If you have ever traveled through the South, then you already know that whole hog eatin’ is more of a religion than a dietary delight. Every section of every southern state has their own special way of making the best mouth waterin’, finger lickin’, lip smackin’, truly delicious, make you wanna slap yo mama, authentic Southern Barbeque Sauce handed down from a recipe that pre-dates the war between the states. Having said that, we can only add that the notion of putting anything tomato into authentic southern barbeque sauce is heretical; worse than that, it’s Yankee.
Everyone in the South knows that when you add tomato to a barbeque sauce it becomes a dippin’ sauce, not a certified barbeque sauce. To really bring out the flavor of the hog, you have to use vinegar. Now it can’t be some fancied up wine flavored vinegar from France or someplace, it has to be good old U.S. of A. cider vinegar. Before you can get to the sauce though, you have to prepare the hog. This is an art form in itself.
Most people are partial to the slow cooked, pit baked method of hog roastin’. It is done throughout the South, but the folks in Eastern North Carolina have the edge on most others when it comes to cookin’ hog. First they find a nice locally raised hog, kill it, and dress it for cookin’. Shoot, they could probably tell you the hog’s lineage. That’s how important it is. Next they dig a pit and line it with stones, or foil will do in a pinch. Then put a heap of slow burning hardwood limbs and chips like Hickory wood into the pit and set it on fire. About an hour or two later when the fire has burned down to hot coals, you bring the hog out and bury it in the coals and cover the whole thing over so those coals will stay hot for a long time, and that sweet smoke will penetrate throughout all the meat.
At this point usually sippin’ whiskey is involved as you just sit around and wait on that hog to cook. Mostly thiis takes about all night. Along about daybreak after you check on the coals and the hog, you can start getting the sauce ready. How much sauce to make depends on the size of the hog and the size of the crowd you’re expecting. The main thing to remember is to be sure and have enough for both the hog and the crowd. A word of caution is good here. That hog has cooked all night and it will be tender. You take a few people who have been into the sippin’ whiskey, a heavy, hot hog that has been cookin’ for hours, and many an accident has occurred between the pit and the table.
Anyway, get the hog onto the table and start pickin’ the meat off’n the bones. Yankees would call it flaking the meat off the bones, but in the South we pick it and put it in large pans for mixin’ the sauce. Now here it gets a little tricky. Perhaps you have heard about blood oaths and secret rituals. Well they may be true and they may not, but we cannot divulge a secret family recipe under threat of excommunication from the kin. So, we won’t say what the barbeque sauce recipe is exactly, but we’ll give you enough to you can get the idea for your own.
Start with a good quality cider vinegar and an equally good quality brown sugar. Mix these to taste. This means you’d better try some good southern barbeque yourself before you try and make this sauce. Add some cayenne pepper and some crushed red pepper flakes. We usually use more red pepper flakes than we do cayenne pepper, but becareful not to get it too hot. Spicy is nice, hot is not. Add a little salt to the mixture and let it marinate for a few hours. When the sauce is ready, bring the hog to the table, pick it, and start mixin’ the sauce into it. Some folks add a little honey to the sauce, but purists prefer it a bit vinegary instead of sweet.
After a couple of tries, you’ll have an authentic southern barbeque sauce you can be proud to serve.