Something happened in South Carolina in the 1700s that has stained the cotton shirts of generations to follow. The Germans arrived. They brought their barbecue sauce.
They landed at Charleston, but that was too civilized. They headed out into the scrub and planted roots around steamy Beaufort, peacefully sharing comforts with the Wimbees, the Wandos and the Ashepoos. Those were Indian tribes.
Indians invented barbecue, the slow cooking and smoking of hunted meat over wood. The Germans improved it with their tempestuous sauce.
Northerners are in for a comeuppance. Our barbecue sauce must be red. In the few German areas of South Carolina, it’s greenish yellow. This is not exactly appetizing, but once you get over the shock, you’ll order a second plate and maybe a third.
Germans like their mustard. They were just stubborn enough to switch hot and sweet Dusseldorf type for wimpy American tomato barbecue sauce. The result is “yaller” barbecue, whole hog roasted for 18 hours over hickory wood, chopped and ladled with German barbecue sauce.
The combination of smoke and mustard and hog is worth the drive.
Smoked meat in mustard
Pork was the primary meat in Germany, and it soon became the same in South Carolina. You’d buy or propagate a pig and release it into the wilds. It would eat roots and garbage and fatten up at no cost to the owner. Then nine months later, he’d assemble hounds and friends and they’d hunt the critters and have themselves a barbecue.
Smoked meat in mustard, a pickling ingredient, was a way to preserve it, although it rarely lasted a day.
The pig was skinned and chopped, with white and dark meat separated. Much of a whole hog has a bacon flavor due to the proximity of that fat. Most folks order a combination plate with a half pint of yaller sauce on top.
A glob of German coleslaw, navy beans simmered in sauce and a big slab of buttered cornbread complete the meal.
Incidentally, they don’t call it “sauce” down there. It’s “gravy.”
Over the centuries, Dusseldorf mustard, which includes white wine, has climbed in price. Almost all yaller sauce now is based on cheap yellow prepared mustard, the favorite being French’s.
Sauce on the side
The sauce is never cooked into the meat. It’s not mopped on during roasting. It most likely arrives in a paper cup on the side.
Note that around Beaufort, barbecue and pork are the same thing. They laugh at Northerners who ask for the redundant “barbecued pork.” It’s never grilled in our sense. It’s slow-cooked over smoke.
Also note that if you cannot tolerate mustard, you’re out of luck down there. Ask for red sauce and they’ll show you the way back to Charleston.
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‘YALLER’ BARBECUE GRAVY
2 cups (20 ounces) yellow prepared mustard
5 ounces beer
1/4 cup cider vinegar
5 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix everything, stirring with a wire whisk. Heat slowly, stirring to avoid
scorching. Cook until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or cool.
Note: This is excellent on sausage and hot dogs.