Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

Appears in

Method

Barbecue in the Lowcountry means pork, cooked slowly over smoldering wood. It’s man’s work, and it’s an all-night affair. Barbecue restaurants here are open, almost without exception, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from about 11 o’clock in the morning until 9 in the evening—all you can eat. Unsauced meat—three shoulders to one ham—pulled from the bones, then roughly chopped, is eaten on sandwiches or piled high on a plate with white rice covered with “hash,” pickle slices, coleslaw, and fried skins. Huge pitchers of iced tea and loaves of white bread share the picnic-style tables with bottles of the traditional reddish sweet mustard-based sauce, as well as a spicy hot thin vinegar sauce. Banana pudding is offered to those who have room for dessert.

When barbecues are given al fresco, the whole hog is cooked over a pit dug in the host’s yard. Cinder blocks hold a grill, 4 by 6 feet, about a foot over the coals. The entire pit is covered by a hinged top. An upright 50-gallon drum, with both the top and bottom removed and a grate inserted a foot above the base, holds a roaring fire of green hickory and oak. As embers fall through the grate to the ground, they are removed by shovel to the pit. A split hog is hot-smoked over the coals for several hours, the men taking turns tending the fire and refilling “coozies” (the foam rubber holders for beer cans that keep beers cold and hands warm).

The hash too is cooked outside over a gas burner. Traditional hashes, sometimes called “liver hash,” contain a Boston butt (the shoulder), the hog’s head, several organ meats, and tomatoes, all cooked for a long time until the meat falls apart and the consistency of the sauce is uniform. Nowadays restaurant hash is likely to contain no hog’s head and certainly no organ meats. When invited to a barbecue, I offer to cook the hash. A shoulder, a head, and a liver are simmered in homemade tomato catsup to cover. When the meat begins to fall off the bones, I strain out the solids, then add the shredded, cooked meat of the shoulder to the sauce. It is awfully rich, but people love it over rice.

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