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Mon
20
Dec '10

In BBQ Hash We Trust


Southern Comfort Foods: Sweet Potato and Country Ham BBQ Hash Recipe

Book Excerpts and Food Articles by Doug DuCap

“If there was no faith there would be no living in this world. We couldn’t even eat hash with safety.”
–Josh Billings (AKA Henry Wheeler Shaw)

Despite our sometimes vast cultural or geographic differences, the foodstuffs we humans eat can be grouped into the following broad categories:

1) Meat & Poultry
2) Fish & Seafood
3) Dairy Products
4) Vegetables & Grains
5) Don’t Ask

The last group (one of my personal favorites) includes — in addition to most hot dogs — things like Scottish Haggis, Pennsylvania Dutch Scrapple, Mexican Tacos de Cabeza, and many, many other tasty dishes from around the world whose contents, it is widely said, are best left unexamined (hence the suppression of inquiry) in the belief that what you don’t know can’t make you retch violently.

It’s easy to see that there’s a homespun sort of common sense to that notion. Unless, of course, you’re the type who likes to torment others:

Guest: “These sausages are very unusual!”
Host: “Do you like them?”
Guest: “Yes, I do. I think they’re delicious, actually! What’s in them?”
Host: (quietly grinding homespun common sense under his heel) “Well, they’re the specialty of an island off the coast of Tasmania. You see, the natives take the gall bladders and prostate glands of these giant indigenous muskrat-like creatures, dry them in the sun, and…”
Guest: (pale and bug-eyed) “UR-UR-URGHHH! AAAAH-URGHHH-ECHHHH!”

For some reason, Carolina barbecue hash is often unfairly tossed under the Mystery Meat Bus. Granted, it is a bit unexpected on first encounter; hash is thought of as a more or less solid food, and is usually made up of diced meat of some kind along with a diced root vegetable, most often potatoes (as in corned beef hash) and diced whatever else (like the beets in red flannel hash.) In any case, it is, most emphatically, not a liquid.

No doubt about it, liquid hash is a tough idea to wrap your brain around. But the origin of the word ‘hash’, the Old French hacher, meaning to chop up, doesn’t indicate anything about stopping. One doesn’t even need to stop at the liquid stage. Theoretically, scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland could, at this very moment, be hard at work making Quark-Gluon Hash.

But questions about where they would procure sub-atomic fried eggs to top their hash with are not relevant here. What’s important is clearing up these misunderstandings about Carolina barbeque hash.

The Myth: The Ingredients Are Mysterious, Unspeakable, and/or Unnamable

Here’s what some folks believe the recipe for barbeque hash must look like:

1 extra large heap of guts
3-4 heads (preferably pork, but any will do)
12 hooves
10 lbs of anything else lying around
4-6 of anything that stops moving long enough
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

In a hellaciously large black cauldron, combine the first six ingredients (guts through onion.)
Boil the everlovin’ tar out of the whole mess. Grind thoroughly using a Mercruiser 200 hp Outboard Immersion Blender.
Adjust seasonings; serve over white rice. Laugh up sleeve at anyone fool enough to eat it.

The Fact: Back in the day, barbecue hash may indeed have been something of a ‘catch-all’ dish, but no more. It’s increasingly rare to find hash made with head meat or any sort of offal. Those few BBQ joints that do add liver or ears or cheek have a devoted following, including myself (for instance, I find the barbecue at the well-regarded Roger’s Bar-B-Q House in Florence, SC to be acceptable but not exciting. On the other hand, their peppery hash — redolent with liver and lord knows what — is absolutely off the chain.)

What really goes into hash? The ingredients are shockingly (perhaps even disappointingly) simple. There are additions and variations, of course, but it’s basically just pork barbeque, potatoes, onions, and some tomato product — most often catsup. Chop or grind it all up, add some salt, a good handful of black pepper, some water or stock, simmer the heck out of it, and you’ve got your basic barbeque hash. That’s it. The resulting reddish slurry is ladled over rice and forms one of the pillars (the others being coleslaw, pickles, and sliced white bread) of the pantheon of barbeque side dishes. (Note: we’re talking here about the purist’s pantheon, i.e., the roadside shack or old time version; other places may offer a dozen tasty side dishes like stewed okra, proper baked mac & cheese, collards cooked with smoked neck bones, etc.)

Pit masters (i.e., those who oversee the long, slow smoke-cooking of meats) are often proud and quite protective of their barbeque hash. Most have a secret ingredient or three (like spicy mustard, hot pepper sauce, or Worcestershire) that makes their hash (of course) the best. It’s the rare pit master who is careless or indifferent about his hash — and they don’t stay in business long anyway.

It all boils down to this: hash isn’t mysterious or even complicated. It does, however, require care. The ideal Carolina barbeque hash should be peppery, a bit tangy, distinctly smoky, and ineffably comforting. It should be the soft, savory, and reliable companion to the gleaming, slightly chewy white rice that sits next to your pile of tender, slow-cooked pork. It should be there for you, to soothe and delight you whether you’re 8 months old, cranky, and toothless or 80 years old, cranky, and toothless. Barbeque hash should be, ultimately, something in which — despite the vagaries and tumult and disappointments of life — you can have faith.

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast ForwardPlease join us soon to read our newest food and cooking feature on HuggingtheCoast.Com: Sing a Song of Shrimp: 41 Party Friendly Shrimp Recipes For Entertaining.

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(Photo Credit: Southern Comfort Foods: Sweet Potato and Country Ham BBQ Hash from Doug DuCap Food and Travel on Flickr.


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Tue
14
Dec '10

Sweatman’s Bar-b-que Review Part 1: Devour Much Flesh

Sweatman’s BBQ Restaurant Review: Holly Hill, South Carolina Part 1: Devour Much Flesh by Doug DuCap

Book Excerpts and Food Articles by Doug DuCap

“…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

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast ForwardPlease 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.

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast Forward

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(Photo Credit: Sweatman’s Bar-b-que: Holly Hill, SC 1 from Doug DuCap Food and Travel on Flickr.


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Tue
7
Dec '10

Bacon? Sure! But, Butt Bacon?

Imagine for a minute that you have a sibling who’s a wildy famous and universally adored celebrity. Everywhere you go, people swoon and sigh and ooo-ahhh at the very mention of your sibling’s name.

You, however, being the proverbial red-headed stepchild of the family, were given a name that makes grownups snicker and makes small children snort Strawberry Quik out of their noses.

Everyday, it’s the same thing: conversations that start with ‘OMG, you’re so-and-so’s brother? That is soooo cool!’ invariably end with ‘Bwwaaaa -haaaaaa-haaaaa!’ and the requisite knee-slapping, ROTFL-ing, and pink milk spraying.

Well, folks, that’s exactly how butt bacon feels.

And it’s more than just sad. It’s thoroughly unfair. For one, the ‘butt’ is misleading. Butt bacon comes from the upper part of the shoulder (confusingly called the ‘base’ or ‘butt’ of the joint.) It’s a thick slab cut from the top side of the Boston Butt roast and is wonderfully flavorful and meaty — often meatier than regular bacon — and it fries up so beautifully crisp that the very first bite will make you weep at the thought of the inevitable last bite.

(Bonus Question for Pork Snobs: Do you know what the real ‘butt’ part is called? Ham. That’s right, ham. You can glaze it with honey and you can decorate it with pineapple slices, but no matter how you spiral-slice it, it’s still the actual butt. Just thought you should know.)

Butt bacon can be dry-cured or brined and is often hardwood smoked just like its more famous kin. The real difference is price: because there’s less demand, butt bacon is often much cheaper — sometimes half the price of ‘real’ bacon. The downside? It can be hard to find outside of the South. If you’re game, though, you can make your own using a standard bacon curing / smoking recipe.

(The Southern Indiana Butcher Blog has helpful photos of the process, including how the cut is made, and some excellent pro tips.)

So, does butt bacon deserve more respect? Is it worth the effort to track it down? Just look at the picture. ‘Nuff said. And please, no more snickering.

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast ForwardPlease join us soon to read our newest daily food and cooking feature on HuggingtheCoast.Com: New and Delicious Seafood Recipes of the Week: November 30th to December 8th.

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast Forward

If you liked this article on HuggingtheCoast.Com, you might also enjoy:


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Find Out More About the Knack Fish & Seafood Cookbook by Doug DuCap and Linda Beaulieu Enjoy Doug's Original Seafood Recipes on About.Com Fish and Seafood Cooking

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Find Out More About the Knack Fish & Seafood Cookbook by Doug DuCap and Linda Beaulieu




Find Free Original RecipesRead Previous Posts Knack Fish and Seafood Cookbook

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