Summer is fading fast into my favorite time of year for barbecuing. The cool fall days make for pleasant long-smoke outings, and the crisp air seems to carry the smell of woodsmoke through the neighborhood with an almost playful lightness. With the change comes some restaurant specials — and a little overdue summertime housekeeping.
Let’s get to it.
Leaves are turning and so is the meat. Want to get into the swing of the changing season? Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company is throwing what it calls a harvest celebration with a Big Pig Prize-Winning Sausage Day.
Owner John Snedden bought a 257-pound blue ribbon Duroc hog at the Montgomery County Fair and is making a mild Italian-style sausage out of the animal. The specialty sausages are being served today, Sept. 13, at all four of the restaurant’s outlets. Snedden says there will also be a “schlop bar” of fixin’s.
Smoke Signals looked up the word “schlop” and still has no clue what it means. But I’d advise sensitive types against checking out its definition on Urban Dictionary.
It’s a generous deal. For $39, a pair of diners gets two pork spare ribs, two beef ribs, half a chicken and two 16-ounce sides of your choice. You also get two desserts, two Shiner draft beers and — here’s the weirdness — a 1/2 pound of “lean brisket.” Huh?
Why not just a 1/2 pound of brisket, period? For me, a guy who always orders from the moist (a.k.a, fatty) end where the beef is juicy and succulent, having to order lean (which tends to be drier and chewier) is a deal breaker. But here’s an idea for those who take advantage of the deal: Take the lean brisket home and chop it up with some sauce for a chopped beef sandwich.
The $77 value must be ordered by 8 p.m. Thursday. The voucher is good through Nov. 17.
When it’s just too far to go for the real thing. Summertime came and went and there were times when, I’ll admit, I cheated: I didn’t smoke the meat I ate. I instead tested some pre-cooked barbecue.
One sample in particular surprised me for its remarkably authentic flavor: the eastern and western (or Piedmont) styles of North Carolina chopped pork prepared by the North Carolina Barbecue Company. Both versions featured a light smoke (preferred in the state over the deep smoke of other regions) and a texture that, while almost minced, did not fall prey to mushiness or stringiness.
The meat is cooked for 12 hours in a hickory wood-enhanced electric smoker and shipped in vacuum-packed bags. To warm, you simply boil the meat in its bags (which seems wrong, somehow). A container of sweet mayonnaise-based eastern-style and ketchupy Piedmont-style sauces comes with your order.
For homesick Tar Heels, the FedExed bags of smoked pork offer a reasonable alternative to booking a flight.
Next up: barbecue olive oil? Another product that Smoke Signals tried and liked this summer was barbecue butter. It was developed by cookbook author Steven Raichlen in collaboration with the high-end mushroom and specialty meats company, Aux Delices des Bois.
The short roll of plastic-wrapped, barbecue-flavored butter works especially well with fish, steaks and vegetables that (perhaps counter-intuitively) are not grilled or smoked. A disc of the butter atop the hot foods gives them a smoky barbecue flavor, which, in a pinch, can substitute for, you know, actual barbecue.
Good and Dirty. The Giant supermarket chain has agreed to carry Todd’s Dirt products in 173 of its stores. This news comes on the heels of the Severna Park spice company being awarded a coveted Sofi Award at the Fancy Foods Show this summer in Washington; it won a silver for its seafood-oriented Crabby Dirt. Meanwhile, owner Todd Courtney is adding a new no-salt version of the Original called Low Down Dirt. Guess it pays to get dirty.