Ever wondered where pulled pork came from?
A brief history of North Carolina pulled-pork barbecue. The Early Days When the Spanish arrived in the Americas, they found the Taino Indians of the West Indies cooking meat and fish over a pit of coals on a framework of green wooden sticks. The Spanish spelling of the Indian name for that framework was "barbacoa". Both the name and method of cooking found their way to North America, where George Washington noted in his diary of 1769 that he "went up to Alexandria to a "barbicue." Noah Webster's dictionary insists that the one and only correct spelling is barbecue. You will be happy to know that here in the UK, we just say BBQ.
The Spanish explorer DeSoto introduced hogs to Florida and Alabama about 1540. The settlers at Jamestown brought swine with them in 1607 and soon thereafter Virginia enacted a law making it illegal to discharge a firearm at a barbecue! The creatures thrived in the wilds of the warm Southern woodlands where cattle perished. By the time of the War Between the States, hogs had been domesticated, and pork had become the principal meat of the South. Not surprisingly, pork has been synonymous with Southern barbecue ever since. Barbecue The dictionary will also tell you that the noun "barbecue" has at least four meanings: a framework to hold meat over a fire for cooking any meat broiled or roasted on such a framework an entertainment, usually outdoor, at which such meat is prepared and eaten. a restaurant that makes a specialty of such meat. Indeed, barbecues have long been a popular social occasion in the South. But, done in the traditional way, the making of barbecue was hard work. A pit was dug in the ground the day before the gathering and filled with hardwood. The wood was burned down to coals before whole hogs, skewered on poles, were hung over the pit. The pitmasters sat up through the night, turning the hogs on their spits. The following afternoon when the guests arrived, the crisp skin - Mr. Brown - was removed and the cooked meat - the divine Miss White - was pulled in lumps from the carcass before being slathered with a favorite finishing sauce. That's why, to this very day, a social affair centered around pork barbecue is affectionately called a Pig Pickin. The Joints Some folks might consider barbecuing a whole hog to be a tad bit of overkill for a fellow with a sudden hankering for a sandwich. But, without benefit of electricity and refrigeration in bygone years, portioned cuts of fresh pork were nonexistent. A solution to this culinary dilemma was provided by a pair of entrepreneurs in Lexington, North Carolina when they hit upon the idea of barbecuing a couple of pigs over open pits in the town square on Saturdays and selling it. Tents soon popped up and the first commercial barbecue joint was born. The boys there in Lexington are still making some mighty fine barbecue in those barbecue joints. At last count, the city had one for every thousand citizens - men, women, and children included!
The Great Debate
There is no debate in North Carolina that barbecue should be pit-cooked and pork. There is, however, is great disagreement about which parts of the pigs should be barbecued and whether tomatoes should be any part of the finishing sauce. Down east, the whole hog, split down the middle, is barbecued . The finishing sauce is a sharp, tomato-free vinegar-and-pepper ketchup. West of U.S. Highway 1, only the shoulders are barbecued, and the milder finishing sauce contains a touch of tomato. Which is better? That most likely depends on which joint you happen to be in at the moment! Kālua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an imu, a type of underground oven. The word kālua, which literally means "to cook in an underground oven", may also be used to describe the food cooked in this manner, such as kālua pig or kālua turkey, which are commonly served at luau feasts. Luau, in Hawaiian is actually the name of the taro leaf, which when young and small is cooked like spinach. The traditional luau was eaten on the floor over lauhala (leaves of the hala tree were weaved together) mats. Traditionally, a fire using kiawe (mesquite) wood is built in a dirt pit called the imu. The pit is usually about 6 feet (1.8 m) long, 4 feet (1.2 m) wide and 3 ft (90 cm) deep. Rocks are then placed in the pit to retain cooking heat long after the flames have burned down. Once the rocks have become extremely hot, the hole is lined with traditional vegetarian, such as banana leaves. The meat to be cooked is salted, , stuffed with more hot rocks, then wrapped with ti and banana leaves. To maintain even heating and to retain the meat's natural moisture, the meat is covered with wet burlap, then with a layer of sand or soil. The meat is then left to cook in the pit for six to seven hours, absorbing smoke and steam from the koa wood and banana leaves. When the meat is fully cooked, it is removed from the imu and shredded. This is done to allow the melted fat to mix with the meat to help maintain its uniform consistency and flavor. Kālua pig is a main tourist attraction at many luaus, though it is sometimes made using a gas or electric stove with artificial Mesquite or Kiawe wood liquid smoke. Other tourist businesses substitute the use of rocks and leaves or use an imu pao, an above ground variation of the imu. The term "Kalua pork" has been used by famous Hawaiian cook Sam Choy to describe pork shoulder butt which is rubbed with sea salt, wrapped in ti leaves, and slowly cooked in oven using liquid mesquite smoke rather than an imu. At one time, standards enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture prevented traditional kalua pig from being sold commercially except in Hawaii. Here at the famous Flying Pig Company we only use the finest cut of pig in all our pulled pork Sandwiches. . . . . . The Shoulder.