Saturday, November 17, 2012

Grilled Sweet and Spicy Pickles

Grilled pickles !?!?

Yes, grilled pickles!

We had these last Saturday at lunch for Kingsford University.  They were so good that Robyn Grill Grrrl Medlin-Lindars stole temporarily borrowed the jar from another table because we had eaten all of ours.

grilled sweet and spicy pickles

This is another recipe from Chris Lilly, World Champion Pitmaster and our host at last weekend's Kingsford Invitational.  Why grill the pickles?  That bit of heat concentrates some of the natural sugars in the cukes and the slight char adds a subtle smokiness to the final product.
Grilled Sweet and Spicy Pickles

reprinted with permission from Kingsford Charcoal
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (3 pints)
    You'll need
    • 10 small cucumbers (Kirby or Persian) about 4-5 inches each, cut in half lengthwise
    • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
    • 6 springs fresh dill
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
    • 3 teaspoons red pepper flakes (see notes)
    Pickling Liquid
    • 1 1/4 cup white vinegar
    • 1 1/4 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 Tbsp salt
    1. Preheat the grill and build a charcoal fire for direct grilling.
    2. In a saucepan, combine the pickling liquid ingredients and cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear. Remove the liquid from the heat and light cool slightly.
    3. Wash cucumbers well with cold water. Trim the blossom stems and grill the cucumbers over direct heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or just long enough to mark each side.
    4. Grill the onions for 5-7 minutes on each side or until the onions have softened and are marked.
    5. Remove the cucumbers and onions from the grill and set aside to cool.
    6. Divide the cucumbers, onions, dill, garlic and pepper flakes evenly and place in three sterilized canning jars. Fill each jar tot he top with the pickling liquid mixture and seal tightly. Cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
    Powered by Recipage
    making pickles
    You can find pickling cukes at most grocery stores now.

    grilled sweet and spicy pickles, Kingsford, Weber
    If you want pickle chips instead, you could grill the cukes whole and then cut into slices.

    grilled sweet and spicy pickles, Kingsford, Weber
    Pierce onion wedges with a tooth pick to hold them together and make them easy to flip.

    grilled sweet and spicy pickles,
    They are ready to eat after a few hours in the fridge.

    The ones that I made according to the recipe as written were much spicier than the ones at the contest.  If you have average heat tolerance, I would recommend cutting the red pepper flakes to half (1 1/2 tsp).

    Kingsford Invitational
    I've already introduced the judges in the prior post.  The judging criteria was simple.
    • Instead of breaking out subcategories such as taste, appearance, and texture and assigning a weighting to each score, each judge would just give one score based on their overall experience.  
    • The scoring scale is 1 (inedible) to 13 (excellent).  
    • The standard 4 categories to be submitted are chicken, ribs, pork (shoulder, butt, or whole hog), and brisket
    • Judging is blind
    • No garnish for turn in boxes
    • The team with the highest cumulative score for all categories wins the $50,000 and is crowned "Best of the Best" on the competition bbq circuit
    The teams competing were
    • Motley Que Crew qualified by winning the 2012 Houston Livestock & Rodeo World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest
    • Yazoo's Delta Q qualified by winning the 2012 Memphis in May World Championship 
    • Smoker's Purgatory qualified by winning the 2012 Great Lenexa BBQ Battle 
    • Smokin' Triggers qualified by winning Destination America's "BBQ Pitmasters:  Season 3"
    • Shiggin' and Grinnin' qualified by winning the 2012 American Royal Open
    • Lucky's Q qualified by winning the 2012 Sam's Club National BBQ Tour
    • Pig Skin BBQ qualified by winning the 2012 Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational
    • Checkered Pig BBQ qualified by winning the 2012 Kingsford $40k Challenge
    The atmosphere of the contest seemed a bit odd.  First, it seemed sterile because it was a closed event and the general public wasn't milling around.  Second, with $50,000 at stake, the tension was palpable.  Third, because of the film crew wanting to keep us out of shots, we weren't able to get the access to the teams that we normally might.  I'm not saying it was bad, just different from most comps.

    The turn-ins from 1:20pm to 3pm were uneventful from what I saw.  No dropped boxes, no missed turn ins.  Then it was all over except for the cryin', as they say. 

    The Motley Que Crew working as turn in times approached.

    Smoker's Purgatory finishing their ribs.

    Patio Daddio, John Dawson, being interviewed about the event.

    Clint Cantwell of used the ATV to bring us team samples, the man's a saint.  Seen here with Greg Rempe of the BBQ Central Show.

    I love this  shot of John Thomas of Grilling 24x7 eating ribs because he is so content looking while the rest of us piranhas dive into the tray on his lap.

    Folks from the Kingsford Plant joined us after turn ins and sampled whatever didn't make it into turn in boxes.
    I was still full from eating all weekend but I did taste a few samples while we waited for the judging.  Yazoo's ribs were tender but too sweet for my tastes, but that is competition style.  Checkered Pigs BBQ brisket was tender and very good.  Yazoo's whole hog was the best I have ever had. 

    The announcements started with a reminder that Yazoo's Delta Q started the day with a 1 point bonus from the previous day's One Bit Challenge.

    The winner of the Chicken category was Lucky's Q!

    The winner of the ribs category was Yazoo's Delta Q.

    The winner of the pork category was Yazoo's Delta Q.

    The winner of the brisket category was....Yazoo's Delta Q.

    So without much surprise, the winner of the inaugural Kingsford Invitational and $50,000.....

    Pitmaster Melissa Cookston and Yazoo's Delta Q!

    For the record in this post just a few weeks ago, I said Melissa Cookston is one of the best pitmasters out there so....yeah, I told you so ;)

    My overall thoughts on the Kingsford Invitational contest was that it was wonderful and I think they are definitely on to something. 
    • Unified Championship - with all of the different world championships in BBQ I like the idea of trying to declare an end of the year, overall champion.  This concept works for me.  I'm glad Kingsford has ponied up to do this.
    • Qualifying - The fact that a team like 3 Eyz BBQ, probably the hottest team on the circuit, wasn't there makes me thing there should be some tweaks to the qualifying events.  It is kind of like trying to tweak the existing college bowl system into a playoff system. 
    • One Bite Challenge - That 1 point bonus going into the event can be huge.  Great twist.  I like that it wasn't a surprise challenge, so teams had time to practice their entry before coming to the event.  I think the 5 ingredient limit may have stifled creativity on some of the entries.
    • Judging - I like the judging format.  There were some thoughts that the fact one team was submitting whole hog tipped off their pork entry.  Possibly, but with a field this small (8 teams) and judges as intimately familiar with the teams, all sorts of things COULD tip off a submission:  flavor profile, box arrangement, etc etc.
    • Overall - I want to see this continue next year and see it grow.
    If you have never been to a BBQ contest, you should check out your local events next year.  Knoxville will be having a KCBS event next spring with the West Knoxville Rotary BBQ Cookoff in May.