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Regardless of what a lot of “outsiders” may say, in North Carolina, barbecue means pulled pork. The word “barbecue” is used as a noun, not a verb or an adjective. When you ask for a plate of barbecue around here, you’re going to get a plate of steaming pulled (or chopped) pork, along with some coleslaw and hush puppies, as well.
Most every barbecue establishment will have its own special barbecue sauce. In the eastern region of North Carolina, the barbecue sauce is generally a mixture of vinegar, peppers and brown sugar. Some places will add a few different herbs or even hot sauce (Texas Pete seems to be the favorite here).
In the western part of our state, you’ll still find a healthy amount of vinegar and brown sugar in the sauce, but with the addition of tomatoes or ketchup. If you venture a few miles south down to South Carolina, you’ll find a more mustard-based sauce.
Barbecue cooking methods
For creating barbecue, many different methods are used. The most common methods are the use of grills, ovens and slow-cookers. Oven cooking bags have become quite popular, being less messy and requiring less clean-up afterward. Smoking cuts of meat on a grill will help you get a nice smoky flavor to smaller cuts of meat.
Just place some soaked wood in a shallow (throwaway) tin pan, or something similar, on the grill. Be careful, because occasionally the wood chips will catch on fire. When that happens, I use a spray bottle of water and put the fire out and close the grill lid.
Eastern Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue
This microwave version uses an oven-cooking bag for easy clean-up. You can also use a slow-cooker, but you may need to adjust the amount of liquid.
5 lb. pork butt, or picnic, boneless
3 Tbsps. liquid smoke
2 cups cider vinegar
4 tsps. salt
2 tsps. cayenne or ground red pepper
3 tsps. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsps. packed, dark brown sugar
In a glass jar, combine vinegar, salt, red pepper, pepper flakes and sugar. Close lid and shake vigorously; let stand several hours. Makes two cups.
Cut pork into 10-12 chunks. Discard any large chunks of fat; don’t waste time trimming out all the fat, as it’s easier to remove after cooking. Put liquid smoke and one-half cup of sauce into an oven cooking bag; mix well. Add pork to bag and kneed to distribute seasonings. Close bag using string, but leaving an open space the size of a quarter. Place the bag in a baking dish. Calculate cooking time at 20 minutes per pound based on the original weight of the roast.
Microwave on medium-low (30 percent) for one-third of the time calculated. Turn bag over and redistribute pork. Microwave another third of the time; turn bag and redistribute pork again. Finish microwaving pork and let stand 10 minutes. Pork is done when you can easily tear the meat.
Once cooled slightly, pour meat and sauce into a large pan and pull pork apart into large shreds, discarding any fat. Serve hot with remaining sauce. Makes 12 servings.
Western Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue
This version is slow-roasted in the oven or on the grill for about six hours.
5 lb. pork shoulder, boned and butterflied
1 cup minced onions
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups tomato ketchup
2 Tbsps. mustard (dry or prepared)
2 tsps. ground ginger
2 tsps. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
4 Tbsps. Tabasco sauce
2 cups water
Mix barbecue sauce ingredients in a saucepan; simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Open pork out flat on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in the oven at 475 degrees or place on a grill at medium-high heat, using indirect heating method, for about 15-20 minutes to render out the fat.
Remove rack and pour away fat. Return meat to pan and baste with sauce. Roast, uncovered, at 250-275 degrees in the oven for roughly six hours, or medium-low heat on the grill, using indirect heating method; baste every 30 minutes. Pork is done when a fork inserted and twisted in the center easily tears the meat.
Remove and allow the roast to rest for 30 minutes. Using two large forks, tear the pork into big shreds. Add remaining sauce; can be stored in its sauce up to five days. As with a stew, it’s almost always better the second day. Makes 12 servings.
Everyone has their own version, but this will get you started.
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large onion, diced
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1 qt. oil for frying
In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, sugar and onion. Blend in flour and cornmeal.
Heat 2 inches of oil to 365 degrees (or use a deep fryer). Drop batter by rounded teaspoons into hot oil and fry until golden brown; turn over to brown both sides. Cook in small batches to maintain oil temperature. Drain briefly on paper towels. Serve hot. Makes 24 hush puppies.
Apple Ginger Coleslaw
Shredded cabbage, carrots and apples are blended with a dressing of mayo, sour cream, rice wine vinegar, ginger and soy sauce for a zesty combination.
1 small head green cabbage, shredded
3 medium carrots, grated
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsps. sugar
2 Tbsps. grated ginger
2 Tsps. soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix the cabbage, carrots and apples. In a separate bowl mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, ginger and soy sauce. Combine the dressing with the cabbage mixture. Don’t use all of the dressing at once, depending on the size of the cabbage head.
Toss the salad until well mixed and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.