A Christmastime Family Tradition at The Old Home Place

The meat is smoked for 8 - 10 hours in the pit.
The meat is smoked for 8 – 10 hours in the pit.

At the end of a long dirt driveway lined by 26-year-old pine trees in Middle Georgia, sits The Old Home Place, where my family has celebrated “The Cookin’” each Christmas for more than 30 years.

Since the mid 1950s, the Faulks have gathered in Twiggs County during Christmas week to eat, drink and be merry–and to slow roast hog meat in an outdoor, handmade fire pit. The Cookin’ began as a prerequisite to Christmas Day, when the pork would be the main event at the Faulk Family Christmas Party.

For as long as I can remember, The Cookin’ has been a part of my holiday experience. I can’t imagine a Christmas without it. Growing up, The Old Home Place was my granddaddy’s house, a large white wood framed home with a wraparound porch, where my dad and his four siblings–two brothers and two sisters– were raised. My granddad, Joe W. Faulk, Jr., or as he was nicknamed, Baby Joe, carried on his father’s tradition and passed it on to his children, who keep the practice alive still today.

From left: Uncle Norman and Uncle "Bimbo" have been a part of The Cookin' since the day they were born. The age-old fire barrel stands in the background.
From left: Uncle Norman and Uncle “Bimbo” have been a part of The Cookin’ since the day they were born. The age-old fire barrel stands in the background.

About two days before Christmas each year, my dad and uncles rise before dawn to pick up the hams and pork shoulders, slab side ribs and tenderloins from the local meat-packing house and return them to the pit, a 4 x 4 foot construction made of stacked cinder blocks fitted with a large grill grate and covered with a sheet of plywood. The meat starts cooking in the early morning for upwards of eight hours. Smoked sausage is grilled alongside the hams to keep hunger at bay throughout the day.

In the backyard near the pit, an age-old makeshift fire barrel stands tall and serves two purposes: creating oak and hickory wood chips for the pit, and putting off heat to tame the chill in the December air. Two 55-gallon metal drum barrels, ends removed, have been welded together, and a hole cut in the bottom just big enough to fit a flat shovel. Each time a log is added to the top, embers float into the air, dancing against the sky.

the-cookin
Fire blazes against the night sky at the Faulk Family Christmas gathering.

The day is filled with casual chatter about fishing, memories of relatives gone on and laughter between the five siblings who are all grown now with children of their own.  Sounds of good music like, “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” and Hank Williams’ “Family Tradition” set the tone as aunts, uncles, cousins and kinfolk gather around, sit on tailgates and walk about. Pets wander in the yard, and children play games on the property.  As the hours pass, neighbors and friends come and go as they please, bringing snacks and desserts to share.

My cousins and uncles lend a hand to help shred the meat. From left: Park Burford, James Faulk, Uncle "Bimbo," Randy Faulk and Uncle Norman.
My cousins and uncles lend a hand to help shred the meat. From left: Park Burford, James Faulk, Uncle “Bimbo,” Randy Faulk and Uncle Norman.

Around 4 p.m. when the meat is hot off the grates, it’s time to get down to business.  My uncles transfer the pork to a side table and pull it apart by hand. My granddaddy’s special recipe of barbecue sauce is added, and the meat is wrapped up and put away to be eaten on Christmas Day, while other hams are divvied up for individuals to take home.

The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender after slow roasting all day.
The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender after slow roasting all day.

The Cookin’ was once just a common part of my family’s holiday routine, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the rich tradition it is today. Food ties us to our traditions. It’s the thing that makes us feel good and connected. Even though my Papa passed away when I was just 13, one taste of that fine Georgia barbecue and it’s as if he’s right there by my side. I can see Baby Joe now scooping those wood chips from the bottom of that barrel and shoveling them into the pit.

When it comes my time to carry on the family tradition, I’ll continue it with great honor, together with my brother and our cousins. On this Christmas, I’m so grateful my ancestors began The Cookin’ so many years ago. It will be an event that creates lasting memories for years to come at The Old Home Place.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

This article first appeared in the Lifestyles section of the Statesboro Herald on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. 

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Passion Meets Barbeque in Coastal Southeast Georgia

Southern Soul Barbeque
St. Simons Island, Georgia

In the South, barbeque is a holy subject. Opinions about it begin forming at a very early age. At an after-church dinner recently, my sister-in-law and I were serving our plates and chatting about how good the barbeque looked, when a young boy not more than ten spoke up, confidence in motion, to let us know that while lunch was nice, it was his dad who made the best barbeque in all of Bulloch County. We take our pork seriously. Harrison and the staff at Southern Soul Barbeque on St. Simons Island get that. It’s an expression from their very soul, spoken in tender pork, slow cooked and oak-smoked for hours over burning coals and served to anyone with sense enough to stop. You can see the smoke and smell that barbeque coming from the outdoor pits as soon as you hit the parking lot.

That’s Harrison Sapp, the owner. He was an all around nice guy and made me and my Shih Tzu, Ewok, feel as welcome as a whelk in its shell. This guy gets up at 4 a.m. everyday and begins cooking at 6:30 a.m. to have lunch ready for all the hungry folks in the Golden Isles. Passion is the only thing that would motivate one to do something so well 7 days a week.

He showed me around and lifted the lid on the smoker to reveal these beauties. Seasoned with a sweet dry rub and sprayed with a little apple juice throughout the cooking process, the result is pure pork flavor, juicy and tender.

Ewok made himself right at home on the cool cement floor while I waited for my sandwich. The staff even brought him a bowl of water to drink. These long picnic tables are situated on the porch under a vaulted ceiling with big fans and drop lighting. It’s the kind of casual atmosphere where it’s perfectly acceptable to stroll over off the beach in your swim suit.

Served on a toasted bun with pickles, the Jumbo Pulled Pork Sandwich is a beautiful display of the restaurant’s finest. I ordered creamy mac & cheese as my side with a tall, cold glass of sweet tea. Suffice it to say, it’s the best $6.50 I’ve ever spent.

Is your mouth watering yet? I drizzled my sandwich with a little Sweet Georgia Soul Sauce and dug in. Jars of sweet and hot sauce, vinegar and Texas Pete grace the tables. If slaw suits your fancy, they’ll top your sandwich with it at no charge.

Formerly a 1940’s gas station, tag plates and catchy signs decorate the restaurant front and posters advertising local events fill the windows, giving the place that hometown, log cabin-like feel. I particularly love the Dig on Pig sign. On the menu, you’ll find grilled pimento cheese sandwiches, beef brisket, chicken strips, ribs, even sausage and burgers. The sides are soulful too including selections like Brunswick stew, hoppin’ john, fried okra and fried green beans.

No worries for all of you that prefer to beat the heat. Pull up a bar stool inside in the air conditioning and have a cold one. Southern Soul Barbeque is open Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

For a taste of Southern Soul at home, pick up a bottle of one of their Georgia Soul sauces.

As seen in leading magazines like Georgia Trend, Garden & Gun and Southern Living and on major television networks like TLC and Food Network, Southern Soul Barbeque is no secret. Guy Fieri himself has been here and has featured the restaurant on his show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This Southeast Coastal Georgia Smoke Joint gets around.

Not in the South? Not a problem. Now, Southern Soul Barbeque offers nationwide shipping! Located on the round about at 2020 Demere Road, be sure to pull in on your next visit to the Golden Isles of Georgia. It’s worth the stop and good for your soul. 😉

Southern Soul Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Hot Pepper BBQ Pork Sliders


Hot Pepper BBQ Pork Sliders

I don’t use my slow cooker nearly enough, but when I do, I always enjoy it. To make Hot Pepper BBQ Pork Sliders, purchase a 3 pound pork shoulder, trim the fat and place it in your Crock Pot with chopped bell and jalapeno pepper. Season with 2 tablespoons of fajita seasoning.

Pour two 10 oz. cans of enchilada sauce over the seasoned meat and peppers. You can find the sauce in the international section of your grocery store. Put the lid on and let that puppy cook!

How easy is that? Eleven hours on low and this is the result…

The meat will be fork tender and oh so easy to shred. Plus, it’s fun. I find shredding pork to be a stress reliever too. HA! No pun intended. (Working out, shredding pork…get it?)

Add the meat back into the sauce.

Get a pack of those small dinner rolls from the bread aisle in your grocery store. Slice them open, use a slotted spoon to fill them with meat and top with pickles. The soft bread will soak up all that juice. Just for fun, seal with a toothpick. What you talkin’ ’bout?! Warning: You can’t eat just one. Upon the first bite, one of my guests said, “I’m in love with this sandwich!”

Entertaining tip: Dishes that provide height variation always enhance your food display.