One of America’s Favorites – Barbecue in North Carolina

July 8, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Carolina style chopped pork barbecue

Barbecue is an important part of the heritage and history of the U.S. state of North Carolina. It has resulted in a series of bills and laws that relate to the subject, and at times has been a politically charged subject. In part, this is due to the existence of two distinct types of barbecue that have developed over the last few hundred years: Lexington style and Eastern style. Both are pork-based barbecues but differ in the cuts of pork used and the sauces they are served with. In addition to the two native varieties, other styles of barbecue can be found throughout the state.

North Carolina barbecue benefits from a wide variety of influences, from Native Americans, to colonizers, to enslaved Africans on plantations to more modern ones, such as newer equipment and methods to cook the meat.

Social events such as weddings, church events, or other celebrations are often conducted as a pig pickin’, where the main course is a barbecued whole pig, spawning a whole subcategory of catering that specializes solely in this craft.

There is a somewhat light-hearted feud that exists between the proponents of the two types of barbecue: Lexington style and Eastern style. Author Jerry Bledsoe, the self-professed “world’s leading, foremost barbecue authority” claimed that Dennis Rogers, (columnist for The Raleigh News & Observer and self-professed “oracle of the holy grub”) “has ruined any chances of this state being distinguished in its barbecue.” While a degree of humor is involved, choice of barbecue type is a politically charged topic. In 2006, North Carolina House Bill 21 and North Carolina Senate Bill 47 were introduced (and ultimately defeated), sparking controversy over one of the two different styles being declared “official”, as they would have made the Lexington Barbecue Festival the official barbecue festival of North Carolina.

In a political compromise in 2007, NC House Bill 433 passed, granting the Lexington Barbecue Festival the title of “Official Food Festival of the Piedmont Triad Region of the State of North Carolina”. This effectively bypassed any controversy regarding Eastern barbecue and the region, and prevented any confusion with the title creating a singular, official barbecue for the entire state.

Types of barbecue

Lexington Barbecue Festival

Lexington style
Lexington style barbecue (occasionally referred to as Piedmont or Western style) uses a “red” sauce/dip that is seasoned with vinegar (ideally apple cider vinegar) with a little ketchup , and usually red pepper flakes, along with other spices that vary from recipe to recipe. It is most common in the Piedmont (central) and western areas of the state. This style uses only the pork shoulder section of the pig. As with other styles of barbecue, the recipes vary widely, and can include many different ingredients, and range from slightly sweet to hot and spicy. The dip also serves as the seasoning base for “red slaw” (also called “barbecue slaw”), which is coleslaw made by using Lexington-style barbecue sauce (or similar) in place of mayonnaise. Hushpuppies are usually consumed with pork shoulder and slaw.

Eastern style
Eastern-style barbecue is a whole-hog style of barbecue, often said to use “every part of the hog except the squeal”. Eastern-style sauce is vinegar- and pepper-based, with no tomato whatsoever. With Eastern Slaws, the ketchup disappears, and the mayonnaise (or whipped salad dressing) is almost universal.

Pork ribs
Pork ribs are a common alternative to the two most common types of North Carolina barbecue and a variety of festivals and competitions, such as the Twin City RibFest, are held annually. Baby Back Ribs, sometimes called top loin ribs, are short, succulent, well-marbled ribs cut from the center section of the loin. Spareribs come from lower down the rib cage (from the sides and upper belly of the pig). Larger and longer than baby backs, they contain more connective tissue, so are a little tougher, but more flavorful.

Cooking methods

Pit style
A pit barbecue is a method and constructed item for barbecue cooking meat and root vegetables buried below the surface of the earth. Indigenous peoples around the world used earth ovens for tens of thousands of years. In modern times the term and activity is often associated with the Eastern Seaboard, the “barbecue belt”, colonial California in the United States and Mexico. The meats usually barbecued in a pit in these contexts are beef, pork, and goat, with pork being the predominant choice in North Carolina.

Pit barbecue can also refer to an enclosed, above-ground “pit” such as a horno or outdoor pizza oven. The method of cooking the meat is slow, using various hardwoods to flavor the meat. This breaks down the connective tissue in the meats, producing a tender product. The types of meat cooked in this fashion include both beef and pork.

Smoke box style

A wood-fired barbecue pit.

Contrast to grilling

Oftentimes the two phrases “barbecuing” and “grilling” are mistakenly used as interchangeable words, although they imply completely different cooking methods. Grilling is a cooking method that uses dry heat, supplied by burning wood, charcoal or gas flame, and the heat is applied to the surface of the food being cooked. Typically food is cooked quickly using this method. Barbecuing is a slower process that uses lower heat and often the food is cooked by the heat of the smoke itself, rather than directly by the heat of the burning wood.

Barbecue related festivals

The Lexington Barbecue Festival is a one-day festival held each October and attracts 160,000 or more visitors to Lexington, North Carolina. The festival is held each October in uptown Lexington, a city of approximately 20,000 residents. Several city blocks of Main Street are closed to vehicle traffic for the event. In addition to a barbecue competition there are carnival rides, a number of music and entertainment venues, and over 100 vendors from all over the region participating. It is the Official Food Festival of the Piedmont Triad Region of the State of North Carolina.

In 2012, the US News and World Report ranked Lexington as #4 on its list of the best US cities for barbecue.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Barbecue in the United States

July 1, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A slab of barbecued pork ribs at Oklahoma Joe’s in Tulsa.

In the United States, barbecue refers to a technique of cooking meat outdoors over a fire; often this is called pit barbecue, and the facility for cooking it is the barbecue pit. This form of cooking adds a distinctive smoky taste to the meat; barbecue sauce, while a common accompaniment, is not required for many styles.

Often the proprietors of Southern-style barbecue establishments in other areas originate from the South. In the South, barbecue is more than just a style of cooking, but a subculture with wide variation between regions, and fierce rivalry for titles at barbecue competitions.

There are 3 ingredients to barbecue. Meat and wood smoke are essential. The use of a sauce or seasoning varies widely between regional traditions.

The first ingredient in the barbecue tradition is the meat. The most widely used meat in most barbecue is pork, particularly the pork ribs, and also the pork shoulder for pulled pork. The techniques used to cook the meat are hot smoking and smoke cooking. These cooking processes are distinct from the cold smoking preservation process. Hot smoking is where the meat is cooked with a wood fire, over indirect heat, at temperatures between 120 and 180 °F (50 and 80 °C), and smoke cooking (the method used in barbecue) is cooking over indirect fire at higher temperatures, often in the range of 250°F (121°C) ±50°F (±28°C). The long, slow cooking process take hours, as many as 18, and leaves the meat tender and juicy. Characteristically, this process leaves a distinctive line of red just under the surface, where the myoglobin in the meat reacts with carbon monoxide from the smoke, and imparts the smoky taste essential to barbecue.

The second ingredient in barbecue is the wood used to smoke the meat. Since the wood smoke flavors the food, the particular type of wood used influences the process. Different woods impart different flavors, so the regional availability of the various woods for smoking influences the taste of the region’s barbecue. Smoking the meat is the key, as otherwise cooking meat over an open flame is simply “grilling” the meat, whereas barbecue is the actual process of “smoking” it.

* Hard woods such as hickory, mesquite, pecan and the different varieties of oak impart a strong smoke flavor.
* Maple, alder, and fruit woods such as apple, pear, and cherry impart a milder, sweeter taste.
Stronger flavored woods are used for pork and beef, while the lighter flavored woods are used for fish and poultry. More exotic smoke generating ingredients can be found in some recipes; grapevine adds a sweet flavor, and sassafras, a major flavor in root beer, adds its distinctive taste to the smoke.

The last, and in many cases optional, ingredient is the barbecue sauce. There are no constants, with sauces running the gamut from clear, peppered vinegars to thick, sweet, tomato and molasses sauces to mustard-based barbecue sauces, which themselves range from mild to painfully spicy. The sauce may be used as a marinade before cooking, applied during cooking, after cooking, or used as a table sauce. An alternate form of barbecue sauce is the dry rub, a mixture of salt and spices applied to the meat before cooking.

Typical plate of chopped pork barbecue as served in a restaurant with barbecue beans, sauce and Texas toast

The origins of American barbecue date back to colonial times, with the first recorded mention in 1672 and George Washington mentions attending a “barbicue” in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1769. As the country expanded westwards along the Gulf of Mexico and north along the Mississippi River, barbecue went with it.

The core region for barbecue is the southeastern region of the United States, an area bordered on the west by Texas and Oklahoma, on the north by Missouri, Kentucky, and Virginia, on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. While barbecue is found outside of this region, the fourteen core barbecue states contain 70 of the top 100 barbecue restaurants, and most top barbecue restaurants outside the region have their roots there.

Barbecue in its current form grew up in the South, where cooks learned to slow-roast tough cuts of meat over fire pits to make them tender.

These humble beginnings are still reflected in the many barbecue restaurants that are operated out of “hole-in-the-wall” (or “dive”) locations; the rib joint is the purest expression of this. Many of these will have irregular hours, and remain open only until all of a day’s ribs are sold; they may shut down for a month at a time as the proprietor goes on vacation. Despite these unusual traits, rib joints will have a fiercely loyal clientele.

Barbecue is strongly associated with Southern cooking and culture due to its long history and evolution in the region. Indian corn cribs, predecessors to Southern barbecue, were described during the Hernando de Soto expedition in southwest Georgia, and were still around when English settlers arrived two centuries later. Early usage of the verb barbecue, derived from Spanish barbacoa, meant “to preserve (meat) by drying or slowly roasting”; the meaning became closer to that of its modern usage as a specific cooking technique by the time Georgia was colonized. Today, barbecue has come to embody cultural ideals of communal recreation and faithfulness in certain areas. These ideals were historically important in farming and frontier regions throughout the South and parts of the Midwest with influences from the South. As such, due to the strong cultural associations that it holds in these areas, barbecue has attained an important position in America’s culinary tradition.

Parts of the Midwest also incorporate their own styles of barbecue into their culinary traditions. For example, in Kansas City, barbecue entails a wide variety of meats, sweet and thick sauces, dry rubs, and sliced beef brisket. Kansas City barbecue is a result of the region’s history; a combination of the cooking techniques brought to the city by freed slaves and the Texas cattle drives during the late nineteenth century has led to the development of the region’s distinctive barbecue style. Barbecue as a cultural tradition spread from the South and was successfully incorporated into several Midwestern regions such as western Missouri, again owing to the cultural ideals that the barbecue tradition represents and the need for locals to express those ideals. Variations of these ideals by region are reflected in the great diversity of barbecue styles and traditions within the United States.

Barbecue has been a staple of American culture, especially Southern American culture, since colonial times. As it has emerged through the years many distinct traditions have become prevalent in the United States. The pig, the essential ingredient to any barbecue, became a fundamental part of food in the South in the 18th century because the pig requires little maintenance and is able to efficiently convert feed to meat (six times quicker than beef cattle). As a result of the prevalence of hogs in the South, the pig became synonymous with Southern culture and barbecue. The origins of the pig symbol with Southern Culture began as a result of its value as an economic commodity. By 1860, hogs and southern livestock were valued at double the cotton crop, at a price of half a billion dollars. The majority of pigs were raised by residents of the South and as a result the pigs contributed considerably to the economic well-being of many Southerners.

A barbecued pig

Pigs and barbecue were not only valuable for economic reasons but barbecue “scores of hog” were set aside for large gatherings and often used as an enticement for political rallies, church events, as well as harvest festival celebrations. Barbecues have been a part of American history and tradition from as early as the first Independence Day celebration. In the early years, Independence Day was celebrated as a formal civil gathering, in which egalitarian principles were reinforced. The traditions of Independence Day moved across the country as settlers traveled to western territories. By the 19th century, the role of barbecue in public celebration and political institutions increased significantly and it became the leading practice of communal celebrations in the South as well as the Midwest. The important social, political, and cultural gatherings of barbecues have spanned three centuries and its cultural significance remains important today.

While the wide variety of barbecue styles makes it difficult to break barbecue styles down into regions, there are four major styles commonly referenced, Carolina and Memphis, which rely on pork and represent the oldest styles, and Kansas City and Texas, which use beef as well as pork, and represent the later evolution of the original Deep South barbecue. Pork is the most common meat used, followed by beef and veal, often with chicken or turkey in addition. Lamb and mutton are found in some areas, such as Owensboro, Kentucky (International Bar-B-Q Festival), and some regions will add other meats…………..
(To be continued)

 

Sunday’s Chicken Dinner Recipe – Spicy Apricot Glazed Chicken

February 17, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in Diabetes Self Management, Sunday's Chicken Dinner | Leave a comment
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This week’s Sunday’s Chicken Dinner Recipe – Spicy Apricot Glazed Chicken. Just the name gets the mouth watering! Chicken Breasts topped with a mixture of ginger, apricot spread, vinegar, pepper flakes, and olive oil and then baked. The dish is only 215 calories and 15 net carbs. You can find this recipe at the Diabetes Self Management website which has a fantastic selection of Diabetic Friendly Recipes to please all! So Enjoy and Make 2019 a Healthy One! https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/

Spicy Apricot Glazed Chicken

Preparation time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 25 minutes.
Ingredients
Nonstick cooking spray
2 four-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Smuckers Simply Fruit Apricot Spreadable Fruit
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper

Directions
* Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a small baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place the chicken breasts on the sheet. Combine the ginger, apricot spread, vinegar, pepper flakes, and olive oil in a small bowl with a fork or small whisk. Using a pastry brush or small spoon, spread the mixture evenly on the tops of the chicken breasts. Place in the oven, and bake for approximately 25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with black pepper before serving.

Yield: 2 servings. Serving size: 1 breast.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 215 calories, Carbohydrates: 19 g, Protein: 19 g, Fat: 7 g, Saturated Fat: 3 g, Cholesterol: 45 mg, Sodium: 493 mg, Fiber: 4 g
https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/recipes/main-dishes/spicy-apricot-glazed-chicken/

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

November 6, 2018 at 6:00 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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Cutting back on salt…….

Add a splash of olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice close to the end of cooking time or to cooked vegetables – it can enhance flavors in the same way as salt.

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

February 2, 2018 at 6:36 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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I hate peeling hard-boiled eggs……….

Looking for an easy way to peel hard-boiled eggs? Try adding baking soda or vinegar to the water when boiling.
* Thank you to Edie for passing this hint along!

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

November 11, 2017 at 6:25 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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A money-saving hint………

Before discarding the empty catsup bottle, pour some vinegar into the bottle and use in making French dressing.

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

July 16, 2017 at 5:38 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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When Poaching Eggs…..

 

Vinegar, or even lemon, helps the egg whites to set more quickly and we get fewer wispy bits when you add a tablespoon or two to the simmering water.

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

July 11, 2017 at 4:50 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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Just a little Vinegar……..

 

Add a little vinegar to the water to cut down on odors when cooking cabbage or cauliflower. Thank you to Flora for passing this hint along!

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

June 23, 2017 at 5:25 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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Thank you to Carol for passing this hint along……..

 

Before discarding the empty catsup bottle, pour some vinegar into the bottle and use in making French dressing.

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

December 19, 2016 at 5:46 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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To cut down on odors when cooking cabbage, cauliflower, etc., add a little vinegar to the cooking water.

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