When it comes to barbecue, geography is everything.
That according to Matt Moore, author of the recently released “The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection.” He explains how barbecue differs in the 12 southern states he calls the Barbecue Belt. And just to end the suspense, Indiana is definitely not one of them.
“In Northern Alabama, they combine vinegar and mayonnaise along with other variations to make a chalky white-style sauce,” says Moore, whose idea of a great day is turning up the volume on his favorite Grateful Dead songs, icing a case of beer, firing up the grill, inviting a bunch of friends and making some really good barbecue. “In Tennessee and Kansas City barbecue sauces are tomato-based, sweetened with molasses, and in Northeastern Kentucky it’s very dark, almost black. The reason why there’s a mustard-based sauce in South Carolina is because of all the Germans who settled there.”
Calling barbecue a second way of life down where he lives, Moore’s newest book takes us on a tour of some special pitmasters and their restaurants, sharing their stories and their recipes.
“I was seeking out not only great barbecue but also the best people,” Moore says. “I wanted to showcase the diversity and the ethnicity of this culinary tradition, which started more than a hundred years ago.”
Barbecue is complicated and beyond what to use to sauce the meat, there’s also the question of whether to go wet or dry. Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee, is where dry rubs — a mixture of spices and seasonings without any liquid — became famous. But that’s not all.
“Fuel is flavor,” says Moore, noting there are very involved discussions about what type of fuel is best to use.
And, of course, there’s what Moore calls, “All the Trimmings” in his chapter on side dishes.
Helen Turner, owner and pitmaster of Helen’s Barbeque in Brownsville, Tennessee, tops a lot of her sandwiches, including her smoked bologna and pulled pork with her special cole slaw.
At Bogart’s Smokehouse in St. Louis, Missouri, located on the Mississippi River, intriguing sides include their Fire and Ice Pickles, Deviled Egg Potato Salad and BBQ Pork Skins.
At Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta, Georgia, there are Kimchi Pickles and Candied Bacon at Burn Co Barbecue in Tulsa, Oklahoma. B.R Anderson, owner and pitmaster of B-Daddy’s BBQ, who says that barbecue saved his life, serves B-Daddy’s Jalapeno Creamed Corn at his Helotes, Texas, restaurant. For desserts there’s Caramel Apple Blondie Pie with Apple Cider Caramel Sauce, Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and Strawberry-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie with Gingersnap Crust.
“I wanted a cookbook that people can really cook out of,” Moore says. And indeed, this handsome book with lots of gorgeous-make-you-hungry photos has plenty of easy recipes as well as tips for making barbecue.
If you go
What: Matt Moore will be in Chicago for a talk and book-signing.
When & Where:
6:45-8:30 p.m. April 26 at Read It & Eat, 2142 N. Halsted St., Chicago