Friday, April 22, 2011
I've been looking forward all week to trying out Ralph's barbecue sauce. Ralph is my co-worker at Catawba College. We'd not met, because we're in different buildings. I teach and write about grilling and barbecue at night, and Ralph is a retired police officer from Lexington, NC who works security (thanks!) and he spends his spare time making his Bar-B-Q & Mop sauce.
Shane, who is the head of security and a long time friend, told Ralph about my hobby and gave him my business card (very inexpensive from Vista print online - check them out if you need cards), and he told me that Ralph was a sauce guy and would be getting in touch. This is where you all must be thinking "small world." I couldn't believe there was a small batch barbecue sauce maker on campus and that I'd not heard about it.
Ralph pulled a night shift and stopped by my office in the morning with a jar of his sauce, and we had a great chat. I can't think of anything I enjoy much more than talking barbecue - other than maybe eating barbecue.
Ralph is originally from Lexington which is a barbecue capital in North Carolina. I can't say THE barbecue capital, or I'd really tick off the eastern style North Carolina barbecue folks. That argument ranks with religion and politics in this state, and I hide in the bunkers when that argument comes up - eastern versus western barbeuce in NC.
For twenty years, Ralph has been tweaking around with his barbecue sauce. About seven years ago, his wife thought he had it perfect and said, "That's it. Leave it alone." That became his signature sauce and the one sitting on my desk that day and on my table tonight.
For years, Ralph made his special barbecue sauce for his own grilling and as Christmas gifts for the family. He said that one year he thought maybe he should do something different. Everyone was saying, "Where's the barbecue sauce?" He didn't make that mistake again. You know how families are. You really don't want them all mad at you and especially not at Christmas.
With family, friends, and the folks at church going wild for Ralph's Bar-B-Q Sauce and Mop, he decided maybe he could market his product. That's a huge undertaking especially when you're doing it out of your home kitchen and two galllons at a time.
"My wife has been real patient with me," said Ralph who generally waits until everyone is asleep at home to work his barbecue sauce magic. He's now talking to a bottler out of Winston Salem, so that he can make more sauce than what he can at home in the kitchen.
Some local stores already carry Ralph's Bar-B-Q sauce. He's in Salisbury (Village Groceries on 601 and McLaughlin's on Monroe St.), Lexington (Bass Food Mart and Conrad & Hinkle on N. Main), and Thomasville (Shuler's Meat Market on 29/70). He was on consignment to start with, but his sauce was popular, so the stores buy it outright now.
Also, if you're local, then Village Inn Pizza of Salisbury, NC uses Ralph's sauce on their wings on Wednesday nights. Stop by and try those out and tell them Ralph rocks.
Ralph is now setting up a Ralph's sauce web page and getting his sauce out there. I'm writing this on Easter weekend 2011, and the page just went up, so keep in mind that you're in the pilot group as they build the space.
Here's the pork butt we've had on the Weber Smokey Mountain today. No. It's not sauced at this point. We rubbed it with Bandiola Barbecue rub which is why it's such a pretty color (and the bark has a very nice flavor).
We let the pork butt rest but not long. Eli was hungry - starving. I think this is a chronic issue with 18-year-old boys. In any case, we rested the pork with Eli slipping samples and dipping it in Ralph's sauce.
You don't have to heat up Lexington type barbecue sauce, but I like it warmed up. So, I put some in the pot and heated it up on my new glass top stove. I don't much like my new stove other than the cool purple color it makes around the pot that you can see here. That is a story for another post though.
I put my barbecue sandwich together and sauced it and got my first taste of Ralph's sauce. Yum. It reminded me of a barbecue sauce I bought in Murphy, NC ten or more years ago that I've tried and tried to find with no luck. All small batch sauces are a little different, but Ralph's has that sweet flavor with a bite of heat behind it that I'd loved so much with that Murphy sauce I got at the flea market. Ralph's BBQ sauce was a big hit here all round. Yes. Ralph's wife was correct. He nailed it.
If you're not from North Carolina or aren't familiar with Lexington style barbecue sauce, then it's vinegar based but has some red (ketchup in this case) plus some heat (pepper seeds and/or cayenne - depending on the sauce maker). It's unique and very good.
This type of barbecue sauce is common for slow smoked pork but also for chicken and ribs. It can be mopped on as food is grilling or cooking or used as a dip after the food is cooked.
Ralph told me that he especially liked to use his sauce with chicken, and that's what I plan to do next. It can be sauced on the grill, or he told me that it's really good to Southern fry chicken and then pour his sauce over it and let it sit for a while. That's what we call barbi-fried chicken around here.
I've been talking about Ralph's sauce and our pork butt evening this week on Facebook. You can find me there under Cyndi Allison (Salisbury and/or Grill Girl - since there are others with the same name on there). Norman, a guy I graduated with and who was always one of my favorite classmates, noticed I was talking about Ralphs's barbecue sauce. He clicked in to let me know that Ralph is his brother-in-law. It was great to hear from Norman again, and I'm right back to thinking "small world" again. I'm glad Shane hooked us up. We're just two working folks with hobbies that are similar. I write on barbecue. He makes barbecue sauce. I'm sure we smiled or waved while walking across campus. Now, we are barbecue buddies.
Thanks for the sauce Ralph. I can be a tough critic I know. Your BBQ sauce was everything I hoped for and more.