Smoke in the ‘Boro: A love letter in two acts

by | March 28, 2019 5:00 am

Last Updated: March 27, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Through a haze of thick, fragrant smoke, I approached the group, huddled around their trailer smoker. Looking like something off of a Mad Max convoy, this apparatus was most definitely hand made. The aromas coming out of it lured me in. I mumbled something about writing about food for the local paper. They smiled, inviting me into their circle to show me what was cooking. A rack of ribs was pulled off the smoker, and I was offered the first one. I stammered about smoke rings and cuts of ribs and took a bite, setting the tone for the event.
Smoke in the ‘Boro, in its sixth year in 2019, has deep roots in Walterboro. Many fondly remember Keith’s Red Barn Barbecue, which tragically burned down in 1986. Opened in 1964, the restaurant was built by Walter (W.L) Keith completely by hand. This attention to detail and craftsmanship was carried over to the cooking, where pork butts would slow smoke for 12 hours over hardwood.
Knowing barbecue was in their blood, W.L.’s sons, Wayne and Lennoye, needed a way to preserve their father’s legacy, and in 2011 became South Carolina Barbecue Association certified judges. Working their way up the ranks, they earned the privilege of hosting a sanctioned competition in Walterboro in 2014. Lennoye Keith passed away in 2016, and Wayne is now at the helm of the event.
Divided into two days, Smoke in the ‘Boro takes place in late March. The Friday portion is themed “Anything ****” and gives cookers freedom to make what they choose, highlighting creativity. Saturday sees the “BBQ Butts” pork **** competition. Proceeds from the event benefit The Colleton Center and Coastal Electric’s Operation Round Up; all money stays in Colleton County. Local students donated over 200 volunteer hours courtesy of NJROTC, NHS, Beta Club, New Tech students, and the Boy Scouts.
I arrived early on Friday so I could mingle with the people behind the scenes, as well as the cooking teams. Once revealed that I was a food guy, I had samples coming at me from every direction. I was looking for spirit, and I was not disappointed. People who take barbecue seriously tend to have a Manson family-like devotion to their craft. There is an overwhelming culture of sharing and storytelling.
Friday’s offerings included everything from appetizers to desserts. My standout for the evening seemed to be the rest of the crowd’s. Walterboro based operation Squealin’ Sow Barbecue wowed the crowd — and me — with their brisket. I was lucky enough to try it beforehand, in the form of a burnt end slathered in their sauce. The smoked brisket was to be served simply as sliders, for which people were lining up from the beginning of the evening until they sold out. Eat your heart out Texas, we got this too.
Other items of note included pecan smoked pork loin from WKND Barbecue hailing from Spartanburg, hash from Carolina Barbecue Shack out of Greenville, pork and venison (!) hash from Cottageville’s own Breland Barbecue. For dessert, Carolina coconut cake from Fu-Man Cue of Charleston was the clear winner with its delicate texture, perfectly sweet icing and coconut shavings. Food drunk, full and wobbly after two rounds of tasting, I headed home to recover.
On Saturday, it was raining pulled pork. Most of what I tasted was well crafted. Judges selected Smoking Down South’s pork as their first-place winner, and I have to agree. Based in Aynor, Smoking Down South’s pork was a well-maintained balance of nosy smoke and tender, juicy meat. Also of note for me was the pulled pork from VFW Post 10601 in Aiken. There’s really nothing that could be bad about barbecue prepared by a Vietnam era vet who has been cooking for a long time.
Smoke in the ‘Boro is an event that sparks camaraderie and community from within, and benefits the area that hosts it. I look forward to attending and overeating during this event for many years to come.

(When not blocking traffic at Dairy Land, Josh Taylor can be reached at culinaryanthropology@gmail.com)

2019 Smoke In The ‘Boro Winners
Crowds filled the aisles vying for a taste of barbecue and other delicacies at the 2019 Smoke in the ’Boro held Friday at Saturday at Coastal Electric Cooperative. The event benefits The Colleton Center and Coastal Electric’s Operation Round-Up.
Winners were:

Anything ****
Judges Prize: Smokers Barbecue
People’s Choice: Squealin’ Sow

Ribs
1. Backwoods Barbecue
2. Smokerz Barbecue
3. Monkey Bottom Boys
4. JT Barbecue

Butts
1. Smoking Down South
2. JT Barbecue
3. Slow Country Barbecue
4. Monkey Bottom Boys

“None of the success of the contest would have been possible without the hundreds of hours donated by the volunteers who organize, fund raise and work at the Smoke in the ’Boro! Our community benefits because of their hard work,” said Wayne Keith.
“Our best turnout ever! Two beautiful days,” said Jean Harrigal, director of The Colleton Center. “A great variety of food and folks, including attendees, cookers and judges from out of town and out of state, as well as from our community. Special thanks to our sponsors including Coastal Electric, Graceland Portable Buildings at Jones Vacuum Center and IGA.”

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