It was 8:30am, 95° in the shade, pecan wood smoke filled the air and we were already a few rounds into strong Bloody Marys when it finally came time to prep the pork, under the direction of barbecue legend Sam Huff.
Late last summer, I traveled from Cleveland down to Kennesaw, Georgia, to attend Huff‘s ‘Pork U’ BBQ classes and learn about great barbecue from a master. (BBQ1.net) We prepared (and eventually feasted on) brick chicken, brisket, pork ribs, and a full pork shoulder; all cooked “low and slow,” some longer than 10 hours, and all matched with sauces we made that day, from sweet Kansas City-style sauce to tangy white Alabama barbecue sauce, to my favorite—Carolina vinegar and mustard sauce. Of course, we also made campfire biscuits, smoky greens, and a peach cobbler cooked in a cast-iron Dutch oven over hot coals.
Huff’s most important lesson was that barbecue isn’t necessarily about technique or fancy equipment. It is, first and foremost, about how we should cook and eat: outdoors, with family and friends, all day. That’s exactly what summer should be about, no matter where you are.
Here in Cleveland, we have a greater appreciation for summer than those in more temperate locales. You can see that in the outbreak of shorts-wearing when the temperature first tops 50° in March.
More appropriately, you can see it in the way we flood the outdoor farmers markets the moment they open, already anticipating the local tastes that summer will bring: strawberries, beans and greens, summer squash, berries, and much more, all leading up to the final and best taste of Northeast Ohio summer, the finest sweet corn in the country.
Cleveland has earned a perfect summer this year, after the historic winter we endured. And whether this year’s summer turns out to be too hot or too humid or too hot and too humid, it is bound to be a season packed with fresh flavors, lingering sun-drenched afternoons, and lots of time with family and friends, because every Northeast Ohio summer is.
See you at the barbecue –