Smokey Mountain Ramblings
Personally, I’m a little bored of the Smoky Mountain. This could be down to my restless personality, or the fact that I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do an ultimate version of it for the London Burger Bash, but I can’t help but think it’s overdue some serious changes.
It’s a risky business, as it is by far my most popular creation. By changing it I risk upsetting a large group of loyal Smoky Mountain disciples. It has been this way pretty much since it’s creation. It was the first ever burger I made to generate what can only be described as a cult following.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this, the Smoky Mountain is actually very different from the original creation. In the past we’ve had two whole rashers of oak smoked bacon, a tomato slice, it never used to have garlic mayo and during the winter months it came with a beetroot and daikon slaw. Would changing it again really be that catastrophic? If it still tasted good then I hope the loyal following would remain.
The one thing that has always remained the same is the BBQ sauce. I opted to do a zesty rum BBQ sauce rather than the traditional bourbon and used lime juice instead of lemon. I’ve always made it from natural ingredients, no bottled pectin, no cans of coke, just spices, booze, fruit, veg and plenty of sugar and vinegar. I tried in the start to make it with ketchup and more recently with tomato puree, but It never tastes as good. Until now I’ve used tinned tomatoes which help to thicken it up. The only downside to that is the time it takes to reduce, it requires a lot of time and attention than if I used a cheat. It’s the main reason I’ve been reluctant to put the Smoky Mountain on the menu permanently. Making the BBQ sauce is one task I’ve yet to delegate to any staff. It’s a bit of a sacred ritual for me and I’m finding I have less and less time to perform it these days with so much going on.
The one thing that has continued to bug me about this method is it still feels like a bit of a cheat. You know what I’m like. I like to make everything from scratch from local produce where possible. The amount of fresh tomatoes I’d need to make BBQ sauce would be ridiculous and cost over four times as much to make. Not to mention the extra time of making a passata from them and reducing it down before I can even add it to the sauce. Then there’s the problem of what to do in winter, when no local tomatoes are available. Once I’ve made the switch to fresh, it’s going to be hard to go back.
However, me being me, I just love to do things the hard way. I remember a report card I was given in school where a teacher frustratingly remarked that “If Paul wants to get from one point to another, he always chooses the longest possible route”. I denied it back then, but it certainly seems to be more true these days. However, I’d like to argue the point that the journey is equally important as the destination.
The other reason I’m considering using fresh tomatoes is as previously mentioned, the London Burger Bash is around the corner. I am absolutely determined to win this event and if I am going to do “The Legend of Smoky Mountain” as many have urged me, it needs to have the greatest and freshest BBQ sauce the world has ever known. I also can’t help but feel if this burger is the showcase to the UK of what The Troll’s Pantry is all about, then it needs to heavily feature seasonal ingredients, something the current version doesn’t really do at all.
So I had this idea I wanted to run past you? How about if I let go of the Smoky Mountain and let it evolve. Let the flavours of the seasons influence it all year around. Change and adapt the BBQ sauce so it works with the rest of the seasonal ingredients. Maybe in the winter I can use beetroot instead of tomato as the base for it. I could experiement with different types of booze. I have an idea to do a beer based BBQ sauce with honey and olde English spices. I would always keep the theme the same. Bacon + beef + smoky.
The Smoky Mountain is a great burger and I owe alot of my success to it. But clinging on to old sentiments may not be the best thing for a constantly evolving and improving business. I’d be interested to know your thoughts.