Fourth of July barbecue essentials

Metro Creative Graphics, INC.Metro Creative Graphics, INC.

The 4th of July is fast approaching and revelers across the nation are preparing to toast their independence with family and friends. For many Americans, backyard barbecues are synonymous with the Fourth of July, a day that, in the United States of America, commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

Precious few Americans can say they have not been present at a 4th of July barbecue or witnessed a fireworks display honoring America’s official declaration of independence from Great Britain. Hosting a July 4th barbecue for the first time may have some hosts anxious about throwing a summer soirée to remember, but fun is sure to be had if hosts remember to include the following backyard barbecue essentials this Independence Day.

Food

No Fourth of July barbecue is complete without food, so hosts should be sure to stock up on popular barbecue fare like hot dogs and hamburgers. Though such foods likely won’t be mistaken for gourmet fare anytime soon, Fourth of July revelers often embrace the tradition of grilling up some hot dogs and hamburgers even if they tend to avoid such foods throughout the rest of the year. Hosts should not feel pressured to provide gourmet fare on July 4th, but it is a thoughtful gesture to ask guests in advance if they have any food allergies or need to avoid certain foods for other reasons.

Beverages

It goes without saying that guests will need refreshing beverages at parties held in early July, but be sure to stock up on a variety of beverages so guests are not forced to consume drinks they don’t want. Be sure to have plenty of water available to guests, and provide sodas, iced tea and lemonade as well. Offer alcoholic beverages to adult guests, but don’t go overboard stocking up on alcohol, as that might encourage guests to overindulge.

Games

Backyard barbecues are most fun when guests are entertained, so plan to have some games available for guests of all ages. Encourage guests to bring a change of clothes or swimsuits if games will involve water or something that might soil their clothing. If you have a pool, purchase some pool games so swimmers can do more than just wade in the water or take a few laps. Plan a Wiffle ball game for kids and dig some horseshoe pits or buy a ring toss set so adults can engage in some friendly competition as well.

Safety

Though no one wants to think of a 4th of July celebration taking a turn for the worst, hosts must prepare for emergencies. Restock the first-aid kit if necessary and keep a constant eye on guests, especially children, to ensure everyone is having a safe and happy time. Program a list of local taxi companies into your phone so you can easily call for transportation should any guests have too much to drink during the festivities. Hosts should abstain from alcohol so they can serve as designated driver should the need arise at the end of the night.

Backyard barbecues are a staple of July 4th, and there’s no reason your summer soirée can’t be one to remember for years to come.

-Metro Creative Graphics, Inc.

Fourth of July Recipes

Red, White and Blue Deviled Eggs

Your kids will love these colorful eggs, even if they think they’re going to taste weird. Be sure the eggs are completely submerged in the color baths, and that you give them an occasional stir while they’re coloring. We include a simple filling recipe, but feel free to fill the eggs any way you like.

For eggs

6 large eggs

Red and blue food coloring

For filling

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Paprika, for dusting

Place your eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat.

Allow eggs to boil for 30 seconds, then cover with a tight lid, remove from the heat and set aside for 12 minutes. Drain eggs in colander, then chill completely, either in an ice bath (for at least 15 minutes), under cold running water or in the refrigerator over night. The cooler the egg is, the firmer and tighter its structure will be and the easier it will be to peel the shell away from the cooked white.

Gently crack the eggs all over their surface, starting at the fat end and gently rotating and tapping all around until egg is covered with cracks. Roll egg under the palm of you hand. Start peeling from the large end. If you like, you can peel eggs under cool, running water.

Using a sharp knife, slice each egg in half lengthwise. Gently scoop out yolks, place in a small mixing bowl and set aside for filling. Fill 2 large cups with ½ cup cold water, and add 7 drops of food coloring to each cup. Place egg white halves into color baths and let sit until you reach desired color. Remove colored egg whites with a slotted spoon to dry on paper towels.

While eggs white are coloring, prepare filling.

Fill egg halves with filling.

Makes 12 halves.

Gretchen McKay

Red, White and Blue Pittsburgh Pretzel Salad

This Pittsburgh classic, a kid favorite, is usually only made with strawberry-flavored gelatin. To make it more patriotic for your Fourth of July picnic, we added a blue layer.

2 cups finely crushed pretzels

1/2 cup sugar, divided

2/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

1½ (8-ounces) packages cream cheese, softened

2 teaspoons milk

1 cup whipped cream, homemade or store-bought

1 (6-ounces) box strawberry-flavored gelatin

4 (0.25-ounces) envelopes unflavored gelatin

5½ cups boiling water, divided

2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped

1 (14-ounces) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (6-ounces) box berry blue-flavored gelatin

2 cups fresh blueberries, destemmed

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Make crust: Mix pretzel crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter; press onto bottom of 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool.

Beat cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and milk with mixer until blended. Stir in whipped cream or whipped topping; spread over crust. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make gelatin: In a small bowl, stir together strawberry-flavored gelatin, 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin and 2 cups of boiling water, ensuring everything has dissolved. Stir in strawberries, then pour into the prepared pan and place in the refrigerator to set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup boiling water. In a separate small bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of the unflavored gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup boiling water to the unflavored gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Pour into the sweetened condensed milk mixture and stir to combine.

Once the red layer is set, pour milk mixture over the red layer. Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together berry blue-flavored gelatin, 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin and 2 cups of boiling water, ensuring everything has dissolved. Stir in blueberries, then pour into the prepared pan on top of condensed milk layer.

Plan pan in refrigerator, and allow to set for at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edges of the pan. Cut into squares and serve, refrigerating any leftovers.

Makes 2 to 24 squares.

Adapted from browneyedbaker.com

Grilled Chicken

1 pound boneless chicken breast

2 quarts cold water

1/3 cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

1/4 cup sugar

Place chicken breasts in large plastic bag and using a rolling pin, pound to ¾-inch thick. In a medium bowl, whisk together the the water, salt, and sugar until the solids are dissolved. Place the chicken breast slices in brine and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Clean and oil the grilling grate, and heat to medium-high. Remove chicken breasts from brine, pat dry with paper towels, season to taste with salt and pepper, and brush lightly with olive oil. Place chicken over hot side of grill and cook until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until second side is browned and chicken registers 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove from grill, and cut across the grain into thin slices. Serve with barbecue sauce.

Serves 4.

Gretchen McKay

Alabama White BBQ Sauce

This regional delicacy is reminiscent of a creamy dressing, and can be used to perk up pork and fish along with chicken.

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon creole mustard

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon pepper, or more to taste

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow flavors to develop. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Yields 1½ cups.

Chile Pepper magazine