in which we admit we are BBQ-tarians

My husband is a really, really outstanding cook and baker. He buys organic foods, and for our entire life together has insisted that he is a vegetarian.

However, he spent his growing-up years in the South, and so every now and again the rules of vegetarianism would be magically suspended while he dug into an entire set of baby back ribs smothered in smoky sauce, or wolfed down a pulled-pork sandwich big enough to have its own zip code.

Having spent most of my life in Places Not The South, I thought BBQ meant putting some ears of corn in foil, slapping a chunk of salmon on the grill, and shoving some foiled taters down in amongst the coals. I did not realize, until I met Nicholas, that those things are not really BBQ, those things are but a pale shadow of the true Forms of BBQ: ribs and pulled pork, perhaps with a few sausages or beans added in for diversity’s sake.

Last week on Ravelry, it seemed a lot of people were making homemade pulled pork, and I suddenly realized that if I wanted to score some serious Wife Points, I could look up the how-tos and see about making a batch in our pristine meatless kitchen.

After all, if the rules of vegetarianism are suspended for BBQ take-out, then surely they would also be suspended for homemade delights.

Reassured by my online friends that pulled pork was “easy,” I read through the recommended recipe online. OK, fine, didn’t seem too bad.

The trouble, however, was two-fold: We don’t own a grill or smoker (yet; Nicholas has Lust In His Heart for the Big Green Egg) and I’d never bought a chunk of meat in my entire life that wasn’t hamburger meat or the occasional sausage or rasher of bacon.

More research ensued. I found that many people said that you could successfully cook pulled pork in, of all things, a crock pot. I also found that the cut of meat recommended for pulled pork is called either a Boston butt, or a pork shoulder.

Same cut of meat, two different names.

There are some questions it is virtuous not to ask, methinks.

I will point out that by this time, Nicholas, having heard what I was researching, had already gotten out his baking flours and had made a batch of his special sandwich rolls. Just in case, you see. (It’s important to Be Prepared in these cases.)

Recipe: Soft Rolls from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen

Grocery list made, Nicholas and I went off to the local market to see about buying The Meat. We actually ended up having to ask the butcher, because we really were literally clueless. (Ask a vegetarian to buy a pork shoulder sometime and then set them loose in the market. It’s really quite amusing.)

The minute we walked in the door with The Meat, the attitude of the dog changed completely. FINALLY, you could hear him thinking, Mom and Dad have finally learned how to SHOP FOR FOOD PROPERLY.

He was extremely attentive while I made and applied the dry rub, wrapped The Meat in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge to marinate (or rubinate) overnight.

I then made the mop, which is a gloriously descriptive country term for the wet basting sauce which one “mops” over the meat during cooking. That went into the fridge to sit overnight as well.

Then I read the final line of the recipe: Serve with Red Carolina BBQ sauce.

There was no recipe given for the fabled Red Carolina BBQ sauce, so I appealed to The Cook to help figure out what the right sauce would be. Nicholas, true to form, went to the shelves of cookbooks, and pulled out an old-fashioned plastic-spiral bound booklet of Best Ever Barbeque Sauces. And right there was an actual Western Carolina Red Sauce!

By this time, however, I was beginning to wonder about how we were actually going to cook The Beast. Nicholas kept saying we didn’t need no stinkin’ crock pot, because, of course, we didn’t actually own a crock pot. But the more I looked around the kitchen, the more I realized we also did not own a pot with lid big enough to let this porker stew in for several hours. (Plus. It’s been super hot during the day, and the thought of having the oven on all day really did not excite me.)

The next morning, while he went off to swim, I went off to buy a crock pot. Then I came home, washed the pot, plunked The Porker in the pot, added the mop, pressed buttons, and went off to make the Western Carolina Red BBQ Sauce.

I’ll cut to the chase:

The Meat literally fell apart after 8 hours in the crock pot. We could barely contain ourselves long enough to cut the fresh rolls in half, pile them high with pulled pork, and douse them with the sauce.


Of course, being the good follower-of-directions that I am, I bought the amount of Meat called for in the recipe: about 6.5 pounds. We now have enough pulled pork stashed away in little freezer bags for about twelve meals, plus the one we ate last night. (Zombie Apocalypse, bring it.)

Recipe Details

Meat: I bought two pork shoulders, each about 3.3 lbs. One of them was boneless and one had the bone in and a layer of fat around it.

Rub: I used the recipe here, except that I added about a tablespoon of Mexican oregano, because another recipe recommended it. I used two kinds of paprika (N. has several in his collection, thank you Penzey’s): Hungary Sweet and Spanish Smoked, about half the total amount for each. Because I didn’t know any better, I used the dark Demara sugar I found in the baking cabinet.

Mop: Same recipe link as above, except that I added several drops of liquid hickory smoke, and about a tablespoon of maple syrup in honour of it being Canada here and all. I put it in the fridge overnight to meld the flavours.

BBQ Sauce: Since it is an oldish book and I am not sure it is still available, I’ll give the recipe here. (Update: Wonders never cease. I found it on Amazon.)

Western Carolina Red BBQ Sauce

1 cup tomato catsup
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Place all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.

Source: Best Barbecue Recipes by Mildred Fischer

And that, methinks, is enough for today, because now I have made myself ravenous (and probably you, too!).

About sandi

Knitter. Spinner. Quilter. UFO Wrangler. Sometime bead artist and weaver. Two toddler-age kittens, 1 permakitten, 2 grownup cats, 1 beloved dog angel, 1 spouse, 1 crazy life. I suppose that the 5 cats make me 1 crazy cat lady; OTOH, apparently, yes, I do need that much feline supervision.
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13 Responses to in which we admit we are BBQ-tarians

  1. Anne says:

    Wow. That’s amazing! (And what exactly are they saying about people from Boston?)


  2. Meg says:

    We just bought our first new grill in almost 20 years, and it has both a compartment fueled by gas and one fueled by charcoal. I’ve had my mind on making barbeque all week. Now that I have your taste tested recipe in hand (thankyouverymuch), I’m going to go buy some pig.


  3. molly says:

    who knew the recipe i have always used for barbeque sauce was carolina red sauce? (except mine has a touch of black coffee…). guess what i’m going to have to cook tomorrow?…in my crock pot, ’cause that’s how i cook pulled pork…thanks for the marvelous inspiration – after all, if a vegetarian can have pulled pork for dinner, why can’t i?


  4. Carol says:

    If that was your husband shopping at Garden Foods last Wednesday and feeling he was being ogled, that would have been me. I was pretty sure it was him from photos I’d seen on the blog, but now that I see the one in today’s post, I’m almost positive. Sorry for the staring, but it was akin to spying a real celebrity. And I definitely saw him carefully choosing from the organic vegetable section–no big chunks of pork in sight!


  5. Michelle says:

    “Porketarian”=a highly principled person who considers him or herself a vegetarian and yet can’t resist breaking out and eating pork every once in a while (ham! bacon! sausages! ribs! carnitas! BBQ pork in all it’s glory!). I love your description of how “the rules of vegetarianism would be magically suspended” during the devouring of the pork. So true!


  6. Laura says:

    I now live in Seattle, where I think most folks share your pre-Nicholas version of BBQ. I grew up both in Texas (mesquite brisket, and thank you) and in the southeast (mmmm, pulled pork) and that is the food I miss more than anything else. There is a BBQ place a couple of miles from me, but I’ve been too scared to try it for fear my high hopes would just be dashed. Maybe sometime soon, though. Or I’ll pull out my own crock pot and copy your inspiration.


  7. Pat says:

    Sounds like a great time! Isn’t it nice to be flexible enough to allow some variety! Some rules/guidelines/philosophical stands need to be suspended every now and again. Enjoy!


  8. marianne says:

    Having spent decades as a vegetarian and/or vegan, this post reminds me of the time we went to the market to buy some beef for visiting family. We were both clueless about what the various cuts were, how much we would need, how to prepare them, etc. Fortunately, we had a wonderful small grocery with a real butcher who was happy to educate us…….and we decided to let the meat eaters be in charge of their meat preparation and cooking so we wouldn’t muck it up. I’m impressed at your confidence to just dive in! Way to go!


  9. Pat says:

    Hi Sandi,
    You’re right – now I’m hungry. Will have to try your recipes for BBQ now that I live in North Carolina. Have tried several so far. Some were really blah, some much better but still didn’t live up to reputation. Anxious to try yours.
    REALLY enjoying you vacation pictures. I’m a transplanted New Englander and miss it but have found a wonderful fiber community here. Makes me really happy!
    So glad that you had a good time on vacation. We all benefit from the opportunity to get away from the day to day. Your description of the “furkids” behavior upon your return really made me chuckle. They are just like human kids. They let us know when we have annoyed them.
    Glad to have read your posts over the last couple of days. I really look forward to them.
    Take care and enjoy the summer.
    Pat aka westies


  10. Melissa says:

    My favorite sauce for pulled pork (and lots of other things too!) is a South Carolina-style (mustard-based) BBQ sauce:
    If you’re looking for a change of pace, give this a shot. Leftover pulled pork is also terrific folded into a tortilla or taco shell, on a pizza, with greens and a bit of chile over pasta, and just about anywhere else you might use cooked crumbled sausage.


  11. Holly says:

    My mouth started to water as I was reading your post. Well done !!


  12. JJ says:

    We used the original recipe, and there is a link to Carolina BBQ sauce somewhere along the way – in addition to cole slaw made with the same sauce. I made it, but I think yours sounds better. Since there are only the 2 of us, we had pulled pork for the whole week. It was so good, we didn’t get sick of it until the last day.

    Next time, though, we are going to invite people over so we can share the BBQ love.


  13. Seanna Lea says:

    I’ll have to keep this in mind the next time I want to feed someone other than my husband. He thankfully eats what I make and I’ve been a vegetarian since 1992. Makes me feel old.


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