By Steve Bivans
If you make real BBQ Pulled Pork, then you should have a real BBQ sauce to go with it.
In other words, BBQ is defined as meat cooked in a ‘low n slow’ method, with indirect heat, supplied by a wood coal fire, and smoke. BBQ sauce, on the other hand, is just an enhancement of that process, or CAN BE an enhancement of that process, as long as the sauce doesn’t suck ass, and most you find in the store do. Slopping some crappy, store-bought sauce on your BBQ is a waste of money, and will just ruin it. If you go to the trouble of making real BBQ, then spend a little time making sauce.
Let me reiterate. BBQ sauce can be applied to other meats and food, but that does not magically transform the other meats and food into BBQ, or for that matter bbq (the lower case denoting an inferior, cheater product). Just because I put some BBQ sauce on brussels sprouts, for instance, doesn’t mean that they now become a rack of ribs. My sauce is pretty f’n amazing, but I”m not Gandalf. It’s not THAT magical.
So BBQ sauce is just that: BBQ sauce. Personally, I don’t like much sauce on my BBQ. If the meat was cooked properly, it just doesn’t need much more flavor, and sauce will not make a dry, steamed heap of meat, juicy. If the meat is dry, it’s dry, and the contents of all the Earth’s oceans will not rescue it from that fate. Nor will an entire bottle of BBQ sauce. Great BBQ doesn’t even need sauce. But it might be perfected with just a little bit of great sauce, and that is only reason we make it.
You can’t really buy great N.C. BBQ sauce. Why? Because I have yet to market mine. I know, that sounds cocky, and I reckon it is, but trust me, they’re amazing. Why haven’t I marketed mine yet? Because I’m kind of lazy, well, maybe not lazy, but I hate science-y stuff. What that means is that I don’t have the patience to scientifically measure out all of the ingredients (by weight, not volume) so that a co-packer can recreate my sauce to bottle it. What I need, is for one of my friends, who likes that sort of thing–measuring stuff–to come over and do it for me. Hell, I’d split the money with them.
I’ve tried dozens of brands of store-bought sauce in my lifetime, and they are all pretty much the same. Yeah, there’s the East vs. West competition. Down East—eastern N.C., where I come from—we use a straight vinegar based sauce. In the western part of the Old North State, they add ketchup to it, which really ruins it. I hate ketchup. Well, that’s not entirely true. I like it ok, on lame fries. But if the fries are any good, and seasoned properly, they don’t need it. And I hate it on my burgers and dogs. It definitely doesn’t belong in my BBQ sauce, or on my pork! Hell no.
But East or West, the sauces don’t vary much between them. They are all pretty much the same; they have little complexity. My sauces have complex flavors. Anyway, if you want really good, or even great BBQ sauce, you have to make it. If you’re making real N.C. Pulled Pork BBQ, then you need a vinegar based sauce.
Eastern N.C. Style BBQ sauce is vinegar based, and it has a kick to it. It’s not that sickly sweet crap they make in K.C., which is ok on a burger—instead of ketchup—but don’t put it on my pork. It’s too heavy and sweet and was probably developed to cover up the fact that someone, a long time ago, didn’t know how to BBQ the meat properly. Most sauce serves that purpose.
That’s why when you go into a Yankee bbq joint, they usually sauce their meat all up before they serve it to you! WTF? It is NOT the job of the pit master, to cover my meat in sauce! That is the job of the customer, or person consuming the pork! What it tells me, is that the pork wasn’t worth eating to begin with, and they know it. And don’t think for a second that it’s only Yankee joints that do this. I wish it were true, but there are more Southern bbq joints doing it than Yankee. You guys know who you are, and you have been put on notice! Make real BBQ or get into the tofu business or something.
N.C. Sauce should be added sparingly to your BBQ, and left up to the individual to decide how much they want. Put it in a Mason Jar, next to the big pan of BBQ, with a spoon in it, and tell people not to drown the meat! Tell them to taste the meat BEFORE adding sauce, so they can see that it’s real BBQ, and not that nasty, steamed bbq crap they’re used to.
That being said, a good, or great sauce can help to launch great BBQ into another realm of smoky, yummy goodness.
If you’re in my circle of close friends, then you probably already know, and can attest, that I’m known for my sauces. I’m also pretty much known for the meat they go on too. No, I don’t own a restaurant, and it’s unlikely that I ever will. I don’t want the hassle. Making BBQ, day in and day out, is not my idea of a fun career. Eating it every day might be ok though. But making it is a grueling process, unless you cheat, and then it’s not worth eating.
The following sauce recipe is very close to my base, N.C. sauce recipe that I call Governor Eden’s Landlubber Sauce, because it’s fairly mild in comparison with my Blackbeard’s No Quarter Sauce,which leaves both a large entrance, and exit wound. I’ll let you figure that metaphor out for yourself. If you love spicy food, youknowwhatI’mtalkin’about.
I may get off my ass and market these one day, so you won’t find the recipes here, but the recipe below is fairly close to the Eden one. It’s a N.C. BBQ sauce. Let’s call it N.C. Pirate’s Cove BBQ Sauce.
It’s designed to go on pork, though it’s ok on chicken. Personally I think chicken is better with jerk sauce—I have a great recipe for that too. Where I come from, the vinegar based sauce is used primarily on pork, and usually on ‘whole hog’ pulled pork BBQ. Down East, we cook the entire pig, and then either pull all the meat together, or let the party goers just ‘pick’ at it. We call it a Pig Pickin’, not a hog roast.
The sauce is usually sitting next to the grill, in a gallon jug, with little holes poked into the lid so you can sprinkle it on your meat. I like to store my sauce in glass Mason Jars, because I hate plastic jugs, or plastic anything: nasty orcish stuff. It leaches chemicals into our food and drinks, and I don’t care how much the oil companies want to argue that they are safe. Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s rainin’. I don’t believe them. So put it in glass, like your granny used to do.
Most recipes you see for N.C. Sauce have processed white sugar in them. I use processed organic sugar in a lot of things, but when it comes to my sauces, I never do. It’s just not complex enough. Sugar, of some kind, is needed in any acidic based sauce, and this sauce is definitely acidic; it’s mostly vinegar, and then cayenne and black pepper. It does have a bit of a kick, but that’s where the sugars come in. If you use complex sugars, like brown sugar and honey (use organic stuff), it will help to balance out the acid in the recipe. It will not make it less spicy, but it will make you want to eat a lot more spicy sauce! The first thing you will taste, is the sweetness of the sauce, along with the vinegar, then the spice will hit the back of your tongue. It’s very good with beer, or South Farthing Sweet Iced Tea!
If you like really spicy sauce, then you can add your favorite super spicy sauce to this, or a lot more cayenne, red pepper flakes, etc. My Blackbeard’s No Quarter Sauce has a butt load of fresh hot peppers in it. You can do that too. Either way, I start by making this sauce below, then separate it into two batches and fire up one with hotter peppers. When I do that I double the recipe below.
N.C. Pirate’s Cove BBQ Sauce
Stuff You Need: (makes about 1 quart)
• 2 cups white vinegar
• 1⁄2 cup cider vinegar
• 1 tblespoon brown sugar
• 1⁄2 cup honey
• 1 tblespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tblespoon salt
• 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
• 2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and chopped 1 teaspoon onion powder
(If you want a spicier sauce, add more cayenne, some red pepper flakes–I love Aleppo–and if you really want it to kick your ass, add some fresh habeneros. I grind them up in a blender, or food processor).
• Pour the wet ingredients into a stock pot and turn heat to low, basically a simmer.
• Add all the other ingredients and stir.
• Let it simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
• Allow to cool most of the way to room temp before pouring into a jar.
• Put the jar in the fridge, or next to the Pulled Pork BBQ! And Eat!
Remember, don’t you dare ‘slather’ this sauce–awesome as it is–all over that amazing Pulled Pork BBQ you just made! TASTE THE BBQ FIRST! Then put a tablespoon or so on your meat, depending on how much meat you have on your plate. I usually put about 10 pounds on mine, ok, maybe not 10….9? It takes a few spoons of sauce for that much meat. Hey, I love getting the ‘meat sweats’.