The Infamous Mississippi Barbecue Run!

I am sure you all feel the same way I do when someone mentions Mississippi Barbecue… That feeling of slight confusion, mixed with that “did I miss part of the conversation?” feeling. It just doesn’t have that Carolina/Texas/KC/Memphis vibe. Albeit for good reason. I put it on par with Louisiana-style Barbecue.

Exactly.

The strange thing is, the Mississippi Gulf Coast does seem to have a unique identity – and it is a sauce style. They do not appear to have an allegiance to any particular meat, just the usual pork, beef, chicken, and occasional smoked sausage. Most of the smoke they rolled was hickory, and the meats were cooked well to varying degrees at the four joints we stopped in.

Overall, no one appears to believe in doing anything to prep the meat. No dry rub, no mop, no real seasoning to speak of. Another generalization is that they cook the crap out of their ribs. While “fall off the bone good” sounds great, it is overly over cooked. Believe it or not, ribs taste better when you can pick them up and eat them on the bone. Anyway, I’ll save you the diatribe – just trust me that a couple places went too far.

Off to the sauce – Mississippi Style!

The sauce is a tomato-based barbecue sauce, and most of them had a heavy sweet aspect – Pleasant’s Barbecue in Pass Christian had a nice molasses bite. A number of them also had a heavy tomato flavor. With this profile, it is definitely distinct from any other region of ‘cue I’ve tried. Being a huge fan of bringing out and enhancing the flavors in the meat, I am a bit biased against sauces (like these) that cover up the (sadly unseasoned) meat.

Time for the rundown on some of the stops…

Stop Number One: Pleasant’s Barbecue in Pass Christian

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We hit this little joint for a late lunch on a Saturday, and it marked the official start of the 2013 Mississippi Barbecue Run! Located right in downtown, the neat little barbecue shack is easy to spot. Walked right in and ordered a sampling of Brisket, Ribs, and Pulled Pork. The Brisket wasn’t half bad, as expected outside of Texas. The pulled pork was a mix of pork and the Mississippi-style sauce – which, once again, I do not find very appealing. The ribs were cooked well, a touch overdone, with a nice smokey char to them. After smoking and before serving, they are basted and put on the grill for a few minutes to caramelize the sauce. The sauce worked well with the ribs, and I would give them a thumbs up. I would definitely hit this spot again, but only for the ribs.

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Stop Number Two: The Shed Barbecue in Ocean Springs

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Ever had one of those experiences you have been looking forward to for years? One of those spots you plan a trip to visit? Well, that was the Shed for me. Now, mission accomplished and all, I must report my level of fulfillment is exceptionally low. On my journey of barbecue snobbery, I’ve outgrown what was once held high – all-you-can-eat riblets at Applebees (20 years ago), making ribs in the oven (also 20 years ago), Corky’s (10 years ago), and now the Shed. To be fair the barbecue was decent, but not worth the drive. We sprung for the sampler, which was A LOT of food – brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken, chicken wings, and probably a few more animals. We went for the mac salad, coleslaw, and mac n’ cheese. The sides were tasty, and the mac n’ cheese was in the vein of glorious Kraft variety. The brisket was nondescript, as well as the pulled pork. The ribs fell apart on the plater, so they were cooked to death. The chicken was okay, but not very smokey or flavorful. Given my desire to hit the Shed, it was solidly a disillusioning disappointment. I would roll back for a second try, if it wasn’t out of the way by more than a mile.

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Stop Number Three: Mother Kluckers in Gulfport

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The next day brought a wander all over the Mississippi Coast, and a theme started to develop – Gs Station Barbecue. This place was attached to a slick gas station on the beach, and it even had a pit sitting out front! They specialize in barbecue and fried chicken – what could possibly go wrong? Once again, the sampler was summoned! The ribs were over cooked Shed-style, and not very well seasoned. The regional sauce returned with a vengeance here, with a powerful molasses flavor and other sweetness to mask the flavorless meat. Sadly the fried chicken was also a devoid of seasoning. This joint is on a saltwater beach – dipping this stuff in the Gulf could only help. I would probably say this is a good joint to skip.

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Stop Number Four: Seal’s Marketplace in Kiln

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Tied for Best Barbecue in Mississippi with my sentimental favorite (Louise’s Barbecue, which in about five miles from this place). This is a straight-up gas station with a convenience store. No separate restaurant, ain’t got nothing fancy here. This is literally in the middle of nothing about ten minutes from Nowheresville. The barbecue was shrink wrapped and under a heat lamp – a cute package of chicken, pork loin (this can be tossed out), ribs, and smoked sausage. The chicken was amazing – the skin was crisp and bite-thru friendly. The ribs were cooked right, with a little tug needed to pull them off the bone. The sausage was the best outside of Lockhart, Texas. Sadly, scheduling prevented partaking in the brisket – which is ready everyday at six o’clock. I will return to tasty this brisket, if the other ‘cue is any indication. I am more excited about this gas station ‘cue joint than I am about the Mississippi Barbecue Institution of the Shed.

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Overall it was a good weekend trip. A word of advice – start on a Friday and hit the scene hard on Saturday. Most of the joints we hit were closed on Sunday – and by most, I mean more than ten joints that we closed for a day of rest. All this means is that another Mississippi Barbecue Tour will be in the works!

My favorite ‘cue joint in Mississippi is open again – the wondrous Louise’s Barbecue outside of Picayune (closer to Kiln). They deserve, and will get, their our special writeup. Speaking of which, the Texas Barbecue Road Trip will hopefully be the next writeup to come. Stay tuned, and I promise to ramble on a bit more often…

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How to go Low n’ Slow with Mr. Gobbles.

It is now less than a month from the Official Day of Eating Too Much Turkey (ODETMT for short), so it was decided that a Turkey shall be offered to the gods of the ‘cue. That and turkeys are on sale for $0.47/LB ’round these parts. This sounded like a pretty good idea.

First, this came as a frozen ball o’ ice, ready to shatter a toe with twelve pounds o’ solid at the soonest opportunity. This was overcome with a giant stockpot, a bunch of piping hot water, and a tasty brine of half sea salt and half molasses. I have been a big fan of brines in the past, although I try to keep them focused on poultry and occasionally a pork shoulder. I am getting downright cocky with briskets, and am preparing to take one down without foil, and just salt and pepper – but that’s a story for another day…

Back to the bird… The next morning, the bird (henceforth to be known as Mr. Gobbles) was injected with half butter and half apple cider vinegar, with a little bit of the ol’ Pork Rub dumped in there. All the leftover injection was poured in the “cavity” of the bird, because why not? Next, the plumped up Mr. Gobbles was rubbed down with the magic Pork Rub V2.01, which has a sweet heat, with a little twang on the end.

By this time, the pit was fired up with care, with hopes that some form of meat would soon be there – and, as luck would have it, Mr. Gobbles was ready! The bird was placed in a deep pan, and loosely draped in foil. He went on the pit for a nice nap at 235 F, with a tasty apple wood smoke.

All was going to plan – until it was time to remove the foil and pan after six hours. Mr. Gobbles was starting to fall apart at this point, but the skin need about an hour to crisp up. The pit was restoked, and the bird set back on… Then Shiznit went South.

During this process, the door opened (or I didn’t close it – prefer the door magically opening option), which allowed a boatload of oxygen (I believe that is the scientific unit of air measure) into the pit. The temperature then decided to spike to around 600+F. Fortunately, I caught this after about fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, the skin was definitely crisp. And black. And scorched.

While the skin was a loss, the meat was still very tender, with great flavor from the brine, injection, and rub. For the most part, Mr. Gobbles was a relative success (minus the part of the attempted incineration). Since his relatives are dirt cheap, another attempt at bird may happen soon, with a few nifty tweaks…

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After a short vacation from the Blogosphere, we’re bringin’ the Barbecue back to the Interwebs! The picture above is out first batch of Boudin, which was a fun (albeit pain in the keyster) experience to make. For the uninitiated, Boudin is a pork sausage made with Pork Shoulder, Pork Liver, Rice, and a magic blend o’ Spices.

Having never made sausage before, the first step was to get all the stuff together to hit the ground running. Kind of. I may have tripped a couple times. First – since it is sausage – casing was required. Where does someone find and procure slightly used pig intestine these days? Good question. I figured that people who enjoy killing stuff would probably also enjoy stuffing those dead things into tubes. To this end, my guess of Academy Sports and Outdoors was the first, and fortunately last stop. The casings were procured!

The next hurdle was finding liver. I can honestly say that I have never looked for pork liver. I knew what it looked, and I knew that the meat packer I worked for would box them up and sell them to somebody. To my chagrin, this somebody wasn’t a meat market or standard grocery or even a local supermarket. They only carry calf and beef liver. Maybe chicken livers if you wander into the hood (yes, I wandered into the hood in my pursuit). After canvasing the Interwebs, Friends, and Friends on the Interwebs, I found the House of Obscure Meats and Meat Parts – the glorious Hong Kong Market (which also happens to have the best produce in town). They pretty much sell everything here but the oink.

The adventure progressed to the kitchen. On that fateful day of August 26, 2012, the range was fired up, the scale was busted out, and the creation of twenty pounds of Boudin began. If you’re in the greater New Orleans area, you may remember this date as three days before Isaac. After starting the process, it was off to wrangle up plywood and a generator. After another ten hours went by, it was time again to keep playing with the Boudin. All was blended by the kitchen with care, and the sausage was stuffed in the casing in hopes that Isaac soon wouldn’t be there. Nothing quite says friend like helping another man stuff his sausage.

For a former Yankee, the Boudin turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself (and I do). A few of the neighborhood coonasses even gave me props – sup with dat?!?! Twenty pounds of Boudin was made that day, and as of today, almost all has been consumed.

The next meat experiment? Bacon. The harnessing of ancient and magically tools and knowledge needed to change a humble Pork Belly into Deliciousness…

BBQ in the Blogosphere!

Here we go – kinda… Figured it was time to start trying to remember how to write. It’s been years and years since I’ve done anything more than Facebook posts and emails for work, so please bear with me…

The whole point of this blog is to ramble on about my super-awesome-delicious barbecue, my modesty, attempts at barbecue competitions, reviews, and other rambling that may or may be associated with anything else. Also, I’ll be looking for feedback from the world at large, especially when it comes to the ‘que.

Other than that, please tune in for further posts!

Crazy Jeff, Pitmaster