The Lilacs are blooming on Mt. Moriah.
Greetings dear readership, and brethren of the smoke. We’ve been on vacation as of late, and I won’t deny it’s been a rather lovely sortie away from the digital trenches. A routine of which, if I am not careful on the matter, I suspect that I could get quite used to. We’re talking life on the road here. Seeing new sights every day. Meeting interesting people. And that hallowed feeling of putting a great many miles between you and the home front. It’s nice, and a wee bit intoxicating to the spirit. But alas, we are home now, and well-traveled. We have some good vittles outback on the smoker, too, but before we get to that, I’d fancy to show you something we discovered out way of the Black Hills. Something I thought it was kind of cool, and maybe you will too.
We were in the small Cowboy Hamlet better known as Deadwood, SD. Strolling up the main street there, which if there ever was a main street in this world that begs to be strolled, this perhaps was it. We made the usual token rounds: We saw the Celebrity Hotel where Brad Pitt’s slippers from Spy Games were on display. We went in the ice cream shop hoping for a double scoop of Rocky Road, but no one was around to harvest our currency. So we sidled out the door – scoopless. We also poked our head in the bar where Wild Bill Hickok was shot, thought about it for a while, then left. You know, the usual Deadwood flybys. Then, after the formalities were over, we found ourselves up on a hill, on Mt Moriah to be exact, in a cemetery there overlooking the town. It was a quaint place, by and by, that is if cemeteries can register as quaint. The lilacs were fragrant, and the grass was green. And it was up there that I saw the flag.
The American flag hung limply on it’s pole, back-dropped by a blue, South Dakotan sky. I guess it wasn’t so much the flag, there, waving over Deadwood that captured my attention. It was more the plaque residing just below it, and the words it forever held there.
Here is a flag, if you read the plaque, that is always up. Every day. Twenty and four hours a day. Never in our lifetime to see a half-mast. Never to forget our brave soldiers in battle, nor their selfless trials endured for the sake of our country. It’s been flapping in the sky over Deadwood for a long time now, since WWI it says, as stalwart, and as true, as the veterans it honors. I don’t know about you folks, but I thought that was pretty cool. In a day and age where so many flags seem perpetually stuck half-way up the pole, here is one that at last resists. And that is no small thing amid the pine-scented breezes of Mt Moriah.
Anyways, that is what I wanted to show you. Something we saw in our travels afield. Now out to the pit!
The Joy of Bark
It was Memorial Weekend, and as you can see we had some fine eating coming to maturity pit-side. A humble little pork shoulder, or butt if you must, one of which needed only 6 hours on the smoker, courtesy of it’s wee size. I think it was only 5 or 6 pounds, boneless, and nary fraction shy of utter succulence. This photo was snapped near the end of the cook, and my oh my, take a look at that bark. Glory be!
Bark. It’s what every pit jockey secretly strives for. That hallowed offspring of seasoning and smoke, and of heat and meat. The magical effects of bark cannot be understated, nor I think, adequately even explained. Just trust us when we say, you want bark. Yes, to the uninitiated, it might resemble something more of a meteorite that landed in your back yard. Likewise, lift the lid of the pit housing a well-barked butt, and the newbies about will at once moan your name in vain, declaring it a grievous loss. This is common place. You always have to reassure them that it’s alright. It’s just bark.
When you pull your pulled pork, which is usually appropriate anywhere from 195 to 203 internal, you always want to evenly distribute plenty of bark amongst the meat. The best pulled pork sandwiches have a little bark in every bite. And we have found if you foil your butts like many pit masters like to do, that the practice can sometimes lend to a lesser bark. So if you want a robust bark, let your pork shoulder ride “nekkid” the whole way. That’s just our opinion, but it seems to be the case.
Another tip for good bark is to use a mustard slather first thing, before you apply your rub. The mustard acts purely as an adhesive agent for your spices. The more rub you can get to stick, the better the bark. And no, the mustard flavor will not register on your tongue. I don’t know why, nor do I try to analyze it. It’s just one of the enduring mysteries of the BBQ Arts. Our rub we used this smoke, Maynards Memphis Rub, was from the kindly spice wizards at Miners Mix. We’ve used it on a lot of stuff now, and pork may be it’s strongest suit. Man! Very tasty! Oh, and our smoke wood this time was hickory and apple.
After letting the meat rest, whilst tented in aluminum foil, we pulled the tender and most succulent pork muscles into savory tendrils of perfectly smoked pork. Mixing that all important bark in through-out the sandwich. This is authentic BBQ, people. The real thing. I’m sorry, but your all-beef wieners will just have to take a back seat today. That’s just how it goes.
Before We Devour
I try to give thanks to the Good Lord more at meals these days. Just because. Because it’s the right thing to do, I suppose. Thanks for family, and for health, and for good food, like slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. Not to mention just the privilege of just getting to BBQ in the first place, in a country that is free to do such things. Indeed, much to be thankful for. And as I cast a glance out the patio door , and see the smoker out there still curling faint, blue, wisps of smoke, I cannot help to but to give thanks also for the military men and women who have served, and still serve our country. You will always be our heroes. And always have our respect. And I think of the American flag flying stoically atop Mt. Moriah, and the beautiful fragrance of the lilacs which bloom there. Amen.
This has nothing to do with BBQ. Not a single thing. But then again, maybe it does.
I was standing in line at the post office a while back, with a small box under my arm, making the best of my appointed errands there. The line was long, and the people in it were restless, wanting to get things moving, no doubt, so that they could get to the next line some place else. And I guess I was one of them. I’ve never been one for lines, but come to think of it, who is. Anyways, standing behind me was as elder man, sporting a red flannel shirt, gray hair and mustache, still of good form, and in his 80’s I should wager. I liked him right off. There was just something about how he held himself, and the patience he had there standing in line, that made him different I guess. Plus I liked his flannel. And patron to a quick glance at his ball cap, I deduced he was also a veteran of the Korean War.
My Pa was a Korean war veteran too. Flew in the big C-119 flying box car, which rumbled over the sea of Japan with tremendous regularity, bringing important supplies to our troops. Every body had a job or two out there, and that was his. I’ve heard some stories around the supper table in my day, let me tell you. But’s that’s all I know. The stories. Not being a veteran myself, I know I will never fully appreciate what it is really like to serve your country. To be on the battle field. I know this because of what happened next at the post office.
There was another old man standing in line, and he too caught a glimpse of the aforementioned Veteran, noted his ball cap, which plainly said “Korean War Veteran“, and promptly engaged him in penetrating conversation.
He asked the Veteran where he was assigned to, which squadron, and so on. I do not remember his answers. I didn’t need to. And neither do you. I just watched like a fly on the post office wall. Turns out they were both veterans of the Korean war. Both assigned to similar things. And within 30 seconds, nay, maybe even shorter than that, all the talking was done, and the old men simply embraced one another. Some heads turned in the post office, but they didn’t care. Brother’s of the trench, you might say. Clearly there was more going on here today, than postage exchange.
Moments like that sorta compel man to take pause, don’t they. Suddenly standing in line isn’t such an imposition. Nay, it’s our privilege. So may the Lord bless our veterans today, and every day, for their services selflessly rendered, so that you and I can even partake in something as mundane as standing in line at the post office. Our privilege indeed, And we thank you! We thank you one and all. Amen.