Walk down the condiment aisle of any grocery or gourmet store, and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of different barbecue sauces, incorporating everything from watermelon to premium brands of bourbon.
So why would I propose—as I’m doing now—that you set aside an afternoon or evening and make your own barbecue sauce from scratch? Simple. It makes a truly original gift (more on this below), it’s fun, and it’s a badge of honor, as the seasoned grillmeisters on the Barbecue Board can tell you.
Before I reveal my strategies for making great sauces, let me tell you about one afternoon that will go down in BBQ U history.
My friend, Dr. Rich Davis, accepted an invitation to be a “visiting professor” to conduct a sauce seminar at a recent session of BBQ University. If you’ve read BBQ USA (see page 694), you’re familiar with Dr. Davis: He is an icon in the barbecue and business worlds. In 1977, he left the medical profession and founded KC Masterpiece, the most successful premium barbecue sauce in the country. The brand was later sold to the Kingsford division of Clorox.
Dressed in a shirt that plots the American barbecue trail, the genial Dr. Davis had his audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he started discussing the history of barbecue sauce. (According to Rich, the first American barbecue sauce was salt water.) His knowledge of barbecue culture and lore astounded. And the fact that he looks at least a decade younger than his 80 years had everyone in the room wondering if the “Fountain of Youth” might be in Kansas City-style barbecue sauces.
A sauce tasting followed. Then we divided the BBQ U students into teams. We issued butane burners and basic recipes and a pantry of potential ingredients. The assignment? Develop a winning barbecue sauce, creatively named and labeled. First prize? A bottle of KC Masterpiece, symbolically spray-painted gold and autographed by Dr. Davis. And the once in a lifetime opportunity to have their recipe published in my next book, Raichlen on RIBS! (due out next spring). I’ll print a preview of the recipe for “Bunker Blast Barbecue Sauce,” which triumphed in the contest, in a future issue of this newsletter.
The event was educational and very entertaining—and talk about a theme for a party!
If you’re interested in developing your own barbecue sauce, here are Raichlen’s six simple rules for sauce success:
For more information on making barbecue sauce, see Steven’s Barbecue Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades
As I mentioned earlier, homemade barbecue sauces make unique and appreciated gifts for friends and family. I asked my assistant, Nancy, to suggest some creative packaging ideas which you’ll find below the recipes. (I figured she’d be better in that department than me.)
Use the guidelines above, and you could be the next Barbecue Sauce Mogul. If you prefer to start with a tried and true recipe, my gifts to you this holiday season are two previously unpublished recipes for barbecue sauces from my new book, Raichlen on RIBS! (Workman Publishing).
RUMBULLION BARBECUE SAUCE
Source: Raichlen on Ribs by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2006)
Yield: About 2 cups
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup ketchup
Place the rum, soy sauce, honey, sugar, lime juice, orange juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a heavy nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in the ketchup and 2 to 3 tablespoons water and gently simmer the sauce until thick and flavorful, 6 to 10 minutes. Correct seasoning, adding more soy sauce if salt is desired, more brown sugar if sweetness is desired, more lime juice if tartness is desired, and more rum if you agree with Mark Twain’s claim that “too much” liquor is “just enough.”
Let the sauce cool to room temperature for serving. It can be refrigerated, covered, for several days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
SWEET AND SERIOUSLY HOT BARBECUE SAUCE
Inspired by Diana Fick of “The Princesses of Barbecue” team.
Source: Raichlen on Ribs (Workman Publishing, 2006)
Yield: About 2-1/2 cups
1-1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Jack Daniels or your favorite Tennessee whiskey
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pickled jalapeño pepper juice, or more to taste
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
Place the ketchup, Jack Daniels, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, water, pepper juice, brown sugar, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, and celery salt in a saucepan and whisk to mix. Place the pan over medium heat and gently simmer until thick and richly flavored, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.
TOOLS AND FUELS
Many of you have written in requesting suggestions for barbecue “stocking stuffers.” We checked in with Jeff Wallace, who runs the Barbecue Store for us. Here’s what he recommends:
Extra Long Suede Glove Set: Use these extra-long gloves as Christmas stockings! They’re a full 18 inches long, and will protect your hands and arm from heat all the way up to the elbow. You’ll want to keep an extra pair by the fireplace.
Instant Read Meat Thermometer: Professional pit masters leave nothing to chance. They rely on meat thermometers when grilling or barbecuing. An oversized dial makes this thermometer easy to read.
Insulated Food Gloves: If you’ve ever “pulled” a pile of hot pork with your bare hands or tried to ease a barbecued chicken off a beer can, you’ll appreciate how useful these heavy-duty rubber gloves can be.
All of us at www.barbecuebible.com wish you happy holidays and a healthy, smokin’ 2006.
Steven Raichlen's official newsletter, Up in Smoke, is available exclusively on barbecuebible.com. Culled from experiences on the barbecue trail and beyond, Steven brings you reviews you can use, recipes, answers to your questions, special BBQ store discounts, and more. The newsletter is FREE and comes out every month. It is available first only to subscribers to the newsletter and then posted a month later in the newsletter archives. Sign up today!