“…it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.”
–The Book of Revelation
There was a power outage during one of my visits to Sweatman’s Bar-b-que. But before I tell you about that, I need to share — by way of illustration — a joke.
The rescue team finds a crashed airplane. The lone survivor is chewing on a bone, with a huge pile of human bones next to him, and the rescuers are shocked.
He says, “You can’t judge me for this. I had to survive.”
The leader of the rescue team says, “But dammit, man . . . your plane only went down yesterday!”
I share the above joke with you because my very first thought during the power outage was this: ‘I’d better go get some more ribs from the buffet before they’re all gone.’
It’s kind of embarrassing, really. But faced with the possibility of being stranded without adequate resources in a potentially lawless and chaotic situation, I immediately began to revert to a semi-feral, every-man-for-himself state of carnivorism. Women and children be damned — when the power came back on I’d be found next to a huge pile of bones, hunched over like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, gnawing greedily on a rib.
Oh yeah, did I mention that this power outage — which lasted all of about 30 seconds — took place during daylight hours?
I’m not proud of this, okay? But I had to think about my survival. Don’t judge me.
In my defense, it’s likely that anyone who’s ever had the ribs at Sweatman’s probably wouldn’t consider it an overreaction to lunge for the buffet table at the merest whiff of impending social collapse.
Here’s why: Sweatman’s is what is reverently known as “whole hog barbeque.” Which isn’t to say other bbq shacks that only cook up pork shoulder or other cuts are by definition inferior, it’s just that whole hog ‘cue offers a wider range of textures and flavors than any single cut of meat can produce.
It also means, among other benefits, more skin (that crispy avatar of manna) and more possibilities. In Sweatman’s case, that means cutting out the rib sections, then sealing them up inside the pig before slow cooking the whole over a wood fire until it all reaches a tender, smoky perfection.
‘But the ribs are already inside the pig to begin with,’ you say, ‘What’s the point of taking them out just to put them back in?’
A good question. Think about it this way: most parts of a pig — such as the shoulders and hams — are quite thick; the ribs on the other hand are comparatively thin. And since bone is a good conductor of heat, by the time the thickest parts of the pig are cooked through and tender, the ribs may be overcooked and dried out.
Unless…you put the ribs further inside the pig, where they can cook more slowly and be constantly basted by the flavorful juices and fats from the hams, tenderloins, belly, etc. Then, you end up with ribs that are not only tender, not only juicy, but also thoroughly infused with all the flavors and aromas that a succulent, slowly oak-barbequed whole hog can offer.
It’s that sort of inspired technique – and the consequent results — that makes finding whole hog barbecue worth the effort. And it’s why Sweatman’s has been deemed “100-Mile Barbeque” (i.e., worth driving 100 miles to get there) by no less an authority than the formidable Lake E. High Jr., president of the South Carolina Barbecue Association.
One caveat, though: Start your trip early. Since there is far more of just about everything else on a hog than there are ribs, and since the ribs are in serious and heavy demand (often by big hungry fellows in Mossy Oak camouflage t-shirts), Sweatman’s has been known to actually *GASP!* run out of ribs during the evening dinner buffet.
But the good news is the lunch crowd is usually smaller and tamer. Which means if you get there during the afternoon, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get all the succulent ribs your greedy little heart will certainly desire. Just as long as you don’t get between me and the buffet table if the lights go out.
Please Join Us Soon to Read Sweatman’s Bar-b-que Review Part 2: Right Down to the Squeal
Please join us soon to read our newest daily food and cooking feature on HuggingtheCoast.Com: New and Delicious Seafood Recipes of the Week: December 9th to December 16th.
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