PorktoberQue is on the Alabama Barbecue Trail

Alabama is known for barbecue. Sure, Georgia and Tennessee think they have cornered the market on barbecue, but true fans of meats smoked low and slow know that the state that is between Tennessee and Georgia (Alabama) is truly the king of Que…

Alabama combines the best elements of both of those states and has created some of the best barbecue in the country. Alabama even has its own governing board of barbecue, the Alabama Barbecue Association, who sponsors a “Alabama Barbecue Trail” with the pro winners receiving the governors cup award at the end of the season.

The ABA was formed in 2006 to oversee the Alabama Governor’s Cup, which is awarded to the professional barbecue teams with the highest overall points in their top five contests on the Alabama Barbecue Trail, which consists of sanctioned contests throughout the state. For a schedule and links to the contests click here.

 

It’s easy to become a member of the ABA, and you can download your form here: http://alabamabbqassociation.com/forms/AlabamaBBQAssocMembAppl.pdf   Membership is $40 and any person or cook team can be a member and earn points through competitions to win the Governor’s Cup.

250 Years OF BBQ History in 1280 Words or Less

There is one practice, entirely Southern in tradition, that has left an indelible and irrevocable mark upon our nation. It has been a catalyst for politicians, a neutralizer of social classes, and a unifier of church congregations for centuries. It is a tradition that is the tasty heart and soul of the South, though its legacy has expanded north of the Mason-Dixon and into countries far and wide. Our Southern heritage owes itself to a short fat animal with pointy ears, a snout, curly tail and an oh-so-tasty flesh. The South was built on barbecue.

It is nearly impossible to travel in the South without seeing a sign with a happy, grinning pink pig advertising local barbecue. The origins of barbecue (also often spelled Bar-B-Que or BBQ) can be easily traced to the colonial days, when pigs were set out by farmers in nearby woods to forage for their food. These semi-wild pigs were a bit tougher and stringier than modern day pigs, so various methods of tenderizing had to occur to make the meat edible. A method that not only tenderized the meat, but also preserved it for future use was to rub the meat in salts and spices, then slowly cook it over a smoky low-heat fire.

In the years before the Civil War, the practice of holding neighborhood barbecues became very common in the South. Plantation owners regularly held large and festive celebrations, giving the ‘pig pickin’s’ to the slaves for their own use. Many historians believe that the pig shoulder— one of the toughest and less desirable cuts of pork— would have been among the pieces given to the slaves. Every bit of this pork was utilized, and even longer, slower methods of smoking and then pulling the shoulder meat were used to make these cuts tender and edible. Pulled pork as we know it originated from these cooking techniques.

Just before the War Between the States, regional patriotism made pork production more and more important. Relatively little of the pork produced was exported out of the South, and hog production became a way for Southerners to create a self-sufficient food supply– Southern pork for Southern patriots. Hogs became fatter and better cared-for, and farmers began to feed them corn to plump them up before slaughter. During this period, Southerners ate, on average, five pounds of pork for every one pound of beef.

Throughout the nineteenth century, barbecue was a prominent feature at church picnics and political rallies in southern communities. A barbecue was a popular and relatively inexpensive way to lobby for votes, and the organizers of political rallies would provide barbecue, thick slices of good bread, lemonade, and usually a bit of whiskey. These political rallies are often cited as the source of the expression, “Going whole hog.”

These gatherings were also an easy way for different classes to mix. Barbecue was not a class- specific food, and large groups of people from every stratum could mix to eat, drink and listen to stump speeches. Journalist Jonathan Daniels, writing in the mid-twentieth century, maintained that, “Barbecue is the dish which binds together the taste of both the people of the big house and the poorest occupants of the back end of the broken-down barn.”

Political and church barbecues were among the first examples of this phenomenon. Church barbecues, where roasted pig supplemented the covered dishes prepared by the ladies of the congregation, were a manifestation of the traditional church picnic in many Southern communities. These customs continue today across America.

Barbecue in modern day is very similar to its ancestral beginnings in its preparation and seasoning, though pricey stainless steel grills commonly replace crude dirt-pits of yesteryear. It has become a competitive sport, boasting contests in nearly every state, as well as several foreign countries, with millions of dollars in prize money awarded annually. Barbecue is now the basis for a reality TV show (BBQ Pitmasters), the subject of many Food TV shows, and the fodder of thousands of websites, blogs and podcasts.

Barbecuing is simple in theory but complex to master. Professionals who have spent decades perfecting marinating techniques and seasoning blends will be the first to tell you there’s always something more to learn. Though you may not be on an upcoming episode of BBQ Pitmasters any time soon, you can still learn the art of barbecue well-enough to impress your friends and family.

Most importantly, you’ll need a pit in which to smoke your meat. Though they come in a wide variety of materials and price ranges, basically a pit is a wood-burning container in which your meat can be cooked indirectly (from the heated smoke rather than directly over a flame.) Ideally, the pit temperature should be approximately 225 degrees, to provide for very low heat which, over the long cook time, will tenderize and flavor the meet.

When learning to barbecue pig, you will want focus on two main areas at first- ribs and ‘butt’ (which is really the shoulder). Though very different preparation methods and cooking times separate the two, these are the most common selections of pork to cook in the traditional barbecue method. Ribs are generally thought to be a better cut for a first-time barbecuer.

Here’s a tip from the competition pros— when cooking ribs, first remove the membrane on the backside of the ribs before seasoning. Gently insert a sharp knife along the tip of the membrane, and work the transparent covering entirely off the backside. Not only will this improve tenderness in the final product, but the removal of this film will allow smoke and seasoning to permeate the meat more thoroughly.

Next you should season the ribs with dry rub. A novice might want to consider a store bought pre-mix, such as Jack’s Old South Hickory Rub (www.jacksoldsouth.com) or Byron’s Butt Rub (www.buttrub.com and also sold at Winn Dixie), though many will mix their own blend of salt, pepper, paprika, turbinado sugar, onion powder and other secret ingredients.

The ribs are then rubbed with this mixture of dry seasonings, and laid to rest on a shelf in the pit. An average rack of St. Louis trimmed ribs (the ends or tips are cut off) will take approximately four hours to smoke at 200-250 degrees. During this smoke time, most pit masters will use a ‘mop sauce’ hourly to keep the ribs moist and add to the flavor profile. Mop sauce is generally comprised of apple juice, vinegar, butter or oil, and various seasonings of preference, though the folks in the Carolinas will argue that vinegar, pepper and yellow mustard work just fine. Always remember, the internal temperature of the ribs should reach 185 degrees prior to serving.

Though many people prefer a sauce added to their ribs after cooking, it is hardly necessary if they are cooked and seasoned properly. Commercially prepared sauces which have only sprung up over the last sixty years can be added as a final touch prior to serving, though there is no substitute for your own personalized home-made sauce. A quick and tasty sauce can be made with a little melted butter, sautéed onions, ketchup and brown sugar in a matter of moments. Additional additives such as cayenne pepper, minced jalapeño, honey, black coffee or lemon juice can add a tailored signature taste to your creation.

As is tradition in the South, barbecue pork of any kind signals a celebration and is best enjoyed with friends. Make sure you have some thick sliced white bread and lemonade (or whiskey!) handy, so you can go ‘whole hog’ just like our forefathers who began our fine legacy of friendly gatherings and smoked meats now known worldwide as Southern barbecue.

Dothan Alabama Ribs

 

Prize Money Increased By 50 % For 2014 PorktoberQue

Now in it’s third year, PorktoberQue continues to grow and flourish in Dothan, Alabama. The event, a sanctioned barbecue competition and Oktoberfest celebration, takes place the last weekend of September at the Houston County Farm Center. This year’s PorktoberQue will be on Friday September 26 from 5-10pm and Saturday September 27 from 10-6.

The barbecue cook off is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and has teams competing in four meat categories: chicken, ribs, pork shoulder (Boston Butt) and beef brisket. This year’s prize pool has been increased by 50% over previous years to $7,500.00 in prize money.

Teams can enter the competition for $275 entry fee, which includes their camping fee, electricity and water for the weekend. Returning teams who have competed in previous PorktoberQues can receive a discount. The barbecue competition has been recognized by the KCBS as a State Championship, meaning the winner gets to advance to the American Royal Invitational and also gets a draw into The Jack.

Besides the barbecue competition, there are many Oktoberfest themed activities for spectators to enjoy, including a Biergarten with polka music, bratwursts and of course beer. For the football fans, there will be a man cave complete with satellite TV and several televisions playing throughout the weekend. There is live music as well, a car show, and activities and inflatables for the kids to enjoy.

Admission as a spectator to the event is just $3 (children 6 and under are free) and proceeds benefit the Regional Land Water Rescue and help cover the expense of the Houston County Farm Center. Several sponsors have stepped in to ensure this will be the biggest and best PorktoberQue ever. Special thanks to Mike Schmitz Automotive Group, Sam Adams Oktoberfest Beer, Tuffy Automotive, Five Star Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, and Buffalo Rock Pepsi. There will be many more sponsors in the coming days, but special thanks to the ones who signed up this early.

For information on becoming a sponsor, barbecue competitor or vendor, please visit www.PorktoberQue.com or call The Main Event at (334) 699-1475

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People’s Choice Competition

We are still working out the exact details of the People’s Choice competition, which is one of the favorite parts of PorktoberQue. Spectators get to sample pulled pork entries in a centralized tent (on the Midway most likely) from 11-1. They get to vote for their favorite and the winner receives $250 cash. There is an extra cost to participate as a taster for the People’s Choice but the samples will be many and all the proceeds go to the athletic program at Northview HS for the fall Cross Country program. Tentatively we think it will be $10 to enter the tasting tent and you can sample until you can’t sample any more. (It may change to measured portions, but we will let you know in September exactly the cost and amount of meat you will receive. ) Here’s what we have so far and we’ll add a tab under the “ACTIVITIES” tab with the complete details once we have them. But we wanted to let you know that THERE WILL BE BBQ SAMPLES GALORE AT PORKTOBERQUE! nhs

Fatbacks (a restaurant review)

I usually hate going to barbecue restaurants to eat. As both a certified KCBS and an FBA barbecue judge, I know what good barbecue tastes like, and it’s hard to find in many barbecue restaurants. It’s not because they don’t care, but rather it’s difficult to prepare great barbecue within the confines of a traditional restaurant sometimes.

So, quite honestly I dread it when someone says to me, “Let’s go have BBQ for lunch.” I had put off going to Fatbacks for this reason (plus, it’s always good to wait a few weeks when a restaurant opens so they get the kinks worked out). But today I finally got a chance to go with a couple of people and I have to say I’m glad I did.

After looking over a very meaty menu (there’s only one salad on the menu, which is what you’d expect at a BBQ joint) I decided upon the Pepper Jelly Cream-cheese pork sammich. My friend got the pig on cow sandwich, and our other person at the table got the smoked chicken leg quarter. While we were waiting we tried the fresh pork skins. They were amazing! Served in a paper bag, they were so hot and fresh (they were actually still crackling in the bag when they were delivered!) and delicious.

Our food arrived and each of us loved our meal and sides. I personally had the grilled zucchini as my side (a personal favorite of mine since I was a kid) and it was great. The sandwich had so many flavor profiles and textures happening  (soft & soothing cream cheese, hot pepper jelly, thick sliced crisp bacon and chopped, hearty smoked pork) that my mouth was in heaven. The bun (which I later found out isn’t their usual bun for that sandwich) was fresh and the right size for the sandwich.

To me, this the best barbecue restaurant in Dothan. Mike Bryan and his staff are friendly and personable and not only is the food great, but so is the service we received. Check them out, and if it’s your first time, please tell ’em that the PorktoberQue lady sent you!

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Current Dothan Magazine Issue Takes A Look At Barbecue

Photograph By Mark Broadway Photography. Article taken from DothanMagazine.com no author source to cite

Why is the South so hung up on barbecue, and especially pulled pork? Every weekend you can drive along the Ross Clark Circle and see a group of guys hanging around the fire-box end of a smoker selling Boston Butts for a worthy cause. Or, open up your windows on a Saturday and someone in your neighborhood is smoking pork ribs or butts in their back yard. Take a look and you’ll see it’s not beef ribs, not often chickens and certainly not mutton like they do in Kentucky. We’re all about pork in the Wiregrass, which prompts a look at why.

You might think that barbecue is something new, made popular by the influx of a hundred cooking and grilling shows on cable television. In fact, barbecue is the oldest known and recorded cooking form in America, observed by the Europeans upon their arrival in the new land. The Native Americans smoked meats using green wood, which was something not commonly done in Europe. Cooking meats slowly over a smoky fire allowed the food to cure and stay edible longer, and was the most logical method of preparing food for the Indians. In fact, the word barbecue comes from the Indian word barbacoa. The English explorer Edmund Hickeringill described the native’s hunting and cooking of game in this passage from 1661, “Animals are slain, and their flesh forthwith Barbacu’d and eat.”

Photo by Mark Broadway Photography

Barbecue continued to be not only a method of cooking in early and revolutionary America, but also manifested itself into a type of communal event. Many political rallies of the late 1700’s involved barbecue, and created a gathering spot for leaders of the time to speak to the common man. Barbecue and stump speeches went hand in hand, especially in the South.

Fast forward to sometime just before the War Between The States (Civil War). Slavery was prevalent in the south, and on large plantations the blacks were often the cooks for the homes. Many times barbecue was a preferred method of cooking for less than tender cuts of meats for as these cuts were slowly smoked at low temperatures they became more tender. It is said that slaves, who typically were only given the toughest cuts of meat, perfected this cooking method with various seasonings and spices that were readily available including vinegar, black pepper and salt.

When the Civil War broke out, Union troops descended upon the South and often ransacked and ravaged the food stores of Southerners. Union troops would think nothing of commandeering and slaughtering cattle for an evening meal for their soldiers. It didn’t take long for the South to realize that they didn’t want to continuously feed their enemy, so many farmers in Alabama and Georgia devised a plan to save their livestock, which were predominantly hogs, sows and pigs.

When word arrived that Union troops were on the march, farmers would turn their hogs loose into the woods that covered much of our area. The pigs would run free and were not easily caught by the advancing troops, who much preferred beef to pork anyhow. The cattle and beef of the South were ravenously consumed and nearly wiped out by the Union on Sherman’s march to the sea, but amazingly there was little effect on the hog population in Georgia.

When the danger of Union troops had passed, the farmers would lure the hogs back to their pens with corn and continue to fatten them up and care for them until the next threat. While this is said to have preserved nearly 80% of the South’s livestock, the now somewhat feral pigs were considerably tougher. Again, the learned methods of cooking low and slow to tenderize meats came in handy for the people of the South. Barbecue experienced a rebirth just after the War Between the States for this reason as well as restoring a feeling of Southern Pride.

It was highly regarded after the War that these Sothern hogs which sustained many families during the rough economic and war-torn years were a symbol of the South. Butchers in urban areas of the South hung signs claiming, “ Southern food for Southern Patriots” and farmers in rural areas took equal pride in raising pigs. Very little pork was exported out of the South (and almost never traded to the North) and slowly pork became a way for Southerners to create a self-sufficient food supply. Hogs became more well-cared for, fatter, and more tender in the years after the War and with more hogs the South had more barbecues.

Whether it was formally taught to us in history books, or more likely handed down as a tradition from generation to generation, pork butt and pork ribs are the barbecue meat of choice in the South, especially Georgia and Alabama. Our history and circumstances might have provided barbecued shoulder from necessity, but it remains the preferred picnic meal to this day.

Barbecue is in our blood in the South. Not only as a family or social gathering, but as a part of our heritage and roots. Barbecue is a part of the South’s unique history and part of the story we need to tell to future generations to keep Southern heritage alive.  So, the next time you see they guys on the Circle smoking Boston Butts as a fundraiser, stop in and contribute to one of the South’s longest running traditions.

To learn more about Barbecue, get the current copy of Dothan Magazine today!

PorktoberQue to join Alabama Barbecue Trail

In a continuous effort to attract the top competition barbecue teams from across the South, we have not only sanctioned PorktoberQue with the KCBS (which gives our winner an entry into the American Royal Invitational in 2014, and a bung into the draw for The Jack), but we have recently applied to join the Alabama Barbecue Association’s Barbecue Trail.

The Alabama Barbecue Trail awards points to teams, based on their top 5 contests. This helps level out the playing field for teams who cook every weekend, versus teams that might only cook once a month. Points standings for the teams can be found online at http://www.alabamabbqassociation.com/Standings%202013/2013%20BBQ%20Pro.pdf

The ABA was formed in 2006 to oversee the Alabama Governor’s Cup, which is awarded to the professional barbecue teams with the highest overall points in their top five contests on the Alabama Barbecue Trail, which consists of sanctioned contests throughout the state. For a schedule and links to the contests click here. The ABA will also be promoting other BBQ contests such as backyard cookoffs as part of the Alabama BBQ Trail. The ABA will promote all of the these contests nationally at other professional barbecue contests to attract tourism to the state and to each of the host cities.

2013 Dates Set

We are pleased to announce, in conjunction with the KCBS, that the dates for the 2013 PorktoberQue have been set. We moved the date back a week, to the last weekend in September to accommodate more teams (and not compete with the American Royal) as well as avoid having our festival on the same day as other events here in Dothan. We chose September 27-28, 2013 for this year’s PorktoberQue, and think it will work great for many reasons.

ALSO, THIS CONTEST HAS BEEN NAMED A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP! That means that our winner will be eligible for the Jack Draw (for 2014) and will automatically be entered into the American Royal Invitational Contest in Kansas City.

We are getting the entry forms drawn up, and will have those posted soon. Remember— all previous competitors receive a special discount and will only pay $235. We think the “regular” rate this year will be $275 for new teams (still working on that). We will keep you posted, but please save the date for PorktoberQue 2013!

Finally- the biggest comment on moving the event has been, “Will you call it PorkTEMBERque now?” And the answer is no, because we are still within the traditional Oktoberfest guidelines as set in Munich, Germany. You can see the dates here on the official Oktoberfest site (but you need to read German to get too far into the site!) http://www.oktoberfest2013.com  The official dates for Oktoberfest are from September 21- October 6th so we are perfectly in sync for a fabulous traditionally dated party!

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What are the teams competing for?

Besides bragging rights, we have $5,000 in prize money, broken down as follows:

Prize money for 2012 PorktoberQue- $5,000.00

 

Grand Champion  $1,150

Reserve Champion  $750

 

Payouts through 5th place in each meat (Chicken, Pork Ribs, Pork, Beef Brisket)

First Place- $225

Second Place $175

Third Place- $150

Fourth Place $100

Fifth Place $75

People’s Choice $150

We also have two lovely, hand made cutting boards with a pig emblazoned on the front for the Grand Prize winner and Reserve Champion winner, and a small trophy for the 1st place in each meat. Awards will be at 5:00 PM in the main tent area.