Western Carolina Tomato-Based Barbecue Sauce

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Mmm--  Carolina barbecue sauce!   There are many regional sauces that taste great in their own special ways, but I was raised on this sweet, savory, smoky concoction and I place it right there at the top of the list.  My first memories of it were when my grandparents would take us to the mountain town of Linville, North Carolina.  There was a hole-in-the-wall storefront where we would stop for a chopped barbecue sandwich.  I can still taste it.  Then there is Henry's Smokehouse on Wade Hampton Blvd. in Greenville, South Carolina-- whole hog sandwich please!  Unfortunately, I live far away from those smoky spots, so I have been forced (with great pleasure) to recreate those flavors. 

I make multiple batches of this sauce throughout the year.  I use it during the warmer months, then freeze it to have on hand when it is no longer grill season.  I like to use it on chicken and turkey.   If every drop of this sauce had it's way, however, I'm sure it would want to go on some pulled pork. The recipe I am sharing calls for real smoke drippings, but you can certainly use liquid smoke instead.  Just add to your taste.  This sauce is so good, I eat it all by itself on toast.

Note-- *If you are from the Carolinas, you can probably figure out what the yellow sauce in the background is, so stay tuned for another recipe.  

Western Carolina Tomato-Based Barbecue Sauce
makes about 2 quarts

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 40-ounce bottle of ketchup (I use Simply Heinz)
2 1/2 cups water (20 ounces) to rinse the inside of the ketchup bottle
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups white distilled vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1/4 cup yellow mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2-4 Tablespoons of natural smoke drippings or liquid smoke to taste

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the ketchup; rinse the bottle with the water and add to the pot.  Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, sugars, molasses, mustard, lemon, salt and pepper.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 3-3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Using a hand held immersion blender, food processor, or blender, purée the sauce in batches.  Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl and strain the sauce, pressing on the solids with the back of a ladle.  Add the smoke flavorings to taste.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to six months.  Enjoy!

Source: The Galley Gourmet


  1. This looks super yummy. I especially love those squirt bottles. I've got to get me some of those!

  2. Sounds delicious! Just wondering about the cups vs. ounces of water. Isn't 1 1/4 cups = 10 ounces?

  3. Rivki Locker-
    I purchased the squirt bottles at The Container Store, but you can probably find them a t your local hardware store as well.

    Thanks for catching the typo:) It is 20 ounces or 2 1/2 cups.

  4. I live in Greenville now and when friends/family visit we always stop at Henry's. You just have to. I once saw a SC bbq chart and it claimed that our little state had FOUR bbq sauce regions!

  5. Jenny-
    Woohoo, another Henry's fan!! Yes, in that tiny region there are FOUR basic sauces (and so many delicious variations).
    1: Western-South Carolina--tomato-based
    2: Piedmont Dip-- which is a vinegar sauce with a touch of tomato or ketchup
    3: South Carolina Mustard Sauce (a.k.a liquid gold)-- a spicy, vinegar, mustard sauce, and lastly;
    4: Eastern Carolina Mop Sauce-- a vinegar pepper sauce that kisses the pork just right!

    Give my love to Henry's!


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