Stuck along the grassy side of Reston Parkway is a small sign that reads “Smokin’ BBQ.” If you follow the smoky aroma on Wednesday afternoons, you will find the Reston’s Smart Market in an office parking lot. And with a long line waiting for service is Uncle Fred’s Smoke Shack, which dispenses some of the smokiest, most flavorful ribs this side of Memphis.
Surprisingly, says Herndon resident Fred Jackson, originator of the business, cooking was really just a hobby—that is, until he needed to find a job. And cooking professionally made the most sense. “I have always loved cooking and being around the kitchen,” he says. A native of the south, Jackson grew up watching his dad barbecue. “My parents were from Mississippi and Georgia,” he said, “so we saw it all very up front. My grandfather smoked a whole pig on a farm by digging a hole in the ground and putting in a few sticks to turn the pig around during cooking.”
Because he is self-taught, with no formal culinary training, Jackson started his barbecuing as a family venture to cook for gatherings and for his church. “I used to take the family on outings,” he said, “and the way to pay for the outings was to sell what I cooked.”
So when he lost his job several years ago, Jackson turned to barbecuing as a way to earn money. “I did well in the Barbecue Battle the first year I entered,” he said. “I placed sixth. Then the next year, I placed third. It all started to take off.”
That led him to briefly run a restaurant in Winchester.
But after setting up a stand in various markets, his product has become a best seller. “We are booked to the hilt,” he said. “This year, we were booked from April to Labor Day weekend. We have booked up much business by word of mouth. ... We stay so busy on weekends, we now do parties during the week.”
Because of his success, Jackson has developed his own rubs and sauces. He uses the dry rubs on the meats, but lets patrons select their own sauce, ranging from vinegar-based for pork; sweet and mild like a Kansas city product, and mustard-based for all others. “Everyone wants us to sell our barbecue sauces, which we can do at the markets,” he said. “But we need to get certification ready to sell across the country.”
Busy every day from dawn until dark, Jackson’s family members have pitched in to help him with the business. “My stepson is a partner in the business,” he says, “and we do all the cooking.” That means the pair smoke all kinds of meat, from pulled pork and ribs, to whole chicken and brisket.
“We do a lot of brisket and we can’t keep enough of it,” he said, adding that over the holidays he deep-fries and smokes whole turkeys. In addition, market-goers can pick up such sides as from scratch potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, collards, mac and cheese, and candied yams. Fortunately for Jackson, his wife helps with the catering jobs, and at farmers’ markets, she does the front end.
You can catch Uncle Fred’s Smoke Shack at one of the following markets: Fairfax City on Saturday and Sunday; Smart Markets: Reston, Wednesday, Lorton, Thursday, and Springfield, Saturday. They also sell Saturday at South Riding Farmer’s Market, now located at the Wellness Connection Farmers Market at the new Gum Spring Library in Stone Ridge. For other information, times and locations, phone 540-313-2222. Also find Uncle Fred’s on Facebook:
Uncle Fred’s BBQ Smoke Shack
Recipe for Ribs 6 to 12 people
The Secret Dry Rub
Fred Jackson says, “I can only tell you what’s in the rub.” So be creative and make up your own with the basics he suggests. As for the ribs, purchase them at BJ’s, Costco, or Wegman’s for the meatiest cuts.
Sea salt or kosher salt
Raw sugar or light brown sugar
6 slabs of St Louis-cut ribs
¼ cup of teriyaki sauce
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 cups of apple juice,
Let set in refrigerator for a minimum of 5 hours. Remove ribs and place on cooking sheet or new dry pan. Pour the juices into pot and bring to a boil for 15 to 20 minutes. This will become your basting broth to keep meat moist while cooking on the grill. Take ribs and pat dry with towel. Now take all the dry rub ingredients, mix in bowl very well; take and sprinkle over ribs (meat side up, skin side down) and cover the meat entirely. Work the rub into the meat, sprinkle a little more over the top, and refrigerate for approximately one hour.
Let’s go light the grill. The trick to good-tasting barbecue is patience; this process is going to take approximately 3, maybe 4 hours to complete. This means we cook low and slow. You’ll need some wood chips, such as hickory and mesquite, and let soak in water for about ½ hour. Light the grill—with a charcoal grill, make sure all coals have turned grey. Place the chips over the coals, mix in, and place the grate on the grill. Place meat on the grill, cover grill, and turn meat the first hour about every 30 minutes. Baste with basting sauce the second hour every 20 minute and the third about every 15 minute. Now brush or mop on BBQ sauce and let stand for about 8 to 10 minutes per side. Take off the grill and eat.