Thursday 2 June 2016

A barbecue or two

It turns out that this week's festival-for-raising-awareness-of-things-we-already-knew-about is National Barbecue Week. It's the 20th anniversary of it, in fact.

Apparently the average British family now barbecues nine times a summer. Since we barbecue about three times a week from April to October, that doesn't leave a lot of barbecuing for anyone else, but there you go. Of course, most of our barbecues are simple, after work affairs, grilling some sausages or some veg and minimising the amount of washing up that will need to be done. But on a weekend if the weather forecast is OK, we'll plan something that takes a bit more effort and is a bit more extravagant.
Brisket point
Project Brisket was such a success, and we still had the point half in the freezer, so we decided to have another go. With the added complication that we weren't going to eat it at our house. So we rubbed and we smoked, then wrapped it tightly in foil and towels and took it over to friends, where it finished cooking in their barbecue.

It wasn't as successful as the first one. I think we didn't give it long enough in the second half of the cook. It was delicious, but not as meltingly tender. You actually needed a butter knife to cut it. Paul was disappointed in himself.
Good bark, nice smoke ring
But honestly, if you hadn't tried the previous attempt you wouldn't have felt there was anything lacking.

We took a good portion of leftovers home, which made a fantastic salad (cold salad vegetables, warmed-through meat, tangy Thai-ish chilli and fish sauce dressing), with some sweet potato wedges.

Having scratched his brisket itch, Paul decided that ribs were to be the next target. According to Neil Rankin's excellent book Low and Slow: How to Cook Meat, American pork ribs have a lot more meat left on them, whereas pork belly is so profitable for butchers here that they trim really close to the bone. He does talk about the conversation you need to have with your butcher to get really meaty ribs, but that wasn't something I felt up for, so I just bought a couple of scrawny racks from the supermarket.
We rubbed them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika and smoked the living daylights out of them in a cool, humid barbecue, then poured on a tamarind glaze, wrapped them in foil and finished the cooking. Then, while they rested, I deep fried some okra and made a salad. The ribs were perfection. Just meaty enough, with excellent flavour, and tender enough to slip easily off the bones.
Jalapeno & cheddar cornbread to go with pulled pork
Having conquered brisket and ribs, Paul decided that pork butt was his next ambition. I removed the rind (it was going to cook too long, slow and humid for crackling) and put it in the freezer for some day in the future when I fancy making chicharrĂ³n. I scored the fat and rubbed the whole thing with a mixture of salt, pepper, fennel seeds and garlic powder (5g each salt, fennel and garlic, 10g peppercorns - made more rub than I needed).

Then the usual routine of long, slow smoking (apple wood, this time), then wrapping for the rest of the cooking time.

I couldn't be bothered making a sauce for it, so after we broke it up into chunks we just sprinkled it with a little Tabasco. We had it with cornbread, and an olive and orange salad. Some of the leftovers went into a sort of Chinese chilli sauce with aubergine and made a very satisfying meal the following day. I think we've held our end up for British barbecue.


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