One more recipe to get you going here. While the vast majority of barbeque spice comes from rubs instead of saucing – the cooking process is so long that most sauces end up burning or hardening – there is still a place for sauces, usually in either finishing or serving. You will find that most serious barbeque cooks have a different sauce for each kind of meat – like rubs, there are different flavour points that tend to work best with different textures and tastes – but I have been experimenting with a single “top level” sauce that you can then finish in different ways for whatever meat you happen to be thinking about using it with. Unlike rubs, where you just mix ’em and put them on a shelf somewhere, a sauce usually means you need to invest some cooking time and you need to store the finished product in the fridge. Having a single sauce that you can then drive off in different directions give maximum return on these requirements.
This mix is for a single load, about two full mason jars worth. If you are having a big cook or have the fridge space to spare, just double everything for a bigger batch.
In a large and nice heavy saucepan or dutch oven, combine:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup cider vinegar*
- 1/2 cup Worchestershire sauce*
- 1 “tall boy” can of a good dark ale*
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon dried mustard
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Stir well as you bring it to a boil (you don’t want to burn the sugar), turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes to ensure that all the solids are incorporated, and then add:
- 1 litre tomato ketchup (conveniently, a whole bottle)
Mix well and then simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Now – the key to any great barbeque sauce is getting some smoke flavour in there. They sell assorted artificial smoke flavourings down at the grocery store, and my general advice on those products is to avoid them at all costs. They are, to put it mildly, nasty. Nasty nasty nasty. What you want to do is actually smoke the sauce in your smoker. You can either do the whole batch right away, or do some for the meal at hand as you do the actual cooking.
To finish the whole batch in advance, pour the sauce into a large shallow pan** (a big lasagna pan, or a big foil roasting pan, depending on whether you made a single batch or a double). Stir in 2 cups of water per batch. Then put it in your smoker at about 275 degrees with whatever wood you fancy, and let it work until the amount of sauce in the pans returns to its “pre-watering-down” level. What happens here is that the water evaporates out of the sauce, and the smoke flavour gets absorbed to take its place. The water also protects the sauce from bitterness and overcooking.
If you prefer to finish on a food-by-food basis then put the sauce “sans smoke” into jars and store it in the fridge. When you are ready to use it you can finish it with a flavour specific to your food. Here are some ideas to get you going. And I find that a loaf pan – either a solid one or a foil one – works just about perfectly for these amounts.
Chicken: In the pan mix 2 cups of sauce, 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of apple juice, and 1/4 cup of bourbon (hot tip: chicken loves bourbon). Smoke down to 2 cups as you cook.
Pork: In the pan mix 2 cups of sauce, 1 cup of water, and a 1/2 cup of honey. Smoke down to 2 cups as you cook.
Beef: In the pan mix 2 cups of sauce, 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of wicked strong coffee, and 1/4 cup of beef drippings (which you should be able to get as you are cooking whatever beef item happens to be in your pit). And not surprisingly, smoke down to 2 cups as you cook.
There you go. One sauce, many targets. And I am guessing you will like it a lot.
* A NOTE ABOUT INGREDIENTS:
If you don’t have any cider vinegar, then regular white vinegar (or better, if you have to make this substitution, white wine vinegar) will be okay
Don’t buy the piddly little bottle of Worchestershire sauce, get the big one with the “pour” top. Otherwise you will be sitting there doing the shakey shakey all day long.
Dark ale is key here – if it isn’t ale, or it isn’t dark, it won’t have enough hops in the mix for this to work. Dark, ale, period. Don’t just go dumping random beer in here.
** A NOTE ABOUT PANS:
Don’t use a pan that you plan on using for anything else. Either get a couple of cheap steel pans at the kitchen store and earmark them just for barbeque work, or get disposable foil pans and clean them and reuse them until they need to be recycled when they wear out. You really won’t want to cook anything else in these afterwards.