So here we go for a round up of Day 7 of the road trip.
We pottered around in the hotel for a few hours before heading over for a tour of the Houston Space Center. If you ever travel to Houston you really need to see this. On first entry I was a bit worried - it looked like a kids interactive exhibit, but it's the tour of Mission Control and various other Space Center buildings that makes it worth visiting. In particular, the Saturn 5 rocket in one of the hangars is breathtakingly enormous.
After the Space Center we decided to head straight over to Austin to get there in good time for dinner. Bitching Betty, as we have named the sat nav, seems determined to send us to places we don't want to go so we had a few false starts but once we got onto the freeway the route was straightforward and we had an easy 3 hour drive.
The landscape is very lush and rural, not like the dusty desert images I had imagined before we set off. As we approached Austin we drove through La Grange - a musical reference you might get if you're into ZZ Top.
On arriving in Austin we checked into a La Quinta Inn on the outskirts, freshened up and headed into town in search of BBQ.
The place we visited is called Ruby's, and we really couldn't have found a better place for good food and friendly, informative staff.
The outside of Ruby's is a kind of clapboard shack affair. Inside you have a cosy dining room with lots of music memorabilia. There used to be a concert hall behind Ruby's and the bands used to eat BBQ and drink beer after their gigs were over.
I went for a combo plate of brisket and Elgin links (sausage) with spicy beans and some mac and cheese.
This was the first 'proper' brisket I've had apart from ones I've cooked at home and it was excellent - moist, tender and smoky. All of the connective tissue that makes brisket tough had just melted away over the 20 hours it was smoked.
The next picture gives you an idea of how muchI enjoyed it.
After the meal Javier, one of the guys who works at Ruby's, gave us a tour of their BBQ pits. The first pit was incredibly dark and smoky. I tried to shoot video but struggled to get any detail into the shots - I'll have a go at tweaking the levels when I get back to the UK.
The second pit was better lit and I managed to get some nice footage. The following photos are video grabs of the pit and the fire box.
As you can see from the picture above, this pit is made out of brick in an L-shape. The long side has metal lids, that have counterweights to make them easier to open and close. Under the lids, about 8 inches down, there are meshed metal shelves that the meat sits on to cook.
The short side of the pit, round the corner section, has the fire box. Although relatively few BBQ pits are L-shaped, the principle of separating the fire from the cooking area is essential to all pits, so that the meat can slowly cook and smoke in indirect heat.
Javier told us that they have people on-site 24 hours a day. The night shift tends the fires and prepares the side dishes for the next day. They smoke pork shoulders, briskets and lamb overnight; it takes around 20 hours before they're done. The day shifts use the pits to cook ribs, chicken and sausage links, which have shorter cooking times.
Once a week each pit is cleaned, but it's just the metal shelves and an internal drip tray that gets a cleaning - everything else has been sterilised and seasoned by the heat and the smoke.
After thanking Javier for his tour of the pits, we headed back to the hotel to sleep, digest, and prepare for more BBQ tomorrow.