More Cowboy Candy

We made our last batch of Cowboy Candy 2 years ago and are down to two 1/2 pints and one pint being left.  This impending shortage along with the first (late) freeze of the year meant I had to harvest my peppers. I ended up with 2 gallon buckets and then some of peppers. Mostly a long jalapeno but also a few Caribbean red  habaneros.  This is not enough to do a batch, so I went to the Waukesha farmers market and bought out 3 vendors.  One of them was surprised I really wanted all of the ripe jalapenos (ripe peppers are a critical ingredient).  A final vendor provided a dozen orange habaneros.

Sunday morning arrived and so did the kids, Jessie, Elyse and David came with children in tow.  We were arrayed around the kitchen table seeding and chopping the pile of peppers. I estimate it was 40-45 lbs overall, with about 30-35lbs when cleaned (we lost count of the 3 lb batches).

Almost done, just a few peppers to go

Duties were split with the kids doing the chopping, I was chopping and doing the hot  processing of the jars.   This was our second try at doing the hot / boiling water bath processing on the deck and it worked great!  We were also smart enough this time to don the gloves from the start.  Last time we had painful side effects for a couple of days (just think of every body part you may touch with your fingers that are soaked in capsaicin – ouch).

The Blichman Hellfire burner gets the kettle up to a boil quickly (>200K BTU/hr).   This burner is designed for home brewing and double duty for canning.  The Victorio canner also works well as a brew kettle.   So, when considering what you need for brewing or home canning, keep in mind the dual uses.  This would work with a turkey fryer and burner too.

The major advantages of brewing outside are just as rewarding for canning . Keep the steam,  mess and boilovers outside as much as possible.  The 4x4s under the burner are not so much a safety consideration but rather to help keep me from bending over quite so far. 

Teal did the cooking and filling of the jars.  She had 2 kettles going: one with the syrup for cooking the peppers and a second with the cooked down concentrate for filling the jars.

With the help and better sequencing of processing steps we were done in under 3 hours.  This halved the time vs 2 years ago for an equivalent amount.

Final tally was 36 half pints and 7 pints.  We “should” be set for another 2 years.  However, as the word spreads of this special taste treat, the stash of jars goes down ever more quickly.    For the recipe see: https://bronkalla.com/blog/2017/10/01/candied-jalapenos-cowboy-candy/

 

First floor tile project part 3

So we waited a week after grouting for the clean up.

In the meantime, the thresholds for the front door and garage door needed to be sanded, stained and varnished. This was a small detour.

Replacing the base shoe trim went rather smoothly. A few grout clumps to clean out, but otherwise it went well.

Laundry sink went back in well. Looking at the dryer vent hose it was discovered it was torn on both ends and needed to be redone.  Washer and dryer went back in with help from David.  My left hand still not quite up to pulling the cart up and reconnecting.

Teal did the acid wash / grout haze removal and buffing of the tiles.

The weatherstripping on the garage door needed to be replaced as the bronze on the hinge side had broken. I tried flat bronze on the garage door but was not satisfied with the results and will need to redo. Holding the tiny nails with fingers that can’t grip worth a darn was a joy. When removing the front door threshold, half of the weatherstripping was damaged as well. The v-shape, folded weatherstripping is rather hard to find.  I had it ordered from Ace.

The main frustration was the foyer closet doors. These are sliding doors. They had not been working well before the tile job so I picked up replacement rollers at Ace. However when reinstalling I discovered that that the offset for each door is different! so the new rollers did not work. The old ones would not stay on the track and I discovered that I could not reinstall the retainer in the middle as the floor was now ever so slightly higher.  Argh!.  So the 6 panel doors were taken downstairs and cut about 5/16″ shorter.  Now the bottom guide could be installed but the doors would not stay on the tracks and I could not adjust the rollers well to close the gaps along the door edges. So this meant a trip to Home Depot for a new sliding door track kit.  This installed easily and the doors now work well. All told, a 3 hour detour (with 2 trips to the store) for what was to be simply rehanging 2 closet doors.  The bathroom door also needed to be shortened as well.

Finally the thresholds are caulked and reinstalled.  The only thing left to do is to finish the weatherstripping. Done.

First floor tile project part 2

As I mentioned previously, we had gotten notice that the tile was ready earlier than expected.  Tile shop also provides the order weight (to 3 decimal places) so we went to pick up the 1300+ lbs of tile, mortar, grout and assorted accessories.

So next step was finishing  the tile removal, including the last bits of thin set mortar.   The new air chisel worked out very well. My air compressor is complaining a bit (air chisel requires 10 cfm @ 90+ PSI) . It has not worked this hard since I built the boat.    At the end, we have a full big rubbermaid wheelbarrow full and countless cat litter buckets of old tile.  It will probably take 6+ weeks to get this taken as part of the garbage. Here is a shot after the first 3 loads have been “given” to the garbage men.

So we pick up the tile and deposit / stage the boxes near where they would be used.   The woodwork trim also got 2″ masking tape  applied to minimize mortar and grout being stuck on the woodwork and possibly staining it.

This was after the first day of tile removal.   You can see that the majority of the mortar has come off with the tiles.  The rugs are in place so we don’t track huge amounts of grit around the house.  There is no bypassing this area.

Thursday afternoon. All of the tile has been removed and the last bits of mortar have been removed.   Lots more time spent with the air chisel to scrape the entire floor to get the mortar off. HEPA rated vac was used to get most of the dust & grit picked up. However, we still needed dust masks while we were doing it.

Laundry room area.  Teal wanted to paint it a new color: mint-chip ice-cream green. This was another of the project “detours”.

The next day (Friday) the tile work starts.   Plan of attack is to proceed down the hall towards the foyer and then work into the closet and back round the foyer.  This was the first time I had a spiral mortar mixer paddle – what a treat compared to doing it by hand as we had in the past.  Another huge help was a big old box fan. Teal kept moving it to cool me off. This was hard work on a humid day. Given that I was kneeling down, bent way over leaning on my left hand, annoyingly sweat kept dripping into my glasses.

Saturday is spent cutting and laying the rest of the tile.   On Friday I had bypassed laying some of the tiles with the more complicated cuts so as to stay ahead of the hardening of the mortar. However, there were 2 tiles that were impossible to get in under the door jambs without splitting as the cut was basically U shaped and the tile had to fit under the door jamb.   A partial plunge cut with the wet saw into the back of the tile made for a clean break and nearly invisible joint line.

Sunday was spent grouting. I was able to get the entire area done with just one bag of grout (3 batches).  This is another time where having good quality tools paid off. We had bought the premium QEP grout float rather than the economy foam ones we had used originally. The firm rubber edge meant I could squeegee off most of the grout. This both saved material and greatly simplified clean up as it took fewer passes to clean off the excess.     As I was grouting, I had on some sandals that I don’t like (not caring if they got all messy ). However after an hour,  my toes became irritated – little toe hooking on the sandal. So I had the bright idea of doing this barefoot.  This were going well for a while but the tops of my toes were starting to hurt and I was getting pink streaks on the tile. I looked at my feet and the tops of my big toes had been ground down leaving dime sized raw spots which were now bleeding and getting grout or cement grit in them.  The sandals went back on.

Monday I woke up and I can barely move my left hand. No grip strength, some tingling in my little fingers.  If I had been scuba diving, I would have thought I had gotten bent.  Checking with my daughters who are both NPs the initial diagnosis was tendonitis. Googling for more info I found that it is common in house painters and tile setters.   The odd stance of kneeling and leaning way over on my left hand for 3 days in a row must have triggered it.   Lets see how long this takes to recover.  One week later it is still weak but getting somewhat better.   We had to wait a week before cleaning the haze off the tile and then putting on the trim, etc.

 

First floor tile project part 1

 

Background

When we built our house 25 years ago we did a lot of the work ourselves.  This included all of the hard surface floors – ceramic tile and hardwood, which make up all of the flooring aside from the bedrooms.  We were on a hard schedule and basically treated like any of the subcontractors. The foyer, hallway, half bath and laundry room were all tiled. However the color of the tile was not exactly what we thought we had ordered (much debate here). Due to the time constraints, we put it in and hoped for the best.  However the color was always a sore point for Teal.

Now as a proper engineer I had laid down the substrate -two 3/4 ” layers of ply wood glued and screwed together with a zillion screws. This proved to be substantial and after 25 years of abuse there were no cracked tiles or grout.  So the thought of ripping it out and replacing it was never on my list of fun projects.   The tile was set in thin set mortar as well.

Tile Project Start

Teal is persistent however and wanted it replaced.  So my thoughts turn to how do I minimize the back breaking work and get this done?   The answer was “more tools” . After a fair amount of research I stumbled across the Harbor Freight Long Handle Air Scraper –   The reviews were good, so I got one. I also needed a better wet saw as this area has an amazing number of required cuts and my old “toy” wet saw was not up to the task.

So we get home and I try out the air scraper in a closet and it WORKS GREAT.    So the next day we rip out the foyer and hallway tile.  The thin-set mortar adhered well to the tile and the plywood.  However, the topmost layer of plywood (not an entire ply) would usually pull loose. So about 80% of the mortar pulled up with the tiles.

Note that the tile edges are extremely sharp, much like shards of glass and work well for removing skin from finger tips or slicing them open even with gloves.

So, now armed with the knowledge that the tile removal was feasible without professional help and now being committed, we proceeded to shop for the new replacement tile.  We were disappointed  with the selection at Home Depot and Menards and went to the Tile Shop, where we had gotten most of the tile when we built the house (not the pinkish tile which was from Lexco).   We made our selection and ordered it along with all of the other goodies (thin set, grout, spacers, etc.).  The tile we wanted was on  back order at the time so we thought things would work at a leisurely pace.

Detours 1

Now the “detours” would start. No good project plan goes unpunished. The next day Teal says the “washer won’t spin”.   It had been noisy for a while, but now it was unusable and we had just spent a pile of money on the tile.

So it was back to the internet and Youtube to see how to fix a Maytag  Performa washer that won’t spin.   Videos look good and a parts order to Appliance Parts Pros is made.  A few days later the parts arrive.  Washer is disassembled, tub and transmission removed and the new parts installed. Not too bad to do except for re-installing the darn e-clip on the end of the shaft. More bad words and damaged finger tips. However, it is reassembled and works. I should add that a second detour did occur as well. The faucets for the washer were locked up and better yet the wash sink next to it had no shut off valves. So 4 new valves were procured and installed. It “only” took 2 tries- still had a leak on the first one.

The next day we get a call and the tile is ready for pickup – about 2 weeks earlier than expected.

To be continued…

 

 

Dry Cured Pork Loin Batch 2

After the success of the first batch. I decided to make another larger one. This started with one of the big economy sized pork loins.   With this round, I wanted to try more seasoning variations.  So I cut it roughly into thirds, each seasoned differently.

Otherwise the preparation was the same as the first batch:  http://bronkalla.com/blog/2019/01/02/making-lonzino-dried-cured-pork-loin/

Italian Cajun Pepper
03/14/19 Weight 1392 1121 1068
salt 42 33 33
Cure 2 3.5 2.8 2.7
4 tsp Ground Coriander 2tsp Penzey’s Cajun blend 5g Black pepper
2 tsp Sweet Paprika 1tsp Sweet Paprika
2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes – no seeds – Super Cayenne
3 tsp freshly crushed fennel seeds
03/31/19 Initial fridge cure 1456 1171 1108
04/06/19 Dry box weight 1369 1085 990
04/13/19 1190 955 903
04/21/19 1057 863 826
04/27/19 1012 811 764
05/05/19 951 747 702
05/31/19 579

As before, after apply in the cure and spices, the meat went for 2 weeks in the crisper drawer in the fridge. Then it was wrapped in collagen sheet and trussed in butcher’s twine.

Dry box with ham, Bresaola (top right), and lonzino

The meat was pulled from the dry box in early June and portioned out. Each stick was cut in half for freezing or eating.

Pepper blend 5/31/19

Aging for another month in the fridge in a plastic bag, the color variation evens out and the flavor mellows even more.

Yesterday we had a party,  with this thin sliced and served as one of the appetizers. After the initial fear of trying meat that had not been cooked subsided, the vote was unanimous – MAKE MORE!  With the extra 6 weeks in the fridge, the flavors are even more mellow with a slight buttery note.

Absolutely delicious.

Next batch, I will probably dry to the 40-45% moisture loss point. At 50% it is a bit hard to cut and a little chewy.    I will also up the seasonings for the pepper and Cajun by 50%.

D-Bot – 3D printer upgrades

About 2 years ago I built the D-Bot  which is a core-xy style 3d printer. What this means is I have a printer with a relatively large build volume of roughly 300mm^3 and a fairly rigid mechanical structure.  My efforts on this design can be seen starting at: http://bronkalla.com/blog/2017/03/12/new-3d-printer-project/

To the basic printer design, I made a number of modifications (of course). Te major changes included a high performance extruder – Micron EME Cobra all metal extruder with thermocouple sensor as well as a 24v power supply to hit the high temperatures I needed for printing Nylon and other high temp plastics.

The printer control is based on the open source Marlin software (which is incredible)  and  Rumba controller board.  The Marlin software is highly configurable and supports many dozens of printer configurations, controller boards and commercial printer. However, this configurability comes at a cost (learning curve) for the infrequent user.

This configuration (D-Bot) also  did not come without aggravations. The dual z stepper drivers for the vertical motion, are prone to getting out of sync when powered down (one side lower than the other). This was aided by the habit of the cats walking across the printer when I was not around, as well as the default power down of the stepper drivers between prints. So for every print session, I would need to re-level the printer bed across the X axis (left to right as you face it) a few times. In addition, the original microswitch based home sensor was not that accurate.  So after levelling, I would need pfutz with the zero position to get the first layer of the print to come out at the right thickness.  The microswitch was replaced with an optical sensor last year, but it was still on only one side.

This worked for 2 years and then I said no more, there has to be some upgrades I can do to make this easier, more repeatable and reliable.  That turned into a part time project over the winter and now is working very nicely. Upgrades included:

  1. Printing igus iGlidur 180 Y carriage slider bearings to replace the v-roller wheels.   This lead to better print quality. The igus filament required printing at 250C so this was one of the uses of the high temperature print head (in addition to nylon). The X axis will need to wait, as a future project.
  2. Moving from  Marlin 1.0.9 to 1.1.9 (latest and reportedly final version) of the software that drives the printer.  This meant carefully handling all of the changes to the software, recompiling and uploading the software multiple times to get the printer back in working order with no other (physical) changes.
  3.  Adding a second Z-axis (vertical) home sensor so that each of the Z stepper drivers would have their own independent home sensor and after homing the printer the bed would be basically level.  This required some adjustment of the parts in Sketchup (not easy with STL models) and then some Marlin configuration changes to make it work.   The homing of the printer is now SO much better. Not just the dual z sensors, but the Marlin homing logic is much better and doing it properly (back off and fast seek in and then back off again with slow in to get final zero).
  4. Adding a BL-Touch for automatic bed leveling sensing.  The mounting bracket for the BL-touch was based on using the new bottom Y carriage bracket for the igus slider bearings.  Getting the BL-Touch to work was the most infuriating  part of the project. The documentation of the theory of operation of the BL Touch is spotty and this is coupled with contradicting info for configuring it in Marlin on the web as well as scant info on doing it with my 3d printer controller board.   So yesterday’s snow  storm gave me the quiet break to sit down and systematically dig into how to do this. In the end, it worked (and I ended up with a spare BL-Touch).

So now I have a radically improved 3D printer and it is ready for more projects.

Bresaola – Tasting

Today the Bresaola had lost enough of its weight to be ready for tasting.  This is a continuation of my previous post on making the Bresaola .

Started 1/5/19,  tasting 4/13/19    The process took just over 3 months.

The meat was curing in the dry box in the basement with the dry cured ham and more dry cured pork loins (Lonzino).

Dry box with ham, Bresaola (top right), and lonzino

The bresaola was weighed and pulled today . It had lost 44% of its starting weight.

The meat was covered with an even coating of the mold until I dropped it. So then I wiped it off with a damp towel and vinegar. So you can now see some of the surface texture.

First cut. You can see how dark the meat is.

A bit closer and you can see that the coloring is even across the meat with little extra darkening at the edges indicating that the drying was fairly even. Feeling the meat, the top end is a bit firmer and presumably drier than this which is at the bottom quarter point.  The collagen is very well adhered to the meat, more so than with the pork loins.

Tasting – delicious if a little bit salty. Saltiness is comparable to commercial prosciutto.     There is a hint of the rosemary and juniper flavors but very mild.  The meat is very tender and almost a bit too soft yet.  Hint of a “minerally” flavor which is I guess to be expected with the eye of round roast.  Meat is very dark red as you can see and slices nicely.   This has a much stronger “meaty” / “minerally” flavor than the pork loin.

Putting the large piece back in the box for another week.  Small piece into the fridge to eat.

Next time, I will rinse thoroughly before applying the collagen to get more of the salt off to see if I can reduce the saltiness. I had not rinsed much so that I would not wash all of the spice mix off.

I would rate this one also a success.  However I much prefer the dry cured pork loin.

Bressaola – Dry cured beef

I am making the Bressaola from an Eye of Round roast.  This is based on the Bressaola recipe in  Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. I have converted it to a slat and cure by weight and adjusted the herbs and spices as it is mid winter and my Rosemary and Thyme are only dry now not fresh.

After trimming the roast of fat silverskin and any nicks, it ended up at 1233g.

3% salt = 37g

0.25% cure #2 = 3g

1.5 tsp dried Rosemary

1 tsp dried Thyme

6 Juniper berries

Finely grind the mixture together until powdered in a mortar and pestle. I don’t like dragging out the blender for this and these flavors would not help my coffee.

Divide the mixture in half.

Rub the roast with 1/2 of the mix all over and place in a plastic bag in the fridge for 1 week turning every few days. After 1 week pull it out, drain any liquid and then apply the other half of the spice mix.  Refrigerate for another week.

Remove the roast from the bag, rinse well removing the cure and spice blend. Place on a rack at room temperature uncovered for 2-3 hours. This will dry it enough to be ready for wrapping.

Wrap in 1/2 sheet of collagen, pressing it tightly against the meat and then truss with butchers twine. 2 vertical wraps and 3-5 horizontal wraps.  Make a loop in the twine so it will fit over the dowel in  the dry box.   Prick all over with a sanitized sausage pricker. Dip in a solution of Bactoferm 600 (penicilium mold culture).

Wrapped in Collagen sheet and trussed

Hang in the dry box.    This was taken after 1 week

Here I have it out for weighing after 1 week. You can see mold growth and it is much heavier where it bumped the mold covered pork loin.

Date Weight
01/05/19 1233g Start before cure applied
01/18/19 1250g Ready for dry box
01/23/19 1192g
03/10/19 988g
03/18/19 906
03/23/19 867
03/30/19 822
04/06/19 773
04/13/19 695 tasting
end wt loss 44.40%

Beware this is still an experiment in progress. Get the book while waiting for the tasting post.

 

Sources:

TheSausageMaker.com:  Dry Aging Collagen Sheets for Dry Aging Meats 22″ x 24″ (5 pcs) and Bactoferm Mold-600 (Penicillium Nalgiovense) and Sausage pricker.  You can also order their products via Amazon but it is much more expensive but with free shipping. So if you need several things direct is cheaper.

Dry Cured Country Ham

As I mentioned previously, I really like dry cured ham.  Prosciutto & Speck are great.  However, I am still taunted by my family for the “salt ham” episode where I ordered a “virginia ham” off the internet.  It was not popular.

So, with that lesson and others, I have settled on making my dry cured meats with “by weight” proportions rather than salt box or “cover it with salt” for x days recipes.   The concept is that there is an ideal salt & seasoning to meat weight ratio. This give you lots of latitude  on the curing time vs . immersing the meat in salt and pulling it at “just the right time”.  From the research I have done, the immerse it in salt method seems to be optimized for production curing on an ongoing basis with tons of meat per day. However, at home we are not doing “production curing” we are doing a few pounds per month at most on an erratic “schedule” (try not to run out before the next batch is done) .  So, I want small batch repeatability and the “by weight” salting / curing method wins.

This recipe is for a dry cured, deboned and smoked front leg ham. Yes it is a mouthful. In Italy and Austria it would be referred to as Speck. However the recipe here is not authentic to the region, but is sort of  based on the “Blackstrap Molasses  Country Ham” recipe in “Charcuterie” by Ruhlman and Polcyn . However, I have modified this to my taste (I hope). As I write this the hams are in the dry box. So for all intents and purposes this is an untried recipe as no one has tasted the results so far. That will come in a future blog post.  So for the daring, here is what I did:

Take one fresh picnic ham (front leg) and carefully debone it.  Care must be taken that you are not creating cuts / scars that will harbor bacteria or molds.  The goal is to have a couple of piece of meat with a clean, unscarred surface for curing.  The bone and attached scraps are saved for future goodies whether soups or plain old baked beans. Next, we must cure the meat.  The slat and cure are by weight percentages. The spices assume approximately 1 KG pieces. You should scale up or down accordingly for what you have.

Cure:

  • 3% by weight kosher salt
  • 0.25% by weight cure #2  “pink salt”
  • 2 tsp Juniper berries crushed
  • 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground Coriander
  • 1 Tb grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2c cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup rum -decent rum

Mix the above ingredients and set aside.

I started with a 8.5 lb picnic ham – skin on and bone in.  The resulting pieces are:

Meat Salt Cure #2
1245g 37.4g 3.1g
1760g 53.6g 4.4g

The boned out picnic ham should yields 2 approximately equal sized pieces (skin on) .  Take 2 large zip lock bags and place the “halves” of the ham in them. Now pour in proportional amounts of the cure in each bag.  Place in the fridge.  Turn every few days (2-5).

After 2 weeks of cold curing in the fridge, the meat should have evenly distributed the cure. Next  the meat is removed from the bags, dried with paper towels and then set on racks in the refrigerator to dry and form a pellicle (thin tacky skin). Now is the time for cold smoking.

With cold smoking, it is important to understand that we are not trying to cook the meat at this point. The goal is to add smoke for flavor and reduce, if not prevent mold growth during the drying phase.     The meat is cold smoked for 10+ hours. The  Big Green Egg was the smoke chamber, with an A-Maze-N  pellet smoker grate providing the smoke.

After smoking the upper edges of the meat were pierced for butcher’s twine to hang in the dry box (smoke aroma is good but a bit harsh about now). I used Traeger Signature Blend pellets.

The meat is then hung in the “high tech” dry curing chamber and now we wait. The white pieces are the dry cured pork loins.

Weighing after 2 weeks in the dry box

Weights of the pieces

Date small lg
01/03/19 1245g 1760g start -wet
02/10/19 1107g 1655g post smoke
2/23/19 1006 1517
747 1056 Target 40% weight loss

Cold Smoking and Frozen Smoker Entry

I like Prosciutto, however it is bit hard to find round here not in a pre-sliced / pre-packaged form. Once sliced it does not keep well oxidizing  and rapidly develops off flavors.  Speck which is a northern Italian  /Austrian version which is smoked and also has great flavor but is not to be found around here. Plus my wife objects to the $70+ dollar shipments from Amazon, which I order in the winter and then UPS then throws in the ditch by the mailbox rather than delivering up to our doorstep (another long story). However I can cut up the chunk, freezing some. I slice off what I need as I need it and retain the fresh cut flavor.

So after reading a few books on dry curing and watching yet more YouTube videos, I decided to tackle making some Country ham / Speck.  The curing chamber was already constructed. So now the problem was how to procure the raw ham and then cold smoke before drying.  The meat was easy as our local grocer – Woodman’s, had the fresh front legs (a.k.a. green picnic hams) on special.

Meanwhile it is mid-winter in Wisconsin, meaning my Big Green Egg was frozen shut (really frozen shut with > 1/2″ ice covering) and I did not yet have a cold smoke generator.  I have smoked a lot of meat on the BGE but it has always been hot smoked (190-230F smoker temp) but for these hams  we are looking for <90F smoker temp. After some research which lead to both very expensive and very simple / inexpensive options I settled on the A-Maze-N 5×8″ smoker which uses wood pellets. Nice and simple, no modifications to the grill or having to connect air pumps as on some of the more expensive models.

I melted the BGE open the night before for a steak dinner (see yet more http://bronkalla.com/blog/2018/12/31/koji-steak-and-crunchy-cheesy-potatoes/)  and then propped it open with a stick of kindling for the next morning (no snow forecast and -10F temps).  It took a few handfuls of kindling shoved in through the ash dump / vent and lit with a propane torch to get the left over charcoal going.  The metal ring I made really speeds up the process taking the heat and applying it to the frozen gaskets.  This has served me well over the last 3 winters. Go get some sheet metal at HD and attack it with tin snips.  Size is not critical.   Thisis 3x faster than trying to just let it warm up in reasonable (>10F temps) and the only way when it gets really cold (-10 to -20F , -20 is my cut off)

Metal ring used in between the gaskets to thaw the egg in winter.

 

Next day I add a few big lumps of charcoal as spacers and place the A-Maze-n smoker with mixed wood pellets and get it lit. Once lit, blow out the fie, add the meat and walk away.  Internal temp of the BGE averaged 46F over 10 hours (that is COLD smoking).