Welcome, Percy Jackson and Greek Mythology nerds! Summer may be over, but cool weather also means it’s the perfect time for BBQ smoked meat. If those last two sentences are clue enough, that’s right. It’s time, time for Camp Half-Blood’s BBQ Brisket.
Click here to skip to the recipe for Camp Half-Blood’s BBQ Brisket!
Son of Poseidon
For those uninitiated, Percy Jackon and the Olympians by Rick Riordan is a middle-grade novel series following a modern-day 13-year-old boy with ADHD and dyslexia who discovers he is the demigod son of the Greek sea god Poseidon. It’s a fun read where the half-human children of the Olympians attend a hero-training summer camp, Camp Half-Blood. This literal Hero’s journey involves prophecies, road trips, and monster battles galore!
While I enjoyed these books, I want to forewarn that they were published 16 years ago. To get it off my chest, I hate how Riordan writes female characters. I have to keep in mind, though, that the mid-2000s are rife with the “Strong Female Character,” also synonymous with the “Not-Like-The-Other-Girls” heroine. It’s a decidedly woman-bashing ideal disguised as feminism where anything traditionally associated with females (make-up, fashion, romance) is considered weak and shallow. He fell for it. I fell for it. A good number of us did before we realized how toxic it is.
I did enjoy, though, the deep dive into Greek religious practices and mythology he did for the sake of these books. The Hestia-devotee in me appreciated Camp Half-Blood’s ritualistic burning of the first part of the meal to the gods:
“Here you go, Percy,” Luke said, handing me a platter of smoked brisket.
I loaded my plate and was about to take a big bite when I noticed everybody getting up, carrying their plates toward the fire in the center of the pavilion. I wondered if they were going for dessert or something.
“Come on,” Luke told me.
As I got closer, I saw that everyone was taking a portion of their meal and dropping it into the fire, the ripest strawberry, the juiciest slice of beef, the warmest, most buttery roll.
Luke murmured in my ear, “Burnt offerings for the gods. They like the smell.”
His look warned me not to take this lightly, but I couldn’t help wondering why an immortal, all-powerful being would like the smell of burning food. (…)
I scraped a big slice of piece of brisket into the flames. When I caught a whiff of the smoke, I didn’t gag.
It smelled nothing like burning food. It smelled of hot chocolate and fresh-baked brownies, hamburgers on the grill and wildflowers, and a hundred other good things that shouldn’t have gone well together, but did. I could almost believe the gods could live off that smoke.
The pedantic side of me would argue that pork is the more traditional sacrifice as it is also sacred to Hestia. I will assume, though, that someone blessed a side of bacon into the flames each night before the campers made their rounds.
Brisket, as I’ve learned, also takes forever to cook. It’s worth it, though. By the gods, it’s worth it. Let’s smoke some beef!
Cookin’ at Camp Half-Blood
So for this dish, I wanted to smoke a Brisket that encompassed sacred aspects of ALL of Camp Half-Blood’s Olympians. Beef is holy to both Zeus and Hera. You can also argue that Hermes and Apollo figure in as the former stole cattle from the latter’s herds. In this recipe, we smoke a flat brisket — about 7-9 pounds of meat. My electric smoker is a little on the hot side, so I finished it in the oven after the first few hours. Aluminum foil and a disposable roasting pan, though, are the key to making this cut tender.
I blended fennel seed, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper with kosher salt for my spice rub. Fennel stalks are slow-burning and, in ancient times, acted as a torch or a fire-transporter. It thus became associated with the smithing god Hephaestus. Also, Prometheus, the titan who brought fire to earth via fennel stalk, is sometimes interchanged with Hephaestus in certain re-tellings. The garlic powder and cayenne are not historically significant to the war god Ares, but neopagans associate it and other spicy flavors to his nature.
I then smoked this slab of cow with a mix of apple, oak, and walnut wood chips. Apples are sacred to Aphrodite, as I’ve pointed out in previous Wonder Woman-themed recipes. Oak, the strongest of hardwoods, corresponds to Zeus and adds a nice vanilla note. And finally, walnut groves are sacred to hunt-goddess Artemis.
Now, what is a good barbecue without some complimentary crafted sauce? First, I brought rivals Athena and Poseidon together by sauteeing celery in olive oil. Athena won the love of Athenians with the olive tree, while Poseidon often appears with a wild celery leaf crown.
I then deglazed the pan with a mix of pomegranate juice and Diet Coke. Pomegranate is dear to Olympus’s Queen Hera. But why the cola? Wine-god Dionysius suffers a punishment of semi-eternal sobriety as Camp Half-Blood’s Director. That’s all he can drink. Don’t mess with Zeus. Or lest ye be cursed to consume aspartame while training a bunch of whiny supernatural teenagers.
To add some aromatics, I steeped dried mint (both sacred to Demeter and Hades) and bay leaves (Apollo and Artemis) into this mixture. And for that syrupy body, I blended strawberry jam, tomato sauce, and ketchup. Strawberries not only carry a bond with Hermes, but they are how Camp Half-Blood makes enough revenue to support their sacred estate. I guess not even the gods can escape United States property taxes!
And did I forget Hestia? Never. That’s why I also included a BONUS RECIPE for pressure cooker pulled pork that utilized the leftover brisket jus and BBQ sauce. First in my heart, last on my plate. Hail the goddess of fire and bacon, even when others mistake yielding for weakness.
Sing for your Supper!
If you plan to cook the recipes off the site, keep scrolling. However, while access to recipes on the blog will always be free, I also have printable PDF recipe cards and thematic cook-along Spotify playlists as rewards for those who choose to support the blog.
The printable recipe card and playlist for Camp Half-Blood’s BBQ Brisket will be available as a $2 donor reward on my Ko-Fi page until the next post goes up.
You can instead join my Patreon community at the “Sing for your Supper” level ($1/month) for access to the playlists or the “It’s All in the Cards” level ($5/month) or higher for access to ALL of my blog recipe cards and playlists. To get you started, patrons of all reward tiers receive a welcome gift of my Lord of the Rings recipe cards and playlists from January 2019.
“Nothing like watching your relatives fight, I always say.”
Camp Half Blood's BBQ Brisket
Equipment: Smoker, oven, stovetop, aluminum foil, disposable aluminum pan, three lidded containers, two saucepans, wooden skewer, grilling probe thermometer, and pastry brush.
- 7-9 lb beef flat brisket
- 3 Tb kosher salt
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 Tb garlic powder
- 3 Tb crushed fennel seeds
- 1/2 cup diet cola
- 3/4 cup pomegranate juice
- 1/2 cup strawberry jam
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- 2 ribs celery, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 Tb dried mint
- 1/2 cup oak smoking chips
- 1/2 cup apple smoking chips
- 1/4 cup walnut smoking chips
Make the spice rub and sauce:
- Add the kosher salt, garlic powder, fennel seed, and cayenne pepper in one of the containers. Put the wood chips in another container. Seal both containers and shake to blend.
- Pour the pomegranate juice, diet cola, dried mint, and bay leaves into one of the saucepans and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and turn off the heat to let steep for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the other saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, add the celery and three tablespoons of spice rub. Saute for three minutes.
- Remove and discard the bay leaves from the pan of juice. Then pour the contents into the pan with celery. Add the jam, sauce, and ketchup. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer for 25 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and transfer the sauce to a lidded container once cooled. Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors blend.
Smoke the brisket:
- Preheat the smoker to 230°F according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If there is a water pan, fill it with water. Prepare your brisket while waiting at least 30 to 45 minutes to bring to room temperature.
- Set your brisket fat cap down in the disposable aluminum pan and set it on a baking sheet to stabilize. Trim any excess fat, then place a wooden skewer through one of the corners perpendicular to the meat’s grain. Spoon a few globs of sauce on the brisket and brush to coat the top and sides evenly.
- Scatter the spice rub to coat all exposed sides of the meat. Insert the thermometer probe diagonally into the thickest part of the brisket. Once the smoker is hot enough, place the pan on the top rack of the smoker and seal closed. Add more chips every hour.
- Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, remove the pan and sheet from the smoker. Cover the meat with foil while preheating the oven to 225°F. Transfer the pan to the oven and let cook until the meat reaches 195°F.
- Let the brisket rest in the pan for 30 minutes before slicing and serving with the jus and sauce.
Have leftover jus and BBQ sauce from this brisket? No worries! Make another meal of pulled pork and thank Hestia for her hospitality!
Camp Half-Blood's BBQ Pork
Equipment: Pressure cooker, crockpot, cutting board, paring knife, tongs.
- 4-5 lb pork shoulder
- 2 cups reserved brisket jus
- 1-2 cups reserved BBQ sauce
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- Debone the pork shoulder by slicing along the membrane lines. Trim, remove, then discard the fat cap and any large sections of gristle or hard fat deposits. Cut the remaining meat into 2-inch chunks.
- Turn the pressure cooker on to the “saute” function and add a layer of olive oil to the pot. Season the pork with kosher salt and brown in batches.
- Return the pork to the pot and pour in the brisket jus. Replace the cover and seal the pressure cooker. Then turn on the “pressure cook” function (high) and set its timer to two hours.
- Turn the cooker off once it finishes its cook cycle. Then let it sit sealed for 20 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure.
- Transfer the pork to the crockpot and pull it apart with the tongs. Stir in the BBQ sauce and half of the jus from the pot. Then turn the crockpot on the “keep warm” function and serve when warmed through.