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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Cabin Fever in the Ou Transvaal - Cowboys Cooking with Acacia BBQ

Cabin Fever Remedies


January and February are cold months in Canada. By the time late-February rolls around, Canadians are grumpy. Cabin fever sets. Children and old people go missing. Ice Hockey referees resign, and parents get violent. Strange things that happen in the winter lands of ice and snow.

We've been living in Canada for 12 winters now. Every year we are still astounded to see just how much of an influence the winter blues have on people around us. Many lucky ones escape to warmer climates. Popular destinations include Mexico, the Southern United States, and a few lucky ones make it Downunder or to our homelands - Southern Africa.

This year we stayed home under our blanket of white. To counter cabin fever, we relied on our diligent preparation and applied remedies that didn't involve children, violence, sticks, or rock hard rubber disks. We saved items and happy thoughts for the occasion. Some things we used as crutch included a little Mieliepap, Old Brown Sherry, a few vintage Peppermint Crisps, Dry Wors, Jelly Tots, and some frozen slivers of Biltong.

Then we remembered our African lump charcoal from Acacia BBQ. Willie, one of the owners, left us a stash in the Fall with a mini-braai before he himself escaped to warmer climates. What a happy discovery!


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The Bushveld Smell



Why bring Charcoal from the other side of the world to Canada?

Honestly, unless your first breath in this life was that of a Bushveld Braavleis fire, you will be hard-pressed to follow the logic. In reality, charcoal is a lightweight black carbon residue produced by removing water and other volatile constituents from plant materials (Wikipedia).

Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis - the heating of wood or other organic materials in the absence of oxygen. The advantage of burning charcoal, compared to burning wood, is the absence of water and other components. This allows charcoal to burn at higher temperatures, and give off very little smoke ("...regular wood can release a significant amount of steam, organic volatiles, and unburnt carbon particles - soot - in its smoke when it is not burned completely."). The end result is the solid-state of the one thing that drives the hysteria and New-World religion - carbon. Burn it, and you have pure carbon monoxide - plant food!

The charcoal you buy for your local BBQ or Braai at your supply store is close to, but not pure lumps of carbon. Where the mass and weight of the material is concerned, one chunk of plant material-derived carbon is much like the next. However, not all plant material is destroyed in the manufacturing process. There remains a faint memory of the origins of the wood due to some unburned content and volatiles. These are the remnants that impart the particular characteristics that differentiate Oak derived charcoal from Muskeet, Applewood, or in the case of Acacia BBQ, African hardwoods.

That is why a bag of Royal Oak differs from Kingfords, Canadian Maple, and the rest. The mass and density set the temperature, and the time it burns (hence briquettes are very similar in performance). The unburned material and volatiles impart the flavour. It is this flavour of the Bushveld smoke that took us home when we lit our first box of Acacia BBQ charcoal on a little Easy Grill.

Acacia BBQ charcoal is a product of HB’s Premium Char Imports Ltd. It is available in Canada and the USA. The charcoal they import is the result of 10 years of trials and tribulations to realize the dream of a family business.  Acacia BBQ searched all over Southern Africa to find producers that would bring the “braai” (BBQ) experience of Africa to North America.  They are conservation-minded and source the materials sustainably while remaining sensitive to the socio-economic issues and opportunities of Africa.

Observations


If you haven't breathed the Bushveld, then you will be forgiven for considering the Acacia BBQ product, just another premium lump charcoal. Burn-time and temperature don't set it apart, and you will be forgiven for thinking it is expensive. Remember, it did come from halfway around the world.

It is the flavour that sets it apart! We consider the profile baby perfume-like. Yes, we are biased because our memory receptors are triggered to take us to our happy place - a bushveld fire, the sun setting, jackals howling in the background, and a "tjoppie" sizzling on the braai (grill), fueled by African hardwoods.

We thank Willie and Acacia BBQ for this huge present at a time we needed it most. He gave us another glimpse of heaven and reminded us of where we came from. This is our Valhalla!

It made -25C a little bearable this time around. We escaped Cabin Fever for another year. If you want the smell of Africa for your meat, then cook with Acacia BBQ. That is why we do it.

Hendrik
Cooking Cowboy

Photos


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