Wow – so much has been going on since my last update! Life has been hectic, meat has been cooked slow and low, adult beverages have been consumed, and competitions have been both entered and lost! Let’s look back on my last post and see if some of our “Future” predictions came true.
- Practice – yeah, we’ve practiced. And in practicing, we’ve perfected our recipes, if not our processes (still working on that one.) We’ve learned how to cook whole pork shoulders, and I have to say – I like it better than Boston Butts for pulled pork ANY day of the week. Better flavor, prettier…just better. We (ok, I) tried cooking baby back ribs for the first time, and it was a dismal failure. More practice on that will be required, which you’ll find out if you read further. We’ve found an AWESOME rub and sauce sponsor, and with very minor tweaking, we’ve made his product our own and we’re ADDICTED to it. We have our flavor profiles nailed, we just have to work on our process.
- BBQ sauce – I abandoned efforts to make my own, even though I do from time to time. We use Big Ron’s sauce and tweak it just a bit to make it our own – we call it Paycheck Sauce, because it’s so money!
- Not only did Todd and I get trained as MBN judges, but we included our team legal advisor Larry as well! Larry is an invaluable addition to our team, because he provides unbiased opinions on our product and takes the judging aspect of it very seriously.
- Our first competition was entered. More about that below.
- Football season is in full swing – this week will find us on the campus of Auburn University to see our beloved Tigers play the Florida Atlantic Owls. I’ll be cooking burgers, brats, and hotdogs, and drinking beer the whole time…good times!
So more about the competition…
As I mentioned we might, we entered the First Annual Fire and Feast BBQ Festival in Yazoo City, MS early in September. It was our first competition, we were excited, and we got schooled.
We started out Friday morning with Todd, Juliana, and I headed to Mississippi with the pit, meat, and most of our supplies. Teresa, Brandy, Larry and Paul left around lunch headed to join us. We got a later start than anticipated, and received a phone call when we were about an hour out from the meat inspector wondering where we were – we knew him, and told him we were rushing there. We managed to make it there before the 3PM deadline, got into our spot, and started setting everything up. It was quite hectic getting everything set up, but we were cooking our shoulders (five of them) by 6PM. We enjoyed socializing, and were lucky enough to be parked by one of the teams who had helped with the judging class that we attended in August. We had a great time with them, and they gave us some very helpful advice – many thanks go to the Diamond D BBQ team for being our friends!
Around 5, the concerts started getting warmed up for the night. There were some REALLY good blues singers, some great jazz, and then there was some country and R&B. By the time the country music was in full swing (around 9-10PM) the rest of our team arrived. They left midway through the R&B set (it was painfully loud) and went back to the hotel, leaving Todd and I to tend to the camp for the night. We worked the fire, talked to a few late night cookers, and were joined by tens of thousands of mosquitoes. We put the ribs on around 3AM, and I tried to nap from about 3:30 to 4, but the mosquitoes had other ideas. Around 6-ish, Juliana came back to the camp and saved me (I was FREEZING…huddled around the firebox to keep warm!) by taking me back to the hotel. There, I was able to shower and get presentable and wake everyone else up. We got some breakfast and then all headed back.
When we all got assembled back at the site, it was time to finish decorating and getting ready for our blind box turn-in. At 11, judges started arriving for shoulder competition. We had a great time presenting to them, and all but one liked our sauce. Our shoulders were perfect – I was pulling out clean, white blade bones during the presentation, telling them how we exercise our pigs – just laying it on thick. That went really well, or so we thought. We got the notice that we didn’t get in finals, so that stress wasn’t added – we were disappointed, but not surprised. We sat back and waited for ribs, and then went through the process again. Let me tell you, presentations are exhausting! We had a great time again, but not a great feeling about ribs. We cooked spares, and they just weren’t too well received. The flavor profile was great – our glaze was awesome. They were a bit tough, though, and MBN judges are just looking for baby backs. Oh well – back to the drawing board for that one. We knew we wouldn’t make finals in ribs, and we were correct.
After the presentations, Teresa and I, along with Brandy and Larry headed back to the hotel for a nap. I got about 2.5 hours of DEEP sleep, and woke up very refreshed. I took a shower (I was filthy) and headed back to the site, donning my lucky Auburn shirt since we’d won against Mississippi State (we toted a lot of grief over our Auburn tent at the cook site.) We went back for the awards ceremony after hearing some really good feedback from our on-site judges. We didn’t expect anything in ribs, but we were looking for a shoulder call in the back of our minds – but it was not to be. We placed next to last in both categories, much to our dismay. Yeah, we were a little surprised over shoulders, but we were told that the blind judging was very close, as was the on-site judging. Sure, we were good, but most everyone else was too. We left the competition dejected, but with heads high because we knew our scores, and they weren’t bad – just not good enough.
We headed out to a team dinner and got a mediocre meal at insanely high prices with the worst service I’ve ever gotten. We said goodbye to that place and headed back to the hotel – we were going to stay up and discuss our performance over some fine bourbon, but we just couldn’t keep our eyes open. The drive home the next day was fun, but long…and we left Mississippi just like we found it, only with lighter wallets and many more mosquito bites (for the record, I was in a conference call on Monday and got bored and started counting the bites on my right arm below the elbow – I counted 23 bites, and that was the least bitten part of my body!)
We’re going to round out the fall with some judging and some football, and cook a few parties along the way. We’re looking forward to our next competition, wherever that might be. In the meantime – practice might not make perfect, but it damn sure makes us fat!