‘Round these parts, barbecue is a way of life. While the meat is the pièce de résistance, it wouldn’t be able to boast being BBQ without the quintessential American condiment: barbecue sauce.
Enter Matthew Dukes Hanna, a Lowcountry native who grew up licking Big Ed’s Heirloom Barbecue Sauce off his fingers.
First produced in small, specialty batches at Big Ed’s Barbecue Restaurant & Pigtail Hunt Camp in 1980, a lucky few have been wrist deep in Big Ed’s Heirloom Barbecue Sauce for more than 30 years. After decades of requests to sell the sauce to the general public, it is finally making its bottled debut on grocery store shelves, restaurants and cafés in the Lowcountry.
The Remedy Market has already jumped on board to smother its sandwiches and line its shelves with the famous-soon-to-be-more-famous sauce. If Spring Street’s not your scene, you can also pick up a bottle (or four) at Heirloom Book Company on lower King, House of Brews in Mount Pleasant, and others with the hip and happening mindset.
So now the big question. Who is “Big Ed?” That would be the culinary creator behind the sauce, also known as Matt’s dad. The production of this sauce is truly a family affair; Matt’s mom, dad, brother and sis were all involved in turning the family favorite into a viable product. When Big Ed, a long-time realtor in Allendale, SC, felt the strain of the recession, the family convened and decided to try to turn a little profit from something they knew and loved, and knew others would love to have at their tables. It quickly became available in five grocery stores in Allendale, and Matt has now decided to bring the goods to Charleston.
While the secret’s in the sauce, the bottle describes it as “a robust, tangy, vinegar based heirloom barbecue sauce and marinade with just the perfect hint of pepper and a slightly sweet undertone.” Those are some fancy words, but we can tell you this: it is GOOD. We came to the table with Matt, CHARLIE photographer Andrew Cebulka, and other local foodie friends for a full-on BBQ dinner. Plates quickly became doused in red and the sounds were that of a truly great barbeque: tiny moans and smacking lips.
Besides what’s in it, we love Big Ed’s Heirloom Barbecue Sauce just from its bottle alone. And it’s no surprise, the way Matt meticulously compared tiny details and asked locals for their opinions day in and day out over coffee at Baked. Tagged as the “Specialty of the South,” it stands out from its counterparts with a cool, vintage design. Its label will appeal to the health-conscious too; it boasts a gluten free, fat free, cholesterol free and preservatives free recipe. Having watched his father battle diabetes for years, Matt is passionate about consumers realizing that barbeque doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Sure, it’s perfect for a pig roast, but can also be used to marinate tofu, and as a salad dressing. Seriously.
The sauce has already gotten the big stamp of approval from the South Carolina Specialty Foods Association and is part of Lowcountry Local First. They’re looking for more retail and specialty food stores to carry the product (so if that’s you, give them a shout), and hope to be in 1,000 new spots by the end of their first year.
As for what’s next? Matt wants to branch out nationwide, open a barbeque catering service, and become involved philanthropically with the American Diabetes Association.
But first thing’s first. Go get yourself a bottle, you saucy minx.
Don’t miss the launch event on 8/21 at Heirloom Book Co.
123 King Street, Charleston, Sc 29401
Big Ed’s Heirloom Barbecue Sauce (the flagship product of Pigtail Brands)
Story by: Katie Strumpf
Photos by: Andrew Stephen Cebulka