The Smoker

Every year for Christmas Tom and I give each other small gifts, usually just stocking stuffers, books, etc (except this year Tom got me this granite mortar & pestle. Swoon. Made the best guacamole ever)
We also chip in and do one big gift. Last year we finally joined the 21st century by switching to a flat screen T.V. (granted, that was made easier by upgrading the free T.V. I won at the company Christmas party). This year we decided to finally get something we've been drooling over for a while: a smoker (Tom longer than I have because he's actually used one before, and I hadn't given much thought to smoked meat until I moved to the south). Smokers come in several shapes and sizes (and everyone who owns a smoker has a reason why their style or their sauce is the best). They can be found on trailers, in back yards, at tailgates etc, and just about all of them are modified to a specific cooking style. They go way beyond your standard grill. The main types of smokers that I've seen are, the bullet style (Webber Smokey Mountain or Big Green Egg), the barrel style, and then the custom, homemade smokers (for the ultra-BBQ master).
Bullet Style
 Barrel smoker with offset firebox

This is just to give you an idea of the custom smokers
BBQ is a religion down here.

We ended up going with a barrel smoker, one that looks very similar to the center picture. Tom took care of setting it up and seasoning it (I'm not sure what goes into that, but I think it involves fire and magic). We tired it out for the first time this weekend on a pork shoulder and we were VERY impressed. We still need to tweak timing and temperature but I think we might have a new weekend pastime. BBQ anyone?

Keeping the meat moist with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and apple cider
Speaking of BBQ, we were able to nail down a pretty awesome sauce for the pulled pork. We loved it, it's tangy, sweet, and a bit spicy, so good you can eat it by the spoonful (but don't let anyone see you). We had a bit of leftover Maker's Mark from our holiday party and I think that really set it over the top. I used a combination of a recipe from All Recipes and one from Epicurious and my own spices (specifically cayenne). The result: Bliss. Here's the recipe

Maker's Mark BBQ Sauce
1/2 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup Maker's Mark
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup backstrap molasses
2 or 3 dashes of cayenne
1/3 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste 

In a large heavy pot over medium heat, combine the onion, garlic, and whiskey. Simmer for 10 minutes (the smell is POTENT but just go with it), or until onion is translucent. Mix in the ground black pepper, salt, ketchup, tomato paste, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, molasses, cayenne, and hot pepper sauce. 
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Run sauce through a strainer.

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