Add a few more wheels to the bandwagon: Lowcountry food entrepreneurs are getting crafty with barbecue sauces, in the same vein as craft beers and other products. At least four new brands of local sauces have been launched, two within the past year.
They join the ranks of longtime state players such as Bessinger’s, BlackJack Barbecue, Melvin’s, Prosser’s and Sticky Fingers, among others.
The uptick mirrors a surge in the number of condiments and sauces nationally and a growing consumer appetite for them. Retail sales in the category rose more than 9 percent between 2007 and 2009, and were projected to increase another 11 percent through 2011, based on industry data.
Here’s a rundown of the newest hometown barbecue “brews.” While they are being used in traditional ways on pork, chicken and beef, consumers are reporting inventive applications.
Some are splashing the sauces on fish, tofu and tacos, into vegetables, eggs and chili, and over cheeses. Salads are even getting a dose.
About: This sauce has been flying under the radar although it's been out for more than three years. That's because, as maker Ronnie Taylor says, "It's really a hobby. If I sell any more, it's going to be a job."
Taylor, a retiree who lives in Dorchester County, developed the sauce over time as a member of a barbecue cooking team beginning in 1985.
Honey is the No. 1 ingredient in the tomato- and vinegar-based sauce. That makes for sweetness at the start, followed by a Texas Pete bite at the finish.
The sauce contains no alcohol despite what its name suggests. The owner of Southern Comfort liqueur, however, recently contacted Taylor about trademark protection and asked that he change the name. Taylor says the company is allowing him to use up his stock of labels first.
Cost: $5 for a 16-ounce bottle.
Find it: At Summerville and Mount Pleasant farmers markets, Boone Hall Farms Market in Mount Pleasant, local festivals.
About: Matthew Dukes Hanna's concoction is Eastern North Carolina style, though its origins date back 30 years to his dad's barbecue restaurant, Big Ed's, deep within the Lowcountry in Hampton County.
"A lot of people say that there's a big void for vinegar-based sauce in South Carolina," says Hanna, who has dubbed himself the "Sauce Boss."
After talking his father into the idea, the 31-year-old Hanna put it all together within eight months. The first batch was produced in March and is up to its fourth 300-gallon run.
Hanna, meanwhile, continues his day job in freight forwarding, working on the sauce business before and after hours, and with help from his family.
Cost: $6.95 and up for a 12-ounce bottle.
Find it: Select grocery stores such as Harris Teeter on East Bay Street but mostly at specialty shops such as Bull Street Gourmet on King and Gita's Gourmet at the City Market. Retail locations listed at www.pigtailbrands.com; also may be bought online.
About: The sauce is made by the Charleston Pig Company, whose owners are Chad and Allison Weaver. She runs the business; he was the recipe creator.
"I actually started making the sauce about 15 years ago," says Chad, about 18 at the time. "I've always been a big guy in barbecue and cooking for people."
The sauce is vinegar-based, as opposed to the mustard style more common in the Lowcountry. "I'm actually from Florence County, and that's more of a sauce in that area," explains Chad, who works full time in construction.
Chad moved to Charleston in 2005, and he and Allison met and married. Meanwhile, more and more friends were asking him to make the sauce for their private stock.
Then, "My husband introduced it to my whole family, and they said, 'It's awesome, you should bottle it,' " Allison says. "I thought we might have something here." About two years ago, they began to produce it for retail.
Cost: $5 and up for a 12.5-ounce bottle; $13-$14 for a half-gallon.
Find it: At 25 Piggly Wiggly stores statewide; Boone Hall Farms Market in Mount Pleasant; speciality shops such as Market Street Munchies downtown and Stono Market on Johns Island. Also at www.charlestonpig.com.
About: Kevin Hogan is a dentist in Mount Pleasant and the sauce master of Doc Crombie’s on the side. He developed and lauched in August a line of three sauces: Original Prescription “Bootleg,” Double Hot and Zesty Mustard Zip.
The brand boasts of being all natural and containing no preservatives, fillers, MSG or artificial flavorings.
Hogan’s recipes are an homage to family, particularly to his grandparents. His grandmother “made sure I knew how to cook,” Hogan says. His grandfather was an avid hunter, “so we cooked whatever he brought in the back door.”
A portion of sales will go toward a nursing scholarship in his mother’s name at Indiana State University.
The “story” about Doc Crombie on www.DocCrombies.com is only marginally true: There’s no Vigo Springs in South Carolina, for instance. (Vigo County does exist in Indiana, where Hogan grew up.) There was no legislative ban on the sauce, either.
But, “I’m the Doc and my grandfather is Crombie,” Hogan says.
Cost: $5.99 and up for a 16-ounce bottle.
Find it: At Patina Blu, Coastal Cupboard and New York Butcher Shoppe in Mount Pleasant; Caviar & Bananas in downtown Charleston.