I’ve always wanted to make some videos. What I’ve never dreamed up was making videos with me on camera. So this was a fun way for me to tip my toes in the water. The black & white photos are from the North Carolina State Archives of an old school pig picking. Midway thru the video I added some of the work that we’ve been doing to bring North Carolina whole hog to New York. So the video is an attempt tie the past of our great tradition with our current work. Hope you enjoy!
All over world there’s people trying bring traditional Italian country fare to the public. Much of it is romanticized farce. Are you imagining duck egg yolk pastas handmade with a shower of graden vegetables? Long simmered meats heartily piled on a family platters? Nope didn’t exist. They might have existed for Counts and Papal vassals but for the most part life for country folk sucked. In fact, what’s very striking is that a core staple of country life – the chestnut polenta – has completely disappeared from menus. Now you might have an oddball here or there that will roid the dish up with rich ragus, perhaps some aged cheeses or even truffles. The fundamental fact is the dish sucks. It’s dry, chalky, and looks like explosive diarrhea. Hence why no one really serves it anymore.
Like the much discarded chestnut polenta, cornpone really isn’t found anywhere anymore. It’s caveman primitive in its construction. Grind a grain, add water and lube it up with grease so that we don’t break our teeth on it. There’s no leavening agent to make it nice and fluffy, no yeasty aromas to trigger our brain’s ancient lust for bread.
Cornpone is not the same as hot water cornbread. A dish universally reviled by Northerners and used by Southerners as a credo of culinary orthodoxy.
As you can see above from my photo at the Skylight Inn, it really isn’t that attractive either.
So why a post on the dull antiquated cornpone? Well for one, there’s a possibility at the joint I’m opening featuring North Carolina BBQ, there won’t be any access to a kitchen hood – hence no frying. No frying = no hushpuppies/cornsticks. To not have a corn bread element would be to eliminate 1/3 of the glorious Carolina triad – Hog + Slaw + Puppies.
So my mind back to the humble cornpone. How can we make this utilitarian dish into something worth serving at the finest of breadbaskets?
The cornpone does have something going for it – LARD. Yes indeed, when you’re cooking that much hog you’re bound to be left with a lot of extra lard. Because modern pigs are a bit leaner, pitmasters have had to supplement commercial lard. This helps contribute to it’s blandness. There’s a difference between lard which have been boiled out of meats to one that’s been roasted out of hogs. It’s the same as why clarified butter is fairly bland but brown butter offers that deep toasty butter goodness we all love.
So step one is to use long cooked rendered pigs fat and perhaps even chop some of resulting cracklin’ into the mix. This will enhance the meaty flavor that this bread is supposed to have.
Step two is figure out a way to throw in a few more contrast flavor notes to offset the uniform blandness. I have two items in mind which I’m still working on. More to come later.
Step 3 is to hold fast to tradition i.e. no sugar. It’s strong temptation to appease a Northern’s palate by offering a cake-like corn bread. Now for most other styles of BBQ I don’t see a contradiction. If we’re going to be faithful to the Carolina profile, a sweet baked corn bread just doesn’t seem right with hog.
It’s too bad we might not be able to offer hush puppies. But with some tweaks, going back to roasted fats, rendered crackings, and textural contrasts, this long discarded old maid of hog cooking can become the hot sexy slut we all crave. Stay tuned.
Banana pudding is North Carolina’s most iconic dessert. Unfortunately of us Carolina stylists it’s also one of the world’s dullest looking dessert. It also happens to be the very best way you can end a hog picking meal. When she’s at her best it’s warm vanilla pudding, flecked with vanilla seeds, coating slices of banana and vanilla wafers topped with a fluffy meringue.
‘Nana puddin’ suffers due to it’s simplicity. Desserts which are simple are often victims to indifference. Take for example strudels, flaky rolled pastries found in Germany & Austria. There’s nothing fancy about them. They’re basically thin dough wrapping a fruit filling served with side of whipped cream. But when done right, strudels possess a dignity unrivaled by any confection in the world. Too bad cuz most of them suck. Even when I was traveling in Vienna, the strudels weren’t just bad, they were awful. Most looked like soggy rags and had a texture that came pretty close to their aesthetics.
The same goes for the humble banana pudding down in tarheel country. Now I haven’t had any that tasted bad in my travels. But many of them came with shock that someone who have the audacity to charge me money for what was basically instant pudding mix.
Even in the authoritative North Carolina BBQ book Holy Smoke, out of like 5 generations old recipes for banana pudding only one didn’t require an instant mix. Even the legendary Mama Dip uses a packaged mix!
Now I’m not one of those folk who believe that you need to make everything from scratch. I think people making their own in-house ketchup just got too much time on their hands. But for something that’s so stupidly simple it seems absurdly lazy to just use a prepacked mix. What’s even dumber is that this crap is actually quoted as part of people’s “secret family recipe”. That’s equivalent to me holding with pride that my grandma’s legendary lasagna was made with Prego pasta sauce.
The second problem we encounter is the meringue itself. Many people don’t even bother with the meringue – appalling. Some folk actually substitute the meringue for whipping cream/whipped “topping”. The latter being just as sacrilegious as substituting Coors Light for the wine at a Catholic Mass.
Along with serving the dish warm, the meringue is what makes banana pudding a distinctly Southern dessert. To either omit or substitute it we might as well call it Yankee Pudding. In the war of custards the 1865 white flag is waved every time this humble dessert is served either naked or with whipped cream.
I wouldn’t go as far as Alton Brown and make the vanilla wafers (recipe below). His rationale being that manufacturers have started cutting corners with the cookies themselves and have started making artificial “nilla wafers” which contain no vanilla. I think they’re just fine. And rather than put in that extra effort just spend a bit more money and use REAL VANILLA PODS in the custard itself. It will add both explosive flavor as well beautifully contrast the yellow.
The custard is essentially a traditional Creme Patissierie. Making your own custard is slower than the box mix BUT you get jazz her up a lot more. By boiling the milk with the scrapped vanilla pods you get a deeper layer of flavor that you simply can’t do with the mix. You can cheeky with the custard and add either a rum-based banana liqueur like BOLS or just your favorite rum. Rum trading being very historically significant in Southern BBQ history as well.
For the meringue I substituted the traditional baked meringue for an Italian meringue. This gives you the added benefit of not having to pop the pudding into a stove to brown it. Italian meringues are made by beating hot syrups into egg whites which a pinch of constarch. They are silkier, more stable, freeze nicely, just all around more awesome. All it took was a few seconds with my trusty blow torch and we got the effect you see at the shot above.
In tray you see above I also added layers of peanut butter crumble over half the pudding. So half traditional half peanut butter. Peanut butter and banana being such perfect partners.
Banana pudding – Nilla wafers, Custard, Bananas, Meringue. Simple. Better to adorn a beautiful woman with the finest of lipsticks than to mar her face with the entire cheap makeup kit from Walgreens.
Alton Brown’s Vanilla Wafers
7 ounces all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk
Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.
Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.
So ARBY’s, the awesome roast beef sandwich shop, came up with a new BBQ sandwich – The SMOKEHOUSE BRISKET sandwich.
To promote their new offering they partnered up the national food site Serious Eats to create an interactive BBQ “Map” where they got the expert pitmasters of every stylistic region to talk about how they smoke their meat.
I got tapped to do South Carolina whole hog. Now too bad I didn’t get to rep North Carolina but the cooking for North & South Carolina whole hog is the same. In the eastern part of South Carolina they use vinegar pepper just the same as the rest of us. For the shoot however, they wanted to highlight the distinctive mustard sauce of the Central Carolina region. Good thing I had plenty of mustard sauce on hand! Check the video out!
btw- couldn’t resist any chance to add a fat man GIF
More Photos Below!!
Back in the spring I took some friends down to North Carolina on a mini-food tour. As I was out to pick up my new smoker anyway I figured some company and gas aid would be beneficial. I’ve long used the NCBS Historical Barbecue Trail map to find my next destination. Now to find new places to eat keeps getting harder and harder as I’ve eaten at over 50% of the list so the places are getting more and more obscure.
Thus we made our first stop after a solid 9 hour drive from NYC to Hursey’s Barbecue. Being that Hursey’s was the unknown joint, I planned for us to hit the legendary Allen & Son’s immediately afterwards where I knew the BBQ to be amazing. Good thing too as we might not have left my guests with as great of an impression of NC BBQ at stop #1.
I’ve always said that the “Triangle” area of North Carolina (Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill) was a good divider of the Eastern and Western BBQ styles of the State. Hursey’s is like Allen’s in that they combine features of East & West. Whereas Allen’s leans East, Hursey’s definitely leans West.
The one good thing about Hursey’s is that it still cooks over wood, a laud worthy characteristic in a region that long forsaken its BBQ heritage. According to the trail map they cook a mixture of shoulders (80%) and hams (20%). The sauce is a tomato based Western sauce but the pork is paired with an Eastern style creamy slaw. I didn’t find the pork all that flavorful as it was lacking in both smoke and moisture.
As was the practice throughout our entire BBQ tour we basically ordered everything on the menu so that we can all get a little sample of what the joint has to offer. One of the regrettable choices was to get the babyback ribs. Almost without fail in North Carolina, it’s a really really bad idea to order the ribs. Whereas traditional BBQ guys in the State are very stringent on their cooking methods for whole hog or shoulder, ribs are not considered BBQ are therefore are fair game for short cuts. The one exception to that rule might be 12 Bones in Asheville, a favorite of President Barack Obama.
As I should have expected, the ribs were boiled and then painted with sauce. Now normally this doesn’t work out all that badly as the Chili’s babyback ribs are boiled and sauced with little issue. The problem is that the “sauce” used for North Carolina BBQ is very thin and doesn’t really adhere to boiled ribs. Caveat Emptor on ribs in North Carolina!!
Other items on the menu were wonderful. We had some juicy broasted chicken. Broasted chicken, for the uninitiated, is chicken that’s fried in a pressure cooker. We finished off our meal with a fantastic peach cobbler and a properly done banana pudding.
I wouldn’t place Hursey’s on a must try category. But if you’re ever in the area it’s worth a stop in. It’s the only BBQ joint for a few miles I believe.
More photos below!!
Complimenting a barbecue joint’s chicken is akin to trying to pair a smoking hot girl with your ugly friend by telling her “he got a great personality”.
As far as I know there’s only only two major joints in the country whose chicken shares place of pride – Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, AL & B’s Barbecue in Greensville, NC. Big Bob’s largely because of it’s unique practice of dunking the entire finished bird in their trademark white sauce.
B’s is a well known fixture in the whole hog world. They clear through an average of 40 hogs a week cooking all night over charcoal. They make a very tasty hog. But interesting enough many many people have high praises for their chicken!
So what is the deal with this chicken? I wasn’t even planning on ordering it because, quite frankly, who cares about chicken?? My gluttonous friends on the other hand had to have it, so we got a spread of corn sticks, hog, slaw, and chicken.
Taking a bite I finally got what people were saying about the chicken. It was crispy, toasted, juicy and very very well seasoned. But there’s something else there. A secret ingredient. An edge. I took another bite and didn’t sense anything unusual in terms of spices. But then I sniffed the bird. AAAAAAH. That’s it! The secret. The single reason why everyone loves B’s chicken. That little extra something that no one could articulate. It’s HOG FAT!!!!!!!
You see, the chicken goes on in the morning after the hogs come off the pits. These hog have been sitting over glowing coal all night dripping juice and grease into the ashes. So when they fire up new coal to cook the chicken, they’re smoking up the residual hog grease back up into the birds giving them a porky aroma!!
Well there you go. I just gave you the secret recipe to B’s chicken. Step 1 smoke a few hogs…. Anyone want to steal that?
B’s cornsticks are the single best in North Carolina. I’m not normally a fan of corn sticks as they’re normally dense and hard. These were fried to flaky shattering work of art. I still won’t order cornsticks when I visit other BBQ joints but if you don’t get them here at B’s you’re missing out.
See all the photos HERE
Thus far we have completed three Hog Days of Summer events. And with the craziness relatively contained I figure it’d be a good time to write some reflections.
First off, it’s an otherworldly feeling to see “your” event. I’ve been part of many other people’s events as my own table. Whether it be the Hot Sauce Expo or aPORKalypse 2013, I was part of the show and not the producer. So to see a massive banner produced by the award winning Founder’s Brewery bearing the words “Arrogant Swine Presents” – otherworldly.
One of the things that surprised me was that I actually have repeat guests. My picture was that people would come to the events and make it one of many different fun things they’d would be doing this summer. It’s extremely flattering that not only people like the event; they actually keep coming back for more!
It’s still an oddity when someone comes up to me afterwards and thanks ME for putting the events together. People are spending their hard earned dollars and their free time to join me for a Saturday afternoon or evening. If anything I’m the one who should be thanking THEM!! And indeed I am extremely thankful that people are willing to share in my craziness.
Cooking hogs once in a while and doing it for several events and caterings in a row is night and day. I’ve been able to pick up lots of new tricks this summer – Everything from how to transport the animal to modifying the preparation for line service.
Our hogs seem to be a hit all summer with people coming back on line for 3 or more servings! It’s also a confirmation that people of New York do indeed appreciate traditional North Carolina BBQ the way it was intended to be served. Many “Carolina-style” places seem ashamed of the traditions and seek to doctor them up with sugar and thickeners.
Founder’s selection of craft beer continues to be a hit all summer and we are most definitely blessed that a brewer of their caliber agreed to partner up with us for these events. Their All Day IPA is unquestionably THE BEER of the summer. Full of flavor yet perfect for a hot summer’s afternoon.
- SOURCE: BOUSEL.COM
I’ve been away from blogging because of my ongoing summer BBQ series the NYC HOG DAYS OF SUMMER.
I’m hoping to get back to posting fairing soon. For now I’m announcing an ongoing twitter contest.
The rules are simple.
#2 Tweet it to all your followers on twitter.
Done! I will choose one winner on 7/21 who will recieve 2 VIP tickets for the August and September events. Where you will drink unlimited pourings of Founders Brewery beer and my North Carolina BBQ HOG!!!
While you’re at it. Follow me on Twitter at @ArrogantSwine
and like MY PAGE on Facebook
Win some free hog!!
Quick! Name one of the top 3 greatest Heavy-weight boxers in history. You might mention Mike Tyson, or Evander Holyfield, and you’ll definitely mention Muhammad Ali. Especially the latter as he spent most of his career calling himself the greatest. Poor Joe Louis. 12 years reigning as world champion. 25 successful title defenses (Ali had a mere 19). To this day there has not been a similar dominance in any weight division.
Unfortunately for Joe he was neither as well spoken or good looking as Ali. Hence why none of us know about him. I feel the same way about Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden, NC.
Ayden is a mecca for whole hog lovers. For decades the Skylight Inn has held the platonic ideal of swine cookery. Their familial cousin Lathan “Bum” Dennis cooks hogs in the exact same fashion and fails to get the same cred for no other reason than Skylight Inn exists in the same town. For God’s sake they’re not even on the North Carolina BBQ Society Trail!!! This last part is particularly irksome to me because Bum’s barbecue is really really good and there’s plenty of other joints on the Trail list that taste like ass and are coasting on their reputations.
Aside from my urge to root for the underdog, Bum’s really is very good. The pork is not hacked to a tuna fish consistency, juicy, and lightly smokey with lots of little nuggets of crispy skin. Their side dishes are easily the best in the state. No exaggeration there. This is real country eating here filled with soul feeding vegetables. Eastern Carolina corn sticks and pork rinds are available to add just enough crunch.
And the fried chicken. Oh the FRIED CHICKEN! Eastern Carolina whole hog BBQ is usually paired with fried chicken. Traditional giants like Wilbur’s, Parker’s both serve fried chicken with their hogs. Bum’s chicken beats them both. I’m all down for great whole hog, but when you got great whole hog and finger licking fried chicken – oh my….
A proper banana pudding topped with warm southern meringue finishes off the meal.
As you can see I have a particular affection for Bum’s. As practitioner of the art and as a traveled eater, I find it an utter travesty that Bum’s is never mentioned when talking about top BBQ joints in North Carolina. The NC BBQ Society Trail list is a wonderful tool and there’s other sources which basically name the same big name spots. But do yourself a favor, many of those big names are for tourists – Bum’s is for those in the know.
As you all remember, my long time smoker was stolen while prepping for a whole hog event. If you’re a Carolina whole hog stylist, your smoker is very specific. I’ve cooked on a whole variety of smokers but none of them will do a proper Carolina whole hog. To do Carolina BBQ you need a specialized Carolina PIT.
My new smoker is designed to take hardwood embers and slowly smoke the meats til tender. While it’s direct heat, the coals are very far away from the meat leaving the cooking temperature still very low.
We gave her a test run by getting my buddies to bring over a massive amount of meat as I burn down logs to fire the pit. We had 4 pork shoulders, 2 slabs of ribs, 6 slabs of beef short ribs and 2 chickens! Oh and a handful of rib tips to snack on.
She burned beautifully. Came to temperature with very little effort and held steady between refirings. I had mine specially customized with bar AND diamond grates to make the ultimate Carolina crackling on the pork. If your pit can’t make crackling, it might be a good smoker but it ain’t North Carolina BBQ.
I’m so happy to have my new member of the BBQ family. My wife and friends named her Fat Sally. Say hi Fat Sally!