Memorial Day Barbecue Rub

It’s Memorial Day again, the official start of grilling and barbecuing season.  (If you don’t know the difference between these two things then you should be ashamed and should do some remedial reading.)  Last year we posted simple directions for barbecue that anyone with a basic charcoal grill and some time can follow.  The directions work on a gas grill too, but you wouldn’t want to hurt our feelings, would you?

In honor of Memorial Day 2010, we suggest you heat up your cooker and make some barbecue.  Below is a rub you can use to prepare a Boston Butt per the directions linked above.  The recipe works pretty well as the rub for dry ribs too.  Oh, and keep in mind that traditional NC barbecue really doesn’t need anything other than salt as a rub, but since it’s a holiday weekend and you have plenty of time you may as well go the extra mile.

  • 1.5 Tablespoon sweet (i.e., not hot) paprika
  • 2 Teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Teaspoon cumin
  •  Teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 0.5 Teaspoon garlic powder
  • 0.5 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Last but not least, 2 Teaspoons kosher salt (this is, after all)

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl or with a mortar and pestle (though if you do the latter, don’t tell your friends as they may laugh at you).  Generously apply the rub to the raw pork up to 24 hours before cooking, or if you aren’t much for planning ahead then just put the rub on the meat as you’re heating up your cooker.  This recipe makes plenty of rub for a 5+ pound Boston Butt, and the unused rub should keep for many months if you keep it in an airtight container.  Enjoy and have a happy and safe holiday.

Solving a Problem

I’ve been pondering ethical eating a bit, as rabbis are wont to do. Translation: I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

In an otherwise innocuous section on the loss of local food culture and food miles, Kingsolver shoots off this salvo:

Certainly, we still have regional specialties, but the Carolina barbecue will almost certainly have California tomatoes in its sauce (maybe also Nebraska fattened feedlot hogs).

With a stroke of the keyboard, Kingsolver attempts to end North Carolina’s whole East vs. West feud. Of course, by mentioning  tomatoes in the sauce–anathema to those closer to sea than mountain–she’s calling western ‘cue the real deal. She’s also alienating all of Eastern Carolina (let’s assume she’s not talking about South Carolina, because we’re provincial like that).

We tend to go heavier on the animal than the vegetable (image by Lloyd Crew)

Of course, more likely, Kingsolver just isn’t up-to-speed on the specifics. And she’s only a state away, in rural Virginia. But it’s much more fun to pretend otherwise.

And as for her parenthetical add-on, what a kick in the Smithfield! They may be feedlot hogs, but they’re our feedlot hogs! (Sigh)

Finally, if we ever write a book, we may have pilfer accordingly: Animal,Vinegar, Miracle.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit at DFW

Lord, forgive me for I have sinned.  Consider this post a confession more than a review. 

I was flying from the east coast to the left coast and had a layover at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport.  As I walked from one gate to another, I spotted a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.  “What a coincidence,” I thought, “to find BBQ right in front of me while traveling.”  (I found out later that DFW features, count ’em youself if you don’t believe me, three Dickey’s locations so spotting one may have been less coincidence and more inevitable.).  Since I knew that Dickey’s was founded in Dallas I decided to try it.  I figured I could more easily live with myself eating Dickey’s ‘cue at an airport in Texas than not far from my house in North Carolina.

Knowing that Dickey’s is from Texas and made its name there, I ordered the sliced brisket sandwich.  It was on the dry side and a bit lacking in flavor but it was okay, especially for airport fare.  Heck, even mediocre ‘cue is better than most things.  Dickey’s menu also features links, turkey, ham, chicken and “Southern Pulled Pork,” among other dishes. 

I suppose I should try the pulled pork just to complain about it, but it just doesn’t seem right to do that in North Carolina, even though there are a couple of Dickey’s in NC and five more on the way.  Maybe next time I am travelling through DFW.  Until then, Lord, I’ll stick to local barbecue joints.

Barbecue Museum

It’s no surprise that North Carolina has multiple art museums, history museums and children’s museums. Heck, we even have the Country Doctor Museum, not to be confused with the Mint Hill Country Doctor’s Museum, as well as the Railroad Museum, the Textile Heritage Museum, the Mountain Farm Museum, and the Scottish Tartans Museum.  Our state also features the Presidential Culinary Museum (in Grover, NC, also known as “The City that Never Sleeps Except at Night and Isn’t Really a City Anyway”).  Is that not enough for you?  We also have the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, the Richard Petty Museum, the Sparta Teapot Museum, the JAARS Museum of the Alphabet, the NC School for the Deaf Historical Museum, and many more museums than you could ever imagine.

Yet North Carolina has not a single barbecue museum. Not one. Zilch.  This sad fact seems like a missed opportunity to me.  Stay tuned for a future post on what I think a BBQ Museum might include, what it should be called, where it should be located and, of course, who should operate its museum cafe.

Curle’s Cue

Walking into a complete stranger’s backyard and enjoying fine home-smoked pork is a tough assignment, but somebody has to do it. And we are those somebodies.

James Curle, savvy man that he is, regularly reads this here blog and thought he’d throw an invite our way to his sixth annual Curlefest. Porky and I, devoted bloggers, barbecue hounds and suckers for a free meal, were happy to oblige.

James Curle with his beloved

With the spell of the swine the only icebreaker we’d need, we were soon swapping tales and inspecting Curle’s ingenious temporary smoker that he adapted from the inimitable Holy Smoke. The best feature was the split top that slid apart to allow hog checking without losing too much heat.

And about that hog: Curle got a half hog from the Nahunta outlet at the Raleigh Farmer’s Market. After ten hours of smoking with good ol’ Kingston and a little kosher (l’chaim!) salt, the pork was ready. And was it ever.

Curle chopped and seasoned some swine, but graciously left a good amount on the smoker for picking. True to my name, I nabbed a rib or two and was not sorry I did.

Before the ‘cue, the event also included a diversionary cornhole tournament. The game Stephen Colbert called a “cross between horseshoes and sodomy” likely began as an attempt to distract attendees from the amazing, smokey aromas emanating from the pit (man I wish you could link to a smell). There was no distracting this rabbi of ribs.

By the time we left–greasy fingered–we weren’t exiting a stranger’s yard, but a newfound barbecue buddy’s. The pickin’ was a real example of ‘cue-aided community-building, as the event brought together neighbors, friends, congregants, co-workers, and, well, bloggers.

A final note: Curle wanted us to note that his dog is named Jerry, an allusion to jheri curls. Consider it done, James! And thanks very much for the hog and hospitality.

Sex, Drugs and… Bar-B-Q?

Shocking (if not all that surprising) news from the nation’s largest barbecue festival.  “Apparently, you could get a little more than pork shoulder in one tent at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest,” reads the first sentence of a recent article in The Commercial Appeal

Three members of the Shotwell Smokers cooking team were arrested for having some unsanctioned secret ingredients on hand–“just under 2 ounces of marijuana, about a half-ounce of hash, a fraction of an ounce of cocaine, 37 hydrocodone pills, 57 oxycodone pills, three Xanax pills, two morphine pills and one Darvocet.”  Good eats!

Although it’s important to respect that whole innocent till proven guilty thing, I challenge you to take one look at the photos of the three men charged and not conclude they were planning to set up a meth lab too.  Ironically, the guiltiest looking one of the bunch is named James Innocenti.  Needless to say, the Shotwell Smokers will not be favorites to win next year’s Memphis in May competition but their future cellmates may learn a thing or two about barbecue.

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.”

Two BBQ Festivals This Weekend

Looking for something porktastic to do this weekend?  Head on down I-85 to Salisbury, one of NC’s most important BBQ towns, for their annual barbecue festival, which is part of the broader Salisbury Cultural Arts Festival.  The barbecue portion of the event is highlighted by a cooking competition, with competitors’ barbecue available for tasting.  As the festival website says, “Local Folks take three things seriously: Religion, Politics and… BBQ!  Just ask them. ”  If you’re lucky and meet the right people, you can experience all three things in Salisbury on Saturday.

If Salisbury and its nearly 27,000 residents is too much for you to handle on a spring afternoon, head east of I-95 to little Murfreesboro for the Roanoke-Chowan Pork Fest.  The 9th annual edition of the event features a barbecue cooking competition and a special appearance by America’s should-be-favorite mascot, the Piggly Wiggly Pig.

BBQ Jew’s View: Whole Foods BBQ Bar

81 South Elliott Road, Chapel Hill, NC
Hours: Sun-Sat 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C-
Porky Says: “Whole Foods serves BBQ?!”

There’s a Whole Fool Born Every Minute
I hope you are seated as you read this next sentence.  Whole Foods serves its own, house-cooked barbecue.  And I actually worked up the nerve to try it. 

I know, I know, eating barbecue at Whole Foods seems about as wise as a barbecue joint offering tofu on its menu.  But I am an intrepid soul when it comes to barbecue and I’ll do nearly anything for the sake of a blog post.  Plus, Whole Foods is based in Austin, Texas, which even this Carolina boy admits is pretty serious barbecue country.

No Foolin’
It pains me to admit this, but the NC-style pork barbecue at Whole Foods was not bad.  Not real good and certainly not great but okay, adequate, passable, just fine, thank you.  I was expecting a gussied up dish that bore little resemblance to real NC BBQ but the pork was rough chopped to a nice consistency, moist despite being on a steam table, and served with a simple Eastern-style vinegar and spices sauce.  The pork even contained some outside brown meat, firmer and more flavorful than the rest.  Most importantly, the barbecue contained no unwanted additions: no chunks of organic kumquat fruit, no sauce made with locally-raised fig compote, and no free-range kale juice used as seasoning. 

Whole lotta pork.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are relatively few barbecue joints I’d pass up in favor of Whole Foods, but if you find yourself (as I did) needing a quick NC BBQ fix you could do worse.  (As an aside, I had the beef brisket too and it was awful.)  If you find yourself in that weak position, do what I do and recite the following prayer for strength:

“Yea, though I walk through the parking lot in the shadow of Whole Foods, I will fear no tofu: for thou art with me; thy pork and thy sauce they comfort me.  Thou preparest a Cafe table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my tongue with vinegar; my iced tea cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the church of ‘cue forever.”

Notes from the Underground (aka Unhinged Ramblings from a Real New Yorker)

I recently received an email from a reader, Aaron Weiss of… ahem, cough, cough… New York.  As you might have guessed from his name, Aaron is a fellow BBQ Jew.  He visited North Carolina recently and gave me a full run down on the rather substantial BBQ-related portion of his itinerary.  Check out Aaron’s reviews of The Pit and Allen & Son’s below.  Note that I edited his report slightly just to remove some non-BBQ commentary that diluted from the pig-centric focus of this website.  Once you’re done reading Aaron’s interesting report, check out his other writings here.

As I prepare to head back to NY in the morning after being here in the Durham area this week, I wanted to share my experiences. In a perfect world, I would have eaten at a dozen bbq places and be able to write a comparative tome.  [Editor’s note: In a perfect world pig grease would heal the sick and give sight to the blind.  And maybe it does.]  But unfortunately I can’t eat like that anymore.

Last year we’d been here on our first trip to the area and had eaten at the Barbecue Joint in Chapel Hill and also Allen & Son. At that time we really liked the Barbecue Joint. I know you gave it a lackluster review, and I certainly would not pretend to disagree with your wisdom [Editor: They don’t have sarcasm in New York, right?]. I do think their pork was quite good on our particular visit (in fact, we went there twice on that trip). When we hit Allen & Son that time, I think we were a little porked out. I remember liking it, but didn’t remember coming away from it wowed (although I did remember being wowed by the pecan pie).

This year, things worked out a little differently. First of all, the Barbecue Joint is now closed. Apparently this just happened recently. Upon arriving in the area, we made our first stop at Allen & Son. Guess what? This time, we were wowed. Really, really wowed. I’m not saying the food was any different — maybe it was just as good last year and we Continue reading