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Getting Saucy with your BBQ

BBQ sauce is the perfect finishing touch to a meal that can easily take hours of your time to get to the table. Just as there is a multitude of choices in preparing barbecued meat or veggies, you can go wherever your imagination takes you when playing with sauce choices. A great trick to making your sauce special is an opportunist in the kitchen. When the cherries are ripe, the blueberries are plump, or apples heavy on the tree, you always have choices when you create your BBQ sauce recipe.

The first question is if you want to build your sauce from the ground up. Here’s a pro hint; most chefs buy a decent base BBQ sauce and tweak it to the taste profile they want. Add molasses for a darker color and richness. Brown sugar for some color and sweetness. Mustard for a nice tang and depth of flavors. Don’t forget vinegar. It contains acids that cut through the fats in meat, adding a lightness to what can become a heavy meal. That’s why pickles so often accompany barbecued food recipe. Here’s a basic no-cook approach to taking a commercial product and making it your own. 

Converting a commercial sauce to your favorite.

Combine in a bowl.

1-quart retail smoky barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

Whisk all ingredients together, and you are ready to go with a creamy, tangy barbecue sauce with just a little heat. This sauce will work as a marinade; an excellent baste during the cooking process, and a popular accompaniment on the table with your meal.

If you want to build an excellent traditional sauce from the ground up, this is a pretty easy approach that will be ready in under an hour. You could buy tomatoes and spend one full day cooking them down to create your sauce base. Also, there are lots of recipes that begin with a base of ketchup, which is fine. However, you might as well build one from a BBQ sauce base as described above. 

Easy DIY BBQ Sauce

In a saucepan, combine:

One fifteen ounce can of plain tomato sauce

One six-ounce can of tomato paste

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup honey 

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup apple cider or malt vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon each chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin 

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

Whisk together, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Tilt the lid or cover with a splatter guard while your sauce simmers about another twenty minutes

One of the hottest food trends is a gastrique. Think European sweet and sour. This is surprisingly easy to make. This is the recipe for the base sauce that you can take any direction you choose.

Gastrique starter sauce for barbecue

In a saucepan over medium-low heat:

1 cup of sugar

1/4 cup water

Stir together until sugar is dissolved. Keep on a low simmer for 5 minutes. Slowly add while stirring:

1 cup vinegar

(You can use the vinegar of your choice; keep in mind that balsamic vinegar are typically very intense, so you may need to water them down to avoid overpowering your sauce)

Let all these ingredients simmer until the volume has reduced by about half. 

This is a basic gastrique and can be drizzled over virtually anything. Now have fun. Add two cups of diced tomatoes, diced sweet peppers, chopped onions, or almost any fruit. Avoid bananas, but feel free to try pineapple, peaches, apricots, raspberries, blackberries, or whatever is your local favorite. Keep simmering to soften up and incorporate the sauce. Add salt to taste and additional seasonings that will complement your barbecued food’s rub and flavor profiles. Cumin, chili powder, granulated garlic, black pepper, dry mustard, cardamom, and cloves are all excellent examples of distinctive flavors to enhance your BBQ sauce. You can skim the fat off of your BBQ drippings and judiciously add that to your sauce. Be aware that the drippings can contain a high amount of salt, so taste your sauce often as you add the drippings. Use a potato masher if needed, continue simmering until the fruit or vegetables you added have broken down, probably one and a half to two hours or so. Push the sauce through a strainer, and you are ready to serve it up.

One of the best aspects of BBQ recipes and their sauce creation is how flexible they are and the creativity you can bring to the table. One of the biggest keys to success is to keep simmering until you reach the texture that you want for your sauce. If you put a watermelon in your sauce, it will lend great flavors, sweet and summery, but you will need to cook the fluid out of it. Apples, pears, and such will also throw more fluid that needs to be simmered away. Peaches, apricots, and fruit with more pulp will thicken up more comfortable and faster. Oranges are very versatile and will incorporate very well into most sauces. Squeeze the juice out, but still, throw in all the pulp and chunks of fruit. You can put the peel in as well, although you will want to remove it before putting your sauce through the strainer. Lemons and limes are intense with very high acid. The rinds offer lots of flavors, so be judicious when including them. When using lemon or lime, you can often reduce the vinegar you use because of their high acid content. Be sure to keep in mind that the sauce is meant to be an enhancement of your meal. In other words, be aware that it is easy to overpower foods with one strong flavor or another and look for the balance when selecting the ingredients for your sauce.

There is almost no limit to what can be cooked on a barbecue, from asparagus to zucchini and virtually every kind of meat or fish. Finding the right sauce to enhance these flavors is a very satisfying part of the journey as you get food on the table for friends and family. Whether you do all the work or find a quicker, more accessible path to success, barbecue sauce is a substantial component of putting a memorable meal on the table.

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