And now for something completely different. This past week was Thanksgiving in the states, and for almost all of us it was different than normal as COVID-19 prevented us from getting to see our families. Here in the Mack household, we took the opportunity to try something new, and used my pellet smoker, to Smoke a turkey.
And I thought I would share the results.
Basically the process was this, we started the night before with a turkey brine, which was the following:
Now for this we took inspiration from Alton Brown’s recipe found here. But made some slight adjustments:
Here are the ingredients:
1 gallon hot water
1 pound kosher salt
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 pound honey
1 (7-pound) bag of ice
1 (15 to 20-pound) turkey, with giblets removed
Now we combine the boiling water, salt, vegetable broth, and honey into a cooler and mixed everything until it had all dissolved.
Next we added the ice to keep the brine cool and let it come down in temperature to normal. We then took the turkey, and put it in and waited 16 hours.
From there the next step was to remove the turkey from the brine and dry it off. We did not rinse the bird, as my family likes it a little on the salty side, but if you don’t, you’ll want to rinse your bird.
I’m of the belief that Turkey dries out really easy, so we decided to do everything humanly possible to get this bird to stay moist. And the next step was to put together an injection. We got inspiration from here.
Here are the ingredients:
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
And then we melted both together and allowed it to cool slightly. The idea here being it needs to be a liquid for the injector and don’t let it cool too far or you’ll be injecting sludge into your bird.
We then injected the bird over 50 times, doing small little injections about ever inch across the breast, legs, thighs, and pretty much every part of the exposed meat.
Next we put on a rub, and for this we put together about a half a cup of butter and a store bought turkey rub, we found at lowes. But really any rub that you would use on poultry is a good idea here. And rubbed under the skin of the bird.
Smoking the bird
I got my pellet smoker up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and then put in the bird. We used a aluminum disposable pan to keep the drippings around the bird and help with moisture. And then every hour, I would spray the turkey with apple juice.
We kept the turkey cooking until we got it to an even 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally we did increase the temperature when it got to 165 degrees to 325 and let it go for another 30 minutes to make the skin crispy.
So its officially summer, and the past few months have been a little brutal on everyone. The world has been a very chaotic place in the past few months, with a lot of change. I don’t think there is a person alive who could have predicted the events since March 2020. And for many people there have been a wide range of emotions and situations out there. I want pretend to know the myriad of situations out there, and ultimately you reading this I’m sure have your own story with regard to the events of the past few months, whether those included isolation, depression, emotional stress, unemployment, or having your work life balance destroyed.
I’m not going to comment on any of those situations, but what I did want to share for this blog post were my thoughts on something I think universally felt by everyone…burnout.
All the events of the past few months, have left many of us feeling completely burned out. I know in my situation the events have led to 12-14 hour days for sustained periods (going on 3 months). And if you’re anything like me, the act of relaxing is something that’s not always the easiest to do. And for many of us, who had to be quarantined with kids those demands can be a lot higher.
So given that, it can be rather difficult to deal with these feelings of burnout, and I’ve been trying somethings myself and thought I would share a blog post discussing how I’m trying to manage burnout. I don’t pretend to believe that I have this figured out, but I’ve found some things that work for me, and I felt it would be good to pass them on.
Figure out what helps you relax?
Really, this is something I’ve come to realize quite heavily recently. But honestly everyone seems to think of the same thing as relaxing. And odds are for most of us the ways in which we relax have changed pretty drastically over the past few months.
For me, the problem was it always felt like there was something else to do, and it never seemed like I would really “relax” in the conventional sense. But honestly, relaxation means something different to everyone, and you might need to take a step back and redefine what it means for you.
For example, I’m the kind of person who has a very “Busy” energy. And sitting back and doing nothing is not actually relaxing, at all. I will find some way to exercise my mind or do something that engages me in different kinds of activities. So for me, I need to engage in something else that let’s me engage my mind in a different way but still satisfies my values.
The best way I can describe this, is my son came into my room at 6:30am on Father’s day and woke me up with the following sentence:
Happy Father’s day…Do you want to build a lego and play video games?
For me, I find that that sitting down and pulling a lego set and working on it with my son, is significantly more fun and relaxing than anything else. So I’ve actually gotten to the point that there is a small backlog of lego sets in my office:
So every so often, I’ll just sit down with my kids, build a lego, and they know that when we are done, I always take a picture and then turn it over to them. For me, the act of building something, with my hands, and doing it with my kids is really relaxing.
Take time for you
For me, like I mentioned above, I have to find times to engage my mind in things to really unplug and refresh, and it’s forced me to find new ways to do that, and in my case I find a lot of benefit to reading. I’ve been a comic fan for the past 27 years of my life. And one of the things I find really helps me is that most comic stories can be fairly quick reads and are something I can enjoy and engage on without making larger commitments or giving myself something else to remember.
But I find that taking time to read is something that I can do fairly easily at night. Usually my wife and I will put the kids to bed, and then our routine is to each take about an hour to do something by ourselves to recharge before we come back together and relax. This helps us to rest and shake off the craziness of the day before we hangout together.
Find new ways to replace old activities
So for most people, between COVID-19 and the craziness of everything else going on, it can be hard to engage in that social part of your life. And seeing friends and family became very difficult. We were lucky enough to find a new way to solve that problem. Prior to COVID-19, my wife and I along with a group of friends started playing TTRPGs, and specifically Dungeons and Dragons.
Now I know, D&D has a pretty nerdy reputation, but lately has seen a pretty big resurgence in the past few years. Honestly its pretty hard to call something nerdy when one of the biggest promoters of the game is Joe Manganiello.
Now, we were playing a monthly game with 5 other people before COVID-19, and since that game became weekly, with us all playing via Facebook Messenger. Since then the game has gone to weekly, and I have to tell you its been great. As the DM for the game it has more work, but I find that kind of work relaxing, and honestly its something we all collectively look forward to every week.
So most nights at some point, I end up stepping back and building the story and working on DnD as a way to relax. So we found a new way to do things and honestly even with our state going “Green” on the status, there’s been talk of doing a few in-person games, but we likely will be playing remotely every week moving forward. For those of us with kids it helps that we don’t have to find baby sitters and play from kid bedtime until midnight.
Another example I have here, is Exercise. So I have to be honest I had started Crossfit right before COVID-19, and was really enjoying it. But with COVID-19, all Gyms were shutdown, and I fell out of the habit. The main exercise option then became running, which to be honest is my personal hell. I can’t turn my brain off long enough and running becomes boring to me. But recently I found a great app that helps…Zombie’s Run. The app is here.
What I like about this is its sort of a mix of a podcast and exercise. In each “mission” there are audio snippets that will play that describe the adventures of your persona “Runner 5”, as you set out to help your home township as a runner. Being sent out to get supplies, distract zombies, etc. And as you run, periodically it will chime in with different updates on those missions and directions. It also integrates with Spotify or your chosen music player. So basically I’ll be running, and listening to music, and all of a sudden get a message “Pick up the pace, a rogue group of zombies must have heard you they are gaining on you.” (Complete with zombie sounds). And then the music resumes. It makes the process a lot more fun than before. If you want proof of that, I hate running and usually stop as soon as I can, and my second day I did a 5k.
Try Something new…
In my wife and my case, we had a smoker we got from my brother and never got around to using it. Since COVID-19 started we’ve been using that smoker almost every weekend doing a “Culinary Experiment” to help try new things. It gives us something fun to look forward to, and helps to make things easier. Our latest experiment was a 7 lb Pork Shoulder:
So I would recommend try to find something new, and make a routine out of it. It will give you something to look forward to every day, or every week. And that can help stop the feelings of burnout.
So I know this post got out a little late today, and for that I do apologize. Home schooling has been interesting at our house. Its definitely been a transition for everyone involved. But overall its been going well. My kids have been real troopers. My wife is the most amazing woman on the planet, and has been the expert in all of this.
My daughter has setup a desk in my office, so its nice to think that during COVID, my home office has basically become a Wework.
So I’ve made no secret of my enjoyment of Outside cooking, and over the past two weeks I’ve done a lot of work with my Weber smoker. And this past week turned out great. I went from a small chicken, to a 11 lb Brisket! And then 12 hours later, we had an amazing meal.
So this weekend, I was able to actually get out and use the smoker I’ve had for a while and no time to use. I am a huge fan of outdoor cooking, and have been grilling for years. To the point that my kids know that “Dad’s night to cook” means a grill is involved. And a while ago I got a smoker but our lives were always too busy to use it.
For those of you who have never used one (there will be a blog post about my first time). But it can take a long time. But totally worth it.
Custom Skills in Azure Cognitive Search : This is a really cool features I’ve recently been using in Azure Search. The ability to do custom skills allows for you to create really robust augmentation of the data for indexing and plug it right into your indexing process.
As I mentioned, I did use my Smoker for the first time this weekend and it worked out great. Below is the video I used for the “how to” of using a smoker. For those interested check it out, it really is the best one i’ve found that explains the process.