Friday, January 23, 2009
Uncle Sam's Bathtub Pork
Anyone remember I mentioned that my Uncle Sam, at his cabin in the woods, makes pork in the bathtub? This is my gene pool, it explains a lot of my behavior, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Uncle Sam is an ISU-educated Civil Engineer with a Midas Touch at everything he does. In a few weeks I'll share his chili instructions.
Here is his recipe, verbatim:
SAM'S BATHTUB PORK
The problem with this recipe is that you really need a cast iron bathtub. Now those are becoming somewhat hard to find. You see them in folks' front yard with a statue of the blessed mother, some folks put flowers in them, others use them for horse troughs. Well the best use is a barbecue pit. I forgot to mention that some folks still think they should be used for bathing. Get yourself a cast iron bathtub. Go to the dump, recycle shop, antique dealer, or through the stealth of night get one. You'll be the envy of the neighborhood.
Now you'll need a grate to lay on top of the tub. The fire goes in the tub and the grate sits over the fire. A heavy screen from a gravel plants is ideal. They throw them away, you catch one. If this is not available, build one. Next you need a pan to sit on the grate with a grate inside the pan to put the pork on. Find a friend who can weld. If you don't have a friend, make one but make sure he can weld (or she. I don't know many lady welders but work with what you have.) You'll need a hood to cover the pan. Go to any heating and cooling contractor and they can make a light weight hood. A steel barrel cut in half will work but it does get heavy.
Now you put the fire in the tub, the grate over the fire, the pan over the grate, the grate in the pan and the hood over the grate and the pan and you have a bathtub barbecue. Ain't that somethin'.
The fire is an integral part of this whole operation. You need some well cured Iowa oak. I suppose oak from Missouri, Illinois or even France would work but I know Iowa oak is just right. You can use cherry, apple, pecan, mesquite, plum or maple but it has been my experience that oak smoke blended with the fat of pork is a culinary delight.
Let's talk about the fire. You start it 1/2 hour before you put the pork on. You don't start it and walk away. Get some kindling. That's small dry pieces of wood that will start readily. Use newspaper under the kindling, it's cheap and quick. Put dry oak wood on the fire while it is starting. You want all the paper and kindling to be burned out before you lay on the pork. In that first 1/2 hour you should build up a good bed of burning oak coals. This is the working bed of your fire. You will add oak wood to the fire throughout the cooking process. Make sure you have pieces that vary in size. The largest should be no bigger than 5" in diameter.
And if you're going to cook pork, you should have some. Go to your local meat market and ask for a full loin of pork, bone in. This is a piece of the hog that is 1/2 of the whole back. It's all those pork chops all hooked together. You will want to cut it in half for cooking purposes. This piece of pork will serve up to 30 hungry souls after cooking. Before you put the pork on the fire, you spread it with salt. Plain old kitchen salt. Use the container it comes in, pour salt on the outside of the pork (all sides) and rub it in with your bare hands. Now put it on the grate that sits over the pan that sits over the grate that sit over the fire. Put on the cover and let it go. You must tend the fire! It must not be too hot (the meat will catch fire) or too cold (the meat won't cook). Lay your hand on top of the hood, If you can leave it there, your fire is not hot enough. If you touch it and it's too hot to leave your hand there, it's probably about right.
You will need to cook it for 4 to5 hours. Check it a couple of times in the process. At the 3 hour mark you can slice off some pieces to taste. When it is done you can grab a rib bone and it will feel loose. If it feels loose eat the pork. If it doesn't feel loose maybe your feel is bad. Cut the piece of pork in two pieces, look at it, and make up your own mind.