Sunday, May 27, 2007

Providence and Short Sugar's BBQ

Providence in the make.

I made a special request this week. I asked Steve if I could make Providence, the wash rind cheese based on a taleggio recipe. It is nothing like taleggio in flavor, but they both share a stinky, sticky b. linens rind. Steve made a batch of Providence last week so this week would be a gouda week. I'm not interested in making Jersey Girl gouda, even though it is quite tasty. I don't enjoy the two hours of stirring involved in the making of Jersey Girl. It is not high on my list of cheeses I want to produce. Providence is another story. I think it is a phenomenal cheese. I love the rich, complex flavor of this cheese. We've just sold the last block of Providence made from Jersey milk. Now we're trying the goat milk Providence. It isn't as buttery as the cow's milk version. It has a floral overtone yet still retains the sweetness inherent in the cheese, almost like hops and malt. I like both versions.

Steve handed the reins over to me and let me take the lead on the making of this batch. I filled the vat with 72 gallons of raw goat milk. We heated it and I stirred it to make sure it heated evenly. When it was time to add culture, I added it, let it melt and stirred it in. Rennet was added and this time did not over stir. Flocculation occurred after I quit stirring. Perfect. When it was time to cut, I sanitized the knives and gently eased them into the curd and sliced the white gelatinous mass into small bits, the size of popped popcorn. I let the curds heal for a few minutes. After healing, I took my clean right hand and stuck into the vat. I stirred the cut curds, breaking up clumps between my fingers, lifting the curds from the bottom of the vat and swirling them through the translucent whey. The curds are also being cooked at this time. Warm water is being circulated through the jacket raising the temperature of the contents of the vat. It feels good. I finish the stir with a big paddle, working a bit more vigorously in order to keep everything moving.

Ginnie's 'Nana Pudding

I wish you could taste this masterpiece of egg yolks and meringue.

Short Sugar's

My quest for the best barbecue in the Triad took me north of Greensboro on Thursday. I've been reading about a place in Reidsville called Short Sugars's Barbecue that's supposed to be one of the best barbecue pits in the state of North Carolina. Given the large number of mediocre barbecue joints around, a good one is a rare find. I've been talking to everyone on the farm quizzing them about their best barbecue experiences. No one had a place that stood out as a favorite, so I turned to the internet for help. Several websites referred to Short Sugar's in Reidsville and give it high marks. Since my time is short, I decided to take a drive and find this place and see if it is praiseworthy. I grabbed the keys to Lee's van and headed north on US421 to Greensboro around 5:30. Once in Greensboro, I picked up US29 and continued north for another 19 miles.

I found my way over to S. Scales street and came upon Short Sugar's south of downtown. I pulled into the parking lot and looked around. The building is a classic drive-in. Carhop service is available along one side of the building for to-go orders. Behind the building is more parking as well as a huge woodpile. A guy was out back sorting through the wood, placing split logs onto a cart and loading them next to the iron door built into the brick barbecue pit. Lots of wood was waiting to be fed into the fire to turn fresh pork shoulders into barbecue.

I grabbed a booth inside and looked over the menu. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week. There are burgers, sandwiches and ham biscuits on the menu. I ignore them and go straight for the barbecue plate. A young waitress took my order and went away. I could see the prep area. Behind it is the pit. The pit is a large brick oven. Three caramel colored hunks of pork (shoulder, I assume) are sitting on the edge, keeping warm and ready to be chopped or sliced into barbecue dinners. I see a gentleman wearing a red apron wielding a large butcher's knife. He's chopping pork. This is a good sign. The barbecue isn't sitting on a steam table for hours waiting for orders.

The waitress returns with my order. She sets a paper plate in front of me. It has the classic combo of a pile of barbecue, creamy slaw, hushpuppies and fries. The fries are the gross crinkle cut fries. I can easily ignore them and focus on the rest of the plate. I can smell the smoke from the freshly chopped barbecue. I try the 'pups. They're slightly sweet with a hint of onions. Time for the moment of truth. I take a bite of the barbecue.

I pause as my mouth waters and I chew on the most moist, succulent, tender, smoky, and perfectly cooked barbecue of my life. OH MY GOD! THIS IS IT! I have tasted heaven and it comes on a paper plate in Reidsville. This is what I've been hoping to find for the past three months. The barbecue is dressed with a sauce that doesn't overwhelm but helps accentuate the tender, smoked meat. It is thin, tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy but not hot. It is definitely vinegary and has brown sugar in it. It is the best $6.20 I've ever spent.

There isn't a non-smoking section in the place. Every table has an ashtray on it. Somehow, it is ok. I expect a place like this to be smoky. I can't believe I'm saying this because I am a devout non-smoker. I want to be surrounded by the blue smoke of cigarettes blending with the wood smoke that permeates a good barbecue joint. It goes with the food. It wouldn't be authentic North Carolina barbecue if it was served on china in a non-smoking restaurant. I wish I could find this kind of place back home. I guess I'll have to come back to North Carolina more often just to get my fix of "down home" cooking and barbecue.

Yes, I did buy some barbecue to take home. It freezes just fine. I also picked up a bottle of sauce and a coffee mug. Short Sugar's has a great logo. Little Carrie has a friend who believes that the more human-like the pig on the sign of a barbecue joint, the better the barbecue will be at that place. Short Sugar's has a very human-like pig on the sign. Her friend's rule seems to be true.

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