As we hit the last stop on this barbecue sauce trail (after Kansas City and Memphis), we cross the Appalachians into western North Carolina to find a similar set of ingredients, but a sauce that's starkly different. You almost won't even recognize it as barbecue sauce at first. Where the past two sauces were somewhat thick and tomato-heavy, the Piedmont area of North Carolina's take on barbecue sauce is thin, vinegary, and hot.
This isn't a sauce you'd baste on grilled chicken, but rather, as the name implies, it's used as a dip or topping. Tasted alone, it's harsh with a strong bite of vinegar and heat that borders on excessive. Introduce it to pile of pulled pork though, and it's a match made in heaven.
There's something about the vinegar that brings out the smokiness of pork all the more, and complements the pork flavor without masking it—not something you can say about thicker tomato sauces. With the sauce mixed into the pork, the heat still comes through, but in a way you may not expect after trying the sauce alone, and having your tongue burned after.
So our initial barbecue sauce voyage has ended with three distinct sauces, all having their own unique qualities and rightful place on the barbecue map. This is by no means the end of barbecue sauce here—just the beginning. So many new barbecue sauces are always in the works in my kitchen, just waiting to be shared. Until then, happy grilling.
About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.
- 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature. Pour into jar and store in refrigerator.