Coffee Rubbed Lamb Rack

This recipe came about after a collaboration with the lads from Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing.  We were holding a “How to be a real man” masterclass at Brewski Bar as part of Brewsvegas Craft Beer Festival.  The brewers had created an astonishingly good white stout, that had the most fragrant coffee and chocolate flavours. So to compliment their class act beer, I created this coffee rub for a rack of lamb which gets smoked then reverse seared.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Raw rub mix…

The Rub:

This amount of rub should happily cover two whole racks.

2 tbs good quality ground espresso beans…DO NOT USE INSTANT!!!

2 tbs cooking salt

2 tbs sweet paprika powder

1 tbs cayenne pepper powder

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp coriander powder.

I often prefer to have these ingredients in whole form, and grind them in the quantities I require, when I need them, I find the flavours are more pungent and stronger.  An electric coffee grinder works a treat!!

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Coffee grinder makes short work of it…

What Now?

Get your Frenched lamb rack, pat it dry with a paper towel and proceed to trim and remove the fat cap and any extraneous hard fat that’s there. Cover generously with the coffee rub, and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight if possible.

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Rub that sucker!!!

Time to get your smoker fired up!

This amount of rub should happily cover two whole racks.
Smoky nights are good nights…

Because it’s such a small cut, it’ll cook in no time, about 45mins to an hour, so you really need to pummel it with smoke, I suggest something a bit stronger than fruit woods, I’ll be using oak, but irobark is great, as is hickory or mesquite.

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Blue smoke goodness…
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On it goes…

You want it to hit an internal temp of 145F via indirect heat, and then remove from the smoker, lamb really benefits from being medium rare.

So once at temp, the next step is to drizzle with honey, we love to use Blend Smoked Honey for that extra zing!!

Break your smoker down, and place a grill plate directly over the coals.

At this stage i like to fire up the coals with a fan to really get them hot and blazing.

Throw the rack down over the hot coals, bone side down first, and let it get some char and caramelisation, flip over and repeat to the meaty side, a minute or two will be plenty!!

This amount of rub should happily cover two whole racks.
Honey glazed flaming goodness…
Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Juicy and moist with great bark…

Now wrap this puppy in foil and let it rest for 10-15 mins, then open up and enjoy, I dare you to stop at one!!!

Smoke on!!


Smoked Beef Brisket Chilli

For me, the biggest issue with low and slow cooking big cuts is all the leftovers.  Quality problem I know, but when its just the two of you, a whole brisket seems gargantuan!!

And let’s face it, whilst delicious fresh, it’s not exactly the best thing next day reheated.

I hate waste, especially something you’ve lavished attention on for 12 or so hours, soooooo…..

Smoked Beef Brisket Chilli is the answer!!!

What you’ll need…

3x Bacon rashers, diced

2x Onions, 1 red, 1 brown, chopped

1x Capsicum, chopped

4x Garlic cloves

2-3 Cups of leftover smoked brisket, cut into 1.5cm cubes

3x Tablespoons Hot Sauce – eg Tapatio, Franks, Srirachia

1x Tablespoon hot paprika powder

1x Tablespoon cumin powder

1x Tablespoon onion powder

1x Can of good quality IPA beer

1x Can of diced tomatoes

350-400ml of Passata (uncooked tomato puree)

1x Can of red kidney beans

Your favourite hot chillies, as little or as much as you like

How to do it…

Fry the bacon in a large saucepan until crispy over medium heat, then add the onions, garlic, hot chillies and capsicum and cook for about 5-7 mins until softened.

Copyright:  Mike Hilburger
Bacon makes everything better!!
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Chillies, onion, garlic and capsicum, those colours!!
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I had birdseye chillis on hand…

Next, add the brisket cubes and all your dry seasonings and give it a good stir to mix.

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Cubed smoked brisket…

Now the best bit – add the beer, (it’s ok to take a sip!) and allow it to deglaze the saucepan.

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After a couple of minutes add the diced tomatoes, passata, hot sauce and beans and bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for for a minimum of 1 hour, but obviously, the longer it cooks, the more intense and integrated the flavours become.

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Si Senor!!! This stuff!!
Copyright: Mike Hilburger
These beans sure have a funny name….

You really want it nice and rich.  if it does get too thick you can add water, a 1/2 a cup at a time to thin it out.

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Stirring in the burnt ends for added decadence…

Once done, your house will be smelling of a wonderful aroma that will drive your neighbours mad with envy.

Some toppings I like are sour cream, maybe some cheese and some coriander.  This dish also makes a killer base for nachos, just serve over corn chips, or a chilli con carne when served over rice!!

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Serving suggestion….

Smoke on!!


Macadamia Crusted Rosemary Chicken Skewers

Some of the best types of BBQ are the simplest ones.  Anyone who’s traveled in Southeast Asia knows and loves the sight and smell of chicken on a stick cooking over hot coals.

Combine the street food appeal of those grilled chicken skewers with a little culinary contribution from Queensland – the Macadamia nut, and you my friend, will be in BBQ heaven!!!

This quick cook makes for a great lunch or speedy dinner option.

What you’ll need….

Extra virgin olive oil – 1 tbs

Smoked paprika – 1 tsp

Chicken thigh fillets – 1kg

Macadamia nuts – a good handful

Flat leaf parsley – 2 tbs

Rosemary sprigs – 12-15

Lime / Lemon – 2

Non Iodised Salt – 1 tbs

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
The Herbs Man!

What to do…

Mix the paprika and oil in a large bowl.

Slice the chicken into thick, generous strips.  You could use chicken breast fillets instead, but the fattier thighs hold up better to chargrilling, with more flavour and moisture.

Put your nuts into a zip lock bag, and bash them with a blunt object till you get a finely chopped consistency.  You could also substitute pistachio nuts, but if you can, use macadamias, their oiliness also helps with grilling plus you’ll be supporting Aussie farmers!

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Stress relief…

Place the chicken, nuts and parsley into the bowl, and toss to coat evenly.  Put in the fridge and allow to marinade for 30-60 minutes.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Mix and coat…

Get your charcoal / BBQ lit.

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Gidgee coals in the chimney…

While that’s marinading away, get your rosemary sprigs and strip off the lower leaves, leaving about 5cm at the top.

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Rosemary strips off….
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Rosemary stems…

Now get some lime rind and add it to the salt, cover with cling wrap and shake around.  The salt will absorb the oils from the rind giving it a wonderful taste and colour.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Lime salt…

Once the chicken has marinaded, thread the chicken strips onto your rosemary skewers.

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Ready for the grill!

Grill your skewers, about 5 minutes each side or until they look golden and cooked.  I also added some manuka chips during the cooking for a bit of added smoke flavour.

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Manuka smoke…

When ready, place the skewers on a serving dish, squeeze over fresh lime juice and sprinkle on some of the lime salt, and voila, you’re sorted.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Ready to devour….

Smoke On!!


Copyright: Mike Hilburger  Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Cedar Planked Salmon

I thought planking was a short lived – Gen Y fad, featuring people of questionable intellect laying around horizontally on random objects, yeah….. it was as naff as it sounds.

This kind of planking however, will make you look like a fucking legend, not a 20 something twat.

The smoking platform here is a nice plank of cedar, generally available from BBQ shops or online.  The fresh cedar aroma is just stunning, you can imagine the flavours it will impart once it starts smouldering. They can be pricey, but you’ll be able to use each plank a few times.

Your typical plank will be about 10cm x 35cm, and about 10mm in depth.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Soak your plank, submerged in water in a roasting tray, use a glass of water as a weight to keep it down, you’ll need to do this 1-2 hours in advance.

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Keepin’ it on the down low…

I chose an amazing, huge salmon fillet from our local fishmonger. it was so big, we cut it into quarters, and used half (2 quarters) for this cook.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Look at the size of that sucker, cut it into 4 portions.
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Nature is beautiful

Fire up your coals, and set up your smoker or girl for direct heat, in my case, I break down the ProQ to its lower level, and set the grill directly over the coals.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
ProQ with a view…
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Gidgee lump charcoal

Get your fish out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.

Get the plank out of the water, lightly spray down with some olive oil, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and lay the salmon skin side down.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Oiled plank

If you can, please keep the skin on, there’s so much flavour in that layer, it would be a  shame to lose them.

Dust the top of the salmon generously with your favourite fish rub.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Rubbed salmon, room temp, ready for the smoker.

I used this spicy apple rub, its sweetness and bite work great with the fish.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Spicy Apple Rub

By no means is Salmon the only fish you can cook this way, any other robust fleshed fish would be terrific like this.

I like to now put some chopped fresh dill on top of the fillet, and spread out lemon slices across the fish.

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Now it’s time to place your plank over hot coals, if you have a lid for your grill, put it on, it should be around the 350F mark.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Aerial view…

Sit back and relax, and wait for the cedary, smokey goodness to start funneling its way out of your BBQ.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

The time it takes to cook your fish will ultimately depend on the size of your fish and the heat of your fire, but it’s easy to test, once the skin flakes easily when you stick a fork in it, it’s done!!  In this case, with this monster fish, it took nearly an hour.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Finished, just look at that colour!!!

Keep a spritz bottle handy in case your plank catches fire, you can put it out easy without disrupting the cooking process.

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Call the Fire Brigade

I served these with home made potato salad and rosemary and garlic fries.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger
Chow time!!

We always make a bit more than we need and use the leftovers in a Kedgeree, but that’s for another time!!!

Smoke On!!!


Copyright: Mike Hilburger Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Cherry Smoked Beef Short Ribs

One of my first BBQ blunders were beef short ribs.

Years ago I thought I could just chuck ’em on the old gas burner and they’d be done…Wrong!!

After that disaster, I steered clear of these little bad boys, filing them in the too hard basket, why would you bother??

But with age comes patience, and good things come to those who wait, so it was with the low and slow mantra that I tried tackling my meaty nemesis again…

For the technically minded, the collagens and connective tissue in the beef starts to breakdown and render out at above 160F, and you’ll need to get it to this temp reasonably quickly, and then hold it there for a while for the heat to work its magic.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

What you’ll need…

  • Beef short ribs
  • Rock salt
  • Cracked pepper
  • Stock cube
  • Apple juice
  • Butter
  • Hot sauce

How to do it…

Cook time 5.5 – 6 hours

Prep time 5 minutes.

In this version, I was really keen to taste the true flavour of the beef, especially in this case, when the beef came from a buddy of mine Ben.  His family hand raise their cattle, and believe me, it shows!!!

So I decided to go with a simple salt and cracked pepper rub.  I prefer to use cracked pepper over the powdered stuff, it has a better taste and looks really appetising too, and always use sea / rock salt.  Pat your ribs dry with a paper towel before applying the rub and then pat the rub into the ribs.

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Just to further amp up the umami factor, I like to get a stock cube and lightly sprinkle it over the ribs too.

You only need to put the rub on a few hours before cooking.

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When ready, take your shorties out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature, light your fire.

For this cook, I used a combination of West Qld Gidgee coal (my favourite) and Australian Cherry chunks for smoke.  The cherry smoke is probably my favourite, it actually smells like Dr Peppers when smouldering, sweet and yummy!

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

I start of with a dry water pan in my ProQ bullet smoker, and get the temp to 350f, load up the ribs and give them 30 minutes, by which stage they should getup to an internal temperature of around140f-150f.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Now I add water to my water pan for the rest of the cook, this stabilises the temperature to 225f, perfect for smoking.

Check on your ribs, and give them a good spritz with the apple juice, do this every 30 minutes, and smoke your ribs till they hit an internal temperature of 170f, in my case, this took 3.5 hours at 225f.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Feed your smoker with wood chunks for the first 3 hours, after that, the meat has taken on all the smoke it can take.

I now take the ribs off the smoker, and wrap in foil with a mixture of butter and hot sauce combined with a heavy spritz of apple juice.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Return the individually foiled ribs back to your smoker and give them another hour at 225f, by this stage, the internal temp should get close to 200f, which is exactly where you want it to be, for melting, moist, meat.

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So after that hour on the smoker, take them out and let them rest for another hour, it’ll be worth it!!

Unwrap these babies, pour the reserved juice in the foil back over them, and serve with your favourite side, i went with a coleslaw and ranch dressing.

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Enjoy your mouthwatering little slices of bovine heaven!

Smoke on!



Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Chinese BBQ Pork – Char Siu

One of my absolute favourite things when exploring the nooks and alleyways of Chinatown, is to track down a BBQ stall and snaffle some Char Siu, (pronounced – Char Shoo).

Char Siu is that gorgeous, red glazed and charred piece of BBQ pork hanging in the window, between the whole roast ducks and Chinese sausages.

Its sweet/salty glaze works wonderfully with the porky taste of the meat and the flavour of caramelised burnt bits, it’s a perfect treat hot and fresh, or next day for cold cuts or added to your favourite stir fry.

The only thing better than the Chinatown Char Siu is your own, home made Char Siu, it’s a such a quick, easy and delicious cook!

What you’ll need…

1 x 400g jar of Char Siu sauce available in the Asian section of Coles or Woolies or any Asian supermarket.

1 x Pork Loin, you can get this cut from quality Asian butchers.

Your trusty smoker with fuel and wood smoke of choice.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

How to do it…

So the night before your cook, trim any loose, excess fat from the loin and cover generously (about 1/2 the jar) of the Char Siu glaze.  Bag it, fridge it, let it marinade.

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The next day, take your pork out of the fridge and let it come to room temp.

Light your coals, I love using Gidgee from Western Qld, burns really hot and clean, which is exactly what you’re after here.  You won’t need much fuel, we’re only after about 2 hours of burn time.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

I decided to try a bit of Aussie Black Wattle wood for smoke, a rather dense wood, smoulders great with a pleasing blue, subtle flavoured smoke.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

For the first stage of this cook, you’ll want to get the temp around the 350F mark.  With my Pro-Q, I achieve this by running a dry water pan, which allows it to easily get up to those sort of temps whilst maintaining the indirect heat approach.

I like to line my water pan with foil to help keep it clean and to make cleaning up a doddle.

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Once your smoker’s hit the mark, give the loin another glaze with the Char Siu sauce and lay it out on the grill.

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Cover your smoker, chuck in a chunk of wood for smoke, and let it do it’s thing for the next 30 mins at 350F.

After half an hour, bring your smoker’s temp down to 225F, easily done by adding some water to your smoker’s water pan.

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Put your meat probe into the pork loin and monitor the internal temp, we’ll want to hit 155F, I set my alarm to go off at 150F so I can catch it in time and not let it overcook.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Now, every 20 minutes, baste the loin again with the Char Siu sauce, then at the next 20 minute point, carefully flip the loin, and baste the other side, repeat this basting cycle until the loin is done, and you have a lovely rich, red glaze set in.

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

In my case, it only took 90 minutes to hit 155F.

The next stage is to do a quite aggressive reverse sear over direct heat.

I break my Pro-Q down to just the charcoal bowl section, give the Gidgee a little pep up with a blower fan to get the temp nice and hot again, and I then put one of the grills directly over the glowing charcoal.

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Lay your cooked, red loin down over the coals for about 3-5 minutes each side, you are looking to develop the blackened, caramelised goodness, basting with the sauce when turned.

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Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Once it gets to a point where you’re happy with the look and colour of it, pull it off the coals and wrap in foil, letting it rest for 30mins

.Copyright: Mike Hilburger     

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Once rested, snaffle the burnt ends for yourself, it’s the cooks privilege!!!

Make slices about 5mm thick, and serve with your favourite sides, my wife loves it with just plain old rice, me, well I can’t go past my world’s best potato salad (but that’s for a later post!).

Enjoy your journey into the exotic east of BBQ.

Smoke on!


Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Copyright: Mike Hilburger

Ye Olde Pickled Onions – Picklehead Style

Along side great BBQ, are great sides, and there’s nothing like the astringency of a good pickle to offset the richness of many of our favourite smoked meats.

Today we’re looking at that what many consider to be the king of pickles, the humble pickled onion.

Perfect with a ploughman’s, fantastic with fish & chips and marvellous in a Martini!


Now the onion takes on many forms – brown, white, spanish, shallots, leeks, all with their own flavours.  I find it very hard to find proper pickling onions, but recently, the small shallot bulbs have been readily available, so why not give them a go?

What you’ll need to make about a 2 litre jar:

2L jar and lid

1kg of pickling onions or shallots

2x lemons

1x tbsp whole peppercorns

1 or 2 Hot chillies depending on how much of a heat freak you are

2x garlic cloves

2x rosemary sprigs

2x bay leaves

1x 750ml bottle of vinegar, either white, apple cider or malt (unless you’re GF)

4x tbsp rock salt

2x tbsp caster sugar

First things first, lets get the brine on the go!

You can use any type of vinegar, but our gluten free friends should stay away from malt vinegar.  I really enjoy the taste of apple cider vinegar, but I’ve even made these with rice wine vinegar and  coconut vinegar!

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Pour your 750ml bottle of vinegar into a saucepan, then add 750ml of water.

Stir in the rock salt and caster sugar.  Only use rock salt, never use table salt, as the iodine in it makes for mushy pickles.

Get it on medium heat, you want it to be over 75C, but below boiling point, you can do this by eye, but i find a small kitchen thermometer indispensable.

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While the brine is warming, let’s get onto the rest of the prep.

Sterilising your jars is easy if you have a dishwasher.  Just put your jars and lids on the pot cycle, and once finished, they are ready to be hot filled.  Otherwise you can fill and wash your bottles and lids with freshly boiled water just before filling.

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Start by peeling your shallots, you’ll notice each bulb consists of 2 or 3 smaller bulbs, separate these into individual pieces.

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You want to make sure you don’t have any dry skin, so don’t be stingy, and peel back the layers till you get to glossy, firm flesh.

Next, slice your chillies into nice chunky pieces, if you’re worried about the heat, you can de-seed them, or use some of the milder varieties available, we like heat so we ramp it up a little!

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The next job is the garlic, and please, please, please avoid using the bleached white Chinese garlic, it’s just plain nasty and full of chlorine, instead search out good old Aussie garlic, it’s much easier to find these days, is strong in flavour and just the best.  Mexican garlic makes a good alternative too.

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Peel the garlic cloves, and keep them whole.  My little trick is to use my lime juicer as a garlic squasher, i can crack a whole bunch very quickly, and then they just pop out of their papery shells nice and easy!  You can also use the back of a large knife, pressing down to crack the husk.

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Get your two lemons, cut one into nice round slices, and use the other one for its rind / zest.  If you don’t have a fancy ass zester, either cut fine slices off with a sharp knife, or use your cheese grater, just make sure you get the rind and not the white layer below.

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Finally get your rosemary, bay leaves and peppercorns handy.

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So by now, your brine has come up to temp, so it’s time to load up your sterilised jar.

In the bottom of the jar, arrange 2 or 3 lemon slices, a good pinch of the zest, chillies, garlic and peppercorns.

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Half fill your jar with shallots, then add your 2 rosemary sprigs, then top off with the rest of the shallots.  On the very top of the jar, add the rest of your zest, the 2 bay leaves and another pinch of peppercorns.

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Now carefully ladle in your hot brine mix so it’s level with the top of the jar.

Tightly screw on your lid and leave at room temperature to cool over night.  The cooling, along with the onions absorbing the brine means a vacuum should form in the jar.  You should notice the lid has sucked in nice and tight, it’s now ready for the fridge.

You’ll want to leave it in the fridge for 1-2 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.  If you’re struggling to open the jar, get a teaspoon under the lid and lift to help break the vacuum seal.

Crack ’em open and enjoy with your favourite meats, cold cuts, cheeses, bloody mary’s or just on their own!!!

You might get the pickling bug too….

Sour Times!!


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Meat and Pickle tips y'all!!