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John Brown Day!!! 260lb Gloucestershire Whole Hog BBQ

IMG_20130407_161132[2] See all the Event Photos HERE

John Brown Smokehouse brings LIC the best in good times. Who else in New York throws an event involving Harvard Professors, Blues Legends, and their own in-house Hog expert? As far as I know, John Brown is the only BBQ joint in New York with a person on hand whose sole job is to smoke entire pigs. Along with the festivities we had a congressman proclaim April 7th as John Brown Day with the smokehouse getting a large framed copy of the proclamation.

My mission was to smoke a 260lb pasture raised Gloucestershire Hog. That’s right. I had to cook a beast  who weighed more than the average NFL linebacker. The head alone weighed close to 50 and was larger than my chest. Now I don’t get that intimidated by large animals but this was pretty ridiculous. I approached this challenge with the biggest grin on my face ever.

Friday night we dragged my smoker over to JBS to get her situated. The plan was for the pig to go on at 9pm Saturday evening for over 18 hours of cooking.

Then at 3pm Saturday afternoon I get a call from my buddy Josh that the smoker was missing!

So aside from the fact that it really really royally blows to have someone jack your smoker. It doesn’t help that it’s compounded with the fact that I really needed to use it in 6 hours!!!  The mission then was to find a smoker with the capacity to handle my porcine leviathan. I could have driven up to Bridgeport, CT to grab my monster trailer but the logistics just were not there. We did have one offer to borrow two PR60 hog smokers but they were not on trailers and weighed over 300lbs each. This would require us trying to lift and fit these smokers on the back of my truck. Hernia and possible roadside accident awaited us.

Then we got word that Matt Fisher, one of the biggest wigs in the NYC BBQ pantheon, was willing to lend us his large reverse-flow smoker.

So it was a mad rush to get to Staten Island to pick up this smoker and get it to Long Island City. It was already 6pm by the time we started rolling. My chief logistics guy, Matt, darn near gave me a heart attack getting there. You have never seen a quarter ton pickup truck weave thru traffic that fast.

There seemed to have been some miscommunication in what ball size the trailer hitch was supposed to use and the smoker actually came OFF THE TRUCK!!! Thank Jesus we actually chained it in otherwise we might have made the 8PM news. Heck that would have been the first newspaper report about me ever. “Giant smoker smashes into BMW on Hwy 287”.

So after indeed having an heart attack, we reattached the smoker and wrapped the trailer ball with every cord, string, paper clip we had on us. Keep in mind that we are on the freakin’ HIGHWAY!!

I’m a decently religious guy but I’m fairly confident I have never prayed so hard in my life the whole 35mph trip back to Queens. Every bump and rattle made me die just a little more inside. Ever been on adrenaline for 40mins straight? Yeah no fun. I was more wound up than a cat left at the dog pound.

So now 11:30pm we finally got the hog prepped and thrown on to the smoker. Because it wasn’t a Carolina style hog cooker we needed to cut the animal straight down the spine and put her on 2 tiers.

Reverse flow cooking isn’t my favorite for hog. Fantastic for almost every other BBQ cut. But beggars can’t be choosers right? The one issue was after 9 hours of cooking the ash build up was keeping me from holding temp the way I wanted to. Essentially all that ash was choking off the airflow to my coals. Removing the ash was painful as the metal expanded making it almost impossible to pull out. We had 3 guys get it out and then push it back in.

By 4pm Sunday afternoon the hog was done and I actually had a chance to do some artistic arranging of the animal as you see in the photos.

As our Carolina custom, we pulled the meat, chopped it up with some of the crispy skin and seasoned it with my vinegar pepper sauce. The one GREAT thing about heritage breed hogs is the fat. All the lovely rendered pig lipid was just gushing out as we pulled the swine. This is was helps balance out the vinegar and mustard sauces that the Carolinas are so well known for. The issue people have with that isn’t due to the sauce; it’s due to our lean produced modern pigs.

The crowd loved the BBQ especially one of my bigger fans whose birthday it was. You’ll see her and her boyfriend in the photos. I figured what a better birthday gift than a Hog Drumstick? Seems like everyone got a big chomp out of it.

A gentleman from South Carolina told me the pork reminded him of home. All the affirmation I needed.

So despite our harrowing journey to the goal, we hit the finish line. A shout out to my crew not the least being fellow blogger WDM, will be coming tomorrow. Despite working with a new smoker and an bigger animal than I have ever cooked, we were able to produce amazing BBQ. Lots of big name pitmasters in New York were on hand to sample my pork and offer moral support. It was an amazing night.

The guests of John Brown Smokehouse were MORE than generous in tossing money into a collection bucket to help me get a new smoker. We collected over $300 that evening. While I might have been impressed with the size of my massive heritage breed hog, the hearts of our guests were far larger.

See all the Event Photos HERE

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aPORKalypse NOW 2013 - Whole Hog BBQ!!

aPORKalypse 2013_056 See ALL the Photos and food porn of aPORKalyspe HERE.

I live in Queens. Now this for a long time marks the complete opposite of hip. Queens doesn’t have the same sex appeal as Williamsburg and definitely doesn't have gentrified air of Park Slope in Brooklyn. What I have found lately is the massive booming food communities of Astoria and Long Island City (LIC). People are extremely passionate about their neighborhood  With Village Voice awarding #1 BBQ status to John Brown Smokehouse and the charcuterie savant Ian Kapitan cooking at Alobar, Queens might just give Brooklyn some competition for coolness.

This year’s aPORKalypse Now was featured at Alewife NYC – voted #1 craft beer bar in NYC by ratebeer.com. I’m no expert on cool but I gotta say, this had to have been one of the coolest bars I have ever been to. The place was MASSIVE! High ceilings would be an understatement. It was like a renaissance chapel built for the devotion to sacred suds. Two floors, thick sofas, AND a patio. Breath taking.

The mission was simple – three 100lb pigs were at my disposal to smoke and produce North Carolina BBQ. John Brown Smokehouse was given the call to provide BBQ and as the joint’s resident whole hog expert, my pit pulled up the night before the event ready go. In order to get 300lbs of meat into my smoker we sectioned 2 of the pigs into 6's – loins, shoulders, hams. This allowed me to jigsaw puzzle them into my pit. The last one I left whole and simply cut in half for show.

4:00 AM me and my partner, Angel Mercado, loaded the hogs into my truck and arrived at Alewife to fire up my pit with charcoal and thick oak logs. This took longer than I liked but as it was really early in the morning I didn’t want to wake up the neighbors with my flamethrower. If you have never heard my flamethrower before, it sounds like a jet exhaust. A perfect recipe for cops being called on me at 5AM. By 5 the hogs were on and the first cigar of the day with a much needed cup of coffee was at hand.

Maintaining the heat was royal chore! First off it was really really cold. So cold I heard the polar bears at Central Park actually called in sick. So I was firing up the pit 3 times my usual rate. Thanks to my trusty burn pit and shovel this wasn’t a problem. The one interesting thing about cooking hog is that more of your equipment actually comes from Home Depot than restaurant supply stores.

By 2:30 we pulled our first half pig off in order to feed the people from Session I. A bit of a miscommunication as I didn’t realized we were cooking for 2 sessions. It would have also been a logistical nightmare as I literally had 2.5 hours worth of sleep just to try and finish this pig for the evening session.

In the meanwhile my massive black pit provided lots of photo foder for my fellow New Yorkers who are not used to seeing a smoker the size of a small car.

By 4 all the hogs were done and we keep the process exactly as my teacher, Ed Mitchell, taught me. Picked the meat off the bones, chopped them, dressed with my vinegar pepper sauce and topped off the with crispy skin. Unlike other BBQ styles, I can’t just slice something and serve it on a plate. Cooking hog requires that you taste a lot of it. Adjusting seasoning as I go. So often times you’ll see me not eat a plate because I’m so full from tasting all that hog. With 3 hogs smoked, that’s a lot of pig I had to taste.

Our line was nonstop! We chopped a half hog at a time to keep feeding the hungry crowd. Most of the people there had never had North Carolina BBQ before. How much the crowd loved it was voting with their wallets. As part of their tickets, guests got a few drink tasting and food tasting vouchers. More tickets to me meant less option to taste someone else’s food. People came back for 3rds and 4ths! One gentleman loved us so much he placed his entire voucher supply on our table saying he didn't care to eat anything else for the evening but our hog!

As part of the gag I browned one of the pig heads in my firebox and placed it on the table as a center piece. I swear my pit and this pig’s head get more loving from the ladies than I could ever hope for. It was passed around, posed for photos, kissed etc. At the end of the evening a guy asked to take it home with I gladly gifted as it meant less cleanup for me. The missing pig head distressed a group of women though. Apparently they wanted to take the head home as well. I gave away the remaining two (raw) pig heads sitting at the back of truck. I never realized that women were so fond of raw pig heads. That’s some wife material right there.

aPORKalypse NOW 2013 was an amazing event. So happy to see so many people enjoy my BBQ and a great way to kick off a 2013 filled with BBQ events.

See all the Photos and food porn of aPORKalyspe HERE.

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Us, We, They, Them

In my most recent craft beer event cooking North Carolina whole hog BBQ, one of the more popular questions was where in North Carolina I came from. Many NC expats who attended the event told me my hog was exactly like how they ate back home and asked when was I returning to New York. For native New Yorkers I was part of “them” – folks living in the State of North Carolina, for NC natives I was part of the “us”.

This actually becomes more clearly funny once you realize that I’m ethnically Asian. It’s also significant to me given the implication of the question. Asian Americans do not really get associated with America. If a black man said he was from Texas or a white woman said she was from Montana, no further inquiry is needed. They quite clearly are American, we simply need to drill down and figure out what flavor of American are they. No one thinks about ancestries tracing back to Ghana or Western Bavaria. They are quite plainly American – red, white & blue no qualifiers needed. Being Black or White means you could basically be from anywhere in the US.

With Asians this basically never happens. You can’t just be from New York, or California, or Texas. The ever looming question of “where you are really from” is always the follow up. You basically aren’t just really American, you’re American-lite. Not one of us, just some folks we allowed in. The child of British immigrants to this country will receive the “American nod” immediately, while 3rd generation Koreans will still be questioned on their true heritage.

I have spent so much time researching North Carolina BBQ – techniques, seasonings, history, tradition – and apply it in my whole hog smoking, that I’ll tend to talk about “we” when referring to the Carolina-  style. What I do is no different than what some guy in Wilson, NC is doing in his backyard. Given the amount of practice I’ve had, I might even beat him. So the weekend was interesting. Through the world of BBQ, people asked not of where in Asia my grandfather’s from, but where in North Carolina I’m from. I’m not. But it’s nice for a moment to hear that I’m from my slice of the American pie.

News from around the BBQ Blogsphere

Obsessive Compulsive has a new official theme song and video for his competition cook team Man vs. Pig

BBQ JEW is on the trail following my teacher, the Pitmaster Ed Mitchell in his secretive upcoming restaurant in Durham.

BBQ Grail reviews the latest in BBQ gadgets! Eyewear?

No Excuses BBQ smokes up some game hens on the pit. Because who doesn't love to have their own bird? I know I don't like to share.

Man up Texas BBQ gives us some massive food porn both in front and behind the scenes at Black's BBQ.

Don O's BBQ picks up 25 lbs of Franklin's Brisket. Yes you read that right. TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS!!! Well that's a lb of beef a day. I'm sure my doctor would approve.

Texas BBQ Posse finds the best picture/comment EVER!! If you love all wood BBQ you gotta check this out.

Our State Magazine does a thorough review of Hillsborough BBQ Company in Hillsborough, NC. Pay the site a visit and definite make it part of your BBQ road trips.

Marie Let's Eat visits True BBQ in West Columbia SC. "The chopped pork is certainly worth trying. It’s smoked overnight on a mix of wood – Ernest told us that he smokes over whatever he can get, but prefers pecan when it’s available – and then chopped quite fine. It is smoky and lip-smacking good. Since Marie was trying the more Alabama/Georgia-styled tomato-based Sexy Lady sauce, I suppose that I should have tried the mustard-based Pretty Lady, but I’d already had a delicious mustard-based sauce at Jackie Hite’s for lunch and so went with an unnamed and thin Lexington-style pink vinegar sauce. Maybe they should call it Sassy Lady or something."

The MEATWAVE reviews DennyMike's Hot 'n Nasty BahBQUE sauce. "So many "hot" barbecue sauces don't deliver on the heat, but DennyMike's Hot 'n Nasty does, and I immediately give it props for that. Moreover though, the sauce builds great layers of barbecue flavor that are very bold out of the jar and bit more balanced and slightly milder after being cooked. The mouth scorching heat may make this a good choice mainly for heat seekers when used as a condiment or dip, but it created tremendous flavor on the chicken, and with more sweetness and less spice, I think it's something almost anyone can enjoy."

BBQ Sauce Reviews tests out the Gril-Lit automatic grill light. Because who doesn't love grilling in the dark?

Ed Mitchell BBQ featured on Mind of a Chef - Smoke

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My teacher Ed Mitchell was featured in the latest episode of Mind of a Chef starring super-star chef David Chang. The must have shot this video over a year ago as Ed had parted ways with the Pit for a while now. Great to see Ed Mitchell style whole hog BBQ being presented in such a wide forum.

You can watch the FULL VIDEO. Hurry. The free PBS preview expires in February.