Barbecuing is not only big business in North Carolina, it’s part of the state’s history and heritage. While there are several styles of sauce throughout the south, East Carolina and Lexington are primarily the two Carolina style sauces. These may have originated in the same area, but they are two very different styles of barbecue sauces. The following describes what exactly makes East Carolina Barbecue sauce unique, and different ways to make and use this type of sauce.
East Carolina Sauce
East, or Eastern sauce, is vinegar and pepper based. Unlike Lexington style, there aren’t any ketchup or tomato products added to the sauce. This vinegar based sauce may be one of the oldest sauce recipes in the country. Since vinegar is a crucial ingredient in all East Carolina Barbecue sauces, the types of spices that are added are usually the “secret” ingredients that make each sauce unique. Everything from garlic and nutmeg, to even a touch of whiskey may be part of an old family recipe that’s been used for generations. While there’s literally dozens, perhaps hundreds, of store bought sauces to choose from, it’s better to make your own.
East Carolina Recipes
Classic East Carolina barbecue sauce is usually thin and runny, not the thick kind you would buy in a bottle. This is so the sauce can soak into the meat. A basic recipe might include vinegar, margarine, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and lemon. A little honey could be added to sweeten the sauce if so desired. If you don’t have any honey, brown sugar or molasses could be used. To make the sauce a little spicier a little bit of cayenne pepper can be added to the mix. Sometimes white vinegar is added along with the cider vinegar. The following recipe is a simple one that can be adjusted to suit each individual’s taste.
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 stick of butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Melt the butter in a pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, honey, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat. Stir in the vinegar and let the mixture cool. For those who like their mixture a little thicker, use a whisk and add a tablespoon of flour. Some recipes suggest letting the mixture rest in the refrigerator a day before it will be used.
How to Use the Sauce
Once you’ve made your sauce learning to use it is the next step to preparing delicious barbecue. The whole hog is usually cooked between 12 and 18 hours over low heat that is kept between 250 and 300 degrees. This is so the meat will be completely cooked without drying out. It’s important to make sure there’s not any pink and the meat is cooked completely through.
Sauce is usually not applied during cooking. A separate vinegar “mixture” can be used to keep the meat hydrated, but not for flavoring. When the pork is done it’s usually pulled into pieces or strips into a large pan. Sometimes a cleaver is used and it’s chopped. After it’s been pulled or chopped, the pork is then dressed with the sauce.