[gentle music] - See how crispy that skin is?
- I was about to say it's really crisp.
- That's gonna be my piece.
[slow guitar music] That is delicious.
- You're welcome.
- When people think about Eastern North Carolina barbecue they always think about whole hog, but for me my most powerful food memory is of being a little girl and waking up on Saturday mornings to the smell of smoke and char, 'cause one of Dad's friends every Saturday brought us four barbecued chickens and my bedroom was next to the kitchen and it was like the best way to wake up.
What do you think Dad should we take some in to Mom?
- Because you don't go home unless you do.
- Well I'm not going home.
[upbeat bluegrass music] - I'm Vivian and I'm a chef.
The food I cook tells the story of Southern food as I know it, but that story is more complex than I thought.
♪ I don't know where I'm going, ♪ ♪ But I'm on my way ♪ ♪ Lord if you love me keep me I pray ♪ So I set out to find the dishes that bind and define us.
Along the way I saw that when we eat together we share more than a meal.
The American South is my classroom and the dishes we share will be my roadmap.
Thank you very much.
- Yep, appreciate it.
- Thank you.
- Good morning.
- Hey, I'm Vivian.
- All right nice to meet you.
- Nice to meet you, this is my Dad - Very nice to meet you.
- He got some chicken to take to my Mom.
- So do they chop it up here?
- Into quarters.
- Quarters, okay.
- All right, love you Dad.
- Okay, love you, bye.
- Take care, yeah nice meeting you.
- Adrian Miller is a self-proclaimed soul food scholar.
He's on a trip to do barbecue research for his new book.
Now Adrian's already sampled an impressive amount of 'cue around the country, but I've got a few spots in Eastern North Carolina he needs to check out, so he can see how we do 'cue.
How are you this morning?
- Just fine, just fine.
- Will you give me a hug, all right.
- Well yeah.
- Will you take us back to the pit?
- I sure will.
- This is my friend Adrian.
- How you doing neighbor?
- Hi, I'm visiting from Denver, Colorado.
How are you?
- That's a hell of a place to be from.
[laughing] - Both Sid's barbecue and his quick wit and wisdom are only available on Saturdays.
And because you can only get his craveable chicken and pork once a week people literally line up to have Sid's barbecue for breakfast.
Yes, down here we eat barbecue for breakfast.
You been doing this on Saturdays how many years?
- 43 years.
- This is where we do our dirty work.
That's my son and that's my chopper over there and the smoke is part of the job.
Can't stand the smoke you had to get out of the kitchen.
If the hog is cooked right... - Is it cooked right Daddy?
- Yes it's cooked right.
If it's cooked right that meat will fall away from that bone.
You see how it comes away from the bone?
- How long does it take you to cook the pig?
- 18 hours.
- What do you cook it over?
- It's whole hog barbecue.
- What's the best part?
- All of it.
The ham and the shoulder and the loin has to be put together in order to make good barbecue.
You just do the ham it's too dry.
If you just do the shoulder it's too oily, so we do the whole hog.
See how the oil is coming out of that, which is called grease.
- How many pounds was this hog when you started out?
- About 175 pounds.
You gotta a little bit more taste in a larger hog than you do a smaller hog.
Just like an experience in life the older you are the more experience you have.
- The more seasoned you are.
- The more seasoned you are.
But if you don't have any fat in the hog you don't get no crispy skin.
- See how it bubbled up here?
- The skin is really note worthy here.
- Little sauce on it.
That's all right, don't worry about it.
- Four second rule.
I love skin chopped up and sprinkled on top.
- So like a change in texture?
So Sid why do you only do this on Saturdays?
- I'd rather serve 300 people one day than to serve 30 everyday.
- Plus he likes to golf and he's not gonna work seven days a week.
- Now this is the pork loin.
You figure the skin factor out with that?
Makes a better flavor right?
- Yep, absolutely.
- Sid what makes barbecue to you?
What do you need to have to have barbecue?
- You need the smoke factor.
You need the burn off of the grease fallin' down on the coal, that's the barbecue, barbecue.
If you bake it in an oven you gonna roast pork.
- I think you're right.
[guitar music] People love to argue about what makes barbecue, barbecue.
Everyone agrees there's meat for some people that meat is pork, chicken or turkey.
In some cases it's fish or beef.
The other thing we tend to agree on is that for it to be barbecue there has to be smoke and before smoke there's fire.
If your dictionary's definition of barbecue is whole hog, wood and smoke then you'll probably find a picture of Skylight Inn next to it.
What's garnered from a legacy like the one Sam Jones inherited from generations of an unwavering practice is something akin to gospel.
The time intensive process of cooking Eastern North Carolina whole hog barbecue is laid bare here.
- Hey, hey.
- Nice to see you.
Sam this is my friend Adrian.
- How you doing sir nice to meet you.
I've heard a lot about this place and I'm just glad to be here and check it out for the first time.
- I hope it was all good.
So we've got some whole hogs.
The process is pretty primitive.
Whole hogs placed on a pit, harvest the coals, we shovel coals, shovel coals, then shovel some more coals.
Prior to cooking the only thing we put on 'em is a salt solution and it aids in the crisping process as you can see.
- Aww man that's nice.
- So you cook over wood?
- Well once upon a time that was the only way.
I always like to that our family this is about as far above ground as we've evolved.
You know at one point in time you cooked whole animals below ground.
- So how do you flip it?
- Yeah, if you hear that sizzle, crackle, pop.
- You can't recreate what takes place when the fat renders onto those coals and little poofs of smokey goodness start to interact with that meat.
- Do your thing.
- And you will see what seasoning that's applied is applied once he carries it in and begins to chop it.
- His name is Chopper.
- He has it on his shirt.
- Oh yeah check that out.
- Aw nice.
[ambient music] - He made those cleavers himself.
Three and a half pounds a piece.
- He's all in.
- Throw the salt, pepper, hot sauce and a little bit of apple cider vinegar.
- Oh, okay.
- Now is there a way to eat this make it not look like I'm from out of town?
- And with each bite of the cornbread have a little pork or slaw on it.
Man this is good with the crispy mixed in it's awesome.
- Adrian is writing a book about the contributions African Americans have made to the barbecue cannon in our country.
- Yep and a really good sign here is I mean you've got a really diverse clientele, so I see a lot of African Americans coming in here so.
That's a sign that it's good stuff.
- This is the place to come.
So Sam what do you think is unique about what y'all do here?
- I think it's unadulterated.
Once upon a time I was embarrassed by this joint.
When I first started traveling it was like you know I'm from Ayden and you go in these restaurants, these nice kitchens and I'll never forget one particular moment I walked in the back door with Chavez, so you got a view of this line here and I saw a family, Mr. Ballhorn and his two sons, his grandson who's my age and he was holding his son and twice a month at least you're gonna see that family in here.
I walked over there and go, "Mr. JB, "how long you been eating here?"
and he said, "I ate my first sandwich in 1951."
And I stood there and it didn't mean anything to them, but I was thinking on our worse day we're still their favorite barbecue joint.
- What is barbecue?
What does it have to be to be barbecue?
- What I call barbecue is this because that's what I was raised on.
Them drums were beat everyday.
We cook whole hogs over wood and anything less than that we're all going to hell and you know ain't nothing we can do about it.
So many I times think that as time goes on people will overthink the simple foods.
- Barbecue, barbecues the best thing in the world.
- It's just a pit and there's fire.
- Meat and sides and a grill.
- Barbecue to me is not hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, that's a cookout.
- Whole hog in a cooker.
- Everything that walks can be barbecue.
- You want to have a couple of cold beers 'cause it will take a while to cook it and you want to have that element of smoke.
- That sour, spicy pork that's been cooking all day.
And now I don't remember what your question was because I'm thinking about barbecue.
[Laughing] - Turkey barbecue, I'm so excited.
- Have you ever had turkey barbecue?
- I have, but in other places.
- Hi, welcome to Boogie's.
- Hi, thanks.
I'll have one of everything.
- Well one of everything.
Would y'all like to go to the pit?
[upbeat music] So this is the pit and this is the Master.
- How are you doing?
- This is my Dad.
- Vivian Howard.
- All right.
- Adrian Miller.
- All right.
- So what do you know about turkey barbecue, Adrian?
- So turkey barbecue is a big trend right now in African American barbecue and I'm seeing it all over the country in different ways.
I've seen it in Memphis more pulled, St. louis they're doing turkey ribs, which is the shoulder blade with some meat cut around it.
- What about you, how do you do it?
- Carolina chopped up barbecue.
- And do you put the skin in there?
- Well, yeah I put some skin in there.
- Okay, no I'm glad because that skin looks really good.
- Yeah, I put some skin in there now.
You just take them off and we take the knife and then we start deboning.
Add my special season too and it's an oak smoke.
- So are y'all from Elm City?
- Not exactly, I pastor a church here in Elm City.
I've been pastoring for about 26 years.
- I have noticed that they're a lot of black preachers who barbecue, so what's the connection between preaching the word of God and smoking meat.
- I ain't found that out yet.
- So Adrian why are you so into barbecue?
- As I got more interested in food, especially soul food I figured like a lot of soul food joints have a barbecue option and then a lot of black-run barbecue joints have soul food sides, so I thought if I'm gonna explore soul food I need to understand more about barbecue.
I was just astounded how little love black barbecue people were getting in national media because before the 90s black people were the standard bearers for good barbecue.
- I feel bad we're just watching y'all do that.
- I might then give you some gloves and a knife.
- I'll take some gloves.
I hope I'm doing this all right.
- Yeah, you look like you got some meat in there girl.
- Okay, good.
So you said that African Americans were the standard bearers of good barbecue.
Can you tell me like how that came to be?
- Sure so the first thing to know is that what we think of as barbecue today is really Native American in origin and that becomes Southern barbecue.
Through slavery that culinary heritage gets transferred to enslaved Africans.
By the time you get to the 1850s barbecue is associated with black people.
In fact there are recipes printed in newspapers that include black people in the recipe, which they would say you have to have a colored man cook this.
- That's how we were so identified with barbecue.
They were called barbecue superintendent.
And usually it was somebody who had the skills who was just overseeing everything.
And in my book believe it or not I have a woman from the 1840s in Arkansas who was a barbecue superintendent.
So this is a black woman enslaved telling dudes what to do.
- Oh God.
- In 1840s, Arkansas.
After Emancipation, African Americans are Southern barbecues earliest ambassadors, so they bring barbecue to places like Boston, they're put on trains, stagecoaches and boats and it was one of the few examples where an African American would actually be written about in the press and interviewed.
That's what kind of status they had.
Now sometimes it was racist and caricatured, but there were several dignified treatments of these barbecue people.
And then with the rise of the automobile you could see an explosion of restaurants.
Then there's like what I call the Golden Age of Barbecue where for about a 50 year period in 1930s to the 1980s African Americans are the standard for barbecue.
- You smell the smoke?
- Yes sir, did you spill any bones.
- No, I didn't.
You need a part-time job.
I'm getting ready to go into another phase here.
- Oh, you're gonna put it in a grinder.
- Well I start out chopping it, but wisdom kicked in.
[upbeat organ music] What you think?
- All right that's a bone you left in there.
[laughing] Now let's put the slaw in there with the barbecue, that's the way you eat it.
- Very good.
- That slaw is good.
- Yeah, that's homemade good.
- What makes it orange?
- Now you want get in my slaw secrets don't ya'.
[laughing] - I understand.
Well it's good, thank you so much.
- Thank you.
- Adrian got me thinking about these buried barbecue histories.
Stories about people, about Pit Masters that you never hear.
He suggested I head West all the way to the Mississippi River to learn about some of those more contemporary stories.
Often called Memphis-style barbecue the way they do 'cue in Tennessee strikes a different balance than what we do in Eastern North Carolina.
The sandwiches and platters are a little sweeter, a little saucier and some of the Pit Masters are women.
- Two regulars, one pulled and one chopped.
- So are sandwiches are the thing to get?
- Everything about here is good.
- And I put skin on both of 'em.
- Did you request the skin on there?
- We always do.
It's good to see y'all.
- Nice to see you.
- [Man In Black Cap]Thank y'all so much.
- Thank you and come back again.
- [Man In Black Cap] All right.
- Hello, how are you?
- I'm good, how are you?
- I'm good, what can I get you?
- What are you known for?
- I'm pretty much known for everything.
- But I sell a lot of pulled pork and barbecued bologna.
- Can I get the pulled pork and the bologna on one sandwich?
- You can.
- And can I get some skin like that gentleman?
- You can.
- Do you cook on that?
- No, this is where I keep it warm.
I gotta pit out back that I cook on.
[upbeat music] Look at that steam coming off the bologna.
[country music] - Hey Willie.
- Hey Helen, you know what I want.
- Ms. Helen.
- Yeah, come on in.
- Thank you, that was delicious.
I've never had such impressive bologna.
Is that a thing in these parts?
- It is.
You had asked me for some crackling on your sandwich and I forgot.
- I was wondering where that was.
- So I'm gonna put you some on the side and let you try it.
- Thank you.
That is the skin is like the best thing.
- Everybody asks for that on their sandwich.
- God, thank you.
- Yes sir, how are you?
You wanna slab of ribs.
- You know what I want.
- A whole slab?
- A whole slab.
- All right.
- So we're about an hour North of Memphis and I always thought that Memphis was kinda known for ribs with a dry rub.
- That's what I heard, but I don't dry rub anything.
But I hate to see you get fat, but this is a polish sausage.
- You and my Mama both.
- What I do is split it down the middle, put the slaw and sauce on the inside.
- I want some of that.
How long have you been doing this?
- I've been doing this here for 23 years now.
- You're the only woman I know that's like a Pit Mistress.
- Only thing that I think that I bring different to it it aint too many people that cook with wood anymore.
- So I cook with hickory and oak.
I burn my wood down and I smoke over just the coals from the wood and you don't see very many people cooking open pit anymore.
- It's a lot more work, no?
- A lot more work, lots.
My husband get up at 5:00 o'clock in the morning.
- Oh, so he does help with something.
- He the one that come down here and make the fire.
And when I get here it be done burned all the way down to the coals.
I get here around 7:00 o'clock.
- For your pulled pork is it boston butts or... - Oh no they whole shoulders.
- Oh really and that perfect skin that came off the shoulder right?
- That came off the shoulder, yes.
- I really like the level of smoke in your pork and sometimes I think it can be too smokey and then sometimes too faint, but I thought yours was perfect.
Do you ever feel lonely?
- No this place right here keeps me busy and happy and see how she laughing at me right there.
[laughing] - What are you getting today?
- I need three pounds of pulled pork, all the fixings.
- They hungry.
[laughing] - Tennessee is certainly a place you think of when barbecue is on the brain, but Florida not so much.
Maybe that's why my friend Greg took me to an Alabama barbecue spot in Tampa.
- Hey, how you doing?
- I'm good, how are you?
- Good, good, good.
- I'm a hugger, you're not I can tell.
What's your barbecue all about?
- We season our meat as we cook it.
No propane, no ovens.
We do it the old fashioned way.
- I will get ribs and sausage.
- Awesome, you get two sides with it.
You gotta try Ms. April's famous collard greens.
- Okay, collards and baked beans.
- All right.
[upbeat western music] - It's interesting that when I asked to meet you for lunch you took me to an Alabama barbecue place in Tampa.
- Yeah, much like most of Florida things came here from other places.
Florida has just been kind of this melting pot of people coming down for you know the better part of 200 years.
Gotta remember this was very late joiner to the U.S. By comparison to the other Eastern states.
- I wonder if that's why we don't think of it as like "Southern".
- That'll be yours.
You got the ribs and sausage, collard greens and cole slaw.
- Yum, that sausage.
Y'all need anything else don't hesitate to ask.
- But they cut it up and put sauce on it, which I like.
- And this white bread I don't quite know what to do with it.
[laughing] That's good, slaw is sweet too.
- Alabama barbecue in general is that it does have a sweeter sauce to it.
- It's a mom and daughter.
It's kind of unusual.
- Not a lot of female Pit Masters.
- I mean where did the word Pit Master even come from?
- And it not be Pit Mistress.
- Are you looking forward to the Mullet Cook-Off?
- Yes, I am.
I've never competed before, it's just one of these bits of old Florida that you don't see anymore.
- And it's in what they call Cracker Country?
- Yeah, people will do a double take when they hear that word.
It's kind of like a catchall term for like old Florida native.
The word cracker kind of originates from the idea that when the state opened up as a territory people would move in and they found these wild cattle that they could just round up and maybe crack whips to get cattle moving and that crack of the whip is where the term cracker came from.
- Oh, really.
Anywhere that you are in the state you're never more than 60 miles from the ocean.
So there's this whole idea of land and sea crossed together.
Within 10 minutes driving you can be in cattle pasture.
- Greg's friend Renee is a rancher, a proud Floridian who raises a rare breed of cows known as Cracker Cattle.
Yes, I said a female rancher in Florida.
The Sunshine State is indeed full of surprises.
Renee is hosting a cookout with cracker beef and a few signature Florida sides and I'm invited.
- Good morning Vivian, how are you?
- I'm good.
- Welcome to the end of the Earth.
- Thank you, thank you.
- Good morning, I'm Kit.
- Nice to meet you.
- Nice to meet you Kit.
This is beautiful.
I mean I've been to Florida many times, but... - This is the real Florida, Vivian.
- Oh really.
- Everybody else thinks that they've gone to the beach and Disney World and seen Florida, they've not seen Florida this is Florida.
Yeah, we're gonna actually see some cracker cattle today.
These little cracker cows are actually Spanish Andalusian.
Ponce de Leon came, he brought over horses and cows and pigs and dogs from Spain.
He was shot by the Calusa Indians not long after he landed.
They dumped all the animals, they loaded him in the ship trying to save him and these animals went wild for almost 200 years.
Okay, I'm fixing to get loud calling my cows, sorry.
Come on girls.
Come on darlings.
Come on, I see ya'.
Come on girls.
- So are there a lot of people who raise this type of cattle?
- A lot more now.
These cattle were about to disappear.
And DNA wise they can literally trace their roots back to the cattle that came from the conquistadors and I think it's like having living history.
- And they serve a purpose.
You know the palmettos and the pine trees these gals can live quite wonderfully in that environment.
And boy you can't take a commercial breed like an Angus or a Hereford, they won't survive.
They're still meat if you know how to cook it properly and that's what we'll get into later, you've got to cook it properly.
These are some of my friends that I've invited because you wanted a cracker barbecue.
You got a cracker barbecue.
This is Vivian everybody.
And now Vivian I want to introduce you to Johnny Lloyd.
- What is that?
- This is the bull whip.
Cracker come from the whip.
- It's loud.
[screams] - Sorry, that is really something.
So what are you making?
- We're gonna roast a little cracker cattle chuck.
We're just gonna do a salt crust on it.
The idea behind this is if you throw this straight on the coals and that salt is gonna melt and make a crust that's gonna keep it seal it up keep all the juices inside.
- So you're gonna put it over and then the papers gonna burn.
- Papers just gonna burn right off.
And we're gonna cook that straight on the coals.
- Looka' there.
- You know we really take pride in our barbecue.
- Did you bring any of your ribs here today?
- No we brought collard greens also made with wild turkey.
- Oh, really.
- As the seasoning meat.
We have wild Florida turkeys.
- John you cook barbecue for a living, so what makes something barbecue?
- Taking a raw piece of meat and making it taste good, that's barbecue.
- That's barbecue.
We're having a conversation about what makes barbecue barbecue.
- Slow cooked over either coals or smoke translates to barbecue in some way depending where your skinned in the world I guess.
- That's just a Southern thing.
You know if you're looking for the South this is the South.
[upbeat bluegrass music] - First I have to give a toast to the most amazing cracker chefs at this table, everyone thank you so much.
- Since there's such little divide between land and sea, Florida's barbecue culture is equal parts surf and turf.
The surf part is front and center at Terra Ceia Island's Annual Mullet Smoke-Off.
But before you smoke the mullet, you have to catch it.
- I'm Vivian.
- Hi Vivian, I'm Dea.
- Dea, nice to meet you.
- Nice to meet you.
- You're the famous Rick Gullett.
- Not famous, just Rick Gullet.
- We're gonna take you in the back country and try and catch some mullet.
- I heard you were gonna shave a mullet for yourself for tomorrow.
- Yeah, I think I'm gonna do it tomorrow.
- You got it kinda started already.
- Yeah, yeah.
- So this is mullet season right now, right?
- Now is when they taste the best, they're full of fat.
- And they're starting to get roe in em'.
- So they taste the best just before they make their roe?
- I think so.
I look at Art because his family has been here forever.
- And would you call yourself a Cracker?
- Straight up Florida Cracker.
- So how do you know where to go to catch a mullet?
- The wind, the tide and the time of the year.
Like the winds blowing out of the north right now, so you try and stay on this side of the bay.
If I went on that side, I'd be throwing into the wind.
- And so when you say find some you're looking for the water to be dancing?
- See the little rip on the water right here?
- That's mullet.
- Right there.
Oh my gosh, y'all it's like... And so like how many of them are in there?
- It's probably 200 heads there easy.
- Really, like right there?
- Can I help?
- Yeah, sure.
You want to get in the water?
But can I help from the boat?
[upbeat music] You broke their necks?
- Yes, it's better.
If you leave the blood in them they get a stronger, fishier taste.
- So I'm assuming these are gonna win the mullet smoke-off tomorrow.
- They are our good luck mullet.
- Well thank you this is beautiful.
- Thank you guys for coming.
- Let's go drink beer.
[upbeat rock music] - Sign-ups are underway right now for the mullet toss, come on over.
- Okay, get a rocker let's go.
- I don't understand what's happening?
- Are you not from here?
- The more you think about it the less sense it makes.
You've heard that before haven't ya.
- I got wet.
[rock music] How are y'all?
Let me guess what you've got in that smoker.
- Maybe about 21 head or 22 head in there.
- Oh wow.
- [ Man In Gray Shirt] I started them about 5:00 in the morning, you can touch 'em.
- And what do you put on yours?
- I brine it for about six hours and then I put a little seasoning on it.
The key is to dry the fish before you put 'em in the smoker.
We've been cooking fish like this for generations.
Easy to catch, so you know when times were tough people could go out and get a whole mess of mullet and mullet and grits in the morning is kind of a staple that I grew up on.
Cold mullet and grits.
It's been nice.
- I'm a cracker also.
- Born here in Florida, been here all my life.
- All of the people that were born here in Florida and have been here all their life, they're right here at this festival.
- I would think so.
There ain't too many of us left.
- If there's such a thing as smoked mullet royalty The Gullett Brothers take the crown.
They've placed or won 16 out of the 20 years this Smoke-Off has happened.
You would not want me to watch you season it?
- No, I have no secrets.
- So tell me about why is this darker than this?
- These are the ones that their necks were broke and this one was not broke.
- That is amazing.
- You can see the blood in it from not breaking their necks.
- Are you worried that you haven't gotten it on in time?
- Okay, well don't let me slow you down anymore.
- How'd you get to be over here and everybody else is over there?
- When you win six times you can pick wherever you want.
[laughing] And tell my brother that too.
- You want to show her?
- No, you want a bloody nose?
Hey Chickory, good luck gettin' second.
I said good luck gettin' second.
Aww we ain't got time for that now.
- You gotta beer open.
- Do you put anything on it before you put it in the smoker?
- Everybody does it a little different.
- If we told you what it was we'd have to kill ya.
- Oh, how long do they smoke?
- [Man In Orange Shirt] About three hours.
- Every time you open the door, look at what you're doing you lose heat so if you're looking you're not cooking.
- So I met your brothers.
- Yeah, they're a trip.
I try and wait 'till noon on Saturdays to start drinking, it doesn't pay to drink early here.
- Proceed to party.
[upbeat guitar music] - Good morning, this is your smoker?
- I have a dumpster business and that's an old propane cylinder from underground.
- I know you're not supposed to open it up a lot 'cause if you're lookin', you're not cookin is what I've been told.
- You got to leave the fat on the fish.
Why waste it?
It's the healthiest fat on the market out of any fish.
- So you scrape all of the fat off?
- I do.
I don't really like the little taste that it has.
- Do you keep the fat on your mullet when you smoke it?
Y'all are a divided people.
- Oh yeah.
- Different strokes for different folks.
- Here's to your crew.
- Have you met Mr. King?
- He's a legend here.
- I like the mullet.
This whole mullet smoking thing is like a sealed culture and they learned from their grandfather and their father and their uncle and they pass it from generation to generation.
I had none of that.
Okay, I'm from middle of the state.
So I come over here to learn from them, but the application form says, Only Manatee County residents.
- They finally let me in the door and after a couple of years they decided to change the form 'cause maybe outsiders weren't so bad.
[upbeat guitar music] - Have you had some since you've been here?
- Everybody's got it all around, but nobody's offered me any.
- What do you think?
- That is amazing.
- That is nothing more than a ham cure, rub it on there let it sit for few hours, rinse it off let it pellicle, we'll put it in the smoker.
- Okay, so let's talk about this pellicle thing.
- Especially fish smoking like this, that's you must pellicle.
It's just dry rub, you know salt, sugar, pepper.
The top layer of it has actually been effected by the passage of the salt through it, protein breaks down and it's kind of a slime.
You rinse it just gently rinse it to knock anything loose off of it, but all of the black pepper and red pepper and all that's embedded in the stuff it's not washing off and then at that point then you let it dry and it air dries and it becomes a skin so that all the moisture that's in there will stay inside.
So that's why it stays moist.
- It has literally like a skin and that's from the pellicle.
- That's the pellicle, yeah.
- I eat a lot of stuff on here this is among the best stuff I've had.
I'm not kidding.
- How you doin'?
- I'm good.
- Recover from that barbecue yesterday?
- Yeah, yeah.
I'm hungry again.
What's goin' on under your lid?
- Well this is my first attempt at competition mullet smoking, so... - How's it looking?
I think it looks good.
- Good good, these can probably about another hour on them.
- [Man In Black Shirt] Here, you go.
You got your fingers?
- Yes, I got my fingers.
But I think you're right to leave the fat on there.
But nobody else that we talked to does that.
- Why waste any of it?
- How long do they stay in there?
- Six hours.
- Oh six hours?
- To do it right, when you go slow.
You can do it in half that time.
You can do it in a fraction of that time.
- Yeah, that's what Mark's doing.
- Yeah, that's what Mark does.
Don't ask me, okay?
Sometimes he gets up in the morning and says, "I gotta go catch my fish."
Okay, but he wins.
Don't ask me.
- Hi, how are you?
- I'm good, how are you?
- Ah, we're fine.
- Where's your smoker?
- Behind you, that thing smoking.
- Oh, pretty bare bones, huh?
- Oh, this is not good.
- It's not?
- It's too hot, even I know that.
You wanna... - Yeah, but he don't have the time, so he's making it hot.
- Oh, I'm sorry.
I feel like... - Naw, it's not your fault.
They slept in, that's their fault.
- Yeah, actually it's not my fault.
- All contestants in The Mullet Smoke-Off come to the stage immediately.
Mullet Smoke-off contestants to the stage area.
- When you win six times you get a ride.
- Thank you everybody for attending this wonderful event, but I'm now going to announce the winners of the Smoke-Off Contest.
Second place trophy, $75 cash, Mark Gullett.
There he is.
- This year the Gullett Brothers may not have won the big prize, but they didn't go home empty handed.
- This if for Pops.
[crowd cheering] - Much like Florida, Texas feels like another world.
We know the Lone Star State is all about their barbecue, but there's more to Texas than brisket.
Here it is barbecue.
In the tiny South Texas town of San Diego two sisters serve a little known regional delicacy.
- Hi, how are you?
- I'm good, how are you?
- I'm Vivian.
- I'm Rachel.
- Hey Rachel.
You do this thing called Mollejas?
- Yes, the mollejas is sweet bread in English.
- It's the thymus gland.
- I have them over here ready to be seasoned.
The texture of it is squishy.
- Yeah, I've worked with these in my restaurant, but not in a barbecue kinda way.
They're not a pretty organ.
- No, they're not.
- But when they cook they're really, really pretty.
- And is this something people love here?
- Oh yes, I love 'em.
- I personally don't.
- You don't?
Well you can't agree on everything.
- I look forward to them being cooked.
[laughing] [upbeat music] - Over here I start it off with some charcoal to get that heat going and then we have our mesquite wood over here to give it that flavoring.
And sometimes I'll just stand out here and I'll just watch the fire.
- Fire is a mesmerizing thing.
Would you call yourself a Pit Mistress?
- Pit Amateur.
[laughing] - But so mollejas, they're a thing that people eat in South Texas.
- They'll eat it on tacos.
They'll eat it... Like today we have our special is baked potato.
So sometimes we'll have people put it on their baked potatoes.
- Like a loaded baked potato.
I love that.
You're my kind of girl.
- The fire looks like it's ready so I guess we're ready to go season the meats.
Here's our special mollejas seasoning.
A little mixture that we created.
It has a little bit of salt, your garlic powder, onion powder, a little extra stuff.
- A little extra secret J & S spice.
- We're gonna put all our meats on here.
All these bags 'cause we'll sell all of these today.
- Oh really?
- Oh yeah, we'll sell out.
- That is a tray of organ.
Do you have any sugar in your rub here?
- We put a little bit of sugar in there.
- I'm prying it out of her.
- She's trying to get all my secrets, right?
- One ingredient at a time.
It's interesting you're putting them all kind of like they're all touching?
- Yes, and when I turn 'em, I'll turn 'em all together also.
Let me go ahead and close it.
- These are flour tortillas?
- I guess that's a Texas thing?
- Very Texas, yes.
- You do 'em one at a time?
- Well a lot of people have the machines, but I don't like the machines.
To me it's more homemade if you roll 'em out.
- Hey, when you do something by hand I think you can taste it.
[upbeat music] - The color on them is pretty.
- It is.
- Yes and the sizzling sound... - So why do you cut them?
- We cut them so that way we're guaranteed that nice, soft texture.
So they'll stay on there until they come apart, so that way they won't be chewy or anything.
Did you want to try to cut some?
- I wanna try to eat some.
[laughing] - Does it add a little taste to it?
- It's delicious.
And I don't find it to be chewy at all.
The smoke is not overpowering, but it's certainly the reason it tastes so good.
What's your favorite part of what you do?
- Spending time with my sister.
- I knew you were gonna say that.
- So it's all about being with family and being able to be there for your family.
Those are ready.
We're gonna put those onto the pit.
Just slide 'em right on.
There you go.
We'll make sure they're all spread apart.
And we'll let them cook a little bit longer.
[upbeat music] - What do you think makes barbecue, barbecue?
- Honestly, I'm gonna say the person doing it 'cause I've tasted a lot of barbecue you would know when somebody enjoys doing it when they don't.
You know when it's in a rush and when somebody takes their time.
And passion you can tell, you can taste it.
- Yeah and I can tell y'all really enjoy being with each other, which is what I'll remember about this and that.
[laughing] So will you make me what you want to make me.
- Ready, potato.
- Baked potato.
That's what I was thinking.
- Oh, look at my loaded molleja potato.
That is amazing.
Oh God, that is awesome.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
- Thank you for coming.
- Thank you.
- You're welcome.
- Towns near the Mexican border may be home to Tex-Mex 'cue, but the barbecue capital of Texas is undoubtedly Lockhart.
Brother restaurateurs from Austin Tatsu and Shion have offered to take me on a barbecue tasting of sorts to a few of Lockhart's most iconic spots.
- I'm Vivian.
- Shion, nice to meet you.
- I'm Tatsu.
- Tatsu, nice to meet you.
So what do we get?
- Today I wanted to kinda do a barbecue crawl.
Get a little bit at each shop and just kinda go at it.
- This sounds like a dream come true.
So I'm gonna follow your lead.
- Okay, cool.
- Let's do it.
- Hey man, what's going on?
Let me get four slices moist.
You have a steak today?
- We got prime rib.
Yes sir, it's gonna be well done.
- That's fine.
Let's take a slice of that and let's do a couple of sausages.
In Texas barbecue there is lean and there is moist.
I usually like to get moist 'cause it's harder to get it moist then lean so.
- Tells you what a good barbecuer you are.
- I like fat.
- And what's cool about sausage everybody does it differently, each shop has different blends and in Texas we call that hot gut.
- Hot guts!
- Yeah, easily.
- Can I look in there just... - Sure.
- I imagine it's hot in here during the summer.
So this is the prime rib?
- This is a shoulder right there and then we got brisket, then it's the ribs.
- And you're the main guy?
- Yes mam, right here.
- Thank you so much.
Look at that technique.
- Thank you, appreciate it.
- Got a little meat basket.
- All right.
Hey, how are you?
- Welcome to Black's BBQ what can I get for you today?
- Let's get three slices of moist.
Man that looks awesome.
Let's do jalapeno cheese sausage, pork ribs.
You guys want to do the beef ribs?
- Yeah, let's go for it.
- Okay, let's do the beef ribs too.
- That's like Flintstones meet the Flintstones.
- Hope you're hungry.
- I am.
- Let's get four slices moist.
- When do we get to eat?
- Man, let's go eat right now.
I'm getting hungry.
- Perfect little place back here.
- Yeah, it's pretty.
- Look at that.
- A little sake.
- We got some yuzu here as well.
- I'm going with y'all all the time.
So this is how you do?
- Yeah, this is how we do it.
- So what's this?
- It's a surprise you can open it.
- But yeah this is why I don't get the sides.
I just bring the sides.
- Oh my gosh.
Sorry, that was a squeal of delight.
- In the bento box is rice, underneath all the veggies is Japanese potato salad, a bit of takuan, which is a pickled daikon, pickled carrots, cauliflower and cucumbers.
- Yeah this is something you'll like.
You see that it's just super juicy.
- So we got sausage, brisket, Flintstone rib, pork spareribs all paired with Japanese pickles and this amazing wasabi and like combining the two traditions.
I mean I think all these pickly elements are just so perfect with this smoked richness.
So they're kinda like the slaw.
- Yeah, it's our version of side dishes.
- I'm moving to Texas.
This is the best thing I've had in a long time.
[slow guitar music] - How do you do barbecue in your restaurants?
- We actually smoke a lot of fish.
- Yeah because that's one of the main memories that I have growing up, doing backyard barbecue with family.
I mean that's our main protein right in Japan.
We literally flew in from Tokyo to this little tiny town called Elgin, Texas.
- Yeah, we lived in a one room cabin.
- No electric, no running toilets.
- How old were y'all?
- I was 10.
He was about six at the time.
- You go to the bathroom by going outside, digging a hole and then doing that and then you bury the stuff.
- Totally hippie.
I mean we were from Tokyo right.
So if you can imagine from that to... You know what I mean like.
- And so then how did you come to be in the food business?
- Growing up we didn't have money, so essentially I took a job as a dishwasher.
Worked my way up and I was like, well you know I want to open something up you know that speaks to my culture.
- Have some wasabi with the brisket.
- It's the perfect combination.
So how would y'all define barbecue for y'all?
- Barbecue to the Japanese perspective is the Shokunin spirit as in like you're continuously doing the same thing, but little by little tweaking it and create a ultimate product.
- So Shokuni spirit?
- Shokunin spirit.
Barbecue to me, it's about immigrants coming to Texas, whether it's German, Mexican heritage, you know they add their own culture into this thing.
You know maybe a hundred years down the line, yeah maybe people are smoking more fish because we had it in our backyard or whatever.
It becomes tradition.
- And y'all are a great example of one of the things that we've learned along the journey of the show is that are your food traditions shaped by that place and then how do you then shape that place with the traditions you bring.
And that's a big part of our history and future.
- Yeah, absolutely.
- God, we got a lot of meat left.
[laughing] [ambient music] If you go on a barbecue trip to Texas you'll most likely end up in Austin.
In this hipster friendly, food obsessed city more traditional barbecue spots get most of the attention, but Tatsu has an interesting thing going on at his Japanese Smokehouse.
Housed in a former barbecue joint the restaurant is a funky, playful example of how barbecue culture has shaped Tatsu and how Tatsu has shaped Austin's barbecue.
- Vivian, how are you?
Welcome to Austin.
This is my restaurant Kemuri.
I like to call it John Wayne on acid in Tokyo.
- Izakaya is essentially Japanese gastro pub, so it's more like small plates, small bites with sake.
This is my take on traditional Izakaya.
As a Japanese kid who grew up in Texas... - It represents who you are.
- Yeah, like mixing with what I know, you know?
- This is awesome.
Will you show me around?
- Yeah, let's do it.
Let me show you the kitchen.
- This is a binchotan grill.
We're talking about Japanese barbecue this is the way we do it, it's essentially oak that's been in the kinlin for weeks.
When you have a piece of meat and when it drips it gives a nice smoke.
- But it's that rendering of fat, that's been hitting the the heat source and then you got the smoke?
- Yeah, that's the flavor right.
To me this is definitely Japanese barbecue.
Take me in the smoker.
I saw a cool one outside.
- Yeah, I'll show you that.
[slow rock music] - All right so I see cauliflower in here.
- I see cauliflower too.
It's so Austin.
- This is our spicy pork ribs.
We're doing kabocha.
- Yeah, the squash?
Oh wow it smells awesome.
- It's hot, very hot, careful.
So I serve it with a soy and sherry vinegar gastric on it.
I have the oak and I also have mesquite.
- And mesquite is like stronger?
- Yeah, people say it has more stronger flavor and sometimes too much, but I like to use it for fish you know especially like fattier fish it brings a lot of depth and flavor, it's a cool tool.
- It's another ingredient, the smoke.
- Yeah, exactly and it's part of Shokunin spirit you know it's like something you're trying to perfect.
A little bit of elements changes the whole spectrum.
It's one of those things you can do it all you life and you'd never know.
- Right you're always getting better, it's always changing.
- That's right.
I wanna have you help me.
- Oh my God.
Okay, that was a strong reaction I had.
All right so what are you gonna make?
- Yeah, so I wanted to make dry ramen.
Today we're gonna use mitsuba, it's like Japanese cilantro it's a very earthy flavor.
Chop some up for me.
And I'll do the same.
So this is the bone marrow that I smoked.
- I would imagine all of the fat in here really allows it to soak up the smoke?
- Yeah, absolutely.
So as you can see it's starting to bubble up a little bit.
While the bone is going these are the noodles that we're gonna use.
This is a little special secret sauce that I had made.
We got these nice and hot.
- Oh, yeah.
- There you have it.
- That looks awesome.
- So the way we eat this, I'm scraping this - Oh my God.
- Fat right here.
- That is like, I don't have words.
- And then you mix it all up.
- Thank you.
I thought we were gonna do "Lady and the Tramp" and try to suck on one noodle.
- Whatever works.
- That is delicious and so like decadent.
- Yeah, it's rich.
- The marrow is the fat, but it's like got a beefy, funky quality and certainly smokey.
Ramen is very regional in Japan and I do have pride in growing up in Texas, so I think it's just you know it's a combination that... - It reflects who you are as a cook and a person and your place on the planet.
This is multiple choice.
Do you consider yourself Texan, Southern or Japanese?
- I would consider myself like Samurai Cowboy.
[laughing] - Tatsu thank you so much, it's far exceeded my expectation.
- Well thank you absolutely, it's a pleasure having you.
- Even though we can't seem to agree on the how or the what of barbecue, the why is clear.
Barbecue means celebration.
No matter the meat or the heat source barbecue is memory-making, finger-licking food that demands we stop and smell the smoke.
- You ready to take a look?
- Feast your eyes on that.
- Oh wow, it looks good.
- Yes sir.
- What kind of wood you use?
- A combination like you had recommended, mesquite apple wood and hickory.
- That looks great.
I'll go get the salad and the children.
You know Dad doesn't like to wait.
- Hopefully he's hungry.
[upbeat music] - What have I learned in this classroom that is the American South?
I've learned that the experiences we bring to our tables are not the same.
We come from different places, have different opinions, do different work and face different challenges.
But when we sit down to eat we all do it to fuel our bodies and our souls.
What I've learned is that no matter the dish or the table it's served on food can be our common ground.
[slow country music] [upbeat guitar music] - To order "Somewhere South" on DVD visit shoppbs.org.
This program is also available on Amazon Prime video.