pull my pork!

Good pulled pork has to be one of the most satisfying meat dishes in the world. I often find myself dreaming of those beautiful strands of juicy, smokey pork mixed with bits of spicy “bark.” Beautiful moutainscapes of steaming pulled pork topped with coleslaw snow-caps. A place where North-Carolina style red sauce flows like a river…. mmmmm. After living in North Carolina for a while I really fell in love with pulled pork. Some of my fondest food memories were had in small BBQ shacks around Gastonia and Charlotte. I recommend that every teenager should move to NC for high-school because pulled-pork sandwiches go perfect with reckless-abandon. Ah, those were the days!

I may really love this delicacy but I don’t get to enjoy it very often. Those BBQ-shacks seem to be hiding from me on this side of the ocean. So left with no other choice I set out to make my own. First problem, what the heck do I ask for at the butcher? Cuts of meat are different in pretty much every land. I wanted a Butt (no, it doesn’t come from that end of the pig) but the butcher had no idea what that was. Thankfully Picnic was something that they know here. To my surprise they are typically about 6 kg. Pigs must be bigger here. I thought that was a bit big for my first try, especially since I don’t have a freezer to hold any leftovers. I ended up ordering a nicely trimmed and de-boned half picnic, weighing in at 2.2kg (4.85 lbs.)

For the first cook I decided to pretty much stick to some standard recipes out of Smoke and Spice. It was time to say hello to “the Renowned Mr. Brown.” I slightly altered the Southern Succor rub in the recipe by adding some onion powder and garlic powder.

Brasschaat Succor rub (altered Southern Succor rub recipe):
  • 1/4 cup black pepper (fresh ground)
  • 1/4 cup mild paprika
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

The pork was well rubbed with this mixture and placed in a ziplock bag. He hung out in the fridge overnight with the hops and yeast. The next day I started the fire (Minion method fire with a 3/4 full ring of briquettes) around 8am and took the meat out of the fridge. After another roll around in the rub I let the pig rest until the smoker was up to temp.

The swine went on the smoker at 9:10 am and in typical fashion it started to rain. Not wanting to get too wet, I decided to quickly take the burning smoker apart and move it under the awning at the back door. From there on out it was a pretty simple cook. One of the big questions with this kind of barbecue is, to mop or not? Seeing as I was using the water pan in the smoker with water (as opposed to dry, or with sand or terra-cotta pot coasters as some recommend) I did not need to use a mop to add moisture, but I did want to use it to help add flavor. So I only mopped the meat a few times starting a couple hours into the cook.


mop (altered Southern sop recipe):
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp black pepper (fresh ground)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp remaining rub

Since this was a somewhat small hunk of meat by pulled pork standards, I took a rough guess that it would be on the smoker for about 7-8 hours until it reached the magic “pullable” tenderness. Seeing that dinner was planned for 7:30 pm this seemed like ample time. Unfortunately I suck at these types of estimations. As we approached dinner time I ramped up the smoker temperature from the 110-120C range (230-250F) up to the 140-150C range (280-300F) to try to finish the pork faster. After 10.5 hours of cooking I had to take the meat off the smoker.  Now I was aiming for an internal temp of around 87-93C (190-200F), but I had to pull the meat off at 84C (183F). The real test isn’t the internal temp but taking your temp probe or a skewer and seeing that it slides into the meat easily, like butter. Mine was almost right there, but I couldn’t wait another 45 minutes or so. Fortunately the pork did pull apart very nicely and easily.

To accompany the meat I whipped up some coleslaw, some cornbread, and a salad. The coleslaw was also a first for me. I was so used to buying it back in the US that I never bothered trying to make it before. I have to say that is was quite tasty! The cornbread was again baked on the OTP. This time I was able to improve the cooking technique and get a very nice browned top on the cornbread, however the new recipe I tried out was not so great. It was just too darn dense. Next time I will use the recipe I used the first time and just cut back on the sugar… and perhaps use a touch more cornmeal.

Of course I also had to make up some Carolina red sauce. I used the recipe straight from the Smoke & Spice cookbook. I have to say though that I remember most sauces in North Carolina being just a touch thicker and spicier, but that was a long time ago.

The final accent to the meal was a bottle of Hop Nest IPA. The hops were able to cut through the spice, vinegar and smoke and really worked out nicely.

Of course I didn’t take any good photos of the final product, so you’ll have to put up with a slightly blurry photo of some of the leftovers.

All in all I was highly impressed with my new found pork pulling skills (please don’t take that out of context). I think everyone really enjoyed it but the black pepper spice may have been too much for them. The cornbread wasn’t so much of a success. The meat was absolutely fantastic! Super moist, full of smokey flavor, wonderful rich spice notes and melt in your mouth tenderness. I will definitely be cooking up more of this. Once we get a freezer it will be stocked with pulled pork for those times when I have THE craving.

For more photos of the cook click on the photos or here

grillin’ up some cornbread

As any good american does, I crave me some good old cornbread now and then. Unfortunately this fine treat knows no friends here in the old world. Cornmeal is not a common commodity in Belgium. However, a couple weeks ago I bumped into some cornmeal at the supermarket on a shelf of clearance items. Apparently there are not enough Americans on this side of Brasschaat to keep the limited choice of US specific products in rotation. The other Delhaize in town doesn’t seem to suffer this problem as everytime I am there I hear at least two American families. From the clearance shelf I picked up one bag of cornmeal and a couple jars of molasses. The molasses will either finds its way into some cookies or into some beer.

Now I know it’s simple, but I have never made cornbread before so I had to consult the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (We have the newest edition but I wish we had the 1968 version that my mother has. 60’s food photography had a certain something that I find nice, odd but nice). Anyways, the recipe for basic cornbread was very simple:

1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2-3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil

cornbread_1_091108Long story short, I threw that all together and poured it into a greased pan. Yes I know, all you cornbread purists are shouting “you have to use a hot skillet you idiot!” Well, simple answer is that I don’t have one (but I do want one). The pan went right in the middle of the cooking grate with the coals stacked up on two sides of the grill. The temp was right around 200C (392F). After about 15 minutes on the grill I started checking with a toothpick to see if it was done. I didn’t keep the time well but I think total cook time was about 20 minutes. I was worried that maybe the sides of the bread that were facing the fire would have over cooked but it ended up with a nice even golden brown on the bottom and sides. Unfortunately, the top of the cornbread did not become nicely golden. I guess, like my first pizza on the grill, I need to get the bread higher into the dome of the kettle where the air is warmer.

Why exactly would you want to do this on the grill?… well, why not? I like the idea of baking with wood or charcoal, it just sounds right to me. It will also be nice to have extra dishes to round out a meal that I can just through on the grill while I’m doing a long cook. Plus, a small touch of smoke can do wonders in baked goods. This time I didn’t use any wood, just neutral coconut briquettes, but I plan on adding a touch of wood next time.

cornbread_2_091108The flavor of the cornbread itself was alright, but could be much better. It definitely wasn’t bad, just a bit mild. The flavor needs to be kicked up a notch next time. The cornbread I know gives you a heart melting dose of american home cooking, this one just taunted me. The amount of cornmeal needs to be kicked up and the sugar kicked down, or out. Maybe I’ll have to try the recipe I saw on the homesick texan (a very delicious source of recipes that I just now discovered). I’ll probably also add about a cup of corn kernels to the batter next time…. and that next time may be very soon… I still have the craving! Oh, and I like my cornbread with hot melted Lee Morgan

When the moon hits your eye

pizza_091017Like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!

Last night I decided to test out the new pizza stone. For my first trial I just wanted to take a look at the cooking technique itself so I bought a pre-made pizza dough. I didn’t want to put in all the effort of making dough and sauce and then end up burning it. For the sauce I just used a good quality passata. Add some mozerella and some chorizo and there you have it.

As I said, I’ve been wanting to do this for a while so I have been reading up on the different ways to do pizza on the  grill. The keys I picked up were that you want a scorching hot grill and you need to try to get the temperature above the pizza high enough that the toppings will cook before the bottom of the crust burns. There are some pretty interesting setups I have seen posted on forums like TVWB and Pizzamaking.com. What I decided to do (and had seen from others) was to try the get the pizza as high up into the dome of the lid as possible, since that is where the air is the hottest. This should help the toppings cook well. To do that I took the charcoal ring out of my WSM and placed that on top of the cooking grate with the pizza stone on top of that. With a full chimney of briquettes lined around the perimeter of the kettle the air should be pretty hot up there. I assumed the stone would still heat up pretty well in this configuration. Please excuse the poor quality photos. Mrs. Smoking Bottle was away with the camera and all I had was my iPhone.

I kept checking the color of the crust by looking through the vent holes with a flashlight. I took the pizza off when the crust looked like it was going to start getting too dark. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite long enough for the toppings. They definitely weren’t underdone but I was hoping for a touch more browning of the cheese. Total cook time was about 9 minutes. From what I’ve been reading a lot of people say that ideally it should be around 4 or 5 minutes. Sounds like I’d really need to crank up the temp more with more charcoal. I don’t really care about the time though. It seems that the faster you cook the pizza the less influence the grill would have on flavor. I want to pick up some of that fire-kissed flavor and aroma. Just a guess but 10 minutes sounds like it would accomplish that better than 4 minutes. I think the setup worked out really well. Now I just need to get some more heat on top of the pizza. Perhaps I need to stack up the coals closer to the outside than I did. Suggestions are welcome.