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Hog Heaven: 2012 FTX BBQ Summer Camp

Saturday Night Pig Pickin' Party

BBQ Summer Camp Counselers: From top left: Robb Walsh, Dr. Davey Griffin, Hoover Alexander, Dr. Jeff Savell, Dr. Elizabeth Englehardt, Mary Kimbrough, Ray Riley Kneeling: Thomas Larriviere, Daniel Vaughn, Marvin Bendele, bottom row: the hog.

Saturday night’s dinner this year at Foodways Texas (FTX) BBQ Summer Camp was a traditional pig pickin’. A pig pickin’ party features a barbecued whole hog displayed on a table with all the condiments, side dishes and sandwich makin’s arranged nearby. Instead of the pitmaster pulling, chopping and seasoning the cooked pork, the guests grab some meat right off the hog. This year’s FTX BBQ Summer Camp pig was roasted upright in cinder block pit in Meat Science Center director, Dr. Jeff Savell’s back yard.

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Barbecued Mutton Recipe

Barbecued Mutton

(Adapted from the Barbacoa de Borrego recipe in The Tex-Mex Grill)

Expect strange looks when you invite people over some delicious barbecued mutton. Back in the day, what we now call lamb was known as mutton. (In Australia, it’s lamb up to one year of age, then it becomes hogget in its second year, and finally mutton in its old age.)

If lamb sounds better than mutton, then why do people freak out about eating veal? Are baby sheep less cute than baby cows, or what?

Anyway, this will give you something to think about for the five or six hours that it will take you to make this spectacular barbecued mutton (or barbecued lamb if you insist).

Recipe follows the jump.
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Heritage Hog BBQ

Here’s some video shot by Jay Francis of the community barbecue we did on March 31 to benefit Foodways Texas. Thanks to Revival Market and the Houston Chowhounds group for their generous support!

The Original Cowboy Wok (Discada)

The “cowboy wok” is legendary in South Texas. I have known about them for a long time, but I never had one until recently. And now it is one of those pieces of backyard barbecue equipment I just can’t live without.

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Community BBQ Calendar

Stirring BBQ Gravy in a Cast Iron Washtub

Corporate money and the cutthroat “do anything to win” attitude has ruined BBQ cook-offs. And artisan barbecue is becoming rare in restaurants.

But cook-offs and restaurants aren’t where American barbecue came from anyway. The oldest barbecue tradition in America, the community barbecue, continues largely unnoticed in churches, clubs and lodge halls. Many of the pits are ancient, the cooking methods are traditional and the barbecue is generally excellent. Check out a community barbecue near you, it’s worth the trip!


Annual Frydek Grotto Celebration
Last Sunday of April
St. Mary’s Catholic Church Grounds, FM 1458
124 Zaruba Road, Sealy
Mass 9:30am
BBQ 11:00am Brisket, chicken and homemade Czech sausage
Music, Auction, Cake Walk, Kids Activities
Get there early if you want to buy homemade kolaches–they sell out fast!

10th Annual Fruehling Saengerfest
Fourth Sunday of April
Concordia Hall, 952 S. Tesch, Bellville
For more information please contact Robert Herridge 979-865-0935
Sponsored by Bellville Lions Club & Bluebonnet Chapter of the Texas German Society.
BBQ 11:00am Chicken & Sausage Dinner $9.00 per plate.

Millheim Harmonie Verein’s Annual Father’s Day Barbecue
Father’s Day
Millheim Harmonie Verein’s Dance Hall
3384 FM 949 Road
Sealy, Texas
BBQ 11:00 am Beef, Mutton, and Pork.
Cake Wheel, Silent Auction, Music
One of the last of the old-fashioned open pits!
Don’t miss this one!

Sons of Hermann Washington Lodge BBQ
Third Sunday in October
Sons of Hermann Lodge
9499 Fm 1370 Washington, Texas
BBQ 11 am Brisket and Pork Butt, homemade dessert table
Cake auction, raffle
Come early and see the wonderful old BBQ pit in action!

North Carolina

Mallard Creek Church BBQ (since 1929)
Fourth Thursday in October
Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church Community Hall
11400 Mallard Creek Road
Charlotte, North Carolina
BBQ 10 am Pulled Pork Plate or 3 sandwiches $9
The phone number at the Community House is 704-547-0323 during preparation and on the day of the Barbecue.
In 2011, over 20,000 people attended, consuming 14 thousand pounds of pulled pork at $9 a plate.
Volunteers: call Bill Wood at 704-756-0943 or Charles Kimrey at 704-408-6722.

Poplar Presbyterian BBQ
First Thursday in November
6841 Poplar Tent Presbyterian Road Concord
North Carolina


Annual Bennett Valley Grange Community Barbecue (since 1872)
First Sunday in June
Bennett Valley Grange
Santa Rosa, CA
Phone: (707) 546-2165
BBQ: Noon Open cinderblock pit, half chickens, beef tri-tip, beans, cole slaw, bread and homemade desserts.
Music, petting zoo, games, silent auction, Bennett Valley Fire Dept Trucks display.

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2nd Annual Foodways Texas Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Vencil Mares

On Friday, March 23, Vencil Mares of Taylor Cafe in Taylor, Texas received the 2nd Annual Foodways Texas Lifetime Achievement Award at that organization’s symposium in Austin.

In World War II, Vencil served as corpsman during the invasion of Normandy. When he got home, he took a job at Southside Market in Elgin. Southside meat market was famous for Elgin hot guts, a beef and pork sausage with lots of cayenne in it. Southside Market was a rough and tumble joint on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. Laborers ate there, but women and families didn’t go there. Today, Southside Market is a family restaurant out on the main highway. The sausage doesn’t have much cayenne in it anymore either. After making sausage at Southside Market for a while, Vencil decided to open his own place. So he bought a run-down hotel in an old building in Taylor.

Vencil Mares opened the Taylor Cafe in 1948. The building used to be two stories, but the top story burned down and was never repaired. Vencil put a barbecue pit in back and served beer in front. Just like the old Southside Market, Vencil’s Taylor Café was a rough joint that catered to working men.

read more 2nd Annual Foodways Texas Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Vencil Mares »

BBQ Revelations: One Fine Pig

Morgan Weber at Revival Market with the pig

The first whole hog I ever barbecued came out amazing–but then again, I had a lot of help. Starting with Morgan Weber, my pig farmer/butcher. The meat had a melt-in-your-mouth texture, thanks to the marbling on the Red Wattle/Mangdalista heritage hybrid Morgan bred for his Houston store, Revival Market. Morgan’s processor cut the 120 pound whole hog in half, which wasn’t the way we asked for it. But with the head removed and the carcass cut into two halves, it sure is a lot easier to carry.

read more BBQ Revelations: One Fine Pig »

Do You Like to Shoot Up?

Is injecting a great technique–or a nasty habit?

My traditionalist barbecue friends think injecting a pork shoulder or whole hog with brine or flavorings is heresy. The pitmasters of yesteryear certainly didn’t do it. But injecting is standard procedure on the barbecue cook-off circuit. Most competitors, like Chris Lily and Myron Mixon, use an apple juice-based injection. I have cooked up a lot of crazy injection brines including a Dublin Dr Pepper concoction.

When we prepare a whole hog at Foodways Texas BBQ Summer Camp at the Texas A&M Meat Science Department, we inject it with a sweetened brine. The salt helps the meat retain moisture. Myron Mixon uses MSG in his whole hog injection. Other competitors use nitrates, nitrites and similiar cures as well. That’s where I draw the line. No chemicals in my barbecue please.

You better not be opposed to injecting if you buy your pork and chicken at the grocery store. The enchanced meats in the supermarket are injected with salt, antioxidants, phosphate, water, and or other flavoring before we buy them. (The added water makes it more profitable.) You have to go to Sam’s or Costco to find meat that isn’t enhanced. That’s where barbecue cook-off competitors shop because the rules don’t allow enhanced meats in the competition.

So is injecting cheating? What do you think?

The Generation Gap

At El Hidalguense, the Huatecan restaurant on Long Point Road in Houston, barbacoa de borrego is the special on Sundays. The seasoned lamb is cooked in a built-in pit lined with maguey leaves. The rich broth from the bottom of the pot is the first course, followed by barbecue lamb tacos on freshly made corn tortillas. The restaurant’s owners import a smoked chile from Hidalgo that tastes a little like a chipotle, but not as smoky. They make a table salsa from this chile that is one of my favorite salsas in Houston.

El Hidalguense was the second stop on the “World Barbecue Tour” that Chris Shepherd and I led for the Houston Culinary Tour Series. Our group sampled the lamb barbacoa, cabrito al pastor, cabrito ranchero and chicharon gorditas for lunch with several shots of tequila and some wonderful frijoles. On my way out, I noticed this family seated at a table near the door. Dad was enjoying some lamb barbacoa and broth. But the younger generation demanded their own favorite dish–Tex-Mex yellow cheese nachos.

Whole Hog: Building the Pit

My friend Richard Flores, a veteran barbecue cook-off competitor, has always wanted to cook whole hogs in a classic Southern pit. And I have to come up with a whole hog recipe for my upcoming Southern barbecue cookbook. So we decided to work together on the project.

I showed him photos of the various whole hog pits I had visited while researching the book, and we decided to adapt the construction technique from some of those. An mortared cinderblock pit will work fine, but you have to make in four bricks wide to accommadate the splayed out hog and to also leave a gap so you can shovel hot coals or charcoal in from the top. The main vent you see at one end is for ventilation–it will get a sheet metal door that can be opened or closed incrementally.

If you have built one of these before, we would appreciate your comments!