Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mayberry Days 2010 NC State BBQ Championship Smoke Off - Photos

This was one of those wild weekends. I hit the road right from work rather than backtrack and went to the North Carolina barbecue championship sponsored by the NC Pork Council. It was in Mount Airy, NC which is about an hour and half from work and little further from home. This was Mayberry Days weekend, and the state barbecue cook off was sheduled for the little mountain town for 2010.

With papers to grade and articles to write plus covering a big barbecue event, I stayed until around midnight but headed on home. I thought about getting a hotel room but figured they were full on Mayberry Days weekend and also wasn't so keen on getting up at 5 a.m. or so to "purty up" to get back to the barbecue lot.

As luck would have it, I met Fred Parker on Friday night. He's from the area, and he sent me photos of the morning after the early morning judging took place. Gotta love locals who help a girl out. Thanks Fred!

Now this is one pretty smoked pig if I must say so myself, and since I didn't smoke it, then I can. I can't speak to the taste, but I can sure picture eating this one. Yum!

North Carolina barbecue is chopped, so that's another big job on top of the all night smoking. If you get slow smoked NC barbecue, you are getting a labor of love. No one would do all that work if they did not really care about old fashioned slow barbecue smoking.

The pitmasters work with crews. It would be close to impossible to smoke whole hog without some help. Each pig in this contest ran a little over 120 pounds. I do pork shoulders and butts myself (Lexington style barbecue), because I frankly can't lift a whole pig and don't need that much meat smoked up at once usually.

Barbecue is not just a guys' game, although the bulk of the pitmasters are male. Good guys they are! But, many of the teams have female partners, and the winner this year for the 2010 North Carolina barbecue championship title was the lone female pitmaster - Carla Sweet. That's not her in the photo above, but I have an earlier post about Carla taking the NC BBQ champ title.

Here is some North Carolina chopped barbecue. Actually this is an early chop. They keep working the meat with knives until it's cut fine. This is not pulled pork country. It's chopped barbecue and usually served on a white bread bun with slaw and vinegar based barbecue sauce. It's unique to North Carolina, and if you ever visit the state, you ought to check it out. It's quite different from barbecue in other parts of the country, and it's really yummy.

North Carolina State BBQ Championship in Mount Airy, NC

I hung out at the 2010 North Carolina state barbecue championship contest in Mount Airy until about midnight. Pig smoking is an all night affair. I told the barbecue guys to have good smokes and headed back home to do some barbecue writing and to edit photos.

That mobile blogging thing was harder than flipping pigs with the slow load speed up there in the NC mountains. I think I could have walked the 80 or so miles home before photos would have uploaded on site.

Fortunately, I met a Mount Airy local, Fred Parker, and he sent me some barbecue contest photos. So, now you can see a whole hog barbecue contest the morning after.

Wow. Now that's a pretty smoked pig. They definately look tastier in the morning after they are smoked than at night when they are raw pig.

Whole hogs call for big smokers - of course. There were a range of different smokers at the 2010 NC state barbecue championship. Some of them were store bought and others were handmade smokers.

The pitmasters watch those temperatures and check out the meat. There's done and there's ready. It's a talent to get smoked whole hog smoked pork just perfect.

Once the pigs are done, there's a lot of chopping. In North Carolina, barbecue pork is typically chopped (not pulled) and then sauced. When you have top notch pig smokers like at this state championship, the secret and the win can be in the sauce which in vinegar based with various amounts of red (tomato product) depending on whether you are east or west of the North Carolina barbecue divide line.

Mayberry Days 2010 NC Pork Council BBQ Championship - Photos - Night of Smoke

On Friday night I reported live from the North Carolina State BBQ championship sponsored by the North Carolina Pork Council. The official state barbecue contest was held in Mount Airy, NC this year in conjunction with Mayberry Days. The contest rotates year to year.

Here are some more photos from the night of the barbecue smoke off in Mt. Airy.

Before the pigs arrive for smoking, the judges check out the various barbecue booths and judge them for showmanship. As you can see, Elvis was in the house (or parking lot) and apparently the king of rock and roll helped decide the king of pig this year.

Joe Peterson and crew had a booth that I called Pigs on a Blanket. They also had flying pigs overhead as we all found out when the judges stopped by. Peterson took second place in showmanship. Plus, the guys had a bed to nap on during the competition. Now, that's some good thinking there.

There are times to work and times to kick back. These guys were taking it easy here, but they were on their game once the pigs arrived. You take what rest you can get on an all night pig smoke, and yes it does take all night to smoke a whole hog.

Things did not get too out of hand at the overnight barbecue smoke, because duputy Barney Fife was on hand to keep order. He wrote some tickets, but those were for minor infractions like looking guilty of something.

This little girl was loving the barbecue contest and also loving getting her picture made. She was saying cheese, but she was not giving up that pacifier so that I could actually see her cheese smile. Bless her for effort and a first place for making me laugh.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

North Carolina 2010 State BBQ Champion - Carla Sweet

Husband and Wife - Larry and Carla Sweet Get Their Pigs Ready to Smoke

One of the men at the North Carolina BBQ Championship Cook Off told me that I didn't look like a pig cooker. He probably did not think Carla Sweet looked like one either. So, the joke is on him. Bless his heart (our Southern snark comment).

The big barbecue boys were down in Mount Airy, NC last night for the NC Mayberry Days BBQ Championship contest. The state contest is sponsored by the NC Pork Council and moves around the state year to year. This time, Mt. Airy got the draw and during their annual event to celebrate the Andy Griffith TV show. Gotta love Andy and the gang and North Carolina barbecue too.

The Sweets were set up front of house or right on the main road there in Mount Airy. They didn't go all fancy with all the pig decorations and stuff. And, in fact, they were real down to earth and quiet. I had to ask one of the other contestants where the husband/wife contestants were set up.

Yep. There they were right in front of me all the time.

You may be thinking they were working together, but they weren't. They were side by side with each entered in the contest.

Husband, Larry, took second place last year at this same North Carolina barbecue competition (which came to a draw and was decided on the blind taste test), so he was definately one to watch. He uses charcoal rather than gas, so he is old school and had a labor intensive night. Props on that.

Anyone who overlooked Carla wasn't keeping up with barbecue news. She'd recently won a big contest with her husband (a master of the sport of barbecue smoking) in the dust.

Well, hey, it could have been a fluke. Carla confesses that's she only smoked seven pigs so far as far as she recalls. In the barbecue circuits, that's really green. So, she probably would not have been the money pick if it had been Las Vegas versus Mount Airy NC (where they don't much go for gambling).

The proof is in the pig, and Carla Sweet went home with the gold as the North Carolina state championship pig smoker.

Those North Carolina barbecue boys are great. They treated me great and fed me fine. But, I must say I'm kind of tickled that the girl trumped 2010 and proved that barbecue isn't all brawn and bluster.

Read all about the NC Barbecue Championship at Yes You Can Grill - my grilling and barbecue web site.

Friday, September 24, 2010

NC Pork Council BBQ State Championship 2010

North Carolina State Championship Pork Smoke Off

I'm reporting now direct from the 2010 North Carolina State Championship BBQ cook off in Mayberry, NC on September 20th. The event is sponsored by the North Carolina Pork Council - NCPC. The BBQ off moves around the state from year to year, and this year the contest is being held in conjuntion with Mayberry Days. Yes. Of course, Mayberry Days is a celebration of Andy Griffith (and this is the 50th year anniversary for that classic TV show that started before I was born).

The BBQ teams are all set up. There are 24 total, and they had to win some competitions to get a spot in the state event. So, we have here 24 of the best pitmasters across the state now waitng for the whole hogs to come in.

One guy to watch this year is Joe Peterson. He has taken the title the barbecue champ title the past two years, and that's a real big deal in barbecue circles. I hunted him up, and he and his wife and friends were just really super nice. They gave me chicken, corn, and beans and some bread pudding like Grandma used to make.

Joe Peterson

Before the smoking got started, the judges went around and checked out the set up displays. You may wonder why judges would go look at the tents and smokers. See one - seen them all. Nope. These guys (and a few girls go all out or maybe I should say hog wild on decking out the work areas).

Everyone was waiting for the meat trucks to show up except for maybe the lady who asked if they shoot the pigs there. Really now, it's in city limits. Of course, there's no pig shooting. The pigs come in on a big truck. They are not frozen either as woman asked. You know how long it takes to thaw a turkey. If the teams had to smoke frozen pigs, we'd be sitting there all week.

I don't do whole hog, because they are heavy. I heard weight numbers in the 120 pound plus range. That's a lot of meat and heavy. All hands were on deck as the teams began getting ready for an all night barbecue pig smoke.

I'll have to get some sleep, but I have more photos and stories. I'll share those after I get some shut eye.

Facebook Photo Collection from NC Barbecue Cook Off

If you'd like to read more about the annual NC Barbecue Cook Off, visit Yes You Can Grill where I talk about my first barbecue contest trip.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Great Grill Gifts Personalized from Red Envelope

Cutting Board with Moat From Red Envelope

Here is my beautiful cutting board from Red Envelope. They have a variety of great gifts for all occasions, but I go to the the grill section and drool. The best part is that these gifts which look great in the photos look even nicer when they arrive.

I'd never heard of Red Envelope, but Jake got in touch and offered to send me something from the line for an honest review. Well, we all know I'm darn honest to a fault, so that is a gamble. I warn folks on that. If the product is not as advertised or a piece of junk, I'm going to tell it. That's only fair to readers who deserve to get what they pay for.

In this case, I thought the cutting board would be terrific for my larger grilled cuts especially with that trench or moat to catch any juices which can be right messy as most folks will know. It's just about to turn barbecue season for those larger cuts. I do some in the summer, but it's flat been too hard for long smokes here in North Carolina. So, I'm going to oil up the wooden cutting board and crank up the smoker real soon. In the meantime, I'm just admiring this well made board that smells real nice too.

If you've not used a wooden cutting board, then know that you do need to season them with oil before using. This one is not seasoned for the photos, because I wanted to get some before I do that. That is repeated every few months depending on the amount of use.

I'll work on a how to article at Yes You Can Grill about seasoning and taking care of wood cooking items.

Also, you want to make sure you do not cross contaminate. Some people use two boards to help on that - one for meats and one for other foods. You can use Clorox for cleaning, but many people worry about that. So, household vinegar full strength is a good option and my favorite.

I'm excited about this really great looking cutting board and know that it will turn heads at parties. Not only is the cutting board really great looking and sturdy, it also has my intitials.

What sets the products at Red Envelope further ahead of many products I check out is that they have personalization. They engrave or burn in your name or initials.

Above you will see that my initials are on this cutting board. Yes. They are CYA. I do not think CYA meant what it means now when my Mom named me, or she had not heard of it. In any case, gotta laugh when your initials spell something funny - even an acronym.

If you are looking for really nice gifts and especially for your favorite griller, be sure to check out Red Envelope. And, no, I don't work for them or get any kick back. I just think have a rocking grill section and grill/barbecue gifts.