Summer Projects: All on the 4th of July

There is something about summer that always makes me want to do some sort of project. Perhaps it goes back to the summers, where too old to be at day camp and too young to have a summer job, my brother and I made up our own summer camp. I think we mostly did our summer reading, played cards, and watched Swiss Family Robinson over and over again in between re-runs of I Love Lucy and The Beverly Hillbillies.

I vaguely remember setting up blankets on my bedroom floor and stockpiling the room with various activities and the occasional adventure in the backyard. I also remember eating a lot of canned corn – my brother and I had a strange obsession with it for a few weeks one year. We ate it cold. It was disgusting, thinking back, especially when you got the little bits of cob that hadn’t been sorted out.

While I don’t quite have the same opportunity to spend endless days watching old tv and eating canned corn, I’ve itched to accomplish some sort of “summer” project. The past years’ projects have included learning to grow a summer vegetable garden, making jam and pickles (watermelon rind pickles, anyone?), and refinishing furniture, some with more success than others. 

For this summer, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do until a long lost project resurfaced through my brother. Having become interested in perfecting his barbecue skills, he started talking to me about various techniques and lo and behold, we realized we both wanted to learn how to smoke meats. 

A few years back, I bought a great book on preservation methods, Preserved by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton, which includes a piece on how to build your own trashcan smoker. Using a galvanized steel trashcan and a few modified pieces acquired at your local hardware store, you can hot smoke just about any kind of meat.

What is better than building some strange contraption in your backyard? Nothing really — my brother and I excelled at this as kids, often to my mother’s horror. Giant holes dug in the middle of the lawn anyone?

So that was our project: build a trashcan smoker, smoke some meat, drink some beer, and enjoy all on the 4th of July. Unfortunately, things weren’t quite that easy… 

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