Smoker

The Swineapple

The Swineapple.   It seems that social media is covered with pictures of boneless pork ribs stuffed inside a pineapple and smoked over indirect heat.   Barbeque aficionados grasped the concept; it seems relatively simple.  Purchase boneless pork ribs and a large pineapple. The actual process to meld the pineapple and pork is far more involved than one might think.

On Memorial Day 2015, my wife and I took on the Swineapple challenge and came out with a satisfying meal.  As background, I am an engineer and she is a designer. We took copious notes on the process from beginning to end.  Photographs and techniques were posted during the day on Twitter.  With a bit of luck, @fillyerhands noticed our efforts and asked for our thoughts. In this article, we’ll cover the preparation of the pineapple, ribs, grill, cedar planks and  charcoal.

Planks

We used standard cedar planks available from Lowe’s Home Improvement. The planks were soaked for several hours in a mixture of apple juice and water.  Soaking the cedar planks serves two purposes; the planks should not catch fire during the smoking process and the apple juice soaked cedar planks add flavor and juiciness to the Swineapple.
1 Soaking Cedar Planks
Charcoal

Living in South Carolina, we are bound by state law to barbecue, grill, or smoke every meal, weather permitting, twelve months of the year.  While grilling, we save larger chunks of lump wood charcoal for the times when we need a longer stained heat which briquette charcoal cannot provide.  Cowboy Charcoal and Royal Oak lump wood charcoal are better for salmon, steaks, chicken, and burgers. The house lump wood charcoal from Publix or Fresh Market provides larger pieces of coal for turkey, ribs or a Swineapple.  For this test subject, we used Western Real Wood lump charcoal and Royal Oak lump wood for the firebox.  During the last hour, we added chunks of Jack Daniels Whiskey Barrels for flavor.

Grill

We have a Chargriller with an offset firebox for smoking.  The primary ash pan of the grill was emptied of any old debris.  The grill grates were scrubbed with a stainless steel brush.  The secondary firebox was emptied of old ashes and the pan was lined with aluminum foil.  The top vent and side vent were both opened to allow maximum air flow over and around the meat while it is cooking.

8 Grill

Pineapple

Now we’re getting to the core of the project (no pun intended).  The pineapple selected should be the largest one available in your market.  Take a sharp knife and remove the outer layer. Remove the stem. Leave the top and bottom covered by the scaly exterior.  Placing the pineapple on its side, slice the pineapple parallel with the core.  I cut our first one with a 90/10 ratio.  The second one was 85/15 ratio. Don’t throw away the lid. You’ll need it shortly.

Using a serrated knife, gently cut the core from inside,removing the top and bottom. The pineapple flesh between the edges will be relatively simple to remove. The flesh along the core, as well as the between the core and the bottom of the pineapple, is a bit more difficult to remove.  Remember that to maximize the available space for the pork ribs; cut as aggressively as possible while retaining the structural integrity of the pineapple.
3 Hollow Pineapple
Ribs

I purchased seven pounds of boneless country cut St. Louis style pork ribs from Publix. I could only fit five pounds into two pineapples.  I used my standard Pulled Pork rub; the mix was too salty for this technique. Rather than post a mixture I will not use again, I’ve adjusted the ratio for what we will use in the future.  The ribs can be coated in the following mixture:

1 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp black ground pepper
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs brown sugar

The eight spices were blended together and then liberally applied to the ribs.

2 Boneless Pork Ribs

4 spice mix

5 Ribs with spice rub

I was able to fit between 32-40 oz of ribs into each pineapple.  The side of the pineapple was placed over the boneless ribs and secured with kitchen twine.  I recommend soaking the twine in water before smoking so that it does not catch fire during the process.
6 Ribs in Pineapple7 Ribs with lid
We covered the outside of each pineapple with thick sliced honey bourbon bacon.
9 Pineapple on Grill10 Bacon on Pineapple
The planks were placed perpendicular to the grill grates next to the firebox vent. The Swineapple was placed parallel to the fire, to allow for the most even exposure to the heat possible.

We closed the lid at 3pm and checked the firebox every 45 minutes, adding chunks as needed. The temperature remained between 225-250 degrees.

Two hours in the process, we used wooden spatulas with a large surface space to rotate the Swineapple,  The pineapple was soft and fragile; metal tongs were a mistake.

A meat thermometer was used four hours into the process; once the meat reached 160 degrees, we removed them from the heat.

Following standard grilling procedure, the meat was placed on a wooden cutting board and covered with aluminum foil, allowing the pork to rest.

11 After12 Finished Product
Final notes:

This was our first attempt at Swineapple and we will do it again.  That said, the procedure takes almost as long as smoking a turkey or racks of ribs.

We found that the citrus enzymes marinated the pork nicely.

Coring the pineapple and then removing the outer layer of pineapple might allow for more flavor infusion instead of a horizontal cut and scooped out the pineapple.  Another thought is to cut the pineapple down the middle and place the boneless pork ribs in either half, then tying the halves together before placing them on the grill.  Lastly, we would add the bacon much later in the smoking cycle.

I used too many Jack Daniels chunks in the firebox at once; the fire spread rapidly to the cedar planks, hence the blackened planks in the photographs.

We did not add barbecue sauce to the Swineapple. We used traditional offset heat, smoke, and a rib rub for flavor.

Good luck!
@gt24880a

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Categories: BBQ Pr0n, Deck, Pork, Prep, Ribs, Smoker, Wood | Leave a comment

Random Thoughts

ButtsCharcoal. I don’t think I will go back to gas, except as an auxiliary fuel, to fire side burners. I recently rebuilt my old gas grill to give to my sister, and then I christened it at her house. No offense, but I wanted so much to go back to charcoal.

Since gas fairly sucks compared to charcoal, why is it that all the major outlets (Lowe’s, Home Depot mostly) have a big choice of $400 gas grills, and maybe a couple of good charcoal rigs? Academy Sports seemed to do a little better, with a better charcoal selection, but they still have the expensive gas rigs. I don’t get it.

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Beef. Pork. Chicken. Sausage. Fish. Turkey. Bring it on.

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I think I’m going to do a pit roast this year. What meat? Maybe a small hog? Lord knows I have the land. Time to use it.

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By far the most impressive barbecue I’ve ever witnessed was at a rodeo in Pampa, Texas, up in the panhandle, many years ago. Everyone who attended opening night of the rodeo, Thursday, got free, all you can eat barbecue. So, at the advice of some co-workers, I went to the rodeo grounds on Wednesday to watch the preparations.

First they dug a large hole with a backhoe, then lit a very large oak fire, and laid in a mass of mesquite on top, quite plentiful in the area.

(You don’t know how much mesquite I had to leave behind when I moved, because the moving company wouldn’t take it, and our car was full of baby stuff. But I digress.)

Then, once all the wood had burned to coals, they laid in a couple of whole dressed steers, and covered them up with the backhoe.

On Thursday afternoon they pulled the steers from the ground hosed them off, and commenced to carving. Some of the best beef I’ve ever had.

And, I kid you not, a tanker truck of iced tea.

Categories: Beef, Gas Grill, Smoker | Leave a comment

New Territory

As I reported earlier I got a new offset smoker, and I am now learning how to cook on it.

Here, of course, is the old smoker, a vertical Brinkman charcoal unit that has served me well for about 8 years.

SAMSUNG

And here is the new one, a CharGriller Pro, complete with the offset smoke box, which they also sell as a stand-alone grill

Chargriller

 

In the course of researching how to run an offset smoker, I also decided to try my hand at chunk wood cooking, rather than the old method of putting wood shavings onto charcoal.

All this came about because I discovered some really neat videos on YouTube, by Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin. Here is the video that convinced me to give wood cooking a try:

 

 

Note that Aaron uses oak at Franklin Barbecue, and I figured if it was good enough for him, why not? Since a lot of my home firewood is made up of old tree limbs that had fallen in the yard, I looked, and lo and behold, it turns out I have a ton of oak. In fact, while I cooked, I spent some time cutting up a bunch of the wood, and based on my use this time, I have about 3 cooks worth of wood ready to go. On top of that, the wood pile in the backyard has enough seasoned oak to last me easily all summer.

Of course, if I use the oak for barbecue, I will have to find something to burn in the fireplace next winter. Ah, First World problems.

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In any case, at first I wanted to make a brisket, but it’s been two years since I made one, and a trip to the store stopped that idea cold. A whole brisket was almost $50, and while I don’t think that’s a waste of money by any means, I wasn’t willing to bet that much that I could make the new rig cook right the first try.

So, I fell back on a Boston butt, which still cost about 75 percent more than last year.

I went with the usual butt treatment:

1. Soak the butt overnight in a cooler of water, to which was been added a cup of salt, half a bottle of black strap molasses, and a bag of ice.

2. Two hours before cooking, remove the butt, pat it dry, and let sit for a half hour at room temperature.

3. Then, rub with Alton Brown’s 8:3:1+1 rub:

  • 8 parts dark brown sugar
  • 3 parts kosher salt
  • 1 part chili powder
  • 1 part whatever else you want – in this case the Plus 1 part was cayenne pepper, garlic powder, basil, and paprika.

4. Let that sit for at least an hour before cooking. As always, the longer, the better.

 

Rub

Bonus Life Hack: the lid from a bottle of Parmesan cheese is a standard size, and fits on top of most glass jars. When you open a new bottle of Parmesan cheese, take the new lid off and keep it to use. Then put the old lid on the new cheese. You can then make any Mason jar into a nifty shaker bottle, in this case for Rub.

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I started the grill with a 6 or 7 pound load of charcoal, and let that get hot, and then added wood, and closed the smoke box lid to let the grill come to temperature, which it did in about a half hour. I added the butt, over a pan of water, about halfway in the grill body.

While I was at it, I also put a couple of pounds of raw kielbasa on. No sense in wasting smoke.

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The rest of the cook was pretty much the same as with the Brinkman – hurry up and wait.

Of course, there were some differences. First, it was easier on the whole to stoke the smoke box than the Brinkman, since I didn’t have to kneel and fit charcoal through a 8 inch by 8 inch slot.

On the other hand, adding a lot of material to the smoke box proved daunting, because the smoke then can go right in my face and eyes. Not pleasant at all.

Until I remembered a relic of my chemical engineering days – a full face respirator in storage in the garage, complete with unused, clean filters. I even remembered all the safety checks (check the rubber seal, press on my face, cover the hole, suck – yep, tight). This made stoking very easy. Now, to find some replacement cartridges at Harbor Freight . . .

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All in all, I cooked the sausage about 3 hours and the butt about 10. It came out perfect.

Perfect? Can you use that word with barbecue? It implies there is imperfect. Hmmm.

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Looking at photos I took of the cook (morning on top, afternoon on bottom), I noticed something. There are two ways to see how long real barbecue takes.

The obvious is the movement of the sun.

The other – the wood pile disappeared.

Passing of Time

 

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Post vorem assessment:

  • I like the new grill. It has plenty of area to cook, and it’s easy to maintain temperature. I found that the mid range of air opening worked, and adding wood kept it right.
  • Having said that, there are places that leak smoke – a couple on the smoke pot, and I will order some high temperature gasket material and RTV and fix that.
  • Cooking with wood is a new feature that I will certainly learn more as I go.
  • When your property is filled with oak trees, downed tree limbs take on a new meaning.
Categories: Pork, Smoker, Wood | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday to Me!

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As a birthday present I decided to pull the trigger on a new offset smoker grill. After a winter of research I ended up a Char-Griller Smoker Pro.

My decision was led by some definite factors:

  • The grill lid is essentially half a barrel. This opens access to the grill a lot more than just a door cut in the side of the grill.
  • The charcoal bed can be raised and lowered easily, which opens up the options on what I can cook.
  • The offset smoke box can be used as a small grill if there are just a few burgers or a couple of steaks to cook.

Now, one piece of advice I had gotten was the when the coal and wood is first lit it can make condensation in the smoke box, which over the course of a couple of years can lead to rusting of the smoke box. A few holes drilled in the bottom of the box will let the condensation out and solve to problem.

image

Next up: The Deck.

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Plans For The New Year

Like a lot of folks I’ve made some new year’s resolutions, and I’d like to share them.

For one thing, I spent most of last year just getting by with what I had, not improving, not moving forward. Time to change that.

So, first things first.

Time to go from this

Memorial Day Win

To this:

Charbroil

 

My plans are to buy a simple offset smoker and make some modifications to it, simple things like sealing the fire box and cooking chamber, and adding drains to the fire box so the wood can shed its moisture.

I’m also going to add a nice covered deck, with some seating and amenities.

Stay tuned. 2014 is going to be fun.

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Boston Butt

I recently cooked what turned out to be an excellent Boston Butt, and I decided to turn it into a How-To. As always, I welcome your feedback – just leave me a message here, go to the Contact page, or send me an email to FillYerHands at Gmail.

Being an engineer by training, I like to break up any project into steps. Here are the steps for Boston Butt.

  1. Planning
  2. Preparation
  3. Brine
  4. Rub
  5. Smoke
  6. Cook
  7. Rest
  8. Pull
  9. Enjoy

So, here we go.

1. Planning

For this project you will need:

  • Boston Butt – 5 to 7 pounds, not too lean.
  • Molasses
  • Water
  • Ice
  • Rub
  • Charcoal – at least 10 pounds for a Boston Butt.
  • Wood for smoking

The choice of wood to use is up to you. Meat like pork and beef can stand a strong smoke wood like mesquite or hickory, while more subtle meats like chicken do better with apple and other less pungent woods.

Barbecue Pr0n

I find I use about a gallon of smoking wood chips or chunks for a Boston Butt. Have those handy. I have about 20 gallons of hickory that is left from the 30 gallons I got some time ago by a friend who was a carpenter. You are free to hate me.

(The coffee cans in the picture are full of spent 9mm and .223 brass, saved for the day when I finally buy my reloading equipment. Now you really hate me.)

  • Sauce – your choice

In addition, you will need

  • A cooler
  • A smoker
  • Plates and trays

Shop for the meat, clean the smoker, make sure you have enough charcoal and cold beer.

2. Preparation

Some time before S Day, prepare the rub. I like Alton Brown’s “8 to 3 to 1 plus 1” rub:

8 tablespoons brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon “something else”

For the “something else” I use
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

I then put this in a mason jar, with a lid from an old parmesan cheese container, which will allow me to sprinkle the rub liberally. Shake well.

Get the charcoal and smoking wood handy, and get the smoker ready.

3. Brine

At least 8 to 14 hours before you plan to cook, remove the butt from the packaging and trim any really obvious extraneous fat. (I have to admit, I don’t trim butts very much.)

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Then, in an appropriate sized cooler, mix up the brine:

  • 1/2 gallon fresh water
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup salt

Submerge the butt in the brine, and add enough ice to cover the butt. I then set the cooler on the back porch, and let it brine for 12 hours.

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The next morning, usually before the sun comes up, remove the butt from the brine and pat it down with paper towels.

4. Rub

Apply the rub. Applying the rub with gloves helps more of the rub stick to the meat and not your hands. Apply to both sides of the meat and let it rest at least an hour.

Father's Day Win

Meanwhile, light the grill. Start out with enough charcoal to fill the pan, but don’t add smoking wood yet.

5. Smoke

When the coals are ready and the smoker is 210 degrees to 230 degrees, place the meat in the center of the top level of the smoker, fat up. Assuming your smoker allows, also place a pan of water under the meat, to catch drippings and keep them off the coals.

Add wood for smoking at this point.

SAMSUNG

At this point all you can do is keep the charcoal fed so that the temperature stays in the 210 to 230 range, and keep the smoking wood fed. I typically smoke the meat for about 4 hours, then stop adding smoke wood. I’ve found that the end result doesn’t change much beyond 4 hours, since the meat is pretty much saturated on the surface at that point.

6. Cook

Father's Day Win

For a long time I used a thermometer to test for doneness, but now I pretty much let it cook 10 hours, then test it. I don’t generally open the top of the smoker until then. When you can pull the meat off easily with a fork, the butt is done.

7. Rest

Remove the butt from the smoker, cover loosely with foil, and let it rest for at least an hour.

Boston Butt

8. Enjoy

Then, pull the meat apart with two forks, for a shredded feel, or using your fingers, for a chunkier texture.

Boston Butt

Pay dirt

Serve with your favorite sauce. Mine is a topic for another post.

Enjoy!

Categories: Pork, Smoker | 3 Comments

First Barbecue of the Season Coming

No pistol match Saturday, and plenty to do in the yard, so I picked up a Boston butt. First real barbecue of the season!

And probably my first How To video. We shall see.

Categories: Pork, Smoker | Leave a comment

Plans for 2013

It’s never too early to make my New Year’s Resolutions. So, here are the plans for the Bacon and Boomsticks Blog for 2013:

HOW TO

In 2013 I plan to make a series of How To videos on cooking different barbecue delicacies:

  • Beef brisket
  • Boston butt
  • Smoked sausage
  • Turkey breast
  • Chicken
  • Sides to die for – slaw, potato salad, beans, and more
  • Desserts to die for – biscuits, cobblers, ice cream, and more

REVIEWS

I am blessed to have at least 17 barbecue restaurants within 10 miles of my home. My goal is to visit and review all of them in 2013. It’s something I am willing to do for you, the reader. You’re welcome.

  • Big Shanty Smokehouse, Kennesaw
  • Barbecue Street, Kennesaw
  • Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Kennesaw
  • J.D.’s Bar-B-Que, Acworth
  • Bar-B-Cutie, Acworth
  • Zeigler’s BBQ & Catering, Acworth
  • Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q , Hiram
  • Briar Patch Restaurant, Hiram
  • Rodney’s BBQ & Catering, Dallas
  • Johnny’s Bar-B-Que, Powder Springs
  • Shane’s Rib Shack, Marietta
  • Dave Poe’s BBQ, Marietta
  • Williamson Bros Bar-B-Q, Marietta
  • Sonnys Real Pit BBQ, Marietta
  • Rib Ranch, Marietta
  • Old South Barbecue, Smyrna
  • Staqs Bar B Que, Smyrna

Some of these are chains. Some of them are new, and one of them – Old South – I grew up eating as a kid. This will be fun.

Note, I already wrote about Dickey’s once, but it wasn’t a full blown review. Look for a thorough write-up soon, complete with my Eye Patch awards!

TECHNIQUE

I have always been either an open griller, or a smoker. I am going to try to venture into some new techniques in 2013. Some ideas:

  • Pit cooked whole hog
  • Rotisserie cooked meat of some kind (ideas welcome)

Other ideas are welcome as well.

 

What do you think? Please sound off!

Categories: Beans, Beef, Brisket, Chicken, Pork, Prep, Review, Ribs, Sausage, Smoker | 2 Comments

Wrap that Rascal

As we move deeper into the year, and the weather grows colder, I find myself running the smoker less and less.

That’s not to say that we can’t make good barbecue even in the cooler weather. Here’s a winter barbecue tip:

To maintain a good cooking temperature in the smoker in the colder weather, I’ve found that a water heater insulating blanket, held in place by a bungee cord, keeps the temperature right where I need it. They come in sizes plenty big to wrap most smokers.

Be sure to overlap the edge some, and position the overlap so that you can get to the coals door. Be sure not to block the smoke passages.

Be sure to insulate the dome lid, too. You can just lay a small square of the insulation on the lid. I found that out through experience.

Yes, after using, the blanket will smell wonderfully like smoked meat. But store it accordingly and you will be fine. I store mine under the deck, with my 35 gallon can of wood chips. I’ve used this one for over 10 winters.

Now, there’s no reason to wait til Spring for more good barbecue!

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Top Ten Tips for Smoking – From Someone Who Knows

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I ran across this list today, at the Weber Grill website. Can’t beat the source, and I couldn’t agree more with the tips.

TOP TEN TIPS FOR SMOKING

1. START EARLY: Many of the flavor compounds in smoke are fat and water soluble, which means that whatever you are cooking will absorb smoky flavors best when it is raw. As the surface cooks and dries out, the smoke does not penetrate as well.

2. GO LOW AND SLOW (MOST OF THE TIME): Real barbecue is cooked slowly over low, indirect heat—with wood smoke—because that’s a traditional way to make sinewy meats so moist and tender that you hardly need teeth. But don’t miss easy opportunities for adding sweet wood aromas to foods that are grilled over a hot fire for just minutes, like steaks, shrimp, and even vegetables.

3. REGULATE THE HEAT WITH A WATER PAN: Big fluctuations in smoking temperatures can tighten and dry out foods. Whenever you cook for longer than an hour with charcoal, use a pan of water to help stabilize the heat and add some humidity. Obviously a water smoker already has one, but for a charcoal grill, use a large disposable foil pan, and don’t forget to refill it.

4. DON’T OVERDO IT. The biggest mistake rookies make is adding too much wood, chunk after chunk, to the point where the food tastes bitter. In general, you should smoke food for no longer than half its cooking time. Also, the smoke should flow like a gentle stream, not like it is billowing out of a train engine.

5. WHITE SMOKE IS GOOD; BLACK SMOKE IS BAD: Clean streams of whitish smoke can layer your food with the intoxicating scents of smoldering wood. But if your fire lacks enough ventilation, or your food is directly over the fire and the juices are burning, blackish smoke can taint your food or lead to unpleasant surprises when you lift the lid.

6. KEEP THE AIR MOVING: Keep the vents on your charcoal grill open and position the vent on the lid on the side opposite the coals. The open vents will draw smoke from the charcoal and wood below so that it swirls over your food and out the top properly, giving you the best ventilation and the cleanest smoke. If the fire gets too hot, close the top vent almost all the way.

7. DON’T GO GOLFING: Smoking is a relatively low-maintenance way of cooking—but remain mindful and be safe. Never leave a lit fire unattended, and check the temperature every hour or so. You might need to adjust the vents or add more charcoal.

8. TRY NOT TO PEEK: Every time you open a grill, you lose heat and smoke—two of the most important elements for making a great meal. Open the lid only when you really need to tend to the fire, the water pan, or the food. Ideally take care of them all at once—and quickly. Otherwise, relax and keep a lid on it.

9. LET THE BARK GET DARK: Barbecued meat should glisten with a dark mahogany crust that borders on black. This “bark” is the delicious consequence of fat and spices sizzling with smoke on the surface of the meat and developing a caramelized crust over the luscious meat below. Before you take the meat off the grill or wrap it in foil, make sure the bark is dark enough that it tastes like heaven.

10. FEATURE THE STAR ATTRACTION: The main ingredient in any smoked recipe is like the lead singer in a rock-and-roll band. Every other flavor should play a supporting role. In other words, don’t upstage something inherently delicious with a potent marinade, heavy-handed seasonings, or thick coats of sauce. Harmonizing flavors in ways that feature the main ingredient is what separates the masters from the masses.

Categories: Prep, Smoker | Leave a comment

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