The Aisle of Ham, not The Isle of Ham, even though that does actually sound like my kind of destination vacation

Those of you with me since Easter will remember the fresh ham caper. This investigation led me on a merry chase from store to store to Amish Market and ended with moderate disenchantment when I realized that a fresh ham is just a big pork roast. The culinary balm to this bother was the discovery of the thing called “Maryland Stuffed Ham” which I fully intend to get down with next Easter.

But pork is a year-round preoccupation and right now I’m all about barbecue. Since my aunt programmed my t.v. guide to show only the five or so channels I actually get with basic cable I’ve discovered this show called “BBQ Pitmasters.” It seems to run on a virtual loop but it’s really only 16 episodes so far and I can’t wait to watch every one of them. Each episode involves three contestants trying to outdo each other’s bbq for a shot at the Kingsford Cup. The show is 46 minutes of pork porn. You just sit back and watch meat being injected, rubbed, and then basted til it is shiny plate of heaven. These contestants have dead serious conversations about things like “the money muscle.” Plus, It’s pretty funny to listen to them talk smack about racks and smokers and rubs and whatnot. I know it is not fashionable to say this but as a Northerner, I find their accents adorable!

It was BBQ Pitmasters that turned me on to a local festival called Pork in the Park right here in Maryland on the Eastern Shore. It’s a Kansas City Style competition held in April and I’ve already got it on my calendar. You’ve got to love a festival whose website counts down the days, hours, and minutes until its next festival. The website claims it is the “second largest Kansas City Barbeque Society Competition in the nation.” No word on who is first.

Obviously these people know how to party.

Who wouldn’t love a show with judges named Tuffy Stone and Myron Mixon? How could you resist the tagline, “Bring the Heat or You’re Dead Meat”? These kids aren’t foolin’.

As mesmerized as I am by watching bbq being made on t.v., I don’t really make it myself. I don’t have a smoker and my grill skills are remedial. As such, I like to avail myself of other pork products and, as such, I was at the market noodling around the meats when ham hocks caught my eye. And ham hocks led to salt pork. And salt pork led to smoked pork jowls and then I realized I was standing in front of a wall of ham. These are the jewels of the South. This is the perk to living just this side of Virginia: ham.

Aren’t they pretty? I resolved to familiarize myself with as many of these glorious products as possible. That is a tall order, so I better get crackin’. To begin, I picked smoked pork jowls and smoked pork chops.

Pork Jowl Bacon

The jowls I figure I will use like hocks and make some beans and hot boiled rice.  The smoked pork chops I picked because while I was standing there dilly-dallying and artfully arranging hams for my camera phone photos like a weirdo a lady came along and helped herself directly to several packs of the chops. She just grabbed them casually like she gets them all the time and all the while explaining to her husband how she’s going to throw them on the grill but she only has one pack at home so they need some more, etc., etc…

This is kind of my modus operandi in the meat aisle. Any time I’m attracted to some strange cut of meat that I don’t know what to do with, I stand around loitering, essentially, until some lady comes along and picks up the meat I’m interested in. Then I pounce on her and ask her what she’s going to do with it and I get her to explain it as much as possible before she edges away from me. I’m sure it’s an unsettling experience for those ladies involved and for that I apologize, ladies. Fortunately, because of her running chatter with her husband, I got the information I needed today by simply eavesdropping — a moderately less invasive procedure for which everyone involved was grateful, I’m sure.

After she moved away, I saw the package claims these chops are ready in two minutes. I’m fascinated by this, so I’m in. I decide to make them with sweet corn and grilled peaches. We’ll see. It could be the start of something good.