In honor of National Barbecue Month, I was offered the opportunity to create a barbecue sauce using Four Roses Bourbon. Knowing little of either barbecue or bourbon, I immediately accepted the offer.
Despite the fear of messing something up or doing it all wrong, a quote attributed to Richard Branson went rattling through my mind: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
I live in North Carolina, a.k.a. the mecca of all things barbecue. Unless of course you talk to someone in Memphis or Kansas City or Texas. Then they will say their barbecue is the best. So, there is conflict right off the bat.
If one accepts that North Carolina barbecue is the best, one must then figure out just what North Carolina barbecue they have agreed to. There is the vinegar-based sauce in the East and the ketchup-based sauce as one moves west. Cross the border into South Carolina, and mustard-based sauces rein supreme.
Frankly, I like them all. It’s always been this way. Moving off track a bit, any time my younger self ate an Arby’s roast beef sandwich, I would put Arby’s sauce on half and Horsey sauce on the other half. Variety is the spice of life, and I like variety.
Along these lines, I concocted three bourbon-based barbecue sauces. Today, I am sharing a mustard-sauce, and just as soon as I can, I will share a spiced orange sauce and traditional vinegar version. The slaw you see here as well as another slaw recipe will also be forthcoming.
Despite my inability to focus on a particular sauce, one thing I could easily decide on was the type of meat to use. Here in North Carolina, barbecue refers to pork. Period. End of Story. I repeat, barbecue = pork.
So pork butt (i.e. pork shoulder) is what I used. I kept it simple with a dry rub for the pork and a five-ingredient sauce featuring mustard and Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon. Four Roses describes this bourbon as “complex, full bodied and surprisingly smooth with hints of plum and cherry.”
As for the sauce itself, I will pick mustard over ketchup any day of the week, so naturally, I liked it. Lacking complete faith in my ability to be objective, I delivered a barbecue sampler to some friends with the request for feedback. This is what I received (name has been removed to protect the guilty party):
“B. said he would eat cardboard with that mustard sauce.” I can only hope you will like it that much as well. Enjoy!
Samples of Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon and a Whole Foods gift card (that I used to purchase the pork butt) were generously provided to help me create this post.
- For the Pork Butt
- 1 pork butt
- 1 tablespoon course sea salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
- For the Sauce
- ½ cup yellow mustard
- ¼ cup Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- Stir together the sea salt, black pepper, and dried thyme leaves and rub the mixture into the pork butt.
- Place the prepared meat into a slow cooker and turn the heat to low. Depending on the weight of the meat, allow to cook from six to eight hours. When done, the meat will easily fall away from the bone.
- Turn the crock pot off and remove the pork butt (be sure to reserve the cooking liquid in the crock pot.)
- Use two forks to shred the meat, discarding the fat as you come across it.
- Return the shredded meat to the crock pot or another bowl along with enough of the cooking liquid to keep the pork moist.
- Next make the mustard and bourbon sauce by mixing all of the sauce ingredients - from mustard to garlic - in a bowl.
- Serve the sauce alongside the pork as a dip or add it directly to the meat and stir to coat thoroughly.