Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Barbecue Sauce Times Four

I haven't blogged in almost two weeks. DH and I are chairing a regatta for 80+ Optimist sailors this weekend so that is eating up much of my time. On Saturday night, we are serving a traditional North Carolina-style barbecue dinner to about 200 people. To keep costs down, we are buying the pulled pork, but making everything else. This past weekend, the meal seemed to be coming together, except that we did not have any sauce for our barbecue or dressing for our slaw. Any normal person would just go buy barbecue sauce and slaw dressing, but not me!

There was a time when it never occurred to me to make my own barbecue sauce. Then, when we still lived in Louisiana, a group of our friends decided to enter a barbecue contest and we joined "Group Rub."

The contest had several categories: DH entered his chicken, Vaughn entered his ribs, and MaryAnn entered her barbecue sauce. For a couple of months before the contest, we got together every weekend we could and barbecued, refining recipes and cooking techniques. In the end, DH won a prize for his chicken (and we all had a really good time!).

The guy can cook some chicken.

I haven't bought much barbecue sauce since. MaryAnn's barbecue sauce was tomato-based, which is what I prefer. She used what she called her Daddy's Hunting Camp Barbecue Sauce recipe. I never saw the recipe, but one thing I remember is that it starts with butter. Since moving to North Carolina, I've refined my sauce to what I consider the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. One day I will make a batch of it and make sure that everything is written down properly so that I can share the recipe, but that is not going to be today.

While most people like tomato-based sauce, it isn't what North Carolina 'que is all about. So in addition to my favorite, I decided to make the kind of vinegar-based sauce that is traditionally served with North Carolina barbecue. Since I've not been terribly impressed with vinegar-based barbecue sauces, I did a little research. While I knew there was a difference between Eastern NC-style and Western NC-style, I never knew what it was. Now I know: while both are vinegar-based sauce, Eastern (or Lexington-style) NC sauce is usually cider vinegar, sugar or salt, and red pepper flakes. Western NC-style barbecue sauce is basically the same, but with the addition of ketchup. And there you have it.

The first batch of vinegar-based sauce that I made was Western NC-style. I have to say I am pretty impressed with the sauce I made based on this combination of vinegar and ketchup.

Western North Carolina-Style Vinegar BBQ Sauce

  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the vinegar and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the ketchup, honey, salt, red pepper, and black pepper.
Yield: 4 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

I could have stopped there, but I know my friend Gwen who is helping me pull this meal together prefers the Eastern NC-style barbecue sauce. So, I made a version of this vinegar and red pepper barbecue sauce as well.

Eastern North Carolina-Style Vinegar BBQ Sauce

  • 3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons hot red-pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  1. Bring vinegar to a boil with sugar, red-pepper flakes, 2 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp pepper in a small nonreactive saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Yield: 3 1/2 cups
Prep time:
5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

All is fine and well except that half of the diners are kids -- some of whom might not like spicy food and all of the aforementioned sauces include red pepper flakes. So, I made a fourth barbecue sauce -- tomato-based, sweetened with root beer, and not spicy at all.

I'm very interested to see what is a hit and what is a miss Saturday night.

Tomorrow (if I have time): my new favorite coleslaw dressing!

1 comment:

JGH said...

This looks so delicious. I think you need to come up to the Big Apple Barbeque Fest in June with the pros. and I'm glad to have the recipes, but when are you opening your mail order business??