Long Live the Que!
Did you know that barbecue is a French translation meaning “Whiskers (barbe for beard) to the Tail (queue/cue)?”
My father grew up in western Alabama on a farm and his dad taught him at an early age to cook a whole hog. They did this in their backyard and it became a family tradition. Years later growing up in a small bedroom community outside of Charleston, SC, my father taught us at an early age how to cook a whole hog in the woods behind our Hanahan house in the early 1960’s. What fond memories that conjures up – the smell, the time to be with our dad (he was in the Navy and this was in between his times his ship was in port), and the taste of hickory cooked pulled pig. My favorite was then and still is the tenderloin!
After my father retired from the Navy, he became well known for his whole hog and BBQ cooking prowess. He did it for political fundraising, school efforts to raise money, celebrations of all types, and simply to have fun, eat good food, and fellowship! That led to my dad, brother, and myself forming a competitive BBQ cooking team in Charleston, Columbia, and Charlotte. I estimate we’ve cooked almost 100 whole hogs in competition or parties or fundraisers over the years, using the name “Whiskers to the Tail, A Crossley BBQ Tradition.”
Another fond memory is when our family went back to visit my grandfather, Floyd Crossley would always say to hurry back to see him and he would cook us a fat goat! We never did but we always found great BBQ restaurants traveling back and forth through SC. GA, and AL.
Roll out the barrel! My dad started out using a large barrel retrofitted with steel rebar and a shovel hole near the bottom for wood (hickory only in our family) to produce coals to place under the pig. We would shovel coals about every 20-30 minutes (this varied if we had fashioned a pit out of cinderblocks with a grate to lay the pig on or if we were using one of those newfangled cookers on wheels!) to produce enough heat to cook the hog for about 9-10 hours for a 125 pound pig.
Next, there was a debate brewing as my dad caved in to buy a cooker on wheels with a gas burner (he had gotten tired of buying and hauling large quantities of hickory wood to the site). My brother and I revolted because, now we lost the great hickory smoked into the meat taste. As all families do when an issue comes up, my dad found the perfect compromise – add a cubed wood box at the back of the trailer and pipe in the smoke from the hickory wood burning in the box – Problem Solved! The best of both worlds with the hickory flavor plus an even temperature of around 250-300 degrees (varied with the outside temps of the time of year cooking the meat).
A key factor in BBQ’ing is what sauce to use. There are many types of Sauce – Ketchup-based, Mustard-based, or Vinegar-based. In the south different regions like various types – Alabama & Georgia/red ketchup, North Carolina/clear peppery vinegar, & South Carolina all three in various parts of the state (midlands & lowcountry/mustard, pee dee/vinegar & upstate some of each including the ketchup or Kansas City type. The Crossley type was developed by my dad which was a blend of the ketchup and vinegar, with a light dose of cayenne pepper (now we do baste a special vinegar/pepper blend clear sauce for about an hour or two before putting the pig on the cooker).
Another decision point is after the whole hog is done (remember to make sure and check the cooked temps in all parts of the whole hog to assure the pig is done and not undercooked!) is to determine the serving styles – Chopped (fine of clunks), Pulled, or Sliced? The Whiskers to the Tail team always checks with the customer on their preferences but usually has some of all three styles available, plus the bonus of meaty ribs and some skins with meat (Kansas City and other places now call this Burnt Ends).
The next BBQ blog article will break down and list some of the old and new Charleston BBQ restaurants. The competition has really heated up with old places like Bessinger’s, Duke’s, Kelly’s, and Melvin’s now taking one new kids on the block like Home Team BBQ, Jim ‘n Nick’s, Lewis’ BBQ, Rodney Scott’s, and Swig ‘n Swine. Think about your favorites!
Your LovetoDineOut co-Navigator,