Watercooler talk in North Carolina during the month of March is usually dominated by College Hoops. Considering 5 teams from the state made the men’s tournament this year it’s no surprise why it’s such a hot topic. Well it turns out that the good folks over at Johnsonville also get into the March Madness spirit, so they reached out to us on the Big Taste Grillers Panel about coming up with a new recipes to have on game days.
Since I’ve had a bit of fascination with BBQ lately I decided to combine a little of the North Carolina BBQ flavors with the already proven deliciousness of Johnsonville Bratwurst. For those of you who may not know, NC BBQ varies quite a bit depending on where you’re at in the state. From my own experiences I’ve found that most of the natives are quite protective of their regions take on the food. However in the “Triangle”, where Duke, NC State, and UNC Chapel Hill can be found, the regions overlap a little. Because of this I decided to put my spin on a BBQ sandwich combining a little of both styles of NC ‘cue. Below you’ll see my recipes for the condiments of this particular sandwich.
Eastern Carolina Style BBQ Sauce
- 1 1/2 Cups Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1 tsp Hot Sauce
- 2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
- 2 tsp Black Pepper
Mix all ingredients together and keep in sealed container. Best if made at least 24 hours in advance. I like to shake it up periodically, just whenever I think about it. Not sure if that makes any noticeable difference, but it’s worked well for me.
Western Carolina (Lexington) Style Red BBQ Slaw
- 1/2 Lbs Cabbage
- 3 Tbsp Ketchup
- 2 Tbsp Sugar
- 1 TBsp Cider Vinegar
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flake
Chop cabbage into fine pieces. I’ve found a food processor makes life much easier. Mix all ingredients together well. Again best if made at least 24 hours in advance. I would estimate that this makes about 2 cups of slaw.
To prepare the Brats I wanted to try something new. To get a little more of that BBQ feel I decided to smoke the sausages a little to see what would happen. Basically all I did was to get some charcoal started, for this project I used Kingsford Blue Bag, and set up my grill for indirect cooking. Once the coals were nice and hot I set the sausages on the indirect heat side of the grill, threw a handful of wood chips on the coals, and shut the lid. After about 10 minutes I flipped the brats over and added a little more wood if the first batch had already burned off. At the 20 minute mark they had taken on a nice reddish color and the casings had gotten nice and crisp. All that was left was to put them over the fire for a second to get a little char on there and that was it. Once they were done I split them down the middle, gave them a few good squirts of the BBQ sauce, threw them on a bun, and topped them with a spoonful of the slaw.
While no one is likely to confuse this for a more conventional NC BBQ sandwich you do get some elements of them. The meat is completely different but it does work very well with these flavors. The slaw has a little sweetness and the acid from the vinegar cuts through some of the richness of the brat.
If you’re not a fan of smoked sausage I’m sure these would be just fine on a brat that had been cooked more conventionally. The recipes for the sauce and slaw would also be good to keep around if you decide to cook up a pork butt someday.