We rolled out of bed today in the home of Purdue University- Lafayette Indiana. Real beds. Yes, in fact we even had pancakes and real maple syrup. We took our time getting ready because we knew this was the last day we would see a real bed for a while and nobody was willing to admit that the thought of sleeping in the makeshift bunks in the van might not offer the same relaxation.However, we were anxious to head somewhere that was not only warmer but also the birthplace of American BBQ.
As Sarah was figuring out a more detailed route, I was getting a history lesson from Jim Early, The Carolina BBQ expert. Jim, The President of the North Carolina BBQ Society, had his trip of epic-porkportions years earlier, traveling to each of NC’s 100 counties and critiquing over 228 BBQ joints. This lead him to author the book The Best Tar Heel Barbecue Manteo to Murphy.
You see barbeque, or barbecue, as they spell it in North Carolina, is different than what we find back home in Wisconsin (where it almost always means ribs slathered in a thick sweet but tangy sauce). North Carolina seems to have an intimate understanding of their BBQ.
West of Chapel Hill, NC there are very few of those aforementioned ribs, and even less of the red sauce,and instead, those ribs are cooked intact in the pig in a wood pit overnight, and in the morning all of the meat is pulled or shredded. Then, liberal amounts of what would be the starter for Northern BBQ sauce is added, including lots of vinegar and some sugar and red pepper flakes, but there is no ketchup or tomato added here.
However, the minute you cross the imaginary north/south line of Chapel Hill headed west we see something a little more familiar. Rather than cooking the whole hog here, they focus on the butt or shoulder. The meat gets a dry rub of spices liberally rubbed on, and then the meat is slowly smoked and then pulled. In that part of the state you can begin to taste some of the similarities to the popular brands of BBQ sauce we are familiar with as ketcup, brown sugar, and tomato paste are added.
With our minds full and our bellies starting to empty, we again hit the road with our longest drive ahead-we were on our way to taste whole hog vinegar BBQ. Our first Stop is Skylight Inn of Ayden, NC!