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June 04

A new food festival in LaSalle lets you swap strawberries for smoked pork sandwiches.

The first LaSalle Smoke Off will run alongside the town's annual strawberry festival on Friday, June 6 and Saturday, June 7.

"It's certainly not a rib fest," Paul Dufour, vice-president of the LaSalle Business Association, was careful to point out.

Instead of racks of ribs and vats of sticky sauce, you're more likely to see giant smoking grills and whole hogs slow-cooking over charcoal ... and get to try some, too.

In fact, the LaSalle Smoke Off is sanctioned by the Canadian Southern Barbecue Association, Dufour said, which means the competitors are the kinds of smoked meat experts vying for a spot in high-stakes events like the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitation Barbecue in Tennessee.

The LaSalle Smoke Off will feature both amateur and professional meat smoking competitions complete with judging and hefty cash prizes, including $2,500 for the winner of the professional category and $500 in grocery gift cards for the winner of the amateur smoke off.

For the spectators, it's a chance to chow down on some award-worthy smoked meat sandwiches.

Chef Jules Mailloux will be one of the professionals entered in the smoke off. (DAN JANISSE / Windsor Star files)

Chef Jules Mailloux will be one of the professionals entered in the smoke off. (DAN JANISSE / Windsor Star files)

Among the professional competitors is Jules Mailloux, a local barbecue champion and owner of a barbecue supply store in Belle River, The BBQ Den. His team and four others in the pro category will each smoke a 100-pound pig.

"You get a much richer, smokier flavour," Mailloux said of the difference between smoking meat and barbecuing it. Because smoked meat is cooked so slowly, the true taste of the meat emerges, and it's very tender, he said.

Mailloux has competed in some 30 competitions and took home the prize in the "whole hog" category at the 2012 provincial championships.

Smoking an entire hog on the grill will take anywhere from 12 to 13 hours overnight between Friday and Saturday, with regular checks and tweaks as the pig cooks.

A whole pig yields between 50 and 60 pounds of meat, Mailloux said, which works out to enough for 60 to 90 people, depending on portion size.

The five amateur teams registered won't have to face an entire pig. Instead, they will be tasked with smoking racks of ribs and a whole chicken.

Dufour said the LaSalle Business Association and the local Kin Club decided to bring smoked meat to town to give the strawberry fest a boost and attract a different demographic over the weekend.

"This is not a one-off event," John said, adding that the Smoke Off is also a good opportunity for the LBA and the Town of LaSalle to work together. "This will definitely continue."

bfantoni@windsorstar.com or on Twitter @BFantoni

Smoked meat not just pastrami

Unlike barbecue, which cooks foods directly over the heat source at a high temperature, smoking meat slowly cooks foods using indirect heat.

A rack of ribs, for example, takes about five hours to cook in a smoker, said pit master Jules Mailloux. The main difference between barbecue and smoking is the taste, he said, and the absence of burnt bits, since the meat doesn't come into contact with the flame at all. In smoked meats, the crunchy exterior is referred to as bark.

Some meat smokers looks similar to barbecues, though official competition models are quite large.

The one Mailloux will use at the Smoke Off has a cooking surface that's five feet long and nearly two feet wide.

Along with hogs, it's possible to smoke all kinds of foods, from beef and poultry to fish and vegetables. Mailloux, who uses his smoker at home a few times a month, said his favourite is smoked beef brisket.

It's also possible to "cold smoke" foods at temperatures around 90 F. This is the method used to smoke cheese, for example.

What you need to know

The LaSalle Smoke Off runs June 6-7 inside the LaSalle Strawberry Festival, at Gil Maure Park at the corner for Front Road and Laurier Drive. Admission is $2; free for adults over 65 and children under six. The event is open to all ages during the day and switches to 19-plus after 8 p.m.

Team Canada BBQ, fresh from the World Championship BBQ contest in Memphis, Tenn., where they took home first place for best barbecue sauce , will get the Smoke Off going at 4 p.m. on Friday. They'll be serving their famed pulled pork sandwiches through the evening and on Saturday, as well.

On Saturday, the Smoke Off opens to the public at noon, with judging underway at 3:30 p.m. for the amateur category and 4:30 p.m. for the professional category.

Smoked meat and barbecue aficionados are welcome to drop by and chat with Team Canada and the contestants throughout the day. You can also try your choice of meat on a sandwich for $5.

Walkerville Brewery and Sanson Estate Winery will also be onsite selling local beer and wine.

For details visit lasallesmokeoff.com and town.lasalle.on.ca/strawberryfestival.html .

Original article by Beatrice Fantoni of the Windsor Star

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tags: strawberry, festival, beef
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