Barbecue in Alabama is usually a matter of pork shoulders, butts, and ribs cooked over hickory in brick pits. There are often smoked chickens — and I particularly recommend Archibald’s and Miss Myra’s for their chicken and (everything else they cook) — and here and there a place will serve brisket. It is rare, however, to find a place where they cook whole hogs.
Well, I’ve found one. Here’s a nice video about the Panola United Methodist Church in Sumter County. Being good Methodists, they over brick pits, as God intends. Low and slow with hickory coals.
I haven’t been there, in part because they only cook once year, and in part because I’d never heard of it. It’s a big fund-raiser for the church, and a lovely event. Church members bring cakes and other goodies to supplement the meat. It reminds me of going to meetings at the Dooly County, Georgia, Camp Ground when I was a child, visiting Dear’s parents, Selma and Sugar (Nana and Daddy Papa to me, but more formally Selma Shadburn Griffin and Walter Ewing Griffin.) Everyone would bring wonderful food and lay it out on tables. It seems like it was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.
Sumter County is known for its barbecue clubs. These are community-based groups that started in the age before television as a source of entertainment. In poor rural areas like Sumter County there weren’t a lot of options. Often the clubs are in communities that have pretty well emptied out with the decline in agriculture, but the clubs persevere. The various clubs serve barbecue now and again, usually once a month from Spring through Fall, sometimes taking the hot months off. Some are fund-raisers, others are just an excuse to get together with friends and neighbors. The Timilichee club, the oldest in the county, cooks whole hogs, but most cook shoulders or butts. You can see a PBS video about the Sumter County clubs. That’s Alabama PBS, not the national PBS. If PBS nationally devoted more time to barbecue, they wouldn’t have to worry about losing their federal funding.
UPDATE: A branch of Rodney Scott’s has opened in Birmingham. Give it a try.