Archive for the 'Pork Barbecue' Category

Take Me Out To A Ballgame

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Hey, Pittsburghers!  Pirates season is starting soon (the home opener is on April 13).  With the same team on the field as last year, I don’t think anyone really has expectations for better results than the bucs have been posting for the past fifteen seasons—but there’s a silver lining to that cloud of losering that hovers over our beloved hometown team: according to CNBC, the Pirates offer the lowest beer prices in the major leagues.

Not that anyone should interpret that as meaning ‘inexpensive;’ a 21-ounce beer (from a major brewery) will cost $4.75—almost $0.25 per ounce.  A call to the Pirates did not yield any word on what a beer from Penn Brewery will be going for at the park this season.

But, take heart—outfield grandstand seats are still just $9 a ticket, and, according to PNC Park policy, “Guests are permitted to bring bottled water and food that may fit into a 16″ X 16″ X 8″ soft-sided bag. Water bottles should not exceed 24 ounces in size, and must be clear, plastic, sealed and disposable.”–so except for a couple of beers, once you’re in the park, a fan on a budget need not purchase any other concessions to enjoy a meal at the game.

I recommend roasted vegetable salsa and a bag of tortilla chips as a tasty way to enjoy some nachos.

Or make some pulled pork barbecue (season, sear, and cook a pork shoulder at 300 F in a cast iron dutch oven for 3-4 hours, shred it, and toss with your favorite barbecue sauce) and pack the meat, cole slaw, and buns in separate containers to assemble your own barbecue sandwiches at your seat.

I’m not a big fan of luke-warm or cold- dogs; (in fact the only way I can really enjoy a hot dog is by smothering it with so much mustard that’s all that I taste), so packing frankfurters into the park doesn’t really make much sense.   But thinly sliced hot sopresatta would be a great ballpark snack.

If you’re looking for something a little more healthful, summer is a great time to enjoy a salad made with local greens.  Pine nuts, crumbled blue cheese, and a mix of dried cranberries and montmorency cherries creates a blend that goes great with a spritz of fresh lemon juice—thereby eliminating the need to carry a bottle of salad dressing or to wilt your lettuce by dressing it ahead of time—just cut a couple wedges of lemons and put them in the same container as the salad.

Cookies always make a great portable dessert.  And nothing makes you friends faster than passing around a tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Unless it’s passing around a tin of homemade chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips—now there’s a tasty confection!  Plus, having at least one component of the meal that you can share will help alleviate the dirty looks you’ll get from your neighbors who are shelling out hard cash for food that’s not as good as what you packed in.

Tell you what—you buy the tickets (make sure you get one for Aurora, too—I’m sure she’d want to come) and I’ll make the food.  If you really want a game day feast, I recommend getting something in sections 9-13.  I’d cook a nice meal for tickets like that.

Solution to the Barbecue Dilemma

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

I’m visiting my wife’s family for the holidays and we went out today for a look-see at the town where they live, including a stop at a local Kansas City-style barbecue joint for lunch. I’ve written before about my qualm with KC barbecue:

when I go to a restaurant, I like when they prepare my food for me, and that includes tossing the shredded meat with the sauce to evenly coat it. They’ve got the advantage of having large bowls in which they can toss the meat, whereas when they give it to you to dress yourself, you’re stuck having to pour it over the top–whereby half the meat gets loads of sauce and the other half is still nude.

Faced with the same dilemma today, I sprung into action, removing the barbecue from the bun onto the plate and setting the bun aside. Then, using my knife and spoon I tossed my pulled pork with the sauce of my choosing until it was evenly coated and reddish in hue, then returned it to the bun and covered it with an even layer of cole slaw. While I’d still prefer that barbecue places ask you which sauce you’d like and then coat your order with it, at least now I’m equipped with an adequate solution to the dilemma of the undressed meat.

A Couple of Thoughts About Barbecue

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

So while I’m on the topic of pulled pork barbecue, I thought I’d address the topic of what’s what.

Personally, I like Eastern Carolina style. It’s dressed with a spicy, vinegar-based sauce. It’s thin, liquidy, and dresses the meat in a visually subtle manner, though it packs a lot of flavor.

Go westward through Carolina and you’ll find a tomato-based sauce. I’ve only had this a couple of times, but to me it seems much more like the kind of barbecue sauce you’d get from the store: thick and red, with a standard, unsurprising flavor.

Don’t even get me started on South Carolina: they put mustard in their barbecue. It’s a travesty and it ought to be a crime (along the lines of putting tomatoes in clam chowder, which is rightfully outlawed in Massachusetts).

Kansas City barbecue is a strange phenomenon. You get the meat, and then the restaurant has a wall full of sauces and you can choose what you will to dress your own sandwich. I suppose a bit of variety can be a nice thing to have, but when I go to a restaurant, I like when they prepare my food for me, and that includes tossing the shredded meat with the sauce to evenly coat it. They’ve got the advantage of having large bowls in which they can toss the meat, whereas when they give it to you to dress yoursel, your stuck having to pour it over the top–whereby half the meat gets loads of sauce and the other half is still nude. I’d much rather they serve me a fully-prepared meal.

I’ve only been to Texas once. Houston. I hated it. Too many highways, too much sprawl, too many Texans. I may have been remiss in not having barbecue while I was there, but I was also stuck without automotive transportation in a non-walkable city, so my options were few. Nonetheless, I’m unable to offer an opinion on Texas barbecue except to say that I can’t imagine any barbecue good enough to lure me back to that hellhole of a state.

So You Want To Roast A Pig?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

I had this crazy idea to have a pig roast in the next month or so, after watching the Indonesia episode of No Reservations. I want to get a whole pig, fill it with herbs, and throw it on a spit in my yard. The first question is, how should I go about procuring a pig? I found this one place:

It looks like it will run about $230 for a 170lb pig. Any ideas for other places or is that a good price from a reputable place? The next piece of the problem is getting the thing gutted. The place above charges $110 for that. How hard is something like that to do myself?

Do you have any other suggestions for things I might be missing?



First off, wherever you decide to get the pig, pay them to gut it. It’ll be so much easier, and you won’t have to worry about entrails and noxious odors.

I’m familiar with Wilden Farms, and you’ll get a good product from them. A couple of other Pennsylvania farms offering responsibly raised pork are Mickley Organic Farms, 724.530.2207 and Heilman Family Farm, 724.353.1411. I’m not sure what sort of price they would offer for a whole animal, but it’s probably worth checking.

I’ve never actually roasted a whole pig on a spit. At one of the restaurants where I worked, there was a party that requested three whole pigs that the chef didn’t get in the oven soon enough and then had to turn the heat up on to get them cooked in time. The result was good, but not as good as it would have been if he’d done them properly, for a longer time at a lower heat. But that was in the oven, and I doubt if your oven would fit the whole animal (I know mine probably wouldn’t).

There’s a danger to cooking the pig for too long, though. When my dad was in the Navy, one of his superior officers held a pig roast for his whole unit. The guy in charge of cooking the pig claimed he knew what he was doing, dug a hole in the ground, built a fire, added the pig wrapped in a wet burlap sack (he wanted banana leaves, but they weren’t available), covered it up, and said that it would be perfect the next day. The next day came and everyone showed up at the party (where the side of the garage was obscured by cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon stacked it’s entire length and height). They dug the hole open to find nothing but ashes.

I’m not sure where they were getting their pigs from (I was a long time away from existing at this point), but somehow they ran out and procured another one (maybe the base got pigs in whole?) and started the process again. Trouble was, the house wasn’t on the base, it was in civilian-land, where the neighbors aren’t big fans of a yard full of Pabst-drunk sailors making a ruckus. The cops showed up and told them they had two choices: go inside (the small bungalow-type cottage) or disperse. Everyone knew the second they started their vehicle they;d be in for a DUI, so they all crammed into the cottage. The pig was nowhere near done and everyone was getting hungry, so they ate rare pig. No one got arrested and no one got sick, so there could’ve been worse outcomes to the day.

As far as successful pig roasts go, my mom’s family has occasional pig pickin’s that sound like lots of fun, but unfortunately I was never in North Carolina at the same time one was being held. They roast a whole pig, but not on a spit: on a grill made from a converted oil tank.

They flay the pig out and roast it slowly–starting it in the morning so it’ll be done by dinner.

When it gets to be almost done, they dress it with a vinegar-based sauce.

Finally, it’s ready: real pulled pork barbecue.

One thing that you might watch out for when you do roast the pig is the rendered fat: so long as the skin is whole, it’ll contain the fat. But once you cut into the skin, that opens a path for the hot fat to travel; if the pig’s over the fire, that could lead to some insanely large flames.

Not that any of that is much help toward your real question, how to roast a pig on a spit, the short answer to which would be, I don’t know. Here’s some advice from some folks who do know, though, complete with some bitchin’ photos to guide your work.

Good luck! I hope it comes out well.

Photo credit: Jim Sharrard