Monday, April 7, 2014

Black's BBQ Lockhart Texas, 4/7/14

sampled 4/7/14

Once again we opted to return from Houston via Lockhart, just because we could!  We made our usual pilgrimage to Black's and had better brisket there than at any of the 20 joints we sampled in Houston.  Just no comparison. The spare ribs were a little underdone but the jalapeno cheese sausage was tasty with a nice spicy kick.
I loaded up with an additional 6 pounds of Black's frozen brisket for my freezer for some good eating in the weeks ahead.

After Black's we made a stop by Kreuz Market where I grabbed another 25 jalapeno cheese rings for my freezer.  Yes, I now have a happy freezer.

The trip up the Pickle Parkway towards Dallas was enhanced by abundant bluebonnets blooming down the median and along both sides of the road for almost the entire length.  Our toll dollars at work!

2nd annual Houston BBQ Festival

sampled 4/6/14

This was our second year at the Houston BBQ Fest and once again it was fun, if not delicious.  The weather was a bit dicey at first, but the rain was never heavy or steady.  Ponchos kept us dry and we ferried our paper sample boats full of meat to the dining tents in a 1 gallon ziploc bag, keeping the food dry without any extra water added.
Once again we went with the VIP tickets and it was a very wise investment.  We got through all 20 joints well before the general admission hordes descended.
Out of the whole day, and sampling 20 different BBQ joints, the single piece of meat I would have gone back for was Louie Mueller's jalapeno sausage.  I knew that already!  A lot of the brisket was way overcooked.  When you tried to pick up a slice they often crumbled.  Several ribs were also overcooked and the meat had fallen off the bone by the time we got to the table.  A couple of ribs were undercooked and very, very tough.  I kept thinking back to the bite of New Zion brisket I had the day before and nothing at this fest even came close.  Daniel "the BBQ snob" was in attendence and I caught a photo of him with Mike, one of the organizers.

I sampled all 20 spots but Scott stopped short.  However after awhile I sort of stopped taking photos because most of the food was just very average.  We stayed a bit after they opened the general admission gates at 1 pm, took a few more photos, then headed to Lockhart.  Food photos will follow in a separate post below.



 Below, the hordes of general admission patrons awaiting 1 pm opening.

After the doors opened.
The pit area

2nd annual Houston BBQ fest, food photos



New Zion Missionary Baptist Church BBQ, Huntsville, Texas

sampled 4/5/14
On our way down to the 2nd annual Houston BBQ Festival we made 2 stops.  One at the Alma Smokehouse, where Scott had a sliced brisket sandwich, and this second stop at "Church BBQ" in Huntsville.  The sample I had last year was decent so this time I grabbed 2 pounds to go instead of the 1 pound I had gotten in 2013. Scott ate his on the spot and enjoyed it.  Even though I was fasting in anticipation of eating 20 samples the next day, I just had to sneak a taste from my box of brisket.   I found good smoke flavor and perfectly rendered fat that was full of flavor.  I have heard this place suffers from consistency issues, but on this day it was pretty durned good.  Also some of the cheapest smoked brisket I have seen anywhere, just $10 a pound.  They were generous with their sauce in little containers, but I did not need a bit of it. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

reheating frozen brisket and sausage

I've had several folks ask how I go about reheating frozen brisket and sausage.  In the past I have answered privately, but since it has just popped up yet again (thanks Steven), I figured it deserved a post.

I know there are a variety of ways folks go about this, but this is how I do it and I'm very happy with the results.

First off, I never freeze pork ribs.  I am too close to some really nice ones I can get fresh any weekend so I have no need to ever freeze them.  However I do often freeze brisket and sausage.  I have bought many frozen 4 pound hunks of brisket from Black's, both in person and by mail.  I have also frozen lots of brisket from Pecan Lodge and Franklin BBQ, all with good results.  I have also done lots of jalapeno cheese sausage from Kreuz.  In every case I try to get it eaten up in 4-6 months.

If you can, stick with the prepackaged vacuum sealed packages.  That will prevent freezer burn and give you better freezer life overall.  Here's a photo of 4 lbs of Black's brisket and Kreuz jalapeno cheese sausage in vacuum sealed packages.

Brisket is best when you can freeze one big chunk.  When you decide to thaw it out, leave it in the fridge for 2-3 days until you can feel it is thawed.  Then just slice off pieces as needed and re-wrap.  I think it retains the most moisture when you do not pre-slice it up before freezing.  I have also sliced up brisket into quart freezer bags.  This works well, too, but I think the freezer life is not quite as long and you should plan on consuming it in 2-3 months max.  In the case of sausage, the first time I want to get into the big package I thaw it out just enough top break off a few sausages to thaw, then rewrap the main body and put it back in the freezer.  You can also break them down into individual quart freezer bags but again, I don't think they keep quite as long. 

Now to the cooking.  After thawing out the meat completely in the fridge, I cut it to fit in a covered microwave bowl.
I use some old style Grab It bowls from CorningWare.  What surprised me is they do not seem to make these anymore.  You can get similar bowls with a plastic lid on Amazon, but they don't seem to have the nice glass lid anymore.  I am guessing any small CorningWare or Pyrex microwave bowl will do the same and you could use plastic wrap as a cover.  The two most important points is to use a covered bowl and to heat lightly.  Until you get used to how the reheating sets, it is best to underestimate and have to hit it again for 30 seconds rather than overcooking it.  The two slices of brisket and 1 sausage above were microwaved for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.  Be sure to let the meat sit, covered, for an additional 1-2 minutes after. 

I am always amazed to take the lid off and smell smoke from Black's, Franklin, or Pecan Lodge in my own kitchen.  It will never be as good as fresh off the smoker, but you can get pretty durned close with these easy steps.  The meat below was in the freezer for 5 weeks but tasted pretty good last night!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Red Dirt BBQ fest May 3rd
Scott hipped me to this new fest in Tyler on May 3rd.  They have 15 BBQ joints coming and a music fest following.  There are some pretty good joints coming so we're in!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lockhart Sausage run

February 19 and 20, 2014

I took a quick trip down to Lockhart to gather some Kreuz jalapano cheese sausage and, of course, made a few other stops on the way.  My buddy Trey came along for his first central Texas BBQ trip and he seemed to enjoy the ride.

On the way down Wednesday we stopped at Miller's in Belton so he could grab a sliced brisket sandwich to hold back his hunger pangs.  Trey pronounced it a very good sandwich with some light smoke flavor. 

Dinner was Black's, of course, and it was a winner across the board for me.  The brisket was excellent as always, with perfectly rendered fat that was delicious.  The ribs were spot on with a bite mark that would gather a 9 from any KCBS judge.  My jalapeno cheese link was slightly mushy, but with a nice flavor.  Trey opined that Miller's had a little more smoke flavor, but I was tasting smoke for hours afterwards so I had no complaints!

Lunch the next morning was at City Market in Luling and I was once again disappointed by their brisket. Chewy, failed the pull-apart test, unrendered rubbery fat, and no smoke flavor was the diagnosis.  I left some uneaten.  The ribs were outstanding and so was my hot ring. 

On the way out we swung by Blacks to pick up a couple of 4 pound frozen moist briskets.  They have a second register inside the pit room now so you can skip the line and come in through the dining room for to-go orders.   Very nice.

We also noticed a big TV crew was in residence at Smitty's.  All kinds of big AV trucks outside.

Next on to Kreuz for 2 boxes of my favorite sausage.  The lady was kind enough to vacuum seal all 50 links and I'll see how those hold up in the freezer.  That's the first time I have gotten the vacuum sealed packaging.  The price is now up to $2/link for cold jalapeno cheese.  Still a bargain in my book.
 On the way back we stopped by Miller's in Belton again and got some more sliced brisket to go.  My quality control bites produced a smile on my face.  I'll be enjoying that over the next few days.  I had a taste of their sauce and it seems to be much improved over what I tasted there before.  Very sweet with a nice heat finish.  I don't know if I will use it on their excellent brisket, but I will use it on something!