A Smokin’ Holiday Tradition

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Traditions and nostalgia run deep through the holiday season.

In my family, we have a few of our own special traditions, but most stick to the holiday norms of turkey on the table, families yelling over one another and arguing about the latest football game (Harken back to the great muffed punt debate of 2010).

Last year, my cousin and I started a new tradition when we braved the cold to smoke a pork butt/shoulder for more than 10 hours to add some smoke and heat to the dinner table.

It’s not a tradition if it’s a one-time thing, so we tweaked our process and had another go this year with some local style.

The meat


Schmidt’s Sausage in Bressler is a go-to spot throughout the year for our family, but during the holidays we become frequent shoppers.

It was the first place that came to mind when trying to find quality meat. Schmidt’s special ordered the pork butts from Groff’s Meat in Elizabethtown, and they arrived the day before Thanksgiving.

Our cuts were two five-pound butts that had just enough fat to create perfect flavor and bark.


Mustard meat

The local “flavor” theme was continued through with the rub. Top Gourmet’s Pulled Porky Q was the perfect blend spices to give the meat a great flavor.

We grabbed the 5 oz bottle of the Pulled PorkyQ rubbed and used about 4 oz. of it. It looks and smells amazing plus it tastes even better.


Before applying the rub, be sure to get a thin layer of mustard all over the cut (don’t worry you won’t taste this). The rub is one of the most important aspects of a great finished product, so don’t be stingy. 

rubbed meat

We grabbed the 5 oz bottle of the Pulled PorkyQ rubbed and used about 4 oz. of it. It looks and smells amazing plus it tastes even better.

Booze prep

It’s gonna be a long time until the meat is done and you’re going to need to keep an eye on it.

So what do you do for those long hours, especially around this time of year? –You drink!

Tröegs Winter Anthology features Perpetual, Troegenator, Blizzard of Hops and Chocolate Stout, creating the perfect mix of malty, hoppy and festive beers to make the smoking process seem not so long.

Our first order of business, however, was a couple of crowlers of HopBack to kick off the day.

A flask or two of your favorite whiskey, or for us Slivovitz, can get you through the cold early morning as well.

Smoking the meat


The previous year we converted a charcoal grill into a smoker, but this year we were able to grab a deal on a good-sized smoker from Field and Stream

We decided to use a mixture of hickory and applewood wood chips. We soaked the wood chips overnight in water so that they would create ample smoke when placed on the coals.

  • Hickory wood – Wood burns hot and long to create a heavy smoke flavor that can be similar to bacon.
  • Applewood wood – Fruity flavor that creates a more subtle smoke flavor.

One difference with using a smoker is that heat regulation is a lot more attainable. Our meat was smoked around 250F for almost 12 hours to get the pork up to its optimal 165F internal temperature.

Finished product

smoked meat

After almost 10 hours the meat reached its final temperature, and we were ready to cut into it.

The bark was crisp and perfect with a lot of sweet and savory flavors plus a little heat from the rub. During the process, we also kept the meat moist by “painting” it with a mixture of apple cider vinegar, water, red pepper flakes and brown sugar. It doesn’t add much to the flavoring but keeps the bark soft so the smoke can get into the meat.

We noticed some of our mistakes while cooking and already have plans in place to remedy them for the next one. Serbian Christmas is right around the corner, and we’re looking to do an entire pig roast.

Any suggestions? I’m up for them all.

James Werner
Author: James Werner

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