Monday, August 30, 2010
Pigheaded BBQ competed at the 2010 New Holland Summerfest on 8/27-28. This venue and the organizers continue to make New Holland, one of our favorite competitions. Unlike last year, this years weather was just about perfect. Not too hot, no rain and just a hint of a chill in the air at night. Some of the categories changed for this year one of which got us a little excited. The organizers switched from sausage to a chili category and we were happy to try that out. More on that later.
I think we set a record in attendance by friends and family at one of our comps. We were supported by many of each and they made us feel special. Thank you for your support. Of course we did feed them, so I wonder which they were really here for?
Norma and I were met early Friday morning by Brian who helped us set up our site. We actually brought an extra canopy in anticipation of the expected throng of visitors. This gave us some extra room and enabled us to do our work and still have room for most if not all who showed up. Mike, Trina, Michael and Maddie arrived around noon and Stephanie and Bertie and Pat arrived around the same time. Some fine tuning to the site was done and prep work begun for the 6 categories we were entering. The only category we didn't enter was whole hog. We just don't have the equipment to do that yet.
After set up and initial prep work was done, I like to walk around and visit some of the other teams that are there. Most of them we know and I try to meet as many new teams as possible, but that doesn't always work out. I did manage to visit a couple of the food vendors though, as it's most important to keep up my energy levels for the chores ahead. At least, that's what I tell everyone.
Norma started working on the chili, assisted by Trina and Brian started on his Chef's Choice category. This was a prelude to the final prep work being done on the four meats that make up the core of all of our competitions. Chicken, Ribs, Pork and Brisket would be turned in in 1/2 hour increments starting at noon on Saturday. By late evening, Norma, the grandchildren and Bertie and Pat were safely ensconced at the hotel for the night while we set about putting the big meats on the smokers starting at 11:00PM. After the Brisket was put on at 1:00AM, I retired for the night while Mike & Brian stayed up watching the fires and whatever else they does in the middle of the night.
I got up at 4:45AM and gave Mike a break, then started final prep for the ribs. By 6:00AM we were ready for the coffee and breakfast supplied by the organizers. Big Mike was really eying up those "Long Johns" that were from Achenbach's Pastries I believe, but much to his credit, only one was consumed. Well by him at least, I won't say how many I ate. After breakfast, it was back to work and the pace picks up a bit. The cook went reasonably well and by 11:30, Chef's Choice was turned in. After the Chili was turned in at 2:00PM, the left over food was put out for our guests and family and I don't think anyone went home hungry. After that was awards time at 4:30PM
We all gathered by the stage and found some empty ground and set our chairs up waiting to hear our name called. The first name called was Pigheaded BBQ for 10th place in Chef's Choice. Brian did us proud and he,Michael and Maddie went up on stage to receive our ribbon for 10th place. The next category was Chili and Pigheaded BBQ was again called. This time for 9th place and Norma, our new "Chili Queen" went up with her entourage and accepted the 9th place ribbon. The next category we were entered in was Chicken. We again heard Pigheaded BBQ, this time for 7th place. Ribs brought us another ribbon, this time for 12th place and an honorable mention. We didn't hear our name called for pork or brisket, but overall were were thrilled to have won 4 ribbon's and a check for our efforts. I think we did ourselves proud. While there's definitely room for improvement, we were happy with the food we turned in, the good time we had with friends and family and after all, that's what this endeavor is all about.
Next up is the 2nd Annual Southern York County BBQ in Shrewsbury, PA on Sept 10-11. Hope to see you there.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Pigheaded BBQ just finished doing the 2010 Diamond State BBQ Championship at Dover Downs, in Delaware. It felt a little strange being here in the heat of August, as this competition has always been held in October. The organizers changed the dates, due to the historically bad weather conditions in the past years. I do feel that the late change in dates hurt the number of competing teams this year. The competition started out with 62 teams the first year and had grown to 83 teams I believe last year. This year there were 52 teams. Many teams had already set their schedule and had committed to other competitions being held in the weeks immediately preceding and following this one. It's very hard to do back to back competitions, let alone three weeks in a row and many teams decided to forgo this one for just that reason. Maybe with the change now in place, teams will have time to decide which competitions to do next year. Dover is just too close by for us to not do this one and the venue is very good.
This was a good competition for us. There were many family members in attendance and isn't that what this pastime is all about. The team worked well together as usual and everyone pitched in and performed their duties in the efficient manner that comes over time working together. My wife Norma and son Ron v2.0, came with me to the site early and helped set up our site and then stayed on for the duration. Mike, Trina, and Stephanie arrived later and preparations were begun. Meats were prepped, drinks iced, dinner cooked and the team settled in for the work ahead of us. Due to prior commitments, Brian and family arrive on Saturday and Brian jumped right in and pitched in with turn in boxes.
There were some very well known teams there and some we met for the first time. BBQ friends are some of the best people you will find anywhere. There is a true feeling of family there and we always enjoy seeing our friends at these competitions. I enjoy seeing the many different cooking rigs and BBQ pits and always learn something in the way of fine tuning our setup from seeing the thought out and sometimes ingenious layouts of the other teams. Little tricks can make competition life so much easier and efficient.
As night falls, teams wander around, socializing, sharing liquid refreshments, food and stories before getting down to the reason we're there. Then the business of putting the big meats on starts. Brisket and pork butts are put on first and this week brought some new twists for us. I had bought 2 large packer cut briskets from a new source and this would mean some adjustments. I usually cook brisket flats and these new ones were much bigger and would take more time to cook, so they would go on earlier than our usual ones. Mike had gotten some really big Boston Butts also, so these too had to go on earlier and we both set about putting these meats on, hoping we guessed right with regard to the timing of the cook. Then we sat around for awhile talking and catching up on each other's lives. I'm usually the first one to retire for the night after making sure that Raquel, our Stumps cooker is dialed in and humming along at the desired temperature. I will lay back in a reclining chair, in the trailer, but will generally only get about 1-2 hours of sleep. Mike, Ron v2.0, Brian, Steph and anyone else that's there will usually stay up longer and tend the fires. I think it's due to their younger age, but they will tell you it's because they're more dedicated and diligent than I. I think that's the drink talking myself, since our smoker is rock steady and needs very little effort to maintain temperature and we have an alarm that will alert us to any fluctuation.
As dawn approaches, I get up and Mike will get some sleep. I check on the brisket and butts, then start making preparation of the ribs and chicken that will be the next meats to go on the smoker. I rubbed the ribs and put them on the pit next. After that, since Dover had the facilities, I grabbed a quick shower, which is a real luxury at a competition. Most competition's are held in fields or parking lots and showers are a very rare treat.
We have a little time after that, so we eat breakfast, start making our turn in boxes and wait for the time to put the chicken on. If you haven't changed any of your meat preparations, or changed to larger pieces of meat, you usually have a pretty set timeline for when to prep and put the meats on the smoker and will have a set routine. We're getting there finally and this will make it a lot easier for future competitions.
Crunch time come quickly though and chicken is due in at noon, ribs at 12:30, pork at 1:00 and brisket at 1:30. This is a pretty hectic time for us and we, or at least I go into a zone and pretty much tune out the rest of civilization as we get our turn in boxes just the way we want them and do our best to get the boxes to the turn in table on time. Nothing is worse that being disqualified for trying to turn in an entry too late and that has happened occasionally, but fortunately not to us. Now there's nothing to do but have a toast to our efforts, start to do some cleanup up and site breakdown and wait for the awards ceremony where our fate awaits. Thanks to the friends and family how pitched in to help with the always tiring cleanup chores and thanks to the friends who came out to support us again.
Pigheaded BBQ assembled at the judges tent, where the awards ceremony is being held and wait with baited breath to hear our names being called. Chicken is first and we hear PIGHEADED BBQ for 5th in chicken. We erupt and myself and my grandson Michael walk up and receive out ribbon and check for our finish. We don't hear our names being called for ribs and later find out we placed 13th in this category. Pork brings us another 5th place finish and big Mike and myself walk up for that ribbon and check. Well at least I walked up, I think Mike floated up as he's had a great run lately as our pork cook, placing 10th, 10th and 5th in our last three comps. Brisket which we had high hopes for is a let down for us. We finish 21st in that category and we thought our brisket was spot on. As the top 10 overall finishes are being announced, we heard PIGHEADED BBQ announced as the 7th place overall. We are very happy with this finish, because as I said, there were some very good and well known teams here and we feel that we're steadily improving and really feel like we're in the mix of things right along with them. Well done team, now let's keep this momentum for next week in New Holland, PA. If any of you reading this is in the New Holland area on 8/27-28 stop on by and say HI. We enjoy visitors and would like to see you.