04 November 2008
BBQ SAUCE OF THE WEEK: Pee Dee River Swamp Sauce
When it comes to South Carolina barbecue, the first thing that usually comes to mind is that they make their barbecue sauce with mustard. And I have always thought so too. Well not so fast, my friend. While perusing Serious Eats general manager Alaina Browne's A Full Belly food blog a while back, I came across a most interesting map by the South Carolina Barbecue Association.
As you can see, apparently there are multiple barbecue sauce regions in the Palmetto state.
As I began dissecting the sharp-as-a-tack taste of Pee Dee River Swamp Sauce, that S.C. sauce map came to mind. I was trying to pin down which "region" this sauce would represent, but it's not that easy. It's not exactly mustard-based. And not exactly vinegar-based. And it's not tomato-based either. But it definitely has all of those flavors. It's kind of like the Carolinas' Greatest Hits. Or would it be a mash-up? But it makes sense - the area that the Swamp Sauce crew hails from is right near the confluence of the tomato, mustard and vinegar regions.
Anyway, as I mentioned above, this sauce is sharp. You've got a two-pronged tang attack with both vinegar and mustard - it will pucker you up for sure. And there is a lot of pepper in this sauce as well, which gives it a bit of a kick. The key ingredient though, in my opinion, is the tomato. It's a nice counterpoint that serves to smooth the jagged edges ever-so-slightly.
As with most "Carolina-style" sauces, with their higher vinegar ratios, Swamp Sauce serves more to complement the meat, rather than to flavor it. It's a nice change of pace from the constant parade of sweeter ketchup-based sauces that we encounter so regularly in this day and age.