Pretty Pig: The Ballad of Lexington Barbecue

Thanks to John Shelton Reed for sharing the below music video about Lexington barbecue.  Eat your heart out, MTV:

Happy Holidays

Dear Reader,

Between work, family, and shopping for the perfect Hanukkah ham, I’m pressed for time.  Rather than posting a bunch of hastily written garbage, I’ll be taking a short vacation from this website, and will return to my online existence by January 1st–refreshed, recharged and more porktastic than ever.  Until 2012, thanks for reading and I hope you and your’s have a wonderful holiday season.  Remember, barbecue joints often offer whole pork shoulders and hams for sale this time of year…

Sincerely,

Porky LeSwine

Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin

It’s sacrilege for me to write what I’m about to write, but sometimes sacrilege is inevitable on a site called BBQJew.com.  So please don’t hate me for admitting that, if there is such a thing as reincarnation ( and I’m waiting on BBQHindu.com for the answer to that question), I hope to be reincarnated as a Texas pitmaster.  Or at least a Texan.

North Carolina whole hog cooking is the nation’s original barbecue and when done right is probably the most perfect food anywhere, but even I must admit that present day Texas is the superior barbecue state.  Whereas wood cooking is all but extinct in North Carolina, with only a few dozen traditional pit-cookers still in existence, in Texas traditional cooking methods remain commonplace.  Perhaps because barbecue is part of Texans’ sometimes over-the-top self-identity, traditional cooking techniques and recipes remain important to Texas culture in a way that is not matched in the Tar Heel state.  For every terrific traditional wood-burning pit in North Caroina, Texas can claim several.  For every whole hog or pork shoulder pit-cooked in Carolina today, Texans probably smoked 50 times that much meat.  Lucky for us Carolinians, Texas’ rich barbecue culture is documented efficiently, if sometimes formulaicly, in Gloria Corral’s Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin.

Corral admits upfront that she is a newcomer to Texas, but she approaches her new state of residence with wide-eyed enthusiasm and a giant appetite (after all, everything is bigger in Texas).  Sometimes it takes an outsider–free of long-established biases–to fairly judge barbecue with an open mind and an eager stomach.

Through her guide book, Corral sets out to find barbecue anywhere and everywhere she can in Austin and the surrounding Hill Country, an area that is chock full of deservedly famous barbecue joints.  As Corral writes in her introduction, “The Austin area is known as the Central Texas Barbecue Belt.  It became clear to me that this food needed more than casual investigation, so I signed up for an Austin public library card and dug in.”

Thankfully, Corral also dug into her work beyond the confines of the library, diligently eating her way through the brisket, ribs, sausage and other smoked delicacies of the Hill Country.  In total, the Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin details Corral’s visits to about 75 Austin-area barbecue joints, including some that most barbecue fanatics have heard of and many that are more obscure.  She does a fine, workman-like job of describing the atmosphere and food of each joint, in the process heaping praise on her favorite joints while refraining from badmouthing those joints that are less than sublime.

This is Corral’s first book and its prose is not as polished as that of more seasoned writers.  Still, the Barbecue Lover’s Guide to Austin does a good job of fulfilling its promise: it serves as a succinct, practical guide to many of the barbecue joints of the Hill Country.   The fact that I salivate every time I crack open the book is evidence enough that her book is worth buying for your next trip to the area.  I am certainly eager to travel to Austin and test out the guide for myself; hopefully prior to discovering whether reincarnation exists.

Let Them Eat… Pork?: Barbecue French-Style

France has likely the world’s most revered culinary tradition.  It is country where just about everyone appreciates quality food and where bakeries, bistros and fine restaurants abound.  Thus, it must have come as a bit of a surprise when Lewisville, North Carolina resident Cap Anderson stumbled upon the following scene during a recent visit to Villeneuve de Formigueres in the French Pyrenees near the border with Spain.
According to Anderson, “The village was having a medieval festival featuring, you guessed it…pig.”  As shown above pork was cooked on a spit over coals laid right on the ground.  Not too dissimilar for early American barbecue.   And what was the side dish offered with the pork?  A stew of “potatoes, beans, onions, tomatoes from what I could see,” reports Anderson.  How do you say “Brunswick stew” en francais?

Sorry, Virginia, Brunswick stew was invented in France.

Back to the pig.  After it was cooked, the pork was pulled and sliced and placed on small grills to finish.  See more of Cap Anderson’s photos below.  And for any of you Freedom Fry-Focuses Francophobes, it looks like you need to give the French another chance!  Plus, French cooks have long been known for their use of virtually every part of the animals they cook, so perhaps there is a natural kinship between North Carolina’s whole hog barbecue traditions and those of the French.  Vive la France indeed.
You might be wondering how France’s take on Carolina barbecue tasted.  “We did not arrive in time to purchase tickets for the meal,” offers Anderson rather unhelpfully.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just need to check out French BBQ for myself…

National Barbecue Association Annual Conference

The Kentucky-based National Barbecue Association (NBBQA) presents its 21st annual conference early in 2012 on the west coast.  Highlights are below and additional details are here on the NBBQA’s conference website.  If you are a kindred soul and like me take barbecue WAY too seriously, this event may appeal to you.  Plus, there are worse things than heading to San Diego in February.

“California Here We Come! 

Pack your shades and your beach towels – the National Barbecue Association is headed to sunny southern California.

Registration is now open for the 21st annual NBBQA National Conference and Trade Show on February 22-25, 2012 in beautiful San Diego.
NBBQA wants to help spread the word about the Golden State’s own contributions to ‘cue, including the increasingly popular Santa Maria style cooking. This year’s conference will feature:
  • the always-popular bus tour, highlighting five distinctive San Diego area BBQ joints
  • a keynote address by John Markus, executive producer for the hit TLC series BBQ Pitmasters
  • an inspiring opening session including Mike Mills, featuring stories of how members of the BBQ family are giving back to their communities and their industry
  • a wide range of excellent education sessions for competitors, restaurateurs, caterers and backyard enthusiasts presented by some of the country’s leading experts
  • an exhibit hall with the latest and greatest products, services and foods of interest to the ‘cue community – and new this year, a BBQ Marketplace where you can shop for BBQ tools, sauces and rubs, cookbooks, accessories and more
  • a BBQ Town Hall, where attendees will discuss the latest issues affecting our industry
  • NBBQA’s School for Competition Cooking, taught by multiple championship winner Todd Johns of Plowboys BBQ
  • The Old-Fashioned BBQ Bash, MBN and KCBS judging schools, BBQ Caterer’s Showcase Dinner & Auction, and much, much more!

 

Hebrew Hog Holiday Cards

The latest item I’ve added to the BBQ Jew store is here just in time for the holidays: a Hebrewific holiday card.  Eat your heart out, Hallmark, you couldn’t touch this greeting card if you named MC Hammer your CEO: http://www.zazzle.com/hog_sameach_holiday_card-137983403322988292

Special thanks to Dale Volberg Reed, co-author of Holy Smoke, for her clever “hog sameach” turn of phrase, which inspired this card.  Dale, I officially proclaim you an honorary BBQ Jew for life.  (And, yes, membership has its privileges as you’ll get 10% of my sure-to-be-huge net sale proceeds for this card.)

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Today’s post comes to us via a FOBJ (Friend of Barbecue Jew), a rare breed indeed.  Bennett Brown of LowCountry Barbecue in Atlanta wrote in to ask if I was willing to run a guest post from him.  Far be it from me to refuse a fellow barbecue traveler’s generous offer.  So, like God before me, I am resting (though not on the 7th day) and allowing my humble servants to work.  Without further ado, here’s Mr. Brown’s introduction to Georgia barbecue along with a simple Georgia-style sauce recipe that shouldn’t look too foreign to devotees of North Carolina’s Lexington-style dip.

Barbecuin’ It in Georgia

As many of you probably already know, barbecue is not just a food but a cooking method that takes place all over the world.  And just like the spelling, which is spelled a handful of ways (BBQ, Bar-b-que, barbeque, etc.), barbecue can be prepared a dozen different ways.

In England, barbecuing is done over direct high heat; however, grilling done under a direct heat source is known in America as broiling.  In Hong Kong, everyone gathers around the fire and cooks their own meat on long forks or skewers like cooking hotdogs at a campfire.  In America, barbecuing is done over an indirect heat source referred to as “low and slow.”  And in Georgia, we do it “low and slow” over a pit.

Pit cooking originated from early settlers who then adopted the grilling and smoking methods from Native Americans.  The pit can either be dug in the ground or built up with cinder blocks.  If cooking a whole hog, it is usually laid flat, butterflied-style on a grate, placed over the pit, and then usually covered with a piece of tin or sheet metal in order to keep heat from escaping.

While the heat can be generated with coals or charcoal, Georgians traditionally use wood.  Pecan or apple tree wood are believed to give flavor to the meat.  While whole hogs are very popular, whole chickens, ribs and hams are common as well.  Closer to the coast, you will find fish, oysters, and shrimp being barbecued as well.  No matter what is roasting over the pit, barbecuing is an essential part of many Georgia gatherings including the annual Georgia General Assembly’s whole hog supper before the legislative session begins.

While barbecue is different all over the world, the act of bringing family and friends together to celebrate and converse is the common link.  Even in Georgia, the best sides and ways to cook are debated constantly.  At the end of the day, an event bringing an intimacy only a few meals can accomplish is commended.

Almost as important as the meat itself – the sauce that accompanies it.  Georgia gets its influence of barbecue sauce from all around the region including the Carolinas, Tennessee, and even Texas and melds the best of all of them into a glorious vinegar, ketchup and mustard based sauce, sometimes with a little heat and sometimes with tang from a little lemon slices.  As you can tell, Georgians are pretty open when it comes to barbecue sauce as long as we have some!

Below is a recipe that uses most of the classic ingredients you would find in a Georgia vinegar sauce but with a little twist (of lemon that is!): Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 740 other followers