Ribs and pulled pork are rich, and the best way to balance and cut the silky fatty mouthfeel is with acid.
Along the coasts of North and South Carolina, “East” Carolina or the “Low Country”, where BBQ probably began in the US, the locals figgered this out a long time ago. They developed a simple vinegar based sauce, probably the oldest BBQ sauce in the nation, to cut through, cleanse the palate, and enhance the flavor. The original was probably just a kiss of hot peppers and vinegar, and some pitmasters use only those two ingredients to this day.
Low Country vinegar sauce is used on naked meat, without a rub, and it does double duty as both a baste (a.k.a. mop) and a sauce. A mop is brushed on the meat while it cooks to cool it and flavor it. Because it is so thin, it penetrates deep.
For people like me who love vinegar and a bit of heat, this simple sauce is all you need on a properly smoked shoulder or whole hog (in the eastern part of NC, whole hog is the cut of choice). Many of you will find it a bit severe and will want to use it as a mop in place of a rub, finishing the with a thicker, sweeter, more conventional Kansas City style sauce.
Best of all, this stuff keeps for months in the fridge, so make a gallon.
- 1 1/2 cups of distilled vinegar
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar (white, light brown, or dark brown)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
- Prep. Pour all the ingredients into a jar and shake. Let it sit for at least 12 hours to allow the flavors to meld. A week is better.
- Use. You can use it as a mop when you cook, you can use it as a finishing sauce when you serve the meat, or both. In the Carolinas, it is usually used as both a mop and a finishing sauce.
- To use it as both a mop and finishing sauce, warm it, pour a few ounces into a cup and paint it on the meat with a basting brush once every hour or so while it is cooking. If you use it as a mop, the sauce in the cup can get contaminated with uncooked meat juices on the brush. That's why you don't want to dip the brush in the whole bottle. Discard contaminated mop and serve untouched sauce at the table.