Monday, June 9, 2008

The Great Pork BarbeQlossal!

It was a multiple team effort last weekend in Des Moines, Iowa as Chris and I traveled north to compete in the Great Pork BarbeQlossal at the World Pork Expo, held on the Iowa State Fair Grounds. The Dodge County Smokers were to team up with Jerrod Caton and his Pork Me Purple squad for this unique all-pork BBQ competition. Our team is collectively known as the Dodge County Purple Porkers.

As chronicled here a few weeks back, we did a practice run in the drive way to cook our pig along with loins, pork butt and ribs. Things went smoothly and it seemed that we had it all down. We made supply lists, plans for cooking and our tested recipes. We were really looking forward this one.

But early last week Jerrod learned that he would not be able make the trip to Iowa with us. Family comes first and when Jerrod and his wife, Abbey, learned that their surgeon in Oklahoma could get her in to tend to some serious back problems that she has been experiencing, they hit the road for Tulsa. But before he left town, Jerrod equipped us with the supplies, ingredients, and a few cooking tips that might help us out. He also arranged for his father-in-law to lend us an extra set of hands...and we were sure glad he was there!

When the smoke cleared Saturday afternoon, the Dodge County Purple Porker team claimed 2nd place in the Whole Hog category, 3rd in Pork Shoulder and 4th place overall - just edging out another team who capitalized on a combo effort as BBQ legends Ray Lampe (aka Dr. BBQ) and Fast Eddy Maurin teamed up under the name Sugar in the Raw and scored 5th place, just .0005 of a point behind us.

We were very lucky to have the services of Jerrod’s Father-in-Law, John Riley, all weekend long. John lives in Des Moines, so this was a home game for him…and he was integral in the success of the team, doing everything from building turn-in boxes to selecting which cuts of pork we would turn in to the judges. John was a tremendous help all weekend (as was his wife, Joanne) and we were very fortunate to have him on our side.

Jerrod was in constant contact with us all weekend. Between text messages and phone calls, he was in the loop every step of the way from the set our the cook itself and the turn-ins and awards that followed. Chris and I were joking that Jerrod would be mad that he missed out on all the fun - but when we spoke to him, he was happy and relieved that we scored a few calls and we didn’t make a trip for nothing.

While we always feel like we have a chance to do well when we show up at a contest, we are also always surprised (and excited) when we get a call. The biggest surprise of the day was our 2nd place call in the whole hog category. We cooked a 49lb pig that we purchased from Mike Lake (of Rock River BBQ and Lynch Livestock). Chris, John and I went to work prepping the pig Friday afternoon and he went in to the cooker Friday night along with our pork butts, which turned out to be another award winning entry for us. We cooked 2 butts the Pork Me Purple way and 2 the Dodge County way. In the end it was a true team effort as we used elements from both styles to snag 3rd place. Every year the folks from the QLossal select a state and recognize the top scoring team that hails from that state. We didn't know it, but this year the selected state was Kansas. So it was another very cool surprise as we were singled out, being the top scoring team from the Sunflower State.

In addition to the contest, there was so much more going on. We saw a 123 lb pork burger, watched fellow teams compete in the Big Green Egg Scramble and mingled with pork producers and industry folks from all over the world attending the Pork Expo. I can see why this contest is so highly regarded among KCBS competitors. Organizer Anne Rehnstrom does a fantastic job. I don't know how she does it, but I am happy to say that we were a part of it!

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