UK BBQ Mag Winter 2017/2018 - Page 69

shoulders or butts being cooked in large brick pits. And the pit is very different too. Here, the wood is burnt in a separate fire box generating charcoal that is regularly shovelled directly under the pork. It’s very labour intensive with the Pit Master controlling the heat and distribution of the coals exactly. Overnight cooks require constant tending and an almost continual making and addition of charcoal and tending of the fire. The flavours are different too. The meat isn’t sitting in hot smoke and gasses from the burning wood like in Texas, but sits in smoke generated from the meat juices and fats dripping onto the burning embers.

Many communities in Tennessee would have had community brick pits. David Roper, a former guide at the Jack Daniels Distillery, has an almost unbounded wealth of knowledge BBQ and its development so took me to see some. They are rarely used now. The skills to run big cooks and the levels of commitment needed are disappearing.

How fortunate we were then to come across the tiny Hamlet of Mimosa. The community were out cooking 200 pork butts on the village pit to raise money for a local college fund in honour of one of their fallen community members. Fires were burning in two huge metal barrels. Every 20 minutes the pit master would instruct his team of 10 people to shovel coals into the pits under the pork for their 20 hour cook.

From Tennessee I headed up to North Carolina, dropping in to judge a KCBS contest just outside Memphis on the way. It was interesting to see that the cookers here were smaller than those in Texas, were mostly fuelled with charcoal, wood being added to generate the more usual wisp of smoke rather than the billowing smoke of Texas.

North Carolina uses the brick pit too. With a separate fire box burning wood that is shovelled under the pork. But here they chop the whole hog, butt or shoulder mixing it with a thin vinegary sauce. My first stop was the Skylight Inn in Ayden, North Carolina. It has the reputation of being the best BBQ restaurant in America. I talked my way into a tour of the pits and then sat down for some incredible chopped pork. Here they chop the pork skin into the mixture resulting in what can best be described as a pork bomb.

Next stop was a tour of Lexington with Roger and Marsha Wise. They grew up in the BBQ industry and have been competing and cooking BBQ and whole hogs for a long time. With Lexington being declared as the Capital of North Carolina BBQ, there are BBQ joints everywhere. With local knowledge, we did a tour of 3 or the Wise’s favourites. All cooked in brick pits cooked over coals generated in a separate firebox, tended by a pit master.

A fascinating, long road trip that gave a real insight into regional BBQ in America. Lasting impression was that BBQ is pretty much everywhere. From huge restaurants delivering industrial quantities of meat to a simple smoker running on a street corner. And its just everyday food in the States. Go into any BBQ joint and you will find people eating at any time of day all of them happy to share their passion. And great food! If you are really lucky get yourself invited to a Pig Pickin’ – standing around a pit cooked whole hog just pulling pieces off with a pair of tongs with a beer or two and good friends!

Community Pit, Mimosa, TN