It’s Beer, Wings, and BBQ at the 2017 Colonial BBQ Competition!

CBC TagThe Colonial BBQ Competition in Historic New Castle returns this Friday/Saturday for its second year.

The event last year left a sour taste in some attendee’s mouths due to some first-year road bumps that Michael Quaranta and a group of hard working volunteers have been trying very hard to fix for their second go around of the Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned competition.

The two-day event kicks off Friday evening  at 5pm with a combination craft beer/chicken wing event on The Green that will see 12-15 BBQ teams via for the People’s Choice Award for best BBQ, and YOU get to be the People. For $5 you’ll get to sample five wings of your choice and don’t be afraid to purchase another five because the event managed to acquire 225 pounds of wings for the event thanks to Mountaire and The Restaurant Depot.

The craft beer event will feature some local favorites such as Twin Lakes, 16 Mile, and Third Wave, as well as Grand Rapids, Michigan favorite Founders Brewing, which just recently started to distribute in Delaware. For those who like something light with their BBQ, Miller will also be on tap.

Saturday’s big event has the gates open at 12 noon, entry fee is $10 and Michael and his team have worked hard to ensure that there is adequate food available for all the BBQ lovers who attends.

“Saturday we’ve got 4 food vendors, including two locals (Locale Post, Philippine Smoke), and two retired competitors selling BBQ. In addition, the Restaurant Depot and Mountaire contacted 125 pounds of chicken leg quarters, so the good kids at Howard High and the culinary program, will cook and sell these as a way to make the school program a few bucks. We had 3 bbq vendors last year, and this year we have 5…and the two that [are coming back from] last year are bringing much more food”, Michael told me in a Facebook conversation.

CBC-3100
Pork and chicken await the crowd at last year’s Colonial BBQ Competition.

Saturday’s beer lineup will be similar to last year with $5 still getting you a 16oz pour, with the highlight being local Smyrna brewer Blue Earl on hand offering their Blues Power, Honey Suckle, and Walking Blues brews. Bud, Bud Light, Goose Island IPA, and Blue Point Toasted Lager will also be available and Michael want me to inform everyone that last call is at 4:30!

Michael and his team seem to have really put time and effort into evolving their event past the obstacles and problems of last year. With any new event like this, there are bound to be growing pains, and Michael even conceded that there will probably be new ones this year, but asked people to be patient, “It will be fun. We’ll have screw ups again this year, and it won’t be until year three or four when we have worked out most of the kinks….but we’ll get there!”

Live music for the event will be provided Backlash, Federal Street and Blue Cat Blues Band.

The Colonial BBQ Competition supports the New Castle Charities, a nonprofit organization that assists area homeowners and improvements to Battery Park.

As always I would like to thank Michael for taking some of his valuable time to talk to me!

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McCain’s Craft Beer Battered Fries – Really?

A little different post today.

If I was asked to name my favorite cuisine, I think I’d have to say – pub. Oh, don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with Italian, Greek, Asian or other culinary classics, but give me a place that makes a great burger or a killer plate of wings and I’m there.

Even outside of pubs I still look for those tavern comforts. I’m not above going out to nice places for lunch whether for work, or play, and still scanning the menu for what the place may offer as far as pub-like fare.

And along those lines if you see me intently contemplating the menu I’m usually not looking for the newest special, or gourmet cucumber, chicken wrap. No, my mind is usually locked in the complex, calculus laden calculation designed to compute what I can order that will get me the most french fries.

As most people will concur, at their basic core- fries rock. Not just because they’re versatile starch bombs that not only work well on their own paired with your condiment of choice or piled high with all kinds of calorie increasing craziness, but let’s face it, it’s because it’s so hard to make a good one at home. Ok, it’s not hard, a few potatoes, a sharp knife, some hot oil, and you have…well anything from oily, limp potato sticks to charred, charcoal like chaff depending on your attention span.

No wonder the frozen section of your local food market chain is chock full of all kinds of choices to help you conveniently get to fry Nirvana. But to be honest, I seldom go this route because let’s face it, most of those options are lacking and resemble nothing like the fries you can get out – even at those fast food joints.

https://thedogsofbeer.wordpress.com/But someone at work recently asked if I’d seen McCain’s Food’s craft beer batter offerings, and I was intrigued. Not because I’m always looking for the next great frozen side dish, but because…oh, come on, you know why.

Certain segments of the beer world are still (rightly or wrongly) holding tight to the term “craft” and what it should exactly connote to anyone inside or outside of that world. The Brewer’s Association still conveys a very clear (if abet, fluid) definition of what a craft brewery is, even going so far as to recently condemn Walmart for attempting to blur the lines with their recently offered company brewed beer.

So for some company to plaster the words “craft beer battered” across their bag of cryogenically suspended spuds I thought was pretty daring, so I picked up a bag of fries and onion rings (because if it’s not fries … it’s onion rings) and did some sleuthing.

The bags state “Made with finest quality American Pale Ale” which is nice bit of initial encouragement, but from there it wane’s fast, much like a third act in a horror movie where the heroes are sure they’ve destroyed the monster, only to watch it rise from the smoke and ashes.

There’s no mention of whose beer McCain specifically uses, which seems like a lost marketing opportunity for both McCain’s and whoever makes their beer. I mean, if you had company that makes frozen breaded confections, you’d want customers to know that you were using Stone’s or Bell’s, wouldn’t you?

I was impressed to see that beer is actually listed as an ingredient whose components are broken down as: Water, Malted Barley, Corn Syrup, Hops, Salt. Close. I mean you could make beer out of those ingredients but the corn syrup isn’t something you’d expect to see on the grain bill from your local brewer who you would associate making a “craft” product. Also, water treatment not withstanding, salt?

No, this just doesn’t seem right.

A little digging finds that McCain indeed has a page on their website dedicated to Brew City, but it seems to be more about a marketing brand set up for their products in the food service industry than having anything truly to do with craft beer.

The product itself is pretty good entry in the home fry market. Battered fries aren’t something I come across much and as for these, well let’s just say I think they were using the term “battered” pretty liberally. The onion rings were pretty good and to be honest I’d spring for a bag again the next time I’m in the mood for a quick fix and don’t feel like battering up a batch of my own.

Bear in mind however, that I say that about both products having used the deep fry option for both. You’re mileage my vary in an oven, which is why I tend to forego it.

I didn’t start this article to rip on McCain or put their products down. To be honest, I was hoping to find a craft beer connection that I could hold up as another example of how craft beer is working its way into different aspects of our lives. But sadly, I have to conclude after some sleuthing and contemplation that I’m pretty confident that the closest thing to craft beer in these commodities is the one you open when you sit down to dinner.

McCain-1889
The Final Sip: Two requests to McCain for clarification on the craft beer used in their products went unanswered.

English Christmas Pudding – Recipe Update

Two years ago I posted a recipe I found online for the traditional English Christmas pudding that takes center stage at the Cratchet family holiday dinner in the classic tale “A Christmas Carol”.

I’ve now made it several times (my Daughter says it’s her favorite part of Christmas – I’m thinking she means the non-gift part) and as I tend to do with most recipes, I’ve altered it over that course in both ingredients and procedure.

Some changes are simply due to ingredient available and my tastes, while others are simply due to modern conveniences and my laziness.

Also, having pulled that post up to follow the recipe, I realized I didn’t do a very good job in organizing it in a manner that lays it out well for someone who wants to read it off the computer – like me, because printers hate me. Really.

So, with that said, here is my updated recipe for my traditional English Christmas pudding. I know what you’re thinking, “Ah Dog, Christmas is like 363 days away. You trippin’?” No, I’m not tripping!! I want to post this now while it’s fresh in my mind and besides, stop being a slave to your Wacky Weeds Farm calendar (Yeah dude, I see it right there over your shoulder). This pudding is delicious any time of the year.

The Notes:

The recipe and procedure are pretty easy. If you’re even a moderate kitchen troll you should be able to pull this off. I’ve broken the recipe down into sections with the ingredients listed twice, once in an organized shopping list, and then in the actual procedure as they come into play.

The pudding can be done in one day or over several days. I recommend letting the fruit soak overnight, but in a pinch several hours will do. The pudding can be assembled and cooked the next day, or if desired assembled and kept in the fridge for a few days to be cooked later – but don’t forget that it contains raw eggs, so use your judgement.

Traditionally the mixed spice is an English mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. You can substitute pumpkin spice if you wish, or just make your own with whatever strikes your fancy (I love a touch of ginger).

On the day you wish to cook, scroll down to the SAUNA section to see how to set up your bain-maries (fancy French word alert!). In order to get the water level correct you should do this before you start to cook your puddings.

The Shopping List, In My Acme Layout Order (L to R) (Patent Pending):

1 orange (juice and zest)
3 baby carrots (cut into thin strips and then chopped)

5.3oz (150g) chopped dates
5.3oz (150g) chopped prunes
5.3oz (150g) raisins
5.3oz (150g) chopped apricots
5.3oz (150g) chopped cranberries

2.6oz (75g) chopped toasted pecans
1.8oz (50g) blanched almonds, flaked (slivered almonds work)
1.8oz (50g) chopped walnuts

4 slices crustless white bread (crumbed or chopped fine)

1tbsp mixed spice
6.2oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar (you can usually find this in specialty food stores. Use dark brown sugar in a pinch)
2.6oz (75g) self-rising flour (you can find self-rising flour in any supermarket)

3 eggs (beaten, or not. See below)
6.2oz (175g) warm butter (easier to work with when warm)

The Fun Shopping List:

3.4oz (100ml) Guinness (a four pack of cans works best)
3.4oz (100ml) Grand Marnier, or Drillaud.
Brandy

The Hardware:

some string
foil
two pudding basins (use what you can find that will work. Circular is best, but mine aren’t)
two large pans with lids (to make bain-maries)

AND NOW LETS DO THIS:

The Night Before, The Soak:

3 baby carrots (cut into thin strips and then chopped)
5.3oz (150g) chopped dried dates
5.3oz (150g) chopped dried prunes
5.3oz (150g) raisins
5.3oz (150g) chopped dried apricots
5.3oz (150g) chopped cranberries
Juice from one orange
3.4oz (100ml) Guinness (a four pack of cans works best)
3.4oz (100ml) Grand Marnier

First, drink two of the cans of Guinness to insure freshness. If the Grand Marnier has been sitting around for a while or looks suspicious, then taste test some of that as well.

Don’t bother with that “chopped” nonsense if you’re able. Simply stick all the fruit and the carrots in your food processor and pulse until it’s well chopped and mixed. I though the dried fruit might be a little too rubbery to chop in the processor, but my processor had no problem.

Empty the chopped fruit into a bowl and add the OJ, Guinness and Grand Marnier and stir until very well to combine. Let the mixture sit for at least one hour. Longer is better. Overnight is killer.

processed-fruit

The Next Day, The Prep: This All Happens in a Single Large Bowl

The zest of 1 orange
6.2oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar (you can usually find this in specialty food stores. Use dark brown sugar in a pinch)
6.2oz (175g) warm butter (easier to work with when warm)

In a large bowl, combine the orange zest, sugar, and butter. Mix well to combine.

CP2

3 eggs (beaten, or not. See below)

Either beat three eggs with the technique of your choice and add them to the bowl, or just add three eggs to the bowl and beat the whole mixture until it’s smooth like Barry White.

CP3

2.6oz (75g) self-rising flour
1tbsp mixed spice
4 slices crustless white bread (crumbed or chopped fine)
1.8oz (50g) blanched almonds, flaked (slivered almonds work)
2.6oz (75g) chopped toasted pecans
1.8oz (50g) chopped walnuts

Sift the flour and mixed spice into the bowl. If you don’t have a flour sifter, then mix them together the best you can with whatever you have available. Add the bread crumbs and nuts (again, forgo the hand chopping and use a food processor if you have one). Stir until they behave.

Add the fruit from the night before into the bowl and mix together.

CP4

Split the mixture into two well greased pudding basins. Cover with foil and use the string to tie them securely. This year I didn’t have string, so I used cable ties…don’t judge…

PC5

The Sauna:

Set up the bain-maries by putting each of your pudding basins into each of the large pans (or if you have a pan big enough, both into one). Fill the pans with water until the level of the water reaches about 3/4 of the way up the basin. Remove the basins.

Bring the water in the bain-maries to a strong simmer. The water should put off a lot of steam, but it shouldn’t be a rolling boil. Once the water is to temperature, lower one of the filled pudding basins into each bain-maries and cover.

The Cook:

Let the puddings steam for 6 hours, checking the water level in the bain-maries often, and adding more water if needed to keep the level constant – I’ve never had to.

PC6

Once done, carefully remove the basins. The puddings can be immediately turned out and served, or left to cool in the basins and refrigerated for later.

To serve, turn out onto a platter, pour the brandy on top of the pudding (I poke a small dent in the middle of the top of pudding to create a well) and light (My lawyers instruct me that I must tell you to be careful with this step. We are not responsible for tabletops, eyebrows or long-haired pets). Owww and Ahhh until the flame goes out. Slice and serve. If serving hot I suggest serving with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a snifter of something good, like scotch or hey, brandy.

PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Pearson's Flickr
PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Pearson’s Flickr account

Now go make merry like the Cratchets!

New Castle BBQ Competition Winners plus a Discussion with Competition Organizer Sandy Fulton

A few weeks back Tracey and I attended the first annual New Castle BBQ competition back dropped by the Delaware River in Historic New Castle’s Battery park. We were looking forward to this edvent because we hadn’t attended a BBQ competition in awhile and with the event being right down the road from us we wouldn’t tie up a large part of our day with travel.

It was a nice sunny day as we strolled through the park watching kids play on the swings and interact with the animals at the petting zoo. The band’s music (sorry don’t know which of the bands was playing when we arrived) echoed across the park giving the event a nice outdoor festival feel.

BBQ competitions can be a mixed bag. By the time the crowd starts to roll in the teams have already put in a long night prepping their food for the afternoon judging. So patrons hoping to talk to competition teams about their rigs or their philosophies on Que, might be disappointed to see many of the teams closing down or just not being very interactive.

But if you stroll around enough, you can usually find one or two people who will talk to you and if nothing else, I enjoy looking at the different smokers with the smell of hickory and other woods wafting in the air. It always makes me want to get back to my deck and light a fire of my own.

On the drink side we were pleased (although I thought it a bit funny) to see Kent County representing big at the event, first with Ron and Rob from Blue Earl Brewing at the beer tent and then later with Painted Stave who made me an Old Fashion while Ron informed me that they were using syrup made with a rub mix from the vendor’s tent next to them – the fine folks of Dizzy Pig (picked up a few rub samples from them). Bourbon is more Tracey’s thing than it is mine but with a subtle hint of smoke and a touch of heat it was pretty tasty. Tracey gave it a thumbs up.

For the most part I thought the event went pretty well. They had a good crowd for a first time event and people seemed to be enjoying themselves for the most part. The layout could have been a little better and a second entrance near the bandstand was sorely needed for those who wanted to quickly go out into the park area. Still, if nothing else a nice day outside with smoke in the air.

But all new events are prone to growing pains and sadly, this one was no exception.

Advertising and social media content for the event contained the following statement or a variation thereof, “Come sample Competition Team BBQ!  Ever wonder how good that tastes?  For a “Buck a Bone” you can sample some great BBQ from our competition teams!”

Sounds great doesn’t it? Well we thought so as well, however having covered the now mourned Hogs and Hops event, I wasn’t sure if it was truly as easy as that. You see the first year the Hogs and Hops event was held at the FoDo Brewery it included a “people’s choice” judging. We ate quite a bit of BBQ that day.

But the next year it moved to the Fairgrounds at Harrington, received KCBS sanction and the people’s choice went away. Whether it was a case of ‘we now can’t’ or ‘we shouldn’t have in the first place’, I’m not sure. Mark Hoffman wrote to me in an email that he hoped to bring back the sampling the following year, unfortunately the Fairgrounds started their own BBQ competition, essentially locking up sponsors that had help Mark years before and his event (which benefited Dover First Responders) died.

So with that in mind we went in with healthy skepticism, and that skepticism it turned out was not unwarranted. We only found one tent selling samples for a $1, and they sold out just as Tracey walked up to the tent.

From a few conversations we had with the people around us, and the complaints that quickly began to be registered on the event’s Facebook page (which I’m sad to say I initially added to), there seemed to be much confusion, and great disappointment over the buck-a-bone offer. Competitors and BBQ enthusiasts jumped into the conversation which seemed to point the finger more towards the organizers from the venue more than the teams and the KCBS themselves. Statements were being made and countered until at the end, no purpose was really being served.

So for my own education (after calming down and realizing I wasn’t being value adding) I reached out to event organizer Sandy Fulton whose experience and reputation as a BBQ competition organizer has earned her the nickname The Porkanizer.

My first question was simple, is the buck-a-bone sampling common in BBQ competitions or did New Castle offer something they couldn’t ultimately guarantee?

“No it wasn’t New Castle’s idea it is done at several contests,” Sandy told me in an email conversation. “We only had four teams sign up to do it.  Tried very hard to get more, but being a first year event, and not sure of attendance it can be risky.”

There’s the thing, the teams are not required to do the buck-a-bone offer and in most cases it comes down to a matter of cost. “The meat is expensive and these competitors have already paid $250 entry fee and then probably close to $500 if not more on the meat they are being judge on for cash prizes,” Sandy continued, “They compete in pulled pork, chicken, ribs and brisket.  They purchase and cook more than they turn in because they pick the best of it for turn in to the judges. So you have entry fee, meat cost, transportation cost and in some cases you’re going to have hotel costs. So competing is expensive and they concentrate solely on the cooking and timing for these meats. They want to win.”

Taking all that into consideration it’s easy to see why teams might be hesitant in joining the buck-a-bone not knowing the attendance or their likelihood of getting their money back on the food cooked for the crowd, “So not knowing the attendance of a first year event, cost of being there and number on teams will determine if they can and want to do Buck a Bone. That’s why only 4 did it. If they have the event [again next year] I am sure more will [do it] because of the public’s interest and they feel they won’t be losing money.”

Another issue is that once the teams have decided they won’t be doing buck-a-bone, they’re unable to change their minds. There are strict regulations regarding what BBQ teams are and are not allowed to do at competitions, and they all surround public health.

“[The teams cannot give out samples] because of Board of Health Regulations,” Sandy informed me. Anytime a BBQ team wishes to feed the public they must be inspected by the Board of Health which does not automatically happen, “…as a competitor they do not [need to be inspected] because only Certified KCBS judges are judging their food.”

But once competitors have decided that they will serve the public, either using a buck-a-bone or similar offer all their pit areas must be inspected by the Board of Health as the organization does not allow for ‘blanket’ approval for the entire event.

So just when does this happen?

“First the competitor fills out the Board of Health form, some counties charge. The day of the event, prior to gates being opened the inspectors will come inspect their area to make sure they have met all their guidelines.”

While many may have been disappointed by the situation, it seems that it could be attributed to the aforementioned growing pains associated with a new event, and Sandy seemed to agree, “It is all a learning experience. Some first year events are not as well attended as this was. Perhaps next year if they have it they will try again.”

With this information I reached out to Michael J Quaranta who I assume was involved in the venue side of the event to get his perspective but sadly he did not return my message. However he did post this on the Facebook event page (which is why I assume he’s involved with the venue side):

Folks…I take responsibility for this and learned not to promote the “buck a bone” idea ever again unless I have half the competition teams agreeing beforehand to sell. Many make that decision too close to the actual event date and by then, media and our own promotion is in full swing and expectations are set. The $5 charitable donations covered the costs of putting on the event, including the 10k in team prize money, three very good bands, stage, tent rentals, and so on. We learned a lot. I also believe our three food vendors, Locale Post, Phillipine BBQ, and Haas, all with very good food and reputations, did an outstanding job. The beer was also quite good and fairly priced for a 16oz pour. I appreciate the feedback and suggestions.

So hopefully next year the event will return and these kinks will be ironed out. But let’s  not forget that this was a competition! So congratulations to the winners and to all those who competed, we hope to see you again next year!

 

Grand Champion: 3 EYZ BBQ

Reserve Champion: SAUCE THIS BBQ

Overall

1          3 EYZ BBQ                               697.120
2          SAUCE THIS BBQ                 681.6572
3          PIGHEADED BBQ                681.0628

Chicken

1          3 EYZ BBQ                              174.2628
2          BANG BANG BBQ                 173.1200
3          WEEKEND SMOKERS        170.3660

Pork Ribs

1          3 EYZ BBQ                             178.8572
2          PIGHEADED BBQ               171.4172
3          LITTLE LUKE’S BBQ          170.3088

Pork

1          3 EYZ BBQ                              178.8572
2          PIGHEADED BBQ                172.0000
3          Knee Deep BBQ                     171.4172

Brisket

1          SAUCE THIS BBQ                 180.0000
2          BIG D’S BBQ                           176.5600
3          BANG BANG BBQ                 169.7028

Amateur Chicken

1          Chock Full of BBQ                 169.1200
2          SOUTH BOWIE SMOKE     169.1200
3          Bubba Joe’s Que                    168.5600

Amateur Ribs

1          Welch Mountain BBQ            166.3200
2          SOUTH BOWIE SMOKE      161.1544
3          M & M Barbeque                    160.5372

Backyard

1          SOUTH BOWIE SMOKE      330.2744
2          Bubba Joe’s Que                     328.5144
3          Welch Mountain BBQ           327.4512

 

Boston Beer Company’s Old Fezziwig, A Christmas Carol and Christmas Pudding

Holidays. Movies. For me, they go hand in hand. Whether it’s enjoying Mose and Ramses struggling with each other to decide who controls the fate of the Hebrews at Easter, or John Wayne trying to recapture his more peaceful life in Ireland on Saint Patrick’s day, there always seems to be a movie that I’m looking forward to as each Holiday arrives.

And so comes Christmas. OK, I’m not in small company here. When it comes to Christmas, just about everyone has “that movie”, the approximately 2 hours of cinema that just captures your Holiday spirit the way nothing else does.

Someone in one of my Facebook groups posted a question about that very thing today, and the responses ranged from the obvious to the decidedly less so – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas and on the more slanted side; Bad Santa, Elf or Gremlins (if you don’t remember why, check it out on Netflix).

Here at tDoB, Tracey will have A Christmas Story on for as much of the 24 hour marathon that it runs as she possibly can, probably only catching the move in its entirety once, but enjoying several select scenes multiple times throughout the day.

For me, it’s simply not the holidays unless I’m catching some version of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol – whether it be the 1951 adaptation starring Alastar Sim in the role of holiday hum-bug Ebenezer Scrooge, the 1984 version starring George C Scott (admittedly my least favorite) or the TNT produced version starring Patrick Stewart. And yes, Scrooged.

It’s the TNT version that I seek out every year. Patrick Stewart’s performance of Scrooge is one of my favorites, a gripping performance from an actor who in my mind is excellent at portraying the 180 degree emotional swing of a man who is given a glimpse of the future he as forged for himself, and given the enviable opportunity to change.

And of course, I’d be lying (like all the other Holiday movies I mentioned above) if there wasn’t a beer tie-in involved.

The beer in this case is Boston Beer Company’s Old Fezziwig, a beer named for the festive character from Dickens’ novella which used to enjoy full seasonal release status, but now is sadly relegated to a included brew in BBC’s annual Winter Favorites 12-packs and cases.

And I mean sadly. For me, Fezziwig is one of the best seasonal beers BBC makes, and I look forward to procuring my 2 or 4 bottles every Christmas. So much so, that in order to get my yearly fix of this Holiday goodness, the BBC Winter Favorites pack is the only case of beer I buy outside of cases of Guinness for Saint Patrick’s day – ever. Not lying. I rarely buy cases of beer. I just don’t drink that way. Is it worth it? Let’s taste.

THEM: Old Fezziwig is built on a grain bill of two-row pale, Munich 10 and chocolate malts. The beer is balance with Hallertau, Mittelfrueh, Tettnang, and Tettnanger hops with an IBU finishing at low but respectable 25. Orange peel, ginger, and cinnamon are added to give the beer its festive flavor and the beer clocks in at 5.9%ABV.

ME: Standard beer to start, deep mahogany pour with ample head and lace. The nose has a light touch of spice mixed with malt and chocolate. It’s the lightness in the spice that I appreciate the most about OF. This isn’t Anchor’s Our Special Ale, with an onslaught of spices on the palette no, this has a subtleness about it. A light touch of spice that doesn’t drowned out the basic beer.

The taste has a good backbone of malt which comes across as caramel or brown sugar with more spice layered in. I get the orange and ginger when I drink OF, with the cinnamon playing a very small part in the overall profile (which is good, I’m not much of a cinnamon fan).

The end is balanced, but not overly sharp as one would expect with 25IBUs. I know this term is over used, but I find this beer quite…drinkable, with a hint of lingering spice in the finish. I wish Santa would bring this back in stand alone six-packs, or at the very least bombers. I don’t think I’m asking for much. But I guess I’ll just have to continue to buy the Winter Collections every  year.

Old Fezziwig
BBC has a commercial patting itself on the back for the over 60 varieties of beer they brew. And yet they still pad their Winter Favorites cases with Boston Lager. Come on guys!

So there you have it. One of my most looked forward to Holiday beers that perfectly aligns with one of my most looked forward to Holiday movies. But that’s not all.

After years of watching the many incarnations of A Christmas Carol, I one year got curious about the “Christmas Pudding” that takes center stage at the Cratchit family’s Holiday table, and of course, being a little bit of a kitchen troll, I eventually had to make it myself.

Think of traditional Christmas Pudding as a steamed fruit cake. If you only have moderate kitchen skills you can pull this off. The only unusual technique is the use of bain-maries, which you can think of as French for double boiler – because you know, they have a fancy word for everything. But seriously, there’s nothing tough here.

Below is a recipe I found on the internet on Simon Pearson’s Flickr account. It’s pretty consistent with other recipes I’ve researched over the years, and I’ve always had good luck with it. I encourage you to check out the original site with its awesome pictures. But because it’s on Flickr the step-by-step picture “next photo” procedure might be a little cumbersome, so I’ve unified the full recipe and added a few steps below.

Also, the recipe is in metric (if you’re baking or homebrewing, you SHOULD be using metric, but I know many don’t) so I’ve include the equivalent standard measures where needed. I’ve also translated it into what I’d call “Ed Baking Mode”, meaning that on occasion I take shortcuts that I’m sure would make a real baker quiver, but saves you from washing one or two bowls in the process. Enjoy!

Recipe:

1 orange (juice and zest)
3 baby carrots (cut into thin strips and then chopped)
1tbsp mixed spice (Mixed spice is the English cousin to pumpkin pie spice and usually contains cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. You can use PPS in a pinch, or mix your own. And don’t be afraid to add other spices like ginger or cloves if you wish.)
6.2oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar (you can usually find this in specialty food stores. Use dark brown sugar in a pinch)
1.8oz (50g) toasted pecans
5.3oz (150g) chopped dates
5.3oz (150g) chopped prunes
5.3oz (150g) raisins
5.3oz (150g) currants
5.3oz (150g) sultanas (Known here in the US as “Thompson Seedless” which is the grapes that raisins are made from, so they’re kind of redundant in my mind. I’ve substituted chopped dried apricots in the past.)
3 eggs (beaten, or not. See below)
6.2oz (175g) warm butter (easier to work with when warm)
4 slices crustless white bread (crumbed or chopped fine)
2.6oz (75g) blanched almonds, flaked (slivered almonds work)
2.6oz (75g) self-raising flour (you can find self-raising flour in any supermarket)
3.4oz (100ml) Guinness (a four pack of cans works best)
3.4oz (100ml) Grand Marnier
Brandy

Hardware:

some string
foil
two pudding basins (use what you can find that will work. Circular is best, but mine aren’t)
two large pans with lids (to make bain-maries)

Do it:

Set up the bain-maries: Put one of your pudding basins into each of the large pans. Fill the pans with water until the level of the water reaches about 3/4 of the way up the basin. Remove the basins.

Drink two of the cans of Guinness to insure freshness. If the Grand Marnier has been sitting around for awhile or looks suspicious, then have some of that also. How much? Until you’re satisfied that its good, or until you just don’t care anymore.

1 – In a bowl, stir together all the fruit, chopped carrots, OJ, Guinness and Grand Marnier. Let sit for at least one hour. Longer is better. Over night is killer. I substituted CB Honey for the Grand Marnier last year.

CP1

2 – In another bowl, combine orange zest, sugar, and butter. Mix until smooth like Barry White. Test the brandy.

CP2

3 – Add three eggs into the mix from #2 and mix to combine. You can beat them together in another bowl and add them in after – or decide there’s been enough violence in the world for one year and you’d like one less bowl to clean and add them unbeaten. It’s up to you. Finish drinking leftover Guinness, or if you’re still not sure about its motives, test the brandy again.

CP3

4 – Sieve into #3 the flour and mixed spice. Add the bread crumbs and nuts. Stir until they behave.

5 – Add the fruit that is now hopefully feeling as little pain as you are to #4 and mix together.

CP4

6 – Split the mixture into two well greased pudding basins. Cover with foil and use the string to tie them securely. If you’re feeling adventurous, try tying it in a away that gives you “handles” to easily place and remove the basins into your bain-maries. Or if you like your fingers steamed, don’t.

PC5

7 – Bring the water in the bain-maries to a strong simmer. The water should put off a lot of steam, but it shouldn’t be a rolling boil. Once the water is to temperature, lower one of the filled pudding basins into each bain-maries and cover.

8 – Let the puddings steam for 6 hours, checking the water level in the bain-maries often, and adding more water when needed to keep the level constant. This is a good time to test the brandy. What? I already did? I think you’re mistaken.

PC6

9 – Once done, carefully remove the basins. The puddings can be immediately turned out and served, or left to cool in the basins and refrigerated for later.

10 – To serve, turn out onto a platter, pour brandy on top of the pudding (I poke a small dent in the middle of the top of pudding to create a well) and light (my lawyers instruct me that I must tell you to be careful with this step. We are not responsible for tabletops, eyebrows or long-haired pets). Owww and Ahhh until the flame goes out. Slice and serve. If serving hot I suggest serving with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a snifter of something good, like scotch or  hey, brandy (if there’s any left at this point.)

PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Pearson's Flickr
PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Pearson’s Flickr

Happy Holidays!

The Local Tap – Hogs and Hops 2013

Well this is a first here at tDoB.  I posted a preview of Hogs and Hops on Friday, attended the event on Saturday and here I am today posting the rundown only a few days later.  Usually I’m no where near this on the ball.  Oh, and as a TOTAL aside, this is my 200th post.  Anyway, as I said in my preview, a lot has changed since the inaugural event last year.

First, let me say that although it is a little bit more of a drive for us, the new digs at Harrington were awesome.  Plenty of room for the competitors, the food/beverage trucks and the vendors; plus a huge open field in front of a good sized bandstand.  We got there a little bit before they could start serving/pouring so after we surveyed the area, we decided to take a moment to walk down the BBQ truck line and see what everyone had to offer.

Whole Hog
The whole hog that was part of the VIP food plate from Mr. BAR-B-CUE. I’ll be seeing this guy later.
xxxxxxxxxxx
A great selection of food on the grill at Big Fat Daddy’s BBQ

Soon it was time for the event to start so we checked out the three beer trucks to see who had what on tap.  I started with an Old Dominion Monk Czech and Tracey started with a Fordham Wisteria Wheat.

Fordham Truck

With beer in hand we strolled around the venue and checked out the vendors.  We finally got the chance to meet Cindy Small of the Kent County & Greater Dover, Delaware Convention and Visitors Bureau, who were there promoting their up coming Delaware Wine and Beer Festival.  I’ve done some promoting for Cindy, but this is the first time we’d met.  It was great to relax a bit and get to talk about the up coming festival.  But soon it was time for lunch.  VIP ticket holders were served a BBQ platter from Mr. BAR-B-CUE which consisted of two out of three choices: brisket, whole hog pork or ribs.  I told you I’d see that hog later.

BBQ platter from Mr. BAR-B-CUE, beers by Fordham/Old Dominion
BBQ platter from Mr. BAR-B-CUE, beers by Fordham/Old Dominion

It wasn’t long before the bandstand got rocking, as Tyler Toliver and perennial local favorites Love, Seed, Mamma, Jump supplied the music for the afternoon and early evening.  Entertainment was also provided by the folks from Cowboy Up Saloon, who not only set up a fine tent, but got some of the crowd up for country line dance lessons and demonstrations in between sets.

Volunteers at the end of the event take a break and catch a bit of Tyler Toliver's set
Volunteers towards the end of the event take a break and catch a bit of Tyler Toliver’s set
The ladies from the Cowboy Up Saloon get the crowd involved in some line dancing.
The ladies from the Cowboy Up Saloon get the crowd involved in some line dancing.

“Pit row” as I like to call it was fun as always.  As first all we could do was enjoy the smell of smoke wood in the air, and drool over all the different equipment that the teams brought (we were asked not to bother the teams until turn-ins were done).   I always enjoy checking out the teams’ equipment, because you never know when you might see something you’ve never seen before.

Biker BBQ from Millville NJ uses an adapter to constantly feed apple juice into their smoker.
It’s not unusual to be using water in a Blackwood Smoker, but I’ve never seen anyone use an adapter to constantly feed apple juice from a 5-Gallon water bottle like Biker BBQ from Millville NJ.

And of course, many of them used the opportunity to show off.

TFFBBQ displays their xxxxxx chicken from The Middletown BBQ Cook-Off
TFFBBQ displays their trophy for their first place finish in chicken at this year’s Middletown BBQ Cook-Off

But after last turn-in we walked through again and got to stop and talk to a few of the pitmasters including George and Kim Przybylski from Bang Bang BBQ, last year’s Hogs and Hops second place finisher in points.  I asked them how they liked the bigger event.  “I love bigger events,” George commented.  “I normally don’t do small events, I just gave it a try last year.  And this year’s just the beginning.  This year he [Mark Hoffman, event coordinator] had to keep it small due to the KCBS sanctioning, but next year the sky’s the limit.”

Soon it was the time everyone was waiting for, the awards presentations.  The field topped out at 45 BBQ teams from the surrounding area and as far away as North Carolina.  The event consisted of four meat turn-ins: chicken, pork, ribs and brisket.  The top ten in each category were awarded, along with reserve champion (second place all around points) and grand champion (first place).  The Mid Atlantic BBQ Association was on hand as well to award the highest placed team from Delaware as “Delaware State Champion”.

The trophies stand ready as Love, Seed, Momma, Jump finishes their last set.
The trophies stand ready as Love, Seed, Momma, Jump finishes their set.
xxx of Bang Bang BBQ and my thumb wait to hear if they've matched last year's performance.
Kim and George Przybylski of Bang Bang BBQ; and my finger wait to hear if they’ve matched last year’s performance.

Here’s a run down of the results:

CHICKEN:

Third – Aporkalypse Now
Second – GoneHoggin.com
First -Smoke-aholics

RIBS:

Third -GoneHoggin.com
Second –3 Eyz BBQ
First –Badlands BBQ

PORK:

Third – Rockin Robyns BBQ
Second – M & E BBQ
First – Big Dee’s BBQ

BRISKET:

Third – 3 Eyz BBQ
Second – Tasty Licks BBQ
First – Lo’ and Slo’ BBQ

MABA, “Delaware State Champions” – M & E BBQ

RESERVE CHAMPION – Lo’ and Slo’ BBQ

GRAND CHAMPION – Aporkalypse Now

Hogs and Hops 2013 Grand Champions - Aporkalpsy Now
Hogs and Hops 2013 Grand Champions – Aporkalypse Now (Smoke em’ all, let the judges sort em’ out)

Congratulations to everyone!

When I asked event coordinator Mark Hoffman about the turn out, he indicated that he was happy with the numbers, “We estimate attendance to be around 3500 at this point but we won’t know final numbers for a week or two.”  Of course being a beer guy, I couldn’t help but ask about what  got poured out the three beer trucks and the on-field beer bar, “It looks like we burned through about 45 barrels [ETA: I believe he meant half-kegs] of beer, about the same as last year. That may be because we had the wine option with Fenwick wine cellars this year.”

For the most part I think Hogs and Hops surpassed itself in just about every way when compared to last  year.  But there was one feature of the event last year that I (and several other people I talked to) sorely missed.  “We could not do a peoples choice this year due to health [department] regulations on contests like ours,” said Mark when I asked him about the missing Peoples Choice Award from last year.  However, Mark recognizes how much people enjoyed that aspect of the event last year and although he knew he couldn’t implement it this year, he had already been formulating a plan to bring it back.  “But we are working on something for next year already where teams would turn in a tray [of] pulled pork and WE would serve 1/2 oz cups and you vote for your favorites,” he told me.  “It was just too late in the planning stage to add that in this year but we are already trying to develop that system for next year.”

And if everything works out, we’ll be there next year.  After all, what dog doesn’t love a BBQ festival?

CUS with Dog

Hogs and Hops Preview – 2013

Hogs and HopsLast year I had the pleasure of attending the first annual Hogs and Hops (H&H) beer event and BBQ competition hosted by Fordham Brewery and Old Dominion under the shadow of their brewery itself.  And it didn’t take but a couple of hours of sipping on a beer while walking through the rows of smokers, the aroma of hickory, apple and other smoke woods wafting in the breeze;  for this to become my favorite annual event.  Yeah, that’s right.  The event struck a chord with me almost immediately.

And apparently I wasn’t the only one.  Event founder Mark Hoffman organized what I’m sure he considered going into that Saturday to be a very successful event.   Hogs and Hops was designed as a combination beer event and competition BBQ whose proceeds benefited the local FOP’s emergency relief fund.   Twenty-four BBQ teams signed up to compete and advanced tickets sales were brisk, topping out at approximately 1000. So no doubt Mark was sure they had succeeded in generating a good buzz about the event.  Then suddenly (and admittedly not so suddenly) something happened.

exploded

The day of the event walk-up sales quickly reached the advanced sales, doubling the crowd and causing the event to outgrow its venue in the first year, which resulted in the competition being moved to the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington.  The crowd consumed 44 half kegs of beer and made it obvious that more beer trucks would be needed to alleviate the long lines (although to be fair, I didn’t think they were that bad).  Not long after the event, Mark reached out to the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) and was able to get the event sanctioned as an official KCBS event, only the second such event in the state of Delaware.  Governor Markell then signed a proclamation back in May designating Hogs and Hops as a Delaware State Championship barbecue event, again only the second in the state.

This Saturday, marks the second annual Hogs and Hops and the event looks amazing.  The competition field has almost doubled to the event’s maximum (KCBS set the limit at 50), drawing BBQ competition teams from the Mid-Atlantic region and several from other parts of the US.  Fordham and Old Dominion are again supplying the beer this year, tapping Rams Head Ipa, Victory Lager, Copperhead Ale, Spiced Harvest Ale, Wisteria Wheat, Morning Glory Espresso Stout, Double D Ipa, Gigi’s Farmhouse Ale, Monk Czeck, Oak Barrel Stout, Octoberfest and for the kids and designated drivers, Old Fashioned Root Beer.  Because of regulations, the people’s choice award got shelved (hopefully only for this year), but VIP ticket holders will still get a chance to try competition BBQ in the form of food presented by Milford, Delaware competition team Mr. BAR-B-QUE.

But they aren’t the only team representing Delaware this weekend (some teams had very little if any website or social media presence so if I’ve inadvertently missed someone, I’m sorry).  TFFBBQ (Wilmington), Big Bang BBQ (also Wilmington, last year’s H&Hs 1st in ribs and 2nd overall), Slower Lower BBQ (Milton), Pigheaded BBQ (Middletown), Gone Hoggin’ (Bear, who I’ll be rooting for because in their Bios they list their favorite competition food as “beer”) along with That Guy BBQ and Rub Me Tender BBQ (both from Smyrna) will be hoping to cook their way into H&H’s first Grand Championship.  And why not?  The highest scoring team from Delaware will be named Delaware BBQ Team of the Year by the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association (MABA).  On top of that, due to the sanctioning by the KCBS and Governor Markell’s proclamation, the Hogs and Hops winner (regardless of state) will represent Delaware at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg, Tenn.  Well not this year.  And maybe not next year.  Or the next.

See, as I said Hogs and Hops is the second KCBS event and the second Delaware State Championship barbecue event.  The first is the Middletown BBQ Cook-Off which just celebrated its fourth year and attracts over 50 competition teams.  Because of its solo State Championship status over the last three years (as well as this year, I guess they figured it wasn’t fair to do it this year since Markell signed the proclamation only weeks before the winner of Middletown was crowned) the winner of the Middletown Cook-Off was the undisputed representative of Delaware at Lynchburg.  But starting next year, the winning teams from Middletown and Hogs and Hops will compete for the honor of representing our state.  What will that competition entail?  I don’t know right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it involves some large chunks of meat and some smoke.

One person who is probably very aware of the situation is David Marks, owner of the Famous Dave’s BBQ Restaurant franchise and pitmaster for Wilbur’s Revenge BBQ Team, this year’s Middletown Grand Champion.  Dave’s team will be on hand at Hogs and Hops and no doubt would love to walk away with a second Grand Championship, a claim to the undisputed Delaware BBQ Champion title (that doesn’t exist but it should!) and set the tone for next year’s round of competitions.

But he’s not the only big dog in the yard.  There’s a lot of great teams in the field this year, including 3 EYZ BBQ (2012 KCBS and MABA Team of the Year, current MABA points leader for 2013 Team of the Year) led by Dan Hixon; two time Pennsylvania State Champions LO’ N SLO’ BBQ led by Tom Perelka; and Hawg Nation (Pennsylvania state brisket champions three years running and MABA Team of the Year for brisket in 2012) led by Michael Czajka.

Sadly, it looks like last year's winners Alpha-Q-Up will not be returning to defend their title.
Sadly, it looks like last year’s winners Alpha-Q-Up will not be returning to defend their title.

So Saturday I’ll be strolling around rows of smokers again.  The smell of smoke wood permeating the air (and my hair, it will probably take a shower or two to get it all out), sipping on a cold beer and discussing BBQ with some very knowledgeable competitive pitmasters (we’ve been asked to hold back from talking with the competitors this  year until 3:00 due to the later turn in time from last year.  I have a suspicion that the real party will start at 3:15).  It probably would inspire me to do a little smoking myself on Sunday, if my smoker hadn’t nearly collapsed to the deck during my last smoking session.

But that’s another post.

Good luck to all the competitors on Saturday, I’m sure you’ll do Delaware proud.  And to Mark, Fordham and Old Dominion Breweries, all the volunteers and sponsors; thanks again for putting on an amazing event. See you there!