Mild BBQ sauce is our entry for Day 3 of our Week of Mild, and this time it’s an Eastern North Carolina style sauce from Carolina Sunshine. It’s a stretch to call any strong vinegar based sauce “mild”, but I’m willing to include one here for variety’s sake. That and the fact that I just realized these potent vinegar based sauces have quite a kick to them, but they are “mild” in terms of heat.
North Carolina boasts two main styles of BBQ sauce – Piedmont (Lexington) Style, typically made of vinegar, salt, peppers, spices, and ketchup (and sometimes worchestershire sauce) – and Eastern Style, again based on vinegar, but no ketchup. Unlike all other regional BBQ sauces (except for the mustard based goodness out of Alabama), there is NO ketchup in Eastern North Carolina style. This fact alone has always kept me from really enjoying this style of sauce. Until now.
Carolina Sunshine BBQ sauces are the brainchild of George Foley, born and raised in Eastern North Carolina, the man knows a thing or two about barbecue from those parts. Now a Floridian, George has blessed the BBQ world with some top notch sauces from old family recipes. I assume the name Carolina Sunshine is an amalgam of “Carolina” and the “Sunshine” state of Florida. But you can check his “About” page for all the historical details.
Available in both an “original” and a “hot” version, Carolina Sunshine’s ingredient list is virtually the same with both flavors. With a good base of strong apple cider vinegar, this stuff is made for pulled pork and that’s about it. If any of you Carolinians out there use this type of sauce on other meats, I’d love to know about it. Please educate this Marylander.
Carolina Sunshine Bar-B-Que Sauce – Original and “Hot”
Ingredients: apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt, peppers, spices, xanthan gum
Texture & Appearance:
Original: It’s pretty much what you’d expect to see in apple cider vinegar with spices and peppers. Clear, with minimal flecks of peppers.
Hot: The “hot” boasts a deeper color and many more bits and flakes of peppers. It’s actually a very pretty sauce.
Taste Straight Up:
Original: Huge hit of vinegar along with a nice mellow sweetness from the brown sugar, with a peppery finish. And I mean peppery in a red pepper flake way, not black pepper.
Hot: The same giant vinegar hit with a little more heat to it. The pepper flakes are kicked up a few notches here, and really bring on some extra heat and spice.
Original: 1/2 Star for peppery-ness. Yea, I just made that word up.
Hot: – Let’s not go crazy here. After all this is not a hot sauce. The heat comes from a fresh burst of red pepper flakes – a fresh taste that proves this is a high quality sauce.
Just a few quick words about the labels. Clean lines, simple fonts, they really stand out on a shelf. The cartoony pigs laying out in the “sunshine” do differ.
Original: Male pig, catching some rays with sunglasses on.
Hot: A female pig, also catching some rays, is in her “pigkini” bathing suit (see what I did there?) and is looking “hot”!
Overall Rating (Taste on Food, Final Thoughts):
Ah, now the good part. Pulled pork sandwiches with the required white cole slaw on top. (The cole slaw is up for debate, and I encourage you to dicuss this your comments below). Up until now, I’ve been slurping this stuff straight out of the spoon, and as good as that may be – slurping vinegar is a harsh task.
I really believe the addition of the brown sugar has added just enough sweetness to the mix to win this sticky sauce lover over. The only Eastern NC style I’ve had before did not have the sweet element. Probably a big reason I’ve not been a fan. But Carolina Sunshine has won me over. Even their slogan holds true for me – “Probably the best sauce you’ve never had.”
The apple cider vinegar just smacks of a good quality vinegar, the pepper taste is fresh and pungent, and the light sweetness makes Carolina Sunshine much more than the simple vinegar/pepper combo I’ve had in the past.
Bonus Pic! Look at the tons of bits of peppers and spices in the bottom of the bottles.
A glimpse of the goodies at the bottom of the bottles (a rarely seen photo!).
It seems those “down east” North Carolina folks know a little something about the beauty that is simply pulled pork doused with a good shot of quality vinegar and peppers.
Carolina Sunshine is available in the 10 ounce bottles shown here, or in 1/2 gallon sizes. Visit http://carolinasunshinebbq.com/order.html for these sauces, as well as their selections of Western (Piedmont) sauce, Mustard BBQ Sauce, and Wing Sauces and their Butt N Rib Rub.
Also, be sure and check out and “Like” Carolina Sunshine on Facebook
I was so impressed with the quality of these 2 sauces, I ordered one of each of all their other products. Can’t wait to report back to you on them!
In the meantime, please let us know, in the Comments section below, if you are a fan of Eastern North Carolina sauces and how you use them. Thanks for reading!
As an added bonus and for your viewing pleasure, here’s our good friend Darryl Mast of BBQSuperStars.com interviewing Mr. Carolina Sunshine himself, George Foley.
Disclaimer: We received this product courtesy of the manufacturer for review.