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It does my heart good to introduce another gentleman who has been nominated as One of Hardin County’s Finest Cooks. Robby Waters was nominated by April and Thad Jackson.
Robby spent 10 years of his childhood in Decatur, Ala., where he was introduced to great barbecue, white sauce and Brunswick stew.
“My family moved back to Elizabethtown in 1981,” Robby said. “In E’town, the closest I got to barbecue came out of a crock-pot with store-bought barbecue sauce. There are some great store-bought sauces, but there was a difference between mom’s Crock-Pot barbecue and the barbecue we ate down South.”
In 1991, he moved to Owensboro, where he was re-introduced to great barbecue and there were some similarities to the barbecue he ate growing up, and some differences, such as types of meat and style of cooking.
“A couple of those differences are mutton and Burgoo. My first attempt at making Burgoo was at a Derby party with the help of a couple friends, Casey Watts and Jason McGrew,” Robby said. “Thankfully the people we prepared the Burgoo for were mostly friends. They lied and told us it was good. Since that day, the recipe has been modified to what it is today, and those friends say it is much better.”
Robby smokes meat on a cooker his grandfather, Henry Waters, built when Robby was in middle school. Robby’s only modification was adding a fire box.
Still, smoking meat or making burgoo is about more than food, he said.
“I have been blessed to be surrounded by men with great character. My grandfather, father, and two sons are some of the best examples. The time spent with family and friends is more valuable to me than the finished product,” he said.
But his family and friends do love the food.
“My husband is the best cook I know,” said his wife, Rita. “He loves to cook and he loves people. Cooking for others is his passion, pleasure and job.” She noted she never orders his specialties at restaurants because no one can cook them as well as Robby.
Robby’s chicken and white sauce is a family favorite, as is his barbecue.
“I love my dad’s barbecue. I hope to cook like him when I’m older,” said 12-year-old Henry.
“My dad’s chicken and white sauce is the best thing I’ve ever tasted,” added 9-year-old Ava.
April Jackson, a family friend, first tasted Robby’s barbecue at the Waters’ annual Derby bash. It was delicious and her children, whom she’d never been able to get to try it before, enjoyed it.
She called Robby and Rita two of the most loving people she knows.
“The share that through feeding friends and family,” she said, noting the Waters’ response to her father’s cancer diagnosis.
“Robby made enough barbecue and all the fixings to feed our entire extended family for a weekend,” she said. “Good people, good food.”
Casey Watts, who has been a close friend of Robby’s since fifth grade, cooks with Robby while camping.
“Some of my favorite dishes he prepares are smoked baby back pork ribs, gumbo and southern hoecakes,” he said. “Even my youngest son, Carson, is a fan of Robby’s cooking. He says Robby makes the best beef vegetable soup.”
Neighbor J.T. McAdams said he’s been “privileged” to cook with Robby and is amazed by his attention to details.
“Most people don’t understand the planning and effort that goes into first-class barbecue. Robby Waters is ‘the man’ when it comes to cooking with indirect heat. But it doesn’t stop there. He’s also an ace with cast iron kettle cooking,” McAdams said. “On top of all of this, Robby is a first-class guy. I’m lucky to live next door.”
Robby provided recipes for Biscuit’s Butt Rub and Smoked Boston Butt, and during the last week of November, I will feature his burgoo recipe.
Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me,” is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at email@example.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.
Biscuit’s Butt Rub
A “part” can be any unit of measure. It all depends on how much pork you are preparing.
1 1/2 parts salt
1 part black pepper
1 part paprika
1 part garlic powder – granulated
1 part onion powder – granulated
Add cayenne pepper to taste. Add brown sugar for a sweeter taste to the meat.
Smoked Boston Butt
7 to 10 pounds Boston Butt
Generously rub the Boston Butt with Biscuit’s Butt Rub, cover or wrap the Boston Butt and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
Set out the Boston Butt. Heat your grill or smoker to 225 degrees.
Most people don’t have a smoker, but you can use a gas or charcoal grill.
When using a gas grill, you will need to use one with two burners. Light one side and place the Boston Butt fat side up on the side of the cooker that is not lit. Soak hickory or your favorite wood chips in water. Loosely wrap in aluminum foil so smoke can escape and place on the burner that is lit. Add more wood chips as needed. This will add a smoked flavor to the pork.
You can do the same on a charcoal grill. Move all the coals to one side of the grill. Add your favorite wood chips and place the Boston Butt on the cool side of the grill. You will have to add coals and wood chips periodically to maintain 225 degrees.
Cook the Boston Butt approximately 60 to 90 minutes per pound while maintaining 225 degrees.
The meat is done when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.
Robby mops or sprays the Boston Butt with a combination of apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Combine liquid ingredients to your taste.
Wrap the Boston Butt in aluminum foil and place in a cooler for 2 to 3 hours.
When 2 to 3 hours are up, remove the Boston Butt, unwrap and pull apart the roast. Be careful not to burn your fingers; the meat will still be hot.