Barbecue The American Tradition Continues; North Carolina And Memphis

Saturday, October 30, 2010 @ 06:10 AM

We are reviewing the history of barbecue and how it has evolved into the American tradition that we know today. Americans love to grill.  Summer picnics, baseball, hot dogs and burgers cook on a Brinkmann grill, apple pie. We also have barbecue that is steeped in our rich history and mixed cultures that make us who we are. Today we will visit North Carolina and Memphis. These are two of the areas that started the barbecue revolution.

The North Carolina region got it’s start with the slave population as discussed above. Today it is still primarily pork products. There are ribs, but the pork shoulder plays a key role here. It is an inexpensive cut of meat, and does not dry out quickly when smoked. The dish that comes from this wonderful piece of meat is chopped or pulled pork that can be served on sandwiches. Some places actually use the whole hog to make the chopped pork. Using the whole hog, you have different flavors and textures that when mixed all together make a wonderful meal. Some people prefer sauce, but with pulled or chopped pork you want the sauce to enhance the flavor of the meat, not cover it up. Usually a thin sauce is used here. A combination of vinegar, salt, pepper, ketchup, and water, though all sauces vary. A nice added flavor and texture to this sandwich, is putting coleslaw right on top.

After the Civil War many of the freed slaves, moved to more urban areas looking for work and places to live. The art of barbecue came with them. One such city was Memphis. There were not a lot of restaurants to eat in and with such a sudden large influx of people a demand needed to be met. Lots of other kinds of meat were and still are barbecued there, but rib racks took precedent. Ribs took up less room and cooked quicker, thereby producing a larger amount of food to feed the hungry masses. The Memphis rib joints were born. Memphis ribs come wet or dry. The wet ribs are cooked and toward the end, slathered or basted typically with a thick, gooey sauce. Sauce is also served on the side. Dry ribs are cooked and then coated with a thin vinegary mop. Then they are coated with a dry rub seasoning. Sauce is still served on the side. Wet or dry, the best way to tell if your ribs are done: if you pick up a rack and it is still stiff, it’s not done. If it bends, it’s done. If you pick it up and it falls apart, they’re over done. Some people like them that way, but any real pit master will tell you that those ribs are just too far gone.

Next we will visit the Longhorns of Texas and then move north to Kansas City.

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