Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lexington BBQ Slaw: Western NC's Famous Red Slaw

Lexington western NC barbecue with BBQ slaw
Chopped BBQ plate, Mr. Barbecue in Winston-Salem, NC
Red slaw, aka BBQ slaw, is a type of chopped cabbage slaw that's peculiar to the Piedmont area of North Carolina, where Lexington style (aka western NC style) barbecue is king.

Unless you grew up eating BBQ slaw, you might think its tangy-spicy-sweet flavor is somewhat peculiar, too. But if you don't have a sworn allegiance to creamy mayonnaise-based cole slaw or to eastern NC tart vinegar slaw, I suggest you give red BBQ slaw a chance. Try a taste of BBQ slaw the next time you see it on the menu at a North Carolina barbecue joint. To me, it's the best-tasting slaw for serving with genuine Lexington style chopped or sliced pork barbecue. In fact, when given the chance I'll eat it with pretty much with any style of NC barbecue or other grilled or smoked fare normally served with slaw.

If you're already a fan of red slaw and want to enjoy it anytime at home, or if you're open-minded and want to give it a try but don't live anywhere near central or western North Carolina, here is my version of Lexington BBQ red slaw. Although you'll find other recipes out there that list a bunch of ingredients, my version is far simpler and faster. Those longer, more-involved recipes have you mix up what's essentially a western NC barbecue sauce that you use to dress the chopped cabbage. In contrast, my BBQ slaw recipe saves you time and effort by simply using a good-quality bottled western NC barbecue sauce such as Bone Suckin' Sauce. After adding the sauce to the cabbage, all you have to do is taste for balance and adjust the flavor to suit your personal preference for sweetness, tang and spice.

Red slaw tastes best if you make it the night before serving and let it sit in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to develop and meld. You could also make it in the morning before work and refrigerate until ready to serve in the evening with dinner. After you've made this recipe once, you'll get a sense of how to multiply it to make larger quantities for a cookout, party, potluck or other get-together.

Lexington NC barbecue tray with hush puppies & BBQ slaw
Chopped BBQ Tray, Little Richard's in Winston-Salem NC
1 small head of cabbage, approx. 1 1/2 lbs
3/4 cup western NC BBQ sauce, e.g., Bone Suckin' Sauce or Jim's Own Homestyle BBQ Sauce
2 Tbs ketchup (use a spicy ketchup if you want slaw with a kick)
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Optional: Sugar, salt, ground pepper, hot sauce
Trim and core the cabbage, cut into wedges then chunks, and either chop manually (which can take a long time) or chop in a food processor (my preferred method -- very fast!) until pretty finely chopped. Place chopped cabbage in a large, non-metal bowl.

Whisk together the barbecue sauce, ketchup and cider vinegar, then pour over the cabbage and stir until thoroughly combined. Taste for balance and if desired, add a little more BBQ sauce, ketchup (for a mellower, slightly sweeter flavor), or vinegar (for more tang). If you feel it's necessary, add any of the optional ingredients a little at a time, stirring well and tasting after each addition. Remember that the flavors will come together and develop after refrigerating for a few hours or overnight.

BBQ tray at Lexington BBQ Festival, NC
Cover and refrigerate the prepared slaw until ready to serve, and give it a good stir and one last taste for balance before serving. Because this slaw does not contain mayonnaise, it will keep several days in your fridge.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  If you want to learn how to make genuine North Carolina barbecue at home on your smoker, read this post.

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