Andrea Weigl, News & Observer //
RALEIGH — The two Southern art forms that are bluegrass and barbecue already come together at events in Sevierville, Tenn.; Fort Mill, S.C., and Branson, Mo.
Now, Raleigh can be added to the list thanks to the folks at the N.C. Pork Council, which has scheduled its statewide whole hog barbecue championship to coincide with this weekend’s bluegrass festivities.
For those who have never been to a barbecue competition, there are a couple of opportunities to take a peek into the world of competitive barbecue and even taste the results.
Each of the 30 or so cook teams competing this weekend – with names like “No Butts About It” and “Road Hogs” – have already won or earned an invitation by taking part in other whole hog barbecue competitions, mainly in Eastern North Carolina.
Whole hog barbecue, for the uninitiated, is a style of ’cue peculiar to Eastern North Carolina, where the entire hog is cooked and then all the meat (hams, bacon, shoulders) is chopped together. It is often doused with a vinegar sauce and served with crispy pieces of pig skin sprinkled throughout.
This style differs from Western North Carolina ’cue, which is shredded pork shoulder served with a tomato-based sauce.
Put on a show
On Friday night, each of the teams will be judged on showmanship: that’s a fancy word for how well decorated their set-ups are, from the tailgating tents to the pig cookers. Some teams get so into this that they dress up and perform skits, explained Ann Edmondson of the pork council.
At least one team plans to take advantage of the larger musical setting and have a bluegrass band performing inside its tent, Edmondson said.
All this action will take place in the parking lot east of the Marriot hotel on Fayetteville Street.
Crowning a winner
The teams will start cooking Friday night, stay awake tending their hogs and have their barbecue judged at 8 a.m. Saturday, first by a foursome of onsite judges, then by a panel of judges who will do a blind tasting. The statewide whole hog barbecue champion will be announced at about noon Saturday.
By that time, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle will have chopped the meat from those 30 or so hogs to sell as sandwiches. The sandwiches will be served in front of WTVD’s studio on Fayetteville Street. Proceeds will benefit the Raleigh-based hunger relief nonprofit.