Memorial Day officially ushers in the beginning of a season bursting with picnics, cookouts and, depending on where you are standing, barbecue.

Folks in some parts of the county refer to “a barbecue” as any gathering where food is cooked outside or on a grill. Sorry, but below the Mason-Dixon Line “barbecue” refers to the food itself, with the ingredients and method of preparation dependent on the region.

In the U.S., you have more than just a few choices for barbecue. The main types vary by cooking methods and ingredients. Here in the Carolinas (where pork is a bigger deal than beef — sorry, Texas!), we have just about all the saucy varieties available, depending on your region. Most barbecue fans in the Southeast will agree that barbecue is slow-cooked pork that is either sliced, chopped or pulled, but the addition of sauces cause a little disagreement.

From the Midlands of South Carolina to the Lowcountry, mustard-based sauces are the most popular. This sauce was influenced by the German settlers and has a thick consistency and pungent flavor. The pepper and vinegar “mop” sauce is popular in many parts of Eastern North Carolina. This combination of heat and acidity evolved in Western North Carolina and the Piedmont to include a little tomato sauce or ketchup to slightly cut the acidity. This is often known as Lexington-style barbecue. In some areas of South Carolina near the Georgia border, the Kansas City or “heavy tomato” sauce is preferred. This sauce is very sweet, slightly smoky and, in the western U.S., often used to base pork ribs and beef barbecue.

Of the basic sauces in the South, each region has their own variation. Just within a community, each family may have their own special spin on the local sauces, rubs and techniques for a great plate of barbecue.

Below you will find basic examples of Carolina sauce. Everyone’s tastes vary, so feel free to adjust the sauce to your liking. In the case of pulled or chopped pork, BBQ Coleslaw is commonly served on top of the pork. It is not the mayonnaise-based slaw that is common at picnics, but is instead finely chopped green cabbage tossed with the same sauce or “dip” used for the pork. And instead of serving this with hush puppies, try this recipe for Summer Squash and Fresh Corn Fritters.

Tomato Barbecue Sauce

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon celery salt

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon paprika

2 tablespoons cornstarch

½ teaspoon ground allspice

2-3 cups tomato juice

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup white vinegar

½ yellow onion, grated

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and stir to combine. Cook over low heat for 2 hours. Season with additional ketchup, brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste.



Mustard Barbecue Sauce

2 cups yellow mustard

½ cup beer

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

8 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ cup tomato puree

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1½ teaspoons garlic powder

Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat and stir to combine. Cook until sauce just begins to thicken. Season with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to taste.



Vinegar and Pepper Barbecue Sauce

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

¼ cup ground black pepper
Place vinegar, red pepper flakes and salt in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the ketchup and brown sugar. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add black pepper and stir to combine. Season to taste with extra salt and pepper.



BBQ Coleslaw

¾ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon Sriracha or Asian-style chile sauce

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ head green cabbage, finely chopped

Combine vinegar, tomato sauce and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Simmer until sugar dissolves. Season to taste with Sriracha and freshly ground black pepper. Adjust seasoning, acidity and sweetness to taste. Place cabbage in a large bowl and drizzle with the sauce. Toss to coat and add more sauce as needed.



Summer Squash and Fresh Corn Fritters

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¾ teaspoon Kosher salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup zucchini or yellow squash, grated

½ cup fresh corn kernels

¼ cup mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, parsley, or chives, sliced or minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Vegetable or canola oil as needed

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss together grated squash, corn kernels, fresh herbs and lemon juice. Add eggs and mix until combined. Add in flour mixture and stir until the flour is moistened and combined but do not over mix. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Allow the oil to get hot and add batter to the pan by the heaping tablespoon.

Do not add too much batter to the pan: allow at least an inch of space between each fritter or they will steam instead of fry. Cook undisturbed until the fritters are brown around the edges and flip once to brown the other side. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

— Season Stepp can be reached at season28@aol.com