5:15 PM. Temperature is falling again. I decided to check the meat temperature directly. The meat looks gorgeous. Not falling apart yet, but clearly cooking nicely. Temperature is 165 degrees so there’s still some waiting ahead. So two thirds of the remaining charcoal goes in. Nervously, I eyeball the ten or so briquettes remaining in the bag. Who would have thought 15 pounds wouldn’t do the trick? Soon I’ll be burning leaves, and if necessary clothing to get this thing across the finish line. With The Queen asleep in the easy chair, no one is running to Lowes for more conventional fuel right now.
6 PM. No choice, awoke Her Highness and asked her to go to the store. The last of the charcoal is now in play and the temp is still below optimal. With her now conscious and alert, I took the opportunity with the last of the daylight to show off the meat and check the internal temperature. It is now up to 168. grrrrrrr. I have found that the barbecue sauce makes a great dip for dark brown pretzels. Kim doesn’t agree. Maybe I am just hungry. Or just determined to make it work. Or my tastebuds may just be numb from all the cayenne over the past 24 hours. I wonder if this stuff would be good underneath some stinky cheese on a piece of crusty bread? It’s a certainty it would take paint off of wrought iron.
8:42 PM. Gentlemen, we have lift off! Both smoker and smokee are resting comfortably after ten hours of labor. The pork passes its initial physical examination – a nice thin char, and even a bit of pink smoke ring to bear evidence that it didn’t just go in the oven. Well, I think it at least proves that it had to START in the smoker to get the ring. I could say it tastes pretty good too, except, um, I was ordered not to slurp any until it finishes resting. Why go to all the trouble to get it to 190 degrees if I now have to wait for it to drop again? So no, I haven’t been tasting on it. Much. But if I HAD tasted it, I would mention that the outer shell turned out nicely and carries a nice perfume of cumin but no trace of cayenne, while the inner meat is moist and hearty, with the wood flavor well penetrated. I am sure that is what my initial impressions would be if I had snagged any of it when The Queen wasn’t looking. But I guess I’ll just have to wait to be able to determine that.
9:48 PM, it’s all shredded and ready to go, thanks largely to Kim. Once it came off the smoker, I had run out of pages in the instruction book. So with the look of helplessness I have been perfecting over nearly three decades of marriage, I appealed for assistance with next steps. So we took turns burning our fingers on newly uncovered pockets of fatty lava and cleaning and shredding the shoulder.
As we finally can eat in earnest, Kim is raving about the flavor. A classically trained actress, she is hitting all the right notes, hardly overplaying it at all as she strokes my ego. Her slaw is perfect, with its sharp counterpoint to the smoke of the meat. I secretly don’t believe umami exists, but if it did, this combo would have to come close:
As I sit back with a full belly, the fragrance of the smoke rises from the remaining four pounds of meat on the platter and from my clothes and my hair. There are a few things I’d do differently. The sauce (as suspected) completely overwhelms the meat and will not be repeated. And the rub, alas, needs more heat. Go figure. All in all, though, I have to say I am very pleased with the venture.
There are things to change for our next attempt: Allow more time, start before dawn. Buy cheap beer and a good cigar for the journey; but try to hold off on both until at least breakfast. Two bags of charcoal and a box lunch are definitely in order too. And I need to remember that there’s ample room for a chicken or two along side (or above) the pork. Why stop at “enough” when there’s an opportunity to over the top? Life is good.