Porky’s Pulpit: Sauce Bottle Etiquette

Shake it!

Inevitably newcomers to the world of North Carolina barbecue, and even seasoned veterans, encounter the following dilemma: the bottle of sauce on the table has a pour spout that doesn’t allow shaking without spilling, and putting a finger over the spout seems uncouth. 

Why not just pour the sauce without shaking?  Well, the signature element of traditional NC BBQ sauce is the hot pepper flakes and (sometimes) other spices mixed into the vinegar that is sauce’s primary ingredient.  Unfortunately, spices settle at the bottom of the bottle rather than floating up top where they could pour out easily.*  How should a BBQ eater pour sauce so that spices come out along with vinegar?  Shake it, of course, but how?

To shake a “classic” NC BBQ sauce bottle (like the one pictured to the left…roughly), you have two standard options: shake the bottle without covering the spout at the risk of spraying vinegar on yourself and those in your vicinity, or put your grubby finger directly over the spout and risk spreading germs or offending those watching you.  Luckily, the sophisticated BBQ eater has other options:

1) Remove the spout from the bottle and shake it freely, giving everyone around you a vinegar shower. What could be better than being covered in barbecue sauce?

2) Put your grubby finger over the spout and shake, shake, shake to your heart’s content. Remind anyone who glares at you that vinegar is a pretty good disinfectant.

3) If you want to be classy for a change, pick up a napkin (a clean one, you lout!) and place it over the spout before shaking.

4) For a higher degree of difficulty than the napkin trick, use a clean teaspoon to cover the spout when shaking the bottle. The teaspoon trick is not a 100% effective splash control method but avoids the potentially embarrassing issue of bits of napkin getting stuck to the spout.

5) Eat your barbecue without sauce. Everyone should eat barbecue completely unadorned from time to time.

*Note that this issue is more common in Eastern North Carolina but occurs in joints serving Lexington-style ‘cue too.

BBQ&A: Rick & Ryan of The North Carolina Barbecue Company

Rick Scott and Ryan Pitz teamed up to form The North Carolina Barbecue Company, a mail order business established “to deliver to doorsteps across the country the unique culinary culture of our great state.”  The North Carolina Barbecue Company is unique in offering both Eastern and Piedmont/Lexington-style ‘cue and slaw for delivery.  Recently I sat down (at my laptop) and interviewed Rick and Ryan about how they got into the barbecue business, battle boxes, and why mail order hush puppies are an elusive goal.

Follow this link to read the interview with Rick and Ryan. (Or if you are hungry already, just click on over to their online order page.)

Shylock’s Simple Collard Greens

Collard greens are a common side dish at barbecue joints in Eastern North Carolina, and winter is prime collard green season.  Cooking collards is surprisingly easy so stay away from the nasty canned stuff at the grocery store and cook ‘em up yourself. It takes a little more than an hour start to finish, but most of that time is spent waiting while the greens cook–in that time, you should make some cornbread and drink a beer.  Here’s my collards recipe, but please feel free to submit your own in the comments section or just tell me why my recipe is inferior to your’s.

2 pounds collard greens (about 2 bunches)
3 cups of warm/hot water
1 cup of chopped/diced pork of some sort (anything from leftover cooked ham to a pork chop to raw bacon will work)
2 tablespoons basic oil (no EVOO, for god’s sake) unless you are using uncooked bacon or other pork that provides its own fat
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Vinegar for seasoning at table

Thoroughly clean collards and remove stems, then chop into roughly 1″ pieces or smaller. Heat oil in large stock pot and cook the pork for 5 minutes if cooked already or until cooked if raw. Add warm/hot water (cold water and a hot pan gets a bit dicey and takes longer to heat to a simmer) and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pork and set aside. Add collards, salt and optional Worcestershire sauce. Bring to boil, then turn to low and cook for 60 minutes or so (depending how tender you like the greens, you may want to taste at 45 mins).  Add the pork back in a few minutes before you finish cooking. Add water to keep the collards moist during cooking if needed, but it shouldn’t be if you cook at a low temperature.

Be sure to make use of the soupy liquid in the pot, aka “pot likker” or “pot liquor”, either to serve with the greens or dip cornbread in.  Also, add some vinegar to the collards at the table if you are into such things; hot pepper vinegar is best but plain old cider vinegar or Texas Pete will suffice.  Recipe makes ~ 6 servings.

BBQ Jew’s View: The Skylight Inn

4618 Lee Street, Ayden, NC
252.746.4113
No Website
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: A+
Porky Says: “Capitol Q indeed, Jones’ place lives up to the hype.”
 
Do A Few Things But Do Them Well

The Ayden skyline. Photo by Conor "Swine Factor" Keeney.

The Skylight Inn is not the type of restaurant that tries to be everything to everyone.  Far from it. Instead, the folks at The Skylight  do just a few things but do them as well as any barbecue joint anywhere.  The Skylight Inn is still referred to as “Jones’ Barbecue” by many old timers in deference to Pete Jones, who started the place, and the Joneses who have followed in his footsteps.  The menu that Pete Jones established when he opened The Skylight in 1947 remains nearly unchanged today.  When you set foot in The Skylight Inn your only choices are whether you want a BBQ sandwich or a tray (small, medium or large) and where to sit.  The options are limited to barbecue, slaw and skillet cornbread from a 180 year old recipe!  You might think it’d be disappointing to not have some variety on the menu, but I think I could make do with Jones’ pork-slaw-cornbread holy trinity most every day and die happy (and probably several years before I otherwise would).

“If I told you the recipe for the slaw, I’d have to shoot you in the head.”
When you visit barbecue joints and talk to the owners and cooks, you get used to the line, “I could tell you the recipe for [insert menu item], but I’d have to kill you.”  This is practically a motto for barbecue folks.  That said, The Skylight Inn was the first place I heard that line delivered by someone who was prepared to follow through on the statement.  I asked Samuel Jones how they cook their hogs and he told me he’d be happy to share, as it’s simply hard work and sticking to tradition rather than any secret.  On the other hand, he said, “If I told you the recipe for the slaw, I’d have to shoot you in the head.” Since Samuel had a handgun in his back Continue reading

BBQ Jew’s View: Holly Ridge Smokehouse

511 Highway 17 North, Holly Ridge, NC
910.329.1708
Website
Hours: Tu-Th & Su 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fr-Sa 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: B-
Porky Says: “Decent Beach-B-Q at last.”

Palatable Barbecue Near the Beach? Finally!
Earlier this summer I took a family vacation to Topsail Beach.  Unsurprisingly, I dragged my wife and kids to a barbecue restaurant on the way.  Equally unsurprising was the fact that I did this over my wife’s protests.  She is only an occasional barbecue eater and, like most women, operates under the misguided belief that a greasy plate of chopped pork and hush puppies is a less than perfect pre-bikini meal.  Nonsense!  Plus, in fairness, my wife knows from traveling with me that barbecue joints within 50 or so miles of the coast tend to be mediocre at best.  Needless to say, that fact has never stopped me from trying to find exceptions to the rule.

Given that it’s located inland about five miles from Topsail Beach, Holly Ridge isn’t really a beach town as much as a refueling pit stop on the way to the beach.  Still, five miles is pretty damn close to the beach by barbecue standards, so I had to try the Holly Ridge Smokehouse despite that it looks like just the type of place I know to avoid.  It is large, Continue reading

Garden & Gun & Swine

As summer beckons yet again, it’s the perfect time to read this article from Garden & Gun magazine, in case you missed it last year when it was published.  It’s one of the best written articles I’ve seen in terms of capturing the spirit of NC’s barbecue culture, and the accompanying photo gallery is outstanding.  The author takes us readers on an Eastern-style barbecue pilgrimmage, visiting places like Grady’s, the Skylight Inn and the Nahunta Pork Center.  Just to whet your appetite, here’s my favorite passage from the article:

“If you chase barbecue dreams, someday, somewhere you’ll find yourself this way, too, sitting on a rusty folding chair in a town you’d never driven through before, eating vinegar-drenched lukewarm meat and sweet fried hush puppies from a foam tray. There’s no music. There’s no beer. But you take another bite with your plastic fork and think, damn, this is good.”

BBQ Jew’s View: Jack’s BBQ

213 W. Main Street, Gibsonville, NC
336.449.6347
Website
Hours: Mon-Tue, Thu-Fri 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wed 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Sat 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: D-
Porky Says: “All pork with no taste makes Jack’s a dull ‘cue.”

Can’t We Do Better?
At this risk of sounding overly dramatic or harsh, Jack’s BBQ is emblematic of what is wrong with North Carolina’s dying barbecue culture.  It’s a charming and cozy little joint, complete with about a half dozen booths and an old fashioned (and just plain old, as Jack’s dates back 43 years) counter, plus a carry-out window.  The service is efficient and the staff couldn’t be nicer.  The customers look happy.  And so on.  But the barbecue is terrible.  If the place was called Jack’s Cafe, I’d be nice and leave them alone.  Hell, I’d even return for another (BBQ-free) meal.  Instead, I have to be honest and mean.

Not fit to be served

Home of the Big Boy
The barbecue seems like an afterthought on a menu that touts the “Big Boy,” a very large hamburger that the waitress told Continue reading

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