5 September 2012

Q-ing Up

And so it begins... As mentioned a few weeks back, this summer signals the start of Grillstock 2013. Well, you can never be too prepared, right? Particularly when the sort of self-set challenge has to cope with living arrangements - second floor flat, no balcony - and the gallons of rain that have made up Summer 2012. 

A few weeks ago, a group of my old college friends, their partners and kids got together for a BBQ. It seemed the perfect opportunity to have a first stab at some of the Grillstock rounds, particularly following a very generous phone call from the lovely Simon at Aubrey Allen. Having seen my Tweets about Grillstock - and having spent a great morning watching their butchers in action earlier in the year - Simon offered some very generous assistance: incredibly generous as it turned out. If I needed some "practice meat", he'd see what they could do. Having never cooked brisket, and knowing the importance of the cut in BBQ competitions, I was keen to have a crack at that. I also wanted to get to grips with "pork butt" which, despite the name, is the shoulder of the pig. "Do you want bone in or off the bone?" asked Simon. Thinking I should do this as old school as possible, I opted for bone in... which is why I returned home a couple of days later to discover two boxes on the doorstep, one of which had a trotter sticking out of it. The trotter turned out to be attached to some nine kilos of pork while the box below contained 12 kilos of brisket - like I say, incredibly generous. And the sort of generosity that required a lot of fridge shelf rearranging... 
Two litre milk bottle shown for scale






































Storage wasn't the only logistical problem. The joints were also too big for the BBQs available so a little more butchery was required.  For the brisket, that meant me, a sharp knife and rough sense of how to hack it into workable chunks. For the entire leg of pork, that meant a trip to our excellent local butcher who happily sawed it in half: bet they wouldn't do THAT in Morrison's... 


The results were two pan-sized chunks of meat (plus "spares" or "Sunday lunch for the foreseeable" as I prefer to see them) that would now fit on the BBQ. Before that happened, of course, they had to be seasoned. While the plan for Grillstock 2013 / the magazine piece is a wide variety of recipes that don't all taste the bleeding same, for this first test I wanted traditional and Texan which essentially means dry rubs. Having pored over the ridiculous collection of BBQ books I now possess for that one killer recipe, I decided that the recipes were just a guideline... mostly because a lot of them prescribe pre-made spice mixes that you can't get in the UK or that you can but which require 28 days delivery. Cross referencing a few though and certain flavours - salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chilli, garlic, onion powder, etc - featured everywhere so I decided I couldn't go too far wrong with variations on all of the above packed in and over the two joints. I also had a few "twists" I could bring to the table: some Indonesian Long Peppers I'd been given by the excellent Peppermongers and also some Raw Liquorice Powder from Lakrids. The Indonesian peppers have a sweetness to them that brings to mind cinnamon, which seemed an appropriate addition to the brisket. The aniseed of liquorice brought to mind the flavour of fennel and we all know how good that is with pork. 

So, rubs were applied, joints were left to absorb the flavours, ovens were fired up, time calculations were made - "if we want to eat this at 2pm tomorrow, it's got to go in about 6pm tonight" - and the "low and slow" began... 

I won't bore with the specifics of these dishes, the monitoring of temperature and a minute-by-minute account of how it cooked. I will though stress the importance of the resting time (much longer than you'd think - and amazingly the brisket was still warm to the touch some five hours off the grill) and to avoid my single biggest mistake, which was the use of the brisket cooking juices rather than the resting juices. The cooking juices were, thanks to the rub, massively salty. The juices that drip out during the two, three hour resting period, are deep and savoury. As a result the first slices were damn near inedible. Cock-up noted though and the remainder was one of the best things I've ever cooked and another reminder - like I / you need one - that if you start with good ingredients, it's very difficult to mess it up entirely. 

It was a similar story with the pork. I learned that I can certainly risk more liquorice powder - there was a fleeting pleasing hit but it needed more, but probably better that way than it tasting like an allsort - and that it could take greater heat in the final stages to get the fat really crisping without drying out the interior. Even so, it was a winner. The bone slid clean out, it fell apart into soft strands and, mixed with some homemade BBQ sauce (with a little habanero-infused peach juice in the ingredients) and the resting juices, it made a knockout sandwich or, er, 73. Seriously, there was a LOT of pork. 


All told then I'm claiming success.Not massive Grillstock-winning success, far from it. But certainly enough to warrant more attempts, more experimentation and more exercise to balance it all out. Oh, the beans were good too and completely vegetarian. Didn't see that coming, did you? There's been a second version of the beans recently too - allotment association BBQ - and feeling pretty good about where that's going...

4 comments:

Kavey said...

Looks marvellous.
Wasn't there talk about owing me a meal soon? ;-P

Jonathan Gifford said...

Great stuff! Love your blog, Neil. Definitely going to have to visit Grillstock myself next year...
If you ever have time check out my blog, it's just getting started.

-Jonny

tori said...

That is an excellent tip about the resting juices- thank you. The Hungry One has just claimed a bbq again after two years of living without. Hoping for a few more warm Autumn weekends to give some proper grilling a go.

may lim said...

That's a lot of meat. Meat heaven indeed. Its oh so juicy and I bet taste marvelous.
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