People in Texas have it easy.
That's what I've come to realize after visiting my husband's family in the Lone Star state for a few weeks. Since we didn't get to see anyone over the holidays, we took a few days off as a family and flew to my husband's uncle's house for some good old fashioned R and R.
Uncle Bob lives on a small farm in the hill country about an hour outside of Austin. It's a gorgeous place, especially considering how nice the weather is year-round.
Though Uncle Bob and his wife, Aggie (and she's a TAMU grad too!) don't eat home grown exclusively, they insisted on showing us a "true" Texas BBQ so we yankees would know what we were missing out on.
The meal consisted of a rack of pork ribs from one of Bob's sows - named Stella, if anyone is curious - and a brisket that he received as a Christmas present from his neighbor with several heads of cattle.
The meat, of course, was smoked. I've never actually seen the smoking process before, so it was pretty interesting to watch. First, Bob took some planks of wood from a hickory tree he'd cut down in the fall and had been drying in his garage. He ran the planks through a pretty swanky wood chipper and then placed them in the bottom of the smoker, which looks sort of like a giant barrel on wheels. The meat was placed in, the cover closed and then the amazing smells began.
The meat stayed in there for a few hours while Aggie and I worked on the side dishes and helped set the table. For sides, we were having homemade cornbread, made from stoneground meal, and some asparagus that they bought from one of their friends who grows it.
To say that the meal was delicious would be an understatement. The asparagus was a bit stiff - maybe it's the Texas soil? - but everything else was amazing. Authentic smoked meat is a thing of beauty - tender, spicy and absolutely amazing when paired with a good sauce and a cheap beer. The girls loved it so much that we even wrapped up some ribs to save for leftovers for the rest of the trip. We barely had any room to fit in Aggie's famous homemade Pecan Pie.
All in all, I'd say my first winter barbecue was a resounding success, and the warm weather makes me pine for a home farther south than where we currently reside. Oh well, at least I can always purchase a smoker for the back yard, right?