Wednesday, June 27, 2007 

Trials and Tribulations

We're getting ready for the Lake Placid competition this weekend and we just passed our first hurdle. The truck that Farmer Girl and I were planning to borrow for our gear fell through due to concerns about the insurance. It was nice of Grampy (Farmer Girl's father) to loan it to us this past weekend, but we don't want to risk any insurance issues if we got into an accident.

So, the solution was to drop the $$ to have a trailer hitch put on my Toyota Camry and rent a U-Haul trailer to the tune of about $400. Fortunately, we've had some folks donate money to support our barbecue habit, which will just about cover the cost of the installation and rental.

Although the surprise outlay of cash was hard to handle, in the end it's a good thing. I needed a trailer hitch for other purposes and it appears that Grampy's girlfriend, History Girl, has an old trailer on her property that she's willing to donate to our cause. Grampy seems to think we can get it fixed up before Harpoon, which means that we'll finally have our own transportation!

Yay! Thanks to Grampy and History Girl for helping us out with that, and to the other folks who've donated to our team.


Monday, June 25, 2007 


Well folks, we’re back from our first event of the year, and boys are our hogs tired. (insert rim-shot here).

The Merrimack, NH, Rockin’ Rib Fest is in its 5th year of operation. The bulk of the event is intended to raise money for charities via the Rotary of Nashua, NH. The Ribfest takes place at the Anheuser Busch factory, which offers up their large fields for the event.

I have to say that this festival is a blast. In addition to the barbecue competition, there are a number of other events, including live bands, a stunt air show, karate demonstrations, and massive quantity of kid-friendly activities.

Our purpose for being at the Ribfest, of course, was to participate in the NH State Barbecue Championships. In order to be a “State Championship” you have to be sanctioned by the Governor, and Mr. Lynch was actually on site at one point.

This year’s Merrimack competition had 36 teams, many of which we know and enjoy. One of our favorite teams, Feeding Freindz live close by to the event and were able to reserve us a prime location before we arrived at 2:00 on Friday. Also at the event were the rowdy and always fun team Lunchmeat, the constantly dominant IQue and Dr. Frankenswine, the team that squeaked us for Grand Reserve at Hogstock last August. All in all, it was a great group of highly competitive teams.

Our neighbors, Boneyard Smokers

Unlike Harpoon, the two competitive events, Grilling and Barbecue, take place on Saturday and Sunday respectively. It was nice to not have to load in, set up, and then jump right into a long night of cooking for a barbecue competition like we do in Windsor. With no cooking to be done on Friday night, we were able to casually set up our gear, with the fancy new tent the Old Bull and Mame brought with them being the highlight of our ever improving set up.

Our home for the weekend

On Saturday we were up early, had time to cook breakfast and then we tackled the foods for the grilling competition. The categories for this event were Fish Steak, Beef Steak, Sausage and Grilled Fruit. We had a decent showing, coming in 16th overall among the 31 teams that competed. No awards came our way in this competition, but we were surprised by an 8th place finish in Fish Steak and a 6th place finish in grilled fruit (that’s one shy of a medal).

The ladies did an outstanding job setting up our turn-in boxes, how about that tuna?

Yep, you can grill fruit. And it tastes mighty fine. Lo N' Slo took first prize for bananas, too.

Two teams we’d never met before, Lo N’ Slo BBQ and Boneyard Smokers took the Grand Champion and Grand Reserve trophies home with them. Both teams were husband and wife crews. Sandy and Dave from Boneyard Smokers were really nice folks and made good neighbors, and the folks from Lo N’ Slo stopped by on Friday night for a good chat. One of the best things about these events is the people. They’re just great. Kudos to them for taking the big trophies! Another high-five should go to our buddies at Feeding Friendz – they came in at 7th place overall in the grilling event!

Joe from the Rotary was a joy to work with. And he was the funniest awards presenter I've ever seen.

After the awards ceremony on Saturday, we leapt into the big cook-off, the barbecue competition. My brisket and pork shoulder went on a little earlier than usual due to the exceptionally large cuts I was given from my butcher. The chicken and ribs, requiring much shorter times to cook, go on the morning of the competition itself.

The barbecue competition (or Baaahbeecuee! As team Lunchmeat bellowed at regular intervals to a resounding call and response from other teams) is why I’m competing. I love to cook low and slow as they say. Cooking brisket and pork shoulder all night long is a beautiful thing, particularly when there are 35 more folks doing the same thing around you! When the sun rose early on Sunday morning, we had made it successfully through the night with the only problem being that it was 43 degrees and most of us froze our butts off! But the meat just kept on a-cookin’. Gotta love those insulated Backwoods Smokers. Nothing quite like them.

Two Backwoods Smokers chugging away.
Dig the low tech fan Old Bull is using on his little smoker (left).

We started the chicken and ribs in the AM and pulled the big meats not long after that. With the ladies helping us with our turn-in boxes (as they did on Saturday), everything was done on time and went out looking the best they could have. Of all the stuff I cooked, I felt the strongest about the chicken. The pork, although tasty, seemed a bit over cooked and as always, I struggled with my brisket being a little dry. I thought the Old Bull really came through with some of the best ribs he’d ever done.

The afternoon awards ceremony held a surprise and some disappointment for us. I tend to give the chicken the least amount of thought. I don’t like to eat chicken thighs much myself, tending toward breasts (we’re talking about chicken, right?). So, I just do them because I want to do all of the meats. Imagine my surprise when we took 3rd place for chicken!

The chicken. It looked prize worthy when it came out!

I have to say that it looked darned fine when we turned it in. Alas, we suffered our biggest disappointment with the ribs. We were nearly dead last in that category and it has all of us just dumbfounded.

Our rib turn-in.

They seemed awfully good to me. It goes to show that we still have a lot to learn about exactly what they’re looking for. Methinks it’s time to take a KCBS judging course! We did ok in pulled pork, coming in 13th out of the 36 competitors, and not as well in brisket with a 21st place showing.

Our brisket turn-in.

The pork turn-in. See? It looks a bit mushy.
I cooked it too long, dang it.

Given the amount of practice done on brisket, pork shoulder and ribs, I would have liked to see higher scores. But, this is how this goes. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t, and the fact that we still came away from this event with a trophy means that we’re doing something right!

I just have to say that it is an absolute joy to have the opportunity to cook competitively with my wife, son and our aunt and uncle. The pleasure I get from working so well with our family makes the effort worthwhile. We make a hell of a good team, and I expect that we’ll continue to have fun and cook howlingly good barbecue for years to come! Thanks as always to Farmer Girl, The Boy, Old Bull and Mame for making this a wonderful family effort. Thanks to our friends who've helped make this possible! And, last but not least, thanks to all the folks in Merrimack who ran this competition so well!

What a weekend. We're all beat, some of us are sick from the insanely cold nights, but we've got another trophy on the wall!

The boy, convalescing on our couch today. All the excitement of the competition, plus late nights and a Saturday full of rides and games got him sick. We're convinced that he'll pull through.

Next weekend we’ll be at Lake Placid New York’s “I love barbecue festival”. Until then, keep howlin!


Our trophy enjoying a moment with our chickens.