True Made Foods Carolina Red
The True Made brand was brought into being by Abe Kamarck. While growing up, Abe's Sicilian mother commonly used vegetables as primary sweeteners in her cooking, which became a practice Abe wanted to continue in order to help his family eat healthier. This led him to start creating versions of condiments that either had no sugar or very low sugar compared to their common supermarket counterparts. When Abe decided to venture into barbecue sauce territory, he enlisted the help of pitmaster Ed Mitchell, along with Ed's son Ryan, who's approach to cooking clicked with the True Made philosophy. The trio have now gone on to create four no-sugar barbecue sauce products that are just part of the various other condiments made by the brand.
A strong tangy tomato aroma fills the nose on first whiff of this sauce. While there's a vinegar heft to the profile, there's also a fair amount of sweetness so the fruitiness has a more sweet than acidic character. Those base traits are very fresh and vibrant and that extends to the secondary players as well like garlic and onion, along with a light mustard pungency. There's only a slight peppery heat in the smell, but it's enough to add contrast to the sweetness and a boost to the tingle on the nose that comes mostly due to the vinegar tartness.
Thickness & Texture
This semi-glossy sauce has an orange-red hue and is opaque, but that light color makes it easy to see some small and medium white and black spice specs peppered throughout. The sauce's thickness sits comfortably in the middle of the scale and it has a textured, salsa-like consistency. From a suspended spoon, the sauce falls in many large and quick drips before changing to two or three slower and medium sized ones. Once the sauce stops releasing, only a thin coating is left clinging to the silverware.
Out of the Jar
A strong acidic start gains complexity quickly by the addition of tomato that has a mellow background sweetness. Any sugars happening quickly fade as the tang heavily ramps up. That acidic strength makes it the central focus, which also renders the other flavors more difficult to discern in the taste than they were in the aroma. There is a bit of onion and garlic that tastes like the powdered versions, as well as some more depth to the fruitiness than tomato alone, but no one additional flavor distinctly pops out. A little mustard adds to the overall sharpness of the sauce, which is boosted even more in the aftertaste as a black pepper kick comes in and adds some heat to the already tongue tingling tartness.
Slathered & Cooked
This sauce coated the chicken in a medium, uneven layer that baked down well over indirect heat. The appearance of the sauce did change to look a bit dry after being cooked. When moved to direct heat, there was a lot of sauce loss with no caramelization, which led to an extra brushing being required at the end. The flavor was mainly a bright and acidic tomato. The freshness that was apparent in the aroma and out of the jar remained intact, but the complexity overall was diminished, leaving a simple and somewhat understated flavor.
Put to Use
I was digging the first True Made sauce I tried where the no-sugar approach worked quite well with a mustard based sauce, unfortunately the results didn't register the same for me in this Carolina Red version. From the aroma, I thought the sauce was going to be well balanced, layered, and super fresh tasting, and while that was somewhat true of the flavor out of the jar, although with more tang and less sweetness than I was expecting, it didn't hold up after being cooked where an acidic tomato could have used a boost from increased sweetness and caramelization. That all being said, a Carolina sauce should feature vinegar heavily with tartness as its primary component, and this sauce certainly does that, it just felt like it there was some potential under the hood to bring out those other veggies and fruits to really give this sauce a greater flavor than its upfront acidic tomato taste, which ended up feeling a bit too simple when slathered on chicken. That intense tang may be better suited for heartier meats though, like burgers and steak, where additional acidity can help cut through the richness of fat and really elevate meat in a manner that's much different than leaner options like poultry or seafood.
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Robert Randle I like your idea of getting barbecue sauce contests together and I think you are doing a great job of making people happy.