Actually, May is BBQ Month nationally but I like to think we really do it up brown ( pun intended ) here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. For such a slender little peninsula as ours, I think we’re lucky to have several luscious BBQ places here on the Shore, ( a special shout-out here to StingRays ), plus easy access to several more in nearby Virginia Beach, Whitner’s BBQ being my personal favorite in Tidewater. And a really well-known place, Pierce’s BBQ near Williamsburg, try to stop there to bring some carryout whenever we visit the historic area, at least 2 or 3 times a year. But some of the most delicious BBQ might be the homemade stuff, slathered with the family ” secret sauce”, ( the South being legendary for its love of BBQ and just about everyone has their special sauces and methods of cooking ), and served with time-honored favorite side dishes.
The flavor of the very first BBQ sandwich I ever had in Virginia surprised me completely, being used to what I now think of as typical Kansas City type tomato based sauces. Anyway, shortly after we moved to Virginia I was at a business meeting in Richmond where many of the other attendees were locals. When lunch break rolled around, they suggested what was described as a ” great BBQ place” nearby, which sounded good to me. At first bite I was surprised, not because it was so tasty, because I’d had many tasty BBQ sandwiches, but because it appeared to have no sauce, a “special sauce” being the holy grail of good BBQ. But , as promised by the group, it was really delicious, chopped pork, tender, moist, very flavorful. I told our server that I really liked it but wondered why it didn’t have any sauce. Honey, you aren’t from Richmond are you, said she, well, not only was I not from Richmond, I was brand-new to Virginia. Which is no doubt why I failed to recognize the premier BBQ sauce of Richmond, VA, boiled vinegar Sooey Sauce. Consisting of just vinegar, salt, a smidgen of sugar, black pepper and red pepper flakes gently simmered together for about 15 minutes and left to rest for at least 5-6 hours before tossing into fork tender pork which has been slow cooked in a smoker or covered grill and then coarsely chopped. As one can likely guess, this is now one of my very favorite BBQ sauces for chopped pork. Ribs, of course, are a different matter entirely and we’ll deal with ribs shortly.
So to make sure we are observing BBQ Month properly, very important indeed, we are going to turn a combo Mother’s Day/Dad’s B-Day party into a little cook off/pot luck, complete with whipping up several new and different sauces to evaluate. I am planning to try two great sounding sauces from amazingribs.com, the Chris Lilly Spiced Apricot Sauce and the Tennessee Holler Whiskey Sauce, both rib sauces. The plan is to grill the ribs, mopping them with the vinegar sauce to keep them moist on the grill, then glazing each rack of ribs with a different finishing sauce. Of course, a great BBQ isn’t just about the ribs, it’s about the accompanying side dishes. In fact, as I’m writing this little post, I have one ear tuned to NPR’s Sunday afternoon show, America ‘s Test Kitchen, and Chris Kimball is discussing the history of cornbread and the differences between Southern and Northern styles of cornbread. No question in my mind which is better, Southern style wins hands down. Made with almost no sugar and very little flour, just good ole yellow stone-ground cornmeal, eggs and buttermilk, it’s something you can sink your teeth into. Topped with a smear of butter and an ample drizzle of honey, now that’s a cornbread so delicious I don’t even feel guilty about abandoning my Northern roots to declare it the winner. And you must have cornbread at a BBQ, wouldn’t seem right without it, plus crunchy coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad with plenty of celery seed, fried apples and, of course, creamy, gooey mac and cheese. And at our house, either green beans or collards to help balance out all that starch ! So, we’re planning to do our part to celebrate BBQ Month 2013, hope everyone else is ready to enjoy this savory and delicious outdoor food. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed agent with Blue Heron Realty Co, 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA )