Winning Vinegar Sauce

The Superbowl is already a distant memory. Who won again? Oh yeah, Tom Brady! I don’t usually care much about the outcome of the game; for me it’s all about the food and commercials. The commercials this year weren’t very memorable, but I will remember our meal of Smoked Pork, shredded, pulled and piled in an aluminum tray and served with a sweet and spicy vinegar-based sauce.

Who cares about the game? Just let me eat my plate of barbecue!

This sauce was the perfect foil for the black-barked Pork Butt, which had smoked eight hours. The fat on the pork butt renders onto the meat, the smoke gives it a dark charred skin and this sauce is acidic and delicate enough to complement the meat and cut the fattiness, without masking the flavor. It’s from Project Smoke, a cookbook from barbecue God Steven Raichlen, and is worth spending the couple minutes it takes to make. We all sampled the smoked pork with a regular barbecue sauce and this vinegar sauce, and determined the vinegar sauce was the clear winner.

There was no mystery about that culinary contest, as there wasn’t much of a battle between the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Kansas City Chiefs. Let’s just say this sauce was the MVP of our Superbowl LV Meal. I served my famous guacamole for an appetizer (it was quickly wiped out), my Mom’s baked beans, boiled corn on the cob and a lemony coleslaw were sides. Potato Buns were available as well, in case anyone wanted to make a sandwich with the shredded pork; store-bought ice cream sandwiches was an easy dessert.

Everything was quite good, but that first bite of smoked pork, kissed with a splash of this Carolina Vinegar Sauce, will live on in my memory after the winners and losers of the Superbowl have faded. Below is the recipe, with Steve Raichlen’s notes on it.

Carolina Vinegar Sauce

Yield: 2 cups

Think of this as the alter-ego of the thick, sugary sauces served too often with American barbecue. It’s thin. Sharp. Salty and fiery, with only a faint whisper of sweetness. But when it comes to saucing pulled or chopped pork, nothing else comes close to counterpointing the rich fatty meat.

Steve Raichlen


1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes (optional)

Place the vinegar and water in a nonreactive bowl (not stainless steel). Add the sugar, salt, black pepper and hot red pepper flakes, if using. Whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Alternatively, place the ingredients in a large jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to mix.

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Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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