Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Montello, WI - 9/5-6 Puckaway Pig Fest

So, as we're getting ready for our last competition of the season, I need to catch up (a month later) and mention Montello.

Great venue, had never been there before, but we had a great time, and had awesome neighbors!

This one was held at family owned Lake Arrowhead Campground, just outside of Montello, WI.
It's primarily an RV park, but, as with a few other comps, they hosted a BBQ comp on what would otherwise have likely been a slow weekend for them.

Full power and sewer accommodations, and free wireless made it that much nicer. Only challenge was getting into the spots. We're mainly used to comps on the street, or in public parks. The one other RV park we've competed in was a little more modern, and laid out with mostly pull-through campsites, meaning, you don't need to worry about backing into a spot with mature trees on either side to scrape up your rig!

This location was a bit older, so the sites did require backing in to set up. We've had our camper since 2012, and used it twice that year, 5 times last year, and this one would be our 5th of 6 this year. I wasn't doing too well with backing in, and fortunately, one of the guys who lived and worked there full time was kind enough to streamline the process for me so it didn't take 90 minutes to set up!

The contest organizer, Jessica Malsak did a great job running the whole event, making sure there were lots of activities and fun stuff going on, but keeping things running smoothly at the same time.

Thursday, once we got things set up, I ran up the road to a little bar & grill not too far up the road to get a pizza to go, ( at Jessica's recommendation)and settled in to watch the Green Bay Packers play the Seattle Seahawks. Didn't go well for Green Bay, and in the midst of Wisconsin, you could imagine there were lots of unhappy packer fans that evening. Final was Seattle, 36 - Green Bay 16. Ouch!

So, next day, things went pretty much according to schedule, with no unforeseen surprises. Friday evening, we made our usual "shot fairy" rounds, and enjoyed a rare 9:22 PM shot with T-Mac Smokers, who invited one and all!

So, Saturday morning, got up at about 4 AM and got the brisket in, then checked on the butts, which were almost done by about 8. Also got the ribs going around 6, a little early, and it ended up costing me.

By 11:30, I had the ribs resting. I'd let them go a bit too long, and they were almost falling apart. Figured a rest in a vented cambro might tighten them up a bit. It did, but it would turn out not enough.

Our chicken went in right on time. I think I shot myself in the foot for trying to get more variety in the box. No photo of that one!

So next was ribs. Already said they were overdone. Going into putting the box together, I figured I'd be happy just to get 6-8 ribs in the box and not having any fall apart!. We managed it, but the texture wasn't good.

Next up was pork. Wasn't an awful looking box, but it was a bit sloppy. We still managed to get in some nice bark, moist, tasty pulled, and some slices. I just wasn't too happy with the appearance

Finally, the brisket. I had a good feeling about this one. The slices were moist, super flavorful, and looked gorgeous. The burnt ends were melt-in-your-mouth tender, and nicely caramelized! Although in retrospect, I might not have used the burnt end that's front center

All in all, although there were issues, we both felt happy with how the cook went, and once that last turn in was done, knowing we were going to stay until morning, went inside to cool off and get cleaned up before awards.

So....overall, we could have certainly done better. Chicken and Ribs killed us, being 31st in chicken out of 40, and 34th of 40 in ribs. But we knew we were going to have issues in those categories.

In the long run, we're finally feeling like we're starting to get back on track, after our old trailer had a new failure of some kind on each contest in 2011, and we were derailed in 2012 by a cancer diagnosis. 

Most of the 2013 season was spent getting used to the new RV, and recovery of my palate, which chemo pretty much destroyed! This year, we're once again getting more attuned with our timing and flavor profiles, and I can actually taste things again. And, thankfully, on 9/28 I marked my second year cancer free!

Now, just one more to go. Our last comp is coming up in Arthur, IL, just a little south of Champaign/Urabana, in Amish country! More to come!

Finally a little traction! We ended up 18th overall of 47 teams in the Kenosha Grill Games event. At least we're back in the top half!

6th place dessert, 10th place chicken (our first top ten in that category in a LONG time, and 13th place brisket. None of those was worth a check, but we did pick up a ribbon for the trophy rack on the chicken. The pork was just so-so, placing barely in the top 2/3 at 28th of 47.

We have been playing with chicken for a long time, and have lately been scoring better with our appearance scores, but hadn't started hitting in taste until this time a slight change was made, and it seemed to help a lot!  Our scores were 878   988   999   998   988   989 and we got about the nicest comment card I could ask for! There was one big change here, and that was the brine and injection we used. We'll try it again next time out and see if we do as well!
In case you can't read the comments, it got all 9's, and the judge said "I loved the presentation of the two bites. Perfectly cooked!

Our ribs and pork were about middle of the road, brisket was 13th. I know the ribs were not evenly done, so some bites were perfect, and some had a little too much tug. We'll try to fix that when we head out again!

That won't be too long, our next event will be in Montello,WI, September 5th and 6th