-Written by Mary Jordan, Spencer-Penn Centre Director
If you close your eyes, relax and concentrate, you can sense the sweet aroma of freshly cooked barbeque. Can you smell it? You may need to be creative, or you may just remember driving up US 58 and turning on the Spencer Penn Road on the second Saturday in April.
Let’s back up a tad before you begin getting out your fork and your bib.
The Pig Cookin’ Contestattracts local and not so local competitors. Sanctioned by the North Carolina Pork Association, competitors come from all over North Carolina and surrounding states who hope to compete in the state title. Registration for Spencer-Penn’s competition is only $25, which helps attract local people who are known for their good pig cooking skills but haven’t jumped into the competitive arena.
Check in and set up is on Friday afternoon, which is lots of fun as competitors see and talk to old friends. That evening, there is a meeting with the judges who go over the NC Pork Association rules and how they will judge. Later, during Music Night, all the competitors are introduced to the crowd and given a treat bag. Nice, fun evening but...
At nine o’clock, the atmosphere changes. Pigs are delivered at 9:00 and then the sides of each tent are pulled down and the process of prepping begins. Each cooker has his own style and his own secret spices (I call it their “rub-a-dub-dubs”) and then the cooking begins.
The porkers cook all night…..ALL NIGHT! No putting the crock pot on low and going to bed. Oh, no! Sometimes too many drippings can cause a fire and the chances of first prize can go up in smoke. This is part of the expertise of the cooker: watching, turning, watching...
The night turns into morning as tent sides go up and cookers emerge. None look as handsome as they did when introduced to the Music Night crowd, but they smell delicious!
Judges arrive after a nice night in a hotel room and they begin the step by step procedure of judging the taste, presentation, and appearance of their porker.
After the judge moves to the next tent, the cooker begins hand chopping the tender pork. It is then sent to the kitchen where Virginia and our Spencer-Penn volunteers begin processing the meat to be sold on the serving line or bought for carry out.
Judges submit their scores, and Shirley begins adding up the totals. Hopefully at 11:00, the 2017 Pig Cookin' Champ, 2nd place and 3rd place winners will be announced. Trophies and monetary awards will be given and pictures taken.
All in a good day of competition, camaraderie and volunteerism, Spencer-Penn will provide a delicious taste of freshly cooked barbeque on April 8, 2017. Can you wait?