Holy Smoke Cookbook
BUY THE BOOK: “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue: The Definitive Guide to the People, Recipes, and Lore,” by John Shelton Reed & Dale Volberg Reed with William McKinney. Copyright 2008, the University of North Carolina Press. 328 pages. Cloth, $30. NCBBQBook.com, 919-966-3561.
It’s hot and miserable in the summer and freezing in the winter. It’s greasy and dirty all the time, and you’ve got ashes and soot all over you.”
Such is the life of the barbecue pitmaster, in the words of Keith Allen, owner of Allen & Son, a restaurant near Chapel Hill, N.C.
Allen joins a pantheon of North Carolina barbecue legends profiled in “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue.” Co-authors John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed are native Tennesseans. Their collaborator, William McKinney, grew up in South Carolina. All three are Tar Heel barbecue converts.
Perhaps it took the courage and the perspective of the outsider to enter the battlefield of North Carolina barbecue. It’s a state marked by a Great Divide, separating the whole hog and vinegar sauce tradition of the east from the pork shoulder dipped in tomato-flavored sauce that developed in the piedmont.
“Holy Smoke” is part cookbook, part how-to manual for the backyard barbecuer and part historical treatise. It may not create a truce between the two barbecue camps, but the book provides a lesson on how the split evolved. Citing the work of the late food historian Karen Hess, the authors trace the vinegary sauces of eastern North Carolina to the Caribbean, where meats were marinated and seasoned with acidic fruit juices.
The Piedmont style, say the authors, is a legacy of German immigrants who made their way down to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, bringing with them a taste for pork shoulder meat and a yearning for sweet-sour combinations that ultimately resulted in tomato-based sauces blended by barbecue pioneers such as Warner Stamey, himself of German extraction.
“The humble creators of the Eastern tradition are known to God alone,” the authors write, “but the pioneers of Piedmont-style have names.”
This well-researched book is a hymn of praise to those pitmasters who have long labored over fires fueled by hickory and oak. Whether they hail from the East or the Piedmont, they have tenaciously held on, resisting pressures to embrace gas-powered and electrified cookers, “upscaling,” and all the encroaching trends that threaten the very existence of the great native dish of North Carolina.
Fred Sauceman, a native of East Tennessee, is the author of a three-volume book series on Appalachian foodways and a longtime administrator at East Tennessee State University.
BUY THE BOOKS:
WEB EXCLUSIVE RECIPES:
Susan Metts’s Marinated Coleslaw
“There are many descendants of these Dutch/German/Moravian-style slaws, often called ‘seven-day slaw’ or ‘nine-day slaw’ or even ‘three-week slaw,’ loved partly because they are safer for outdoor events than mayonnaise-based slaws. Here’s a recipe from Hendersonville.”
From "Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue," by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, with William McKinney
1 (approximately 7 inches diameter) head cabbage
1 large onion, chopped or slivered
1 cup sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, shred the cabbage and add the onion; mix in 1 cup sugar, minus 2 tablespoons. In a saucepan, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, vinegar, oil, mustard, celery seed, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour the hot mixture over the cabbage and mix. Cool. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.
Adapted from “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue,” by John Shelton Reed & Dale Volberg Reed, with William McKinney
1 box devil’s food cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups Cheerwine
1 teaspoon almond extract
For the icing:
1/3 cup Cheerwine
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9” x 13” pan. Combine the cake mix, eggs, oil, Cheerwine and almond extract. Mix well. Pour into the pan and bake as directed on the cake mix box. Cool slightly and then ice.
For the icing, combine the Cheerwine, butter and cocoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the powdered sugar and blend until smooth. Stir in the almond extract. Cool and then spread over cake.