Whole Hog BBQ - West Tennessee by Joe York
It's been a few years since I last watched this video and it's interesting watching it again. What's striking about the video is the hyper-regionalism of the West Tennessee style. Whole hog is the trademark style of Eastern North Carolina and it's something that translates well into popular culture.
John T Edge noted correctly that just because you have several states that do whole hog bbq over hardwood embers that they are definitely not the same. For most people, the separation is largely the sauce. In Western Tennessee it's the actual parts of the pig themselves. Us Eastern Carolina stylists like to mix the various parts of the pig together so that you get a blend of the lean and the fatty. So in West Tennessee, one does not order a plate of barbecue. They'll ask for either loins, or hams, or shoulders etc. 2 specialty cuts they'll ask for are
- Middling - aka bacon
- Catfish - the tenderloin
I'd imagine the "catfish" being pretty popular. In North Carolina pig pickings, the ribs, loins, and the catfish are separated out for the pitmasters before everything is chopped together. Got to give the pit crew something for their efforts.
The other difference between Carolina whole hog and Tennessee is that the Carolinia's fire it a bit hotter. The fear of the loins drying out is less pronounced as everything is mixed together. The guys in Tennessee cook it REALLY LOW and REALLY SLOW. This produces a hog which is more tender but it also limits the amount of fat rendering. For Carolina hog you need to have the fat render properly otherwise the meat will boil in the fat and produce a greasy texture.
Incredibly what's causing the tradition in this area to die out is not labor cost or regulations but the simple fact that several meat processing plants have closed in the area. The readily accessible source of whole animals have dwindled.
After so many years since watching this video and several hogs later. It's interesting what you missed the first time around. I've watched this video many many times when it first came out but didn't have the knowledge nor background in order to interpret what I was watching. Gives one a shiver now on what I'm "seeing" in front of me but realistically am seeing nothing.