Hotly debated topic,
And that which clears your sinuses…
Now, I know I’m venturing into dangerous territory here. People feel strongly about their barbecue. For you Northern gals, I’m not talking about a method of cooking. I’m talking about pork.
And, if I had my ‘druthers, I’m not just talking about a piece of meat stuck on the grill, I’m talking about the whole pig cooked just like this ….
Some of my sweetest childhood memories revolve around the Pig Pickin’. Early on Saturday morning the men of the neighborhood would gather and begin roasting that pig. As the sun moved up in the sky, and the scent of this succulent meat wafted over the stand of longleaf pines …
… bordering the edge of the woods running behind our houses, we kids would begin an epic game of Kick the Can which would range over three of our yards. The moms were busy making potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, cornbread, green beans cooked with new potatoes and a bit of bacon grease, and iced tea, sweet of course. As the day wore on we’d dance like fireflies around that pig roaster, hoping for a taste. The dads would shoo us off. “It’s not ready. Be patient.” And they were right. It took at least 8 hours, and even better 12-14 to cook that pig.
At some point, one of the moms would call us. It was time to crank the ice cream.
Really! My best friend, Susan’s mom, Judy, would have made a custard of milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla early in the day. Making the custard ahead of time gave the flavors time to mingle into utter deliciousness. Not only did she outdo herself with the peach ice cream, but she would regularly make up huge vats of chicken and pastry. Never have I had chicken and pastry like Judy’s. Judy, if you’re reading this … I need that recipe.
Back to the Pig Pickin’…
Sweaty from Kick the Can, we’d gather around taking our turn at the crank until it got nearly impossible to turn. At that point, Judy would whisk away the ice cream to let it cure in some magical place for what seemed an eternity.
But, disappointment would fade as the lid to the pig cooker was lifted. It was time. Picnic tables groaning with food. Lawn chairs abandoned in clumps on the centipede lawn. The pig was done. Absolutely no squeamishness on my part as I gaped at what had clearly once been an animal. Unabashedly I’d request the “stringy meat, no skin.”
Now, all day long those dads had been mopping that pig with barbecue sauce. And for us, that means a thin mixture of mostly vinegar, salt, pepper, and a few spices to heat it up.
Now, I hear that out in Kansas City, they put molasses in their barbecue sauce.
And down in South Carolina, you can even find barbecue sauce with mustard.
Now molasses and mustard are so far out that it’s easy to dismiss them as really not even being barbecue sauce. But the adulteration of all adulterations is what they do from the Piedmont westward. It’s enough like real barbecue sauce to confuse the untrained eye and the indiscriminate palate. It contains vinegar, salt, pepper, and a few spices to heat it up. But then, (are you sitting down?) they go and add ketchup to it.
Ketchup! As if barbecue needs ketchup!
But, ketchup in barbecue sauce was not part of my childhood experience. So, down we’d plop on the centipede lawn with sandy patches where the grass had worn away from our games of Kickball. Our plate of barbecue and a few token nibbles from the summer groaning board balanced on our laps, and plastic cups of iced tea precariously positioned between the blades of grass balanced it all out. We’d eat, laugh, spill our iced tea, go back for a little more of this and a little more of that.
Then, just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, out would come that mom with the churn from that magical place and we’d coerce our bellies to make just a little more room for that sweet, sugary, Southern goodness of hand-cranked peach ice cream.
Up here in Virginia, it’s hard to find real barbecue. They tend to do the adulterated version. Actually, I haven’t found any that is worth setting aside my green smoothie practices for more than a taste. However, I do keep about a gallon of what we call “Granddaddy Phil’s Barbecue Sauce” because, well, the recipe came from “Granddaddy Phil” who taught me how to make my now “World-Famous Barbecue Chicken,” as one of my sons calls it. However, it’s not only excellent on grilled chicken, but occasionally I’ll also slather on a pork shoulder and then toss it on the grill for several hours, or on ribs that have been first tenderized on the stove for several hours.
As I made up a batch of “Granddaddy Phil’s Barbecue Sauce” the other night, the kids gathered around the kitchen island, some requested cups of barbecue sauce. Wanting to see what they would do, I offered them condiment cups of the stuff. Some spooned the elixir into their mouths and then clamored for water, gasped, panted, gulped more water and came back for more. Some even, as bizarre as it sounds, dipped almonds into the barbecue sauce and then ate them. That night, I used it to make my “World Famous Barbecue Chicken” and then set a pitcher of it on the table for those, including my husband, who just can’t get enough.
While it’s not quite the Pig Pickin’ experience of my childhood, grilled chicken with Granddaddy Phil’s Barbecue Sauce runs a close second.
Here’s the recipe …
Granddaddy Phil’s Barbecue Sauce
2 quarts of apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons Tabasco
4 tablespoons chili powder
8 tablespoons paprika
12 tablespoons black pepper
12 tablespoons salt
3 teaspoons dry mustard
Mix it all together on the stove, and if you insist, you can add … ketchup. And because I have become much more accepting of the adulterated ways of my Piedmont sisters, you may add as much as you’d like. Just don’t add mustard or molasses. Turn the fan on high and bring it to a boil. If your sinuses need a bit of clearing, just take a whiff and you’ll be good to go. Let it simmer for as long as you’d like and then use it to mop your chicken, pork, whatever.
You can even add it to your crockpot when cooking pork or chicken. And then, of course, you can set it on the table for those who like a bit of barbecue sauce with their almonds.
Now, if you can be civil and weigh in on your barbecue preferences, I’d love to hear them. And if anybody’s got one of these babies hiding in your garage …
… let me know and I’ll host an Eastern NC Pig Pickin’ right here in Central VA!
And, if you’ve got a hand-crank ice cream churn, bring that along too!