Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Harpoon


Months ago, I stared at my calendar and had pretty much decided that I would not be able to go to Harpoon. Sheila was pregnant with Max, and her due date was July 22. The Harpoon BBQ contest is July 25-27. There was just no way I could possibly plan to go with the baby's due date so close.

Then, something happened.

In June, the doctors moved her due date up to July 15, and I started thinking that maybe it would be possible. When he was born healthy even earlier on July 11, the decision was made. I was going.

Now, we are the reserve grand champions of the event. But let me back up.

I always expect to do well at BBQ contests. If I didn't, I wouldn't compete. I doubt any of the teams put in all the time, effort and money with a hope of finishing 38th. However, at this particular event, I did not feel any real pressure to do well. We had not competed at a sanctioned KCBS contest since last October at Sayville, and most of the top teams at Harpoon had competed five, six times so far this season. To think I would show up after so much time off and do really well would have been silly. Also, some big national teams had come up, making the normally tough Harpoon field just that much tougher.

But the good thing is that I have been cooking and practicing all along. Mostly chicken and ribs, but I did do a brisket last month too. Since Sayville, I also got a new smoker, a Backwoods Party, and have added a BBQ Guru to it to help better control the temperature.

I was also planning to cook spare ribs in the competition instead of baby backs for the first time. While I felt pretty good with my new spares recipe, you never really know how they will do the first time out of the box.

We were planning to vend too, which adds a layer of difficulty to things.

So going in, I decided a few things; For one I wasn't sleeping Friday night. One problem in the last few contests was that if I go to sleep at all, the pit temperature crashes. I was not going to let that happen. Also, while I wanted to do well vending, my competition meat was going to get top priority.

So the plan was to have my brother Cristiaan go up early to secure a good vending spot for us. He got up there Thursday morning, but the site we wanted was already roped off. So we got a good spot next to our first choice, which was near the beer tents, but not on the main drag. I had no intention of cooking enough food to justify taking a spot on the main road, which is where most of the food is sold.

I got up there Friday before noon. We were set up right next to Lakeside Smokers, which was awesome. Mike and Kris are the best, and there is nobody I would rather be set up next to. On the other side was the Giggling Pigs, who were nice.

Unfortunately, Sheila did not make the trip. The baby was only two weeks old, and even with the camper, we felt that it was just too soon to bring him to a contest. Also, his presence would have been a huge distraction. That, combined with Sheila needing to be near a computer to deal with work issues, made it impossible for her to come.

We got our meat inspected quickly so I was able to get everything marinated and seasoned quickly. Usually I end up running around socializing with everyone, but I really tried to stay on our site and focus on the task at hand.

With the exception of the new ribs, the rest of the recipes for the contest were set. The only difference is that I went back to my old butcher for briskets, Salem Prime Cuts in Salem, CT. While he always gets quality meats, when I picked them up, they were really small. This concerned me, but I just adjusted cooking times and they clearly worked out well.

So Saturday rolled around, and while I was pretty tired, the cook went very smooth. My sister Kathleen, her boyfriend Jon and Cristiaan's girlfriend Kim all were going to handle the vending operation. This allowed myself and Cristiaan to focus on the contest.

The chicken came out ok. I was not sure how it would do. The skin was a little rubbery, despite my best efforts, but it tasted pretty good. Chicken was called for 9th place.

The ribs, I cooked three racks of spares for the contest. Two of the racks, I overcooked. I lifted them with tongs and they fell apart. Ut oh....but the third rack was not too tender and sliced nicely. All six bones came from the same rack, which I understand is unusual for competition spares. They did ok, 12th place in a difficult field. Not bad for a new recipe.

Next was pork. My pork recipe has been pretty consistent, usually gets called in the top ten. This time was no different, 7th place.

Then came the brisket.

I should have had some idea that the brisket was going to come out really good during the overnight hours. Brendan from Transformer BBQ was over, and commented how good the brisket smelled coming out of my Backwoods smoker. Then, once the vending started, I carved some of the brisket for a few customers and they raved about it.

Once I started carving for the contest, I knew the meat was really good. However, a couple of the slices seemed a little bit tough, although they all tasted great. When they called it for first place, it was a great feeling.

About a minute later, we were called as reserve grand champions. We missed being grand champions with an automatic bid to the Jack Daniels contest by 2.2 points. While of course I would have liked to have won, I really couldn't have been much happier to win reserve. With the strong team list, even finishing in the top ten is a great accomplishment.

My only regret is that Sheila was not there to share the experience. She is my partner and biggest supporter, and I know she would have really enjoyed the weekend.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congrats Ted, What a way to start off the season. Maybe Sheila and the baby should stay home next year too. (JK)

Great job against such a tough field.

Hope Max and Sheila are doing well.

Steve
Fat Angel BBQ

Ted Lorson said...

Thanks Steve! Hope to see you at Hudson Valley.

Lakeside Smoker said...

Ted,

FYI, my neighbors house is for sale. We could be set up next to each other all the time!

Mike

Eric Devlin said...

Great job! Any chance of bringing the baby to Sayville?

Eric

Pigtrip said...

Ted, you made me proud on Saturday. Reading that last paragraph made me even more proud. Great seeing you again, and best of luck at Hudson Valley.

Gary

Sheila Lorson said...

I do wish I was there, for SO many reasons. But, I have to agree with Steve...maybe I'm not very good luck to have around!!! I am, as always, your biggest fan and no one could be prouder of you and your success as a BBQ Pit Master, husband and new Daddy!

Love,

Sheila

Anonymous said...

Ted you probably don't remember me. I met you two years in a row at the Harpoon and commented you on your great ribs then you were kind enough to give my wife and I a plate of your #1 brisket which was off the hook. Please contact me if you read this at Skidderhd1@comcast.net I have some questions for you. Thanks, Bob