, sprout and ferment various foods, and eat fare rich in probiotics. I discovered Kombucha, a sparkling, lightly acidic fermented drink last year and immediately added it to the list, but the problem is it’s so darn expensive…$3.50 a bottle…yikes!

So, ever since I’ve been trying to grow my own mother.

She may not be pretty to you, but she sure is pretty to me!

Now just like smoking, mushroom-growing is a rather mysterious art that requires more “fiddling” than exact science, and thus far my experiments in the RV have been a total flop. I’ve used cultures from existing bottles, “fed” them faithfully with a green tea & sugar formula, looked after them, cajoled, talked and sung to them…but my brews just haven’t worked out. The mother hasn’t grown properly, the brew didn’t have the right fizz and everytime we got close to growing a decent top we’d move the RV and break her up. What I really needed was time and some good humid, warmish weather to make the magic happen.

What I really I needed was Cape Blanco!

In the 2 weeks we’ve been here we’ve had total mushroom success -> a wonderful mother growing like bloomin’ crazy in just the right conditions. She’s sprouted out from a single strand, grown to the size of my hand, thickened to at least a half inch and she is just perfect! I feel the pride of a parent seeing the first success in her child and the beauty of creation that only a loving creator can see.

All in all an interesting and experimentally fun two weeks. Like I said before, it probably wasn’t exactly what you were expecting in the title, but it was still rather intriguing was it not?

49 Responses to Smokin’, Drinkin’ & Mushrooms -> Experiments On The OR Coast

  1. Slabber says:

    OOh! Interesting stuff! I like the box wine idea for guests at The Slabs…economical but not the usual Slab City rot-gut from Mays Market, hehe. Thanks!

    As for the mushroom? Uh, I don’t get it…you will have to show me next time you visit here!

    Cheers!

  2. hobopals says:

    Now you’ve done it! You’ve made me hungry and lusting for a glass of wine! I LOVE mushrooms–any way you make them. I can imagine that they would be difficult to grow. Have you ever picked them, Nina? I know you have to be careful, but knowing you, you’ll do your research. Smoked Ribs, OMIGOSH! To die for! You and Paul sure know how to make the good life a great life. Enjoy your smoker, Paul!

    • libertatemamo says:

      When I was a child I used to LOVE picking mushrooms in the forest…I knew all about which ones to picka and eat. I haven’t done much of that here in the US, but would love to get back into it.
      Nina

  3. Lee and Shelia says:

    Oh Nina…… The more and more I/we read your writings the more and more we regret not being able to meet you and Paul when we were in Oregon. I must admit being I am 62 and a product of the 60’s and 70’s your title GOT my attention. Now that I/we are done chuckling and are able to type all I/we can say is….. THANKS…. Lee and Shelia

  4. Donna K says:

    Don’t ya’ll go smokin’ those mushrooms, now!!

  5. Chuck says:

    Black Box is very good value as is 2$$Chuck from Trader Joes and with that smoker……..heaven and you’re in a heavenly place. Maybe next year!

  6. Sheila says:

    What day was Paul’s birthday? Happy Belated Birthday Paul. Mine was the 4th, anniversary was the 9th and hubby’s B’day is the 24th. I am a vegetarian and your post did not offend – Happy Smoking!!!

  7. Boxed wine is so incredibly RVer friendly! And there are some mighty fine varieties of it. Bota Box is also really good, we really enjoy their Malbec and Old Vine Zin. Yummmmm.

    And as a super fabulous bonus for us nomads – when you’re done with the box, it’s able to burned. And the bladder inside can be inflated to become a convenient travel pillow :)

    http://www.technomadia.com/2010/04/technomadic-essentials-wine-in-a-box/

    Glad you’ve discovered the joys :)

  8. Steve & Gari says:

    Nina & Paul, you two are deliciously brilliant! Love your blog!

  9. Bob says:

    Reminds me of the time, early on when we were in The Netherlands, and I casually mentioned that I bought a “Verloopnippel”, which is a little thingy you put on a valve stem to convert it for use in Europe.
    Got all kinds of hits, presumably from individuals looking for more “information” on nipples?? Or…well, something or other. I wouldn’t know.

    It was the beginnings of my understanding of how search engines work.

    Awesome smoker. It’s a bit of a foreign idea to me, but if I ever want to take that plunge, at least now I now what to look for.

    Fun stuff.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, search engines can be fun to fool. I think the only way I could get more hits would be to include nude, or sex in the title…now that would be an interesting challenge to come up with haha.
      Nina

  10. Marsha says:

    We don’t drink box wine often but have never had a bad box. Sounds so funny to buy box wine though.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I tell you, if you had asked me about box wines a couple of years ago I would have laughed at the idea. I have been happily impressed.
      Nina

  11. Janna says:

    I’ve found Bota Box wine to be better than Black Box. I’m currently drinking a malbec from Bota Box. A little harder to find here in Montana but good.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We just tried a Bota Box Shiraz and were happy with it. Hoping to find the Old Vine Zin at some point.
      nina

  12. Lisa says:

    WOW! A smoker in the RV! Something I’ve always wanted but figured I’d have to wait until I got another house. Food for thought. Thanks for the great ideas!

    • libertatemamo says:

      This one is not exactly super-compact, but it does come apart into 3 pieces that can be somewhat stacked. It’s one of the best-reviewed smokers we’ve seen. People love this thing.
      Nina

  13. Yes, friends, entirely intriguing, and that’s what we look for in the mornings. We have severely reduced our blogging time, and the title usually is what helps us decide which ones to read on any day. I have done a little, very little, smoking, but I’m determined to get back to it some day when the temps aren’t so high over 100 degrees at 5 pm. Box wine is quite satisfactory for our taste, and certainly better for the dumpster than glass bottles. But you can have your mother-of-all-mushrooms, thank you. But very interesting process indeed!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well I’m happy I could lure you in to give the post a read. 100 degrees is hot, hot, hot…hope it starts to cool down for you soon.
      Nina

  14. Linda Sand says:

    Please, please, please, may we have the recipe for your garlic/ginger spinach?

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s actually a super-simple recipe. I use a wok and I stir-fry garlic, ginger and onion with a little spice (some cumin and chili pepper flakes) for ~1 min. Then add-in the spinach and stir-fry for another 2-3 mins. Finish off with a splash of soy sauce and you’re done!
      nina

  15. earthdancerimages says:

    Wow, I’d love to have more info on the mushroom growing thing…. and you you prepare it!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sure. I use a sprouting jar that I cover with a paper towel. First I make the sweet tea base (green tea with sugar) and then I add the Kombucha strain to it. You can use a piece from an existing bottle of Kombucha or buy a starter online. Then just leave it to grow and brew. The Kombucha will “eat up” the sugar and create a nice, lightly acidic fermented drink.
      This is a good website on how to do it:
      http://www.happyherbalist.com/howtomakekombucha.aspx
      Nina

  16. jil mohr says:

    wellllll. I could go for 2 out of three….still have not found a (red) box wine that we like or think worth the money….hmmmm…..maybe we are looking in the wrong place :)

  17. Brenda A. says:

    Total Wine here I come, especially if Bota Box has an old Vine Zin!

    I don’t like kombucha at all….way too vinegary for my taste. But I am going to start making my own coconut milk kefir (super simple even in an RV). Everyone needs to be consuming some type of fermented food regularly. Cheers to gut health! :)

    • libertatemamo says:

      I love Kefir too, but I tend to make it only when I can find a good source of raw milk. Haven’t considered coconut milk kefir…hmmm…that might be my next experiment.
      Nina

  18. 2tallyns says:

    Love my Weber smoker, have done everything from ribs to 20 Lb turkey on it. Enjoy it, it only gets better. Black box wine, not bad, not fantastic, but a nice “everyday” wine, plus it lasts for a couple of weeks.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Our second smoking effort was outstanding, so I’m definitely looking forward to more. Everyone who owns one of these smokers loves it. Our RV neighbour has one at home and almost cried when he saw it hehe…
      Nina

  19. LuAnn says:

    First off, happy belated birthday Paul and glad to see that your smoker arrived. Ok, Terry and I can now come out of the closet as we too have enjoyed some boxed wine. We find the Bota Box Old Vine Zin to be drinkable. A foodie friend gave us some others to consider but I have yet to find them. Here are a few of them:

    Vina Borgia 2010 100% Garnacha
    Octavin Big House Red
    Maipo Malbec
    From the Tank
    Casina de Cornia Rosso Toscano

    I’d be interested to hear if you stumble across any of these. I may have to see about growing a mushroom again. All this talk about Kombucha has made me realize that it’s been 20+ years since I’ve done this. Loved your title on this post! Who could resist reading it?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Another closet box drinker…yeah!! Cheers for the tips on some more box wines to try. We’ll have to look out for these. Maybe we can find them when we get back to Eugene.
      Nina

  20. My understanding is that Kombucha mothers don’t like to travel, being sloshed around. How do you keep it up on the road (growing the SCOBY) and maintaining those perfect temperatures??

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yes, that’s exactly the problem we were originally having with the scoby. Everytime we travelled the mother would break up before forming properly. We’ve now been stationary for a month and that’s given us the time to grow a proper mother, so I think it’ll be road-worthy now. The “babies” will probably break up as we travel, but at least we have a robust mother now. As for keeping perfect temps, I know many folks put the brew in a cooler with a bowl of hot water. I haven’t done that here (our temps here have been pretty good), but will probably start doing that in winter.
      Nina

  21. Gail says:

    Just thought I would add a couple more boxed wines for you……Fish Eye has a good Shiraz and Pinot Grigio. Peller’s Estates Proprietors Reserve has good reds and whites as well – have not tried the ones that simply say Red Wine or White Wine, but the Shiraz and Merlot are both excellent

  22. Love Black Box Cab! It’s available in Alberta, but we haven’t seen it anywhere else in Canada. We’re looking forward to cheap(er) wine when we head south for the winter. And we love your blog – so much to read and learn about the full-time RV life!

  23. [...] Indian curries, Thai delicacies and full multi-hour roasts. Paul has even been known to pull out his charcoal-powered smoker and go on an all-out, all-day smoking-in-the-boonies [...]

  24. [...] This was exactly the kind of picture & place Paul had in mind when we bought the smoker several months ago in Oregon. What better way to spend the day than hanging out with a gorgeous view while your dinner is slowly [...]

  25. […] so many posts I could do, so many topics…from my love of fermented foods (which I alluded to in this post) to yummy fresh, raw products and recipe ideas. But what I thought would be appropriate today […]

  26. gary and carolotta presson says:

    We always take our jar of raw milk kefir starter when we pack up the motorhome. We have been making kefir about two years from the original batch, it sure does taste good after a long hike or a hard run. we started out taking a batch already made up along with the starter, but found out it is hard to clean up when it spills all over everything in fridge. Now we just take the starter and make a batch when we stop for a few days.

    • libertatemamo says:

      One of our current RV neighbors is culturing kefir and has been feeding us batches of his product. I think we’re getting addicted :)
      Nina

  27. […] in the country and all the more so here on the Oregon coast. We’ll break out the smoker, grow some more mushrooms and party with a whole new set of […]

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