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“Within the South itself, no other form of cultural expression, not even music, is as distinctly characteristic of the region as the spreading of a feast of native food and drink before a gathering of kin and friends. For as long as there has been a South, and people who think of themselves as Southerners, food has been central to the region’s image, its personality, and its character." – Southern Food
There are many interpretations of the term 'barbecue' in the world. Some people use it to describe a social gathering and cooking outdoors. Others use it to describe grilling food. For our purpose here, we are using the term to describe meat, slow-cooked, using wood smoke to add flavor. There is equipment designed just for this type of cooking.
Barbecuing is not grilling. Grilling is cooking over direct heat, usually a hot fire for a short time. Think hamburgers, hotdogs, steaks. Barbecuing is cooking by using indirect heat or low-level direct radiant heat at lower temperatures and longer cooking times. The distinction between barbecuing and grilling is the heat level and the intensity of the radiant heat. It is the smoke from the burning wood that gives barbecue its unique and delicious flavor.
Tennessee has a long and proud tradition of homestead barbecuing that predates both restaurants and competition. Smokers may be simple pit constructions for whole hogs, converted barrels, commercial side-box smokers, or grand smoker-trailers with lights. Smoking meat is a day-long affair: a full day or more for whole hog, less for smaller cuts. Most often hickory, but also oak, apple wood, and wine or whiskey barrel staves, are the raw materials that lead to a pinkish “smoke ring” just beneath the surface of the meat. The act of smoking barbecue has a certain Zen-like quality: minimalist, with an abiding awareness of temperature, smoke concentration, and the particulars of the meat. It is a meditation on time, smoke, and flesh that requires non-action as much as decisiveness. Producing good barbecue—meat that is falling-off-the-bone tender, moist, and smoky—is a skill that can earn local (or familial) fame, even when the results are never sold or entered into a contest.
And where did the word 'barbecue' come from?
Spanish conquistadors picked up the word barbacoa, a raised platform, from the Arawak people of the Caribbean. When DeSoto's men came through Georgia in 1540, they described natives near the Ocmulgee River roasting venison and turkeys over coals on a similar device, making it the first barbecue recorded in North American history.
22.27 pounds of Pork Shoulder begins thawing in the fridge. This is actually 2 Boston Butts. Pork thaws in a refrigerator at the rate of 5 hours per pound, so it will take 111.35 hours, or 4.64 days to thaw. For scale, that’s a gallon jug of milk in the lower left center.
And here it all is! Well most of it anyway. I forgot to get the canned goods out and into the picture. I would have put it on the kitchen table, but our table’s all cluttered with the same kinda stuff that’s cluttering your kitchen table!
The meat is thawed, but still needs to be in the fridge. The Bud Light isn’t pictured, it was getting warm…
I actually got everything in the fridge that needed to be in there!
Rubbed with my special spice blend, the meat meets the heat!
10 -12 lbs. charcoal, 8 tennis ball sized chunks of Hickory, the Electronic Thermometer, and 1 cuppa coffee (which ain’t enough!)
This is gonna take at least 10 hours. All I have to do is NOT take the lid off to peek, and be sure I keep the temp in the 250 – 275 range. I’ll take them off when they get to 195 internal. They’ll be fall-apart tender and super moist!
This one’s ready to pull. It’s been resting in foil for a couple of hours after I took it off the smoker.
I’ll recover the juice from inside the foil and use it on the meat when I heat it back up tomorrow.I’ll also use a little in the barbecue sauce. YUM!
Notice the bone sticking out at the upper left! That’s a good thang!
Atomic Buffalo Turds
2 pounds Fresh Jalapenos (substitute Anaheim chilies for less heat) 2 8oz blocks cream cheese at room temp 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese 1 heaping tablespoon dry onion 1 tablespoon granulated garlic 1 tablespoon Honey (secret ingredient!) 2 pounds bacon, the thinner the better Blues Hog bbq rub
WEAR GLOVES, AND DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING ELSE TILL FINISHED!!
1: Cut peppers in half length-wise. Scoop out seeds and membrane, set aside.
2: Set bacon out and let come to room temp.
3: Mix all remaining ingredients except bbq rub thoroughly.
4: Fill peppers with mixture.
5: Cut bacon in half. Wrap half slice around each pepper. (I do not use tooth picks to hold together. The bacon holds together well if it is at room temp.)
6: Sprinkle with bbq rub.
7: I like to refrigerate overnight. Smoke at about 225 - 250 until bacon is done, about 1 hour, or grill indirect over high heat.
Makes about 40 servings of ½ pepper each.
Pulled Pork Shoulder
Boston butts are wonderful cuts of meat to barbecue, and one of my favorites. As so many have said, "they are very forgiving", and a great choice of meat for a novice at barbecue to start with.
Why? Mainly because of the fat marbling they have, plus just plain great flavor. If you undercook one just a bit, it may be a little tough, but still eatable; if you over barbecue it, it will still be pretty darn good, and most likely still be moist.
Choosing a butt is not that difficult.
Most come in the 6 to 9 lb. range. I like 'em about 7 lbs. or so.
A nice fat cap of about 1/4 to 1/3 inch is good, and try to pick one with some marbling in the meat itself.
Sometimes butts can be too fat, so be careful. You want a fat cap and marbling, but not too much.
Generously apply a rub on it, wrap in clear wrap, place in refrigerator overnight, and barbecue it the next day.
Set the butt out of refrigerator about 30 minutes before putting it in the smoker, while you're building the fire in your smoker.
I use the Minion Method for firing up when cooking butts. I fill the ring to overflowing, and I mean jam-pack those coals in there. They've got to last 12 hours or more.
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Pulled Pork Shoulder
Hide some smoke wood among the coals, and place some on top, too.
Re-work the rub into butt while waiting for fire to get up to temperature. If you don't want to use any additional seasonings at this point, fine. Most do, some don't.
I place the butts on the grate fat side down. This is to be sure all that fat renders away, and protect the meat from getting too crisp on the bottom side.
I leave all the bottom vents 100% open until the temp reaches 250°, then close them to 25%.
I like to smoke at 275° constantly. This generally takes about 10 hours for a 7 1/2 pound butt.
After I put the meat on my WSM, I never take the lid off until it's done. I use a Maverick ET-73 remote smoker thermometer to tell me the temps of the smoker and the meat.
The pork butt should come out of the smoker when it is "fork tender".
For an easily pullable butt, take it off at 195° internal.
After you take it out of the smoker, let it cool for 30 minutes or so.
DO NOT fork the butt in the fat area to check for doneness. This will be misleading, for the fat will become tender way before the meat (muscle) around the bone area.
Always check for doneness in the meat area under or around the bone.
I use a two-pronged meat fork to check for doneness. I slide it into the meat in several places. It should feel like it's going into hot butter. It's easy to get the feel of this, just check several places.
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Pulled Pork Shoulder
If you are not going to eat the butt within the first hour after barbecuing, double wrap it in foil, set it in a non-drafty area, or a small ice chest (no ice in chest), and let sit until it's time for dinner. Another option is to wrap it in foil, and put it right back on the cooking grate after you shut all the vents. I find this is much easier than using a cooler.
As long as the butt stays between 140° to 160° internally, it will not spoil. Check with a meat thermometer every once in awhile, or stick thermometer into meat after wrapping in foil so that you can periodically monitor the internal temperature.
Here's a tip for pulling the meat...get yourself a pair of insulated rubber or neoprene gloves, or at worst, some thick cotton gloves inside those latex gloves that they use at the Hospital. That will keep your hands from getting burned and greasy. With your gloves on, just grab that butt and squeeze it between your fingers until it all comes to pieces. Then actually pull apart the longer pieces with your hands. You're looking for thumb-sized pieces. It's always pleasing to me to see the bone just fall out with no meat attached to it when I'm pulling. That's how I know it's done to perfection.
Smoking times will vary depending on how accurate a fire tender you are, how often you open your smoker to take a peek, and the natural tenderness of the meat in the raw state. These times are just general guidelines and will most likely vary every time you barbecue.
Hog-Apple Baked Beans
3-4 Slices of bacon, diced
2 (28 oz) cans Bush's Baked beans, mostly drained
½ cup Blues Hog BBQ Sauce (or other sweet-spicy favorite)
1 Can Apple Pie Filling
1 Medium Onion, chopped
½ Green Pepper, chopped
½ cup Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Yellow Mustard
1 Teaspoon Chipotle
1 Teaspoon BBQ rub
Brown bacon, and sauté onion and green pepper in bacon grease. Mix in remaining ingredients. Bake at 325° for 1 hour, or simmer on stovetop in large pot for 30 minutes if you don't have time to do them in the oven.
Secret Ingredient Slaw
Dressing:1 quart mayonnaise1 ¼ cups white sugar ¼ cup French's yellow mustard 2/3 cupapple cider vinegar 2 ¼ teaspoons salt ½ teaspoon white pepper ½ teaspoon black pepper 3 clovesgarlic -- medium size 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice Dry Ingredients :2 small green cabbage 3 large carrots 1 small head red cabbage 1 bunch green onions
Mix all the above dressing ingredients, except for the garlic, together in a large bowl or mixer. Take a cup of the now made dressing and put in a blender with the garlic cloves and blend until the garlic is pureed. Pour this portion of the dressing back into the main bowl of dressing and stir till well blended. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 hours to give the dressing time to blend flavors. Shred green cabbage and place in separate bowl. Grate carrots, dice green onions till very fine, and shred 1/3 to 1/2 of the red cabbage. Place each of these into a separate bowl also. Now put as much of the prepared green cabbage as you think you will eat into a large bowl and mix the carrots, green onions, and red cabbage, one at a time and by the hand full into the green cabbage until the desired color is attained, and the slaw looks fairly "busy". Add dressing SLOWLY and stir. When it is at the wetness level you want, cover and let stand in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. The colder it is kept, the better. The garlic in this recipe is supposed to be the "secret ingredient", due to the way it was originally intended to be used. That is, not enough of it to single it out, but if used properly, it would leave all of your guests wondering what you had in your slaw that gave it that special, superb flavor. When used in this respect, it can make your slaw taste like you have added a hundred great things to it. However, if you are a garlic lover, then add as much of it as your little heart desires. I don't have to sleep with you (ha).
Roasted Potato Salad2 pounds red potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
6 bacon strips, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 cup mayonnaise or 8 oz. Caramelized Onion Ranch Dressing
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Spray Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Several Celery stalks, chopped
Paprika or Ranch Dressing mix
Cover baking sheet with foil. Spray with EVOO. Add potatoes, spray them with EVOO. Sprinkle on Garlic Salt, Pepper, and touch of Rosemary. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for about 20 mins., then add onion and continue roasting until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool for 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl; add eggs, bacon, salt and pepper. Add Mayo or Ranch dressing. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Best served warm or at room temperature.
Makes 6 1 cup servings.
Homemade Barbecue Sauce
(This is the first time I have ever given away this recipe. Ya’ll are special.)
1 cup Ketchup
½ cup Cider Vinegar
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 Teaspoons Blues Hog Dry Rub
½ teaspoon ground Cayenne and/or Chipotle(or to taste)
12 twists fresh ground Black Pepper (or to taste)
¼ - ½ teaspoon crushed Cayenne (or to taste)
½ Teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce (or to taste)
1. Simmer 10 mins. Makes about 12 ounces.
When doing a double batch I most often make these additions:
2 slices of fresh sweet onion
1 clove of garlic
A finish with the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/4 cup meat drippings.
Heat can be adjusted with your favorite hot sauce or fresh Jalapenos.
The best tweak for me is the fresh lemon juice addition.