“I’ve always loved Cheerwine and I’ve always loved pork. For years I’ve tried to marry the two. I’ve made Cheerwine-glazed ham, Cheerwine-brined pork chops, and Cheerwine-brined bacon, but none of them were quite what I wanted. So I set out to combine Carolina barbecue and Carolina’s favorite soda. The combination didn’t jive until I decided to turn that sweet, sweet nectar into vinegar. The pie was a happy accident—I set out to make a barbecue sauce and ended up with a great dessert.
There are a couple of different way to make vinegar, depending on your base liquid, but they all come down to two things: a mother of vinegar, which is a mixture of acetic acid and cellulose that occurs naturally during the transformation, and a base liquid, which is typically alcoholic. The fact that I was dealing with soda instead of alcohol complicated things for me, but I found a solution in Asian cuisine. Kombucha is a fermented tea native to China, Korea, and Russia. I make it from sweet tea and unfiltered vinegar, then add the mother of sorts that forms in it—commonly called a SCOBY, for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast—to soda. That slimy little thing is the key to good soda vinegar. You can buy a SCOBY online, but you can also start from scratch using the steps below. This process takes time, but it pays off.” —Travis Milton, Comfort, Richmond, Virginia