Happy New Year (and some old news)

Egads, the new year is nearly upon us! Thanks for reading this blog in 2010 and I hope to see your smiling face IP address back here again in 2011.

As my year end gift to you, instead of rambling on about who knows what I am simply going to link to someone else’s writing. A few months ago the Chicago Tribune’s food blog featured a great series of posts on barbecue, including several stories set in North Carolina, so check out the summary of the NC portion of the trip here.

Have a terrific New Year’s Eve and a prosperous and healthy 2011. In other words, may the new year be filled with as many plates of barbecue as your heart desires and as few trips to the cardiologist as your heart allows.

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Pork at Your Door: The Battle Box

“We’d like to send you our Battle Box.  Up for it?”  That was the opening line of an email I received recently from Ryan Pitz of the fledgling North Carolina Barbecue Company (NCBC), a mail order barbecue business that debuted a couple of months ago.  Given my selfless commitment to conducting research that benefits all of humanity, I had no qualms about accepting Pitz’s offer.*

Longtime readers may recall my first foray into mail order pork, when a friend of mine named Governor Schwarzenoinker taste tested some of King’s Oink Express menu items shipped from Kinston to San Francisco.  Prior to NCBC’s debut, the Oink Express had few rivals in terms of a well-oiled mail order barbecue machine (though Brookwood Farms now sells its pork online). If the Oink Express is well-oiled, then the North Carolina Barbecue Company is downright slick. They have a smooth looking and informative website, a Facebook page, a very cool logo that is a play on the state seal, and even a Twitter feed. In short, they don’t seem to be bound by the unofficial NC barbecue business creed: it’s better if nobody knows your company exists. As a mail order business with no retail presence NCBC is wise to ignore this tradition and market themselves anyway they can. (And if that means sending free pork to the likes of me, so be it!)

The NC Barbecue Company is the brainchild of two people. According to his online bio, Pitz, a Virginia native, “became a true NC BBQ convert after having lived in Greensboro, NC for nearly a decade.”  His business partner Rick Scott hails from High Point and “was raised on the piedmont style and exposed to the eastern style while in school down east.”  Pitz and Scott recognized a Continue reading

Pork Alchemy: Transforming Christmas Ham into Barbecue

As much as I enjoy a good spiral cut Christmas ham, it’s not as good as barbecue.  I decided to perform a little pork alchemy and attempt to turn my leftover ham into barbecue. My secret recipe follows:

1. Dice the ham to make it somewhat resemble barbecue.

2. Sauce the ham liberally with barbecue sauce (in this case from the North Carolina Barbecue Company).

3. Eat.

Although the end product bears little resemblance to NC barbecue in appearance, taste or texture, it does taste pretty decent in its own right. Gratuitous before, during and after pictures follow.

Merry Christmas to All and to All Some Good Meat

I have no idea where this photo originated, but it is certainly impressive. Merry Christmas everyone, including those of you who have way too much time on your hands (meat nativity scene creators and barbecue bloggers, for instance).

The Economist on Barbecue: A Bit of Culture for the Cultured

When The Economist, a highly respected and intelligent international news magazine that I read*, takes on the subject of barbecue it is worth a gander.  The December 16th issue features an article that explains the predominant styles of barbecue and then delves into barbecue culture.  It’s definitely worth a read whether you are a pipe smoking member of the intelligentsia or just an ordinary Joe.

If you don’t have time to read the full article, here is The Economist’s take on North Carolina barbecue: “[The] pork, either whole hog or shoulder, is seasoned minimally if at all. The sauce, applied at table, varies. In the eastern part of the state it is usually nothing more than cider vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes. In the west it may include a bit of tomato. North Carolina barbecue at its best is as austere and perfect as a bowl of properly cooked Japanese rice. As with rice, however, perfection is exceptionally difficult to achieve, whereas mediocrity is easy. Mediocre Carolina pork will bring back memories of school dinners and premonitions of the nursing home.”  Well said for a London-based magazine.

*Okay, not very often, but I do enjoy it from time to time.

Glenn’s BBQ Goes the Way of Kannapolis

I recently learned of yet another sad story about an old time BBQ joint closing its doors for the last time.  This time it is the 50-year old Glenn’s BBQ of Kannapolis, a place I never dined at but wish I had.  A few days before Glenn’s went out of business, the Salisbury Post offered up a beautifully written eulogy-of-sorts.  See the full article here

The Post story is well worth reading for its rich description of Glenn’s and its commentary on the area’s economy. As we all know, it’s been a particularly rough couple of years for the nation’s economy.  Yet places like Kannapolis, ravaged by plant closings and jobs moving overseas back when the nation’s economy was “strong”, were already in bad shape before the recession set in. As Glenn’s owner Ken Clanton succinctly puts it: “There’s no place for people to work. The future of Kannapolis doesn’t look bright.” 

There are a lot of places like Kannapolis in North Carolina and across the country.  If you’re like me and it saddens you to see local businesses like Glenn’s shut down, and to see folks out of work, please do your part by spending your dining dollars on local restaurants.

BBQ Jew’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year/With the hickory coals smelling/And the pit masters telling you, “Barbecue’s near”/It’s the most wonderful time of the year/It’s the pork-porkiest season of all.”  Or at least it could be if you make sure your holiday shopping list includes some of these gifts:

  • Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue. If you don’t own this book yet, shame on you. You’ll certainly learn more about barbecue reading this book than wasting your time on silly websites like BBQJew.com.  
  • Join “The Fun Tribe”.  For 35 tax-deductible dollars a year (less for students & seniors) you can give the gift of membership in the NC Barbecue Society–known to some as The Fun Tribe,  for reasons that remain a mystery to me despite being a dues-paying member.  NCBS promotes North Carolina’s barbecue culture, sends out a monthly newsletter and offers classes and other special events.  As their website says, “It is time we step up as a state and rightfully claim what many of us have known for a long time, that North Carolina originated barbecue (it’s a Noun), we produce the BEST and we are the Barbecue Capital of the World.”  Amen!
  • BBQ Jew Ornaments. Yes, the rumors are true: Hanukkah is over.  You may not have even known it was here. But rest assured that these BBQ Jew ornaments are for Christmas trees AND Hanukkah bushes. Phew.
  • Long distance pork. Do you know any down on their luck folks who, gasp, don’t live in North Carolina and therefore can’t find good barbecue?* If so, send a styrofoam cooler to their doorstep to say, “I care about your health and well-being enough to ship you frozen meat through the mail.”  I linked to the website of the NC Barbecue Company, a newcomer to the cutthroat (?) mail-order BBQ world (I’ll be sharing more about them on this site soon). You can also use King’s venerable Oink Express or call your favorite local joint to see if they ship–some do if you ask real nice.
  • Other BBQ Jew merch. T-shirts, onesies, fridge magnets? Yup, yup, and yup. The BBQ Jew Store has everything your heart desires and quite a few things it does not.
  • Local pork. Maybe your family and friends are lucky enough to live in North Carolina and smart enough to buy their own ‘cue. But don’t give them too much credit, you know them better than that.  Buy them some barbecue in case they don’t have the sense to do it themselves. Better yet, see if your local joint sells whole shoulders. Many joints sell shoulders around the holidays, and nothing says “happy holidays” like a big ol’ hunk of slow-cooked pork.
  • An education in swine. The NCBS offers barbecue judging and cooking classes, including weekend getaway “Boot Camps”. The Kansas City Barbecue Society offers classes too, including an upcoming judging class in Lexington, NC in February.
  • Sauce. Are the options above too expensive or complicated? Well, if you live in NC, just head down to your local grocery store and buy some North Carolina barbecue sauce. Of the brands that are fairly widely distributed, I highly recommend Scott’s, a classic Eastern-style sauce with serious hot pepper kick to it. (Scott’s is available online too.) And don’t forget a bottle of Texas Pete, the condiment that accompanies the sauce at most barbecue joints throughout the state.

*Texans and residents of Owensboro, Kansas City, Memphis and other such places need not be concerned. I know you good folks have palatable barbecue too, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and other such atrocities notwithstanding.