While I grew up in the foothills of southwestern Virginia, I've become an eastern North Carolina girl through and through. I realized about a year ago that I had now lived in coastal NC, longer than I had lived in Virginia growing up (how time flies).
One of the first foods I ever tried when I moved to eastern NC was chopped pork barbecue. It's one of the most popular foods at locally owned restaurants all around the North Carolina region. In eastern NC, the sauce is primarily a vinegar-based sauce, while if you head to western NC (or states west of NC) the main sauce seems to be a sweeter tomato-based sauce.
I personally prefer the savory tartness of the vinegar sauces. The vinegary sauce, combined with the slightly sweet (and very simply made) coleslaw makes for an incredible taste combination that I often crave.
The picture above is actually what you'll get if you head to Ayden, North Carolina for some barbecue at The Skylight Inn. You have 4 menu choices... chopped barbecue, cornbread, and coleslaw -OR- you can get that barbecue on a sandwich if you're not a fan of cornbread (but oh you should be!) That's it folks. It's simple straight forward food. Michael and I are huge fans of Skylight Inn and while you won't find much else in Ayden, NC...that wood-smoked barbecue is completely worth the drive. (And guess what? Their cornbread? It's gluten-free! The owner told me it was only made with cornmeal, salt, and water... I tell ya... it's good stuff!) And just a tip... BRING CASH... they don't accept debit cards!!
After our last trip there I decided I was going to try to make barbecue at home, but I wanted to try it with turkey legs. Turkey legs are a great source of cheap protein. You can get 3-4 pounds of turkey legs for about $1 a pound. I only had to make one batch of this chopped turkey barbecue to declare it a winner. It's the most ridiculously easy recipe you'll ever make and if you're a fan of the hearty chopped pork barbecue, (while I don't know the exact numbers) I'm pretty sure this version is a bit healthier and definitely just as delicious!
Eastern North Carolina Chopped Turkey Barbecue
Free of gluten, soy, dairy/casein
Created by Carrie of Gingerlemongirl.com
Makes: a whole lot!
3-5 pounds of turkey legs (about 3-4 large turkey legs)
Eastern NC BBQ Sauce:
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (like Tobasco)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Cook & Prepare the Turkey Barbecue:
Place turkey legs in a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours until meat is "falling off the bone" tender. Carefully remove turkey legs from the slow cooker and place on a large platter. Remove fat surrounding turkey meat. Remove bones & tendons from the turkey meat (this can be a bit tedious depending on the turkey leg). Chop meat as fine as you prefer. In eastern NC, the meat is often chopped quite fine. Place in a large bowl for storage.
**Carrie's Notes: Make sure to strain and save all the broth leftover in the slow cooker from the turkey! That's instant bone broth you can use in recipes through the rest of your week!
Make the Eastern NC BBQ Sauce:
To make the sauce, simply place all sauce ingredients into a large mason jar. Place the lid on the jar and shake vigorously to combine. Pour desired amount of sauce over the prepared turkey barbecue and stir to combine. Use as little or as much as you desire... we LOVE a lotta sauce!! Store any remaining sauce in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Serve the barbecue with homemade coleslaw and cornbread or use as a sandwich filling!