We tried the Great Labor Day Smoke-Out, but it sounded like we were all trying to lay off the cigarettes, so we went with the “Extravaganza” title.

We invited a few (20 or 30) friends and family over on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and have a huge cook out. It usually involves the smoker running most of the day with an assortment of chicken, beef brisket, ribs, and some of the yummiest baked beans ever. The guests bring salads and other snacking items, and we pretty much have eaten ourselves into oblivion by about 6:30 PM.

Kitchen talk The kitchen is IT! I think we need benches in there!

This all started about 4 years ago. Our friends wanted to go camping, but with the farm we are kind of tied to chores unless we hire a farm-sitter. So, we offered to let everybody come on over and camp out at our house. We even offered to fire up the grill and cook for everybody. It worked out pretty well. We didn’t have to fight for a camping spot, there were hot showers for everybody, and we could still cook out if we wanted. By the following year, we had a new baby and the smoker. So we invited everybody back, plus a few more. It seems to have stuck.

Dig in!

We audition new recipes all year to see which ones we like the best to spring on our guests. This year we had a few new marinade recipes for the ribs and the briskets. I think we have hit the mark with the italian dressing marinade for the chickens though. Really. Get your favorite kind of Kraft Italian Dressing, put about half a bottle in a ZipLock baggie with a quartered chicken over night and then into the smoker. (We always do an extra chicken so I can make smoked chicken salad later.) The other big hit was grilled marinated halibut wrapped in thin bacon. OK, that was the best new thing we tried all summer.

The spread

One of our new guests brought a new way to eat watermelon with them. Pat made a “dressing” with lime juice, mint, and a touch of salt. Then he put that over chunked watermelon and gave it a light toss. He also had a tasty sheep’s milk feta that you could crumble over it. It was wonderful. The acid of the limes and the salt of the cheese really balanced out the watermelon

The loaded smoker

For the first time in four years we had rain on our holiday. Thankfully it didn’t downpour the entire weekend, but it did mean that we spent a lot more time in the house and no one was able to put up a tent. Not so much that they didn’t want to, but we weren’t sure how to get it dry before packing it up. So, we had a big slumber party more or less. Thankfully it was without the all night giggling and whispering.

I think a fun time was had by all. We were all very full, and had a nice visit. Some of our friends realized that they had mutual friends from other areas of their lives. Small world, huh, or do they just have really cool friends?!?

As of now, we are still recovering from this year’s event. We have a list started for next year though, so it looks like we will do it all again!